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This year and always, grateful for gardening

A very quiet Thanksgiving, inside and out

Tree covered in reddish leaves
It's not a perfect tree by any means, but this Pyrus puts on a good show in fall.
(Photos: Kathy Morrison)

The sky is bright blue this Thanksgiving Day,  the temperature mild. The only activity is from the gusts of wind blowing many of the leaves off the trees and into the yards.

When I went out front this morning, I turned back to look at my house. The flowering pear tree ( Pyrus calleryana ),  which still has most of its leaves, seemed particularly ablaze with all shades of red and orange, accented by green and yellow closer to the trunk. This show of color, I recalled, is why I planted the tree almost 20 years ago, even though it has since made me a little crazy by sending up suckers all over.

Pink daisy
One pink marguerite blossom, a reminder of summer and
a promise for next year.

A hummingbird appeared out of nowhere, hovered to look me in the face, then flew up to now-naked gingko tree. Over near the sidewalk, the marguerite daisy shrub, though deadheaded months ago, has produced one perfect little pink blossom.

The gifts of nature can be obvious or subtle, but they are gifts to cherish, especially this year.

I have never been more grateful and happy to be a gardener. In 2020, gardening has been my lifeline, something to hang onto while the outside world was turning upside down. Seeds planted still sprout and produce food, for humans or for the wildlife. Flowers bloom, even when the air is too smoky for humans to breathe. Trees turn color unprompted.

Last Thanksgiving, I put together a list of things that gardeners can be thankful for, which I will recap here, since they are still relevant, of course. There's just a small update.

I am thankful for:

-- Pollinators who do their thing in the garden on their own time, and do even more with a little encouragement (and plants they love). From almonds to zucchini, the area's crops and our home gardens depend on the bees, birds, butterflies and other insects.

-- The trees that shade our homes and give us mulch in the fall, as well as provide food -- even if just for wildlife (oh, those squirrels!) -- and homes for birds.

-- The magical soil below us, full of nutrients and microbes and earthworms and so many things we're not aware of as we walk over it.

-- Our gorgeous Mediterranean climate, which even as it's changing lets us work outside nearly year-round and grow so many things so well that we're the envy of the rest of the country's gardeners.

--The wonder of tiny seeds that turn into 2-pound tomatoes with just the right amount of care.

-- Finally, the generosity of fellow gardeners, who give freely of seeds, plants, produce, tools and advice. If someone says, "Oh, you're a gardener, too!" you have instant rapport. And this year, my community widened with all my new master gardener colleagues, including my Zoom-assisted Class of 2020. (Congrats to us! Hope to see you all in person again someday.)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Stay healthy and keep gardening!


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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