[gardeners] Withering heat

Ron Hay (gardeners@globalgarden.com)
Fri, 15 Sep 2000 07:58:29 -0700

Good morning, friends,

Our hottest part of the year has begun in earnest. On Monday of this
week, it was 109 outside my office in Sherman Oaks. It was almost
bearable without the humidity; but with the breakup of tropical storm
Lane, the humidity has been with us in spates, at least by SoCal
standards, turning everyone into sticky, sweaty messes. It's so much fun
to preview and show property in this weather:(

Not much yard work is getting done, since it is that curious time of
year here when the days grow shorter and shorter, but the temperature
stays high, meaning that despite shorter days, things still need to be
cared for and watered, which is a neat trick to do before heading out to
work. I do what I can and hope for the best until the next day.

Our limes are ripening apace, and the first ripe one fell this week. The
Fuyu persimmons are growing larger and darkening, indicating to us that
netting time is upon us.

Our three pomegranates are ripening, as well, while the tree burgeons.
It seems to have picked up thrips, which have caused the new growth to
curl. I try to spray, but it is hard to chose what small task to
undertake after breakfast and before I head out the door. Watering seems
even more important, since the pomegranate is flourishing, while other
more water-intensive plants would perish in our withering blast.

Our Amish Paste, Mortgage Lifters and Omar's Lebanese will be taken out
this weekend, a major disappointment in our garden this summer. AP and
ML were bred for cooler, moister climes, I suspect, while the problem
with OL is that it did not get enough light, since the house was vacant
next door for months and the shrubbery grew rank along our wall.

We have lost two serrano plants to some sort of sucking insect which is
harbored on the rank Eugenia berry hedges next door, which have grown to
an incredible 20+ feet, totally uncared for. I fear to use too many
pesticides other than insecticidal soap, which, in this case, clearly
did not do the trick. But the two remaining serranos have jumped into
the breach and produced at least 300 chiles so far, all nicely
dehydrated and put away in a giant jar, while the plants keep on

As do the artichokes. We are getting ready for round 6 on our two
original artichokes this year. I picked the last 3 last week, which sent
the plants into growth spasms from their roots. Won't be long before we
have crop numbre 7!

And our blueberry bushes! They have doubled in size this year, having
just been put in the ground in May. I can hardly wait to see the bounty
they will produce next year.

Our new butterfly bushes in the front yard are beginning to grow like
topsy. We planted a yellow one and a purple one, interspersed by Mexican
sage. All of them are starting to grow amazingly fast in this heat. They
must be taking the clue from Mac, our Macadamia tree, which has tripled
its leaf area this summer. Seems he is a good influence on the new tea
tree (melaleuca alternifolia), his new antipodean buddy on the other
side of the lawn.

Tea tree oil is something we are just finding out about. It is literally
a medicince kit in a bottle. Vivian has suffered from psoriatic patches
on her elbows for years, and it seems like the oil, which we purchase at
one of our numerous health food stores, is turning the tide. It has so
many wonderful uses! It will be fun to have a mature shrub in our yard
from which we can utilize the clippings by distilling the oil,

The two types of plants in the front yard that have not done all that
well in this heat are the roses and the wisteria.

Wisterias are supposed to be pest and disease free, per Sunset's
_Western Garden Book._ Au contraire: it has been a constant battle to
keep some sort of noxious beetle from feasting on it. This pest has
curtailed its growth markedly, despite numerous sprayings with
insecticidal soap.

The roses are the other ones suffering. I have been using Vigaro Rose
Food, which is just plain wonderful. The roses have grown up to my eye
level this season ( I am 6') and have produced prodigious numbers of
blooms all summer, most of which have gotten fried by our excessive
heat, with the end result that I have to cull many of them before they
are fully opened.

It's a delicate balancing act with roses: too little water and they
become drought stressed; too much and they develop mildew. I can't wait
for October and November to get here so that we can truly enjoy them
again, just before cutting them back.

This year has seen a couple of failures (too much water killed our
purple hibiscus), but on balance, everything else is doing wonderfully
well, and is a joy for us. I guess every year is a little different, and
that is what makes gardening such a wonderful challenge, along with the
relaxation it brings after time spent nurturing our charges.

One last observation: Last fall, I broke off a branch of Mexican sage
while harvesting some limes nearby. I stuck it in a glass on our window
sill, and to our amazement, grew a forest of roots. There it remained,
out of sheer inertia, until the spring, when we planted it, unsure of
whether or not it could survive out of water. Well, this week it has its
first blossom and branches are coming out from every leaf axil, as well
as from the roots. It has obviously been cheered on by its little
buddies next to the butterfly bushes, 20 feet away:)

Now that I have cooled down after my shower, it's time to get dressed,
and to attempt to turn this moth into a butterfly for the benefit of my

Have a wonderful day and a fabulous weekend.

Van Nuys, CA