Friday, May 22, 2009


These are last years crop, from top left: apricots, persimmons, Mayer lemons, greengages, damsons, tomatoes, a nice iris, HOT peppers, pluots.
Double click and they'll get bigger.

Since Gordon's cracked the barn door open with such an interesting 'herb' posting let's open it all the way and have a full-on gardening post, after all spring is here and all that! Here in California we had a worse than usual winter, it was cold from about late November 'til early March and then it rained, not monsoon but typical English style, steady for several days at a time. But then finally the sun broke through and it started getting warmer 'til now we've already had one 90 degree hot spell.
When we first bought this place I planted an orchard of about 20 odd apple trees, all heirlooms, mostly Europeans, every spring I've lost one or more and this spring there were 4 more dead apple trees. I don't know what's killing 'em, at one point I thought it was rodents stripping the bark at ground level so I wrapped 'em all in wire netting but they still died, it might be gopher tunnels exposing the roots to air pockets.
All my fruit trees have grafts on them, initially I did it with the idea of helping pollination but there's now other advantages, I've never seen Conference pears over here so I took a stem from my sisters tree and grafted it to my Comice and now it's bearing fruit; Conferences, right next to Comice, next to Bosc's also! I did similar with several UK apples, Grieves, Golden Cox and Egremont,
Regardless, I go through the same process every spring, I thoroughly dig and fertilise all the raised beds, ten in all. This year I tried something new, I rented a Mantis rotary tiller, it cost $35 for a day and I'd done everything in less than 3 hours! It would have taken me a week with a shovel. Marvellous tool, it really does a great job. I then fertilised every bed with a good dose of blood meal, bone meal and oyster shell, I do this every year and so far have been able to grow repeat crops in the same beds without any problems. This is only an issue because I like to grow a lot of varieties of tomatoes, this year I limited it to 22, last year it was 30 odd and they all grow on trellises fastened to the beds. In addition to those I've planted more hot peppers, a variety of oriental salad plants, lettuce, cucumbers, beets, leeks, potatoes, onions, squash, zuchini and several varieties of egg plants. There's still quite a bit of space so I'll be adding as we go. We also have several flower beds that take quite a bit of effort to keep weed free.
I have in addition to the apple trees quite a few other fruit trees and bushes, several pears, many plums; greengage, damson, Santa Rosa, elephant heart, French prunes, two cherries, two persimmons, apricots and a new species that's probably not available in UK yet, it's a pluot, plu-ot = a plum/apricot hybrid that's become very popular in California which is where it was developed about a dozen years ago. It's a fabulous tasting fruit, very sweet, spicy like an apricot and generally with very soft skins. I bought about six varieties and last year was a wonderful crop from all of them, I made lots of jams and preserves and gorged everyday. Beyond those we have grapes, red and black currents, gooseberries, raspberries and a small collection of citrus; lemons, limes and oranges. You might wonder how much fruit two people can eat, and you're probably right, I did over do it a bit, but Gina will retire and a few years and the plan then is that we'll get a stall at the farmers market and she'll sell fruit, jams and produce there a couple of days a week.
So that's my lot, I spend a fair bit of time out there every day, often with my iPod on, it's sometimes hard work but I enjoy it. What are all you other gardeners doing right now. What are you planting this year, any interesting new projects?


B-Mac said...

I'm just hoping that there'll be enough respite, that I can actually go and consider what needs done to my garden!

ToffeeBoy said...

@ goneforeign - every year, I plan to put in some veg and every year, strangely, nothing happens. And this despite the fact that I do nothing about it whatsoever! What am I doing wrong???

I can bring some fruit on the 'Spill picnic - all being well, we should have some plums and pears to offer.

Abahachi said...

Desperate weeding, trying to reclaim the vegetable garden from the nettles and other unmentionable things that have gradually colonised it over the last few years because I've been too busy; yes, I really ought to be getting on with writing, but this may be my one opportunity... Asparagus and salad leaves doing nicely, and still got some spring cabbage; then it's the hungry gap before spinach, turnips, peas and beans get going. Have set up electric fence to keep the badgers from my gooseberries; I've lost crops every other year for the last six years, as the bastards roll on top of the bushes and then eat the fruit that's fallen off.

goneforeign said...

I don't think I've ever seen a badger in the wild, I tend to think of them is slightly exotic, didn't know they were a gardening menace. My equivalent is the gopher, very similar in appearance to a mole but his diet is strictly vegetarian, he eats the roots off everything which is mildly annoying when it's something you've just bought at the nursery and planted. He's the reason for raised beds, the bottom is covered with half inch galvanised wire screen just to keep the buggers out. There are hundreds of 'em, the entire garden is riddled with gopher tunnels.

steenbeck said...

Goneforeign, I'm green with envy. (Get it?) I would love to have the garden you have. We have a tiny yard (I'll post a picture) but every year we try to plant some tomatoes and herbs. This year we got nine different heirloom variety tomatoes--giant white ones, tiny black ones, striped brown and green. I'm very excited for them. And Somebody gave us a quince bush they'd dug out of their back yard--but they didn't get much of the root. We planted it anyway, not feeling very hopeful. It drooped miserably. So we cut all the branches way back--and now a few weeks later, it's growing many many new leaves!! I'm so excited.

And I was just reading about Mayer lemons, and how wonderful they are. Apparently you can only eat them if they grow extremely locally, because they're too delicate to ship, and they only grow out by you. What do they taste like?

bethnoir said...

Lovely garden photos, the children and I had to do some research to find out what a persimmon was, (after coming across it in a Lemony Snicket book) we don't seem to have them here, good to see some on a tree.

I am excited today because the first two runner beans have germinated, we ate some peas and lettuce from the garden and it looks as if we might have some apples from the tree this year. We only have a small garden, but there is room for my foxglove and lupin corner, beetroot, broccoli, tomatoes and broad beans as well as the herb garden. Happy gardening.

nilpferd said...

An italian woman in our local market recommended persimmons when we were weaning Mara off milk, I mashed them with porridge and milk and she hoovered them up. Very mild fruit with a high vitamin content, ideal for toddlers.
Garden wise we've got a mix of herbs, beans and tomatoes, and are trying out red peppers, cucumbers and sweet peas for the first time this year.

goneforeign said...

Good comments, thank you all.
Steen; If you don't have a Brandywine amongst that list of tomatoes, get thee to a nursery! It's amongst the ugliest of tomatoes, which is why they don't sell 'em, but it's the best tasting of all. A large plant, 6-7ft plus large fruits. Mayer lemons, a cross between a lemon and an orange, still tart but also sweetish. Earlier this year I made marmalade with some, the absolute best ever, totally delicious! I used only 25% of the suggested sugar, still sweet but also tart. I'm sure you could grow one in a pot but it would have to come in in the winter, it would be worth it!
Beth: I have two varieties of persimmons, both Japanese. Last year we bought a food drier and I started drying them, I cut them into about 1" slices, dry them and then freeze them, a wonderful snack year round. Your garden sounds great.
Nilp: The Hachiya variety, the plum shaped one, has a huge quantity of tannic acid before it becomes fully ripe, they are so astringent they'll pucker your mouth shut! So double check if you have any that are not soft.

saneshane said...

Hey Ya GF,
As the boy got us up at 5am this morning - "sun is shinning it's day time" - the garden got a work out.
It's starting to look lush and green, this evenings pizzas used lots of herbs and spinich and tomato paste frozen from last years crop- the salad nicely tingly and sharp too.

The Ms. sorts the veg patches now I spent too many years struggling on market gardens to find it enjoyable, but the fruit is mine.
When we moved in a couple of years ago there was one apple tree.. I let it crop and still couldn't name it. Such a bland fruit. So I grafted various Russet, cox, pearmain last autumn and they all seem to have taken.
I've also planted up cherries, plums, apples and pears to replace the ugly fencing.. pruned and trained in line.. but natural, so the space doesn't feal hemed in and prison like.

if the link works for the photos you'll see we waste nothing.. tyres for building up the spuds, an old washing machine drum is working fine for the carrots and the cistern was replaced.. yep we are growing leeks in it!!


goneforeign said...

Shane: The pics are a great idea, also liked the perforated tub, perfect for growing and the graft looks good!

AliMunday said...

Goneforeign - the fruit looks wonderful, I especially like the idea of pluots.

We rent an allotment which is technically Mr Munday's project - we've had it for a couple of years and the first year all went well. He built a little polytunnel and we grew lots of squash, potatoes, beans, onions and parsnips. Then the polytunnel blew down, he got disheartened and left it all to me. I don't have time to keep up with it so the weeds took over. We're now back to square one,the weeds have been cleared but most of it is still swathed in plastic. We hope to start afresh next year when the soil should be "rested", but I've planted a few runner beans, cabbage and fennel. You can often see me on the commuter train drawing up plans for a rotational system, plus flowers and fruit bushes!! I just hope I can get more commitment from Mr M otherwise we'll have to give it up and let someone else rent the plot next year. Wildlife-wise we get moles and (apparently) badgers, rabbits and deer, but we haven't been troubled by them.

Apart from that we have quite a big garden (by UK standards) - it's about 100 feet long and the width of the house and driveway. I tend the garden, which is a sort of woodland muddle - lots of trees and perennials with an apology for a lawn in the middle.It's not really suited to veg as it slopes in two different directions and there are tree roots under most of it - it backs on to a wood and we see badgers and foxes at night (I'm afraid I encourage them with peanuts). Even the badgers have trouble digging between the tree roots, but we get a few practice holes. I've got a couple of red currant bushes somewhere amongst the undergrowth and I've just potted on some basil and tomatoes - which were free from the Guardian!

I don't know how to post a photo here but my posts of 24th Feb and 8th April show a bit of the garden, and my post of 5th May shows the wood.