Sunday, November 2, 2014

With Citrus, Christmas Can't Be Far Away


Grapefruit - Rio Red
Bounteous amounts of citrus means the calendar is closing in on Christmas time.  Here in Bakersfield and probably most of the San Joaquin Valley, residents with citrus trees are looking for neighbors to unload the bounty.  Citrus is winter's zucchini - but in a very good way.  Citrus is my favorite. The scent is in everything from the bloom to the peel to the fruit.  It's even in the limbs when they are pruned.  Wonderful.  The fruit can remain on the tree for quite a long time so it can be harvested as needed.  Local nurseries sponsor citrus tasting events throughout the winter where gardeners can learn about the different varieties, sample the fruit/juice, and purchase health stock.

Grapefruit is my favorite citrus.  Rio Red is delicious.  My dwarf tree is weighted down with the most fruit ever.  That little tree should give enough fruit to last through the winter months.  No scurvy here.

Navel Oranges - Robertson
The fruit is now starting to gain color that is really accentuated by the rain washed leaves.  Yes, it rained yesterday and just a bit today.  Wonderful.  Some of the oranges have split.  That is probably due to uneven irrigation.  Any split fruit is removed as soon as it is detected and disposed.  2014 looks to be a bumper year for the oranges as well.

Lemon - Pink Variegated
Two of the fruit trees are potted - lemon and mandarin.  Neither have fruit.  The Satsuma mandarin is very young and having no fruit is expected while it develops.  The lemon, however, usually has some fruit.  Currently, it's blooming.  In the photo above, some Leaf Miner damage can be seen in the leaf on the left.  That's only cosmetic.

Leaf Miner Larva
Leaf Miner larva mine just below the surface of the young leaves and the skin of the fruit.  These moth babies are annoying but not scary like the Asian Citrus Psyllid that can carry the Huanglongbing (HLB or citrus greening) disease.  Many areas of California are quarantined because of this pest.   That pest is the reason I have not added a lime tree to my citrus collection. 

Asian Citrus Psyllid
In the meantime, it's a joy to work in the soft soil in the garden after some wonderful rain. (Let's not talk about the amount of dirt the wind blew in before the rain.  Yuck.)  All the winter vegetables are experiencing a growth boost with the cooler weather and the rain.

Lettuce - Cimmaron

Friday, October 24, 2014

Markers

 Relying on my memory to recall what seeds were planted where is not a good plan.  When the seeds are sown, I try to mark the information on the seed packet.  Date, location, etc.  Germination dates are jotted down if I think of it; but that's typically not recorded. 

The information noted on the seed packet is then transferred to a wooden stake and pounded into the ground in the general area of the crop.  This system works pretty well.  The ink gets weathered down and can be erased with a light sanding making the stake available as another marker.

Carrots - Chantenay Red Core
 Even if the crop is easily identifiable, the variety may not.  This group of carrots are Chantenay Red Core.  They are supposed to grow well in heavy soil.  The raised beds aren't heavy.  These were planted because of other factors:  One of the sweetest, this variety was introduced in 1929 and is a large, stump-rooted carrot with a deep red-orange center; great for juicing or fresh eating.  A good market variety that is smooth and refined in shape.
Lettuce - Cimmaron
The salad bed has several varieties of lettuce that were planted at different times.  The south 1/2 of the bed was planted about a month before the north 1/2 to allow for the impending shade when the Earth tilts away from the sun creating more shadows over the garden.  The markers for the lettuce have that information recorded.

If more time could be dedicated in the garden, it would really be a Jeffersonian organization.  But I live in the real world and simply do the best I can.  Martha Stewart I am not.

Garden Update:
Apples - Granny Smith
The harvest is complete from the Granny Smith apple tree.  At one time, I wasn't sure that tree was going to recover from scorch.  It really performed well this year.  Now I will be busy in the kitchen making sticky apple muffins and apple/cranberry pies...all freezer friendly.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

October Skies


Flying Saucer Morning Glory
Earth has tilted so the sun's rays are a more tolerable angle.  Not quite so harsh at noon.  Have the shorter but still blazing hot days encouraged the morning glories planted in June to finally grow vigorously and bloom?  Is the increase in irrigation because of the pea seedling sprouts planted in the same area the reason the vines are popping with flowers bringing all kinds of pollinators into the garden?  The seed package said this variety does not like a lot of water.  Lies.  It's probably a combination of everything.  Maybe even the blood moon had something to do with a trellis of blue and white blooms.

Dorothy (Soil Sister of the San Joaquin), up in Visalia, was bragging about her beautiful morning glories back in early September. I was always under the impression that morning glories were like weeds in the garden and my measly vines weren't growing much at all.  Kind of an ego crusher.  But Dorothy seems to be able to grow pretty much any kind of flower.  Then the calendar page turned to October and my measly vines are coming right along.


This variety reminds me of soft, old blue jeans that have been splattered with bleach.  Or white painter's pants splashed with indigo paint. Blue and white are the colors of my high school - Bakersfield High School.  It's the name of the school paper - The Blue & White.  The Drillers are great.


Most all the flowers are blue and white.  Of course, nature throws in a peculiar nonconformist once in a while.  Almost perfect except for the blotch of something at one o'clock.  I'm glad I tried to grow these weeds called morning glories.  So far, no regrets.  I may change my mind once the seeds start to explode.

Enjoy your October skies wherever you are.

Monday, October 6, 2014

October!


Hip hip hooray!  October finally arrived.  It's the gateway to cooler weather ahead.  We just need to make it through this last furnace blast and we'll be into excellent gardening weather.  Seedlings for the winter vegetable bed are coming along; but I may supplement the beds with nursery bought plants to fill in the bare spots.  Lettuce, beets, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower are sprouting. It will be nice when they don't need constant moisture supplied by the garden hose.  Pray for rain.

Granny Smith - store bought & garden grown.
Granny Smiths are still being harvested to bake in tarts, muffins, apple sauce, and pies.  How are store bought apples so perfect?  I understand the glossiness from the wax; but why is the stem end perfect.  There is a scab of sorts that develops on the stem end of the apple.  How does it develop?  It doesn't effect the taste.  It doesn't effect me.  Just a curiosity I have.

Since publishing this post, I have found out that the "scab" is called russeting and is caused by humidity as the apple develops.  The example in the image above is an excellent example of very low humidity russeting since California is in the midst of an historic drought.  Chemical supplements can be applied to have apples of more consistent size with a pleasing appearance.  I found this interesting post regarding russeting.  UC Davis also has an interesting explanation of russeting on apples.  Scroll down to page 4 and read the article regarding russeting.  Irrigation after the petals fall and there after seems to be important in avoiding russeting. This is similar to cracking in tomatoes when soil is allowed to dry out then water is applied.  The plant sucks up the moisture and as a result, stretch marks are created. 

All the fruit trees and berries have been fertilized and given a layer of compost to tuck them in for the winter whenever it arrives.  The apples are the only fruit left.  Once the leaves start to drop, I'll have a better view of the limbs to enable some pruning before Farmer MacGregor applies the dormant spray.  Until then, we're still dreaming about some cold, wet weather.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Off With Their Heads!

Thornless Boysenberries

The boysenberries are all set for the winter.  All of the suckers were removed along with any other unwanted canes.  The canes that emerged this summer (primocanes) have been tied up to the supports where the growth will be pruned to keep it in bounds of the support.  In early spring, the primocanes become floricanes when blossoms form followed by fruit.  When the harvest is complete, the canes that are tied to the support are then removed and the process starts all over again.  Some compost rich with chicken manure was applied even though organic fertilizer was put down about 10 days ago.  These plants, like me, are ready for cold weather.


When I was cleaning up the boysenberries, I came upon an evil grasshopper.  Without missing a beat, my pruning snips went into action decapitating the beast.  BAM!  Now here's the creepy part...the body was hopping and flying without a head!  Nightmares.  Even creepier...the body was gone the next morning.  Perhaps it's in very poor taste to report on this beheading what with all the recent news; but this is what's happening in the garden and I'm in the mood for Halloween.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Morning Glories


Early Call
Morning glories are finally taking off in the garden.  They were planted in mid June!  What the heck?  Early Call should be renamed "I'll Bloom Whenever I Feel Like It".  Peas have been planted where the morning glories are now growing.  When the morning glory vines fade, the peas should take over to provide veggies later this winter.

Flying Saucer
Pollinators are nice, but are they leaving eggs full of hungry larva behind to munch on my seedlings?  Here's hoping for some very cold very wet weather this winter.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Life and Death in the Garden

WARNING:  Images may not be suitable for the weak of heart.

Lots going on in the garden as preparations for fall/winter are in full swing.  All the raised beds have been planted.  Two beds are full of mustard to produce green manure for soil nourishment.  The other two now have a variety of lettuce, beets, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and peas.  The garlic just arrived in the mail today; so that will get planted soon.


My first pests in the garden are the mourning doves.  Those turkeys eat the seed, make filthy nests, and breed like rabbits.  As the sun rose this morning, I discovered the warm remains of one of those pests right in the middle of my young mustard.  Yeeeek!  I don't have garden kitties anymore; so what did the butchering?  Perhaps a bird of prey swooped in before sunset.  An owl?  We have those in the neighborhood.  Hawks hang out here too.  As I looked for clues, fresh kitty poop (warm like the dove bits) was discovered barely covered by the path gravel.  Filthy beast.


Bagrada bug was harmed in the production of this blog post.
Other pests have been discovered in the raised beds.  The University of California Cooperative Extension in Davis (The internet is a wonderful thing.) identified this wee beastie as a Bagrada bug and it doesn't have any predators (besides me).  Oh yes.  This bug thrives on mustard, broccoli, and cauliflower.  Great.  Just great.  This afternoon, there was a Bagrada bug orgy going on in the garden.  If they win, I may be kicking back this winter and buying expensive produce that doesn't taste as great as fresh from the garden.  Until then, I will remain vigilant/vigilante.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mustard Gas


Here's how the mustard plant works to fumigate nematodes according to Territorial Seed Co.:

Brassica juncea 80-90 days. This unique plant can be used as both a green manure and a natural soil fumigant to fight nematodes. An organic alternative to using chemical applications of Methyl Bromide. Columbia basin wheat growers use it to reduce the nematode populations between wheat crops. When worked into the soil, Mighty Mustard Kodiak releases high levels of glucosinolates, a natural chemical agent that makes some brassicas spicy. When soil pests come into contact with the decaying matter and the fumes of decomposition, they are unable to complete their lifecycle. For use as a fumigant, mow down and work into the soil immediately. As a fast growing cover crop, Mighty Mustard Kodiak can produce 4-5 tons of organic matter from 6 foot tall plants in just 80-90 days. To utilize as a cover crop, mow and leave it on the ground to dry down before working into the soil. Not only does this mustard recycle existing nitrogen from its long tap roots, the plant itself has a high protein and nitrogen content and will greatly increase the soil's fertility and tilth. The best practice with cover crop mustard is to mow while in flower and before seed-set to ensure it doesn't reseed itself. Unless of course, you would like to save some seed to create your very own savory Oriental mustard! Sow spring to summer at ¼ pound per 1000 square feet; 6-10 pounds per acre.

I believe mowing the plant before seeds are set should insure the mustard plant doesn't become a mess.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Mustard Seeds

I took advantage of some very rare cloud cover this morning to take on some fall garden tasks. (Fall in spirit only because the temp today should be just under the 100 mark.). More experimentation regarding root knot nematode control by planting a cover crop of mustard got under way by cleaning and raking the soil. Two beds are being set aside for this green manure application. Once the mustard blooms, it needs to be cut down and turned under before seed is set.  The chemical formed is repulsive to root knot nematodes plus nutrients are added back into the soil.

One of the two beds was solarized for over 8 weeks this summer.  The other bed grew peppers and tomatoes without any signs of the pest. Tomato roots show now galls formed.  These tomatoes were not nematode resistant; so I'm feeling better that the pest is being eradicated. 

No rows were formed. I purchased the seed by weight to insure the bed will produce a full cover crop. As the temperatures cool, an application of beneficial nematodes will be introduced to all the beds. The beneficials will attack the bad bugs - including grubs. Earthworms are supposed to be safe from their attack.

 The current predator in the garden are the mourning doves feasting on my mustard seeds.  If they don't munch on my onion seeds, it's the mustard seeds.  Pinwheels from the 4th of July have been re-purposed as scarecrows.  So far so good.  But it's only been a few hours.  I'm a bit concerned if this mustard program goes biblical.

"He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”"  Matthew 13:31-32

Garden hopes are are high that a cover crop of mustard will be great green manure making the soil fertile for seeds to come.

Garden side note:
This morning, a bloom finally developed on a morning glory vine. For some reason, these plants have not been vigorous and will soon be replaced by peas. Flying Saucer morning glories were planted on June 19 and just now had a pitiful bloom.  Early Call morning glories were planted two days earlier on June 17. Only one vine germinated. Slug? Snails? I don't know. The 1st bloom on this puny vine occurred this morning. I would have to seriously consider ever planting morning glories again. Pitiful.

Wando Peas were planted this evening on the north side of the west bed where this morning glory remains

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Peaches!



O'Henry peaches are on the menu for fresh, local (my backyard) fruit.  There are blemishes, but it's the price you pay to have tasty peaches at your fingertips and taste buds.  Bird netting was draped over the tree as the fruit started to blush.  It's not tied down and blows in the Sahara-like breeze.  Sorry birds. You lose.  There are some blemishes; but that's the price you pay for delicious, nutritious fruit.


O'Henry Peach
This espalier tree got away from me last summer as I wanted to have a canopy to shade the trunk and avoid scald.  Pruning was very light last summer.  Fruit develops on the growth of the previous summer; so I only pruned lightly to encourage fruit development.  Now I have all this growth and can't decide how to handle the growth.

Leave it and enjoy the fruit. Prune it and enjoy the look. Hmmm. Now that I have those options before me the answer seems pretty obvious.

With this historic drought, has anyone adjusted fertilization along with irrigation?  I've heard both arguments -  Fertilize less to reduce production that need irrigation.  Fertilize well to support stressed vegetation.  I heard the second argument on a radio ad for ag fertilizer so...