Friday, July 31, 2009

Squash Plants

Bush squash does tend to lay down and grow in the direction of the sun, whether it is over other vegetables or onto the garden pathway. One way to stop it in its tracks is to tie it to a stake. This is a picture of my very vigorous yellow straight-neck squash. I drove a stake down into the soil fairly deep (at least a foot) because the squash will be tied to it and will become somewhat heavy. If we get a wind, it would catch the large leaves and knock the whole thing over if the stake wasn't sunk a bit.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, July 30, 2009 (edited):

Garden Checklist:
Relax. Beat the heat with a cool beverage while enjoying your garden from indoors.

Tasks: Do not allow vegetables to dry out.
Pruning: Divide iris every three to four years and save new rhizome growth to replant.
Fertilizing: Fertilize actively growing plants.
Planting: August heat can be truly formidable in the San Joaquin Valley; plant Naked Lady (Amaryllis belladonna) [called Naked Lady because the flowers emerge and bloom without any leaves; the leaves show up later; picture above]; from seed: basil, beans, beets, bok choy.
Things to ponder: Check lawn for diseases. They begin to proliferate now.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fall/Winter Gardening

I edit another blog, one that is focused on emergency preparation, and during August we will be sharing information about growing a fall/winter garden (growing and preserving food for future emergencies). I will include the gardening information here, because it is relevant to this blog, too, so if you read both blogs there will be some duplication during August.

These pictures show how exciting winter vegetables have become! They are not necessarily new creations, many are old heirlooms that have been grown for 100 or more years, just not in the mainstream. If you have a summer garden, it will be an easy transition to winter gardening. If you are just beginning to garden, now is the time to start. We are lucky here in the valley, where we can harvest year-round without any frost protection! Others in colder climates can garden to a certain extent, using mini-greenhouses or other protection (see the book: Four Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables From Your Home Garden All Year Long, by Elliot Coleman--he lives in Maine, so he knows how to grow food in snow country!).

What will you be growing?!?!

My To-Do List . . .

All I have been doing in the garden is pulling a few weeds, and watering, watering, watering! So, I have the same list as last week!

--plant some beans, maybe corn
--fertilize my fruit trees


Planting by the Moon:

Wednesday-Thursday: Libra--very good for planting above ground crops
Friday-Saturday: Scorpio--2nd best for root crops; #1 for above ground crops; good to set out fruit trees, flower bushes and vines
Sunday-Tuesday: Sagittarius--fairly good for root and above ground crops; no to transplanting

Taste of the Harvest

The Taste of the Harvest will be this Saturday at the Garden of the Sun (the Master Gardener's demonstration garden). This annual event has a salsa-tasting contest, fruit and tomato tasting (find a tomato that you love and can grow next year!), recipes, a plant sale, and Master Gardener seminars. It will be from 5:00 to 7:30 pm, at 1944 N. Winery Ave (next to the Discovery Center). Tickets are $5 for adults, and $2 for children ages 6-12. For more information, call (559) 456-7285. This is a lot of fun and there will be something for everyone!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I was up an hour earlier than usual this morning and saw this beautiful sky when I went to water my garden. Normally, we have months of endless blue sky along with our heat, until the weather pattern changes sometime in August (if we are lucky!). Then, we may get a thunderstorm. Sometimes the blue sky stretches on into October. Change is good!

Monday, July 27, 2009


I planted a lot of tomatoes this year, mostly Roma tomatoes. I also planted one Ace and one Early Girl. Because I got all of my tomatoes in late they are not ripe yet (just a couple here and there), but will be soon. I let 3 cherry tomato volunteers grow and one is finally giving me tasty fruits! In a couple of weeks I will probably be drowning in tomatoes and having nightmares about trying to can them all! I love it!

This picture shows one cherry tomato volunteer, which is climbing all over my zucchini plant and one of my little new pear trees, even though I have it staked!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Painted Lady Pole Beans

I harvested my Painted Lady Beans, all 5 pods! I planted 5 seeds, two came up, and I harvested these 11 beauties. Next year I will have a 10' trellis for them to climb on, and will have to harvest the beans while on a ladder! I think that they need humming birds to pollinate the flowers, and my hummer feeder broke before the bean flowers appeared. The only time I saw the seed pods was right after I put up my new feeder; but with the heat, it empties out within hours, so I just gave up for now. I will start setting out the new feeder again once the temperatures stay below 100' consistently, and by then the hummers will probably need the food more (as summer wanes, so does the hummer food supply). Always make notes as to what you will do differently in the garden next year, because looking back and asking yourself what it was that you wanted to try/change/do likely won't help much!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Leaf-Cutter Bees and Butterflies

I was deadheading my neighbor's roses and came to this flower. It looks really lacy--it was chosen by a leaf-cutter bee to line her nest! I had never seen the flower itself cut, only the leaves. I found it interesting!

Usually, in my yard the only butterflies I see are the Red Admirals, Cabbage Butterflies, the little butterscotch butterflies (that's what I call them, I haven't identified them yet), and usually, once a year I will see a monarch butterfly and a swallowtail butterfly. So this morning when I went to water my garden I was surprised to see this Gulf Fritillary butterfly sunning itself under my almond tree! It's markings were really beautiful. It is amazing what you find in the garden when you take time to just look around.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Squash Plants

As I was watering my plants, I noticed that the leaves were different on one of the three squash plants. They all came from the same packet of seeds, and I grew them at the same time. The plant in the second picture is my "serendipity" squash, the one that sprouted later than the other two, but has out-grown them. The other two squash plants are under stress (maybe from the heat), but the one seems to be just fine. Perhaps the mother plant was accidentally cross-pollinated by insects, and the one plant isn't quite like the other two. I just thought it was odd that the leaves looked so different! With nature, you never know!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, July 23, 2009 (edited):

Garden Checklist:

Water camellias regularly to avoid bud drop during bloom season.

Tasks: Rinse dust off foliage to prevent spider mite damage.
Pruning: Cut spent canes to the ground after harvesting berries. Attach new canes to the trellis for next year's crop.
Fertilizing: Apply regularly for bloom and fruit production.
Planting: autumn crocus bulbs; plant seeds of rutabagas and squash.
Things to Ponder: Rebuild water basins around deep-rooted permanent plants; water deeply and less frequently.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Corn and Mycorrhizae

The first picture shows two corn stalks, one that has extra stems on the bottom and the other one doesn't. Nature did this, not me. A few years ago there was quite a controversy as to whether the extra stems needed to be removed to improve the corn production. The conclusion they came to was that it made no difference.

Corn should be nice and green. If it is kind of yellowish, then likely it needs to be fed, and is in need of nitrogen. An easy way to give the corn nitrogen is to apply chicken manure (not fresh or it will burn).

Something else I have been finding in my garden are mushrooms! These are small and very fragile. They are under the plants and in the straw pathways. This is a good thing as it indicates that I have mycorrhizae in the root zone of my soil. Mycorrhizae is a fungus (you might have seen it before when pulling up old vegetable plants--it looks like tiny white threads) that connects tree-, shrub-, and plant-roots, and exchanges nutrients and water between them. This is a symbiotic relationship between the fungi and the plants, as the fungi is fed by the plants. Mushrooms are the spore-bearing reproductive organs of the fungi. I will post more about mycorrhizae another time. Just know that it is a good thing to have as it is very beneficial to the garden, yard, and especially in the forests.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My To-Do List . . .

Not much work going on in my garden, with the temperatures ranging from 106' (today) on up to a 110 year record-breaker last Sunday with 112'. It's not uncommon for us to have these high temperatures in July. Some years we have a string of 110'+ temperatures that lasts a week or two, and can go up to 117' for days! With the heat, the best thing is to keep the plants watered well. I did get out this morning, before the sun got too hot, and weeded my vegetable boxes, but that's it!

My To-Do List . . .
--plant some beans, maybe corn
--fertilize my fruit trees
--stay in-doors as much as possible!


Planting by the Moon

Tuesday: Gemini--2nd best for all crops, transplanting (protect those transplants by creating some shade for them until they are established)
Wednesday-Thursday: Cancer--#1 for all crops, transplants
Friday-Saturday: Leo--barren, not good for any planting; good time to weed, prune, remove plants/shrubs/trees
Sunday-Tuesday: Virgo--barren, not good for any planting

Monday, July 20, 2009

Banana Peels

Nope, you don’t want to throw these out. After all, someone could slip and fall, right?
  1. Banana peels are a great source of nutrition for your garden, especially your flower garden! Simply break them down into smaller pieces so that you can work them a few inches deep into the surrounding soil. Aphids hate these, so bananas are ideal for your tomatoes, trees, and roses.
  2. You can dry banana peels out and then grind them down as a great potassium-rich fertilizer, or you can simply add them to your compost pile.
  3. They will also attract bees, butterflies, and birds. Simply put the small pieces of banana peel below your bird seed and your bird viewing will be heightened, as will the fertilization of your plants and trees by the bees.
  4. A banana peel also serves as a great shoe polisher or silver polisher (dry it out a bit first). Simply use the inside of the peel, and buff away. This also works GREAT for shining up your plant leaves and it feeds the leaves nutrients as well.
  5. If your teeth are getting a bit yellow, use the inside of the banana peel to rub your teeth in a circular motion. After 2 weeks you will indeed notice a difference. (Although, I would use a fresh peel for this, not an old one. Yuck! So, just think, "Eat a banana, shine my teeth").
  6. Most horses like banana peels as an occasional treat.
  7. Believe it or not, many nations wrap their meat in a banana peel when roasting it, resulting in a more tender meat when it's done. Somehow the food avoids tasting "tropical."
  8. Lastly, you can use the inside of a banana peel to ease a mosquito bite, even an ant bite..

If you ever slip on a banana peel and hurt your back, you can always make a paste of meat tenderizer and water and add some warm heat to the “owie.” Really. It works!

[This list is from: Preparedness Pro ]

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fall Vegetable Gardening

Now is the time to begin planning fall vegetable gardens. Think of what you would like to pick and eat from your garden through the fall and winter. There are the cole crops (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, turnips), the greens (leaf lettuce of all kinds and flavors [I have never had much luck with head lettuce, but you might! Head lettuce is a one-shot deal, whereas leaf lettuce can be picked from for a couple of months], mustard, chard, etc.), and the root crops (a large variety of carrots and radishes; beets, etc.), plus many others. Gardening as the weather cools down is much easier than in the heat, although the plants grow faster and better with the summer sun.

If you are interested--FREE CLASS!!

Cool Season Vegetables

"Enjoy lots of healthy, fresh garden vegetables in your winter meals. In this class you will learn good techniques for soil preparation, seed propagation, planting, and cultural practices for growing tasty winter vegetables."

July 25, 2009 (Saturday)
9:30 am to 12:00
Garden of the Sun (1944 N. Winery Ave, Fresno)
for more information: UCCE 456-7285

Late Blight

This post is from Skippy's Vegetable Garden blog. Skippy's garden is located near Boston, Massachusetts. Late blight has struck the area and is spreading, so I wanted to keep you informed. We may not see much of it here, but you never know. They had a long, wet spring, where we have been drier.

"Late blight seems to be the only conversation topic I hear this week at our community gardens. I hear yelling from across the way about newly discovered dead tomato plants. I hear long technical discussions among groups of gardeners.

And everyone spends a fair amount of time walking around and looking at tomato and potato plants in other plots. People come by my plot to chat and they know whose plants look good and whose are dead. They remind me that I should be bagging and destroying the foliage so it doesn't infect everyone else's plants, which, of course are all already infected or dead or coated with fungicide.

And there are stories circulating about who has pulled everything, who won't pull anything, who's bagging and disposing, and probably one about me just throwing my dead plants into my compost bin.

I heard someone dug up a whole row of potatoes that were just mush from blight.

I emailed the extension school yesterday to see if there were any experts who could come talk to us. With so much interest, I think it would be a good way to get the gardeners together, though we can be an unruly bunch. We could have a nice relaxing coffee and donuts gathering, in a freshly mowed grassy area with beautiful mid-summer flowers, singing birds, and listen to tomato gloom and doom stories....

An article on Late Blight is in yesterday's New York Times: "Outbreak of Fungus Threatens Tomato Crop": "A highly contagious fungus that destroys tomato plants has quickly spread to nearly every state in the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic, and the weather over the next week may determine ... whether tomato crops are ruined.... described as an “explosive” rate of infection.....William Fry, a professor of plant pathology at Cornell, said, “I’ve never seen this on such a wide scale.”

"The current outbreak is believed to have spread from plants in garden stores to backyard gardens and commercial fields.... Some growers are talking about $40 boxes already."
Some facts I've learned about late blight:
- Late Blight was responsible for the Irish potato famine of the mid-19th century.
- It is one of the few plant diseases that can destroy an entire crop.
- The disease can wipe out entire tomato and potato fields within a week if conditions are wet.
- Late blight spores can travel over 40 miles under the right conditions.
- Powerful synthetic fungicides like chlorothalonil (not approved for organic farming) can protect unaffected plants from disease, but can't cure infected ones.
- Copper fungicides are officially listed as synthetics but organic certified farmers are allowed to use these after they have used all available alternative practices to manage late blight.
- Copper fungicides extend potato growing period by between 2-4 weeks.... estimated to result in 10 - 40% higher yields.
- Potato varieties with moderate levels of resistance include: Kennebec, Sebago, Allegany, and Rosa. Elba is currently the most resistant potato variety available.
- Few late blight resistant tomato varieties are available. The cultivar 'Legend' has some resistance, though not under high disease pressure. Some cherry tomato cultivars ('Red Cherry' and 'Sweetie') are more tolerant to late blight. 'Matt's Wild Cherry' is considered resistant.
- If late blight occurs when potatoes tubers have already 'sized up', harvest crop as soon as possible to avoid post-harvest tuber rot.
- Tubers become infected when spores wash down through the soil and come into contact with the potatoes. Tubers are not infected via their connection to plants with blighted foliage.
- Occasionally peppers and eggplants and mildly infected, as are a few nightshade weeds."


In gardening, as in other areas of our lives, we can have serendipity! [Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else]. Here I show the three squash plants that I transplanted a couple of weeks ago. The two plants, to the left and in the back, were growing well in their little starter pots and had several leaves each. The plant on the right was a slow starter and had sprouted only two days before being transplanted, which meant that it only had it's baby leaves (cotyledons) and no "true" leaves. I thought maybe it would grow, but if it didn't there was no real loss. Wonder of wonders, it has grown faster than the other two, and as you can see, it already has fruit where the other two are barely starting to fruit! This is serendipity! I didn't really expect the plant to survive, but it has outshone the other two!

Always plant when you are on the fence--is it too late to plant or will I have time before the frost? Just do it! You never know when we will have a later-than-average frost or a warmer-than-normal late fall--and you could have a great harvest! Seeds are cheap--go ahead and plant!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, July 16 (edited):

Native plants have the ability to survive in the worst of times and thrive during the good times. They require less care, less water and can make spectacular flower displays.

Tasks: Use Bacillus thuringiensis [Bt] to control petunia bud worms and tomato horn worms.
Pruning: Bougainvillea to promote better flowering.
Fertilizing: almond, apple, peach and nectarine trees.
Planting: Stembergia lutea; from seed: parsnips.
Things to Ponder: Check sprinklers and timers.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Garden Poem

Almost any garden, if you see it at just the right moment,

can be confused with paradise.

-Henry Mitchell

[Picture from: Skippy's garden]

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Little Spook Eggplant

My "Little Spook" eggplant has arrived! This is the first eggplant that I have grown--now I guess I will have to eat it. Anyone know a good recipe?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Redwood Summer Dieback

Are the needles on your redwood trees turning from green to yellow to brown, and then dropping off? Are a lot of twigs also falling off? It is normal for older needles and twigs on redwoods to drop off in the summer and fall. If the needles are turning yellow and staying yellow in summer, it indicates a need for iron which can be applied as chelates or iron sulfates. Redwood trees need to be spaced at least 7 feet apart and will require regular summer watering and occasional feeding for the first 5 years.

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Garden

This shows how fast my new garden is growing after just a couple of weeks! I think keeping it watered well helps, along with the heat! I don't have any garden list for this week as my grandkids are here, so that means no garden time! How is your garden growing??

Sunday, July 12, 2009


This is a picture of one of my carrots that is going to seed. It is of the umbel (from the word "umbrella") family, as you can see. This family includes cumin, parsley, coriander or cilantro, dill, caraway, fennel, parsnip, celery, Queen Anne's Lace, and dill--all having the same type of flowers. Hemlock is also of this family, but it's not intentionally eaten!

Saturday, July 11, 2009


The other morning I was out watering my plants and saw at least 10 dragonflies swirling around my back yard. They often come in beautiful colors, and for years I have had a couple of bright orange dragonflies watching over my yard. I had one that was a bright powder blue. Sometimes dragonflies have stripes on their wings. They are amazing!

A dragonfly is a type of insect, and is characterized by large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings, and an elongated body. The wings of most dragonflies are held away from, and perpendicular to, the body when at rest. Even though dragonflies possess 6 legs like any other insect, they are not capable of walking.

Dragonflies are valuable predators that eat mosquitoes, and other small insects like flies, bees, ants, and butterflies. They are usually found around lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands because their larvae, known as "nymphs", are aquatic. I don't know where my dragonflies come from–I don't have any wet areas for the nymphs to live in–I am just glad that they are here!

Friday, July 10, 2009


Often we are told that artichokes won't grow in our valley. They grow on the coast and are planted by the acre. I planted this artichoke last January and it has a nice reward for me! If I leave the globe, it will open up and the center will be a beautiful purple flower. I have not done anything special for it to make it produce; it was planted just like I would plant a regular flower or small shrub.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, July 9, 2009 (edited):

Garden Checklist:

July's heat ripens fruit and vegetables rapidly, harvest frequently.

Tasks: Control weeds before they flower and multiply.
Pruning: Pinch back new growth to improve plant shape and encourage bloom.
Fertilizing: Select a lawn fertilizer that is rich in potassium for deep roots and water efficiency.
Planting: If you plant now, remember to provide ample water and temporary shade; spider lily (Lycoris); from seed--corn, parsnips.
Things to ponder: Remain aware of climate changes and how they may be affecting plants and shrubs in your garden.


For the past two mornings this little butterfly has been sunning itself on a squash leaf. I guess we are all creatures of habit!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Black Hungarian Pepper

These pictures show one of my Black Hungarian Peppers in bloom. The flowers are purple with white strips. The leaf and flower stems are nearly black, and it is striking against the green leaves. Who said that vegetables don't belong in the flower bed?!? Some vegetables would be a spotlight among the flowers! These peppers grow to look similar to a banana pepper. They grow out green, turn black for quite a while, and then turn orange, then red. These dried and ground red peppers will make Hungarian Paprika.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Garden Questions

I finally got my third raised garden bed installed last night! We are having "cooler" days this week--below 100'-- and no visiting family, so I am able to get out in the garden to work more.

I have had a couple of questions about my gardening methods and will answer them here, in case someone else was wondering, "Why did she do it that way?"

First question: Why is the straw in the paths so thick? Answer: I have a major problem with bermuda and nutsedge, and both are very

aggressive. My husband and I initially removed the bermuda and nutsedge, digging it out. I laid down wet cardboard and thick layers of wet newspapers, then put thick "leaves" or "flakes" of straw on top. This is to prevent the sun from feeding the weeds, and help smother whatever weed seed might be there. The really thick layer of straw is "watered" each time I water the plants, and it softens and compresses down, making it harder for weeds to grow. You can see how high the straw is on the far side of the second picture. The straw in the third picture was the same way just a couple of weeks ago. I have been

removing the nutsedge that is persistent in the raised beds, weeding every couple of days. It is not difficult--10 minutes a day!!--to keep them out.

Second question: Why is the soil in the beds so low? Answer: I will be improving the soil and building it up as I grow my vegetables. Right now I am not mulching because I am getting the nutsedge out, and it is easier to remove the weeds without the mulch. Soon, the nutsedge will be finished and I will start building the soil up! (This is sustainable gardening--not depleting the soil, but improving it naturally). You may notice in the third picture where the "weeds" are coming through the mulch, but that is not the case. It is just some of the hay seeds that have sprouted. When they are a little bigger I will pull them out and lay them on top of the straw, giving me more mulch! It is really easy to pull out as it is just in the straw and not in the ground.

Monday, July 6, 2009

My To-Do List . . .

My husbands family has been in Fresno the past week and we have been enjoying each others company---so, that means I haven't gotten much done in the garden! I have been keeping up with the watering and picking up fallen fruit, though!

--fertilize the fruit trees, vegetables and flowers
--install another raised box garden (done! And, a 4th bed done!)


Planting by the Moon: (yes, I finally found my Old Farmer's Almanac!)

Monday-Wednesday: Sagittarius---fairly good for root and above ground plants, not good for transplanting
Thursday: Capricorn---#1 for root and above ground plants; 2nd best for transplanting.
Friday-Sunday: Aquarius---very good to plant above ground plants, but don't plant seeds or they will rot.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Crabgrass Seeds

Do you have crabgrass going to seed? Does your spouse complain about the seeds on the walkway or pool deck? Just tell them that you are feeding the beds! The doves and wrens do a good job of picking up the seeds as the feed. (I know these things from experience!!).

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day 2009

Happy Independence Day!!!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Leaf-Cutter Bees

I recently made a post about the leaf-cutter bees. They would cut circles out of my Mr. Lincoln rose leaves each year. Last January that rose was removed to make way for a fruit tree. I thought the bees would go elsewhere when they couldn't find "their" rose. But, as you can see in the picture above, they have chosen another rose in my garden to adorn! This made me happy. It's always a surprise when I find the leaves decorated with circles! I love helping nature. I use organic methods in my garden and encourage the good bugs the best I can. Having some "bad" bugs is part of the process--who else would the good bugs eat?!? Each year I see an increase in the number of praying mantises, which are the real warriors in the garden. Lady bugs appear when they are needed, and go elsewhere most of the summer.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, July 2, 2009 (edited):

Garden Checklist:

Remember friends, neighbors and shut-ins with extra produce and flowers from your garden.

Tasks: Use water wisely in all parts of the garden.
Pruning: Deadhead annuals and perennials.
Fertilizing: Give special attention to container plants.
Planting: Midsummer in the Valley is typically not the best planting time; cyclamen; plant from seed---cauliflower, cereriac, celery.
Things to Ponder: Do not spray herbicides when daily temperatures exceed 100' to prevent the spray from vaporizing. Protect neighboring plants with a cardboard shield.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What's Growing In My Garden

I have an Amish Melon! It's suppose to be a cantaloupe type melon.

This is a leaf of my Bright Lights Swiss Chard. I thought the colors were incredible!

This shows the red stocks. It's almost too pretty to eat!

Sauteed Chard
Trim the leaves off of the stocks. Slice the chard stocks into small pieces. Chop the leaves as you would chop up lettuce for a salad. Saute the chopped stocks in a little oil. When they are getting tender, add the leaves and stir-fry. Salt and pepper, and that's it! If you have several different colors of chard (there are mixed seeds you can buy), such as the pink, red, yellow, white and color crosses, this dish looks like confetti! Besides that, it tastes good! Even children might want to eat it!