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!

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Olive Tree Damaged by Wind

It’s a sad occasion when a tree is damaged or injured, but that’s what happened in recent days in my back yard. Strong winds snapped and broke the main trunk of one of my young olive trees. The trunk had a previous crack from slightly weaker winds, which I patched up with several rounds of duct tape at the injury site and also further secured the rest of the tree’s whole trunk with green plastic garden tape wrapped around a wood stake driven into the ground.IMG_3222

As shown in the photograph, the wind snapped and broke not only the trunk of the tree, but also snapped the green plastic garden tape and the wood stake that was supporting the tree – mother nature. On the positive side, it looks like a secondary branch was left untouched so the current configuration of this tree will, fingers crossed, survive. The other olive tree, which was about 10 feet away, was unscathed, as were my other fruit trees, so the damage was very localized. Still, it was upsetting to see this one young tree bear the full brunt of the wind.

Olive Fruit Fly and Its Abatement

Gardening requires a bit of vigilance to ensure the health of plants, at all stages of their lives. I’ve had my young olive trees for just a handful of months when I recently discovered brown spots on the four olives growing on one of my olive trees. In my mind, I knew it was insect damage (given my previous experience with my pear/quince trees). Searching online, I found information that confirmed that what I had was the result of egg-laying by olive fruit flies (http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74112.html).IMG_3089 I will have to remove the fruit from the trees since they’re filled with insect larvae.

I’d searched for ways of killing these flies before they harm my trees become very productive. Most of the techniques involve some type of bait with chemicals, which I did not want.

How To: Further online investigation led me to information that all I need do, as a home gardener with few trees, is to hang containers filled with red wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar is supposed to work also, as would red wine) and a few drops of dish soap, and swirl the concoction around to distribute the soap. The sweet smell of the vinegar is the bait, but the soap prevents the flies from getting out of the liquid, thus drowning them (http://frugalliving.about.com/od/doityourself/qt/Rid_Fruit_Flies.htm).IMG_3090

I made two traps so hopefully this will work. Only one of my trees is fruiting right now but since my backyard neighbor has a mature olive tree opposite my young olive trees, I thought it would be good to protect both of my trees. The ingredients for making these traps are easy to find, inexpensive, and relatively “green.”

The traps are as easy to make as shown in this picture. I used empty plastic food containers and some kitchen twine for this small project. When there are a lot of dead flies and the liquid runs low, it will be time to replenish it. I have a few bottles of red wine that I do not like, so it will be awhile before I need to spend any more money to fight these flies. I will need to maintain these traps for the life of these trees, for pennies per week. That’s a bargain, considering the delicious return on this investment!

Olive Tree in Fruit!

It has been about four short months since I purchased my two olive trees and one of them has already started to fruit.  So far, I count three fruits, but still! I cannot contain my excitement! About two months after I purchased the trees, I decided to plant them in-ground in my back yard. The location was ideal because opposite the wall that I share with my neighbor is a mature, fruiting olive tree. How auspicious! I was hoping that by planting my trees there, my trees would benefit from cross-pollination. This location receives many hours of direct sunlight.IMG_3076

My olive trees came with non-descript labels so I am not sure what variety they are or even if they were going to fruit at all (some olive tree varieties are non-fruit bearing), so I am very pleased. I am fortunate that my soil is rich and has been good to all of my trees and other plants. I will keep checking on both trees to monitor their progress. Honestly, I am just happy that my trees survived transplantation!

In the meantime, I am contemplating what I might do with my bounty of three olives (if that is the ultimate final tally of the season). Brine and marinate three olives? Why not! I am thinking that would be just enough for a nice salad or a delicious ingredient to tomato sauce or vegetarian tapenade. I am happy to wait for the fruits to mature!

Olive Trees

I am so thrilled to report that I am now the happy caretaker of two olive trees! They are in 5-gallon containers, and I was very pleased to learn that my local, non-chain store nursery had them. I went online and found non-local sources for trees but the prices were a bit higher and often reIMG_2963quire that I purchase a minimum of 20 or more trees. Having a local source for these trees also gives me the opportunity to support my community.

The labels on these trees were nondescript so I am not entirely sure what variety they are. Both of the trees have these tiny buds of what will become (hopefully) olives, as shown here. I am eager to see what the fruit yield will be from these young trees.

Why grow olives at home, especially on such a small scale? I had a wonderful experience curing homegrown olives that were gifted to me last December. After curing and marinating, the results turned out great, very flavorful and delicious. Friends have already asked for future batches, and now I can! I plan on growing, curing, and marinating them to give as gifts to my olive-loving friends as well as to enjoy myself. What better motivation? Depending on the yield, I may get more trees!

In the US, most of the olives are grown in California. For more information on olives, including detailed information on their care, common pests, and diseases, please see the UC Davis Olive Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute: http://olivecenter.ucdavis.edu/

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