Tour Offers Insights to Growing Citrus


The Monterey Bay chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers recently organized a members-only tour of a local citrus nursery’s growing grounds, in Watsonville.

Aaron Dillon, our tour guide, shared the history of Four Winds Growers, which was started by his great grandparents. He described the current operations and the pests and diseases that are challenging the entire citrus business.

10-17-14 Aaron Dillon

One threat to citrus trees is the citrus leafminer (Phyllocnistis citrella), a very small Asian moth that lays its eggs in the tissue of citrus leaves. The eggs hatch into larva that feeds on the leaf, leaving a clearly visible, serpentine trail just below the surface of the leaf. Leafminers disfigure the leaves but rarely cause serious damage.

A greater threat is the Huanglongbing disease (HLB), which is known by the common names “citrus greening disease” and “yellow shoot disease.” HLB kills citrus trees.

A tiny insect, the Asian citrus psyllid, transfers this disease from tree to tree as it feeds. Because there is no cure for HLB, the control strategy is to find and stop the insect from spreading the disease. This pest has greatly reduced southern California’s citrus nursery industry, and has very recently been spotted in the San Jose area.

The citrus industry has developed regulations and procedures for propagating citrus trees in greenhouses, while keeping Asian citrus psyllids outside. The tour group entered an enormous greenhouse through an antechamber, in which a large fan produced positive air pressure to exclude any psyllids. The outer door closed, the fan was turned off, and an inner door opened to allow the group to enter the working area of the greenhouse.

Inside, a greenhouse worker, Alicia, expertly demonstrated the process of grafting a citrus scion to a robust rootstock. A skilled worker can graft 1,000 plants in a single day.

10-17-14 Grafting Orange Scions

Aaron Dillon engaged the interested visitors with a wide-ranging presentation of many aspects of growing citrus trees. He demonstrated the extensive facilities in a large greenhouse where roses had been grown previously, and proudly showed an even larger new greenhouse now being readied for an expansion of propagation activities.

10-17-14 Visitors in the Mist

Four Winds Growers propagates popular varieties of orange, mandarin, lemon, lime, grapefruit, and kumquat. For details, visit the nursery’s website <wwwlfourwindsgrowers.com> and click on “Our Citrus Trees.” Dillon listed three interesting varieties that consumers will enjoy in the future:

  • Vaniglia Sanguigno (acidless sweet orange)
  • Lee x Nova Mandarin (88-2 mandarin hybrid)
  • New Zealand Lemonade (sweet lemon hybrid)

For information on these and many other varieties, browse to the amazing Citrus Variety Collection website, maintained by the University of California, Riverside <http://www.citrusvariety.ucr.edu/>.

Many varieties of citrus trees grow well in the Monterey Bay area, and local nurseries have many choices in stock currently. Growing information is readily available on the websites of the California Rare Fruit Growers < www.crfg.org/> and Four Winds Growers. Pest control advice for home gardeners is offered by the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program www.californiacitrusthreat.org/.

Garden Decor

Gardens can be more than artful displays of plants: they can also include arts and crafts that reflect the owner’s tastes, interests and creativity. Collectively, such items comprise the garden’s décor.

The selections that we might encounter in gardens range from stunning works of fine art to found art to  “junktique,” with items such as plants growing in worn-out boots. This range could be defined in terms of cost.

For many home gardens, the most prominent décor consists of plant containers, which offer many opportunities for artistic expression. The more successful of these expressions present an interesting relationship between the container and the plant(s) it contains.

The less successful involve uses of nursery cans, which are typically black plastic. Such containers could be seen as an exercise in utilitarianism: they are valued for their usefulness and low cost.

Gardeners often acquire their décor often on the open market, but they gain the most satisfaction by making their own pieces. This requires creativity but doesn’t necessarily require artistic skill.

As an example, this “garden path medallion,” one of four in my garden, is a unique product that required care to build, but inexpensive materials and only a modicum of artistry. The medallion is four feet in diameter. My rabbit, Harvey, is sitting in to indicate the scale.

Pathway Medallion

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An important component of this project is a circular strip that retains the circle of bricks. I found this product on Amazon.com, marketed as the “EasyFlex No-Dig Tree Ring Kit.” This strip retains the bricks with a 1.5-inch high edge, low enough to hide under the pathway surface.

I purchased common bricks for the four medallions, each of which required 34 bricks. We installed the steppingstone and bricks in a bed of decomposed granite (also called path fines), which has angular grains that lock into a firm yet permeable surface. Beach sand has more rounded grains that stay too loose for such applications.

Common bricks are too large to form a tight ring around the steppingstone, so we used black, oval-shaped stones, sold as Mexican pebbles, three-to-five inches long. We installed them on edge, and used a rubber mallet to level them with the steppingstone and bricks. The last step was to sweep decomposed granite into the gaps and water it to settle it around the hard materials.

The costs for each medallion include the tree ring $10; 34 common bricks: $34; Mexican pebbles $16; cast concrete steppingstone $20, more or less, for a total of about $80 for a near-permanent feature.

Decomposed granite costs $40-to-$50 per cubic yard, but the amount required for this project would depend on the length, width and depth of the pathway.

A relatively new product for filling the gaps between stones is polymeric joint sand, which includes a water-activated polymer that forms impermeable joints. This product, available from masonry services, costs $15-to-$20 for a 60-pound bag.

For pictures of many do-it-yourself garden arts and crafts projects, visit Pinterest.com and search for “steppingstones,” “garden crafts,” “garden arts” or related topics of personal interest. You might be inspired to adapt someone else’s idea or come up with your own unique creation.

However you proceed, décor could bring interest to your garden and provide creative opportunities fvor the gardener.

***

Because we are bulb-planting season, I will share a link with a recently discovered webpage, Tulips in the Wild, that presents a map of Europe and the Middle East, showing where various species of tulips grow, with photos of each species in its natural habitat. This website was developed by the Amsterdam Tulip Museum and the U.S. bulb seller, Colorblends. Browse to <tulipsinthewild.com> and click on “Interactive Map.”

If you enjoy tulips, this page provides a fascinating and informative display of the origins of many different tulips. If you thought that tulips come from the Netherlands, the truth is that only hybrid tulips come from growers in Holland. This webpage shows the real origins of this popular garden plant and could suggest a new idea for plant collecting.

Sharing Your Garden with Photos

This year’s Succulent Extravaganza exceeded its already high marks for learning about succulent plants and buying plants and garden containers. Experts from throughout California presented interesting talks on the practical care and use of succulent plants, and innovative uses of these fascinating plants in the landscape.

This column space isn’t enough for comments on each of the many specialists that Robin Stockwell attracted to Castroville, so I’ll feature just one: the prolific artist of garden photography, Saxon Holt, whose work appears in numerous books.

Photography and gardening have a perfectly complementary relationship: plants live in a constant state of change, while photographs store moments in time.

Gardeners often feel the urge to capture especially pleasing blossoms or landscape vignettes in photos, whether for their own viewing, or for sharing with family and friends. A few garden photographers, like Saxon Holt, can make stunning pictures and publish them for larger audiences to enjoy. For most gardeners, however, their photographs fail to satisfy for one reason or another. Today’s “point and shoot” digital cameras manage focus and exposure automatically, but performing those important functions well does not guarantee satisfactory results.

For that reason, Saxon Holt’s talk at the Succulent Extravaganza was a rare opportunity for gardeners to upgrade their photographic skills. Here are highlights of Holt’s advice.

Know your purpose. A close-up might showcase a plant’s shape or texture of the leaves or petals; a wider shot might demonstrate the interplay of shapes or colors. There are many possible purposes, making it worth the time to explore why you are taking the photo.

Control the light. Direct bright sunlight produces deep shadows and bright highlights that hide important details from the camera. Better results are achieved by photographing in early or late in the date, or by using a translucent panel to diffuse the light. Holt demonstrated the dramatic improvement provided by a collapsible disc designed for the purpose.

Fill the frame. Casual snapshots often include too much of the area surrounding the subject of the photo. The picture will be more effective when the photographer brings the camera close in, so that the subject occupies all the space.

Compose the image. Position the camera for an interesting view of the subject. Well-composed snapshots can become artworks!

A valuable—and really old— guideline for image composition is the Rule of Thirds. When looking through the viewfinder, imagine two lines dividing the scene into thirds vertically, and two more lines dividing the scene into thirds horizontally. Placing important elements of the image along these lines or at their intersections will produce a more dynamic and interesting composition. On the other hand, centering the subject in the frame tends to yield a static image.

The Rule of Thirds guided the composition of this photo of a group of Aloe polyphyllas,  seen at the Succulent Extravaganza. These fascinating plants are endemic to the Kingdom of Lesotho in the Drakensberg mountains of South Africa. (Click to enlarge).

Aloe polyphylla

Aloe Polyphylla

Holt emphasized the use of a tripod while composing the image, and recommended bringing the camera down to the level of the plant, rather than looking down on it from a standing position.

Successful photographs can extend the pleasures of gardening. As always when developing other skills, give your best effort to each session of garden photography and then study the results!

More

Several good books on garden photography are available on the Amazon.com website, and might be found in your local library or bookstore.

Visit Saxon Holt’s website to enjoy a selection of his photographs.

His impressive work also is represented in several garden-related books, which can be found by searching amazon.com for “Saxon Holt.”

On Tuesday, November 11th, from 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at the University of California Berkeley Botanical Garden, Holt will present a hands-on workshop, “Composition and Balance,” This class is intended for serious photographers, who should arrive early with camera and tripods to work with Saxon as he tours the Garden. The morning shoot will be followed by a presentation, download of the morning’s work and an afternoon critique. Enrollment fee ($90/$75 for members) includes a copy of the Holt’s e-book, The PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshop.

Info: gardenprograms@berkeley.edu, 510-642-7082.

Time to Plant Your Garden

Over the next few weeks, as we move into autumn, it is time to think about installing new plants in our gardens, and moving plants that should be in better places.

Installing or moving plants makes sense during this time of the year for two reasons. First, many plants that are good choices for Monterey Bay area gardens are entering into a dormant period, during which they can be moved with minimal trauma from one garden location to another, or from a nursery pot to a larger container or into the ground.

The second rationale for installing or moving plants now is that our familiar rainy season, beginning usually mid-October, will irrigate them during dormancy. The gentle rains of fall and winter have been a welcome gift to gardeners, who can attend to other tasks as plants develop their roots and generate new growth for the spring, as temperatures warm.

We still do not know if we will have a normal rainy season this year. Recent reports from International Research Institute for Climate and Society and the Climate Prediction Center, both trackers of the El Nino/Southern Oscillation, indicate a relatively small impact on our fall and winter weather, around 60 to 65% of the historical norm. In other words, we should expect rain, but not as much as we usually enjoy.

That forecast is more vague than gardeners would like, but now is still the time to plant. The worst-case scenario is that watering by hand or drip irrigation might be needed to keep newly installed plants adequately hydrated.

Gardeners might be inspired to bring new plants to their gardens in the spring, when garden centers are displaying plants in bloom. There are real advantages of planting in the spring: bedding plants are available in abundance, blossom colors are evident, and the weather welcomes outdoor projects. One downside of this schedule, however, is that customers pay for nurseries to care for the plants during their early growth. Also, plants that have been boosted into bloom with synthetic fertilizers often under-perform once they have been moved into typical garden soil.

When you bring new plants into your garden this autumn, choose plants that are drought tolerant and well suited for the local climate and growing conditions. Such plants are most likely to succeed under drought conditions with the only basic care by the gardener.

Remember: even drought-tolerant plants need water, just not as much and not as often.

Good opportunities soon will be available to find such suitable plants:

  • Succulent Extravaganza, September 26 & 27 (today and tomorrow); 2133 Elkhorn Road, Castroville. Info: sgplants.com, 831-632-0482.
  • Fall Plant Sale, UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, September 28; 200 Centennial Drive, Berkeley. Info: botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu, 510-643-2755.
  • Fall Plant Sale, UC Santa Cruz Arboretum & California Native Plant Society, October 11; High Street at Western Drive, Santa Cruz. Info: arboretum.ucsc.edu.
  • Fall Show & Sale, Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Succulent Society, October 18 & 19, 10 San Jose Street, San Juan Batista. Info: www.facebook.com/MonteryBayAreaCactusAndSucculentSociety

Gardening success depends on the selection of plants that are appropriate for specific locations and growing conditions. You might change where you garden, but external forces could change your garden’s growing conditions. Plan ahead!

Gardening to Save the Planet

We are learning about humanity’s many impacts on the near and distant future of our planet. Some people are in denial about these impacts, while others are concerned and ready to do whatever we can to ensure that our Earth will support future generations.

To support and encourage such positive action, leading botanist Peter Raven will visit the UCSC Arboretum next week to meet with UCSC faculty and staff, and present a public talk, “Saving Plants, Saving Ourselves.” Raven will present an informed update on the increasing threats to Earth’s environment, and emphasize the special role of public gardens in conserving plants that could be lost through habitat loss and climate change.

Peter Raven has a long friendship with the UCSC Arboretum, and a national reputation as a conservationist and advocate of global biodiversity: Time magazine hailed him as a Hero of the Planet. His visit to the Monterey Bay area inspires us to reflect on the home gardener’s unique role in saving the planet.

Here are ten everyday practices that gardeners can apply to help sustain the environment and protect plant diversity.

  • Irrigate your garden wisely, using drip technology to deliver water only where needed, and mulch (organic or inorganic) to minimize evaporation and weed growth.
  • Recycle household water into the garden, using plant-friendly soaps and detergents.
  • Prune your acquisitions of consumer goods that bury our landfills and clutter our environment…and that you really don’t need.
  • Propagate plants that Nature’s pollinators (bees and other insects, bats and birds) love and need to survive. Clusters of flowering plants will enrich your landscape.
  • Conserve biodiversity by protecting endangered species and including rare and threatened California native plants in your landscape. (Visit the California Native Plant Society’s website, www.rareplants.cnps.org/ for info.)
  • Nourish your plants with organic fertilizers, and discontinue uses of artificial chemicals
  • Control plant-eating insects with insect predators and organic insecticides. Use physical barriers and non-toxic deterrents to control other plant-eaters, e.g., snails, gophers and deer,
  • Select plants that are native to California or other summer-dry climates, to enable their healthy growth, support wildlife and ease your gardening workload.
  • Compost the “carbon-rich” fantasies of climate change deniers with the “nitrogen-rich” facts of the world’s scientists to promote wise stewardship of the environment. (Alto, keep all biomass on the property by composting green garden waste!)
  • Cultivate these good practices among your friends and neighbors.

The UCSC Arboretum employs these practices regularly, and assigns high priority to its work in plant conservation.

pt sur Austin and Tim

Click to Enlarge

This photo shows UCSC student Austin Robey and Arboretum volunteer Tim Forsell as they replanted endangered California native manzanita shrubs on a steep slope near the Point Sur State Historic Park and Lighthouse. The Arboretum’s Brett Hall coordinated the conservation project.

Your practices in your own garden also could help to save the planet. A good start would be to attend Peter Raven’s talk..

***

Registrations for the Peter Raven talk sold out quickly. To receive timely announcements of future events at the Arboretum, visit arboretum.ucsc.edu/get-involved/.

If you would like to sponsor an educational event at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, contact Jennifer Macotto, 831-427-2998 or jmacotto@ucsc.edu.

For information on how you could help save a rare species: visit arboretum.ucsc.edu/education/plant-sponsorship/.

Are Your Plants Dying?

Of course they are!

All living plants age and eventually die. The only exceptions are plants that are man-made from plastic or other materials.

The aging process, called senescence, begins after the plant achieves reproductive maturity and ends when the plants dies.

Senescence is an inevitable component of plant cultivation, so gardeners should recognize and understand the process, and appreciate its benefits.

There are several kinds of senescence.

Whole Plant Senescence occurs when the entire plant dies after seed production. This occurs with annual and biennial plants, and also with monocarpic plants, e.g., the Century Plant (Agave Americana), which can grow for several years before producing seeds. The benefits of this kind of senescence include genetic diversity (each seed cycle combines genes from different plants) and increased survivability (the plant uses it resources for producing seeds, rather overwintering).

Sequential Senescence is typical of perennial plants, in which the leaves age and die, but the main shoots continue to produce new buds and leaves. This is characteristic of woody perennials, i.e., shrubs and trees, which build their roots and aboveground structure year after year, and thus increase their abilities to produce seeds and compete with other plants. A good example is the apple tree, and many other fruit-bearing trees. The tradeoff is less genetic diversity for the tree itself, although achieve genetic diversity through its fruits. Still, the tree is more vulnerable to rapid environmental changes and attacks of insects or diseases.

Shoot Senescence occurs with certain plants that die to the ground after flowering and fruiting, but retain their belowground stems and roots, which produce new shoots in the following season. Examples of such plants include the banana and the gladiola, as well as virtually all other bulbous plants.

Synchronous Senescence is controlled by environmental factors. In this process, temperate deciduous trees drop their leaves in response to seasonal changes in the temperature, typically as in late autumn. At this period, the leaves’ green chlorophyll decomposes, revealing the leaves’ carotenes, which may be yellow, orange or orange-red. In California, we look for fall color in elms, many Japanese maples, Chinese Pistach, Liquidamber, Bradford pear, flowing dogwood and others. The living fossil Maidenhair Tree (Ginkgo biloba) is noteworthy because in the fall its leaves change from green to saffron yellow, and then all fall not quite simultaneously, but within a short period.

Fall Leaf Senescence

Click to Enlarge

Woody plants also will self-prune during the growing season: leafy shoots that are not growing well die off, and the plant re-directs its nutrients to other shoots. I see this impressive self-regulatory function mostly with interior shoots that may lack sufficient exposure to sunlight. Similar, but less visible self-pruning also occurs with roots.

Gardeners need to be alert to dieback that can occur in addition to the natural processes of senescence. Such diebacks could result from controllable environmental impacts, from temperature, wind or sun exposure, insects, diseases, or herbivores; water shortages; or nutritional deficiencies. The first step in correcting a problem is analyzing its cause.

Garden Plants on the Move (Moving Trees & Shrubs)

Autumn in the garden is a good time to prepare for relocating shrubs or trees that would look or grow better in a different location.

If the thought of moving a shrub or tree troubles you, recognize that even good plants need not be permanent. Here are some reasons for moving a healthy shrub or tree.

  • The tree or shrub has grown so large it’s crowding a walkway or other plants.
  • Other nearby plants have grown so large that they are shading a plant that needs sun.
  • Other nearby plants are now gone, exposing a plant that needs shade.
  • The tree or shrub is needed elsewhere in the landscape.
  • The gardener wishes to install a new feature, and the tree or shrub is in the way.
  • The gardener has wishes to establish a thematic plant bed where an off-theme tree or shrub is growing.

When preparing to relocate a plant, first decide on where it will go. Examine the new location to ensure that it is the right place for this particular plant. Confirm that the soil is suitable, the drainage is good, and the exposure it right for the plant. Finally, make certain that the new spot could accommodate the plant when it is fully grown. Then, dig a hole twice the width of the intended root ball.

Ideally, prune the roots to protect against transplant shock. This involves digging a trench around the plant, outside the intended root ball, refilling the trench and watering to settle the soil. Root-prune in March for plants to be moved in October, and in October for plants to be moved in March.

Then, plan how to move the plant, taking its size into consideration.

Small Shrubs and Trees

For a shrub less than three feet tall, or a tree with a trunk is less than one inch wide, you could move it bareroot, i.e., without digging up a root ball. To move such a smaller plant bareroot, dig a trench around it, cutting the longer roots, wash the soil off the lateral roots, and use a flat shovel to remove the soil under the plant. Keep the roots moist until you are ready to transplant.

Not-so-small Shrubs and Trees

If you are preparing to move a plant that is between three and five feet high, decide how large a root ball to provide. For industry standards for transplanting different plants of various sizes, visit the website, americanhort.org and search for “root ball.” For example, moving a five-foot tree or shrub requires an eighteen-inch wide root ball. A root ball of that size could weigh 250 pounds, so plan for the appropriate equipment and helpers.

Larger Shrubs and Trees

Most gardeners will hire a tree service to move a tree or shrub that is larger than five feet high. If you prefer to do such work yourself, I will say “best wishes,” and predict that you will have professionals do your next transplant.

Really Large Trees

Even very large trees—up to forty-five feet high—can be moved successfully, if not cheaply. The widely available tree spade uses an array of large shovels to dig a conical divot to pluck a plant from the ground, and deposit it in a matching hole. For video clips of tree spades in various sizes, browse to YouTube.com and search for “tree spade.” To see an interesting DIY device, search YouTube for “Tree Toad 24 inch Tree Transplanter.”

Tree Spade

A mechanized tree spade makes transplanting large bushes and small or medium trees a much easier proposition. Photo: Dutchman Industries

 

A newer technology for moving larger plants is the “air tool,” which uses compressed air to blow soil away from a tree’s roots. This bareroot method avoids pruning or breaking the roots, so the plant experiences little trauma and quickly resumes its usual growth cycle. To see a brief video demo of the air tool, visit growingwisdom.com, click on “Trees & Shrubs” and scroll to the link, “How to Move Large Trees Using an Air Tool.”

After moving a tree or shrub, transplanting herbaceous perennials is easy!

Back to the Future Garden (Bulbs)

An important aspect of the art of gardening is working backwards, so let’s begin today by visualizing a stunning display of spring bulbs in your garden next April.

“Bulbs” include all plants that grow from bulbs, tubers, corms, or rhizomes. Plants with underground storage organs are correctly referred to as “geophytes.”

There are a great many plants in this category, with a stunning range of colors and forms. The large majority of geophytes are native to the world’s Mediterranean climate regions, which includes coastal California; they have evolved to thrive in climates like that of the Monterey Bay area.

For your spring vision to become real, you will need to plant your bulbs this year, in the early fall. You could plant as early as August, or as late as November, but a good time to target is September.

To have bulbs to plant in September, order them in July or August. You could buy bulbs later at a local garden center, but retailers necessarily stock mostly the very popular varieties.  Ordering by mail will let you choose from an enormous range of possibilities, and early orders are most likely to secure the largest, most productive bulbs.

If you acquire your bulbs before you are ready to plant, store them in a dry, well-ventilated place.

Before you buy bulbs, you should have a plan for planting. The easy part of planning for a display of spring bulbs is to identify space in your garden that receives—ideally—at least six hours of sunlight daily, and that drains well (no puddles!). There are also a good number of bulbs that will do quite well in partial shade, but if you intend to plant in a shadier area, select bulbs with that condition in mind.

Bulbs also can be grown successfully in containers, given sufficient sun exposure and very well-drained soil. Typical planting mixes are fine, but should be amended with horticultural sand, pumice, crushed lava rock, or other material to promote drainage.

Your design could mass your bulbs for a large display of one or several varieties, or place several small cluster displays among other plants in the landscape. The scale of your display will guide your decision on the number of bulbs to order. Growers usually recommend spacing for specific plants, but three times the width of bulb is generally OK. Wider spacing will provide room for increases.

The more popular species of bulbs that do not require winter chill to perform well include Daffodil, Crocus, Grape Hyacinth, Allium, Crown Imperial and Snowdrop (Galanthus). Others bloom their best after several days of chill: Tulip, Hyacinth, Siberian Squill, Anemone, Freesia (but some varieties will do fine without special handling).

Spring Bulbs

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 Good mail-order catalogs indicate which bulbs will grow well in Zone 9, which includes the Monterey Bay area, and offer pre-chilled bulbs.

To benefit from the full range of mail-order options, select some so-called “minor bulbs,” i.e., those not included among the most familiar species. Adventuresome gardeners leave the beaten path to discover the most interesting blossoms.

Yellow Foxtail Lily

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Caption: The Yellow Foxtail Lily (Eremurus stenophyllus) grows 4-5 feet high, with hundreds of star-shaped flowers. Photo: Brecks.com online catalog.

Good preparation of the planting area(s) involves removing weeds, loosening the soil, and digging in a three-inch layer of organic compost. If you have clay soil, dig in six inches of compost. This healthful exercise could be enjoyed after ordering the bulbs.

Bulbs are traditionally planted in random arrangements, following their natural spread. Planting bulbs in rows is so 19th Century.

The actual planting of bulbs in well-prepared beds can be quick and easy. The usual rule for planting depth is three times the height of the bulb. Stab a trowel into the ground, pull it toward you to open a planting hole, drop in the bulb, pointy side up, and cover.

If gophers or deer snack in your garden, put a handful of gravel at the bottom of the hole, and spray your bulbs in a bucket before planting with a repellent like Deer Off, Liquid Fence or Repel. You might need to plant in gopher baskets, which of course slows the process.

Start now to prepare for next spring’s pleasing display of bulb blossoms.

More

Visit Cindi’s Catalog of Garden Catalogs for many mail-order suppliers of bulbs.
The good ones include the following:

  • Breck’s Bulbs: click on “Spring Bulbs” and “Other Spring Bulbs” for minor bulbs;
  • Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, well-established grower, with a good search tool;
  • Bill the Bulb Baron, a local grower, with fields in Moss Landing;
  • Far West Bulb Farm, specializing in California native bulbs;
  • McClure & Zimmerman, offering a variety of uncommon bulbs;
  • Telos Rare Bulbs, species bulbs from exotic places;
  • Van Bourgondien Bros., good prices for larger volume orders.

Finally, visit the website of the Pacific Bulb Society for non-commercial information. Click on the link to “Pacific Bulb Society Wiki” for photos and descriptions by avid growers of geophytes.

Flood of Gardening Information

This week, I was delighted to see small pink “church bells” appear for the first time in a shady area of my garden. (Click to enlarge)

IMG_0313

I had added three Azores Bellflowers several weeks ago, and hadn’t given them special care, except for infrequent watering. They have settled in nicely on their own, and begun decorating that bed with their attractive flowers. Their botanical name is Azorina vidalii (previously Campanula vidalii) and they were discovered by a naval officer, Captain Vidal, on The Island of the Flowers, in the Archipelago of the Azores.

To learn more about this or any other plant that piques your interest, a good place to look is the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. Just browse to the website and enter the botanical name of the plant. With rare exceptions, Wikipedia quickly and easily provides detailed information on garden-worthy plants. It’s even worth trying when you have only a plant’s common name or cultivar name.

Wikipedia is just one example of the flood of gardening information that exists on the Internet. Another free online resource for gardeners is Pinterest, which is a vast collection of photographs that individuals and businesses have shared. Called a “visual discovery tool,” Pinterest has images in many categories, and it is searchable by keywords. To use this tool, browse to the website and search for what interests you at the moment. For example, try “gardening” or “garden steps” or “garden ponds,” just to see what turns up.

Two more examples:

YouTube offers many brief “how to” video recordings on garden topics, e.g. planting, pruning, irrigation and others. Visit the website and search for your current interest. For example, a friend who read my column on summer pruning of apple trees asked about pruning plum trees. A quick search of YouTube for “summer pruning of fruit trees” yielded several different video demonstrations of pruning plums, apriums, and others.

Recently, I discovered another resource: ISSUU, an online collection of magazines on many subjects. The collection features some popular selections, but is comprised mostly of relatively esoteric and exotic periodicals. Browse to the website and search for “gardening” or “gardens” to release a flood torrent of mostly unfamiliar but typically well-done publications that relate to the search term. The entries are listed in random order, some are outdated (but still interesting), and a few are mail order catalogs. ISSUU offers ample reading material for the gardener who is tuckered out, rained out or looking out for inspiration.

Together, ISSUU, Pinterest, YouTube and Wikipedia offer free floods of factual information for avid gardeners who have access to an Internet-connected computer. Invest a few minutes to explore these online resources, and use them when you need answers to gardening questions, or fresh ideas for your gardening adventures.

More

There are of course a very large number of additional resources for gardeners on the Internet.

An exceptionally helpful website for selecting and locating particular plants is
Cyndi’s Catalog of Garden Catalogs. This website provides links to a long list of catalogs for mail ordering plants of all kinds. The catalogs are organized by plant genera, with a separate list of general catalogs, plus numerous links to valuable websites under the header “General Advice and Reference.” 

A little time spent in exploring Cyndi’s collection of website links will help to discover seemingly unlimited information on all aspects of gardening.

Still More

More and more people are using the broadband Internet, and find it useful for a variety of reasons. People who do not yet do so often lack understanding of the benefits of broadband access, or need to develop digital literacy. Today’s column provides a glimpse of the Internet’s value for avid gardeners.

The Internet also provides access to free education in digital literacy, through a government-sponsored website, Digital Literacy.gov, which offers self-tests and tutorials. To join the Digital Age, visit the website and get started.

  1. Go to “Topics” and click on “Basic Computing” and got to “New User Tutorial”
  2. After that training (and still in “Basic Computing”) click on “Basic Computer Skills”
  3. When finished with that training, click on “Basic Computer Quiz—Part I” to see how much you have learned.

Congratulations! You have broken the ice! This Digital Literacy website includes many more tutorials to help you become a Digital Information Gardener (DIG).

Summer Pruning of Apple Trees

Do you have one or more apple trees that have vigorous new upright growth, like the shoots, often called water sprouts, shown in the picture? This photo shows new growth on an espaliered Gala apple in my garden, before and after pruning (click to enlarge).

BEFORE PRUNING

Water Sprouts - vert

AFTER PRUNINGWater Sprouts - pruned

Those shoots, usually at least one foot in length, are the tree’s response to heavy pruning during the dormant season, and represent an effort to restore the balance between the canopy and the root system.

Water sprouts are unlikely ever to bear fruit. Instead, they sap the tree’s energy and shade the interior of the tree, slowing the development of vertical growth, and the time for dealing that problem begins now. The period from early August to mid-September is the ideal time for summer pruning, after the new branches have set their terminal buds. This means that the branch has stopped growing for the season, so pruning will not stimulate additional growth. The best practice is to remove the water sprouts with their terminal buds.

Note that some new shoots will be shorter, and horizontal or nearly horizontal. Horizontal shoots (properly called “laterals”) are more likely eventually to bear fruit, so they are treated differently from the vertical or near-vertical shoots.

First, consider training these laterals to close to horizontal, using string or V=notched spreaders, to support fruiting.

Then the recommended treatment is to prune these laterals back to three buds of new growth after the cluster of leaves at its base. This will stimulate the formation of fruiting buds.

Oren Martin, the gardening guru at UC Santa Cruz’s Farm & Garden, says this three-bud pruning system is based on the advice of Louise Lorette a French orchardist of the early 20th century.

Pruning your apple tree’s water sprouts and laterals in this manner can be a repetitious and fussy detailed task, but it really will not take long and will contribute significantly to your tree’s vigor and productivity.

My practice is to listen to National Public Radio on a portable radio while pursuing repetitious tasks like pruning or weeding. That way I can feel like both a conscientious gardener and an informed citizen.

Summer pruning of apple trees is distinctly different from winter pruning, which should focus on the tree’s structure and overall form. Summer pruning, by contrast, emphasizes the tree’s details, keeps sunlight flowing to the interior and supports fruit production

The time for structural pruning of an apple tree is late winter while the tree is dormant and leafless. Winter pruning can stimulate the growth of water sprouts, which are pruned in summer when the tree is not producing new growth. This practice results in less pruning down the line.

When the dormant season comes again, we’ll review the art of winter pruning. Now, during the summer months, pick up your clippers and snip away at those water sprouts.