Saturday, April 28, 2012

Frost Free!
Good News Today.  I pay close attention to the daily frost forecast issued by meteorologist Marc Walsh at Western Weather Group.  We had numerous close calls this spring and a few people did experience some damage.  It has been pleasantly warm recently, and I was happy to read the following in today's frost forecast.  "We will continue to issue an afternoon frost forecast through the 30th as a matter of protocol, but there is no threat of frost and we can officially stick a fork in the 2012 frost season."  I love it!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Monterey Variety
Ahhh, now that is a nice looking cluster of nuts!  I'm very optimistic about the crop from this orchard.
Heat Illness Prevention training
With the approach of the warm season, employees are receiving their annual heat illness prevention training as required by Cal OSHA.  Just one of many state-required training programs.  The training is of unquestionable value for new employees.  For veteran employees it is a good, albeit costly, review.  Also, required by state law, every day the temperatures may exceed 85 F is a daily morning reminder to each employee to drink lots of water and take other measures to avoid heat illness.  I will make a phone call on those days and read a message to my guys because they are at scattered locations.  I think they will tire of hearing from me every day!  I will explain that it is not I who thinks they are morons.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Today I purchased 20 owl boxes from my friend Bruce Norton.  Years ago Bruce started a small business, Nature Condos, which recycles old fruit bins from Sunsweet Growers and allows high school students to earn scholarship money building the owl boxes in their industrial arts classes.  You can read about his enterprise here: Nature Condos Owl Boxes

Barn Owls will occupy the houses and are effective predators of pocket gophers (Thomomys sp.).  Gophers have become a plague to almond growers.  Because of our shift away from cultivation and flood irrigation to no-till and micro-irrigation, the gopher population has exploded.  Their root feeding activity frequently kills young trees and damages older trees.  Their burrowing activity produces mounds of soil that damage mowers and harvest equipment.  The mounds create clouds of dust when mowed.

On one ranch we are launching a full scale assault on these wretched creatures to see if we can actually reduce their population.  I will post more about this ongoing effort as the season progresses.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Changing the tree variety, or species, can be done by budding or grafting.  Here we are putting an apricot onto a Lovell peach rootstock.  My experience with field budding has been sketchy.  This year's experience with grafting has been very good, with over 90% success.    In the future, I will choose grafting over budding whenever possible.

Apricot grafted onto peach

We covered the newly emerged buds on the grafted wood with paper bags to protect them ahead of an herbicide application.

Paper bag to protect buds from herbicide

Monday, April 23, 2012

Something new. Here is a replant, one of several, that I thought would not make it. Last week it presented with very wilted growth that, at first glance, appeared similar to Peach Twig Borer. We dug up another tree with similar symptoms and found a small amount of root rot. I looked at the trees today with a nurseryman and happily found that they are recovering. I will flag the trees and we will see how well they do this season
The developing almonds are gelatinous where the nut-meat will be. The pellicle is the opaque skin around the meat which will become the brown almond "skin" later when the nuts dry. The nuts will continue to get bigger and heavier for at least a few more weeks. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

First mowing of the season, dust already. Earlier I saw pictures of hail in the Atwater area last Friday where the ground looked like snow. Apparently it banged up some trees badly. We were fortunate it missed us.

Monday, April 16, 2012

There are still a lot of nuts even after the drop.  This picture was taken directly above the picture of the "dropped" nutlets.
A significant drop has occurred over the last week while we have enjoyed a bit more than an inch of rain. A drop happens every year but this appears to be more than last year. Could this be because we set more nutlets than last year during bloom?  There still are many nuts in the trees.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Approaching dark clouds and thunder showers carry the threat of hail. We have avoided them so far, but I just heard of serious fruit and nut losses in the south valley. They described nuts cut in half by hail!  Hail is awful in its randomness causing serious harm in one spot and leaving others alone.