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!



Sproutlet
Thursday February 28th 2019, 12:07 am
Filed under: Garden

I knitted today, and it was notably better than any time since that elbow break at Christmas. Hope is firmly in sight.

A question for all the experienced gardeners out there: if you have a squash plant germinate three weeks after the others, does that mean the rest of the arc of its growth and production over time will be less than theirs? Or just that its conditions for coming up weren’t right until they were?



Bloom fast, it’s heavy rain and flash floods again the next few days
Sunday February 24th 2019, 11:24 pm
Filed under: Garden

So this happened while I was at Stitches. My August Pride peach.

More on Stitches later.



They are good for that
Wednesday February 20th 2019, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

Blossoms on the two earliest peach trees and freezing nights. I found some good information on what to expect that to do to them and what to look for.

I filled the second birdfeeder. The birds haven’t entirely caught on but the hawk went swooping around it again, ten feet from me. Wow.

I went to take out the trash last night and coming around the house, found myself opening the gate very very slowly and reluctantly while standing at outstretched arm’s length from the entry and I probably should have just gone back inside: skunk. Not as potent as it could be, but in that direction. Exactly where in the dark, who knows, but at least that redwood root-raised concrete that made them such a perfect den is gone now. But that’s where that gate was, and where last year’s offspring might think it could expect to set up shop. Oh. Not. But this is when they wander to mate.

And now I think I know why the rat that showed up under the birdfeeder at dusk three nights last week (the first one I’d seen in probably a year) has not come back.

And what that skunk most likely had for dinner. It hadn’t come for the birdseed.



Waiting in the window for spring
Saturday February 16th 2019, 12:03 am
Filed under: Garden

Growing inside for now with the others, critter-free. Who knew birds eat cotyledons?

This is a butternut or a zucchini–we’ll find out which are which soon enough. It is amazing how such a little plant can be such a total thrill. Look! A new leaf today! New promises to look forward to!

New food fights with squirrels!



Tree hats, people hat
Wednesday February 06th 2019, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift

Two frost covers, one greenhouse, two strings of incandescent Christmas lights plus a heater made it 54F this morning under the covers with the mango tree vs 29F for the outside temp. Three more mangoes have begun to turn yellow, determined to become what they were meant to be.

Meantime, Malabrigo Mecha is proving to be easier on my tendonitis to knit than that fluffy grabby red alpaca was, and I find it very encouraging. It felt good to see something brand new coming to be.



Spring jumpstart
Friday February 01st 2019, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Garden

More amaryllises! (And a hyacinth.)

Last year I went through the seed catalogs with great visions, as one does. I did plant a few tomatoes, and as a matter of fact one indestructible Sungold next to the house from the year before survived 22F winter nights–again–and is still blooming and producing merrily away. A windstorm blew it backwards two weeks ago but bit by bit it is growing towards the sun again that is likewise reaching out gradually to it.

I looked at all those unused year-old seeds though (Big Boys! Blue tomatoes!) and figured that if I started in January and nothing sprouted then I wouldn’t have lost much time. And if they did, they could be in pots for awhile inside the Sunbubble; I might as well put that heat to the most use I can, right?

Look who just showed up. Now that I’ve got an extra bag of soil so I can put it in something bigger than a used creme brûlée pot. I can’t remember if this is the zucchini or a Waltham butternut, but either way this little squash needs more legroom stat. If anything comes up in that bigger pot over there then I’ll have (at least) one of each.

Knowing that squirrels sometimes go after new sprouts, I brought it inside for the night. No munching on my seedling. This one’s mine.

Edited to add, I posted this and then looked more closely: two! Two Big Boy tomatoes came up today when I wasn’t looking!

Tiny little things.