The first week of December is California Healthy Soils Week. To help "celebrate" the occasion I was asked to give a lecture on some tips to keep your garden soil healthy. If you're the type that likes to watch videos, then you can watch the recording. (It's about 1 hour including the questions at the end.)
If you're like me and like to get the short, bullet-point version, here it is.
Dustin's Healthy Soil Tips:
- Know your native soil (Try this link!)
- Make permanent paths
- Treat beds like beds: don't stand or walk in them and keep them covered—with mulch
- Add organic materials like compost
- Rotate crops; be sure to include cover crops
- Till gently; here's an article to learn more
Note: Inyo-Mono Master Gardeners who watch the video can receive 1 hour continuing education credit.
Our local Master Gardener video crew (Edie and Erich Warkentine, Joanne Parsons) visited the Bishop Free Garden behind the City Park this fall. They made a short video about what has been growing in the garden. Hopefully it inspires you to have your own garden!
Our local Master Gardeners have produced a video explaining how to plant hardneck garlic here in the Owens Valley.
- Author: Alison Collin
One of the most beautiful autumnal sights is that of a leafless tree sporting a crop of brilliant orange, lantern-like 'Hachiya' persimmons ready for harvest. Not only is the fruit attractive, but many varieties sport spectacular fall leaf colors as well.
People sometimes buy a persimmon from a store to see what it is like, take one bite and throw it away, shocked by the astringency which puckers the lining of their mouth, without realizing how delicious it would become if allowed to ripen!
In a previous life a neighbor gave me permission to pick his 'Hachiya' fruit on condition that I take every last one because he did not like the wet, sticky mess that they made on his lawn. This became an annual event, and I would distribute dozens of fruits to neighbors.
I usually kept three large trays of fruit for myself which gradually ripened over a few weeks – all from one 12ft tree. They looked beautiful dehydrated (and tasted good too) but I also loved them fresh. Looking back I was very lucky not to get a condition called persimmon bezoar which affects some people who eat a lot of this fruit, when the persimmon fiber hardens in the gut and causes a blockage!
There are two basic types of persimmons: one that is native to eastern United States, Diospyros virginiana which forms a large tree up to 35 ft in ideal circumstances, and the Asian persimmon, Diospyros kaki which generally grows to only about 15 ft. but has larger fruit. There are many named varieties of this type, but fewer varieties of the American native types. There are also hybrids of the two types.
Fruit produced on American persimmons is small – about 2.0” in diameter, but the trees are very cold tolerant and varieties such as 'Meader' which was developed in New Hampshire will ripen even in cool summer areas. 'Nikita's Gift' is a hybrid of American and Asian varieties which is also cold tolerant but needs to be soft before eating. It also has spectacular fall foliage color.
Here is what you need to know about growing conditions:
- Zones: 5-9 For American varieties. 'Fuyu' and its large hybrid 'Jiro' will grow in zones 6-10.
- Exposure: Full sun with some protection from hottest sun in summer such as high shade.
- Soil: Any good, well-drained soil, can tolerate some wet soil but can also do well in lighter soils. Resistant to Oak Root Fungus.
- Irrigation: Regular watering is needed but can withstand some dry spells.
- Pollination: Many varieties are self-fertile and will produce few seeds. Some do need a different pollinating variety and may then produce seeds.
- Form: Trees need little pruning once the form has been established, removing dead or damaged wood, or cutting back any vigorous growth that might occur, and controlling the height. The wood is brittle. They fruit on current season's growth.
- Harvest time: From late October through November. Izu ripens earlier than most. Grafted trees will take about 3 years to begin fruiting.
- Pests: The trees are generally pest free.
As always buying a fruit tree is a long term investment so make sure that you study the information about growing conditions from a reliable source in order to avoid disappointment.
- Author: Harold McDonald
Some years back, I toyed with the idea of starting my own wholesale nursery business. We're not talking acres of palm trees in huge wooden planters here, just a few kinds of natives, wildflowers and grasses. I even got a business license and came up with a name, but eventually decided it was more work than I wanted to invest. I did sell a few dozen plants to Steve at Chalfant Big Trees, but that was it. Little did I know it at the time, but taking the beginning steps toward my own nursery was to transform my own gardening!
One of the first things I did when I began to entertain the idea of my own nursery business was to set aside an area on our acre that I would use to field grow the plants. I rototilled, removed rocks, incorporated compost and laid out drip tape to this area. Though I never followed through with the business plan, I now had a nursery plot, and I have used it as such ever since. It is filled with dozens of types of plants, but the only customer this nursery is serving is me!
The beauty of this is that I nearly always have an appropriate plant “in my inventory.” I am constantly working at perfecting my landscaping, trying to match my plantings with the conditions of each location. Dustin Blakey's wise words form Master Gardener training always come to me: “Right plant in the right place.” That's the way I see my job as caretaker of the landscape. Especially in the challenging conditions here at the edge of the Volcanic Tableland, I have to be like a coach. I don't get to choose my dream roster, but instead have to find a way to maximize the potential of each of the players I have been given. There is nothing in my nursery plot that will not survive in my yard given the right conditions. When I'm evaluating different areas of my yard, thinking of what plants would complement the existing plantings, I nearly always have something that will work a few feet away in my nursery garden.
I suggest you give this strategy a try. It's not necessary to set aside a separate area in your yard. You can plant babies temporarily near existing plants, taking advantage of the irrigation that is already in place, and move them when the time comes. You can even repurpose a big pot—say maybe one you bought a tree in—and fill it with garden soil for a portable nursery.
It's so great to have a ready, year-round custom nursery at your disposal. Rather than having to search time after time at the local garden store, you'll have just the plant you want right in your own yard!