Growing a garden for the soul, 28 July 2015

I grow much more than food in my garden. I also garden for my soul. I love to sit on our back deck in the morning with a cup of coffee (several cups in succession, actually) and watch the action in my back garden.

This is the sitting area on the deck. My favorite chair is the one on the right, still in shadow.

This is the sitting area on our deck. My favorite chair is the one on the right, still in shadow and hard to see. It stays cool there until about noon.

From my comfy chair, I can watch the parade of butterflies, bees, paper wasps, and birds go by. I can see the huge non-native Green Fig Beetles circling my tomatoes, looking for a spot to get in under the netting. And if they happen to get their legs tangled in the netting, I whap them with my shoe. That is called “mechanical control” in the parlance of an organic gardener. 🙂 I have dispatched three so far. I think there is only one left in the neighborhood, and I hope it gets tangled up soon enough.

This is the view from my chair, looking to the west. This is a great place to enjoy the cool mornings before the sun heats things up.

This is the view from my chair, looking to the west. This is a great place to enjoy the cool mornings before the sun heats things up.

The herb garden with bird bath in the center has sage and sorrel in it at present. I feed the sorrel to the chickens.

The herb garden with bird bath in the center is to the left (south) of the veggie beds. It has only sage and sorrel in it at present. I feed the sorrel to the chickens.

The chicken coop is to the left (south) of the herb garden. Fruit trees grow beyond.

The chicken coop is to the left (south) of the herb garden. Fruit trees grow beyond.

We are down to three hens, but two of them are laying, so we are good in the egg department.

We are down to three hens, but two of them are laying, so we are good in the egg department. The girls are enjoying a new layer of pine shavings in their outdoor run. They love to dig in the dirt, looking for the scratch that I scatter for them as a treat.

I like watching my veggies grow. This bed is the most recently planted one. I have nets over all three beds to keep the birds out. They had been eating my lettuce, peas, green beans, and even the cucumber leaves.

I like watching my veggies grow. This bed is the most recently planted one. I have nets over all three beds to keep the birds out. They had been eating my lettuce, peas, green beans, and even the cucumber leaves.

This is bed #2, the first one I planted this summer. It is looking lush, but not producing anything yet.

This is bed #2, the first one I planted this summer. It is looking lush, but is not producing anything ready to harvest yet. Later.

Bed #1 was planted after bed #2, and is coming along nicely. It had room for a row of beans, so I planted some pole beans.

Bed #1 was planted after bed #2, and is coming along nicely. It had room for a row of beans, so I planted some pole beans.

This is a bean called Ojo de Capra, Eye of Goat. I got the seeds from Native Seed Search. I haven't grown them before. I planted them late in the season, so who knows if I will get a crop or not. It's an experiment, like much of my gardening.

This is a bean called Ojo de Capra, Eye of Goat. I got the seeds from Native Seed Search. I haven’t grown them before. I planted them late in the season, so who knows if I will get a crop or not. It’s an experiment, like much of my gardening.

I planted a row of Frijol Chivita (Little Goat Beans) in bed #3. Again, it's late in the season, and the seeds were old, so who knows if they will even sprout.

I planted a row of Frijol Chivita (Little Goat Beans) in bed #3. Again, it’s late in the season, and the seeds were old, so who knows if they will even sprout.

See those dirty hands? Those are the hands of a happy gardener. The outside of a garden is good for the inside of a gardener.

I have four Butternut squash that have set fruit. Three were hand-pollinated. There were male flowers open on the same day as the female flower for the fourth squash, so I let nature take its course. It appears to be pollinated, but I'm not positive yet. I don't see any more female flowers, so this may be my entire harvest, four Butternut squash.

I have four Butternut squash that have set fruit. Three were hand-pollinated. There were male flowers open on the same day as the female flower for the fourth squash, so I let nature take its course. It appears to be pollinated, but I’m not positive yet. I don’t see any more female flowers, so this may be my entire harvest, four Butternut squash.

The three zucchini plants have a lot of male flower buds, and I can see one female bud. I have my fingers crossed for getting some summer squash before summer is over.

The three zucchini plants have a lot of male flower buds, and I can see one female bud. I have my fingers crossed for getting some summer squash before summer is over.

This is just some of the damage that the birds did before I got netting over bed #3. I transplanted 8 cucumber vines, but the birds seem to have eaten the growth end off of about five of them. VBS.

This is just some of the damage that the birds did before I got netting over bed #3. I transplanted 8 cucumber vines, but the birds seem to have eaten the growth end off of about five of them. VBS.

I had some spider plants that weren't doing well in pots in this west-facing sunny spot, so I replaced them with pots of Penta, marigolds, and Lantana. That's right, a mini-garden for butterflies and bees.

I had some spider plants that weren’t doing well in pots in this west-facing sunny spot, so I replaced them with pots of Penta, marigolds, and Lantana. That’s right, a mini-garden for butterflies and bees.

I also put some pots of coneflower and Rudbeckia on the deck, and planted more bloodflower milkweed, all for the butterflies. I now get a colorful parade of butterflies in back: Monarchs, Gulf Fritillaries, Cloudless Sulfurs, Mourning Cloaks, Fiery Skippers, White Cabbage Butterflies (a non-native pest, but still pretty), and an occasional Tiger Swallowtail.

I think this is a Funeral Duskywing, but it might be a dark Fiery Skipper.

I think this is a Funeral Duskywing, but it might be a dark Fiery Skipper.

A Gulf Fritillary on a marigold in my new hanging basket pollinator garden.

A Gulf Fritillary on a marigold in my new hanging basket pollinator garden.

One of the many Monarchs in our yard.

One of the many Monarchs in our yard.

And here is a Monarch with its wings a bit more spread.

And here is a Monarch with its wings a bit more spread.

I like to do "yard patrol," looking at what has sprouted. This time it is radishes and carrots.

I like to do “yard patrol,” looking at what has sprouted. This time it is radishes and carrots.

I don't know if this will show up or not, but it is supposed to be a picture of a female Western Fence lizard. We also have males in the yard, and I assume that they are reproducing. At this point, they outnumber the Southern Alligator Lizards in our yard, which is a National Wildlife Federation certified backyard habitat.

I don’t know if this will show up or not, but it is supposed to be a picture of a female Western Fence lizard on the rock to the right. We also have males in the yard, and I assume that they are reproducing. At this point, they outnumber the Southern Alligator Lizards in our yard, which is a National Wildlife Federation certified backyard habitat.

The hummingbirds are very happy that I have finally cleaned and refilled the feeders for them. The male Allen's hummingbirds fight over the feeders. "Mine"! "No, mine, get away!" Silly birds. There are three feeders, enough for everyone. They aren't into sharing.

The hummingbirds are very happy that I have finally cleaned and refilled the feeders for them. The male Allen’s hummingbirds fight over the feeders. “Mine!” “No, mine, get away!” Silly birds. There are three feeders, enough for everyone. Apparently they aren’t into sharing.

We get a daily visitation from House Sparrows and House Finches. A family of Mourning Doves nested nearby, as did a family of Hooded Orioles, and we see them frequently. We get visits from Common Bushtits, Common Yellowthroats, and Black Phoebes. Gulls fly overhead, soaring in lazy circles. Crows fly purposefully from one spot to another. We get occasional Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Double-crested Cormorants, and Canada Geese traveling over our house.

There is always something to see and hear, always something to enjoy from our back deck, even if there is very little to harvest in the way of vegetables.

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I am retired from writing a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent, but I am still teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks.
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7 Responses to Growing a garden for the soul, 28 July 2015

  1. Norma Chang says:

    Funny, I was telling my out-of-town friend earlier how I sometimes am in the garden for hours but gets nothing done as I am listening and watching the birds, admiring the butterflies (even the pesty white ones) admiring the flowers and the hours just fly by and here I am reading your post. Love your title, glad we share the same interest.

  2. Mary Mueller says:

    Sounds like a little bit of heaven!

  3. It sure looks like you have made an oasis in your garden Lou! I do love to sit on our screened porch and listen and look at our garden. It is so peaceful, and I have been known to fall asleep more than once, especially in the afternoon. I’ve never grown the Eye of the Goat beans, but I did cook up some from Rancho Gordo a couple of weeks ago, and they were great. I think they wound up in a salad, but I believe they would make a good soup bean too. Thanks for giving us a tour of your gardens!

    • Dave, I am sad to say that my row of Eye of Goat beans only produced ONE sprout. I was going to photograph it, but some critter ate it down to the ground as soon at it had developed its first true leaves. The Little Goat’s Eye beans didn’t sprout at all. So those were crop failures. Typical for my little garden.

  4. You’ve got such an impressive array of wildlife in your garden! Wowie!

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