- Author: Karen Metz
My sister gave me some wisteria seedlings a few years ago. She has a beautiful specimen that completely covers her patio cover. In spring the blossoms are breath-taking. The plant is over 20 years old and is almost like one of the family.
The initial pot of seedlings didn't fare too well. I lost 2 of the 3 seedlings fairly quickly and the third seedling grew very slowly. Last year it finally seemed to pick up speed. It looked healthy with some lovely foliage. But the next time I looked, the leaves had been chewed to bits. I didn't see any insects.
At that point, I admit it, I gave up. I chucked the plant along the back wall in the back yard, thinking I would probably reuse the pot soon. It didn't get any care or watering from me. I completely forgot about it.
This spring I was completely surprised to see the little plant growing again. I put him into a bigger pot and he really took off. He had lovely green leaves and vines. I decided to try and turn him into a cascading wisteria tree, so I made a few snips to accomplish that end. Things were going swimmingly.
Then some chewed leaves started appearing. I hit the books but all the pests listed for wisteria were insects with sucking mouthparts. That just wasn't the type of damage I was seeing.
Then I decided that maybe it wasn't chewing damage but tattering from the wind. I moved the wisteria to a more protected location. Things seemed to improve so I thought I had solved the problem.
But then the chewing damage began to appear again. I began to check the plant frequently, and at different times of the day. Finally I spotted a cucumber beetle nestled in the chewed leaves. I removed him. Some of my Master Gardener friends were not convinced. They thought perhaps the cucumber beetle was just resting there on his way to my vegetable garden.
I agreed to keep an open mind and continue observing. But then a few days later I saw another cucumber beetle amidst the chewed leaves. I think he is definitely the culprit. At this point since there doesn't seem to be a huge infestation, I am going to observe and hand pick any beetles off.
- Author: Betsy Buxton
The days became so hot very quickly and basically fried my rose blooms to a crisp! We had such nice cool weather as the roses went through their first bloom flush and then ZAP: crispy roses, anyone? The hot weather put a stop to my all day pruning and cutting away from the fence in preparation for the building of the new fence. WOW, I hasn't been drinking so much water in a long time, nor sweating so much since I retired. Glow, heck; I just sweat! Time for a break . . .
One of the more interesting questions from the Vallejo Farmers' Market went something like this: “My husband and I have a real disagreement about growing tomatoes. He swears that the first blooms should be removed after transplanting; I don't. Can you tell be something to make him stop?” Now I am not going to step into that one, but I did suggest they compromise: deflower half of the tomato plants, leave the rest alone, and see which plants grow and fruit the best. Sorry, but he'd already done all of the plants, that was a moot point. I told her I'd look it up at home and if she came back to the booth, I might be able to give her some answers.
My first thought was which tomato plants they bought: determinate or indeterminate. This would make a difference as the determinate varieties of tomatoes will produce just so many flowers during the plant's lifetime. The indeterminate tomatoes will continue to bloom and produce up until the frost or even beyond according to one home grower. Picking off flowers from the determinate plant will lessen the total yield; therefore you just might be shorting yourself some fruit.
On the other hand, pinching off flowers can help the tomato plant develop stronger root systems according to the pro-pinch side. However, that deflowering is done BEFORE transplanting into the garden; loss of pollination and fruit time can occur if the blooms are removed AFTER transplanting. Another reason for pinching is if you plant your tomatoes early, there may no pollination taking place, those flowers will not produce and take energy from the plant that could go into developing stems, leaves, and roots.
If, however, you buy tomato starter plants when the warm weather is here, it's advisable to leave the flowers on the plant; if weather has been hot/cool/hot cool, we want to have as long a growing period as possible to give the fruits time to fully ripen. Then too, leaving the flowers on the plants helps the plants the time of starting to bloom again; just plant these plants a little deeper into the soil, removing the bottom 3 sets of leaves and putting that area of the stem below the soil line. This will help put the original roots well into the soil and “tells” the buried portion of the stem to grow additional roots.
So if that woman comes back on Saturday, I'll hand her the information I found online and she can discuss it at home. It appears that either way works, and that's what counts!
Did anyone read their new copy of SUNSET MAGAZINE yet? Kudos to Rose Loveall for the wonderful article on Morningsun Herb Farm! Wonderful article starting on page 54 (June issue).
- Author: Betty Homer
I recently returned from vacationing at Yellowstone National Park, both on the Montana and Wyoming sides of the park. Although the park is infinitely fascinating and I strongly recommend that everyone visit at least once, the topic of this blog pertains to another well-known and beloved mainstay in the area known as the huckleberry (the two most popular varieties being the globe huckleberry and the big huckleberry known as Vaccinium globulare and Vaccinium membranaceum, respectively). Although residents of Montana and Wyoming may cringe or disagree with this characterization, to this native Californian, wild huckleberries taste much like the blueberries to which we are accustomed (indeed, a restaurant employee of a park concessionaire said to me that to him, the huckleberry was essentially a “mountain blueberry”). Big and globe huckleberries are usually picked from May to July in the mountains where elevation stands between 3,500 and 7,200 feet. They tend to establish themselves years after a fire has swept through an area. The harvesters of such fruit even have a unique name—they are called "huckleberriers." A few years back, huckleberries were selling between $35-40 a gallon. Huckleberry products line the shelves of gift stores and supermarkets in Montana and Wyoming. As with most berries, huckleberries can be made into syrup, used in baked goods and ice cream, preserves and salad dressings.
Although we cannot experience true huckleberries locally apart from ordering products on-line, the closest thing we have to it here is a perennial shrub called the serviceberry aka shadeberry, Juneberry, or Saskatoon (Family: Rosaceae; Genus: Amelanchier). Service berry plant starts can be found at well-stocked nurseries in the Bay Area. It is my understanding that the serviceberry is an easier plant to grow than blueberries, and may be a prolific producer under ideal conditions starting in year 2 (shrub grows to 3' tall and will send out runners). If you are a berry enthusiast, consider the serviceberry for your garden.
- Author: Michelle Davis
Yosemite's beauty and majesty can be enjoyed all four seasons, but for many springtime is best. For years I have been visiting the park mostly on one-day trips from our home in Vacaville. We go in the spring, fall and winter and try to avoid summer, holidays and weekends due to the crowds of people who love the park as much as we do. It makes for a really long day, but now that the hours of the day are longer, it can be done all in daylight. The falls are spectacular this year, many that I haven't seen in years and that don't even have names. The dogwood trees are blooming, and the myriad of wildflowers is dizzying. What I also noticed was the vast swaths of dead trees, the effect of many years of drought and now disease killing a signature part of the park.
If you decide to go, give yourself an extra hour to get there. Stop in a town before the park entrance to “go” if you know what I mean, and to have a snack or meal.
We entered the park through the Highway 160 entrance and left through the Highway 140 entrance/exit to see the Merced River and the redbuds, dogwoods and wildflowers in bloom alongside the Merced River canyon. Both highways had major delays just before Fish Camp (Hwy 160) and on the way out of the park on Highway 140. Huge dead trees were being logged alongside both highways. The State and the park are concerned for the safety of park visitors. Dead trees can fall on vehicles and travelers heading into or out of the park. They are being proactive in removing them before any harm occurs.
Here are a few of my pictures from the trip I made just before Memorial Day weekend. The wildflower pictures were taken along a trail that starts next to the golf course in Wawona. It is dog-friendly.
- Author: Betty Victor
I had to take out a shrub that was at the end of its life.
Trying to decide what I wanted to replace it with was a process. I could not put one in that could only stand partial sun or one that grows to tall and wide, even knowing that it could be kept manageable with pruning.
Well that didn't work as I decided to get a Virburnum snowball shrub.
What brought me to this decision on this plant was that I remembered my parents' yard several years ago and they had a beautiful plant.
So I went looking for it, and found it at El Rancho Nursery in Vacaville.
This is an old fashion plant. From what I read it dates back to the 16th century and is not supposed to grow in our zone, but since my parents had one in Vacaville, I thought I would give it a try here in Fairfield.
This plant has clusters of 5-8 inch green buds that open in mid-spring, the green buds turn to white and they look like snowballs, as the blossoms age they fad to pink. Their blossoms resemble the blossoms on hydrangeas in size and shape, but unlike hydrangeas it needs full sun to be at its best.
This shrub can grow 6-10 feet and wide, but pruning will keep it under control----at least I hope it will.