How my garden does grow–27 April 2015

It is past time to bring you up to date on spring in Southern California. A warm and DRY spring. We are in the fourth year of what is being called a mega-drought. No more rain until November. I still have some water in my rain barrels, but mostly I am watering with tap water these days. Still, with all of the conservation measures we employ, we use only 60% of what the average coastal southern Californian uses. Not too shabby.

Spring is when my orchard blooms and, with luck, sets fruit. We got only 78 winter chill hours, which wasn’t enough for many of my trees to produce a good fruit set. But the trees that don’t require much chill have done great. I am just now entering peach season.

Our Florida Prince peach is LOADED with fruit, but most of it isn't quite ripe yet. Any day now, we will be inundated with sweet, delicious peaches.

Our ultra early blooming Florida Prince peach is LOADED with fruit already, but most of it isn’t quite ripe yet. Any day now, we will be inundated with small, sweet, delicious peaches.

Our Babcock peach is still blooming, but a few of the early flowers set fruit. Very few. It requires more chill than the Florida Prince peach. If I get two dozen peaches from it this year, I will count myself lucky.

Our Babcock peach is still blooming, but a few of the early flowers on it set fruit. Very few. It requires more chill than the Florida Prince peach. If I get two dozen peaches from it this year, I will count myself lucky.

These tiny Asian pears are on my dwarf grafted tree, the Shinseiki branch.

These tiny Asian pears are on my dwarf grafted tree, the Shinseiki branch.

The 21st Century branch is just now blooming, but that variety requires more winter chill than it got. I'm not expecting as good a fruit set as on the Shinseiki branch. Hope I'm spelling that right.

The 21st Century branch is just now blooming, but that variety requires more winter chill than it got. I’m not expecting as good a fruit set as on the Shinseiki branch. Hope I’m spelling that right.

The older Shinseiki Asian pear in the back yard blooms later than the grafted dwarf one in front. It looks like it has set at least two dozen pears, maybe more. Kind of soon to tell since they don't all actually grow into pears.

The older Shinseiki Asian pear in the back yard blooms later than the grafted dwarf one in front. It looks like it has set at least two dozen pears, maybe more. Kind of soon to tell since they don’t all actually grow into pears. So far, I don’t see any fruit set on the 21st Century Asian Pear in back. Or is it 20th Century?

I tried removing leaves in the winter from my apple trees to see if that would make them set fruit despite the lack of chill. My dwarf Granny Smith bloomed like crazy, but so far I don't see any apples. These nascent apples are on the dwarf Fuji. Too soon to tell if they will develop into actual apples.

I tried removing leaves in the winter from my apple trees to see if that would make them set fruit despite the lack of chill. My dwarf Granny Smith bloomed like crazy, but so far I don’t see any apples. These nascent apples are on the dwarf Fuji. Too soon to tell if they will develop into actual apples.

My poor Santa Rosa plum wants a lot of chill hours, and didn't get them. So far, I see only two plums on that big tree. :-(

My poor Santa Rosa plum wants a lot of chill hours, and didn’t get them. So far, I see only two plums on that big tree. 😦

This is only the second time my low chill requirement Red Flame grapes have bothered to bloom. I have two bunches of buds, this cluster and a smaller one. Let's hope I actually get grapes this year. I didn't the other time it bloomed.

This is only the second time my low chill requirement Red Flame grapes have bothered to bloom. I have two bunches of buds, this nice big cluster and a smaller one. Let’s hope I actually get grapes this year. I didn’t the other time it bloomed.

The Panamint nectarine didn't get enough chilling. I will be lucky to get two dozen nectarines from this tree. So far, I have seen no fruit on the Snow Queen nectarine, and not a lot of blossoms either.

The Panamint nectarine didn’t get enough chilling. I will be lucky to get two dozen nectarines from this tree. So far, I have seen no fruit on the Snow Queen nectarine, and not a lot of blossoms either.

Well, before you decide that I am the worst fruit grower in California, I’d better show off my citrus.

The dwarf Valencia orange is loaded with brand new oranges, probably more than the tree can support. If it doesn't drop fruit, I will have to thin it. Right now, there are three dozen oranges, but the tree is too tiny to support that many. The more mature and much larger dwarf Navel orange is loaded with fruit, and is big enough to mature them all.

The dwarf Valencia orange is loaded with brand new oranges, probably more than the tree can support. If it doesn’t drop fruit, I will have to thin it. Right now, there are three dozen oranges, but the tree is too tiny to support that many. The more mature and much larger dwarf Navel orange is loaded with fruit, and is big enough to mature them all.

I have a few Eureka lemons on a very dwarf tree in a pot.

I have a few Eureka lemons on a very dwarf tree in a pot.

The Bearrs lime is loaded with tiny new limes.

The Bearrs lime is loaded with tiny new limes.

The Meyer lemon has several lemons left from last year, and is busy setting new fruit.

The Meyer lemon has several lemons left from last year, and is busy setting new fruit.

The avocado set lots of tiny fruit, most of which fall off. It is too soon to tell how many will mature, but I am hopeful.

The avocado set lots of tiny fruit, most of which fall off. It is too soon to tell how many will mature, but I am hopeful.

Among our newest trees are this tiny Pomegranate. Too soon for it to bloom. The tops of my two Fuyu persimmon trees died off and then sprouted from below the graft line, i.e., they are now American persimmons. I will dig them out and try again, this time with a potted persimmon instead of a bare root persimmon. I keep hoping.

Among our newest trees are this tiny Pomegranate. Too soon for it to bloom. The tops of my two Fuyu persimmon trees (not shown) died off and then sprouted from below the graft line, i.e., they are now American persimmons. I will dig them out and try again, this time with a potted persimmon instead of a bare root persimmon. I keep hoping.

This is the drought-tolerant portion of our front yard. The Korea grass requires very little water, and neither do the flowers. They are lucky if I water them once a month.

This is the drought-tolerant portion of our front yard. The Korea grass requires very little water, and neither do the flowers. They are lucky if I water them once a month.

We have had a good artichoke harvest, but it is nearly over.

We have had a good artichoke harvest, but it is nearly over.

This is my front yard vegetable bed by the sidewalk. You are looking at the garlic end, with sage at the lower right.

This is my front yard vegetable bed by the sidewalk. You are looking at the garlic end, with one elephant garlic and 27 “regular” garlics grown from bulbs/cloves from the grocery store. Sage is at the lower right.

This is the onion end, with about 80 onions. There is a lot of kale in there too, and carrots.

This is the onion end, with about 80 onions. There is a lot of kale in there too, and carrots.

I am growing Sweet White Texas and Texas Red onions. They are bulbing up nicely.

I am growing Sweet White Texas and Texas Red onions. They are bulbing up nicely.

Incredibly enough, I have trouble growing summer squash in my garden. Maybe they don't get enough sun, not sure. I planted these Lebanese squash from seed and they are struggling along.

Incredibly enough, I have trouble growing summer squash in my garden. Maybe they don’t get enough sun, not sure. I planted these Lebanese squash from seed and they are struggling along. BTW, I have netting over everything to keep the birds out.

I have harvested only one turnip so far. Here is another one struggling along.

I have harvested only one turnip so far. Here is another one struggling along.

I have about 20 carrots scattered about the front bed. I can see them poking their orange roots up out of the ground, so they may be ready to harvest soon.

I have about 20 carrots scattered about the front bed. I can see them poking their orange roots up out of the ground, so they may be ready to harvest soon.

The Deer-tongue lettuce is about ready for a first picking. I grew these heirlooms from seeds that I saved a couple of years ago.

The Deer-tongue lettuce is about ready for a first picking. I grew these heirlooms from seeds that I saved a couple of years ago.

Kale, kale, and more kale. This one is Lacinato or dinosaur kale. I also have Scotch Blue Curled and something that sprouted from Lacinato seeds that I saved that obviously isn't Lacinato. That darn kale is so promiscuous. You never know what you will get from home-grown kale seeds.

Kale, kale, and more kale. This one is Lacinato or dinosaur kale. I also have Scotch Blue Curled and something that sprouted from Lacinato seeds that I saved that obviously isn’t Lacinato. That darn kale is so promiscuous. You never know what you will get from home-grown kale seeds.

The back veggie beds are a mess. Better to show a close-up of sugar snap peas.

The back veggie beds are a mess. Better to show a close-up of sugar snap peas.

Here is a cauliflower head that is growing nicely. We won't speak of the other seven cauliflower plants which don't appear to be doing anything at all that is going to be useful. Kind of like my red cabbage--nothing looks like it is going to be harvestable there either.

Here is a cauliflower head that is growing nicely. We won’t speak of the other seven cauliflower plants which don’t appear to be doing anything at all that is going to be useful. Kind of like my red cabbage–nothing looks like it is going to be harvestable there either.

I haven't been good about photographing my harvests, but here is one day's harvest of mustard greens, kale, gold potatoes, a turnip, and chard. All of this went into a wonderful beef stew, along with the last jar of my home-canned tomato soup that was lousy as soup but great as a stew base.

I haven’t been good about photographing my harvests, but here is one day’s harvest of mustard greens, kale, gold potatoes, a turnip, and chard. All of this went into a wonderful beef stew, along with the last jar of my home-canned tomato soup that was lousy as soup but great as a stew base.

The first of the peaches went into a fruit mix with store bought strawberries and blueberries, along with maple syrup and Grand Marnier. It went on top of a German pancake.

The first of the peaches went into a fruit mix with store bought strawberries and blueberries, along with maple syrup and Grand Marnier. It went on top of a German pancake.

This is my German pancake fresh from the oven, cooked in my husband's great-grandmother's cast iron skillet.

This is my German pancake fresh from the oven, cooked in my husband’s great-grandmother’s cast iron skillet.

GERMAN PANCAKE

6 eggs

1 C milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 T Grand Marnier

1/2 tsp salt

1 C flour

1 stick butter (1/4 lb)

Melt butter in a cast iron skillet in a 375 degree F oven until it is hot and bubbling but not burnt. Whisk egg, whisk in other liquids, then whisk in the salt and flour. Pour carefully into the HOT skillet and bake for about 25-30 minutes. It will puff up beautifully. Cut into four servings and top with sliced fruit of your choice, mixed with maple syrup and an additional 1 T Grand Marnier.

Vegetarians may want to look away at this point. Before I get to my harvest, I want to show off Bucket, the 4-H steer that we are sponsoring along with seven other sponsors. And I want to point out that not only is he local, he is being raised humanely, with love and kindness. His life is a far better one than a feedlot steer. He and his buddy Beau (show to his right) even have toys to play with back at the farm! They like to head butt soccer balls back and forth.

Here he is in the paddock at his first livestock show. I know, not a very photogenic photo, but this is the steak end, my favorite part. :-)

Here he is in the paddock at his first livestock show. I know, not a very photogenic photo, but this is the steak end, my favorite part. 🙂

He is growing nicely, and was in his first show last weekend. He took second place in the Market Steer category. Woohoo, Bucket!!! However, he spooked at the flash photography, and slammed his handler Jenna into the fence, injuring her hand. She wasn’t able to show him in the Showmanship class. Bucket weighs a bit over 1,000 lbs now, and I am amazed that she can handle him at all. He is like a HUGE puppy, very playful and headstrong. He will be in another practice show next weekend, then will be going to the Orange County Fair in late June.

Bucket doesn't miss a lot of meals. Or any opportunity to get more food. He should top out at about 1200 lbs by county fair time in June.

Bucket doesn’t miss a lot of meals. Or any opportunity to get more food. He should top out at about 1200 lbs by county fair time in June. Then he will fulfill his destiny as a meat animal.

On to this week’s harvest.

FRUIT

13 oz Peaches, Florida Prince

VEGETABLES

1 lb 4 oz Artickokes

7 oz Bok Choy

3 oz Chard

3 oz Kale

2 oz Mustard Greens

6 oz Peas, Sugar Snap

8 oz Potatoes, Gold (the entire crop)

4 oz Turnip, Purple Top

TOTAL PRODUCE 4 lbs 2 oz plus 16 eggs from our hens

Not bad for a tiny urban garden. If you had a harvest, or want to see what others are harvesting, visit Daphne’s Dandelions (see link at right).

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I am retired from writing a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent, but I am still teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks.
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10 Responses to How my garden does grow–27 April 2015

  1. daphnegould says:

    Another person killing me with her peaches. I won’t get mine until late July or August. Though I have no trouble with chill hours. I get too many of those.

    • Daphne, help, come get some of these peaches. I am inundated. This has never happened before. I got 18 lbs this week and there are still a LOT more on the tree. I’m worried that I won’t be able to process them all, as I am old and wear out from standing from too long in the kitchen. I would rather sit on my butt at the computer. 🙂

  2. Norma Chang says:

    You are not getting sufficient chill hours and I am getting way too many. Thanks for the garden and orchard tour, I am constantly amazed at how much you produce in your garden.

  3. I don’t think there is any chance of thinking that you are the “worst fruit grower in California.” You are doing a great job and tackling the challenges that come your way. I really hope that pulling the leaves off the apple will work for you.

    Your other garden harvests are fantastic!! I especially love the artichokes. I wanted to grow artichokes this year, but had to give my plants to a friend when we decided to move. I had to remove all my raised bed gardens, so the house will show better.

    • Christy, I hope you will be able to have artichokes in your new place, wherever that turns out to be. Pulling the leaves off my apple trees resulted in a lot of blooms for the Granny Smith apple, but it doesn’t appear to have set any fruit. I have a few apples on the Fuji, which is still a very young tree. The Gala is just now blooming. The dwarf Gala didn’t bloom at all. Go figure. Not much on my Panamint Nectarine and no fruit set so far on the Snow Queen, which appears to be blooming for the second time this spring.

  4. Mary Mueller says:

    Wow! I am so jealous, way up here in Wisconsin!

  5. Margaret says:

    Your garden is really moving along…I LOVE German pancakes but haven’t made them in ages. I should give them a go soon – the kids would get a kick out of the puffy cloud emerging from the oven.

    It’s ironic how your trees have not received enough of a chill and ours likely received too much. I have a feeling I’ll get very few, if any, plums this year.

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