Sunday, March 29, 2009

Quince with Chickadee

Picture is today - The chickadees like to hang out in this quince bush, and individually head to the feeder for their seeds. They take turns politely.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fig Grafting. More from Eisen's 1901 book.

Additional information from Eisen's book, available from Google online here. I was interested due to the grafting information. In the Gardenweb Fig Forum, contributers state that grafting is difficult or can't be done. It's exciting to see that the method used successfully in the 19th century are what I recently tried. Who knows if they will take, still too early.

My copies & editing are awkward, but get the point across.

Interesting - here, thought not to be difficult! Cool!

Close to how I cut scions, so I have some hope that's a good sign.

I grafted scions onto small rootstock. It could be that mature branches are needed. However, the intent is different. I'm not topworking a mature tree.

Here's a mature tree that resulted from topworking.

Fig Cuttings. Eisen's 1901 Illustrations.

From a scanned book from Google's project, accessible here.. This is public domain, not copyright protected, so OK to post here.

Title page from Gustav Eisen's book

I haven't seen this before. This illustration shows split view of cutting. The claim is that cutting should not be cut exposing the pith.

Various cutting methods.

Amazing, learning new concepts from a book that is over 100 years old.

I can't help it. Had to post.

Nothing to do with being green, gardening, chickens, or biking. But too funny to pass up

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Easily Entertained

Baigou is not the smartest dog around. Not Rin Tin Tin. Not Lassie. Not Benjy. Not Big Yeller. He has his qualities. I found him here, today, watching the washing machine. He can do that for cycle after cycle.

Buds: Phenological photos.

Phenology - keeping track of natural progression of plant growth and other events, in an effort to know when to plan agricultural activities. See other entries by clicking on labels. Here are some events in my yard currently, especially flower buds, leaves unfolding, and growth beginning for various plants.

Pear flower bud, almost open.

Lilac flower bud. This is the first to show little purple 'grapes' within the bud.

The smallest daffodils are blooming.

The first violets are blooming.

Backyard tree peony.

Peach blossoms, only a few open but already they look so beautiful.

Chinese chives, about 6 inches tall. I hear them saying, quietly, "make me into dumplings".

Rhubarb leaves continuing to open. This is "Victoria".

Japanese Pieris. Full bloom

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring Garden Chores

Today (Saturday), I...

Weeded the rose bed. This bed now has almost as many fruit trees, brambles, and plants, as roses, but still contains about 10 rose bushes. I had moved one rose bush to accomodate the new Surefire cherry, and today moved a second one a little further from that new tree. I also moved a David Austin rose from the front yard, and a peony as well. It looks like I butchered the thick peony roots, even though I thought I was digging a wide distance from the stems. We'll see if it grows. It's interesting how few roots the roses seem to have - surprising that they survive moving. I pruned the tops further back to balance the reduced root mass.

Mulched the rose bed with bark mulch. It's now basically ready for Spring and Summer. I did not add compust to most of it this year, because the roses were too rampant last year and I don't want to overstimulate the fruits and roses. I did give some chicken manure to the roses that I moved.

Sprayed most of the fruit trees and roses with Neem oil. Not the peaches - the flowers are opening.

Moved one Orchard Mason Bee house to the front yard, since there are many fruit trees there as well.

Turned over the soil in the tomato patch.

Pruned the remaining rose bushes.

Stood around and stared at the results of my labors.

Grafted 3 fig scions onto the petite negri tree. Just to see if I can. According to most references, it can't be done. I hope they are wrong.

This time I used rubber bands to tie, and used plastic tape to cover and protect. The plastic tape was made by slicing a ziplock sandwich bag. Also used petroleum jelly as an antidessicant, as I did with the apple grafts. It's not just stubbornness - I really would like to see if they grow.

Added some petroleum jelly to the apple grafts - forgot to do that earlier, purpose is to serve as antidessicant.

Also mulched around this red-bark Japanese maple, that I moved to this location a few days ago. It was a seedling in the rose bed, among many others. I had never got around to pulling it up, and now will see how it does as a specimen tree.

More on grafting - another you tube video

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Harbingers of Spring. Two New Fruit Trees. Phenology.

The small narcissus are always first. I think that some were lost last year - I remember more. Still, great to see them blooming.

The Aprium is one of the first trees to bloom in my yard - right there with the peaches. I think this stage is called "First Pink"

And here are the early peach buds. The bags at least didnt kill the tree. Now to see what happens with our nemesis, leaf curl.

The first of the 2 newest additions, "Surefire" sour cherry. Arrived Tuesday, kept in a cool place overnight, and planted when I came home from work Wednesday (last night). This might have been the only rain-free window of time for a week, so it worked out perfectly.

The other of the 2 newest additions, the multigraft asian pair. I STILL don't know which of the 4 potential varieties are represented on the 3 grafts. The label states "Varieties from bottom to top: Shinseiki, Yonashi, Hamese, Mishirasu". I studied the grafts and decided that one bud did not take, second from bottom, which would be Yonashi. That would leave the 2 smaller, yellow, sweet varieties, one for early aug and one for late Aug, and the large russeted Mishirasu, a September bearing variety. Any combination would be fine. Probably 3 years to know for sure.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fig Grafting Experiment

I don't have enough fig starts to do a big experiment. This is a Petite negri that was started almost by accident from a cutting 2 years ago - stick stuck into the ground in the onion bed, just to see if it would grow. Last fall I dug it out and transferred to a container, and kept it in the garage to overwinter during the coldest weather. It's been outside again for about one month.

I don't really need more fig trees. Here is my thought: I would like to have a containerized tree, with multiple varieties, that I can move indoors for the winter. Doing so might preserve the breba crop. Petite negri is naturally small and slow growing, with short interstems. If PN can be used as a rootstock, just maybe the small, slow growing trait would be passed on to the scion. I could use the scion as the start for a multigraft tree.

I don't know if figs can be grafted this way. Since they grow so easily from cuttings, there isn't much reason for grafting. So this is my attempt. I used reverse saddle graft because it seems like the easiest method. Unlike the apples, I used rubber bands to tie, and I remembered to cover the grafts with petroleum jelly to hold in moisture.

This tree had 2 stems. That gives me 2 chances. If both grow (counting my grafts before they take), then one can be removed later for a stronger main trunk.

Petite negri in pot, Brunswick "Vancouver" in bag. The scions had been held in the refridgerator for the winter, with plan to grow cuttings.

Both scion and rootstock cut to size that I hope will match.

These match very closely.

Photo showing cuts for scion and rootstock.

Same as above, but the other branch.

In place. Note to self: After trimming, the scion diameter is a little smaller than the rootstock. If I do this again, adjust so that the scion starts a little bigger, for a closer final match.

One is completed. The other is held in place with a cut rubber band. I am concerned that the deental floss that I used for the apples might be too restricting, and am unsure of when to cut it. The rubber band gives more flexibility, but is more difficult to tie without moving the scion in it's new perch.

"Real" grafters use asphalt pain or waxes to protect the new graft from dehydration. I'm using petroleum jelly because I already have some. It does not harden, but should have a similar function. I also forgot that step with the apples, but in this chilly rainy season, they might still survive.

Final step - I wrapped them in plumber's teflon tape. It sticks nicely to the petroleum jelly, is easy to handle, and is very stretchy.

Count'em. 10 fingers. No blood. Another sign of success.

Will they 'take'? I'll have to post later with either report of success or failure.

Time for some grafting

Apple buds are barely beginning to swell. Two weeks ago I cut some sticks from my Dad's 2 apple trees, which I wanted to use for scoins to add to a dwarf apple in my yard. Last year, I used some branches of a neighbor's apple tree, which overhangs into my yard. As I remember, I grafted about 10 or 12 scoins onto branches of a 5 year old ultra dwarf (M27) Golden Delicious, which had never borne fruit. Of those attempts, 2 grafts definitely took, 2 more might have (the buds that grew are right at the grafting point, and I cant tell whether they are from the original tree or the graft). I used the reverse saddle graft method as shown in the video below. The reason for using that method is that, for a novice like me, it seemed like the easiest to cut and match the grafts.

Yesterday I made 20 small grafts onto the tree from my Dad's 2 apple trees. Unknown variety, he thought one might be a Delicious. Unfortunately, they had a day-long trip at room temp to get here, so may not be viable. The cambium layer was green and soft, so still worth a try. I may also have made a mistake, tying the graft together with dental floss, which I learned from a rose-grafting video. They are covered with teflon plumbing tape. We'll see.

Here is the result of my first attempt at grafting, 2 Springs ago. A a complete novice, I just cut the scion and base tree stems to match, tied them together with electrical tape, and that's it. This was the only attempt at the time. It grew that summer, and last summer. Looks like there might be a flower bud at the tip. I don't know the scion variety. The main tree is Liberty on M27 ultradwarfing rootstock.

Here is one result from last Spring, grafting from neighbor tree prunings for scions, onto Golden Delicious on M27. This scion grew like crazy, adding branches and about 16 inches of growth. One branch might have a flower bud.

Here is the other definite 'take' from the neighbor tree onto the Golden Delicious. Again, it grew well. The tip was frozen, so I pruned it back a little. It won't bloom this Spring but should grow as well as any other branch. This may be a tip-bearing, rather than spur-bearing, variety, so I don't want to get carried away with too many grafts.

Here is the final result. A bit odd looking. I'm thinking that I'll need to remove the wrappings in about one month. By then I hope to know if they 'took'.

Reverse saddle grafting multiple varieties onto an apple tree:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Oldie, The Garden Song

Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
Til the rain comes tumbling down

Pullin' weeds and pickin' stones,
we are made of dreams and bones
I feel the need to grow my own cause the time is close at hand
Grain for grain, sun and rain I'll find my way in nature's chain
Tune my body and my brain to the music of the land


Plant your rows straight and long,
Temper them with prayer and song
Mother earth will keep you strong if you give her love and care
An old crow watching hungrily from his perch in yonder tree
In my garden I'm as free as that feathered thief up there


Sunday, March 08, 2009


Looking into backyard orchard culture information, I want to keep track of my rootstocks. I'm not sure if this information will be useful, but if I don't put it here, I wont have it. This information is not available for most of our existing trees, unless I kept the labels somewhere. Here are a few that I found:

Hollywood Plum - Marianna 2624
Shiro Plum - Marianna 2624
Surefire Cherry - Gisela 5
Combo Asian Pear - OHF97

Prior trees, if current catalog info is still correct -

El Dorado Peach - Lovell
Tri-Lite Peach-plum - Lovell

I have recepits that show:

Liberty Apple - M27
Jonagold Apple - M27
Garden Gold Peach - Lovell
Flavor Delight APrium - Citation

According to Raintree, Lovell is a "seed-grown standard peach rootstock has proven dependable and may develop a longer lived tree with better disease resistance and hardiness than other peach rootstocks. " Dave Wilson Nurseries states that Lovell is "slightly more resistant to wet conditions than Nemaguard but prefers well-drained soils, slightly more resistant to bacterial canker than Nemaguard" but also "susceptible to root-knot and root-lesion nematodes and to oak-root fungus, some what susceptible to bacterial canker"

According to, Gisela 5 is a rootstock of choice for growers and makes a compact tree for gardens, although that information referred to sweet cherries.

According to the Dave Wilson Nurseries label, Citation"Resists root-knot nematodes. Induces heavy bearing at a young age. Trees on Citation may be held to any desired height by summer pruning"

As for the Marianna, Dave Wilson Nurseries states "slightly dwarfing, moderately resistant to Phytophthora crown and root rot and oak root fungus, tolerates wet soils, root-knot nematode resistant" but tends to lean, shallow roots the first few years, very susceptible to bacterial canker... susceptible to crown gall..." Raintree states "It will produce a semidwarf tree maintained from 10 to 15 feet tall. It does very well on wet soils and tolerates a variety of soils. It is compatible as an understock for plums, peaches and some almonds and apricots."

Dave Wilson Nurseries states that OHF-97 "...vigorous, widely adapted, disease-resistant. Winter hardy, tolerant of wet soils."

More Fruit Tree Orders

Uh Oh....

Last weekend I looked online at Raintree Nursery again. Decided to order two additional trees to grow, using the backyard orchard culture method:

Surefire Cherry. I was thinking about my parent's cherry tree, and realized that I haven't had a pie made from sour cherries for about 30 years. Being into "slow food" - you can't get much slower than starting out with the a small, bare-root tree. OK, you could plant a seed to grow the tree, but I'll be dead before I get cherries from a seed-grown tree. Tree should be here in 1-2 weeks. The 'ideal location' in the backyard was occupied by a rose (Carl Brunner), so yesterday I dug it up and moved it a few feet to the former location of "Angel face", which did not survive the winter and has now joined other Angels in heaven. Well, actually, in compost, but it sounded nice. The location is ready, I added some chicken compost, and will add some eggshells when planting the tree. Some thought actually went into this selection: It blooms later than other cherries. Late frost has been a fruit-tree nemesis, so the later flowering is a bonus. Most sour cherries, including this one, are also self-fertile, so no pollinator variety is needed. They stay fairly compact, especially compared to sweet cherries, so the pruning might be easier as well. IT's on Gisela5 rootstock.

I DID say two trees. I've been developing a taste for asian pears - they are crispy like apples, but have more flavor, like pears. Not enough room for more than one, and most asian pears need a pollinator, so I ordered a multigraft Asian Pear. I won't know the 3 varieties until it arrives. It will be all but one of:

Shinseiki (medium to large, sweet, yellow fruit, late August).
Yoinashi (medium to large, russeted, butterscotch flavor).
Hamese (mid sized, sweet, yellow fruit, mid August).
Mishirasu (large, russetted fruit, late September).

They can't say which if the 4 is missing. If I could pick, I would go for the two sweet yellows and either of the russetted, but any combination is OK with me. Planning for this to go into a front-yard border, possibly in the location of the opuntia (winter did a job on that one too) or eucalyptus (also a winter victim - there is a trend here). I'll have to look at the site from multiple angles to scope out the optimal location.

We already have a multigraft European pear and a multigraft sweet cherry. Some authors are not crazy about multigraft trees, since some varieties may be more vigorous than others, but my feeling is that for trees that need pollinizers, it's a way to achieve that need in one tree. Plus, judicious pruning can keep the most vigorous in check and allow the other varieties some space as well. I've added a couple of unknown variety grafts to the dwarf apple trees, last year. If we are very lucky, they'll bear this year.

Temperature Jan and Feb 2009

Keeping track of temperature so that NEXT YEAR when I'm wondering "was it this cold/warm last year?" I can look back and see what it was like. Excel makes for easy to read graphs, here are the highs and lows for Jan and Feb.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Early March Garden Log

What's growing and blooming?

Daffodils are about 4 inches tall. Many closed flower buds are present. Hyacinths, similar size.
Rhubarb is the first food plant to start growing. I love the crinkled red leaves and knobby buds.

Helleborus is blooming. Since the plant is short and the flowers droop, they are difficult to appreciate.

Garlic is alive and about 5 inches tall. We'll have garlic this year! I was concerned that the extreme cold this winter might have done it in.

Pussy willow is blooming, but not much. It may be too young, or not in enough sun.
Forsythia has green buds. I don't know if it will bloom - no yellow shows - again, it's on the North side of the house, so possibly not enough sun. Last year the flowers were sparse.

I planted cuttings from my Dad's forsythia from Illinois. That shrub is at least 50 years old and maybe 80 years old. Not really special, but if the cuttings grow, I'll have a bit of a keepsake from my past.

Pear blossoms are swelling. Lilac blossoms are swelling. Aprium blossoms starting to show a little pink.

The plum trees that I recently planted are starting to show life, with swelling buds. Can I hope for, maybe, one plum each, so that I know what they taste like? I did spray both with the last bit of lime-sulfur.

Finches are fighting in the feeder now.

Today was a day off. Overcast, not too cold. I did the following in the back yard:

Pruned roses. Most have about 1 inch of growth. Local authorities precaution against pruning too early, since pruning supposedly stinulates growth which can be killed by frost. Since they are growing now anyway, I don't see the difference. I have pruned as early as January, and many neighborhood roses were pruned then as well, but this year I thought I would try to follow the 'experts' advice.

Most were cut back to about 2 feet tall. Tallest was about 7 feet tall before pruning. Removed dead wood. Sprayed these roses with the left-over lime sulfur from the peaches, but to prevent leaf spot.

Still a lot of roses to prune in the front yard. Maybe this weekend.

Uncovered peaches. These are miniature peach trees. Big problem last year was leaf curl, which destroyed the crop and almost killed the trees. Last fall, I sprayed with Micro-cop and covered the trees with plastic (see links). I meant to uncover them last week but was not able. They are actually starting to grow. The tiniest is blooming. Uh-oh. So, I uncovered. I read that micro-cop doesnt work, so I sprayed with Lily Miller PolySul Summer and dormant spray at dilution C, which is for growing season. I used the more dilute spray due to concern for toxicity to new buds. This may not be strong enough for leaf curl (4 teaspoons per gallon instead of 1 cup per gallon) but compromise is necessary. Maybe the unscientific combination will be better than no spray? This is considered organic since it is just lime and sulfur, not petrochemicals. Depends on who you talk to.