Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Puttering. 2.24.24

Shrub and tree cuttings, 1 to 2 years old.  2.24.15

Forsythia cutting.  One year old.  2.24.15

I finished adding cedar wood chip mulch to the front border.  Now it should be maintenance free for a long time.  Maintenance free is good.

Forsythia cutting from this time last year is blooming.  Didn't grow much last year  Lots of roots.  I think it will grow this year.

Plum cuttings from last year are starting to grow.  No flower buds.

Two year old Laburnum / Golden Chain Tree cuttings, I removed from ground an potted for some TLC.   I think this is 2 years old, might be 3.  Buds starting to swell.

Potted genetic dwarf peach is starting to bloom.  If it frosts, I can move it inside.  Looks like growth is starting much lower on the tree.  Good.  I can prune it back for a more compact plant.  I kept it out of the rain all winter.  Too soon to see if that helped with peach leaf curl.  I am playing the bee with a paintbrush, to support pollination.  This is either Bonanza or Ponderosa.  I mix up the names, which shows my age.

Bee forage plots, seedlings have germinated.  Borage, Phacelia, Crimson Clover.   The borage will crowd and shade out all weeds and grasses in its plot, which is good.  I expect so will the crimson clover.

I transplanted lemon balm into the remaining bee forage plot.  Lemon balm / Melissa is considered great bee forage.  They ignored it last year.   I had it planted around seedling trees, but it's too vigorous and competed with the trees.  So today it's in it's own plot, much nearer the beehive.

Honeybees are out in force, for past 2 weeks.  This is good.  They survived the winter and did not swarm.   Which reminds me, I need to paint the new hive.  This time it will be a Warre hive, which I hope needs less effort to keep the honeycombs straight.

Within a few yards of beehive:  Linden, Sourwood, Melissa, Borage, Phacelia, bee-friendly Buddlea Blue Chip, lavender - minimal, and a few more yards away, Nings wildflower meadow.  more Lindens, maples, and others.  That won't be enough to keep all of the foraging at our place, but I hope it helps a bit.

Smith Fig, kept in garage all winter, growing.  I moved it inside with predicted 29 degree night, not is back outside.  None of the others is growing, even kept in garage next to Smith.  In-ground Smith thoroughly dead.  It is more suited for more southern climate.

 Or is that peach El Dorado?  Nothing to do with Bonanza?  I'll have to look it up.

Bonanza Peach.  2.24.15

Bonanza Peach.  2.24.15

Borage Seedlings at one week.  2.24.15

Crimson Clover Seedlings at one week.  2.24.15

Transplanted Lemon Balm.  2.24.15

Front of house, with beehive.  2.24.15

Smith Fig starting to grow.  2.24.15

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fig row / bee forage seed beds. 2.18.15

When we bought the place this was all weeds, especially Johnson Grass and some very tough weeds.

I wanted to make the mowing easier, so I covered the ground between the fig tree saplings, with plastic for the winter.  That killed the grass.  Last weekend I pulled up the plastic, and raked the soil reasonably smooth for seed beds.  I scattered borage seed on the largest bed, and the others are either phacelia or crimson clover. 

This abuts a neighbor's weedfield.  The appearance isn't very important.  I want to be able to run the lawn mower up and down both sides, without the much more difficult method of mowing around each tree.

If the beds work out, next year I can make them much wider, and just have 2 mower-widths of lawn on each side

One seedbed remains.  I bought Viper's Bugloss seeds, reported as excellent bee forage.  Then I read there are toxic pyrolizidine alkaloids in Bugloss' nectar and pollen.  Probably not enough to matter, but I may plant something else - maybe Agastache.  Another choice, lemon balm - I have lots of volunteer plants I can move there, enough to fill in an entire bed.

The lawn was carpeted with white Dutch clover last year.  I don't see any now.  It may just not be ready to grow yet.  I hope it does - excellent bee forage.

The areas just adjacent to the fig trees will be mulched, with a space between mulch and trunk.  I'm thinking of using straw.

This area is almost done and ready for Spring.  About the only maintenance will be quick runs of the lawn mower.

Front Borders Work In Progress. 2.18.15

Front Border and Walk.  2.18.15
Front Walk and Border.  2.18.15
So far, here is the front walk and border bed.  I've been working on them for 6 months.   The themes, if there are any -

-Most plants are usable for bee forage.

-Most plants were self-starts or transplants.

-Most plants are deer and rabbit resistant.

-Some edible plants are included, mainly herbs.

-Pavers are about 1/2 reused from various places, and 1/2 new.   So that they don't look uneven, I've been randomly mixing old and new, and the new is a mix of grey, brick red, and brown pavers.  Edging is also about 1/2 reused (grey) and 1/2 new (brick red). 

Under the mulch is a layer of cardboard food packaging, to prevent perennial weeds from coming up through the wood chip mulch.  It's working very well.

The plastic is there to kill the grass.  It's much easier to smooth the soil and prep a base for pavers, when the sod has been killed by this method.  It's slow - takes a few months.  But no hurry.
Front Border.  2.19.15

Front Border.  12.18.15
 By the house foundation, I will have a gravel walkway.  That avoids plants from growing up to the siding, and reduces risk for carpenter ants and termites.   It's been inspected - there are none.  I want to keep it that way.

For bee forage -
Sedums, big bunches of large varieties.
Helelborus - new clumps.
Daffodils, many.
Chinese chives, many clumps.
Oregano, multiple clumps
Daylilies, multiple clumps.
Blue chip Buddleia.
Alliums - multiple

For kitchen herbs and kitchen garden -
Rhubarb - large established clump and one I rescued.
4 miniature sized apple trees, 3 are columnar.
Oregano, Rosemary, Sage
Chives, Chinese Chives
Multiplier onions

This list is far from complete.  There are more varieties of bulbs including lilies and irises, Hyacinthoides and Leucojum and others.  There are groundcover sedums, violets, a big lilac that came with the place, some roses, and some I have forgotten.

Once the rest of the mulch is down - not much remaining to fill in - the bed should be mostly low  maintenance.  The edging and walkways will cut weed invasion back to a minimum.  The mulch will reduce water need.  The edging will keep grass out.  There is pretty good access via the walkways.  The edging needs tidying, the walks need completion and leveling, and that's about all.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. 2.11.15

I sent an email to Raintree Nursery.  Wondering about when the order will be sent.  Pawpaw "Mango".  Pluerry "Sweet Treet".  Cranberry bushes.  A genetic dwarf apricot and an olive tree - both for containers.

Plenty of time - but I'm hoping for their arrival soon.

They replied quickly, should be sent by the end of the week.

Nice weather now.


Sunday, February 08, 2015

Winter Puttering. 2.10.14

Borage 6.5.14
 No new photos today.  I puttered as much as my energy allowed.

Cleared up about 50 sq foot area in fig row, that I covered with black plastic last fall, to kill grass.  Now it's apparent the area was used by previous owners to dispose of fireplace ash.  The grass and weeds were thick so apparently not too toxic.  In the center of that area, I have already planted a start of "King" fig.  In the cleared portion, I smoothed with garden rake and scattered borage seeds for bee forage.

Borage grows rampantly.  Big lush, muscular, drought tolerant plants.  The honeybees and bumblebees both love it.  This is a much larger area, compared to last year's few borage plants.

I uncovered the rest of the killed grass.  That area needs some rain for softening, then some more borage seeds.

Between the fig trees in the row, I've laid down plastic to kill grass.  Each section is about 25 square feet.  I want to use each section for bee forage.

Borage with honeybee.  7.5.14

 Based on last year's results, other great bee forage plants include Phacelia "Bee friend", and Dutch clover.  Last year Dutch clover took over much of the yard.  It is not visible now, but I imagine when the warm weather hits, it will do so again.

I have also bought seeds for a patch of Crimson clover, and a patch of Agastache.  It's not a huge increase in the size of the bee forage area, but bigger than last year and with some more experiments.  All organic, no pesticides, no neonicotinoids, no round-up, just nature.
Borage.  7.5.14

I have also increased the amount of Chinese chives - another flower the bees love to forage.  Being perennial, all I need to do is save seeds and sow them.  Any that grow, are in addition to the existing clumps.

Borage with bumblebee.  7.5.14

Dutch Clover with honeybee.  7.5.15
Phacelia tanacetifolia "Beefriend"  6.22.14
 In addition to clearing that area, I planted a mini-dwarf Jonagold apple tree that I grafted last year, using sucker from rootstock of another minidwarf tree and scion from the top.  This is in a perennial, shrub, and herb border.  They are more ornamental than useful, but again, some bee forage, and a few apples should result.

I planted some Egyptian Walking Onions that were lying around sprouting.
Phacelia tanacetifolia "Beefriend"  6.22.14

I provided the last pre-spring nitrogen boost for young trees in the mini-orchard / food forest.  The trees that benefited were:  Two sweet cherries; 2 years old.  One North Star tart cherry.  2 years old.  Newly planted American persimmon, Yates; and 2 year old Nikita's Gift and Saijo persimmons.  The Saijo might be a mistake - near bearing size and I read nitrogen boost can call fruit fall.  All three of the three-year-old pawpawsHollywood plum, 1 year old from cutting.

None of the plums got nitrogen boost, none of the peaches - those grow too rampantly as is, and are bearing size.  Rule of thumb for me - if bearing size, and last year's growth was more than a foot, then the extra nitrogen is probably not needed.  The plums grew more than 2 feet, and the peaches grew 2 to 3 feet, last year.  Ditto for Montmorency cherry.

There was some left over, so all of the fig trees in the fig row, south of the house, got nitrogen boost too.

"Nitrogen boost"  is euphemism for pee-cycling, or Urine Fertilizer.  In this case, I used 1:4 dilution.  One 1 liter, diluted, was watered in around each of  3 trees.

It's an early Spring.  Plum and peach buds are nearly open.  I hope we don't get a hard frost when they are susceptible.   If we do, we do.

Still anxiously awaiting Raintree nursery order and scion from Fedco.  Maybe end of the month.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Winter Gardening. Fig Replacements. 1.23.15

Fig Row with replacement trees planted.  1.23.15

King Fig about to be planted.  1.23.15
This is from yesterday.   My approach, to trying to grow figs in Battleground, is evolving.

The challenges:

Climate.  Freeze damage is more of an issue than in Vancouver.  Almost a non-issue in Vancouver.  I lost top growth of several at the Battleground place, last year.  The unprotected ones of experimental varieties sustained significant freeze damage - an unknown, and exposed growth on LSU Tiger.  Haven't checked Champagne yet.

One problem with the freezing, is that it may limit fertilizing.  If growth is rapid, it may be more susceptible to freezing.  So it may take longer to bear fruit.

Herbivores.  Despite covering and hardware cloth, Smith was destroyed to ground level and into the roots, by voles.  Unknown was also destroyed to below ground level.  I had left one exposed this winter.

As a result, I decided to give up some experimental varieties, and go back to standards that have known hardiness, from my Vancouver yard.  Last year I grew cuttings from Hardy Chicago and Lattarula, and I continued a cutting from 2 years ago from King.  Those have all done well without any protection at all, from local freezes.

I dug out the remains of Smith and the unknown.  I planted King in a section where I had laid down black plastic to kill grass over the winter.  There is evidence of fireplace disposal or old fire there, with ashes and char.  Those have been leaching for at least the past 4 years, and possibly much longer.  I replaced soil in the top 18 inches, 18 inches around, although it may still be affected.  King is usually very vigorous, and this is a good spot for a larger tree.  I planted Lattarula where Smith was, and Hardy Chicago were the unknown was.  Sal's had no freeze protection and looks fine.   Sal's seems to me the most hardy, and tolerant to neglect, but growth is slower.  Maybe the slow growth is why it is more durable.  Aubique petite has had no freeze protection in prior years, and only winter 2013-14 was it freeze killed, so starting over.  So I did protect that one, and Carini.  Carini should be OK once it is established.

Across the road, I need to check on Brunswick, Champagne, and Atreano.  Brunswick was OK a few weeks ago.

So now, all of the varieties that I grew successfully at the Vancouver place are in-ground at the Battleground place.

The plastic/mess is intended to kill grass.  I just want to mow up one side and down the other.  In those spaces, I want to plant vegetables and/or bee forage, with straw mulch.

This time I applied hardware cloth surrounds and deer fencing cylinders at the outset.  They do need some mulch.

Addendum:  I checked the figs on the acre across the street.  Brunswick looks great.   Minimal freez damage, maybe 5 twigs.  Most of the rest have viable-looking brebas.  Growth last year was only about 6 inches.  Might need some nitrogen.  Then again maybe that's why it did so well.   Champagne hard to say.  Maybe one sprout survived from last year.  Atreano, hard to say.  There was only one sprout from last year.  It looks like it might be alive.  If so, it's one of the larger sprouts from the 2013 freeze damaged fig trees.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

American Persimmon. Diospyros virginiana. 1.21.15

Image source:  Plant Illustrations.org 
Diospyros virginiana L.
Catesby, M., The natural history of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands, vol. 2: t. 76 (1754)
From "Today in History" via the Library of Congress,

On the afternoon of December 16, 1864, Union troops led by General George H. Thomas devastated Confederate forces at Nashville, Tennessee. The battle had begun the day before when Thomas initiated an attack after waiting some two weeks for troop reinforcements and favorable weather.

In November, in an effort to cut off General William T. Sherman's supply line, Confederate General John B. Hood, led the Army of Tennessee out of Alabama and toward Nashville. One of Hood's men remembered the grueling march from Atlanta to Nashville. "After the fall of Atlanta," Confederate veteran Milton Cox told his son John:

we marched northward into Tennessee over frozen ground and how cold it was! Our shoes were worn out and our feet were torn and bleeding…the snow was on the ground and there was no food. Our rations were a few grains of parched corn. When we reached the vicinity of Nashville we were very hungry and we began to search for food. Over in a valley stood a tree which seemed to be loaded with fruit. It was a frost bitten persimmon tree, but as I look back over my whole life, never have I tasted any food which would compare with these persimmons.

19th Century Persimmon tree, Lima Lake, Illinois   Source Univ Chicago.

 Credit line for image:  American Environmental Photographs Collection, [AEP Image Number, e.g., AEP-MIN73], Department of Special Collections, University of Chicago Library.

The image is not dated.  Either late 19th century or eary 20th century.  

American Persimmon is a native American tree, range extending through the old South, northeast to Connecticut, northwest to southern parts if Illinois, and northern Missouri, southwest into NW Texas.

The photo at left is at Lima Lake, Illinois.  I recall my Dad talking about Lima Lake, which was then considered a "swamp", and now would be called a wetland.  The wetland covered an expanse of 10,000 to 12,000 acres near Quincy, IL, the town where my dad spent his life, and where I was born and grew up.   I remember being told that persimmons were bitter, astringent fruits, not suitable for eating.  So never tried one.  I missed out.  A truly ripe persimmon is almost like juicy candy.

Best growth of persimmon was known in the Mississippi river valley, which explains why my Dad was aware of them.

I am interested in some of the native American plants and trees, especially those that might have grown where I grew up.  That is even though I don't live there, and haven't for many years.

Those plants and trees seem somewhat taken for granted.  There are few native American fruit trees - pawpaw, some plums,  and a few others.  Persimmon is also one, known to native Americans, eaten by them, and described in early European colonial works.
Natural range of American Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana.  Source:  JSTOR.org

Source for map image:  JSTOR

Other names for persimmon included  "simmon, possumwood, and Florida persimmon,".  I only knew them as persimmons.

As for growth of American persimmon, they are difficult to transplant at a large size, due to taproot.  Because of that difficulty, some nurseries offer trees at small size, and grow them in specialized tall, narrow, open bottom tree containers.  That is how the persimmon tree came to me from Burnt Ridge Nursery.

From US Silvaculture manual, "Approximately 50 percent of the total radial growth is complete in 70 to 90 days, and 90 percent complete in 100 to 109 days after growth starts in the spring (6). Persimmon responds well to fertilizer."  Based on that info, it seems to me that small persimmon trees should be given nitrogen fertilizer early in Spring or late Winter.  In my yard, that means pee-cycling then.  My tree is just a small sapling.  Other references state not to fertilize, but I think that fertilizing sapling trees might give them a boost, then stop when they are bigger.  The issue with excess nitrogen is it can cause fruit drop.  Fruit drop is not a concern until the trees reach bearing size.

 Also according to the silvaculture manual, trees take a long time to bear, may start in 10 years.  However, seedling trees of most tree species need to go through a maturation process, that is already accomplished in the scion of grafted cultivars.  Because of grafting, the maturation process is skipped, so they may bear - guessing - in 3 to 5 years.  I think the main challenge is getting them large enough, fairly quickly.  The manual also states, "Common persimmon grows in a tremendous range of conditions from very dry, sterile, sandy woodlands to river bottoms to rocky hillsides and moist or very dry locations. It thrives on almost any type of soil but is most frequently found growing on soils of the orders Alfisols, Ultisols, Entisols, and Inceptisols".  I don't know what those soil types mean, but have copied them for future reference.
Image source plantgenera.org

Maritime Pacific NW climate is quite different from the provenance of American persimmons.  I think there are still a lot of unknowns.  However, others have grown them here, and they are available at local mail order nurseries such as Burnt Ridge, Raintree, and One Green World.  The difference in climate is not more than, say, the difference for kaki persimmons, or figs, or peaches, apples, pears, from their origins.

Also from the manual, best growth  "is in areas that receive an average of 1220 mm (48 in) of precipitation annually, about 460 mm (18 in) of which normally occurs during the growing season. Over the range of persimmon, the average maximum temperatures are 35° C (95° F) in the summer and -12° C (10° F) in the winter."    The climate here has a dry summer, most rain being in fall / winter / spring.  Both summer and winter are milder than midwest.   The climate here could be more suitable, or less, or no significant difference, compared to native provenance.

My goal is get the tree off to a good start.  Provide mulch, water well the first couple of summers, provide adequate nitrogen the first couple of years at the right time, and see if we can get a good burst of growth so I have a taste in my lifetime.

The variety that I purchased is reported as not requiring a male pollinator.  If, some time, I find some scion for male persimmon, I may graft them onto either this tree or Saijo, or Nikita's Gift, to produce viable seeds.  That is not a priority for me.

According to One Green World Nursery, "American Persimmon can be grown in all but the coldest regions of the U.S. American Persimmon fruit is ready to eat when it is soft like a tomato... American Persimmon trees are easy to keep at 10-12 ft. in height with pruning."

 The variety I planted is Yates, which is apparently also  called Juhl.  As I recall, this variety originates in Indiana, is larger than most others, and has a darker orange color. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Digging an Oriental Poppy to Re-Plant. 1.19.15

Oriental Poppy before digging.  1.19.15

Oriental Poppy.  Large hole.  1.19.15
 I dug this oriental poppy to move to the Battleground place.  It's about 13 years old, from seed.  It has been moved once before.

I dug around it like I would a tree, slice vertically into the ground.  Then dig around those slices, in a circle, removing the soil.  Then slice under it, and lift the clump out of the soil.

All came up as one piece.  I think I got the vast majority of roots.  It should survive, and possibly bloom, this year.

I placed the clump into a very large flowerpot.  I am without car today and tomorrow, then can take it to Battleground.

My grandfather liked growing Oriental Poppies.  So I have them partly to remember him.

I also dug up a large clump of daffodils.  Same method.  If careful, they move without a problem, and there is nice bloom the first Spring, as if they were in the new location for years.  More of those to follow.   Transferring as much as I can, little bit by little bit, to the Battleground place.
I think I got almost all of the roots.  1.19.15

Pruning Fig Trees. 1.19.15

Fig "Aubique Petite" before pruning.  1.19.15

Fig "Aubique Petite" after pruning.  1.19.15
 Today I pruned my two front yard fig trees in Vancouver.  These are among my oldest trees, about 13 to 14 years old.  They have spread too wide.  It is difficult getting bird netting over the trees.

Both bear mainly on new growth in fall - "Main Crop" but get a few summer figs on the previous year's growth - "breba figs".   If these were mainly breba varieties, pruning much of the growth now could mean loss of much of next summer's crop.  Since they are mostly main crop, production will not be so affected.

The goal was to make them a bit more compact while still having an open center, with the branches like the sides of a bowl.

I started by standing back and selecting which branches to remove close to the main trunk and scaffold branches.  With each cut, I backed up again to see if I really wanted to remove the next branch.

Once I removed the larger branches, I used the pruning shears to remove smaller ones, aiming always for a bowl shape with open center, and branches not spreading as far and wide.  Finally, I trimmed off some that looked frost damaged, and cut the tips from some to encourage close-in branching.

I'm happy with the results.  The trees are likely to respond with a burst of growth, but also have lots of figs that ripen nicely due to more sun exposure in the trees.  If I want to net the trees, it will be easier.

The last photo shows the cut end of a branch.  These fig trees seem to make multiple rings per year.  The branch can't be more than 14 years old, and probably more like 12.  I planted the tree 14 years ago.

Fig "Hardy Chicago" before pruning.  1.19.15

Fig "Hardy Chicago" after pruning.  1.19.15
Tree rings on 13-year old fig branch.  Ficus carica "Petite Aubique".  1.19.15

Winter Pruning Columnar Apple. 1.19.15

The same tree in 2009

North Pole Apple after pruning.  1.19.15

North Pole Apple after pruning.  1.19.15
Today I am on vacation.  Did a little pruning.  I am not up to a lot, but I can do a little.

I pruned North Pole apple tree, about 14 years old.  The goal is shorten the spurs enough to maintain columnar shape, exposing all apples to sunlight.  Shorten the top so all are within my reach.  I am 5'10 so that means, about 8  ft tall.

Next to clean up the mess under the tree.  Important for disease and insect prevention.  I didn't have the energy, but this week would be a good time.  Last year's apples were all wormy - I refuse to spray poison - and in my frustration, I didn't clean them up

Columnar apples are descended from a sport growing in a Canadian orchard on a McIntosh apple tree.   That was in 1961.  The original, named for the the farmer, is McIntosh "Wijcik".   Most if not all columnar apple trees are descended from the Wijcik mutation.   Hundreds of crosses have been made, resulting in many novel columnar apple trees.   I don't know how the apples, from those trees, taste, or how productive they are.  This North Pole is a good apple.  I am not a connoisseur, so not the best judge.  The main issue is wormy apples, which is culture method, not the tree's fault.  Cleaning up under the tree is important, and I plan to bag them next year. 

The gene leading to columnar growth has been mapped on apple chromosome #10, known as the "co" gene.   This gene is present in all columnar apple cultivars.   The mutation is entirely natural - Anthony Wijcik was looking at his McIntosh trees and happened to observe the unusual branch.  He cut it, using it as scion, propagated it, and ultimately sold it for propagation and development.  That tree was patented by Stark's Nurserys, but the patent has since run out.

Columnar apple trees are known in the UK as "Ballerina" trees.

 In wikipedia, Fisher is given credit for discovering the Wijcik McIntosh, but in Fisher's own writing, "At a Research Station Field Day in 1963, a grower approached me and said he had a peculiar stunted shoot of 'Mclntosh' originating adjacent to a cut at the top of a 50-year-old 'Mclntosh' tree. He had discovered this in 1961. I picked up an empty cigarette package and hastily wrote down his name and address, intending to visit him. Unfortunately I lost the package. Fortunately, two years later (1965) at a similar Field Day I recognized the same man, Mr. Tony Wijcik. Prior to harvest I visited his orchard in East Kelowna and inspected his sport. Although located in an advantageous position at the top of the tree in regard to light exposure, fruit from this sported shoot matured somewhat later than apples on the rest of the tree and had only fair color. The fruit was tightly packed on the very compact single shoot measuring about four feet in length. Mr. Wijcik had, by this time, taken buds and propagated a row of about 20 trees on M.26 rootstock."

I have tried to locate a patent on North Pole apple.  I don't think there is one.  It may have a trademark, which would mean progeny could not be identified by that name, but would be legal.

Back to  this particular tree, I have not found photos of old columnar apple trees.  Most catalog photos show very young specimens, often in containers.  They look like sticks with apples glued to the sides.  The mature tree is more sturdy, and the spurs tend to grow longer with time.

I have found that pruning the spurs back keeps the shape nicely.  I stubbed the top many years ago, and annually remove most of the growth above that point.  The bearing is prolific.  I just need a way to prevent insect damage to the fruit, which is true for all of my apples.