Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pea Picker No More

The time for picking peas has come to an end.  Peas are planted at the tail end of summer to get them up and growing through the winter.  Preserving peas has never been a concern for me because I eat most of them out in the garden - raw.  Delicious.  But the cool days of winter and spring are only something to hope for as we drive into the hot brick wall of summer.  BAM!

The pea vines are all out now with radishes and zucchini taking there place.  Tonight will be the final night to enjoy fresh peas.  Shame. 

I looked out to the garden to determine what I could eat if suddenly there was no other food source.  Pickings are kinda slim since the seasons are changing. 

Here's the produce I have to select:
Lemons, garlic, strawberries, carrots,  green onions, and herbs (lavender, thyme, basil, rosemary, and oregano). 

Here's what's coming along:
Boysenberries, squash, onions, radishes, tomatoes, peaches, apples, and apricots.

Here's what still needs to be planted:
Beans, beans, the magical fruit!  Pumpkins will be planted at the end of June.

This week, Farmer MacGregor will be installing new steps from the pergola down to the lawn AND flower beds to border the pergola.  I hope to have an entry of the progress once the project is complete.  Still looking for a purple tree rose.  Barbra Streisand may be the variety that will work.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Name That Flower

There are loads of blossoms in the garden...especially since we had a brush with triple digit temperatures last weekend.  Mind you, there was snow on the passes just one week earlier.  This week, has been pleasant with some nice rain.  The flowers have responded... 
Sweet Peas - The wall of vines just keeps on giving.
 Sweet Peas have been attracting bumble bees and that's okay.  Bouquets are clipped regularly.  That must stimulate the vines to continue to produce blossoms.  As the season comes to an end, the stems are shorter. There are some seed pods forming so this won't last much longer.  I keep the seeds for the fall planting.
Volunteer Nasturtiums are thriving.  They have been all winter long.  I thought they were summer plants but it seems these are fairly sturdy.  Did you know that nasturtiums are related to cabbage and that the flowers and leaves are edible if no pesticides are used?  I didn't know that. Have you tasted Nasturtiums?
Iceberg Rose
One bare root rose was planted this winter to accent the boysenberries.  It was moved a few times before I settled on  the current location.  As the temperatures have warmed this week, the buds have opened and have a light scent.  As marigold blossoms fade, I scatter those seeds under the rose and berries to help deter aphids and nematodes.  If this grows well this summer, a companion Iceberg Rose will be planted at the opposite end of the boysenberry row.  I'm also looking for a purple tree rose that grows well in zone 8-9.  Any suggestions?
Aloe Vera
 The potted garden Aloe Vera is quite large and needed to be repotted.  I thought that it was getting sunburned and pot bound so it was repotted in a shadier location and seems to be thriving with less sun and water.  The reason for the sunburned looking plant may have been due to over watering.  It was drenched when we repotted this beast.  The gel of this succulent is great to have handy in the garden to soothe scrapes, bites, and burns.  Has anyone ever seperated the pups of Aloe Vera?
Name this flower
Can you name this flower?  If you garden in the Central San Joaquin Valley, your garden may currently have quite a bit of this flower.  Mine did but they're now in the green waste.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Garden Fest @ BC

Celebrity Tomato
There's junk to do this weekend.  Junk in the garden.  Stuff's blooming.  Weeds are sprouting.  Junk needs to be done.  Since it's going to be H O T, the early morning and evening are the only tolerable time to get that junk done.  However...

The Horticulture Department at Bakersfield College (BC) is pleased to present their seventh annual Garden Fest on Saturday, April 21 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 has grown to become Bakersfield’s premier springtime garden event for seasoned greenthumbs and novice gardeners alike.  Garden Fest is an open house, featuring Bakersfield College’s Environmental Horticulture and Agriculture programs, and draws thousands of visitors annually.

Events scheduled for this year’s Bakersfield College Garden Fest 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.  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. Bakersfield College’s Culinary Arts Department will have freshly-prepared food available throughout the event.

New to Bakersfield College’s Garden Fest is an interactive gardening exhibit called “The Country Garden Experience,” which features several gardening vignettes sponsored by local landscape and nursery businesses.

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.
For more information: Amber Chiang, 395-4256, 794-9684.

I'm going early. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

You Think Your Legs Are Hairy!

Helen B knows her bees!  This IS a Valley Carpenter Bee.
Xylocopa Varipuncta (male)
They are the largest bees found in California and are about 1" long when they are full grown.  The males are yellow and fuzzy.   They are commonly found in unpainted hardwood and telephone poles where they tunnel in and build nests. Those tunnels can be up to 10" long. That's where the adults spend the winter.  The gals look much different. 

They are shiny and completely black.  They mean business too.  Unlike the males, the females have stingers; but they aren't supposed to sting unless you deserve it.  You've probably seen loads of these gals when the wisteria is in bloom. 

Robin Waayers' Flickr photo (cool image!)

These are good guys; so leave them alone and encourage them to hang around to help pollinate your garden.  They can't fit into tube-like flowers and steal the nectar by cutting right through to get what they want.  Keeping bigger flowers around for them might reduce that nasty action.  Wisteria seems to be a favorite; but I've seen them enjoying lavender too.  Maybe they will help with all the berries currently blooming.

If you're in the San Joaquin Valley, let me know if you've seen many buzzing around this spring.

Thanks, Helen B, for telling me about the bees.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Over the past few days, the weather has been marvelously abnormal.  Wind, rain, hail, snow.  Delightful.  It's still sweet pea season around here; so regular harvesting of the blossoms is necessary to try to encourage more blossoms to develop.  I was out collecting a bouquet for a work associate's birthday and thought that one of the stems cut was too old.  It had yellowed from its vibrant purple.  I was just about ready to put it in my pocket for later disposal in the composter when I noticed that the yellow wasn't part of the flower.  It was a yellow bumble bee.  I don't think I've ever seen a yellow one before.  Typically, they are completely black around here.
Yeowee!  This guy was very alive and had been stunned by the quick drop in temperature I guess.  I gingerly placed the stem down amongst the vines.  The guy didn't move for about 3 days until the weather heated up and he moved on.  Glad I didn't heat him up in my pocket.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Hands in the Earth

"Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds. As long, therefore, as they can find employment in this line, I would not convert them into mariners, artisans, or anything else." --Thomas Jefferson

In the past few days, the San Joaquin Valley has had wonderful, steady rain.  At times it came down hard.  Sometimes it turned to hail.  Mostly, it was simply steady and sweet.  The earth is soft and rich and easy to work.  Weeds slip out without a fight.  Root crops slide out without breaking.  This is the best time in the garden.  Everything from puttering (my favorite) to hard labor is a bit more enjoyable after this latest wash.
Some baby onions were pulled for the kitchen and some worn out heads of lettuce were removed to the composter in anticipation of sowing onion seeds.  Green onions are easy to grow but whenever green onions are needed in the kitchen, I grab any variety of onion seed that has sprouted and needs a little thinning.  Bunching, red, yellow, or brown onions all work well.  I don't even remember what variety is pictured above because I did such a poor job of labeling the rows this past fall.
Same with the labelling for the carrots.  Don't know the variety of these twisted carrots; but they will be cooked up tomorrow with many more of the same along with some peas and onions for Sunday dinner.

The heat is on the way; but until then I'll enjoy the cool of the snow up in the surrounding mountains and the soft, sweet soil to work for the hardy summer garden.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Our Warren Pear tree is the garden diva.  Or should that be Devo?  It grows beautifully and is probably the best type of tree for espalier pruning.  The branches naturally take to this type of pruning.  The bark is a nice olive, green-brown.  The leaves are glossy with long stems allowing them to flutter in the breeze.  It really looks marvelous. 
Warren Pear
Unfortunately, not one blossom has ever been produced.  A description from Dave Wilson Nursery up in Reedley, California states:
"Excellent quality dessert pear - and highly resistant to fire blight. Medium to large, long-necked fruit with pale green skin, sometimes blushed red. Smooth flesh (no grit cells) is juicy and buttery with superb flavor. Good keeper. Cold hardy to -20°F. From Mississippi. 600 hours. Self-fruitful."
Since Warren is self-fruitful, shouldn't there be blossoms all over the laterals?  The tree is 4 years old.  All the other variety of trees have produced something.  Some more than others. Warren needs to start earning his keep.  He won't get replaced just yet because he's such a marvelous diva/devo in the garden.

Any insight into my barren pear tree is appreciated. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fruit Tree Grooming Time

Before the temperatures plummeted and the wind picked up this evening, all the fruit trees were groomed (espalier).  Some of the trees are more vigorous in their growth than others.  The apricot is the champ.  It's similar to a man with a constant 5o'clock shadow.  Man, it needs regular grooming.
Blenheim Apricot
The branches are holding a nice amount of fruit now.  Hopefully, the wind won't change that.
Another tree that needs regular grooming is the plum.  The greenery is also vigorous and helps to shade the opened branches.  The more the greenery, the less chance of sun scald.  Growing the laterals out a bit more is one of the goals for this tree.
Santa Rosa Plum
Some plums are developing and should be sweet and juicy.  A wind storm knocked off most of the blooms; so this summer will be dedicated to maintaining its shape and encouraging fruit for next year. Hope I can beat the birds to the harvest.
Santa Rosa Plum
These two trees have been growing well in zone 8-9 with little maintenance, care, or pests. I can recommend them the next time bare root season comes around.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Today, Farmer MacGregor begged, "Uncle" and suggested a day off.  I took the wheel and we headed up into the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas.  The climb starts out fairly gentle through the Kern River Oilfield.  No photo of that stretch of the drive.  It's brown and bumpy with horsehead pumps working to bring you petroleum (Yes, I consider petroleum "natural".) products for your convenience.  Once the elevation starts to climb, the grass gets greener and oak trees dot the landscape.  There were a few skiffs of wildflowers in the pastures.
The scenery was out of a "Come to California" brochure.  The intensity of the colors where not captured in these photographs...probably because I had polarized sunglasses on that made everything more intense.
Only a few California poppies were showing along with Fiddlenecks.  One wildflower I did notice a lot of were thistles.   They dotted the roadside along a cattle trail.  I feel like having artichokes!
After our good lunch and tour of the countryside, we headed back down to the San Joaquin Valley.  Farmer MacGregor couldn't sit still too long and headed out to the garden to do a little pruning on his Red Flame Grapevine.

Hope everyone enjoys a great Easter weekend.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Knock. Knock.

Marigold French Dwarf - Safari Orange
Incredibly (or maybe not), the only source that I could find locally for French Marigolds was a hardware store in Oildale.  Good old Floyd's.  This variety of marigold is being incorporated into the garden as a companion to the fruits and vegetables.  Aphids and nematodes don't like them, therefore I do.  Orange is pretty sharp.  These are my CalTrans flowers.  (Note:  The State of California Department of Transportation, CalTrans, has orange EVERYTHING - vehicles, shirts, garbage bags, etc.)

A bed that currently has only garlic growing will be dedicated to only marigolds this summer.  Once the marigolds are spent, they will simply be turned under to really make those nematodes mad.  Seedlings will be encouraged to continue the process for as long as the weather holds.

Marigold French Dwarf - Safari Yellow
Yellow marigolds have been planted in a bed with joint forces combating those nasty nematodes.  Celebrity Tomatoes, Jersey Asparagus, and basil are all fighting the pest together in allied form.  A few marigolds were nipped with a late frost and have been replaced.  Any seed heads will be set free in the bed to go wild to join in the cause.

Knock.  Knock.
Who's there?
Banana who?
Banana Banana.

Knock. Knock.
Who's there?
Banana who?
Banana Banana.

Knock.  Knock.
Who's there?
Orange who?
Orange you glad I'm not a banana?!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Good Ol' Farmer MacGregor

Berry Screens - eastside (view from north)
Farmer MacGregor is 1/2 way through the construction of the boysenberry retreat.  Each plant has a screen for support.  Canes that will produce berries (floracanes) will be tied to the screens until harvest.  At that time, those harvested canes will be removed and replaced with the new growth of canes (primocanes) that will produce the following year.  The berries are planted in what is now a raised bed.  Those beds are just now gaining exposure to a full day of sun.  Soon this area will be cooking in sun all day long.
Berry Beds - eastside
The rest of the area was sloped away from the wall and topped with some gravel.  Sprinkler lines will have the drip nozzle replaced with a bubbler type sprinkler head.  The old nozzles are not able to handle the water pressure.  While testing the lines yesterday, there was a geyser like display similar to the Bellagio.