Archive for January, 2012


February 2012 Events in Sunny California

January 30, 2012

As of Wednesday, the month of January will be history! There’s no looking back, just forward  . . . to grand days and wonderful opportunities. You’ll find a few of the latter under “Events” on the sidebar.

Now, go out and have some fun in and around your garden and community.


Garden Tips Hints and Cool Things

January 27, 2012

A Cool Thing:

Celebrated people often have the honor of being named after a street, park, building, rose, and even an insect—that’s right an insect. Who had this honor? Pop singer Beyoncé.

The horse fly, Scaptia (Plinthina) beyonceae, was part of a collection of unnamed flies captured in 1981, Beyoncé’s birth year. However, the main reason for naming the horse fly after Beyoncé was for its desirable golden lower abdomen.

Whom can Beyoncé thank for this honor?  Twenty-four-year-old researcher Bryan Lessard at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

Perhaps, in this case, the fly received the honor. Either way, horse flies are pollinators of native plants in Australia and all over the world. So, don’t swat horse flies! You might kill one of our most valuable and desirable creatures, Beyoncé.


It was a Good Day

January 26, 2012

Born in America

on January 24, 2012,

at the close of a beautiful sunset.

Note:  It took all day to get into my blog to post this. My poor old computer is tired again, so if there’s no post on Friday that’s why.


What Happened to the Rake?

January 24, 2012 Registered & Protected

By Bernadine Chapman-Cruz

Last week, when my newspaper landed on the roof, I searched the tool shed for a rake. I rummaged through shovels, hoes and push brooms, but nary a rake was to be found. In desperation, I grabbed a power washer wand to retrieve my Sunday paper.

I need a rake, I thought. But rather than making a trip to the garden center, I decided to look online.

Googling ‘rake’, I found: (noun) rake – a pronged instrument used to gather material such as leaves or (verb) loosening and smoothing ground surfaces.

Scrolling down, I was amazed at dozens of listings for rakes. I clicked on some hits and quickly realized that rakes had become specialized, designed for a specific task, and it seemed one rake did not infringe on another rake’s territory. I checked more rake options.

• Hand Rake – a small version of a rake used to work the soil or clear areas of debris

• Thatch Rake – lawn grooming tool to remove thatch or moss

• Lake Rake – used to skim the surface of a small body of water, i.e. lake, pool or pond of algae or vegetation

• Landscape Rake – effective in spreading and smoothing mulch, dirt, sand, gravel or small pebbles

• Standard Leaf Rake – for pulling leaves toward the user or lifting garden debris into trash container

• Garden Rake – to break up and pulverize dirt clods, featuring sharp curved teeth and straight-backed tines

• Clog-Free Leaf Rake – comprised of special tines on a uniquely designed head that prevents leaf clog

• Adjustable Leaf Rake – telescopes down to minimal size for easy storage

• Rock Rake – extracts rocks from soil

• Pet Poop Rake – a combination rake and scooper for pet waste

Overwhelmed in my search for a simple old-fashioned rake, I perked up when my cursor stopped on The Amazing Rake described as ergonomically designed to avoid the user’s need to bend or stoop. I was delighted.

But before I clicked the Add to Cart button, I hesitated. If I continued searching, I might find the Perfect Rake – a rake that rakes independently while you sit in a chair drinking a cup of coffee.

Copyright 2012  Bernadine Chapman-Cruz   


Tips Hints and Cool Things

January 20, 2012


Water Temperature:  Houseplants prefer water that isn’t too hot or cold and de-chlorinated. De-chlorinate water by filling a watering vessel the night before. The chlorine will evaporate overnight.

Bamboo splitters:  A medical professional should always remove bamboo splitters as bamboo has barbs that break off under the skin.

Cool Thing: 

Researchers found that the speed at which protein renewal in plants takes place dictates how quickly plants can adapt to environmental changes, such as a sudden frost or drought. Therefore, scientists could develop crops that can handle sudden weather changes. Journal of Proteome Research.

A personal note:  Finally, it’s raining in my neck of the woods! I removed the frost cloths, turned off the timers to the drip lines and lawn, covered the firewood, and put out the drain gutters. I hope you remembered to do the same. Have a wonderful weekend.

P.S.:  I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done. — Steven Wright


Lemon Tree Facts and Growing Tips

January 18, 2012

Scientific Name:  Citrus limon

Description:  A sour fruited citrus used in fish, salad, cooking, juices, baking, desserts, drinks, and as a cleaning agent.

History:  The origin of the lemon tree is unknown but many believe it came from northwestern India and was introduced in southern Italy in 200 A.D. then in California around 1751. Heavy cultivation did not begin in the U.S. until 1870. Lemon trees are widely grown all over the world and grow in abundance in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mexico, and West Indies.

Nutritional Value:

Serving Size: 1 cup raw lemon sections, without peel (212g):

Amount Per Serving

  • Calories 61
  • Calories from Fat 0
  • Total Fat 0
  • Cholesterol 0mg
  • Sodium 4mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 20g
  • Dietary Fiber 6g
  • Sugars 5g
  • Protein 2g
  • Vitamin A 1%
  • Vitamin C 187%
  • Calcium 6%
  • Iron 7%

Planting Tips:  Lemon trees can usually be planted any time of the year. However, it is best to plant according to your zone’s best timetable. Generally, early spring is best, as it will allow the root system to get established and acclimated before frost danger.

Harvest Tips: Available year-round (lemon is widely grown all over the world), with supplies peaking from April to July. In California’s Central Valley, where I live, harvest time is February to July. Unripe lemons are green. When matured, the color changes to yellow.

Recommended Varieties:

Eureka:  True North American-grown lemon trees. Medium size (10-20 feet), few thorns, everbearing but short-lived.

Lisbon:  True lemon tree grown in North America. Tall (30 feet), most productive, thorny.

Dorshapo:   True lemon tree that grows in Brazil and other Latin American countries. It produces a sweet, low-acid lemon, and it’s growing habit resembles the Eureka’s with a large open canopy.

Improved Meyer:  Not a true lemon tree. This hybrid is rounder and orange-colored. Small, ideal for containers, makes an excellent hedge, few thorns, no pruning needed.

Variegated Pink:  Eight feet, good container plant.

Check with your local nursery professional for the best varieties (these and others) for your zone, landscape, and care needs.


Seed Jargon

January 16, 2012

New to growing seeds? Here are definitions for words you may read on seed packets or in catalogs:

  • Sow:  To scatter or to place seeds in a systematic matter in the soil or in seed starting cells for germination.
  • Seed starting cell, 6-pack, or plug tray:  Reusable plastic tray containing individual cells for starting seeds. Tray can contain a pack of six to 200 cells.
  • Fiber Pots, peat pots:  Starter pots made of biodegradable matter. Both pot and seedling are transplanted directly into the soil without disturbing the root system. Eliminates plant shock.
  • Soilless Mix or Seed Starter: A soilless blend, with fewer disease-free problems, that provides aeration, drainage, water retention, and holds nutrients. Often contains perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss. Soilless mix does not contain natural soil.
  • Seed master, seed sower, mini seeder, or dial seed sower:  A small hand tool used to control the flow and number of seeds sown at whatever spacing is required. Saves seeds and thinning time.
  • Germinate:  When a seed starts to sprout above the soil.
  • Seedling:  A young developing plant grown from a seed.
  • Thin or Thinning:  The removal of crowded seedlings in cells or ground for proper air circulation, light, and growing space for full development of the remaining seedlings.
  • Hardening-off:  To gradually toughen plants for new environment prior to transplanting into the garden. This is done over several days, increasing the time outside each day. Usually done when taking seedlings or transplants home from the nursery, out of the greenhouse, or moving them outside to a cold frame or protected area.
  • Transplant:  To plant a seedling (or mature plant) from one place to another, i.e., from cell to pot or soil, or from soil to pot.
  • Zone:  Regions in which particular plants grow well according to climatic and growing seasons.

Note: For help with catalog seed ordering read, Shopping for Seeds via Catalogs: Part I.


Tips Hints and Cool Things

January 14, 2012


Divide daylily, Shasta daisy, chrysanthemum and other perennials.

Since it hasn’t rained, be sure to check your outdoor potted plants and gardens. Moist soil helps protect plants on frosty mornings.

Cool Thing

World’s smallest frogs belonging to the genus Paedophryne was found in southeastern New Guinea. These species are extremely small, with adults of the two new species — named Paedophryne dekot and Paedophryne verrucosa — only 8-9 mm in length. The members of this genus have reduced digit sizes that would not allow them to climb well; all inhabit leaf litter, and their reduced digits may be a corollary of a reduced body size required for inhabiting leaf litter and moss. Habitation in leaf litter and moss is common in miniaturized frogs and may reflect their exploitation of novel food sources in that habitat. The frogs’ small body sizes have also reduced the egg complements that females carry to only two, although it is not yet known whether both eggs are laid simultaneously or at staged intervals.

Note:  Sorry this is late folks. I had problems getting into my blog again.

Thank you everybody for your kind words regarding Miss Boo Boo and my young hens. Have a wonderful weekend.


Missing Miss Boo Boo

January 11, 2012

On December 30, after I got home from tending errands in town, Ralphie and I went into the backyard to play ball. It was then that I noticed my pet turkey, Miss Boo Boo, lying oddly still in the chicken pasture. When I opened the gate, only one hen greeted me. I ignored the absence of thirteen other clucking hens at the gate and rushed over to Miss Boo Boo. She was belly up. Dead.

A foot away lay a gathering of small feathers. I walked the large pasture, suspicious that coyotes had been here, dreading each step that I took. Sure enough, there were seven different feather clusters and one body—all young layers. Four of the older hens were inside the coop, one was wandering around, and another hen was hiding behind the running pen beneath the eucalyptus foliage. She had a scuffed back, yet she laid an egg the next day. There hasn’t been an egg in the henhouse since. At three years old, hens produce only occasionally.

Miss Boo Boo didn’t have a mark on her. She must have fallen while trying to escape the violent massacre and suffocated from the weight of her large chest, or simply died of terror. I miss her most of all. She followed me around the pasture like a puppy. When I made a certain sound, she would fluff up her white feathers and mimic my call. She honked a friendly hello when she heard me working on the other side of the hedge in the perennial garden. Always wanting to be at my side, before she was heavy and slow, Miss Boo Boo followed me from inside the pasture fence as I walked along the driveway.

Two weeks have passed and I still miss the two Black Australorp beauties, the three fast-running Buttercups, and their amble egg supply. I miss the friendly cooing of two cute little Silkie Bantams—they were adorable. I miss the loud squawks after laying an egg, and the cackling, clucking of young hens.

Mostly, I miss the sociable fondness of a three-year-old turkey named Miss Boo Boo.


Backyard Fruit Trees: The Hardest Pruning Cut You Will Ever Have to Make

January 9, 2012 Registered & Protected

By Ann Ralph

Commercial-size deciduous fruit trees are a difficult backyard proposition. They take too much space. They’re hard to maintain. Much of the fruit produced on these trees will ripen out of reach. People buy “semi-dwarf” fruit trees because they want small trees but, without pruning, most trees classified as “semi-dwarf” grow to be twice as tall as the average person.

Don’t count on rootstock to control the size of a fruit tree. Fruit trees absolutely require regular pruning to keep them in line. At best, an untrained fruit tree will be an eyesore. At worst, trees grow rapidly to unmanageable sizes and set fruit in quantities that defeat both the tree and the gardener.

That being said, it’s easy to keep fruit trees small.

Hudson's Golden Gem apple, first year

Prune a newly planted sapling to knee-high when it first goes in the ground, a radical cut by any standard. By far, this is the most important and difficult pruning cut you will ever have to make, but it almost guarantees fruit tree success, whether you want to keep your tree at six feet or let it grow taller. This pruning cut is critical, not just for size control and aesthetics, but for the ultimate fruit supporting structure of the tree—the scaffold limbs that develop from the buds below the cut.

The final height of a fruit tree is up to the pruner. A good height for a fruit tree is as tall as you can reach. Routine summer pruning makes it a simple matter to scale fruit trees down. This time of year, in the dormant season, remove only what Portland pruner, John Iott, calls “the dead, the diseased, and the disoriented.” If you want to keep your tree short, leave tall upright whips in place for the time being, and head them back near the Summer Solstice. As a rule, prune young trees lightly and older trees more aggressively.

For more information about rootstocks, training, and summer pruning, visit the Dave Wilson Nursery and UC Davis Home Orchard websites. Local Master Gardeners offer excellent seasonal pruning seminars.  © Ann Ralph

Ann Ralph’s pruning book The Little Fruit Tree will be available from Storey Publishing in 2013. Contact her by way of

Hudson's Golden Gem apple, second year

%d bloggers like this: