Father’s Day in the Garden

Saturday, June 17th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • There’s still time to plant summer vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers and corn will bear for you if you plant them now.
    • Attract birds to your garden with a concrete bird bath. They come in many attractive styles and make good gifts.
    • Attract hummingbirds to your patio this summer with hummingbird feeders, so you can enjoy their iridescent beauty and charm. The new Big Gulp™ holds 40 oz. and is easy to fill.
    • New Guinea impatiens have variegated foliage and giant, impatiens flowers. These striking plants will take more sun than regular impatiens and will bloom all summer.
    • Check roses for black spots on the leaves and treat immediately to prevent defoliation.

Father’s Day in the Garden

My father loved dahlias. He had a flower border that surrounded the little lawn in our backyard and in it he grew gorgeous dahlias and tall, colorful gladioli. There was also a big, beautiful apricot tree and a large bed of strawberries. He would deliver a big bowl of bright red strawberries to the kitchen with pride and anticipation for the strawberry shortcake that would appear after dinner. How we enjoyed the fresh fruit from his garden. He loved gardening and I loved being with him in the garden. I think the garden was his escape from the stresses of life.

Lots of dads enjoy gardening. Tomatoes and peppers are favorites with many of them. And dads like fruit trees. It gives them lots to master with the pruning and thinning and then the harvesting in the fall. There always seems to be room for one more fruit tree.

Grape and berry vines are easy to grow and so much fun to harvest. With just a few grapevines you can harvest enough fruit for delicious fresh grapes, grape juice, grape jelly or raisins. Plant early, mid-season and late varieties for an extended harvest. The sweet, ripe berries are loved by everyone.

Raspberries and blackberries are easy to grow in our climate. Raspberries come in a variety of colors: red, purple, black and yellow. From the classic dark red berries with rich raspberry flavor to the extra large Bababerries and the yellow Fall Gold, there is a wide variety of colors and flavors. With a little planning, you can have fresh raspberries from spring through fall. There is very little maintenance and you are rewarded with succulent berries year after year.

Blackberries are known by many names: boysenberry, nectarberry, loganberry or olallie berry to name a few. The berries range in color from jet black to red, from sweet to tart, and all have distinctive flavors.

Olallie berries are large, firm black berries 1.5 inches long. They are sweeter than others with some wild blackberry flavor. Marionberries have sweet, bright, shiny black berries with a faint wild blackberry flavor. They are excellent for fresh eating and desserts.

Loganberries are thought to be a wild cross between a blackberry and a red raspberry. Their large, light red berries do not darken when ripe. The unique, tart flavor is highly prized and loganberry wine and pies are enjoyed by many people. ‘Triple Crown’ blackberry is named for its three crowning attributes—flavor, productivity and vigor. In addition, it is thornless and produces very large berries.

Boysenberries, also called nectarberries, are extremely large, dark maroon berries up to two and a half inches long. They are soft and very juicy with a rich, tangy flavor. They come either thorny or thornless.

Gooseberries and currants almost never show up in the grocery store, so if you like a tasty gooseberry pie now and then, you better plant your own. They are very flavorful and can be eaten fresh or made into pies and jams.

Blueberries grow on bushes that produce bountiful crops in just a few years. There are many varieties and they ripen over a long season. The soil needs to be acidic and kept moist but with a little effort, you can harvest delicious blueberries all summer long.

Celebrate Dad this weekend with fruits and flowers and a day in the garden.

Small Fruits for the Garden

Saturday, January 7th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Fruit trees can be planted this month. Choose early, mid-season and late varieties for a continuous harvest from late summer into winter.
    • Roses should be pruned in February near the end of the dormant season. You can clean them up now, however, by removing all the old leaves on and around the plants.
    • Check the watering of outdoor container plants especially if they’re located under the eaves or porch where rain can’t reach them.
    • Houseplants will brighten your indoor environment and clean the air during the winter months.
    • Fruit trees can be pruned this month. If you’re not sure how, take advantage of one of the fine classes being offered this month.

Small Fruits for the Garden

Wonderful fruits come from the home berry patch. In addition to fresh eating and luscious pies, cobblers and strawberry shortcakes, berries are easy to freeze and can be made into delicious jams and colorful juices.

Small fruits come in a wide assortment of colors, flavors, shapes and sizes. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, currants, gooseberries, blackberries and grapes give us an enormous variety to choose from. Not only are they colorful and tasty, but most small fruits are easy to grow. They are very productive and most kinds bear a year or two after planting.

Grapes are one of the oldest fruits in cultivation. With just a few vines you can harvest enough fruit for delicious, fresh grapes, grape juice, grape jelly or raisins. Plant early, mid-season and late varieties for an extended harvest. Grapes must be pruned to get top production from your vines, and now is a good time to begin that job.

Raspberries and blackberries and their many cousins, are usually referred to as the brambles. They are frequently treated as gourmet fruit, not because they are hard to grow, but because they don’t ship well. But they are easy to grow in our climate, so choose some of your favorite cultivars now and start your own bramble patch.

The bush fruits include blueberry, currant, gooseberry, huckleberry and lingonberry. What you don’t eat fresh can be made into delicious sauces, conserves, pies and other desserts, or frozen for later use.

There are three types of blueberries: Northern highbush, Southern highbush and Rabbiteye. Northern highbush are the most popular home-garden blueberries. They will do best in locations with some ocean influence in the summer. Southern highbush and Rabbiteyes are ideal for warmer climates.

Currants produce generous quantities of tasty fruit with very little maintenance. Gooseberries are wonderful for preserves and refreshing summer wines. They will grow in full sun or partial shade. Huckleberry is native to our redwood forests and makes tasty little fruits that are delicious in pancakes!

The favorite home-grown berry is, of course, the strawberry. Picked ripe from the garden, they are rich and flavorful. Fresh strawberry shortcake, strawberry ice cream and strawberry pie are just some of the ways to use them. The plants are inexpensive and bear a full crop within a year of planting.

Berries of all kinds can be planted this winter for delicious harvests in days to come.

Luscious Blueberries from your Garden

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Spring flowers and vegetables can be started from seeds now on your window sill. Try pansies and snapdragons, broccoli, cabbage and lettuces.
    • Spray fruit trees with a dormant oil spray. Spray from the bottom up, including the undersides of limbs and the ground around the tree, to prevent early spring insect infestations.
    • Lilacs and wisteria have beautiful spring flowers. They come in a variety of colors and can be planted now from bare-root plants.
    • Asparagus, whose delectable spears are even sweeter when home-grown, are available now for planting. Prepare a fertile bed for these long-lived vegetables.
    • If you’re short on space in your orchard, you can plant 2 or 3 varieties of the same fruit in one large hole. This will allow cross-pollination among apples, pears, plums, cherries and Asian pears.

    Luscious Blueberries from your Garden

    Blueberries can be grown in many parts of the United States, however different types of blueberries are better for different climates. Northern Highbush and Southern Highbush blueberries do best in the Willits area.

    Northern Highbush blueberries grow 4 to 6 feet tall and have clusters of white bell-shaped flowers in spring, rich green foliage that turns deep red in the fall, and abundant crops of sweet blue berries in midsummer. They are the best known and the largest, sweetest and juiciest blueberries you can grow. These varieties, however, are native to Canada, Michigan and other northern climes. They prefer cool summers, where they have the best fruit quality, but are worth growing in our area in partial shade. They require more than 1,000 chill hours for bud-break.

    Southern Highbush blueberries have an earlier ripening season and grow 5 to 8 feet tall by 5 feet wide. They are all self-pollinating, although the yields and the berries will be larger if two varieties are planted together. Southern Highbush are specifically hybridized for superior fruit, soil adaptability, heat tolerance and low winter chilling.

    These varieties are suitable for areas from Florida to California because of their low chill requirement and heat tolerance. This makes them particularly suitable for coastal areas of California as well as the inland valleys. They grow in full sun or partial shade, and are grown commercially in the Central Valley. Attractive blue-green foliage remains evergreen in mild winters or turns yellow-orange before falling in cold climates.

    Blueberries need mostly sun and rich, acid soil that is high in organic matter. A pH of 4.8 to 5.0 is ideal. When planting, add lots of peat moss, equal to 50% of the planting hole soil. Dig a wide hole and add a couple of cups of soil sulfur per plant.

    They don’t like strong nitrogen fertilizer, but you should feed them after they are established with regular light applications every six weeks, beginning in April and ending in July or August. Use an acid plant food with at least 10 percent nitrogen. Make the first feeding as soon as growth starts in the spring. Spread the fertilizer around the plants 6 to 12 inches away from their crowns, and water it in.

    Remove all blossoms the first two years and allow only a small crop to mature the third season. This will help the plants establish faster.

    Blueberry roots are shallow and should not be disturbed. Mulch the plants with 4 to 6 inches of sawdust or compost, but keep it away from the base of the plant. This will keep down weeds and retain moisture. Keep replenishing the mulch all summer. Plants should be kept moist all through the growing season.

    A wonderful feature of many varieties is their outstanding fall color: hot, luminous reds, pinks, and oranges that really light up with fall rains. It’s nice to plant them where you can enjoy their colorful foliage. Blueberries are very nutritious and are a wonderful addition to your diet as well as your garden.