Golden Currants consistent production even in drought

Ribes aureum – Golden currant fruit ready for harvest

Golden Currants, Ribes aureum, are a reliable, consistent producer in my garden.  The black berries must be picked individually by hand, but make a delicious jam or preserves.  In this drought year when the garden has received only about 2 inches of precipitation since October, none from October to January and none in April, it still made a crop.  I did irrigate a few times, but only minimally.

Ribes aureum – Golden currant fruit many ready for harvest even after over 2 gallons of berries harvested

Even after harvesting over 2 gallons from a few plants, there is much more to harvest.

Birds and a berry moth (their larvae) are the primary problems, but I still have a bountiful harvest of tasty berries.

 

 

Golden Currant blossoms
Ribes aureum flowers

Fragrant golden flowers followed by abundant harvest, even in times of drought, make these reliable producers a good choice for gardens in New Mexico.

Black currents fruit of the Golden Currant - Ribes aureum
Ribes aureum – Golden Currant fruit ready to harvest

Hare barley is a harmful plant

Hare barley seed heads showing awns that can be harmful to pets
Hare barley seed heads showing awns

Hare barley and some other grasses,  such as foxtail barley and purple three awn grass, have characteristics that can be harmful to pets.  These grasses are harmful plants that have awns, long threadlike extensions from the florets in the seed head.  These awn have very small backward angled spines.  These awn can enter a pets eyes, nostrils, ears, or even penetrate their skin.  The backward spines prevent the awns from working out the way they entered, they only work deeper into the eyes, nostrils, ears, or skin.  A few years ago my pet Brittany, Joy, had one enter between her toes and work deeply into her paw.  She began limping and the veterinarian had to extract the awn.  This is when I learned that this is an extremely common problem for pets.

Hare barley seed heads developing
Hare Barley

In a year like this year when there has been little rain (just over 1 inch from October to late April), anything green seems to be a blessing, but that may not be the case, especially if you have pets.  In garden hare barley and foxtail barley are sprouting and the hare barley is beginning to produce seed heads.  I think I have eliminated purple three awn grass from my garden, but I will be watching for it.  All these grasses are pretty, so it is tempting to allow them to remain, but if you have pets it is best to eliminate these grasses.

There are herbicides labeled for management of these grass weeds and other harmful plants, but if you are like me and have pets you may prefer to use manual means of weed management.  Hoeing them when they first appear in late winter is helpful.  If they are numerous and you cannot manage them by hoeing, you can use a torch to burn them, but be careful that you do not start a fire or damage desirable nearby plants.  This year’s drought has been a blessing in limiting the number of plants that are growing to a relatively manageable few in my garden.  I have been pulling, digging, and hoeing them for several months.  Now, as the seed heads form and I can specifically identify the worst of the weed grasses, those with harmful awns, I can specifically target those plants.

A poem: SOON SPRING WILL COME AND LIFE RENEW

I’m a little late with this.  The renewing has begun!

 

SOON SPRING WILL COME AND LIFE RENEW

The world is still and quiet out

The trees their leaves are now without

Just sticks of gray and brown to see

And Winter now depresses me.

 

The flowers long ago did die

The leaves turned brown with somber sigh.

The silence of the falling snow

Has hushed the sound of plants that grow.

 

Alone and sad I now recall

The life I saw ‘fore leaves did fall.

In crushing pain I now await

The return of Spring’s appointed date.

 

A cluster of white oriental pear blossoms with pink stamens against a blue sky and out of focus pine tree behind the blossoms
Oriental pear blossoms

And then, oh joy, will life arise

The gift of God will feast my eyes

As gold, then green adorns the tree

And flowers in the meadows be.

 

Pink quince blossoms and pubescent new quince leaves
Quince blossoms

And though I know of winter’s need,

To rest the life and cool the seed,

I still rejoice when spring does show

And melt away the winter snow.

 

Fresh food I’ll have to please my taste

Such pleasure after winter’s wait.

A time of joy when life anew.

And Easter calls to mind the Truth.

 

Curtis

How to see the bright side garden problems

There is an old song “Count your blessings.”  I was thinking of this and its relevance to gardening.  There are many ways it is relevant; there are many blessings to be gained from gardening.  However, in an unusually dry year is there a blessing?  A “bright side”?

As I was looking at my garden, the dust, the rock-hard, dry soil, and the need to irrigate, I began to notice the bright side – there are very few weeds growing in my garden.  Where I irrigate there will be weeds, but that is where I will need to manage weeds – another bright side!  Where I do not irrigate, there will be no, or at least, few weeds.

So in this dry year, I will count my blessings, I will see the bright side.  Then when the rains do come I will enjoy the moisture and enjoy the silver lining to the clouds, literally and figuratively.  I will see the blessings!

How to identify good nursery companies

It is important to know if you are purchasing from a good nursery company.  How can you identify a good nursery company?

A company’s reputation is a good first indicator.  Some companies have been in business for many years and built good reputations.  However, this is not always reliable.  One of my favorite nursery companies from the past had a period of financial difficulties and their quality slipped.  I think they are recovering, but I have not ordered anything from them since their problems.

In one instance I ordered sweet leaf (Stevia) plants from a company I had never heard of before.  About a month later the plants arrived – fortunately I was able to recognize that they had not shipped Stevia plants, they sent me banana plants. I think this company is just a gatherer of orders and then submits orders to other, real, nurseries.  Of course, I was not able to contact this company after the shipment.  I still have one banana plant surviving from the plants I received.  I had also given some away to friends.  I followed up with an order to a well known, reputable seed company – Park Seeds.  Park Seed Company sent me real Stevia plants. Park Seed Company has been in business for 150 years and I have ordered from them many times with good success.  This is a good nursery company.

This autumn I had an interesting experience that I though was not going to work out well, but I was wrong.  I ordered some plum trees from a very reputable nursery.  I received one of the trees and a notice that my order for the other tree was cancelled (and I was not charged), because that variety had sold out.  I was quite disappointed that they were selling more than they had in stock!  A few months later I received an e-mail stating that the tree I wanted was back in stock, but when I checked it was a standard size tree, not a dwarf as I wanted.  However, I placed an order at that time for a different variety of dwarf plum tree.  When the tree arrived, it was not the tree that I ordered, it was a pecan tree.  I sent an e-mail to the company on Saturday, explaining that they had shipped the wrong plant.  On Monday I received a reply that they were correcting the error.  A few days later I received the Redheart dwarf plum that I had ordered.  The company told me to keep the pecan tree – Well done Stark Brothers Nursery!  Another good nursery company in my experience and from discussions with other gardeners.

Pay attention to how a company treats you and the quality of the plants that they ship.  This way you will have a better chance of getting what you want and getting good quality plants.  Never the less, it is good to periodically try new companies to see if you want to add them to your list of quality suppliers.

Photos

How to tell if seed are good

I often have seed left from previous years and wonder if they are viable.  Sometimes my plants will surprise me with seeds, but these seed often are not viable and do not grow.  Testing the ability of these seeds to germinate saves time and space in my garden.  Recently my gerbera daisy made seeds, so I tested them.  I also found some one-year old liatris seeds that I decided to test.

I put the seeds into sealable plastic bags on moistened paper towels, each type in separate bags:

Gerbera seed test
Liatris seed test

 

After a couple of weeks the liatris seed were sprouting, but there was no sign of growth in the gerbera seeds:

Liatris seedings closeup

I carefully removed the sprouted liatris seedlings from the moist paper towel and placed them into pots of potting soil:

Liatris seedlings and forceps ready for planting
Liatris seedling planted in potting soil

They are growing well and I will transplant them to the garden later in the spring, or give some to friends.

Soil moisture update

This is an update to the previous blog regarding precipitation and depth of soil moisture.

On Monday night there was some rain, ice pellets, and snow.  Tuesday morning I measured 0.4 inches of snow depth.  The rain/snow gauge revealed a moisture content for this precipitation to be 0.15 inches Continue reading Soil moisture update

After rain should I irrigate?

Do I need to irrigate? After it had not rained from early October to mid-February (except a couple of 0.08 inch events in January), the soil here is dry.  I dug a post-hole and could not find moist soil even to a depth of 18 inches.  AND THEN it rained 0.66 inches as measured in my rain gauge.   So, how deeply did this moisten the soil?  In my soil I measured 5.5 inches of moist soil.  I used a “Brown Probe” developed by Dr. Paul Brown, USDA researcher in Montana, to help dryland farmers determine if they had enough soil moisture to grow a crop.  I also dug a hole and measured with a yard stick.  The measurements agreed.  The Brown probe is the easier way to measure the depth of moist soil.

When using a soil moisture probe such as the Brown probe, you push the probe into the soil and determine the depth it penetrated before stopping.  It will stop when it hits dry soil, a rock, a pipe, or a large root.  This is not as valid a reading in soil that has been rototilled or recently turned with a spade or garden fork.  To assure an accurate reading probe in several locations to be sure you didn’t  hit a rock, pipe, or root.

It is also important to measure in an appropriate area.  Near areas of roof runoff (water harvesting), recent irrigation, or low areas where water collects, the measured depth of moist soil.  This is good if that is where you are gardening, but if you want to know the benefit of the recent rain over the larger area, measure in an area where water does not collect from other areas and from an area that is not so steep that the water runs off before soaking in.

Now I know that I still need to irrigate.  At this time of year (February) in Central New Mexico tree buds are becoming active and stimulating root growth in preparation for the coming growing season.  I must moisten an appropriate depth for the trees.  I have also begun turning my garden soil with a garden fork and find it much easier to turn the soil if it is moist.  Dry soil is rock-hard and hard to turn.

Paul Brown soil moisture probe inserted into soil to determine depth of moist soil
Paul Brown soil moisture probe
Brown probe removed from soil next to inches scale to show depth of moist soil
Soil moisture depth 24 hours after first significant rain in 4.5 months
Meter stick in hole showing corroboration with Brown probe moist soil depth determination
Soil moisture depth by digging

The line between the lighter soil below the yard stick indicates the “dry line”.  The angle I had to hold the camera makes it look like the depth measurement is 6 inches, but that is a parallax error.  The true depth is 5.5 inches.

Aphid infestation reduced and returning to Kalanchoe

After treatment with Neem oil extract and Pyrethrin insecticides most of the aphids are gone, but there are new ones, especially young ones .  Repeated treatment is required in these situations. Rapidly reproducing pests such as aphids require one or two retreatments after a few days.

Kalanchoe
close-up of Kalanchoe