- (Public Value) UCANR: Safeguarding abundant and healthy food for all Californians
- Author: Alison Collin
If you enjoy pomegranates you may be delighted to know that they will grow in the Owens Valley. They originally come from areas such as Iran and the Mediterranean areas. There are many varieties available, each with its own characteristics – some are sweeter, some more acidic, some have soft edible seeds and others have harder ones, some are better for juicing while others are delicious eaten fresh. The fruits are high in polyphenol anti-oxidants, and flavonoids.
Here is what you need to know about growing conditions:
- Zones: 7 -10 but must have long hot summers and if growing in the colder zones some protection from the north is advisable. If they get cut down by severe frosts most will sprout again from the base.
- Exposure: Full sun.
- Chill hours: Most need only 150-200 hours which our area easily provides.
- Soil: Any good, well-drained soil, even if alkaline.
- Irrigation: Regular watering is needed, but most can withstand some drought.
- Pollination: usually self-fertile so only one need to be planted.
- Form: Pomegranates grow as large bushes which can be pruned to 8'-10'tall and about as wide, but they can also be trained into a tree form. Some varieties are upright while others have more lax arching stems. There are some varieties that are dwarf.
- Harvest time: Late summer for earliest varieties through fall. Once ripe they will split open after rains. If harvested at its peak fruit will store in a cool dry place for several weeks.
Pomegranates have small leaves, and a twiggy habit so can be used as a screen. They have quite large reddish/orange flowers and look attractive in bloom, while the fruit generally comes in varying shades of red, from brilliant to a rich dark red, or even pink.
They do take time to become established, often not even flowering for a few years, but then are reliable so long as there are no adverse climate conditions. The only variety that I have experience with in the Owens Valley is 'Eversweet' which was chosen because it needed the shortest season for the fruits to mature. It took about five years to begin to fruit and then presented us with grocery bags full and consistently cropped since, although this year it had only a light crop (shown). So far it has generally been pest and disease free. There are some varieties which are claimed to begin fruiting earlier.
Many newer varieties have been introduced so it pays to read the descriptions in the specialist fruit catalogs to ensure that you are getting the features that you want.
Finally we can be successful with a plant that does better in our hot summers than in the gardening Eden of the Pacific Northwest!
For pest and disease information on pomegranates see: http://fruitandnuteducation.ucdavis.edu/fruitnutproduction/Pomegranate/Pomegranate_Pests_Deficiencies/Pomegranate_Insect_Mite_Nematode/
- Author: Dustin Blakey
It's now October so that means that we're now in the time of year where we start to wind down our gardens for the season. If you're at all like me and refuse to plan for the eventual coming cold weather by pulling out plants, a killing frost will force the matter.
For most of the Eastern Sierra, at least places where gardening is feasible, October brings us our first frost of the season.
I am often asked about first and last frost dates for various communities. The good news is I have that information. The bad news is that there is wide variability in the actual date. That means it's important to keep an eye on the weather forecast.
Average First Frost Dates
There are two ways to think about frost dates. Here is the first and conceptually easiest to understand: Average first frost date along with an estimate of the spread of when that might happen. The table below shows the average first frost of fall and a range of dates that shows where there is about a 70% chance the the real frost date will fall.
First Fall Frost Dates
Typical Frost Window
|Independence & Lone Pine||11/3||14||10/20||11/17|
Big Pine is about the same average date as Bishop—maybe a little later—but it varies much more. We don't have any data, but that's a observation from gardeners there.
It's also worth noting that the data for Topaz Lake isn't that great, and the station isn't in the best location for predicting effects to your garden. That said, the whole area has a lot of variation every year, making predictions hard. This data is a good place to start.
A Probability Approach
The other way to look at frosts is to consider some level of risk that you are comfortable and then check which date corresponds with that risk level for your location. The Western Regional Climate Center has extensive data and risk projections for many locations in California. (Here is the data: https://wrcc.dri.edu/summary/Climsmcca.html )
Below is an example for Bishop, California.
- Follow the link to WRCC's page
- Choose a station from the list
- On the left side you will see various reports. Fall 'Freeze' Probability will generate a report like above. Scroll down some to see it. It's under the Temperature heading.
- Author: Jan Rhoades
It is definitely harvest time in my garden - I guess it has been for awhile. Like all good gardeners, I browsed the seed catalogs and found two new varieties to try out this season: Burbank Red Slicing Tomato and Crane Melon. My choices were inspired by a trip to Santa Rosa and the Luther Burbank Garden. What a treat to walk in the garden of a man that left such a horticultural legacy. Read on to find out more about these two winners. Both are listed by the The Slow Foods Ark of Taste, a catalog of distinctive foods deemed threatened by industrial standardization. They are definitely two to try!
In Sonoma County, the last name of Crane is pretty much synonymous with the word melon. The Crane family has been farming melons there for more than a century.
It all started when Richard Crane was enticed to set down roots in the area because of the Gold Rush. But it was his son, Oliver Crane, who succeeded in breeding a golden melon that grew incredibly well in the unique clay soil and climate of Sonoma County, and without much irrigation. Named the Crane melon, it is a cross between several heirloom varieties: a Japanese melon, an ambrosia melon, a white melon and a Persian melon.
Beginning in the 1920s, Oliver sold his melons out of the farmstead's barn in Santa Rosa. Today, six-generations later, it has become an iconic landmark known affectionately as the “Melon Barn” where the family continues to farm and sell these melons. The Crane Melon is not found at grocery stores as it is vine ripened, and does not have the shelf life to be shipped. The Crane family claims that, “The Crane melon's flavor is due to its terroir. The melon was developed to be grown...in a particular soil, within a specific climate zone, farmed in a certain style.”
The Crane Melon has appeared in magazines, newspapers and TV shows. A Los Angeles Times article recognized it as a true heirloom. A striking melon it is slightly pear shaped with a gently tapering end and averages 4 to 7 pounds. Its exterior is a pale dusty green color with dark green blotches that become a rusty orange when fully ripe. The inner orange flesh is firm and succulent This melon is described as highly aromatic and exceptionally sweet and juicy with notes of honey, rose and orange blossom.
Over the past month, I have eaten several of these delectable melons from my own generous vine. They are quite big and make a lovely dessert. I am not sure that the soil here has the same terroir, but I can truly say they are the best melons I have ever tasted.
Burbank Red Slicing Tomato
Developed around 1914 by plant wizard Luther Burbank, this tomato was reportedly the only variety that Mr. Burbank raised for canning. It is a semi-determinate that grows on stocky bushes 18 - 36" tall and produces beautiful 6 - 8 oz fruits perfect for slicing and canning. Quite productive and a fairly early tomato, it has no problem with cool nights and even seems to tolerate drier climates. The fruit is a deep red color with a satisfying bold tomato flavor.
In his own words, Burbank described this tomato as, ”The earliest, smoothest, largest and most productive of all early tomatoes. It is of a bright red, the flesh being firm and of superior quality. The plants resist disease in an unusual manner, and unlike most early tomatoes, it produces heavily all summer. A fine home or market tomato, as it is a fine keeper and shipper."
The 1923 Burbank Seed Catalog reads, ”Fruit, bright crimson; thick, solid, heavy, smooth, medium to large in size, superior quality, unusually heavy and continuous bearer throughout the season. Good keeper and fare shipper. The Burbank has one other unique and most remarkable quality which will be appreciated by those who like fresh sliced tomatoes for the table. Unlike other tomatoes, the skin peels freely from the rich, firm flesh. “
All summer, I have been enjoying these fine tomatoes in sandwiches and salads, as well as cooking them down to paste for winter use.
- Author: Carmen Kappos
Wishing you happy gardening during these trying times.
For the original article please go to this link./span>
- Author: Alison Collin
I had long ago become resigned to the fact that I cannot grow perfect, blemish-free apples on the two trees that we inherited when we moved to Bishop. There is the challenge of keeping codling moths and aphids under control, thinning prodigious numbers of tiny apples in the spring, and chasing house finches away from the maturing fruit. I have learned to accept peck marks and am happy to remove a codling tunnel or two when canning large volumes, but nothing prepared me for the miseries of an enormous crop of rotted fruit.
Both trees are mature, one being a Gravenstein, the other a Golden Delicious. They ripen about one month apart with the Gravenstein leading the way. This year in spite of the young fruit being thinned and sprayed with Surround, the fruits on both trees were severely affected by codling moths, yet for some reason surface damage on the Gravenstein generally did not go very far into the apple and with a quick flick of the knife it was gone. So when the Golden Delicious started swelling and various small marks and blips appeared on the skin I really did not think too much about them. However, very soon the branches were laden, not with crisp, juicy apples ready to pick, but with brown patches on almost every fruit. Even tiny specks allowed this fungus to enter, and the codling moth damage enabled the fungus to take hold with a vengeance. I thought that I would be able to salvage something to eat from those fruits with minimal damage, but this infection moves fast, frequently entering the fruit through either the calyx or stem and rapidly affecting the core and surrounding tissue and producing the typical fungal odor.
It's likely that a codling moth strike created an opening for some pathogen to enter.
Botryosphaeria species cause "white rot" — a fungus that is extremely common and can affect many woody plants ranging from birch to blackberry and pears to Rhododendron, where it can infect woody tissue and cause cankers. In apples it may infect fruit early in the season without showing, but the rot begins to spread in the warm weather as the fruit matures and shows as circular brown areas.
Brown Rot is caused by a fungus called Monilinia, and it usually affects stone fruits beginning as brown spots which rapidly coalesce to form patches, and then affect the whole fruit. Being primarily a disease of stone fruits, when it does occur on apples (rare), it is usually because the fruit are near infected plums, peaches or nectarines and conditions are optimal for its growth. The sunken brown tissue develops fruiting spores that begin as tiny black spots which then develop whitish heads. Fungicides don't work once the disease has appeared since it enters the fruit through a wound. At the end of the season affected fruits may stay attached to the trees where they shrivel and eventually become mummies, or may drop to the ground, but either way they spread infection through spores being distributed by wind, rain or sprinkler irrigation. Due to our dry climate, brown rot is not a common occurrence in Owens Valley on stone fruits, but it is not unheard of, either.
Photos of fruit infected with a recently recognized fungus, Paecilomyces niveus , look identical to many of the samples from my trees, but the color patterning of the damage looks completely different on other fruits. I hope that it is not this fungus since it produces a toxic substance, patulin which can sicken people, and can survive the high temperatures used in the pasteurizing processing.
A physiological disorder called bitter bit can also cause discoloration, but the lesions are much smaller. It is caused by a calcium deficiency in the developing fruit. (Link to more information.)
Another possibility is a combination of spoilage organisms taking advantage of an opening caused by a codling moth strike. Sometimes it's impossible to tell!
Control of fungal infections is achieved by removing all affected fruit and mummies and disposing of them in some way to prevent the spores from being blown onto other plants. I have buried these in a deep pit, raking up and removing all fallen leaves and pruning out and disposing any twigs that appear to be blighted. Dormant spraying to reduce damage by pests in the following season and thinning fruits early to give plenty of space around each one, monitoring for codling moth and taking appropriate action to control them, should help to control the damage which gives a port of entry for the rot spores. Information on fungicides on backyard apples in California can be found at this page.
I intend to be much more aggressive in taking control measures in future, but since my apple trees are alternate-year bearers, I will have to wait a very long time to know if I have been successful!
For more information about fungal infections of fruit, follow one of these links: