Wednesday, February 22, 2017

KItchen Garden. Fava & SnowPea seeds, Chinese Chive & Perennial Onions. 2.21.17

Today was nice, no rain, sunny and warm.  I  just now got around to planting Fava bean seeds, which I intended to plant last week.

Planting Fava Bean Seeds, photo from Feb 2015
The photo was from feb 13 last year, but they look exactly the same now.  These went into a tomato raised bed with deer protection fencing.  I added about 1/2 pound of lime to the 4 X 8 bed due to known acidity and calcium deficiency, mixing the lime in thoroughly before planting.  It would have been better to lime the soil a month or two ago.

I also covered with chicken wire to prevent bird foraging.

I also planted those mixed Snowpea seeds, in the same way.  As an afterthought, I am soaking some to see if they are actually viable.  Some are more than 5 years old.    Apparently, they are only viable for 3 years.  I may buy some more and plant them to be safe.

Tree ring container with onions, May 2016
I also dug out 6 clumps of Chinese Chives from the cement block raised beds, teased out grass infestation, and planted in raised tree-ring containers.  Photo is the same tree-ring containers last year, containing Egyptian Walking Onions.  These are stacked 3-rings high, reversing up-side-up with up-side-down to make a somewhat tight stack.  These are convenient height to work with, remove weeds, and cultivate the soil with a large heavy-duty kitchen fork tool.   Again, this time I mixed a trowel of lime with the soil.  That is not necessary for these alliums, but I thought maybe it would boost their growth or add nutrients, given how acidic my soil is (pH 5.3 to 5.5).

I also divided several clumps of Egyptian Walking Onions, replanting in raised beds as separate plants.  That is not required but makes for better individual scallions.

Second photo for illustration is a tree ring planted that I set up in 2015 for daylilies.  These are put together using re-used cement block - type edging, designed to place around trees.  They are not expensive, comparable or less than most whiskey barrel planters but last longer, are easier to take apart and move, and will last longer than I live.  I do put chicken wire on the ground before placing the first ring, to keep moles out.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Grafting Projects in Home Orchard. 2.19.17

New Pear Grafts.  2.19.17
Healed plum whip and tongue graft at one year, done in 2015
It seems seems early, but with buds already swelling, I wanted to get some grafting in.  I think I've done it this early in the past, mid to late February.  Most of the scions are refrigerated in plastic bags, and will keep for several more months if needed.  It's OK if the understock tree is already growing, and for some, that is an advantage.

My grafting goals this year:

Preserve a few varieties from my old trees in Vancouver, so I have them in my new trees in Battleground.

Make something more useful out some of the scrubby Hawthorn trees, by converting them into Chinese Haw trees.  This is an experiment.

Add pollen sources to grow internally on some trees.  I've noticed that the tiny pollinating insects tend to go from flower to flower within a tree.  By having pollen sources in the same tree, maybe there will be better fruit set.

 • As usual, I want to add some novel varieties.  Those will be added as I receive scion, especially the apples from Fedco and possibly some from Home Orchard Society.

•  Seedling fruits may start to bear sooner if grafted onto a mature, bearing fruit tree.  That gives a chance to evaluate the seedling variety several years sooner than letting it mature on its own roots.

• By creating multigraft trees, I have more varieties in less space than I would if they were all on their own rootstocks.  You get pollenizing  varieties for better fruit set, and potentially widely spaced ripening times so that instead of bushels of one apple type all at once, you can pick various types from July to November.

• Taking scion from your own trees, they are free.  Buying scion is usually much, much cheaper than buying trees.  Scion from scion exchanges is also free.

Healed apple whip and tongue graft at 6 months, done in 2014.
Grafts so far.  All of them are whip and tongue.

1.  This week, I grafted pear varieties, I think Anjou and Bartlett, from the old multigraft.  Whatever they are, they are good pears, delicious, proven in this area.  I added both to both of the new pears in my Battleground yard, Rescue and Orcas.

2.  I have a tiny Honeycrisp apple on M27, which is way to dwarfing for that variety.  After maybe 10 years it is still only 2 feet tall and gets one or two apples a year.  I took scion from that "tree" and grafted onto a more vigorous Winecrisp apple tree, one year old on a more vigorous semidwarf rootstock.

3.  I grafted two variegated burgundy on green plum seedlings, from plums that I bought in 2015, onto 2 of the younger plum trees - Toka (onto a rootstock sucker) and Ember.  I grafted one onto the Sweet Treat Pluerry.  I also grafted an American plum seedling onto Ember plum, to see if that would pollenize that tree.   I also grafted some variegated plum seedling onto a higher branch on Methley plum tree.

4.  I grafted several Chinese Haw scions onto suckers or younger trees in the Douglas Hawthorn woodlot.  I hope they take and make those into something productive, and maybe also not grow so top heavy and fall over like the original trees have been doing.  Both are in the Hawthorn genus, Crataegus, so I imagine they will take.

5.  To the Maxie hybrid Asian-American pear, I added Hamese and Hosui.  Last year I added Rescue and unknown Asian Pear from the Battleground yard.   I may convert that Rescue branch into something else, such as Shinseiki or Nijiseiki.  I don't need a bushel of one variety of Asian pear to ripen all at once, and it's nice to have multiple types ripening at potentially different times.

5.  Pending:  3 apple varieties from Fedco, and if I am luck some persimmons from Home Orchard Society.  I have more apple varieties now than I need, so for the most part I'm not planning to add more.  If I'm up to it, I  might make more use of some of the Hawthorne seedlings / suckers as experiments.  Hawthorn appears to be closely-enough related to pears that some pears can be grafted onto some hawthorn rootstock.  Some do better than others.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Planting Winter Seeds. 2.15.17

 I'm being adventurous and planting some winter-starting seeds for the kitchen garden beds.  The first batch, mesclun, arugula, radish blend, lettuce blend.  I used up old radish seeds by mixing them with the newer ones.  If the old ones don't grow, then the plants will be further apart which is good.  I usually overplant seeds.  If they do grow, that's fine, I'll just thin to the appropriate distance.

These seeds went into cement-block
raised beds that are warmer than surrounding ground-level soil.  A week ago, I scattered wood ashes on the soil and mixed thoroughly.  There have been some rains since then to dissolve the minerals.   A longer time would be better but this is what I have.

Last year I planted Fava beans and snow peas about now, and they were very healthy and vigorous and productive.  This time I'm planting them in a standard raised bed that had tomato plants last year.  That bed was given a dose of lime about 2 months ago. 

Onion seedlings. 2.15.17

Onion Seedlings.  2.15..17
So far, so good.  Some of the seedlings succumbed to damping off.  The hybrid "Patterson" and the old historic "Ailsa Craig" seem to be the toughest.  Still a few weeks to go before planting in the kitchen garden.

Blackberry Clearing. 2.15.17

Blackberry Clearing.  2.15.17
Over the past few weeks, I've been spending a few hours on each nice day, clearing blackberry brambles.  This area is the final 1/4 for this patch.  The cleared area is almost the entire photo, bare soil.  It took me about 15 months of work off and on.  I cleared part of it last fall and broadcast grass seeds in early winter.  That is the faintly green part.  The cut-off trees were dead and fallen, intermixed with brambles.  The fencing surrounds the Metasequoia tree that I planted last October.   For the most part, I'll broadcast more grass seed, so the regenerated blackberry vines get mowed down with lawn mowing.  I also added one garden bed, about 6 by 12 feet, and at the edges planted perennials from other parts of the yard.  Also some flowers planted for where I laid Baigou to rest near the Metasequoia.  Behind those standing and leaning trees, about 10 to 15 feet beyond, is a minor ravine and seasonal creek.  I want to plant some more good trees to hold soil.  Closest to the dying Hawthorns I'm planting a row of fast-growing cypress.  In the lawn, I think I'll add a couple of chestnut trees and a native maple seedling.  Those Douglas Hawthorns and native filbert trees don't seem able to stand for that many years.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Onion Seedlings. 1.27.17

Onion Seedlings.  1.27.17
The onion seedlings are looking pretty good.  At first I thought germination was not adequate, but they appear to have filled in over the past 2 weeks.  These are on a seedling mat, and under fluorescent lights.

I am also testing some hot pepper seeds, obtained from a package of dried peppers at the Chinese grocery store.  Those are very hot peppers, variety unknown but of the Thai type.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Home Orchard Chores. Deer and Rabbit protection. 1.19.17

Stone Fruits.  Image via

Today I did some orchard chores.

Last year I planted 3 blackberry cultivars, 5 plants of "Prime-Ark Freedom", a thornless primocane upright blackberry, 3 plants of "Ebony King", a reduced thorn standard upright blackberry, and one plant of "Columbia Star", a new thornless trailing blackberry. Most were in the fig tree row, and were subjected to deer and rabbit foraging. Prime-Ark Freedom was much loved by rabbits, while all of them were chewed, chopped off, and pulled up, by deer.

Yesterday and today I prepped an orchard bed, which consists of the mini-dwarf "Liberty" apple and dwarf "Jonagold" that I moved from Vancouver earlier this winter, and extends to a semidwarf "Winecrisp" apple that I planted bare-root in early 2016. This bed was squashes and tomatoes in 2016. I fenced it off, using 1-inch mesh plastic fencing. This fencing is better to avoid deer browsing, because they cant pull leaves and stems through the mesh, unlike metal 2 x 4 inch fencing.

There was room for a row of the 3 Ebony King blackberries, and separately for the "Columbia Star" blackberry, which will need a trellis. These are not protected from rabbits, who only seemed to like the "Prime-Ark Freedom" variety. In a separate bed, with fencing that should also protect from rabbits, I planted the "Prime-Ark Freedom" plants. Some of these look like they had significant freeze damage.

Persimmons.  Image via
The ground is quite wet. I tried to minimize any tromping, by staying off the garden soil as much as possible and working from the edges.

I also worked on deer fences in the main orchard. Mostly, I now have larger cages for several of the trees, which were subjected to deer browsing via pulling stems through the larger fencing openings. Most got the 1 inch plastic mesh. I have about 5 trees remaining that need some deer cage adjustments, mainly making the cages bigger.

Most of the deer cages are as big as they will ever need to be.  As the trees grow larger, most will be too high for normal deer browsing.   The deer cages are a hassle, and make it more difficult to mulch, weed, prune, and otherwise maintain the area.  Over the next few years, I hope to remove several if not most of the cages, and change to just mowing between trees.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Lessons from Kitchen Garden, Orchard, and Yard, 2016.

This is my summary of what did well and what did not, and general progress, from 2016.   It was a great gardening year!  I learned a lot, had great food, a few failures, and the best kitchen garden ever!

January -
Transplanting /Dividing Bamboo.  A Sawzall is about the only way I can figure, to cut away bamboo starts from an old colony.  It worked. If I had to do it over, I might have cut them back by 1/3 or 1/2, to reduce summer wilting.  Still, all survived and put out new canes.

I watered several times during the hot summer, but not as much as I expected.
It helps to apply a thick layer of mulch.

I started seeds for pepper plants in Mid January.  They did fine, but I don't think they did any better than plants I started in February or March in previous years.

I started okra seeds in mid January.  They grew, sulked, and did not thrive.  Starting okra seeds in June worked better, but nothing like, say, growing it in Alabama.

I transplanted a seed-grown ginkgo tree, about 12 feet tall, mid January, and many lilacs that were taller than I am.  All did fine, not with major growth but at least survived, produced some new stems, and made it through the year.  I expect them to need another year to fully take off.  They got extra water, using the 5-gallon bucket method 1/4 inch hole in the bottom of each, 2 per tree or bush, once weekly during the heat.

Using black plastic to start a garden bed works really nice.  Leave it in place for a few months, that kills all of the grass and weeds.  Then dig in the plant remnants and moss, a month before planting.  I think voles lived under the plastic for the winter, but maybe they fed the owls and cats.

I planted Favas Feb 27.  They did great, grew well, produced great, and were delicious.  But for some reason, I didn't eat them all.  I don't know why.  Sometimes I need to try something a few times, for it to kick in.

Growing potatoes from tall sprouted potatoes, didn't produce much.  I did get some, but not worth the effort.  Compost them.

Planted primocane, thornless blackberries from tissue cultured starts, in Feb.  They started slowly, then took off.  I got a few tastes.  Deer love eating these, as well as other cultivated types.  Other than the weed Himalayan blackberries deer eat them all to the ground.  I have a spot for them, to move them later this winter.

I think cement block raised beds worked better for peppers, compared to wooden beds.  These were repurposed blocks.  Compared to wood, the cement blocks give a warmer bed.  They worked well for Chinese chives too, but those are not particular.  This year I want to try these for okra, and move some of the Chinese chives to a less picky spot.

Dandelion greens make for great, healthy, nutritious, free chicken food supplement.  The chickens love it and the eggs have more orange yolks.  Dig a few dandelion plants and transplant them to a coddled vegetable row, and they make more tender, bigger, tastier greens compared to the ones from the yard.

I gave up on apricots, and container peaches.  Too much trouble for the peaches, although it did work well.  Apricots just don't grow for me here, despite many tries.

At least for me, grafting kiwi and persimmons were pretty easy.  I waited until the rootstocks were growing, while storing scion in plastic bags in fridge.  Grafting ginkgo was not hard, but they were slow growing.  We'll see this year.  So far the only total grafting failure is lilacs.  I got one of three fig scion to take, so that's not easy for me, but not impossible.  Grafting tomatoes works, but is a lot of trouble.  They need a lot of attention to humidity.  I lost about 2/3 of them.  Not sure they were worth the effort but it's fun to try.

Potatoes do great here.  Productive, deer don't eat the plants, and harvest is like a treasure hunt.

Tart cherries make the most amazing pie, whether from a wild tree or Montmorency.  100% worth the effort.  I hope the Montmorency tree is happier this year, I neglected it too much.

First crop ever of Methley plums, awesome too.

Milkweed has a wonderful fragrance.  It's a unique and pretty plant.  Honeybees love them.  Grown from seeds, they need a year to bloom.  I think they transplanted OK in the fall, but won't know until this Spring.  They are late to come up.  I gave up on them, then was surprised.

I can't believe how well sweet corn did.  Planted every 2 weeks, blocks of 4 rows each, 5 feet by 5 feet. Trinity, Bilicious, and Bodaceous, were all great.  Mirai was too sweet and watery, I didn't like it.  For me to not like a sweet corn is saying something.

I discovered it is possible to germinate and grow 10-year-old bean seeds.  We had seeds that old in the basement, stored cool and dry.  Planted directly in the soil, none grew.  Keeping them in plastic zip-lock bags, on moist paper towel, changing the paper towel if starting to mildew, we got maybe 5% germination.  Of those, some were mutants but there were plenty for a great crop of Chinese green beans, and seeds saved for 2017.

The summer kitchen garden was my best ever.  Lots of sweet corn, tomatoes, greens, green beans, plums, peaches, pears, apples, potatoes, onions.  Keeping ahead of it was a challenge at time but I loved spending the time outside.
Had the first taste of Sweet Treat Pluerry.  Nice flavor.  We'll see if the tree produces this year.  Bloom is early, might not pollinate well. 

Zucchini fritters are great for breakfast and a good way to use that prolific summer vegetable.

I really love mulberries, Hollywood plums, and every kind of fig.  All produced OK.

This was a bit of an off year for plums, compared to 2015.  I may have let them over-produce in 2015, or the bloom time vs. frost time were not favorable in 2016.  Either way, we had enough.

Gravenstein apples are delicious, found these apples then bough a tree in the fall and planted it.

Summer fresh  fruit is heaven.   I also enjoyed my first taste of Summerred apple, which was refreshing and a little spicy.

Collard greens are delicious, cut into strips and stir fried.  Collards grow very well here, but cabbage worms and slugs leave many holes in the leaves.

Sutton Beauty is a good, very old fashioned apple.  The columnar apple trees, NorthPole, Scarlet Sentinel, and Golden Sentinel, are all quite good and  fairly early.

Tomatoes, peppers, and okra were all late summer, but really good when they came on line.  I think the cement block raised beds were ideal for peppers.

Summer planting in July, was perfect for turnips, Chinese radishes, and Daikon.  Some salad radishes did well then too.  I did not get any success with kohlrabi or broccoli.

We grew more pumpkins, zucchinis, and squashes than we knew what to do with.  Some we gave away.  Some we processed and froze for later use.  I need to learn more ways to cook them, especially savory instead of sweet.

I learned how important it is to bare-root container trees for planting into native soil.   I did that with this Gravenstein tree, and with a Dawn Redwood.

I  loved those persimmons.  Nikita's Gift was more productive, more vigorous, and had a more interesting taste, compared to Saijo.  This was the first year that either produced fruit.  Saijo was nothing to sneeze at - delicious, sweet, juicy, and big.  Basically, I fell in love with persimmons this year.

On the negative side, I gave up on honeybees.  They are too much trouble, to expensive, and it's too disappointing when they die off - this year was the 3rd year and 4th colony that I lost.  That's it for those.  I'm about to give up bearded irises, but not yet.  Most of the year the plants are just plain ugly, weedy, and tend to rot.  On the other hand, they are durable enough that I might leave them growing in the fence row. 

I don't know what I loved most about gardening this year.  Every time I ventured into the yard and garden, it felt like an adventure.  Sometimes it takes many attempts to get something to do well, then it does and you don't know why.  Maybe random chance, or this was just a good year.  The summer fruits were amazing, the sweet corn made it all worth while.  Even the potatoes were a treat.  Those pumpkins and squashes are delightful, even if I didn't know what to do with all of them.  We tried many new ways of cooking many of our crops.  Learning that I really do love persimmons was a delicious adventure.  There were foods or varieties that I've never tasted before in my life, and they were wonderful.  I can't say that 2017 will be as great, but I'm grateful for a year where I got to enjoy so much time in the garden, experience so many new treats, and nurture myself, my household, and the land itself.    I'm ready are rarin' to go for another year of digging, planting, pruning, grafting, hoeing, transplanting, propagating, harvesting and savoring.

Seed Order. 1.14.16

The seed order from Territorial Seed Co. came today.  Makes me anxious to dig.  The foot of snow and temps in the teens, makes that a bid difficult.  I can, and did, plant the Patterson storage onion seeds indoors, same method as for others.  I've been saving milk cartons, cut to about 5 inches deep and drilled drainage holes.

The first of the Ailsa Craig seeds, planted 1/7/16, germinated.  So that's one week for the fastest among them.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Starting Onion Seeds. 1.7.17

I decided to grow onions from seeds this year.  After reading a number of web pages and viewing some videos, now looks like a good time.  They can be started Jan, Feb, March.  The seedlings can very crowded in the container, 25 or more per container.  Some garden writers state more than that.

Unfortunately, my seeds from Territorial Seeds did not come yet.  I have some Ailsa Craig seeds from Baker Creek for summer onions, and bought some Red Globe and Ringmaster White Globe for storage. I hope the Territorial Seeds come soon, since those are the long keepers.

I planted roughly a seed per every 1/4 inch although didn't measure.  These are in cottage cheese containers with holes drilled through the bottom, and filled with moist seed starting soil.