But don’t climb the peaches. They’re useless that way.
Monday April 22nd 2019, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Garden

It’s easier for the two of us to fly than the two of them and their four kids, so it had been awhile since they’d all been here. There’ve been changes in the yard just this year; the two older boys ran out back to explore.

I named each fruit tree going around one by one.

It was when I said the magic words ‘apple tree’ that Parker’s face lit up. “Apple!”

I’d wondered if he remembered. He’d been not quite four. Me snipping the tape off the clamshell squirrel cage then lifting him up, him picking the last apples off that tree I planted when his daddy had been about his age, him watching me intently in the kitchen as I sliced them up and then him proudly offering everybody their portion. (His baby brother ditched the skin on his by wiping the bits into the spaces between the keys on the piano when no one was looking.)

After that visit, my daughter-in-law told me that Parker wanted to eat apples all the time and he wanted them cut across the equator so all the seeds showed and he wanted to go on walks to plant those seeds so they could grow into great big apple trees where they lived so that everybody around them could get to pick and eat apples like that, too.

He wasn’t more than politely impressed with my peaches or cherries (yet) but that big old Fuji, that one was near and dear to his heart.

And the kids could climb it, too, though I didn’t think of it at the time and they didn’t think to ask. It wasn’t till later that I tried to picture any good climbing trees near them and couldn’t come up with any, and I can imagine it didn’t occur to them that one even does such things.

It’s not terribly scary high and it is pretty sturdy.

Well then. Next time.



For Emily in her recovery from sepsis
Sunday April 21st 2019, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden

The second cherry, the tart English Morello, is really putting on a show this year.

Some of you may remember: this is the one that the spring after I planted it was nearly killed by–something, and I never saw anything going at it and couldn’t figure out what, but its new leaves got chomped on and then entirely disappeared practically overnight; when it tried to put out a second set, those went down to the nubs, too.

My bare root had become a bare everything again.

I finally decided whatever it was had to be nocturnal and I went out at night with a flashlight.

The entire tree was utterly engulfed in swarms and even multiple layers of iridescent black and green Japanese beetles trying to push past each other to devour some faint morsel. I had no idea what to do–knocking them off and trying to stomp on them all was so gross and useless because there were constantly so many more, and pesticides meant killing the wildlife. The soapy water that I use to suffocate indoor ants and wipe away their scent trails (insects breathe through their skeletons) I didn’t want in the soil.

So I Googled.

Which meant that good friends scraped off their barbecue grill for me and gave me a plastic bucket of the ashes. I waited for the tiniest first sign of green and went out that night and doused the beetles with the stuff.

They fell away from my tree instantly, gratifyingly, dying unanimously while fertilizing the roots those non-natives had stolen so much from. I repeated that scene till they didn’t seem to come anymore.

But the sapling had already given it its all. It stayed bare. I thought that was the end of it.

It took longer to come back on the third go-round and there were fewer and smaller leaves but it just wasn’t its time to go yet. Recovery wasn’t immediate, not that year and not entirely the next, but this year it’s already growing faster than it ever has.

And look at it now.

(Old wire racks recycled as gopher barriers: where they can’t come up for air, they don’t want to go.)



If only I could put their perfume in a photo
Tuesday April 16th 2019, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life

I spent lots of time today winding yarn, going over patterns, debating doing this vs that. It felt great to be planning something interesting.

There are more and more and more apple blossoms. My Fuji tree is nearly 30 years old and last fall was the first time I ever hired a professional arborist and his crew to prune it (and a few others.)

Those guys knew what they were doing. Yes, we had all that rain, but still, not only is it beautifully shaped, I’ve never seen it bloom as much as it is now. Which is what I was hoping for.

P.S. And on a completely different note, as someone whose family did a camping trailer trip across the country and back in 1969 plus many other road trips, man, what we missed out on! An entomologist and his son have created an app to identify the bugs that wipe out on your windshield. Divvy it up, kids, your side vs. Susie’s and see who can win the most splats! A bug in the southeast likes the smell of exhaust pipes for laying eggs. Darwin rules.

Make sure Dad passes on the right, too. You want your fair share.

 



Blenheims
Saturday April 13th 2019, 5:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

(Photo posted with permission.)

I love growing fruit trees. How many things that we spend money on remain with us, doing good, for the rest of our lives?

Jennifer and her husband bought a house early last year about a half hour away, and sorry though I was to see them leave here, I asked her if they’d like one as a housewarming present, and if so, what type.

YES!

Turns out she had been wishing very much for an apricot tree, specifically one of the old wonderful Blenheims that are hard to find in stores.

Yamagami’s had Royal Blenheims in stock.

She sent me this picture today.

I cannot begin to tell you how happy it makes me.



Can I hear you now?
Thursday April 11th 2019, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family,Garden

A few more days and the whole cherry tree should look like this and more.

For my dad: an Apple Blossom amaryllis started opening today.

The Frost peach has been properly thinned, and so has hours of paperwork and housework that had needed to be out of the way before company comes next week.  Sometimes even the disorganized have to crack down and get to it.

The reward is that I found the bluetooth pendant for connecting my cellphone to my hearing aids–it had fallen behind the computer.



The apples are finally waking up
Wednesday April 10th 2019, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Garden

More spring pictures.

The Fuji apple started blooming two days after the Yellow Transparent, as it does every year.

The brand new Frost peach tree I planted last month? I need to thin that pair to a single peach. (I know–already!) Always leave the bigger one.



Italian for star
Sunday April 07th 2019, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Garden

An afternoon at 74F and the Stella cherry started to quietly celebrate at the back of the tree.

I’m not putting any sweaters away yet, but I’m looking forward to what that one’s going to look like in a few days.



Reds and greens
Saturday April 06th 2019, 9:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Knitting a Gift,Wildlife

We’re having a Cooper’s hawk sighting nearly every day now. Cool.

Another Red Lion amaryllis from my dad–here, the hawk’s gone now, let me give you a close-up. Love love love these. If you have an amaryllis with four or more leaves it should bloom the next year, too.

The ground is so wet that digging a big deep hole and finally planting the Kishu mandarin I got for Christmas was surprisingly very easy. Like pushing a shovel into Play-dough.

If you live in non-citrus-growing areas and wish for a mandarin orange, plant this one in a pot to keep in or out depending on the weather. The tree is small and the fruit is golf ball sized, soft, seedless, and the peel pretty much falls off and you can just pop the whole thing in your mouth just like that. The fruit doesn’t ship well for grocery stores, you have to grow your own.

It ripens months before my Gold Nugget and thus stretches out the season for us. Not to mention it will create more ground-bird nesting habitat out of what was a bare spot.

Today was a perfect spring day and the Sungold cherry tomato that I planted in 2017 burst into even more blooms. Three years!

Note that it was originally set up inside the largest tomato cage I could buy but by now it’s simply carrying it up and away on its shoulders to wherever and there’s no disentangling the thing, all you can do is admire its Leaning Tower of Pisa impression from inside that happy thicket. (Those few dead leaves are from where the freezes got to the outer edges of the plant but it’s made up for it since.)

And to repeat the Red Lion red theme, while listening to two two-hour sessions of the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I got ten repeats done on this cowl; I can get one last one out of this skein and then that’s it.

There will be two more sessions tomorrow, so it is time to pick the next project. Baby girl afghan is what I want to do, but I don’t think I have quite the yarn I want for it yet.



More flowers
Tuesday March 26th 2019, 9:51 pm
Filed under: Garden

There are more blossoms on the Indian Free peach (the new Frost with the red limb spreaders is behind it) –and to my surprise, the first squash blossom. It’s not even in the ground yet but it couldn’t wait.

I hope it’s spring where you guys are, too.



She’ll need warm things there
Friday March 22nd 2019, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Knitting a Gift

My friend Laura is moving away so I headed over to Green Planet yarns to meet up with her. (And with Anne. Hi Anne!)

Which means I really need to get to work on that cowl I cast on because I needed a carry-around project; no particular planning went into it, whatever yarn would do. Cameleon, in Malabrigo Rios. Summer in a ball. Cheerful stuff.

It wasn’t in Anne’s colors, but Laura swooned.

Which means I made sure I have her forwarding address now. That worked out well.

Meantime, the blueberries are blooming.



Black Jack fig
Thursday March 21st 2019, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Garden

First leaves and first figs–or to be technical, the breba crop, ie, that which is produced on last year’s wood and ripens early on without the heat of the summer to increase its sweetness, although for this variety they’re not far off from the main crop that comes later on on the new wood. You can always roast them and drizzle a little honey on.

They’re just starting to show but there are already a lot more brebas than last year.

There’s some knitting going on, too, but right now I’m just reveling in watching everything coming back to life. We woke up to 36F again this morning, which is so not normal for March. The historical average is 47F. I like that spring is, at least by daytime, steadily upstaging the unusual cold, bit by bit.



Done right at last
Tuesday March 19th 2019, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

What last week’s trip to Santa Cruz to buy the Frost variety was about:

The effects of peach leaf curl disease are cumulative. It needs a combination of rain and cold and newly growing leaves to spread across a tree and we have had twelve atmospheric rivers this winter with another just starting to let loose as I type.

My Tropic Snow always bloomed in January with leafing starting as the petals fell right at the middle of our cold rain. It took the hit year after year, sprayed with copper or not. And you don’t want too much copper build-up in your soil or it kills the good organisms.

When I planted it, there was a patch of lily of the nile and a stump (correction 3/20/19: it was still a small tree at that point) that kept me from centering it between the lemon tree and the fence and it ended up right by the lemon, a very lopsided look, not even close to centered. But there was no way I could tackle those. It frankly looked terrible and I always regretted that.

Now, nearly every leaf on the thing was shriveled and brown and unable to produce food for the tree; the single peach that set from all its flowers was diseased and would never be edible. I didn’t even have to prune it this winter–it spent all its energy last year growing a second set of leaves, and after it rained again, a few more. It had been in sheer survival mode for some time now.

Given that it was one of my earliest learning experiences in fruit tree growing, I didn’t do a good job pruning and shaping it its first year or two and too much of it had grown above picking reach–which is one of the reasons I chose the tree last week that had the lowest branches. I’ve learned how to envision what these will grow to look like if I prune them right, and that you start from as close to the ground as you can.

My Indian Free does not get curl disease but it was the only resistant peach I had and the only one that needed a pollinator. Timing-wise, the also-resistant Frost variety could be that pollinator. And it is on Lovell rootstock, too, meaning it will grow strong and it will grow fast. (It will take some work to keep it to a reasonable height.)

Their production time is staggered. Perfect.

That’s the Frost in bloom above and the Indian Free below.

Today was one of Elio the gardener’s Tuesdays. I asked him if he could do this extra project for me, not sure he had the tools nor the time for it. Of course he did. He dove right in.

The stump that has defied me and kept growing back for five years now (never ever let a eucalyptus sprout in your yard) has much less to it now.

The lily of the nile cluster has been dug out to two feet deep and transplanted to the bare spot beyond the mango tree that really called out for it and it makes my heart sing to be able to, for the first time, see it out the windows. Beautiful plants. I can’t wait to see them bloom.

But the Tropic Snow.

Was I sure? Elio asked.

I was. We looked at that poor sad peach tree together for a moment as if in eulogy. It had tried so hard.

He not only took it out, he went below ground level working away at the stump, which I didn’t expect at all.

A large gopher-proofing wire cage highly recommended by the Garden Company went into the new hole.

I wanted to plant the new tree myself.

And now it’s in there, near the Indian Free, right in the spot where that lily of the nile was this morning. I will buy new and sharp shears in its honor and get that done.

I got the help I should have asked for the first time around, but I’m rather glad I didn’t–this is much better.

This will be a healthy tree. And now Adele will have peaches reaching over the fence towards her in July as well as September and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

 

 



A man who loves what he helps put into the world
Tuesday March 12th 2019, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

One new Frost peach tree with one flower and more to come.

Yesterday, Garden Company in Santa Cruz had five of them. Today there were only three, so I was glad they’d offered to reserve me one.

He knew who I was the instant I said Frost peach and he brought me over to the biggest and best-formed one, tagged with my name, just a beautiful baby tree in a pot. He warned me that the peaches on these were very large and could break limbs, and I felt as he said that how much what he sells and the people he sells to matter a great deal to him. I said I’d have to be careful on thinning them to one each, implicitly promising him that I would, that I would take good care of it; he nodded yes. I told him the great Loring peach of my youth on the east coast doesn’t need thinning.

But is it peach leaf curl resistant?

Oh no, I shook my head ruefully. No it is not. And we both knew that disease was why I was here.

There were two Frosts lined up behind that one.

He pointed out that the one at the back, however, did have lower branching than the others. One of the side effects of our longer, warmer season is that things grow a lot and it can be hard to find a fruit tree whip that isn’t tall between the ground and the bottom limbs when you plant it.

He wanted to make sure I knew I had that choice.

I knew it would be easier to pick the fruit. And somewhat easier to keep the tree to a manageable size. Which was going to be an issue, because the variety was only available on semi-dwarfing, not dwarfing rootstock, and I’d seen how my Indian Free had taken off like a rocket on that Lovell.

He pulled out the two in front so I could see it. Rather than limbs spread widely like the one with my name on it, most of them went pretty much straight up as if they’d been squeezed for sunshine. Not great angles.

I was quite pleased that he had been saving me the best.

And yet I took the smaller, thinner-trunked, slightly funky-leaning Charlie Brown tree after all. It won’t stay small long. It needs a little pruning to widen that out and definitely some limb spacers to push them apart. Someone else will get the perfectly shaped tree perfectly ready to go.

Hopefully I’ll be glad for a long time to come that I chose this one.

But I know that I’m really, really glad I bought it from these guys. What a wonderful place.



I heard that
Monday March 11th 2019, 9:18 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden

My Santa Rosa plum, a Mother’s Day gift planted by my kids maybe a dozen years ago.

The second Alphonso fell into my hands. It is ripening for a few days inside and then I’ll deliver it as promised to Eli, the young man who took such good care of my mango for several years whenever we were out of town. He’s earned it, by his enthusiasm for that tree as well as all the bicycle trips over here.

Already the aroma is starting to bloom.

I called around, and this late in the planting season, the place I love in Santa Cruz still has the peach variety I want: Frost produces when my others don’t, it blooms when my Indian Free needs a pollinator, and it’s a yellow peach with a worthy flavor by all reports.

There was just too much rain and cold this year for my earliest variety: the Tropic Snow’s greening-out starts too soon to dodge peach leaf curl disease, which thrives on growing leaves in those conditions, and sprayed or not it still always gets hit. The effect was cumulative. We’re losing that tree and I’d rather not lose a growing season, so, out it will go and in with the resistant Frost variety.

It’s too late for it, but I read last week on a gardening forum that the British a number of decades ago came up with a way of dealing with the problem. They plant susceptible varieties (and most peaches are) under the eaves of houses and espalier them there to keep them close, then cover the exposed side with wide rolls of plastic so the rain can’t touch them and the disease can’t make its way around the tree.

And the word for that method?

Eavesdropping. Yes it is.



We had a late frost last week
Tuesday March 05th 2019, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Garden

Since the critters ate some of my seedlings the rest of my starts have been kept safely behind windows for now.

This squash is just plain ready to go: it’s already got flower buds. C’mon, Spring, hurry!