pod's blog

Springtime or Winter ~ will the weather please make up its' mind???
Posted on Jan 16, 2018 9:09 PM

Well, I have had an interesting weekend with diverse weather conditions.
It was sunny on Sunday but I found myself working on inventory. Monday turned out delightful with temps in the low 60s and sunshine. I worked outdoors just to savor the moment.
I weeded the garlic bed and then spread a fluffy layer of leaves as the temperatures were plummeting. Frostcover over the lettuce bed and onions.
I also got some seeds started. Three types of tomatoes Bella Rosa, Creole and Dixie Red (seeds acquired from Reimer Seeds) . All are supposed to be suited to produce in the warmer climate of the south. Also started Compatto dill.
I'm glad to have enjoyed the day as Tuesday morning delivered freezing temps with snow/ice. Ever so glad I didn't have to go in to work.

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The weather today has had me bonding with my new wood heater. It is very efficient, burning very little wood and supplementing the radiant heat well. The radiant heat would maintain a temperature of 71 but with the wood heater the temp stays around 74 to 80 degrees. The ceiling fans on low help to circulate the warm air that has risen. I am able to cook on the top of the heater but thus far have only heated water to add humidity to the air. I have also heated water for tea and to thaw the birdbath.
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Speaking of birds, they have been voracious. I added more seed loosely on the ground as they had to wait in line for the feeders. The fence line and the trees looked like they were decorated for Christmas with red birds (Cardinals) and yellow finches. Very pretty and rewarding to know I may be helping them stay warm by providing nourishment. I tried for good photos unsuccessfully but...
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I barricaded my two bad boy cats inside with the girlies (although there wasn't much protest) in order for the birds to dine without interuption.
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Tonite is predicted to be wicked with 12 being the forecast low. Fingers crossed for the tropical plants in the greenhouse. I've noticed a few are protesting the cooler temps by yellowing leaves. This weather is abnormal and hopefully will leave as quickly as it arrived.

I had recently added a second stoliniferous Cryptanthus lacerdae 'Menescal' and three bonus plants of Dyckia Mercury. I hope they will survive the cold after just being shipped and repotted. Time will tell.

Come on Springtime!

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Dry Vegetable Gardening ~ from HarvesttoTable.com
Posted on Jan 16, 2018 5:24 PM

I had never seen this written about before to this extent and feel I needed to share and reference it for future use.

From the Harvest to Table site.

Dry Vegetable Gardening

Dry gardening–called dry farming on a grander scale–is a strategy for gardening where rainfall and irrigation water are in short supply. By definition dry farming is non-irrigated agriculture in a climate where there is 20 inches of rain or less a year.

Vegetables require water to germinate, grow, and fruit. Plant cells are made mostly of water. Vegetables take up nutrients through soil water. Drought is the condition under which plants fail to mature because they lack enought water.

But dry conditions and drought are two different things. If you live in a dry region where little rain falls each year, if irrigation is hard to come by or rationed, you can still have a productive vegetable garden.

Dry vegetable gardening is not gardening with no water; it is gardening with limited water and making the most of the water you have.

Dry farming goals:

Set four goals for yourself if you want to grow vegetables in a dry climate:

• Store annual rainfall in the soil for later use.

• Choose crops suitable for growth under arid or drought conditions.

• Sow and plant crops further apart than you would where there is ample water.

• Prevent direct evaporation of soil moisture during the growing season.

Dry farming techniques:

Here are simple practices to accomplish these goals and succeed as a dry vegetable gardener:

• Add organic matter to your garden. Add aged compost and aged manure; the more the better. Add at least ¼ to ½ inch of compost to your garden twice a year in autumn and spring. Organic matter will improve all soils and will help your soil retain water.

• Mulch around maturing plants to retain soil moisture, block weeds, and promote a steady soil temperature. Use aged compost, straw, leaves, grass clippings, newspaper, or pine needles. Be careful not to apply compost directly next to plants stems; this could cause the stems to rot. Mulch will protect the soil from drying winds and the sun.

• Do not allow weeds to grow in your garden. Weeds complete with vegetables and other plants for water, nutrients, and light. Handpick weeds when they are just 2 or 3 inches tall. Or lightly cultivate weeds exposing their roots to drying wind and sun. Never allow weeds to set seed in your garden and multiply.

• Cultivate your garden to capture rainwater. Surface cultivation will break up soil crusting caused by rainfall and irrigation and allow new rarinfall to seep into the soil. Surface cultivation just 2 or 3 inches deep will help capture up to 70 percent of each rainfall. Cultivate lightly after every rainfall to break soil crusting. See "dust mulching" below.

• Double-dig your garden to loosen the soil. Double digging can help turn your soil into a sponge. Double-digging involves turning the soil a spade's length deep (about 12 inches) and loosening the next 12 inches of soil with a spading fork. Thus the soil is turned or loosened to a depth of 24 inches. Loose soil will allow water to seep deeper into your garden where it can remain until plant roots need it. Loose soil also allows plant roots to grow deeper and stronger, more readily able to withstand drought. But do not dig the soil after a rainfall (this will damage the soil) or when it is too dry; wait until it is just barely moist. A good time to double dig your garden is in the fall.

• Reduce the number of plants in your garden and space them further apart than normal; this is a basic dry gardening concept. Set plants at least 1½ times or greater the spacing distance recommended on seed packets. When fewer plants are in the garden there will be more water to go around. For example, bush tomatoes that might normally be planted on 3 foot centers should be planted on 4 to 6 foot centers. (It is important to note that seeds must germinate under normal conditions; that is they must receive moisture to begin life and grow. Give seeds and seedlings all the water they need until they are established.)

• Plant early maturing cultivars. Most vegetables include cultivars or varieties that are quicker-maturing than others. Plant cultivars that reach maturity and come to harvest quickly. This strategy is not dry farming per se; it simply uses soil moisture early in the season while it is still available. Grow plants that require more water early in the season and allow vegetables that require less water to grow through the dry period.

• Plant dwarf and mini cultivars. Smaller cultivars will have less stem and leaf surface from which moisture can evaporate (called transpiration). Dwarf and mini cultivars usually produce fruits and leaves that are smaller–sometimes called "meal size" crops. Smaller cultivars use less water.

• Thin plants on time. Thin seedlings when they are just an inch or two tall. Leave the strongest seedlings in place and use a scissors to trim away the unwanted seedling at soil level. Thinning is akin to weeding. It allows the plants you select to use valuable water and nutrients for growth and production. Water is not wasted on plants that will not succeed.

• Harvest your crops on time. Take crops at their peak of growth and flavor. Don't leave plants in garden too long, flavor will not be enhanced and crops will deteriorate.

• Use drip irrigation or a soaker hose if you irrigate. Set drip irrigation at the base of plants where the water will go quickly to roots. Cover drip irrigation with straw or black plastic to slow soil surface evaporation. Place your irrigation on a timer.

• Water plants deeply but infrequently. Plant roots follow the moisture. Water deeply by watering at a trickle allowing water to seep slowly down into the soil, not quickly run off. Water at night at the base of plants, or water in morning if you expect irrigation will hit plant leaves (this will allow leaves to dry before nightfall and avoid disease).

• Capture rainwater from rain gutters (not rooftops) in a large garbage can placed under rainspouts. This water can be used to make compost tea. Make compost tea by combining equal parts water and aged compost. Compost tea is nutrient rich and will deliver the nutrients directly to the plant roots in soluble form. Remember plants "drink" their food.

• Windbreaks. Protect your garden soil and plants from drying winds with a windbreak. Locate your garden away from prevailing winds behind a hedge or fence. Sunflowers and sunchokes (Jerusalem artichoke) can be grown as natural windbreaks.

• Dust mulching (this is a basic dry-farming method). Dust or dirt mulching disrupts the soil drying process essentially separating the upper layer of a garden's soil from the lower layers. Soil moisture is a continuous film of water surrounding soil particles. As moisture enters the soil and seeps downward it forms a column of soil moisture from the surface to the deepest point that the moisture travels (called capillary water). When the weather warms, surface moisture evaporates and soil moisture from below is drawn upwards to replace it; soil moisture is wicked from the ground via the evaporation from above. When the film of moisture in the soil becomes too thin, plants wilt and may die.

Dust mulching is simply soil cultivation to about 2 or 3 inches deep. Cultivation disturbs the soil surface and interrupts the wicking of soil moisture. The cultivated soil becomes a sort of mulch which protects the moisture below from being wicked to the surface and lost to evaporation.

Dust mulching is most effective if it is done after each rain or irrigation. It must be done when the soil is moist in order to interrupt the continuity of capillary water. Dirt mulching also keeps the soil loose and permeable and receptive to new rainfall or irrigation.

• Stubble mulching. Stubble mulching protects the soil surface from the drying process of wind and sun. A stubble mulch is simply the organic remains of a harvested crop or a live green manure. Not all of the previous crop is removed from the garden or a green manure crop is planted in its place. Use stubble mulches where there is no danger of the crop stubble or garden debris hosting diseases or insects. A stubble crop should not be a member of the same plant family as the crop that will follow.

• Clear fallowing. Clear fallowing is used by some farmers in dry regions to capture and store rainwater. No crops or vegetation are grown in a field for a year. The soil is cleared of all but crop stubble (which acts as a stubble mulch for a year) and rainfall is captured and stored. It is estimated that where the soil is well-worked to 18 inches deep, clear fallowing will retain up to 70 percent of precipitation. Clear fallowing, sometimes called summer fallowing, is done every other year in some dry regions.

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Getting out the solar panel and recharging my batteries!
Posted on Dec 11, 2017 9:32 PM

What a wonderful weekend. The temperatures moderated during the daytime while the sun was out. I needed the sunshine to set my mood for the coming week.

The frost damaged the foliage on a few odd vegetable plants that were hanging on. I harvested the last of the goodies and uprooted the plants.

In their place I planted a half bed of romaine lettuce. Both types are supposed to be smaller, Little Gem and Petite Rouge. They had lanquished in their starter pots but seem to have taken off in the raised bed after one day.

The Aleppo pepper plant produced a good number of peppers that were bordering on ripening. I cut, seeded and soaked them overnight in a brine solution. Then drained them and dehydrated them. The thought is to have a salt flavored pepper seasoning when I grind them to flake or powder. Testing now to be sure they are thoroughly dried before grinding.

I enjoyed a pleasant few hours in the greenhouse this afternoon with the indoor temp at mid to high 70s. The cooler temperatures had negated the need for much watering so I 'dressed up' the plants. Many had dead or damaged leaves needing trimming. Pinestraw, leaves and acorns that hitchhiked into the greenhouse with the plants. They all look much better now.

Still planning my attack on disposal of some of those plants that have outgrown their welcome. Perhaps cuttings to start with smaller plants this coming spring. Some that I just don't love may be disposed of as well.

Off to work tomorrow with a good attitude adjustment... grateful for the nice weekend.

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Growing Bulb Onions ~ from Harvest to Table
Posted on Dec 9, 2017 10:52 PM

Growing Bulb Onions: Pick the Right Variety for Your Garden
By Steve Albert on Dec 08, 2017 09:00 pm

Long-day White Sweet onion
You must pick the right type of onion for your region. Pick the wrong type and the onions will not form bulbs.

Bulb onions are particular about where you live.

Onion bulb formation is triggered by the number of summer daylight hours. Bulb-forming onions can be divided into three types:
•Long-day onions which require about 15 hours of summer daylight.
•Short-day onions which require about 12 hours of summer daylight.
•Day-neutral (also called intermediate day) onions which are not affected by the number of daylight hours. (Day-neutral onions are modern hybrids, bred to not be sensitive to day length.)

Which Type to Grow in Your Garden

It's relatively easy to know which type of onion you should grow in your garden. It depends upon where you live.

Draw an imaginary line across the country from San Francisco to north of the Carolinas. Do you live north or south of this line?
•Summer daylight north of this line is 14 to 16 hours long or longer: grow long-day onions.
•Summer daylight south of this line is about 10 to 12 hours: grow short-day onions.
•Not sure, too-much trouble to figure this out: grow day-neutral onions.

In short: long-day onions grow best north of the 40th parallel; short-day onions grow best south of the 28th parallel; day-neutral onions are the best bet between the 28th and 40th parallel.

What happens if you make a mistake? Long-day varieties grown in the South will never form bulbs because the days are not long enough. Short-day varieties grown in the North will form bulbs early but the bulbs will be small and weak because the plant has not grown strong enough to grow large, mature bulbs.

Onion Bulb Formation Explained

An onion bulb is a short underground stem. From the base of the stem, roots grow down and leaves grow up. The onion plant has a fan of hollow, bluish-green leaves. Each leaf is connected to its own underground stem; the larger the leaf the larger its underground stem. The greater the number of large leaves, the greater the size of the bulb beneath the ground; each leaf corresponds to a ring of the onion bulb; the larger the leaf the larger the ring. (Like all plant stems, the onion stems or leaf bases store nutrient reserves for growing the plant.)

Onions are photothermoperiodic; that means they are sensitive to temperature and also to day light. Onions quit forming leafy tops and begin to enlarge their underground stems (bulbs) when the day light each day reaches a certain length. The amount of day light needed for an onion plant to begin forming a bulb varies by variety; each variety has its own genetically determined bulb formation trigger.

For more detail on this process read: Bulb Onion Growing: Day Length and Temperature.

When to Plant Bulbing Onions in Your Garden

To grow an onion with a mature bulb:
•Long-day varieties (growing in northern regions) should be started 12-10 weeks before the last frost in spring: direct-sow seed in a plastic tunnel or cold frame, or sow seed indoors for transplanting into the garden 5 to 4 weeks before the last frost in spring. Harvest will come in late summer or early fall depending upon the variety.
•Short-day varieties (growing in southern regions) should be planted mid-fall to mid-winter either directly sown or started in the garden with onion sets or transplants. Harvest will come in late summer or early fall depending upon the variety.
•Day-neutral varieties (planted either in northern or southern regions) can be planted in mid-fall to early spring in mild-winter regions and in early spring in cold-winter regions. Harvest will come in late summer or early fall depending upon the variety.

Onion Varieties to Grow
•Long-day onion varieties include: Walla Walla Sweet, White Sweet Spanish, and Yellow Sweet Spanish.
•Short-day onion varieties include: Georgia Sweet, Sweet Red, Texas Super Sweet, Texas Sweet White, Yellow Granex (Vidalia), White Granex, and White Bermuda.
•Day-neutral onion varieties include: Red Candy Apple, Candy, and Superstar. (All of these are hybrids.)

More on onion growing read: How to Grow Onions and Onion Seed Starting Tips.

The post Growing Bulb Onions: Pick the Right Variety for Your Garden appeared first on Harvest to Table.

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From the "Daily Garden" Word of the Day ~ Peaches
Posted on Dec 1, 2017 10:26 PM



Peaches may be the last thing on your mind right now, but autumn is a good time of year to find room on your property for a peach tree. Even if you don't have room in your yard, dwarf peach varieties can be grown in containers.

Peach trees make a lovely addition to a foodscape. Fragrant spring blossoms give way to fruit that practically defines summer. Autumn leaf drop makes pruning easy and what winter would be complete without a surprise dessert of peach cobbler? A mature peach tree can produce up to 65 pounds of fruit each year! That's over 200 peaches!

History of the peach

Did you know that peach trees have been around for over 2.6 million years? Traditionally thought to be from Persia, genetic research shows that peaches actually originated in China. Also, it was thought that peach cultivation started some 6,000 years ago, until some ancient writings showed that certain kings and emperors, back in the 10th century B.C., favored a delectable peach now and then. So, if you love peaches, you are in good company.

The peach tree
Peaches and nectarines are the same fruit, like fraternal twins. The only difference is that peaches have fuzzy skin (trichomes) and nectarines are smooth skinned. This difference is due to a recessive gene, the same way blue eyes or red hair occurs. Peaches are in the rose family, members of the Prunus genus, all of which produce fruits called drupes. This makes them cousin to almonds, apricots, cherries, and plums. Peach trees are in a group of plants that use specialized cells for storage, manufacturing, and as weapons. These cells are called idioblasts.

Standard peach trees can grow 25 to 33 feet tall and 25 feet wide, if you let them. For the best productivity and tree health, it is better to keep them pruned to 15 feet by 15 feet. Dwarfs will grow to 6 feet. Most peach trees in Maine only live 7 years, while California peach trees live 12 to 20 years.

Peach trees and chill hours

Before you plant a peach tree, you need to understand chill hours. Each winter, peach trees enter a period of dormancy. Being deciduous, they lose all their leaves and enter a winter rest. During that rest, the number of hours spent between 32°F and 45°F are accumulated (don't ask me how - I have no idea). These "chill hours" must reach a certain number for a tree to be able to blossom properly in the spring. Once enough chill hours are accumulated, the tree enters a different type of dormancy called quiescence. Depending on the variety, peach trees need 600 to 900 chill hours. Here in the Bay Area, we generally only get 450 chill hours. When selecting a peach tree variety, you want to take chill hours into account. There are several models used to calculate chill hours, and each one gives you different information. Below you can see the chill hour results for the South Bay Area. Go to my page on chilling hours to learn how to get your local information. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from. According to UC Davis, using the Dynamic Model, the following varieties have their chill hours noted alongside:

• Andross 63
• Big Top 63
• Earligrande 12
• Flordaprince 8
• Maravilha 12
• O'Henry 63
• Redhaven 75

[Using the Dynamic Model, San Jose receives an average of 52 chill portions each year, so only two varieties would be a good choice.] You can see detailed list of different fruit trees at the UC Davis Home Orchard.

Peach varieties

Peach varieties are divided between cling and freestone. Those names refer to how easily the fruit comes away from the pit. Freestone peaches tend to have firmer fruit, while clingstone peaches are known for their sweeter taste. Clingstone varieties are harvested May through August, while the freestone harvest extends into October. There is also a hybrid cross between the two, called a semi-freestone, and flat varieties, called pan-tao. Not all peach tree varieties perform well in all regions or microclimates. Check with your local County Extension Office and be sure to verify your growing zone using the USDA Hardiness Zone Map.

Growing a tree from a peach pit

While you can eat a peach and then plant its seed, this doesn't always work out the way you expect. Like apples and many other fruits, peach seeds do not necessarily produce offspring that taste as good or grow as well as the stock you buy at your local nursery. This is because most fruit and nut trees are grafted. Grafted trees have an aboveground part from one variety and a root stock from another variety. This is done to take advantage of one variety's ability to develop strong roots, while other varieties may taste better or be more pest or disease resistant. Also, your pit grown peach tree will not produce fruit for a few years, and some will never produce fruit.

If you want to give it a try, you can simply put your peach pit in the ground and let nature take its course, or you can refrigerate the pit until December or January. This method, called stratification, fools the pit into triggering winter processes (vernalization), in preparation for spring. Just soak your pits in water for a couple of hours, and then place them in a plastic bag, along with a little moist soil. This bag goes into the refrigerator, until you see signs of germination. This can take a few weeks or months, depending on the variety and other factors. Since peaches emit high levels of ethylene gas (a ripening agent), you should keep them away from other fruits and vegetables. Once it starts germinating, remove it from its cold environment and let the planting begin! But first, you need to select the best location for your peach tree.

Peach tree site selection

Peach trees need plenty of sunshine, but they will also benefit from a little protection at the extreme points of summer and winter, if possible. Being susceptible to several fungal diseases, peach trees also need good drainage. Peach trees prefer a soil pH of 6.5. Here, in the Bay Area, we tend to have more alkaline soil, so acidification may help your tree thrive. Of course, you won't know what your soil is without a test from a reputable lab. Just sayin'…

How to plant a peach tree

Bare root trees are best planted in January and February. Your peach sapling should be planted right away, or soaked in water for 6 to 12 hours before planting. If you have a bare root tree, gently spread the roots out to see how much space they can use and dig a hole that will accommodate them. This is also a good time to clip off any dead, diseased, or damaged roots. Be sure to rough up the edges of your planting hole. If you don't, the smooth clay left by your shovel can create a tough barrier for young roots. Containerized and balled trees should be given a hole slightly larger and the same depth as the container or root ball. It is very important that the soil level remains the same. Add soil around the roots and gently tamp it down. This removes air pockets that can dry roots out before they ever get a chance to grow. Mulch around your new tree and water it in well. Peach trees can also be started from twig cuttings called scions.

Peach tree care

Peaches are self-pollinating, which means that another tree is not needed to produce a crop. If you have room for more than one tree, be sure to space them 12 by 16 to 18 by 18 feet apart. Peach trees perform best when they are trained in what's called an open center system. This is exactly what it sounds like. Peaches can also be espaliered.

Feeding and watering peaches

Peach trees use a lot of nitrogen. You can use blood meal, ammonium sulfate, or commercial 10-10-10 fertilizer to feed your peach tree. Nitrogen deficiencies in peach appear as red areas on the leaves. Peaches are shallow-rooted, so they are susceptible to water stress during the summer. Too much stress can lead to a condition called bitter fruit that can mean the end of the useful production of your tree, so irrigate accordingly. Near the end of fruit development, deficit irrigation can be used to improve taste and sweetness.

While you certainly want to avoid girdling your peach tree with the weedwacker, doing it on purpose, called cincturing, or scaffold girdling, can increase production and fruit quality. You just have to be really careful that you don't kill your tree in the process.

Peach pests and diseases

Peach are susceptible to these bacterial diseases: crown gall, bacterial blight, citrus blast, and bacterial spot. Fungal diseases include stem blight, peach leaf curl, shot hole disease, and brown rot. Armyworms, peach twig borers, earwigs, eugenia psyllid, Japanese beetles, mealybugs, San Jose scale, green fruit beetles, Mediterranean fruit flies, armored scale, eriophyid mites, katydids, and birds are the biggest pests. Luckily, beneficial insects, such as braconid wasps, mealybug destroyers, and tachinid flies love to eat peach twig borers!

Pheromone traps can be used to monitor many of these pests and sticky barriers will prevent many pests from ever reaching tender buds, shoots, and fruit. Bordeaux mixture, fixed copper, and dormant oil can be used to prevent or treat some bacterial diseases, fungal diseases, and pest infestations. Kaolin clay can also be used to prevent some pest damage. Since fruiting occurs from pollination by honey bees, flies, and other pollinators, avoid using broad spectrum pesticides.

When to harvest peaches

Color and smell are good ripeness indicators, when it comes to peaches. Yellow skin, which may or may not have a red tinge, and that amazing sweet summer aroma of ripe peaches are reason enough to give one a try. Taste, ultimately, is the only true indicator of ripeness, but who can complain about conducting that test? If the fruit comes away from the stem easily, it is ripe.

​Too much of a good thing

Your peach tree will produce far more fruit than it can support. This leads to a low quality harvest and broken limbs (the tree's - not yours). You can protect your tree and improve crop quality by thinning flowers and fruit partway through the growing season. First, when your tree is covered with blossoms, leave it alone and enjoy it. As the flowers start developing into tiny fruits, it is time to thin. The basic rule of thumb for thinning fruit is to leave one fruit per spur, with fruit 4-6" apart. Apricots, nectarines and peaches are normally thinned when the fruit is 1/2-3/4" in diameter.

Make a place for a peach tree in your yard today for a decade of fresh summer peaches in your pantry!

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