Unique Fruity Shapes and Colors

"I promise I won't buy any more fruit trees."  I said 2 weeks ago.  After which I heard, "Don't make promises you can't keep."

“I promise I won’t buy any more fruit trees.” I said 2 weeks ago after my husband planted this for me. After which I heard, “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”  And he was right.  I couldn’t argue his point.

After taking out a lack luster vine from this spot, I knew what addition I wanted to try in it’s place.  I’d read a post from Hanbury House about her new Spice Zee NectaPlum that she’d gone so far as to sacrifice a Red Baron Peach to make room for after a neighbor gave her some amazingly sweet fruit from her tree.  She described it as “the best tasting stone fruit I ever tried”.  It’s a white-fleshed, nectarine-peach-plum hybrid.

In a sea of green leaves while I overlooked the fruit tree section of my local Green Thumb nursery, I could see the Spice Zee NectaPlum all the way in the back.  The dark purple leaves are extremely unique and turn green after they mature.

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In a way it’s an ornamental and a fruit tree all packaged in one.

This season I’m also growing a unique tomato with a strawberry type shape, aptly named German Orange Strawberry.

DSCN2030It’s shape also resembles the ripening Red Baron peaches that it sits next to:

Love that color!

Love that color!

 

More Fruit, Please

I’ve been making daily phone calls to my favorite local nursery in anticipation of the arrival of their annual amazing, prolific and Southern California chosen bare root fruit trees. I had to pull out a meek palm in the backyard that always had bug problems, which happened to be behind a picturesque bench, screaming for a fruit tree to grace it’s sweet shadows over it from the summer sun.

I went yesterday with the purpose to buy a Double Delight Nectarine. This will be my second Double Delight since unfortunately the first was planted in what I now know to be one of the barren wastelands in the front yard.  When it did practically nothing for almost two years, I attempted to transplant it, which didn’t turn out so well. When I arrived at Green Thumb Nursery yesterday they were still setting up all of the trees in temporary soil, which was probably a good thing for my wallet and my husband because I only got to see the apple, cherry, almond and nectarine trees. Had all the varieties been poised for sale, who knows what damage I could have done. I do have a Snow Queen nectarine planted January 2013, but she has white flesh, so I had to get a yellow flesh nectarine. I mean come on, it’s obvious, right? When digging the hole we punctured a sprinkler line, but I now have my Double Delight in the ground. I like having a second chance, which the garden allows so many of. And boy is she pretty.

(Photos to come in Spring when it’s not just a stick in the ground.)

Applesauce from the Orchard

Yesterday was my family’s yearly visit to go apple picking at our favorite orchard near Julian, CA and dare I say I think it was our best yet.  Instead of letting October roll around and then saying, “Oh!  We need to go apple picking!”, we went a few weeks earlier than usual this year.  And boy did it pay off.  The crowds were thinner and the apples bigger and more plentiful.

Selecting our bounty with first-timer cousins.

Selecting our bounty with first-timer cousins.

The breath-taking blue skies provided a touch of fall in the air.

The breath-taking blue skies provided a touch of fall in the air.

Quite the array of apple types.  I filled it until not a single other apple could balance without falling.

Quite the array of apple types. I filled it until not a single other apple could balance without falling.

We picked Jonathan, Gala, and Golden Delicious, among others.  While walking the apple tree isles, I decided that I wanted to make my grandmother’s apple sauce recipe with a good portion of our harvest.  This morning my helper and I did just that.  This recipe has been made in my family for over fifty years and today was the first time that I’d made it with my daughter.  I thought of my grandmother and of the many Thanksgivings and Christmas meals that I’d passed the bowl of homemade applesauce that my mom made each year.  It’s a simple, fun recipe that isn’t afraid to let the essential flavors shine.  And there’s no sugar added. (It’s also amazing on potato pancakes).

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Grandma Iris’ Applesauce

7 yellow apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
7 green apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
7 red apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup raisins
Cinnamon to taste

Put apples in a large pot with 1-2 inches of water.  Bring to a 
boil and then turn down to simmer for 10 minutes.  Don't cook to 
long to allow chunks of apples to remain.
Drain the water from the apples.  Add cranberries, raisins and 
cinnamon and stir.  Eat warm or cold.  Keep refrigerated.
Serves 4-6 people.

Baby Mulberries

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My adored mulberry tree (it’s technically in my neighbor’s yard, but it might as well be in mine) has suddenly broken out of it’s wintry spell and produced baby berries right along side it’s first leaves.  The clear mulberry hair reminds me of those clear rice noodles used in Asian cooking.  A little over two months from now, this is what they turn into.

Tag, You’re Fruit

One of my favorite edible garden blogs, My Tiny Plot, did a post a few months back about a plant tag making system that utilizes aluminum tags, metal punches, and a very heavy jig to make custom, professional-looking tags. They last a lifetime and never rust or fade with time.  I’d love to have one of these sets in the future, but seen as though they are in the UK through Alitags and have their own hefty price tag (no pun intended), I decided on the stay-at-home/mom-on-a-budget version.  I came across a pack of 50 aluminum tags at a local nursery today for the friendly price of $7.99.  Using either a ball point pen or pencil, press firmly as you write the name/date/etc of your prized trees.  For me, I wanted them for my fruit trees, but they are perfect for just about anything that you don’t want to forget in the garden.

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I am now the proud owner of 8 fruit trees, up from just 2 less than a year ago.  I finally found a place for the new bare-root Gold Kist apricot (I sacrificed a lack-luster rose near my kitchen window).

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So I mentioned that I was at the nursery today…and I got one more bare-root.  I swear.  Last one.  Snow Queen white flesh nectarine.  I do already have the Double Delight Nectarine with yellow flesh planted January 2012, but I didn’t have a white flesh.  So there’s my reason.  HA!  It’s perfect for low chill areas, less than 300 hours and it has amazing reviews on taste.  I even had a spot picked out before I went to buy it.

You know those root-knot nematodes that got me all down and out last summer?  And I solarized one bed for three months?  Well I pulled some beets from that bed and, you guess it, root-knot nematodes still.  So, I decided to plant the Snow Queen in that bed.  It’s grown on citation rootstock, which is nematode resistant and does well in wet soils.  So there, you little buggers!

My Eyes are Bigger than my Backyard

The first fruit tree at my home was a peach tree, now about 5 years old and hitting her stride.  I then added a Diana fig a year later and a few citrus (which failed-citrus and I do not mix).  Then last January I bought my first bare-root trees.  A Burgundy Plum and Double Delight Nectarine.  At the time I did a post of my new additions and their planting.  I love bare-roots for two reasons: they’re cheaper and way easier to fit into my car.

Oh!  Gee!  It’s January again!  And I just happened to find myself at my favorite nursery with an amazing selection of bare-root trees from Dave Wilson.  I just went to browse.  Really.  And then I remembered research I’d done on two cherry tree varieties that were just developed a few years ago for mild winters.  Low chill varieties Minnie Royal and Royal Lee.  And……they pollenize each other!   Living on the coast of northern San Diego, we receive anywhere between 200 and 300 chill hours each year.  Fruit trees each have their own hour requirement in order to produce fruit.  So, it’s important in a place like mine to plant varieties considered “low chill”.  Up until Minnie Royal and Royal Lee came out, growing cherries in a warm winter area was not possible.  Until now!

The ONLY reason why I decided to buy these beauties instead of just admire was because of a little orange tag I read attached to each type.  It stated that Mazzard rootstock was used to graft the trees on and it just so happens that this type of rootstock is….wait for it….resistant to root-knot nematodes (see my post about how to identify and get rid of)!  Now that they are in many areas of my edible garden, I figured this would be a great way to manage the problem.  Plus, Mazzard is good for wetter soils, which I have.  As a rule, fruit trees like well drained soils.

But, I couldn’t leave with just two.  Oh no.  A low-chill Gold Kist apricot (300 chilling hours) somehow weaseled it’s way onto my cart!  Now, I’ve heard that apricots are a bit harder to grow than most other fruits (along with apples), but to me they are the holy grail of the backyard orchardist’s collection.  You can buy them at the grocery store or farmer’s market for a very limited time, but I find that usually they are picked to early and are hard and a bit sour.  So I thought I’d give it a whirl.  Ah the things I will do to taste the sweet, juicy flavor of a perfectly ripe fruit.

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When I planted the Burgundy Plum and Double Delight Nectarine in my front yard last year, I amended the soil and added homemade organic compost as a mulch on top of the soil (thanks to my sister-in-law).  They seem to be doing fairly well, but haven’t grown much.  The nursery specialist said that the first year you want bare-roots to be focusing on root growth.  The fruit will come in the second or third season.  I decided not to amend my native soil this go-around with the apricot and cherries in my backyard.  I’ve read that some recent studies concluded that adding compost or amendment can cause the water to pool around the roots.  In addition, when the roots grow beyond the amendment and reach the native soil, they tend to turn back around to find that amended soil again.  This can end up forming a huge ball of tightly formed, twisted roots that do not naturally extend outward.  Makes sense.  In order to still provide my beauties with food and nutrients, I’ve decided to use my sister-in-law’s organic compost again as a mulch on top of the soil and then cover that with shredded leaves and grass clippings to keep the good bacteria alive.  In this way the compost will infiltrate the soil over time.  Ok, enough talk, more pictures.

Here's what the roots of bare-root trees look like!

Here’s what the roots of bare-root trees look like!

Minnie Royal

Minnie Royal

Planted Minnie Royal cherry tree.  About 15 feet from the Royal Lee.

Planted Minnie Royal cherry tree. About 15 feet from the Royal Lee.

Royal Lee planted in the middle of my main edible bed.  This is a south facing area at the bottom of a slope, which receives full sun.  It's the coldest part of the garden, being at the base of a slope, which is great for chill hours.

Royal Lee planted in the middle of my main edible bed. This is a south facing area at the bottom of a slope, which receives full sun. It’s the coldest part of the garden, being at the base of a slope, which is great for chill hours.  The Diana fig is in the background.

I haven’t yet planted the apricot, as I’m trying to figure out the best place for it.  I’m running out of space!  We’ll see what I come up with.  On a side note, here’s Henrietta’s before and after.

Here's Henrietta a few months old in Sept. '12.

Here’s Henrietta a few months old in Sept. ’12.

Here she is this morning.  Nicely filled out and seemingly lighter in color.

Here she is this morning. Nicely filled out and seemingly lighter in color. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Resurrected Garden

I’ve been away from the garden both mentally and physically.  We all need a break sometimes.  The root-knot nematodes forced a self-imposed retreat from all things edible in half of my plot space.  The soil had to be covered with plastic sheeting for 6 weeks (solarization).  It was good timing, to be honest, because I never plan on not being an edible gardener.  And truly absence has made my heart grow fonder.

I’d waited a tad too long to harvest this broccoli from the raised bed. I decided to let it flower with all it’s might and instead enjoyed it each day from my kitchen window.

The other functioning half of my edible space has been growing a bountiful crop of arugula, among other cool season things. I am absolutely in love! It germinates at near 100% and grows with such ease. Plus the rabbits, rats and mice don’t care for it. It continues to produce new leaves when only the outer ones are harvested. A perfect addition to any salad with it’s peppery flavor.

Arugula in the sun.

Various varieties of beets, lettuce and broccoli have now been sowed in the unveiled root-knot nematode plot. Only time will tell if this problem has been put to bed.  Fingers crossed!

And the bananas are still green. We are experiencing a bit of a heat wave in Southern CA and I’m waiting until the temps cool to harvest them and see if they will ripen indoors.

A second trunk has produced as well!

Our flock of hens changed this fall.  Having 5 Silkies and 1 new Americauna, it wasn’t the number that forced my hand, is was the noise.  I’d known for some time that two of the Silkies in particular were, ahem, more vocal than the rest.  Out of consideration for our suburban neighbors (who never to this day complained), we re-homed the out-spoken duo.  Honestly it was mostly for my sanity as well, because over the summer I felt myself going outside to calm them, give them treats as a means of distraction, etc. quite often while I was home.  And I don’t like thinking about what was transpiring while I was away.  Of course they still free ranged daily, but when I had them restricted in the area surrounding their coop for safety when I can’t keep watch, they’d let me know they weren’t happy.  And, well, even chickens know that the grass is greener.

Alas, our two girls went to a fantastic home in a rural community only 20 minutes from here where they have 4 acres of green grass to roam ALL DAY….along with 45 other chickens.  I found this chicken lover through the friend who has given me our hens.  I would only let them go if I was confident that they would be treated well and have a happy, free range life.  And they do.

The Garden Has Gone Bananas!

My banana tree typically fruits every other year and now is it’s moment in the sun.   Traditionally the bananas never ripen (I’m guessing due to the slightly less than ideal dry climate of my So. Cal. backyard).  However, it’s a fun occurrence in the garden and you never know, maybe this will be my lucky year.

Once the fruiting stalk has finished giving it’s every ounce of energy to the fruit, it does die, but thankfully there are always new shoots and young stalks.  I read today that the banana is botanically classified as a berry!  And, these plants are not really trees because they lack any sort of woody features, but are rather an herb!  The trunk is composed of the main fruiting stem enrobed by leaves.  Cool, huh?  My chickens seem to be already aware of this, since they love to snack on the base of the plant, and have even been known to cause one or two to, “timber!”

Such a stunning visual impact. Quite eye-catching for the garden!

An Alternative to Grass 2.0: Inspired by Mom

In honor of upcoming Mother’s Day, I’m dedicating a well-deserved post entirely to my mom’s unique and inspiring garden.  It’s usually a parent who is proud of his or her child, but in this case it’s me who is proud of my mom.  There are many things to be proud of her for, but this particular post speaks to her amazing, lush, bountiful grass-free garden.  She doesn’t have one blade of grass growing anywhere on her property.  And she has one of the greenest thumbs I know, to boot.  She has instilled a love of gardening in me from a very young age.  I have many memories of watering and planting flowers with her.

Last year my parents took out their lawn (all on their own) and put in primarily low-water perennials, including a beautiful rock stream bed.  Many rock stream beds look completely unnatural and manmade, but theirs captured a much more natural feel, thanks to a variety of high quality rocks in varying sizes.  They designed the placement of each large rock and the flow of the stream bed to accent their plant design and natural shape of the front yard.

Here’s what it looked like BEFORE (a very typical suburban yard):

Fore!

And AFTER:

View from the sidewalk.

Approaching the front door, there is an alternate flag stone pathway leading to a restful bench.

One of my favorite things about their front yard is the variety of plants.  It lends so much visual interest.  The plants spilling over into the rock stream bed add to the natural look.

And if that wasn’t enough garden eye candy, a few weeks back my mom decided to take on another garden adventure close to my heart: a vegetable garden.  Her backyard is home to a gorgeous succulent container garden.  We cleared the sunniest area, disposed of more than a few root-bound potted succulents and filled the pots with fresh, organic potting soil.  We made a special trip to a nursery with an extensive veggie selection, which allowed my mom to pick out a cucumber, yellow squash and green bean specifically bred for containers.  They are more compact and do well in such a situation.  These types of veggies can also be found in many seed catalogues.

You can do a vegetable container garden, too!

Yellow Squash loving it’s new home.

I donated a few things that I’d grown from seeds, such as a Black Krim heirloom tomato and a cherry tomato seedling. She is so pleased with her new veggie garden that the other day we added two more pots and planted Alpine strawberry seeds, basil seeds and yellow & green patty pan squash seeds.

Way to go, Mom!  Now you’ve got your own bountiful backyard.  I can’t wait for you to taste your first harvest.

I love gardening with you.

I Am Officially In Love

In the spring garden I find myself appreciating life’s sweet simplicities.  I am out in the garden so much now, that I’ve contemplated pitching a tent, which would also help me get the snails and slugs in the middle of the night.  No, not really!  (Well it may have crossed my mind.)  Watching my vegetables and fruit grow day by day is a true simple pleasure.

As spring gets into full swing, I can’t help asking myself if I’m growing everything my little heart desires.  With the new bed, I can really sink my teeth into this whole veggie gardening thing this year.  Here’s a list of the fruits and vegetables that are currently growing in my garden:

  1. Broccoli
  2. Potatoes ( Yukon and Blue)
  3. Sugar snap peas
  4. All Season Butterhead Lettuce
  5. Cosmic Purple carrots
  6. Cucumbers (Lemon and Persian Baby Green Fingers)
  7. Golden Beets
  8. Green beans (Rattlesnake, Purple and Blue Lake pole)
  9. Edamame
  10. Heirloom Tomatoes (Rainbow Cherry, Black Krim, Persimmon, Old German, Pineapple, Purple Cherokee and Brandywine)
  11. Grapes (Green Thompson Seedless and Purple Thompson Seedless – both of which won’t fruit this year!  Bummer.)
  12. Burgundy Plum (will not fruit this year)
  13. Double Delight Nectarine (will not fruit this year)
  14. No Name Peach
  15. Diana Fig
  16. Various herbs

Oh! And don’t forget sunflowers (Teddy Bear and Giant Mammoth)!  I am definitely planning on collecting and roasting those sunflower seeds…and maybe leaving a few for the birds.

One of the many Mammoth Sunflowers seedlings that I planted along the back perimeter of the south-facing bed.

Hmmmmmm.  After seeing that list, I’d say my heart has nothing left to desire!  Being the practical gal that I am, I strive to grow things that my family eats on a regular basis.  There are so many unique veggies out there, but with my limited space, do I really want to use up room on Bok Choy that I’ll have no idea how to cook?  (Please don’t get me wrong, Bok Choy lovers).  I’m sure down the road my wandering eye will motivate me to try new things, but for now we’ll stick with the basics.

In about May my pumpkin seeds will go in the ground.  I am in love with growing pumpkins!  I’ve got all new kinds this year that I’ve never tried before.  Red Warty Thing, Big Mac, Fairytale and the mystical blue Jarrahdale.  It’s difficult to save the space for them as I’ve been planting so much lately, but the garden is teaching me about succumbing to the present and trusting in tomorrow.  It’s crazy how philosophical I am these days.

My recent seed purchase. They are both stringless with great eating and baking quality!