Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lavender Life is Hope for Fall

Lavandula angustifolia "Hidcote Blue"
Lavender does fairly well here in the Central San Joaquin Valley of California.  However, like most of us, its production ceases when the weather gets mega hot. During production, stems can be cut for drying.  I use twine to tie a bouquet then wrap it in newspaper to protect it from dust and bugs.  Then, the package is hung up-side-down in a dry location like the shed until the bouquets are stiff and dry. The dried lavender can then be used in floral arrangements, potpourri for sachets, cooking (herbes de provence or alone) or flea repellent.

Once an arrangement has ended its usefulness as an arrangement, crush that dude to pieces and save in a paper bag.  Sprinkle some of that on carpets before vacuuming.  The carpet is freshened and so is the vacuum bag/canister.  Rub it on your pet before brushing.  The oils smell great to us while the fleas are disgusted.

Now that the heat is on it's way out (hopefully), it is a good time to give lavender a haircut.  Prune off all dead/spent twigs.  Check soil and irrigation.  Spray the plant with a blast from the hose to shake off the summer dust.  I only feed lavender infrequently and when I do it's minimal but organic.  Any lavender that didn't make it through the summer, pitch it in the compost heap and replace. 

I've tried propagating lavender by layering and with seeds.  Buying a new, healthy plant from the nursery is easier and gives instant gratification.  Plus, you're able to see the blossom and determine if it's the right fit for your needs.

Monday, September 5, 2016

It's a Pear!

Warren Pear
The miniature espalier orchard was planted in the winter of 2008-2009 and has never produced any fruit.  Not even a blossom developed eight Spring seasons to follow.  The tree is the handsomest tree in the espalier line.  Beautiful bark, nice form, and dancing leaves have kept Warren for the ax all this time.  In this part of the garden, production is a must.  Warren must have read my mind as I considered removing the tree and replacing with something that isn't a moocher.

I spoke with a Dave Wilson Nursery representative that encouraged me to be patient.  The tree  can take as long as seven years to produce.  The calendar and my ultimatum must have been the right combination of stress for old Warren to get its act together.  The drought may also have played a role in generating blossoms this Spring resulting in one pear.  ONE PEAR!  This fruit has been watched almost daily.  Varmints were my biggest concern.  Harvesting the fruit at the right time was my other concern.

The pear was harvested on September 3, 2016.  I feel like a plaque should be erected to commemorate the long awaited success.  A post to Maybelline's Garden will have to do.  The fruit was flavorful with a nice texture.  I'm optimistic that future harvests should wait until after Labor Day.  Perhaps mid September.  The original tree tags from Dave Wilson Nursery did not list suggested harvest dates.  Here's what the original labels state:

WARREN PEAR   Excellent quality dessert pear - and highly resistant to fireblight.  Medium to large, long-necked fruit with pale green skin, sometimes blushed red.  Smooth flesh (no grit cells) is juicy and buttery with superb flavor. Good keeper.  Cold hardy to -20°F.  From Mississippi.  600 hours.  Self-fruitful.

OHXF 333 ROOTSTOCK  European and Asian pears on OHxF 333 are dwarfed to about 2/3 the size of standard, or about 12-18 ft. if not pruned.  Widely adapted, diseased-resistant.  Trees on OHxF 333 may be held to any desired height by summer pruning.

The last fruit tree awaiting harvest is the Granny Smith apple.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Oh Henry!

O'Henry peach performed exceptionally this year.  The freezer is well stocked with loads of peach slices to enjoy in pies and cobblers during cooler months to remind us of the hellish summer we endured ending with this reward.  Dave Wilson Nursery  provides this description:

A favorite fresh market yellow freestone - renowned for its firm texture, rich flavor and consistently high quality.  Large fruit ripen about two weeks after Elberta.  Skin mostly red, yellow flesh heavily streaked with red when fully ripe.  Strong, vigorous, heavy bearing tree.  Large, showy pink blossoms.  Highly recommended for home orchards. 

For easy care and harvest the tree may be kept under 10 feet high by summer pruning.

Winter chilling requirement:  Bout 700 hours below 45 degrees.  Self-fruitful.

Originated in Red Bluff, California.  Introduced in 1968.

Dates for harvest seasons vary with climate and year.  Dates are approximate for Modesto, CA. 
8-10 to 9-5. 

For my garden in Bakersfield, CA., the harvest dates are about the same.

Sadly, O'Henry looks to have borers.  Local nursery specialists advise that it is terminal; but there should be many years of peach production ahead.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Bud Break - Santa Rosa Plum

The buds on the Santa Rosa plum are the first to break this spring (Feb 13, 2016). It is loaded with buds. All the other fruit trees are loaded too - peach, apple, nectarine, and apricot - but the pear tree looks to have another bloomless year.  Diva.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Come On Fall!

Today, the morning air was refreshingly cool.  Excellent. October is on the way.  The tomatoes have been removed along with the morning glories.  The raised beds have been tilled (with my new Earthwise electric tiller) and are being prepared to be planted with seeds for the winter garden.  Some of the seeds used are leftover from 2014.  So what.  If weed seeds have no expiration date, these seeds better perform too.

The beet bed is now ready for Farmer MacGregor to roll out the drip lines.  Here's what was planted today.

More beet seeds will be sown in the coming weeks to insure beet harvest throughout the winter.  Delicious.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Garden Progress During a Drought.

What the heck?!  Blogging sure has dwindled down to a small trickle just like the flow of the good ol' Kern River.  Even though the drought is taking its toll, production in the garden continues.  Here's what's going on:

Dwarf sunflowers track with the sun and are enjoyed by pollinators.  I doubt that I'll harvest and roast the seeds.  These flowers are used to attract pollinators, provide some short shade, and brighten the garden.  Only about half of the seeds planted germinated.  I'll blame it on the source.  Maybe I'll save a head of these seeds to plant later.

Santa Rosa plums were not abundant this summer; but there were more than last summer and so very delicious.  There weren't enough to meet the demands of munching in the garden and jelly.  Munching wins everytime.

Thornless boysenberries  were productive enough to freeze some to enjoy later and fulfill the garden munchies.  Ice cream?  Cobbler?  Delicious.

Blenheim apricots produced just like the berries.  Some in the freezer and some in my belly.  These are my favorite and are evidence that there is a God.  Dang it, they taste just like summer.

Here's a variety of cantaloupes I've never tried before.  The seed package describes the taste as similar to pineapple.  We'll see.  Moon and Stars watermelons are also planted in the garden.  They aren't expected to be harvested until late summer.

 String beans are vigorous where a failed thornless boysenberry once dwelled.  I'm not a fan of green beans; but Farmer MacGregor enjoys them.  Surplus beans will be housed in the freezer for MacGregor and a garden gnome to enjoy during the winter.

Lavender is drawing the the honey bees too.  I've never used it to cook (except for Herbs de Provance); so I might give it a try.  Ice cream?  Creme Brulee?

Granny Smith apples look to be having a banner year.  This little tree that I thought was going to die from scald has made a great comeback.  Since I eat an apple each night, I don't think these will be used for anything other than munching.

Red Flame grapes are coming along; but there are some problems with some bunches and leaves that the local farmers' cooperative extension need to be consulted about.  At least, it's providing great shade and shelter for the scrub jay family nesting on the arbor.

As for the drought, I have very strong opinions that I'll save for another time.


Afterthought:  I forgot to list the biggest resident in the garden this summer - tomatoes!  Here's the variety, the amount, and where they came from:

Better Boy (6 plants from Floyd's) -  These are planted in a bed that has been solarized to kill root knot nematodes.  4 out of 6 plants are thriving.  As the temperatures have increased, the plants are looking healthier.

Big Beef (1 plant from the Tomato Lady at the Haggin Oaks Farmers Market) - The Tomato Lady needed to reduce her inventory; so a dollar bill won a healthy plant to try out.

Champion (6 plants from Floyd's) - These are living up to their name.  All the plants are growing vigorously with many blossoms and tomatoes (non ripe yet).
Gold Currant (1 plant from a bird pooping at the front step) - Several years ago, a co-worker gave me an heirloom plant she started from seed.  The thing would never die; so Farmer MacGregor had to yank it out during the winter.  Each year, it sprouts somewhere in the garden.  The current Gold Currant sprouted last year at the front step and thrived through our mild winter.  It grows a top hedges (see header photo) for about 8 feet and has been producing grape tomatoes the entire time.  It's a keeper.

Super Sweet 100 (1plant from Walmart) - What the heck.  These were out on a rack at the entrance to the dreaded Walmart; so I made the trip a little bit more enjoyable by picking up a tomato plant.  We'll see.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Soaking the garden dirt off the fresh carrots and beets that were harvested this morning.  Everything was hosed off; but there's some left behind.  The water will be dumped on an azalea.

Carrots will be blanched and frozen with some reserved for Farmer MacGregor's corned beef.  The beets will be pickled and set up in jars. There's still more out in the garden yet to be harvested.

Two beds are ready for tomatoes. I'll need to hit the sidewalk sale at Floyd's and get started tomorrow.  Summer is here.

UPDATE:  Looky here what I found in my haul of carrots.  Hope this puts a smile on your face. If it doesn't, go out and pull some weeds.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Wisteria. Wowzer!

Wow! Wisteria is loaded up on the pergola with soft purple petals falling like sweet scented confetti. That perfume blended with all the citrus (grapefruit, orange, lemon, & manderin) and sweet alyssum is fabulous. It makes the transition from nice, cool weather into steamy armpit weather just a bit more tolerable - for now anyway.

Last weekend all the trees and berries were fertilized and the broccoli and cauliflower were pulled.

This weekend's tasks: 
Harvest more beets (pickled) and carrots (frozen) to store for later.
Prepare some beds for summer crops.
Plant tomatoes IF I can make it that far.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Meditative Roots

Out in the garden this morning before it gets too hot.  Gardening is my meditation - similar to swimming laps. My mind has no specific focus but my body is on auto pilot to get the task done (kinda). I'm unplugged (kinda), with the exception of my iPad, speaker (70s radio from Rhapsody this morning).  

While the weather is somewhat tolerable (70s - like my taste in music this morning) I need to get the beds ready for summer. That means pulling the spent broccoli/cauliflower bed.  Most of the plants have bolted producing yellow blossoms the bees are loving. The bees will have plenty of other pollen in the garden - citrus, stone fruits, apples, wisteria, and danged old dandelions.

Pulling that bed revealed strong, healthy roots with no signs of damage from nematodes.  Good. This bed was solarized last summer. So far, that process looks successful OR the buggers just don't like broccoli like George H. W.

Speaking of roots, my current time soaker is genealogy.  It's most interesting, but there should be intervention for this jig saw puzzle like quest. One of my garden gnomes and I recently travelled to a genealogical conference in Salt Lake City.  Wow. There is a huge community of geneaddicts (I just made up that word. Don't bother to look it up. Yet.). 

My break has lasted long enough. Time to meditate some more.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Freezing Broccoli

Bagrada bugs threatened the survival of broccoli a few months ago when the weather continued to be warm.  Diatomaceous earth was applied; but I know it was the onset of cooler weather that really brought them down.  Today, about a dozen heads were harvested with only one looking sickly (translation: compost bin). More is left to be harvested another day. This cold, foggy day is reserved for freezing the broccoli. 

Before freezing, the broccoli needs to be blanched.  Blanching helps green vegetables stay green and not turn brown.  Gross.

 1.  Start a pot of water to boil. (I used a pasta pot to easily remove the hot broccoli.)
 2.  Prepare a large bowl of ice water.
 3.  Rinse broccoli to remove any debris.
 4.  Cut flowerettes from stalks.
 5.  Add a pinch of baking soda to the pot of boiling water.  This punches up the green color.
 6.  Place flowerettes in the boiling water for 2 minutes.
 7.  Remove flowerettes from boiling water and place in ice water for 2 minutes.
 8.  Remove flowerettes from ice water and place on a towel.
 9.  Place cooled flowerettes on wax paper lined cookie sheet.
10.  Place cookie sheet in freezer 30-60 minutes.
11. Put broccoli in labeled freezer bags.

When fresh, cooked broccoli is needed, remove from bag and use. Only a brief heating time is required.  Use steamed, stir fry, or casseroles.  Blanched broccoli just won't work for Super Bowl dips.