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Monday, September 29, 2014

Fox Farm

I have been struggling to come up with a name of my little garden area.   Since I will be growing vegetables for sale in the future, It is recommended the I set up a LLC, therefore, I need a name.   This name is a variation of a name suggested by a friend on mine - Susan W.   The genesis of her name choice is that there is a pair of gray fox that had lived on the property for a couple year and raise a family there.   She suggested Foxy farm, but since I am no means Foxy - I chose the more masculine version.    Is it really a farm?  Yes, it could be.  There are corrals for horses of cows, and a chicken coop.  I don't have any plans to raise any cows or have a horse as they are a lot of work and I don't have time to ride a horse.   I may get some chickens next spring  -  hens to lay some eggs.  Roosters are out of the questions considering the proximity of homes to the ranch and I have to be a good neighbor.   People in the city don't appreciate a rooster crowing at the crack of dawn like those of us who were raised on a farm.
Here are some of the pictures of the corrals and chicken coop.  The corrals are really nice with metal roofs on part to provide shade,  misters, and automatic drinking fountains.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fall Clean up - Weeds be Gone!

Its time for fall clean up.  All of the melon vines were all dying and stopped producing fruit.  The garden was full of weeds also that were in the vines.  Its hard to weed melons without trampling all the vines.    My helper and I spent 3 hours weeding and pulling vines and fill the back of my truck.   We hauled them to the dump because of all the weeds seeds (mostly foxtail).   I don't have a compost pile yet and didn't want piles of vegetation lying around.   The garden looks nice with all the weeds gone.  I wish it would stay that way.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Trees in Trouble!

The orchard on the farm hasn't been maintained for a couple years.  The trees are fighting off blight, scale, whiteflies, and aphids.   The common denominator in all of these is Ants.  They farm the whitefly,  scale, and aphids.  These insects secrete honeydew which is sweet to the ants, and they use it as food, and in return will protect these insects.   Its a symbiotic relationship which is good for the ants and insects, but not so good for the trees.   The trees can usually fight off these insects if they are maintained properly and watered.    This winter, I will spray the trees with dormant oil with will smother the eggs and over-wintering adults which will give the trees a good start next spring.

Here is a orange tree badly infested with scale.   This is an insect that will create a waxy covering to protect is while is sucks nutrients from the tree or plant.  

Aphid are also a big problem in the trees.  Lady bugs will eat aphids but when you have a robust ant population, they will protect the aphids and the lady bugs don't stand a chance.   The aphids suck the nutrients from the leaves causing them to become curled up and deformed.   They especially like new growth.  Here are a couple pictures of aphid peach and orange tree leaves with aphid damage.

White flies are another common pest that attacks trees.  The ants will also farm and protect whiteflies.  The larvae and adults feed on plants, but they also spread disease from plant to plant which makes them more of a problem.     They will feed on the underside of a leave and heavily infested trees or plants my die.      This is a difficult insect to control organically.   Lacewings and lady bugs will feed on larvae and adults, but the ants need to be controlled first.   You can see the ants busy on the next picture.

A Playground on the Farm!

The owner of the property has some grandkids so they built a parklike setting with playground equipment.   I enjoyed visiting my grandparents, but they didn't have a back yard like this!   Hopefully her grandchildren have fond memories of grandma's back yard.  Here are some of the pictures of the playground area of the farm.   I wish I was 10 instead of 50,  although I did take a spin on the merry go round - but got very dizzy after a couple spins and my corgie ran around it barking like I was in trouble.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Autumn Equinox Sunset.

The evenings are starting to cool down - although we are still hitting the 90's during the day.  Here's a picture of the autumn equinox sunset over the pond.   Fall is around the corner and I have started on the fall cleanup to prepare for the winter crop of peas, lettuce, carrots, beets, kale, cauliflower, and more.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Peaches N Cream and Bodacious Dahlia!

There are couple more varieties of dahlias blooming.  The first one is a decorative dahlia called peaches n cream.  The center is a peach color with the outside of the blossom a creamy yellow.  Here is a picture of a bunch of them blooming on one plant.

The other one is Bodacious.  This is a dinnerplate variety that's is very nice color with reddish petals that are white on the bottom and when they curl it gives a nice contrast.

Pocket Gopher Problem

I have a problem with pocket gophers.  They are digging everywhere and are climbing into the beds and digging up my bulbs.   I lined the bottom of the beds with wire - assuming a gopher couldn't get up over the side, but I was wrong.   I will not use poison because the owner of the property won't allow it and you always run the risk of you dog or cat eating the poisoned gopher and poisoning your pet.     Here are some picture of the hole and pictures from the internet of the culprits.  Look at those front claws and teeth.   They also will damage trees by eating the roots.

After some research, I found the perfect solution.   Install and barn owl box to entice a pair of barn owls to nest.  Here is some information from the barn owl next box company

  • Barn owls are cavity nesters, dependent upon large hollow trees or some other type of hollow. This means that they can be easily attracted to nest boxes.
  • Barn owls live and raise young comfortably around human activity such as busy farmyards and agricultural fields.
  • Barn owls are not territorial; they often form nesting colonies in small areas, allowing farmers to establish many nest boxes within sight of each other
  • Barn owls raise large numbers of young for a raptor—up to 13 young have been recorded in one nest, although 4 to 7 is more common
  • Barn owls respond to higher rodent numbers by producing more young per brood, and producing more than one brood per year.
  • Because they have such voracious appetites and have so many young, a single family of barn owls can consume over 1000 pocket gophers per year, or over 3000 mice or voles.
  • Barn owls are extremely faithful to their nest sites, raising young year after year; and as older barn owls perish, new ones take their places.
  • Once established, barn owls need very little maintenance, and can create a population that remains for many years.
  • Barn owl nest boxes are very economical when compared to the costs of poisons and other methods.
Here is a picture of the next box I ordered and will install along with some pictures of barn owls.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

14th and Final Raised bed

I moved the final raised bed from the old property that I was renting.   Its the 14th bed on this property and final bed.  The rest of the garden in this area is watered from the pond and a raised bed wont work for that.    Its filled with dirt and there are bearded irises on each end of it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Perfect way to end a hot day!

We are in the midst of an oppressive heat wave in Southern California.   4-5 days of 100+ temperatures.   Today it was 107  and yesterday was 109 in Riverside.   I was busy filling the final raised bed and planting irises.   I ended the day by tossing some fish food into the pond and sitting on the dock cooling my feet in the water.  

Planting in the Heat - 107 degrees today.

I planted 4 more varieties of German Bearded Iris.  I started at 4pm when the temperature was at 99 degrees, but it cooled down as the sun started setting.  The first one is Victoria falls which is an older variety but  very popular due to is nice blue color.  I also planted Rock Star,  Tiger Honey, and Superstition which is a very dark, almost black -purple.

Here are pictures of the varieties!


Tiger Honey


Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Fruits of my labor!

I cut my first watermelon of the season.   I have some others but donated them to my neighbors.   This is the first one that I designated for my household.   I always dread cutting open a melon because you never know if your going to get a nice red melon or one that's yellow and under-ripe.  I was pretty sure this was ripe. There was a nice yellow spot on the bottom which usually means it has been sitting long enough to ripen.  To my pleasant surprise, this one was nice and red and looked perfectly ripe.   Sure enough, it was sweet.  Brought back memories of childhood when cutting a melon was a wonderful thing.   This variety is California sweet which is a variety that does well in the inland empire (area of Southern California - between Los Angeles  and Palm springs)  Its low desert where the summers get warm and you get cool nights.  
Here are some pictures of the cut melon.

Seattle Dahlia

The first of my Seattle variety of Dahlias are blooming.   I need to pull out the weeds as I think they should be taller, but I think the competition with the weeds has inhibited the growth.  Next year, I am going to cover my rows with plastic and to keep the weeds in check between the dahlias.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fiesta Gladiolus

The Fiesta gladiolus are blooming right now.   I didn't get that many - but will keep them and all the small babies to increase my stock and then will start selling them in a year or so.   They are a nice orange with a bright yellow throat.

Vancouver Dahlia

My Vancouver dinner plate dahlias are blooming now also.    The plant is getting quite large so hoping that means the tuber will be big and I can divide it into a lot of plants this fall.    I am amazed at the size of the flowers.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Supreme Sultan Bearded Iris - Planting.

I planted 30 Supreme Sultan Bearded iris today in one of my raised bed.   They will be for sale next  year - possibly by spring but should have plenty to divide off and sell next fall.   The rhizomes were really nice and healthy looking.

Scary Looking Bug!

My garden is full of these scary looking bugs.   There is at least one on each plant and one leaf had two types of bugs on it.    Some of you may recognize these bugs, and laugh when I say I was concerned that my garden was infested with some bugs that will eat everything up.  I put some in a baggie and hauled them down to the agricultural supply store to have them tell me what I have and how to get rid of them.     They laughed at me and told me there were lady bug larvae.    When I told him they were everywhere, he said I was lucky.    I don't use pesticides and working towards becoming organic so this is the benefit.   Here are some pictures of the "dreaded bugs".  The second one shows both stages on the same leaf.  The last one is a display of the life cycle of the ladybug I found on the internet.

Grave Iris!

There are two cemeteries on the farm where I grew up.   One was a Berndt family cemetery which is my last name.   The other is a Bickel family cemetery which is the maiden name of my paternal grandmother.  Most of the graves are of children or teenagers who died of pneumonia around the turn of the century before antibiotics  Each grave is covered with short little irises which will bloom in early may for 2-3 days only.   The flowers are bearded and usually purple or blue.    After some research, I believe that they are Iris Pumila.   These irises originated from Eastern Europe and Russia and were transported by European settlers who used them to cover graves.     I dug some up in the Bickel cemetery. and hauled them to California to plant in my garden.  The funny thing is the I brought them back over a year ago and stuck them in my garage to plant and forgot about them.  I was digging through my garage and found them still in the plastic bag I wrapped them up in and they actually were sprouting.   I was amazed.   It shows how they survived the long trip across the ocean to the midwest.  The rhizomes were very small.  After about 3 weeks, they are starting to sprout.   I have read that they need cold winters to bloom, so I am not sure how well they will do in Southern Califronia.   The planting zones are 4-9 and I am in Zone 9.     Here is a picture of them starting to grow.

Monday, September 8, 2014

White DInner Plate Dahlias!

Here's a picture of a white dinner plate dahlia.   The flowers are huge, although probably not the size of a dinner plate, but the size of my hand.   Its a brilliant white with a creamy white center.


Here's a couple pictures of the sunset tonight.   I decided to watch the sunset after I was done weeding.    One is a picture of the sunset over the Santa Ana River bottom and one over the pond.    I was a peaceful evening.  Great way to end a long day.

RAIN - Finally - Thanks To Hurricane Norbert.

We received some rain yesterday.    We haven't received any rain since February and we are in the midst of a severe drought.    We had flash floor warnings and the rain lived up to the warning.  We got off the freeway and there was a river of water running down the overpass - 2-3 feet deep.   Here is a picture of the river on the overpass.   We were afraid the car was going to stall so we got off that street/overpass quickly.
 Here are the storm clouds over the Santa Ana River bottom which is at the end of the farm.   That tallest mountain in the distance is Mount Baldy.   Its nice to see some clouds for a change.   Here in Southern California, its Sunny every day with few clouds,   The change of weather was nice, but heard some people got flooded out and cars stuck in high water.   The same system moved to Arizona and reaked havoc.    It was caused by Hurricane Norbert in Mexico

Florist - Heck No!

People are asking if I am growing all these flowers because I like flowers.    Flowers are nice too look at, but I am growing these bulbs, plants, rhizomes, etc to sell the bulbs or rhizomes.   Flowers are a by product.   The person who is letting me use her farm appreciates the flowers so I will leave a bouquet on her outdoor kitchen table by her house.     I actually need to remove the flowers because I don't want the plant wasting energy on seeds, but instead need the plant to fatten up the bulb, tuber, or rhizome.     Here is a picture of the arrangement that I left on her table.   I didn't put any effort into nor am I good an arranging flowers.   I just stuck them in the vase and left them there.   She has a covered outdoor kitchen.  There is a fireplace in one corner, and grill and a stove for baking during the summer to avoid heating up the kitchen.