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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 Sept. 25

This week's warm break will revive summer crops such as peppers and tomatoes that may still be trying to produce fruit. Pumpkins and winter squash will add weight rapidly.

Be on the lookout for powdery mildew and other fungal diseases that may be enjoying this combination of warm air and moist soil.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Plant for fall now. The warm soil will get cool-season veggies and flowers off to a fast start.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with "eyes" about an inch below the soil surface.

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