Thursday, April 30, 2009

Garden Checklist

Every week, on Thursday, the Fresno Bee prints a Garden Checklist from the Master Gardener book, "A Gardener's Companion for the San Joaquin Valley." I will share this information for those that may have missed it.

Tasks: pull weeds and hoe often

Pruning: remove dead branches from shrubs

Fertilizing: feed bedding plants with all-purpose fertilizer high in phosphorus

Planting: plant summer vegetables at two-week intervals to prolong harvest; plant lily of the Nile, Agapanthus, alstroemeria; fortnight lily (Dietes); bougainvillea; vinca (Catharanthus), lisianthus (Eustoma); plant cantaloupe, chard, chayote

Enjoy now: bachelor's buttons (Centaurea), Shasta daisy (Chrysanthemum), godetia (Clarkia), coreopsis; iris; oleander (Nerium);cucumber, grapefruit

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Also on Thursday, Elinor Teague, a Master Gardener, writes a column relating to gardening. I will give a synopsis of her articles.

"Early Heat Wave Does Damage to the Garden"
Elinor relates how our record breaking high temperatures last week has damaged many of our plants and fruit trees, with some damage showing now and some will appear in the next few weeks. Citrus trees were blooming last week and lost more than their normal amount of blossoms and immature fruit. "Next winter's citrus crop may be reduced." Peaches, apricots and nectarines may show stress by producing smaller fruit that are less juicy that usual. Roses took a hit when rosebuds opened all at once, shattered and quickly died all within the four hot days.

Elinor suggests to "deadhead damaged flowers, remove dead leaves and feed lightly every two weeks until the plants show healthy new growth."

Insects also increased dramatically, especially the hoplia beetles, aphids and earwigs. Hoplia beetles like light-colored flowers, especially roses, and can be hand-picked to "keep their numbers down." Hosing off aphids will help plants. And, earwigs are attracted to rolled-up newspapers that are left on the ground overnight; these are then easily thrown into the trash.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My To-Do List . . .

---thin peaches 15 minutes (done)
---fertilize lettuce and spinach
---water (done)
---check seed heads on Salad Burnett (not ready yet)
---weed garden box (OK, so there are a couple of weeds there!)
---hula hoe front yard
---move basil starts to the full sun (I did, then they got too dried out!)

Moon Phases

Using the moon phase or astronomical indication may help us to garden better. This has nothing to do with astrology. The "Old Farmer's Almanac" says, "Astronomy is the study of the actual placement of the known planets and constellations. (The placement of the planets in the signs of the zodiac is not the same astrologically and astronomically)." So, with that in mind, I will share the signs daily and indicate what is good to seed, transplant and grow. Some days are considered "barren" and planting during those times may not work out the best. I figure if the moon phase can control the tides, then it may very well control the growth patterns of our vegetables. A friend of mine planted some broccoli plants. Two weeks later she was showing me her garden and all that was left of the plants were the center leaf veins on stalks! They looked like little umbrellas without a cloth covering! She thought back and realized she had planted during a barren time. Maybe this works and maybe it doesn't, but I will follow it myself.

Tomorrow, April 30---Gemini
--this is the second best time for planting root crops, above ground crops and transplants

Fruit Trees

This year I planted several semi-dwarf fruit trees, specifically the kinds that can (preserve) well. These trees can grow up to 12'+ if not kept in check! In this photo you can see my "semi-dwarf" almond tree in the center of the back corner of my back yard---it's huge! Next to it are a semi-dwarf navel orange tree and a semi-dwarf tangerine tree, both of which have gotten a little too tall, too! I will have to whittle them down to size pretty soon. To keep semi-dwarf (or even dwarf) fruit trees a manageable height, start them off right by diligent pruning. I know, it's hard to cut off their brand new little limbs, but later you will be happier for it.
Above, you will see one of my new apricot trees and I will show you that it will survive a pruning. Cut back new growth on fruit trees by half. (Apricots may need to be cut back 3-4 times during the summer---they are very vigorous!). Below, you will see the same tree after I pruned it. Doesn't it look better?!
Also, any newly planted (this spring) fruit trees that have fruit on them need to have that fruit removed. That way all of the tree's energy will be focused on growth instead of fruit making. The trees will be stronger, healthier, and better able to produce more fruit next year.

If you have any fruit trees that are past their first year, you need to make sure their fruit has been thinned. I know, this is hard, too. We want all of the fruit possible, forget about thinning, and then have to deal with small fruit, and broken branches from the weight of the excess fruit. Fruit needs to be thinned so that there is 4-6" between each piece of fruit. There are a certain number of leaves that feed each piece of fruit and if there are too many fruits, the tree may come under stress and suffer for it. Stressed trees are an easier target for pests and diseases, and we don't want to have to deal with that!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Judy's Garden Spring 2009

My garden box is in transition right now. Those are not weeds in the box (only around the box!), but are Salad Burnett that is going to seed. My garden is 5'x23' and I have gardened in it since 1986 when we moved in. Along the front are tomato plants that need to be planted, and will be soon.

I know it looks messy, but I don't use a compost pile. I sheet compost, just put the trimmings on top of the soil where it will give the worms and other beneficial soil organisms the most food. It also keeps the weeds down, which is a great benefit, and helps to keep the soil moist. The Salad Burnett is almost done and then I will take the seeds and spread them around in the back yard "flower" beds. It seeds readily (also pulls out readily!). I have decided to keep vegetables in the garden boxes (I am in the process of expanding my vegetable garden) and put the herbs in other places, even the front yard! Some herbs, like yarrow and bee balm, are beautiful flowers that you may have seen in the garden centers. Others that are strong-scented, like dill and basil, might work to confuse pests that damage flowers. Anyway, I want them all!

Monday, April 27, 2009

It's Time To Grow!

Any time is a good time to grow vegetables! You don't have to start at any particular time of year, just jump right in where you are! If your garden box isn't ready, then plant in containers (I have grown pepper plants in #10 cans that I have cut holes in the bottom for drainage); or get a bag of garden soil at Lowe's or Orchard's, lay it flat on the ground, cut around near the sides and plant! We are beginning to warm up and that means it's time to get the summer vegetables growing. Here in the Central Valley of California we have the finest soil in the world (I have read this numerous times by people from all over the world), we have a very long growing season (240 days), and we can harvest all year round. What more could you want?!? The garden does slow down during mid-winter and July, and we just do other garden projects (or maybe can the vegetables and fruit we have grown!).