Tag Archives: grapes

North Garden Tour!

“The best place to find God is in a garden;  You can dig for him there!”

George Bernard Shaw

 

“I love God, dirty hands and garden clogs!    I loathe the devil, scouring toilets and wearing heels!”

Shellie Wolfe

     

     Welcome to the first annual garden tour of “This One Tree”!  

      First of all I’ve enjoyed getting to know so many of you by way of a blog site garden tour, and truly,  I have learned much already from many garden bloggers out on the landscape.  I also depend on some family members who also grew up on a farm and know a thing or two about edible gardening.  They have shared some really good tips and tricks too!   A shout out of thanks to all of you!

     For the past 6 years, hubby and I have been busy, busy, busy restoring his childhood home.  Giving new life to an old memory has been quite the challenge and I may cover just that in other posts.  Keeping a picture diary of the transformation of this 1/2 acre suburban abode has made me realize that my initial plans to live a slower retired life after owning and managing a business in the fast paced professional world wasn’t in the cards.  This new chapter in my life has actually spring boarded into a very busy outdoor garden life!  So far! 

     I chose the height of this summer season as a good time to introduce you to my plot-of-a-lot here in sunny So Cal!   There is always a big “to do”list and transitioning from spring harvest  to summer planting in my north garden is usually on the “to do” list  as soon as the celebrations of July 4th have fizzled into the night skies.   

   To begin, I would like to introduce you to the matriarch ….”This One Tree”! 

One tree left
One tree left

     There she is!  And just behind her is the space that became my North Garden!   Not so grand looking is she?   Well….let me tell you…. this little unassuming Valencia orange tree was the only healthy tree left in this backyard after tearing out and leveling the entire lot  (front and back) of weeds, sick and infested trees and old over gown misplaced shrubs.   This sweet princess of a tree became my inspiration and compelled me to build a garden,  add a micro orchard, and later get me cookin’ and cannin’ some jams, jellies and butters as  a “Cottage Food” operator.  You will get to know her more in “part 2” of the tour of “This One Tree”.   There are also plans for editing out a huge span of grass in the back yard so I can build more beds for root veggies….asparagus…. and year round succession plantings.  I’ll be asking for suggestions for this undertaking in “part 3” of the tour.

     You see, I thought I was going to spend a quiet retired life enjoying my grandchildren surrounded by a beautifully restored home and a large citified outdoor landscape that hollered “let the party begin”!    But that is another story!   It is now our little Valencia tree that stands sentry to my North Garden and it is the star of the show.  This little Valencia is now a big producer and remains a constant reminder of how something seemingly insignificant can change one’s perspective on life!   Who me?   A gardener?   That’s what I said 6 years ago, but this is what I’m doing today!

      So grab a sip and nibble of something and settle in for a bit.  Today I hope you  enjoy the first part of the tour in my garden located on the north perimeter of the house!  It is simply and appropriately called “North Garden”.

North Garden
 North Garden

       I have 5 raised veggie beds behind this picket fence.   Four measure 4 ft. X 8 ft., and the one with the grape arbor is a long 22 ft. and narrower at  2 1/2 ft..   A compost corral lines the west end wall and stretching along the north side of the house on the left is my camellia bed and my vermi-composter. The picket fence is to keep out the chickens!

Camellias
Camellias 

     My “Nuccios” white camellias are one of my favorite flowers  in the whole wide world!   They are pristine white and perfectly shaped like a Dahlia and are the first to bloom after Christmas.   I love to cut and float the flowers  in a crystal bowl!

"Nuiccos" white or "Dorothy Culver"
“Nuiccos” white or “Dorothy Culver”

                                                               Bed #1

N Garden bed
N Garden bed  1

       I  yanked most all the corn  from this  bed on the 4th of July.  I left a few  stalks to act as decorative supports along with my bamboo stakes for my pole beans.   It was my first time planting corn.   14 out 18 planted matured to edible size.  Hubby and I ate two each at dinner and I froze the rest.   They were surprisingly good!  Next spring I’ll plant at least 25 or 30 to really fill up a bed.

Corn July 4th 2013
Corn July 4th 2013

Corn stalk tee pee for pole beans July 1 2013

 I also put in my second planting of bush beans.  My home-made tomato cages are on their sides to act as supports  for the bush beans,  keeps them off the ground a bit better but still allows me to reach into the plants for picking.   The empty end of the bed by the chives is waiting for my Lima bean seedlings to emerge.  We usually have long summers so I’m experimenting with the Lima seeds plus the bed will be all beans which I’ll cultivate into the soil late fall.  Fingers crossed of course!

“There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments”.

          Janet Kilburn Phillips

Bed #2

N Garden Bed 2
N Garden Bed 2

     The empty space in this bed is reserved for lettuce.  I decided to pull the few beets that managed to pop up from my spring planting.   Their tops were short and light colored….never really got their  grow on.  These were the 3 that grew  (poorly I might add).  Each was about the size of a strawberry, I settled for calling them baby beets!   I roasted them and they did taste good !

Early Wonder baby beets
Early Wonder baby beets

      I tried the seedling approach but I think I’ll plant direct into the bed in September with “Early Wonder”,  a “Chioggia” and a “Golden”.   Both hubby and I love beets!   To ride out the rest of summer, I put a new “Roma” tomato right next to the Big Beef tomato.  I’ll be pulling out the beans as well so I can  fertilize the tomatoes and make room for the lettuce.  Beans and Tomatoes are not a companion planting but they each did fine this time.  You can also see the tops of the corn stalk tee pee’s  in the background which I left for the pole beans to climb.Cucs July 4th 2013

  At the far end is  a  “Burpless “cucumber….. the weather has been so hot then cold then hot ……. it has been a challenge to keep these guys watered properly.  They  are growing very long and curvy indeed!   I also usually plant a pickling variety but they really kept me busy last year trying to keep up with canning them.  I’m working on a better plan of attack for next season.

 

                                                               Bed #3

Trial bed summer 2013
Trial bed summer 2013

     Bed  #3 has been dug up twice already since spring!  I planted my favorite and always a winner….snow peas!   The rest of the bed became this years trial bed.  The bunnies are my trial bed icons.   This season I have planted basil, carrots and fennel from seed!   And in June I had to replant  zucchini because the one I planted with the corn never had male flowers….. hard to believe I know!

     As you see here the snow peas are pitiful…..they should be as tall as the top of the trellis and bushy too!  I have been snipping yellow scraggly tendrils with each few peas I’d harvest.  I already yanked the peas that were at the right of the trellis, they were dying and even more  yellow  than these ones.  I thought it was a watering or fertilizer issue because I had also lost two tomato plants from this bed earlier this spring.   And then  I finally found a looper caterpiller on these peas yesterday!  I’m just going to yank them too…..the harvest isn’t worth the water.  And with such pitiful peas how is it possible to grow amazing fennel right next door?  

Fennel July 4th 2013 2Look at the fennel….it’s beautiful!  The bulbs are starting to plump too!  Plus I transplanted a sickly Yellow Pear tomato seedling in the same part of the bed as the spring tomatoes that wilted earlier  just to see if it would die too…..but nope….it has taken off and is fruiting nicely!   ???????? is what I say!.

Basil, Fennel and Yellow Pear tomato
Basil, Fennel and Yellow Pear tomato

      I’ve been pinching and pinching this basil Genovese for a month now making pesto and freezing for later.   First time I’ve had such beautiful basil…….and from seed no less!   The carrots came up too.    With  big pretty tops ….sorry no pic’s….I picked them ( a whole handful) and ate them right there in the garden.  They were Nantes half-longs.  A finger long and as big around but straight.  Should I call them baby carrots too?   They might have grown nicely but I was just too impatient.  I always heard that carrots  are more likely to be crooked and split so I couldn’t wait, I had to peek.  Anyway, next year I will have a higher root veggie bed to plant the rest of my packet and try again….for real, I promise!

   Bed #4

Garden bed #4
Garden bed #4

     In this picture you can see that there is more vegetation outside the bed. Flanked in front is my potted thyme and parsley.  Against the wall are my mini roses and Meyer lemon.  These are all here to invite the bees to the garden.  Beyond the picket fence are some expiring sunflowers and the Brown Turkey fig tree just loaded with fruit this year!

” If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth; man would only have four years left to live”

                                                    Albert Einstein

The aged iron window planters in the foreground get used in the fall as props for potted Chrysanthemums and look great mixed with my ceramic pumpkins  you see in the background.  And now I have corn stalks to add to the vignette!

Corn Stalks
Corn Stalks

  Autumn is my favorite season……the fall colors and big bold leafy greens in the garden…..I can’t wait!

“A good gardener always plants 3 seeds – one for the bugs, one for the weather and one for himself “

                                                                 Leo Aikman

Yellow Banana peppers 2013
Yellow Banana peppers 2013

Growing really nicely in the bed right now are peppers and a late planted Big Cherry tomato.   Gosh…the tomatoes have been such a problem as a whole but the peppers  have all been fruiting so early!   There’s a  jalapeno, a green bell and the most productive yellow banana pepper I’ve grown so far!  It’s billowing over the jalapeno and I’ve been pickling these beauties for a month already!

Pickled Banana peppers
Pickled Banana peppers

 Just on the other side of the peppers I had planted tomato  plants in the spring….Brandywine,  Green Zebra, and a cherry.  The leaf curl got to each one of them.  The poor tomatoes got so stressed with our hot -then -cool -then -hot weather we’ve had this spring.   Even though I harvested a few great tomatoes from the Brandywine,  I decided  to yank them all because they just weren’t going to make it through the summer.

   Gardening is not a rational act!

                                    Margaret Atwood

                                                           

                                                               Bed #5

Grape Arbor
Grape Arbor

My grape arbor bed has a few tenants this summer!   On the right are my Red Bell peppers,  Sun Sugar and Cherokee Purple Heirloom tomatoes mixed in with basil and cilantro (which I’m letting go to seed).  Under the grape is a Crenshaw melon…….just one so far.

Cherokee Purple
Cherokee Purple
Red Bell
Red Bell
Sun Sugar
Sun Sugar

melon July 4th 2013

I have been teaching myself the how to’s of grape growing for some 5 yrs now!  I started with a Flame seedless, a Thompson seedless and an e-book I purchased from The Grape Guy in South Africa.

 2011 waiting for Arbor
2011 waiting for Arbor
Grapes 2009
Grapes 2009

 

The book is very informative and I have been trying to follow it to the letter yet I have struggled with the pruning on few occasions.   Anyway,  I tore out the Thompson seedless because I thought I pruned it wrong as it never fruited  like the Flame.  I believe now I may have jumped the gun……check out my blog “Finally Grapes!” for the whole story!   At least I’m still challenged by the persistent desire to grow really nice edible grapes!   The renters in this bed are residing where my Thompson seedless should be…….but  take a look at these Flame seedless!

Flame 2013 July 4th!
Flame 2013 July 4th!

Flame Grapes July 4th 2013It’s been 4 long years and a few struggles and I may still not know exactly what shoots and spurs to prune but I will conquer grape growing!   After another season of renters are done producing this  winter I will prepare the arbor bed for a new Thompson seedless and practice my patience in the garden!

 “A garden is always a series  of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.”

                                                           May Sarton

So…. how nice it was to tour the North Garden sitting down!   The only things missing from this picture tour are the sounds and smells of a garden.  Would you believe I’m working on that!   Anyway, if you enjoyed the North Garden and wish to see more, I’ll be sharing the harvest and the “putting up” of my figs and introducing you to “The Orchard”.

      But before I go here’s a quick look at some of the North Gardens harvest so far this summer!

Basil and chives
Basil and chives
snow peas 2013
snow peas 2013
Onion runts
Onion runts
spinach and green Beans
spinach and green Beans
young onions
young onions
Green Bells / Banana peppers
Green Bells / Banana peppers
Sweet White and Yellow Corn 2013
Sweet White and Yellow Corn 2013
1st Harvest Flame Seedless 2013
1st Harvest Flame Seedless 2013

  

                                     

 

 

 

  

    

 

Finally! Grapes!

Five years ago when our veggie beds were first planted I had also requested that the north wall of the garden be set up for my future grape trellis.  I spent  considerable time searching information on the how-to’s of raising table grapes.  I did not want to end up with the ornamental grape-less vines I often saw.  I wanted to grow true edible grapes.

Living in a valley that was once known for growing grapes that supported quite a few wineries for decades I knew that I shouldn’t fear climate as a possible deterrent.   And as for the ornamental vines that never really produced an edible grape cluster………well, now I know……… there is a purpose to choosing the right variety as well as getting the vine to produce the fruit.    And it was going to take a few years…….4 to 5 years to be truthful!

Young Flame and Thompson 2009
Young Flame and Thompson 2009

I did some in- depth research for several months on selecting a variety of grape that would be suitable for my climate zone.   As there were actually several choices, I wanted a seedless and the heartiest as I was going to commit to 3 to 4 years of managing and watering a plant that was not going to give immediate results.

 Well into my researching, I stumbled onto a website and actually ended up purchasing the E-book ( my first and only one ) from this guy who grows grapes in South Africa!   A comparable planting zone.  He calls himself “The Grape Guy”,  and from this E-book I learned there are 10 classes of grapes (the vitaceae) family, and  only 1 is considered efficient as a table (edible) grape and for wine-making.  These are from the “Vitus-class” of which there are approximately 32 species, “Vitus Vinifera” the European species and “Vitus Labruska” the American species.   Are you with me so far?   The American species and most if not all European species are now grafted onto disease resistant root stock which are the Vitus Vinifera or Vitus Labruska and Riparia.  All because of the deadly root disease “Phylloxera” that attacked and killed off 2/3rds of Europe’s vineyards in the 1800’s! 

Because hubby and I enjoy eating both green seedless and red seedless grapes, I chose a Thompson seedless (European grafted) and a Flame seedless (American developed here in California)  variety of the vitus family……. both popular grape varieties sold in our local grocery stores.  They were planted in the spring of 2008.  Did you know that the grapes we buy in the stores have been grown with a grape hormone to make them larger than mother nature would normally.   Growers use the growth hormone gibberellic acid, not more watering or better fertilizer , to plump up the crop,  all the more reason you might like to plant your own grapevines.

When the vines are planted they need to be managed as they grow.  One cannot just start clipping and chopping at the tendrils.   In the first few years, the center trunk is allowed to grow up and shoots from each side are chosen to be the main arms that will be trained horizontally to grow into what are called the “cane bearers”.  Then on to developing the fruiting shoots and spurs.  All this has taken 3 years and patience.  Even during the first growing years the vine will produce grapes but I was warned to pinch them off and NOT to let them mature because the vine itself needs to mature first!   Really hard to do! grapes early April 2013 2

Believe me……. I have followed my E-book how-to’s almost to the letter!  I have made some boo-boo’s however.  I planted my vines against a wall…….not recommended but I wanted to disguise an ugly wall and so far the vines seem to like where I put them.   I have also made mistakes in cutting shoots that are still a bit unrecognizable to me.  Last fall I even removed the Thompson vine…..possibly by mistake……… because I think I pruned it improperly as I had not seen it produce any fruit in the 3 years so far.  I referred to my E-book and I think I had made a pruning mistake and most likely could have re- developed the vine.

 Anyway,  this early spring was year 4.   With E-book in one hand and pruning shears in my other hand I carefully and diligently snipped at my Flame vine leaving just the right amount of spurs per shoot, managed the shoots and leaf growth, crossed my fingers and watched .   AND OH MY GOODNESS!  I have grapes……. FINALLY!!!!

ripening Flame seedless 2013
ripening Flame seedless 2013
Flame early May 2013
Flame early May 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t bare it!   I have already plucked a few ripe little globes off the sets!  So far surprisingly good!  The grapes will also be quite sizable and of course hubby and I will be proud to eat these beautiful globes of Flame seedless grapes!

new grape arbor 2013
new grape arbor 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so far I am also enjoying my new grape arbor…..made by hubby…….. and have even planted tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, basil and a melon in the missing space that used to hold my Thompson.   I am contemplating planting a new Thompson vine next spring and hoping to make fewer mistakes.

As unpredictable as gardening is……. this truly is the longest I have spent with any one single garden project EVER!  Even composting renders a usable scrumptious product in a few months time.   Of course I say this as I am about to go check on my blackberries!  I have been cultivating these from a gift of berry shoots I was giving 3 years ago.  I couldn’t decide on a spot until this spring so I’ve been clipping the shoots and letting the root stalks mature.  I’ll get a post up for you all in a few weeks after I have indulged in the fig harvest that’s about to happen!

I will post pictures of my grape harvest  and wish me luck next spring!

A Natives view of living in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains

San Bernardino Mtns from our front yard!
San Bernardino Mtns from our front yard!

      Here in Southern California it is said that the sun always shines.  Well….. the four seasons effect may not be as obvious here as it is in the eastern states but I will say this as a native Californian, we do have four seasons.  Our seasons may be milder out here in the west coast but each in their ways are still the antithesis of the other.

      Although here in the Inland Empire we enjoy a special set of circumstances or as I like to say…..special benefits!  You may have heard of a place in Southern California where one could ski down a fresh path of snow then hang ten on the surf all in the same day!  Well its true!   I could easily enjoy my 20 minute drive to Mt. Baldy in time to enjoy the morning sun while skiing down the slopes then drive right back down the mountain and south on the local freeway to end up at our popular Newport Beach just one hour (or less) away to reap the rewards of a suntan and end the day with a glass of wine at sunset!  And of course not to forget that there is always some sun a hour the other direction (east) ending up in  Palm Springs another famous and popular destination in our local desert!

      In winter it rains plenty most years and it can get very cold.   Our San Bernardino Mountains are gifted with a few great ski resorts just minutes away!    As an avid snow skier, I can tell you that it is awesome living close to several ski resorts.  One, Mt. Baldy, being my favorite (when there is lots of snow) is 20 minutes from our house!   And then there is Mountain High, Big Bear, Bear Mountain, and Snow Valley all within  1 and 1/2 hrs  drive! 

       Down along the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains acres and acres of citrus (mostly orange and lemon) were planted.   I grew up waking to the smell of smudge pots that were fired up to keep the groves from freezing on nights when the temps would drop down into the 30’s.   School boys in need of extra cash would scramble from grove to grove lighting these smudge pots so no one would lose their crop.  Alas, most of these citrus groves have been replaced with shopping developments and housing.  I miss the strong sweet smell of the orange blossoms that were so dominant in early spring!

     Spring comes on more subtly and sometimes its a bit confusing to wake up and look out my window at a fresh clad of snow on our local mountain peaks and at the same time admire the rebirth of  brightly colored new leaves bursting out of hibernation on the beautiful Moravian Ash trees that line the parkways of our street.  I guess someone who lives where it is heeded to wait until after the last frost to plant their garden would be jealous of us here as we can usually plant crops directly into the garden beds;  no need for a hoop house or cold frame.  Often we can plant much of our spring gardens as soon as mid February.   I didn’t even start any veggies by seed for the longest time.  It was much easier to buy seedlings ready to put in the ground from our local nurseries or big box stores.  I have since learned the value and joy of seed saving, planting those seeds and watching them grow……. as organically as possible too!Spring Garden

     Here along the highland corridor there were also dense vineyards.  It was common to visit a local winery and enjoy a wine tasting.  By the time I was in high school most of the vineyards had also been sold to housing or business developers.   The few that were left remained popular party destinations for high school and college students!   This was because the vineyards (somewhat like a corn field) provided a discrete hideaway for underage drinking and excellent coverage from local law enforcement.  There was usually an easy escape route!   In my garden, I have planted a Flame seedless and a Thompson seedless which are popular table grapes for us here.  I don’t plan on these vines harboring any party goers but the lizards enjoy refuge in the shade of the leaves that trail along the wall.

The summers here in the Inland Empire can be miserable.  I’ve been back east plenty of times in the summer and can’t bear the humidity,  however those who think a dry heat is best wouldn’t hang out outside on the our patio much when temps hit upward of 95/106 degrees!   We can count on getting a few of these hot spells each summer and they can last  for several days to a week or so.    The heat can really stress out a garden but tomatoes and other hot weather garden veggies love it as long as their feet are cool and moist.  And at the end of the day nothing beats a summer BBQ with freshly picked veggies from the garden, a rib eye and some of our favorite cold micro beers!

I love autumn!   Many days are crisp and invigorating.  This is my favorite time to be outdoors and particularly in the garden!

Our Lavender Crepe Myrtles in Autumn!
Our Lavender Crepe Myrtles in Autumn!

As I clean up and prep the garden beds from the summers harvest, I usually get to enjoy my Crepe Myrtles as their leaves turn, reminding me that I have much more to enjoy around my yard than whats growing in my garden boxes.  In early autumn I get to plant my favorite veggies!  No greens in the garden do it for me as much as spinach and arugula.   I grow lots of it and in addition I always plant a variety of lettuces,  Swiss chard and kale!  Most of these greens can be grown equally as well in early spring.  There are plans on the table for ridding more of my backyard of grass so I can put in additional raised beds for root veggies like carrots, potatoes ( I’m asking for a real challenge here) and more beets!  Did I say I love beets!   Another rather large raised bed addition in my yard will be for asparagus.   It is a premium veggie in the stores,  it grows great here in zone 9b and hubby and I never get tired of eating it.   Growing your own veggies and greens is not rocket science.  It takes minimum effort and the reward of eating right when you pick means  that your eating the greens when they are the most potent.  The vitamin factor is huge when you eat that days pick!