Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

Here's wishing that 2013 improves on 2012. From a disappointing election to back surgeries I say, "good riddance" to this stinking year.

Our neighborhood has been exploding with celebration hours/days before the new year arrived. M80s, shotguns, & firecrackers have been shooting off to celebrate the new year around the world. Ajax is not amused. He is sporting his Thunder Shirt in order to remain calm. So far, so good. He'll be happy when everyone runs out of moonshine & ammunition.

Using the Blogger app to send good wishes.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tree Trimming

O'Henry Peach
Some of the fruit trees have finally lost their leaves. I understand that waiting to prune after all the leaves have dropped allows the leaves to provide nourishment to the tree.  Am I right?  Today, I wondered out to do a little clean up pruning on the peach tree. This tree did surprisingly well this year.  The trunk had suffered sun scald and I thought it might need to be replaced.  Wrapping the trunk this summer helped to protect the exposed trunk and some branches allowing more growth to flourish and help shade those wrapped parts.  I only removed branches/twigs that were crossing, dead wood, and branches that might cause a problem. 

Debris needs to be removed from around the trunk; but other than that, it's ready for an application of dormant oil.

Only one other tree has dropped its leaves.  The new, replacement Fantasia Nectarine.  It's still a squirt and needs no pruning.  Just a little rake around the base and this little lady is ready for a shower.
Fantasia Nectarine
Garden Update:
Farmer MacGregor tackled the removal of Gold Currant Tomatoes yesterday.  These volunteers grew in a bed dedicated to the eradication of  Root Knot Nematodes.  Earlier in the summer, French Marigolds were planted. I read that this variety of marigold repelled these pests.  JUNK!  The knots on the roots of the tomatoes were gross.  We have decided this summer will be the summer to cover all the vegetable beds with black plastic and bake those buggers.  I have one pot reserved for a tomato plant and that's it.

I had also read that nematodes don't like mustard; so I planted 4 varieties this fall.  The mustard bed is thriving.  Asparagus is growing in this bed as well.  Don't know what to do with the asparagus when the black plastic is draped over this bed.  Suggestions?

Southern Giant Curled Mustard

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Amaryllis Day 1

Yippee!  On Christmas day I received a garden related item.  My brother brought over a boxed Amaryllis bulb - Minerva from Israel. It's a beautiful variety.

When my youngest gnome was a small boy, he could count on his uncle bringing him one of these science/garden projects on his birthday just 8 days after Christmas.  Each year we would open the box, remove the contents, and follow the instructions. Every time there would be a giant flower or two to enjoy.  So, today I opened the box and carefully removed the contents to begin the potting/growing process.

Yikes!  This thing was more like Medusa trying to work its way out of the box.  My brother and I are well acquainted with scoliosis; so this specimen was meant to be.  At first, I thought I would let nature take its course; but I just couldn't.  Like a Milwaukee brace or hardware on Forrest Gump's legs, I had to provide some sort of help to right the abuse this bulb had endured.

A bent wire coat hanger graced with a hummingbird ornament will help to slowly straighten this gal right up.  In a few more days, her color and posture should improve.  I'll post progress here.  I bet I'm not the only one that has one of these.

Minerva Trivia:
Did you know that is Minerva on the State of California Seal?  Well now you do.

updated 1937

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas Catus

Years ago, my mother brought a Christmas cactus as a hostess gift. I placed it in my east facing kitchen window and that was it.  It's never been re-potted from its original little 4" pot.  It's never been fertilized.  Irrigation is occasional whenever I think of it.  It usually blooms after Christmas...probably in protest over poor conditions. 

A local radio gardening show suggested fertilizing these plants at Halloween to insure blooms at Christmas.  I think I may treat this poor thing to some new soil and better care in 2013.  If it does this well now, imagine how well it will do with just a new pot, fresh soil, and a little Trick or Treat fertilizer.

Here are some simple care instructions in case you have a Christmas cactus fill your stocking this year.

PS  it's finally raining today after morning fog.  Love it.

Friday, December 21, 2012

All About Asparagus

Winter begins.

Asparagus Aethiopicus - AKA Asparagus Fern
We have many asparagus ferns brought in from Farmer MacGregor's grandmother's garden years and years ago. They produce berries that turn red this time each year; but please don't eat the berries.  They are poisonous to dogs and cats and will make your stomach upset.  This plant isn't really a fern.  It's a member of the lily family and is regarded as a weed in many areas because of the ability of the tuberous roots to spread quickly.  It might be ideal if you have a spot in the garden where nothing will grow.  They also have spines; so it's best to use gloves when handling.

This year, asparagus was planted in the garden for Farmer MacGregor to enjoy in the years to come. I've never grown it before.  I understand that it takes two years of growth before you can harvest the spears.  One great side benefit of growing asparagus is that the plants help to repel Root Knot Nematodes.  Bonus.  Three plants are thriving in a bed of mustards, marigolds, and basil.  The basil was shocked with the recent freeze and will be returning to the earth soon.

If you grow asparagus, let me know any growing tips please.

Asparagus trivia:  Did you know that eating asparagus can make your pee stink?  You're welcome.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Winterizing Fruit Trees

The seasons on the calendar are moving from autumn to winter but the garden hasn't gotten the message yet.  Leaves are hanging on the deciduous fruit trees hampering the application of dormant spraying.  There is a very slim window of time to apply the oil until the buds begin to break.  Hopefully, a freeze will be in the forecast soon.  These trees need hours of cold temperatures in order to produce fruit --- good fruit.  Those cold temperatures also help kill off nasty pests that are still hanging around.
Rio Red Grapefruit
All the fruit trees get three applications to keep them healthy and pest free.  Even the citrus gets the treatment.  I was advised that keeping the citrus fruit on the trees during applications is harmless.  Farmer MacGregor will not hear of it; so the fruit will have to be harvested prior to that.  That's the silver lining for the application delay.  The citrus will continue to sweeten on the trees until the deciduous trees get naked.
Gardening question:  What is the term for when a fruit tree blooms a second time in a season producing fruit?  The Granny Smith Apple tree did that this year and produced some ornamental apples.
Granny Smith Apple 2nd crop 2012

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Citrus Christmas

Rio Red Grapefruit
Well, well, well.  Looks like all I had to do was to wait a bit and Blogger would sort out the mess that kept me from posting.  Unfortunately, I deleted a few images to try to add space.  If you notice any missing images, please let me know and I'll try to restore. 

This morning, I enjoyed the first of many grapefruits of the season. It was delicious and cold.  Boy did it smell good too.  No sugar required either.  All the fruit trees in the garden are dwarf to enable our aging bodies to easily maintain and harvest.  The orange and grapefruit are in the ground and the lemon (currently blooming - beautiful) and mandarin are potted.  All have fruit except the mandarin. 
Leaf miner damage (Wikipedia)
All of the citrus show cosmetic damage from leaf miners.  The skin of the fruit show some of those squiggle trails as well. I haven't heard reports of the Asian Citrus Psyllid in Kern County yet.  Hope that plight stays away even though it is in adjacent Los Angeles and Tulare counties.  Probably just a matter of time.

For now, we have grapefruit, oranges, and lemons to enjoy throughout the Christmas season.

It's also nice to be able to add to my garden journal.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Still trying to conquer the Blogger/Picasa SNAFU while recuperating.

Garden Update:
  • Grapefruit and oranges rapidly ripening.
  • Lemon is blooming with sweet fragrance.
  • Lettuces harvested regularly.
  • Golden Currant tomatoes are still in abundance.
  • Grapes left on the vine provide meals for migrating birds.
  • Boysenberries are developing buds.
  • Peach tree is the only deciduous tree to drop its leaves.  We need a blast of cold, cold wind to shake these leaves from the rest of the trees.  Dormant spraying is pending.
  • Mustard is thriving without any effort.  In fact everything is pretty much on its own since I still can't bend.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I haven't been able to post to recently because I am told that:

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I've gone to Picasa Web Albums and deleted a bunch of images.  I'm not real certain why or how they are there only that this must be where keeps images that I post to my blog.  Even after I delete a load of images, the same message pops up whenever I would like to add an image.
Anyone have some suggestions?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Fiddle Dee Dee

Happy Thanksgiving!  Enjoy the day.
Both of my garden gnomes will be home to help Farmer MacGregor prepare the feast. The oldest gnome will take what remains from a planting of bougainvilleas that lined the old garden wall.

I hope this Scarlett O'Hara variety thrives in Fullerton.  I'm thankful that some of this great, thorny planting survived a brutal freeze years ago and being potted to make way for a new garden wall. Scarlett is one tough gal.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Between the Raindrops

Miracles.  A scant amount of rain has fallen in the southern San Joaquin Valley.  When the sun came out in force this afternoon, I grabbed the camera to use on my garden stroll.  Here's a few things I spied.
Chrysanthemums from my pals at work.

Iceberg Rose
Gold Currant tomatoes EVERYWHERE!
Red Flame grapes/raisins.
Rio Red grapefruit loaded on the tiny tree.
Robertson Navel orange
Variegated Pink lemon
There is also items too low for me to capture: lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard, herbs.

Hope the clouds stack up against the Sierras and let loose this weekend.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Stitch in Time

Still unable to work in the garden.  Walk in the garden - yes - work in the garden -no.  I sit and embroider, write, read, or plan the Spring garden. No political influence via radio, TV, or Internet allowed. My devastation from Tuesday's election results is deep. So I will turn my energy and thoughts to all things non-political and wish the winners well with hopes my country won't be destroyed.

Mustard is up and thriving.
Lettuce is in need of thinning.
Bell peppers need harvesting.
Gold Current tomatoes need to be harvested (and harvested some more).
Sweet peas have sprouted.
Peas have not sprouted. Several varieties were planted with no results.  Strange.
Basil (volunteer) is thriving amongst the mustard.
Parsley has sprouted.
Leaves are falling.
Hedges need trimming.

Monday, October 29, 2012


My friend, Louise, sent me orchids on the 2nd day of surgery. Anyone coming & going through my room commented at how beautiful they are yet no one could offer any growing tips. When I was finally reunited with my iPad, I was able to start educating myself.

There are mounds of information out there only to match the mounds of varieties available. I'm looking for a good source of information to help me successfully grow these beauties. Until then, it's minimal water and even less light.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Happy Birthday Louise

Today is my friend's birthday.  We are road trip best buds.  She is Louise to my Thelma. We are such good friends that we would even share our Tom (Selleck).  Hmmmm mmmm. It cannot be garden talk all the time.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Marina Del Rey Espalier

Took some time away from the garden to get a couple of back surgeries taken care of.  The surgeons call it fusion.  I call it grafting.  Soon I hope to have a much stronger trunk allowing me to be as graceful as an espalier pear. At least my room has a patio.

Kickin' back in Marina Del Rey.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mustard Greens Recipe Search

I was fighting a battle with the garden squash bugs.  Each morning or evening I would cruise the pumpkin patch and squash the squash bugs along with any of their eggs.  My back had other ideas; so bending down to fight this war just wasn't happening.  With that, the squash bugs continued to breed like, well, bugs.  They took over and sucked the vines dry.
Squash bugs winning the battle AND the war.
Only a few pumpkins were salvaged while the rest met their doom in the green waste. The pumpkin patch needs to make way for more winter vegetables like the mustard that has just sprouted.
Squash bugs have been living the high life.
Four varieties of mustard have been sown in the old tomato bed. It's supposed to repel nematodes; so that's why I picked up some seed packs down at Floyd's.  The cashier made a "nummy" sound when she saw the picture of mustard greens on the packets.  I've never had mustard greens.  In fact, I haven't had much Southern food at all.  Fried chicken is about it. 
Chinese Gai Choi, Florida Broadleaf, Southern Giant Curled, and Tendergreen Mustard varieties look like they will be filling the bed for the winter.  At least, they can be chopped under for green manure. At most, I will use the baby greens in salads and try mustard greens - IF they grow to maturity and I find a decent recipe.  Mushy greens don't sound appealing to me; but I need to understand why the Floyd's cashier made the "nummy" sound.  I'm sure bacon must be involved.

I've been searching for recipes that look good.  Having personal recommendations of recipes is so much better though. If anyone has a mustard greens recipe to recommend, please share.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Boysenberry Clean Up

This year five bare root thorn less boysenberries were planted in a keen bed that Farmer MacGregor constructed.  To make the bed symmetrical, a sixth plant that was in a pot was placed with the others.  Every plant produced berries...some more than others but berries there were.  Netting had to be draped over the canes to keep the birds away.  The netting worked beautifully and was reused for the apricots then the peaches.  Once during the summer, the canes that produced berries were cut down to the ground and removed. Four or five new canes were tied to the support.  These canes will produce next year.  The plants were left for the summer to grow stronger to support the bumper 2013 crop.  Regular irrigation and infrequent fertilization was the only maintenance...apparently.

Fall clean up has begun.  Farmer MacGregor is deep into painting chores.  Seeds for the winter garden have been sown and thinned.  Wisteria has been cleaned up.  The final fruit tree pruning for the year is done with minimal pruning to follow.  The boysenberry jungle has been left until the weather became bearable and that day was today.  Here are some before and after shots of the three plants on the west side of the berry bed:

A good number of the canes on the ground had started to form roots.  Waiting much longer to clean this up would have made the job more difficult.  If you plan on planting bare root berry canes this winter, make sure you have enough room and plan to keep them in control - unless you would like a berry jungle.  Consider a raised bed for control of shoots and less bending.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Stems & Buds

Jarrahadale Pumpkin on dried lavender.
Out in the garage was a basket full of dried lavender stems and buds (insert Cheech and Chong's Acapulco Gold Filters).  It was in danger of being tossed out by Farmer MacGregor who will remove most all clutter EXCEPT for his 1976 Harley.  Nevertheless, the bounty in the basket has been put to work.

Out in the garden the dried grape leaves under the pumpkins have decayed and the squash are in danger of rotting or getting chewed up by insects.  The lavender straw has been placed beneath some of the pumpkins while dried thyme is cushioning others.  If the herbs do as advertised, this will not only support the squash as they mature, but insects will be repelled by the strong (wonderful) aroma.

Pumpkins and marigolds.
Once the lavender and thyme has been exhausted, I will use rosemary and bay laurel.  I have noticed that the evil squash bugs are not congregating near the marigolds.  I may even use spent marigold plants to support any further pumpkins.

Note:  I stumbled upon a great herb combination of lavender and chocolate mint.  When the hose rolls over these neighbors, the scent is terrific.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Garden Update

My screwed up back doesn't allow me to work in the garden as I would like.  I can't even get down and take photos.  I simply get down as low as I can, point the lens in the general direction, then snap a photo.  Most times it works.  If it doesn't, I simply delete.  Here's a sample of what's going on in the garden.
Garlic Chives are going to seed.
The vegetable garden is still producing.  In fact, the fall/winter vegetables have already germinated.  Seeds of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower were sown on Labor Day, September 3, with the majority of germination occurring just 3 days later on September 6.
Waltham 29 Broccoli

Peppers of all varieties are improving with the cooler weather.  Some might not consider 95° cooler; but it is and there are fewer hours of the day dedicated to baking at those temperatures.
Bell Pepper
A couple of Better Boy Tomatoes were planted earlier this summer with the thought of having fresh, large tomatoes into the fall.  Looks like that plan is working out.
Better Boy Tomato
Pumpkins continue to produce well.  Daily squash bugs hunts continue as well.  The pumpkins rest on dried grape leaves in an attempt to avoid rotting portions on the squash.  So far, so good.
Jarrahdale Pumpkin

Fruit trees that have fruit are Granny Smith Apple, Robertson Orange, Rio Red Grapefruit, and Variegated Pink Lemon.  All the fruit trees are due for a haircut/pruning and a feeding.  I would like to wait for the weather to cool down further; but it doesn't look like that will happen anytime soon.
Granny Smith Apple
The Red Flame Grapes set a second crop of berries this summer.  The first issue was a bust.  All the berries split and were moldy.  These bunches aren't as tight and look pretty good.  The berries a larger too.  Don't know if they will be very sweet.
Red Flame Grapes
Some flowers in the veggie patch are appreciating the change in weather too.  All kinds of pollinators are attracted to the garden with the help of all kinds of flowering plants.
Calibrachoa Hybrid - Superbells Coralberry Punch
Petunias without bud worms!
There's tons that needs to be done before we're officially out of Swamp Pants Season:
  • Turn the old tomato bed.
    • Plant peas
    • Plant sweet peas
  • Clean up the overflowing boysenberry canes.
  • Prune / feed roses.
  • Clean out remaining tomato (Gold Currant) bed.
    • Plant lettuce
    • Plant onions
  • Prune / feed all fruit trees.