Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Magnificent Tomato

Tomatoes seem to have originated in Central or South America. The name itself comes from an Aztec word, Zitomate. The plant was grown by Indians in Mexico and Peru long before the time of Columbus. It was taken from Peru to Italy, where it met with favor. There it was called "golden apple" and "love apple", but by 1695 the name "tomato" had come into general use. When the cultivation of the plant first started in northern Europe, the fruit was considered poisonous and was grown more for curiosity and ornament than for use. The English herbalist Gerarde wrote in 1595 that "love apples" were eaten abroad, prepared and boiled with pepper, salt, and oil and also as a sauce, but he reported that they "yield very little nourishment to the bodie, and the same naught and corrupt."

The first mention of tomatoes in the United States was made by Thomas Jefferson in 1781, but they were not grown commonly for use even then. Some time later, the secretary of the Connecticut Board of Agriculture wrote: "We raised our first tomatoes about 1832 as a curiosity, made no use of them, though we had heard that the French ate them."-Ann Roe Robbins, 25 Vegetables Anyone Can Grow

Sunday, March 28, 2010

April To-Do

1. Remove thatch and aerate warm-season lawns.
2. Clean up drying grasses within 30 feet of structures for fire prevention.
3. Apply mulch to new and existing plantings for water retention (bare ground = bad ground).
4. Monitor for slugs and snails.
5. Check citrus trees for scales, mites, or thrips (I found quite a few yesterday). Pick or spray with horticulture oil.
6. Water by need, rather than by schedule.

1. Azaleas and camellias as they finish blooming.
2. Pinch back fast-growing annuals to encourage dense growth and more blooms.
3. Thin any fruit of apple, apricot, peach nectarine, and plum to about 6 to 8 inches apart.
4. Deadhead roses to encourage repeat blooming.
5. Take 4" cuttings to propagate chrysanthemums, azaleas, geraniums and other perennials that grow from soft wood cuttings.

To Plant:
(Plant annual summer herbs and veggies at two-week intervals for successive crops. Continue to plant annuals and perennials while it is still cool so that they can establish a good root system before the weather becomes really hot.
1. Asparagus
2. Beans (from seed)
3. Beets
4. Carrots (from seed)
5. Chard
6. Chayote
7. Chives (from seed)
8. Corn (from seed)--wait until it gets much warmer--corn is a HEAT-LOVING plant
9. Cucumbers (from seed)
10. Eggplant (from seed)
11. Melons (from seed)
12. Okra
13. Peppers (from seed)
14. Radish (from seed)
15. Spinach (from seed)
16. Squash (from seed)
Unless you have starts ("little plants"), it's too late for: peas, cabbage, and lettuce, as the weather will probably warm up much faster than the plants can take--the peas I have (which made it through the winter and are now over six feet tall) are beginning to show heat stroke--and it's just been mild sun.


Hello there--my name is Bryce, and like mom said, I'm her son. I'm the youngest of two (my older brother lives way back east) and I live in Bakersfield--so mom and I get to keep it in the valley. Bakersfield is to the south of Fresno, which means we get less rain and a bit more sun. Nonetheless, our gardening experiences are almost identical (as well as our problems, issues, joys, successes and defeats). I'm not the gardener that mom is, but I'm getting there.

I can remember when I was a kid--dad had bought a house with a couple acres in the backyard. Mom planted several fruit trees and put in several more boxes and we had a GARDEN! We were out there all the time and it was great (though I hated pulling weeds). When I was a teen, we moved into a house that had a pool, so those days of digging holes, launching model rockets, and canning our own fruit, had come to an end. I never realized that the garden bug would come back to bite me until I was newly married.

My grandfather had saved all of his old Organic Gardening magazines and passed them down to my mom--who then passed them down to me. What a treat! I would read them late into the night--devouring the information. It was then that I tried out my first garden. Since then, I've been improving each year, and mom and I share stories and seeds.

I wish I had a bigger yard (someday), but I'm excited about gardening and know quite a bit. I will share what I can and hopefully be able to answer some of your questions. This is still my mom's blog--always will be. I'm just a contribution writer. :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010


My son, Bryce, is an avid gardener in Bakersfield, and will be continuing this blog! He has a small garden, but big ideas! He is very knowledgable about everything connected to gardening, and it will be interesting to see what he writes. So, we will keep this in the family--he said he will let me post occasionally, too, and that will be fun! Here's a picture of him at the beach!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I am sorry, but because of time constraints, I will not be able to continue this blog. I started this blog at the beginning of April 2009, and have enjoyed sharing my thoughts with you this past year. With gardening, basically the same things happen during the same seasons each year, so the information that is here will continue to be relevant. If you have any questions, just leave a comment and it will show up on my email. May God bless your garden to produce abundantly!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Planting by the Stars

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

Friday, March 19, 2010

Houseplants Require Fresh Soil, Repotting

From The Fresno Bee, March 18, 2010, by Elinor Teague:

Houseplants are often taken for granted. We say thank you to Aunt Hilda for her thoughtful gift of an African violet, put it on the windowsill and water it when we remember, just often enough so that it lives. Even those of us who take better care of our houseplants--fertilizing every two weeks in the growth period, moving the plants' positions in the house as the light changes over the seasons and checking soil moisture levels every four or five days--often ignore the necessity of regular repotting.

Ideally, houseplants should be repotted before the roots have grown through the bottom drainhole and before new growth is stunted or non-existent. Fairly fast-growing plants such as African violets should be repotted every 4 to 6 months; plan on repotting slow-growing plants, including philodendrons and ficus benjamina, at least once a year. When repotting, always use a good-quality sterilized potting mix that is formulated for the plant type. Regular potting soil is fine for many plants but cactuses and succulents do best in sandy mixes, orchids generally are potted in orchid barks and shade-loving plants and African violets do well in acid-type mixes that contain a higher percentage of peat. Peat-based mixes dry out quickly in our summer heat. Check soil moisture levels for those plants more often. If the soil is hard, immerse the entire pot in tepid water until it is soaked. It may be best to replace the dried-out soil mix if the problem continues.

Even if the pot provides enough root space for the plant, the planting soil should be replaced annually. Potting soil mixes and orchid barks lose their ability to absorb and hold moisture over time. Adding more soil to fill the pot to the rim is not the solution. Instead, remove the plant from the pot and replace the soil in the bottom to raise the soil level.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, March 18, 2010:

Herbs thrive in the San Joaquin Valley because of our climate.

Tasks--Check drip systems, sprinklers and other irrigation systems for repair needs.
Pruning--For bulbs, deadhead spent blooms only. Leave foliage and stalk to wither naturally to provide nutrients for next year's flowers.
Fertilizing-- Fertilize stone fruit, pear, apple and nut trees and berries.
Planting--Plant Easter lilies in full sun in outdoor beds after blossoms fade. They will bloom next May or early June; plant from seed: impatiens, alyssum (Lobularia), petunia, snap beans, spinach, summer squash, sweet corn, watermelon, winter squash; fairy lily (Zephyranthes); coral bells (Huchera), maiden grass (Miscanthus), fountain grass (Pennisetum), sage (salvia), pincushion flower (Scabiosa); clematis, dogwood (Cornus), daphne, hop bush (dodonaea viscosa), gardenia.
Things to ponder--Give new plants ample water until root system is established.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Look What I Found!

I have ordered a weed preventive on the internet, but this is the first time I have seen it in the store (it may have been there previously, but I didn't find it). It is made entirely of corn meal gluten, and is kind to people, pets and wild animals. That means we don't have to worry about making our children or pets sick, just to get rid of weeds. This kills the roots of just sprouting plants, but will not harm established plants, once they have their first true leaves. It says to reapply every four months. The label states that it can even be used in vegetable gardens. I got this at Lowe's in Clovis, in their outdoor plant area, where they have their organic plant foods (next to the houseplant items).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Planting by the Stars

Tuesday-Thursday: Pisces–2nd best planting root crops; #1 planting above ground crops and transplanting above ground crops, trees, bushes, vines; good to weed.
Friday-Saturday: Aries–very good planting root crops; not good planting above ground crops or transplant; good to prune.
Sunday-Monday: Taurus–#1 planting root crops; not good planting above ground crops; good for all transplants.

In The Garden

This first picture is from Skippy's Vegetable Garden, near Boston, where they have had ten inches of rain in the last three days! Eleven inches of rain is what we aim for each year! I can't imagine what it must be like to get it in three days.

It seems that everything is in bloom now and it is glorious! Here my peach tree shows promise of good things to eat later this summer!

My peas are coming up nicely in their three-inch-deep bed of straw. The straw will keep the weeds down, and keep the pea roots cool as the sun starts to warm up.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Make Your First Vegetable Garden

From The Fresno Bee, March 11, 2010; by Lee Reich:

How about going to a place where you can relax, enjoy some sun, and get a little exercise and gourmet food? It's a home vegetable garden, and don't be intimidated if you've never planted one before. Vegetables are easy to grow, especially if you follow these 10 steps for first-timers:
  1. Choose a location in full sun, which means six or more hours of direct sun in summer.
  2. Your site needs soil that is well-drained. Roots need to breathe.
  3. Grow your garden as close as possible to your door--no farther than your wife can throw the kitchen sink, goes the old adage, said when kitchen sinks were cast iron.
  4. Start small. Too much garden may begin to feel like work.
  5. Fence your garden. A fence, besides keeping out rabbits and other hungry animals, helps define your garden visually.
  6. Make your garden pretty. Yes, it's a vegetable garden, but even vegetable gardens can be pretty. An arbor, with climbing beans or grapes, can dress up your garden gate.
  7. Planning your garden in four dimensions is a way to harvest more from limited space. Rather that single, widely spaced rows, plant in wide (3-4 feet) beds (a second dimension). Rather than keeping everything at ground level, let your vegetables--those that can--grow up (a third dimension). For the fourth dimension--time--use transplants for tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and cucumbers.
  8. Pay attention to fertilizing and watering.
  9. Weed regularly and frequently.
  10. Grow vegetables that you like to eat, and choose the best-tasting varieties.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Limit Snail Populations Simply By Plucking

From The Fresno Bee, March 11, 2010; by Elinor Teague:

The spring rains and cooler temperatures have n0t kept snails and slugs in their hiding places. In fact, snails and slugs are most active on cloudy days just after a rain shower, climbing trees, walls and windows to forage for tender new leaves and nibbling the edges of every fresh blossom.

Hand-picking snails is a very effective means of reducing their populations. Hand-picking slugs is another story; they're too slimy to get a good hold on without using some sort of implement, and many of us are too squeamish to try.

The first step in hand-picking is trying to find their favorite nighttime spots. A thorough cleanup of old pots and garden debris will eliminate many of their hiding and breeding places.

Don't forget to check inside plant-filled containers on your patio and underneath the saucers; sweep the undersides of fence railings and lift up trailing branches on low-lying plants in your garden as well. You'll find that the slugs and snails regularly return to the same locations.

A trap for snails and slugs can easily be made by putting an old board or an overturned pot in a damp, shady spot in the garden.

If you're outside hunting snails early in the morning, it may be possible to trace the mucous trails back to their nests. Hunting with a flashlight in the cooler temperatures at dusk should yield a bounty of foraging snails and slugs. Snail-hunting will be a daily chore for a couple of weeks, then once every week or two should be enough.

I use the "big foot" method of snail and slug control and leave the remains for the bluejays to clean up (remarkable effective). In thick groundcovers such as ivy, it may be more practical to apply baits to control slugs and snails.

Metaldehyde-based baits have been used for many years. They are effective, but the pellet formulations especially are highly toxic to dogs and birds that ingest them. Use these baits only in places where children and pets cannot reach them.

The newer iron phosphate baits are equally effective in controlling snails and slugs, and they are less toxic to pets, children and wildlife. Spinosad, a naturally occurring bacteria that kills cutworms, earwigs and other chewing insects, has recently been added to iron phosphate baits. Both iron phosphate and spinosad are certified for use in organic gardens.

[I also use the big foot method for eliminating snails. The birds generally don't eat the remains at my house, but other snails come to feast on their dead friends, so I eliminate them, too!--Gard'n Judy].

Friday, March 12, 2010

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, March 11, 2010:

Consider that it takes two large trees to provide enough oxygen for one person over the period of a year.

Tasks--Continue fruit-tree spraying and spray fungicide on apple and cherry trees.
Pruning--Prune spring-flowering shrubs, trees and vines after bloom to improve shape.
Fertilizing--Fertilize acid-loving plants.
Planting--Sow seeds for summer vegetables; impatiens, alyssum (Lovularia) from seed; tiger flower (Tigridia); from seed: diakon, eggplant, melon, pumpkin; Lenten rose (Helleorus orientalis), coral bells (Huchera), gayfeather (Liatris); wild lilac (Ceanothus), deodar (Cedrus deodara), redbud (Cercis occidentalis), citrus.
Things to Ponder--Protect tomatoes, peppers and eggplant from a late frost by using hot caps or floating row covers.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Planting by the Stars, and More

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


More Things To Do In The Garden

--Apply rose food every six weeks beginning now through October.
--Prune and clean up beneath flowering shrubs such as camellias, quince and forsythia.
--Prune out suckers (the branches that sprout directly from the root stock beneath the soil) from trees and shrubs.
--March is an excellent time to begin fertilizing cool season grasses, such as fescue. Apply every six weeks now through June; resume feeding September through early November.


Here is a list of soil temperatures each vegetable prefers to grow in. Click on the list to make it bigger.

(both from

Monday, March 8, 2010

Swiss Chard

My Swiss Chard is growing fast--I hope it won't go to seed just yet. I have had chard grow through the whole year, and I have had it go to seed two months after planting. I like chard, it is versatile as you can stir-fry the stems and leaves, or use the leaves like spinach in a variety of dishes. The stem color stays the same if it you saute it lightly, which is especially pretty if you have the different colors of Bright Lights Swiss Chard. I think now most vegetables come in a rainbow of colors--including carrots, corn, radishes, beans, tomatoes, and lettuce. Children would be intrigued with these colorful vegetables and would be more likely to eat them if they grew some themselves.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Surprise Plants

See this pretty little plant? Don't let it fool you. This is Japanese Honeysuckle and it is very invasive. It has pretty flowers that smell good, and produces purple berries that birds like to eat. Birds also spread the seeds, which is probably how I had this start in my yard. I found it a few years ago under my full-sized Valencia orange tree. I pulled it out, but didn't keep after it. It grew again from the root part that was left in. I tend to forget about it, then pull it out, then get busy with other things. Today I want out and pulled it all out. It was growing vigorously and engulfing other plants. I know this is not the end of it, but I will keep after it this time.

I am not the only one that likes to let surprise plants grow to see what they are--Julie in Australia had a fun one, too. I think her Moth Vine may be worse than my Japanese honeysuckle, though. Be careful what surprise plants you leave to grow, Google it to see if it is really something you want in your yard!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, March 4, 2010:
Make some shopping expeditions to your favorite nurseries. They will offer a vast array of bedding plants, trees and shrubs from which to make your selections.

Tasks--Plant cool- or warm-season grasses from seed or sod and aerate existing lawns.
Pruning--Finish deciduous pruning--chip debris for mulch.
Fertilizing--Fertilize camellias and azaleas that have finished blooming.
Planting--Add permanent plantings of non-deciduous and needle evergreens; fibrous begonia, twinspur (Diascia); autumn crocus; cabbage, lemon grass (Cymbopogon); Santa Barbara daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus), wallflower (Erysimum), blanket flower (Gaillardia); bird of paradise bush (Daesalpinia), beautyberry (Callicarpa) [see picture], bottlebush (Callistemon), camelia.
Things To Ponder--If an extremely dry year is forecast, limit new plantings. Consider converting to drip irrigation.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tomato And Pepper Starts

This is how I have started my tomatoes and peppers--as I saw on the Wintersown website. The seeds sprout when the temperature is just right for them. I don't have to have indoor grow-lights and they don't need pampering, misting, or anything else. Instead of shuffling seedlings under the grow lights to keep them from getting leggy, they will all automatically get the right amount of sun.

They are really tiny right now because they just sprouted, but they will grow fast and strong. They will already be acclimated to the weather and sun, so no "hardening off" before planting. This is an easy way to go!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Getting A Head-Start

My son, Bryce, bought a wooden newspaper pot-maker (found in many of the gardening catalogs). The paper pots are really easy to make and, as a bonus, recycle newspapers. Bryce is a busy guy, so he uses TV time to make the pots.

Then he fills them with plant starter mix, and adds a seed or two. He has a huge collection of vegetable, herb, and flower seeds, so this is a good way to use them. His personal garden is fairly small--he still has young children that need a backyard to play in! In this last picture, the plant grouping to the right holds his experiments in rooting cuttings from his yard. He hopes to sell many of these vegetable, herb, and plant starts.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Planting by the Stars

Leo–not good for planting or transplanting; good to weed, make seed beds; good to prune [see picture].
Tuesday-Thursday: Virgo–not good for planting or transplanting, good to weed; good to clean out the garden shed.
Friday: Libra–not good planting root crops; very good for above ground crops.
Saturday-Monday: Scorpio–2nd best for planting root crops; #1 planting above ground crops; good to set out fruit trees, flower bushes, vines.