Picture Snob

August 16, 2010

Planting Fig Trees

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I planted this fig tree about 30 years ago from a small one foot seedling in a neighbors deserted orchard. Once it got frozen back to the roots in zero degree temperatures which happen very rarely here. Now it has grown into a lovely tree that produces black figs. The first flush is ripe now and there are some huge figs coming on for later pickings.

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When my grandchildren were here in July they loved climbing from the low branches up to the tallest and kept wanting to know when the figs would be ripe. Now I'm going to sun dry the ripe ones and send them to the grandkids for a treat and a reminder of the wealth and bounty of their grandmother's yard.

Figs can be raised from seed, by ground layering, or by cuttings. They grow well in a wide range of soils. My soil is fairly acid and the tree is prospering. They grow up to 30 feet high and their large lobed leaves are very attractive so that people often remark on my fig tree. The tree originated in Western Asia and spread throughout the Mediterrean. The tree produces several crops a year. My fig keeps ripening fruit up unitl the first frosts in October. You can also grow it as a container plant.

I'm not really fond of the fresh fruit, but love them roasted, with goat cheese in salads or as an appetizer. They are easy to dry and then make tasty snacks.

At Fig 'Black Mission' Tree Container Plant

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July 29, 2010

Shiitake Mushroom Kit

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Long a symbol of longevity in Asia because of their health-promoting properties, shiitake mushrooms have been used medicinally by the Chinese for more than 6,000 years. More recently, their rich, smoky flavor has endeared them to American taste buds and these exotic hearty mushrooms can now be found in supermarket shelves across the U.S. throughout the year.

Like other mushrooms, these specialty mushrooms are as unique as they are delicious. While often thought of as a vegetable and prepared like one, mushrooms are actually a fungus, which has no roots, leaves, flowers or seeds.

L-ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant, has been discovered in mushrooms. In research presented at the 2005 American Chemical Society meeting in Washington, D.C., an American research team revealed that mushrooms contain higher concentrations L-ergothioneine than either of the two dietary sources previously believed to contain the most: chicken liver and wheat germ. Shiitake, oyster, king oyster and maitake mushrooms contain the highest amounts of ergothioneine. This equals forty times as much as is found in wheat germ.

Of the most commonly consumed mushrooms, portabellas and criminis have the most L-ergothioneine, followed by white buttons. White buttons, the most popular of all mushrooms consumed in the U.S., contain up to 5 mg per three ounce serving-12 times as much as wheat germ and 4 times more than chicken liver. And more good news, L-ergothioneine is not destroyed when mushrooms are cooked.

So if you're interested in growing shitakes for your health or your palate, you can grow them at home from a mushroom kit. They grow well in temperatures of 50 to 80 degrees, so if you're roasting in the sun, you can stay indoors and still watch something grow.

At Shiitake Mushroom Kit

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July 28, 2010

Check out your local nursery for good deals this time of year

Now is a great time to wander through nurseries looking for bargains. I have picked up some great deals. Hanging planters that have gone to seed can often be restored by bringing them home, cutting the spent flowers and seed pods off and giving the plant a shot of high nitrogen fertilizer to start new growth. Keep watering and keep feeding and you soon will have a flowering planter looking bright and luscious.

I was wandering around the nursery and found a cucumber plant that was about four inches high and had one small bud on it. I got it free and took it home to water and feed. I dug a hole, put in compost, and planted the little thing, hoping to have more cucumbers than the two plants that survived the striped beetles could provide.

As always when transplanting, it's a good idea to shade the plant during the hottest part of the day. I also picked off the one little flower in hopes of encouraging growth. You can see that the color of the plant is too yellow. The manure tea I gave should help.

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May 27, 2010

Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter makes the mainstream media

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I have to admit that the upside down tomato ad at Amazon has always left me puzzled. What is the point? Why bother? To someone who has always enjoyed digging in the dirt it seemed like a silly gimmick, and I wondered who could be buying this product.

Now I discover an article in the NYTimes touting upside down growing as the latest rage in gardening. The article lists several advantages of upside-down gardening. One is that it saves space. The plant is contained in a 5 gallon bucket and is in the air, not taking up room in the yard, so it's good for apartment balconies and small yards. You don't have to buy or make tomato cages or stake them. This is a real selling point because the cages are a pain often bending as you try to put them in the ground and making the clean up of the garden more labor intensive. It eliminates some pest problems. Cutworms are mentioned and that makes sense are they live in the ground and can gnaw a small tomato seedling right through. There are no weeds to speak of. The water and nutrients like manure tea goes straight to the roots and gravity does the work of distributing the food and water. The article also claims there is greater air circulation and sunlight exposure.

Well, what can I say? Maybe it works well if you don't have space. I am not about to start upside down gardening with my twenty tomato plants but I guess I will not scoff so much at the Topsy Turvy Tomato planter. I'm still not clear on why the plant does not try to right itself. My experience with plants tells me they know where "up" is and try to go there. Some gardeners in the article were going to grow both in the ground and in the air plantings and see which did better. That should be interesting. So for those of you with limited space or a knack for the new, upside down planting seems to be a growing phenomenon.

Here is a link to the NYTimes article: At NYTimes/a>

At Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter

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April 9, 2010

Dawn Redwood is an ancient deciduous conifer and has a fascinating history

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Metasequoia (Dawn Redwood) is a fast-growing, deciduous tree. For years it was thought to be extinct although at one time it grew all over the Northern Hemisphere. It is native to the Sichuan region of China. Dawn Redwood was first described as a fossil from the Mesozoic Era in China in 1941, but in 1944 a small stand of these trees was discovered still living. They were not studied until after World War II. In 1948 the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University sent an expedition to collect seeds and, soon after, seedling trees were distributed to various universities and arboreta worldwide for growth trials. Local villagers referred to the original tree from which most others derive as Shui-sa, or "water fir," which is part of a local shrine. Since that tree's rediscovery, the Dawn Redwood has become a popular ornamental.

While the bark and foliage are similar to another closely related redwoods it differs from the California redwood in that it is deciduous. In the fall it's leaves turn red brown and then fall, leaving a decorative silhoutte for the winter. One of the reasons it has become so popular as an ornamental is that it is a fast-growing tree to as high as 200 ft. tall and four feet trunk diameter in cultivation. It likes moist well drained soil and obviously it needs a lot of room to grow. It does not like alkaline soils.

I'm going to order one of the Dawn Redwoods. I missed a sale on them at Home Depot. I have too often bought a plant on impulse and brought it home to then desparately create a place to plant it. I didn't want to do that to this tree. I'm going to make a nice big hole and fill it with some compost and have the drippers ready to go. I like the idea of having something growing that was alive and flourishing when the dinasaurs were roaming the land. And I want it to thrive!

At Dawn redwood

If you don't have room for a 200 ft tree, you can always get a bonsai.

At Bonsai Tree

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March 26, 2010

Ranunculus are an easy way to grow lovely perennials

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On impluse, I bought Rununculus in a package of eight and planted them today. These bulbs can be planted now and their blooms in the summer will go all season long. Ranunculus have ncredible colors, straight stems, long vase life and bright blooms. All they need in return is sunshine and very light watering. No meticulous care is needed.

You don't want to plant them too late in the season, but right now in California is a good time, before it gets too hot. You want to plant them in well drained soild. Peat moss, compost or composted maure can improve the soil and the drainage. You're going to need to plant them in full sun.

The bulbs should be planted 2" deep and 6" apart. The bulbs have a strange shape. There are a bunch of prongs or rootlike protrusions that should be planted down.

Rununculus make great cut flowers and this will not hurt the plants. After blooming has finished for the season leave the foliage in place; don't cut it off. The leaves will gather sunlight and provide nourishment for next year. Water as needed during active growth periods. Ranunculus actually prefer not to be watered while dormant.

At the end of the summer the leaves will yellow and die back as the plant slips into dormancy. Foliage many be removed at this point. Your ranunculus will rest for a few months before beginning the next growing cycle. I don't think you will be disappointed.

At Rainbow Ranunculus - 10 Bulbs - Size 7+cm

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March 22, 2010

Grow Almost all your cooking Herbs with this one package of culinary herbs

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Here's a package that can get you started with a very complete herb garden. It's inexpensive and you get enough seeds to start several plants of the same kind. I'd plant them in small pots or in rows in larger flats, carefully labeled. The seeds of some of these herbs are very small and so care must be taken to drop the seed in separately so that you don't get a tangled mass of seedlings that you have to pull apart when you transplant. That damages the roots and sets the plant back or sometimes, kills it entirely. And I repeat the item about carefully labeling. I have many times thought I would remember what I planted in the back row, only to be confused and befuddled when it was time to transplant.

Another thing to be aware of in this package is that some of the herbs are perennial and some annual. Oregano, thyme, marjoram, chives and sage are all perennial and so should be planted somewhere where they have room to grow and spread. The annuals will often reseed themselves. My cilantro sprouted in the fall from seed dropped and is still alive this spring making a very welcome addition to winter salads and Mexican dishes. The one herb I love and use a lot that is not included in this package is Rosemary. That's another perennial whicih can grow waist high and very bushy. Can't have too much of that for soups and chicken and lamb.

At Assortment of 12 Culinary Herb Seeds - Grow Cooking Herbs- Parsley, Thyme, Cilantro, Basil, Dill, Oregano, Sage, More

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March 17, 2010

Starter Fertilizer is organic and contains all the ingredients you need for success

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Monrovia has a great organic fertilizer. It is pelleted for ease of use and can be sprinkled around container plants or along a row of seedlings in the garden. I particularly like that the bag itself is compostable. There's no waste and no throw away with this purchase. It's meant to get your plants off to a good start.

  • Long-lasting, slow release fertilizer that is made from 100% natural and organic ingredients.
  • A gentle organic fertilizer formulated for all types of transplanting.
  • Contains: Feather Meal, Blood Meal, Bone Meal, Sulfate of Potash, Kelp Meal and Alfalfa Meal.
  • Also includes 12 different strains of mycorrhizae.
  • Available in 4 lb bag.


At Starter Fertilizer

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March 10, 2010

Dr. Earth Organic Starter Fertilizer gives a good start for seedlings

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This is a great fertilizer for your seedlings as well as your container plants. You can work it in around the plant or make a tea with water and pour around the plant. Quck and easy. The fact that it contains beneficial soil microbes is a big plus.


  • People and Pet Safe

  • 100% Organic and Natural

  • For Your: Flowers, Vegetables, Trees, Shrubs, Bedding Plants, Potted Plants

  • Contains Pro-Biotic Beneficial Soil Microbes, Ecto & Endo Mycorrhizae

  • Feeds 55 Square Feet or 80 one-gallon Transplants

At Dr. Earth Organic Starter Fertilizer - 4 Pounds

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March 9, 2010

Pelleted Organic Fertilizer is a great for the garden and for containers

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Organic fertilizer should come from animals that have been fed only organic food. For years I bought Steer Manure from the nursery thinking that I was being organic until I realized that it came from feed lots where the animals were not fed organically and worse, were given hormones and anitbiotics. These toxins are in the manure of animals who are given them.

So now I get only organic fertilizer and potting soil. There don't seem to be any tests or standards for labeling organic fertilizer, but the basic rule that the animal is fed only organic feed.

The next few weeks I'm going to be analyzing various organic manures and their relative nurtrient values. The manure I mostly use is chicken manure. The Stolzman Organic Chicken Manure is what I used on the broccoli and primroses I planted this week. Chicken manure is a higher source of nitrogen, potassium, and potash than other animal manures. It is 4-1-1. When you see number like this on a package of fertilizer the first number is nitrogen, the second potassium and the last potash. When we had chickens it was such a delight to till it in early in the spring and then later plant corn and watch the results! Now I buy it which is less fulfilling but works just as well.

Raw chicken manure should be composted. Composting at 158 degrees destroys most bacteria, weed seeds and samonella which makes the manure save to use although it should not be used around seedlings, but always mixed with soil to avoid burning tender new growth. It will help with ph also, making acid soils more neutral.

This pelleted chicken manure is easy to handle and compact, thus reducing the work shoveling and spreading it and the odor is reduced when it is in this form. This package of three 12 oz bags is a good trial size.

At Organic Fertilizer Soil Conditioner,Odor Free and Pelletized for Easy Application-All Purpose Chicken Manure for Vegetables,Flowers,Fruit Trees,Lawn & Shrubs.Compost Production Process Destroys Pathogens and Weed Seeds,340g/12 oz Trial Size Set 3 Bags

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