Saturday, August 21, 2010

Enthusiastic Tomatoes!

As you can see, my tomatoes are getting out of hand! They love the heat that we have now, instead of July's 100'+ temperatures. Mid-week this week we are suppose to get back into the 104' range for a couple of days, but I don't think it will hamper the tomatoes. As long as they have enough water they should do fine. I think the cooler nighttime temperatures (65') help, too.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


My basil has started to flower. That means the plant is focused more on producing seeds instead of producing flavorful leaves. The leaves will become somewhat bitter; and that goes for all herbs.

It is very easy to keep herb plants producing great-tasting leaves--pinch out the flower buds when they begin to form. It is easy. You don't need scissors or pruners, just pinch the seed stem with your thumb and finger. The plants will start producing side branches and make more leaves. Be watchful, though, as the plant is determined (that's it's purpose) to make seeds! I ignored my basil for one week (or was it two?) and you can see what happened in the top picture!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Here is one of my two young squash plants--it is producing very well. The other squash plant is just getting production going, which is fine with me, because I don't use a lot of squash at a time. I harvest the squash when they are small--yes, I brought in these beauties!

Since about the first of August, my garden has just exploded! The tomato plants that were just going along suddenly are over the top of their cages and reaching through the wires. Picking is still going strong, but there aren't too many tomatoes left. If I let my tomato plants continue, then I could get another crop of tomatoes before our first frost (usually around Halloween). The flowers drop off when the temperatures get over 95', which is typical June/July weather here, so in the fall we have a couple of months where there are no tomatoes to harvest.

Friday, August 13, 2010


I picked a nice batch of tomatoes this morning, about half are Romas and half are Juane Flamme (the golden ones). How do you know how many tomato plants you should plant in the spring? When, at the end of the season, you can say you have just enough! When you have enjoyed enough fresh tomatoes with your daily meals; and when you have enough for salsa, sauces, and stewed, as fresh, frozen and/or canned. Then the trick is to remember how many plants were just enough, the next year. I have a friend that bought a six-pack of tomato plants this spring and saw that there were several seeds that had sprouted in each cell. He separated the seedlings and they all are thriving--all 36 of them! He takes buckets of tomatoes wherever he goes and gives them away! I think he enjoys it, otherwise he would give the extra tomato plants away, instead of the extra tomatoes! His wife says he does this every year. I don't want to take the extra time to care for that many plants (I really don't have enough room for that many, either), or to pick tomatoes from that many plants. Everyone is different, and it is easy to figure out how many tomato plants are just "enough!"

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Almonds Are For The Birds!

Can you see it? In my almond tree is a crow! It's just to the right of center--you might need to click on the picture to really see him. This is the first year that I have had crows after my almonds (which are nearly ready to harvest). Several crows get in the top of the tree at a time and make quite a racket as they eat the almonds. I'm not able to harvest the almonds that high, so it is easy to share with the birds. Usually, it's the blue jays that take the nuts. The blue jays generally store the nuts anywhere they think they can--in the ground (where they grow the next spring), under shingles, under rocks, and where ever they think it's safe. Sprouted almonds are easy to pull out, unlike the pecans the jays plant! Pecans have a terrific tap root that, even new sprouts with only two leaves, can't be pulled out.

Monday, August 9, 2010


I was pulling weeds out of a very weedy flower garden, when I looked up and saw this mass of seeds right in front of me. I realized they were seeds of carrots that I let go to seed last year! So, I harvested the seeds and will plant a bunch in my vegetable garden tomorrow. In preparation for planting, I need to get a couple of bales of compost for two of my garden boxes. I have the soaker hoses and just need to lay them out in the boxes. Then I will be ready to plant! Besides carrots, I will plant peas, Sugar Ann peas (edible podded), Bright Lights Swiss Chard, and a few other vegetables. You can see from my pea seeds from last week, and my carrot seeds this week, that seeds increase exponentially--you get back much more than you plant!

The weatherman said it should get back up to 100' by Friday--I'm ready for fall!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Top 10 Shade Plants

I get P. Allen Smith's Garden Home newsletter every week. The last newsletter had his 10 favorite shade plants, and they are beautiful. If you think you can't have color in your shade garden, think again! See for yourself, go to P. Allen Smith's website. The picture above is of Colorblaze Sedona Coleus. This plant alone would brighten any shady area!

He also has a great-sounding Roasted Tomato Soup recipe that has only 4 ingredients--here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Emily's Garden

This is a picture of Emily's garden. She has a great website for gardening with the square-foot method.

Would you like to know what and when to plant as you go into fall or spring? Here's a very easy way to get the info sent to your email! Just go to Emily's My Square Foot Garden! You pick the color that coordinates with your early (fall) and late (spring) frosts, and sign up for the free weekly email that tells you what is ready to plant for that week. Emily takes the guess-work out of your planting season, all you have to do is plant your seeds! She has information on how to build and grow a square-foot garden, and recipes to use your fresh vegetables, if you are interested.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I picked this tomato a couple of days ago. I've seen strange growths on tomatoes in pictures, but this one was different. The extension was held on by just a tiny bit of flesh. It reminded me of the pictures of American Indians, where they had a feather in their headband. This is one of my June Flamme tomatoes.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

In My Garden

These flowers are my Oriental Stargazer Lilies. They have just started blooming and smell sooooo good! I have had them several years, and they have made a large clump. In the spring I find that the snails are drawn to eat the leaves, so I use Sluggo to prevent problems. The lilies prefer afternoon shade, which they had when I first planted them, but they now are in direct sun. They get a little sunburned and don't look too happy, but they still bloom and grow well. They are an evergreen plant, meaning they don't die back to the ground each winter, but continue to have green leaves through the whole year.

I shelled my dried peas and ended up with 1 3/4 cups of seeds. I will pick out the best seeds to plant for fall. The fall pea planting date for our area is around September 1. The seeds are directly put into the soil, no need to start them indoors. I have found that sometimes it is just too hot in the fall for a good crop of peas, and will sometimes wait until early spring to plant them.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Garden of the Sun Tour

I know there are many people that would like to visit our Garden of the Sun, the Fresno Master Gardener's Demonstration Garden, but aren't able to because of time or they live too far away. There is an on-line tour, so everyone that's interested can visit! There are many Master Gardeners that take care of this garden, so it will look it's best. Get ready for your tour, and go to The Garden of the Sun! Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Idaho Gardens

I love seeing how other people create vegetable gardens. When I was in Idaho last May, this garden was nearly bare and without fencing. They had just planted a few seeds which had only seed leaves.

Even though they have a short season (90 days), the long days of sun make up for it. At the Summer Solstice the sun comes up at 3:30 am, and goes down at 10:30 pm! This is how the garden can grow so fast. As with any place else, the weeds can take over if not kept in check.

This garden is well-kept and there are no weeds. It is a very full garden and will produce abundantly, unless there is an early frost--a killing frost can happen any night of the summer. This year they had a long, cold, wet spring and people had to plant their seeds and transplants three times before anything grew.

This fence is beautiful and very artistic. Besides looking good, it is a trellis for climbers. In this last photo you can see something growing--it's actually the post! There were several sprouts along these two posts and nothing growing at the bottom. I don't know what kind of wood they used, but it is happily growing in the garden!

This morning I cut back my pear tree, and cut down all of the blue jay's pecan trees. It's tough to get out early enough in the morning before it gets too hot, but I am making progress a little at a time.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Here's a great YouTube video that explains some of the problems you may be having with tomatoes, Special Tomato Problems. This video was created by the Nebraska Extension Office.

A Good Morning . . .

This morning I went out to pick tomatoes and found that there were a lot more than I saw yesterday--many were hidden under the leaves. I had about equal amounts of Roma (a paste tomato), Juane Flamme (a medium-small golden tomato that produces through the high heat), and cherry tomatoes. The Romas will go into the freezer until I have enough to make pizza sauce (I like to use it for spaghetti, too!). When I get a lot at once, I will can diced tomatoes. The other tomatoes I will eat today and tomorrow (yes, I love tomatoes!). I also picked (but forgot to photograph) 5 yellow beets. I will roast them for my dinner tonight.

I harvested my spring peas, so I can plant them next spring. As I was picking the peas I almost grabbed a wheat colored (my pea plants are dried and wheat colored) praying mantis that was about 5 inches long. After I was finished picking, I gathered up the pea straw and the mantis and placed them on an empty garden bed that is being used as a compost bed, and will be planted next spring. That way the mantis will have her habitat, and I will recycle the plant material. I will shell the peas and keep the largest ones to replant. I gathered some lettuce seeds, too, so I will have seeds to plant next summer.

I also harvested my garlic. Some of the bulbs are small and others are large. I suppose it depends on the size of clove I started out with. I used a bulb of garlic from the market last spring, and now I have my own garlic to cook with, and some to plant next spring. I will keep the largest cloves to replant, and eat the rest.

Lastly, I topped my apricot trees. Apricots need to be pruned about now, instead of winter. This will lessen the chance of the trees becoming diseased. Also, these trees are semi-dwarf and I want to keep them low enough so that I can pick the apricots without a ladder. Apricots can get out of hand in a year or two if not pruned back. I had a semi-dwarf apricot before that went 12 feet high and spread out all over the place! I learned that lesson well! According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, now through August 3rd is the time to prune trees and shrubs that you want to keep their shape. August 10-16 is the time to prune trees and shrubs that you want to encourage growth, such as for increased height or filling in thin spots. Yes, there are a lot of weeds in this bed, very happy weeds! You might be able to see one of my many pecan trees in the left bottom corner. I will be going after the pecans next. The blue jays plant them in my yard every year, so it's an ongoing battle. I have seen other yards in my area that have pecan trees, too, so I'm not the only one!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sandpoint, Idaho Beauty

Walking is something that my Dad likes to do, so we walked miles every day. Along the roads there are many beautiful things to see. These first two pictures show the wild sweet peas, called Australian Sweet Peas, that are blooming all over.

These sweet peas multiply every year, and the land looks like one huge bouquet! It's amazing what Mother Nature can do!

Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced ponder-ay) is close by and this picture shows a slough looking north from the road, very close to my Dad's house. The water really is flat, it's just an optical illusion that it is tilted (see, the trees are straight up!).

This picture shows another slough, across the street from the previous one, and not connected, looking south from the road. It's hard to see, but there are masses of sweet peas here, too. The weather was great (76' last Thursday), with one thunderstorm thrown in for good measure! I was able to get pictures of a few gardens and will be sharing them soon.

My Apologies to "The Fresno Bee"

I just returned from my trip to Idaho, and found a note indicating that I have been violating the copyright laws of The Fresno Bee--I apologize. I know that we can use 10% of books and not violate such laws, but I didn't realize that newspapers were different. I always gave credit to The Fresno Bee when I used their articles and never passed them off as my own. I will no longer be using articles from The Fresno Bee (Garden Checklist and Elinor Teague's column). I have other information to share as we go into late summer and fall gardening. We can still have gardening fun!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My July Garden

I haven't been blogging about my garden this year because there isn't much to it. Basically, I haven't been doing any of the things I normally love to do, and I have finally figured out why--ever sense my Mother died in January, I have been somewhat depressed, but didn't realize it. I had a good day last week and thought how wonderful I felt, something I haven't felt for so long. So, I guess I am coming out of it, I certainly hope so!

This is a picture of one of my wilt-y zucchini plant (plus a small lantana plant) in a newly cleared flower bed. It is almost 100' and I was kind of wilt-y myself by the time I got back in the house! I made three different plantings of squash this summer, but the first two didn't grow. Maybe the seeds were old, or the bugs got the new sprouts. Anyway, the third time's a charm, and I have two plants started. This is located on the west side of our house, by the fireplace, so it gets extra hot there.

These are three of my four tomato plants (behind them you can see my "dwarf" almond tree, center, and citrus trees). In front of and between the tomatoes are a couple of pepper plants, and one basil plant on the far right of the picture. Behind the tomatoes (on the right) you might be able to see my dried peas, which I never harvested, or removed, this spring. I think I will collect the seed for next winter's crop! I also have a lovely crop of weeds, nice and green. Much to my patient husband's dismay, I have let the weeds have their way, front yard and back. It will be good to get them removed, after July's heat subsides a little in August.

Here you can see my two semi-dwarf apricot trees. Apricot trees are very ambitious when it comes to growing, and can get out of hand very quickly. They need to be summer pruned instead of winter pruned, to prevent Eutypa fungus and dieback, and to control height. Another thought is summer "pinching" of fruit trees, as explained by Thomas Leo Ogren. I think I will try his method next year.

So, that's the extent of my garden at this time. I am going to Idaho for a week, but after I get back I will prune my apricot trees, and plant a mess of green and dry beans, cucumbers (table and pickling), dill, basil, and whatever else I can think of! I will attack those weeds, too! I'm feeling good and ready to get to work!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, July 8, 2010:

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 shapes and encourage bloom.
Fertilizing--Select a lawn fertilizer that is rich in potassium for deep roots and water efficiency.
Planting--If your needs are such that you must plant now, remember to provide ample water and temporary shade. Plant: spider lily (Lyconis); from seeds: corn, parsnips.
Things to Ponder--Remain aware of climate changes and how they may be affecting plants and shrubs in your garden.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Blazing Heat Calls For Careful Pruning

From The Fresno Bee, July 1, 2010, by Elinor Teague:

When daytime temperatures regularly exceed 95 degrees, most flowering plants stop producing new blossoms.

Hedge plants such as wax-flower privet, boxwood, xylosma and Carolina cherry are exceptions, though. These plants grow vigorously in summer and can become overgrown. Don't put off shearing back hedges until the weather cools, though. It's best to shear rapidly growing hedges lightly every few weeks in summer to maintain a good shape. When overgrown hedges are cut back heavily, the inner wood and branches can suffer sun burn damage and the tender new inner leaves that are exposed can burn.

There is an art to properly shaping hedges, and it takes practice--and sometimes the use of a string line--to get it right. Hedges should be a little wider at the bottom than at the top. A wider top will shade out the bottom branches causing them to die back. Using string lines as cutting guides will both maintain an even shape and keep the bottom branches as healthy and productive as the top ones.

It is a common practice for some gardeners to shear many ornamental landscape plants into topiary shapes or to try to control plant growth direction. Some plants such as shrub or columnar junipers, evergreen euonymous and rhaphiolepsis will look fine for years when sheared lightly every few months during the growing season.

But when gardeners attempt to change the natural shapes of azalea and camellia bushes or turn the arching branches of loropetalum into balls, it creates a mess that can take years to correct.

Azaleas and camellias produce next spring's buds on this summer's growth. Shearing or pruning them heavily during the growing season will eliminate next year's flowers. Shearing azaleas and camellias also forces a lot of new, congested branch growth in the interior of the plant as well as a lot of new leaves on the exterior.

Size and shape on such plants like azaleas, loropetalum can be easily controlled by clipping out wayward branches and cleaning out old wood. The shape may not be rigidly formal, but it will have a clean appearance.

Tip: If the hedge is a flowering variety, trim it within one month of when it finishes blooming. This allows time for the hedge to form new blossoms for the next flower show. [Picture and tip from]

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, July 1, 2010:

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; from seed: cauliflower, celeriac, celery.
Things to Ponder--Do not spray herbicides when daily temperatures exceed 100 degrees to prevent the spray from vaporizing. Protect neighboring plants with a cardboard shield.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fallacies Keep Some Gardeners In A Rut

From The Fresno Bee, June 24, 2010, by Elinor Teague:

The Fresno County Master Gardeners, like all Master Gardeners in the state, are trained by University of California Cooperative Extension to educate other home gardeners in the most effective uses of the least toxic or harmful gardening methods.

We are all converts who have witnessed first-hand that these methods really work. But persuading other home gardeners to try using fewer chemicals and fertilizers is not always an easy job.

There are two very common misconceptions that often keep home gardeners from trying new (actually, very old) approaches to keeping their plants healthy and relatively pest free.

You must use chemical pesticides to kill insects. Not true. There are many very effective means of non-chemical insect control. The first and foremost is to correct any cultural problems in your garden.

Take note of which plants have insects and which don't, and then investigate the differing conditions for those plants. You'll see that the one rose bush that gets less water than the others has aphids while the other roses don't. Or that the pile of garden debris near the raggedy hydrangeas is full of earwigs. Maybe the roots of the redwood tree are stealing all the water and nutrients from the coral bells you planted underneath it.

If you fix the cultural problems, you may well fix the insect problems.

Many gardeners don't realize that aphids are killed when washed off plants with a blast of water from the hose. And, it's hard to believe, but true, that hand-picking will reduce snail populations. Washing the dust off plants will prevent red spider mite infestations.

Experiment with some of these nontoxic methods.

Unless your plants are seriously infested or damaged by pest insects, you'll probably be surprised by success, and you will have preserved the populations of beneficial insects that are crucial to keeping pest insect populations under control.

The more fertilizer you use, the better the results. Also, not true. You may have noticed that some fertilizer manufactures have greatly increased the amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in their products.

The percentage of nitrogen in one well-known product has jumped from 15% to 26%. This is in response to customers' expectations of fast results from fertilizers. We can't wait to see (and brag about) 10-foot high, lush tomato plants.

There is nothing wrong with fertilizing to encourage slow and steady growth and production.

Slow and steady growth is best accomplished by regular, consistent feedings with a lower-number fertilizer. A half cup of a 5-10-5 rose and flower food, fed monthly from spring until fall, is enough to keep roses and other flowering plants blooming throughout the season.

Just a tablespoon of the same fertilizer, fed monthly, will produce excellent results on tomatoes, peppers and other summer vegetables.

Using less fertilizer with lower percentages of nitrogen also reduces the amount of chemical run-off into our water systems.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, June 24, 2010:

Gather everything red, white and blue in the garden to decorate for Independence Day.

Tasks--Avoid over-watering lawns to help prevent warm-weather diseases.
Pruning--Cut spent canes to the ground after harvesting berries. Attach new canes to the trellis for next year's crop.
Fertilizing--Apply fertilizer regularly for bloom and fruit production.
Planting--In foothill areas, continue planting warm-weather season flowers and vegetables. Autumn crocus; from seed: basil, beans, cabbage.
Things to Ponder--Adjust lawn mower setting to cut lawn higher. Set mower to 2 1/2 to 3 inches for tall fescue, 3/4 to 1 inch for common bermuda, and 1/2 to 3/4 inches for hybrid bermuda.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Grow Enduring Sago Palms From Seedlings

From The Fresno Bee, June 17, 2010, by Elinor Teague:

Sego palms are unusual plants.

First of all, they're not palms or ferns; they're cycads, primitive relatives of conifers and ginkgo trees.

Secondly, sego palms can be either male or female. The bare area inside the rosette of leaves which encircles the top of the palm will be pointed if the palm is male and more rounded if the palm is female.

Female sego palms will produce many seedlings (called pups) at their base or along the sides of the trunk.

Sego palms can endure a really wide range of temperatures, from 15 degrees [Fahrenheit], well below freezing, to 110 degrees, which makes them eminently suitable for our climate here in the Central Valley.

Leaf production on sago palms is also unusual.

The leaves grow in a circle (a rosette) and new rosette of leaves will sprout on sago palms all at once, usually in early spring.

It takes at least a week for the tender new leaves to "harden off," when the plant should not be disturbed or moved to avoid damage.

Too much bright sunlight at the time when the new leaves are appearing will cause those leaves to be stunted and yellow.

Protection from our afternoon sun during the early spring will ensure that the new leaves are large and dark green.

Yellow leaves is a common problem on sagos. They can be caused by too much bight sun or by over watering or by a nutrient deficiency.

Water a sago as you would a cactus, watering only when the soil is nearly dry.

There are palm fertilizers available (good for puny queen palms), but the old-fashioned remedy of adding a few tablespoons of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) to the soil around a yellowing sago is still recommended.

Some gardeners try to boost the slow growth habit of sago palms by cutting off all the leaves in winter. This is not a good practice; in fact, it can kill the plant or stunt the growth severely. Only dead, brown leaves should be pruned off sagos.

Starting sago palms from pups is easy. In early spring, gently pop off or carefully cut off larger-sized pups from the mother palm. Snip off any roots and allow the pups to dry out or harden off in a sheltered spot for a week.

The pups can then be planted into a pot that should be small in relation to the size of the pup. A 4-inch pup will just fit into a 4-inch pot. Use a lightweight, sandy soil mix (a cactus potting soil mix is ideal) and place the pup so that it is only buried halfway.

Put the pot in a spot where it will receive good morning sun, water it when the soil is just dry and then transplant it into the garden, into well-drained soil, a week or so after the first rosette of leaves has appeared and has hardened off.

Sago palms don't like to be moved, similar to ficus trees their leaves will turn yellow and drop until they adjust to the new position, so pick your spot in the garden carefully.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, June 17, 2010:

Enjoy the balmy June evenings with a poolside barbecue, an ice-cream social or outdoor dining.

Tasks--Early-morning irrigation is best for bedding plants and lawns to prevent foliar disease.
Pruning--Cut away the blight in apples and ornamental pears.
Fertilizing--Fertilize almond, apple, peach, nectarine and plum.
Planting--fortnight lily (Dietes), geranium (Pelargonium), sage (Salvia), pincushion flower (Scabiosa), Plumbago auriclata, dwarf pomegranate (Punica nana), moss rose (Portulaca grandiflora) [see picture], marigold (Tagetes); from seed: zinnia, pumpkins, squash. Things to Ponder--A walk around the garden just before dark can be a good opportunity to hunt for snails as they emerge to feed at night.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Plants Require Extra Care In Summer Heat

From The Fresno Bee, June 10, 2010; by Elinor Teague:

Our high summer temperatures have arrived, and we will need to adjust some for our gardening routines to help our plants adjust and survive several months of hot weather.

Most gardens are looking the best I've ever seen.

The longer, cooler spring with no major hot spells has allowed an extra few weeks for newly planted trees and bushes, transplants of annuals and summer vegetables, newly planted trees and bushes, and existing perennials to establish or extend root systems.

Plantings that were stunted during the previous three years of drought and heat now are vigorously producing fruit and flowers.

It seems as though every spring and summer-blooming plant was in full flower a couple of weeks ago.

Deadheading the first crop of spent blossoms is a big chore this year, but essential to encouraging rebloom. When deadheading, cut off as few leaves as possible. Leaves produce food for the plants and also can provide a little extra shade.

For the same reason, adjust lawn mower blades to cut off only a third of the blades' length since taller grass blades shade the roots.

Shear back rapidly-growing hedges lightly but frequently. Scalping hedges and lawns in summer can cause sunburn damage.

The second crop of flowers on summer-bloomers will not be as plentiful as the first.

High temperatures in June will begin to stress plants an slow flowering production; petals will be thinner, colors will dull a but, and fragrance will not be as strong.

This is a normal reaction to heat. Keep this in mind when fertilizing and geed lightly in June. Use a lower-nitrogen (10% or less) at half the recommended rate to avoid a spurt of tender new green growth that will attract insects such as whiteflies, aphids and mealybugs.

In July and early August, when daytime temperatures regularly exceed 95 degrees, plants enter a state of semidormancy. I forgo fertilizing anything when the weather is really hot.

Wilting is the most obvious sign that plants need water, but the first sign of drought stress actually is a change in the color and texture of leaves and grass blades. Drought-stressed leaves will change from brighter green to a duller, grayish-green. Some leaves, especially on citrus, will turn up or close a little. Grass blades will show a blue shade and footprints will remain visible on hte lasn for a longer time.

Even a little stress from underwatering and overfertilizion in summer can stress plants and stressed plants attract pest insects. Feeding lightly (if at all) and monitoring irrigation systems and adjusting watering times as needed during our hot summers can prevent a lot of insect damage and reduce the use of pesticides.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, June 10, 2010:

As June days heat up, evenings in the garden are a real treat.

Tasks--Spray fruiting pear for codling moth.
Pruning--Pinch back annuals and perennials to encourage sturdy growth.
Fertilizing--Yellow leaves may be a sign of chlorosis, which can be treated with chelated iron.
Planting--Sow seeds of any late summer or early fall blooming annuals, such as cosmos, marigold, zinnia and sunflower; cclamen; gazania, day lily (Hemerocallis), morning glory (Ipomoea), crape myrtle (Lagarstroemia indica), lantana, honeysuckle (Lonicera), chayote, okra, lobelia, nicotiana, petunia.
Things to Ponder--Spider mites can be managed by rinsing dust from foliage.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, June 3, 2010:

Harvest vegetables and deadhead flowers regularly to encourage continued production.

Tasks--Avoid cutting lawns too severely because the resulting stress causes yellowing.
Pruning--Remove spent blooms. Cut back annuals that have stopped blooming to encourage re-bloom.
Fertilizing--Avoid fertilizing herbs as too much fertilizer reduces flavor and fragrance.
Planting--Plant summer vegetables at timed intervals to prolong harvest; fall flowering Crocus, coneflower (Echinacea), hibiscus, hydrangea, lobelia; from seed: corn, cucumber.
Things to Ponder--Plant in the cooler morning or evening hours.


We will likely be getting back to regular postings soon--I was in Idaho for a while, and Bryce has end-of-the-school testing and grading (he teaches high school). If you have any questions, I will get an answer to you! --Gard'n Judy

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, May 27, 2010:

The garden is in full bloom and starting to produce a crop this month.

Tasks--Mow lawns frequently, removing only one-third of the growth with each mowing.
Pruning--Trim fast-growing hedges regularly.
Fertilizing--Apply a light feeding to summer flowers and vegetables. Water thoroughly after application.
Planting--Fill in bare spots from earlier plantings of annuals; clivia, lily-of-th-Nile (Agapanthus), bougainvillea, butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii); from seed: beans, cantaloupe.
Things to Ponder--Annual and vegetable plants that are set out now should not be planted in the heat of the day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rats In My Orange Tree

Recently a question was asked about the roof rats in my orange tree--the picture shows the damage they do (I posted about rats in my orange tree last January here). I thought others might have the same question, so I am posting it here:

Anonymous asked--
"I know that its been a while since your post, but how did you remedy this problem? I could really use some advice since we just recently acquired this same situation with our orange tree. I have trimmed the tree dramatically already but the rats persist and return. Which is totally creeping out myself and our kids. Thanks for your thoughts."

I'm sorry to say that I haven't done anything about the roof rats in my orange tree. The tree is a mature, full-size tree (about 23' high), so there are a lot of oranges that I can't reach and the rats can. Early this past spring I had cats leave me three dead rats in a one week period, but there is at least one still living or eating in my orange tree. The tree is next to a fence, with the neighbor house just a few feet from the tree. That house has been empty for the last 2 years and the rats may be living there, too. I have never seen the rats myself (other than the dead ones), and I have not pruned back the tree.

I would not use rat traps (the larger "mouse" traps) as kids or cats might be injured when the trap is triggered. Rat poison may harm or kill children, cats, birds, or dogs (if the poison is knocked or wind-blown to the ground). You might have to have an exterminator remedy the problem; but other rats may come in, something you could discuss with the exterminator.

Caution--be careful pruning back citrus trees, as the branches and trunk sun scald very easily. You can paint the trunk with one part white enamel paint and one part water. I nearly killed my orange tree when I pruned up the limbs (so it looks like a tree instead of a huge bush). The trunk burned so bad I thought it was beyond hope. At that time I was a gardener, but never had citrus trees. I learned that lesson real fast.--Gard'n Judy

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, May 6, 2010:

When plants grow where we don't want them to grow, we consider them weeds.

Tasks--When using herbicides for weed control, spray on a calm day and protect plants by shielding with a large piece of cardboard.
Pruning--shape spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.
Fertilizing--Feed vegetables and lawns with all-purpose fertilizer.
Planting--Many annuals and vegetables can be planted from seed or transplanted; from seed: coneflower (Echinacea), beard tongue (Penstemon), gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia); gladiolus; from seed: corn, pumpkin, spinach, squash, watermelon; bluebeard (Caryopteris); globe amaranth (Gomphrena).
Things to Ponder--To cover 100 square feet of space with mulch 3 inches deep, you will need 1 cubic yard of trunk space.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Taking Care of Fruit Trees

Last week I finally got time to get my peaches thinned. It should have been done sooner, but this is still OK (they are still just a little smaller than a golf ball). Peaches and other fruit should be thinned so that there are 4-6" between fruits. The tree leaves feed the fruit and have just a certain amount of food. If you leave a lot of fruit on the tree, then the fruit will be small when ripe. If you thin the fruit properly, then you will have nice, large fruit. Carefully remove the fruits so that you don't damage the tree branch. Sometimes when I try to remove a fruit, the tip of the branch pops off. That's really not a problem, unless it happens a lot--I figure it just prunes the branch a little. All fruit that you remove, and those on the ground should be put in the trash or green recycle bin, as they could harbor pest or disease problems.

I also took the time to prune back my semi-dwarf apricot trees (planted February 2009) by half of their new spring growth. Apricot trees tend to have super-vigorous growth and can get quite large in size if you don't cut them back 1-3 times in the spring. If you want to let your apricot trees grow to their normal height (up to 10-12' for semi-dwarfs), summer pruning later in the season is best, compared to winter pruning. Winter pruning will make apricot trees more susceptible to Eutypa disease, which causes severe gumming and branch die-back.--Gard'n Judy

Friday, April 30, 2010

Spring Is A Good Time To Divide Plants

From The Fresno Bee, April 29, 2010, by Elinor Teague:

Agapanthus, daylilies and heuchera (Coral Bells) are some of the clumping plants that need dividing every few years when the root systems become crowded and flower production slows. Spring is the best time to divide theses plants. We often put plant division at the bottom of our spring chore list, but we're lucky to have a few extra cooler spring days this year to finally get the chore done.

The technique is simple. Wet the soil and the root system of the plant thoroughly; then use a spading fork (not shovel or spade) to work around the clump and lift it free from the soil. The tines of the fork will slide under the roots rather than cutting through them as do shovels and spades. If you don't have a spading fork, you'll need to insert the shovel further away from the plant to keep as much of the root system intact and undamaged as possible. The roots of heuchera can be pulled gently apart, but the underground tubers of daylilies and agapanthus should be cut apart with a very sharp knife or pruning saw. (I use my mother's Ginzu knife for this).

Place the new sections in damp soil at the same level they previously grew. Big sections will need to be placed further apart than smaller sections; leave at least 8 to 10 inches between agapanthus sections and at least 6 to 8 inches between newly replanted daylily and heuchera sections. Water the transplants thoroughly and sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of bone meal or "bulb booster"-type food (any brand will do) over agapanthus and daylilies or a couple of tablespoons of an acid-type food over shade-loving heuchera.

You may have noticed that some of your spring-blooming bulbs have also become crowded over the years. In milder climate zones, bulbs can be lifted (again with a spading fork) and stored over the summer in a cool, dry place until they are replanted in fall. Few of us have cool outdoor spots for bulb storage in the Central Valley. Our spring-blooming bulbs can be lifted, divided and replanted in late spring after the foliage is nearly completely dead. (We can wait until fall, but it's tricky to find the buried bulbs when they have no foliage). When burying the bulbs, make sure to place them at the maximum recommended depth; usually the hole should be three times deeper than the bulb size--a 2-inch tulip bulb should be buried six inches deep. Burying bulbs at the proper depth helps to protect them from our summer heat. A couple of tablespoons of bone meal or bulb food placed in the new hole will boost the bulb's vigor.

Bearded iris, in glorious full bloom now, are dormant from July until October. Wait until later in the summer or early fall to divide them.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, April 29, 2010:

Celebrate spring by giving a basket of flowers or vegetables to someone special.

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; lily of the Nile (Agapanthus), alstroemeria; fortnight lily (Dietes); cantaloupe, chard, chayote; bougainvillea; vinca (Catharantus) lisianthus (Eustorna).
Things to Ponder--To water hillsides, set emitters on upper side of slope.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bell Peppers

Bryce-We love bell peppers--can't get enough of them really. So, as the weather turns warmer, these plants will begin to skyrocket.

It's an America native crop really, and adds a great flavor to many dishes. (We use them for salads or stir-fry). Bell pepper fruits come in many colors including white, yellow, orange, red, purple, and chocolate brown. Many peppers are compact growers, making them excellent for growing in tight spaces.

Peppers require a long season to mature and in most climates should be started indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost date. Transplant seedlings into the garden when soil temperatures are at least 60 degrees, about two weeks after the last frost date. Peppers grow best with air temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees, though they will tolerate more heat. If it's over 100 degrees, however, it's good to provide some shade. We use an old white sheet and stretch it over the garden so the harsh light gets diffused.

Use a sharp knife to cut off the fruits when they are either full size or fully colored. Take care not to break the brittle branches. If kept harvested, peppers will continue to produce until frost. Store peppers in the fridge and they will last about a week. Ripening continues after harvest.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Water, water everywhere

Bryce: Supplying water to root systems when it's needed is the single most important thing gardeners do for plants.

Hand watering: Use a garden hose with a spray head on the end. It is a simple watering method that involves no previous soil preparation or equipment installation. But it is time-consuming and leads to under-watering because most gardeners do not have the patience to water for as long as is needed.

Furrow irrigation: works best when you are watering rows of plants: it is often used in vegetable gardens. Furrows beside plants are filled with water and left to soak in. Plant foliage stays dry when furrow irrigation is used, which helps minimize disease development.

Basin irrigation: Watering basins are used mainly around trees and shrubs. A ridge of soil is built to contain the water, either from a handheld hose or a bubbler head on a sprinkler system. A few basins can be filled quickly with water, but if many plants are irrigated by hand in this manner, watering may become time-consuming. Plant foliage stays dry when water basins are used.

Sprinklers: Both hose-end sprinklers and underground installed sprinklers irrigate a large area at once. They are most effective when used to water heavily planted areas. Sprinklers are wasteful if they are used to irrigate spar sly planted areas. They are hard to control in windy areas and they wet plant leaves.

Drip irrigation: Drip irrigation systems apply water slowly, allowing it to seep into the soil. They are left on for many hours at a time, often for four to sixteen hours per day. Many types of delivery systems are available. If they are properly operated, they will do the best watering job because they keep the soil at a relatively constant state of moisture, without the wet-to-dry fluctuations of other methods. They do not wet the leaves.