Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fragrance and Beauty Making a Welcome Return

While most of our orchids are still showing buds and getting ready to pop, this beauty couldn't wait. It's a cymbidium called Tapestry 'Red Duke' and is blooming right now. We moved it into the house for display.  

I got this one when my mother-in-law repotted her plant and gave me a piece of it to grow. If you don't have a friend or relative with one to split for you, you can get one from Paul Gripp and the Santa Barbara Orchid Estate.

This white, very fragrant, flower is a cara cara navel orange. That little globe in the middle will eventually become a delicious fruit in a few months time if it can hang one. Right now, it's filling our yard with the most heavenly aroma.

Sure beats the skunks that ravage our garden at night.

As you can see, the tree is full of flowers. I'd be happy if half of these survived to become fruit. Heck, I'd be happy if ten percent of them did.

Finishing off this week's garden news, you can even see the beginnings of grape clusters on our ruby seedless vine.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Patching up the Patch - Our Weekly Chores

It's a light gardening weekend in the Cheapskate's patch this weekend. Starting with weeding. First, is an interesting one. One that some people would value as a volunteer. Above is Nicotiana bigelovi, also know as Indian tobacco. It's a California native and was used to smoke (still is in some places) in ceremonies or just to pass time.

It has fairly showy white flowers and can grow 6-7 feet tall in a gangly, thin bush. Some people want it but I don't want it in this hanging basket so out it goes.

I don't have a lot of weeds this week, thank God, so it's just hand-pulling the little buggers out, mostly just grass sprouts.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was talking about cymbidium cultivation, I mentioned you could tell the flowers were done blooming when the center lip turned red. Above, is an example of this. Some of the earlier cyms are starting to die back now.

I also planted a few more lettuce, corn, and squash seeds because I really wasn't happy with the poor germination on those plants, plus some critters are eating some of my seedlings. Guess I'm going to have to deal with that some way too.

I have this unused spot to put a dripper for a hanging basket so I ordered some cherry tomatoes today and will plant them in a basket here when they arrive.

I do my bi-weekly fertilizing and plant some feverfew around the front rose garden to try to dissuade the bugs from eating them.

Last chore is to fill in the potted plants where the mix is degrading. I simply grab a big bag of Gromulch...

...and fill in to the top of the container. Now our bougainvilleas...and other container plants...have a topping of fresh, nutritious mix to start their season.

Happy Spring, everybody!

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Greening of the Orange

Our little citrus grove...three whole trees, dwarfs at starting to bloom. Above, you can peer into the first little Cara Cara navel orange flower to open.

The fragrances we're about to experience truly need to be experienced to be believed. Nothing smells so sweet as a citrus tree in bloom.

We'll also be inundated with honey bees but that's OK, I don't bother them and they don't bother me.

Our Cara Cara can be a diva. Last year we got sixteen fruit. I really want to get much more, so I've been following some of my fellow garden bloggers, especially those that grow citrus, and hope to do much better.

The tangelo is a rescue that someone was ripping out of the ground and I've been performing gardening CPR on it for the last two seasons.  It's gradually coming back and giving us some fruit again.

Our Meyer lemon is also giving us more and more fruit each year, even though it's a misshapen mess. Once it's well established, I'd like to prune it into a better shape.

I'm going to try to fertilize each two weeks and not get too lazy about that, keep the water flowing, and try not to shock the trees too much which ends up splitting the fruit.

One other thing you need to look out for is chlorosis...a lack of chlorophyll caused by an iron deficiency.  You can tell when your trees have it because your leaves turn yellow and have a spider vein effect, like you see above.

Easy cure...get some soluble iron, like Ironite. Fill a small container (like the fabric softener lid above) with the iron pellets.

Sprinkle a little around the bottom of each plant.

Once on the ground, the water will leach the iron slowly into the soil to be absorbed by the plant, giving it the iron it is short of. I'll treat my trees on average twice a year.

It'll be a fragrant few weeks and then, some months from now, we're looking forward to some really sweet fruit.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Hey, Bud...Haven't Seen You In Awhile

Sometimes I surprise even myself. Just as I predicted last week, our grape vine had bud break this week. Got that netting on just in the nick of time.

Grape vines are the deadest of dead looking plants with they go dormant for winter. If you don't know better, you'll think you've lost it. Reminds me of the last scene of that great wine movie, "A Walk in The Clouds," when, after the vineyard burns, the hated son-in-law redeems himself to his wife's father by finding the green cambium under the burnt skin of the vine.

It's always a pleasure to see the brilliant new green leaves of the grape vine when it starts another year's worth of growth.

In addition, our plumeria is also pushing new growth out of the end of its branches.  Won't be long before we'll have those lovely, fragrant blossoms sprouting out of these plants.

That means our short little winter is really over.

With the warmth, it's also time to put our phaleanopsis orchid back on the outdoor bench. On the left is what is was looking like in December, when it started showing signs of cold-shock. Every leaf with even a tinge of yellow was lost. The two big leaves on the right are the two tiny leaves in the center of the picture on the left. Everything else is new growth.

We're looking forward to seeing how this plant does in 2013 too.

I meant to post this picture with the bougainvillea pics from last week but better late than never. Our red bougainvillea is really showing off this week. I think it's time to trim a little of the dead wood off of it.

Finally, I did a severe pruning of the camellia in the hardest to reach corner. If you're asking as my wife did, it's because I don't want to prune this one again for a looooong time.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

This Week In The Cheapskate's Garden...

A few chores and more blooms. As the heat is getting up there...91 degrees today...more plants are coming back to life...

I had wanted to shape this lavender plant during the off season but never got around to it. For now, it'll just be a free form shape.

When we first bought this lantern vine, the nursery told us "full sun." It never really did well there.

We've since seen other lantern vines in shade gardens, so my wife transplanted this one to the shade. We'll see how it does.

More camellias in bloom. With this heat, they'll soon be done.

This burnt-copper color bougainvillea is a newcomer to the garden, we're hoping it'll do well. It's first flush of flower bracts is promising. 

And we'll end it with our bright red bougainvillea. In a couple of months, these thorny vines will provide most of the background color to our back wall garden.


Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lovely Creatures of the Wild...Go Eat Somewhere Else!

See those grapes up there? They're Ruby Red Seedless grapes. I have a vine in my backyard.  On a good year, I'll get over 30 pounds off of this one vine.

Don't believe me? Here's one day's harvest from a couple of years ago.

They're really delicious and that's both a blessing and a curse.   

It's a curse because all the birds, possums, and raccoons in the neighborhood also know it.

It's a battle to keep all the grapes on the vine until they ripen. If I don't do anything, the critters will strip the fruit bare. This is the perfect time of year to do something about it.

Above is our grape vine as of this early March morning. You can see it's at the peak of it's dormant phase. If I want to work on it, now is the time...I expect I'll have bud break next weekend.

I need to put in barriers that will allow the plant to grow but block access to our animal friends.  For the ground varmints, like Mr. Opossum above, we installed this permanent chicken wire cage around the bottom of the plant that blocks access from below.

It's pretty straightforward...get a long enough piece from your local hardware store, wrap around the bottom of the trunk, tie the ends together...and you have a critter denial cage.

From above, we get the birds and squirrels. The mockingbirds and scrub jays particularly find our grapes irresistible.

This is the part that requires a bit more work.  I need to cover the vine with netting but if I do, it hinders the vine's growth and production. If I wait until the grapes are on the vine, the twigs, leaves, and fruit make it impossible to drape over.

What I need to do is put it on a little bit and just have it ready for later. Here's how we do it. First, I get some wildlife netting. Any good garden center should have some. It's not expensive.

The netting is very catchy and clingy. It even adheres to the surface of the bricks in our wall. This makes it impossible to easily get on. My wife, who we nickname "Momgyver" for her mechanical problem solving skills, comes to the rescue. 

She brings out an old sheet, spreads in on the patio, spreads the netting on top of that, then rolls up the sheet with the netting inside.

This makes it very easy to slip in behind the plant.

We unroll the sheet up the wall behind the vine...the netting is on the other side of the sheet in the photo above. With the sheet, it's a piece of cake.

Next, we pull up the sheet at the bottom a bit to expose the bottom of the netting and use some twist-ties to secure it to the chicken wire cage.

Here's another look at the twist-ties.

Finally, we remove the sheet and drape the excess netting over the back of our wall.

There it will sit until the grapes start to ripen, usually in July, weighed down by a couple of bricks. At that time, we'll take the excess, drape it over the front, and secure it to the other half of the netting. Then, the entire plant will be encased in it, allowing the fruit to finish ripening and blocking access to the animals that love to eat them. At the end of the summer, we should have some very tasty grapes to show you.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Meet The New Neighborhood Transplants

Our seeds have been sprouting and growing in their peat plugs for a month. Now, it's time to transplant as the warmer days of March have arrived.

Each transplant is pretty easy, it's just that I have to do it 72 times. The soil is prepped, just stick in a trowel and dig a little hole.

Insert the plant plug.

Make sure it's straight, like the onion above.

Cover with soil.

That's it, water it in and you're done.

Here's our new vegetable list for 2013...

Tomatoes (two heirloom varieties)
Bell Peppers
Summer Squash
Corn (two varieties)

Stay tuned to see how they turn out!

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Springing Back Into the Season

Our patio thermometer hit 90 this weekend, spring is just about sprung.  Here's what's opening up this week in the Cheapskate's garden. 

Above, this cymbidium is a cross between tethys 'black magic' and voodoo.

When we moved into this house 17 years ago, I completely ripped out the landscaping, except for three camellia plants. I don't know they names but they bloom reliably every winter, like this red one above.

Here's a pink one at the other end of the garden. They love shade and damp ground.

This yellow rose is the first bloom of the season, it's been about 6 weeks from prune to bloom. Notice the aphids, I'll be doing a post on that soon.

I'll finish up with this lavender plant that I hoped to shape a little bit during the off season but too late now.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.