This post is a migration from our earlier blog, February 8, 2009

This is one of those postings I had planned for late last spring, but it’s just as appropriate now, because now we can actually get a handle on things and not have to live with my results of last year!

So, what’s the topic?  Weeds!

Humboldt County is known worldwide for one particular illegal weed, but it could easily be called the weed capital of the world for all the non-illegal ones thriving in our moist temperate area.  There is actually a town called Weed many miles east of us, but it’s much drier there and I bet we would easily beat them in a competition of most kinds of weeds.  It seems a new one shows up every year and it can easily gain a foothold in the garden.

weedsHere is the latest bane in my gardening life, Little Bittercress.  Actually there are at least four different weeds in this photo, but the Bittercress is the tall one on the left with the little white flowers.  I call it Rocket Weed because if it’s gone to seed and you try to pull it up, all the tiny seeds shoot up into your face and all over the garden to come back next year.  Argh…I can feel my blood pressure rising just looking at the photo!  So, yes, it’s better to get all weeds when they’re young, not just because their root systems are small and easier to pull up, but because they tend to go to seed quickly and you want to get to them before that!

Weeds on March

If you don’t, you get this little army of unwanted green marching into your pretty plot of irises.  Like anything or anyone testing the limits, it is TONS easier to keep them from invading, rather than trying to push them back out once they’ve already crossed the line. There are so many parallels to life you’ll just have to wait for my book someday… Tracy always says we have to have more Nos than they have Yeses.  It’s tiresome, but in the long run, it’s much less tiring than the alternative later.

And so, I resolved to use more mulch last year.  We got a beautiful load dumped from a local tree trimming company right around our anniversary, and I couldn’t have been happier.  I spent many weeks shoveling it around.  Unfortunately if there are weeds already growing and they have a strong will to survive, they will push through the mulch.  So, it was better, but not the best.

Weeds thru MulchI found that if I put down a couple sheets of newspaper before I spread the mulch I got better, longer weed prevention.  And since function often trumps fashion in my life, you’ll notice in a photo in the previous blog that I don’t always use newspaper.  We recycle a lot of cardboard this way, and recently I heard about using old carpet for pathways.  So, why not?  I’ll keep you posted!

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I am having my usual June Weed Meltdown; the only problem is that it’s only February! The current new dreaded weed is Common Groundsel.  My Master Gardener course book actually lists a few redeeming qualities of weeds, and I have to give this one real props for having a very strong Plan B.  You see, I uprooted two of these yesterday for this post because the taller one didn’t have any seed head showing.  It was just all closed yellow nibs, so I picked the smaller weed (at bottom) because it had the small dandelion-like seed head in bloom.  Well by today, when it was picture time, the taller one had its own seed head, and was ready to prove my Plan B point;  if this weed is picked immature it will still produce some seed to wreak havoc next spring.  Argh!!!  We’re doing the best we can to mow, weed, burn or trash, but I’m sure we’ll have this weed back next year anyway, but hopefully less of it than we’ve had this year.  There’s the “evil” of this post.

Now, to cling to what is good I want to return to an earlier blog title and talk about a great “clinger”, kiwi fruit.kiwi fruit Looking back in my scanty records I see kiwi listed on my summer watering chart back in 2003, so I would guess that’s when we planted a female and a male vining plant.  The following winter some type of fungus was found eating away and oozing at the base of the male vine.  Our county ag advisor suggested sulpher, but I’d already sprayed vinegar on it (thinking that’s a generally good and safe fungus killer in the house!).  I don’t know if my actions had anything to do with it or not, but the vine survived.  Now, the mystery is that the male vine has never flowered, but the female has flowered and produced fruit for the  last several years!  Albeit the fruit is small and in our cool summer area that may be the best that we can hope for.  This past year the vine was really loaded.  I think I’ll try to do some thinning this next year, if I don’t get around to pruning out some more of the side branches.

As you can see from the photo here, the brown fuzzies can be rubbed off, but I’ve found that using the stiff potato scrubber works really well, and when the green shows through the brown skin it’s just a work of art!

Many years ago I learned that most of the kiwi nutrients are just below the skin, so we tend to cut off the harder stem and flower ends and eat the rest, skin and all, minus the fuzz.

The vines are vigorous and will twine wildly if not clipped back.  I was just reading that the end of the fruiting vines should be cut back in May, so I’ll add that to my month-by-month calendar of things to do this year. Once the leaves fall off, in October around here, we can still leave the fruit on the vine.  We were having freezing nights in early December this year and I picked quite a few bags full and kept them in the refrigerator.  One resource said that kiwi are fine to have a little freeze to develop their flavor, and that to find out if they are ripe enough for cold storage (stored up to five or six months) just cut one open and see if the seeds have turned black.  I was reminded of an experience of a colleague years ago whose college-aged son brought her some kiwi from another area of California, which she shared with  me.  If picked too soon kiwi will never ripen – yep, hard and sour kiwi right up until they start shriveling.  If they are picked very ripe then they won’t keep well in cold storage at all. So kiwi are a bit tricky to harvest, depending on what you want to do with them.  One of the local farmers here keeps her fall-picked kiwi in cold storage , then has them ripe and out for sale at the opening of the farmers market in April.  People really go for local fresh fruit after such a long winter hiatus.

Kiwi Flower

I haven’t even mentioned how lovely the flowers are yet!  I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment watching and learning from our kiwi vines.

Here’s another flower  photo where you can actually see the fruit forming from the center of the flower.  Amazing!

Kiwi flowers into fruit

And even better, I’ll never forget the day I realized the true meaning of Jesus’ words, “I am the Vine, you are the branches.  Apart from Me you can do nothing.” while I was studying our kiwi plant.  Kiwi vines produce fruit not from the main leading vines, but on the side laterals (or branches) that come off of the main leader, just like modern climbing roses.  It’s a perfect analogy, “Of course! What did you expect from Me?” God replied!

So, with all this kiwi talk let me wrap up with a recipe for a tasty kiwi lime smoothie.

Cut up about 1/3 cup kiwi fruit (2 normal size from the store) into a blender, add a drizzle of honey or agave nectar, the juice of half a lime, about 1/2 a cup of plain yogurt (or vanilla ice cream), and a little soy milk (or milk) and blend till smooth.  If it’s hot out I add ice cubes into the blender too, with less milk. After blending till smooth I taste it and adjust all the flavors to my liking (more lime, more kiwi, a little vanilla extract, more agave, more milk or ice cream, etc.)

Experiment and enjoy – you can certainly see that that’s exactly what I’ve done while growing kiwi fruit!  If you have any experiences with kiwi fruit, please share!