planting pumpkins

Hi all! It’s Ben again, here to share about some gardening… I needed to start some seeds I’d received for a Mexican garcinia (Luc’s mangosteen) tree. Our seed starting tray has 72 slots and I only needed 10 of them for these seeds. So, I grabbed a stack of really old seed packs and decided to roll the dice.

A few years back, I’d ordered some gardening supplies from an online vendor and I received some free seeds as a promotion; one of them was for a “Big Max Pumpkin.” Tomato plants have always consumed any available summer real estate for gardening, so pumpkins (and any other summer vegetable for that matter) weren’t a priority and continued to age in the hot garage.

When I looked at the “plant by” date, it said in big bold letters, “2013.” Oh well, I needed to plant the Mexican garcinias anyways, so Soul, Glow and I used 6 of the slots to plant 12 seeds (we did 2 seeds per slot).

After about a week, 3 of the slots had germinated (in one of them, both seeds took)! So, 2 weeks later, Soul and Glow transplanted them into the ground and they’re loving the heat. I gave Soul and Glow full responsibility of these little plants and they’ve been watering them every other day and made some super cute signs for their “Pumpins!” Pumpins. Too cute!

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our stone fruit harvest

This is the first year we’ve been able to harvest any stone fruits from our garden! Some were tastier and sweeter than others, but the ones that were “meh” will be chalked up to them being still so young. As the trees mature, the flavor should too.

Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones that took notice to the new, brightly colored fruit… the birds did as well. It’s discouraging to put all that work in, only to have it sniped by freeloading birds. When we had blueberries, we tried using nets, but that was challenging. Despite our efforts, it wasn’t easy to access the fruit, and once, a birds got INSIDE the net!

One response to the thievery is to have the tree big enough so that there’s plenty of fruit to go around! But that defeats the purpose of having multiple trees in a small space.

This fight is not over!

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bougainvillea inspiration

In Southern California, you can see bougainvillea in abundance. Lots of people use it in their landscaping; it looks so gorgeous cascading over walls. Our neighbor has it arched over their front door, and every time I go over, I love to look up and see the contrast between the hot pink florals and the blue sky. We used to have a couple bougainvillea plants in our backyard, but we took them out to put more fruit trees (Ben doesn’t like them because they’re sharp). One of the plants got transplanted to the front yard, but we haven’t really taken care of it, so it hasn’t grown much. These images have me wanting to nurse it back to life in hopes that it will grow over our front brick wall and spill over into the back. If we weren’t into fruit trees, I think I would love a backyard brick wall completely lined with bougainvillea.

image credits from top to bottom: greg fink, potsris (anyone know correct source for this?), tigmi trading, jessica comingore

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collecting water in our rainwater tanks

Hello, it’s Ben here to share about our rainwater tanks. We’ve not only started to harvest fruit, but water as well. My inspiration came from some of the speakers at the CRFG’s Festival of Fruit in 2015 (the theme was “The Year of the Drought-Tolerant Fruits”). After doing further research, I decided to move forward with rainwater tanks. So, what went into the decision?

PROS:
- Conserve water
- Save money:
- Receive a rebate for purchasing a rainwater tank
- Lower our water bill (perhaps prevent us from increasing to a more costly tier)
- Rain water is high quality water for plants because it doesn’t contain minerals that can harm root growth.
- Rain gutters are needed to help channel the rain water from the roof and we already have them
- Easy enough to “hide” in your landscape because of color options and the “slim” options

CONS:
- You won’t get a return on your investment. Learning this really helped me to temper my expectations regarding savings.
- You go through the water much more rapidly than you might think. One speaker’s estimate was an average of 25 gallons per week per tree. A 100 gallon tank would only last a month for one tree! What a rude awakening for my daydreams of kissing our water bill goodbye.
- Additional investment, and assembly, of a first flush diverter is required. The water from the gutters needs to be filtered as the first flush of water from the roof can contain bacteria from decomposed insects and droppings from birds and other animals.
- While I felt our local rebate for a single, larger tank was indeed generous, the rebates don’t allow for those interested in multiple tanks.
- It’s not potable water, so if there was a natural disaster, purification steps would be needed prior to drinking.

Thankfully, with the uncharacteristic amount of rain we’ve been receiving, all 3 of our tanks filled up quickly. While the rain was welcomed, I look forward to “test driving” the tanks and seeing how much mileage I will get out of them.

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tree-mendous!

I mentioned the article in this huzzah post, but we finally got our hands on a copy of the newspaper Ben and our backyard orchard is featured in. The article, which can be read here, shares tiny tidbits about our yard (though it got the sizing wrong) and how to create a backyard orchard culture of your own. I’m proud of all the work Ben has put into it, and I’m very happy to reap all the benefits of it. The girls especially love being able to go the backyard to pick out their own fruit.

If you want to see other gardening posts, check here. This week, Ben has a post coming up that shares all about our rainwater tanks, so be sure to check back if you might be interested.

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our valentine pummelos

Hello all! It’s Ben here… citrus is my favorite fruit and Valentine pummelos give me more confidence in my declaration.

One type of citrus I don’t like is grapefruit. I wish I did; I just can’t stand the bitter taste. Ruby likes them, but whenever I’ve brought one home, she’s rarely eaten it. For these reasons, we don’t grow grapefruit.

Pummelos, on the other hand, while having some grapefruit-like flavors, are balanced with a lot more sweetness. The Valentine pummelo is a cross of a pummelo, a mandarin and a blood orange, according to the Citrus Variety Collection at UC Riverside. So you can see where the genetics come from.

This large fruit is called a Valentine pummelo because: (1) it’s typically ready to be harvested around Valentine’s Day (although we’ve been enjoying them since mid-December); and (2) because of its red pigmentation, it resembles a heart when halved length-wise, tapered end down.

While it’s easy to be spoiled by other seedless, easy-to-peel citrus varieties, the low acid, sweet (yet slightly tart) and floral flavors of a Valentine pummelo make it totally worth it!

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