Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Daily Doin's, Last Week Of March, 2016

This is Saturday, the day started out very overcast and coolish.  It didn't freeze this morning.  That happened yesterday morning, and it was colder yet than the last three freezing mornings have been. 

Are we going backwards? 

We had brought everything in for that night.  Last night we just brought the carts of tomato plants in, and put the shower doors on top of the cold frame where everything else is.  It was in the lower 40's this morning, but I think a little warmer in the cold frame.  Nonetheless, I worried a little about those pepper plants, since I don't know how cold is TOO cold.  Obviously, there is a point at which it can't be missed, because the plants will be dead.  But I've gotten pepper plants through freezing weather (I planted too early one year), only to stunt the plants and make them resistant to fruiting for all the rest of their lives.  So, what's the magic number, I wonder?  You know, not cold enough to kill but cold enough to stunt?  A quick search on the Internet indicated that nobody else knows for sure, either, though I did find some tables for temperatures at which production will suffer if the plants are already in bloom.  So if anyone out there knows, let me know.  I sure hope I haven't messed 'em up for this year, as some I am only growing because I want new seed. 

Those Grow Network folks did not send me an invite to their last symposium but they've been sending me reminders since it ended as if I had attended.  And that's disappointing since I probably would have if I'd known about it.  Sheesh.  I mean, truly, it's a sales pitch.  Actually, several.  But there's a lot of good information that can be gleaned.  One of the emails they sent had a link on it to something I was interested in, and I went there, and then followed another link on THAT, and....  well, I had to dink around a little bit to reconstruct it because I wanted to share the links on it with Carole, so I'll share it HERE , for you all as well, while I still know how to get to it.  I swear, getting old is just the pits most of the time. 

But anyway. 

This is an information-packed post on fruit tree pruning, and it showed the difference between a branch with fruit spurs on it and one without, which was very helpful. There are six video links (to YouTubes done by Bill Merrill) that cleared up a lot of confusion I'd been experiencing about how to go about pruning my fruit trees, or whether I should, even.  Over the years, I haven't pruned except to cut off dead branches and maybe remove a branch that's crossing another.  But I never knew whether I was doing it right, and lots of times the tree responded in strange ways.  I never understood the principles involved and how, while it does reduce the number of pieces of fruit you end up having dangling from your tree, those that are on the tree are bigger and healthier.  I don't know if you remember this, but last year my Hale Haven (a cling-style peach that ripens in the fall, unlike Red Haven, which is what I thought I was getting when I bought it) was absolutely loaded with little peaches.  We had so much rain in the spring that the grape arbor nearby came down with a bad case of fungus, and it spread to that peach tree, blackened and dried up every single solitary piece of fruit on that tree!!  That would've been my first real harvest from that tree, although I had a small "first harvest" a couple of years before.  I sprayed it and the grape arbor with a copper fungicide (Liqui-Cop) but of course it was too late to save the fruit.  The tree seems to have recovered and looks good.  But the grapevines have not budded up yet and still look bare and raggedy, so not sure what'll happen.  Hubs told me I ALWAYS worry about why that grape arbor is not greening up.  I remember worrying about the Crape Myrtles, but I don't remember worrying about the grapes.  But oh well.

Bill Merrill's YouTube ID is greengardenguy1, and if you go to his Channel List HERE, you'll find he has a lot to offer, and I think he knows his stuff.  Plus he plays a really bangin' guitar.  If you doubt, go HERE.  This instrumental has significant meaning for Hubs and me.  He had a li'l green car when he was a teenager -- it was his first car, in fact.  Green Onions was popular then, and that's what he stenciled on the side of his car.  Click on the list and have a listen with me.

Oh, yeah....

Since pruning reduces the number of fruits on the tree, I wonder, then, if that will eliminate the need to go out after the peaches have formed and break off all but one fruit per spur, as some people have recommended.  It kills me to do this, because lots of things can still happen to that fruit.  There might be a bird that pecks a big, ragged hole in the fruit.  Or bug / larvae damage.  It'd be nice to be able to pick a damaged fruit off and still have a Plan B. 

My experiment with the in-situ rooting of a branch while still on the plum tree failed, and the branch died.  So today I went out and, knowing what branches should be taken out in order to "open up" the tree, took some cuttings.  I can hardly believe this, because the plum trees seem to be the most easily damaged by frost of all the trees in my back yard, but there are already bitty green plums hanging on that tree, and they are STUCK on there, really tight!  How about THEM apples?  ---er---- plums?  We are still not out of the woods yet, however, as Mesonet says there's another frost coming on Monday morning.  And then of course we have the barrage of insects and diseases.  Fruit growing is a crapshoot, even moreso than gardening, because you can't even replant.  Somebody told me the other day that you weren't gardening in Oklahoma if you haven't replanted, at least once.

We had "a chance" of rain today and we got about five minutes of sprinkles under the overcast sky.  That was it.  Better chances for tonight and Mesonet advises accumulation of a quarter of an inch to an inch.  I took the hose out to the garden yesterday and watered the little pea plants that are emerging because they were wilted pretty badly.  Not coming up very thickly yet.  These were pre-sprouted and then planted, and that very night there was an abrupt change in the forecast and we got an unexpected frost, which stalled the peas out.  I wasn't even sure they survived as they are kind of delicate when they are in the early sprouting stages.  And some of them may not have.  There are lots of blank spaces between seedlings.  I watered the strawberry bed too.  Oh, so many plants in the bed by last fall, and hardly any there now. 

This is now Sunday.  Easter Sunday, in fact.  Our neighbors up the road had an egg hunt in their field that's just south of us so it was kind of a noisy afternoon.  And then, after dark, somebody shot off fireworks on the hill south and east of us.  Fireworks aren't usually part of The Easter Experience, so I don't know exactly what was going on.

We got some rain this morning and it seemed awfully cold.  I took the temperature gun out and it was in the upper 30's.  Holy Cow!  Inside the cold frame, under the shower doors, it was almost 10 degrees warmer.  So I left everything alone, and since we have a freeze warning out for tomorrow morning, we'll be bringing all that inside, early this evening. 

This morning's newspaper announced the dates of the two spring plant sales that I always go to.  The one run by the various Garden Clubs in our area is on April 16 at Eastland Center, its usual venue, starting at 8:30.  I don't usually buy much from this sale, unless I find something unusual, because they price their stuff almost as high as the stores do.  The one I always wait for with baited breath is the one that the Master Gardeners group has, and that's going to be on April 30.  This year the venue has been changed to the Washington County Extension Service office parking lot in Dewey.  I always find something interesting there and they don't charge an arm and a leg for it.  So it's a win-win.

I found an interesting YouTube about peppers this morning, HERE.  This fellow's name is Ray Browning and he has a lot of videos under his YouTube ID of Praxxus55712.  I initially went to it because I want to prune my peppers this year and see if I think that increases production, and it seemed like everybody that had a video on that referenced someone else so I just kept following the chain because I wanted to get this information from the source, and I ended up with Ray Browning. 

I have, during the last couple of years, watched a lot of YouTubes done by John Kohler (Growing Your Greens), and I put up with what amounted to the occasional "plug", that he was probably paid for, in order to learn how he does what he does.  I realize John has to earn a living but it doesn't take long to start wondering where his "been there done that" advice ends and paid advertising begins.  I also got a lot of information from Gary Pilarchik (The Rusted Garden), in fact, HERE is a good demonstration about using Iron Phosphate to kill garden slugs and snails. But here again, I've used Slug-Go before, and the instructions said not to let it get wet.  Well, how the hell is THAT done??  So if I need this remedy again I think I'll look for the Natria brand, which Gary says on his video is not adversely affected by moisture.  I'll read that label first, though, just to be sure.  Gary also said it's not a good idea to use Diatomaceous Earth, because it'll also kill the beneficial insects.  *Sigh*.

When people post YouTube videos they get paid a little something every time it's viewed, and I don't mind their making money off me in this way.  I don't even mind if they recommend a product to buy now and then.  But if that happens often, and they aren't sharing any knowledge on how to do things with stuff you already have or that don't cost much, then I start to get suspicious as to how much of this stuff they actually DO.  After awhile I don't know whether to trust their advice at all. 

Boy, did I ever wander off topic.  Backtracking now....

I wanted to do pepper pruning last year but I didn't.  Things got kind of complicated last year.  So I want to give this a try this year.  When you're learning a new "practice", don't be like me and do it to every single plant you have.  I've had Total Crop Failure by doing something somebody said was an incredible thing to do, because it, for some reason, didn't work for me.  There's a lot of "parroting" on The Internet, done by people who have never actually tried what they recommend.  If, indeed, they ever do any gardening at all.

During this particular video Ray addresses the advice that literally everybody will give you about peppers, and that is, "Don't plant peppers deeper than their original soil line".  I've planted peppers deeper than they have grown in their Starter Pot, and I never paid that much attention to it, because I didn't know, for many years, that I was doing anything wrong.  I can't say that they did worse or better because I didn't have a Control Plant or anything.  But Ray shows clearly where his pepper plants actually have made more roots up the stem when planted deeply, just like tomato plants will do.  One thing I did notice, and maybe this is just me, but when I planted my peppers in containers, the roots grew mostly in the top 6" of the soil.  They went all the way to the sides of the pot they were in, which was about 14" across, and then stopped.  So they didn't do as well or get as big as the peppers that I planted in the ground, where they could grow out as far as they wanted to.  And it seemed like I was having to water nearly every day.  I found this to be true of sunflowers, too, when I put a bottomless coffee can into the ground around it, so that I could water and get that water right to the roots.  The sunflowers didn't grow as strong as usual, and when one fell over in the wind, I found it had filled the coffee can full of roots and not grown very many roots underneath.  So what I'm saying is, listen to what other people say, try it if you want, but be observant and see if it truly works for you.  Don't just accept it as gospel because "everybody" says you should do it that way. 

Ray Browning has a few other interesting ideas when it comes to tomato plants.  He plants three tomato plants together in the same space, HERE, and he grows without caging, HERE, by keeping the tops lopped off.  I'm going to try both these, for sure, this year, because those damned cages just drive me NUTS!  The best ones I've ever had were made from a roll of reinforcement wire.  They're supposed to be made from the flat panels but I can't get those here, and because I had to use wire from a roll, they were bent out of shape more and more the further I got into the roll.  Some of my cages will never really be straight. I like how cages made of this stuff fold flat for storage and I like the stuff is wide enough that I can cut off the bottom horizontal piece and have about 6" of the vertical wires that will then poke down into the ground and therefore stay put better.  HERE is the post I wrote telling how we made those.  And I should add that those "hooks" on the open side CATCH on EVERYTHING!!  Mine didn't line up very well, either.  So I would cut off those sticky-outy pieces along the edges of that open side, you know, the ones that are bent into the hooks, and the cages, when opened and set around the plant, can just be tied or wired together where the two sides meet. 

Ray spoke of his uncaged tomato plants not being bothered by 35mph winds, and he is a-singin' my song.  He also debunks the oft-repeated advice to prune your tomato plants by removing the sucker branches.  Don't THAT beat all!  I don't remove my tomatoes' sucker branches, anyway, because this is Oklahoma and the tomatoes that are on the vine need all the shade they can get.

Before you leave Ray Browning, watch THIS video about how to make compost tea easily.  And HERE is about how to make compost easily along with a debunk about brown/green and an explanation about the difference between "brewed" compost tea and "steeped" compost tea.  HERE is another of his videos worth watching.  Something about this guy I've noticed is, if you don't pay close attention, you're liable to miss something that he just throws in there as an aside that turns out to be something you can really use.  For instance, y'all know I have trouble with Bindweed and Bermuda grass, right?  Guess what the cure just might be?  CLOVER.  Right now, I have both Dutch White and Red growing "here and there".  The Dutch White is growing at the end of my patio.  It grows close to the ground and the leaves are small.  We've been walking on it and it doesn't seem to be suffering any.  If we had a bunch of kids running in and out, that might be a different story, not sure.  Red Clover grows about a foot tall and so when I find a clump, I transplant it into one of the guilds that I'm building under my fruit trees.  A couple of interesting things about clover: 1) it holds it's own with Bindweed and Bermuda, and 2) it fixes nitrogen in the soil.  Did you see, in one of the above videos, where Ray had clover growing in all his garden paths?  I might transplant some clover under each tomato plant.  Tomato plants are BIG nitrogen feeders.  If that's not a symbiotic relationship, I don't know what is.  I might even be able to plant my tomato plants in the same place every year if I have clover there.  Seeds for another experiment, here.  You know my wheels are always turnin'. 

This is now Monday, I went out this morning at 6:45 and aimed my temperature gun at the plum tree.  23º.  My temperature gun is a Mastercool Infrared Thermometer and I like it a lot.  I use it to locate drafty spots in the house, and yesterday I started using it to check the temperature outside.  When I worked at Grisham Eye, the nurses were always complaining to the Administrator that they were too cold, or too warm, and he would just pull one of these out of his desk drawer and aim it at the vents when the HVAC was running to see if there was adequate cold or hot air coming from them.  If it hadn't been for my being witness to that, I would've never known such a thing existed.  I imagine it could also be used to check the soil temperature, just dig a hole and aim the little red beam into the center.  But I've not actually done that yet.

I think I've said before that I don't get paid anything by ANY of these people or other resources that I mention in my blog.  I purposely do not allow advertising on my blog, as it annoys me.  I do my blogging for creative outlet and fun, as a way to help me organize my jumbled thoughts, and to eliminate the need for lonnnnng letters sent to friends.  So if I recommend something, I really mean it.  If I say I'm "trying" something, I'm doing just that, and usually afterwards I'll say whether it worked for me or not.  Just because it didn't work for me doesn't mean that it won't work for you.  There are lots of other factors involved, like climate and soil differences.  And sometimes I get lazy and careless, at which time, the garden is pretty much on it's own.  But if I think a product is a waste of money, I want to be able to say that rather than lie about it because of money involved.  And I don't mind at all if people comment and say they got different results.  But seriously, I put on a post some time ago about all the trouble we had laying down SwiftLock flooring from Lowe's when we did the floor in our living room.  Daily, that is STILL my most popular post, so that tells me there are a LOT of people searching for help on this subject.  If their installation was going OK, they wouldn't be searching for help, you know?

Every now and then I get a comment from someone saying they had no trouble at all, and that's just fine with me, unless they're hateful about it.  Hubs and I have been DIY-ing for nearly 50 years.  This is not to say we don't make mistakes or run into unexpected stuff, but when we do, I do what everybody else does.  I research it till I find a solution.  We successfully put down laminate flooring in three rooms at The Ponca House, where we lived between 1999 and 2009, with no trouble at all.  Two of the rooms had a concrete floor, like our floors are here.  And we put this same stuff down in the kitchen and dining room here in 2011 without having as much trouble.  The only thing I can think is that we must've gotten part of a bad batch.  One of the comments I received on this post was deleted because I won't encourage rude behavior.  And that's all I'm going to say about THAT.

This is now Tuesday, the 29th.

There was smoke in the sky to our north yesterday evening.  I went to bed and didn't worry for us because the wind was out of the south.  I have heard there is a bill being pushed by local ranchers (many of which are doctors and lawyers) that will allow them to do "prescribed burns" on their own land, during a burn ban.  Oh, man!  Fire travels really fast when it's windy and dry.  So, what happens when their fire jumps off their land and burns my house down?  Some of these guys will set fire to their land and then not even stay with it.  I suppose I shouldn't even mention the acrid smell of smoke in the air that, anywhere else, would be considered "air pollution".  And that's all I'm going to say about THAT.

I got an e-mail from Paula telling me about their Easter Egg Hunt.  Paula has a couple of adolescent grandchildren and one toddler grandchild so she has to do stuff that appeals to both ages.  Brilliant idea, she hid plastic eggs for the hunt, some had candy in them, some had Nerf bullets.  After the hunt she brought out the Nerf guns and I could well imagine the pandemonium that followed. 

This is now Wednesday and I'll try to post today.

I went out to the peach tree to see if there was anything I could do right now.  And oh, yeah. 

Lots of the new growth had died, probably as a result of the fungus that the tree had last year.  I took all that off, and some older dead branches.  Identified the "middle" trunk that I will cut off at about four or five feet, but I won't do that now.  The tree has lots of tiny peaches on it and many of them are on that middle trunk, 'way up high.  I'll go ahead and let it try to get peaches to maturity, if we don't get a freeze that kills them all off before then, and I'll wait till the tree has gone dormant to take the top of that middle trunk out and shorten the length of all those side branches.  I can see my error in letting those side branches grow too long.  I will have to do some serious scaffolding under the tree if peaches get to any size at all this year as none of those branches have enough size to support fruit.  I wish I'd watched those pruning videos earlier, but maybe it's best to see how the trees have leafed out and where the fruit is.  I also saw a web with worms in it, getting started up high in the tree.  I have read that the best thing to use on webworms is oil.  We needed a few things at Aldi and so I got a can of pan-coating spray while I was there.  I had opened the web and smashed as many of the worms as I could, so by the time we got home, I couldn't find where the web had been.  If my past experience counts for anything, they'll be back.  I checked the plum tree that I found worms in last year, and found a small nest, so I opened it up with a stick and sprayed into it.  That was about half an hour ago.  This is what it looks like now.

Kinda gross looking, but I don't see any worms.

After coming in, I watched THIS video about how to sharpen your tools, and mine seem to have gotten pretty dull. 

We also stopped at Green Thumb Nursery on the way home.  Wednesdays are Senior Citizen Day, and we get a 10% discount.  I picked out a Golden Lemon Thyme and a Pineapple Sage.  The thyme is a perennial, in fact, Glenda sent me some one year, but it didn't like where it was planted.  I'll try a new spot this time.  The sage is an annual in my zone 6a, but Dave's Plant Files says it roots easily.  I hope I can remember to take cuttings this fall.  The girl who orders things showed me her list of things she is ordering today and asked me if anything struck my fancy.  Well, yes, several things did, in fact.  Orange Mint, for one.  And Lime Mint.  I'll get those NEXT week!

Well, we are being treated to rolling thunder and sprinkles. I had planned to do some more weed and grass digging in the eastern-most raised bed, under the stock-panel arch where I will plant Lazy Housewife beans this summer.  We need the rain, so I will be grateful for it and change my plans accordingly.

Rock on, y'all......  Hugs xoxoxo

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