» Archive for August, 2014

Bringing in the Harvest

Friday, August 22nd, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Cool season vegetables should be planted right away to insure good crops this fall.
    • Divide Oriental poppies and bearded iris now. Add some bone meal in the bottom of the hole when you replant them.
    • When lily flowers fade, remove the flowers but don’t cut back the stems until leaves have yellowed in the fall.
    • Sow these vegetable seeds directly in the soil: carrots, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radish, spinach and root vegetables. Keep the surface of the soil moist until the seedlings are established.
    • Keep apples picked up from under the trees to help control the spread of coddling moths, which make wormy apples.

Bringing in the Harvest

The long hot days this summer have made the garden grow like crazy and now the harvest is coming in. The tomatoes are starting to ripen, summer squash is plentiful and beans and corn are coming on fast.

It’s time to harvest the garden to keep production going strong. The more you harvest, the more you grow. Harvest vegetables in the morning when they’re crisp and cool.

Squash tastes best when harvested young. Pick zucchini when it is eight inches long, and pick crookneck squash when only six inches long. Immature winter squash lacks flavor, so wait until the rind is hard. Harvest winter squash with two inches of stem remaining. A stem cut too short is like an open wound, and will cause early decay.

Cantaloupes are starting to get ripe. To make melons sweeter, hold off watering a week before you expect to harvest the ripe fruit, when it starts to turn color. A cantaloupe is fully ripe when it pulls off the stem easily.

With other melons, check for a strong, pleasant aroma at the blossom (not stem) end to indicate ripeness. A watermelon is probably ripe if it makes a dull “thunk” when thumped, and when its underside has turned from white to pale yellow.
Pick most kinds of tomatoes when their color is even and glossy and the texture still slightly firm. Some varieties, primarily large heirloom types, ripen before they reach full color. Pick them when they are mostly colored up and bring them inside to finish ripening.

Let sweet peppers reach their final ripe color of red, yellow or orange, for maximum sweetness and flavor. Hot peppers are nutritious at all stages. Sample them at different points to see what you like best.

Lettuce is a fast crop and it’s important to harvest heads before they “bolt” and go to flower. Harvest butterhead lettuce when a loose head is formed; crisphead lettuce when heads are firm; and looseleaf lettuce and romaine any time when the plants are large enough to use. You can pull off leaves of leaf lettuce or harvest the whole head.

Cabbage also must be picked before it bolts. Test the head for firmness, then cut it off. If you have mature heads that you’re not ready to harvest, hold off water or twist the plant to break some of the roots. This should keep them from bolting.

Pick green beans when they are at least three inches long but before they begin to get tough and stringy. Harvest pole beans faithfully every other day and the plants will yield right up to frost.

Corn is ready when the silks turn brown. Check an ear or two by pulling back the husk and testing a kernel with your fingernail. It is squirts a milky-white juice, it’s ripe.

Home gardeners have the advantage of being able to pick their vegetables just as they reach their prime. Knowing when vegetables are perfect for picking is a skill that you will gain with experience. For the best flavor and quality, prepare them for eating or freezing as soon as possible after harvest.

Orange Trumpet Vines

Friday, August 15th, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Roses have more flowers all summer long than any other shrub. Plant them in a sunny location and feed monthly for continuous blooms.
    • Mottled leaves are often a sign of spider mites. Check for them with a hand lens or bring a leaf in to your nursery, in a plastic bag, for identification and treatment options.
    • Sow lettuce seeds now for a fall crop. Set out broccoli and cabbage plants too.
    • Feed fuchsias, begonias, summer annuals and container plants to keep them green and blooming right up until frost.
    • Feed rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with a “bloom” fertilizer to encourage flowers for next spring.

A Wall of Orange Trumpets
Trumpet vines are beautiful all summer

The orange-flowering trumpet vines on fences around town is beautiful every summer. The trumpet vine, Campsis radicans, native to the eastern United States, is a large, vigorous deciduous vine that will attach itself to almost anything with its aerial rootlets. This easily grown vine has been cultivated in North America since colonial times. The beautiful two-inch orange or yellow blooms which open in summer are loved by people and hummingbirds alike.

Trumpet vines are very hardy and grow rapidly to 30 to 40 feet or more, becoming a large, heavy vine if not thinned. Give them a strong support to grow on, a sunny location and average water. Foliage grows well in shade, but plants need good sun for best flowering.

Easily grown in most soils, they grow best in lean to average soils with regular moisture in full sun.

The strong aerial rootlets cement themselves to supports, making a strong adhesion. Trumpet vine is not recommended for planting near buildings, as their rootlets will ruin painted surfaces.

The leaves of the trumpet vine resemble those of wisteria. Each leaf is divided into 9 to 11 leaflets. The flowers grow in clusters of 6 to 12, and are three inches long, flaring to two inches wide at the mouth of the trumpet. They begin blooming in early July and continue until frost.

‘Madame Galen’ trumpet vine (Campsis x tagliabuana ‘Mme Galen’) has larger, showier flowers than the common trumpet vine. They are a lovely cantaloupe-orange color.

The variety ‘Flava’ has pure yellow flowers that shine in bright contrast to the rich green leaves. Hummingbirds seek it out as much as they do the species.

Trumpet vines are a big favorite with hummingbirds. It is a wonderful nectar source for them, and with so many bright-colored blooms to stick their long beaks into, they will be around your yard for weeks.

Vines soften the hard edges of structures and connect them to other plants in the garden. They can screen unsightly walls or views. Use vines to create green walls that define an outdoor room. Arbors covered with a deciduous vine will give shade in the summer and let in the light in the winter time. A wire or wooden fence can become a showy wall with its brilliant blooms throughout the summer.

Trumpet vines bloom on new growth, so early spring pruning will not affect the flowering. Flowers are followed by long, bean-like seed pods (3-5” long) which split open when ripe releasing numerous 2-winged seeds for dispersal by the wind.

Vines are functional workhorses in the garden. And trumpet vines are hard to beat for fast growth as well as beauty all summer long.

Mouthwatering Peaches

Friday, August 15th, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Fall vegetables can be planted now for a fall harvest of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chard and lettuce. Onions can also be planted now.
    • Wisteria trees need to be trimmed throughout the summer. Keep long tendrils trimmed back to maintain the shape of the tree.
    • Plant beets now for fall harvest. They will have a deeper red color than beets planted for spring harvest, and tend to have higher sugar levels too.
    • Budworms eat the petals of geraniums and petunias, leaving you with no flowers. Spray plants weekly with BT for complete control.
    • Trim grapevines to allow more sun to reach the fruit and sweeten the grapes, if they are being shaded heavily by the foliage.

Mouthwatering Peaches for your Orchard

This is a great year for summer stone fruit in Willits, and the peaches are delicious! Mild spring weather allowed trees to pollenate successfully and bring in bumper crops. If you missed out on the harvest, you might consider planting a peach tree in your orchard.

There are hundreds of different peach varieties, but basically there are two types, the freestones and the clingstones. In freestone types, the flesh separates readily from the pit. In the clingstone type, the flesh clings tightly to the pit. Freestone types are usually preferred for eating fresh or for freezing, while clingstone types are used primarily for canning. Fruit may be either yellow or white-fleshed.

Nothing compares to the taste of tree-ripe peaches. The main challenges to growing good peaches in our area are late spring frosts and a disease known as “peach leaf curl.” Selecting varieties that are both late-blooming and resistant to peach leaf curl will result in the best crops.

Frost, Q-1-8 and Indian Free are excellent choices. Frost is a delicious yellow freestone while Q-1-8 and Indian Free are both white peaches with rich flavor. Other peach varieties which can be grown in our area are Redhaven, an old-time favorite, Donut, a unique white peach with a sunken center (shaped like a doughnut), Elberta, the most popular of all peaches, Reliance, a cold-hardy peach that is a favorite for canning, and Gold Dust, an early peach with golden juicy sweetness.

Most peach cultivars do not require cross pollination and a single peach tree can be expected to bear crops in the home orchard. However, two or three different trees will extend the season and provide fruit over a couple of months.

Standard trees grow 15 to 25 feet tall if unpruned, but can be kept to 10 to 12 feet with consistent pruning, especially summer pruning. The best standard rootstock for our area is Lovell, which has a vigorous root system that is tolerant of wet soil or heavy soil. St. Julian is a good dwarfing rootstock that dwarfs trees to 80% of standard, and has good anchorage and excellent vigor. Trees on St. Julian tolerate wet soil as well as drought conditions. Citation rootstock dwarfs peaches to 8-14 ft. Trees will be very tolerant of wet soil but not drought tolerant. Citation rootstock induces heavy bearing at a young age.

Peach trees require full sunlight. If possible, select a site with a raised elevation or on a slope, so that cold air can drain away from the tree on a cold night during bloom. Trees need well drained soil as roots will not tolerate soils where water remains on or near the surface for more than one hour after a heavy rain.

Peaches do not bear a crop every year in our climate, but when they do a single tree can produce 200 pounds of luscious, juicy fruit.