Saturday, July 19, 2014

Give a Flying Fig!

I'm considering a multi-trunk fig tree for my front yard whenever it gets re-landscaped; so I'm trying to learn the pros and cons of these trees.  Your fig comments are welcomed.  Fig trees grow easily here in Zone 8-9 of the southern San Joaquin Valley of California; but some people don't use the fruit.  In fact, when I made a fresh fig cake to take to work this week people were hesitant to sample the goody.  Once word spread, there were many converts.

A co-worker had brought the fig bounty that no one touched.  The entire treasure was brought to my kitchen for experimentation. It's a fig laced cake with fig jam as the topping. Next time, whipped cream will top off this desert.

Cake:
1/4 c butter - softened
1 c white sugar
1 egg
2 c flour
1/2 t salt
2 t baking powder
1c evaporated milk
1 t vanilla
1/4 t lemon extract
1 c fresh figs, chopped.

1.  Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 13X9 pan. (Adjust for round pans or muffins.)
2.  In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt, & baking powder.  Set aside.
3.  In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with sugar.  Add egg and beat well.  Add flour mixture alternately with the evaporated milk. Fold in vanilla & lemon extract along with chopped figs.
4.  Bake until toothpick comes out clean from the center. (About 30 minutes.)
5.  In a saucepan combine the ingredients for the jam.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened.  Spread over cake or between layers.

Jam:
1/4 c brown sugar, packed
1/4 c water
2 c fresh figs, chopped
1 T lemon juice

This makes one batch. I doubled everything because it's delicious.  You can use the extra on toast or as a glaze for barbecued birds.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Solar Power Part II

Ajax Approved
Bed #2 was prepared for solarization today.  A deep soaking and 2 sacks of chicken fertilizer mixed into the soil before being covered.  The manure is supposed to release volatile compounds in the soil that kill pests and help stimulate the growth of beneficial soil organisms.  Note:  I believe the volatile compounds are released as soon as the bag is opened.  Pee EWE!  The 4ml plastic sheeting will be removed around September 6.  Bed #1 will be planted in lettuce for the winter.  Bed #2 will be the cabbage patch with broccoli and cauliflower.

Flying Saucer Morning Glories have been planted at the head of Bed #2.  Thyme and oregano frame the rest of the bed.  The morning glories should grow up to 15' and flower through the fall.  Pollinators should enjoy these purple and white flowers.  The plants enjoy dry heat.  Congratulations.  This is the place.
Ajax - December 2010
Bed #2 was last a successful cabbage patch in 2010.  Fingers crossed.  Let's hope for a healthy bed to be planted at the end of summer.  The soil solarization study by the University of California at Davis is fairly interesting and helpful if your garden is haunted with root knot nematodes.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Nothin' But Trash

Wisteria drapes over the pergola providing shade during the summer.  The blooms start in the spring prior to the leaves and continue throughout the summer months.  Perfect.  Some folks do not like the "mess" blossoms from blooming trees and vines make.  I'm not one of them.  Purple confetti piles up each day as the petals fall.  The original tag used as a bookmark for "wisteria" in my Western Garden Book reads:  Blue Wisteria.  Wow.  That's basic information.

Both vines receive very light pruning as the growth pours over the edges of the pergola.  That pruning is supposed to be responsible for the continuous blossoms according to an old, local nurseryman.  I don't feed it intentionally. However, its roots may have spread enough that it may feast on the fertilizer I provide to the neighboring roses.

Its fuzzy seed pods resemble a green version of something hanging from a Brahma bull.  Well, not really.  Perhaps the Grinch.  The seeds in the pod look like squished Milk Duds.  Those pods and seeds can be discarded or used for decoration when they dry.  The seeds would make dandy BINGO markers.  I do not encourage the seeds to germinate though.  Control of these vines is essential to prevent an invasion.

Honey bees and bumble bees love this stuff.  While taking this bee's portrait, I could hear bumble bees buzzing overhead.  No sweat.  Bees don't bother me cuz I don't bother them.  Until today.

My freshly shampooed hair (I used WEN Winter Cranberry Mint today.) must have attracted a big, fat bumble bee because it latched on to my hair and wouldn't let go.  Rather than risk a sting to the scalp, I leaned to keep the bee suspended away from my scalp until I could reach something to shoo it away.  I reached for Ajax's slobber cloth hanging on the patio.  Shoo.  Shoo.  Dang. Is that thing STILL hanging on?  I looked at my reflection in the glass to discover it was not a bumble bee.

It was a Japanese beetle the size of Godzilla.  These crazy things can't fly well at all; but their grip is strong.  I began hitting myself over the head with the slobber cloth.  Shoo.  Shoo.  Imagine what the neighbors must have thought.  Finally, the beast let go and fell to the patio floor only to fly at me again and again.  I wasn't having any of it.  I used that slobber cloth as if it was a Louisville Slugger.  Pop.  Pop.  Pop.  Slapping that towel as if I was in the basement of the Bakersfield High School gym.  Soon, I wore the creep down with an exceptional snap to send it on its way.  As it flew away I could feel every inch of me turn into one Godzilla sized goose pimple.

Dang those things are creepy.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Like Paint Drying


 Farmer MacGregor is a paint master.  No painted surface on our house or garden can be called "shabby chic". All - and I mean ALL - painted surfaces are well maintained to keep that Disneyland-like look.  Farmer MacGregor works hard to keep things just so.  His idea of a great summer outing with the garden gnomes was to take a ride down to the local paint and wallpaper store.  He was the only one convinced that was a great idea.  As summer began (Forget the calendar.  Summer started a long time ago here in Bakersfield.), the windows were washed then the trim was painted.  Next was painting the doors and shutters.  His day starts very early so that the bulk of work is finished before the heat hits.  He's allowed to go outside several times and admire his handiwork.  "Just look at that shine!"  Yup. 

The paint is not the only thing that thrives in this dry heat.  Some of the plants actually like it too.  Oh, they'll wither and poop out by summer's end; but for now summer is a good thing.  I only say that because the air conditioners are working beautifully.

Bougainvillea - Barbara Karst


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Solar Power

Nematodes have plagued the raised beds in the garden for some time now. So, two beds remain fallow this summer.  I'm following the directions from UC Davis for solarization one bed at a time. The soil must be turned, smoothed, and irrigated deeply.  An application of chicken manure is suggested to be successful.  While the bed is still moist, clear plastic is applied on top of the soil.  Thinner is better; but very thin may tear.  4 ml is being used. The plastic sheeting needs to be anchored down then left for 4 - 8 weeks.  The plastic builds up the soil temperature to kill pests and seeds.  

On about August 13 (8 weeks), the plastic can be removed from this bed and discarded.  It will be ready for planting a fall salad garden.

Fingers crossed.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Boysenberries 2015


Thornless Boysenberry
Harvest of the Thornless boysenberries is complete.  Now it's time to get ready for the 2015 season.  Berries develop on the growth from this summer; so the canes that bore fruit in 2014 need to be removed.  I removed the bird netting then Farmer MacGregor got into the overgrown thicket and cut those canes to the ground.  He also removed any canes with thorns. So much for "thornless". Discarded canes should be burned; but the San Joaquin Valley has very limited times when you can burn.  So into the green waste can they go. That leaves canes that started sprouting this year.  From those, we select 5 canes on each of the 6 plants to be tied to the supports.  Think of fingers on your hand fanning out.

2015 Producing Canes
It's not a perfect science, but it helps to keep this part of the garden tidy.  Berries can really get away from you. If you're not careful, your berry patch will look more like a brier patch from Song of the South.  Any other canes that sprout are removed.  This is something that should be done at least once a week here.  We have found something that thrives in this spot of the garden.

2015 Thornless Boysenberry Patch
As these canes grow, they will be tied to the supports until they reach the top.  At that point, they will be pruned to keep at a manageable height.  Laterals will form and those will get tied up too.  Everything should stay within the support frame.  At least, that's the goal.  The berries will continue to be fertilized and irrigated throughout the summer.  Soil amendment is next on the "to do" list.

Now it's time to enjoy the harvest.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Super Sweet 100

Just planted a Super Sweet 100 in the Serrano pepper bed.  Picked it up at Walmart this weekend while taking my mother shopping. This variety is resistant to nematodes.  Excellent.

It's 90 °F & not quit 8pm. The garden is popping from the heat.  My swamp pants tell me it's time to enjoy the AC.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Eenie Meenie, Jelly Beanie…

Sweet Olive Tomato
Today, some of the tomatoes are showing great signs of ripening.  Sweet Olive along with the larger Celebrity varieties now have a blush on their skins.  It will be salsa making time soon.  Salsa and catchup are my favorite only condiments.  The recent heat put the Serrano peppers into hyper mode.  I use more peppers than tomatoes in my salsa; so everything is aligning just right.

Now, I'm on the look out for another grape sized tomato variety.  Sweet Olive is determinate - they will all ripen at once.  I'll visit the local nurseries to see what is available.  By planting different varieties throughout the growing season should keep me in salsa for some time.  Has anyone tried the Jelly Bean variety?


Monday, May 5, 2014

Hello. Good Bye.

Some onions are about ready to burst attracting more pollinators to the garden.  Not many butterflies yet; but there are honey bees, bumble bees, and hummingbirds visiting.  More visitors to the garden are expected soon.


This weekend I searched for a grape tomato plant to help fill my mother's need for daily munchable tomatoes.  She can be found cruising the grocery store aisles popping tiny tomatoes before finally checking out and paying for her treat.  We went for a ride to a nursery on the other side of town and found an overpriced, gangly plant that should work.


Johnny's Select Seeds describes this variety:  Bite-size, firm, oval-shaped grape tomatoes. Fruits avg. 10 gm. Plants have medium-short internodes and are manageable without pruning, but staking is recommended. Determinate.  For the metric challenged, 1gm = 0.035274 oz.  I'm still looking for a couple of other varieties of small tomatoes to try.  Determinate would be great; but it's not a requirement.  The search continues.

Sweet Olive Tomato Planted 05/04/14
The lame plant is very spindly and was growing horizontally.  I removed it's lower sets of leaves and planted it deep in nicely amended soil with organic fertilizer.  A bamboo stake and green garden tape helped to convince Sweet Olive that she needs to stand up straight.  Sweet Kern River water was then applied to welcome Sweet Olive into the garden. 

Rio Red Grapefruit
Sadly, this is the last harvest from the grapefruit tree for 2014.  Supplies have lasted from the first of the year until now.  And I usually eat one grapefruit each morning.  Good bye, Rio Red.  See you again in a few months.  

That's pretty good - and delicious.  My daily fruit will now switch to berries - boysenberries, blueberries, and strawberries.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Garden Progress in April


 Here's what's going on in the garden after some nice rain before we head into a scorcher of a week.
Several lavender plants are drawing various pollinators into the garden - hummingbirds, bubble bees, bees, and butterflies.
Lavender
The plum tree is alive.  I thought it had been lost after it bloomed in the fall and produced leaves into the winter.  Those leaves looked awful and sad; but it bloomed this spring and produced some fruit.  Most of that fruit has fallen though.
Santa Rosa Plum
The peach tree got away from my pruning shears last year.  Once the fruit has been harvested in a few months, I'll work on slowly trimming it down to a manageable espalier.
O'Henry Peach
Good ol' Granny Smith looks like it is thriving and will provide plenty of apples at the end of the summer.  This tree had some problems with scalding a few years ago.
Granny Smith Apple
 
The Red Flame grapes were pruned a bit today by Farmer MacGregor.  He took down an unfilled Scrub Jay nest that distressed those nest builders.
Red Flame Grapes
The Warren pear tree never bloomed (AGAIN!) and the Fantasia Nectarine lost all of its fruit.  The Bleinheim apricot has had a few prunings so far this spring.  The fruit has a bit of cosmetic damage from the sun and wind.  Hopefully, it won't do a thing to the flavor.
Bleinheim Apricot
A few peas have started to develop.  I'm surprised since the heat came early.  Maybe I'll get a few to sample.
Wando Peas
Celebrity tomatoes have produced well in the past even though there is a nematode problem.  This year is no exception.  There is hope of homemade salsa.
Celebrity Tomato
Thornless boysenberries were covered with netting today to fight off the pesky birds.  This season may not be as bountiful as last.  If so, I'll blame it on my pruning.
Thornless Boysenberries
Serrano peppers are great stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped with bacon.  They are also my pepper of choice for making salsa.
Serrano Peppers
Most of the irrigation is only twice during the week.  Basins are filled from the hose.  This method may encourage the roots to push deeper into the soil and not dry out as fast.  I may be wrong since so many encourage drip irrigation.  We'll see.