Cristo Balete

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since May 23, 2015
Long-time Permaculturist
In the woods, West Coast USA
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Recent posts by Cristo Balete

Since nutrition is something good when it comes to food trees, your own soil, plus compost, plus compost tea, and leaf mulch would be a desireable mix, and you want the roots to "recognize" the soil you put it in once you put it in the ground.   Potting mixes are fine for starting things, but once they have sterilized the mix, it's just not the same as really healthy soil from compost/worms/trace minerals/soil critters that mature plants need.
4 days ago
Mike, a half barrel is probably the size of container you'd want for a citrus tree if you are not going to put it in the ground, and want it mobile.  Wood and soil are pretty good insulators, but not sure just how cold your winters get.

Yes, 6.5 should be fine.  Too much water and stress (wind, repotting) can also make leaves yellow.  Make sure the soil drains really well, they like sandy loam.  Citrus has its fussy moments, so get it stable, in a big container, keep it in one place as consistently as you can, let it have a "home" location, then see what the new leaves look like.

All you have to do in a greenhouse is keep it from going below 35 F. , not necessarily try to keep it warm in the winter.   Day length in the winter is too short for most perennials to do much growing then, even if it is warm.  They are getting a lot more cues than just temperature, so Nov-Feb only needs to be not freezing.

Roots will probably grow between 1-2 feet per year if they are in the ground.  You can tell what they are doing by the length of the branch shoots you are getting on top.  If it's 2 feet from spring to fall, then the roots are probably doing the same.  In a container, once the roots hit bottom, they will start to circle, and the branch shoots will shorten.  
4 days ago
The full-sized concrete foundation blocks sold at the local lumber/hardware type stores make great raised bed edges that can be insulation by filling them with soil, and planting in those edges.  That creates a good 6 inch insulation barrier, two blocks high.  Just make sure the top block straddles the space between the two blocks below it.   Planting annual flowers in the edges if there's any concern about them leaching something into the soil in them.

Any vegetables in the actual big raised bed will be sending their roots down, more than to the side, so there wouldn't be much contact, rootwise, with the sides of a concrete block raised bed.  And you can change your configuration anytime you want.  

There's even a great looking bench made out of these blocked, painted and sturdy enough for outside.  They are always handy blocks to have on hand.

5 days ago
And here's a question:

If something is recyclable, into the same or other usable products that can also be recycled, and we take it out of the recycle loop by sticking it in the garden, isn't the demand for the original ingredients going to go up?  In the case of cardboard, more trees need to be cut down, which requires diesel-belching sawing machinery, and diesel-belching trucks to haul cut trees to sawmills.  
1 week ago
The important thing about gardening is to have a mix of ingredients, not just one that overwhelms all the others.   Cardboard is carbon and commercial glues.

However anyone wants to spend time breaking down cardboard is up to them.  But applying it to the garden, the soil needs to be mixed in or the cardboard  buried.  It's the soil critters that break it down, and if it's dry, or not under thick leaf mulch or several inches of soil, they just can't be in that environment.

And what nutrients are being added to the soil by cardboard?   3" deep leaf mulch, maintained at that depth, checked weekly, will suppress weeds, keep moisture in the soil for worms, not just soil microbes, and add nutrients, create the soil food web that we are all looking for.

These days I have no idea what kind of glues they are using to make cardboard, but odds are it's not non-toxic.  A lot of cardboard is required to stay in a sterile state for X amount of time, depending on regulations.  

Where it doesn't rain in the summer it's a real struggle to keep it wet enough, in any form.  The corners curl up, even under a few inches of soil (unless the soil is saturated regularly, which means by hand, which means another chore in the summer) and wind/air gets underneath it, dries it out.  I've found it to be very ineffective if I have to provide the moisture.

1 week ago
Mike, those also look like very small containers for a tree.  Picture the roots being a mirror image of what's on top, and needing to go very deep, at the tap root, to get water and nutrients.   If the tap root starts to circle, rather than go straight down, it will stress the tree and you'll see similar results on the leaves.

Plus those clay pots are alkaline and when mixed with water put off their alkalinity.  

That tree will take off in the summer, so a 2-gallon plastic pot will stay ahead of the roots, for a while.  Sometimes the local nurseries will sell them at a decent discount, or an avid gardening friends will make some available.  Once the roots get a good rootball in a 2-gallon pot, it should be planted out, with thick leaf mulch around it to try to keep the moisture at an even level, not going from dry to too wet and back to dry, on a small tree like that.

1 week ago
The quickest way to get some more acid in your soil is to water with a 50/50 solution of leftover coffee and water, and put the used grounds, under leaf mulch, around the base of the plant.  Or tea, and put the tea bags on the soil, under some leaf mulch so they won't dry out.  It's going to take about a month.   Collecting any leftover coffee and tea from glasses every day will give a good supply of acidic liquid that can be added to the garden.

Checking the pH of your water and soil is important, too, because they play a role.  Citrus likes very sandy loam, so if it is in clay soil it may not do well and show some of these same signs, too much water around the roots.

Other solutions, because they are much slower, like gypsum, can take up to 6 months to take effect.

Those leaves might fall off, so don't worry about that.  As long as it is putting out new leaves that are green.  A mature citrus tree might have some leaves that look like this, but if it's 10% then it's not a problem.

And any fans of using pee as a source of nitrogen and rich environment for soil critters, be aware that pee can tip the pH into alkaline when used by itself.   It, too, can be mixed with coffee or tea.
1 week ago
The other thing that's really important is to let the birds into your garden by keeping the dogs and cats out.   The meat-eating birds will go after any maggots or moth larvae before the berries are ripe, so until the berries start to ripen let the birds handle the bugs.

Then when the berries start to turn, cover them from the birds, and you can sweep, as above, or hand pick early in the morning.  But there should be fewer of them.
4 weeks ago
Fruit flies and lots of small flies are crazy for containers of fruit juice that they can't get out of.  

You can put small containers around with saran wrap over the top with a rubberband, and a few small slits in the saran wrap.   They like wine, beer, red wine, honey water, balsamic vinegar.  See what they prefer in your area.

A plastic container, milk jug, peanut jar, even a glass jar that can be recleaned, with saran wrap over the top with a couple slits.

Use several containers, one every 4 or 5 feet.  If they are in the sun, add water to them so they won't dry out.

Flies will go in but won't come out.

If the maggots are already on your berries, lightly sweep the vines/bushes with a soft broom, knock them to the ground.   They won't climb back up.

4 weeks ago
Mowing roads and trails provides excellent compostable materials, so I think of mowing as harvesting compost ingredients, rather than just a chore.   I have a tow-behind sweeper, not motorized, that the ATV pulls and brushes load the mowings into a bin that hangs off the back side, and can be transported anywhere the ATV can go, dumped with the pull of a rope, and piles made.

There is a driveway/ATV trail method that can help keep them under control.  Make the driveway or trail 1 1/2 times as wide as the vehicle that uses it, so that when driving to the far side of it, one set of wheels goes down the middle.   Then whenever traversing it, drive slightly to one side or the other, never just down the center, and the tires will keep that whole width flattened down, and it stops the crowning in the middle.

4 weeks ago