Thursday, April 28, 2011



It’s getting warm enough now that the garden needs regular irrigating.  Any seedlings like corn, beans, and squash need moisture everyday.  The young plants like the tomatoes and peppers need  water about every other day.  The established plants like strawberries let me know when they are thirsty.  I’m backing off on watering the onions and garlic as harvest time approaches.  The trees are irrigated only if the moisture meter indicates that’s necessary.  It’s remarkable how dry the surface can be while just below the surface the soil is moist.  The same goes for the camellias.  Too much water isn’t a good thing.

Herbs only need occasional irrigating and are some of the easiest plants to grow in the garden.  Lavender is one of my favorites.  The scent is so clean and fresh.  Whenever I go to the drug store I try to remember to clean the shelves of the Yardley English Lavender Soap.  I haven’t been able to find any other soap that has a better lavender scent than Yardley’s.  The soap is stored in my armoire with linens.  Last year’s lavender harvest needs to be stripped from the stems and stuffed in some little cloth sacks to make potpourris.  Those are used to keep moths out of woolens and to scent undies.

Lavender only needs minimal water once it’s established.  Perfect for a water wise garden. 

Isn’t it strange that English Lavender grows in drought conditions but it’s from England where rain is plentiful?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tree Inspection

Some notable things are happening this spring in the garden as the trees mature.  For example, most all the trees are holding the most fruit they have ever produced.  At the same time, I thought the nectarine was doomed.  Not so fast.  An inspection revealed at least one viable piece of fruit.  There are others but those are so weak they will most likely blow away with the next breeze.


Nectarine – Fantasia

Citrus blossoms are plentiful on all of the citrus trees – lemon, mandarin, orange, and grapefruit.  The mandarin is the youngest of the citrus and has loads of little mandarins that should be ready around Christmas time.

DSC_2561_6406 Mandarin – Owari Satsuma

Lacking in age means this tree is lacking in strength to hold all this fruit.  Most will be lost until the tree is old enough to support the weight.  While inspecting the tree I spotted the thorns that are prevalent on citrus trees.  Holy Cow!


There are several thorns that measure around 5 inches.  Are these thorns?  They sure look like thorns; but mandarins aren’t noted for having thorns.  The thorns don’t appear to be growing from the scion so I can’t explain this nor do I know what to do – if I do anything.  The thorns were growing from the scion with some strange leaves.  Late tonight when I was outside re-examining the thorns to confirm where on the tree they were growing, the fragile branch broke off just like a sucker should.  Problem solved.

This is a tree from Four Winds Growers out of Winters, California.  That’s up by Sacramento.  Now Sacramento is famous for growing loads of blow hard politicians but I’ve never known them to be famous for thorns.  There is most probably no correlation.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Gardening – More Than Just Plants

Local red tape seems to be getting in the way of school children caring for, harvesting, and enjoying a school vegetable garden.  Nutty.  Some local schools have the garden set up but are blocked from eating what they grow.  The local paper had an article on Sunday delving into the details. When my garden gnomes were in middle school, their science classrooms looked out onto a garden with a greenhouse.  The entire garden area was big but unattended.  It was a shame.  I believe the garden continues to decay but I’m looking into the matter.

What a shame that free meals of junk are readily available to munchkins of all ages – some three times a day, yet they cannot eat a healthy carrot grown in carrot country.  What a shame.

They won’t know how a juicy summer plum forms as it hides in the shelter of a canopy of green leaves.

DSC_2550_6395Plum - Santa Rosa

Or how a juicy ripe strawberry can also be enjoyed by the birds that hunt the bugs that also love the juicy ripe strawberries.  (Can you find the ravaged berry?)

DSC_2552_6397 Strawberries – Sweet Pinky

Or how a juicy peach grows from a hard fuzzy weird looking thing that points straight up from the tree branch.

DSC_2554_6399Peach – O’Henry

The deteriorating middle school garden would be a great site for a weekend garden club to meet.  Perhaps the Senior Center a mile to the south could provide some expert gardening volunteers while sharing with the children.  I don’t think it’s a matter of money here.  It’s a matter of matching up all interested parties to make something good happen again.  Honestly.  I’ll give each student 2 zucchini seeds each if need be.  What a tremendous way to give students lessons in botany, biology, geology, math, art, literature, physical education, and so much more.  I’m of the mind set that there would be much less ADHD diagnosis if a child ate right and had the opportunity to burn off a load of steam.

I would like to know if you have gardens at your local schools – most especially if those schools are in California. You thought our State flower was the California Poppy.  Wrong.  It’s red tape dispensed by the nuttiest group of squirrels ever!  Leave your ideas in a comment following this post or comment on the paper’s website.  In the meantime, I’m going to check out the California School Garden Network.  Is Mrs. Obama in the neighborhood?  I may need her help.


Garden Note:

Two varieties of tomatoes have blossoms forming - Tigerella and Santa Clara Canner.  They haven’t even been put in the ground!


Sunday, April 24, 2011


 DSC_2542_6395 Sweet Pea – Old Spice

The 1st bouquet of sweet peas was harvested this weekend to enjoy in the kitchen while preparing Easter dinner.  These were planted so late, December 12, 2010, that I really didn’t have much hope that anything would come of my meager effort.  The seed packet describes this variety as  a single and bicolor tall heirloom.  A bean support used last summer for beans remained to support the sweet peas.  Once they have faded, beans will be planted for a late season harvest.  The success of the sweet peas is more than I had hoped for.



Lavender – Lavendula Angustifolia

On September 23, 2010, seeds of lavender from Burpee were sown with hopes of a quick germination.  After more than a month I gave up hope and forgot (kinda) about another failure in the garden.  This weekend I notices a few signs of success along the corn bed.  There is hope that the garden will have more lavender to enjoy.

DSC_2540_6393 Bell Peppers

A visit to the Farmers’ Market this weekend was fruitful.  I returned with three new Bell Peppers – Red Beauty, Red Marconi, and Super Heavyweight.  The Tomato Lady unveiled some of the peppers she has been germinating for here weekend business.  My hands were full of produce bags and a puppy lead; so I let the Tomato Lady’s daughter select three different varieties of bells for me to try.  Oh, she tried to educate me on these varieties; but I was distracted with all the shoppers wanting to pet Ajax.  My hope is that these peppers will be abundant and be used to stuff and grill.


The pea patch was cleaned out this weekend to make way for tomato transplants.  A few carrots and onions will remain until they mature.  In the meantime, the soil will be amended, deep holes dug, and a variety of tomatoes will take up residence until the fall.  I’m using the same method as last summer for plant supports.  Stringing.  The strings will run vertically and I’ll wrap the plants upward around the twine as they grow taller.  This post has an example of what the supports look like when they are full of tomatoes.  Hopes are high that this year’s tomato varieties will flourish.

DSC_2543_6396 All in all, this Easter weekend is a pretty good one for hope.


Journal Winner:

Helen said...

I think I'm in love with that journal! And my favorite month is October.


Helen, shoot me an email with your preferred delivery address and the journal will be on its way.  Congratulation.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Graduation Day

Graduation day.  It’s such an exciting and proud day.  Hard to believe.  It seems like only yesterday I was bouncing him on my knee.  My my how he grew.

2010-12072 months


2010-1227 Almost 3 months


2011-0108 3 months


2011-0129 Almost 4 months


2011-0305 5 months


2011-0404 6 months



 Graduation April 20, 2011

Almost 7 months

Ajax continues to practice his skills by visiting the local Farmers’ Market and enjoying all the attention from the farmers, customers, and other pups.  He still needs help in refraining from digging in the garden. 

One day at a time.  One day at a time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Give Away! Come & Get It!

I wish I had the discipline to keep a written garden journal.  It’s just not in me to be that organized.  That’s a shame, because Linnea Design sent me a great garden journal.  It’s got space to note calendar-like entries, other notes, and folders to stash things like seed packs.  It’s spiral bound so it stays open nicely.  The illustrations are fabulous plus there are cute garden related quotes.  This journal can be used year after year.


Now here’s the deal.  This garden journal needs to go to a gardener that will put it to good use.  Dog-ear it.  Scribble on it.  Mark it up.  Stain the lovely pages with your dirt covered hands.  The clean pages are screaming to be filled up.image

If anyone would like to help me get this garden journal to a gardener that will use it, simply ---

Leave a comment telling me what month is your favorite. 

Make sure to verify the word in the super secret window.

You have until April 23, 2011, Saturday @ midnight (Pacific).

The Easter Bunny will post the winner on Easter Sunday.  That’s April 24.


Check out all the other stuff Linnea Design has to offer.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Anticipation – Worth the Wait

Ye Gads!  My windows are hideous.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that I scored a Heinz Tomato plant at the Tomato Ladies stand down at the Farmers’ Market this morning.  I wanted to try this variety and thought I would wait until next season.  What a nice surprise to see this variety available to me for a simple $2 investment.


This is what Victory Seeds has to say about this variety:

75 days, determinate — An early, bright red, crack resistant fruit. Heavy yielder with Fusarium and Verticillium disease resistance. A good processing type tomato bred and originally released by the Heinz Company.

Crack resistant?!  That’s a relief.  It’s good to know that “Just Say ‘No’” is working.

There are several sub varieties of the Heinz.  All I know is “Heinz”. 

I’m hopeful.

Where were you in 1979?!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Three Sisters in the San Joaquin Valley

image Here’s how the Three Sisters planting works:  Corn (Golden Bantam Yellow Sweet) is a support for climbing beans. The beans (Borlotto Solista) fix nitrogen in the soil for the high feeding requirements of corn and squash. The squash (Lemon) provides mulch and root protection for the corn and beans. After cooperating beautifully in the garden, corn and beans form a complete protein when eaten together.  I don’t know much about the nutrition junk; but I do know that I love corn, enjoy beans, and like squash.  Seems like a good idea so I’m giving it a try.  The corn is up.  The beans are up.  The squash just busted through the soil.  I bet pumpkin was the squash of choice and an other variety of bean was used but I’m simply using what I have.  Looks like I may be a successful squaw in the garden this summer.

DSC_2503_6356 Lemon Squash

The Iroquois believed corn, beans and squash are precious gifts from the Great Spirit. Each watched over by one of three sisters spirits, called the De-o-ha-ko, or “Our Sustainers" made up the tale of Three Sisters planting. The planting season is marked by ceremonies to honor them, and a festival commemorates the first harvest of “green” corn on the cob. By retelling the stories and performing annual rituals, Native Americans passed down the knowledge of growing, using and preserving the Three Sisters through generations.  The only ritual I have is keeping the soil moist.

Iroquois were from the other side of the continent.  Yokuts lived in the San Joaquin Valley and up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  They didn’t have corn, nor beans, nor squash.  Acorns dominated their diet.  In elementary school we had field trips to Pioneer Village to watch an ancient Yokut woman grind acorns and weave baskets.  I don’t know if any Yokuts continue to conduct education at Pioneer Village; but I do know that the local casinos are pretty successful.  I do know that corn, beans, and squash are grown successfully here in the Valley; so I suspect the Three Sisters methods just might work.  I’m not taking much of a gamble.image

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Clip Clip Here. Clip Clip There.

DSC_2490_6343 Santa Rosa Plum

This past weekend the fruit trees enjoyed a little beauty treatment.  A light trim to encourage the leaves to bush out and shade the branches from the sun, a nice helping of fertilizer, and a good deep soak was provided for all the espalier fruits.  Citrus trees will have to wait until I buy more fertilizer.  Most of the trees are not symmetrical and that burns Farmer MacGregor just like he burned the weeds in the lawn.  You see, Farmer MacGregor enjoys symmetry.  So, not only will the goal for the trees this summer be to bush out a bit more but once the abundant (I hope.) harvest is complete, a bit heavier pruning may be needed to get things in line.  Some branches will be encouraged to extend past their current boundaries.  That’s the goal for these trees – plum, peach, apple, pear, nectarine, and apricot –for the summer of 2011.  These trees weren’t the only items trimmed this weekend.


Yes.  Farmer MacGregor received a haircut from yours truly and looks much more symmetrical.  He may even experience a burn to his neck similar to the sad state of the lawn.


Note to self:  Schedule tree feeding with Farmer MacGregor haircuts.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Oh Brother Where Art Thou Toads?

A recommendation was given to add a water feature to the garden.  It doesn’t need to be big or expensive.  The feature can be as simple as a saucer of water at ground level to draw in some garden terminators.  There’s no electricity out in the garden so a recirculating pump won’t work.  I’m going to start with a simple large terra cotta saucer of water.  If that’s a success, I’ll expand to accommodate the pool party.  The question is where to best locate the toad pool.  Where?

As I was puttering around in the garden pondering the location, my able garden assistant proceeded with the site excavation.


With the site secured and excavation underway, the saucer was cleaned out and ready to install.  A quick check for depth and we’re about ready to proceed.

DSC_2500_6353 I’ve suggested to a co-worker with young boys that they might be able to make some money by catching toads and selling them to gardeners like me that would like to control the pest population in the garden without damaging the balance too much.  If that doesn’t work, I may have to head on down to the North Chester bridge and see if any local young sirens have loved up any fellas down by the river and turned them into toads.

From one of my favorite movies:

Be sure, if I acquire three of these creatures they will be named Pete, Delmar, and Everett.  I hope Ajax doesn’t take on the personality of Big Dan.


Bonus:  This may be a good area to transplant my Scotch Moss.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

More ‘Maters!

This morning I headed down to the farmers’ market.  The Tomato Lady has a stand with loads of tomato plants for sale that she has grown.  I didn’t see her at her regular station so I walked on down to the gal that sells cut flowers and potted herbs.  Today, she had tomato plants for sale.  Great.  I’ll pick up a variety that I haven’t tried before to supplement my measly seedlings.  I about choked paying $3.25 for one plant!  Heavens.  That’s about the price of a packet that contains about 100 seeds.  Oh well.  I’m tired of the mess inside that starting seeds brings.  It’s the price I have to pay.  The Santa Clara Canner originated in Italy and is a great all round tomato.


After picking up a sack of oranges from a Dinuba citrus farmer, I wandered down to a stand that grows veggies and eggs up in the foothills east of my neighborhood.  A nice bunch of carrots and a bunch of beets had my hands full (I forgot to bring my canvas bag.).  Dang it.  The lettuce was great over at Farmer Tesch’s stand; so I grabbed a nice head of Romaine ($1.50).  I saw stuff at the grocery store that was close to $3 a head that wasn’t fit for pigs.  I don’t have any green lettuce in the garden thanks to the appetites of pill bugs and earwigs.  Now my hands were really full.  Then I spotted the Tomato Lady!  She had moved her stand closer to the sunny side of the street.  Yikes.  She had tons of tomato plants from which to choose.

DSC_2480_6333 Her helpful self made photo albums catalog each variety with photos and growing information.  Her plants in paper cups cost only $2.  Did you know:  The Rutgers tomato was introduced in 1934 by Rutgers breeder Lyman Schermerhorn as an ideal locally (New Jersey) well-adapted and improved "General Use" tomato for processing (canning and juicing) as well as fresh market. Rutgers tomato was developed and released in the period between WW I and WW II. 

  • Pleasing flavor and taste of the juice
  • More uniform sparkling red internal color ripening from center of the tomato outward
  • Smooth skin
  • Freedom from fruit cracking
  • 'Second early' maturity
  • Handsome flattened globe shape
  • Vigorous healthy foliage to ripen more fruit and reduce sunscald
  • Firm thick fleshy fruit walls for its time, though considered extremely soft by today's definition of tomato firmness
  • Uniformity true to type in the field

A fellow backyard farmer at work brought in some tomato seedlings for anyone to enjoy.  She hasn’t been able to face the necessary job of thinning her seedlings.  I understand and will separate my choice.  I picked up a Tigerella cup.

DSC_2483_6336 Here’s a few things about Tigerella:

  • Maturity -59 days
  • Type – Heirloom
  • Vine – Indeterminate (That means tomatoes all summer long instead of determinate which means all at once.)
  • Plant height - 9 feet
  • Fruit Weight - 4 oz
  • Leaf - Regular leaf
  • Color - Bicolor: Primarily red with yellow stripes
  • Shape – Globe

Tigerella was developed in England and produces orange and red striped fruit.  We’ll see if this English dandy can hang with the big boys in Bakersfield.  My money is on my favorite, Al Kuffa.  But I hope I’m wrong and every plant is a wild success in the garden.

I headed up the hill to check out Garden Fest.  Everything was just getting underway.  Loads of plants for sale, gardening related booths, and booths not so garden related offered a bunch of stuff.  It looked like there would be a great crowd to help fund the Agriculture Department at Bakersfield College.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Garden Fest

BC to host Garden Fest 2011

The Horticulture Department at Bakersfield College is pleased to present their Garden Fest 2011 on Saturday, April 9 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the college's Environmental Horticulture Gardens, now called Renegade Park, which are located on Mt. Vernon Avenue north of Memorial Stadium. Garden Fest will celebrate the horticulture and agriculture programs at Bakersfield College for the seventh year.

"The event is an information outreach event to tell the community about our programs," said Lindsay Ono, Environmental Horticulture faculty at Bakersfield College. "We started our first year as a simple plant sale with nursery seminars in partnership with Kern County garden clubs. Since then, though, we've become bigger and better."

Bakersfield College's Garden Fest 2011 has grown to become Bakersfield's premiere springtime garden event for seasoned "greenthumbs" and novice gardeners alike. Garden Fest 2011 is an open house, featuring Bakersfield College's Environmental Horticulture and Agriculture programs, and draws thousands of visitors annually.

Events scheduled for year's Garden Fest 2011 include Country Garden Seminars on the California Landscape Contractors Country Garden Stage, hosted by Dale "Sultan of Sod" Edwards and Lindsay "The Plant Professor" Ono, with the help of California Living Museum. Along with Ono and Edwards, industry professionals will provide valuable tips and information on gardening, floral design, pet care, cooking and more. The popular "Build-a-Pond" seminar from Buck's Landscape Materials and Pond Shop will return again this year, too. Vendor booths will be available with information on gardening, pets, cooking, outdoor leisure, arts & crafts, and environmentally-friendly home improvement ideas. The annual farmer's market, by the Bakersfield College Renegade Ranch and Murray Family Farms, will have fresh fruits and vegetables ripe and ready for purchase.

Returning again this year is the Mean and Green Car Show, featuring muscle cars and industry-produced hybrid automobiles, and is hosted by the Bakersfield College Agriculture Ambassadors.

More than 150 participants with vendor booths will be part of Garden Fest 2011! Admission is free and some activities require a fee for participation. Proceeds benefit the horticulture program at Bakersfield College.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


I've just learned that regular Sluggo doesn't work against pill bugs and earwigs.  The ingredient used in Sluggo Plus is Sevin.  Sevin can kill beneficial bugs as well as the boogers I’m trying to control.  It has been suggested a water feature should be introduced into the garden.  This will encourage beneficial insects as well as toads.  Thanks to Chiot’s Run for alerting me to items left off of labels such as the hazards caused to beneficials.   For now, my regular Sluggo will be kept in the garden shed.  Now I need to introduce a water feature and some toads.  Perhaps I’ll hire some neighborhood kids to wrangle up some toads for me.



 imageI’m thinking of using Sluggo Plus to bring down the population of earwigs and, most especially, pill bugs in my garden.  Generally, I would leave these terrorists alone; but since my entire late crop of lettuce, beets, and carrots has been wiped out something needs to be done before summer growing gets into full swing.  If no one stops with with a screaming e-mail or negative comment, then this stuff is going down on Saturday.



Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ah Fruit. Fresh Summer Fruit.


Look at what’s developing on the other side of the garden fence!

The apricots have never made it this far in development.  Sure.  There have been blossoms and even some fruit; but the March winds have blown through in the past knocking the fruit down from the immature limbs.  2011 looks to be a bountiful year.  There are many more growing under the shelter of the thick leaf canopy.  In fact, when the trees get fertilized on Saturday, this tree will undergo a very light pruning.


Blenheim Apricot

Precisely one gajillion olive-like plums dangle in the shade of the many new leaves.  Honestly.  There are so many plums this year there is simply no way this young tree can carry them to maturity.  It is shedding some of the weaker fruit; but I may have to help nature lighten the load to allow for larger plums to develop and avoid broken limbs.

DSC_2472_6325 Santa Rosa Plum

Twenty-four sweet peaches are currently getting fatter; but hope is slim that they will all make it.  The one pictured here looks like it’s emerging from a nest or has a jester’s hat or is wearing a hula skirt.

DSC_2473_6326 O’Henry Peach

Here the apples are a bit less mature than the other fruit; but there certainly are a load.  Last summer we didn’t harvest early enough and the fruit was a bit pithy.  August is the month to harvest these this year.

DSC_2476_6329Granny Smith Apple

The nectarine looks like it may develop its first fruit this season.  No picture here because I didn’t want to jinx it.  Sun scald has taken its toll on the nectarine, peach, and apple trees.  Beach umbrellas will be erected soon to help protect them from the intense sun.  Typically, these trees wouldn’t be so sensitive to the sun but since they are being grown espalier they are opened up to much more sun.  These three trees really need to bush out to create more of their own shade like the apricot and plum.

image courtesy Pickard China

Charlotte Moss designed this china pattern, Espalier.  This American made china would be great for a garden lunch including items harvested from this garden.  For now, a sandwich wrapped in a paper towel will do just fine.


PS…The title of this blog is from an advertising campaign in the late 1970s for California Fruit.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


…and we can’t drive without being distracted.



DSC_2463_6316  DSC_2464_6317



Monday, April 4, 2011

Taste of Summertime

Berries are busting in the garden.  Sweet Pinky Strawberries are taking the lead in production with some bright red berries.  Of course, the pill bugs like them too; so I’m really on a quest on a way to rid the garden of these freeloaders.

DSC_2450_6303Sweet Pinky Strawberries

Last summer, only one berry was produced on our young thornless boysenberry.  This summer looks much more promising.  The canes are producing many flowers just waiting for the pollinators to do their thing.  Everything in the garden is scheduled to be fertilized this weekend including the berries.  I thought berries could grow in a pile of compost (aka horse $h!t) but don’t have the wherewithal to take on that experiment.  These berries will have to settle for the store bought variety I provide.

DSC_2444_6297 Boysenberry – thornless

The boysenberry blossoms remind me of magnolias.  Really they do.