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.

Grapes for the Home Vineyard

Friday, January 16th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Apples and pears are the easiest fruits to grow in our area. Choose early, mid-season and late varieties for a continuous harvest from late summer into winter.
    • Fill your winter garden with color from primroses and pansies.
    • Witch hazels bloom in the middle of winter with their interesting and showy, fragrant yellow or red blooms. One might look good in your garden.
    • Delicious raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, boysenberries and blueberries are all available now for early planting.
    • 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.

Grapes for the Home Vineyard

An age-old fruit, grapes have been cultivated for over 6000 years and continue to grow in popularity today. Grown for fresh eating, juice, jelly or wine, grapes are widely recognized for their health benefits as well as for the production of fine wines.

Wine grape varieties represent only a small portion of the more than 600 kinds of grapes, and only about 60 varieties are suited to produce fine quality wine. The rest are considered table grapes, which are seeing a surge in popularity with today’s home gardeners.

Seedless table grapes are the most popular and Thompson Seedless and Flame make up the majority of table grapes sold in California. But both of these varieties require a considerable amount of heat to reach their finest quality. The Willits area just doesn’t get the amount of heat that the Central Valley does where these varieties grow to perfection. But there are many delicious grapes that are well suited to our climate.

There are two basic types of grapes, American and European. Our familiar table grapes and most wine grapes are derived from a single European species, Vitis vinifera. They have relatively thin skins that adhere closely to their flesh, and seeds that can be slipped out of the pulp quite easily.

American varieties, Vitis labrusca, are sometimes called slip-skin grapes, as their skins separate readily from the flesh; their seeds are tightly embedded in the pulp. The most familiar American variety is the Concord grape. Our area is suited to American grapes and to selected European varieties with lower heat requirements.

In 1999, several new cultivars were released. Princess is a large green grape that rivals Thompson with berries of excellent eating quality that have a satisfying crunch. Summer Royal grapes are medium-sized, and blue-black in color. These round seedless grapes have a pleasant aroma and a sweet flavor, and are ideal for snacks and salads. Summer Muscat has green, seedless muscat-flavored berries that are excellent for dry-on-the-vine raisins.

Some American grapes that ripen early in the season include these seedless varieties. Himrod is an excellent quality golden yellow grape that bears large clusters of crisp, sweet fruit. This seedless variety is reliable and productive. Canadice is a beautiful rose-colored grape that is sweet with a somewhat spicy flavor. Interlaken has pale green berries that are sweet and crisp.

Suffolk Red is a seedless grape with round, firm, pink to red berries and a pleasing, spicy-sweet flavor. It makes a really delicious table grape. Golden Muscat has pale golden berries with a characteristic muscat flavor. Its large, well filled clusters are juicy and sweet.

The best known purple grape is Concord, whose fruit has a distinctive “foxy” flavor. Used widely for grape juice and jelly, it may be America’s favorite grape.

Several European grapes do well in our area. Perlette is a pale green grape that is sweet and juicy. Black Monukka, which has a deep, purplish-black skin and is very sweet and rich flavored, and Flame, a crisp, sweet red grape, are both excellent for fresh use and for raisins. These varieties do not need the high heat that Thompson does to ripen.

Grapes are so abundant and easy to grow, that no family vineyard should be without them. Plant several varieties to enjoy their distinct flavors and a long harvest.

Small Fruits for the Garden

Monday, February 27th, 2012 by Jenny Watts
    • Pansies, with their bright faces, are impervious to cold weather. They even bloom under the snow. So plant some now for spring color.
    • Clematis that bloomed last summer can be pruned now. Wait on spring-blooming varieties until after they bloom.
    • English daisies are an early-blooming perennial with showy red, pink or white flowers. They will bloom all spring in partial shade.
    • 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.
    • It’s bare root season, which means you can save money on fruit trees, grapevines and berry vines by planting them now. A wide selection is still available.

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 are available for planting now.