Tuesday, August 31, 2010


my first attempts at espalier action of fruit trees. a few broken branches - but hey they will grow back. i filled up the last holes in the regular orchard this spring and am now turning to the fence line - and espalier - for apples and pears.

only certain varieties of trees are suitable for espalier - those with long lived spurs or other fruit bearing wood which isnt renewed every year. like i said - apple and pears, good. cherries, yeah probably. nectarines and peaches - not so much.

so in went my first two asian pears. hosui (totally awesome - juicy, Bartlett type flavor and crunchy). and shinko (never tried one, but the description sounded great and i needed a pollinator).

even though its totally against my normal rules, i let one of them set fruit this year (usually wait at least 2 years for bare roots) and will see how it goes. i will also be grafting other varieties of pears to these trees.

espaliered apples will start next spring with about 4 varieties, that i will get from trees of antiquity - and the bar is thus for a tree to be accepted:

1. an uncommon variety that you cant find, possibly even at farmers markets

2. must be on old variety - early 1800's is the newest acceptable; preferably older - much older.

3. has a characteristic which makes it stand out. i.e. colored flesh, scent, others?

4. most likely not red skinned, i just have a thing against red skinned apples - probably from the hundreds of red delicious apples i threw out as a kid because they were pithy or other such reason.

as these espaliered trees mature and grow in number - i will begin to graft additional varieties to them to further increase my diversity. california rare fruit growers offers a scion exchange - usually in mid-january, where for a small fee you can buy cuttings suitable for grafting. grafting - i have done before - trained by my grandpa and had success, so i am looking forward to doing it again. the scion exchange is not well advertised, so listen to farmer freds show as he is usually the only way i hear about it also (sundays - 1530 am 830-10, 650 am 10-12). he's a hoot - you wont regret listening to our local radio gardener.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

top heavy tomatoes

looks like the garden for 2011 will have to have some guy-wires installed to prevent the top heavy tomato plants from toppling over. seems the weather didnt stop the tomatoes plants from getting tall, only keeping the fruit from getting red.

an utter failure - at least for me

i had the idea to pair up my corn and winter squash in the same bed. seemed like a good idea when i heard about the three sisters idea on farmer fred's show.

so i planted my corn and two weeks later - in went the squash seeds.
well, it turns out that waiting 2 weeks wasnt necessary, as the corn completely outstripped the growing rate of the winter squash. and as you can tell in the attached picture, the puny squash plant has struggled since it broke ground.

as i am downsizing tomatoes to only 20 plants next year, that will free up an entire bed for winter squash, so i will probably not co-mingle corn and squash. BUT - if i do, you can bet the corn seeds and the squash seed will go in at the same time.

the fence keeps them out...

the electric fence seems to be doing its job. the only intrusion of deer into the garden, i believe is when i had the doggy entrance open and surprising to me the deer went thru and chewed up a few plants.

subsequently closing the doggy/deer door and no more evidence of deer in the garden. lets keep our fingers crossed.

jimmy durante doppleganger?

what do you think?

and the abundance begins - finally....

well the wierd summer weather has had a big impact on my vegetable production. nearly 4 weeks late for initial planting, resulted in a huge delay for my veges. didnt see my first tomato until late july. we are now getting an abundance, but still have a remarkable number of green tomatoes.

but, in spite of odd, off-beat weather, we have been doing well. cukes, once rolling along have done well. i am sold on the japanese climbing variety. vertical is good for the vine and they are crisp, good flavor and havent found a bitter one yet.

corn - ho-hum year. we did get some ears. the staggered planting, didnt seem to improve any yields and am betting that a lack of concentrated pollen may have resulted in less than optimal pollination. this is year 2 of using the extra sweet variety - mainly selected for a shorter growing season. i am pondering going back to pa's tried and true silver queen variety and see how that works. also, the stalks of corn fell over , so i am betting i need to plant the seeds deeper next year.

tomatoes - ok, yields are getting there and no doubt i will be composting a bunch of green ones. oh - i will be only planting 20 plants in 2011. 2010 had 25, 2009 had 41. this will free up 1 full bed for other plants - and i know we will still have more than enough tomatoes.

beans - just fine.

bell peppers - did well, but the yellow and orange varieties didnt seem to color up as expected. maybe due to the odd weather.

summer squash - a new variety and worked well.

winter squash - a near failure, look for a future post on that.

potatoes - *AWESOME*

there will be honey this year

the bee hives have been a challenge. as you know, i hived a few swarms and also raided some feral hives and had 6 hives by july.

turns out the feral hives, just havent grown as hoped, and i have combined them over time, hoping that combining the hives will give them a critical mass to survive the winter. so i am now down to 5 hives - not that i am complaining, mind you.

i have been treating the hives with powdered sugar, to protect against varroa mites. my goal is to follow organic methods for the hives - as i have for the garden. there is some scientific evidence to suggest that the sugar kicks off the bees cleaning activity, which results in more mites getting cleaned out.

next up will be honey extraction the weekend of september 11 and at that time i will treat the hives w/ thymol and other essential oils to assist with varroa eradication - but in an organic method.

and now gophers?

i swear, the dirt that would become my garden had not seen a mole or a gopher - ever. and once i decide to turn it into a raised bed garden - they show up.

its like they dropped from the sky and now i have to deal with these guys. my orchard has been over planted w/ clover and i would bet that gopher had been there for awhile before i found it.

the real issue is the damn tunnels they dig, which redirects the water away from the roots - infact, thats how i found the damn thing, my blueberries, which were planted as bare roots this spring, started to get crispy and when i began investigating i found a tunnel - which was a bad thing.