Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Why dream of squashes? Firstly, I have lots of unused space in the back. It's in a nice sunny area, and underutilized. I am currently eating some of the frankensquashes from the Watsonville garden. They look like pumpkins but the flesh is like spaghetti squash. An obvious cross, and why I won't grow anymore "surprise" squash. They are making nice pilaf, but I'd like more variety. I had a co-worker rave about delicata squash enough for me to try one from the grocery store. And it was delicious. Butternut is my absolute favorite, especially since I grew some of my own the first year I was here. But not enough to get through the winter. I wonder if I can grow that many. And I end up buying kabocha from the store as well and would like to try it at home.

Garden Dream - January

Last day of the month and I am thinking that I will post a garden dream and see how many I achieve by next year.

I'm dreaming of winter squashes. Specifically, butternut, delicata and sweet mama kabocha are on my mind. I would like to see them growing wild and free down the hill in the back. Of course I would have to think of howto outwit the gophers (ha ha ha!!) But that's my dream for this month.

Monday, January 30, 2006


I work in Santa Cruz, where it is grey and drizzling with rain. I'm thinking, at least I'm at work today and not staring out at the wet garden wishing it would rain while I'm at work instead of when I'm home.

I just called home to say howdy to my husband. He says it's sunny there, no rain at all.


Weekend Progress

I've got to figure out how this "help" thing works. I was very excited to be getting help in the garden from my husband this weekend. Turns out I was to help him on his project of clearing a space for a new gas tank so he can sack the current gas company. At least more of the branches were cleared away, and perhaps the chipper is soon to be running again. One of my challenges in the garden is having 13 California Coastal Oak (Quercus agrifolia - I think) trees on the property. They are nice trees, about 30 years old, but that means I have lots of "dry shade" in the garden, and lots of tree pruning and maintenance, of which the previous owners completely neglected. Every rain storm we are "showered" with small branches that the trees shed. We've been thinning them with the pole pruner, and especially have been removing large dead branches, but it is a very big and constant chore.

Weather held for us on Saturday, although I was told it was raining in Aptos and Santa Cruz. The last of the nectarine tree was removed. I hate tearing out trees but this job was overdue. The previous owners were "proud" of the fruit trees on the property. There was a dying peach, 2 mangled citrus trees, a pear (variety unknown), the unknown apricot (which has never produced), and the nectarine. The trees were "mangled" by the inept pruning job of the previous owners. I can't figure how he thought pruning is to be done with a chain saw. The citrus trees were in terrible shape, pruned with a chain saw, mis-shapen, cut below the graft, diseased, etc. It wasn't a hard choice to remove those when we moved in, nor was the removal of the dying peach, but it took me a year to decide it had to go. The nectarine was producing fruit, but off the root stock. It had been pruned to the ground and the branches had sprung up from root suckers. And I couldn't say much for the fruit as it was bitter (caused by the skin, the flesh was okay and it made an okay pie). The flowers in the spring were pretty and I had some success with getting it to produce larger and better fruit. It was basically my laboratory tree. But I'm ready for the real thing now and it was time for it to go.
I actually suspect the pear is also producing from the rootstock as I haven't been able to identify the variety. But my husband likes the fruit, so I have been looking after it's upkeep. I was able to complete its winter pruning last weekend. The unknown apricot was also pruned, but I'd like to make a few more thinning cuts at the top.

Precipitation was 1/2-inch on Saturday night. I slept well as I didn't even hear it rain.

Sunday we went out for breakfast, and I went right back out to the yard when we returned. I was determined to plant the Golden Dorsett (done) and get some other odd jobs done. I added some Heuchera roots to the "stone bathtub" and a Dicentra root, made some rosemary cuttings for a friend, and potted up lots of other plants. I need to find a plant for some ranuculas that I put into a couple of 6 packs and the Hollyhock sprouts are coming along fine. It looks like they will have their first true leaves this week and I will pot them up next weekend. I also ran some string and stakes planning for a new set of garden beds off the back of the house.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

What would Mr. Thrower do?

Precipitation 1/8-inch. Not much of a rain last night. And it's been
clear and sunny today. Lots of clouds but no rain.

The Golden Dorset is finally in at San Lorenzo. I just need to pick it
up. I meant to bring a larger car a couple of times this week, but haven't
so Larry's been calling me nearly daily. I guess I'll try stuffing it into
my little car. Won't be the first time I have brought home a tree in it.

What to do this weekend? It's a weekend off from the Watsonville
garden. And my dear husband said he would come out and "help". Usually
his preferred idea of help is to yell "Hey Percy, avez vous un cuppa?" from
the deck. Now, I'm not sure if I like being compared to Percy Thrower
(and my husband's French is questionable), but it can't be all bad. I've never
seen Mr Thrower's show (and probably never will). And the tea service is
certainly welcome, but I digress.

But what to do with the promised help from my husband? It is said that you
can't plough a field by turning it over in your mind. But I can't help
mulling over all the projects that need being done. Especially the ones
that I need help with. I guess I need to really be a pest and bring the
subject of the walls/tiered garden beds up with him again. I know that
he's resistant to the idea, but I think if he sees how it improves the look
of the yard, I think he'll be on-board with the idea. It's kinda like my
"stone bathtub" idea. I have raised beds lined with hardware cloth to keep
the veggies away from the gophers. And planting in the ground usually
involves adding a gopher basket around most plants. If they were free from
a cutting (which I am slowly accumulating more of) or I know that a gopher
is disinterested in the plant (sage, oregano, marigolds, daffodils, and
ceanothus seem to fall into that category) I tend not to bother with the
basket. So it's not just the simple task of adding plants and letting them
grow. It's a constant balance of adding drought tolerant plants that then
have to be protected from being eaten, therefore the "stone bathtub". I
created a ring of stack and lock concrete stones, placed gopher wire over
the first ring, and carefully added the second and third ring thereby
holding the wire in place. Now I have a bed that I can plant anything
into, without too much worry of it being eaten. I'd like to continue with
more "islands" in other spots in the yard. But my husband was resistant to
the idea until I got it started. Then he seemed to happily join in and it
looks rather good. It's just barely planted - some of the plants are
winter dormant, and I can't wait to see how it shapes up in the coming weeks.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Blooms in January

This is a Bromeliad Aechmea sp. that is blooming now in my garden. I like Bromeliads as much as my Cymbidiums which are also about to bloom. I'll post pictures of those once they open. I'm also sending a copy to my garden club as there is a contest as to the best winter blooms. I don't think I stand a chance as one of the members has a climbing rose in full bloom.

Aren't cha glad ya live in California?

Apologies to all those who are slogging through snow and other muck.

First Daffodil 2006

It was trying to open yesterday, but is fully open today. I'm always
amazed at this little wooden planter box. I planted it when I lived in
Capitola in 1995. And I have added potting soil /compost and I will poke
in the occasional left over bulb, but I really haven't done much else to
it. I moved it to Aptos with me and it would bloom each spring. Now it's
here in Elkhorn and has bloomed quite regularly. As I have been moving
plants about my yard and haven't really decided where I want permanent
daffodil plantings, I've been inspired by this box and have been planting
others that I move here and there and then push to the back of the yard
when they are dormant. Spring is definitely on it's way.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Here, Madame, is your stick. That'll be $20, please.

This isn't much of a photo, but if you have ever purchased a bare root tree, you know that this is all you might get. And then, you have to prune it. Not a task for the weak of heart. I know, because last year, I pruned all 4 trees that we planted. I would have to sit down and rest in the sun, after pruning what already looked like a butcher job, down to the 3 to 5 best scaffold branches.

Here's a photo of the 6 in 1 pear tree.

It's worth the extra money to have the basic espalier form already started. My Pink Pearl apple had the shape naturally and I've just had to encourage it. Winter pruning young fruit trees can be harrowing. But take heart, here's what the Donut Peach looks like this year:

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Last weekend

Precipitation 1/8-inch. Seemed like it should have been more than
that. But I wonder if the rain doesn't come down straight, does it
actually get measured accurately in my rain gauge?

Trees are still taking up the center of my attention. I was at San Lorenzo
last Friday, picking up Mom's trees. I got to chatting with one of the
folks there, Larry. We are both big fans of blueberries and I was asking
him what varieties would work best in the Sacramento area. Also, he
recognized me from another time I was cruising around the nursery, asking
stupid questions about this and that. Anyway, after he carried the trees
to the truck, we shook hands and exchanged names.

My plan was to go to Mom's on Saturday. Spur of the moment plans, but it
seemed like it would work out for the best as I had Monday off. I also
planned to sleep in a bit on Saturday. About 9am, I was just rolling out
of bed when the phone rang:
"Hi, I'm from San Lorenzo Garden Center"
"Good Morning, Larry!"
"Yup. How's things?"
"Well, your pluot is now here."

Much more time with Larry and people may begin to talk (ha ha). My husband
certainly shot me a strange look.

Drove to Sacramento in the blustery rain of the weekend. Not fun driving
at all. I diverted to Capital Nursery before going to Mom's as they had
the 6 in 1 pear that I wanted. San Lorenzo couldn't get one for me,
although they tried hard, and since the 6 in 1 apple wasn't in on Friday, I
picked one up from Capital at that time. And I couldn't resist the purple
asparagus. Four trees in the back of the jimmy, 2 blueberry bushes, 10
asparagus roots, and 4 rhubarb roots and I rolled in at sunset. Mom and I
went out for a bit of sushi and then went to bed early. Big day of
planting, Sunday.

Swiss Chard from Mom's garden:

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Just keeping count

Tuesday 1/2-inch
Sunday/Monday 1/8-inch
Saturday 3/8-inch

Busy. Will write soon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Brussels Sprouts 'Rubine'

Yet another photo from Sunday. The plant currently looks like a tall red cabbage. I don't remember when they were transplanted. Sometime in October would be my guess. I think they are being slow as the daylight on this bed isn't very long in the winter. But it is slowly increasing.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Ahhh..... Not too late.

But nearly. I stopped by the Nursery to inqure about the trees and to reserve the trees for Mom if I needed to. I needed to. They hadn't been out for the weekend, so there were still the selections that I was interested in. Okay, I'm sounding really neurotic. But sometimes I think my easy-going nature drops me in the poo and then I get upset. For example, it turns out my Golden Dorsett apple tree wasn't on the shipment. sigh..... And I special ordered it too, months ago. But San Lorenzo are troopers, and they called the grower and now have 5 coming in with one especially for me. Slight delay but no disaster like last year.

Last year, I knew that Mom wanted apricots (Royal Blenheim) and a couple of peaches. So I had the bright idea of special ordering them at one of my favorite nurseries and giving her a "it's coming in January" gift. Then, the trees aren't ordered by the nursery and I am rushing all over Santa Cruz and Monterey county looking for the varieties we picked out at the summer fruit tasting. I don't know if I was more frantic or mad. But Alladin and San Lorenzo gardens saved me.

Elephant Garlic

A photo of the Elephant Garlic that I am trying to increase. I received some bulbs from a friend's father-in-law who grew lots of this garlic in Crescent City. That was in 1996, and the bulbs were really meant for eating. But I tossed a few in my father's yard where they have put up interesting flowers every year, but not much garlic. When I bought my land here, I took couple of bulbs back, and have been growing them to increase their numbers. I'm not ready to eat them until I have enough for a good crop each year. But I have gone from 2 bulbs to 7 and I'm hoping I'll get a few this year to add to my cooking.

When I've had good productive days in the garden, I hardly mind coming to work on a Monday. The only kicker is that when I'm leaving, and the weather is as gorgeous as it has been the last few days, it's hard to turn left to the car instead of right into the garden. Well, maybe some showers will keep me on track, it looks like there are showers coming in the forecast by Wednesday.

I removed the weeds from around the pear tree, I still haven't gotten them under control, but there are less and less every year. I also removed last year's mulch. There was a lot of fungus growing on the wood chips and I opted to remove all of the mulch for now. I'm preparing to do the annual pruning. I also want to prune the "assumed apricot". I'm assuming it's an apricot as a friend and fellow Master Gardener identified it as such, however, I've never seen any fruit. It does bloom beautifully each spring and part of my fruit tree work this year is adding a couple of grafts from another low chill, self fruitful apricot, to see if this changes anything.

A co-worker mentioned that her father bought cherry trees, from San Lorenzo, she assumed. But I was told they would remain in quarantine until this week. I hope he bought them somewhere else or just reserved the trees, as I will be sorely disappointed if they started selling this weekend. It would mean many of the trees will already be sold out.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Time for my garden

Soil temperature was 48 degrees F. Still a little cool for planting, but I boldly tried some beets and carrot seeds in bed 3. There were hollyhock "volunteers" in the Watsonville garden and I thought I'd try sprouting some of my own. However, they are in the greenhouse for now. I also harvested worm bin 3. I can't remember when I harvested bin 1, but it was sometime in the summer. (And this is why my garden journal is now a blog- it's easier for me to keep track.) I didn't complete the job, so I tossed the remains into bin 2 for later. So far, I have a 5 gal. bucket of vermicompost ready to go. I think I will get at least 2 more buckets, perhaps 3. I am very glad of this as last year my compost work wasn't yielding very sastisfying results. I realized then if I am going to reach my goal of 3 five gallon buckets per planting, I had to increase the volume of the compost. So I created two more worm bins and started up a three bin system for other garden scraps. The bin system still needs more tweaking. I harvested a 5 gal. bucket last week, and I think it will produce 1 more, but I'd really like to get it to be a hot compost pile instead of a cold compost pile. I also need to change the actual bins to a larger size so the pile becomes hot. It also needs to be easier to turn. In due time I guess.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Picture 2 for Sad Story

1/4-inch precipitation this morning. The weather man said it would come in the morning, I guess he meant 2am.

Here's the follow-up picture to sad story. This is the Marathon Broccoli after the birds had their way with it. I have decided to try adding a bird feeder in Watsonville. I have lots of birds in my garden and they never bother the crops. But my husband also keeps a variety of feeders going with lots of different food choices. The birds are very active here in the winter. I quickly polled some of the other Master Gardeners, and it seems that the ones that don't have a feeder, also have problems with birds nibbling leaves. I found it easy to glean the information as we have a couple of PVC frames that have bird netting over them to protect the crops, and it draws people to them like a magnet. They all think it's a great idea as they are easy to move on and off the bed. Also, we have a couple of bars across the frame as we saw the birds gang up on the netting, weighing it down until it touched the plants; darn clever fellows.

And here's a shot of the bed that is looking the nicest right now. The plants on the left are 'Red Jewel' cabbages and the right are 'Oliver' Brussels Sprouts. They were transplanted on Nov. 12 of last year. And if they grow as planned, they should be ready to harvest in February. But I have to leave some leeway for slow growing during cold weather. The plant on the right is a fading 'Signet Starfire' Marigold from Renee's Garden Seed. I really enjoyed them last year, they made some lovely soft mounds of heavily flowering plants. The one in the picture was a volunteer in the bed that I left in when I transplanted the cabbages and sprouts.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Tree Delay

Well, I haven't gotten my tree yet. I got to the nursery and found all the bare root trees in the back shed covered with a sign:
Quarantined until Inspected for the dreaded Glassy-winged Sharpshooter

So I will have to wait until next week to see what my new Golden Dorsett looks like. It will give me time to confirm some info on trees that my Mom wants. She has more leeway in a choice as she has more chill hours, being close to Sacramento.

Well, beyond this pre-occupation, I was wondering what to do with some wild mushrooms that a friend had gathered and given to me. They are so tasty, I just wish I had some growing here. I certainly have lots of other wild mushrooms growing everywhere. I took her recommendation and "processed" them by frying them for a short time, just enough to give them some color and I'm going to put some aside to freeze. But I was thinking it would make some good carbonara and pierogis. I decided to make the carbonara tonight.

If you want to try it, would imagine fresh porcini or maybe portabello would work. Use the best quality parmesean cheese you can find. I can't find the recipe that I used to use as a teen, but I pretty much know it by heart. This is two servings (especially hearty and could probably use a salad on the side) and increase if you needed. The original used 6 eggs, etc.

2 small or medium eggs
1/3 cup parmesean
1 Tbs butter
1/2 leek (or onion)
1 1/2 cup mushrooms
4 oz pasta, spaghetti or fettucini

Whisk the eggs with the parmsean and set aside. Saute the leek and mushrooms in the butter. In the meantime, cook the pasta. The saute should be ready to add when the pasta is cooked. When the pasta is cooked, drain and quickly return to the pan. Drizzle the egg mixture into the pasta as it is being tossed. Have a friend help if needed, one pours, one tosses. The idea is to coat the hot noodles so the cheese melts and the egg cooks slightly. When it goes right, it makes a lovely cheesy coat on the noodles. Sometimes it clumps, as the egg cooks too much, but it's just as tasty. Add the saute and toss.

You can add meat, italian sausage, or ham, or prosciutto, but I think it's fine on its own. The original recipe is just onions, but I had ingredients to use up. I also think that whole wheat noodles would have complemented the mushrooms better, but I only had regular spaghetti.

Well, as odd as this seems, there's my dinner on the web.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Tree Anticipation

Precipitation 1/8th inch. The weather had cleared for most of the day, but decided to pepper the area with some heavy drizzle just to make the commute home interesting.

I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of a Dorsett Golden Apple tree that should have arrived yesterday at San Lorenzo Lumber. I ordered the bare
root tree last summer as a pollinator for my Pink Pearl Apple. I spent a
great deal of time researching apple tree culture as my Mom wanted me to
pick a variety for her. Turns out I misinterpreted her request. When I
heard "a variety" I thought she wanted a few trees, not pick the correct
variety for the one tree. But I gathered some interesting data about
apples. And I hope one day to talk to someone more knowledgeable to see if
I understand what I was learning.

For one, there is a range of ripening times for apples, and if you have the
interest in having a group of different varieties, you can plan to harvest
apples from July until October by planting varieties that ripen
successively. My plan is a little different, I want to have fruit of
different types available fresh from about March until October. My unknown
pear usually ripens in October, at least that is my assumption. The fruit
can be gently pulled from the tree in October, at least the year that it
did fruit. I had one pear this year, just like the first year on our
property, and I have two theories as to why. Theory one: not enough chill
hours. Last year was pretty warm. I didn't have to turn the heat on in
the house most of the winter, so I'm thinking there were very few chill
hours, therefore, no fruit. 2004 was very cold, with frost appearing a few
times that winter; an unusual occurrence in Sunset Zone 17 with heavy
coastal influence. The tree produced a profusion of delicious russet pears
that I had to thin vigorously and then the fruit still broke a couple of
branches. Theory two: it is a biennial variety, bearing every other
year. Too bad the previous owner didn't know which pear variety it is, she
thought it might have been an Asian pear. This year's crop may help me
decide which theory is more correct.

The second consideration is regarding pollination. Apples seem to fall
into three categories; self fruitful, diploid, and triploid. Self fruitful
is what you pick if you want only one tree. These trees are often chosen
to pollinate the second type, diploid. Diploid varieties need another
variety flowering in the near vicinity to create fruit, a lesson learned by
my next door neighbor. The first year he had two trees and a ton of
apples, which made him very happy. Then, he decided to remove one tree, as
it was looking pretty bad, with cracks and rot and such on the tree. But
he didn't add in a new apple to replace it and the remaining tree didn't
have any fruit on it in 2004, although it flowered profusely. Then
triploid trees have sterile pollen. They can't pollinate other trees and
in order to make them fruit, you need pollen from 2 other trees. I'm not
sure, but it seems that a triploid needs pollen A to cross with pollen B in
order for the triploid to generate fruit/seeds. The lesser know factor in
this consideration is the flowering time. Just as trees ripen at different
times, they also flower at different times, namely early, mid and late
season. So my Pink Pearl is an early "flowerer". If I put in a late
"flowerer", it may miss the "pollination window" for the Pink Pearl. So I
wanted to find an early season flower, self-fruitful apple, with low chill
hours, that hopefully would have fruit useful for pie. And the candidate
that remained was the Golden Dorsett, which I am hoping will fulfill all of
these prerequisites.

There are so many factors to consider, it amazes me that backyard
orchardists are successful at all. I can see why some have "inexplicable"
disappointments. A great example is the plum tree in Watsonville. It is a
beautiful tree, but it never produces fruit. I was lucky to find a label
on the tree, and it helped to explain the mysterious lack of fruit. It's
apparently a French Improved plum, needing 800 chill hours, which is highly
unlikely to happen in Watsonville. One of the regular volunteers in
Watsonville was asking me why I thought his apple didn't fruit, or at least
only had a couple of apples at best. He has a Red Delicious, and no other
trees. I promised him some scions out of the apple tree in the Watsonville
garden that he can graft into his tree. This was the advice from one of
the guest horticulturists at a Master Gardener event if you want a diploid
or triploid variety, but want only one tree. I thought grafting the
pollinator in was a terrific idea.

So, as you can see by this post, I am very enthusiastic to see what has
come in and how it will work out. Now if I can remain restrained enough
not to buy a host of other bareroots, when I pick up my order.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sad story

This is a picture from the Watsonville garden of the broccoli before the sparrows made it into a salad bar. I'll be back in the Watsonville garden on Saturday, I may have to post a current picture. I had some great hope for this bed. But I may end up sending the plants to the compost heap and starting over.

I'm wondering if I put a bird feeder up, if they will lose interest in the brassicas. We had the same problem last year, and we ended up making cages over the beds. I have found the damage from birds pecking at the fruits have been reduced once I added more bird baths and water sources in my garden. They do lose interest in the plants in the spring and summer, so I'm thinking that giving them another food source might help. Then it could be a seasonal craving. I've seen the birds at my place change their eating habits depending on the season. It would be an interesting experiment. Posted by Picasa

Finally, less rain.

This morning the rain gauge registered 7/8ths of an inch. It seemed much
wetter than that. But it's nice to have a break, hopefully not for long.

The sunrise was beautiful, "red sky in the morning, shepherd take
warning". But the sun coming in over Moss Landing while I drove in to work
brilliantly lit up the white seagulls on the dark grey sky. The intensity
of the colors were amazing, just like looking at a photo someone had
manipulated to look wet and glossy. The ocean was really rolling in too,
for me to see it from the highway.

Wish I had a camera with me and time to take pictures.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Still soggy today

We've had 1 and 3/8ths inch of rain since yesterday and lots of wind. Power outages, internet outages (I'm on a radio link direct to Moss Landing) have been playing havoc. I observed lots of limbs and trees down on my way in to work. Although the usual pond by the power station wasn't there. I didn't see if the tide was out. I'm wondering if that may have an influence.

The nice thing was the weather at least held off on Friday. That was my day off instead of Monday. I was able to clear out bed 3 and add some leeks to the already growing Walla Walla onions. Now according to The Onionman, Walla Walla are long day variety. So I suppose, I won't be seeing much bulb action from these onions, even though I picked them up from my local nursery. We'll see. And if it clears a little tomorrow, I'm going to chance setting out some carrot seeds. The few I started in October are cute, but not growing fast. I added more vermicompost around them, wondering if the sandy soil I'm saddled with is devoid of nutrients again. I want to get a quick soil test done by next weekend, I hope. But I didn't get to clean out bed 1 and I have some transplants to complete. They are a few Baccharis plants that volunteered, and I use them as anchors for new beds. The gophers show no interest in them and they are the best adapted to this garden. I also appreciate that they are green year round without water. But if they perish, I'm sure to find more volunteers around the yard.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Raining Today

God made rain so gardeners can get the housework done.

Then again, it's slow going on the housework. More interesting to watch the Rose Parade. And yes, Stephanie, it's Brussels sprouts. The sprouts "from" Brussels, the place in Belgium, as I understand it. It's interesting to see all the plant material on the floats, at least that which you can identify.

Happy New Year all!