Saturday, April 28, 2018

Waiting for the Heat

Over the course of the winter I have been building up my compost around my orange tree and I have been feeding a family of bluebirds from my food waste compost bin. The compost is filled with worms and other critters that are quickly breaking down the leaves and other refuse into dark nutrient-rich soil. The extended cool season has been very good for my onions, garlic and fava beans. Additionally, the tomato plants don’t seem to mind the cooler weather too much.

Leaves and other plant material turning into healthy soil

Fava Beans affected by the wind.

Fava bean pods

Although I moved to Northern California to escape the heat, I am really missing how well my carosello do with the heat of Southern Arizona. Being used to starting my first crop at the beginning of March, it is difficult to hear that I will probably have to wait to start in May until I can figure out how to raise the temperature of my garden. I thought I had already learned patience when waiting all winter to put my plants into the ground!

An earlier attempt to start my carosello plants

My most recent attempt to start my carosello plants

I have had a lot of difficulty with my summer crops so far – except for the tomatoes. The only place where my carosello are doing well now is the one place that I don’t have a good watering system – in my greenhouse. I am considering my options for watering my greenhouse plants – though I would prefer to do something that did not involve having the greenhouse plants watered by the same soaker hoses as the outdoor plants.

In the greenhouse the carosello are doing quite well.

The Carosello in my greenhouse

Another carosello in the greenhouse

Monday, April 9, 2018

Tomatoes don’t belong in my Garden

Given the fact that tomatoes are incredibly easy to grow in Fairfield, when compared with many other places in the world, one would probably think that I would be crazy to say this, but I’m not growing tomatoes in my garden anymore. Don’t get me wrong – I love tomatoes. As anyone in my family would tell you, I can hardly get by a day without them. However, after having experienced a host of tomato diseases in the past and experiencing the depredation of the garden soil that was caused by growing tomatoes last summer, I finally decided not to grow tomatoes in my garden anymore.

Finally - Celebrity Tomato Starts! (=

The compost that I made was good - but filled with plant-devouring woodlice.

After solarizing the compost, I planted some tomatoes and carrots.

This does not mean that I will stop growing tomatoes this year though. I am planning on growing out some vigorous determinate Celebrity and Rosella Purple Dwarf in a small plot I recently dug and in a wine barrel. Hopefully, the plantings will do well. This way, I can keep the soil in these plots contained and grow out some winter green manure crops between tomato plantings.

Measuring out the hole for the new tomato plot.

Now all I need are some soaker hoses and tomato cages.


Saturday, April 7, 2018

Why I Love False Starts

In the Spring and Winter the gardener often experiences something that is referred to as a “false start”. A false start is a period of time (usually three or more days) in which it seems that the temperature has changed from freezing/cool temperatures to warm/hot temperatures prior to the summer or from warm/hot temperatures to freezing/cool temperatures prior to the winter. What makes the temperature change a false start is that it is only temporary, and quickly changes back to the prior cycle soon after the false start.

March 2018 Temperatures for Fairfield, CA

April 2018 Temperatures for Fairfield, CA

In the example pictured above, the temperature in March and April in Fairfield California is listed in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. The red line represents the high and low temperatures.The main thing that summer gardeners are concerned about is the freezing point. From March 28th to April 4th, it looked as if winter temperatures were over. Then, on April 5th, the daytime temperatures began to dip  to 50 degrees F and will most likely not get back up the the near 80 degree mark for some time. A combination of low day and night temperatures after a warm spell in the spring is something that would cause grief for the farmer and gardener alike. However, if the false start is noted, it can often work towards a gardener’s advantage. 

False starts are great, because they allow the gardener to get a “practice run” in before the season really begins. If minor mistakes are made and observed, it can often be more helpful when the gardener has time to make adjustments beforehand. With the few weeks of added time, the gardener is able to better plan for the next season’s needs. I additionally use the first false start as a motivator. “Gee whiz – it is getting hot. I guess I really need to get my last season’s crop out and get everything ready.”

This chard (silverbeet) is beginning to bolt from the premature high temperatures

With modern day conveniences, it can often be difficult to take a step back. But that is what a garden teaches me to do. Yes, a gardener may think that initial warm spell means summer - only to be caught off-guard by overnight freezing temperatures. Though initially frustrating, as I have allowed nature to tutor me, occasional delays such as false starts have become my friend.

Succulent and other plant Trade Event

Here in Fairfield, the main entity for gardening events is the University of California, Davis chapter of Master Gardeners. The venue is quite different from the Tucson Organic Gardeners, but it is still pretty good.

Gardeners looking over succulent exchange

The front desk at Fairfield's UC Master Gardener's Extension office

Another counter at the UC Master Gardener's Extension office

My son and I went over to take a couple Taxi tomato starts and a pot with perennial kale and lemongrass to the event. We came back with a little spearmint plant. Altogether the event was alright, but I really wish that the Solano County Library had a seed exchange like they do in Tucson.

My son with his peppermint plant