Sunday, February 27, 2011

Granny May Need Sunscreen

DSC_2520_6055What the heck is going on with the Granny Smith tree?!  The little darling has only been in the garden since 2009.  As a bare root, it was planted as directed with fertile, well draining soil.  The young, flexible stems were patiently and gently bent to form the desired espalier form.  Granny is dormant sprayed each winter with at least 2 or 3 applications of cooper and pyrethrum.  The bed is kept clean.  She’s fed regularly.  Fruit was produced in both 2009 and 2010.  So what gives?

DSC_2526_6060The problem is at the lowest lateral and at the graft joint.  The bark is split and there are signs of insect “leavin’s”.  This could be the result of sun scald.  The effected area is on the south side of the tree.  If this is a result of sun damage, I wonder if painting the trunk helps or should I consider shading these trees.  Being that they are espalier, they are wide open to the sun.  Sun scald may explain damage to the peach and nectarine trees as well.

Note:  All trees in the garden had a 3rd application of pyrethrum (no copper) except for the Santa Rosa Plum because it is blooming.  The Blenheim Apricot buds broke late this afternoon.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

You Ain’t Nothing But Trash


The camellias have bloomed beautifully this winter.  They were planted in October 2009; so in just a little over a year these young Mrs. Tingley’s (Camellia Japonica) have exploded.  As the blooms faded, they get a bit yellow, then orange, then brown.  Some drop to the ground while others hang on till the bitter end.  I asked someone that enters camellia shows (just like her award winning grandfather did) if I should remove the fading buds and rake the fallen blooms away.  She recommended to keep the camellia beds clean of any litter to prevent any blight or the spread of blight.

Since the snow level is almost kissing the valley floor, this afternoon was the perfect time to get out and rake without even the thought of sweating.  Crap.  It was pretty stinking cold.  The cold temperature encouraged me to finish the task of cleaning the camellia bed faster than I normally would.  The pink petals matched the color of my nose and cheeks (both sets). 

It’s some of the prettiest yard trash I’ve ever collected.  Now turning yard trash into compost is my next gardening effort.  Better to keep my yard waste in my garden than to donate it to the local green waste facility AND pay to have it hauled away.

Costco (Yes – I’m a member.  Some think this is only for the privileged.  Don’t ask.) now has all of its gardening related stuff in stock.  One item I’m considering is a tumbler composter.  I would prefer a portable type but really haven’t found a suitable composter.  The Lifetime Composter they are selling is $98.99 with an 80 gallon capacity.  All the reviews mark this as a great buy.  I’ll give up portability for a sturdy good buy unless someone screams in with a negative review in the meantime.image

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Santa Rosa Wins Again!


The Santa Rosa Plum is the 1st fruit tree to bloom for the 3rd year in a row.  So far, no fruit has lasted to maturity.  The tree was planted January 12, 2009 as bare root stock.  This tree has taken really well to espalier pruning.  Along with the apricot tree, the plum is suited to zone 8-9 in Bakersfield, California.  The long, hot summer days and the cool, moist winter season must work well for the Santa Rosa.

DSC_2456_5916 This has got to be the year I get to taste a plum from this tree.  There is an abundance of buds ready to follow the lead “breaking” bud.  There should be a load of white petals floating through the garden once the honey bees have done their thing.

These are the dates of the 1st bloom break of the Santa Rosa Plum:

  • February 20, 2009
  • February 14, 2010
  • February 24, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Companion Gardening.

 DSC_2513_6014Supplies are running low here in Maybelline’s Garden.  Not much lettuce planted in the fall remains in the garden.  The lettuce started indoors is puttering along.  Three varieties are scheduled to be planted out in the garden this weekend in the hopes of having some spring salad:  Merlot, Saint Anne’s, and Tom Thumb.  The seeds will be sown in place to determine if jump starting lettuce indoors in the winter is worth dedicating the space.  I don’t like the way the seed starting process makes a mess of my kitchen window.  Starting seeds in place looks neater both indoors and out.  Perhaps I’m Jeffersonian in my garden preferences.  That’s alright with me.  He did alright (except for the the whole slave thing and the debt stuff).

Some Red-Cored Chantenay Carrot seeds will be sown amongst the lettuce in accordance to Louise Riotte’s prescription in Carrots Love Tomatoes.  Her book doesn’t explain why this combination is good.  A quick search online came up with nothing.  Nevertheless,  I’m giving it a try.

In the meantime, I would like to publicly change the person I want to be when I grow up.  For years, Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith show was the type of person I wanted to be as I limped into my senior years.  No makeup.  Cotton dress.  Practical shoes.  No plastic surgery.  Simply age as nature intended.  Now I herald the beauty of Louise Riotte.  Practical clothes (elastic most certainly is involved). No fuss hair and a chair just like the one I have in the garden.  BINGO!  I only hope to know half as much as this successful Okie gardener.  Plus, living to be 91 is a bonus.  She would have been a great companion in the garden.

imageLouise Riotte (1909-1998)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bees Keep Doin’ It


Sowed some flower seeds today in anticipation of summer.

Dwarf Fairy Candytuft – Thrown outdoors in a flowerbed in the front yard.  More were sown to propagate indoors.  The hope is that the front flowerbeds will be lined with the pink, low growing flowers.  These hardy annuals should only grow to 6”.  The summer heat may bake them to a crisp; but they will rise again in the fall.

Nasturtium Jewel Mixed -  The plant is low growing and the flowers are bright, bright, bright – usually orange.  The flowers produce seeds that keep the brightness growing.  A few seeds were sown in a hanging basket while others were tucked in with the sunflowers.  This could be an irresistible cocktail for the honeybees.  Please note that I misspelled nasturtiums (nastursiums) in the index and do not know how to correct that.  If someone would like to direct me, the error will be repaired.

Teddy Bear Sunflower – These were sown in the cinder blocks that frame the raised beds where I hope to have a successful crop of corn this summer.  Maybe the bees will be attracted to the sunflowers.  This dwarf sunflower will grow between 3’ and 4’ tall.  The double flowers are a puffy 6”.

On Saturday, I received a free sample of some Gardner & Bloome All Purpose Fertilizer (4-4-4).  It was just a dinky bag; so I sprinkled it where the sunflowers and nasturtiums were sown and watered generously.  Something should sprout in about 10 days and that’s the last day where frost might be a concern here in Bakersfield, California. 

Looks like summer is on the way.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tree Feedin’ Time

 DSC_2550_6030 Today was a perfect day to fertilize the trees.  To be clear, cool and overcast is perfect weather for this gardener.  The trees don’t give a hang.  The recent storm was breaking up so conditions to work in the garden were great.  All the trees were given their 1st feeding of the year.  This will be repeated every three month (approximately – if I remember) during the growing season. 

DSC_2477_5937 The boysenberries were fertilized with the same fertilizer.  The recommended schedule for the berries is every two months.  The canes were purchased last February as bare root stock and produced one berry.  This season is off to a great start with several buds on the year old canes.


Gardner & Bloome is the organic line from Kellogg.  If this is junk, let me know; but it’s what I’m using for the time being.

Along with the boysenberries here’s the list of trees fertilized with Gardener & Bloome today:

Blenheim Apricot

Fantasia Nectarine

Granny Smith Apple

O’Henry Peach

Pink Variegated Lemon

Rio Red Grapefruit

Robertson Navel Orange

Santa Rosa Plum

Satsuma Mandarin Orange

Warren Pear

Saturday, February 19, 2011

This Bud’s For You

With the moist winter we’ve been experiencing and the warmer, longer days, the buds in the garden are bursting or on the verge.  Today there was light rain in the San Joaquin Valley and a dusting of snow in Tehachapi.  It was a nice surprise to top off an afternoon drive up the hill.  Before the drive, we went to the citrus tasting at White Forest Nursery.  The only thing I bought was a couple packets of Teddy Bear Sunflower seeds. 

Here is the promise of spring:


DSC_2522_5997 Strawberry

DSC_2523_5996 Dandelion

DSC_2524_5995 Lilac (lobelia in background)

DSC_2525_5994 Chrysanthemum

DSC_2527_5992 Santa Rosa Plum

DSC_2528_5991O’Henry Peach

DSC_2529_5990 Granny Smith Apple

DSC_2530_5989 Warren Pear

DSC_2531_5988Fantasia Nectarine

 DSC_2533_5986 Blenheim Apricot

DSC_2534_5999 Lantana – Purple

DSC_2535_6000 Oxalis

DSC_2536_6001Lantana – Yellow

DSC_2538_6003  Begonia

DSC_2539_6004Azalea - George L. Taber

DSC_2548_6028 Lemon – Variegated Pink

Friday, February 18, 2011

Who Needs Scare Tape?


My garden kitty enjoys when the puppy isn’t around.  She may act tough; but she’s a HUGE chicken.  When the puppy’s not around, she will follow me like a little shadow only occasionally allowing me to pet her or pick her up.  She enjoys sunning herself on the gravel paths.  Right now she’s getting ready for dove season.  It’s not until September for humans; but all the birds are getting “twitterpated” with young’ns on the way soon.  She’s going to be a busy gal.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Yes Peas!



Tall Telephone Peas were planted back in September and are now finally starting to fatten up.  That’s five months.  I thought I would have peas around Christmastime.  Sheesh! 

The seeds came from Terroir Seeds with this description:

68-78 Days.  Swiss heirloom dating to 1878.  Many vines and a profusion of easy-to-pick pods with 8-9 tasty peas each.  Long season.  Pisum stavum 

The packet instructions give these directions:

As soon as soil can be worked in spring, sow peas in full sun, 2” deep and 6” apart within the rows and space the rows 2’ apart.  Germination takes 7-10 days.  Sow successively every two weeks until temperatures remain above 78 °F, and again in mid to late summer for a fall crop.  Vining types need trellises or supports.

I suppose I should have planted them in August rather than September.  Planting a couple of more rows to try to get some spring peas is probably a good idea since I come out and eat these off the vine at lunchtime. Preserving any is doubtful.  At $2.95 for 100 seeds, it’s a pretty economical way to garden. These plants are over 6’ tall.  Make sure to provide tall enough support.

Enjoy some pea facts and pea recipes at

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Grafting Espalier Fruit Trees - Part II

 DSC_2451_5911 Santa Rosa Plum

Spring is about ready to bust around here; so it’s time for part II of my grafting adventure.  It seemed like a perfect day.  It rained earlier followed by cool temperatures. All trees are full with buds.   Perfect.  Let’s get started.

 Part I occurred last month when buds were clipped from the trees that will be grafted (nectarine, peach, and apple a bit later).  The “buds” (twigs actually) were placed in Ziploc bags with a bit of moisture and stored in the refrigerator out in the garage.  Nice and cold.  Today, I sterilized a straight razor blade and pruning shears.  Fresh cuts were made to the buds.  The trunk of each tree was then studied to determine the best location for the grafting to enhance the espalier.  The straight razor blade was used to carve a “T” in the bark.  The bark was peeled back and the bud was inserted.  The bark was then closed up over the bud. 



Courtesy:  Sonoma County Go Local

Green garden tape was used to secure the graft by wrapping and tying it around the surgery.  The example above shows string being used to close the wound.  I’ve heard of using tar, wax, and even aluminum foil. I just used the stuff I had.  I’m hoping for the best; but if the grafts don’t take I can always try again and alter the method.  My concerns are with almost everything…the cut, the bud, the tape.  Everything.  I’m completely nervous about this new thing I’m learning.

DSC_2466_5926 Granny Smith Apple

Grafts were made on the Fantasia Nectarine (3), the O’Henry Peach (2), and the Granny Smith Apple (1).  The best results will be grafts that thrive.  The worst result will be that I’ve killed my trees.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It’s Good for the Roses

The spring weather has the weeds/wildflowers sprouting.  It’s warm enough to go out and enjoy a walk and meet new friends while enjoying their gardens.  The days are getting long enough that there is no rush to hurry before the sun sets.  It stays light until about 6pm now.  Plenty of time to take a walk, start dinner, and do a little gardening before it gets dark.


Horse manure is supposed to be great for the garden.  Steer manure can have salts and seeds – but I’m no expert.  My experience has me favoring bunny poop.  That stuff is potent.

DSC_2486_5897A local rancher is looking to put his bounty of manure from grass fed cattle to work not only in his own garden but marketing the stuff for “tea”.  I hope he does and has much success.  Perhaps he would like me to test his product for a review.  I would be delighted. 

In the meantime, I need to bargain with that stead for its leavings.  It is good for the roses.  Please watch the Quiet Man to understand the reference to the roses.



Sunday, February 13, 2011

Prize Winner

 imageRecently, I was looking through a case of old photos my mother has kept in a tiny case her father once used for his luggage when he would go away for a week.  Honestly, the case isn’t big enough for me to carry my toiletries for an over night stay.  In this treasure chest, one of his gardening awards was neatly placed amongst the photos.  What a find.  He took 2nd place at the 10th Annual Open Flower and Vegetable Show at Haymarket (west side of Edinburgh, Scotland) in 1953.  Score! 

It seems dirt under the fingernails goes back a few generations.  Perhaps I should consider an entry in the Kern County Fair this fall just to keep the awards rolling.


To help assure me of a win, I have requested Farmer MacGregor to dress in the same manner as my grandpa.  This technique may not have anything to do with successful gardening; but the gent certainly looks pretty dashing in his Spencer Tracy specs.

Note:  At the request of Farmer MacGregor, his image has been removed and replaced with this:


Saturday, February 12, 2011

It’s Broccoli Blanching Time!


The weather has really started to get warm and the broccoli, along with other veggies in the garden, are starting to bolt.  Today, the broccoli had to go into the freezer to enjoy later.

  • Harvest as much fresh broccoli as you can.
  • Rinse the harvest.
    • Clip into flowerets.
    • Soak in cold water.
  • Place in boiling salt water for 3 minutes.
  • Remove with slotted spoon into ice bath to stop cooking process and retain texture and nutrients.
  • Repeat in batches until complete.
  • Drain.
  • Pat dry.
  • Place in freezer container in your freezer.

That should preserve a bit of delicious nutrition for the future.


Three varieties of broccoli were grown this winter.

  • Calabrese
  • Nutribud
  • Waltham29

Since the summer crop is currently in seedling state and the last day of frost is only a few weeks away, this will give me time to clean out the beds and get ready for summer.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Great Scot(t) in the Garden

DSC_2437_5848How do we get involved with gardening?  Necessity?  Not so much.  It typically starts our as a hobby that sometimes gets out of control.  Some of us have family that were successes in the garden and passed the green thumb along.  My father had a green thumb and so did my grandfather (on my mother’s side).  Those skills were necessities.  My grandpa was raised on a farm in the Scottish countryside but ended up in Edinburgh and a garden on Moat Drive.Scotts1932I wonder if he would enjoy gardening in Bakersfield, California where the hell like conditions are a far cry from those he conquered in the frigid north.  Would the arid environment just be another challenge like that he faced during World War I in Turkey?

Scotts1961 Even if he did adjust, there’s something that I simply can’t imagine him doing.  Dressing like a schlump as most of us do now.  Just can’t imagine it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

60 °F

DSC_2431_5842Not to dwell on the weather, but it’s currently 60 °F.  After lunch, me and Ajax headed out to the garden.  I had some seed catalogs to review and he had some very important business to tend to.

DSC_2429_5840 The Nap Fairy has hit us both hard with a big bag of sand; so we’re headed in for a nap.

DSC_2434_5845I think my thermometer goes bonkers when the sun hits it and reports 31 °F higher than the actual temperature.  This may need to be replaced since it only goes up to 120 °F.  That won’t work in a month or two.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Don’t Give A Fig

DSC_2413_5824Spring is starting to show in the garden.  The fig tree is lighting the way with its buds being the fattest of all the trees.  Looks like a candle doesn’t it?  All the other fruit trees have buds swelling as we move through the calendar toward mid February when more blossoms should pop.  The days are becoming longer and the chance of frost is decreasing.  In fact, the last day of frost in Bakersfield, California is somewhere around March 3.  Victory Seeds has a nifty list of cities and average frost dates.  That gives Farmer MacGregor time to dormant spray at least one more time…two if it doesn’t heat up so fast.

DSC_2416_5827Until then, I’m enjoying “sweater weather” as long as I can.


PS…The fig tree is a volunteer that I don’t have the heart to dispose of.  It probably came compliments of a bird visiting my neighbor’s tree.  I have no idea what variety it is and would like to see if I can get any fruit from it.  It’s in a pot with ivy.  I considered pruning it espalier but think I’ll just let it grow with light pruning.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Puffy White Clouds


This is for everyone miserable and fed up with winter and using their winter down time to contemplate the validity of global warming.  Today, I had lunch out in the garden with my feet propped up leaning back in an old metal chair.  The warm sun and the cool air (about 58°) made me want to take a nap outside.  Heck, it doesn’t take much for me to want to take a nap.  This is perfect weather for me.  I can start with a long sleeved t-shirt, then a sweater topped with a denim shirt over a pair of sweat pants.  As the day gets warmer, layers peel off to maintain comfort.

I’ve never had to live in the snowy north.  Heck.  When is snowed (6”) in Bakersfield in January 1999, the entire town came to a halt.  No kidding.  We don’t know how to drive in rain very well either; so a skiff of snow was like jabbing a stick into our brains and stirring with vigor.  We do not have the skills.  I cannot imagine what it is like to be surrounded by snow for the better part of the year.  Likewise, those snow bunnies may not be very sympathetic to my constant whining about swamp pants.

So I enjoyed my lunchtime thinking of the rest of the country that is currently getting hit with winter.  I thought of everyone again later in the afternoon as I harvested broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower.

Sorry but my swamp pants will be replacing my sweat pants soon enough.