Saturday, February 23, 2013

Spring is Popping

A few edibles have bolted.  The mustard and broccoli are certainly attracting the bees in the neighborhood.  Those items will remain in place because all the bees in the San Joaquin Valley are welcome in this garden. They will get pulled as the weather warms and the beds are prepared to be solarized.
Mustard planted to repel Root Knot Nematodes.
After the sweet rain/snow earlier this week, the warm sun is encouraging most everything in the garden to pop.  The first to break bud was the Santa Rosa plum.  It's always first and this year it looks like there will be 5 million plums. The deciduous trees were selected for reliability to grow successfully in this area (Bakersfield, California - zone 8-9).  The next characteristic to help narrow the choices was taste.  Very important.  Then, the time of ripeness.  This timing helps to keep fresh fruit from June to October.
Blenheim Apricot
The second tree to welcome spring is the Blenheim apricot.  Even though a lateral limb of this espalier had to be shortened to remove a damaged portion, it looks like 2013 will be another banner year for this fruit.
Lilac (variety unknown) looks ready to explode very soon.
The edible garden does have a few non-edibles (as far as I know) that help to lure pollinators to come on in and enjoy themselves.  More blooms expected all the way through to fall.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Average Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa Plum
The Santa Rosa Plum grows perfectly in the Southern San Joaquin Valley.  Perfect.  Hot, long days all summer long don't even dent this tree's performance.  In fact, those hot days encourage the Santa Rosa to thrive producing sweet, juicy fruit. 

Dave Wilson is my grower of choice.  Here's their descriptor:
Most popular plum in California & Arizona. Juicy, tangy, flavorful. Reddish-purple skin, amber flesh tinged red. Late June in Central Calif. 300 hours. Self-fruitful.
The 300 hours means the requirement of hours below 45° F needs to be at least 300 hours.  That's the chill hours. Those chill hours help the tree go into a nice, deep sleep and produce fruit that will set and develop good quality.  No problemo here in Bakersfield.

Each year since planting the deciduous trees, the Santa Rosa has been the first to break bud.  2013 is no exception.  Here's the accumulated history:
  • February 20, 2009
  • February 14, 2010
  • February 24, 2011
  • February 11, 2012
  • February 16, 2013
For statistics freaks, today (February 17) is the average date for the buds to break on Santa Rosa.  Hope the fruit will be above average.  Once the trees are in full bloom, then fertilization will begin.

March usually brings winds in the valley.  The winds thin the fruit naturally.  Sadly, last March the wind about knocked out the entire crop.  I can't stand the wind.  Dust, dirt, broken limbs, birds' nests knocked down, Valley Fever spores.  It's just a mess.  Let's all hope that the winds won't be so vicious this year.

Here's to an average or better than average year for Santa Rosa.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Rabbit's Foot Fern (Davallia fejeensis)

Farmer MacGregor's grandma was a fairly successful gardener. He inherited her Rabbit's Foot Fern decades ago. He did not inherit her love of gardening. If there is a garden task to be done, old man MacGregor does not relish puttering along. No sir. He gets the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Done!

That fern was divided into 3 sections a few years ago. 1 section was potted while the other 2 were planted in hanging wire baskets. Fine then. Not fine now. Now, roses have been planted in the bed below the baskets. The wisteria above the roses has been pruned exposing the ferns to much more sunlight. Roses and ferns have different water needs. Roses and ferns have different sunlight needs. The solution is to take the baskets and plant them in urns in the shade. About half of the basketed fern will be immersed in acid rich potting soil. (See photo below.)

The rhizomes that resemble rabbits' feet now curl around the wire baskets. The baskets will simply be placed into urns where the feet should grow over the edges of the urns. It's pretty cool.

Now I'm in the market for a couple of urns. Light weight is preferred for ease of mobility; so a resin urn will work best. I know. Resin isn't the "real deal". Some can look very cheap. But there are some that are very good imitations.

Any suggestions for an urn source are appreciated.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Pruning Seminar

Today, Farmer MacGregor and I attended a pruning seminar at a local nursery.  My intent was to glean information to correct some improper pruning on a crepe myrtle.  I came away with pruning information for much more.
Blenheim Apricot just pruned damaged section.
I asked the advice of many experts and regular gardeners whether the damaged lateral limb on the apricot tree should be pruned out.  Dave Wilson, the grower of most all of my trees, instructed me to prune out the damaged portion and destroy.  The damaged section was removed.  Tar was applied to the cut end.  A young limb near the cut was chosen as a replacement lateral and tied down with tape to start the process.

Blenheim Apricot damaged lateral limb.
Even though no evidence of insects could be seen, I've convinced myself that this pruning was necessary to insure a better chance for this tree to remain healthy for a long time.

Ebb Tide tree rose before Ajax chewed it into the shape of a walking stick.
Pruning of all types of roses was addressed with great interest from most of the audience.  This inspired Farmer MacGregor to do some corrective pruning once we got home.  Nine bare root roses were planted on January 20.  Two Ebb Tide tree roses and seven Iceberg bush roses.  Even though the dog chewed one of the trees, all the roses look as though they are still healthy and will grow to produce some nice purple and white flowers.

Shade trees, vines, dormant spray, fertilization, soil, and irrigation were addressed as well.  The seminar might still be going on if the owner's wife hadn't interrupted reminding us that the seminar should have ended 1/2 hour earlier.

Tomorrow, Farmer MacGregor plans to tackle the crepe myrtle.  I'm glad the seminar sparked him.  I hope images of the crepe myrtles at The Dallas Arboretum inspire him.

How do YOU spell it?  Crepe myrtle or crape myrtle?

After thought:

Ajax the wonder pruner!

Ajax is now around 205 pounds at 2 years old.  Pruning has been part of his existence from the start.  Fig, wisteria, roses, and, yes, apricot have all been on his menu.  I wonder if Ajax could be the cause of the damage to the apricot rather than a suspected borer. That mug looks pretty guilty to me.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Wisteria Pruning

The wisteria thrives in my Oildale garden. Last summer, I noticed that the trunk pushing up through the pergola was in danger of being too fat and busting up the structure.  Today was a nice warm day to take on the pruning.  Farmer MacGregor performed the surgery to remove as much of the tangled trunk to allow a nice canopy to develop and keep the structure in tact.

Fine Gardening has a nice article with wisteria pruning instructions.

Not sure what variety of wisteria this is.  The tag only says "Blue Wisteria".  Thanks.  Regardless.  It's a very hardy variety and should produce a nice, shady canopy by the end of this summer.

Here's a little before/after action:

 June 2012
February 2013

June 2012
February 2013

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Cut or Keep?

The Blenheim Apricot has some borer damage that was discovered during recent dormant spraying. I've sent out photos to several local nurseries, some blogging pals, and to a few podcasters I follow. Most all advise to cut the damaged limb.

A tree trimmer visited our backyard to provide an estimate for pruning a Chinese Elm. He advised to leave the limb. Now that's the answer I want to hear; but if it's best to remove the limb I would like to do it soon. A replacement lateral limb on this espalier shouldn't take long to grow.

Next weekend I'm attending a pruning seminar and will take photos and questions regarding this problem and others in the yard. Photo #1 shows the tree full of leaves and fruit taken this past spring (April 2012). I've circled the damaged area. Photo #2 is a close up of the largest damaged area. Photo #3 is smaller damage all in the same area. Both of these photos were taken on January 13, 2013.

I'm interested in any other opinions. A decision needs to be made soon.