Thursday, June 28, 2007

More June flowers, herbs and citrus

Eureka lemon

Orange daylily and 'Tropicanna' Canna

Mexican lobelia (Lobelia laxiflora)

'Moonbeam' coreopsis and English lavender

Basket of pansies hanging on well past their prime

Mixed herb container

Old pot, new plants

Buddy Purple Gomphrena
Crackling Fire Million Bells
'Apricot Sprite' Hyssop (Agastache aurantiaca 'Apricot Sprite')
Echinacea 'Sundown'

The plants are from Windmill and the pot was from Bushnell's.

My new EcoForms pot

I've been wanting to try biodegradable EcoForms pots and finally picked one up at Emigh Hardware the other day. I really like the way they look and feel and even though they're biodegradable, they're said to last for several years.

July backyard lilies

Gold Rush Zucchini

June 10... planted late, in the ground, the lazy way (from starts)

June 27

June 28... bigger in one day!

I should be harvesting in a few days! I fantasize about grilling these on a gas grill someday. Just thinking about getting the charcoal grill going makes me want to lie down on the sofa and have Chinese food delivered instead. Perhaps that's my camping phobia kicking in... camping phobia induced by camping trauma, if you must know.

I brought some Gold Rush zukes to a family barbecue last year and my culinary academy-trained brother sliced them lengthwise, basted them with a garlic, olive oil, balsamic, salt and cracked pepper concoction and slapped them unceremoniously on my aunt's big, beautiful gas grill. They turned out gorgeously grill-marked and delicious. It would never even have occurred to me to slice them lengthwise, so I suppose brothers are good for something. Who knew?

I also stuck two plants in a half-barrel for the heck of it.

LBAM is in the NYT

Published: June 18, 2007
A voracious Australian moth is threatening to infest one of the nation’s most important agricultural regions.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Thoughts on the light brown apple moth

There's an article in today's Bee about light brown apple moth (LBAM) monitoring at Green Acres Nursery in Roseville. Apparently, they receive plants from a Bay Area wholesaler deep in the quarantine area. I'll bet a lot of our local nurseries do.

The article emphasizes that the main concern is not about the potential damage to California plants, but about economic losses in quarantined regions. The San Francisco Bay Area is currently under a Federal Domestic Quarantine Order. Sacramento and the Sierra Nevada Foothills could be next.

If the moth starts showing up in local nurseries, they will face quarantines, which will force them to spray... at first with Neem oil, then with nastier chlorpyrifos if the invasion becomes an infestation. And until they pass agricultural inspection, nurseries presumably won't be able to ship plants.

As a gardener, it begs the question "What if I do a little shopping in the Bay Area and bring my LBAM-laden plants home to Sacramento? Wouldn't that do a disservice to local nurseries trying to prevent LBAM from invading?" Hmmm...

Should we become familiar with all stages of the moth and get ready with the Neem oil if we see it on our plants? Should we ask Bay Area nurseries if they're monitoring for LBAM? Or should we leave the problem to natural enemies of the LBAM, which include the following:

  • Trichogramma wasps.
  • Parasitic wasps Dolichogenidea arisanus and Xanthopimpla spp.
  • Parasitic flies Goniozus spp. and Zosteromyia spp.
  • Predatory bug Ochalia shellembergii
  • Lacewings
  • Spiders
  • Various pathogens

The California Department of Food & Agriculture has put out a nice brochure on the LBAM showing pupal, caterpillar and adult stages and urges you to call 1-800-491-1899 if you discover signs of damage or the insect itself.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dave Wilson Nursery Fruit Tasting

You've probably seen Dave Wilson Nursery fruit and nut trees at local nurseries inside California, outside California, and in mail order catalogs. If you've heard about growing "fruit shrubs" or practicing "backyard orchard culture", these are the folks promoting it and educating us about this revolutionary, gardener-friendly method of growing fruit.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of attending a talk by Ed Laivo, DWN's Retail Nursery Specialist and Field Rep., and it sold me on the technique. He's right... we gardeners are not farmers! We do not have mechanized harvesting machines designed for picking fruit waaaaay up in the air. It totally makes sense to keep what you grow closer to the ground. Selecting trees on dwarfing rootstocks helps, as does summer pruning.

I was psyched about backyard orchard culture, but it wasn't until I saw mature examples of "fruit shrubs" at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center that I knew I had to grow my own. So far, I have three plums planted 18 inches apart and a cherry nearby. I have citrus as well, but that's a Four Winds story.

My plum trees were selected from a catalog without the benefit of any pre-selection tasting. The cherry, a 'Stella', I already knew I loved. If you have a chance to attend any public tastings before buying trees, you'll be sure your investment in trees and time will yield nothing but deliciousness.

If you missed this years tasting like I did (grumble, grumble), you can still benefit from the published tasting results gathered by DWN since 1993. Fruit tasting data is extremely useful because it gives growers and their customers a chance to compare old varieties with new varieties and to narrow the list of what's bought and sold down to only the best-tasting fruit. If only grocery stores did the same...

According to DWN's Mike Tomlinson,"preliminary results (of this year's tasting) show at least a four way tie between Tomcot apricot and three blueberries; Misty, Reveille and Southmoon." Last year's results can be downloaded here.

'Tomcot' Apricot

'Reveille' Blueberry, one of the taller varieties

'Southmoon' Blueberry

Mike added that, "Dave Wilson Nursery has been doing fruit tastings for 14 years now, the first few years only here in Hickman. Since about 1995, all the tastings have been on the road, at various locations in California, such as Cal Poly Pomona and San Luis Obispo. A couple of tastings have been at Copia in Napa... This open house was a homecoming of sorts."

On how tests were conducted, Mike explained, "We invited our customers, garden writers and CRFG members. We started at 10 am with the first of 35ish varieties. Testers sampled each variety and rated them on various attributes, such as ripeness, texture and flavor, in the blind. After they are finished, we give them another and then tell them what the previous fruit was. This is to prevent a former impression they may have of the variety from influencing their evaluation process."


Paul Guy, a statistics teacher from Chico (on left)
Sacramento's own Farmer Fred Hoffman (on right)

After the tasting, participants were treated to lunch. No fruit. After lunch, they toured the nursery and saw high-density demonstration plantings.

Ed Laivo discussing high-density plantings

Also wanting lunch were these DWN peach tree residents Mike Tomlinson happened upon while picking fruit.

15 days later

Is there a DWN tasting near you?

Check the DWN Events Calender!

For additional coverage of the event, see Modesto Bee Reporter John Holland's piece on this year's tasting.

(photos courtesy of Mike Tomlinson, Dave Wilson Nursery)

An Independent Retail Nursery is not Blight

In my estimation, independent retail nurseries are on the decline in greater Sacramento, especially those located within city limits. Eisley Nursery in the city of Auburn has been in the news lately and the key words of concern are "blighted" and "eminent domain". The 100-year-old well-maintained nursery appears safe for now, but let's stay on top of this story.

Here's a post I made after my first visit to Eisley's.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Back in Black Agapanthus

(Photo from Wayside Gardens)

This caught my eye in the Wayside Gardens catalog. Dark blue agapanthus is nothing new, but the blackish stems of 'Back in Black' might be, I believe. It'd be fun to pair this with something chartreuse... and it'd be crazy fun to put it with something red or orange.

Weekend in L.A.

Just got back from my cousin's UCLA graduation. Temps were in the very comfortable seventies. Despite the coastal mildness of L.A. proper, I'm always struck by the incongruity of scrubby desert in surrounding areas and the opulent tropical lushness in landscaped parts of Los Angeles... especially in Beverly Hills.

Our celebration dinner was at Cha Cha Cha in Silverlake. A scene in Steve Martin's Shop Girl was filmed at this Carribbean restaurant and Mr. Martin was reportedly a regular. Probably until he put it in his movie. The food was great, as was the fruit-filled Sangria. If you go, try the Crispy Shrimp Cakes, the Guacamole and Dirty Chips, and the Empanadas. Mmmm... Extra points for fun container plantings outside the restaurant.

The Jacaranda trees are in full bloom on the UCLA campus, which was a real treat for me since lavender is one of my favorite colors and I've never seen any Jacaranda trees growing in Sacramento.

June 20 edit: My friend, Weeder, informs me that she saw a Jacaranda blooming "in Sac. this Sunday." Where?!!! I also vaguely remember seeing them for sale at POW once. The plot thickens. Sunset says it needs full sun, moderate water, prefers sandy soil but will tolerate other types (like my clay?), and is damaged below 25 degrees F. Why don't we see it more often in northern California? It doesn't seem like an impossibility. I hope someone will enlighten me.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Real Dirt on Farmer John

This documentary has been in my Netflix queue forever... so long, in fact, that I decided to Google the title to find out if I could buy the DVD. Doesn't look like it... yet. What I did discover, however, is that The Real Dirt on Farmer John will be screened at The Crest on July 27, 2007. Woo hoo! Mark your calendars!

See where else it's screening nationwide and check out the rave reviews.

Theatrical Trailer

June 20 edit: Looks like The Real Dirt on Farmer John will be premiering on the PBS Show, Independent Lens.
Also, here's a link to an interview with "Farmer John" Peterson on Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Using Coco Peat bricks in the worm bin

Hey, I didn't notice before that these "coco peat" bricks were packaged by Down to Earth Distributors, the same company that puts out my Bio-Fish fertilizer.

Watching your coco peat brick expand is fun. It'd be even more fun if they put a prize inside.

Whoa, there it goes!

Like magic, the brick has transformed within mere minutes into a large volume of moist, crumbly coir.

A couple months ago, I added the biodegradable liner bags from my kitchen compost crock to the bin to see if they'd break down quickly. Nope.

After side-dressing my tomato, pepper and basil plants with the finished compost from one layer of my Can-O-Worms, I added the coir pictured above to the now-empty layer, along with some past-their-prime veggies from the fridge. My veggie plants also got a dose of Bio-Fish and liquid Kelp fertilizer. That should give them some added vigor!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

June... a time to feed, weed and appreciate color

My Peaceful Valley Farm Supply order arrived a couple days ago. I've decided to try Down To Earth's Bio-Fish fertilizer in my veggie beds. I also need to apply a fast-acting organic liquid food today because my newly planted veggies have settled in but look like they could use a boost.

I also ordered BurnOut II for controlling weeds that have popped up in my crushed rock pathways and in the D.G. surrounding my flagstone patio pavers. BurnOut II is a clove, citric acid and vinegar-based herbicide.

The Coconut Coir Fiber compressed bricks, which expand in water, make a really nice bedding and food for my Can-O-Worms setup.

My late-planted 'Gold Rush' yellow zucchini plants already have flower buds. I can't wait to start using them in stir-fry dishes and on the grill. A little salt, cracked pepper, fresh chopped rosemary and olive oil is all you need.

My tree dahlias are already pretty ginormous.

I love my purple English lavender and I love my purple Montrail Molokinis.

Orange daylilies are pretty common, but there's something a little more elegant about this one. Maybe it's the narrow petals and splash of wine color on the throat. I got this unnamed beauty at POW and it's just beginning to bloom. Looks great next to my purple butterfly bush.