- (Public Value) UCANR: Safeguarding abundant and healthy food for all Californians
- 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:
Everbearing, or daylight neutral, bare-root strawberries become available for planting at this time of year. Successful growing is dependent on careful soil preparation.
They need a sunny position in slightly acidic, well-drained soil with a lot of organic matter, and regular irrigation. If you cannot provide these it is best to grow them in containers.
Dig the soil some weeks before planting and be meticulous in removing any perennial weeds such as Bermudagrass, dandelions or bindweed since once planted the strawberries will produce undisturbed for about 3 years. Incorporate plenty of compost, leaf mold, or organic soil amendments.
Because it has been such a dry winter this year, I ran the drip irrigation a few times prior to planting. This has the advantage of settling the dug soil, enabling me to spot any clogged emitters and also to see the pattern and extent of moist soil around each emitter.
This year I planted 'Seascape' in a slightly raised bed (the result of adding compost). The plants were just breaking dormancy, and each had a mass of roots about 8” long. I put the roots in a bucket of water while I dug the planting holes. I then dug a v-shaped hole beside each emitter deep enough to easily accommodate the roots and wide enough to take the roots well fanned out along the dripper line so that they could take advantage of any moist soil. I added a teaspoon of slow-release organic fertilizer to the bottom of each hole and mixed it in well with the soil there.
The soil that I dug out of each hole was teaming with minute baby worms, and I worked quickly so as to return them as quickly as possible before they dried out.
When planting, I placed the roots in the hole, fanned out as described, and gently backfilled, making sure that the crown of each plant (where the roots and top growth meet) was level with the surrounding soil. This is really important because if it is below soil level it will rot, and if planted too high the roots dry out.
I also made sure that the crown was clear of the irrigation tubing by about 1.5” since that can get extremely hot in the sun and would burn the crown if it came in contact with it.
Holding the base of the crown in the correct position and at the correct level I watered the soil around the plant to settle the soil around the roots, topping up any low spots.
I then mulched around each plant with a generous amount of sawdust/wood shavings which, although of little nutritional value, will retain moisture and keep the soil at a more even temperature.
For further reading on how to grow Strawberries in California: https://cagardenweb.ucanr.edu/Berries/Strawberries/
When we first moved to the Owens Valley 12 years ago we inherited a well-stocked garden, one feature of which was a border of raspberries. Sadly, I forgot to ask the previous homeowner which variety they were. I was amazed to think that one could grow these in a place which has such hot summers, since I had always been taught that raspberries grow in much more equable climates such as the Pacific Northwest.
However, these plants did not let me down and produced a crop on the one-year-old stems (floricanes) in late May/early June followed by a smaller crop in fall on the current season's growth (primocanes) in October. They are growing in front of an east-facing 6' high wooden fence so they get morning and early afternoon sun. They are drip irrigated with two parallel lines about 16 inches apart with in-line emitters every 12 inches.
The canes are sturdy, self-supporting, slightly spiny, 3'-4' high and do not need to be staked. The berries are not particularly large but are firm and hold up well in the freezer. The flavor is good but not exceptional.
However, in recent years the fall crop has failed. Although flowers appear in September and are worked enthusiastically by bees the young berries have been destroyed by an early frost (although after the damage was done the weather warmed up considerably for several days afterwards).
Then I made my big mistake! I came across a variety called 'Joan J' in a catalog and it was described as the earliest of the fall fruiting varieties. That would surely miss the frost and furthermore the stems are spineless, berries large and with very good flavor. Just what I needed – or so I thought.
I cleared some of my old canes and replaced as much of the soil as I could and planted in the spring. They grew extremely vigorously and before long I was hammering in stakes and stringing wires in order to keep up with them, but even so some of the canes did not get tied in and the lush green growth soon flopped over.
I was excited to see the first flowers appearing in late June—huge panicles of blooms on the tips of the new stems. And that was when the problem began! I had lost a tree that had provided some shade to the canes so the plants were getting too much sun right in the middle of summer when our temperatures were soaring well into the 100°F range. As a result the berries were either drying into a pippy mess or cooking in the hot sun which attracted a goodly number of green stink bugs. I had very few berries that were suitable for harvest but they did have a strong and wonderful flavor. Many of the tips had flopped over the supporting wire so that the stems were bent double and of course this resulted in the berries dying.
Another problem was that these plants did not stay put neatly in the row where they were planted and have spread themselves into adjoining crops of strawberries and rhubarb.
Rethinking the Problem
After a few disappointing seasons my choices appear to be:
- To abandon this variety altogether and choose a variety that will ripen in September
- To try and rig up some sort of shade cloth which will not take off in the wind
- Replant them in a more open area where perhaps they would get less reflected heat from the fence, but I would have to sacrifice some other crop to do that
- Concentrate on growing floricane fruiting varieties which give a single good crop in June before one gets busy dealing with tree fruits
Any suggestions that I haven't thought of? Feel free to leave your comments below.
To learn more about raising raspberries in our area see this link: https://ucanr.edu/sites/newinyomonomg/Eastern_Sierra_Gardening/Fruits/Raspberries//h3>
Here they come! Gardening catalogs are appearing in our mailboxes fast, so rather than immediately tossing them into the recycling, why not take the time to open them and learn from them by studying the wealth of information that many of them contain?
Reading the information carefully may well prevent wasting time, money, and effort in attempting to grow plants that are destined to failure because an inappropriate choice has been made. There is little point in planting 200 Walla Walla onions because you have seen them in the local supermarket and it is a name that you recognize, when in fact they often do not bulb well at our latitude (37.36° in Bishop), nor do they store well.
Falling in love with the description of a tomato variety that has been specially bred for cool climates may give you a very poor yield in the desert. If your tomatoes have been afflicted by blights, viruses or any other identifiable diseases you may be able to find varieties that are resistant to these clearly labeled. Likewise, if root knot nematodes have got a hold in your soil, there are various vegetables that are resistant to that problem.
Good seed and plant catalogs contain an almost encyclopedic amount of knowledge regarding their offerings, while other, less than helpful ones with glowing descriptions of enormous vegetables or spectacular flowers contain scant amounts of horticultural information about even the basic growing requirements.
Of course there is a long tradition of seed catalogs describing plants' characteristics with particularly optimistic language; however, most reputable seed companies want you to succeed with their plants, so they give as much detail as space allows on how to provide the best possible conditions for each plant.
The best catalogs will also mention any problems with a variety, such as being susceptible to rotting or not being reliably hardy, or even that they have low yields. Most catalogs use abbreviations and the key to these will be explained somewhere in the text, but a useful overview can be found at: https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/2086/2014/05/howtoreadseedcatalog1.pdf
Perusing the “Onion” section of one of my current catalogs, I learn the following about Allium cepa:
- Type and pH of the soil, sun exposure needs, whether to direct seed or start indoors, what time of year to transplant, how far apart to space them and how deeply to plant.
- Water requirements both during growing and bulbing.
- Days to maturity for both direct sown and transplanted specimens.
- Diseases associated with them.
- How to store and how long they will store in ideal conditions
- The importance of daylight length in growing different types of onions.
- Then there is a key to various abbreviations used for disease susceptibility eg HR= highly resistant and then the diseases (BO for Botrytis), (DM for Downy Mildew) etc.
- There is a graph showing how long germination will take at different soil temperatures.
- There is then a photograph of all the onions on offer side by side for comparison
- The onions are categorized by daylight length – Long day (not suitable for southern gardens), short day or, Intermediate day, and then further broken down into color – white, red, or yellow.
- Each variety is then described separately as to the latitude at which they will grow, days to maturity, size, yield, flavor and pungency, storage capability and disease resistance, etc.
All other vegetables are treated similarly - from beans to watermelons, as well as herbs, cover crops and cut flowers!
Some of us enjoy the challenge of experimenting - pushing the boundaries of growing, or trying plants new to the area and with the information provided we can go into these projects with our eyes open, knowing what problems are likely to occur.
Of course we will still get carried away by the photograph of some magnificent specimen in a catalog and find that we cannot resist trying it - surely curiosity is one of the most important qualities of a gardener!