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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Are you Into Food Storage and Buying Bulk?

From Elizabeth Kay at www.crazykranch.blogspot.com

k, guys, lots to say here, so here goes...

First - orders - our next REGULAR order is the fresh strawberries again in April.  From now until then is completely open, so I'm welcoming any ideas for items you need in your storage - it can be freeze-dried foods, freeze-dried meals, herbs/spices, grains, beans, etc., or we can look into bulk ordering for something bigger like a sun oven, pressure canners, wheat grinders, etc.  Or we can stock up on some medical supplies.  Really, you can throw anything out there that you're interested in, and I'll find out if it's worth it to do a bulk order with it or not.  

Meanwhile, I do still have some things from leftover orders so let me know if you are interested in any of the following:

Raw Honey from Wyoming - 1 gallon (around 12 pounds) - $30 each (I only have 2 left so hurry fast)

Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth - 50 pound bags - $50 each, 
                                                     5 gallon buckets - $23 each
                                                      or $2 a pound 

Metal Bung Wrenches for 55 gallon water barrels(will not break or warp from the heat) - $12 each
I Dare You to Eat It book - $8 each
Redmond Clay - 6 pounds (1 gallon bucket) - $50

and maybe some fresh free-range eggs from the farm while you're at it - and don't be surprised when they come in different shapes and colors - apparently that's what real eggs look like!  $3 a dozen.  :)

Also, zaycon foods is offering Alaskan salmon, cod, and white shrimp in bulk right now if you are interested -  https://secure.zayconfoods.com/refer/zf44690 

And food storage geek is doing an order for natural beef (by the cow), and for coconut oil(if you are interested in learning about the REAL benefits of coconut oil, let me know, and I'll do a post about it.  email me for more info on these orders...

I know I've been a bit sporadic regarding my blog, but I'm getting better - instead of having to look it up, you can sign up for updates, and that way it will be sent to your email whenever I update it.  My blog is www.crazykranch.blogspot.com.  

We've had some people ask us lately if we offer training for emergency preparedness/self-reliance representatives, and good news!  We do!  Let us know if you are having trouble getting started or need some ideas to get everyone thinking and excited instead of overwhelmed.  We'd be glad to help!

Is there any else I can do for you right now?  I will be starting a preparedness/reliance series on my blog soon, so stay tuned for this!  Hope everything is going well for everyone.  Hang in there, and remember - self reliance is the KEY to free agency...

Elizabeth Kay, Self-reliant Network

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How to Prune Tri-Color Hydrangea

Q. I have a tri-colored hydrangea bush in a pot in the front of my house.  When is the right time to cut it back and how do I do it?  After almost 20 years I finally got beautiful flowers on it last spring. After looking it up on the internet, I think I've been cutting it wrong.  I'd like your thoughts on this.

A. Wow. You are adventurous. Hydrangea is certainly not a desert plant. It does not like a lot of heat, low humidity or intense sunlight. It does like filtered light or early morning light and humidity. Just what people would tell you NOT to grow here. Go for it!
I didnt have a picture of this tricolor hydrangea
 so I "borrowed" it online from
so I hope they don't mind

            If you have evaporating water somewhere with no wind it should like the spot if it's not too sunny. It will also not like wind. You have to have a balance in the amount of light. Not enough light and the plant will not bloom. Too much light and it might cause leaf scorching, dieback or death.

            It is also interesting because in many hydrangea the flower color may change depending on soil acidity. It is assumed it is because of the availability of aluminum. If there is ever a plant that will test your ability as a gardener, this should be tops on the list. It is probably a wise decision to plant it in a container.

            Tricolor is referring to the color of the leaves, not the flowers. The leaves are supposed to be a combination of green, light green and creamy color. There has been mislabeling of this plant in the past. Whenever you see a tender plant with leaf colors like this it is nearly always one that you must keep out of direct sunlight during the heat.

            My understanding is that Oak leaf and tricolor are pruned the same way. My understanding is that tricolor blooms on older wood, not this past year’s wood. This means that when you prune you will want to keep your older wood established and remove any older wood that is getting too old or that may be crossing or too close to other productive stems.

            The idea is to maintain older wood and selectively removing wood that is too old while constantly renewing the older wood. This will also mean you will have to remove excess new growth that makes the plant too dense and thick while, at the same time, keeping new growth that you want to preserve for future flowers. Not an easy task and certainly one that is difficult to explain. I hope this helps.

Lining Raised Bed Garden to Prevent Salt Deposits

Q. My wife and I are building a raised garden for vegetables.  It will be about 6' x 9' and just under 3' deep and will be made of landscape bricks. What type of liner would be best along the inner walls to avoid weeping of irrigation on the stones? What type of soil can I have delivered to our site that is best for this purpose?
Raised vegetable and herb beds at The Orchard
No walls are used. The natural slop of the
bed is used to contain the raised bed.

A. Congratulations on your move toward vegetable gardening in raised beds. I think your best alternative for lining your raised bed would be to use rubberized pond liners. They can be purchased in 5 foot wide strips and in various lengths. These should be puncture resistant.

            I would recommend getting a heavy-duty liner perhaps around 45 mil, not the 20 mil types. You can find sources on the Internet by searching for pond liners. It would be nice if it were also UV resistant.

            Make sure that you have drainage on the bottom of your raised bed so it should stick up slightly above your soil level and it should also be wider than your wall so that a few inches of it also lies on the ground. These should last at least 10 years or more.

            These liners will not add the toxicity to your soil that you might get by painting the inside walls with sealant. Make sure the strips overlap each other when the inside walls.

I am not recommending this company but here is an example of the kind of pond liner I am talking about.

            In my opinion there is not a decent soil “manufactured” in the valley that can be used for vegetable growing and see fabulous results from it the first year. These types of soils that will give you fabulous results can be developed over time, usually two to three years of growing plants and adding compost at planting time and water. This does not mean you will not be able to grow any vegetables, it just means you will see a gradual improvement in the quality of the vegetables over time combined with your efforts.

            Whatever you do, do not use reject sand or even add it to an existing soil. This would be a big risk if you use it and just might result in a soil that will not grow anything decently. If it were me, I would use an existing soil at the site, or if purchased, a soil that drains freely.

            Amend it with compost in a mixture of at least 50/50 of compost. Good compost is hard to find and it takes a lot of time and effort to make it. So it will not be cheap! When evaluating whether you have good compost or not, use all of your senses; look at it, smell it and feel it. It should be dark brown, smell like a forest floor with no off smells like ammonia or manure and a fine texture, not coarse.

            Even using the best compost will not give you fabulous vegetables or herbs the first year. It will take about three years for any desert soil, or one manufactured from desert soils, to reach its full potential for vegetable production. Be patient.

            You should screen the soil and remove rocks that are larger than a golf ball sized. If you are growing root crops and asparagus then you should remove the rocks even smaller than that to a depth of 12 inches. Amend it heavily with compost for the next 2 to 3 seasons at each planting and grow something the best you can. Even the first year your vegetables will be better than what you can get at the store but in two to three years you can have superb vegetables in our desert climate and desert soils.

When to Plant Fruit Trees

Q. When is a good time to plant fruit trees?

A. We normally plant fruit trees starting at the end of January and through February if they are bareroot. Bareroot are plants that are bought and planted without any soil around the roots. The roots must be well protected from drying out during shipment, while being held before planting and even as it is placed into the planting hole.
            Container fruit trees can be planted well into early summer. They can struggle a lot if planted during the summer heat so it is not a good idea to do it then but it can be done. The next best time to plant container plants or even bare root is in the fall. Actually it is better than the spring but harder to find plants that you want because availability is limited.
            Make sure your hole is dug prior to bringing the plant home and deep enough to accommodate the plant roots. It is more important to dig the hole wide than it is to dig it deep.

How to Plant Fruit Trees

Dig the hole wide and as deep as the roots
Critical Success Factors
·         Keep tree roots moist
·         Make sure the bud union is ABOVE ground after planting
·         Stake the plant to prevent root movement in the soil after planting
·         Protect from rabbits and damaging sunlight

Planting New Trees. If you are buying new fruit trees to plant, dig the hole much wider than deep. Dig it deep enough to accommodate the new tree’s roots. As a general rule, we try to dig our planting holes at the Orchard about 3 feet wide for bare root trees.

            Take the soil out of the hole and mix it 50/50 with a good organic compost or high quality soil amendment. We make our own compost at The Orchard.  It is important to get the plant’s roots covered and watered as soon as possible after taking it out of the container so have the hole predug before you bring the tree home.

Add soil amendments like compost to the soil
taken from the hole and remove large rocks
Begin collapsing the sides of the planting hole around the rootball making a slurry surrounding the rootball. It is important that dry soil not come in direct contact with plant roots.

Add the amended soil from the hole back into the planting hole as you continue to collapse the sides of the hole as well.

Add more water making a very wet mud  or slurry to surround the rootball and get rid of air pockets. Round out the hole around the rootball so that the collapsed sides act as a basin for holding water around the newly planted tree.
Add water to the hole as you add the amended soil back
around the fruit tree.
Make a slurry to remove air pockets.

Remove the tree from the container (if there is one) and plant in the slurry. If there is no container (bare root), then plant directly into the soil keeping the bud union above ground. Fill the basin with water and allow the water to settle the soil in the basin.

Tie the tree tightly to a stake driven into
solid ground at the bottom of the hole
Stake the tree to immobilize the roots, not the top of the tree. Drive the stake through the rootball, or next to it if it is a large stake, and into the solid soil beneath the rootball at the bottom of the hole. Tie the tree to the stake as low on the tree as you can which will keep the rootball from moving. We use green nursery tape to do this. It stretches as the tree grows. The stake is removed in the fall of the same year as it was planted. No longer. A tree should not need it beyond this. If it does, the tree was improperly planted or rootbound in the container.
One inch hexagonal chicken wire, 24 inches
wide, is cut into a three foot length to make
a protective cylinder around the young tree

The hole is filled with water three times after it has been planted to help remove air pockets. Once planted the tree is handwatered once a week in combination with the normal irrigations to make sure the soil in the planting hole and the undisturbed soil surrounding the planting hole are wet.
Whitewash the new tree and put rabbit protection (chicken wire) around the new planting, securing it to the stake. Whitewash is made from white or any light colored latex paint by adding an equal amount of water and mixing.

Wood mulch is added to the soil surface around the tree but outside of the rabbit protection to keep moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, add organics back to our desert soil, contribute to soil mircroorganism and worm activity, help keep soil cooler and many other reason. The rabbit protection helps keep the mulch away from the trunk of young trees which might contribute to "collar rot" a rotting of the thin bark of young trees due to some disease organisms present in most soils.

The chicken wire is removed in about four years when rabbits are no longer a threat to larger trees. The mulch is then allowed to come in contact with the trunk as the trunk has matured and more resistant to collar rot organisms.

Selection of Fruit Trees

Arrival of 20 bare root fruit trees from Dave Wilson Nursery
in 2009.
You can purchase fruit trees growing in containers as well as bare root (no soils surrounding the roots). In southern Nevada, bare root fruit trees are not available through retail outlets. However, bareroot trees can be purchased mail-order or online and we do purchase bareroot trees for sale and distribution at the orchard. Orders are normally taken in September for a January delivery. Containerized fruit trees usually survive better for inexperienced gardeners but bareroot trees have many more advantages. These advantages include faster establishment after planting and fewer problems with developing roots among other advantages.

Containerized fruit trees. A major problem with containerized fruit trees are with its roots. Frequently containerized plants are overgrown in their containers leading to roots that are circling and deformed in the container. There is very little you can do to these plants to reestablish a well developed root system and should be avoided.

Fruit trees growing in smaller containers will always establish faster in the landscape after planting than plants in larger containers. For most fruit trees, container size has little to do with when they come into production.
Containerized fruit tree
It is best to select containerized plants that are in proportion, or even somewhat undersized, for the container but still exhibit strong, healthy growth. Some nurseries in southern Nevadawill allow you to inspect the root system before purchasing. If this is the case, gently turn over the container and remove the tree upside down and quickly examine the roots. The small feeder roots should be creamy white and prolific with little evidence of circling roots on the edge of the root ball.
 Container fruit trees should not be transported unprotected in the back of a vehicle. Wind damage due to a moving vehicle can be severe. As soon as the tree is brought home, water it and put it on the shady side of the building, out of direct sunlight on the container, until ready to plant. Plant as soon as possible. It is highly recommended that you dig the planting hole, amend the soil and have everything ready to finish the planting (stakes, rabbit protection, whitewash, mulch) before you bring the tree home!

Bare root fruit trees. Bare root fruit trees can easily be located on the Internet by searching with the name of the type and variety of the fruit tree and the words “online”, “nursery” and the state where you would like to purchase from. As an example, if I were looking for a Pink Lady apple from an online nursery, I would search the internet with the words, “apple” “Pink Lady” “online” “nursery” and either Nevadaor a neighboring state where fruit tree selection is available online. Check with The Orchard and see if we have any leftover fruit trees from our fall order/spring delivery. They do go fast. 

Bare root fruit trees are usually a better choice than those growing in containers. Planting holes should be prepared well in advance of the arrival of bare root fruit trees. When bare root fruit trees arrive, they should be unpackaged immediately and placed into clean, fresh, cool water and allowed to soak for several hours prior to planting. The container holding the water should be sanitized and triple rinsed with freshwater prior to filling it. Tree roots should be totally submerged. If the trees are to be kept overnight, place them and the bucket in a cool, shady location. Bare root fruit trees should not be kept in standing water for more than 24 hours. Keep fruit tree roots wet until ready to plant.

Tree selection. Important things to look for when selecting a fruit tree include a variety known to do well in our climate, appropriate amount of chilling hours, and a suitable rootstock.

 Varieties of fruit trees are evaluated at the UNCE research and demonstration Orchard in North Las Vegas and located at UNLV’s Center for Urban Horticulture and Water Conservation. You can also contact me at Extremehort@aol.com for suggestions or search for our recommended varieties here on my blog. Many fruit trees do quite well in southern Nevada. Fruit tree selection is limited more by elevation and winter minimum temperatures.

Bare root fruit tree
with dogleg at the
union of the rootstock
and the desired variety
Chilling hours refers to the number of hours below a threshold temperature which accumulate during the winter season. Fruit trees that originate from temperate climates use winter chilling hours to judge when spring has arrived. In the Las Vegas Valley we would consider 300 to 400 hours to be are chilling requirement for fruit trees. Although some fruit trees which require more hours than this will grow and often times produce fruit, there are risks involved when selecting fruit trees that require more hours than that. However, we do grow fruit trees at the orchard with a much higher number of chilling hours than we receive with no obvious concerns for the homeowner or small scale grower that we have been able to note so far.

Many fruit trees are growing on root systems that are not their own. This is done through techniques such as grafting and budding. Rootstocks can be important for controlling diseases, insects and the growth habit of a tree. For example, rootstocks for apple's are usually selected for controlling its mature height and are referred to as dwarfing rootstocks. If plant size is a consideration for an apple, then a dwarfing rootstock is a necessity. Dwarfing rootstocks are usually not a consideration for stone fruits. Rootstocks are usually selected for disease control. Most commercial rootstocks for stone fruits have performed well in southern Nevada.