Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Tell the Truth Tuesday (Late Edition): Cutting Garden Woes

My impression is that spring has been slower to arrive in coastal Southern California this year.  In examining records of the progress of my cutting garden, this conclusion seems abundantly clear.  I'm blaming our recent weather, specifically our colder-than-usual winter temperatures.

This was my cutting garden on March 31, 2018

I got an earlier start planting this year's cool season garden.  However, even though I planted many of the same species this fall as I did the prior fall, the plants are clearly running behind with respect to their bloom cycles.  None of my foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) are blooming yet.  I've had one Ranunculus bloom thus far, in stark contrast to the numbers shown blooming in my photo from last March.  Moreover, last year my snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) were blooming in mid-March and continued to do so through April.  However, this week I gave up and pulled the last of them out due to a bad case of rust.  I don't spray and my snapdragons inevitably develop rust but our frequent rain this year, while wonderful in many respects, appears to have accelerated the rust problem.  I tossed out one batch of snapdragons in January, replacing them with new plants, only to watch those succumb to the fungus even more quickly.

This bed shows one snapdragon in the center of the middle bed.  There were six more in the bed to the right (just out of view).

All the leaves showed signs of rust and the plants hadn't even bloomed yet

The plants in the other bed looked even worse


I replaced the snapdragons with a few Delphiniums, leaving empty spaces to accommodate the larkspur (Consolida ambigua) and love-in-a-mist (Nigella) seedlings that emerged in response to our rainy February.

This is one of the replacement 'Pacific Giant' Delphiniums.  These plants surprised me last year by blooming well despite our exceptionally low rainfall.


Meanwhile, like last year, the sweet peas I sowed from seed in late October have been slow to develop.  Once again, they're showing signs of having been nibbled.  Last year, I blamed the rabbits that showed up in my garden for the first time but now I'm wondering if birds aren't the actual culprits.

I baited for snails and slugs and saw no signs of either but I regularly discovered birds picking around in my raised planters

The seedlings in this half-barrel fared better than those in the raised planter but there were signs of nibbling here too

In contrast, these are the sweet pea seedlings grown by my neighbor along the boundary line on our shared back slope.  She's done a much better job shielding her plants from all kinds of critters than I have and her plants are well-developed even though they're in afternoon shade.


I'm hoping my cool season (winter-spring) garden gets a move on soon.  I've already got Dahlia tubers waiting in the wings for empty space to free up in the raised planters.

I received 7 dahlia tubers by mail order this week and have planted all in temporary pots to give me a head start on the warm season


Tell the Truth Tuesday is the brain child of Alison at Bonney Lassie.  Feel free to join in and share some ugly truths about your own garden.


All material © 2012-2019 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party



24 comments:

  1. Yes, every year is a different year. We too are having a strange Spring. Very little rain has set things back and yet some plants have just loved the conditions that the warmer winter brought. Who knows how this will all play out but I am sure I will see lots of beautiful flowers in your Monday vases.

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    1. I think the primary reason some blooms are delayed this year is that we haven't seen any of those warmer temperatures yet, Jenny. Both February and early March have been unusually cold here this year. However, the weather forecaster predicted 80F for LA this coming Sunday. We'll see if it materializes - my local forecast is still showing low 70s.

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  2. It's always intriguing to compare what is happening growth wise to previous years Kris. Maybe you're having to wait longer this year for certain flowers to appear but when they arrive they will reward for your patience. The growth on your neighbour's sweet peas looks like mine would do in June :) Are those oranges that I can see?

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    1. There are indeed oranges in both my top photo and the one pointed at my neighbor's garden, Anna. Citrus grows well here, even if Florida has out-distanced Southern California in the citrus-growing department. My husband and I inherited 4 citrus trees with our property.

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  3. The benefit of a cooler winter/spring is that blooms last longer once they finally arrive. Come on, warm weather!

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    1. The TV forecaster predicted a temperature of 80F in LA this coming Sunday but we sure don't seem to be moving in that direction yet, Peter.

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  4. It's been such a strange late winter/early spring for us all. Hopefully we've turned a corner.

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    1. While I'd still like to see a bit more rain here, Loree, it's looking increasingly doubtful. Warmer temperatures are projected.

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  5. It's a lot easier to bear setbacks with plants when the neighbors' versions aren't flourishing. There's enough self-reproach already without the smug sight of those successful sweet peas, thank you!

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    1. I have to corral the neighbor one day and quiz her on her approach. She's done a great job protecting her plants, although I don't know how she gets in there to cut flowers. She may have feeding and watering tips as well.

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  6. Perhaps it is the afternoon shade that the plants appreciate. Those sweet peas look exuberant!

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    1. Temperatures are still very cool here and the skies have been cloudy more often than not so I'd be surprised if the sweet peas were wanting shade. My guess is that she waters much more frequently than I do.

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  7. Rust always gets my hollyhocks. I didn't know rust would get on snapdragons. I just ignore the rust and the hollyhocks bloom on. When it heats up all will be better.

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    1. I gave up on Hollyhocks for just that reason, Lisa, although I break down and try them again every once in awhile, never yet achieving a different result. I actually give up snapdragons periodically too for the same reason - they're rust magnets. Last year's experience was nominally better, probably because rain was so light here and I don't irrigate those beds with overhead water. That experience gave me the mistaken impression I had control over the situation.

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  8. Now, now, it might be a little colder than usual, but at least you got rain! I would think that would thrill you after so many years of drought! It just means that all that springy abundance is ahead of you - hooray! Mind you, the rust is no good. If it can make you feel a little better, it's just now starting to feel nice up here. To date, March has been just ridiculously cold with icy, persistent winds.

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    1. Last year's rain was terrible, the third lowest ever recorded in SoCal if I remember correctly. The year before that we benefited from El Nino, receiving more rain than it's likely we'll get this year but, yes, our overall pattern in the 8 years I've been in this location has been far from positive. I know planting snapdragons is an invitation to rust in our climate. I just can't help being disappointed. Rust-resistant snapdragons don't seem to be something breeders are focused on.

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  9. I think the days of knowing (more or less) what to expect in the garden from year to year are behind us - the weather has just been so erratic, regardless of where you live. And when it comes to critters, I can sympathize. It is often hard to know what is getting at our plants unless you catch them in the act. I've been surprised more than once when I discovered the actual culprit was not at all who I thought.

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    1. I can't prove that birds are responsible for "pinching" my sweet pea seedlings, Margaret, but only note that they spend an inordinate amount of time in my raised planters without showing any signs of digging for worms or grubs. The sweet peas eventually grow up anyway so there doesn't seem to be any long-term harm - except to my psyche when I compare the progress of my plants to those of my neighbor.

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  10. The weather,pests and diseases; gardening is a challenge wherever we live but I suppose you just have to shrug your shoulders and say:'win some, lose some'. And on the whole you are the winner in your lovely garden.

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    1. Good advice, Chloris. I have a bad tendency to focus on what's missing instead of what's there.

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  11. After seeing your ranunculus, we decided to skip going to the fields in Carlsbad, figuring that the cold had held them back. Though I didn't mind the cool weather (better than home), the warmest I saw was 73 inland. I guess that is unusual for March?
    Thanks again for the two tours, wonderful to see your garden and meet in person. Now I'm back after a great trip, feeling jet lagged, but so grateful to have escaped two weeks of March weather here. Today was 45 and the snow is melting, spring won't be long now!

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    1. You made the most of your trip and I'm glad you enjoyed it, Eliza. Today was the warmest we've had in at least 6 weeks - we finally passed the 70 degree mark. That's unusually cool for us at this time of year. The forecasters believe we could hit 80F on Sunday before the temperatures in LA drop back into the 60s again.

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  12. I think it was the birds that pulled all the sweet pea seedlings out of the ground here. Two survived because they were completely screened off. Well, next year.

    New dahlia tubers always emerge first, before the ones that spent the winter in the ground. I wonder why that is.

    It was 81F Saturday, two more days of this. I miss winter already.

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    1. After weeks and weeks of complaining about our "extreme" cold, I've felt like I was roasting the past few days, HB. How quickly we adapt! I discovered my car's AC is out too - better now than when we hit 90F I guess.

      My neighbor with the more successful sweet pea output has screens set mere inches from her plants, which I'm guessing deter birds as well as other critters.

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