Sunday, June 7, 2015

Soil Sulfur, Citrus, and Solarizing

Those poor citrus - I can seem some teensy, tiny little green shoots coming up off low on the trunk, but not a lot of other action.  I put more soil sulfur in the wells today and clawed it in.  Then I watered it in with a bit of the prior mix of ferrous sulfate and fish emulsion.  Crossing fingers for the distressed trees.

The plastic sheeting that I put on last fall, I'd initially planned to leave on to solarize the North and West garden beds for about 6 weeks.  But then the weather turned cooler, and I thought it should stay on longer.  Then I decided I might as well leave it on until Julyish to really cook the soil.  Alas, it has cooked enough - the plastic has begun disintigrating into little, tiny, hard-to-pick-up plastic bits.  Thus, I removed the plastic sheeting today from those beds.  Since I'm busy, I'll leave the beds fallow for now.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fertilized pots

It was past time to give the pots in the back yard a kick, so I gave them the granular vegetable fertilizer.  

The citrus have not looked better or worse since the recent changes.  I've been spraying them every day or so with the combo fish emulsion/ferrous sulfate hoping to keep them going.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Acidifying Mandarins' Soil

After last week's pH test of the upper mandarin at 7.5, I went to the nursery and got two products to address that.  The first is E. B. Stone Naturuals Soil Sulfur.  The quantity instructions on the box are very confusing, but mostly it seems to be an imprecise science anyway.  The amount to add depends on the type of soil (mine is clay-ish) and seems to also depend on how buffered the soil is.  So, I winged it and sprinkled the sulfur granules generously over the top of the well and worked it in with a claw.  I did this project while wearing gardening clothes because I'd read elsewhere that sulfur can stain clothes badly.  My understanding is that this soil sulfur could take months to break down since it requires certain bacteria in the soil to work on it, and that they are most active in soil temperatures above 80 degrees F.  So, I'm not counting on that working fast.

Once I had the granules worked in, I got out my trusty foliar spray pump.  Into the canister I put a few tablespoons of Bonide Liquid Iron + Micronutrients.  I'm trying this product because it is a liquid with multiple ingredients, most of which involve "sulfate".  The principle ingredient is ferrous sulfate, which is another way to quickly lower pH in soil.  I also added to the canister some Fish Emulsion to give some nitrogen kick to these poor plants.  We need leaves!  So, I sprayed the few leaves they have with this concoction.  I made a similar blend in a watering can and watered the well thoroughly with it.

Also, I've continued to work on the watering for these trees.  Feeling it was dry, I basically doubled the watering time and went from every 5 days to every 4 days.  Then, I've been checking it more often and still wonder if it is slightly dry.  Today we changed it to every other day.  I know this may not let it dry well in between, but so far, I haven't felt the soil was soggy.  When we had some very rare rain, that did coincide with the lower tree blooming and creating a few leaves, so I wonder if the rain influenced that.

While we were out there, DH also did some shredding to add to the compost pile.  Go DH!

I planted some dill and basil in pots from seed.  I put little plastic domes over them to create a greenhouse to aid sprouting.

The kids and I also put about 18 jade pieces into pots for the fun of starting more jade plants.

Monday, April 20, 2015


On Friday we were walking home from school, when one of DS's friends called him over to where he was in his front yard to look at a snake.  The other child's mom was alarmed by the presence of akingsnake in the front yard and had already called on another neighbor who had a snake stick to catch it.  The neighbor arrived with the stick and was able to catch the snake.  It was good he had the stick because I was trying to figure out how to catch this thing, which has hiding in some fairly dense reeds.  The other mom wanted the snake relocated elsewhere, so we volunteered to take it.  The kids have dubbed it "Kingy Bands" since it is a Banded Kingsnake.  What a beauty!  My brother and I kept two kingsnakes as pets when we were kids.  So, my Mom thinks the snake should be named "Deja Vu."  We figure that we'll keep it for a while before letting it go in our backyard, which connects with the canyon.  I'd sure like it to stay in the yard and eat rattlesnakes.

The first night we got it set up in the terrarium with a secure lid, potting soil in the bottom, and a nice water dish.  DH bought some pinky mice at the pet store, which they only sold frozen.  Those things are dinky!  We weren't sure it would eat frozen mice, since its a wild snake, but thankfully it did.  DH warmed the mouse up in warm water (in a cup, which had been microwaved), then held the mouse in the cage with needle nose pliers and wiggled it temptingly.  Kingy Bands caught on pretty quickly and ate it whole.  It is about 2.5 feet long (I think) and fatter than my thumb.

Fertilized and Update

Today I fertilized the community garden again with an Organic vegetable fertilizer.  Somethings, like the kalette, are doing great.  Others, like some SunGold Cherry tomatoes I planted as starts are looking stunted.  The San Diego tomatoes look happy enough.  I staked a few tomato plants.  Also harvested kalette leaves, beets, and onions.  Pulled out some bolting lettuce and a lucinato kale that the aphids had conquered.  There are still ample aphids, but it doesn't seem as bad as a few weeks ago.  Here's a picture of the garden today:

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Fertilized Community Garden and planted seeds; citrus

I fertilized at the community garden with Dr. Earth's Veg fertilizer, but I ran out, so I spread it a little thin.

I also planted seeds for cucumber, zucchini, and beets.  Plus seeds from lettuce that I'd saved.  It is a bit late to be planting the lettuce and, technically, a little early for the cucs and zucchini, but I'm giving it a shot.  I've continued to harvest plenty of lettuce, kale and beets from the garden.  Plus, I pulled out some carrots this week that were incredibly sweet and crunchy, plus larger than last year's.  I think that might be due to some better soil amending this year, plus doing a little better at using all-purpose fertilizer.

I'm continuing the watch the citrus in back carefully.  The one further up the hill is still happily blooming and has a few new leaves.  The one down the hill still looks pretty sad, but has the tiniest signs of perking up: one blossom and a couple tiny leaves.  The leaves make me very happy!  The lower well seemed drier than the upper, so I adjusted the irrigation again.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Harvesting and Planting of Community Garden, Citrus, and Rain

On Friday 2/27, at the community garden, I harvested broccoli and removed most of the remaining plants.  Also some cheddar and carnival cauliflower.  The latter seemed to have more aphid problems this week.  Overall, the best thing about preventing the aphids from getting to the broccoli and cauliflower seemed to be for me to pick them ASAP.  I also harvested a lot of kale (Luciano, Green, and Red Russian, plus Kalette).  Some of this we used in an omelette for the egg-eaters in the family.  Some I sauteed with crimini mushrooms.  I also harvested a great beets and its greens.  Plus one whopper of a romaine lettuce.  On the same day, I also planted San Diego tomatoes, a banana pepper and a miniature red pepper.  I sprayed water forcefully on aphids, but they are winning since I'm not there spraying daily.

On Saturday 2/28  I added Organic Growth Power fertilizer with high aconcentration of humic acid to the mandarins.  I'm wondering if this might adjust the pH, especially in the lower hole that looked so chalky on planting.  The Dr. Earth's I used recently has about 10% humic acid, if I recall correctly, and this product has about 20%.  I watered them, and the transplanted Australian willow, deeply.  I also planted the Plumaria sticks in potting soil and compost.  This is my first attempt at rooting Plumeria, so we'll see how that goes.  I also added compost to all of the garden pots in the back yard to top them off.  I have some snapdragons resprouting from last year's plants and sprouting from last year's seeds in some of those pots.  I had to remove fennel from a number of pots as it is self-seeding everywhere.

Friday night was supposed to start a series of days with a bunch of rain, which is quite rare for here.  It didn't start on time, but Saturday night and most Sunday did rain, clearing up toward evening.  Again, it was supposed to rain starting in the early morning of Monday, but it was late to get going.  Around 10 am, it suddenly started with thunder, hard rain, and some hail - again very rare.  But so far, that seems to have ended quickly.  It would be nice if it drizzled for about a month.  That would sure help the drought.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Raised Citrus, Fertilized and Planted

This week I had an arborist here to look at the Carrotwood Tree in the back that isn't looking happy.  I've changed the water, fertilized and still it doesn't look good.  His best bet is that the roots have an infection of some sort.  The tree has 3 trunks and it seems like one of those trunks is less happy.  In the past it has been topped and those suckers are dying back, especially on one side.  He just recommends deadwooding it at this point.  I don't want to do anything too drastic to it, since it is a great climbing tree for the kids.

While he was here, he also looked at the sad mandarin citrus on the back slope.  Again, I've tweaked water, fertilized.  Recently I painted them to prevent sun damage.  Now the upper mandarin is flowering like mad, but the lower one still looks quite sad.  Very sparse leaves on both.  He wiggled them and we dug for roots.  He felt that they were planted too deep.  Citrus needing their top root flare to be happening at the surface to breathe.  I'm thinking this is true for most trees, right?  (Not for tomatoes, I know, but other plants?)

BTW - he said that painting the trunks of citrus is not usually required here in San Diego.  When I showed him the lemon that has a cracked branch he agreed that it was sun damage.  That tree doesn't have much of a canopy to protect it from the sun, so he agreed it was a good decision.  I'm thinking painting the mandarins was good, too, 'cause they have no canopy to speak of.

Yesterday, we dug around the mandarins in a wide well and lifted the trees up several inches such that the root flare was at the surface.  While doing this, I found a number of grubs.  These I took to a garden event today and the folks in the know didn't think they were a problem for the citrus but still worth removing from the garden.  We also added fresh homemade compost and Dr. Earth's Organic Citrus and Avocado fertilizer.  We watered deeply, and I did that again today.  I hope those two trees survive their "root lift".  None of the blossoms have fallen off the top tree yet, although I expect them to.

For today's garden event, I went to Sunshine Care, which has a unique garden program for its residents.  They also host lectures for the community monthly.  Today's talk was by Farmer Roy on Tomatoes.  The man has plenty of tomato experience, having farmed them commercially in Baja for years.  I came home from the talk with a transplant of Nova Grape Tomato.  I'm glad to give this one a try because it is one of a few cherry tomatoes that has some resistance to nematodes.  I planted it in a large pot, hoping to keep it isolated from my nematode infested garden beds at home that are still covered in clear plastic.  I think I'm going to leave that on for months, well into the summer, to get the temperatures required to solarize.  In a fit of spring optimism, I also picked up a basil plant and put it in another large pot.  Is that thing going to die a cold and horrible death?  I'm hoping not.

I continue to get good harvests from the community garden plot.  This week I had broccoli and kale leaves (which I stir fried with crimini mushrooms), broccoli, purple cauliflower "Carnival", lettuce (romaine, I'd saved from seed), and raddichio (my first and only - I haven't eaten this yet, so the jury is still out).

Sadly, the Cheddar Cauliflower, like some of the kale, broccoli and Carnival Cauliflower had too many aphids for me to want to eat.  I'd like to be blasting the aphids daily with hard water sprays, but I'm not devoted enough to go to the community garden daily.

Friday, January 30, 2015

More Fertilizer for that poor carrotwood tree

I got some Osmocote fertilizer and sprinkled it around the struggling carrotwood tree in the back because I didn't think the fish emulsion was balanced enough.  Today I spread that around the tree.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Citrus Help and Fertilizing

The poor mandarins that I planted on on our back slope a few years ago continue to suffer.  I've fertilized, I've rechecked irrigation.  The slope faces West into the canyon, so they get strong afternoon sun and a fair bit of wind.  Today I upped the ante and got out the paint.  I used outside, whitish, latex paint and painted the trunks and lower branches in an attempt to give them some sun protection.  In Arizona (where I grew up), this is a common practice, but you don't see it so much here.  I sure hope this helps them.  I also gave the citrus some Dr. Earth's Citrus Fertilizer.

Years ago I planted about 4 citrus at a different home of ours nearby and they all did fabulously, so I'm shocked at how these are struggling.

The carrotwood tree in back that was very unhappy last year and is slightly better this year got a good dose of fish emulsion today.

DH shredded our accumulated yard trimmings and put it in the compost pile with plenty of coffee grounds from Starbucks.  The pile should be really cooking soon.,

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fertilized garden, harvesting

I fertilized at the community garden with Dr. Earth's dry fertilizer.  Watered it in. I have a fair bit of aphids getting going on the kale and bok choy.  I have a new sprayer attachment for the hole, which I used to blast them off.  But this attachment isn't a keeper 'cause everything nearby got wet, too.  I'll have to look for a different one.

I've been harvesting kale, bok choy (which is now bolting), beets, onions, and lettuce.  

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Pruned Roses

On a gorgeous day in January, with the temperature around 70, I pruned the roses.  I had to bring in a bunch of flowers to enjoy inside.  Also pruned the hedge a bit.