- Author: Cindy Yee
My old college pal and I love mangoes. We go shopping at the local Asian grocery store and buy Manila mangoes by the box. Teresa is not a master gardener, but everything she grows survives and does well. Succulent varieties that fail to thrive under my care, grow with abandon in half-filled pots in her yard.
In the spring, I potted some mango seeds, kept them in the filtered morning sun, and watered them every 2-3 days. Nothing sprouted. Teresa on the other hand, sprouted 3 Manila mangoes, watering daily. Unfortunately, 2 died and she doesn't know why.
Teresa has been very busy tending to her ailing husband, and one day as I dropped her off, she said “you should take this and see if you can save it”. Haha! Can I save Teresa's struggling mango!? She was quite serious, pointing to 3 other tiny pots that she was starting that had yet to sprout.
So the 3rd mango (first picture below) came home with me. Actually, it might be two seedlings. The seed/root mass is very dense with tiny roots, and I didn't attempt to separate them.
The second picture shows the replanted mango in a bigger pot. It is getting daily water scooped from our fish pond, and is against the coolest side of the house in full shade. Two weeks later, it is still alive but has not grown.
There is only one living mango tree I have seen in our town, that she discovered on a walk in her neighborhood. It is about 6-7 feet tall, looks very spindly and neglected, planted against a tall 10 ft hedge. The soil looked hard, dry, and covered in stones. Teresa mentioned seeing flower clusters that became tiny fruit. Unfortunately, her next report was that they all fell off.
With global warming, we are getting fewer and fewer frosts every year. This last winter I think we only had one frost. Mango trees do not like under 40F temps, and frost kills them. In their indigenous hot, wet, and humid rainforest conditions, mango trees can grow to 100 feet tall. They are most definitely not drought-tolerant trees.
I have started following the “Northern California Mango Growers“ page on Facebook, and just saw the picture of a gorgeous, lush 8x8 foot in-ground Manila mango tree, posted by its owner who lives in the 95746 zip code, Granite Bay/Roseville. Wow.
So, it can be done. Honestly, probably not by me. And yet, any advice from successful zone 9b mango growers would be much appreciated.
Mango seedlings can take 8-15 years to bear fruit. This is just an experiment. I am going to seriously look for a nursery mango tree to purchase this fall.
Hope springs eternal!
- Author: Michelle Davis
Have you looked at the ingredients in a bag of soil mix lately? Some provide peat. Some contain coir. Does it really make a difference in your container or your garden?
Peat is very slowly decomposing vegetation found in watery, anaerobic areas like bogs. Anaerobic conditions slow the decomposition down to a crawl, and the peat slowly, gradually accumulates at a rate of 1/25th inch per year. Peat has been harvested, dried, and used for heating since at least Roman times. Peat moss is one form of peat that comes primarily from sphagnum moss. Peat moss was only added to soil mixes starting in the 1960s. Peat moss is known for holding water well, and for its lesser capacity for harboring weed seeds, herbicides, and root-borne pathogens. It's great for plant starts and starting seeds. It achieved popularity in the 1970s with soil manufacturers because it is lighter in weight, making soil mixes cheaper to ship. Harvesting today involves loosening up the top inch or two of the bog and letting it dry out, then using vacuum harvesters to suck up the top ¼ inch of peat fibers. The goal is to be as gentle in suctioning it up as possible as mechanical damage to the sphagnum peat moss fibers causes more dust and less water-holding capacity of the product. While there are still lots of bogs/peatlands to obtain peat, the problem is that the plant matter that hasn't decomposed in the peat holds a large amount of carbon. Peatlands store more carbon dioxide than any other ecosystem - essentially, they're carbon sinks. If left alone, the carbon from the bog barely affects the atmosphere. When peat is dug up/harvested or the bog is drained, the huge amount of released carbon adds to global warming. Bogs are also ecosystems. The sphagnum moss in the bog acts as a sponge and filters the water coming in thus decreasing pollution and flooding and releasing the water it receives back into the ground. The habitat also shelters tiny organisms and some a little bigger like turtles.
Coir is the straw-like fiber of a coconut. Typically, it has been used to make ropes, floor mats, erosion-control mats, reptile bedding, and liners for hanging plants. In tropical areas, the course fiber is added back into the soil to help loosen the soil. Increasingly it is being added to soil mixes in place of peat. Coir actually holds water better than peat moss and is easier to rehydrate than dried-out peat moss. Maybe you have had the experience of trying to water a really dry plant grown mostly in peat moss, only to find the water runs down the inside edge of the container and the plant doesn't get its water.
There are 3 different kinds of coir packaging on the market: chunk or chips, brick, and pith (sometimes called coco peat). Chunks hold water and still allow air pockets so these are good for container plants and gardens. Bricks hold 5-7 times their weight in water when rehydrated and are used for seed starts and as an addition to container plant soil. Depending on your brick's size, you might consider adding water to the brick in a wheelbarrow to accommodate the expansion. Soak small bricks for at least 15 minutes and big bricks for at least an hour before using it. Do not even consider trying to cut a brick in half – the brick will win. Pith/peat is darker than peat moss, and holds water really well, to the point that a plant could get too much water if the product is used on its own. Usually, this is an addition to a soil mix to prevent over-saturation. When re-hydrated, pith/peat looks like a darker peat moss with pretty much the same texture.
Coir is weed-free, disease-free, and nutrient-free. This last characteristic means that some fertilizer needs to be added when setting up seed starts. Also, the coir's pH is slightly acidic (5.5-6.8), but not as acidic as peat (3.6-4.5). (This is why cranberries do so well in peat bogs!) Some recommend flushing out the potassium and chlorine salts in the product before using it for seed starts in particular. Coir usually lasts a lot longer than peat moss, up to several years.
I don't know if coir is any more environmentally “friendly” than peat moss. Coir comes from Sri Lanka and India where it is processed (sometimes with chemicals) for export before being sent to the US. All that seems like it would be a big carbon footprint.
Finally, finding coir locally is not easy. Recently at the plant nursery, I found bagged products that already had coir in the soil mix (and no peat moss). I have one big brick of coir that is still wrapped that I bought at Ace in Davis. I thought I could cut it up, but that was delusional. I haven't been able to find a local plant retailer who sells chunk coir. I‘m off to check the pet stores for chunk coir in the reptile supplies.
- Author: Ruth Clawson
What is summer without home-grown tomatoes and fresh basil (Ocimum basilicum)? But every year I feel like I spend hours of time watering my large-leafed sweet basil. The stems get floppy, or the leaves get sunburned and then wilt on the hottest days. So, this year I decided to try something new. On a friend's recommendation, I planted Spicy Globe Basil. It grew perfectly in a pot on the patio and was such a cute little compact “bush.” I put it where it could take in a little water from the sprinkler, and it just thrived! It has held up to the elements and did not even wilt in the recentheatwave. The tiny, spicy leaves are great to use without even chopping! Success!
When I picked up the Spicy Globe Basil, I noticed a new variety of basil that I had never seen, Everleaf Emerald Towers Basil, so I got it to try out. This has been such a great plant! I also put it in a pot on the patio. It grows on tall (2-3 ft), sturdy, upright stems that hold up to wind, less water, and heat. It is still looking fresh with the most perfect leaves, even after multiple harvests. True to its name, it is slow to flower and bolt. (No flowers to date!?) The leaves have the flavor of the sweet basil but are smaller (less chopping) and just the right size to compliment those delicious, sliced tomatoes.
Have you tried out any new herb varieties that seem better suited to heat and less water?
- Author: Brenda Altman
It's hot outside. You have started a garden project and you want to finish it. Ask yourself if the project is urgent and you need to get it done. Here are some safety tips to consider if you work in the heat.
- Plan your project
- Work in the early morning, late afternoon, or at night if you can.
- Have everything ready when you start so you don't waste your time
- Work in the shade, if possible, you can bring a beach umbrella with you.
- Wear light clothing.
- Sweating helps cool the body. Wear something that sweat will wick away.
- Wear a sun hat. There are cool pack inserts you can put in your hat.
- Stay hydrated.
- Water or some electrolyte drinks are good. Drink often
- Take breaks often, and limit your time outside.
- Cool off entirely before you go back outside.
- Let someone know you will be working outside. Have them call you to check up on you.
- Don't try to finish your project if you get tired.
Think you are getting heat stroke? Here are some symptoms to look out for:
- You have a high body temperature
- You can't sweat
- You can't think clearly, you're dizzy and have light headaches
- You develop a body rash
- You start cramping up
Stop working immediately and get inside to cool down. Monitor your body temperature. Get medical help if symptoms persist.
The project can wait. We all think that we are strong and smart. Listen to your body and work smart.
For further reading:
Heat Stroke Symptoms & Causes-Mayo Clinic
Heat Stroke Symptoms and Treatment-WEB MD
- Author: Lanie Keystone
Summer for us begins when we get our first box of perfect peaches from Brazelton's Ranch in Vacaville. Since first learning of this glorious ranch and getting to know the entire amazing Brazelton family, our weekly drive to Pleasants Valley Road has become our favorite summer tradition. Of course, we never even wait to get home to bite into that succulent golden delight-- or even until we pull down their dirt road. We just grab one out of the box, bite into it and let the juices go where they may. The varieties are each, in their own way, delicious—and, of course, we try them all. The Brazeltons have even told us how to prepare and freeze these gems so we can have July in February! More about that later.
Over all the years that we have been enjoying the community of Brazelton peach lovers, I've been squirreling away more peach stones than I care to admit—always with the thought that maybe I could grown my own amazing peach tree. I always thought there was some unreachable magic to it, but I just kept saving those stones. This is the year that I'm really going to do it—and it doesn't seem as tricky or magical as I thought. So, after some research, here's the magic of preparing a peach seed for planting:
- Carefully remove the seed from the pit leaving the brown coating intact. You can use pliers to crack the pit.
- Place the seeds on a damp paper towel and fold the towel over. Put the towel with the seeds in a Ziplock® bag and label and date the bag.
- Tape the bag to the inside of the fridge wall to avoid bumping it and damaging the seeds.
- Keep the bag away from other fruits.
- Let them germinate—usually 6-8 weeks.
- Keep the paper towel damp throughout this time.
- Once they've germinated, plant them in tall, disposable plastic pots; water and continue to let them grow…how satisfying!
- Plant them outdoors in the spring.
A FEW FUN QUESTIONS ANSWERED:
- Why put them in the refrigerator? The fridge acts as a “winter season” for the seeds. Like many plants, peach seeds need to be “winterized” or experience cold stratification. They also need to be kept in a moisturized environment. Thus the damp towel. Be sure that it's damp and not wet, as you don't want mold to grow.
- Why keep them away from certain fruits? Certain fruits like apples, bananas, and apricots produce a gas called ethylene. Ethylene can either inhibit or promote growth. In the case of peach pits, it speeds up the growth process and can greatly affect the quality of your seeds, and hence, your peaches.
- When is a good time to transplant the “tree”? Spring is a perfect time. Take the pot with your little peach tree, dig a hole a bit larger than the pot that it's in. It's important not to disturb the roots, so carefully cut down the side of the plastic pot, dislodge the tree, and cover it with soil and water. Keep the young tree well-watered for the first few days…then water when the soil becomes dry.
- When will I get to enjoy my first peaches? In just three to four short years your miracle tree should be bearing fruit. The tree will still be small and you won't fill up bushels with them, but you will begin to have your peaches.
- Will my peaches taste just like the peaches that my seeds came from? Maybe yes, maybe no! But that's the fun and magic of planting your wonderful peach seeds.
AND NOW—HOW DO YOU CAPTURE JULY PEACHES IN FEBRUARY? Try not to eat all your summer peaches at once! Save some for freezing to enjoy when most folks are just dreaming of the perfect peach. And here's how to successfully do that: Peel the skin off of as many peaches as you want to freeze. Remove the pit (want to plant it?!?) Scrape out the red fleshy part where the pit was nestled. Cut the peaches into chunk size pieces. Spread out the chunks on a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet. Freeze for a day. Take the frozen peach chunks and place them in a Ziplock® plastic bag. They will remain separated and solid until you want to use them in the middle of winter…and you won't have to “dream of your perfect peach”—it will be a reality! Enjoy!