Sunday, December 22, 2013

Name That Plant

I usually put nursery tags in my Sunset Western Garden book (read: bible) to keep track of names, dates, and miscellaneous junk about plants in the garden.  I have failed. I don't even remember where I purchased the plants.  (I have a good guess though.) This plant was plugged into some hanging baskets this summer and they are still thriving. Nothing was singed by the recent freeze.

I snip off the spent buds occasionally, and feed them irregularly.  What are these flowers?  An easy care plant is something that needs to be trumpeted to all brown thumb gardeners all the way up to professors of horticulture. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sweet Peas 2014

Sweet Peas
The sweet peas were planted late this evening using seeds collected from past vines.  More like night since me and old Ajax were out in the dark making sure the seeds were planted on December 1. I'm never sure what the blooms will be like or if there will even be any blooms.  Those danged doves may eat all the seeds.  There may also be a sweet pea bonanza in the spring.  It's a crap shoot. 

Some think the seeds need to be planted in late summer or early fall.  I've been planting them in December for sometime now with fairly good results.   No matter if the seeds are purchased or collected, it's helpful to soak them before planting. Full sun and well drained soil helps.  The vines will need something for the tendrils to climb.  However, they would probably grow like weeds almost anywhere.

Continual harvesting of the blossoms will help develop more flowers.  Once the weather gets hot, sweet pea season is over.  Let the blossoms go to seed and collect them for the next year.

Who doesn't enjoy a nice bouquet of sweet peas?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

(Owari) Satsuma Mandarin
We've had rain!  Holy cow.  It finally happened.  Wonderfully cool, wet weather has arrived.  The garden has been washed with rain that ran from a soft misty drizzle to a downpour.  It has been great. With that cool weather comes a variety of citrus and I love them all. 

First up are the mandarins.  These have been successfully marketed recently by local Paramount Farms as Little Cuties. They sold the rights to that name to Sun World and now market the name Halos. Fine, I'll grow my own whenever I can. The seedless mandarin fruit is easy to peel and taste like winter time in Bakersfield.  I have always enjoyed citrus.  As a kid, my parents would take us to the citrus orchards for fruit tasting.  Delicious.

In the garden is just one potted mandarin tree that is about 3 years old.  There are over 4 dozen mandarins loaded on the skinny little branches. The fruit stays on the trees until it's needed which is a nice feature. The potted lemons are abundant too. Tomorrow night's dinner is fried Lemon Chicken! The oranges are about the size of grapefruit.  Grapefruit is my absolute favorite.  There are a load of grapefruits to enjoy for many breakfasts this winter.  Limes are next on my list to bring into the garden once the threat of frost and freeze has past.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Garden in the Kitchen

 The hope was to keep the soapstone natural or naked.  I like the cadet blue-grey.  However, a kitchen accident splashing chicken fat all over the stone was the straw that broke this camel's back.  The stone was cleaned, dried, then wax was applied.  The wax makes the surface a little more forgiving to everyday wear.  I like the way it turned out so giving up the naked stone wasn't so hard.  Now I need to  decorate the walls.

Soapstone - naked

Soapstone - waxed
A photograph applied to canvas is something that I'm considering.  An extra large canvas (48" x 36") should work great on one of the empty walls (not shown here).  So I'm thinking of bringing some of the garden into the kitchen and don't know which version of my tomato looks best.

Tomato - bright
Tomato - dark
But 1st I need to find a reliable source to print the photograph to canvas.  Any suggestions or opinions are welcome. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Garden Update

Red Flame Grapes
This past Saturday (10/26/13), Farmer MacGregor and I took on some much needed garden chores.  He did the bulk of the work because I can't (Surgeon's instructions not to bend, lift or twist - dang.) and I was still decompressing from the Vince Gill "Bakersfield" concert the night before. 

Thornless Boysenberries
The boysenberries had grown into a jungle this summer.  There are 6 plants.  The gravel walkway in the picture above was hidden with the growth.  This variety certainly thrives in this environment. This area was previously planted with azaleas and camellias.   That was very unsuccessful. The canes that bore berries this year were cut down to the ground and removed from the support.  5 new canes were chosen to be attached to the support for berry production in 2014.  The rest of the canes were cut to the ground and removed.  There were plenty of volunteers that were removed.  These certainly can get away from you if you don't tend to them.  Speaking of volunteers...note the grape tomatoes overflowing from one of the raised beds.  I cannot shake those Gold Current tomatoes so I just let them keep producing.

One of the raised beds was prepared for some winter vegetables.  Nothing was planted in rows.  I can't get down there to sow a Jeffersonian garden.  Seeds were scattered for a "natural" look.  On the east side of the bed, lettuce varieties were sown.

Outrageous (left) may be the reddest lettuce variety known! It can be harvested as a leaf lettuce or allowed to grow until the loose, Romaine-type heads develop.  The catalogue uses the name Outredeous but the seed package is Outrageous.  Little Gem (right) germinates in 50 days. It is a very small, green, romaine-type. One of the very best-tasting lettuces. A superb heat-tolerant variety.

The west side of the bed was planted with bunching onions.  These should grow well with the existing garlic chives.  No drip lines were laid out.  The seeds will get moistened by hand until they are established.  Hopefully, the rain will come (it did yesterday!).

Ishikura Onions
 (Allium fistulosum) A popular and traditional Japanese variety for sukiyaki, soup and salads. It reaches enormous proportions (to 2½ feet tall, one inch across) while remaining tender and scallion-like.  It never forms a bulb. Earth-up as for leeks to produce long white shanks. As they sprout, they will be pulled and used as green onions.

All the espalier fruit trees have been pruned and will not be pruned until just before blossom and only if needed.  My hope is that the Warren Pear will bloom - finally.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Neglected Garden

Iceberg Rose
Today I finally had some time to work out in the garden.  Still no bending, lifting (over 5 lbs), or twisting.  This is lovingly known at BLT.  However, the surgeon showed me a few tricks that enable me to work more in the garden.  Everything under the pergola got a pruning*, weeding, raking and fertilized.  It's kinda late in the year to apply fertilizer but one last shot of nutrition before winter arrives may provide stronger plants in the spring.  I don't know.  I simply felt like giving the neglected plants a boost.

In the evening, I started pruning the espalier trees.  The Santa Rosa plum has the top lateral pruned with a mind toward not crowding the 2014 crop.  2013 provided a bounty of plums.  I thinned out the branches but left enough new growth from this summer to allow buds to form in February.  The trees won't get fertilized until then.  It's time for them to go to sleep.  Granny Smith is still providing a nice load of tart apples to help us enjoy this cooler weather.  Dormant spray will be applied once all the trees have been pruned.

*Pruning plants under the pergola consisted of dead heading while pruning the espalier is a bit more sever - but not much.  Harder pruning will occur in January.

Kitchen Update
Now the item that has been soaking up most of my time is the kitchen remodel.  There are a few minor items (blinds, stools, range apron, wall decor) left to complete but the kitchen is fully functional and I love it.  Farmer MacGregor only strayed a little bit over estimates but well below what a professional designer initially quoted.  Today he prepared a rehearsal Thanksgiving dinner to determine how best to use the new range.  It was a wonderful success.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day

Who takes Labor Day off?  There's work to be done.

Garlic Chives
The garlic chives are in bloom.  Really they are.  Rather than chop the heads off the flowers, I'm letting them go to seed.  This will give me plenty of chives through the winter for baked potatoes and such.  Letting the chives go to seed attracts loads of pollinators.

Butterflies and honey bees love this stuff.  I can only imagine what the honey must taste like.  I wouldn't mind a garlic chive honey to baste over a barbecued ham.  BBQ ham?  Baked potatoes?  I must be hungry.  Hope I can remember how to cook.

Kitchen Update:

Cody's backside poses for the photo while his frontside continues to work.
The soapstone is in and the travertine floor is being grouted today.  Loads left to do:  mahogany butcher block counter top, electric plates, glass and lights for the hutch, cabinet hardware, trim molding,  appliances, plumbing, and counter stools.  But we're moving in the right direction.  I didn't think it would ever be possible but Farmer MacGregor is tired of painting. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Kitchen Update

Recent gardening activity consists of weeding which is pretty difficult because I'm not allowed to bend or twist yet since my back surgeries. I came across a long handled dandelion weeder; so I use that to pop out weeds one at a time.

Peaches (O'Henry) are ripening and eaten fresh daily.  This tree was on the short list a few summers ago because of sun scald.  But after using wrap around the truck of this espalier it's thriving and producing well.

Kitchen Update:

The cabinets were finally completed down at the cabinet shop.  They were installed this week.  Now Farmer MacGregor is varnishing and painting everything in anticipation for the soapstone countertops. The blue tape tabs are on the drawers until painting is complete.  Then, the hardware will be installed.  Note:  the countertop on the china cabinet/hutch is mahogany butcher block that will be lightly stained and lacquered.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Road Trip!

Well, I'm not going anywhere but this would be a nice road trip from Southern Californian to Northern California.  I listen to Farmer Fred each week either live via I Heart Radio or podcasts.  Either way, the Internet continues to be one of my best friends.

Nonetheless, I would like to tour the private gardens at Maple Rock Garden. There is an upcoming garden event - High Hand Tomato Festival - where the gardens will be open to the public for the price of $10. The Sacramento area really seems to have an active, thriving gardening community. I'm jealous.

I'll be hanging out with one of my best friends that weekend reviewing news and photos of this event.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Big Slacker

It's July and my interest in the garden is at it's annual low.  It's too hot to care; so the best I can do is be the best slacker that I can.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Air Conditioning - Best Invention Ever!

Mid July is about the time of summer that I have had my share of swamp pants and am ready for the coolnees of fall; but that ain't happening.  So I am thankful that we are not barbarians here in Bakersfield, California, and know precisely how to operate an air conditioner - thus reducing the much dreaded "swamp pants" incidences to a minimum.

Not many enjoy July heat; but some in the garden are flourishing:

O'Henry peach
The peach tree is really doing well this summer.  Several summers back it was scalded by the sun.  I thought it would need to be replaced; but wrapping the trunk last summer helped.  (The apple tree continues to need summer wrap.)  Now with no wrap, the peach tree is making a nice canopy of shade and some lovely peaches.
With the house in an upheaval due to remodeling in the kitchen, I have lost my notes on what variety of cantaloupes were planted in early May.  Three hills were planted.  Only a few seeds sprouted.  Those sprouts remained stunted at only 1 - 1.5 inches tall until the serious heat hit in July.  Then...BLAMO!  I suspect planting so early for whatever variety this is does not work best.  I need to remember to plant around Memorial Day in the future.

Gold Currant Tomato Volunteer
Gold Currant grape-sized tomatoes thrive in the garden.  Volunteers sprout everywhere and are constantly eliminated.  A few survive to provide bite sized snacks that my mother devours like candy.  These also make excellent fresh salsa.  I have a few lame peppers and onions in the garden that I may experiment to try to create a small amount of salsa on my kitchen table/ desk/catchall.

But for now, I'm inside running the air conditioner.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer Flowers

Mandevilla - Apocynaceae
Typically I do not purchase nursery stock from the big box stores; but last summer I picked up a Mandevilla at Lowe's.  It caught my eye, the price was right, and I took a gamble.  It has done alright.  Last summer it did well and made it through the winter.  The current streak of blazing hot weather really brought on the blooms.  I have it in a ceramic pot with bamboo stakes for it to climb; but it's pretty much stuck as a short, squatty vine. The pot is under the wisteria pergola so it receives sun and shade throughout the day.  It's only watered once a day.  Mandevilla seems to be suited to zone 8-9.

Bougainvillas - Scarlett O'Hara & San Diego Red

I once had a garden wall draped with loads of bougainvillea (Scarlet O'Hara and San Diego Red).  It was a beautiful, thorny deterrent to anyone contemplating scaling my old garden wall.  These varieties look the same to me.  The names were probably the result of legal junk with different nurseries.  These plants were all zapped during a freeze one winter.  They were cut down and discarded except for one.  I still have a Scarlett O'Hara hanging on in a pot - fiddle-de-dee.  The old wall is long gone and has been replaced with a much taller wall to protect the garden from encroaching suburbia.

Bougainvilla - Nyctaginaceae
  Over the 4th of July holiday, while on another hardware run with Farmer MacGregor, I picked up the smallest bougainvillea I have ever seen. The purpose was to plant this Barbara Karst variety in a hanging basket on the shed.  It was put out on the pergola table that day with hopes of planting in the evening.  The poor little plant was fried.  Any flowers that it had dropped and lots of leaves were scorched.  I brought it into the shade of the patio for a week and am now giving it smaller doses of sun until it builds up its tolerance.  It has already started to sprout some fresh growth.  This tender gal may not be a very good candidate for full sun.  With time, however, she may prove to be just as determined as good old Scarlett O'Hara.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

No Salsa in 2013

During this time of year, I should be harvesting the salsa garden and preserving some of my favorite stuff while I having growing.  This year, The peppers are puny and my back still is not allowed to get into gardening.  Dang it.  Farmer MacGregor's tomatoes are coming along nicely though.  His zucchini is getting away from him.  Those suckers have moved on to watermelon size and the squash bugs look like they will win the war again this summer.

 However, there is an even bigger reason I am unable to can. 

Kitchen Update:

The kitchen remodel leaves me with only a refrigerator.  No sink.  No stove.  No counter.  No nothing.

The drywall covers the new plumbing and electrical.  The only thing left from the original kitchen is the window and the door to the garage.  Even those were an upgrade years ago. 

So, it seems there is absolutely nothing left of the original 1968 kitchen.  We will suffer through the ordeal of the process of construction and not being able to have a kitchen so that a new, highly functional kitchen will be available for next salsa season.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Kitchen Scale

Infestation on Boysenberry Canes
What us this junk?  AND what is that black bug with a green dot on its back?  The infestation looks like blisters on the spent canes of the thorneless boysenberries.  I suspect scale because this can be scraped off easily with my fingernail.

Ants seem to be involved.  I see them scurrying up and down the canes.  However, ants are everywhere in the garden.  They herd pests all over the place.

I'm not too worried about this because these canes will be pruned out soon in preparation for next season's berry producing canes that will be tied up to the supports.  But, if this is something I need to be concerned about I would like to know what I'm dealing with.

Kitchen Remodel:

Here is a view into the kitchen as destruction began.  It's not a fair image of what the kitchen looked like; but it will do.  The cabinets are original to the 1968 house.  The double oven (Dacor) no longer works. The Kitchen Aid refrigerator replaces the garage GE refrigerator (1986).  The Viking cook top is looking for a new home.  The blue tape on the floor marks the estimated location of the expanded counter.  The old kitchen table is where a wall of cabinets will be hung.  They will look spectacular!  The only upper cabinets in the kitchen will be on this wall.  They will have glass fronts.  The counter for this piece is mahogany.

Today, the 2 X 4s are exposed allowing for new copper pipes and electrical. The old light fixtures are gone and are being replaced with pot lights.  The fixture above the window will stay. Cabinets, counter, appliances, and flooring are all gone.  The new cabinets will be Shaker style in creamy white.  Every cabinet and draw will have pull-outs making my ability to access items so much easier.  The corner cabinet has a cool doo dad that will be featured later on.  The counter top is soapstone.  The appliances are all stainless steel.  The flooring will be a continuation of the stone flooring in the rest of the house.  Ajax can be seen laying on the stone in the 1st image.
A stainless steel Frigidaire is in use and will be housed in an area where the doorway will be walled in.  A Frigidaire side-by-side was chosen because of the accessibility for me and it gets the job done.  We have spent money on expensive appliances and breakdown just as quickly (if not quicker) than basic appliances.  The trashcan is blocking the use of the doorway because plumbing and electrical gadgets are dangling down.  Ajax casually waking through could cause a disaster.  The pantry is currently housing the shop vac, step ladder, and broom.

Hope you enjoy being a looky lou as much as me.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Crepe Myrtles

Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) - Watermelon
Around here, crepe myrtles will bloom from June until it's not hot.  There will be a constant flow of confetti-like petals littering our driveway.  Some people don't like that and consider it a mess.  Not me.  Boo Hoo.  I have pretty pink petals blowing around my yard.  Seed pod will form and can be snipped or left for the birds.  The leaves will turn orange-red between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Crepe myrtles like full sun and well drained soil.  Done.  If fact, once they are established irrigation should be done only when needed.  I've never had problems with mildew; but honeydew is an issue.  Aphids or other pests enjoy munching on the vegetation then process the plant material and produce honeydew.  That fine mist you experience while strolling beneath crepe myrtles is not a refreshing shower.  Nope.  It's insect pee/poop.  I don't worry about it and alternate my route.  Some apply systemic pesticides to resolve the problem.  I think I would rather have the honeydew than the poison.

Dallas Arboretum Crepe Myrtles (These are my favorites!)
Pruning crepe myrtles is supposed to be done sparingly.  Whoops.  Farmer MacGregor didn't read that part and has really giving this multi trunk tree and severe clipping in the past few years.  We are now in the process of trying to remedy the damage.  If the tree ever gets unhealthy, we'll just remove and replace.  But I'm hoping for the best.  Perhaps I can contemplate a front yard design incorporating a tunnel of lavender crepe myrtles, but I can't see Farmer MacGregor going for it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Boy Oh Boy! Boysenberries in the Kitchen

Thornless Boysenberries
It's hot.  No one wants to be outside.  So, what do you do?  Crack out the frozen boysenberries.  They're great by themselves.  But they're really great blended with some vanilla ice cream.  Further inspired, I cranked up the oven (Really smart on a hot day.), and made a cobbler.  Yet another great use of berries and vanilla ice cream.

Cranking up the oven is as simple as it sounds.  I need to go out to the breakers and flip on some power to these 2 pricey Dacor ovens that sporatically work.  Come back inside and see if the oven will stay on long enough to heat up.  It did.  I proceeded to  assemble the cobbler.  Amazingly, the oven stayed on to completion of the golden brown crust with boysenberry juices bubbling through.  Unbelievable success.  I really didn't expect the oven to work at all.  I have been using the BBQ, crockpot, and stovetop to prepare meals.

The kitchen is on the verge of being demolished.  The 1969 kitchen designed by a man that never had to work in a home kitchen will be brought up to speed.  I hope to chronicle the metamorphosis here with before, during, and after images along with notes on suggestions of what to do and what to avoid.  The garden will be mostly on auto pilot with chores done in the evenings as needed.

If anyone has suggestions of things that MUST be included in a kitchen, I would appreciate an email or comment to consider your suggestions.  Anything.  Now the plan is for stainless steel appliances, Shaker cabinets with pull out features.  No hanging cabinets.  Built in china cabinet.  Soapstone counters. Stone floors.  Pot lights.  My inspiration is FUNCTIONAL.  Everything must be easy to clean and keep clean.  Extra little frills are not going to make the cut.  Oh, and overpriced fluff will get the ax too.

So, by mid July the kitchen should be complete and thoroughly enjoyed. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

June Boom!

It's June 1st and, just like calendar work, the plums are ripening.  We enjoyed sharing the 1st juicy goodness for dessert a couple of nights ago.  Santa Rosa plums are the 1st trees to break bud in the spring and the 1st trees to have fruit ripe in the summer.  Makes sense.  Duh!
Santa Rosa Plum
Next up are the Blenheim apricots.  Netting was moved from one of the spent boysenberries to the apricots for protection for those pesky garden birds.  Is it just me?  Or do you get annoyed by birds pecking from one fruit to the next leaving many damaged fruit rather than simply destroying one fruit?  Birds.
Blenheim Apricot
Farmer MacGregor's tomato patch is coming along.  His Better Boy tomatoes have improved in vigor as the heat turned up.  Some tomatoes are large and should be turning red soon; while still others are just developing.  They were planted in early April. Salsa!
Better Boy Tomato
Unfortunately, I did not note when the Black Beauty seeds were put in the ground.  I may stumble across a scrap of paper with the information or perhaps I noted it on the seed package

Farmer MacGregor planted Black Beauty Squash (zucchini) on April 21, 2013.  Regardless, I still maintain that the world's hunger problem could be solved by providing each person 2 mourning doves (male & female) and a few zucchini seeds.  Bounty.
Black Beauty Squash (zucchini)
There is plenty more going on in the garden; but this is what I captured before the temperature knocks on 100°F and the battery runs dry on my camera.  Time to close the house up and stay inside until the sun kisses the Pacific.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Split Leaf Philodendron Like Swallows to Capistrano

Seems like the split leaf philodendron bloom is a bit early this year; but maybe not.  It seems to have opened in years past between now and sometime in June.  My mental note is to watch for this around Memorial Day.

Split Leaf Philodendron - 2013
This year, there are two buds/pods. I'm not sure temperature has anything to do with the process. It's been pleasantly cool/warm lately. I'm certain my fellow San Joaquin Valley gardeners are enjoying this refreshing weather before the bondage of summer forces us to do most of our outside work around sunrise and sunset.  The scent of this unusual bloom along with jasmine and the asparagus fern blooms make the shady side of the house full of potent perfume.  Very sweet stuff.  It's on the same side of the house as my BBQ.  The sweet perfume mixed with burning mesquite signals the fact that summer is here.

Garden Update:
  • Boysenberry harvest is winding down with a final take of about 6 gallons of berries.  Pretty good for young canes.
  • Plums are ripening.  Birds have started to  help themselves.  Netting was thrown over the tree this week.
  • Apricots will be the next tree to ripen and will need netting to protect the bounty from the birds.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Lavender Success

Lavender looks successful in the garden this season. I planted seed way back in September 2010, and nothing really came of the seeds.  Now,  2 1/2 years later lavender seems to be popping up all around the garden. 
Little sprouts were growing amongst onions before Farmer MacGregor moved the seedlings and converted the bed to a melon patch.  I was pessimistic and thought the transplant would be a failure.
Lavender has taken root successfully in the cinder blocks.  There even appears to be a volunteer tomato thriving.
Lavender is even popping up through oregano that surrounds the pepper bed.  I don't know how these seedlings got started; but I welcome them to the garden.  I really don't think the seeds from 2010 finally germinated.  Who knows.  Perhaps the extremely dry year California is experiencing played a role.  Lavender doesn't require much water at all, draws loads of pollinators plus it smells really great.

PS - Feliz Cinco De Mayo!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bye, Bye, Birdies

You can look.

But you can't touch.
 The netting went up on the boysenberries this morning.  The berries are ahead of schedule ripening and need to be covered with protection from the birds. 

This post is a note for my reference to remember how to put the netting up fairly quickly.

Tools needed:
  • Netting.  Use the fabric cut this season for as long as possible.  One roll of 1/4" netting (7' X 100') will cover 3 berry structures.
  • Scissors.  If fresh netting is required.
  • Staples.  These are used to secure the netting to the ground.
  • Hammer.  The ground can be a bit tough and a hammer helps push the staples completely into the ground securing the netting.
Here's how to do it:
  • Take one section of netting that drapes from the ground on the north side of the structure over to the south side of the structure.
    • Make sure enough fabric drapes over the one of the main posts to cover completely.
  • Drape second section of netting the same way.
    • Make sure enough fabric drapes over the remaining main post to cover completely.
    • Overlap the two sections at the center of the structure.
  • Use staples to secure the fabric to the ground around the structure.
Thornless Boysenberries
Don't tent the netting tightly against the berries.  Those pesky birds will use that netting to peck through to the produce.  Loose is fine.  Make sure to secure to the ground around each structure.  This will combat those pests from hopping up from the ground to steal the berries.