- Author: Vivian Patterson
I have a small growing area at the side of my house in Bishop that gets lots of heat and very little sun. I started planting onions in this area about 10 years ago but found that the bulbs never got more than 1-2” in diameter. Now I intentionally plant onions there every January that I freeze whole.
Here is my process.
After the onions have been picked, dried, & cleaned up, separate into groups according to size.
Peel onions keeping sizes separated.
Blanch Onions for 3 minutes. (Here is how to do this.)
Drain and Prepare to Individually Freeze, Freeze until frozen solid. Overnight is good.
When frozen, remove from freezer. Label Bags. Put desired portions into bags.
Seal all bags. Remove air before sealing.
Notes about Frozen Onions:
- Frozen Onions should only be used for cooking. They are no longer used raw.
- Very small frozen onions may be used in recipes calling for frozen pearl onions.
Uses for Frozen Onions:
- Roast Meats*
- Boeuf Bourguignon*
- Coq au Vin*
- Braised as a side dish (https://www.food.com/recipe/braised-onions-a-la-julia-child-148656)
- Sauteed as a side dish
*Braise your onions first. See braised Onion recipe link. Always thaw your onions before braising.
Editor's Note: The Master Food Preservers have a demonstration plot at the Bishop Community Garden. They use the produce from that garden to share safe food preservation practices. As many readers of this blog may have onions ready in your garden, this may be of interest to you. If you have questions about home food preservation, please send your questions to the helpline: email@example.com. To learn more about raising onions in the Eastern Sierra this this fact sheet: https://ucanr.edu/sites/
- Author: Carolyn Lynch
Tomatillos (Physalis ixocarpa) are so easy to grow, they are almost weeds. Since I first grew them long ago, they have returned to my garden every year, reseeding with gusto and growing like… weeds. They have been productive and trouble free for me, until last year.
Late last summer, when fruit was forming but hadn't ripened, I noticed holes in the leaves, lots of them. On inspection, I found numerous small larvae all over the plants. They looked like tiny slugs with little piles of brownish stuff on their backs that looked kind of like poop. As I searched among the plants, I brushed against their leaves, and on leaving the garden I noticed that my hands and clothing were covered with a brown substance that looked and felt just like poop.
I couldn't find anything about this beetle on the UC IPM website or in any UC ANR publications, but there was information on agricultural extension websites from Maine, New Hampshire and Minnesota. Closer to home, I found a good info sheet from Utah State University. This pest may be a relative newcomer to our state. In any case, it has made itself at home in my garden.
I learned that these beetles may overwinter either as larvae or as adults. Although they did not appear until late last season, they seem to have spent last winter in or near my garden and thus were able to get a much earlier start this year.
Some of the sources I consulted dismissed the potential for crop damage as minor, but that has not been my experience. Last year's plants were largely defoliated and I didn't get much of a crop. If you notice that something is chewing on your tomatillos' leaves, it is time to take immediate action.
If you see the larvae, adults, or eggs, you can try hand picking them; sources recommend dropping them into a container of soapy water. If you try this with the larvae, you may want another container of soapy water for your hands. This is truly the most disgusting pest I have ever encountered. They are less smelly than squash bugs, but the ick factor is real. Since the infestation in my garden was too extensive for me to hand pick individuals, I tried washing them into a bucket with the hose, which didn't work as well but did keep everything cleaner.
If you suspect that these beetles have arrived in your neighborhood, a proactive approach will be more effective. Solanaceous weeds, especially Physalis species (ground-cherries), act as alternate hosts and should be removed (by the same token, cultivated ground-cherries should be protected). Although I didn't see it mentioned, Datura, either wild or cultivated, would presumably be another target. Floating row covers placed early in the season can exclude the overwintering generation from your tomatillos.
Pesticides are not recommended except where there's the potential for real economic damage, an unlikely scenario in a home garden. Despite their name, three-lined potato beetles are reportedly not very interested in potatoes, or tomatoes, peppers, eggplants or almost any other solanaceous vegetables except tomatillos.
I have been gardening in the Eastern Sierra for more than forty years, and this beetle is new to me. Based on the paucity of information I've been able to find, I'm guessing it may be new to this part of the country. I hope my story will help other gardeners prepare for their arrival in their own gardens, and to recognize and manage them when they get there.
Here's a link to the fact sheet from Utah State University, with more information and pictures:
- Author: Alison Collin
If you have an older rose that you wish to duplicate it may be possible to start a new plant by taking a cutting. The technique is not difficult, although some types of roses respond better to this method of propagation than others. Miniature roses are usually successful, and are a good place to learn the technique.
Generally speaking most roses that are sold nowadays have been grafted often using a budding technique. This is done because a hardier more disease resistant rootstock can transfer these benefits to the flowering part of the plant which has been chosen for beautiful flowers or outstanding perfume, but which may not be a robust grower on its own roots. It is a reliable way to propagate roses commercially, but cuttings can also be propagated. The most common rootstock in this area is the ubiquitous 'Dr. Huey' rose which certainly gives vigor but also suckers prolifically, and all too often outgrows the chosen rose to dominate with its red flowers!
If planning to try your hand at propagating from cuttings you must make sure that the parent plant that you are planning to use is not covered by a Plant Patent. These patents are awarded to hybridizers and developers of new varieties in order to protect the tremendous investment that they make in time and money as they bring these varieties to market. Plant patents last for 20 years, and it is illegal to asexually propagate a plant during the period that the patent covers. Rose labels and plant catalogs, including those online, almost always indicate if the cultivar is patented, or if a patent is pending. (It will sometimes say "PPAF" to indicate a patent.)
TO GROW A ROSE FROM A CUTTING YOU WILL NEED:
- A well-grown current year's stem that has finished flowering about 8” long for a hybrid tea rose, or 4”-5” for smaller landscape roses. It should be healthy, disease free, green and slightly flexible but not floppy, and should ideally have 4-5 leaf nodes. Place the bottom in water immediately after cutting. Old, woody stems are challenging to root.
- A large, clean pot of moisture retaining compost such as seed starting compost with a good proportion of vermiculite or perlite, or use a loose, commercial soilless potting mix.
- A cover of some sort to keep a humid environment around the cutting (a two liter soda bottle with the bottom cut out and the cap removed is ideal).
- A sharp knife or sharp pruners – sterilized with alcohol.
- Some rooting hormone. (not essential but produces better results)
- A stick or dibber for making planting holes.
- An area of bright light but out of direct sun. I have a north-facing greenhouse window in my kitchen which is ideal.
- A method of watering.
- Labels for each plant.
- Fill pot with soil, and water well so that it is evenly moist (but not wet).
- Make a hole in the soil 3”-4” deep and about the diameter of the stem to be planted.
- Put a little rooting hormone in a shallow container such as a jar lid.
- Prepare cutting material. Cut base of stem straight across just below a node and cut top off at an angle just above the 4th or 5th joint. Remove leaves from the bottom three nodes, but leave some leaves at the top of the stem. If these leaves are large cut them in half to reduce transpiration while the roots are forming.
- Dampen the bottom of the stem in water and dip it into the hormone rooting powder, then carefully place it into the prepared hole burying the bottom two nodes under the soil.
- Firm the soil round the stem.
- Cover with soda bottle without a cap, or place in a plastic bag with the top closed.
- Label with variety if known or description of flower.
- If your soil is well moistened there is no need to water again at this time, so that the rooting hormone does not get washed off.
- From this point on until roots are established it is important to make sure that the cutting does not dry out. I usually water from the bottom, but also keep an eye on the surface moisture.
- Roots may form in about 6 weeks, but more often take about 8 weeks, and once new growth has begun the cover can be removed and care is the same as for any young plant.
In our climate in the Owens Valley I don't plant out the starts until the following spring, but if you have frost protection such as a cold frame and the plants are well grown they may over winter under such cover.
Many years ago an elderly neighbor who had a garden full of roses started them in the fall by digging a trench and putting well-rotted horse manure in the base, then placing a row of cuttings in the trench and back-filling. He had a wonderful success rate but my attempts to emulate this invariably failed. For now I will just stick to the flowerpot method which I know works. Of course there is always the option of sticking the cutting in a potato as touted on the Internet, but I have yet to see any positive results from that method!
- Author: Dustin Blakey
When I think of "weeding using electricity" the first thing that comes to mind is a electric string trimmer attached to an orange extension cord. But it turns out some research is being done using electricity itself to kill weeds.
Now, before you start playing the MacGyver theme song in your head, you should know that 1.) ELECTRICITY IS DANGEROUS! and 2.) researchers are using a tractor-mounted device to zap weeds. This probably isn't something you should be inventing at home, unless you're vying for a Darwin Award. But maybe someday there will be some options for small-scale use in the garden.
Here's a video clip of the machine at work in an orchard.
One of the ways that weeds can be killed is by physical injury. A common control method is using heat to kill weeds. (Warning: FIRE IS ALSO DANGEROUS!). There are electric weeding wands on the market for gardeners, but these use electricity to create heat. Small seedlings can be heated to a point that they die.
A problem with heat treatment is that typically only the top portion of the plant is affected. With electricity there is a possibility of also damaging the root which increases effectiveness.
Like most physical control methods, it works best on small plants. Larger plants will resprout and require additional treatments. Because you'll ask: this probably won't work on bermudagrass. Sorry.
For now this looks like a promising technology that's best suited for land measured in acres, not the garden. But it's always exciting to see new ideas to kill pesky weeds. Who knows what will come of this in the future?
To learn more about this project, check out this post on the UC Weed Science Blog.
- Author: Alison Collin
In parts of the world where the growing season is short or there is a general lack of sunlight, tomatoes are often grown as cordons, which enables more of the available light to reach the fruit. In spite of being advised not to use this technique in the hotter parts of California, due to the risk of sunscald damage to the fruits, I thought that I would try it in the Owens Valley to see if I could increase my tomato plants' performance. Last year, I harvested only two red Brandywine tomatoes and was left with a huge crop of very green tomatoes at the end of the season.
This year I chose Pineapple, a large, yellow, low-acid, heirloom variety to see if there was a discernible difference between growing it as a cordon or the more traditional way.
Two closely matched 6” high plants were planted directly into the soil on April 22. Growing conditions could not be matched exactly, since the shrubby one was slightly more shaded than the cordon specimen; otherwise, cultural conditions such as soil and irrigation were the same. No covers or “walls of water” were used, liquid fertilizer was applied twice during the season, and the plants were not mulched, as they were grown adjacent to squash plants, and I wanted to minimize hiding places for squash bugs.
Method: Cordon tomatoes are grown by choosing an indeterminate variety, which is then tied to a tall, sturdy stake and trained as a single stem by removing all shoots from the leave axils as soon as they appear. Flower clusters develop from the main stem between the leaves, and the general advice is to allow the plant to produce about 6 trusses before pinching out the leading shoot to prevent further vertical growth. The stake was placed on the west side of the plant in order to protect the main stem from the most intense afternoon sun. The plant grew extremely well, and I had to be vigilant keeping it tied to the stake (using a soft tie which would not damage the delicate stem) and in removing the shoots which appeared and grew rapidly. If left for more than a few days, their removal caused a large wound which could potentially result in the entry of disease. Even with very little fertilizer, this plant soon reached 6ft and the lower clusters began to flower early, with about 5 flowers on each truss. On July 19, I picked my first fully ripe 10.5 oz tomato from this vine.
For the other plant, I staked and allowed it to sprawl over a 4-foot tomato cage made from field wire. No pruning was performed, and it soon made a thicket of healthy stems and foliage. I picked the first fruit from this plant on August 9, but had 3.5lbs of green tomatoes remaining in early October.
Last ripe fruit
As can be seen from the above table, the cordon certainly produced ripe fruit much earlier than the unpruned plant, and the individual fruits were considerably bigger - often in the 13 oz range, while those from the unpruned plant averaged around 6oz. However, the cordon produced a much lower overall yield, stopped producing more noticeably during the very hot weather, and set far fewer individual fruit. Some of these issues could have been avoided by using better horticultural practices, such as mulch and regular fertilizer!
Although fruits on both plants suffered from some cracking, none was affected by sunscald in spite of having some very clear, hot days.
If space is limited and one wants to have a variety of different cultivars of tomatoes without having an enormous crop, then growing them as cordons might well be a useful method to try.