Saturday, April 26, 2008


It took a while to find the term. All That I could think of was "when (something) leaves are the size of mouse ears"... then who knows what.

Finally I did this search google search that resulted in some answers. It's when OAK leaves are the size of mouse ears. That's when to hunt for morels, when to plant soybeans, when to fish for crappies, and when the orioles come back. Also, apparently, the dandelions, lilacs and blue violets bloom at the same time, signalling when to hunt for morels.

This got me to the term Phenology, which I discovered I already had an entry on in my blog. Arrrgghhh!

Wikipedia has an article about phenology, and so does About-dot-com. I especially like the wikipedia article bacause it give the Greek spelling: φαινομαι.

Unfortunately, in the entry on morels, I would have a dilemma. My lilacs are not blooming yet. The 'local' blue violets (ones that 'went native' in my yard so were here before I was) started a month ago, although the "Quincy" violets that came from Illinois just started. The dandelions have been blooming for a couple of weeks. Worst of all, I haven's checked on oak leaves, since I don't live near any. But the ginkgo leaves are about the size of, say, a squirrrel's ear.

This site has some information that looks useful. We'll see if I can put it to work. Some examples:

"When peach and plum trees are in full bloom plant hardy crops." Too late for me this year. And that $^#@*& freak frost showed that even the peach and plum dont know what they are talking about, sometimes.

"When you see new growth on green ash, grapes and bur oaks it is safe to plant tender vines, annuals and perennials." That would be now. The grapes are growing. But it's a bit cool at night (in the 40s)

"Plant peppers and eggplant outside when bearded iris is in bloom." The bearded iris are just beginning to swell. I'll need to wait.

"When the daffodils begin to bloom it is time to plant peas. " Too late. I didn't plant peas, and the daffodils are almost done.

"If apple trees bloom in April the crop will be plentiful- if they bloom in May the crop will be poor. " It's April, they are blooming. Stay tuned!

"Plant corn when oak leaves are the size of a squirrels' ear. " I need to find a squirrel to check on this. And I'll need to find an oak tree. Fortunately, there's another way... see the next entry!

"When the blossoms of the apple tree begin to fall, plant your corn seeds. " I'll do that and record what happens.

"Tomatoes can be set out when lily-of-the-valley is in full bloom." They are not quite blooming yet. Maybe this will be the key. Soil temperature is key, and lily-of-the-valley are so short that they must be a good measure of soil temperature, right?

"When the flowering dogwood is in peak bloom it is time to plant tomatoes, early corn and peppers. " That time is "almost here". The dogwood is in early bloom. We'll see if this matches with the lily of the valley thing, above. The tomato seedlings are at growing rapidly, and some are at their second set of leaves.

"When dandelions are blooming plant beets, lettuce, spinach and carrots." That would be now. Maybe I should get some seeds.

Lest anyone think I'm naive, I do realize that trees can't predict the weather (witness the unfortunate aprium, apricots, and peaches). And if they COULD, we've so distorted them with breeding, grafting, moving them from their providence, and cultural practices, that they would not help but be confused. Plus, with climate change and local microclimates, there's even more to consider. Still, sometimes, it's just nice to have someone tell me what to do. That way I dont have to think, and if it's wrong, it's not my fault for bad planning! And if I stick to MY experience, in MY microclimate, and with MY varieties, maybe it will still make sense.

SO.... I have planted Romano beans when the daffodils were done, and the fig brebas are the size of mouse poop, and the apples and tulips and pink cherry and scilla are blooming. The grapes have started to grow, Venus faster than the others.
We'll see if the beans grow and produce! I did sort of base this on the sprouting volunteer bean - the soil wasnt too cold for that one, anyway!

I also divided and replanted some Egyptian Walking Onions - it's probably too late for that, but they were in the way of the beans.

After this entry, I looked at the thermometer on the grape arbor. It reads 72.5 degrees. I went ahead and planted a few "scallop bush mix" patty pan squash, and some "white sensation" hybrid sweet corn. Not having had success with corn before, this will be interesting. I intend to plant more in 2 weeks. This is a short season variety.

It's hard to think of something that JUST STARTED - it looks like the Japanese Wisteria has flower buds the about 1/2 inch long, the size of, say, grapes.

Erythronium has been in bloom for one week. OH - A white tree peony (south side of house) just started blooming yesterday. Maybe that's the key!

Seed planting, hummingbird feeder, weeds.

Today there was enough time off that I sat outside and studied for 3 hours. Nice. Charlie sat by my side, pausing occasionally to bark at bees.

I set up the hummingbird feeders. One has a metal base and rusted out. So, I won't by any with metal bases, again. The type with stopper in the bottom that gravity feeds, always leak, so none of those either. I bought a new one, so there are 2. They are filled with sugar water (1/3 cup sugar in 1 cup hot water, then cooled). No humming birds at them yet, although I heard some recently. Humming birds ar enot just cool to look at, they also eat insects. I think I'll put one up at my window at work, see if they visit.

I pulled more weeds to feed Ning's chickens.

It's 68 according to weather channel. Feels warmer. Soil feels warm, too.

The tulips are in bloom all over the place. Some have been in the same spot since we bought this house, so at least 7 years. Those are multiplying, so they are now clusters instead of single blooms. Interesting, since they often seem like annuals. These are either 'perennial' tulips or the situation is ideal.

Planted Romano Bush Beans. Haven't tried these before. After watering them in, I got out the books that I studied. On return, there were doggie footprints in the newly planted bed. I wonder who did that? No harm done, at least they didn't dig. The photo is a volunteer bean, probably one of Ning's "ChangChun" beans.

The daffodil flowers are done.
The Tulips are at their height.
The hyacinths are done.

The muscari are at THEIR height.

The North Pole apple and the Liberty apple are blooming, but not the Jonagold.
The pear is blooming.
Most of the violets are done.

The fig breba 'embryos' are the size of beebees. Actually a little bigger, but I don't have a good comparison. Capers?

The 'lazy man's cuttings' from apples, ginkgos, and forsythia, figs (push dormant prunings into the ground, shady moist area with lots of organic matter) are growing. I know from past experience that this doesn't prove roots are growing, just that they are viable.

Dandelion-eating hen. The hens are up to 2 eggs per day (for 4 hens)

Friday, April 25, 2008

The annual 'Pink cherry and doggies" photo.

Ning and the kittycat.

Ginkos are starting to grow.

The buds are starting to unfold. There must be some saying, like "Plant potatoes when the ginkgo leaves are the size of a mouse's ear"?

What's blooming

These bergenias were grown from seed. They are 6 years old now.

First rhodie to bloom in this yard.

Cherokee Dogwood. Candytuft.

Scilla. These were so invasive, almost the entire yard was filled with them. Every year I pull out more. Might leave a few in nooks and crannies, like these.


The peaches have major leaf curl. Im worried this could be fatal. At the very least, it probably means no peaches this year. Reminder to self: Cover them in December!

Second bummer. Aprium blossoms froze. The tree was starting to grow and new growth also froze. There seem to be ne branches starting, so maybe the tree will survive. but no apriums this year.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ning and some notes

Yesterday and today it's been cold. Last night I brought indoors the brugmansia (small buds starting to form), cannas (small sprouts starting to appear), zantedeschias (ditto) and other tender overwintered plants that I previously had on the deck. They'll stay inside until tomorrow. Last night's low here was 34.

On a whim I bought a package of seed potatoes for "gourmet white" at Fred Meyer. The clerk commented that for the price I could have bought 2# of potatoes. True, so I wont say what I paid. I planted them today in the onion bed.

Thursday I turned under the soil in the tomato beds. I scattered about 1# of crushed eggshells and raked those in as well.

I continue to collect coffee grounds at work. Currently I'm adding them to a batch of chicken poop compost, to keep the worms happy.

I pulled another big bucket of dandelions and other weeds and generously gave them to the chickens. Since the chickens have been here, I like pulling dandelions and am starting to feel disappointed that their #s are diminishing. If they all disappear, we may have to find them in other yards!

I fertilized the smaller lilacs, Quincy Chinese Chives, ginkgos, and a few other plants around the yard with fish emulsion. Supposedly, in the cool weather, this does not release much nitrogen. The lilacs were lacluster last year, so maybe this will encourage them to grow larger this spring and summer.

Upgrading Tomato Seedlings

The tomato seedlings are large enought to need new containers. Plus, they need potting soil instead of just seed starting medium. The only seeds that did not grow were the old "celebrity" - and I see one just beginning now.
A closer photo. The Pondorosa Red is the smallest, possibly because I dropped them and repotted the smashed seedlings. They seem to be recovering.
After repotting. I used "Whitney's organic potting soil".

Of the peppers, only now am I seeing any barely beginning to sprout. So far, it's just a cayenne and Ning's old, old kitchen stored seeds. The house is just too cool to germinate peppers. THe containers are getting moldy - we'll see...

Fruit Trees: status report.

Stella cherry. All of the cherries are in bloom.

4-variety pear. This is the first year that all varieties have bloomed.

North Pole Apple. I was concerned that I had removed all of the flowerring buds, but if just one per spur sets fruit, there will be plenty.

For other fruits:

All of the fig trees have at least miniscule buds. Even the new "Desert King", only a foot tall, has 1 or 2 breba embryos and a tiny tuft of leaves at the top. The Lattarula has 1 or 2 brebas, and mostly tiny, approximately 1mm new buds on all branches. The other fig trees have slightly larger buds, the largest being on "Vancouver" with multiple brebas.

The peaches have a major case of leaf curl. My attempts at prevention via multiple sprays of neem were not successful. Some branches appear to be dying. Remind me next fall to COVER the peach trees to prevent leaf curl. The new peaches have bloomed but given that they were just started this year as bare-root trees, Im not sure what I'll do if they set fruit.

The Aprium looks mostly dead after a hard frost. The Chinese apricot, which started blooming later, looks alive but Im not sure about fruit set.

Looks like not a good year for stone fruit.

What's blooming?

This violet was started from my parents' lawn in Illinois. Is's later than the other violets here.

Leukojum. They continue to multiply.

A test of climate zone. These paperwhites have survived 3 years.

The Pink Cherry. This is how I know it's Spring.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

First Rhubarb Pie of the Season

Victoria Rhubarb

Canola based crust, organically grown rhubarb. I only used 1 cup of sugar, so it's slightly on the sour side but that's how I like it.

This is "Glaskin's Perpetual". It was started from seeds 3 years ago. This is much slower growing than Victoria. True, the stalks are deeper red, but if it doesnt make majoer stides this year, it'll soon be "Glaskin's compost".

What's Blooming?

"White cherry in bloom, with dogs" photo.

These hyacinths not only persist, they multiply here.

These narcissus were rescued from lawn grass 7 years ago. They continue to multiply. Better for part shade -they tend to fade in sunlight.

Not in bloom, but the buds are definitely swelling. This lilac is about 10 feet tall now.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Tomato update

Germination. Even without a heating pad, so far the following tomatoes have sprouted:
Black Krim
Supersweet 100
Better Boy
Lemon Boy
Cherokee Purple (from 07)
Supersweet 100 (from 07) - this is just showing a tiny root.

The other older seeds have not sprouted, including

None of the peppers have sprouted yet.