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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 April 7

The warm wave coming this week will shift weeds into overdrive. Get to work!

* Weed, weed, weed! Whack them before they flower.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash. Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias. Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom. April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.

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