Los Angeles Residents – Adopt a Fruit Tree for Free!

We were at The Home Depot yesterday getting some supplies for our backyard project, and I noticed this flyer for free fruit tree adoption days! It is part of the city of Los Angeles’ Million Trees project, where the city has a goal of getting a million trees planted. We already have over 20 trees planted on our lot that is just under a quarter acre, so we definitely don’t have any room for more trees (and I would definitely say I feel I have done my part for planting trees!), but I wanted to share this in case anyone else would like to add some trees to their home!

adoptatree

I am very proud to say that we live in a city that encourages its residents to plant trees! I would love to see friends who live outside of the city of Los Angeles write to their cities and counties, encouraging them to hold their own Million Trees projects. If you become the Lorax in your area, be sure to write to me and let me know…I’ll write about you on my blog! 🙂

Our Summer Fruit Harvest: Not a Bumper Crop Year

summer fruit harvest

If you have been following my blog for a while, since I was just on Tumblr and before I started this WordPress blog, you may remember how we had quite a large selection of summer fruit that I was able to grow and harvest last year. I worked really hard all spring prepping our garden for the summer season, and it definitely paid off. This year, things were quite different.

Since I was laid up all spring, I was not able to put the same prep work into our garden this year. As a result, the production rate significantly declined on all of our fruit trees and vines. The photo above shows pretty much our entire summer harvest (with the exception of a few berries that I have eaten as they have gotten ripe). It is pretty disappointing.

The first problem with the garden this year started with the peaches. The local birds attacked all the peaches on the baby tree in the backyard, so we still have not had a chance to sample the peaches from that tree yet. The peaches on the mature tree in our front yard are absolutely amazing, and I was really looking forward to them. When I got really sick a little over a month ago, the peaches were just about due to start getting ripe. When we got back from the hospital, all I wanted for some reason was one of those peaches. When my husband went to get one, he noticed that they were all gone. Someone or something had taken every last peach on the tree while we were at the hospital. My money is on someone since animals know better than to take unripe fruit, and all of the peaches were definitely not ripe at the same time.

The raspberries, blackberries and apples all produced a bit of fruit, but way low quantities in comparison to last year. The good thing is there is always time to improve for next year!

Last year we had this same problem, and I totally wish I had the chance to take some preventative measures this time, but I got overwhelmed by the whole new-mom thing. Something eats almost all of our grapes. We have 5 or 6 individual grape vine plants, and the basket above was our entire harvest for the season. I’m not sure if it is the squirrel, birds or the raccoons, but someone gets them before we have a chance. I’m definitely going to try putting netting over them next year.

The most disappointing problem of all this year was with our fig tree. We have a huge, mature fig tree in our backyard. Last year I canned as much fig preserves as I could, but a lot of them definitely went to waste since canning out in the patio with the barbeque was a huge pain (our kitchen was still in the middle of being remodeled last year at this time). I was really looking forward to trying out a whole bunch of things with the figs now that we have a kitchen. Last week, I saw that the majority of the figs were ready to be picked. I put it on my to-do list for the week, and planned to get started preserving them and trying out some new recipes. The day I went out to pick them, I discovered that every last fig had been eaten by a swarm of enormous beetles. I was so disappointed, especially since I had just seen tons of them on the tree the day before. I am 100% committed to organic gardening, so I don’t want to use a pesticide next year to prevent this from happening again, but I don’t quite know what to do to prevent that from happening again. Maybe I should harvest the figs just before they are ripe? Anyone have any tips on growing figs organically?

What Happened to the Garden?

For those who have been following my blog for a while (or have browsed through my older posts here and on Tumblr), you may be wondering what happened to our garden since I was laid up for so long. Between the miscarriage just before E, my long pregnancy bed rest, and my difficult postpartum recovery from my symphysis pubis dysfunction, our garden has been very neglected for about a year now. My husband had the overwhelming burden of taking care of literally EVERYTHING while I was laid up. In addition to his long hours at work, he had to be responsible for all of our shopping, errands, laundry, cleaning, cooking, and caring for me. Considering I could not even bathe myself for much of that time, the load on his shoulders was quite heavy. Somewhere in the midst of all that, he also found the time to finish our kitchen remodel, remodel the baby’s room, and deal with all the stress of getting that house in Texas sold. Worrying about our yard was not high on his list of priorities.

At one point, my husband brought up the idea of hiring a gardener to take care of things while I was laid up, but I hate that idea. It may seem weird, but I can’t stand anyone else messing with my plants. We tried that when I was in bed with pneumonia for over a month (about two years ago), and they pulled out most of my herb garden, claiming they thought it was all weeds. It is bad enough that someone dug up and stole a bunch of my plants here while I was in the hospital after E was born. I would have been pretty mad if even more had been dug up or mistreated.

Surprisingly, our front yard held up relatively well considering the total neglect. It was looking very embarrassing for quite some time, but I am glad that the majority of my plants survived. Buying drought tolerant and native plants really paid off! This past weekend, we spent as much time as possible getting everything more in order both in the front and back yards. We pruned dead growth, trimmed and shaped plants, pulled out tons of weeds, cleaned up lots of pine needles, relocated plants that were running out of space, dug out plants that did not survive, fertilized everything, worked in compost, and added new wildflower and grass seeds. It was a lot of work but so worth it. These pictures were taken at the end of our cleanup. They will be a good reference point to see how quickly everything starts to perk up!

Lately we have been trying to stick by our weekend rule of one day of projects for the house and one day of something fun. E will only be little for so long, and we don’t want to look back and realize we didn’t enjoy this time because we worked too hard on our house. We made an exception to that rule this weekend since we were all enjoying bring outside. E even joined in a little in the Moby wrap (Instagram pic at the end).

Pictures of the back yard will be coming soon as well…as soon as the baby naps long enough for me to finish pulling out the last of the weeds. 🙂

1 2 3 4
image

Gardening Lessons Learned the Hard Way: Young Fruit Trees

Many fruit trees need a pollinizer of a different variety in order to be productive and fruitful.  The variety of dwarf avocado tree that we purchased said the tree is self-fertile, but we purchased two anyway, just because we love avocados so much. 🙂

I planted both trees with the same planting method (described here), they are in the same area of the garden, with identical light exposure, and have been given the same amount and frequency of watering.  All of a sudden, one of the two twin trees started dropping all of its leaves.  When I tested the moisture level of the two trees, I noticed that the dirt around the distressed tree had moisture levels that were through the roof, while the dirt around the other tree had normal moisture levels.

Young fruit trees need tons of water to establish their roots, but too much water can lead to root rot.  Since I had been giving them the same amount of water, I was pretty upset.  We aren’t 100% sure what caused the variation, but are hoping that better amending the soil in the future will help prevent similar problems from happening again!

tumblr_m4us1ozppr1qh2ttzo1_1280 tumblr_m4us1ozppr1qh2ttzo2_1280

My Method of Pest Control: Befriend the “Garden Pests”

tumblr_m345htObEU1qh2ttzo1_500 tumblr_m525qn6Ww21qh2ttzo1_r1_1280

Most people see crows and squirrels as unwanted garden pests since they tend to eat up quite a bit of the garden.  When I recently read that squirrels eat up all the potential fruit crops, I felt bad trying to chase them away since they are so cute!  I debated covering everything with bird netting, but that seemed like it would be a huge pain to do.  I have always put peanuts out for the local scrub jays, but then I started noticing that one of the squirrels and a crow took a liking to the peanuts as well.

My cats had chased both the squirrel and the crow out of my vegetable beds enough times that they were starting to seem a little scared of eating my vegetables.  Once I started putting peanuts and a bird bath of fresh water for them, I noticed that the crow and the squirrel were not bothering anything in my garden anymore.  The cats can sleep in a little now each morning and not worry so much about chasing off the crow and the squirrel anymore. 🙂

The best unexpected bonus of befriending the crow and the squirrel:  they are actually helping me keep out other unwanted pests!  If you have read some of my other recent posts, you know that one of the neighbor’s cats has been causing a lot of trouble for me.  The other day I heard a lot of noise in the backyard early in the morning, and went out to see what was going on.  The crow and the squirrel were actually chasing the neighbor cat out of my yard. 🙂  I was so happy.  If that cat was not so aggressive toward my own cats, perhaps he would be welcome around here too.

On a side note, there were originally two squirrels living in our yard (a male and a female), but sadly the female recently got decapitated in our front yard by one of the local dogs (I am assuming that is how it happened anyway).  It was a pretty upsetting thing to find in my front yard garden.  Her “husband” was sitting nearby screeching little squirrel noises.  It was heartbreaking.  The cutest part is since that has happened, somehow the squirrel and the crow have become best friends and are now inseparable.  I have never been a big fan of crows, but this one is special. 🙂

How To Guide: Moisture Metering

One of the most important aspects of gardening is making sure that each plant gets the right amount of water.  Too little and the plant may die, too much and the roots may rot.

As a general rule, cactus and succulents are some of the only plants that thrive in the very dry conditions, shown in the red zone on the meter.  Most houseplants, vegetables, and other garden plants thrive in moist soil, shown in the green area on the meter.  Only certain aquatic and bog-like plants thrive from regularly being in wet soil, shown in the blue area on the meter.

With the new baby fruit trees, I try to make sure that they stay consistently moist, watering every 3-4 days.  I aim to have the meter read just past the green zone, slightly into the wet blue zone immediately after the watering, and then generally in the high end area of moist.  With the majority of my vegetables and other plants, I try to keep the moisture reading in the middle of the green zone.

As you can see in the first picture, the baby plum tree is still moist but due for some additional watering.  The baby orange tree and tomato plant in the second and third pictures do not need to be watered at this time since they are plenty wet.  They are actually a little more wet than I would like due to a recent irrigation accident (which I will cover at a later date in more detail).  The extra watering was along the lines of an unexpected rainstorm, which shouldn’t be too bad in the long run, but in the meantime I am holding off watering these until they actually need the water.

tumblr_m4v1p3jRyz1qh2ttzo1_1280

tumblr_m4v1p3jRyz1qh2ttzo3_1280 tumblr_m4v1p3jRyz1qh2ttzo2_1280

It is important to push the meter deep into the soil to test the moisture where the roots of the plants are, and not test the moisture at the surface of the soil since that is not where the plant gets its water.  As you can see in the third picture, the surface of the soil looks dry (more mulch is needed and will be coming soon), but the soil underneath is actually still quite moist.

Gardening Lessons Learned the Hard Way: Mature Fruit Trees

I have had the pleasure of living next to many mature fruit trees at the variety of places I have lived over the years, and they are always a welcome joy.  Mature fruit trees are very easy to care for.  Normally they just need to be fertilized about once per season (varies depending on variety of tree), and pruned once a year.  They don’t require much if any watering other than what they naturally get from ground water and the little rainfall we get here in Southern California.

When we moved into our new house, we were very excited to find out that years ago someone had planted a fig tree in our backyard.  We still do not understand why they planted a tree that can grow to be 50 feet tall in a raised retaining wall brick planter, and not directly in the ground next to it.  Perhaps they were attempting to control the size, but it seems that all it did was raise the tree higher.

At some point, someone also planted a pretty rose bush below the fig tree.  When we moved in, this rose bush (along with all of the others on our property) were looking very dehydrated and in very poor condition.  I started fertilizing and watering the roses regularly in order to try to revive them.  Roses need a lot of water to thrive, and are definitely not the most drought friendly plants.

Unfortunately, mature fruit trees do not appreciate tons of water near their roots.  Fig trees in particular are a Mediterranean tree, and thrive in drier conditions.  I started getting under-ripe yet rotten fruit dropping.  I finally figured out that the figs are rotting before they had a chance to ripen from the excess water they were getting from being near the roses.  One of the poor fig tree’s roots even poked up above the dirt!

The rotten fruit has all either been eaten by critters or added to the compost bin.  I am trying to find a good watering balance to allow the roses to survive (even if they don’t thrive), and prevent the fig tree from getting root rot.  It will be an experiment that I am hoping will go well.  I am planning to definitely relocate this rose bush once it is dormant.

When planning a garden, it is so important to take into consideration how certain plants will fare together when placing them next to each other.  Place plants with similar water, light, and soil requirements near each other.  Roses do their best with more sunlight than being under a big shady tree provides, so all the way around, this is a horrible location for this poor rose bush.  If you notice in the pictures, the rose bush is starting to reach out in all kinds of strange directions, searching for enough sunlight to survive.

tumblr_m4upm6heEi1qh2ttzo1_1280

tumblr_m4upm6heEi1qh2ttzo2_1280 tumblr_m4upm6heEi1qh2ttzo3_1280 tumblr_m4upm6heEi1qh2ttzo4_1280