Summer in April: Week 17, 2021

I think we’re on day 8 of clear skies and a dominant high-pressure ridge that has kept the South Coast warm….even hot depending on where you are. My personal weather station recorded the last 6 days as over 22C with the peak on my son’s birthday, Saturday, at 24.6C. What’s equally surprising is that we had nearly the driest March on record and I’ve had to install my watering system as some beds were dry down to 2-3 inches, and the beds that are more clay soil have “cracked” with the lack of moisture.

Note the crack in this super-dry bed. Potatoes have been planted deep. Determinate tomatoes will be in soon.

I’ve been so busy I hadn’t even thought about writing anything until I flipped through some photos I took over the weekend. So here’s the update:

Fruit Trees:

Despite how dry it has been, my nectarine, which has spent this warm period dropping blossoms and leafing out, is showing signs of leaf curl (Taphrina deformans). This is surprising to me because I felt it has been dry and warm enough. I’ll need to be more more careful to dispose of leaves in the fall and maybe even protect it from rain one year to break the cycle.

My pears are in full bloom. Over the last two years they suffered terribly from the Pearl Leaf Blister Mite. We got no fruit, but we also got nearly no leaves or new growth. I’ve attempted some bio-control to break their cycle. First, Neoseiulus fallacis was put on the tree last season to reduce the Blister Mite population. Then Stratiolaelaps scimitus was applied to the soil to eat the blister mites that drop with the leaves and crawl back up in the spring. This strategy has been used with several growers, however, the next year, when there is no blister mite, they don’t always believe the predatory mites worked, and instead it could have been something else. (We get that a lot. A year is a long time to wait for results.) In order to be sure, I also have applied Neoseiulus cucumeris (cousin to Fallacis) in slow-release sachets hung on the tree. I really want a good year of growth, so I’m willing to go overboard. So far, there is no sign of the blisters caused by the mites, but it really starts to show up in the summer, so I’ll keep you posted.

The Granny Smith apples are just about to bloom with the honey crisp lagging a little behind. I selected both of those because they were “compatible” in regards to cross pollination. But since my very healthy Granny Smith only formed one apple last year, I’m a little concerned I won’t get the pollination again this year, especially if they flower earlier in my warm yard and at different times from one another.

Front: Granny Smith. Rear, Bartlett. Below, peppers and tomatoes enjoying the warmth of the tacky ground cover I’ve laid to suppress some weeds.

The beds:

I’ll save the bed-to-bed walk-though for another week. Everything is growing well, especially since I started regularly watering. Because of the warmth I’ve quickly started putting more things into their beds: brassicas, lettuces…etc. I’ve been wavering on putting the tomatoes in. The ones I’ll be keeping are in one gallon black pots which keeps their roots nice and warm so there is no rush…except to introduce them to their new climbing structure…

It’s light weight, but screwed to the insides of the beds, pushed down a bit and pulled tight with the wires. I made them 10feet high thinking I’d push them down two feet into the beds. Wife raised an eyebrow so we knocked a couple feet off. They are now 8 feet. Still tall, but I can reach to tie-up the tomatoes.

My grains, that I’ve had to resow (Thanks to birds) are just starting to pop-up. This will be way behind the fall plantings in years previous. Grains are cheap, so I’m not too concerned about harvesting the finished grains. As long as they are ready for being used in cut-flower arrangements, my wife will be happy.

Foreground: Last fall plantings of garlic, cilantro and celery. Then this year’s celery and cilantro with more garlic behind.

There isn’t much more of note. It turns out that I can overwinter celery, cilantro and spinach and be harvesting from them by April…so there’s that! Obviously, I overwintered Kale and chard, but they have both bolted or begun to. What’s really interesting is any of the brassicas or mustards that I started early in the cold-frame think they have overwintered and have bolted…despite being tiny. So what was an early success for me actually means I am reseeding flats of mustards (I already did reseed brassicas based on the normal schedule, just in case.)

My cold frame greenhouse is in partial shade and I have been leaving the door and (broken) side vent open all night. Still the automatic roof vent opens and temperatures climb past 30C during the day. I’m going to source out some shade cloth this afternoon to see if I can make it more habitable. Sunny days may require the cloth, and shady days may be fine without it. I plan on having peppers in there until quite late in the season.

Here’s my little three year old helping me keep back the English Ivy and Himalayan Black Berry canes. And below is the front of his FireTruck Birthday cake, made by my mom:

Take a look at how far we’ve come:

February: What’s Growing

Week 11: Update

Week 15: Update

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