Archive for June, 2015

California Cantaloupes!

Posted on June 18, 2015 by Leave a comment

We were traveling near Bakersfield, California and came upon this very large field of cantaloupes. The Romans, in Italy, learned to grow cantaloupes from the Egyptians. The cantaloupe is named after the town of Cantalupo in Italy, so cantaloupes have been grown for long time. Approximately 75% of the cantaloupes grown in the United States of America are grown in CA. Bakersfield is located in the lower San Joaquin Valley, sometimes called the Central Valley. Cantaloupes in the Central Valley are planted from early April until mid summer. The fruits require about 90 days before they are ready for harvest which takes place between June and October. During this growing period the weather is normally hot and dry which makes irrigation a necessity. The low humidity and lack of rainfall helps prevent foliar and fruit diseases. It is important that the cantaloupes are ripe before they are picked because up to 50% of the sugar content is created in the last week of ripening. The melon is ripe when it’s color changes from green to a yellow / tan color and the “netting” shows a distinct contrast. Melon ripeness can also be determined when the fruit separates from the vine or “slip stage”. The sugar content stops increasing at this stage. The melon will continue to ripen after harvest and become juicer. Cantaloupes should be refrigerated after they are cut open.

California Cantaloupes!

California Cantaloupes!

Similar to other types of melons, there are both male and female flowers on the same cantaloupe plant. The male flowers develop first, followed by the female flowers. Honeybees are required for pollination. Honeybees are brought to the field by a beekeeper and placed surrounding the whole field of cantaloupes. The placement of the bee hives helps achieve uniform pollination and helps maximize yields of premium fruit. Since the honeybees require pollen and nectar for their survival, the honeybee hives are removed after blossoming is completed. The honeybees are then moved to another location, where another food source is available. The beekeeper is paid for this service which is critical to the success of so many agricultural crops in CA.

Honeybees Pollinate CA Cantaloupes!

Honeybees Pollinate CA Cantaloupes!

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California Pistachios!

Posted on June 17, 2015 by Leave a comment

California is the largest producer of pistachios in the United States of America. The pistachio is a native tree to Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey, and has been cultivated since about 7000 years B.C. The acreage of pistachios in CA continues to grow and as of 2014 there were about 225,000 bearing acres. The first commercial crop in CA was harvested in 1976. It takes about 6 years for a young tree to begin to bear fruit. There are both male and female trees which are needed for pollination. Pollination is wind born and does not require honeybees. The trees bear in alternate years with one year having a heavy crop and the next year a light crop. It takes about 15 growing years for a crop to be profitable, however trees can profitably bear for more than 50 years.

CA Pistachios in June

CA Pistachios in June

Botanically the pistachio is classified as a drupe. The edible part is the seed. Pistachios bloom in March in CA. The shell expansion occurs after pollination and begins to harden in June. The nut develops in July. By late July and early August the hull or husk splits, but the nut remains intact. The nuts ripen in at the end of August and into September and at that time the husk or hull becomes loose. Shell splitting begins about this same time. Harvest usually starts in early September and lasts from four to six weeks. The nuts are harvested with a mechanical shaker. The nuts are immediately processed to preserve the highest quality. Historically more than half the crop is exported to China, Europe and Canada.

CA Pistachio Trees in June

CA Pistachio Trees in June

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California Almonds!

Posted on June 17, 2015 by Leave a comment

California produces 100% of the almonds in the United States of America and 75% of the almonds in the world. Spanish Franciscan Padres introduced almond trees into what would become California, in the mid 1700s. The almonds are grown in the Central Valley in California. Almond trees start to bloom as the weather gets warmer in January and February. Almonds are not self pollinating and require at least two different varieties to successfully produce fruit. Honeybees are required for maximum pollination. After pollination a fuzzy gray/green hull begins to grow which will contain the almond kernel.

Fuzzy Green Almonds in Mid June

Fuzzy Green Almonds in Mid June

The hull continues to grow, harden and mature until July. Next the hull will begin to split and open. From mid August until late October the split will open exposing the almond shell and causing it to dry, as well as the kernel inside the shell. To harvest, the trees are shaken with a mechanical “tree shaker”. The nuts are allowed to dry further on the orchard floor and then swept into rows where they are picked up mechanically. During hulling the shells are separated from the kernels.

After harvest, in November and December, the almond tree begins to start the whole process over again by developing new flower buds for next years crop.

Right now the biggest challenge to growing almonds is the extended drought in California which has already had a limiting impact on almond production.

Almond Tree in Mid June

Almond Tree in Mid June

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How a Disc Works!

Posted on June 14, 2015 by Leave a comment

How a Disk Works! A disc basically functions to move the soil and flip the soil over and mix it from top to bottom and side to side. Depending on the soil, speed, and pulling power, mixing can occur quite well with one pass, but many times takes more than one pass. If the soil can be plowed or chiseled prior to discing, this will help loosen the soil. If there is little or no, live or dead vegetation, this is also helpful. Incorporating heavy vegetation like dead corn stalks can be a challenge. The efficiency of mixing the soil can be increased if the field is disced perpendicular to the initial pass. If incorporating chemicals or fertilizers, a double pass can make the incorporation deeper and more uniform. Always follow label instructions when using agricultural chemicals. When the soil is mixed, it allows air to enter the soil and for vegetation to be covered with soil. When trying to control weeds, live weeds are many times killed by either the exposure to air or are smothered under the soil. On the flip side, a new crop of weed seeds is brought to the soil surface. Some discs have adjustable gangs. A gang is the row of disc blades which can be from just 2-3, like the disc pictured, or many many more. Our disc has adjustable gangs. Both the front and rear gangs can be adjusted, or not adjusted, individually. This allows the operator more control over how the soil is moved. When purchasing a disc this is a nice feature to have and allows the disc to be able to do more tasks. It also costs more money. You may have to go to another manufacturer or dealer to find an adjustable disc. An example of this is that our disc can be adjusted so that it will rip deeply into the soil or it can be adjusted so that it hardly digs at all, and used very similarly to a cultipacker. With this option we only purchased one piece of equipment insead of two.

How a Disc Works!

How a Disc Works!

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Using a Disk for Soil Preparation

Posted on June 14, 2015 by Leave a comment

Using a Disc for Soil Preparation. On our farm, we do not own a plow for soil preparation. Due to our way of clearing land, by cutting trees very close to the ground and leaving the stumps, it would not be practical to use a plow anyway. Once the trees are cleared, we spray any vegetation with glyphosate to kill it. When the vegetation is dead and preferably dry, we use the disc to till the soil, going slowly over the stumps. Initially this land is used for whitetail deer food plots and is planted with either annual brassicas or annual sweet oats. Because fields initially need to have their perennial weed populations controlled, annual crops are grown for the first year or two. To help accomplish this, glyphosate is used in between spring and fall annual cropping. Once the perennial weeds are controlled, we start planting perennial crops of Whitetail Institute, Whitetail Clover, Clover and Chicory and or Clover, Chicory and Sanfoin. After growing the perennial crops for 3 to 5 years and some of the stumps start to decompose, we can start to plant row crops like corn. In between each crop, we use glyphosate and the disc to control the weeds and prepare the seedbed for planting. One caution about using this practice is that a hardpan will develop about 4-6 inches down in the soil due to the repeated pressure of the disc. If you have the ability to chisel plow or moldboard plow every few years, this will help with internal soil drainage.

Using a Disc for Soil Preparation

Using a Disc for Soil Preparation

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Garden Overcrowding or Not?

Posted on June 14, 2015 by Leave a comment

Overcrowding or Not? We planned the garden with the intent to not waste any space, but at the same time not overcrowd the garden. We had some unknowns about how far the vines would run for the watermelons, cantaloupe and sweet potatoes. We also were willing to risk having them grow together a little bit with the hope that they would not over compete with each other. We also expect that we will remove the cantaloupe and water melon vines before the sweet potatoes are finished growing. We are also hopeful that the taller Greenbeans, Eggplant, Cucumbers and Okra will tolerate the shorter vines growing around them. Their source of water and nutrients is still the point of planting, so the main completion will be for light and air movement. Things may be getting out of hand, but it is still too early to tell. We will have to see what kind of a melon set we achieve as things are, if we create a disease fostering environment, or if the vines expand to the point where they reduce light penetration to the other garden plants. DSC00471

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Tomato Wall Update 1

Posted on June 5, 2015 by Leave a comment

Tomato Wall Update 1. We installed a tomato wall for the first time and so far it appears to be doing well. We have spent a little time with two main activities. First; training the vines through the wire mesh which is 6″ X 6″, weaving them back and forth vertically. Second we have trimmed some excessive plant growth at the base of the tomato plants and some of the extra suckers that are creating foliage that is too dense. We are limiting the lush foliage density to enhance air flow and prevent foliage diseases. We have some fruit set and more is currently setting. We are currently limiting fertilizer to encourage fruit set and limit excessive vegetative growth. We anticipate horizontal vine training soon as our vines have reached the top of the wire mesh. We hope to keep producing tomatoes for another 2-3 months.

Tomato Wall Update 1

Tomato Wall Update 1

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Planting Too Close!

Posted on June 5, 2015 by Leave a comment

Planting Too Close! It is important to plant using the proper spacing when planting vegetable seeds or plants, fruits, nuts, landscape plants and just plants in general. Most of the time this information is located on the seed packet or transplant container, but sometimes it is either not there or hard to read. Another source of this information is seed or nursery catalogs either in printed form or online. If you look online and can’t find your specific variety, look for the same information for a similar plant to what you are planting. In landscapes you need to imagine what the plant will look like 20 years in the future. In vegetable gardens, how big will it be in 2-3 months? Proper spacing is important to ensure that there is proper ventilation for disease prevention, proper light penetration for good growth, and plenty of space for a root system to develop that is not competing for water and nutrients with other plants nearby.

Planting Too Close!

Planting Too Close!

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Honeybee Pollination!

Posted on June 5, 2015 by Leave a comment

Honeybee Pollination! Having honeybees will really help with the pollination of many fruits and vegetables. Pollination is the process of transferring the Pollen from the male part of the flower to the Stigma or female part of the flower, enabling fertilization and reproduction. Some plants have separate male flowers and female flowers; others have male and female structures in the same flower. The size and shape of some types of fruits and vegetables is related to the degree of successful pollination. Sometimes another insect will visit the flower and destroy part of the blossom prohibiting proper pollination. It is a good gardening practice to look at the blossoms to help determine if there are any obstacles to proper pollination.

Honeybee Pollination!

Honeybee Pollination!

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Cucumber Cage Training!

Posted on June 4, 2015 by Leave a comment

Cucumber Cage Training! We like to keep our cucumbers off the ground to reduce their exposure to insects, diseases and other garden pests. We like to make our cucumber cages using the same materials that we prefer to use for our tomato cages. We make these cages out of a roll of concrete reinforcing wire that can be purchased from Lowes or Home Depot. To cut the wire we use a Fencing Tool which can be bought at Lowes and Tractor Supply Company. This tool is specially designed for cutting and bending his type of heavy wire. We recently bought a pair at Lowes for about $16.00 and was well worth the effort to find a pair. You basically cut a length of wire fence to make the diameter cage that you prefer. Then cut it off the roll leaving the “fingers” to bend back to secure the cage in the shape of a cylinder. Then cut off the bottom “loop” of wire, again leaving the “fingers” to stab in the ground to stabilize the cage. These cages last for many years. You can also use “half” cages to put around peppers or eggplant. After the cucumbers start to grow into a vine, lift the vines into the cage an let them lean against the wire “grid”. Come back every 2-3 days depending on how fast the vines are growing. Each time, tuck the vines towards the inside of the cage so they can be supported. You must do this gently so the vines don’t break. Sometimes we will use a “tie”, of some sort, to attach the vine to the cage, but we try to avoid doing this. When the cucumbers develop they are usually suspended and grow long and straight.

Cucumber Cage Training!

Cucumber Cage Training!

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