Friday, August 21, 2009

Kitchen Garden Log

Fresh tomatoes, peaches, peppers, and eggplant. I also picked 2-dozen pears yesterday - at the stage where they come loose from the tree when barely nudged.
Last weekend, we picked 1 dozen peaches from Honey Babe. Summer Gold isn't even close to ripe.
We have beans sprouting from last week's planting. Chinese pole beans and Romano.

August Iris Care

The clumps of bearded irises are becoming crowded and messy. I didn't weed or water them this summer. They are not hurt much, if at all, by the lack of watering. The weeds didn't grow much due to the same factor, but there were still enough to need maintenance.

August is the perfect time to dig up and replant irises in this area. It's dry enough that they shouldn't rot when replanted, while they become established and the ground settles again.

This group is in a very raised-bed, with a loosely built retaining wall. The bed is about 2 ft high, constructed due to a slope. It is filled with yard soil (clay/sand) mixed with compost.

"Before" - This is the "found" variety, yellow standards with auburn falls. The ground was dry and loose, so they were fairly easy to dig.

I pulled out the weeds. That is much easier to do after digging the irises up. The leaves were trimmed, the oldest, deteriorating rhizomes cut off, and woven-together rhizomes were separated. In most cases, I separated down to 2 or 3 'fans' of leaves per new division.

Soil was supplemented with generous amounts of chicken compost and crushed eggshells (for the calcium). Some additional soil was taken from the garden, to raise the level back near the top of the wall. The dark-leaf tree in the center is the Hollywood Plum, planted in February 2009. It's grown nicely.

"You paid HOW MUCH for that puny thing? Yes, I did. Yes, it's puny. Impulse buy at local store. I added this one for variety. It looks too small to bloom next spring - we'll see!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Figs: Summer crop harvest

Over the past 2 weeks, all of the breba figs ripened. These are the "Summer crop". The number was very limited, although the trees are loaded for fall (main) crop.

Not pictured, I tasted the first 'ever' figs from the Lattarula and King trees. Each had a different flavor, both sweet, juicy, 'bright' flavors. Lattarula was yellow-ish with a tan center, and King was green with a red center.

Petite Negri, Black with dark red center, sweet and rich flavor.

The Petite negri tree is kept to 7 feet tall by pruning, although it is marketed as 'dwarf'.

"Vancouver", which was grown from a cutting from an unidentified tree, likely "Brunswick", bore 5 large juicy figs. Brown color, inside is golden.


Annual flowering of the Tan Hua, or Bunga Bakawali

More accurately, it is an Epiphyllum oxypetallum, jungle-dwelling cacti that live on tree branches and rocky outcrops far above the forest floor.

This cactus was started from a cutting, given to me by a friend. Her mother brought it to the US from Hong Kong when she emigrated. The only name that she knew was "Chinese cactus", although in reality, it's not Chinese. They originate in Mexico, central America, and Brazil. The exact origin is uncertain. They have naturalized in South Asia and Southeast Asia. This species blooms once annually. The flowers open once, during the night, then whither in the early morning and die. Their extravagant, sensual appearance, and ephemeral character, are symbolic of how beautiful, and brief, life can be.

They are grown in southern China, where they are known as Tuan Hua. Here is an article about a neighborhood in Taipei, gathering to watch one open. There it is known as "Tan Hua Yi Xian" (A Flower That Vanishes as Soon as It Appears)

I've brought it inside each winter, and leave in on the North side of the house each summer. Last year it had only 2 blossoms. The year before, it hnad a fungal infection and most of it died. This Spring I transferred it to a larger pot. The growth medium is Miracle Grow potting soil. It's growing nicely. Not a compact plant, it takes a lot of room. Fortunately, we have the space. It's easy to grow from cuttings. One small section broke off this summer. I kept walking past it thinking, "Maybe I should pot that up". Finally, feeling sorry for it after 2 or 3 weeks, I did. After 3 weeks, that section is now growing and has added a new leaf-pad, larger than the original cutting.

In South Asia and Malasia this flower is known as the Bunga Bakawali. The blossom is supposedly controlled by a night spirit, but this must be a fairly obscure legend, I could only find hints of it in a google search. I a reader of this blog knows more, I would love to hear the story.

For members of the diaspora from Southern China and Southeast Asia, the Bunga Bakawali can be a living reminder of their origin. "It was when she said that I understood everything. This flower reminded her of that distant childhood she once had, the innocent little child she once was, and most importantly, the people she truly misses, her mother, her sisters"

At 5pm, the "Dutchman's pipe" stage. The buds are starting to swell.

At 830pm. Even at this stage, they are quite beautiful.

Fully open at 10pm. This year the fragrance fills the night sky. It's raining, but this plant is in a sheltered location away from the rain.

Also at 10pm. This doesn't quite match the legend of opening exactly at midnight, but it will be open then as well. It may be confused by the time zone, of course.

8am. Having had their moment in the night, the blossoms close again. Three did not open last night, so will be expected to open tonight. That doesn't quite match the one-night-per-year legend either, but close enough.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Backyard Chicken Day

The hens are settling into a new routine. Today, I cleaned their egg house and hen house and gave them a thick layer of fresh straw. The straw from the the egg house went for mulch. It contains minimal chicken poop. The straw from the chicken house and chicken yard (actually bamboo leaves and dried grass from the yard) will go into the compost pile. Since I have been giving them fresh weeds several times weekly, the uneaten weed scraps piled up into a thick carpet. I removed that carpet down to the bare earth, then replaced it with bamboo leaves until I ran out, then some fresh straw. The hens quickly pulled away the fresh straw, to scratch for bugs and worms in the soft soil.

Currently the lone white leghorn, purchased as a 11 week pullet this spring, is the sole egg layer. I bought her, and her Americauna companion, thinking that it would be easy to tell which hen lays which egg. Then one started crowing, and blamed the Leghorn. Gave her away. Then the crowing continued. It was the Americauna. So we had an exchange again. Now the leghorn is laying an egg daily. All of the eggs in the photo are her production.

With the debacle of gender confusion, and the nonlaying status of the 2 old hens, Ning wanted to give away the older ones as well. So there are now 2 new breeds in the yard - Australorp and Rhode Island Red. Both are considered good layers, so Ning should be happy. They haven't started laying yet. I think the Australorp will start in about 2 to 4 weeks.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

What's up in the Kitchen Garden?

I'm so excited! The peaches are getting bigger and more colorful. This is Honey Babe. It fully recovered from the peach leaf curl of 2008, and the preventive measure last winter was completely successful. How cool is that!

We ate several Lemon Boy and a big bowl of Supersweet 100 this week. I added some high nitrogen organic liquid feed last week, based on advice from the Davis Calif garden show. I neglected to feed them in May, so most of the plants are smaller now, compared to last year. Even so, it looks like there will be a good crop of tomatoes and peppers this year.

The zucchinis are also starting to make up for lost time. These are the easiest crop of the garden.

Grapes are not even close to ripe yet. This is Price grape, trained over a gate. The vine is about 6 years old. It will be the best crop ever for this vine. I watered deeply, twice this summer. Otherwise it's getting its water from deep in the ground. I read that grapevines can send roots incredibly deep, so they shouldn't need much water from above.

I like the tower method of training cucumbers. We're getting about 1 cuke daily now. These are chinese cucumbers. By the end of summer, these cukes will reach the top of the tower, 7 feet. Training vertically reduces risk for mildew, and the cukes are easy to find and pick. Plus, it's a very small location, and the tower makes the best use of this garden niche.

What's blooming? Aug 1, 2009

With the recent heatwave, the flowers are showing some stress. I have not watered every day, but try to water the veggies and major flowers every other day. Mulch helps. The fruit trees get water once weekly. The fruit trees that I planted this year, get deep water every other day. The lawn is brown - better for the environment, and it's what I do every summer.

Most of the lilies are scorched. A few, in the shade, are looking better. The sunflowers are courtesy of the birds, who managed to spill seeds all over the place.

Bird-planted sunflower.

This lily in in the shade, on the North side of the house.

Rose-of-Sharon is an unsung hero of the flowering shrubs. Even with neglect, scorching heat, and less than ideal location, it's blooming like crazy.

Who is visiting?

The map is about to be archived, meaning that the display will be wiped clean and start fresh. That way, it doesn't become a red smear. This is the last map before archiving. There have been 18,880 visits in the past year, and 39,980 visits in 3 years. Welcome to the garden!