Friday, April 2, 2010

Guest Gardens #1 – A Fusion of Relaxation and Function

When the gardening classes ended, a bunch of us got together and decided to start a gardening club, taking turns to host it in our gardens once a month, where we could continue the exchange of ideas and swap seedlings.  Judy, who sat beside me in class, (with the escaping worms!) offered to host the first meeting and kindly agreed to me posting her garden as a “Guest Garden” on my blog.  I also discovered that she makes the best sangria I’ve ever tasted!  Of course, sangria and snacks are an important element of any gardening club!

Judy's garden is like the grounds of a luxury hotel.  Somewhere you could go on holiday, tranquil and relaxing.  She has a good sized pool, one that you can actually swim a proper length in before needing to turn.  Last year, whilst looking for the new house, I saw so many houses with pools that were too short to actually swim properly in.  In many cases it was a choice between pool or garden.  Judy is blessed by both!

Another striking feature of this property, is that it overlooks a golf course and the Santa Cruz Mountains beyond that.  This, Judy admitted, was the feature that sold the property to them several years ago, not the actual house!  They take full advantage of their beautiful view with understated iron railings that, for the most part, you look through but are themselves really stylish.

It reminds me of something from a holiday brochure.  Wish you were here?


But Judy’s garden is not just about a beautiful lawn, pool and view, though for many that would be plenty!  Judy’s garden is also a working garden, providing food for her family.  Along the side of her house she has three raised beds where she grows vegetables.  It’s a great illustration of how a smaller space can be effectively put too work. 
 The first raised bed has strawberries and onions in it right now.  This prompted a useful discussion for our meeting on “How do you know if you have planted too sparingly or too much in your garden?”  We reckon start bare and then keep adding stuff in slowly.  If it starts to suffer, then you know it’s too much.  The problem with too little is that you are leaving room for weeds, and you could be growing something edible instead!  As Judy wisely said, “Gardening is not an exact science!”  All comments are welcome on any aspect  of gardening advice...

The middle raised bed looks like the herb garden.  Notice here the drip irrigation system – a necessity in this part of the world.
There is rosemary in the bottom left corner.  I have a nicer close- up shot of that.
Judy has also planted cilantro (coriander to Europeans), and lettuce and more onions at the other end.  We talked about when you should harvest onions.  Judy pointed out that the instructions on the seed pack weren’t very helpful - “Harvest when ready.”  But how do you know when onions are ready?  They’re in the ground and once you dig them up that’s that!  I did some research, and the general consensus is that you can harvest them when the tops start to wither and fall over, i.e. die back.  So, I hope that answers your question Judy.  Also, various sources suggest leaving them to dry out a little too.

Judy’s third raised bed is choco-block full of amazing broccoli!  This just goes to show that giving your seedlings some space can have its dividends.  These are twice the size of mine (same type) which were squeezed between my peas and my kale.  Judy can eat broccoli every night of the week at the minute!  A great crop.
One of the things I love about Judy’s garden is how she has utilized the space (and how tidy it is compared to mine!) with ingenious ideas or simply ideas that leave you smacking your head saying, “Why didn’t I think of that!”

She brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “sack of spuds” with these grow-in-the-bag potatoes.  It also means that she won’t lose potatoes in the soil and have surprise potatoes the following year!

I loved how she took advantage of the wall to support her sugar snap peas!
And for ground cover in her side beds, she is using a plant that is attractive and gives one of my favorites – strawberries!  Keeping them in narrow beds limits their growth so that they don’t take over completely.

Judy is also the proud mommy to baby tomato seedlings.  Aren’t they adorable!


She also has the most unusual double petaled (I'm sure there is a more technical name for this!  Please comment if you know - I'm still learning.) tulip that I have ever seen.

It was a lovely afternoon - sunshine, sangria (did I already mention the sangria?) and excellent company.  It’s a great way for someone like me, setting down roots of my own, to meet interesting, like-minded people. 

We had a good laugh at how becoming a gardener changes our perspective on things.  We get excited about manure!  One of the girls (I must remember to check with them all if I can use their first names in future blogs!) shared a source for chicken manure.  Judy said that until a few years ago she’d never imagined she’d be so happy to get that link!  A germinating seed makes our day and we are all getting excited about a forthcoming field trip to the Yerba Buena nursery!

People say “If I won the lottery I’d…”  Well, I have a garden - I’ve already won the lottery…and with my hand in the soil, like Scarlette O Hara, I too say, “As God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again!” (Especially with Safeways down the road for backup!)


Byddi Lee

1 comment:

  1. What a nice post! Thanks so much for writing this...its so fun reading about our garden through someone else's eyes! Pictures were beautiful too- glad you had fun...and yes, that Sangria is amazing (and deadly)!

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