Sunday, April 25, 2010

HortiCOOLture - Japanese Maple

Acer plamatum 'Bloodgood'

Starting today I plan to post a 'HortiCOOLture' picture every Sunday.  This would be something that speaks of the wonders of plant life and their environment.  To begin with, I have this  Japanese Maple leaves and samaras taken after the rain. 

Samaras are a type of fruit where in the seed is enclosed by a thin tissue that extends out forming a wing-like structure. The wing-like structure eventually facilitates the natural transport or dispersal of the seeds. 
That is very cool!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Peach Leaf Curl

Distorted peach leaf

The Disease.  Leaf curl is a fungal disease that affects peaches.  It is caused by a pathogen called Taphrina deformans.  I guess that the word 'deformans' reflects the nature of damage on the plant instead of the fungus itself. Infected areas of the leaves appear thickened and reddish in color.  They turn into distorted or malformed leaves.

In My Garden.  Every year, this disease shows up on my one and only peach tree.  Right after the first set of leaves appear, infection follows.  When the leaves are all deformed and discolored, the tree seems hopeless and not fit for any serious photosynthesis.  Fortunately, the disease can only survive under cooler and spread with the aid of the rain.   As the temperatures rise, the infected leaves fall off.  In some previous years I also helped the tree by had-picking the infected leaves.  This reduces the chance of the disease spreading on new leaves and thus shortening the overall "leaf curl period".

Currently, the temperature here is about 58º F and raining.  The weather still favors the development of the disease.  However, I noticed that most of the infected leaves have fallen off the tree and the proportion of healthy leaves is now more than the red-distorted ones.

In Your Garden.   If you have this problem on your peach tree, don't despair.  Read and understand the life cycle of Peach Leaf Curl.   Acquaint yourself with your climatic condition in relation to the requirements of the pathogen.  Although the disease can affect the yield and growth of your tree, the potential extent of damage is controlled by nature itself with some preventive measures from you.

Stroll in your garden...get acquainted with your unseen enemies.  For it is much easier to subdue them when you know their secret life.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I Love the Rain

 Strong rains dominated the early part of the previous week.  I enjoyed watching everything in the garden get wet and listening to the sound of water trickling downs the gutters and downspouts.   The temperatures are very comfortable although very soon (based on previous years) it will be different. 

There was not a lot of gardening except for the little jobs that have been waiting to be done.  Impatiens was planted to cover the ground around the standard roses.  Volunteer Santa Barbara daisies were transferred where I wanted them to grow since they were just crowding in one place.  Cuttings of sedum 'Autumn Joy' that were rooting beautifully in the water; I had to plant them in the ground.   I also noticed that there were ornamental strawberries (remnants from a previous planting) growing under the boxwood hedges; they also got transferred near the patio where they will get more sunlight.  I prefer to plant when the soil is still naturally moist.  That way I don't have to worry about new transplants drying out when I forget to water them. 

The newly planted pomegranate has not shown any sign of growth so far.  For now I am being patient and avoiding the urge to dig around it to check what's going on with the roots. 

Gardening requires a lot of wating...for the rain to stop; for the temperature to rise; for seeds to emerge; for trees to leaf out. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Early Clematis

Clematis 'Nelly Moser'

Yesterday before the rain, I went outside and saw this beautiful huge flower on the 'Nelly Moser'.  It is growing on an oak barrel along with a ficus tree (Ficus benjamina) that serves as its trellis.  This clematis variety is a vigorous grower.  Every year this plant puts on a big display of flowers.  I don't expect a lot of flowers this year since I divided the original plant and transferred some into the ground.  I am waiting to see what happens with the new transplants since they were trampled heavily by the guys who installed the new fence. 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Challenged by the Weather

Emerging beans.

I've been deceived again!  When I planted these beans, the weather was already warm and it seemed as though we were already in the middle of spring.  (My children were beginning to wear shorts and t-shirts.)   Shortly after planting the weather changed; it's been cold again.  As a result the germination of the seeds was arrested or slowed down.  The other day I went and check on them and this is what I saw.   Not only they were kept underground for a long time but that subterranean insects also had the time to feed on the nutritious seed cotyledons as you can see on the picture.

Gardening is all about learning.  Even if I know that the speed of germination process is inversely related to the temperature I cannot predict what the weather is going to do.  I might be able to mark my calendar this year and say that today is a safe time to plant my beans but then next year will be different.   This is a challenge that all gardeners have to face. 

As I write this post, I'm looking outside.  It's raining and I hear the comforting sound of trickling water.  The seeds in the ground may be growing very slowly but the reason for all these is good for the garden as a whole.  I will therefore enjoy the beautiful things that are happening right now instead of focus on what is not.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Beneficial Insectary Plants

Santa Barbara Daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus)

Beneficial insectary is a term that refers to plants that attract and host beneficial insects.   In other words they are the plants that provide a habitat for predatory insects.  Beneficial insectary plants often have nectar and pollen to offer to the good insects.  Their flowers offer a flat landing place for insects and sometimes they exude an unusual scent as an attractant.   The list of beneficial insectary plants continues to expand with the increasing research work and interest in organic farming.     

Beneficial insects on the other hand are insect predators that prey on many common garden pests.  Indirectly they benefit gardening by helping eliminate the destructive plant-feeding insects.   For example lady bugs don't eat plants; instead they feed on aphids that are destroying plants in the garden.  For the gardener, beneficial insects offer a biological control of pests.  Effective biological pest control is a safer alternative to pesticides. 

In My Garden.  There are some plants growing in my garden right now that are known to be beneficial insectary.  The Santa Barbara daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus) as I mentioned before is a very versatile perennial.  In addition to its aesthetic contribution in the garden, it is also valued for the role it plays in biological control of pests.  Among the herbs that double as insectary are spearmint (Menta spicata), coriander or cilantro (Coriandrum sativum), flat-leaf parsley (Petroselinum crispum).  Although my marigolds (Tagetes patula) are newly planted and recently damaged by birds, they are also known to harbor some beneficial bugs including lady beetles.  Hence, they are recommended to be planted near tomato plants.  Even English ivy (Hedera spp.) is supposed to harbor some beneficial wasps. 

What then?  Not all insects are gardeners' enemies.  In fact some of them are our allies.  They eliminate the real enemies.  This is like having your own army protecting your plants while you sleep and play.  However, their loyalty is dependent on the fringe benefits we give them. Some gardeners provide a dedicated habitat (Beneficial Insectary garden) for these allies.  However, if your garden is small, you can diversify your plantings to include the ones that attract them.  

Finally, do not be deceived - not all pests can be eradicated by biological means.  An effective pest control involves an integrated approach based on numerous factors.  Read more about integrated pest management approach (IPM)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple (Acer Palmatum 'Bloodgood')

Delicate Trees.  The Japanese maples are in their best appearance right now.  The leaves are still young and sharp in their color.  There is no better time to take their pictures than this time.  When the temperatures rise to remind us that we live in El Dorado Hills - meaning hot, the color of the leaves begin to take on a grayish tint and some of the leaves will be scorched.
Making Use of Volunteers.  Every year Japanese maple seedlings (baby plants) grow around the trees.  They are the seeds that had fallen there last year.  We call these plants "volunteers".  My daughter, Shannon, likes transplanting them into pots and she takes care of them.  She now has trees that are four feet tall in pots.  She started them from three-inch seedlings two years ago.  She is responsible in doing all the
necessary management practices (watering, fertilizing, staking and making sure that they are situated to get enough sunlight) with a little technical support from me.  This year, I noticed that there are a lot more seedlings around the trees compared to previous years.  Shannon is getting ready to transfer these volunteers into small pots.  Even if the seedlings are from the same parents, the genetic makeup of each little tree is different from the other.  Who knows someday she might be able to select one that is unique enough to deserve a name.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Flowering Crabapple

Flowering Crabapple Tree (Malus floribunda)

Ornamental and Shade.  This beautiful crabapple tree blooms profusely every year.  It provides an early spring pink color in the backyard.  Not only it is delightful to look at, it is also very easy to grow and makes a good shade tree as it is fast-growing.  In my yard the crabapple is planted near the patio contributing to the much needed shade in the summer. 

Pollenizer.  A number of the apple trees are self-fertile (capable of producing viable pollens) while some are cross pollinated and would require another apple tree of a different variety as the source of fertile pollen.  The flowering crabapple is an excellent pollenizer for other apple trees.  An important factor to consider in choosing your apple varieties is the time of flowering.  The apple tree and the pollenizer tree (source of viable pollen) should bloom at the same time.  In my yard I have a Fuji apple that bears fruit every year (never mind that half of the fruits are infested with codling moth (Cydia (Laspeyresia) pomonella).  The only other apple tree nearby is the crabapple.  I would say that they are compatible. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Update on the Vegetables

Defoliated pepper  (Capsicum annuum) seedlings

About two weeks ago, I had healthy seedlings of peppers planted in my garden.  Now they are all defoliated like the picture above.  Finch birds have been eating them.  Last year, they ate my eggplant seedlings too.  I had to replant them and covered them with clear large soda bottles until they got tall enough for the finches.  I could wait for these poor seedlings to leaf out but that would be wasting too much time.  I will replant and make sure to protect them.  The birds also ate all the radish and bok choy seedlings which my daughter Miriam started from seeds. 

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)

These cilantro are planted next to the peppers.  Can anyone argue if I say that finches are a little bit picky when it comes to their salad?  They don't seem to like cilantro leaves.  However, when the seeds called coriander are ready, it will be a different story.  Anyway, I'm very pleased with the way my cilantro are growing right now.  I just hope that they will not bolt quickly.

Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum 'Better Boy Hybrid')

Although finches also like tomato leaves, these plants were taller than they can reach.   One tomato plant behind these two is a smaller and they managed to eat its lower leaves.  These tomatoes are just waiting for the temperature to get warmer now and they soon will leap.  'Better Boy' is an indeterminate hybrid tomato.

Indeterminate plants are those that produce flowers on the lateral buds allowing them continue growing for extended period of time.  As long as they continue to grow they will still continue to produce flowers and fruits.  Determinate plants bear flowers on the terminal buds.  Once flowers begin to develop, the plant stops growing.  The life cycle of a determinate plant is shorter than its indeterminate counterpart.  Since we have a long growing season in California, I prefer indeterminate varieties.  However, in other years, I planted determinate tomatoes and then planted a different crop during late summer or early fall.

Mint (Mentha spicata)

These are spearmints that I started from stolons three weeks ago.  Since they are very easy to propagate, I often start new plants every year and replace the root-bound plants from last year.  Unless you are growing mints for commercial purposes, it is a good idea to keep your mints in pots.  Once in the ground and left unattended, it will take over your garden. 

Potato (Solanum tuberosum)

I planted potatoes once and every year since then we have volunteer potatoes in the garden.   They come from the tubers that were left unharvested from the previous crop.   I could pull them out or wait for another month and we'll have young potatoes for boiling.

Other vegetables that a in the ground but have not emerged are basil (Ocimum basilicum), beans (Phaseolus vulgaris 'Maxi') and luffa (Luffa cylindrica). 

Well, I need to stroll in my vegetable garden more often and try to outsmart the birds.
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