Saturday, August 14, 2010
Mid-Season in Summer GardeningThe garden made it through a cool July, and finally started to produce the usual summer veggies. The tomatoes finally became very colorful, and ripe enough to pick. Their rich flavor has triggered many comments. Abe Lincolns and Jet Setters have the beautiful orange red classic appearance one sees in magazines, while the remaining heirloom tomatoes have produced a collage of colors and shapes and sizes up to 3 pounds. It will soon be time to heavily feed the plants to have tomatoes through September.
In my optimistic outlook based on living here 35 years, I believe that September will be hot - high 80s and 90s. That will be an advantage to starting a Fall/Winter garden soon. I look forward to that adventure while the remains of the summer garden continues to produce peppers, zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers and of course, tomatoes. The Sunny Gold cherry tomatoes will produce into December with feeding, and a little luck, since our really cold nights don't usually start until January here in 9b.
Our local Farmer's Market displays show the effects of a cool summer here. The produce coming in from the San Joaquin Valley is the best. Even the summer apples from the coastal farms are smaller and not as tasty. I can flex with this, because in the organic grown produce, the nutrients are still there.
Monday, July 12, 2010
tomatoes, etc.Here it is, mid July and my 13 tomato plants have shiny, healthy looking tomatoes. However, they are still all green. Two hybrids at one end of the plot are Jet Setter, which have beautiful, round, classic tomatoes, one quarter to half pound. The remaining 11 are heirlooms: Mortgage Lifter is only 3 feet high. It looks lost in its Texas tomato cage, and is a moderate producer of one half to one pound tomatoes. Abe Lincoln has been very slow developing tomatoes and is a small plant. It is beginning to show signs of black spot on part of the leaves. Next to it, Costralee is 5 foot high, healthy and loaded with 2 lb green tomatoes. Big Zebra is also healthy and loaded with large tomatoes. Sunny Gold is the only cherry sized and about 10% are ripe. Cherokee Purple looks to be the biggest producer of large tomatoes, if they would just ripen! At the other end of the plot, are 4 Brandywines: The OTV and the Platfoot look tall and healthy, with a few moderate sized tomatoes. One Red Brandywine is tall and healthy with tomatoes of all sizes, but the other Red Brandywine has a lot of the black spot on yellowing leaves, although producing tomatoes.
Because the sick plants are randomly scattered among the healthy ones, I suspect the virus may be in the dirt. Two years previous, the heirloom tomatoes were planted there and some had black spot disease. One year ago, the plot grew corn, pole green beans, and lemon cukes. I had hoped the virus would die off. Another possibility, is that it may come from bird droppings, because the garden plot is beneath the power lines serving the neighborhood. The dirt is allowed to dry out between deep waterings by soaker hose.
The rest of the vegetables are a mixed bag: Successful is the burpless cucumbers climbing up their support, and next to them the zucchini. Walla Walla onions and Norland red potatoes also did well. All the pepper plants are growing very slowly, and the beets were a loss. Healthy leaves until the 2 days of 98°, which burned the beet leaves, and almost no beets. I will try them again later in the season.
All the fruit trees around the periphery of the yard did well. The 3 year old semi-dwarf Red Haven peach tree is only 6 foot tall, but gave 3 bucket loads of peaches. By next year I may have to start canning again, which I haven't done for 25 years!
All in all, the garden has been a pleasure this year. Insect challenges have been minimal, but bear watching. This fall it will be time to apply a fresh coat of paint to the base of the fruit trees, to discourage the burrowers. About 3 miles from my house West Nile virus has been a problem, so the area is being sprayed. That makes us organic gardeners a little nervous. I experienced spray damage years ago when the problem was the fruit fly, brought in from Hawaii. We were so drenched with spray, it damaged the paint on our cars. Imagine what it did to our plants!
Thursday, May 20, 2010
gardening with trustI am watching the breeze whip the tree leaves back and forth on this 56° F or 13° C morning in mid-spring in 9b. There are very few insects and very few birds showing up. They seem to know something not obvious to us local folk, whether it is because of the return of West Nile Virus, or a forthcoming earthquake, it is hard to say. I dump all standing water every couple days, to avoid creating a place for mosquito larvae. I also watch for dead birds or squirrels in the yard. It also puzzles me that a significant number of garden dirt spiders have not yet hatched their eggs sacs full of young. They are still carrying them about.
On the brighter side of gardening, the heirloom tomatoes are beginning to grow, but few have begun to flower. the Walla Walla onions are beginning to create white bulges just beneath the surface of the dirt. And with my fingers, I am finding egg to baseball sized Red Norland potatoes beneath the plants. So delicious!
All the fruit trees have fruit, but less this year. I suspect it is due to the heavy, prolonged rains that came in February and March, knocking buds and blooms off. There will still be abundance. When I put an owl with a rotating head on top of a pole next to the apricot tree, the number of half-eaten green cots on the ground greatly reduced. Dealing with squirrels takes constant vigilance and a few tricks.
Like all good gardeners, I am willing to work hard with trust that Mother Nature will provide food and beauty for my labor. Last year, a gopher ate half the peppers, eggplants and the roots and tomatoes from all the tomato plants. The neighbor's enormous cat took out the gopher in the late season. This year, with exception of the onions, all the plants were rotated to a different plot. They are thriving. Construction in the neighborhood is complete, so I hope the gophers have burrowed off a different direction and to a new adventure.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Still Cool and WetSpring Equinox came and it is still 52° here in my part of 9b. The dirt is cool so plants are growing slowly. Two months have passed since Walla Walla and Hamburger Red onion shoots went into the ground. They just received a side feeding and look well. Next to the onions is a row of lettuce. I went out with a flashlight about 10PM and picked a couple dozen baby slugs off the lettuce. I probably should do that almost every night, but it is much easier to spread a mix of ash and ground sea shell around the plant stems.
The Norland Red potato plants are about six inches high, so it is important now to mound up the dirt beneath the potato plant leaves so the sun rays will not penetrate the dirt to the potatoes and create an alkaloid skin on them, turning them green.
All the fruit trees are off to a good start. There are many fruits on the two year old peach tree, so it will soon be time to thin part of the fruit, so a few inches separates each peach.The Santa Rosa plum tree does it own thinning, thank goodness. The tree is tall enough it takes a ladder to reach the limbs. The Eureka lemon always has hundreds of fruits. I have been told a lemon tree does not like wet feet, but the dirt certainly soaks up the water around it. The Black Mission fig tree is finally putting out some leaves and baby fruits.
When this latest rain squall passes, it will be time to put all the tomato plants in the ground. Each was moved from small pot to larger pot, and looks healthy. Each will get a heavy dose of fertilizer and ashes in the hole to encourage many blossoms.
I broke up hard clay in a new location in the yard to plant a Pomegranate tree. The clay here resisted my efforts with a shovel or spading fork. Besides, it is covered with a dense layer of bermuda grass, with runners going down at least 2 feet. A pick made short work of that. The bottom of the hole is covered with rock for good drainage, and then a layer of compost mixed with dirt and fruit tree fertilizer. I am living in a region that used to be apricot trees 100 years ago. Any fruit tree should do well.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Ready for SpringThe last couple weekends have been very active in garden shops here. People buying little plants for their yards. I hope the tender vegetation survives the arctic winds and intermittent rains that have pelted our plants for most of February and so far in March. My two cats want their winter underfur brushed out each day. That suggests they know spring is coming. The temperature never got above 50° today in my part of 9b area.
The garden still acts like it is asleep but that is okay. My days are spent cleaning the winter debris and pulling weeds from the yard, and continuing to add more plants. The peach and plum tree received their annual oil-sulfur mix spray and are looking very healthy. Both were loaded with blossoms in February. The apricot has fewer blossoms this year, but I did not prune it drastically this time. It needs more attention to feeding and watering and watching for invasive insects. It is becoming more brittle in its old age of 37 years.
The blackberry vines are beginning to sprout, so it is easier to distinguish the old canes from the new and cut the old out. I am also chopping my way through the bermuda grass runners to make a space for more blueberry plants while the dirt is soft from the rains. It is impressive how strong those runners can be, and how far they go! It will be a never ending battle through the years to keep them from choking the plants.
My entertainment for each day is finding peanuts and acorns buried in the garden by the squirrels. I feed peanuts occasionally to the large birds, but if they are dropped, the squirrels are quick to find them. The acorns come from another yard.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I Am Eager To StartThe last Haichya persimmon fell from the tree, thanks to wind gusts, dragging the rains in across California. The birds have become fat with the fruit pulp, and are now devouring millet and oily black sunflower seeds put out for them. The tree is now a black silhouette against the cloudy sky. I will feed it fruit tree food, for it is 37 years old but still produces heavily.
I read that it is not good to disturb very wet soil for it compacts easily. Yet, it is necessary to now remove the foot high weeds that have taken hold in the soft soil where it is now time to put the onion shoots which have just arrived. A large quantity of compost and chopped leaves were added to the soil last October, when it was still very dry.
Onions are very light feeders, so only a little calcium and lime will be added before putting the shoots 2 inches deep into the soil. Onions take a long time to develop. Short days make the tops, but 12 hours or more of sun will bring on the bulb part. When the rains stop, watering will be necessary, for a sweet onion. My guide is: Steve Solomon's CALIFORNIA VEGETABLE GROWING, 1979.
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