- Author: Sharon L. Rico
The Master Gardeners have had a presence at the Erickson Ranch and Dahlia Farm for many years. We have gone to “the Ranch” as many as 3 to 5 times each growing season. We provide a support table with pest notes, compost information, copies of ‘Seeds for Thought’, and info related to the theme of the event.
During the August event, the focus was on tomatoes, so we provided handouts about growing tomatoes, the vegetable planting guide by Dr. Robert Norris, and a page of the assorted tomato diseases and pests with photos. We had many clients with questions about their gardens and heard their stories about tomato successes and tomato failures. We answered questions and made suggestions for next year.
In September at the “all About Peppers” event, we provided the same support table but added info on planting peppers. We listened as people asked us how to get rid of white flies, tomato horn worms, and mildew on their plants.
Saturday was the last event for 2013 and the focus was on pumpkins. There were pumpkins to purchase, pumpkins to carve, and wagon rides out to the pumpkin patch. The Master Gardeners had the support table full of the usual information and added Halloween masks for the kids and instructions on how to build your own scarecrow. The families came in groups including grandparents, parents with babies in strollers and young children. The Erickson’s had their produce, flowers and jams for sale. The Charlie Wade Blues Band entertained the crowds. Nick, the BBQ man was cooking across the blacktop from Angelina’s biscotti table. Lucas was selling home grown plants while Cindy was making crafts with kids (headbands with fresh flowers being a favorite). Suisun Wildlife Rescue Center had an assortment of birds and reptiles on display. Under a white tent, children were carving pumpkins letting their creative juices flow. It was an entertainment extravaganza. And the best part of all was the six MG’s who volunteered in two shifts and were able to educate the crowds and enjoy the day! A real win-win!
- Author: Bud Veliquette
Yes, you can have it all in a relatively small back yard space: Fruit trees and veggies. Our “mini orchard” is on an oblong plot that’s about 25x15’, a sunny plot that came with the house we bought last summer. In that space there are 3 dwarf plums (Prunus spp.), 2 apricots (P. armeniaca), 3 cherry trees (P. avium), 2 peach trees (P. persica), and an apple (Malus domestica), all of unknown varieties. Our fruit trees are about 5 or 6 year old mostly dwarfs (I think), and if not, they got dwarfed anyway by my pruning saw and loppers last December, when I pruned both for shape and fruit production. My rule of thumb with fruit trees is that if it is higher than I can reach, it gets lopped off. This permits easy picking of the fruit and avoids the need for ladders. The pruning and thinning of the foliage, which I do about once per month (see photos) also allows more nutrients to get to the fruit, besides giving those veggies planted in between their 6-8 hours of sun.
The veggies we have include 6 tomato plants (Solanum lycopersicum) in cages, 2 clumps of squashes (Curcurbita pepo), Japanese eggplant (Solanum melongena), bell peppers (Capsicum annuum), a lemon cucumber (Cucumis sativus), 3 hollyhocks (Alcea setosa), and 2 sunflowers (Helianthus annuus). The tomatoes have been so productive we have to give the surplus to neighbors and friends. The eggplant and peppers have been slower to mature but nonetheless very tasty in stir-fries, especially with added portabella mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) and fresh chard (Beta vulgaris), the chard grown in one of our raised beds in another location of the yard.
And so, another example of when less (space) is more (more intensively gardened).
UC Davis has a publication called The California Backyard Orchard, which you may find useful for tips on pruning, both in the dormant season in during the spring and summer months. See homeorchard.ucdavis.edu.