Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thomas Jefferson on the ideal garden. 12.18.14

"I have often thought that if heaven had given me choice of my position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden. No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden. Such a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, and instead of one harvest a continued one through the year." 

--- Thomas Jefferson (August 20, 1811, to Charles W. Peale)

(Image of Monticello via

Persimmon Daydreaming. 12.18.14

American Persimmon.  Image source commons.wikimedia,org

American persimmon.  Image source
I've been thinking about adding an American persimmon tree.  I have a location in mind.

There are a few varieties described as not needing a male to pollinate them.  Yates, Prok, Meader.   Time to bear is listed as 3 to 5 years.

The varieties at Starks are 1 to 2 feet tall, in air pots.  Those are containers with open bottom, so the roots are "air pruned" resulting in bushier root mass and considered more likely to survive.  That size is small to my mind.  I have grown other trees from smaller, however.

Burnt Ridge also carries persimmon trees.  I sent them an email asking size, time to bear.

I only want to try one tree.  Yates or Prok are options.  Yates has more of a flavor description, Prok has more claim about how much they bear, and larger fruit.  Those are not side to side comparisons.

Starks gives ideal planting time as early march.  Will think about it some more.

We bought Asian persimmons at the grocery store the past couple of weeks.  Hichaya was much better than Fuyu.  Fuyu are more common.  They are better if allowed to ripen until soft.  They are like a tropical fruit flavor, a jelly in a fruit skin.

Germination Testing. Beans and Okra. 12.18.14

Clemson Spineless Okra Seeds.  3 years old.  8/10 Germinated.  12.18.14

Roma II bean seeds.  3 years old.  7/9 germinated.  12.18.14
This is the end of the germination test.

Two to three year old seeds.

Okra Cajun Jewel remained at 9 of 10 seeds germinated.

Okra Lee remained at 1 of 10 seeds germinated.

Okra Clemson Spineless increased to 8 of 10 germinated.

Bean Roma II increased to 7 of 9 germinated.

Pretty good germination rates overall.  I only need a couple of each okra, to test them, and only a couple row of the beans.

This was a quick test.  The rate might be higher if giving a few more days.

It's way to early to grow these.  I added the sprouts to the compost bin.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Germination testing before ordering. 12.16.14

Okra seed packets showing water damage.  12.16.14

Okra Cajun Jewel at one day of germination.  12.16.14

Okra Lee at one day of germination.  12.16.14
 I think it's a good idea to check last year's seeds for germination, before ordering others of the same variety this year.  Not that I heeded my own advice.

Still, I wanted to see if some of the varieties I had but didn't try last year, had potential for this year.

Last spring I spilled water on the envelope holding the seed packets.   I let it dry at ambient room conditions.   Some of the packets are water stained.  I thought that might doom the seeds.

Sunday pm, I placed 10 seeds each of these 3 varieties in small jars, with shallow water.  Monday morning I transferred the seeds to damp paper towels, and placed them in zip-lock bags on seed starting warmer mat.

Now, tuesday am, here is the early result.

Cajun Jewel:  9/10 germination.
Lee:  2/10 germination.
Clemson Spineless.  1/10 germination.

I think it's still very early.  Very surprised at those Cajun Jewel.

I also placed Roma beans, packed for 2012, on damp paper towel, in ziplock, without presoak.  So far, there is 1/10 germination.  I think it's very early.

Okra Clemson Spineless at 1 day of germination.  12.16.14
Roma beans at 1 day of germination.  no presoak.  12.16.14

Monday, December 15, 2014

Plum Scions for 2015. 12.15.14

Botanical - Educational plate - Fruit - Drupes eductational plate (1902)
Image source:

I went ahead and placed an order to Fedco. Apple scion as in previous post. Each will be a branch on a multigrafted tree, so I don't need room for more trees.  And so there is a range of ripening times, so I don't suddenly get more fruit of a particular type, than we can use, and waste  them.   Also the following plum varieties:

"Ember.  Late Summer. (Prunus salicina Shiro x P. americana var) 1936... red-blushed fruit...Rich yellow juicy sweet flesh is very firm and meaty but tender.... Tastes and looks like an apricot...

La Crescent. Late Summer. (Prunus salicina Shiro x P. americana Howard Yellow) 1923.... thin-skinned yellow fruit is sometimes blushed with a little pink. Tender yellow juicy fle...aromatic and suggestive of apricots...

South Dakota. Late Summer. SD 27. Prunus americana unknown parentage. 1949... tough yellow skin with bright red blush. Medium-firm yellow flesh is meaty, juicy, sweet... very long flowering period... pollinator for all hybrid plums...developed before 1907.

Hanska. Summer. (Prunus americana x P. simonii) 1908. Medium-sized bright red fruit with a heavy bluish bloom. Firm fragrant yellow semi-freestone flesh. When cooked, the fruit has a strong apricot-like flavor reminiscent of its Chinese “apricot plum” parentage. "

All info is from the Fedco catalog,  edited for brevity.  It seems like a lot.  On the other hand, how much does 1 plum, or 1 apple, cost at the grocery store?   Each scion is $5.  If these take, each grafted branch can give a couple dozen a year, for potentially many years.  They are intended to give a diversity of size, shape, flavor, color, and ripening times.  The main trend here is 3 with apricot flavor.  I hope they are much more adaptable to this area, compared to apricots.  Toka has some of that too.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Final Seed Order. 12.12.14

 Art - American - Print - American Farmer

 Today was the final seed order for next year.  This batch was via / Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  Beautiful catalog, amazing selections of open pollinated, often heritage varieties of vegetables and flowers.  I ordered almost as much to support the company, as to buy the seeds.  Again, emphasis is on short season, or cool summer varieties, or ones that emphasize flavor and look possible in this cool maritime climate.

Jing Orange Okra - 60 days, very pretty looking plant.  Not many seeds for the price, but it only takes a couple.  I am trying several okra varieties again.

Melrose Pepper - Italian variety, sweet.  I have plenty of left over hot pepper seeds, but my stomach doesn't  handle them now.

Crookneck-Early Golden Summer Squash - love summer squash and it will be fun to have something other than Zucchinis to share.

Gelber Englischer Custard Squash - ditto.

Jumbo Pink Banana Squash - nostalgia variety.  My great aunt gave me seeds and they were so productive, made great pumpkin pies.  Listed as good for this region. 

Petite Mix Marigold - I've grown this one before.  Nice, maybe the marigold scent will repel animals.

Alaska Mix - Nasturtium - I've grown this one before.  I wonder if it will be pest resistant, with the peppery leaves.  I can't see buying annuals when a packet of seeds goes much much further for much less money.

Most of the vegetables will only be a couple of plants per packet.   This will be the rest of my "test garden" - see which ones do better for me.

Image source:

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Hollywood Plum Cuttings. 12.9.14

Hollywood Plum Cuttings, Root Growth.  12.9.14

Hollywood Plum Saplings.  12.9.14
Today I dug up the remaining Hollywood Plum cuttings.  These were hardwood cuttings taken, I think, in April.  They were treated with rooting hormone then stuck into the soil in the tomato bed.  They did not receive any special treatment, other than what the tomatoes needed.

I did the same with Shiro plum.  None grew.  And with an ornamental quince - not sure if any grew, need to check again.

I potted them up.  I don't know what I will do with 6 new plum trees.  Two have bud grafts of Shiro.  It's a wait until Spring to see if those take.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

The effect of compost. Kitchen garden winter prep. 12.7.14

Untreated soil vs. soil with 2 1/2 years of compost and TLC.

Garden gold.  Chick house cleanings for the kitchen garden.
 Today I did some cleanup and winter prep for next Spring.  I don't like seeing the raised beds full of dead tomato and pepper plants and weeds and bean stalks.

Several of the raised beds have settled significantly.  I topped the off with soil from this raised bed.  That used 2/3 of the bed's soil.  The other 1/3 is perennial - Chinese chive, which I consolidated from this raised bed and another.

The difference is soil appearance is dramatic.  The native soil, on the left, is what the enriched soil, on the right, looked like 2  1/2 years ago.  The difference is 2 /12 years of adding chicken house compost, leaves, kitchen scrap compost, worm compost, coffee grounds....

I filled partially full with yard soil, then mixed in a wheelbarrow full of chicken house cleanings.  That is a year old, but dry so not composted.  Too rich to use immediately.  This being December, there will be 5 or 6 months to mellow before use.  Plan for this area is bush beans.

I also added a cup of lime based on last year's soil test result showing low pH and low calcium.

Then I topped off with more yard soil, then more chicken house cleanings.  Let the earthworms and bacteria and fungi do their thing now. 

Several of the beds are cleaned up now.  When spring comes, prep for planting will need minimal effort.

The other thing that needs to be done for these beds is better animal fencing.  That is another project for this winter.

For the beds that I topped off, I removed the larger, tougher plant stems to go into the compost heap.  I covered the cardboard/grass clipping mulch with a layer of improved soil.  No major digging, the soil is already well aerated and rich.
Cleanup half done.  12.7.14

My kitchen garden in winter.  12.7.14

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Seed Order. 12.6.14

Seed packets.  Image source

Seed packets.  Image source
Today I placed a seed order with   They have the broadest and best selection.  The seeds are open-pollinated, saved varieties.  No GMOs, and not owned by GMO-godzilla corp. 

In a way, ordering seeds early shows optimism that there will be another year.

These are the varieties that I ordered.  Short season plants were a big priority.  Climate here is cool relatively sort summer, sandwiched between a cool long spring and a cool long fall.

Watermelon, Blacktail Mountain.  65-75 days.  Developed in northern Idaho.  Most watermelons are in the range of 85-100 days.

Watermelon, Petite Yellow.  65-80 days.

There were also 2 varieties of early, small-sized cantalopes.  Eden's Gem 65 - 80 days, Minnesota Midget - 60-75 days, and and Asian melon, Sakata's Sweet. that last one takes longer, 85-95 days.  I might try the melons south of the house, which may be warmer and is full sun.  I grew Minnesota Midget in the past with good result.

The timing for winter squashes doesn't matter as much.  They ripen late fall.

Squash Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck.  10-20#squashes.

Squash, Long Island Cheese.  6-12 pounds.

Summer Squash, Yellow Crookneck.  55-60 days.

Some dry beans.  I don't think the timing is as important for these, either.  I have not grown dry beans before.

Calypso.  A bush variety.  70-90 days.

Hidasa Shield Figure.  I assume this is a vining bean.  90 days.

Cucumber Suyo Long.  For Ning.  65 days.

Lettuce, Seed Savers Mixture.

Okra, Star of David.  60-75 days.  Which is pretty good for okra.   The only way I know to grow it here is in containers, and I'm still learning the best way to do that.  I also have a couple okra plants that I am overwintering.  That may not work at all.

Pepper "Kalman's Hungarian Tomato".  65-75 days.  Last year my peppers were too hot for my surgically modified stomach.  These are milder.

This week I also placed an order with Burpee's.  Those were more in the hybrid category. 

Peppers - Hot Sweet Thing, Golden California, Sweet Nikita, Sweet banana.
Tomatoes - Better Boy - I always grow that one,  Sunny Boy, Jersey Boy, Sungold - always grow that one, Supersweet 100 - always grow that one, and Roma.
Corn - Early Sunglow and Trinity - both early varieties.
Pea Oregon Sugar Pod
Bean, Gold Mine and Early Bush Italian.
Squash, Burpee Hyb rid Zucchini, Walthan Butternut, Golden Egg, Galeux D'Eysines, Pumpkin Rouge VIF D'Etampes
Okra Baby Bubba - good for containers, did well this year, and Clemson Spineless.

It seems ambitious, but not too bad.  I cleared the raised bed for tomatoes today.  The beds have settled, so I added enriched soil to the top.  That was this year's zucchini bed.

I did the same thing for the pepper bed, which will be in the same place as this year.  That bed also got a wheelbarrow of kitchen scrap composed, heavily populated with earthworns.  Lots of coffee grounds and teabags went into that too.

Zukes will go into this year's tomato bed - half ready.

Bush beans will go into this year's onion bed - half ready.  That will have a less enriched soil.  I'm counting on the beans to enrich it.

Other squashes / pumpkins  will be allowed to sprawl, like they did this year.

Corn - to go into the other tomato bed from last year.  Haven't cleared that one yet.  Or maybe outside the raised beds, if I can put up some deer fencing.

Okra - containers.

Others to be determined.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Apple scion, heritage varieties. 11.29.14

Apple Varieties.  Image Source:

Apple Varieties.  Image Source:
I discovered a company that sells apple scion wood, heritage varieties. in Maine.  I didn't count, looks like more than 50 varieties.  They are sold as 8 inch scion, shipped in March, order deadline is Feb 20th. 

I went through the varieties, and read the evaluations in Apples of North America, by Tom Burford.  That book reviews 192 "Exceptional varieties" of historic apples.

I know I can graft apples.  Of the apple grafts I made last year, 6 of 6 apple.  All grew vigorously.

First priority is disease resistance.  Especially fireblight, endemic around here.  No use growing a variety that will give years of frustration.  For example, Golden Delicious.  On the other hand, Liberty has never been affected, and bears well every year.

Second, I went for descriptions of exceptional or unusual flavor., or other exceptional traits.

Top choices, for now.

Granite  Beauty.  approx 1815.  Early bearing, moderately resistant to the major diseases.  Spiciness compared to "coriander or cardamom."

Keepsake.  1978.  A cross of NM 447 and Northern Spy.  Resistant to fireblight and cedar apple rust. Flavor described as "sweet, spicy, and strongly aromatic." states "Unattractive, irregularly shaped... Fine grained, hard, very crisp, juicy light yellow flesh. Strongly aromatic flavor. Very hardy...  Keeps in storage through April."

Priscilla.  1961.  Developed by the Purdue, Rutgers, Illinois consortium which specialized in disease resistant apples.  A seedling of 601-2 and Starking Delicious.  Described as "crisp and aromatic." states, "very resistant to fireblight."

Redfield 1938.  Wolf River X Niedzwetzskayana Red Crab,  NY program in Geneva.   Resistant to the major apple diseases.  Described as "red flesh, dry, very tart."  Leaves are red/bronze color, and flowers are large, deep pink. states "Medium to large...Dark red with dark red flesh. Juice is red. Not for fresh eating".

I may choose one or two more:

Porter.  around 1800.  Moderate resistance to the major apple diseases.  Taste "fine grain, crisp, tender juicy, subacid". states developed in 1840, "Pure yellow skin with crimson blush, tender, sweet... juicy..."

McIntosh seems passe, but is a standard.  1796, white flesh sometimes with red tinge.  "Fine grain, crisp, tender, subacid to sweet".  Moderate resistance to the major apple diseases.  The idea of growing an apple that has been around since 1796 is amazing.

Six seems like a lot.  They would be grafted onto one or two trees.

This is all speculation at the moment.