Picture Snob

May 7, 2010

A gardener's life is submits to the unexpected


I got my cool weather seeds planted and the whole ground cover tilled under. It was warm during the day and cool at night. The weather hadn't really settled in yet, but I had a couple of hot days where I had to water the seedlings and I started thinking about getting out timers and hoses. And I realize I didn't have a working gentle watering spray for keeping the seeds moist. But last night it started raining and it continued all night and all day today. It is pouring cats and dogs, sheep and cows, turtles and frogs! No kidding. In California in the spring, it usually dribbles a little, sometimes you get a real rain, but this is a winter time downpour that is quite unusual.

And what does a gardener do about this? Well, I am sitting and staring out the window in awe as the rain soaks everything. If it clears up tomorrow then the carrots, beets, peas and lettuce I planted will probably be fine, but this is supposed to continue for a few days! I am particulary worried about the peas which I soaked before planting. I often use the technique of getting the seeds really wet and puffed up before putting them in the ground by leaving them overnight in a jar of water. It works well when the weather is hot, but when a rain comes, like this, and it's cool, then I can loose the seeds to rot which may be happening as I speak. Some of the seeds were starting to sprout and their survival wiil depend on how far along they are and if the roots are deep enough not to be drowned out in the puddles developing in the seed rows.

But nonetheless, this Orbit Hose Spray Nozzle has seven different spray patterns and all the reviews are raving about it so I think it is worth ordering. "I know the sun's gonna shine in my backyard someday."

At Orbit 58228D Lawn & Garden 7-Pattern Plastic Pistol Hose Spray Nozzle

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April 30, 2010

The first seed planting of the year always makes me happy


I got the rototiller started. This spring has been very rainy which is a wonderful thing in California but not good for early planting. The garden is still too wet and there is more rain expected in the next few days, but as I knocked the ground cover down and broke up the soil, I found a couple of spots dry enough to dig up and plant. So I soaked some pea seeds. I want to have peas ready to eat when the grandkids come this summer so I need to get them in. The first time I planted peas some 40 years ago and ate them fresh out of the garden, I couldn't believe what a sweet nutricious snack they were. I never bothered to cook them unless I canned them for winter, but just added them to salads or just ate handfulls in the garden. Now of course they have the super sweet varieties, the Sugar Snap peas.

Soaking the seeds is an iffy prospect because it you soak them and then the weather turns cool and wet, they will sometimes rot. It is also dangerous to plant them when the ground cover has just been tilled under because that encourages rot also. So I'm taking a chance, but it seems worth it to amaze the grandkids.

With peas, beans, onion, and carrots, I plant double rows about four inches apart and work in organic composted chicken manure. This works because the roots systems of these plants don't spread widely. It also easier to weed the two rows at the same time, and I leave enough space between the next rows wide enough to get the tiller through easily. I'm using last year's Territorial Super Sugar Snap Peas. I have about a half a packet left and I"ll innoculate them with Fix-N-Grow Inoculant, also left over from last year. When I soaked the seeds, they plumped right up and look great as you can see from the top photo. Here I have added the inoculant and they're ready to go.

I'm going to try to get the seeds in before the rains starts. I'll let you know if the weather cooperates and the seeds sprout and take off.

At Fix -N- Grow Granular Legume Inoculant - Safe & Natural

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April 20, 2010

Cawtaba Corn Seeds are carefully planted to preserve an old variety

I was given some seeds by a friend several years ago which had been last harvested in 1979. The story told me was that they were Cawtaba Indian Corn which had been grown separately in the gardens of a homesteading family since the late 1800's. I gave them to the expert gardener here in town hoping the seeds were still viable and that this was an hierloom variety which could be saved. They are dark blue with chauky white to pale yellow markings.IMG_1311.JPG

The first thing was to soak the seed overnight so that the seed swells. Then it's easy to disgard the seeds that are not viable.


Once the seeds have been sorted through, we took them to the greenhouse for planting. She bought a good quality potting soil for them.


She planted the seeds by two different methods. In one flat she poked a hole in the soil with a stick and dropped a seed in each hole.


The other method was to scatter the seeds on top of the soil and then cover them with more planting soil.


This flat was left in the greenhouse while the first flat was taken to the house and put on a heating mat in a sunny window.


So I'm keeping my fingers crossed that these 40 year old seeds will sprout and bear more seeds so that a potential heirloom variety can be saved. At least we have given them the best possible chance.

At Hydrofarm Seedling Heat Mat

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April 19, 2010

Wildflower Seeds to make color for that bare spot in the yard or garden


EdenBrothers' has a great selection of wildflower seeds and you can take you pick of full sun or partial shade, perennial or annual, and also choose the proper region for best results. They also have mixes selected for color so there are mixes of red, blue, pink, and lavendar and they guarantee that their seed has no filler, is all completely wildflower seeds. There are low grow and tall flower selections and deer resistant, and dry tolerant varieties.

For example, the Pacific Northwest package which I would be interested in costs $24.99 for a pound which would cover 2000 sq ft. They list every seed included and say whether it is an annual or perennial. I'm still working on the bare places around new construction and I think this is at least a partial answer for me. Eden Brothers also has a complete line of bulbs to choose from.

At Eden Brothers

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April 13, 2010

Grafting the Pearmaine apple

I have an old homestead and one of the rules for homesteading was to plant five apple trees. These trees still survive over 100 years later! One tree on my place is especially worth saving. It ripens in late October and November and keeps really well and although it looks like a golden delicious, it is much sweeter, crisper and more flavorful. The best guess among those who have the tree still living is that it is a White Winter Pearmaine.


This is a description from 1881:

"Basin uneven. Skin pale yellow, with slight blush or warm cheek, thickly sprinkled with minute brown dots. Flesh yellowish, tender, crisp, juice very pleasant subacid. Very good."

My poor tree has fallen over and started to grow up from a lying down position. You have to be impressed with the will to live. Since I want to save the variety and I asked a local expert gardener to help me by grafting the pearmaine on to other root stock. I don't trust myself with grafting. He came on a wet rainy day so I stood with an umbrella while he did the work. Everyone has their own way of grafting that works for them. He cut several finger size year old growth from the pearmaine. Instead of using the notch method, he just cut a slanted pruning type cut.


Then he cut the graft so that the slant and the cambian layers matched and wrapped it in red electrical tape.


To finish, he tied a rubber band around the graft to hold it steady.

Then he trimmed any sprouts from lower on the rootstock. This is certainly not the handbook traditional method of grafting, but experienced gardeners do what they have had success with. We tried it on two different root stocks. He says his method has worked 3/4 of the time and so I"m hopeful that I will get another tree of this White Winter Pearmaine, my favorite apple.

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April 9, 2010

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


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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April 8, 2010

Spring Hill Nursery has unique plants and gives a lifetime guarantee

SpringHill Nursery was founded in 1849 in a small Ohio town. In the 1930's they started becoming a mail order business. I like their unique selection of plants which are useful for the homeowner with a lawn and garden to cultivate. For example, their ground covers include many flowering plants like phlox and thyme as well as Snow on the Mountain which hides problem areas quickly.

They have a eclectic selection of trees, carrying the Dawn Redwood and Gingo. There are several Japanese Tree peonies including this lovely Shimi-Nishiki.

"It is imported directly from Japan by Spring Hill! Shima-Nishiki is Japanese for 'fire flame'. And this uniquely colored tree peony certainly lives up to its name. Large, semi-double white blooms with fiery red streaks measure 7-9" across! Very longlived, it will bloom for a lifetime! Flowers arrive in April to May. Mature tree grows 48-60" tall with a 3' spread."

I particularly like their Pre-planned garden offerings. You can select for many different areas and blooming seasons. If you need some color in a shady spot or you'd really want a lovely three-season garden, they have a design for each . If you want flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your property, or a perennial garden, they have each. They include easy-to-follow instructions and diagrams make to help make your planting a success.

And there is a No Risk Guarantee. They say all of their plants will be true to name and to reach you in perfect and healthy condition."If, for any reason, you aren't pleased with any plant upon receipt, after planting or once it grows, just contact Spring Hill anytime--no time limit--for as long as you garden. No need to return any plant. We will refund every cent you paid for that plant or send a replacement without charge--whichever you prefer."

Sounds like a deal to me. And the selection is unique and well planned for variety and the home owner who wants to make their yard and flower garden lovely.

At Spring Hill Nursery

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April 6, 2010

Lawn Care tips from Cornell University, a good gardening resource


I've mowed my lawn twice already and fed the brown places. Here is some good advice from Cornell University. The link at the bottom of the article will take you to more links where you can get answers to specific problems.

Mow high. The shorter you mow your lawn, the more work you will need to do to keep it looking good. Never cut more than a third of the plant when you mow. If you want to keep your lawn mowed to just 1 inch, that means mowing when it reaches 1.5 inches, or every 2 to 5 days. That's a lot of work. Mowing that close can weaken root systems (making the grass more prone to drought), and makes it easier for weeds to outcompete grass. Mowing your lawn to a 3-inch height helps grass compete with weeds. It means mowing when the grass reaches 4.5 inches, or every 5 to 15 days, depending on growth rates. More on mowing.

Keep your mower sharp. Dull blades tear grass instead of cutting it. Lawns mowed with dull blades use 30 percent more water. Plus the wounds created by dull blades allow disease pathogens to enter grass plants. File your blade regularly, and replace damaged blades.

Leave the clippings. Clippings do not create thatch, contrary to popular belief. If you cut only a third of the plant at each mowing, the clippings won't smother the grass either. Mulching mowers work best to chop up clippings so they can settle down through the grass and onto the soil surface. There, earthworms incorporate clippings into the soil, improving both its drainage after storms and ability to hold water during drought. Do not disperse clippings onto pavement or into gutters. They are high in phosphorus and can cause pollution when washed into storm sewers and reach streams and lakes.

Don't fertilize early. Fertilizing in early spring only stresses grass plants over the long term by encouraging excessive top growth at the expense of roots. (Do not apply fertilizer to frozen or saturated soil, or on top of snow. It's a waste of fertilizer and sure way to have it wash into streams and lakes.) A better strategy is to fertilize in fall, from about August 15 until about 2 weeks after last mowing. Plants will use this fertilizer to develop root reserves to help them survive through winter and get off to a healthy start next spring.

Watch your water. It's easy to do more harm than good. Never water at night. Wet grass invites diseases. Water between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. when the leaves will dry quickly in the morning sun. During extended drought, stop watering and allow grass to go dormant.

Special care in shade. Grass needs a minimum of 4 hours of direct sun -- 6 hours if it gets much foot traffic. Anything less than this, you should consider other ground covers. In shady spots, plant fine fescues that are adapted to lower light, mow high and reduce fertilizer.

Spray sparingly. Never use lawn insecticides without scouting to see if the problem justifies treatment. 75 percent of lawn insecticide applications in New York are unnecessary or ineffective. Manage grass for healthy root systems, which can tolerate some insect damage and remain aesthetically pleasing.

Fill in weak spots. Use a rake to work up and improve the soil where weeds flourish or the ground is bare. Then reseed with grass varieties best-suited to the site. If, after a season of mowing high and leaving the clippings (taller grass will help shade out weeds), your lawn is still more than half perennial weeds and bare spots, consider a complete renovation.

At Lawn care

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April 5, 2010

A Low-Maintenance System for a Beautiful, Safe Lawn


This is a book for those of us who are tired of seeing the little yellow flag on lawns advising people to stay off because of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. What is the point of a lawn, anyway? As a kid I loved to run barefoot, playing with the dog or my friends. It felt of freedom from school, from shoes and the restrictions of rules. It saddens me to think that with weed and feed chemicals, the lawn is not safe for kids or pets. It's something to look at but not to touch.

If you are of the same mind but still want a lawn that's lovely too look at as well as play and sit in, or godforbid, lie on your back in and look at the clouds on a warm spring day, then this book may have the way to acheive that. The Organic Lawn Care Manuel was written by a guy who used the weed and feed method until the chemicals he used started affecting his health. Then he began going organic. He has instructions on starting a lawn from scratch and on how to improve soil structure. He discusses grass varieties and how to choose a drought and disease resistant grass. There is also a section on what to do about moles, voles and other burrowing creatures. And best of all, he doesn't forget what a lawn is really for--fun games for the family! Croquet, anyone?

The book comes with a good glossary, a list of ground covers, and lots of photographs for illustrating various problems. He has chapters on making the transition from chemical to organic lawn care without loosing what you already have worked for.

At The Organic Lawn Care Manual: A Natural, Low-Maintenance System for a Beautiful, Safe Lawn (Paperback)

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March 29, 2010

Baker Creek Heirloom seed catalog is amazing


Trust me. This is the shinniest, glossiest seed catalog it's ever been my pleasure to look at. Baker Creek has been around for 12 years and is located in Missouri as well as having a Petaluma, California stores. They handle only open pollinated seed and promote the pure food movement by educating their customers about the dangers of GMO and corporate patented and owned seeds.

The Gettles who run Baker seed say their business is growing very fast so that it is hard to keep up with demand. Many homeowners are starting gardens for the first time, spurring on by the current recession and in rebellion against the limited and controlled offerings of fruit and vegetables in the supermarkets. What I like about this attitude is that gardeners are encouraged to save their own seed which can be done with open pollinated varieties but can't be done with hybrids. Michael Pollen is involved in this movement and will be signing his book, The Omnivore's Dilemna" at the Baker Creek seed bank in Petaluma.

But the catalog itself is something to behold. There are huge life size photos of every variety of vegetable. They have gone all out to make your eyes light up and the mouth water. Included in the catalog are some asian and tropical fruits, an amazing variety of lettuces and melons. African wild melons are included which I have never seen before anywhere if you're into stunning your friends and neighbors. There are full page spreads of peppers life size and gorgeous. Strange items like Red Roselle are listed along with rutabagas. The cranberry flavored Roselle is used for making jellies and drinks. There are squash varieties we've never seen and of course, page after page of purple, red, orange, green, yellow and stripped tomatoes.

This catalog is worth checking out for the pictures and layout alone, even if you are not a died in the wool pure food person. Great fun.

At Baker Creek

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