A GARDEN OF COUNTRY BLUES
Ray Wylie Hubbard blew through Los Angeles a few days ago and almost all of the band I play in made time to see him at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. Hubbard is, to my way of thinking, one of the premier songwriters of our age and seeing him perform puts me in intimate touch with the fine art of song craft. His songs embrace the heritage of being human, entertain with self-denigrating good humor and have the rough edges of modern man; a savory blend of past and present.
Which calls to mind our fall garden season. Autumn in Southern California is really a second spring. We are a land blessed with much: two springs, for gosh sakes, but not water– which is why we need to be ever mindful of our past. We are not an east coast oasis with plentiful grass and water sucking birch trees unless we are prepared to pay a huge environmental price. Like the price of gas at the pump, the cost of water will continue to rise above inflation and water usage will be ever more restricted as we come to grips with the elusion of cheap water.
Over the next few months, with the hope of our annual winter rains, gardeners will plant our perennials (any plant that lives for more than two years), winter annuals (those that live one year but want cooler temperatures or wetter conditions) and all California Natives. The cooler, shorter days, combined with whatever fall rain we do get will establish the plants in the ground in a way that approaches the depth of Ray’s songs in the tradition of country blues.
Though I am first and foremost a food grower, I appreciate the value of native plantings. Not only do they save water, but they feed native butterflies, birds and other creatures that have had their natural habitat invaded and carved up by human population growth. The least we could do is plant food to support their survival. Some species, because of our urban uprooting of California’s native habitat, teeter on the brink of extinction – and California has one of the richest, most diverse unique species of wildlife in the United States.
Consult with the California Native Plant Society, Theodore Payne Foundation and Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden for more data on how your garden can serve in this way. And think of the advice I heard from a friend, "If a person is growing native plants, it shows their ability to think of much more than just themselves."
On the other hand, I’m a fairly self-absorbed guy because my obsession is to grow things for me to eat. And to that end, the fall planting season is probably my favorite. I sow seeds of carrots, radishes (just a few), beets, turnips, onions, and parsnips. I set out plants of broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and fava beans. This year I want to experiment with garbanzo beans (yummy hummus). I will also plant garlic and some small onion plants sold as "starts," Peaceful Valley Farm Supply has Italian Torpedo Onions.
After the first of the year, we come into what is called ‘bare-root season.’ These are dormant plants (not actively growing) that are offered for sale at this time of year. Included in this list are deciduous fruit tress like apples, peaches, apricots, and some pears. You will also find perennial food producing plants, like rhubarb, artichokes, grapes, strawberries and cane berries. All can be planted when you find them for sale and they will produce food for you over the years without a lot of care.
And just as Ray’s songs are pretty much about Ray, so my garden is pretty much about David. We can hope our gardens reflect a similarly rich tapestry of a full and appreciated life.
Grandson of a Great Plains farmer, David King is the Garden Master at the Learning Garden, on the campus of Venice High School. He shares his love of the land and music through teaching, writing and playing in a folk/country band. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org