- Author: Amy Weurdig
It's been awhile since I attempted gardening any kinds of vegetables out in the Mesa after the initial year of failures.
I thought hard about putting in raised beds closer to the house, maybe putting in a pest deterrent fence around it.
I've had some fun and a lot of success having my garden at the Bishop Community Garden, so why would I want to garden at home? Well, it'd be great to just pick what I needed for the meal right then, rather than planning on it ahead of time and driving the 11 miles into town. Not very eco-friendly to keep driving back and forth to get a tomato!
So this year, we had some left over tomato starts and I acquired a six pack of habanero peppers that I decide to try out in a trug – you know one of those rubbery garden buckets. The idea being that the trug would elevate the plants enough that the critters couldn't reach them – like a raised bed.
Fast forward 3 weeks: the plants looked pretty good. Had some crazy windy, cold, rainy weather for a couple weeks,but the plants still looked good. Then one evening I went out to water and found stumps.
All my plants were stumps. Cleanly eaten with no evidence at all other than the stumps.
So, my test showed that if I should do raised beds, they need to be at least 3' feet off the ground, enclosed in a wire cage, in order to see any fruits of my labor.
Here is the moral of my story: I'll keep my plot at the Community Garden where I get to see my friends, pull weeds, and pick my veggies free of pepper-eating varmints.
Chelsea Flower Show is England's premier showcase for horticultural endeavors. It features several show gardens designed by top designers, extraordinary displays by many specialist nurseries, trade stands selling a vast array of tools and gadgets, outstanding sculptures, paintings, exquisite embroidery, garden clothing and, of course, plants. There are hundreds of exhibitors.
The center of the show is the Great Pavilion and to enter it is a truly jaw dropping experience. There are dozens of displays by nurseries from all over Britain and the rest of the world and every one is absolutely stunning. Some depict the traditional cottage garden with a mix of representative flowers, while others are dedicated to one particular specialty such as gladioli, carnivorous plants, hostas, house plants, vegetables, proteas, cacti or bonsai. Each of the thousands of plants and blooms is a perfect specimen! Stands of spring-flowering daffodils shown at their peak and autumn-flowering chrysanthemums are a testament to the skills that growers have in manipulating flowering times. There were educational displays on such topics as creating children's gardens, and one which detailed the results of genetic research on snapdragons growing wild in the European Alps. And then there are the spectacular floristry displays.
Outside of the Pavilion around the edge of the exhibition site are the 26 show gardens, each designed by a top designer and featuring different themes such as female-led, climate-smart agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, a Finnish garden, and one based on a Japanese herbal garden. English gardens also loomed large, such as one designed for a disused quarry site, one based on the canals of northern England, a garden designed for children in hospice care, and just too many others to mention here.
This link takes you on a tour of these gardens: http://rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/Gardens
Some of the sculptures displayed were very imaginative, especially those made from driftwood, but I was particularly drawn to a huge metal foxglove about 10 feet high, and also some metal kinetic sculptures of maple seeds and ginkgo leaves.
The shopping area had a magnificent array of tempting things to buy, but the constraints of my luggage on the airline kept my spending in check. I did however succumb to a new and very splendid garden trowel with a 75 year guarantee. After all, one can never have too many trowels!
Outside the show grounds many of the local shops had decked out their doorways with ebullient swags of fresh flowers.
As a child I attended Chelsea flower show annually but it is now fifty-five years since I was last there, and it did not let me down. The sheer magnificence, elegance and beauty of the whole experience will never be forgotten.
Now back to reality - the challenges of growing in a California high desert garden!
- Author: Erich Warkentine
An overflow crowd of master gardeners and interested members of the community gathered at the Community Garden on Sunday, March 24, 2019, to hear Alison Collin speak about herbs. Alison covered a wide range of topics, including growing needs of culinary herbs and aromatic varieties. The high points of her talk are summarized below.
Technically, an herb is a plant that doesn't produce a permanent woody stem; however, in common use, an herb is a plant that has culinary, aromatic or medicinal properties. Herbs can be annual (one season of growth), biennial (two seasons of growth with flowers in the second year), or perennial (ongoing growth, some lasting many years).
Herbs can be used in many different ways. Not only are they great for cooking and providing welcome fragrances, but many have been used in medicine. In every case, however, Alison cautioned the audience to know their herbs before use since many traditionally used herbs are now known to have detrimental side effects such as liver damage, increased bleeding times or alterations in blood pressure.
It is also important to time the harvest of your herbs carefully. Pick herbs for leaf harvest before flower stems are developed since this is when the leaves contain the highest concentration of oils. For example, she related the story of harvesting mint which was passed its first bloom and had lost all of its fragrance. Similarly, she cautioned about the need to pinch off flowers from basil, to keep the basil producing new edible shoots for as long as possible before it dies.
One of her helpful tips was that mint grows so vigorously that it can take over the garden; therefore, she suggested that those who wish to grow mint do so in a container.
For more information about growing and using fresh herbs, see:
- For more information about drying your own fresh herbs, see:http://sonomamg.ucanr.edu/Food_Gardening/Additional_KG_Articles/Drying_Herbs/
The main quality of a competent gardener must surely be the skill of accurate observation. However, observations on their own do little to help us unless they are recorded in some way so that they may be referenced at a later time.
Keeping records of ones horticultural endeavors over a period of years is surely the best way to develop knowledge and experience as a gardener. I was therefore delighted, if a little daunted, to receive a very substantial ten-year Gardening Journal (from Lee Valley Hardware) as a present many years ago.
There are numerous ways to record what goes on in the garden through the year; old school notebooks, loose-leaf binders, purposely designed diaries, and even by annotating published gardening books with ones own notes. Indeed one of my most treasured books was published in 1911 and belonged to my grandfather who added copious notes in every margin, together with newspaper cuttings about the latest horticultural research, and advertisements from various mail-order companies selling obscure plants. And for those who have lost the art of using paper and pencil there are numerous computer programs offering templates, and apps for smart phones, some of which are free.
However, my 10-year version is delightfully and practically laid out so that entries are easy to make, and year by year comparisons are under each other on a page. There are separate pages for entering seed-sowing and planting dates which also include harvest dates and yields, plant inventories and plant purchases. There are pages printed with grids for planning one's garden which have proved invaluable for recording such things as underground irrigation pipes. And there are sound tips and ideas on how to grow various crops.
Each entry has a weather record with places to record maximum and minimum temperatures, and then just plain lines for the entry. I much prefer this to the types which have lots of headings such as “lawn”, “bulbs”, “flowers”, “fruit” or “greenhouse” on each page because there are many times of year when half the headings are not applicable. The only downside to my version is its substantial size, and that there is no ability to add photographs, so these have to be stored in my computer in a “garden timeline” file. I also have to store plant labels separately.
The first entries in the tome were in the winter of 2010-2011 and for several years I thought that I had made some sort of error since the temperatures and rainfall seemed to be so inconsistent with all the subsequent years which had much warmer temperatures. That is until this year which pretty well matches my earliest entries.
Taking just one day in the year, March 8, my entries show that the blossom on a Santa Rosa plum behaved as follows: 2012 “Well out”, 2013 “several blossoms out”, 2014 “Well out with some unopened buds”, 2015 “Well over”, 2016 “Well over”, 2017 “Buds just showing some white”, 2018 “Nearly out”, and 2019, “No flowers open, buds white”.
It is helpful to set aside a certain time of day to make entries so as to remain consistent. For me I find that just before retiring for the night works well, and I seldom miss a day if I keep to that time.
Just as I have enjoyed reading my grandfather's entries, I hope that someday one of my grandchildren will get pleasure from my efforts.
Link to 10-year Garden Journal: http://www.leevalley.com/us/garden/page.aspx?p=43043&cat=2,58054,46147,43043
Onions (Allium cepa) are biennial members of the Amaryllidaceae family and Allium genus which also includes leeks, garlic and chives and shallots. They are an important food crop worldwide, and feature in the cuisine of many different cultures.
Numerous varieties of onions are available. Most are easily grown, but not all varieties make good bulbs at this latitude so it pays to understand the specific requirements in order to meet with success and not to waste time, money and effort planting varieties which are not likely to do well.
The most important criteria for growing onions is the length of daylight available. This is called photoperiodism.
Onions grow foliage during the cooler weather – each leaf representing one layer in the bulb - until a specific daylight length is reached. Once this point has occurred, foliage growth stops and bulb formation begins, so the larger and stronger the plant is at that point the bigger the mature onion will be. If you plant the wrong type at the wrong time they will grow tops but not produce onions, or will simply bolt and flower.
They are divided into the following groups:
- Short day onions bulb up when the daylight length reaches 10-12 hours. (Note: This is in spring, and NOT when the days are getting shorter)! These are best started in the fall or early winter so that they can bulb up early the following year – they will be ready to use around late May -July. They are hardy, and overwinter well, although one has to remember to maintain irrigation and not let them dry out at any time. These are generally the sweeter flavored onions and do not store well.
- Intermediate day onions which are not so temperamental and will bulb when the light length is about 12-14 hours. In this area, if seed is started early in the year (January), or transplants are planted out in February they will have several months in which to grow into good sized plants by the time bulb production begins. This will enable them to develop quite large bulbs which can then be dried and stored by the end of August/September.
- Long day onions that require 14-16 hours of daylight in order to bulb up. These grow well in the north of the USA but do not do well in this area. In general, they are the more pungent varieties and tend to be the better keepers. An exception to this are the Walla Walla onions which although technically they are long day onions can be grown in intermediate day areas with good light since they mature early. These are very sweet onions and do not store well.
Onions can also be further divided by color of their skins -- yellow, white or red, or by their taste -- sweet, pungent, or mild. Each daylight length group contains a variety of these possibilities. Some store well, while others only keep for a limited amount of time.
Mature bulbs vary in shape and size conical, round, flattened disc, and some, such as the Cippolini types, only grow to 2”, while some aficionados attempt to grow individual onions weighing over 10lbs!
The Egyptian "walking onions" (Allium × proliferum) make clumps of bulbs at their bases which are rather pungent. Clumps, which are more generally eaten, also appear on the end of stalks in place of flowers. If left, these flower stems bend over and the bulblets will root when they reach the ground. This is why they are called walking onions.
Onions germinate and grow easily from seed. January is a good time to sow intermediate-day onions inside, or alternatively, transplants become available a little later. These often come in large bundles of single varieties which makes it difficult to try several different varieties in the garden unless one has a lot of space.
I have had good luck growing the variety 'Candy' but although they had a very good yield and flavor, they did not store well. It was disheartening to find their middles softening before I had used them all. Recently I have grown 'Zoey' as a good storing yellow onion, but they may be rather large for some people -- many weighing in at nearly 2lbs. each! For red onions I like 'Monastrell', a slightly flattened onion with a good flavor, beautiful color, and excellent keeping ability. I harvested both these varieties at the end of August last year, and am still finding them in excellent condition as I am about to sow a new crop.
A onion problem diagnosis chart can be found at the bottom of this document.
Onions are a great crop in our area and are certainly worth growing.