Sunday, January 9, 2011

Getting ready to garden

The grandkids and I were each given a $25 Target gift card as gifts.  They wanted to go spend theirs today so after Sunday School we headed to the store.  They each got a pair of shoes and a couple of tops.  Girl needed socks but she went over her $25 so some of mine went to cover her bill.  After all, they needed shoes but wanted to buy them themselves.  I bought a gallon of milk and a bag of planting mix and a small aloe vera plant.

Another granddaughter was with us today...the whiner.  She had a little scratch on her leg.  You would have thought she was dying.  After I bought the plant I broke off a little piece and rubbed the gel on her leg.  That got her to be quiet.  So did my telling her that I didn't want to hear her screaming unless she was dying and since I didn't see any blood gushing out of her leg she'd better knock it off. 

It's about time to get the garden started.  While I was at the store I was looking at all the cool stuff in the garden department (although not quite as much fun as going to Armstrong Nursery the day before).   I looked at where the stuff was manufactured.  Mostly China.  Didn't buy anything in the gardening section other than the planting mix. 

I did notice that they had premixed Roundup.  1/2 gallon for about $5.  Lately I've been buying Buckeneer, which is the same stuff only costs less.  I also don't buy it with a surfactant (just squirt some liquid dishsoap into the sprayer).  I just bought 2 1/2 gallons of the 41% concentrate for $55.  That will make 160 gallons using 2 ounces per gallon of water, which is the way I usually mix it.  Let's see.  Thirty four CENTS per gallon if I mix it myself or ten DOLLARS per gallon already mixed. 

After we got home I went out to the barn and got my planting pots and shelf unit and brought it up to the back patio.  Tomorrow the kids go back to school so I'll be starting work early and will be able to have time at the end of the day to put the shelf unit together and get it covered with the plastic.  I don't think I'm going to plant the seeds yet.  I'll wait another month.  It's still foggy and cold around here but I may as well get part of it ready. 

I'm looking forward to this coming weekend.  It's a three day weekend here in California and I've got tons of work to do in the garden.  Not having been home for the last three weekends has really gotten me behind on my work.  I need to get the trees all pruned.  It takes about an hour per tree and I've got about 15 that need heavy pruning.  One of the things I've done is watch the local fruit farmers pruning methods.  It's so different than the way you learn in a book or even on the internet.  We are always taught to have the trunk come up to at least waist high, sometimes even shoulder high.  Most of the fruit trees in my area branch out around a foot off the ground.  They have five or six branches coming off this spot in all different directions.  Others come up two feet.  Very few of the farm trees look the way most people grow their trees. 

When the trees start getting older the farmers will revise the tree.  They will cut off all the branches but one.  Then the next spring a bunch of new branches grow.  The farmer will then train those new branches.  In a couple of years the one old branch that was left will be cut off.  It will be a completely new tree on the old established rootstock. 

I have a couple of peach and nectarine trees and one prune plum tree that I am not at all happy with.  Their structure is terrible and each year branches break off no matter how well they are propped up.  The plum tree looks like it is going to fall over and pull all the roots up.  This year I'm going to try to revise those trees like they do at the local farms.  The trees are going to be cut almost completely down with the exception of one branch.  This will probably lead to a lousy crop this year but I've got over a years worth of jam and jelly put up as well as canned and frozen fruit.  We won't feel the pain of not having these trees produce much.  I still have a peach tree that will give us plenty of fresh fruit.  It will mainly be not having those fruits to put up for winter and spring. 

Usually I do my pruning with a little handsaw and loppers.  I have chainsaws but have never used them for pruning the trees.  A friend of mine had a battery operated pruning chain saw with an 8 inch bar.  He bought a large gas powered saw and asked if I wanted to buy the battery saw.  I said sure as long as I could use it first and if I liked it I'd buy it.  If I didn't like it then I'd give it back and owe nothing otherwise $35 which was a little less than half of what it cost him.  I'll report on it next week.

It's going to be a good year for the olives with all this rain.  Half of the olive trees get watered.  Not on purpose but because they are near some of the roses which are on a drip.  The rest of the olives are never watered.  One of my neighbors processes olives.  Each year he comes and picks my olives and brings me a couple of jars of processed olives in exchange.  This year he's going to show me how to process them.  With the dozen trees we have there will be plenty for both of us.  At some point I'd like to try making olive oil.  I haven't found anyone who makes it at home using simple methods.  I knew someone in Northern California who makes it but they have very expensive equipment.  Olives were processed into oil thousands of years ago.  Did everyone go to the olive presser or did they grind them at home?

I know in Israel they have bedrock mortars in which olives were processed just like the Indians processed acorns in them here in California.  Did they just grind them then float the grindings in water to separate the oil from the pulp?  I don't know.  Anyone have any experience in this?    


  1. I can't wait to hear about your olive oil processing. I'm in Cali too and olives grow great here! We started buying a new fruit tree or bush every month last's an easy way to manage the cost and still build a GREAT orchard! So far we have 3 trees and 3 berry plants :)

  2. One way to get more berry plants is to find which friends also grow berries. During the summer when they are sending up shoots you can volunteer to dig some of them out. Free berries and you are helping out your friends!