And thus, it is time for planting those native plants you've been dying to add to your collection and that cool season garden again. I'm amazed at how many Californians ask, "You can garden in the winter?"
The answer is a resounding, "YES!"
In fact, the winter garden here is pretty much like the summer garden in Ireland. I'm looking forward to sugar snap peas, lettuce, beets, Brassicas like arugula, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts - did you know that most of the Brussels sprouts sold in the USA come from California? Now that's winter crops for ya! And the list of yummy things to plant right now goes on. See the Master Garden website for it warm and cool season charts.
What I have learned over the past couple of years here is to try to get the winter garden sewn in September - before the rain comes and the slugs can have at it with the seedlings. The next major pests are the birds. You just have to be smarter than them. Though they have brains the size of peas, outwitting them is harder than it seems, but it can be done.
But be careful - I heard an account recently of how crows can memorize peoples faces and retaliate when they've been shooed out of someone's yard. Apparently they dive bomb the person and can even "tell their mates" by conveying this information somehow to other crows. Bottom line - be nice to the crows!
Better still be nice to your humming birds - these aggressive little monsters can actually chase other birds many times bigger than themselves from their territories.
I was standing, minding my own business, at my own back door when a humming bird hovered over me - it kind of "buzzed" me. Then it flew to the empty feeder and then flew to within a foot of my face and "buzzed" me again! I just had to drop everything and feed it. It makes you realize just how risky it is to feed the wildlife when a 2 inch long bird can bully you into feeding it.
Birds love to eat newly germinated beet. They may seem smart, but they are not quite smart enough to know that if they let seedlings grow a bit there'll be more food for everyone! A mocking bird managed to get under the netting and took out all the seedlings in the middle of my beet patch with the result that I had to reseed that area (after having carefully extracted a very frightened wee bird from the net).
This time I secured the netting better and kept it to the middle so that the established beet leaves don't get all caught up in it.
The carrots were even more fun with their 2 inch spacing. I got a piece of card about 1 square foot and punched a hole every 2 inches. Out in the garden, I placed the card on the soil and then poured the seed packet into my left hand. I carefully picked out each seed and painstakingly put one in each hole. That done, I moved the card for the next section, but as I shuffled up I knocked my left elbow off my knee. Bam! The seeds from my hand lifted up into the air and fell on my carefully plotted area. I broad cast the rest of the carrot patch. Can you tell where the majority of the seeds fell?
And the bok choi are already nearly edible after only a week. In the middle of the bed are some arugula (rocket). I have peas in the corner. I'm happy to have them established now, after losing so many last year to the slugs, snails and then birds.
Beet seeds are usually clumped together and so two or even three plants can come up from what seems like one seed. The nice thing about thinning out beets is that you can eat the thinnings.