Sunday, January 27, 2008

Blog visits, sustainable gardening

It's fun to track the number and geographical distribution of blog visits. In a way I feel 'naked' here, since I don't know who is looking in on the blog. However, I like that people are interested.

Total visits since 7/30/07, pictured here: 3,333
Total visits since start of the blog 7/29/06: 9,980

During this time of year, there isnt much going on in the garden. It's cold and dreary outdoors, and there isn't much time to work on indoor projects. I like having the blog , so that I can look back at things that occurred over the past 2 years, and help with planning for this year.

I like to think that we have moved further along the progression to a sustainable 'semi-permaculture' type of yard. Maybe not as "Mother Earth News" as it would be in a rural area, but more "earth friendly" than the stereotypical suburban yard. In other words, no pesticides, no chemical fertilizers, no hauling off yard and kitchen trimmings and 'waste'. Kitchen waste goes into compost or to the chickens, yard and garden waste also to compost and chickens, and the chicken poop goes back into the compost which ultimately goes to the garden and yard again. Eggshell is a 'special category' which is ground and added as a source of calcium for the figs and tomatoes (this might not seem like much but is probably 10 pounds annually). Prunings are composted or chopped to use as mulch.

Outside 'input', other than sunshine and rain, of course, includes leaf compost, bark mulch, and coffee grounds when I can get them (probably about 50 pounds annually), and water which I usually focus on specific areas. The chicken feed and bedding can also be considered 'input' since it comes from elsewhere as well.

"Output" includes the dog poop (I just can't bring myself to use it in kitched garden areas, and we ran out of places to bury it), and of course whatever we eat.

We're not doing much to improve carbon sequestration, except for the small ginkgo trees that will eventually soak up CO2 as a precursor for tree structures in the form of trunk, roots, and branches. The fruit trees will take up a smaller amount of CO2, but nothing near what shade trees do. On the other hand, trees and vines are probably kinder to the soil than annual food crops, since the soil does not need to be dug annually, and they pull water from deeper in the ground so need less watering.

Overall, it's very satisfying, enjoyable, and good for us and the environment.

Weather Summary Dec 2007

One of my plans with this blog was to keep track of weather conditions. I became over-ambitious with collecting data and graphs, leading to giving up. It would still be nice to have a record so here is a more modest start. Source is

Dec 2007

High for the month: 62
Low for the month: 26
Days with low below 32 degrees: 6
Days with precipitation: 24
Total accumulated precipitation: 14 inches


This is actually from New year's Weekend. I pruned the back yard roses down to about 18 inches, and thinned out old dead-looking and scraggly canes. I pruned the North Pole Apple, removing the top, which was too difficult to reach to remove apples. It's now about 8 feet tall. Side branches were pruned back to spurs, to maintain the columnar shape. I stuck some prunings into the ground to see if they will grow by the 'lazy man's cuttings' technique, along witih some ginkgo prunings, Korean lilac, and forsythia. It's not a high yield method but has worked for forsythia, fig, grape, and honeysuckle in the past.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Yellow oncidium orchid

This oncidium is a reliable, easy plant. I forget about it because it requires so little effort. It was left under a tree last summer with minimal maintenance. Here it is in bloom now. It usually blooms midwinter. Probably Oncidium flexuosum based on this weblink. A garlic clove fell into the plant during the summer, now providing some grassy leaves.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


With heavy work schedule, necessary travel, stress, exposures to multiple ill people, it's no surprise that i finally came down with a nasty bug. Five days & I still feel very crummy. I did take about an hour outside yesterday and today, pruning backyard roses and all of the miniature cherry trees.

There is disagreement on when to prune roses or how much. I would have waited, but needed at least a little sunshine. All varieties were pruned to about 4 to 8 large canes, each about 12 to 24 inches tall depending on the vigor of the individual shrubs. Tamara is the most vigorous in the back yard and has the most growth remaining after pruning as well. Some of the newer information suggests just shearing back to the desired height, stating that this results in more flowers. I dont think this is for organic roses, however, so effects of this method on infection control, without pesticide use, are not known. The older information often recommends severe pruning. My approach is somewhere in between, with more growth removed to reduce black spot (removal of sources of infection, removal of branches that clutter and shade the center of the shrub, to allow sunlight to enter), but longer than some of the older recommendations to allow for more flowers.

The cherries are pruned to open "bowl" pattern where possible, with new growth generally pruned back to 2 to 4 buds, the last one outward facing.

I also pruned the "north pole" apple to shorten it a little (could not reach the top apples last year), shorten branches back to spurs, and maintain the columnar appearance.

I cut some apple branches for use as scions later this winter. These went into a plastic bag in the fridge. They came from a tree that overhangs my yard severely, but isnt my tree. The apples are tart and crisp, but the tree bears poorly due to poor maintenance. I will use these scions to rework a miniature Golden Delicious that has not borne edible fruit in 4 years and I doubt ever will without the reworking.

Several prunings were stuck into a shady border to see if they can be grown as cuttings by this "benign neglect" method: some small forsythia sticks, ginkgo prunings, korean lilac prunings, and one apple pruning. If they don't take, that's OK - I dont know what I'll do with them if the DO take. The location is shady, has a tall fence o n the north side, and generally stays fairly moist. I think that last year's attempt at ginkgo cuttings ultimately failed when they were blessed with too much sun.


This room has a south-facing window. It is not used so the heat is turned off. The temperature is usually in the 50s on cold days. Some of the heat is solar, some due to adjacent hallway. The Clivia miniata (lower right corner) are in their "2 months without water" phase. Here is the Royal Horticultural Society info on clivia culture (most of the other websites use the common name which I read is quite offensive). The banana and gingers are watered a little each week, about 2 cups of water each. Lower left, a citrus from seed and Meyer lemon, also minimal watering. Other plants with the same treatment include the Epiphyllum oxypetalum, Brazilopuntia, Aloe vera, scented geranium, and small Brugmansia.

Overwintering using the "warm sunny" method. In the home office windowsill, also south facing but warmer (usually 60s to 70s depending on the sun) are some additional cacti, a Hippaestrum that finished blooming, some Schlumbergera, and additional succulants.