Winters Community Garden



Citrus and Olive trees for the stars


Sept. 22, 2012

Sept. 22, 2012

I like Aloha shirts, and so did Ernest Borgnine.
Here I am with two more generations of zest and sweetness. Cristofer said he’s wearing the shirt his dad wore in “From Here to Eternity”. During the pleasure of meeting this nice family, I felt Ernest’s spirit too; he passed away in July this year, at 95. Nancee and Cristofer both exuded a warmth and positivity that made me think there really is hereditary ‘star power’ in some families.

One thing’s for sure, it’s true of certain special plants! Among cultivated plants, Citrus are the superstars – (especially in California.) To be the conduit for sharing between superstar trees and human celebrities is an honor indeed! Citrus have culinary, medicinal, ornamental & cultural significance far beyond most other plants!


Nancee Borgnine honors dad Ernest at Emmy’s Party at the Sportsman’s Lodge, Studio City

I was honored to be invited to participate in sharing Four Winds Growers Dwarf Citrus and other fruit trees today at a party given by Nancee Borgnine in Studio City, CA. This pre-Emmy’s event saw a continuous flow of celebrities from television and theatre, who browsed among select vendors and got ‘free stuff’ (shwag). There were sparkly jeans, amazing hats, fragrant herbs and flowers, Vodka drinks, whimsical plush toys made from recycled sweaters, flameless cigarettes, cushy furniture, non-profit Big Brothers, Big Sisters and many others. Our trees seemed to strike many as novel. Because Four Winds’ Dwarf Clementine mandarin tree had been featured in the April 2012 issue of Oprah! Magazine, we were seen by Nancee, and invited to be there. We brought a very nice Improved Meyer lemon tree to give to Nancee in honor of her dad.

Needless to say, it was a day of anticipation and excitement. I met some wonderful actors and their associates, including Joe Mantegna of “Criminal Minds” , also Tony Denison, Michael Paul Chan and Robert Gossett of “The Closer.” It was especially fun meeting Michele Gossett, wife of Robert, as well as other family members of the actors, who enjoy gardening. Cris Borgnine, Nancee’s brother and his family were delightful to talk with. I admired the Aloha shirts that Cris and his little boys were wearing. Cris said that he was wearing one from his dad’s collection that he had worn in “From Here to Eternity”.

The weather was very warm, with some merciful overcast helping cool, but also raising the humidity. To my country bumpkin perceptions, many folks seemed uncomfortably dressed given the weather, (myself especially included).  But stars are stoic, I learned, and they can look ‘cool’ even when it’s not.

All in all I had a ball meeting folks I wouldn’t ordinarily encounter. As for the event itself, I can really appreciate all the coordination that was required, and hat’s off to Nancee and her team for pulling it off with grace and panache!

The Hawn Foundation

This seems like a very sensible and positive approach to teaching and learning (K-8) that should be more present in ‘regular’ schools for all children!

From the Website:
MindUP™ Program
As The Hawn Foundation’s signature educational initiative, MindUP™ is anchored in current research in cognitive neuroscience, evidence-based classroom pedagogy, best-practices mindful education, precepts of social and emotional learning (SEL), and guiding principles of positive psychology. MindUP™ is a family of social, emotional, and attentional self-regulatory strategies and skills developed for cultivating well-being and emotional balance. Among the various MindUP™ skills taught to students, focused attention and nonreactive monitoring of experience from moment to moment display the potential to have a long-term impact on brain function and social and emotional behavior.

New Zest: Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage your emotions in positive and constructive ways. It’s about recognizing your own emotional state and the emotional states of others. Emotional intelligence is also about engaging with others in ways that draw people to you.

There is a certification course for ‘Emotional Intelligence’. Even though I work in the nursery trade I still take an interest in a range of topics relevant to Community Development. I was very interested in this weeklong workshop/certification program offered by sixseconds:

Invasive Plants

I had never thought of the magnificent Casuarinas that loom over the southern exposure of my house as invasive.  Massive, yes.  Incredibly hard wood, yes that’s why it’s called ironwood. And bright red roots aggressively seek moisture and nutrients.  When I was first getting the hang of worm composting a few years ago, I made the mistake of placing the worm bin directly on the ground.  It was summer. The bin was about 20 feet away from one of the biggest trees.   It was well watered and shaded from the harsh heat, but what I found out too late is that the roots had invaded the worm bin.  By the time I noticed the roots had reached throughout every part of the worm bin and most of the worms had migrated out.  This surprising event made me recognize my need to be more vigilant if I wanted success with vermi-culture.  The trees near my house are over 50 feet tall, having been allowed to grow tall and thick over twenty years or so, but this tree can also be managed as a low hedge through coppicing.  The needle-like vegetation is nutritious to sheep and cattle.   This tree’s versatility and value as a forage make it a winner, just one to watch out for.

Another introduced plant that I have been sparring with is the rootstock of a Passiflora that sends endless runners to suck moisture then launches new shoots over established plants. I take comfort in the fact that it is hard to eradicate by remembering that it produces a lot of succulent green matter for the compost.   With great effort it could perhaps be trained on an attractive topiary structure, but it’s flowers are not the showiest and the fruit are not edible.  Best for the compost I think.

The worst ‘weeds’ are classified by their invasiveness.   They have the ability to become resistant to herbicide sprays, so farmers are advised to vary and ‘change up’ the sprays with different products to fight the development of herbicide resistant weeds.  Unfortunately I cannot resist mentioning that the one thing weeds will never become resistant to is the hoe.   Follow KrsnaKumari on Twitter

Garden Insights for 2010

My garden is a small, tree-circled zone, about 3/4 acre altogether, but really providing  less than 1000 square feet of sunny planting space. Dominant trees include Casuarina, Sycamore, Oak, Pine, Poplar and Privot.  Surrounding this is quite vast acreage on 3 sides that are alternatively planted to row crops. Over the past 4 years the line-up has consisted primarily of Tomato, Safflower, Wheat, Oats, Sunflower and Corn.

Humbling Revelations

Making or acquiring sufficient compost to overcome the incredibly opportunistic roots of Casuarina trees would have made a big difference, but was beyond my capacity.  Raised beds with root resistant barrier cloth at the bottom is probably the best approach for vegetable production in the small sunny spot available.  Though I did not muster the resources for that envisioned project, I still managed to produce some tomatoes, okra, peppers, peas and plenty of swiss chard, kale and mustard greens.

Summary Thoughts

1.  Ground squirrels, gophers and moles, turkeys, deer and coyotes can seriously and negatively affect plant growth and harvest potential.  Even our own pets weigh in on plant selection; changing and adding pathways, increasing the size of holes, etc.  Work around by increasing the number of plantings and accepting a higher level of ambiguity and uncertainty.  Try out tough, shade tolerant, edible perrenials like currants or gooseberry to create vertical growth that is easier to protect. Fence and discourage predators whenever practical.

2.  Cleavers (Galium ssp).is considered by many to be a ‘weed’, however in my garden this spring and summer, cleavers growing up with the unruly spearmint and Passiflora on the east side of the house served as a welcome helper.  As an alternative to harsh trimming I decided to use the cleavers to ‘clasp’ the spearmint in stepping stone areas where I didn’t want them to grow.  It works like velcro, sticking to itself nicely, and will present some semblance of order if you’re willing to take the time to do a little plant weaving.

3.  Direct seeded wildflower blends are great to try out for difficult areas.  ‘Weeds’ are sometimes actually under-apreciated allies for health.  From a design point of view, they can help you to balance a garden’s low maintenance objectives with productivity and beauty.  Try planting wildflowers to attract wildlife and provide seasonal color, then harvest your own herbal medicinals, such as Saint John’s Wort, Evening Primrose and Burdock.

4.  You can never make too much compost.  Vermicomposting is worth a go.

5.  Always look for opportunities to plant more trees, especially food producing ones.  Don’t forget edible espaliers, hedges and windrows,and wildly productive ‘freelance’ plantings that defy the odds.  Support regional and activist movements to restore forests and orchards and protect water supplies.

6.  Trees can grow into a house:

7.  Trees can grow into furniture. and so much more:

8.  Patenting ‘Life’ creates problems.  Seed saving is a mainstay of  ‘Food Democracy.’  Safety and ethics of GMO derived food, drug and pesticide products is in question.  If you are open to considering alternative paradigms, please check out:

‘Tis the season

Owari Satsuma mandarins taste even better than they look. Buy local whenever possible! These lovelies are from Four Winds Growers in Winters, CA.

All About Mandarins

Best Tips for Growing Citrus Trees Indoors

Successful indoor growing means being especially careful to not over water! Indoor air can be quite dry and a shock to trees being brought in after summering outdoors. Here are my seven tips for helping your citrus trees to thrive indoors.
1. Let roots dry to 50% before bringing in. If the tree is thirsty for its first watering indoors it will make the adjustment more easily.
2. Use a probe type moisture tester so you can be sure to get accurate measurements of root moisture. For about $8.00 this is insurance against over watering that, with the proper care, can last for many years.
3. Only water when the tester indicates a wetness level of 50% dry in the root zone.
4. Be sure the pot size is correct for the size of the roots. A tree in an oversized pot will tend to stay too wet because the roots are of insufficient size to take up the volume of water supplied.
5. Very important: Pot up in a very light, fast draining soil mix. An ideal blend is a commercial garden soil formulated for outdoor use mixed with at least one third volume of cedar or redwood shavings. The shavings keep air in the root zone after watering. Avoid soil mixes that contain chemical wetting agents. If using an Organic soil mix, use up to 50% shavings to assure a fast draining mix. Blend very thoroughly and pot up so that citrus ‘crown roots’ show above the soil line.
6. Do not put gravel on the bottom of your planting pot, because this impedes drainage over time.
7. Fill a large saucer with rocks or other drainage material and set the pot on top. This increases humidity while keeping the pot elevated above the drainage water.

Remember, citrus do best when kept on the dry side of moist! They are heavy feeders, so choose a high Nitrogen fertilizer, ideally one formulated for citrus, and use it regularly throughout the growing season. Finally, and most importantly: provide enough sunshine! Citrus need at least 8 hours of full sun per day to be productive. Supplement with grow lights indoors if necessary.

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries