Saturday, November 17, 2018

Fall Chores. Collecting Tree Leaves for Mulch. Blackberry Maintenance. 11.17.18

 This is a good time to collect tree leaves from around the neighborhood, for mulch and for compost if there are enough leaves.

During 2018, the leaf mulches helped a lot.  They keep the soil more moist, prevent most weeks from growing, cool the soil, and add to humus and nutrients.  Last year's mulch is almost completely degraded, so needs replacing.

I already mulched around many of the fruit trees.  This time, I cleaned up the blackberry bed and mulched that.

This year, I pulled out all of the Cascade Star blackberries.  They didn't produce enough, and they are more trouble, compared to Prime Ark Freedom and Triple Crown.  I also pulled out the Ebony King - way to thorny, not as productive, and the berries are not as good as PAF and TC.

That left Prime Ark Freedom, Ebony King, and two one-year-old Arapaho.  I'm not that impressed with Arapaho, but giving them another chance.  I did move one out of the main blackberry bed, and replaced that with a Prime Ark Freedom that was crowding the other two of that variety.  I also pruned them to about 6 feet tall, pruned out all of this year's floricanes (canes that already bore fruit and are dying off), and pulled the few weeds that are present.

Then I mulched with about 9 inches of loose maple and sweet gum leaves.  Those will flatten to a couple of inches, over the winter.  I repaired the trellises, and that's about all.  Now they are ready for winter and for next year.

Removing Vole Guards. Stanley Plum. 11.17.18

Vole Guard - getting tight.   11.17.18

Plum Trunk, Freed from Vole Guard.  11.17.18

Stanley Plum, about 8 years old.  11.17.18
I planted this plum tree about 8 years ago, and moved it to its current location in 2012.  At that time, I added a hardware cloth sleeve for a vole guard.

This is a good time of the year to go around and see which trees are outgrowing their vole guard sleeves, and remove those sleeves.  As the trees age, the bark is less appetizing and I don't have problems with voles on these more mature trees.

The main problem with these vole guards is if they are partly underground, roots grow through them, making them difficult if not impossible to easily remove.  This tree had some rootstock suckers that grew through the guard, and I had to cut the guard off, leaving a bit, on that side.  I also removed the suckers.

The irony is, I'm not that crazy about Stanley plums.  They don't have the flavor of Asian plums, but are much later which is nice.  This tree also has a couple of other European plum grafts that have not bloomed yet.

I saw other vole guards around the orchard, also in need of removal.  A good project for the coming weeks.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Apple Scion Order for Spring 2019

One of the great things about multigraft trees is, if you do't like a variety, you can remove the limb or graft others onto it, and still be ahead of removing or replacing a whole tree.

I'm not happy about Chehalis, which for me has given large, tasteless apples and not many, despite the branch being very vigorous.   I also have doubts about Akane, which has not produced apples despite other branches on the tree being productive.

So, next Spring I want to cut those two branches short, and graft something different.  I'm choosing mainly disease - resistant, PRI varieties.

PRI stands for "Purdue Rutgers Illinois" apple breeding program.  They interbred exce;lent apple cultivars with a disease resistant crabapple species, Malus floribunda, then crossed other apple cultivars, and tested them extensively.  Most of these are scab resistant, although there is change happening in the scab disease so that is not as sure as it once was.

Regardless, I've grown Priscilla and Pristine, and they were both excellent apples.  The Pristine branch broke, but is still partly connected to the tree.  So I will see if that has some viable scion for grafting in the late winter.  Most, but not all, PRI varieties, have the letters "P", "R", "I" somewhere in their names.  Often consecutively, such as in Priscilla and Pristine. 

Meanwhile, I want to try others.  I chose:

Prima - Early Fall, red disease-resistant apple. 

Goldrush - despite no "PRI" letters, except "r", a PRI variety.  A long keeping golden, disease resistant apple.  Heavy cropping, has Golden Delicious and Rome Beauty in its ancestry. Sweet, very late season, keeps 3 months.

Williams Pride.  Mostly red, disease resistant apple.  Early maturing, tart fruit.

Honeycrisp is also scab resistant.  Most people know Honeycrisp.  I have a tiny tree on ultradwarffing M27 rootstock.  The tree is 3 feet tall and had 5 apples this year.  I want to add that to a more vigorous tree.  I have other grafts of Honeycrisp but jot far enough along to harvest more scion.  I think Honeycrisp is not very vigorous anyway, so needs a more vigorous rootstock. 

For what it's worth, the PRI varieties have all been disease resistant in my garden, and the apples from each of those varieties have been very good to incredible (Pristine).    My Winecrisp tree, also a PRI introduction ("cRIsP" does have PRI in its name) has not borne a crop yet.

Firewood and Wood Ashes. 11.12.18

Rufus keeping warm by the woodstove.  11.12.18
Over the years, we've had many trees fall on our 2-acre property.  Most have been scrubby, especially cascara trees with trunks about 1 foot thick at the base, tapering up the trees' approximately 30 foot height.  I've also collected some trimmed branches with dimensions that fit in to the woodstove.  We use the cut pieces to supplement the house's heat.  The woodstove makes a big difference, keeping the house warm on cold days.

After the wood is burned, I collect the ashes and spread on the yard and garden.  I avoid spreading ashes on areas where acidic soil is preferred, such as near chestnut trees, or near rhododendrons, or where I will plant potatoes next season.  Those plants do not appreciate alkaline conditions or wood ashes.

This is where a soil test is handy.  Our soil was quite low in calcium, then magnesium.  Wood ashes are alkaline, so can buffer an acidic soil.    Their major component is calcium carbonate - so they have an effect similar to lime, although not as strong as lime.  Wood ashes contribute calcium to soil, then potassium and phosphorus, and some magnesium.   Ed Hume recommends spreading ash around trees and shrubs.  I avoid around acid-loving plants, like chestnut trees, rhododendrons, azaleas, or evergreens, as well as where I will grow potatoes next season. Ed Hume recommends 1 gallon of dry wood ashes per square yard of garden, or 1/4 to 1/2 inch on lawns and flower beds.  Farmer's Almanac recommends 20 pounds per 1000 square feet, which would be 2 pounds per 100 square feet, or 1 pound per 50 square feet - a 5 foot by 10 foot bed.  I apply less, figuring I don't want to overdo it.  I just use a dusting on the vegetable beds for next year, and on lawn around fruit and specimen trees.  Less than the recommend 1/4 inch, so I doubt any problem will occur.

My philosophy is that the trees and garden are already goring nicely.  By adding ashes, I'm returning some of the minerals that trees and vegetables have removed from the soil.  That will help growth in future years. Our soil is high in potassium, the next ingredient that is high in wood ashes, so that aspect is not needed.  The magnesium and phosphorus content of ashes is not much, but would be well.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Geranium Storage for the Winter. 11.10.18

These Geraniums Were Allowed to Dry, Then Moved to Garage.  11.10.18

These Geraniums Were Allowed to Driy, Then Moved to Garage.  11.10.18
Geraniums are colorful plants with interesting, colorful, nicely scented leaves, dry tolerant, no insects or animals seem to bother them, and have nice flowers in reds, white, pink colors.  They stay compact, need little care, and do well in containers or in the ground.

Geraniums are not expensive, but there is savings in keeping them over the winter for plants next year.  There are many ways to do that.

These plants don't look like much now, because I let them dry out in anticipation of storing.  It's best if they are dormant.  If taken into storage when they are dry, they will grow lanky, tender, weak stems and leaves during the winter. I've had that happen and they survived and recovered, but I like it better if they are just dormant.

These are container grown plants I like to keep on the deck  It was a hot, dry summer, and I watered them as needed.  That's about all.  The plants are several years old.  Each fall in October, I move them to a spot under the eaves where they don't get rain or water.  I let them dry until the containers are light to pick up.  Then I move them to the attached but unheated garage.  In the Spring, I will clean them up, prune, remove dead leaves, and water them for a new season.
Geranium Cuttings in Window Sill.  11.10.18

Nerine Among Geraniums.  11.10.18
 This year, there were also some geraniums in a planter, that could not be moved.  Geranium plants can be dug up, soil shaken from the roots, and stored in a paper bag for the winter.  I've had mixed results from that in the past.  I do have some in the garage now, using that method.

Geraniums can be kept in a bright window, over the winter.  I think it's best to aim for maintenance, rather than vigorous growth, over the winter.   So for the plant I'm keeping inside, I won't water it much.  That plant was an accident.  A branch broke off 2 years ago.. I stuck it into some soil and treated as an established plant.  It grew, and I overwintered it last year and repotted this spring. 

It seems strange that a fairly dry tolerant plant will root in water, but geraniums do will with that method.  It's not the nursery growers' vavorite method.  They say the roots can be week.  If not changed once a week, or every other week, the water can become gunky.  But they grow roots, and can be transferred to houseplant soil, and do just as well as purchased plants.  So I took some cuttings, and will keep them in the kitchen window where I can watch for root growth and change the water every week.
Overwintering Smaller Geranium on Window Sill.  11.10.18

That's more than I need.  However, they are fun plants.  The leaf scents and textures are a big part of the attraction, and they are a nostalgia plant.

If all goes well this winter, I'll move the dried plants outside in early Spring, and also have new plants started too.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Progress Report. Cymbidiums. 11.9.18

This unnamed (NoID) Cymbidium is opening new flowers while maintaining the first. It's looking nicer and nicer. Plus, there are new buds emerging from the base of the plant. I think it will bloom for one or two months. Which makes for a brighter winter.

 I think this is evidence that the summer care really did make a big difference. I did not give such good care in previous years. And it didn't bloom nearly so well. All it took was:

(1)  Adequate room for roots. I repotted this one in a bigger container, and used orchid bark as the growth medium.
(2)  Water once a week during hot weather, with diluted Miracle Grow - not a special orchid fertilizer, just the blue stuff. I used it at 1/4 strength compared to the label instruction. In fall, I changed to the Miracle Bloom Booster, at 1/4 strength.
(3)  If I wasn't up to mixing the fertilizer, I just used water.
(4)  This plant was in full sun, sitting on the edge of a raised bed for less slug problem. Deer didn't bother it.
(5)  When fall came and buds emerged, I brought it into the sunroom, although I think any bright room would do.

I'm sure the choice of cultivar makes a big difference too.  These were unnamed, I bought at Fred Meyer over the years.  The other three plants are behind this one, so there will be a long period of bloom this winter.

NoID Cymbidium. 11.9.18

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Mushrooms Growing Everywhere in the Yard. 11.7.18

Here are some additional mushrooms.  I don't know what kind of mushrooms these are. They are all over the yard now.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Fall is the Time to Collect Leaves for Mulch. 11.4.18

Each fall I spread a fresh layer of tree leaves around most of the fruit trees. For the trees in cages, and the young trees, the leaf mulch suppresses weed growth, retains moisture, and enriches soil. As the fruit trees grow and mature, I remove the deer cages and don't spread leaves, since those trees have deeper roots and less need for such intense nurturing. The photo is a pawpaw tree with a nice layer of maple leaves. The main thing to watch for is that leaves may provide habitat for voles, which can and do kill young trees by eating the bark and cambium layer. I provide a sleeve of hardware cloth around the young trunk. That too has its hazards - the sleeve needs to be removed before the tree trunk grows too tight against the mesh.

Emerging Mushrooms. 11/4/18

I view mushrooms as a sign of healthy soil microflora and mycorrhizal populations. With the chill and wet. mushrooms are emerging all over. I don't know the types, and won't be eating any. They are fun to observe.

Some Flowers Still Blooming in Early November. 11.4.18

Bachelor's Buttons

Hybrid Buddlea
 Having some flowers around brightens up the yard work and gardening.  I always include some in my planting.  These continue to bloom, despite increasing chill and wetness.  I planted the bachelor's buttons in mid Summer, the zinnias in late Spring, and the Echinacea was a purchased perennial.  The buddlea has been there for a number of years.
Hybrid Echinacea

Mixed Zinnias