Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jack Frost Nipping @ Our Toes

The temperatures are dipping down below freezing tonight; so tender plants need to be protected.  Typically, I don’t want a plant that needs to be fussed with; but since the salad bed is feeding both me and Farmer MacGregor fairly well this winter it gets fussed with.  Previously, I showed this image of the salad bed on a warm, sunny day.



This afternoon, we draped the plastic sheeting over to help seal in some warmth.  Old man MacGregor reports that some of the lettuce had a bit of frost this morning.  No damage was noticed.  Anyway – this is a fairly simple way to help protect tender growth on an infrequent basis.  I couldn’t recommend this for areas with snow and cold, cold temperatures.  I wouldn’t have a clue how to even operate a snow shovel…and for that I am thankful.DSC_2195_5600 After

Most all other crops are growing vigorously with this cool/cold weather.  The cabbage patch is an example of those plants that thrive during this time of year – cabbages, onions, cauliflower, and beets are producing beautifully.


Now, when I say it’s cold here in the garden please don’t have visions of me building a snowman.  Nope.  It’s simply great weather…weather that doesn’t produce swamp pants.  It’s my most favorite kind of weather.  Sun on my back and a cool breeze coming off the snow covered Sierras.  Perfect.





As I sat out in the garden this afternoon with my feet up, eyes enjoying the blue sky, I noticed a load of yellow birds in my neighbors’ Mulberry tree.  Anyone have a clue what kind of birds they are?  I think they have a cardinal-like head.  I couldn’t get my long lens on quick enough.




Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hummingbirds in the Garden


Most all the leaves are off the trees now.  We’ll be ready to dormant spray soon…just as soon as the wind and rain calms down a bit.  Late this afternoon, the wind picked up and a few showers followed.  Now it’s cold.  Well, 37°F is kinda cold.  It’s cold for around here.  Tomorrow afternoon, the salad bed will get covered because the temperature should dipped a bit lower.  Frozen lettuce is junk.

The hummingbird weather vane indicated that the someone up in Alaska forgot to shut the freezer door.  Come on Sarah.  Pay attention!  It got so cool around here that visiting wildlife had to reconsider their travel plans.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Crop Review 2010 – Lettuce


 image DSC_2146_5551    

Photo top :  September 2010.  Photo bottom:  December 2010.


This fall, a salad bed was planted using 4 different varieties of lettuce, 3 different varieties of onions, 2 different varieties of radishes, and 1 variety of beets (no partridge in a pear tree here!).  The south end of the bed has strawberries growing.  Ajax loves strawberries.  He is currently being trained to not give in to his desires.  This bed is protected from freezing temperatures thanks to the genius planning of Farmer MacGregor.  The 3 raised stakes that look like parallel balance beams make up the frame for which plastic sheeting to be draped over.  That forms a miniature hot house that can be quickly erected whenever the chance of a frost or freeze is in the forecast.  The storm predicted for Tuesday and Wednesday may bring colder temperatures and the salad bed will take cover.

All the lettuce has performed beautifully.  Most all the seeds germinated easily in an average of 8 days.  Once the rainy weather came, no irrigation was needed but until then the drip lines were used to keep the soil moist – not wet.


DSC_2148_5553 Brune D’Hiver came with this description on the seed packet:  Compact, hardy, French butterhead-type lettuce that was introduced in 1855.  Crunchy green leaves are blushed in reddish-brown color.  Plants require little space when growing and are perfect for fall plantings.  Hard to find in America.  I can add that the size of the leaves make this an ideal lettuce for sandwiches.  In fact, if you are concerned about carbs, these leaves could easily replace the bread of a sandwich.


DSC_2149_5554Here’s what the seed packet had to say about the CimarronDeep red romaine, 10-12” tall with a crisp, creamy yellow-bronze center, tender texture.  Impervious to bolting.  This romaine is much more tender than the grocery store variety.  These also are great for wraps if you’re looking for something to replace bread.

DSC_2147_5552The Iceberg was a bit slow; but once the basil was pruned to allow maximum sunlight, the growth rate kicked into high gear.  The Iceberg gets a lower rating because the seeds were slower to germinate and not all the seeds germinated.  Also, the Iceberg is not forming in the typical tight head of lettuce I expected.  It resembles loose, green leaf lettuce; but it’s still good.  The rating may be a bit harsh.  It’s based on the slow to no germination and the fact the lettuce isn’t a tight head lettuce.  Otherwise it’s fine.


DSC_2151_5556Merlot has got to be the prettiest of the 4 varieties planted this year.  Terrior/Underwood Gardens describes this lettuce:  Absolutely gorgeous, frilled leaves of the richest, dark wine-red.  Smooth, bull bodied flavor.  This is really a stunning addition to a salad for its good looks and good taste.


I’m going to take advantage of this great asset to the garden as long as possible.  The dry heat will be here before I know it, and homegrown lettuce will give way to grocery store purchases of Salinas grown greens.  Here’s my rating of the lettuces grown this year.  Remember, 5 is best – 0 is worst.



Seed Co.


Brune D’Hiver Baker Creek


Cimarron Romaine Terrior Seeds


Iceberg Baker Creek


Merlot Terrior Seeds


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snips & Snails & Puppy Dog Tails


 Note:  A clothespin was used for scale without considering the fact that many people do not know what a clothespin is. 

The garden has recently experienced buckets of rain.  Hurray!  Leaves are washed clean.  Everything is fresh.  I noticed that something resembling sand grains had bubbled up at a joint in the concrete.  Strange.  Previously there was an alkali problem that Farmer MacGregor was treating with sulfur.  Was the rain so intense that sand bubbled up through the joint to the surface?  Wait a minute.  The native soil is junky clay.  This can’t be sand.  Zoom in for a better look-see.

DSC_2285_5506 What?!

SNAILS!  RED ALERT!  There must be approximately 354 gazillion snails lining this crack.  Smokes. 

  • How will I get this invasion under control?  I’ve never had to deal with snails on this magnitude before. 
  • Can I order some Mormon Seagulls? 
  • What is a natural predator to the snail?  Dogs, cats, mice, toads, birds, etc.
  • Should I surround them with copper?  Nah.  The patina will stain the concrete.
  • Salt?  Doesn’t salt cause other problems while solving the snail issue?

Today, we cleaned up the mess made from what blew in from yet another storm experienced on Christmas.  After that, I dragged a flat shovel along this crack and may have scrunched about 297,000 snails.  That’s a far cry from annihilation; but it’s the best I can do today.  With a hearty list of predators, these little guys should help sustain another species for at least an hour.  Clear skies are predicted for the next couple of days.  Hopefully, some hungry birds will have their way with the remaining population.  The toads will most likely be hibernating for a while longer.


In the meantime, we need to get some rest from all the garden chores completed today.





Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Garden Lessons

Welcome to the garden.  Today we (Me and Ajax) will be learning some basic lessons.  These lessons are essential to insure a well behaved dog.  An added bonus is that your pet will be a great photo subject.



Let’s start with something easy and work to the more advanced of the basic skills. 











After a rigorous afternoon of serious training, refreshments are in order.  Homegrown and fresh is best.  Thyme was the favorite refresher this afternoon.



If you need a suggestion for a quick Christmas gift, try donating to your local animal shelter.  Kern County has a service in Lebec that helps with feral cats.  Irresponsible pet owners are making this a huge problem in Bakersfield.  Cause 4 Cats, Inc. will gladly and gratefully accept your donations large and small.  Additionally, the US Post Office has some items they sell to raise awareness of Animal Rescue:  Adopt a Shelter Pet.  Please consider making a difference with your gift giving.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Almost RED!


The Rio Red Grapefruit was planted February 14, 2009.  It looks like I may be able to enjoy fruit about 2 years after planting.  This is a dwarf variety and seems to be one of the more vigorous citrus trees here in the garden.  There are about 7 fruits on the tree.  The immature branches needed to be supported because the weight of the fruit is too much.

DSC_1474_4130The tree is planted in the ground on the west side of the shed.  It was sprayed with dormant oil earlier in the year.  It’s fertilized about every 6 – 8 weeks and watered irregularly.  One thing I learned is that citrus don’t like to be too wet.  In fact, a little neglect when it comes to irrigation seems to work better.  Leaf miners have invaded all of the citrus in the garden except for the new mandarin.  Hopefully the upcoming dormant spraying will control the damage of leaf curl and those snail like trails on the fruit skin.  Recent freezing conditions made it necessary to build a temporary cold frame around the tree.  The plastic gets draped over the frame as needed.  Currently, the tree is exposed to the wonderful steady rain California is enjoying.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It’s Raining. It’s Pouring.

The old man, Farmer MacGregor, is snoring.

DSC_2235_5451The rain started late Friday afternoon and hasn’t quit since.  In fact, it’s supposed to continue for a few more days.  The ground is saturated.  The image above shows the supersaturated dirt outside my front door and not a fountain.  I love it!  It’s so nice to have a long shower to wash everything off.

imageI’m in Bakersfield (BFL) in the center of it all.  Check out the snow in the Sierras!  Yahoo!  Do they measure snow in “feet” or “inches” in the east?  It’s feet in the west.  I’ve heard reports that this storm may bring 9 feet of snow to the Sierras.  Yee Haw.

This is a most excellent Christmas gift.

PS – If this is the result of me using regular old light bulbs and contributing to global warming then I’m prepared to keep the lights burning brightly.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Keep on the Grass


Sowing winter rye is a pretty nice idea.  Even if it takes a bit of preparation, it doesn’t take a lot of maintenance.  Remember how terrible the lawn was back in August?  Now, the lawn is lush and healthy.  The irrigation system can be shut down for the winter for the most part.  Farmer MacGregor fertilizes and mows so I don’t have to do a ding dong thing but to sit back and enjoy the emerald green carpet. 


I’m not alone in the enjoyment.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Crop Review 2010 – Christmas Cactus



I received some Christmas Cacti as gifts years ago; but the variety I have aren’t aware that they should bloom during Christmas.  I don’t know much about them so I’m sure I’m responsible for the blooms starting after the new year and into the spring.  They’re still worth mentioning as a reference here.

  • ease to grow – These plants are moderately easy to grow.  Keep the soil evenly moist making sure not to overwater or you may kill it outright.  I’ve killed a few.  I keep the ones that survived in the kitchen window.  If they fail to grow, they are easy to replace.
  • pest & disease resistance – No pests nor diseases have been noticed.
  • appearance  - They are a weird looking plant but the flowers can be spectacular.  Hot house plants look way better than my kitchen window sample.
  • production – I did read that keeping these plants pot bound is best but I may transplant and prune the ones I have to see if I can plump them up a bit.
  • scent - I haven’t noticed any scent with this variety.

Christmas Cactus only receives 3 out of 5 blossoms.  They can be fussy about water, light, and temperature.  They will get scraggly.  A minor issue is lack of blossom scent ( no point off).

image  image  image

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Crop Review 2010 – Stevia


In September I planted heirloom Stevia (Stevia Rebaudiana) in the cinder blocks that form the raised lettuce beds.  To date, I have nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  I have since learned that Stevia is difficult to germinate from seed.  No kidding.  With absolutely no production at all I can only give Stevia a very bad rating in Zone 8-9.  If you feel like growing it, try to find a plant to transplant into your garden.



Friday, December 10, 2010

Crop Review 2010 – Camellias

In October of 2009, Mrs. Tingley (Camellia Japonica) Camellias were purchased from Nuccio’s in Altadena, California.  After over a year of growth in the garden, the plants are finally popping!  Even though these shrubs were planted in 2009, they’re included in the 2010 review to mark the 1st of many Decembers to be full of camellia blossoms.



  • ease to grow - Fairly easy.  Each plant is in rich, well drained, acidic soil.  These plants are on the north side of a very tall wall.  When summer sun threatens to burn the vegetation, a temporary shade is erected for the summer. There is hardly any maintenance with this plant.  Removing the occasional weed and pruning out any unwanted stems is about all the maintenance needed.  Fertilizing is recommended April, June, August, and October…just don’t over feed.  Don’t over water either.
  • pest & disease resistance – So far, I haven’t noticed any pests or diseases at all.  The shrubs were dormant sprayed during the winter.  Having a hardy plant is a huge bonus. 
  • appearance  - Are you kidding me?!  Just look at that soft pink color.  The bushes are still a bit immature to make a striking appearance.  I was considering pruning these as espalier; but ended up keeping with the natural growth.
  • production – Each bush produced only leaves during it’s 1st year in the garden.  During the 2nd year, blossoms are popping!  Blooms are expected to continue into April. If you need immediate gratification, you may want to consider something else; but to have beautiful blossoms all winter long seems like it’s worth it.
  • scent - I haven’t noticed any scent with this variety.


image image image image

My rating for the Mrs. Tingley is 4 out of 5 flowers because there is no scent.  Being unscented may be a bonus to you so add another flower if you like.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Crop Review 2010 – Sweet Peas

  DSC_1059_3345A couple of varieties of sweet peas were planted in the fall of 2009 to enjoy in 2010.  Starry Night and Royal Blue were planted under the espaliered trees with hopes they would climb the fence and fill the garden with blooms.  I thought something kept devouring the seedlings like a worm or something.  Something or someone was devouring the seedlings…Farmer MacGregor.  He thought the seedlings were weeds.  With his vigorous garden tending, there were only about a dozen vines that made it to maturity.  The blooms were sweet and the colors were beautiful.  The vines didn’t climb along the fence line as I hoped.  These varieties may have been more dwarf like than was advertised on the packets.

I’ll use most of the same criteria used for the garden crops with the exception of taste.  Taste will be replaced with scent.

  • ease to grow - Fairly easy.  The seeds should be soaked prior to planting in the fall for blossoms the following spring.
  • pest & disease resistance – The only pest I experienced really was Farmer MacGregor and his efficient weeding.
  • appearance  - The blossom colors were beautiful.  I had hoped the vines would have extended further along the garden fence.  It seems the seedlings appearance is similar to weeds in Farmer MacGregor’s eyes.
  • production – This could have been a bumper crop of sweet peas; but I’ll never know because of old MacGregor.  To encourage more blossoms, keep cutting the flowers for your enjoyment indoors.
  • scent- The scent was sweet rather than spicy.  I think I prefer spicy and will try a spicy variety soon.

I do like sweet peas but won’t plant them under the espaliered fruit trees in the future.  The ground beneath the trees will be kept clear to ward off any pests – especially borers.  I believe I’ll use a structure similar to the one used for the beans to grow future sweet peas.  In fact, I may try my luck at starting some in December 2010 for blossoms in 2011.  I’m only going to give sweet peas 3 out of 5 blooms and that’s mostly due to my planning.  I’m sure I can attain a higher rating with better planning.


 image image image

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Crop Review 2010 – Borlotto Solista Beans

As 2010 winds down, I would like to review what was grown in the garden and determine what worked and what didn’t.  I’ll take a few areas into consideration when I award rating stars (5 stars is the best). 

  • Ease to grow
  • pest & disease resistance
  • appearance
  • production
  • taste (fruit/veggies only)


This summer was the 1st time I tried growing Borlotto Solista Beans and it won’t be the last.  In fact, 2011 may be the year of the bean in the garden. 

  • These beans grew easily and produced giant pink speckled pods that were left on the vines to dry.  They were planted in mid May (05/18/10) and germinated 8 days later (05/26/10). 
  • Grasshoppers did a little damage but not much.  This may be credited to the marigolds growing beneath the vines. 
  • The hot pink pods are really decorative and unusual.  Theses bean would grow well over an arbor to provide shade and dazzling pink ornaments.  Make sure to allow plenty of room for the vines to climb skyward. 
  • At first, I didn’t think the vines produced many pods; but once some adjacent tomatoes were removed an abundance of pods was revealed.
  • Recently, the dried beans were cooked up with some Thanksgiving ham bone along with some onions to make a really delicious dish.  I really wish I had planted more.  More garden space will be dedicated to these beans in an effort to stock my pantry with more dried beans.

Extra bonus:  No gaseous turmoil was reported due to the ingestion of Borlotto Solista Beans.  Oh yes – saying Borlotto Solista with an Italian accent is pretty cool.

The only drawbacks I had growing Borlotto Solista Beans fall squarely on my shoulders.  I didn’t plant enough. 

star fruit fork    star fruit fork    star fruit fork   star fruit fork    star fruit fork