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April 14, 2008

Valley hoe!

It was exactly one zillion degrees in the valley this weekend. Spring lasted an entire week and then hello, summer! You are HERE.

This year I set a strict budget for my gardening efforts. I set aside a specific amount of money and threatened myself with a stern voice and a wagging finger if I went over it by even a penny. I didn't want a repeat of last year when I spent gajillions all told in gardening supplies (that is an exact amount, gajillions, and not tax deductible!) and yet I had nothing to show for it but some crazyass hot peppers and a field of mutant zucchini.

Most of my budget this year went to new bags of soil and compost and dirt-related stuff. Then there was the chunk of change I spent on my Meyer Lemon tree, still happy and blooming it's little dwarf-variety $24.99 self away:

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I bought one small four-inch container of pumpkin seedlings which are hanging out with the renegade zuke in the raised bed out back along with a watermelon seedling that is struggling and in fact could be considered muerto. (The rest of the watermelon seedlings are strewn around the yard, but more on that later.) I found a big ziploc bag in the garage with old seed packets from God Knows When and I decided they just weren't getting any younger Beavis, so I spread them on every dirt patch in the yard and we'll see what comes up. I may have thyme in the watermelon and dill in the peppers or nothing at all, but it's a good experiment. And the price was right.

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The pumpkins and zucchini are doing great. The seeds, not so much.

Saturday and Sunday were scorching. I was a little scared that getting a 97-degree day so soon after planting my few seedlings would dry everything up and kill the whole yard, but I think everything is doing pretty good this year so far. It's been a whole week and a day and things appear to still be alive! I believe my weeklong success is because I finally got the memo from the Universe that I live in a scorching hellhole of humanity's armpit and I stopped using all the small clay planters I have lying around -- I'm only planting stuff in my big plastic pots this year. They little clay containers are pretty and cheerful but they dry out in fifteen minutes flat during the summer, and since summer lasts until November that gives me a window of about four days to grow something.

Hey -- you! You there! The one about to write an impassioned comment or plea or admonition for my failure to investigate the MUCH BETTER option of a drip irrigation system, yes, you! You can stop typing, let me save you some advice-giving juice.

A drip irrigation system for my many cheerful clay pots and plastic containers would indeed be a delightful and transformative thing, one which I investigated myself at the hardware store and garden center and after I thought maybe I was reading the information all wrong I even got my gardeners to give me advice on it. But what most folks don't know is that I live in a magical and mysterious house built back in the 1940s by a lesser-known brother of the Three Stooges. His name was probably Ezra ... Ezra Stooge.

Ezra had likely been in possession of his contractor's license for a full four and a half minutes before he opened up a bag of quickcrete and laid the foundation for my magical and mysterious home. I have pipes that lead to nowhere, a giant hedge in the middle of the backyard, tiny doors to secret passages painted shut inside my cabinets and magical utilities that, when they need servicing, usually result in this: A utility services professional telling me, "Gee, lady, I've been with the gas company / DWP / phone company /whateverservice for fifteen years and this is the first time I've ever seen a house wired /set-up / situated this particular way! This is a real first for me!"

It is just a joy and adventure, I tell you what. Also now with the haunting, which is an excellent addition to my magical mystery house.

So anyway, Ezra made the non-standard outside electrical hookup thingamabob and the also non-standard outdoor water thingamajig located in such proximity to each other that they are in different zipcodes. My gardeners are excellent resources for pointing out all the ways the sprinklers or wiring or whathaveyou is out of whack on my house, and after some scrutinizing and measuring and using of tools they determined I would need to have a custom drip irrigation system built just for this hook-up and also have to get an electrician out to do the re-wiring and grounding and someone to cut through the siding and dig a trench for blah blah blah and .... ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

Spending that kind of money would probably make sense for me if I owned this house and wanted to live here the next forty years. But I rent and I'm on a budget with the gardening so I took what I thought was the next best route: I pushed the big plastic planters I already owned closer to the sprinklers. Now they get watered every night with the lawn. Works for me! And didn't cost me a dime!

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The cucumbers like being near the sprinklers.

So where was I? OH YES! On a budget. So after I pushed my plastic pots near the sprinklers and worked on the raised bed garden in the back without disturbing the lone zucchini outrider, I decided to use my one big backyard blank space where the old geranium used to be for my new watermelon patch. But I kind of needed some edging material and I was maxed out on my gardening budget.

This was my solution:

april14-08-watermelonpots.jpg

Cute! And kind of kooky in the crazy-cat-lady-who-lives-in-a-haunted-house way. Sort of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle without the husband and the magic hat. Notice how I skillfully dumped the dirt in what I surmised a watermelon hill should look like. I am well and truly a scourge on the face of gardening. Then I think I sprinkled some seeds on it from 2002 and called it a day.

In other news, my mint is coming back nice and strong this year. It had practically withered away to nothing last fall since the valley was scorching and the poor thing was left in the sun while I ignored it. In my defense, the pot is a solid ceramic monster I got from an the old neighbors who used to live next door, and they gave me two of those big heavy behemoth pots before they left town. I never did anything with them, like move them, because they weigh seven hundred pounds each. This year I finally got them situated on little platforms with rolling wheels so I can wheel them around to the sun when they need it or back closer to the patio edge where the sprinklers are. I am really all about plant mobility this year, you see. Plants should have the freedom of wheels, too!

The basil which somehow never died last year is doing OK, I pruned it a little and added some basil seeds to the pot. And the peppers have bright green new leaves popping out amongst the old yellowed and tired leaves that are so 1007:

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I mixed some portulaca in with everything (I love portulaca flowers, some folks call it "moss rose." All I know is that it's the only blooming pretty thing I can get to live in this heat.) I have my usual three pots of thyme which I grow every year because I LOVE the smell of fresh thyme, but I never seem to keep it alive very long. We'll see.

So that is my garden. A bunch of old seeds who may or may not emerge, some pumpkins, a lone zucchini, a big hill of watermelon seedlings and a bluejay in a lemon tree. And of course the same giant weird hedge in the middle of the backyard, surely planted there by ol' Ezra Stooge himself. What a character that guy must have been. If you ever bump into him will you please ask him where the secret trapdoor inside the kitchen cupboard leads to? Thanks, man.

Posted by laurie at April 14, 2008 9:58 AM