Urban Garden Update

It's been an eventful couple of months for my little garden on a deck here in San Francisco. July and August had unusually cold weather, on which I was very conveniently blaming certain of my failures in the garden. Looking back, however, I realize that my ignorance and impatience probably played the biggest role. We should start with the story of my favorite garden project, the Improved Dwarf Meyer Lemon tree that I bought back in March on a rainy day from Sloat Gardens.

In my last update, you'll remember the tree was full of blossoms, and its future looked very bright indeed. There were a few little green lemons, whose evolution I was jealously monitoring. Weeks passed, blossoms bloomed, and the little green lemons stayed little and green. Then many blossoms withered (which my cousin had prepared me for) while some grew into more fruit, yet the little green lemons still stayed little and green. And then most of the little green lemons started to wither and die.

This is when I started to really worry. I wondered if maybe our foggy summer was too much for the little tree (after all, aren't the famed citrus-growing regions of the world places like Florida and Orange County?). I decided to pull the tree into my kitchen and let it sit inside during the coldest days. Instinctively, this felt like the wrong thing to do, but I had to experiment. Nothing changed, except that I was worrying a lot more about the tree. I eventually went over to the Floorcraft garden store on Bayshore to browse the plants and ponder. I noticed that their Meyer Lemon trees sit in much a microclimate very similar to my own deck--windy, foggy, and on a street filled with loud traffic--and yet their trees had scrumptious medium-sized lemons (green like mine, but much bigger and healthier-looking).

So I had to ask Abby, who's very friendly and helpful in case you ever need some garden advice. First, I told her I'd brought the tree inside. She shook her head and said that was no good, mentioning something about photosynthesis and a plant's formidable will to survive. OK, I noted. But her next question was the most enlightening: "How many years have you had the tree?" I immediately realized that the life of a tree is measured not in weeks or months, but years. When she heard I'd only had my tree since March, she just laughed. "You won't see real fruit for the first year, and the first lemons your tree produces will be little and shriveled. But the next year..."

She didn't need to go on. I know exactly what happens the next year, and I'm really looking forward to it. So I invite you all over for lemonade, in the summer of 2007! For now, I give you two pictures of my little green lemons, which I expect to stay little, green, and utterly healthy for some time.

The other big garden lesson I had is that I'm nowhere near experienced enough to grow anything from seed. Remember how I planted nasturtiums, morning glories, daisies, alyssum, basil, and cilantro? Here's what I have now:

Notice you see geraniums, marigolds, lavender, and a tea rose plant? All plants I bought from professional gardeners to replace my seed-based plants that all pretty much much died. This is what my sad little herb garden looks like today:

I do have alyssum (seen below) that was also bought pre-grown from Abby:

Alas, I've started growing things from branches cut off of other healthy plants (like the geraniums and jade below):

But I know you're all really dying to know what's happening with the tomato plants! I won't picture them here, because it's really too sad. I'll just say that even in the middle of the city, aphids will find a way. We did harvest a couple salads worth of tomatos, though, and they were really tasty. Maybe next year we'll get one of those jars of ladybugs when we start the tomato plants.

In closing, I have my favorite assortment of all--the succulent Desert Delight. Now these are hardy plants:


Unknown said...

oh, i think the garden pictures are lovely. it is, after all, almost fall. i may have told you this, but i think herbs, alyssum and the like, prefer plain ordinary soil. they may have gotten too many nutrients if you planted them in potting soil. or i could be all wrong. Don't give up. The jade and lemon will start to get really big by next spring, i predict. and a word of caution on the ladybugs: put a net of some sort over the plant before releasing the ladies so they don't immediately fly away with the first s.f. breeze. give them some time there to do the job they do so well, and maybe even lay a few eggs.

Jennifer said...

I was wondering how the ladybugs are supposed to stay put. Thanks for the idea, jfh.