Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bird Counts Help Track Habitat, Populations

From The Fresno Bee, February 25, 2010, by Elinor Teague:

We were out of town recently and missed participating in the annual Audubon Great Backyard Bird Count this year.

For just 15 minutes on one of those days, Feb. 12-15, backyard birdwatchers are asked to identify and count the birds they see in their yards and submit the numbers online to

This is an important means of tracking bird populations in urban, suburban and rural areas.

Project Feederwatch, another counting program, will continue until March 3.

You might be surprised to discover how many bird species live in your neighborhood and to learn where they live and what they eat.

Our neighborhood is in the urban center of Fresno but has large lots and many mature trees.

Most of the yards are well-maintained, but not all of them.

It is those undisturbed or less-manicured areas which provide shelter and food for a wide variety of birds.

In addition to the robins that nest in the front yard magnolia trees and the mockingbirds and jays that fight over the backyard territory, we have some other interesting visitors to our garden.

Last week, I counted six Northern (Red-shafted) flickers [see picture] poking holes in the back lawn with their long, sharp beaks.

Flickers migrate from the mountain foothills to warmer areas every fall and retreat to cooler climates in spring. Their diet consists mainly of ants and beetles and to a lesser extent, moths, flies and snails.

We certainly appreciate how they rid the lawn of grubs and other pest insects while aerating the soil quite nicely.

In mid-January, a Great Horned owl stood out as a silhouette against the dusk sky on the power line that crosses behind our yard. Great Horned owls eat mostly small mammals, including rats and moles. They also are the main predators of crow nestlings.

The pods and seeds from the liquidambar tree on the front lawn attract quite a few morning doves in fall and winter.

The doves' diet is mostly seeds, but they also eat wild grasses and weeds as well as snails.

Unfortunately, the doves are a favorite snack of the Cooper's hawks that nest on top of our neighbor's deodar cedar tree.

Cooper's hawks feed on medium-sized birds as well as mice, squirrels and bats. They, like many raptors, are now becoming more common to urban areas.

Our urban bird populations are threatened by destruction of habitat and by overuse of pesticides.

As you can see from the descriptions of the diets of different bird species, birds perform an invaluable service to maintaining the balance of nature. Their presence in our gardens allows us to depend less on chemical means of controlling pest insects and animals.

Friday, February 26, 2010

What's In Your Garden?

Here's what's in my garden! Late last fall I planted a six-pack of lettuce, of chives, and of chard; a few pieces of garlic; and two kinds of parsley. They are growing quite happily now!

I'm happy, too, because I get to eat them! The chard stems are so tender that they cook up quickly. I had a bit of a problem with snails, but Sluggo took care of that. There is a bit of hay growing under the chard leaves. It is from the straw that I put down over the pathway. All I have to do is pull it up and lay it on top of the straw, which creates more mulch!

I noticed today that the hardware stores and markets are selling vegetable and herb starts. They look nice and green (that's from a good dose of chemical fertilizer) and very tempting to buy. If you do buy them and plant them, make sure to cover them if frost is threatening. Uncover them the next morning, otherwise the sun could cook them.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Home Calendar

From The Fresno Bee, February 25, 2010:

Fresno Cactus and Succulent Society--March 4
"Better Plant Photography" by Ernesto Sandoval
7:00 pm
Hard of Hearing Service Center Inc.
5340 N. Fresno St.

Backyard Beekeeping Class--March 6
Central Valley Beekeepers Association
8:00 am-5:00 pm
Fresno Farm Bureau Office
1274 W. Hedges Ave
Cost: $50, $40 in advance

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, February 25, 2010:

March is the time to put winter's planning into action as spring's planting.
Tasks--Remove thatch from cool-season grasses (bluegrass, tall fescue) if 1/2 inch growth has accumulated. Test by removing a plug from the lawn.
Pruning--Deadhead winter annuals to prolong bloom.
Fertilizing--Fertilize plants that are actively growing.
Planting--Plant annuals for spring and summer color. When setting out transplants, hold them by the root ball. Plant from seed: floss flower (Ageratum), bachelor's button (Centaurea), cosmos; canna tubers; from seed: beets, bell pepper, carrots, chives; columbine (Aquilegia), artemisia, aster, butterfly bush (Buddela davidii); acer Japanese maple, abeila, manzanita (Arctostaphylos), azalea.
Things to Ponder--Wait until the danger of frost has passed to set out frost-tender plants.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Plant Give And Take

Here is something that is fun to do:

Plant Give And Take
Saturday, March 6, 2010
9:00 am to 12:00 noon

This is FREE!

VFW Post 8900
(in the picnic area in the back)
3583 N. Blythe Ave, Fresno
(West of 99, between Ashlan and Dakota)

Give: Your surplus Bulbs, Seeds, Plants, Trees, Cuttings, Pots

Take: What you need

If you have surplus items, please bring them. If you don't, that is OK. New homeowners and gardeners are all welcome. Share what you have--extra pots, half-empty bags of compost, cuttings, potted plants, anything garden related. Instead of throwing them away--share them with others.

Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer your questions.

Grow Veggies

Here is another new magazine, this one is from Birds and Bloom, that shows how to grow vegetables. I found it in the market recently. Growing you own food is really easy if you just give the seeds/plants a little help--like decent soil, water and enough sun. If your soil is lacking, you can dig in some compost. Not enough sun? Then, you need to relocate your garden (or cut down your neighbor's tree--just kidding!). No spot in the sun? That's where containers come in as they can be placed anywhere! Containers may take a little more work, like watering every day (maybe twice a day during the high heat of summer) or you can use a drip watering system. Give it a try, you will be rewarded!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fresno's Home and Garden Show

Several Master Gardener's will be at the Fresno Home and Garden show presenting plant and gardening seminars. These seminars are free. Here is the line-up:

Friday, March 5:
12:00 (noon)--"Wonderful World of Roses"
2:00 pm--"Iris Gardening Tips"
4:00 pm--"The 'How To' of Home Composting"
5:30 pm--"Get Rid of Those Weeds"

Saturday, March 6:
11:00 am--"Grow Your Own Vegetables--It's Worth It"
1:00 pm--"Let's Look at Lavender"
3:00 pm--"Tree Selection and Planting"
5:00 pm--"Growing Orchids for Home and Garden"

Sunday, March 7:
11:00 am--"California Natives"
1:00 pm--"The Art of Topiary"
3:00 pm--"Helpful Hints for Low Maintenance Gardening"

There will also be a Master Gardener booth set up with Master Gardeners that can answer all of your plant and garden questions!

Planting by the Stars

Tuesday: Taurus–#1 planting root crops; not good planting above ground crops; good for all transplants.
Wednesday-Thursday: Gemini–2nd best planting root crops, above ground crops, and transplants.
Friday: Cancer–#1 planting root crops, above ground crops, and transplants.
Saturday-Monday: Leo–not good for planting or transplanting; good to weed, make seed beds; good to prune.


Yesterday, my husband and I went to Bakersfield to help celebrate our grandson, Christion's, birthday. My son, Bryce, has been starting vegetable and herb plants with the seeds from his huge collection. He plans to sell most of them as his garden is quite small for what he really wants to plant! I always get re-energized when we talk plants, and I got to thinking about tomatoes.

I was looking at a seed catalog this morning and saw these pink tomatoes (they were REALLY pink in the catalog). Maybe I'm too old-fashioned, or in a rut, but these pink tomatoes didn't look very enticing. These are called "Big Pink" tomato.

These are "Razzle Dazzle Hybrid" tomatoes, they are a deeper pink (the catalog tomatoes were pinker), but they still didn't tempt me.

These "Italian Ice Hybrid" tomatoes look anemic and flavorless (to me). Although, I do try tomatoes of other colors, I generally go back to my more favorite reds.

I grew some "Black Krim" tomatoes (above), an heirloom from Russia. I found the taste to be OK, but the looks aren't too appetizing. I've grown the famous "Brandywine" tomatoes and wasn't impressed with the taste.

A few years ago I was working at the Garden of the Sun (the Master Gardener's demonstration garden) and they had extra tomato plants left over from their tomato festival and sale, so I took home a couple of them. I was quite surprised by this heirloom tomato, "Juane Flamme". Of course, this picture doesn't capture the real color of those I grew, which was a deep golden color, but I was impressed that this one flowered and produced all through our hot summers (average high 110' f. that could go for weeks. Tomatoes generally stop blooming when the temperatures reach 90' or higher). Besides that, it tastes really good! So, I was hooked and have been growing them ever since.

I generally don't grow hybrids because I prefer the heirloom (grown for at least 50 years) and open pollinated varieties--from these plants you can save seeds and they will grow to reproduce tomatoes like the parent plants. Saving seeds from your hybrid plants will grow plants like the grandparent plants, not like the parent plants, which is not what you are wanting.

I suppose if you were to take a mix of these unusual-color tomatoes (red, white, yellow, pink, but not the brown colored called black) that would make an interesting colored salsa. Put some peppers and onions in it and the whole thing would taste good! Can you imagine having red, white, yellow and pink tomatoes, along with red, green, purple, and yellow peppers?! It might be too pretty to eat!

Now is a good time to start your tomatoes and peppers indoors; or outside using the Winter Sown method. Planting time will be around April, earlier if you cover them. They do better when the soil warms up a bit.

If you are interested, there is a class at the Garden of the Sun, March 17, that will tell you all about tomatoes and how to grow them. The cost is $15, and runs from 9:30 to 12:00.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Planting By The Phases Of The Moon--part 5

[This is a continuation from the book, How To Grow More Vegetables . . . by John Jeavons]

During the last 7 days, the lunar gravitational force increases, and root growth slows down. The amount of moonlight decreases and also slows down leaf growth. This period is one of a balanced decrease in growth or a period of rest, just as the first 7 days in the lunar month is a period of a balanced increase in growth. The last 7 days, then, is a rest period which comes before the bursting forth of a period of new life. Short-and extra-long-germinating seeds are planted 2 days before the new moon so they will be able to take advantage of this time of new life. (The extra-long-germinating seeds take approximately 1 month to germinate.)

In time, a planted seed bursts its seed coat around the twenty-eighth day of the lunar month and proceeds into a period of slow, balanced, and increasing growth above and below ground, passes into a period of stimulated leaf growth, then goes into a period of stimulated root growth (getting ready for the next period of stimulated leaf growth), and then goes into a time of rest. This plant growth cycle repeat itself monthly. Plants are transplanted at the full moon, so they may begin their life in the growing bed during a time of stimulated root growth. The stimulation is important to the plant because root shock occurs during transplanting. It is also important for the plant's root system to be well developed so it can later provide the leaves, flowers, vegetables, fruits, and seeds with water and nutrients. The transplanted plant then enters into a time of rest before beginning another monthly cycle. The workings of nature are beautiful.

(It should be noted that planting by the phases of the moon is a nuance which improves the health and quality of plants. If you do not follow the moon cycles, your plants will still grow satisfactorily. However, as your soil improves and as you gain experience, the nuances will become more important and will have a greater effect. Try it and see.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, February 18, 2010:

Try grafting new fruit tree varieties onto your existing trees. Fruit of the same species are easily grafted together--peach onto peach, plum onto plum.

Tasks: Irrigate citrus and almonds if frost is expected.
Pruning: Prune hydrangeas. Remove a third of the old wood for maximum bloom.
Fertilizing: Fertilize deciduous trees. They need feeding two to three weeks before bloom.
Planting: Make certain a plant's basic sun and shade needs are considered before planting; coral bells (Heuchera); calla (Zantedeschia); potatoes, rhubarb; phlox dremmondii from seed; sweet gum tree (Liquidambar), Chinese pistache tree (Pistacia chinensis), Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum).
Things To Ponder: When forsythia begins to bloom, apply pre-emergent herbicide to your lawn to prevent crabgrass.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Planting By The Phases Of The Moon--part 4

[This is a continuation from the book, How To Grow More Vegetables . . . by John Jeavons]

During the third 7 days, the amount of moonlight decreases along with the lunar gravitational pull. As the moonlight decreases, the above-ground leaf growth slows down. The root growth is stimulated again, however, as the lunar gravitational pull decreases. this is a good time to transplant, since the root growth is active. 'The activity enables the plant to better overcome root shock and promotes the development of a good root system while leaf growth has been slowed down. Then, 21 days later, when leaf growth is at a maximum, there will be a developed root system that can provide the plant with sufficient nutrients and water. It is also the time to plant long-germinating seeds. Seeds which take approximately 2 weeks to germinate will then be ready to take advantage of the boost from the high gravitational pull of the new moon.

[Part 5 Saturday].

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Planting By The Phases Of The Moon--part 3

[This is a continuation from the book, How To Grow More Vegetables . . . by John Jeavons].

During the second 7 days, the lunar gravitational force reverses its relative direction and increases. This pull slows down the root growth as Earth's relative gravitational pull is lessened. The moonlight, on the other hand, continues to a peak, and leaf growth is especially stimulated. If root growth has been sufficient during previous periods, then the proper amounts of nutrients and water will be conveyed to the above ground part of the plant, and balanced, uninterrupted growth will occur. In this time of increasing gravitational, moonlight, and magnetic forces, seeds which have not yet germinated at the time of the new moon, they should do so by the full moon. Alan Chadwick says it is during this period that seeds cannot resist coming up, and mushrooms suddenly appear overnight.

[Tomorrow part 4 from this book].

Monday, February 15, 2010

Planting by the Stars

Tuesday--Aquarius–not good planting root crops; very good planting above ground crops (but not seeds, they will rot).
Wednesday-Friday--Pisces–2nd best planting root crops; #1 planting above ground crops and transplanting above ground crops, trees, bushes, vines; good to weed.
Saturday-Sunday--Aries–very good planting root crops; not good planting above ground crops or transplant; good to prune.

[Picture is of chickweed, which is growing well now in the shady areas of our yards. It is good in a salad!].

Planting By The Phases Of The Moon--part 2

[This is a continuation from the book, How To Grow More Vegetables . . . by John Jeavons].

Looking at the drawing, you can see that there are both increasing and decreasing lunar gravitational and light force influences that recur periodically during the lunar month. Sometimes the forces work against each other and sometimes they reinforce one another. When the lunar gravitational pull decreases and the amount of moonlight increases during the first 7 days, plants undergo a period of balanced growth. The decreasing lunar gravity (and the corresponding relative increase in Earth's gravity) stimulates root growth. At the same time, the increasing amount of moonlight stimulates leaf growth.

[Tomorrow will be part 3 from this book].

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Planting By The Phases Of The Moon

I will be putting up a short series of posts that are about planting by the moon phases, from the book, How To Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible On Less Land Than You Can Imagine, by John Jeavons. This makes a lot of sense to me and I hope it will benefit you, too.

Planting by the Phases of the Moon

One of the most controversial aspects of the Biointensive method is the planting of seeds and the transplanting of seedlings by the phases of the moon. Short- and extra-long-germinating seeds are planted 2 days before the new moon, when the first significant magnetic forces occur, and up to 7 days after the new moon. Long-germinating seeds are planted at the full moon and up to 7 days afterward. Seedlings are transplanted at the same time. Both planting periods take advantage of the full sum of the forces of nature, including gravity, light, and magnetism. The greatest sum of increasing forces occurs at the new moon. The lunar gravitational pull which produces high tides in the oceans and water tides in the soil is very high. And the moon, which is dark, gets progressively lighter. The importance of the time of the month in planting seeds and transplanting is not so much in the exact day on which you perform the task, but rather in generally taking advantage of the impetus provided by nature.

When you place short-germinating seeds in the ground 2 days before the lunar tide forces are greatest, the seed has time to absorb water. The force exerted on the water in the seed helps create a "tide" that helps burst the seed coat in conjunction with the forces produced by the swelling of the seed. No doubt you have wondered why one time beet seeds come up almost immediately and another time the germinating process takes 2 weeks in the same bed under similar conditions. Temperature and moisture differences, pH changes and humus levels may influence the seeds in each case, but the next time you note a marked difference in germination time, check your calendar to determine the phase the moon was in when the seeds were sown. You may be surprised to find the moon had an influence.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Spring is right around the corner! This picture is of a branch one of my established peach trees. Each bud will be a flower, and I think every one of them produces a peach, at least that's what I think when I go to thin them! It's worth the work because the peaches are so good!

This picture is of a branch of my established almond tree. The flowers are ready to burst open! This is a closeup of the buds, not the almonds themselves--they come later! Fall is when the nuts are harvested. The bluejays come in and pluck the almonds off of the tree. They sit on our fence knocking the nuts on the wood to open them. Otherwise, the bluejays will take the nuts and bury them all over the yard.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Time To Return To Fertilizing Routine

There was no Garden Checklist in today's Fresno Bee. Elinor Teague's article from February 11, 2010, is below.

Our short, eight-week winter is over and our early spring (much earlier than in other climate zones) has begun.

Cold winter temperatures send most plants into dormancy, but by mid-January our temperatures have warmed enough to end dormancy. By mid-February, the sap has risen in trees and bushes and new growth is apparent.

Regular, consistent fertilization is key to maintaining plants' health and productivity. The first feedings, given in February, are essential for a good start to the next season for deciduous trees and bushes and spring-blooming annuals and perennials.

Just remember not to be heavy-handed with any fertilization at this time of year. A lighter application in February will provide enough nutrients without forcing tender new growth that might be damaged by a late frost.

Let's start with houseplants. They too are dormant or semi-dormant in winter, even though they are protected from the cold. It's the lesser amount of available light during winter that triggers dormancy in houseplants.

Feed all houseplants once this month with a houseplant fertilizer at half the amount recommended on the label. In March, begin a biweekly feeding schedule for flowering plants using a plant food with a higher middle number, such as 8-14-6. Foliage plants can be fed monthly with a balanced fertilizer, such as a 7-7-7 formulation.

Cool-season lawns such as fescue and perennial rye also are dormant during the coldest months.

Feed them from February until early June with a high-nitrogen lawn food that also contains trace minerals such as iron, manganese and zink.

Deciduous fruit and nut trees should be given one-third of the needed annual amount as they begin to flower in February. Non-deciduous citrus and avocado trees are fed in late spring.

Flowering groundcovers such as lantana, vinca and verbena can be sheared back in February and then fed lightly with a rose and flower-type fertilizer.

Mediterranean culinary herbs including rosemary, sage and oregano can also be sheared back now and lightly fertilized.

Don't be in a hurry to prune back or fertilize the tropical plants in your garden that may have suffered the most damage during our freezes this year.

They take longer to show new growth than other types of plants and will need fertilization later in the season.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bare-Root Fruit Trees

Have you been thinking about planting some fruit trees? Now is a good time to buy and plant them! The nurseries and other stores have good supplies of bare-root fruit trees, plus bare-root berries (which includes blueberries), and grapes. Other plants you might consider for your vegetable garden are asparagus and artichokes. If you want fruits and vegetables that you can preserve (canned, frozen or dried) remember to read the tags on the plants before you buy them, as some fruit will go to mush if canned or frozen. Last year I bought 10 dwarf fruit trees and all but one is good for canning and freezing. I bought a Gala Apple tree just because I love the taste of the apples! Sometime I will give it a try to see if Gala actually cans satisfactorily or not--you never know.

Once planted you will have many years of more fresh fruit than you can possible eat, even if you have dwarf trees. Ideally, I would love to have fruit trees that ripen at different times, so I will have a supply of fresh tree-ripened fruit most of the year. I start with my Navel orange in December, which goes through January or longer. Next, my tangerine is good February through March. I have a little break until my Valencia orange is ready in May, and is good until sometime in August. In the mean time, I will have apricots, plums, and peaches early summer through late summer; and apples and pears towards fall. I have become a fruit snob and refuse to buy fruit in the markets (they have no taste generally), except apples. I have canned a lot of pears and peaches, so not buying fruit isn't a problem for me and my husband. OK, I do buy a banana or two occasionally! Oh, and I buy strawberries and boysenberries each May from the road-side stands to make jam and to freeze.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Planting by the Stars or Moon

Yesterday, Erica commented that she didn't know that there was astrology for planting. In The Old Farmer's Almanac (this is where I get my planting information), it explains the difference between astrology and astronomy. Astronomy is what I have been following. Here is what the Almanac says:

Astrology vs. Astronomy

Astrology is a tool we use to plan events according to the placements of the Sun, the Moon, and the planets in the 12 signs of the zodiac. In astrology,the planetary movements do not cause events; rather they explain the path, or "flow," that events tend to follow.

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.)

In the book, How To Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible On Less Land Than You Can Imagine by John Jeavons, it shows how to plant by the phases of the moon. The phase of the moon (moonlight) and the lunar gravity both increase and decrease and this is what effects the plant growth. Starting on February 13 (pre-new moon) I will write out this book's more through explanation of how the moonlight and lunar gravity works on growing plants. The book states briefly:

The first two days before New Moon--plant short- and extra-long-germinating seeds (most vegetables and herbs) in flats and/or beds.

The first seven days--balanced increase in rate of root and leaf growth.

The second seven days--increased leaf growth rate.

Full Moon--transplant seedlings from flat into beds and plant long-germinating seeds (most flowers) in flats and/or beds.

Third seven days--increased root growth rate.

Fourth seven days--balanced decrease in rate of root and leaf growth (resting period).

Farmers for thousands of years have planted by the moon signs. They learned first hand the effects of planting their crops at certain times, and fine-tuned their knowledge to know precisely when to plant and when not to plant. I figure that if the moon can cause the ocean tides to ebb and flow, why not cause plants to grow and rest. By observation we can see this for ourselves (at least the leaf growth!). Try an experiment by planting the seeds from the same packet at different times of the moon phases, see how long they take to germinate, and how well they grow. Keep track of the various plantings and find what the difference is. Then let me know your results and I will post them! A quick-growing crop that you can try now is radishes, and later in the spring you can try beans.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Planting by the Stars

Monday: Scorpio–2nd best for planting root crops; #1 planting above ground crops; good to set out fruit trees, flower bushes, vines.
Tuesday-Thursday: Sagittarius–fairly good root crops, above ground crops; no transplanting; good to prune.
Friday and Sunday: Capricorn–#1 planting root crops; 2nd best planting above ground crops and transplanting; good for building fences.
Saturday and Monday: Aquarius–not good planting root crops; very good planting above ground crops (but not seeds, they will rot).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Rose Petal Beads

In P. Allen's newsletter, here, he talks about making rose petal beads. I have never done this, but it sounds interesting. I will have to wait for a few months before I have any rose petals to work with, though. Mr. Allen has a simple "recipe" to make these beads. There are other recipes that have binders and rose oil included, but that doesn't seem to be necessary. I did read where the beads turn out black if you use an iron pan to cook the petals in, and they will be slightly lighter in color if cooked in an enamel pan.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Citrus Damage Shows Up After Freezes

From The Fresno Bee, January 4, 2010, by Elinor Teague:

Before the hard frosts in December, our six mature grapefruit and orange trees were loaded with ripe fruit. About one-fifth of that fruit has fallen from the trees during the last few weeks. The fallen fruit looks good, but the interior pulp is slightly discolored and seems to be dried out.

This is the result of freeze damage to citrus. Most of the fallen fruit was carried on outer branches where it was completely exposed to the cold.

The fruit on inner branches that was sheltered from the below-freezing temperatures does not seem to be adversely affected (very tasty, as a matter of fact). Our trees show no other signs of freeze damage, but the damage from the freezes may not show for several weeks or months, and the extent of severe damage may not become apparent for another year.

Light cold injury to citrus will show in two to four weeks as leaves and new shoots that look burned or dead. Limb die-back, a sign of moderate damage, will continue for several months through the spring.

Severe cold damage in which the scion [shoots or twigs] and the top limbs are killed may not be obvious until mid-summer.

Pruning out damaged branches and limbs must be postponed until the extent of injury is obvious. The goal of pruning citrus after freeze damage is to preserve as much of the trees' framework and foliage as possible and to prevent or control the growth of new suckers.

Citrus trees begin to regain their full vigor in late winter and early spring after the crop is harvested. The reinvigorated trees' first response to freeze damage is to produce new sucker growth.

Damaged leaves and twigs on the exterior canopy of lightly freeze-damaged citrus can be sheared, retaining as much foliage as possible to support the root system and the new crop.

Lightly damaged trees should produce few suckers. On trees that have suffered moderate damage, prune dead limbs back to a strong shoot or branch and remove excess suckers throughout the year (they're easy to snap off at the base when small).

Severely damaged trees may need professional help to be properly restructured.

Remove damaged fruit and fertilize lightly damaged trees as usual. To prevent excess sucker growth, feed moderately and severely damaged trees lightly or not at all this year.

Once again, PAR (Plant A Row for the Hungary) is collecting extra citrus to be distributed through the Salvation Army's or Community Food Bank's network of food pantries. You can deliver your extra citrus to PAR on Saturday and March 13th at the Garden of the Sun from 9 a.m. until noon.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, January 4, 2010:

Ornamental and fruit-bearing trees will bloom this month in backyards and along the eastern side of Fresno County's Blossom Trail.

Tasks--Thoroughly water trees and shrubs if rainfall is light.
Pruning--Wait to prune spring-flowering shrubs until after they bloom.
Fertilizing--Fertilize citrus late in the month.
Planting--Plant annuals and perennials for spring bloom, spring vegetables and summer blooming bulbs; lenten rose (Helleborus orientalls); Asiatic lilies; green onion sets, leeks, lettuce; from seed: statice (Limonium sinuatum); maiden hair trees (Ginkgo biloba), golden tree (Koelreuteria).
Things to Ponder--Sharp tools make cleaner cuts. Clean and maintain pruning equipment.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lots Of Work Goes Into Growing Blueberries

From The Fresno Bee, January 27, 2010, by Elinor Teague:

Once again, I am sorely tempted to try growing something brand new (to me) in my garden. This time the temptation is in the form of bare-root blueberry canes on display at a local nursery.

Blueberries have long been considered a cool-weather crop, requiring cold winter and mild summer temperatures, but heat-tolerant, low-chill requiring cultivars are available. 'Misty', 'O'Neal' and 'Bladen' are three blueberry cultivars recommended by University of California at Davis for our area's climate.

Check with the staff at the nursery or garden center to verify that the bare-root blueberry canes they offer for sale are at least 2 years old.

Blueberry bushes do not produce until they are 3 to 4 years old; planting 2-year-old canes will reduce the waiting time and make the intensive labor necessary before planting seem more worthwhile.

Blueberries require acid-soil with a low pH factor as well as a lighter-weight soil with very good drainage. Most of the soil in our area is heavy clay and both the soil and the water here are alkaline with a high pH factor. Planting blueberry canes begins by finding a spot that will get at least six hours of sunlight a day. To lighten the soil and improve drainage, large amounts of compost or humus must be turned into the soil. The canes also can be planted in raised beds or on a small hill of amended soil which will help drain excess water away from the roots. Soil pH factors can be lowered by adding elemental sulfur (1 to 2 pounds per 100 square feet) or aluminum sulfur (6 to 8 pounds per 100 square feet) to the amended soil.

Plant the canes 8 to 10 feet apart. Blueberry roots are shallow and will spread wide. Planting holes should be dug accordingly.

Mulch is essential for weed control and water conservation since blueberry roots are drought-sensitive. After planting, spread a 3- t 4-inch layer of heavier mulch such as bark chips around the canes, keeping the mulch a few inches away from the cane wood. Bubbler irrigation, trickle irrigation or multiple drip emitters around each cane will help keep the soil moist during the hot summer months. Check moisture levels frequently to adjust as needed.

Prune back the canes by one-third after planting, removing dead or damaged wood at the same time. Each winter, during the dormant season, prune out older canes since blueberries produce on 1-year-old wood.

Feed four weeks after planting with an all-purpose fertilizer and plan on digging a cup of elemental sulfur a couple times a year at least to keep pH levels low. Spread a half cup of the same fertilizer around, but not on, the plants three to four times during the growing season.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Seed Catalogs Offer Range Of Possibilities

From The Fresno Bee, January 14, 2010, by Elinor Teague:

I spent several pleasant hours last week perusing this year's seed catalogs--getting ready to place my seed orders for summer vegetables and flowers.

It was gratifying to notice that many of the seed companies are now including information on the origins of their seeds in the vegetable descriptions.

Several companies use initials at the end of the descriptions to indicate that the seeds are either open-pollinated (OP) or F1 hybrids (F1). Some also indicate that the seeds are organic (OG).

One large seed company does not use the initial system; instead the company uses the words "hybrid" or "exclusive" in the plant name, or places a trademark sign next to the description. F1 hybrids are not specifically mentioned.

The company also identifies heirloom varieties.

F1 indicates that the seeds are first-generation hybrids. Hybridizers have taken the pollen from one pure-bred, inbred plant and transferred that pollen to another purebred, inbred plant with the aim of creating bigger, healthier, more productive, more disease-resistant varieties.

Like most hybrid plants, F1 varieties tend to be more vigorous. Plants grown from the seeds of F1 plants will not necessarily remain true to the parent plant however; the seeds may be sterile or their offspring may revert to a version of one of the two original parent plants.

If you plan to save seed from this year's crop to plant next year, you must use seed from plants that are open-pollinated. "Open-pollinated" is a bit of a misnomer; pollination is not necessarily performed in the field or garden by the wind or by insects pollinators.

Some open-pollinated plants may be hybrids (but not F1) or crosses of hybrid plants. Many open-pollinated plants have also been hybridized for disease resistance.

All heirloom plants are open-pollinated. The definition of heirloom is rather vague, but it usually is used to describe a plant that has been grown for at least 50 years. Heirloom plants are often valued for their fine taste as well as for their adaptions over the years to regional growing and climate conditions.

Disease resistance, health and vigor in open-pollinated heirloom varieties grown in soils, conditions and climates that differ greatly from their original regions will vary and success is not as predictable as with F1 hybrids that are developed to grow successfully in a wider range of conditions.

Certified organic seeds are harvested from plants grown in organic soils following strict guidelines regarding the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

[Note: I use open-pollinated and heirloom seeds exclusively and have never had any problems with them. Leave a few plants to flower and mature their seeds to have more seeds for the next year. I end up with lots of extra seeds and trade them for other open-pollinated seeds. This helps me to have more variety without extra cost. These seeds are also good to put towards "food storage" as you can expand your seeds supplies easily over one season--Gard'n Judy].

Monday, February 1, 2010

Planting by the Stars

Tuesday-Friday: Virgo–not good for planting or transplanting, good to weed; good to clean out the garden shed.
Saturday: Libra–not good for planting root crops; very good for above ground crops.
Sunday-Monday: Scorpio–2nd best for planting root crops; #1 planting above ground crops; good to set out fruit trees, flower bushes, vines.

Fill In The Gaps On Pruning Techniques

From The Fresno Bee, January, 21, 2010; byElinor Teague:

A couple of pruning terms seem to mystify many beginning gardeners. That's probably because they refer to parts of plants and trees that can be rather hard to see and identify. Branch collars and leaf scars are not always clearly visible, but knowing where they are is critical to proper pruning.

Branch collars are found on all woody plants. The branch collar is a raised, rougher-textured ridge at the base of a twig or branch at the point where it joins the parent branch or main trunk. A branch collar is aptly named; it really does resemble the ribbed collar on a crew-necked sweater.

When making pruning cuts, it is important to cut off a branch just to the outside of the collar--not so far from he collar that a stump is left nor so close that the cut removes part of the collar.

That's because the collar contains toxic chemicals that speed the growth of denser, protective tissue across the wound, healing it by sealing it off from disease, air and water. It is no longer recommended to use pruning paints or asphalt compounds on pruning wounds, since they interfere with healing.

You may not have recognized the collar itself, but you will undoubtedly have noticed stumps that have died back to the original branch base. It is good gardening practice to remove stumps.

Even when using sharp pruning shears or loppers, it's not always possible to make a clean cut at the collar, especially where the dead wood meets living tissue. A small Japanese pruning saw or even a box-cutter can provide a good clean cut to the surface.

After all the leaves have fallen from deciduous trees and plants in winter, it sometimes takes good reading glasses or even a magnifying glass to be able to see the leaf scars along the bare branch or, in the case of roses, along the canes. Leaf scars aren't very big or deep; generally, they're a small, darker, slightly crescent-shaped mark on the surface of the bark.

Leaf scars indicate the position of last year's leaves on the branch. This year's new buds, leaves, twigs or branches grow from the leaf scars.

Good pruning cuts direct new growth away from the center of a plant or tree. Making pruning cuts just above a leaf scar that points outward will maintain an open shape.