Thursday, December 24, 2009

the power of frozen water

i'm still working on cleanup from the snow storm. i got my in-laws yard all cleaned up, my chain saw went into the shop - so my progress is a bit stalled. but i wanted to show a few pictures the the damage that 12 inches of snow inflicted upon 2 oak trees on the the property.the first picture shows a major branch which was shattered by the weight of snow on the extended branch. the branch is approximately 6-8 inches in diameter and i have a lopper next to it to give you an idea of scale. this branch was approximately 20 feet up in the tree and when it broke, it didnt fall to the ground - it stayed attached to the tree where it snapped and fell onto the truck (no damage thankfully). i thought about getting a tree cutter out to cut out the failed branch - but once this one was down, what was left was a pretty twiggy remnant, so i dropped the major branch.

the next 2 shots show whats left of another oak tree in the backyard. this is the tree that had its canopy shattered. 3 major limbs broke out of the tree - it no longer has its top. fortunately, when it fell, it missed the fence - i hope i am as lucky when i cut down the tree and fall the trunk. merry christmas - please remember the reason for the season.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

the days are getting longer...

i overlooked the official day, but katie @ the punks didnt....

my least liked day of the year, is also an annual turning point that provides me with optimism - as the days do start getting longer. its a shame that the long days peak in june (way to early) - i would really like to see a peak around august and a minimum - well could stay where its at. going to work in the dark and getting home in the dark - just leads to a bad general attituds overall. 3 months until equinox - hurry, hurry, hurry.


Monday, December 7, 2009

low snow in the garden

man did we get nailed. not only is this unusual in this area - but this early and this much, a very rare event. we got upwards of 10-12 inches of snow. we lost limbs on oaks and digger pines.
one particular oak (first pic) , saw its canopy shattered - this is actually not a bad thing as this tree being removed will open up the garden area a bit more for summer sun.
the second picture shows how much snow was in the garden - almost 12 inches. given the cold temps, we will see snow on the ground for quite awhile.

Friday, November 20, 2009

bare root team for 2010

you win some and you lose some. i had seven trees die this year. because they were purchased in january 2009 and i planted with ammend - fyn - guarantees them for failure. so here are the replacements i will be getting:

heavenly white
arctic blaze
arctic queen
arctic star

spice-zee nectaplum
tri-lite peachplum

new players for the 2010 orchard team are:

nectarine - z-glow and goldmine
cherry - mimi royal, royal lee, stella, lambert, montmorency
asian pear - shinko, hosui
blueberry - oneil, misty, bluecrop, blueray, ozark, reveille

most of the holes are dug, but i have some topsoil to move out of the way - to dig others, i need to extend the drip to cover the new trees and blueberries and i also need to noodle on a solution that keeps the bluejays from eating my blueberries.

i have just about filled up the garden and i still have grapes and raspberries and blackberries that i need to have. so at the other end of the yard - a few years down the road, we will see another garden area to house these vines. now, if i could only have time AND money at the same time to get this done faster.

a new discovery results in a new tree...

i ordered my bare root plants from the front yard nursery a few weeks ago. while i ordered some replacement trees that died over the past year - i am particularly excited about 2 of my selections - an asian pear (my first) and the start of my blueberry patch (another post).

since i became aware of asian pears about 20 years ago - i was unimpressed with the texture and flavor. i dont know what varieties they were, but chances are they werent ripened nor picked at their peak. i continued to be unimpressed, that is until a few months ago.

the company i work for has started to offer free fruit to employees (in an effort to improve eating habits and health, and lets just say it hasnt helped my waist line any). this fall, an asian pear caught my eye - it was about the size of a pippin apple and had russetted skin. i thought i would give it a shot - worst case, it would end up in the trash. but much to my surprise, this fruit was fantastic and really changed my attitude toward asian pears - i was eating 2-3 a day, they were just freakin' awesome. it took me a few weeks to get ahold of a box they came in - but i found the name, it was hosui. they are juicy (very juicy - in fact hosui translates from japanses as 'with water'), with a nice crunchy texture and its flavor is very similar to bartlett. it was awesome - so awesome, that i will now have a hosui pear tree in my orchard. the hosui will be joined by a pollinator - shinko - both will be my first foray into espalier fruit trees.

the front yard through the years

although i work for a high tech company, i am a late adaptor for many things high tech at my house. for example, we just went high speed wireless at the house, up until now it was a 56k modem. also, i just havent gone full digital photography, the pictures posted to this blog entry actually span 4 years and i can post them here - not because i am supremely organized and have these digital photos stored on raid 5 protected disk arrays - i can do it because they are all on the same sd card that came with this camera when i bought it when my second son was born - in 2001.

in fact , for normal family snapshots, the wife and i still do the old school 35mm film and get it developed - with duplicates - at costco. we have boxes of pictures - and when i found out that costco no longer sells film (they will develop it) it made me wonder if we should go all digital. well, time will tell, but back to the point of this post.

picture #1: we go into the way-back machine to 2006 when i started building the front yard. as you can see we have piles of dirt and partially built keystone walls.

picture #2: late fall 2007 - the front yard is mostly in and we see the first fall for the october glory maples. i really worked to get 4 season color and i get a hint of what might be in the works.

picture #3: spring 2008 - the crab apples are in bloom and if you look real close, up the staircase, you can see hints of the crimson pointe flowering plums in bloom. these are great eating plums, fantastic spring color and a real space saving tree.

picture #4: christmas 2008 - not much to show for color here, but you can see how big the trees grew since fall 2007.

picture #5: fall 2009 - the maples have really exploded and their color continues to improve year over year. these trees are growing 18-24 inches a year, i planted them to also provide summer shade, as my house faces due west and just bakes during the summer.

these year over year photos, from the near same angle, really gives a good idea how the landscape as evolved, particularly, the maples and how fast they grow. only downside to the great fall color - is picking up that color when it hits the ground.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

ordered my 2010 tomato seeds

2 weeks ago i was in newport beach (the oc) enjoying a nice week of vacation - with the family. one of the essentials i took on the trip was my 2009 tomato growers supply catalog. they are on my list of favorite catalogs every year and this year i was determined to purchase something from them.

as noted in my previous post, i have selected the varieties i was going to purchase. with the hard part done, i hit their website, selected the tomatoes of choice - paid via cc and was done in all about 10 minutes or so. 7 days later - my seeds were in my mailbox and now in the hot fist of my seed growing friend 'keith'.

last year, i purchased my seeds from totally tomatoes. i had no issues with my tt seeds - but contrasting the 2 companies; i find that tgs was a better overall experience.

tgs has a better interface for their website, web interaction seemed faster (perhaps a better server on the backend) and delivery from tgs was almost 10 days faster. seed varieties are comparable, so based upon web interaction - i gotta give the 2 thumbs up to tgs.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2010 tomatoes

just placed the order at tomato growers supply - so here is the tomato first string for 2010:

gregoris altai
early girl
big beef
big raspberry
champion 2
costolto fiorentino
super fantastic
black zebra
black from tula
chreokee purple
sun gold
sweet gold
mr. stripey
better boy
bella rosa

we will land 24 tomato plants in the garden, so a few varieties, will have multiple plants planted. there is a good mix of hybrid and heirloom.

i will be utilizing walls of water in 2010 (probably 6 plants), so hopefully i will see earlier tomatoes than in the past.

returning veterans this year are:

cherokee purple, super fantastic, early girl, champion, sun gold and a surprise performer from 2009 - black zebra.

it looks like 24 is going to be the magic number for tomato plants in the garden. there are a few varieties that i will always want in the garden - leaving quite a few slots for experimentation. i foresee, sometime in the future, that i will have 24 different varieties that i really like and that could put a crimp in my experiments on new tomatoes - but until then, i will try to balance production needs (dont want to be short of tomatoes) and trying new varieties.

rookies in 2010:

gregoris altai - an early variety, always looking for a good performing early variety.
matina - another early variety, i am testing out.
cabernet - described as a good mid size tomato - new in 2009 to TGS.
big raspberry - another new one from TGS.
costuloto fiorentino - an un-ribbed version of costoluto genovese, thought i would give it a shot.
nyagous - a purple variety keith wanted to try.
sioux - hierloom from 1944, described as very good flavored mid size.
crnkovic - another purple variety.
black from tula - another dark variety
sweet gold - farmer fred had good success with this one, sun sugar failed for me, so i am still looking for another cherry variety as good as sungold.
mr. stripey - a red zebra variety
bella rosa - heat tolerant new variety from TGS

this time next year, i will do an ' after action review' and let you all know what worked in 2010 and what did not.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2009 tomato ratings

the 2009 tomato list was:

1 parks whopper
2 stupice
3 jumbo hybrid
4 sungold
5 better boy
6 costolotto genovese
7 oregon spring
8 rutgers
9 dinner plate
10 black cherry
11 sungold
12 beef master
13 super fantastic
14 golden jubilee
15 better boy
16 sun sugar
17 sweet million
18 black zebra
19 celebrity
20 roma
21 german pink
22 cherokee purple
23 trophy
24 great white
25 pearson
26 early girl
27 better boy
28 celebrity
29 hungarian heart
30 better boy
31 heartland
32 early girl
33 cherokee purple
34 beef master
35 beef master
36 beef steak
37 black krim
38 sweet million
39 jet sonic
40 sungold
41 sunsugar

my comments will not cover every tomato. if there is not a variety called out (either good or bad), then it probably did all right, it just didnt stand out on either side of the bell curve, thus its worth replanting in the future.

parks whopper- was a freebee from front yard nursery. in 2008 it had issues with blossom end rot. this year, it didnt. it is a good tomato.

stupice - smallish early tomato, a decent producer - good one to replant.

sungold - still my favorite cherry. although, last year was my first year with it, the newness has worn off, but a prolific producer that is very sweet. a must have every year.

costolutto genovese - good producer, but stopped producing just past mid season, kind of a bushy plant, so its probably a determinant. worth planting again.

oregon spring - was the earliest producer, but not as early as i had hoped. didnt stand out.

dinner plate - big tomato.

black cherry - color intrigued me, vigorous plant, but flavor didnt do much for me. no plans of replanting.

super fantastic - hybrid, that really produced. on tap for 2010.

golden jubilee - meaty large yellow tomatoes. i dont like meaty tomatoes.

sun sugar - heard it was sweeter than sun gold. it was prolific, but didnt find it an improvement on sun gold. will not replant.

sweet million - another one that i had heard was very sweet. it was prolific, but it was not an improvement over sun gold.

black zebra - a bi-color. about 2-3 inches across and prolific. it was super awesome and will have a place in future gardens.

cherokee purple - a very prolific and great flavored heirloom. will plant again for sure!

hungarian heart - a meaty heirloom. i dont like meaty tomatoes. if all ox heart tomatoes are meaty, i will not plant them at all in the future.

early girl - it wasnt. one of my later producing tomatoes. will probably do it again as its a go-to for earliness.

black krim - also a good producing hierloom and worth planting in the future.

jet sonic - a freebee when we ordered from totally tomatoes. didnt produce well and have no plans to ever plant again.

2010 proposed garden layout

this is what i foresee as the 2010 garden. i keep track of the layout in an excel spreadsheet, so i can ensure crop rotation is done properly. i cant explain why some of the text is smudgy, but the text in 'red' is tomatoes and the dark blue at the top is butternut squash. the 2011 garden will reflect each side basically swapping over from left to right with nightshade plant family (tomatoes, pepper and potatoes) being followed by non-nightshade plants (corn, squash, etc). i am trying to avoid back to back plantings in the same beds in subsequent years - although we will see a slight overlap w/ peppers and potatoes.

2009 gardening year in review, part 4

a couple lessons learned.

1. as i previously mentioned, zucchini should be in a bed by itself and i only need 1 plant. this years plant was uncontrollable and it was soon into the season we were just tired of zucchini. 2010 will only see 1 zucchini for us.

2. having 4 feet between the beds was a good idea. the main reason i went with 4 feet - was the space i saved with 3 feet wouldnt have landed another bed in that row - so i went w/ 4 feet. this turned out to be very helpful as plants of all varieties pretty much went off the reservation. in particular the tomatoes. by the end of the season, they had grown so large and beyond the cages, that i was unable to get down the rows that the tomatoes were growing in.

3. 41 tomatoes are way too many to plant. not only from an over planting perspective, but late in the season, i was unable to keep with tomato production and had a significant number of rotting tomatoes in the garden. 2010 will see only 24 tomato plants in the garden; we also have the varieties already selected and 'keith' will be getting them started in december.

4. never plant tomatoes in side by side beds. i had 5 beds, side by side, growing tomatoes - with the overplanting and the growth pattern, i was unable to navigate between tomato beds. henceforth, tomato beds will be interleaved with beds hosting other vegetables. next years bed assignment will be drastically different and will take into account crop rotation needs.

Monday, October 12, 2009

current project

i am working in the backyard. even though the front yard isnt done.

you see, i have started planting trees on the hillside next to the house and i dont want to have to hand water these trees, 3 times a week for a few years. so i have to get the water system in that will serve the hillside.

my challenge - i had to jack hammer trenches to get the pipes in; the dirt on my hill is hard and rocky and seems to bend shovels over at will. i also had to design the layout of the sprinkler system and doing so, while kinda guestimating what my plans are for landscape will be (not 100% jelled yet) and leaving some flexibility with watering options available for future changes. the photo included here is the 10 station controllers and manifold which will feed water to the entire backyard. the entire yards will be drip irrigation. i am dropping pipe into the trenches and stubbing them out for future drip stations.

my back yard will not have any grass. it is a slope, which is always a challenge with turf and i just dont want to mow more grass than i do now. i will have several raised beds and i will be working in boulders, trees, shrubs and ground cover - which if it meets my 'vision' will be deer tolerant, moderate in its water needs and provide 4 season color.

i also have a good population of established pines (digger's and ponderosa's), oak and manzanita which i want to work into the design so they all mesh.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

front yard project - update

got this started and finished earlier in the summer, and wanted to update y'all on it. planting went well and the plants all took. it will be a couple years before it all fills in, but its looking good so far.

2009 gardening year in review, part 3


what a great year. i tried potatoes at my last house, but the heavy clay soil that dominated my cameron park garden - pretty much inhibited potato growth. i ended up with a grocery sack of small potatoes. they were prolific, but very small. i pretty much gave up on them there.

fast forward to 2009. raised beds, fluffy topsoil and -ta, da! it was a magnificent year for spuds. i planted my 4x16 foot bed (the largest in my garden) with seed potatoes and the results speak for themselves. we planted yellow, red and blue varieties and all produced well.

i harvested 3 boxes of the tubers and - as God as my witness - they were the best tasting potatoes i have eaten. sweet and tasty. we got a very good number of large potatoes, lots of medium sized and a whole load of smallies - which are perfect for crock pot cooking.

seed potatoes are available in mid-december at front yard nursery, and you can bet i will be in line getting mine for 2010.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

i met the gardenpunks today...

i went to el dorado nursery's plantapalooza today. as usual a great event. they had a large array of vendors and presentations.

we got there just in time for farmer fred's preso on winter vegetables and he took a moment and did a shout-out to katie (garden punk queen)- who was there also. not sure if i would have crossed paths with her, if he didnt call her out. but, it was nice to actually meet someone in person who i have been interneting with for the last year or so.

hey katie - nice to meet you.

edible landscape potential...

i am lucky to have an area large enough for a little mini orchard. for those homeowners that dont have space set aside for an orchard, integrating fruits and vegetables into their landscape is a viable option.

one challenge is fruit. there are many fruit tree varieties that are suitable for landscape purposes, but most also tend to be wide. when i was designing my front yard, i ran across a flowering plum, which had good fall color and great spring color - and offers a growth habit that many homeowners will find useful.

the crimson pointe flowering plum's growth pattern is columnar, which allows for planting into narrow side yards or can be placed in other tight areas that may be a challenge for tree planting.

most flowering plums produce small, tart, pretty much inedible plums. not this one.

crimson pointe flowering plum produces a mid-size plum, that is very sweet, juicy and has good hang time. i found this tree by accident and now have 8 of these worked into my front yard landscape. these trees are available from monrovia and also dave wilson nurseries.

apples in the fall

i have 6 crab apple trees in my front yard. they have great fall color (not here yet) and these little ornaments that really standout. thought you 'all might enjoy these.

2009 gardening year in review, part 2

if it werent for tomatoes, i would garden for corn. garden nirvana is achieved with perfectly vine ripened tomatoes and corn, picked at the peak of sweetness.

this years corn variety was burpee's sugar pearl - purchased at capitol nursery. its a white sugar enhanced hybrid. i planted the 4x10 bed with seed that was pre-soaked the evening before. i have found a significant improvement in germination rate when i pre-soak corn seeds.

in the past, i planted silver queen corn - mainly because my grandpa did. he had good success and i did too, however, one draw back to silver queen, was its long maturity date of 92 days. cruising through the burpee catalog, i was pleased to see sugar pearl matures in 72 days - nearly a month earlier.

germination was very good. like silver queen, most ears on sugar pearl were on the small side. most stalks produced 2 ears.

the sweetness and flavor was incredible. in spite the short ears - about 1/2 the length of a normal ear of corn. this variety has definitely earned a spot in the garden every year. in fact by request, my family has asked that we have 2 beds of corn next year - so thats what i will do!

one thing i failed to remember in '09 and will have to do in '10 - and that is to stagger my plantings. this year the entire bed matured on the same day. next year i hope to separate seed plantings by 2 weeks so i will have ~4-6 successive harvests; scattered across a month or so. this corn also has good holding qualities in the refrigerator, very important if you get too much corn at one time!

2009 gardening year in review, part 1

2009 was my first year growing in raised beds and by all measures it was a great year, every bed was a great producer. there were a few varieties of specific vegetables that didnt pan out as expected. but lets start off with the first vegetable that produced in my garden for 2009.


this early season photo shows a mix of radishes that i planted this year. i obtained my radish seeds from seed savers exchange. varieties include: early scarlet globe, french breakfast and plum purple.

as usual, i over planted and had an abundant - way more than i will ever eat - production. i figure worst case, the unwanted radishes get punted to the compost bin. over planting, excess production was a hallmark of my garden this year.

Friday, October 2, 2009

hello friend, it has been awhile... hasnt it.....

i have learned a few things about my relationship with my blog and as a result - those that have chosen to follow it. my time to blog is inversely proportional to the day light hours of a day.

more light = less blog.

its not what i had anticipated, nor is it optimal. but, it is what it is. and actually, this blog - i hope - actually has some tid bits of info i will find useful in the future and others will too. so, as we have passed the equinox and the dark hours increase, you will find more posts, catching us up on my gardens summer progress, issues and ultimately planning for 2010.

i do enjoy following other's blogs - my list shows what i tend to keep up with; some more than others. i do ff's, bills, the punks and dig this chick - by following their blog travels it does help satisfy my need for ongoing blog interaction.

so, i hope you occasionally revisit this little wide spot in the blogging world and see what happened in garry's garden this summer. (honest i do have some stuff to talk about). but back out to the garden, as i am ripping it out and prepping for cover crops. the compost heap is getting bigger on a daily basis!

happy gardening - garry

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

first tomato...

actually it was 3. as predicted it was a sungold and it was delicious...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

a bouquet of flowers - even a dad wouldnt mind getting

i'm not too much of a flowery guy, dont mind giving them - but not too hip on receiving them. but, i thought these were kinda pretty. flowers from my blue and yukon gold potato patch. enjoy!

the first blush of a tomato

looks like i will be picking my first ripe tomato next week. granted, its a cherry - so it doesnt really count in the first tomato competition - BUT, it still is a tomato and its mine! its a sungold - and i can tell you i can not wait for full production to get kicked into overdrive. overall - i have a solid production across the 41 plants. this year there should be an abundance of these lycopene babies.

front yard project

well, the lower areas started to get attention and as you can see in this photo - the bark has been cleared and the boulders placed. plants placed in this area are golden barberry, purple barberry, streibs findling cottoneaster, veronica and siskyou blue fescue. the boulders were purchased at earth traders in placerville. the owner allows you to cherry pick the rocks you want and charges .15 per pound - which seems reasonable.

Friday, June 19, 2009

hive died :(

no bees left, queen is gone. looks like 2010 is the year of the bee - unless some one has some free-bees (pun intended).


Sunday, June 14, 2009

6/14 garden update

i have been gone for 3 days. when i visit the garden daily, i dont notice much change - but skip 3 days and BAM! - major growth is noticed. all beds are doing well.

all 41 tomato plants are growing well, with many over 3 feet tall. all finally got caged today - with the late addition of 4 Texas cages - as a gift from my in-laws. i wouldnt say the plants are loaded with green tomatoes, but there are plenty to keep my interest. these are the true queen of the garden. thats jed (the wonder dog) - checking out the garden too.

the cucumber starts have 2 cukes to show for their efforts - and these puppies will be harvested in the next week or so.

the climbing cukes (from seed) are about 4 inches tall and will soon begin to climb the trellis (small plants to the left of the giant zuke leaves). the zucchini continue their rampage thru the bed and i have removed leaves that have encroached the other plants - this wont happen next year.

corn is running about 12 inches tall - and although it seems to be a bed frequented by the mole - we havent lost any to the critter. this is burpee's sugar pearl, burpee claims it rivals silver queen in flavor - and is 20 days earlier. will advise if that is true - also i forgot to plant them in staggered fashion - so i will be eating a lot of corn at one time!

beans are doing well, with the climbers starting to grasp the tee-pee trellis'.

the squash and watermelon are doing ok. 3 diff winter squash are in there - waltham butternut, table queen (acorn) and thelma sanders (acorn). the watermelon is golden midget - all of these are heirloom from seed savers.

potatoes are tall and the flowers are starting to show on the plants - anyone know when i should harvest? - short of digging and looking for tubers? i thought it is when the greens start to fade - but need info - and failed to call in to fred's show to ask the question.

mole update

still seeing mole tracks, but fortunately - i havent lost anything to the mole yet. today (6/14), i applied a pellet version of castor oil (see picture) and followed it with a liquid version of the same chemical. no luck with the mechanical trap. hopefully the castor oil will be enough to get rid of the pest.

first harvest....

well the post is late - but these babies are the first to be pulled from the garden. radishes - the quick and easy vege that just about ensures success. these babies came out some where around 6/8, and we pulled a second batch. glad these got going - being that FF, carrie and bill all are seeing tomatoes. up here at 1850 feet, it'll be awhile before i see any red on the tomato side of my garden - but when i do, you can bet i will be a pretty happy camper.

Friday, June 5, 2009

note to self.....

zucchini (summer squash) should be in a bed by themselves. so - rule #1 - only plant zucchini in a bed where it will not over run other plants. rule #2 - if you think you can sneak an extra zucchini into any bed, refer to rule #1....

other than an over run zucchini - i got a shot of my tallest tomato. everything is doing well and the tomatoes have just rocketed. we have few slower ones, but the one pictured here is a great white hybrid and is the tallest in the garden to date. nearly 3 feet tall in less than a month after going into the ground.

enjoyed an electrical storm the other night....

did some front porch sitting and enjoyed the show. it was incredibly difficult to capture an image and this is the best i got. we dont get these too often around here.

picked up a swarm a few days ago...

got a frantic call from the taco bell in folsom, they had a swarm and the bee store gave them my name. by the description from the manager - this was a huge swarm and they couldnt have it there. off goes - captain apiary to the rescue. when i got there, i was a bit disappointed to find about 3/4 cup of bees hanging off a branch.

i knocked them into my swarm box and came back in the evening, once the bees settled in, and picked up the hive.

i wasnt even sure there was a queen in there. the bees were behaving like they had one, but i couldnt find her until tonight. she hasnt started laying and doesnt appear to be too well mated (a well mated queen will have a larger abdomen).

for your viewing pleasure here she is - the queen is circled in blue. she appears to be carniolan. hopefully she will lay and this small hive may make it. but i'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

mole removal.....

no sign of any gophers or moles on my property in 5 years - and a couple months after the beds go in with nice soil and BAM! - i get this:

inspite of chicken wire across the bottom of the beds - all screwed to the trex, the buggers found thier way in. so this fall i may be pulling the dirt and installing a better metal barrier in each bed - something i am not looking forward to.

in the mean time, i got the word from farmer fred (todays kfbk show, just after 9) that castor oil is the most effective way to control the critters. so off to front yard nursury i went and bought granules and liquid forms of the oil, as well as a manual trap that - hopefully will - you know.....

tomato list 2009

well, here it is the first string for 2009. you will note some duplicates. hybrids outnumber heirlooms - only to ensure i have enough fruit to go around. with 41 plants - its probably overkill; not a big deal.

sungold x3
sun sugar x2
sweet million x2
parks whopper
better boy x4
oregon spring
dinner plate
black cherry
beef master
super fantastic
golden jubilee
black zebra
celebrity x2
great white
early girl x2
beefmaster x2

costuloto genovese
german pink
cherokee purple x2
hungarian heart
black krim

my fave is sungold (cherry) - hands down.... but the description for sunsugar says its sweeter than sungold, only time will tell. larger tomatoes - pretty much goes to the one i am eating at the time - thickly sliced and topped w/ freshly crushed pepper and salt - mmm, good!

there are a lot of new ones are on tap - black cherry, costolutto genovese, sweet million (farmer fred's favorite), super fantastic, heartland, black zebra, plus a few more. it will be interesting to find out which ones produce the best.

all in, all done....

fast forward a couple weeks and what we have here is a garden in full flight. germination of all seeds has gone real well and the tomatoes are just about all caged up. we even have quite a few small fruits across the 41 plants. i built trellis' from 2x6 cedar, which i ripped on a table saw. the cedar was $1.86 each, which resulted in very cheap, rot resistant 2x2 wood in the garden. i opted to use tee-pee style trellis for climbing beans this year - but upon reflection will probably build a ladder style trellis for my 2010 climbing beans - the tee-pee's just dont seem to be very space efficient and even though i have 12 beds - i need to be space efficient.

the tomato cages are a mix of home grown concrete wire cages and texas tomato cages. these texas do-dads are pretty cool as they solve a major problem with cages - they fold up in the off season and take up next to zero space. but the big elephant in room is cost - those texans cost almost $25 each - not cheap. so i buy a few a year until i get to my total of 36. i did try to build a reasonable tomato cage from pvc - and to build one w/ similar support characteristics was close to $20 - and pvc will break over time when exposed to sun - so texas gets the prize on this one.

the plants go in

well, we got a late frost, so i didnt plant on ff's bday. the first weekend in may was a washout (see previous post) so its mother's day weekend and the crew is out in force getting the garden into the beds.

this is our inaugural year for garden beds and has been anticipated for some time. vege's on tap include 41 tomato plants (5 beds), 1 bed of potatoes, 1 bed for corn, 1 bed of beans, 1 bed of winter squash and scattered among several other beds include, cucumbers, summer squash, onions, radish, bell peppers and melon.

i probably over planted - as usual - but it isnt the first time, and probably will not be the last. the picture shows the tomatoes being planted and our head of ranch security - jed.

omg - has it been a month already?

geesh - its amazing how fast it goes by and - BAM! the blog is way out of date. oh - on top of that the usb cable for the camera - suddenly went AWOL and the usual culprits (ages 7 &11) claim they have never seen it....go figure. so today i steal the wife's usb deal to get me back online.

well, lets recap; we left our garden action hero building a compost bin and this was the first weekend in may. when out of the blue - we get an extremely rainy weekend that completely blew my schedule. but the bin did get built and we have started throwing in the greens and the browns.

fast forward a couple weeks and the bin gets done and so does a lot of other things. and i now have some unwanted visitors. more to come.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

the next big project

once the compost bin is completed and the vegetables are in the garden - this is my next focus.

this is the lower area of the yard, which due to budget priorities, hasnt been landscaped beyond the core trees (crab apples - great spring and fall color) and bark. the plant growing on the wall is virginia creeper (great fall color) - but it doesnt do well growing on the wall - these will be pulled and replaced with boston ivy.

rocks will be placed strategically in the area and plants will be landed among the rocks. i will be using the same varieties of plants as i did in the upper yard - yellow babrberry, purple barberry, veronica, streibes findling cottoneaster - but in larger varieties than above - as the plants need to scale better with the wall and also need to 'pop' when viewed from the court. right now, my driveway looks like a nursery, as i have been accumulating plants as i find them at the local big box stores and mom and pop nurseries. i learned a few years ago - you better get the plant when you find it - or you will be wishin' you did.

the front yard...

this is the reason it took me until 2008 to really get going on my vegetable garden. this angle doesnt show too much of the wall - but if you have read my earlier posts - you kinda know what i did.

the yard is split in 2 - with 2 distinct yards, the closest in the picture, is the 'playing' lawn and the far grassy area is the 'looking' lawn. 2 boys wrestling around tends to mess up the grass a bit - so the boys keep to this lawn for their escapades - and as a result we are all happy.

the plants in the yard are yellow barberry, purple barberry, crimson pointe plums, october glory maples, streibes findling cottoneaster, japanese maple, blue fescue, veronica (green and yellow) and montgomery spruce. over all i like the way the plants tie it all together. the spruce, fescue and the lichen on the rocks all nearly match in color and provide continuity throughout the landscape. the purples in the barberry, plum trees, crab apples all blend and are boldly contrasted by the yellow barberry - which seems to glow in the twilight sun in the evening. except for the trees - all of the plants are a dwarf variety - so they wouldnt overwhelm the yard. trimming them up only requires a snip here and there throughout the season with hand pruners - no shearing for me - this yard was to be on the low end of the maintenance scale.

current project

this is my current project. building my compost bins. i purchased these bins a few years before we moved from the last house. it is made of recycled plastic - extruded into plank like lengths. this was pre-trex days - and cost me about $250 for the 2 bins (only one is shown the pic).

its unrottable (new word i invented) and did a decent job at the last house.

so by the end of this weekend - i am betting i will have 2 bins ready to go. its important i get this done - as my sons first scout merit badge task is to build a compost pile and get compost in 90 days.

an orchard update

just about all of the sticks have pushed leaves. the few that havent sprouted were newly planted this year - under warranty - from the frontyard nursery - so no worries.

one thing that i have been fortunate over the last two years - no peach leaf curl! i dont know if its the drought and the resulting lack of moisture, my soil chemistry - which naturally keeps the fungus at bay. but what it allows is so far into 2 years of my orchards life - no spraying.

dont get me wrong - i will spray if necessary, but so far so good.

several of my 1 year old cherry trees and nectarine trees blossomed this year - i usually will knock the baby fruit off the first 2 years, but we will see how it goes this year.

44 trees and still looking good.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

bare root production

ever wonder how they get the bare root trees ready for you to buy? a very interesting video - courtesy of dave wilson nursery.

organic on the lawn too....

i have a real anal-retentive need for a lush, green, well-manicured front lawn.

dont know if its my nostalgia for typical 1950's era, wholesome american-ness but, its what i do. to achieve that goal i was pretty loose with the sulfate of ammonia fertilizer at the old house and when i rolled lawn at the new house, i still fertilized (once a month, on odd numbered months) - although with a better balanced turf fertilizer than sulfate of ammonia.

i used BEST brand Turf Supreme - it had relatively low n-p-k (16-6-8) numbers, as well as iron and resulted in a properly green lawn. one downside to the synthetic i was using, i couldnt use it during the hot months, otherwise i would risk burning my lawn. so by july, the lawn would be less green until late september when it was cool enough to fertilize - with no risk of burn.

i found that dr. earth had a lawn fertilizer in pellet form, which i could use. cost is roughly 50% higher than the BEST product i was using, but if it would get the lawn green - keep it green and also be better for the dirt (it even states it better controls thatch) i figured its worth a shot. the n-p-k numbers of dr. earth (9-3-8) - was roughly 1/2 of the synthetic, and with fertilizing each month regardless of summer heat, my lawn would get roughly the same amount of nutrients, on a more consistent basis. AND if its better for the lawn, its win-win again.

i started applying dr. earth on my lawn in february - and spread it after every mowing - way more than suggested - but its natural and i wanted to get the lawn/soil a boost with the natural fertilizer and mycorrhizae, in hopes we can roll through the summer - and build a base of natural fertilization, which would get me to a once a month application.

its now mid april and the lawn appears as green as the old fertilizer made it and if the roots of the lawn respond to dr. earth - like my tomatoes did last year, i might even see a decrease in watering needs - which is not bad at all (really) summer watering for me is usually 2 times per week, 15 minutes each time - with the 15 minutes busted into 3 each, 5 minute patterns on the water days - to allow zero run-off.

will keep you posted on the progress of this too.

doing the organic thing

-disclaimer- i havent been too hip on the organic bandwagon, but when presented with personal evidence to support something i usually do.

historically, i have been a user of miracle-gro fertilizer on my vegetables. why?, because it worked - and my grandpa used it so i had no qualms. who can argue with success? listening to farmer fred on the radio the past few years, he has been an advocate of dr. earth products and with the info i have gleaned i am leaning to a more balanced approach to feeding my food.

i know these are fred's paid advertisers and fred needs these to stay on the radio. lord knows i need to have my weekly gardenside chat with fred - as such, i am a believer in supporting the sponsors of my favorite radio shows. thats how they stay on the air and its a win-win symbiotic relationship for us all.

so in 2008, i used for the first time, dr. earth's organic 5 tomato, vegetable and herb fertilizer. i figured what the heck, i had nothing to lose and possibly more to gain. i applied it on a weekly basis - possibly more often than recommended - but being organic, i had no issues. i noted not one difference in crop performance - on the upside or downside; thats good so at least i know it works as well as the miracle-gro. one thing i had hoped to improve was the occurrence of blossom end rot.

i know blossom-end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency - brought on by erratic watering. although i water at 2 times a week, filling the bowls around the tomatoes several times during a watering - so i dont see my watering as erratic - but the tomatoes dont lie. i noted a high calcium content of dr. earth and thought that might improve the free-calcium in the soil, making it less of an issue for plant take up.

(btw, foliar calcium sprays probably dont do as much, if anything, as university research suggests calcium isnt absorbed thru the leaves - gleaned from ff some time ago)

well, last year i got my typical blossom-end rot, in the normal numbers - and i can usually trace it to a sharp spike in temps when the tomato was formed. so dr. earth didnt help with that. but one BIG difference i did see was when i actually pulled the plants last fall. the root system of the tomatoes were incredible. i have never seen such a well developed and spreading root system - and this was across the board for all tomato plants.

so this year i am doing it again. its dr. earth for me in the garden. everyone always has a cost threshold - and yes dr. earth is more expensive than the synthetic fertilizer i have used for years - but this year, is my first year to use my recently finished raised beds and my goal is to keep those beds as naturally fertilized as i can.

so between the dr. and my own compost i generate - i hope it will work out. will keep you posted on my results.