Friday, June 29, 2012

Wisteria Pruning

The pergola has two wisteria. One is about 3 years older than the other that was planted earlier this spring. Both are blue.  Both are growing very well.  The older vine (pictured above) was trained to grow up a post, through some timbers and up to rest on top of the pergola.  This was not a smart plan.  Note: the vine continues to bloom with regular pruning.
The opening to the top of the pergola has shrunk or the wisteria is bulking up.  Soon it will be too thick for the opening and will devour the lumber.  Not good.  The vertical post is now snapped.  In fact, it's no longer in the ground.  Farmer MacGregor sawed off the post closer to the base and pulled it out of the ground.  This allows for much better drainage.
So, in order to correct this mistake before it's too late, pruning must commence now.  This will encourage growth to continue through the summer in preparation for blooms next year.  I'll work on it a little at a time...maybe taking one branch and gradually pruning until I have a short enough piece of vine to train around to the outside of the pergola.  If the job becomes too tedious, the next option is to wait until the fall and give it a drastic pruning.  Waiting until fall will allow the plants below to contiue to enjoy the lush shade provided. Fine Gardening has a nice article on pruning wisteria.
The younger vine has been re-routed to the outside.  This was a much simpler fix.  Now that I look at the photo, I may consider removing it from between the two timbers.  There is much more room to expand on either side.

Any tips on pruning wisteria successfully are welcome.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Apricot Leather

Blenheim Apricot
The apricot harvest is moving along nicely. Bird netting is keeping the pesky birds away in frustration with no signs of damage from birds or insects. Irrigation has been cut back a bit to enhance the flavor and not burst the fruit. One or two soakings a week depending on the moisture meter will be enough since the weather hasn't been blazing hot.
Espalier pruning makes picking the fruit simple.  This summer, the fruit is ripening from the top down.  I never noticed this in fruit trees grown regularly.  Maybe fruit ripens from the top down on all trees.  The Santa Rosa Plum (espalier) is ripening in the same manner.  I'll take notice in the future.

My plan is to dry the apricots or make fruit leather.  Way better than Fruit Roll Ups.  That's my most favorite way to enjoy apricots.  My mother used to place the pureed fruit on Saran Wrap lined cookie sheets and place them up on the roof to dry.  Window screens protected the leather from bugs (maybe).  I no longer have dehydraters so I'll be using the oven for the process.

Can anyone recommend a dehyrater?  I would like one that's light weight, easy to clean, and energy efficient.  Kinda the same set up as my mother only with electricty.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Calling All Grape Growers

Calling all table grape growers in the southern San Joaquin Valley...

Red Flame Grapes

I have some questions for successful table grape growing of Red Flame Grapes.  The vine shown here was planted in early 2009 (bare root stock).
  • How do I increase the size of the grapes?
    • Pruning/thinning was done earlier in the season to try to encourage larger grapes.
    • Fertilization was stopped and replaced with organic compost for mulch.
  • Are the grapes splitting because of over irrigation?
    • Grapes are irrigated on the same schedule as the fruit trees - 2-3 times each week.  The basin is filled and drains quickly. 
      • They were irrigated today before I noticed the splitting.
  • Is more than one crop per vine possible?
    • I noticed younger bunches forming.
Please drop me an email ( or simply comment here.  Any suggestions/advice is appreciated.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What They Got That I Ain't Got?

The apricots are coming along nicely.  All the stone fruit in the garden are espalier pruned.  The two most vigorous trees are the Santa Rosa Plum and the Blenheim Apricot.  Regular pruning is required from spring to fall or they will get so shaggy that it's hard to tell they are proud espalier - the ballerina divas of the garden.
Blenheim Apricot
Loads of blossoms have developed into maturing fruit.  I want that fruit.  The birds want that fruit.  Too bad.  I'm higher on the food chain and have prepared for your aerial assault.

Bird netting - effective against bird damage on boysenberries and apricots (so far).
With that, the birds will continue to tweet, "Who put the ape in apricot?  What's she got that we ain't got?"  Answer:  A brain just a smidge bit bigger than yours.  Now scat!
Now you can hum If I Only Had a Brain for hours.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Gold Current Tomatoes

In 2010, a work associate shared some tomato plants.  I had about 3 different varieties to enjoy but Gold Currant was a vigorous winner.  These grape sized babies grow like a weed.  Really.  A weed.  Volunteers have sprouted all over the garden...under boysenberries, amongst the marigolds, in the gravel, and with a potted mandarin.  Farmer MacGregor was tasked with removing 2 plants growing under the boysenberries.  They had grown too large and taking over the berry patch.  The one growing with the potted mandarin alerts me when water is necessary by being completely wilted.  A shot of water revives the tomato and seems to keep the water level for the mandarin on target. The Tomato Festival is the source for the heirloom seeds.

I'm not a huge tomato fan - especially the cherry or grape variety.  My preferred use of tomatoes is ketchup or salsa or spaghetti sauce.  Next, would be sliced on a hamburger or sandwich.  Just biting into one or popping one in my mouth just doesn't agree with me.  Don't gasp with disbelief.  I'm not alone.  And there's a reason.  The story may be shared on a later post.

I've been told by tomato lovers that this variety is very "tomatoey" tasting.  Others keep these in the refrigerator to enjoy like grapes.  Alright. Today, I picked 2 berry baskets of these tomatoes with plenty more to go.

Gold Current can be recommended as a vigorous, reliable grape tomato that germinates almost too easily.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Lazy Daddy

Busy in the garden before the heat wave rolls in this weekend.  Looks like garden time will be reserved for very early morning and late evening as temperatures scream into the 100s.

Farmer MacGregor really got busy.
  • Leveled the garden fence that was sagging in spots.  It happens to all of us.
  • Painted the garden fence and gate.  No surprise here.  Farmer paints religiously.
  • Washed the entire outside of the house - windows included.  Everything sparkles.
  • Edged and mowed the yards.  Better to do before the heat hits hard.
  • Gets up extra early on the weekdays to make sure all the irrigation is done before 7am.  Excellent.
  • Rigged a gizmo up so one of the spider plants can hang in the shade of the Chinese Elm tree.  Just don't bash your head into it when you mow.  Ouch!
  • Got all the grocery shopping done so I can BBQ on Fathers' Day.  Thanks?
  • Installed new rollers on the sliding glass door.  An oversite on my part omitted this stupendous task.  Old man MacGregor pointed out this flaw.
    • Removed the double pane for cleaning.  Now I can open the clean door with just a push of my pinky finger.
  • MacGregor, if you're reading this, prepare to go shooting early on Fathers' Day.  The ammunition has been purchased.  BBQ when you return.  Happy Fathers' Day even though you're not MY father.  It's better than an Hawaiian shirt right?
Good to get it done and enjoy the most wonderful invention ever...air conditioning.

Garden Update:
  • Tomatoes are ripening.  Harvesting Celebrity and Gold Current.  The Gold Currents are all volunteers that grow vigorously in zone 8-9.  They grow so well that I need to dig some out because they are growing too big.
  • Boysenberries are done.  Bird netting was removed.  Next - tie up new canes and prune out the old.
  • Netting moved to the apricot tree.  It really burns me up when a bird pecks at one piece of fruit then moves on to another.  Can't they at least finish the piece of fruit they started with before moving on?  Honestly.
  • Carrots are booming and need to be pulled.  Carrot cakes?
  • French Marigolds are thriving with the heat.  During the evening garden inspection, seed heads are pulled and the seeds are scattered wherever the ground is bare.  Take THAT nematodes.
  • Zucchini is the king of the garden now.  Black Beauty is a bush variety and grows well here.  The plants stay neat and dark green.  Squash are harvested when they are small to enjoy tender, tasty babies.
  • Kentucky Wonder Green Beans are kinda puny.  Very disappointed that they have not gone wild with the heat.  Even used a soil inoculant with hopes of a bountiful crop.  I'm unimpressed.
  • Nasturtiums (Dwarf Cherry Rose) were planted on May 28 and have not germinated yet OR if they have something ate them down to the nub.  Puzzling.
  • Sadly, another fruit on the Split Leaf Philodendron has aborted.  Only one fruit remains on the plant.
Stay in from the heat and avoid swamp pants.  Time to do indoor housework.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bad News. Good News.

Bad news first...

One of the 3 fruits on the Split Leaf Philodendron has aborted.  It's one of the weirdedst items in the garden - sans moi.  The plant still gives off an intense tropically sweet scent.  Since zone 8-9 is not the proper conditions for this fruit to develop, I'll have to settle for this process to occur around Memorial Day weekend each year.
The bad news really wasn't that bad.  This was expected and should happen for the remaining 2 fruits.

Good news now...
The Aloe Vera has been moved out of the sun and into the shade where it's once sunburned leaves are plumping up, greening up, and thriving.  Lesson:  stay out of the sun. 

Friday, June 8, 2012


Nature's Clean Up Crew must like Caesar Salad (minus the lettuce, croutons, dressing, & lettuce).  One of the many nests in the Crepe Myrtle lost a tenant.  As a result, the scavengers were on the J-O-B.  They will most likely be finished before the June bugs start flying.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Two Birds

Last weekend my mother and I cruised the nursery department at Lowe's.  I needed something to plant in a basket.  Something that will overflow the brim with purple or lavender flowers.  Local nurseries are my preference; but my mother needed some pruning shears and Lowe's prices are more suited to a senior on a budget.  Having an early Mexican dinner on a pleasant Saturday afternoon put us in the right frame of mind to cruise the isles leisurely without having to rush before closing time.  The local nurseries were already closed for the day.  She found a deal on a pair of shears and I found a Calibrachoa.  Perfect. Farmer MacGregor had installed the cute hook I purchased online. He bought a basket from Lowe's and had everything set up for the plant.
 The little dish for bird seed will remain vacant.  There is no need to attract more birds into the garden.  They are feasting on MY produce and bugs.  It's a trade off.
Even though I prefer to purchase locally, the internet and a box store won out on this little project.  Wait.  We did dine at a local Mexican restaurant owned by a local family.  It's a trade off.

Our shopping afternoon killed two birds with one stone - sort of.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Garden Note - Summer Begins

Summer is officially here with the arrival of sunflowers.  Temperatures took a tumble last night after a dust storm blew through.  There will be a few days of enjoyable weather to allow for work in the garden. 

Garden Update:
  • Zucchini harvest began.
  • Sunflower volunteers are blooming.
  • Boysenberry harvest is winding down.
  • Tomatoes (and there are loads) are ripening.
  • Beans are sprouting.
    • Farmer MacGregor has re-strung the vine support.
  • Herbs harvested - oregano, thyme, chives, rosemary, & lavender.
  • Fruit dropped due to wind - peaches, apricots.  Blasted wind!
  • Grapes maturing.
  • Garlic almost dried.
  • Citrus pushing new growth.
  • Apples looking good.
  • Nectarine sapling is vigorous giving hope for fruit in a few years.
  • Split leaf philodendron had 3 successful erotic/exotic blooms.
  • Iceberg rose has returned from the brink of death and has buds again.
  • Hydrangea is turning a pale lilac with the application of acid.

Garden Disappointments
  • The bell pepper seeds and nasturtium seeds have not sprouted.
  • Bud worms continue to munch on petunias.
    • I have not given up the fight.
  • Grasshoppers remain one of the evil predators in the garden.
    • I have not given up the fight.
  • Plum production is almost non-existent due to a spring wind storm that wiped out the blossoms.  Blasted wind!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Let Us Pray/Prey

Praying Mantis on lavender.
Baby Praying Mantises have hatched and are doing their part to keep the garden free of "bad" bugs. There were quite a few egg cases in the garden found during the winter.  If the limb they were attached to was pruned, the limb segment was placed in the garden so these babies could have a fighting chance to help.

Poisons aren't used in the garden because WE eat the same thing the bugs are enjoying.  My method is to encourage helpful bugs and pick off the harmful bugs (whenever possible).  A Praying Mantis is a hungry ally to have in the garden.

I always confuse "preying" with "praying" mantis.  Either way works for me.