Sunday, January 31, 2010

Starting From Seed

One of my favorite gardening magazines, Fine Gardening, has a seasonal magazine that is on news stands now. Starting From Seed is a very informative issue that shows how easy it is to start your own seeds for planting in your garden. It covers several different ways to start seeds; and shows seed-growing techniques of vegetables, herbs, annuals, and perennials. This is for the beginner or anyone interested in learning about different sprouting and growing methods. (Personally, I love the beautiful pictures!). This magazine will get you itching to get in the garden!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, January 28, 2010:

Nurseries will have plants in bloom now so you can find the colors you really want before you plant them.

Tasks: Feed cool-weather lawns late in the month.
Pruning: Cut back scented geraniums to 18 inches.
Fertilizing: Fertilize spring-flowering shrubs.
Planting: Group plants with similar water needs together; dianthus, gladiolus; from seeds: beets, carrots, eggplant, peas, lobella, sweet alyssum (Lobularia); cotoneaster, raywood ash (Fraxinus angustifolia).
Things to Ponder: Leave frost-damaged growth on tender plants as protection until the danger of frost is past. Begin pruning as new growth emerges.


Planting by the Stars

Saturday: Cancer–#1 planting root crops, above ground crops, and transplants.
Sunday-Monday: Leo–not good for planting or transplanting; good to weed, make seed beds; good to prune.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Returning . . .

I will be returning home this week and will resume posting soon. This picture is of a garden we pass each day as we take our daily walk. You can see that it is winter here in Sandpoint, Idaho (an hour below the Canadian border). This woman has a bee hive that can be seen on the left side of the garden. You can see that there is no snow all along the left side of the picture--this is where a natural gas pipeline from Canada is buried and the friction of the gas flowing warms the ground. This is a smart place to put a garden as the ground will warm up earlier in the spring!

Monday, January 11, 2010

I'm Going To Be Gone . . .

I have had a death in my family and will be out of town for the next couple of weeks, so I will likely not be posting. Thank you for your patience.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


When cleaning up the garden, make sure you remove dead foliage. These irises have dead leaves and other debris around their bases, which is a magnet to snails. Too cold for snails? Not here! I found several.

The second picture shows what the irises look like after all of the dead foliage has been removed. I always feel that after I remove the dead stuff and have pruned a plant that it heaves a big sigh of relief and can breath better--I know they look better. I normally don't cut back frost damaged plants just yet, but this geranium had grown over the top of some of the irises. If we have more frost, then the geranium will have more damage, but it is a good-sized plant and will come back just fine.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Out In The Garden

Today the sun came out, and even if it was just hazy sun, I decided to pull weeds in this flower bed. I gave myself an hour and I got the whole bed done. I will be trimming the hedges another day, when I have my shredder out.

You can see that this bed is now all cleaned up. I can keep it that way by hula hoe-ing a couple times a week. There is some ground cover that is growing and it can get into everything and cover up whatever is in its way, but it has pretty flowers and is very easy to pull out. It dies back in when we have our high summer heat, but comes back with no problems. Actually, it comes up all over the place--but, I like it!

Fungal Woes Could Follow Wet Winter Weather

From The Fresno Bee, January 7, 2010, by Elinor Teague:

I'm sure we all have our fingers crossed, hoping that December's welcome rains continue into the spring months.

If the wet weather pattern does persist, though, we may see a return of fungal and bacterial disease problems that have not been as prevalent during the past three drought years.

Fungal spores and bacteria overwinter on leaves and twigs and in cankers on the bark surfaces and can be carried onto susceptible plants by splashing rain.

Anthracnose [picture 1], which is a serious problem for ash and sycamore trees, is one such example of a fungus that is spread in water droplets in the cooler winter months.

Peach leaf curl fungus is another example.

The first twigs and shoots on trees infected by anthracnose fungus turn brown and die; the first spring flush of new leaves show dead brown areas along the veins.

Eventually, the first crop of leaves falls off and is then replaced by another set.

Treatment for anthracnose begins with regular winter cleanup of fallen twigs and leaves as well as pruning to remove cankerous branches.

Consult with a certified arborist before pruning large trees.

Yearly spraying of infected trees with fungicides is not very effective and root injections of systemic fungicides are not recommended by UC Davis. You might want to consider replacing an anthracnose-infected tree with a variety resistant to the disease.

Peach leaf curl [picture 2] infection on peaches and nectarines occurs in early spring as the buds begin to swell but before they break open and show the green lining.

New University of California at Davis guidelines for treatment of peach leaf curl recommend just one spraying of a lime sulfur or a copper-based fungicide in early spring at bud swell. The sprays can be washed off by rain or overhead irrigation, so the fungicide must be applied between rainstorms.

And, of course, clean up fallen leaves and any mummies (dried fruit) that may harbor the fungal spores.

Eutypa dieback on apricots is caused by a fungus that is carried into pruning wounds by rain or irrigation.

The fungus, also called gummosis [picture 3], causes limbs to wilt and then fall of with leaves still attached. The surface bark turns dark brown and an amber, gummy substance may show.

The interior wood is also brown. To prevent eutypa dieback, apricots should be pruned after harvest during the dry season, so in July, August or September in our area. disinfect pruning shears between cuts with a 10% bleach solution and apply a bleach solution to pruning wounds on infected trees.

Olive knot and oleander gall are bacterial diseases that also are carried into pruning wounds on olive trees and oleanders by rain in winter and spring.

Galls, or unusual growths, form around pruning wounds on infected plants and heavily affected branches may die.

These plants should also be pruned in the dry season. Again, prune out dead branches and disinfect tools between cuts.

[For more information and pictures of anthracnose in shade trees, go to University of Illinois' web page.]

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, January 7, 2010:

Follow through on your New Year's resolutions for the garden.

Tasks--Spray apricots and walnuts with horticultural oil and fixed copper.
Pruning--Cut back and divide perennials.
Fertilizing--Fertilize roses this month or next.
Planting--gladiolus, Oriental hybrid (Lilium); onion sets, parsley, radish; Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule), primrose (Primula malacoides); roses (Rosa), bridal wreath spiraea (Spiraea prunifolia).
Things to Ponder--This is a good time to divide African violets for early spring bloom.

[I'm not out in the garden today--I may be coming down with a cold, it is damp and chilly outside, and so I am staying in trying to head off any illness].

What's Been Eating My Oranges?

For the last three years I have had something eating a few of my Valencia oranges. I find little bits of peel on the ground and a few days later an orange that looks like the one in the picture falls. I always thought it was migrating birds that were pecking the oranges open and eating the fruit. I finally put the puzzle together. The cat that was living here (the one that bit and scratched me) brought a couple of dead rats, over the space of a few days, to the door and left them for us. I went online and found that the rats are roof rats. They do live in trees and shrubs, plus attics and crawl spaces under houses, and will eat oranges. I also read where people asked if they could feed oranges to their pet rats. The answer for them was that if male rats eat oranges, the d-limonene builds up in their kidneys and causes cancer. Too bad it doesn't work that way on the female rats. I have never seen any rats running in our yard or trees as they are nocturnal, but I suppose that's what I have. The house on the other side of the fence that's next to the orange tree has been empty for the last couple of years and maybe that's where they came from.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Out In The Garden

Today I was able to work in the yard for three hours, and my focus was on this section that's up against the house. I dug out 10 crape myrtle "shrubs," which were actually trees that came up from the roots when we took out a crape myrtle tree several years ago. I never tried to dig them out, I just cut them down each year. I didn't want them, so I finally dug them out. I also removed several clusters of bulbs that keep multiplying, that I didn't like. Plus, I removed 4 Lenten Roses. The sidewalk goes up to the front door of my house, and I plan to put in a small pond just past the post that can be seen on the left in the picture. The dead-looking things in the background are my ferns. They get burned by the frost each year, but come back better than ever each spring. As I was digging some of the crape myrtles that were in amongst the ferns, I found that there were lots of new little ferns starting to grow. These ferns were here when we bought this house in 1986, so you can see that they are a hardy plant. They do need to be in the shade, though, as too much summer sun will burn them. [I almost forgot to take a picture of where I was working, but remembered after I had started digging].

Long Garden Bed

Last week I spent four hours cleaning out my vegetable boxes. This long garden bed took the most time. It has been in production mostly year round for the last 15 or more years, so I decided to let it rest for a little while. If I change my mind and want to plant it this summer, all I have to do is pull aside the straw and stick it in the soil. The straw keeps the weeds from sprouting, and the worms love it. The rest of my boxes have straw covering them, too. They are ready for when I want to plant.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Out In The Garden

Today I spent another 3 1/2 hours working in the yard. I pruned 7 of my neighbor's roses and 3 of my own. I removed all of the weeds that were growing in the sidewalk cervices, especially along the curb. I also pulled a lot of weeds out of the flower beds. So much to do!

If you want to know how to prune roses, the Weekend Gardener has some good information.

Tangerine Tree

This year the citrus crop is huge. My poor little tangerine tree was hanging it's branches down from all of the weight of the fruit. I thinned out the fruit, tossing almost three full buckets. I hated to do that, but I don't want to damage the tree, either.

As you can see, the tree still has plenty of tangerines for me to eat--they will be ready in February, just as my navel oranges are finished.

Planting by the Stars

Tuesday--Leo–not good for planting or transplanting; good to weed, make seed beds; good to prune
Wednesday-Friday--Virgo–not good for planting or transplanting, good to weed; good to clean out the garden shed
Saturday-Sunday--Libra–not good planting root crops; very good for above ground crops

Monday, January 4, 2010

Out In The Garden

I'm off to a good start! I worked in my back yard today for 3 1/2 hours. I was able to get all of my fruit trees pruned, my asparagus ferns cut down (see picture), and two of my roses pruned. I was surprised to see that one of my asparagus plants was poking three little heads above ground--they aren't suppose to be up until the first part of March. The asparagus is planted on the south side of my house so it might be a little warmer than the rest of the yard.

Confessions Of A Master Gardener

Have you ever heard about the shoemaker whose kids never had shoes? Or, the seamstress whose kids went in rags? Well, that can apply to anything--including gardening! We had a cat that adopted us last summer (we have three other cats). This cat would bite and scratch me if he didn't like the cat food choice I gave him (top-of-the-line, expensive stuff), or if I didn't give him the continuous attention he though he deserved. And, he didn't want any other cats around, especially ours. So, I didn't go out into my yard for several months, because this cat was always there. Last fall as it was cooling off from our high summer heat, everything in the yard exploded with growth. Now, the cat has gone to another home and I am faced with getting my yard back in shape. Oh, the embarrassment! I will take pictures as I go to show my improvement. I plan to be done by the end of January, before some of the plants start their new growth. The weeds (except in the vegetable boxes!) have gotten ahead of me.

The best laid plans won't get the work done, so I will get to it starting today! My husband brought me 5 bales of straw last Saturday, which will help with smothering some of the weeds. Then as I prune and shred, I will replace the straw with the shredded mulch--at least in the front yard where the mulch will look nicer.

I will also be starting new veggies for my early spring garden that will be planted mid-February. I will start the cool-weather things like spinach, lettuce, chard, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. I will give outdoor seed sowing a try--for more information about this, go to Winter Sown. If you are interested in giving this a try, be sure to read the "how-to" (it's really easy!), and then scroll down to the pictures link. Starting seeds this way eliminates having to buy grow-lights, and all of the fussing that goes with starting seeds indoors. This way, the seeds come up when the temperature is righ, and uses the sun for light; you get to choose what varieties you want instead of choosing from what is at the store; and, these plants are already hardened off, so they will go from container, to small pots, and then into the garden--all outdoors!

[Picture from Winter Sown, by Mary in Georgia].

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Imporve Gardening Habits With Easy Steps

From The Fresno Bee, December 30, 1009, by Elinor Teague:

Every New Year's Eve, I vow to change my procrastinating gardening habits--to fertilize on a strict schedule, to cultivate and weed the planting beds weekly, to replace mulch as soon as there is less than a 3-inch layer. This is because in midwinter I'm looking out at a weedy vegetable patch with dead tomato plants still tied to the stakes and bare dirt, completely mulchless, under the roses that have yet to be deadheaded.

Improvement and change seem to come slowly, but they do come. I thought I'd pass along some suggestions on ways to make some important changes in gardening habits without a lot of extra effort. These are simple rather obvious things that are easy to do.

1. Find out where the control box for the automatic sprinkler system is located in your garage, and read the instructions. Learn which cycle controls which stations and then, most important of all, adjust the timers according to the season. Turn sprinklers off in rainy, cool weather. Increase watering time weekly as temperatures rise in spring and summer and decrease watering times in fall. Post the handy sticker giving the mandated city watering schedule inside the control box cover and learn to set the days and times accordingly.

2. Find an expert (nursery or garden center staff, the Fresno County Master Gardeners, etc.) to help identify the insects you assume are a problem or the plant that you assume is a weed. Then read the label on the pesticide or herbicide carefully, before you buy.

Make sure that the insect or weed you hope to control is listed on the label. Ask the expert for the least-toxic product possible and use it as directed.

Dispose of the more-toxic products stored in the shed as directed on their labels.

3. Plant a wide variety of plants that are suitable for our climate zones, 8 and 9 in the Central Valley and 7 in the foothills.

Try a variety that includes native plants, perennial and annual flowering plants as well as small shrubs that will provide nectar, food and shelter through he seasons. These will attract native bees and other pollinators as well as many types of birds.

As you reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides in your garden and provide suitable habitats for beneficial insects and birds that can control pest insects, you will help restore a natural balance that leads to fewer problems and more bird-songs. A very pleasant result.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Smartphone Applications Help Gardeners Dig For Data

From The Fresno Bee, December 23, 1009, by Dean Fosdick:

As smartphones keep getting faster, smaller and loaded with more features, there's something in it for gardeners: more than a hundred software programs, or applications.

Gardening apps aim to help with everything from locating supplies to fending off mosquitoes to converting cell phones into flashlights. Some are offered free, but most cost a one-time fee for downloading into your handset.

Here are some useful gardening programs available online. Not every app remains long on virtual shelves or operates with every phone, so check for availability and compatibility before ordering.

"Pocket Garden"
(iPhone, 99 cents)
Contains pictures and advice about growing hundreds of plants, most of them vegetables.

"Flowers Guide"
(iPhone, $1.99)
Alphabetical database of 55 flowers with photos, botanical name, origins and descriptions.

"Botanical Interests"
(iPhone, $5.99)
Botanical Interests, an online seed company, offers tips about growing vegetables, and a primer on seed starting, soil preparation, attracting pollinators, plant histories and much more.

(Android, free)
Pairs plants with hardiness zones, provides space for photos and journal entries.

"Landscaper's Companion"
(Android, $6.99)
Useful for information gathering and selecting plants.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, December 30, 2009:

Walk through the garden and make notes for spring and summer changes and additions.

Tasks--Deep-water trees and native plants if rainfall has been light.
Pruning--Wait to prune spring flowering plants until after bloom--Chinese magnolias, azaleas and camellias.
Fertilizing--Perennials, annuals, emerging bulbs.
Planting--In addition to being easy to handle, a plant started now while it is dormant will have the full advantage of the spring growing season and will be well established this year; cyclamen, dahlia; bare root (cane berries), garlic, leek; larkspur (Consolida ambigua), stock (Matthiola), forget-me-not (Mytosotis sylvatica); daphne, forsythia, razzleberri (Loropetalum).
Things to Ponder--Shop now for camellias and early-blooming azaleas. Remove fallen camellia blooms promptly to prevent petal blight on next year's flowers.