Thursday, July 9, 2015

first tomato for 2015

and the winner is..... cherokee purple.  i have had a few sun golds, but according to farmer fred's rules - those dont count.  no worries.  so far watering once a week has worked out OK.  the coir and alfalfa mulch seem to be doing their jobs and we have had a string of very hot days.

who says you cant have a garden in a drought.  next year, maybe 6 tomato plants!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

the lady and the apple

if they grow as planned, these little apples will be my first ashmeads kernels since i planted the tree a few years ago.  its espaliered on the fence.  nice little bug keeping an eye on the garden for me too.

for your viewing pleasure.

yup - i am a weather geek

finally ponied up some bucks for a high-end weather station.  my buddy alan has had one for years and i had to have one.  it is wirelessly linked to the console in the house so i can track temp, wind, humidity and rain totals.

dont know why, but i love watching local weather on TV, been a weather geek for years and have enjoyed the best channel 3 has to offer in weather - shelly monohan, mark finan, angela buchman (i got a bday card from her back in the day - had a weather chick crush), eilene javora (who i saw at the local placerville safeway).

one day i will get it linked to the internet so the entire world will know what the weather is like in my tiny portion of the world.  until then, this is all you get....

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

i am now no-till

i have been a tiller since i have been a gardener.  its just the way its supposed to be.  so every spring, i would rip out the weeds and use the mantis to roto-till a bag or two of chicken poo into each bed - to prep for the impending growing season.

an example of my typical roto-tilling task:

well after listening to farmer fred for years and hearing him and steve zion chatting about the lack of need to roto-till, i figured 2015 would be the year i give it a try.

i am always up for giving up an unnecessary chore and with last years re-set of the raised bed, this was the perfect time to give this no-till method a shot.

each bed was topped with gardener and bloom chicken fertilizer (essentially high priced mulch) this winter.  the poo was watered down with the 13 or so inches of rain we have seen this winter - so the beds are ready to go.  no-till should make for few weeds and the few that have popped up have been either pulled or torched.

so this week, 4 tomatoes were planted - 1 per bed; and when the hole was dug, it was apparent that there was good water penetration as the bed soil was nicely moist.  i buried the tomatoes deep, added dr earth vegetable fertilizer, coir (as explained in a previous post) and some azomite to add trace minerals and back-filled.

time will tell how well this no-till method will work - but i will keep you posted as to weeds and productivity of the tomatoes.

no-till beds with tomatoes and alfalfa bales:

grafting made simple

i have been a grafter for sometime now, albeit - not active.  my grandpa taught me how to graft in my learning orchard at my old house.  it was successful.  i grafted a wild variety of apple as a bud graft and also with the typical end of the limb type grafts.

fast forward 20 plus years - pa is gone and so is my learning orchard, and now i had a new challenge.  i am espaliering apples and pears on my fence at the new house.

the challenge?  fill in gaps on the espaliered trees so i can get more apple varieties and more horizontal growing branches.  if you have ever espaliered, one of the challenges is not enough lateral branches sprouting from the trunk or sprouting in the wrong place.

well obviously i cant be the first to come across this issue.  luckily the folks at Lee Valley have a tool that solves the problem.  The Plugger Bit allows you to drill a hole directly into the trunk - so you can place the scion at the exact spot you need an additional lateral branch.

so how do you fit in the scion?  simple - quickly run it thru a pencil sharpener and you have an exact geometric match for the hole the plugger bit created.  you still have to be sure you match up the cambium of the trunk and the scion, but based upon this years success, it works pretty darn good.

here is an example of honeycrisp scion grafted to the trunk of my ashmeads kernel:

you also need to seal the ends and the insertion point on the trunk and then support it.  i chose grafting wax for the sealer and good old electrical tape to hold the parts together until its all sutured up.

this my hosui asian pear that i grafted additional hosui scions to, to fill in gaps:

Monday, April 27, 2015

tomato endeavor 2015

drought continues to plague california  and our local irrigation district is now requiring 25% mandatory reduction in water use (compared to 2013 usage).

if you recall last year they were looking for 30% voluntary reduction.  steps i took last year was to reduce turf watering - the lawn took a beating, but survived.  front landscape plants made it ok (for the most part) - although i lost 3 or my flowering plums to borers - but the maples are doing fine.  i reduced my orchard watering regime by 30% and i had no vegetable garden.  we used 2014 as the year to line the garden beds with gopher wire.

2015 rolls in, the drought continues.  how do i sync that with the need for fresh home grown tomatoes and maintain a 25% reduction in water usage?

well, only 4 tomatoes helps, and a few tweaks of the irrigation, the addition of coir and a thick mat of alfalfa is my hope to make watering the tomatoes a once or twice a week endeavor.

i have further reduced my orchard watering schedule.  prior to the drought, my trees were getting roughly 48 gallons of water per tree per, per week.  last year, i reduced it to 32 gallons of water per tree, per week.  this year i am reducing it to 20 gallons of water per tree, per week.  thats a pretty substantial drop.  last years change had no noticeable impact, so i am hoping this further reduction is met with similar results.  in el dorado county, water is gold, if i can keep some of that gold in my pocket - yay,  for me.

my goal for my garden beds from the start was organic and the use of omri certified products if i needed to add anything.  looking for something to improve water retention in the beds led me to coir - the outer husk of coconuts.  suggested by Farmer Fred (, i found coir at the Front Yard Nursery and it was omri certified.  coir absorbs 9 times it weight in water, so the hope is it will help hold the water over a longer period than the soil in the bed - thus reducing my water needs.

to add even more protection, i have added a layer of alfalfa around the tomato, this should reduce evaporation and working with the coir - make water needs significantly less.  like i said, my goal is to water twice a week - once a week is a stretch goal.  in the center of the alfalfa chips (circled in red) is one of this years tomatoes.  and those end of the season alfalfa chips will shred nicely right into the compost pile.

come mid august, we will see.....