New Lawn Mower

“Is there anything more thrilling than a new frock?” Yes, Lady Sybil, there is! For me, it’s a new lawn mower, which I bought this afternoon. The one I had been using for many years was simply not functioning well any more, making it a safety issue also. It was a bit of a struggle loading it into the car (4-door sedan) even with the much appreciated help from three store workers and after removing it from its cardboard box. Once I got it back home, it was just me having to unload it from said car. The song lyrics, “I’m as good once as I ever was,” (thank you, Toby Keith) describes the situation. Thankfully my car and my physical self were intact by the end of it. I assembled it and will test it out this coming Saturday when the grass will have grown out sufficiently to test it out. I have the fuel and engine oil ready to go. Looking at the manual, though, and the schedule of maintenance chores, like changing out the oil, well, I’ll have to refer to the schedule often in the early months to make sure I get it right. I’m looking forward to many happy and productive years with this lawn mower!

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Apple Tree with Unknown Variety of Fruit

Not exactly a scene from The Birds, but 2017 has shaped up to be an ongoing project of fending off birds and insects that made it well-known that they enjoy what I grow! An exception to this is one of my apple trees, which grows one variety of apple. On the label, at the time of purchase, it said, “Golden Delicious.” Surveying my garden, this was one of the trees that birds did not touch, despite a few rather good-sized fruits. This was the first year that this tree, which I’ve had for a few years, was able to successfully fruit. Sampling one of them, they’re tart, definitely not Golden Delicious, which makes them the perfect candidates for pies and sauce. What a nice bright spot of news!

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  Apple seeds are highly toxic if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Destructive Gophers in the Garden

They’re single-minded, for sure. Gophers are a problem in my city, not just my garden, which makes gardening a significant challenge. In parkways and elsewhere, soil mounds and holes dot our city’s landscape. In recent years, they’ve started tunneling into my front yard as well. Their behavior greatly influence my decisions about how and where to garden. They made a recent attempt to expand their tunnels where one of my purple aeonium plants grows. The plant survived, thankfully, but I’ve lost dozens of rose plants because gophers enjoy eating those particular roots very much. They’ve also made two attempts into my raised row bed gardens but apparently didn’t find anything of sufficient interest to make further tunneling attempts, for now.

Another survivor is my Meyer lemon tree, where a few gopher holes appeared. I kept praying for its survival after it had been attacked and left the tree small and looking rather unwell. I dutifully watered and fed this tree and this year has a few fruits, albeit immature, appeared. That alone felt like a victory because I thought that this plant was near its end. Apparently citrus tree roots are not delicious enough for them as they’ve also ignored my kumquat and blood orange trees. In my garden, at least, gophers have ignored my apple trees, olive trees, dragon trees, tomato plants, lettuces, my other succulents, and pink breath of heaven.

As time goes on, it is clear that my strategy for gopher abatement will continually evolve and require multiple methods at once. It can be several weeks of inactivity, followed by a fresh round of tunneling. Especially in my food garden, a lush lawn is a pipe dream. Many of my plants are above ground in containers (although years ago, they climbed into containers and devoured quite a bit of the cabbage I grew) but the tunneling continues. It can be challenging to have to fend off garden-unfriendly creatures from underground and overhead, eyeing my crops as an endless buffet. The good news in all of this is that there are many crops that I enjoy that these creatures clearly do not. Chicken wire has been helpful for many years, but is also vulnerable. I’m likely to build some type of movable contraption that has parts that are impervious to strikes from its large, powerful claws. As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

Praying Mantis!

I’ve been waiting all my life for a visit from a praying mantis, very truly, and it appeared magically minutes ago in one of my olive trees! Sigh. To be specific, this is a California mantis (Stagmomantis californica) and it was moving quite slowly, deliberately, with contemplation. I first became interested in the insect after watching an old school television show, Kung Fu, years ago, where the praying mantis form of martial arts was featured (and was so cool). This looks to be a female. I didn’t see any other mantises around. Having seen this gorgeous specimen, I will, henceforth, be more watchful of the praying mantis in my garden. I see it as a symbol of good luck and quiet strength. Wow!

Cantaloupe Vine

Hit the bricks! I am relieved and pleased that the cantaloupe seeds that I planted this year are now showing some success. I have several vines and, if they all fruit, well, cantaloupe will be my new food garden best friend! I place the fruit on bricks to keep them away from potential problems from sitting in excess moisture. The vines are taking over this particular raised row bed garden (I have 4 separate raised row bed gardens) and I will keep repositioning the vines to make sure there aren’t “traffic jams” among the competing and ever-lengthening vines. As more fruits develop, I will dutifully find more bricks. My busy workweek has me watering my food garden nearly each day, but I’m not inspecting each plant for every change they may be undergoing. When I eyed these beauties, I said out loud, “Melons!” I’m really excited for how this section of my garden shapes up!

 

Thornless Blackberry Plants, Fruiting

A few of my thornless blackberry plants have some immature fruits, with some just starting to show some color. I started out with 5 of these plants in containers, but a few canes sprang up in the surrounding soil (at least 4 as of today), so I’m guessing I’ll  have at least some blackberry bragging rights before the season is through!  Between that and my raspberry plants, my berry needs have been more than met!

Apple Tree Branch Cutting Is Alive!

Several weeks ago, I was trimming apple tree branches that crisscrossed other branches and branches that seemed not in keeping with the tree’s overall form set forth by the larger, older branches. I saved 2 of these cuttings with the thought that they were long and sturdy enough to serve as stakes for a surrounding tomato plant whose vines needed some support. I simply placed these 2 apple tree cuttings into the nearby large soil-filled container and watered that container (which is already occupied by a raspberry plant – many players here!) as usual each week. As it turns out, one of these branches has now sprouted new green leaves – it’s alive! I hadn’t planned on the cuttings serving as anything else but a support for a tomato plant – and a good way to repurpose a tree cutting. Without any extraordinary effort at all (just soil and water), I may have (we’ll see how it goes in the future) inadvertently propagated at least 1-2 apple tree saplings that may one day fruit. Wow! It’s from my 3-in-1 apple tree, so I am not sure which apple(s) might come from these 2 cuttings, but I’d simply be happy if they fruited at all. But now I’ve got to think about how and where to accommodate this and possibly the other branch should both successfully develop into apple tree saplings in their own right. I have a bit of time to come up with a plan. A lot of exciting activity is going on in my food garden right now!

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE:  Apple seeds are highly toxic if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

Brussels Sprouts Stalk, Close Up

This Brussels sprouts stalk was ready for its close-up! I planted seeds in my raised row bed garden last year and months later, am seeing healthy results. I’ll soon remove the tops of the more mature stalks so that my currently small sprouts will become much bigger. Frankly, I’m just happy seeing that the seeds I planted successfully germinated! I’m amused with how excited I still get with any kind of gardening success. I’ll be planting more Brussels sprouts seeds in another part of the garden in September. It’s a good thing I love to eat Brussels sprouts! Even so, this sturdy, vigorous vegetable is aesthetically pleasing as well.

Informative video on this topic, by Gary Pilarchik (2014) is posted here:

 

Caged: Thornless Blackberry Plants

I was fortunate to have a few hours tonight after work to tidy up my large containers of thornless blackberry plants. Using some of the remaining chicken wire (stucco netting), I caged them up. No fancy stuff here, just cut the chicken wire to fit around the inside of each container and securing them by bending the cut ends into makeshift hooks. I then carefully lowered them into the containers.

The task was challenging because 4 out of the 5 containers were root bound so I could not move those containers. So, it was a matter of detangling the multiple canes to know which canes belonged to which container. Aside from the weeds, surrounding the containers are a few canes that came through the containers’ drainage holes, enjoying the uncaged life – freedom! Several blackberry flowers have emerged so I’m likely to enjoy these fruits this season. The next challenge, of course, will be the trick of removing cages as needed come harvest time – steady hands!

 

Black Krim Tomato Plant, from Broken Vine is Fruiting

Last season, my one Black Krim tomato plant grew vigorously in the ground, where it has remained to this day. But during last season, part of the vine broke off. This broken part did not have any tomatoes yet, but I decided to plant it as a stand alone in a 5-gallon container with potting soil.

Happily, this plant is now fruiting. This is an easy way to propagate tomato plants. Simply plant them into potting soil and water enough to keep moist a couple of times per week.

I’ve already eaten several pounds of Black Krim tomatoes from the parent plant and it’s only early June, so I imagine that between the parent plant, this one,  and separate Black Krim plant taken from another piece of broken vine and in its own container, I will be quite awash with just these tomatoes. I’m waiting to see if other varieties will take in my raised row bed garden.

I’ve not decided if I will eventually transplant them into the ground since they seem happy in their containers. Certainly, this season, they will remain in their containers, now that they’re fruiting. This is shaping up to be a bountiful season.

CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE: The non-fruit parts of tomato plants are poisonous if ingested. More information on toxic plants can be found here:

http://www.calpoison.org/hcp/KNOW%20YOUR%20PLANTS-plant%20list%20for%20CPCS%2009B.pdf

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