torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
You really do see everything in this job. Tomatoes are my crop of choice: they give clear signals of illness or health, their requirements are pretty simple and easy, and the results are really very rewarding. So I've seen a lot of things happen with tomatoes, and I understand how they function in most situations.

I got sent some pictures today by the help desk, which has been stumped for a week by a diagnosis problem. I did have a reply, but only after my eyebrows hit my hairline. I'd never seen edema on tomatoes before -- technically, just about any dicot can get it, but while I've encountered it on a host of plants (citrus is particularly prone) this is a first for me. Edema presents differently on every plant, but if a tomato were to get it, I can believe that's what it would look like.

It wasn't just the lumpy stems that looked like they were ready to sprout adventitious roots across 75% of their surfaces (but no roots were growing). It was the combination of cold rain (thus wet conditions) alternating with bright hot sun *and* a fertilizing regime of 19-19-19 every two weeks. Bingo!

On the plus side, they'll be fine, as long as the gardener lays off for a while. It's left me shaking my head, though... I guess now I know what it takes to spur widespread edema lesions on tomatoes.
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
From a year ago; I figured it would be good to pull this out of the Facebook memory hole.


The idea of crop rotation in the home garden is lovely and all, but (at least for us) the numbers don't add up. If I try to break our veggies up into categories, I get:
greens: 44 square feet (cold-weather), 80 square feet (corn)
fruiting crops: 194 square feet
root crops: 75 square feet
legumes: 35 square feet
I can fill in the legumes part with fava beans over the winter and maybe chickpeas, but what a mismatch. Cold-weather greens, the root crops, and beans could rotate, I suppose, but with twice as much area for corn and four times as much for fruiting veggies, I'd have to grow a heck of a lot more stuff we don't eat if I wanted to keep up a strict rotation. I mean, there's donating to the food bank and there's "why am I farming close to a thousand square feet for three people".
Maybe I'll do a one-out-of-three-years rotation and figure that will be enough for soil diversity... disease isn't really an issue here.


Ha. I've worked out a six(!) year rotation that seems to cover all the bases, assuming six 15' beds divided in half. It's approximate, of course, but I'm impressed that it does work out:

Beans, winter greens, tomatoes and corn, onions/garlic, carrots and beets (followed by a late winter feeding), tomatoes and cucurbits, fava beans, corn and sweet potatoes, fava beans, tomatoes and cucurbits, repeat.

Now, of course, Chez Foogod will put in their requests and blow my ratios to hell. :)


[My rotation plan is in an Excel file in my Dropbox. I'll send it to anyone who wants it.]
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
I sowed tomatoes tonight... a little late, but they should be ready by the middle of April if all goes well. Plenty of time.

I'm doing almost all classics this year, due to limited bed space:
Baylor Paste
Black Krim
Dwarf Wild Fred (new to me)
Earl's Faux
and a Husky Cherry plant I picked up at the hardware store. I've heard good things about Husky, which is a dwarf. I think I can handle the amount of cherries a dwarf might crank out.

Baylor Paste and Legend are ones I tried last year, and both of them impressed me greatly with their ability to keep cranking out good tomatoes until frost. Legend is supposedly a semi-determinate, but it took over half the bed last year; this time I'll give it the room it deserves.

Wild Fred is my dwarf slicer to try this year... it's one of the new dwarfs produced by the double-hemisphere breeding project. It'll go in one of the pots.

KBX is like an improved Kellogg's Breakfast -- I've grown it before, and it has all the vigor of its parent with the added plus of potato-leaf foliage. The fruit is just about identical. With Earl's, Black Krim, and Vorlon, I should be set for reliable beefsteaks.

Also starting now: basil, cosmos, and a blue wildflower that cropped up last year that I quite liked. Some of the sweet potato slips I overwintered in the greenhouse survived, so they're well on their way. Big seeds (squash, cukes, beans, okra) will wait until I've got the beds prepped, because they'll go faster. I've given up on starting peppers, so I'll be buying those.

Ready or not...
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
Yesterday afternoon, I decided to finally tackle the project which has been preying on my mind, and I started digging the trench for the replacement sprinkler at the far corner of the back lawn area. The lawn needs three new sprinklers placed, and I was going to get one of them installed, dammit.

On my second stroke with the pick (dry clay) I saw something odd. By the time I figured out what it was, my third stroke hit, with the inevitable PSSSSSSHHHHHH. I had hit the main irrigation line. Sigh.

In case you ever wondered how I learned irrigation work: this is the crap I have to fix at home. )

Need I mention that after the irrigation work I did a large load of laundry and hung it out, cooked a vegan dinner for nine from scratch, did dishes, attended our weekly Doctor Who session, and even remembered to take the laundry in afterward? Whew.
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
Okay, my brain is turning to mush and I need a cheat sheet. So, right here where everyone can use it, thus:

Central Contra Costa vegetable growing seasons )
torquill: The magician Howl (happy things)
I was supposed to be taking it easy today. Oh well.

Stuff )

I still have to make a pie -- or at least pie crust -- but I feel reasonably well accomplished, having checked off even a couple of longer-term items on my list.
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
Just a reminder: I'm available as a plant doctor and garden consultant, covering the SF Bay Area. I can either advise, help with the work, or both; I offer reasonable rates. (925) 338-1349.

What on Earth, you ask, can anyone do with the garden at this time of year? Well...

Your December garden guide )
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
It's odd, living most of your life in the same house. It's comfortable and familiar, yes -- but the flip side is that when things change, it can be jarring. Especially when you find out that they changed a while ago, and you just hadn't noticed; like a familiar face, you always use mental shorthand to represent it, and then something finally becomes so different that the shorthand fails and you see them for who they really are now, years later.

Places age too. )
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
Everything's settling in )

Just in case you think gardening is all I'm doing, I should post an update on my Maker stuff... it's getting late tonight. Maybe in a couple of days. I've got to walk some cherry orchards on Thursday for the Buckskin survey, but Friday may be quieter.
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
It turns out that what I thought was a mahonia at Greg's place (I'm not too familiar with them, obviously) is actually Italian Buckthorn, Rhamnus alaternus. I saw a Coffeeberry in the nursery and it looked so similar to what I had ripped out next to the street sign that it got me thinking. A little hunting on the net turned up images that look exactly like the survivor in the back yard.

Not a bad plant, and I'll probably keep the one in back. It's something to keep in mind for an evergreen screening tree with small, glossy leaves -- it beats the pants off of privet, even if it does manage to sow a few volunteers from time to time.

A curious note: the reports on its berry color vary. Some say reddish, some say dark purple. The one Greg has is the dark type; I wonder whether it's a varietal thing.
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
For anyone in the SF East Bay, if you are interested in growing tomato plants this year, the Contra Costa Master Gardeners are holding a huge tomato plant sale this upcoming Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10-3 at 2640 Shadelands Dr., Walnut Creek. Plants are $2 each (cash/check only), all of them heirlooms which have been tested in this area. Visit The Contra Costa Master Gardeners site for more info.

I'll be there from 10-12:30 on Thursday and Friday, happily answering any and all questions about growing tomatoes. I'm quite familiar with a number of the varieties (I was happy to see they have almost all of my rock-solid standby heirlooms) and I'll advise anyone on the best choice for a given taste or location. :)
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
I pruned the cherry tree at the Pittsburg house yesterday. It had clearly been neglected for about 20 years; the base of it is half-rotten, with one thigh-sized trunk coming off that produces (what must be) Bing cherries, and the other side a tangle of thick branches that I finally figured out are Mahaleb rootstock (it doesn't produce fruit of any kind). The Bing had lots of dead branches and no real structure, though it seems healthy enough.

Cherries are, at least technically, supposed to have a central leader structure like apples and pears, though I've never understood exactly why (peaches and apricots use a vase structure, and plums can go either way). I've certainly seen vase-shaped cherry trees in orchards. So I compromised, left about three central leaders, chopped out everything in the middle, and encouraged a bit of scaffold growth. I took off some big limbs, and ended up with what looked like 2-3 trees worth of discarded wood. Renovation pruning always feels pretty savage. Fine tuning will happen in the next two years.

I left some of the Mahaleb for grafting (I picked up scions last month), but I whacked off a large trunk in the hope of shocking it into making some waterspouts I can use for better grafting stock. I'll try my luck this year on the smaller "trunks" I left behind, and see how well the buds take; if they take well, I'll have enough grafting wood in two or three years to move them to better locations if needs be, without having to ask for more scion wood from elsewhere.

It's already got Bing, and I picked up Black Tartarian (best early cherry EVAR), Lapin, and an unnamed pie cherry. With luck, in a few years, I'll have a decent 4-variety tree out there. :)
torquill: A sweet potato flower (gardening)
I feel a bit like a perpetual motion machine these days -- never stopping, finish one task only to go straight on to the next one. I'm busy right up until I climb into bed, and then kick myself into motion as soon as I wake up. I'd sometimes like to have just a little time to stop and do nothing in particular.

At least some of the things I'm doing are quite enjoyable, though. I don't get as much time as I'd like (or probably need to spend) on Greg's front yard, what with the more pressing needs of the garden and prepping for the Burn, but I do go check on it, water, and make little bits of progress. Today was one of those times.

Noodling on the process of landscape design )

There are times I forget I'm as much an artist as a scientist, and melding the aesthetic qualities with the biology of what the plants need to thrive is a delicious opportunity. I need to get as many succulents in the ground during the hot months as I can, as this is when they thrive, but I can't rush the placement. I just hope I can get the major players in the ground before fall, and let the ground covers and baby plants wait until next spring. In the meantime, it's very satisfying to see everything settling in.

Pictures soon; I have a running gallery, and I need to get the camera over there again.


torquill: Art-deco cougar face (Default)

September 2017

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