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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Should We Keep Politics Out Of Gardening?

I'm not so much asking a question as telling one of my solutions. My garden is along an East facing concrete block wall and though shaded in the afternoon there is still considerable heat coming off it during the summer.  

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Two years ago I stopped someone picking up election signs and asked if I could have some.  They said yes and I got enough to do most of my garden.  Through procrastination and adult life I didn't manage to get them onto the wall until late June.  My tomatoes were growing OK but they were leaning away from the wall and you could really feel the heat when close to the wall.  I mounted the signs on the wall to kinda insulate it from the sun in the hopes of reducing that reflected heat. 

It worked really well as within two weeks the difference was noticeable.  The plants had started growing more upright and appeared to take on a new life.  This year I got some more and expanded the coverage to the entire garden.  Took less than two hours and I'm hoping it helps to grow a bumper crop of tomatoes.

Pictures attached hopefully.  You can use all of this if desired but please, no name or e-mail address.  Thanks.

Now if I could just figure out what's wrong with my peach tree I'd be set.

Seed Exchange and Music in 29 Palms March 1

I hope all of you in the 29 Palms area will help support this event! It sounds like lots of fun and a great way to get some local seeds that have a proven history of success.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Prune Grapes to Improve Production

Our climate in the Mojave desert can damage grapes during the cold winter months. This winter was warmer than usual and the two times it dropped into freezing weather this winter was when plants were deeply in their winter slumber.

That's good. Freezing weather occurring early in the fall or late spring is typically more damaging than the same freezing weather in midwinter.

For small-scale producers and backyard gardeners I like to tell them to prune their grapes last. Wait until the most brutal part of the winter is over and then prune. The reason for this is simple. When we prune grapes we typically remove everything on the plant that is not necessary. When we are finished pruning we leave behind very short Spurs or longer canes depending on the variety of grape.

Regardless, for good production we need everything that we have left after pruning to be alive. Temperatures in the Mojave desert can drop to temperatures that can damage grapes. If we prune grapes too early and this is followed by very cold temperatures, we can lose some and possibly most of our production because of the death of these spurs or canes due to cold.

Here are some tips on pruning table and wine grapes:

1. When you prune grapes and the temperatures are warm, grapes will bleed. That is, you will see water coming from the cuts. This is normal. This is water being pumped up the vine by its roots in preparation for spring growth. They may continue to weep like this until growth starts and the leaves suck this water away from the cuts and the cuts have a chance to heal.

2. Identify all of the growth that occurred last year. This will be a different color than the older growth or it just will not look as old. Once you have identified last year's growth, you can cut all of them back so that the new growth is about 18 to 24 inches long. These long canes are where your grapes are going to be produced.

3. Space these long canes which will produce grapes about 12 inches apart. You want to do this for table grapes because this will encourage the berries to become larger. You want to do this two wine grapes because you want to concentrate the flavors developed by the plant into fewer berries. Choose healthy and vigorous canes to be your producing canes. Identify any canes that are between your producing canes. You can either remove these or them back and remove all of last year's growth. If you remove a cane, you will remove the fruit.

Grape pruning progression for spur pruned grapes. Cane pruned grapes are just
longer spurs.
4. The remaining canes will be cut back to about an inch long (spur pruned) or about 12 inches long (cane pruned). If you want to get technical, identify the buds on the canes. When spur pruning, leave only one to two buds remaining. When cane pruning there should be 10 to 12 buds remaining.

5. If you have Thompson seedless grapes, or Black Monnuka do not spur prune them. These should be cane pruned. Make sure you have 8 to 10 buds present on the cane when you're finished cutting.Most other table grapes are spur pruned. Most wine grapes for our climate are also spur pruned.

Here are some previous posts on my blog concerning pruning grapes.

How to Control Whiteflies on Tomato This Summer

Whiteflies on the bottom of pomegranate leaf
Q. I am new to gardening in the desert and am surprised at my success thus far!  That is, until the white flies came.  They showed up on the grapes and zucchini first, maybe in May or June.  Unfortunately, I didn't think they would become a problem. By August they had attacked everything! I pulled broccoli plants and found I needed a mask to keep from inhaling them! What can I do this season?

A. Whiteflies are a very tough to control once they get established in the numbers you are talking about. They are much easier to control if you’re diligent about controlling them when you first see them.

Females lay a couple hundred eggs at a time and these become adults that can lay more eggs in about six weeks. This means you can have exponential growth in their numbers if they are left undisturbed in six weeks.

Whiteflies, like so many garden pests, do not show themselves but remain hidden. Unless you stoop over and turn over leaves and look at their undersides, you will not know they are there until you see their telltale signs of plant damage. Signs of damage are yellowing and scorching of older leaves, sticky residue on upper leaf surfaces of lower leaves and ants.
Bottom leaves of sunflower yellowing and scorching due to past problems on the bottom side of the leaves.
Photo courtesy Viragrow.

Ants love the sticky residue that whiteflies and aphids produce. Ants climbing on plants in the garden or on fruit trees is a very good sign you have a developing pest problem.

Backpack sprayer suitable for vegetable and Orchard spraying
If you buy transplants to put the garden, spray the undersides of the leaves and the stems with insecticidal soap, neem horticultural oil. Once the transplants have been placed in the garden and they have grown a little bit, remove the bottom leaves of transplants that are within a couple inches of the soil.

These bottom leaves are perfect hiding and living quarters for many of the problem insects. They are so close to the soil surface they can’t be sprayed effectively.

Stay away from conventional garden insecticides unless this past really gets out of control. Whiteflies are resistant to many conventional pesticides and these traditional pesticides can knock out whitefly predators that help keep them under control.

Get yourself a decent compressed air garden sprayer such as Solo or Chapin and use soap and oil sprays in rotation with each other. Early in the season when it is still cool, check the undersides of the leaves and look for critters.

Weekly applications are probably enough during cool weather. When it starts to get warm, inspect the bottom sides of the leaves and spray twice a week. Make sure you spray the undersides of the leaves. That’s where these critters are!

Control ants that are getting into the garden. They are buddy buddy with aphids and whiteflies. Ants come from a nest in the ground. Follow their entourage back to the hole in the ground and treat around the hole with a bait that they can carry back to the nest. These are the most effective for ant control.

If you see bottom leaves that are starting to get yellow, pinch or clip them off. If they started to turn yellow they are contributing to the plant anymore. Look at the underside. There are probably critters feeding away. Removing these leaves, removes pest problems.

Fertilize More Often For High-Quality Roses

Q. I'd like to continue fertilizing my rose bushes right through the spring since the past year's bloom was not too impressive. Is there any advantage or harm with that strategy?

A. High quality roses are typically fertilized about every 6 to 8 weeks through the winter, spring and early summer in our climate. Fertilizer applications are usually stopped during the summer months when flowering is the worst and resumes about a week before good flowering resumes.
SulPoMag conttains magnesium and can
be substituted for epsom salts
Fertilizer applications are made to support healthy, vigorous growth and flower production. The timing of these applications varies with the type of rose and variety as well as the microclimate.
Generally speaking, roses perform very well in our climate for about 8 to 9 months of the year. Microclimates that are warm and protected in the winter may support the flowering of roses through the entire winter. In these microclimates you would fertilize all winter long.
In cooler microclimates you may see an interruption in flowering during the winter but have a longer flowering period in spring and fall. Fertilizer applications would support roses during their flowering periods.

If you are fertilizing roses more often, then use smaller amounts of fertilizer or use fertilizers that release nitrogen more slowly. Make sure that your roses receive an annual application of iron that is applied just prior to new growth.

Many rosarians like to apply Epsom salts as part of their fertilizer regime for the magnesium contained in it. Other fertilizers like SulPoMag and some palm fertilizers also contain magnesium and may be an appropriate substitute.