Learning from my mistakes

Sure isn’t that what life is all about – learning from your mistakes?  I’m a graduate from that school of philosophy, for sure. One thing about doing the Master Gardeners program is that as I sit in lectures, learning how to garden correctly, I realize how many things I’ve done wrong!

Take planting fruit trees for example.  I planted five cherry trees too low in the ground and added organic matter to the hole before putting in the tree.  Wrong, wrong, wrong – on three counts!

1) Make the hole wide, not deep.  Plant the tree so that  the “delicate crown” (where the roots meet the trunk) is slightly above the grade.  Build a small trench at the drip line for irrigation. Here’s a rough (very rough) sketch of what you should do.

And here is a picture of what you should NOT do!

The crown is too low compared to the level of the original soil. That red lava rock has to go, but even with it removed, the tree will still be too low.

2) Put only the native soil back in the hole – no amendments.  The tree will sink as these decompose.  Guess what I did…  Steer manure, compost and fertilizer! Another shot of what not to do…
The tree will be two foot under by the time its all over!
3) Plant trees suitable for your climate.  For example, cherries need on average 600 hours of chill time (temperatures below 45oF) and we tend to get less than 400 hours.  So what did I do?  Yep – I just planted me five sweet cherry trees that will probably never fruit!
But here’s the up-side.  All the trees I planted were free.  All of them volunteers in some shape or form, so at least I’m not out of pocket.  They’ve all broken dormancy, so I plan to wait until next winter to dig them up and replant them if they are worth replanting.  I can also buy some more suited to this climate and at least plant them right.
And to add insult to injury we’ve been given a frost warning for the weekend!  A frost warning – what’s all that about?  Hey, Arney – you never mentioned this is all your ads inviting us to come to California.  
I’m also sure that the rest of the northern hemisphere has little sympathy for central Californians crying about a touch of frost, but when it hits after an unseasonably warm spell, like we just had, (though I can’t really figure out what unseasonable means here anymore) the trees have pushed out their buds and some have even blossomed, making them all the more vulnerable.
I swing between panic and complacency. My nectarine is in full bloom.
The predicted lows vary between 31oF and 27oF.  So my garden may be okay…
First off, it seems that the temperature has to reach 27oF to harm 10% of my nectarine tree, (read peaches) according to the Michigan State University Extension. This website has a really easy to use table of what temperature will kill which stage of growth on a variety of fruit trees. How much damage a tree suffers depends on what stage it is at in its blossoming and fruiting cycle .  

So, my cherries are safe to 23oF, the plums, with their first bloom, safe to 27oF, and although almonds are not mentioned on this website, they are related to plums and thus technically a stone-fruit, so I guessed that 27oF is the magic number there too. Having learned not to make assumptions, I checked this out with The Almond Doctor, (yes – there is such a guy!) and found that in fact 28oF is the lower limit for those.  I have one really young almond tree, so I will protect it tonight by draping a sheet over it supported by two unused tomato cages – I’m sure the squirrels will appreciate that!

It seems that the rain we are getting today will help too.  I read somewhere that if you water the soil well it helps, BUT then when I researched my temperatures for citrus, the UC Davis pdf said that humidity could make matters worst!  This is something I have no control over now that it has rained all morning anyway.

However,  29oF will damage my ripe oranges, so I’m going to have to do a big emergency harvest, juice ’em and freeze the juice, or I may loose the lot.

On a more uplifting note, I’ll direct you to the photo at the beginning of this post.  That is the arbor that my Mum bought and helped erect, together with my Godmother and husband,before the visitors departed for home this week.  I’m dreaming of all the beautiful vines I will grow over it.  When I’m in the garden, I’m never far from my Mum.

Byddi Lee 

15 replies to Learning from my mistakes

  1. We were just visiting San Francisco from British Columbia, Canada and we encountered snow on the drive down to Carmel from San Francisco last Saturday.
    Jeesh. I could have stayed home for that. Luckily it was only on one of the passes and the rest of the weather was lovely. Not warm but lovely.
    We have very hardy fruit trees up here for sure but I guess they wouldn't be in bloom yet so that is the difference.

  2. Frost, oh no! Thanks for posting that drawing, I've been planting trees the wrong way too! And I always put compost in the hole! Your oranges look amazing! I love the flowers on your nectarine tree. I can't wait until our peach tree starts to bloom! Do you hand pollinate any of the blossoms to encourage fruit? What lovely variety of fruits and nuts you have growing on your property. So wonderful! PS, the arbor is gorgeous.

  3. @ Lori E – A couple of weeks earlier and you'd have gotten some heat. Its a total pot luck weather wise here in winter. I hope you had a great time.

    @ Meemsnyc – I don't hand pollinate …yet. I have seen lots of bees at the blossoms so I figure Mother Nature knows best.

    Thanks for commenting!

  4. Yeah, I always say "good gardeners bury their mistakes". I don't even want to think about all the things I didn't do quite right — but fortunately, replanting, improving, and setting things right is one of the fun things in the garden. Love the arbor!

  5. hello it's niamh love your garden it's buteful xxxxx

    Niamh xxx

  6. Lovely arbor! Before planting our orchard we had some instruction from the arborists at UCSC on how to plant fruit trees. Everything my granddad ever taught me flew out the window! 😉 Seemed strange not amending planting holes, but the point was made that the trees will seek out the nutrients they need with their roots, and tend to have more robust root systems if they have to hunt outside the planting hole for food.

    As for frost, we were worried with the looming weather as a number of our stone fruit trees have been blooming since the January warmth. I was running around tying frost blankets over the trees that were blooming on Friday…and this morning, they were covered in snow!!! Did you see any snow your side of the hill? Our orchard is about 500ft above sea level, not sure if it snowed much lower than that, but what a sight!

  7. Byddi, Thanks goodness we learn from our mistakes. I made all the mistakes you made with your cherries and more when I planted a row of 5 lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) at the front of my property. The intention was to have a lilac hedge that would screen the view of my neighbor's field of rusting truck hulks while not blocking the sun. Unfortunately, I didn't plant the lilacs correctly or provide the kind of soil conditions they need to thrive. More than 15 years later, my neighbor has long since cleaned up his property — which is good, because my lilacs are only about a foot taller than they were when I brought them home from the nursery and get one or two blooms a year! I have plans to rip out and bury this mistake. -Jean

  8. That is what gardening is all about. We learn from our mistakes. I am happy to hear that you are learning from the Master Gardener program and you are sharing what you learn. Good for you. Your arbor looks so nice. What a lovely thing for your garden. Grow on girl. V

  9. Thanks everyone – this is what I love about gardening and blogging – the support and friendship!

    We did get a frost but I didn't see snow down here. I'm sure Curbstone Valley Farm looked beautiful under the snow! Gotta go check out my blog list now to see who's posted snowy pics!

  10. @Niamh

    Welcome to my blog – Glad you like the garden. Take care and keep dancing! XOXO

  11. We seem to have challenges no matter where we garden… even in Sunny California. Love your post Byddi.

  12. Thanks – we have to replace a tree that got blown down so I'll follow your instructions for sure!

  13. Oh the joys of crazy weather. I live in Southern Wisconsin, so frost and rapidly fluctuating temperatures are par for the course. And you always know when a late frost in the spring or early frost in the fall is about to hit by the dozens of bed sheets covering peoples flower beds. It is somewhat amusing driving around and seeing that!

    I haven't planted any trees since I live on a rental property, but I remember some interesting tree planting experiences from my youth. Let's just say my dad REALLY likes to prune things! 🙂

    Glad I found your blog, I am enjoying it!

  14. I've made loads of mistakes down the years aswell and yes one of them was adding nice fresh compost in the planting hole for a tree only for the roots to stay content in that wee spot and never want to venture out into my stoney heavy soil. That is a lovely arbour – I hope your mum had a great holiday……. did you get snow?

  15. No snow but frost did happen. Now it has warmed up and is raining which keeps the garden (and the gardener) very happy!

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