Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Fruits for 2011

I've been cleaning up the front border, basically a renovation after a couple of years of neglect. In the process I'm moving towards less ornamental and lower maintenance. I'm putting in edging to keep grass invasion limited (a challenge and the biggest weed problem), and mulching with a medium bark nugget for decreased cat digging - seems to be working so far.

I cut down a Golden Delicious apple tree that has been in place for 8 years without bearing a single edible apple. Each year it blooms then disease strikes. It's not good for my garden/climate and time to get over it. Plus, I cut down a volunteer Japanese maple, nothing special, and taking "forever" to make a nice size. A fruit tree would be perfect in that spot, would look better, bloom nicely, be the perfect size, and provide sustainance. I've calculated that there is space for 3 eventually well-pruned fruit trees as a result of this cleanup.

Among the challenges here in my Portland Oregon - area yard, mild winter combined with late frost leads to some of the biggest fruit-growing disappointments. Sweet cherries bloom early, and last year the frost took a lot of them. Even so, we had several big bowls-full. Sour cherries have great flavor, and bloom later. I have added a "Sure-fire" sour cherry that looks like it will have a good year this year (3rd season) and now will add another variety.

This is Almaden Duke from Raintree Nursery. I'm hoping for a sort of wild-cherry flavor. It's on Gisela-5 dwarfing rootstock. After placing the order, I've been looking online for this variety and it isn't discussed much. I'm suspicious it's more in the sweet than tart cherry category, but I don't know what that will mean about bloom time.

This is Beauty Plum. The pic is from Dave Wilson Nurseries. I hope that my Shiro and Hollywood both bear this year. Last year (2nd or 3rd year, I forget) the HOllywood had one and the Shiro had none. It's probably their youth, but reading about pollination I get very conflicting data. Shiro is either self pollinating, or partial, or not at all, depending on the website. Same for Hollywood. Plus they don't pollinate each other. So, I'm adding Beauty, which Raintree Nursery states pollinates both Shiro and Hollywood, and is very precicious, bearing in the nursery row. So probably at least blooming in the first year and more likely second year, to provide pollen for the other varieties. Plus of course they claim wonderful flavor.

Raintree lists Beauty as one of its earliest ripening plums, Shiro in mid-season, and Hollywood as late. That should provide a spread of harvest as well as color and flavor. (Arggh, just now, looking at Raintree, Beauty won't pollinate Shiro. I can't win!) Here is a site (Wolcott Garden Treasures) claiming that Shiro can be pollinated by Hollywood and Beauty, and vice versa. WSU Extension lists Shiro, Hollywood, and Beauty as good for Western Washington.

The Peach-leaf-curl has also been a source of disappointment. This Indian Free peach is reported as resistant. I think I don't really need a genetic dwarf variety if I prune carefully. Also from Raintree. Needs a pollinizer; other peaches are nearby. Here's a website with a gorgeous pic of this peach; amazing. This peach is very well-regarded on the Dave Wilson nursery website as well, although being a commercial site, I doubt that they wouyld describe any peach negatively. " For some tasters, the unique white (and red!) peach ‘Indian Free’ (or Indian Blood Free - origin obscure) is still unsurpassed among the white fruits. The intense aroma and tart-sweet flavor of a fully tree-ripe Indian Free has to be experienced to be believed. " Apparently the "Indian Free" and "Indian Cling" are different varieties, and my be referred to as "Indian blood" as well. Not self fertile, but apparently many have been grown from seed, which would mean they are genetically diverse.

Interesting article about the history of Peaches in the American colonies of the SouthEast here: "Historians believe that peach trees were first introduced into the colonial settlements of the United States by the French explorers in 1562 at territories along the Gulf coastal region near Mobile, Alabama, then by the Spaniards who established Saint Augustine, Florida in 1565 on the Atlantic seaboard. The peach trees were planted from peach seed imported from Europe in an effort to establish a self sustaining, agricultural. fruit tree product to feed the colonists. American Indians spread the planting of the peach trees throughout vast territories by transporting the peach seed to other tribes that lived in the interior regions. This new crop of fruit was fast growing, producing a delicious peach two or three years from planting. The trees were so productive and vigorous that sometimes, widespread impenetrable thickets became established from the peach seeds that fell to the ground from fruit unharvested. The illusion was formed by settlers after 1600 that the peach trees were native to the United States, since they were so widely spread and grew so vigorously everywhere. " also "In December of 1795, Jefferson planted 1151, peach trees after he had experimented with planting in 1807, the "black plumb peach of Georgia," (Indian Blood Cling Peach). This naturalized peach wonder had been planted throughout the State of Georgia by the Indians and was a dark-red velvety color with tiger-like striping. This fragrant peach was extremely desirable because of its rich coloring and taste... Jefferson believed that this Indian cling blood peach was a cross between naturalized peach trees and a French cultivar peach, "Sanguinole."

Finally, the strawberry borders are invaded by grasses. I've learned that I like having a harvest spread out, not all at once. So I am adding Seascape Strawberry, also from Raintree. These will be in containers. As it happens, I left containerized cannas outside this winter and they froze, so will have a convenient place to plant the new strawberries. It's hard to find a reasonably unbiased review of strawberry varieties - here's a comparison on; they seem to like Seascape. Of course it's all person- and locality-dependent, but most of the other "reviews" that I could find were really just ads. I may also try a local source of another variety, to compare and increase my odds of getting some good berries.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cymbidium in full bloom

People who grow orchids might be a little crazy. I'm very pleased about this Cymbidium now in full bloom, so here's another pair of pictures.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Winter Kitchen Garden Chores.

Nice place to build a nest. Even the most dedicated kitty cat can't get through the mess of rose thorns. The roses will need pruning but that's not urgent yet. The nest will go then - I think they build a new one each year.

This was Jan 1st before I started cleaning up the rose & fruit bed. I felt bad about letting it become such a mess last year.
Looking at this, I wondered if I could get it cleaned up. What a mess.
Over the past couple of weeks, I've pruned all of the roses (mainly on Jan 1st) and raked out the weeds. Charlie may not approve. He likes messes. But he tolerates my idiosyncrasies. Then this weekend, a layer of bark nuggets except the area around the raspberries.
Behind the apple tree, the " yellow everbearing raspberry "Fallgold" was still a mess. These are great raspberries. They started as a small grocery store bare root start. Now they are starting to take over their neighborhood.
My photo is bad. I trimmed off the tops at about the top of the photo. Removed one clump and moved it to a better spot on the opposite side, more in the direction where I wanted them to grow. Pulled up about half of the canes, concentrating on pulling up the scrawniest ones. These are "ever bearing". They bear early summer on the canes that grew last summer and fall. I shortened these a little because they bore at the tips last summer, an once a node has produced fruit, it's done. Below that level, they'll grow branches at each node, and those branches will bear fruit. Once they have done the second fruiting, they are done. So I also removed all of the spent canes from last year. Much tidier now. Now to head off to the bark mulch place and finish this garden bed, so it's ready for Spring. I feel a bit better now.

I hauled another 3/4 yard of medium bark nuggets, spread them on the rest of the middle mini-orchard/rose bed, one side border, and some under a fig tree that I cleaned underneath first. This is already a better and earlier start than next year. Still lots to do however.

For the container gardens, I cleaned up the surface on 2 additional barrels. I planted seeds, a mini-ball shaped carrot ("Parisian Market"), more mesclun, lettuce mix ("Bon Vivant Blend"), a Chinese greens mix. They may not grow, because the seeds were old (1 to 3 years) and because, after all, it's only January. On the other hand, some seeds can last for years (I've blogged on that before, and tested some last year), and it doesn't matter if they take a month or more to come up. Plus, they may be hardier for being planted in the winter and allowed to grow with the weather. Plenty of weeds are already sprouting, and some greens are just a few steps removed from "weed". If they don't sprout in, say, a month, I'll buy some new seeds and try again.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My First Home Grown Cymbidium Flower

At long last, I've re bloomed a Cymbidium. This is on growth that occurred in my care, starting from new growth last winter, and that I re potted at that time. I kept it mostly in full sun for the summer, fall, and early winter. I let it stay outside until freezing seemed imminent, then brought it inside. The flowers last year were darker, almost brown, with a Burgundy accent on the lip. I don't know if this lighter is due to the flowers just being one day old; less sun; or some other aspect of my care. Doesn't matter, I'm excited to have raised one to the point of blooming.
So to celebrate, I get another one? What's up with that? Still, it's more compact, one of the most compact I've seen here. The flower colors are great. Unfortunately, when I removed it from the plastic-lined, basket cache-pot, there was about an inch of water in the pot. Will that mean loss of roots? Early demise? Loss of flowers? So far it looks fine, but I won't really know until the flowers fall off and it's time to re pot.

Really love the coloration. Quite beautiful.

Late January Gardening

It's that "Late January so it's warming up so the buds open then it freezes and destroys the flowers and possibly kills the tree" weather. It's in the 40s and 50s during the day. Inspecting, quite a number of roses have buds at about 1/4 inch long; peaches have buds swelling; daffodils are starting to peak out of the soil. The daffodils won't be bothered by even a hard freeze, but the peaches might. Some observations:

1. Peaches have quite a bit of what looks like freeze-kill on new growth, but overall look OK. Not sure why, but they did still have green leaves at the time of the first freeze. Most of the newest growth is stout and healthy appearing, and buds are swelling. I sprayed with copper micro-cop spray a 2nd time, hoping to have some effect on the leaf curl. I don't know if it will help at this late stage.

2. There was left over spray. Since the apples had a fair amount of fungal or bacterial disease last year, I sprayed them as well. No significant bud swelling on them.

3. Ditto for figs, so I sprayed them and used up the spray. I'm concerned that there is some freeze-kill on branch tips and brebas. Only the coming of spring will tell.

4. Some Chinese Chives are starting to grow, poking up through the soil.

5. I bought a truckload of medium bark nuggets, and spread them on areas that I have cleared so far. The theory this year is that kitty cat won't like it and will leave it alone. My theories are often disproved.

6. The grapes also appear to have some freeze-kill. If there is significant damage, this will be the first year for them to be damaged by a freeze.

What a waste. These great home-grown organic gourmet potatoes and I forgot them until they sprouted and shriveled. I set aside four of the "gourmet white" which had some stout short sprout in addition to the lanky ones, and threw the rest into the compost bin.

It may be too early to try the potato barrels, but not much to lose. I planted them deep, then covered the sprouts completely with potting mix. This time I was less greedy. I think 4 plants is enough for this small size of barrel. So that's all I planted.

Then a screen for the feline beastie so she doesn't use this for litter.

This barrel contained peppers last year, and some mesclun and greens and radishes last winter. These vegetables are limited not by freezing weather, but but gummy soil too cold to work. That's not an issue in the barrels. I pulled out the remaining pepper roots and stems, loosened the soil, and planted:

Radish, French Breakfast
Radish, Cherry Belle
Mesclun, Gourmet Blend. All of these seeds are from "Ed Hume Seeds".
Onion, Evergreen White Bunching. These take a lot longer, but have fresh scallions when the other varieties are not usable.

So there they are, 4 little rows. In a few weeks, I may plant a second barrel. I plan to wait for these seeds to sprout, first.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Another Yamamoto-type dendrobium

The office needed cheering up and there were no orchids in bloom, so I added this one. NOID. Most closely matches the variety on the Yamamoto Dendrobium website, New Century "Happiness". I know that matching to a photo is an imperfect method at best, but it gives me something to work on until I have a better answer. At the very least, it's clearly a Dendrobium nobile hybrid. This one has interesting plant morphology, "Dr. Seussian" shape with very skinny stem at the bark medium surface, quickly widening into a very stout stem. I like the plants that have an interesting shape in addition to nice flowers. This purple color does not photograph true. Looking at the plant, and the photo, the color in the photo is much lighter. I've noticed that with other purple orchids as well. The flower on the Yamamoto orchid site is lighter in color than this plant in person, but very close to the color of this photo.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Temple of Flora

More correctly, this book is titled "New Illustration of the Sexual System of Carolus von Linnaeus" by Robert John Thornton, MD published in 1805. Made available online by the Missouri Botanical Garden via Beautifully illustrated book. I ran across it while looking for old illustrations of orchids. There is only one illustration of an orchid in this book, but many other beautiful illustrations of many types of flowers. The book itself is a work of art, so I have taken screen shots of some pages here.

Not sure why people insist on calling this work "The Temple of Flora" which really appears to be a subtitle. It sounds more, well, ethereal and poetic. Unless you love the poetry of scientific discourse, as I do.

Of course, if you are a benefactee of Queen Victoria, it pays to kiss up to the boss. It probably also does not pay to not-kiss-up to the boss.

Let's make it really, clear, the boss needs kissing up to.

OK, boss, in case you missed it, your getting the "royal treatment" here.

Whew. No heads to be lost here now.

Living in Victorian England, it's always nice to have some pictures of angels floating around in your scientific text book.
And of course, books being the "facebook" of the time, they had to include the authors face. As do books, and blogs, today.

OK, here is the illustration that I was leading to. I've been trying to find out what a Chinese Limodoron actually is. Haven't found it yet. Beautiful illustration, though.
"This beautiful plant was introduced into our garden in 1778 by Dr. Fothergill, who obtained the seeds from China.

Edit: The Limodorn is Phaius tankervillae. Once I know what I'm looking for, I can find it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Oncidium engraving, 1763

This image is from wikimedia commons, "Illustration of Oncidium abruptum (as syn. Epidendrum altissimum Jacq) Date 1763 from "Selectarum stirpium Americanarum historia" by Nikolaus Joseph Freiherr von Jacquin, Vindobonae (= Vienna), vol 2 pl 141, engraving by Joseph Wagner. Also known as Baron Nikolaus von Jacquin (1727–1817), He was born in Leiden in the Netherlands, studied medicine at Leiden University, moved to Paris, then to Vienna. Nikolaus von Jacquin was sent to the West Indies and Central America by Francis I between 1755 and 1759 to collect plants for the Schönbrunn Palace.

This image is around 250 years old. It's older than the USA. You can find similar Oncidium-derived hybrids in the grocery store today. I continue trying to find the oldest images that I can find of orchids. I know there are older, but this is much older than some of my other posts.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

With Dendrobium nobiles in bud, I wanted to post a vintage drawing of a dendrobium. Not necessarily a nobile - looks like it says Dendrobium macrophilum. This is from L'Illustration Horticole, 1888 (therefore public domain) by Pannemaeker

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Orchids in January: Promises

A couple of hours with an ice pack on my back, and 600mg of ibuprofen, and I was up to walking around with the camera and looking at the "promises" of orchid blooms. They are gradual, but they always bring hope. A bit over one year ago, I didn't know if I could bring orchids into bloom, or if they would even survive. Now the windows are full of orchids, many with buds or spikes. Most are in South windows unless otherwise stated.

This Cymbidium continues to lengthen its spike. I try to be patient. Actually, there is no other choice! It's my first attempt at a Cymbidium, and I'm happy it's come this far. The flowers are brownish with magenta spotted lip, difficult for me to describe. If I've indexed it right, it can be found by clicking on the Cymbidium label.

As I was walking around taking photos, I noticed a new spike on this Burrageara Stefan Isler "Lava Flow". I am SO EXCITED! COOL! I was ready to give up hope for reblooming Oncidium alliance orchids. This one really grew nicely last year, several new pseudobulbs, a full specimen plant. I've been noticing the newer pseudobulbs swelling, and looked as recently as this week without seeing the any new spikes. I was starting to think about whether I wanted to keep it.

So like a proud parent with a camera, here is the spike! Did it grow from almost nothing to 3 inches overnight? Or did I just not notice it? Still quite some growth to happen before it blooms, but I think that the biggest hurdle is getting it to decide to make a spike. This is so cool!

Like the good child in the family, this Yamamoto Dendrobium Fancy Angel "Lycee" continues to behave and impress, without much encouragement, out performing everyone else and not getting a lot of credit for it because it is so reliable. Starting to spike again after a beautiful performance 2 months ago. A very reliable and beautiful flower.

This Trader Joe's Yamamoto Dendrobium "NOID Purple" (my name) is also a strong performer, but hasn't bloomed before this winter. Here we see new buds swelling. I also bloomed last winter and again during the summer. (Added later - I forgot I had decided this is Yamamoto Dendrobium Love Memory "Fizz". Looks just like it, and with that name I must have it.)

Here is the keiki that I started from above Trade Joe's Yamamoto Dendrobium "Purple", sharing a supplemental light source in the South window. The light is mainly there for the two Dendrobium phalaenopsis - type hybrids, that I suspect need more light in the winter. They are "Anching Lubag" and "Genting", for the record. Whether they will grow and rebloom is a question I hope is answered this year. The Yamamoto keiki, now a plant on it's own, is fattening up nicely and is maturing. It would be cool if it bloomed at a small size, but regardless, it's fun to have started an orchid plant "from the beginning".

Here is the Trader Joe's Epidendrum "NOID Red" (again, my name. Creative....) but it needs to be called something. These are said to be very easy, but you never know until you grow them yourself. It's making several new spikes on growth that happened in 2010 so it's another case of "I did it!" It's in a South window.

Iwanagaara Appleblossom "Fantasy" appears to have a nice spike on one of the new, larger-fatter pseudobulbs that grew last year. It's in a South window. I understand that these can give up while there is still a sheath, but have some hope. Holding it to the light, there appears to be a flower bud inside that sheath. Same is true for unpictured Potinara Achung Yoyo "Little Goldfish" which, if only because of the name, I would love to see it bloom.

A beautifully burgundy-leafed Phalenopsis (or is it Doritonopsis?) which has had a slowly growing flower spike for about 6 months. Inch by inch..... It's in a North window.

This rebloom-on-old-spike Phaenenopsis is another case of reliability to the point of taking for granted. Of course, I haven't had it bloom from a de novo new spike yet, but it's been in bloom for months and months. The photo doesn't do it justice, it's darker than the photo shows. It's in a West window.

Another Phalaenopsis about to rebloom on existing spikes. This one is white with pink polka-dots. Quite pretty. It also has a de novo spike. It's in a South window. In my area, even South windows are gloomy this time of year.

Back Pain Saturday

I was headed out to haul some bark mulch and pulled a back muscle while changing shoes. Oh the irony - didn't even haul one load.

Three days ago on my day off I DID get a truckload of medium bark nuggets. Spread some on one freshly-cleared and weeded border, so I hope that will be weed-free this year. It depends on whether kitty cat likes the medium nuggets for her "world's biggest litter box". I'm hoping not. Once she decides a garden bed is the world's biggest litter box, she has it dug up within a few weeks, not only destroying the neat appearance, but bringing weed seeds to the top so it is weedy - all doing away with the effort. I've thought about laying chicken wire on top of the old soil, then covering with mulch. Instead, this time, I got larger size bark, to see if that is less attractive to her. There are lots of spots with the smaller bark if she still chooses.

Frustrated about the back Sitting here with my feet up, ice pack on my back, and just took 3 ibuprofens. I hope it's tolerable tomorrow.

If I can get up later I'll take pics of the orchids in-bud. They are "promising" a nice show.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Pruning, sprays, and apples

Today was day off from work.

Pruned more roses. Most of these are either David Austins or cutting - grown "found" varieties with no name. I cut most back to about 18 inches to 2 feet, removed dead stems, and removed old 3rd and 4th year canes and puny little ones. Some authors now state that roses can be pruned back with a hedge clipper to a uniform height, and the range of 3 feet is better than smaller. However, clearing out old growth and twigs, they will be easier to maintain next year. Fewer old stems will mean less carry over of any residual disease. Fewer, more robust stems will mean easier to spray with neem when blackspot hits. Although I didn't spray at all last year. I hope the pruning stunts them a little next year - they were way too big.

Sprayed the genetic dwarf peaches with Lily copper spray. The spray includes an adherent to make the copper stay on the stems. Today was just slightly drizzly, morning only, so most should stay on the stems. I know this is way, way too late by the books. They should have been sprayed in December. My thought now is if the spray reduces peach leaf curl by a bit, I may still get some peaches. Even if PLC is not prevented entirely. As always, we'll see. I may spray again in a few weeks, and again before buds open. Depends on my schedule.

I used up left-over spray on the pear tree, some roses, a cherry, and a fig tree. I don't know if it will be helpful, but I hated to let it go to waste.

We have a lot of apples remaining in the refrigerator. I just ate a Liberty. Surprisingly good. Much better than a commercial apple.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

New Test Fruits for 2011

I have some spots for new fruits. Golden Delicious has to go - no apples for 7 years; 2010 was the most promising but succumbed to disease. There is no room for consistent non performers. In addition, Chinese Mormon Apricot died last year. And finally, the Hazel nuts produced, and the squirrels got every nut. I don't think I can protect them from squirrels, and if I do it will be too much effort. So I think the hazel nut trees, will go, even though they look like they'll have a lot of nuts this year.

I need to re-think the peaches, too. The genetic dwarfs actually look beautiful, bloom like crazy, but require a lot of effort to cover from the rain to prevent leaf curl. I didn't have time this year. I may spray with copper this week, if I get a chance. Not sure how that will work if it is freezing.

Here are the selections I am thinking about from Raintree.

I did research on late-blooming (to avoid frost), leaf-curl-resistant peaches. There isn't enough information to choose one over the others - if I could, I would pick the latest-blooming, most leaf-curl-resistant. However, it looks like the old variety, Indian Free, has a good record in the Northwest (taking that with a grain of salt). The down side is it needs a pollinator, but I currently have 3 genetic dwarf peaches and one peach-plum hybrid, so I hope that at least one of those will suffice. Raintree states: "Said to be one of the all-time highest rated fruits at taste tests, this heirloom variety was grown at Monticello by Thomas Jefferson, who prized it for its rich color, flavor and size. Naturally resistant to peach leaf curl, the tree produces heavy crops of large, aromatic cling stone peaches that have red skin and white flesh marbled with crimson stripes. When fully ripe in mid to late season, the rich, sweet, distinctive flavor is excellent both eaten fresh." and David Wilson nurseries states this peach wins their taste test. I feel frustrated about the genetic dwarfs, they are really beautiful small trees and I invested a lot of time and effort, and space, to them, but to (potentially) lose a year's crop because I didn't have time to do leaf curl prevention in November/December is frustrating. And it takes several years to bring a new tree into production.

Cherries have been doing well, but the challenges are early bloom, resulting in loss of a lot of cherries to frost, and splitting when there is a late rain. Two years ago I added a tart cherry, Sure-Fire. It had its first few cherries last year, and I hope for a larger crop this year, although it is still young. Tart cherries do not nead a pollinator. Many, but not all, sweet cherries do, and it's complicated because some will not pollinate others. Raintree Nursery (source of these pictures) has pollinator information. I chose this variety, Almaden Duke, as a self-fertile variety, hoping they are sweet enough to eat out of hand and will bloom later. We'll see.

Finally, I want to re-think strawberries. I usually get too many in June, and they become a mess of runners. I would like to try an ever bearing variety in barrels or raised beds, for easier maintenance. I have a couple of barrels to use, so plan on trying that. I chose Seascape Ever bearing to test due to good reviews on the internet.

The change for strawberries will mean much less maintenance. The barrels are very easy to maintain. And I hope an extended season with fewer berries at any given time. This is in keeping with my goals of 2011. The cherry is easy to maintain at small size by backyard orchard culture methods (see label link), and the peach should be easy as well - so genetic dwarf may not even be necessary.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

More New Year's + 1 Pruning

Today I pruned the rest of the grape vines. I pruned them back to 2 to 3 nodes of last year's growth, then thinned out a few of those as well. This leaves about 15 to 20 nodes per vine. If each node gives one bunch of grapes, that's about 65 to 80 bunches of grapes. More than enough for some eating grapes. There was a lot of winter kill, so they may not all bear. That's OK.

I also pruned the columnar apple, North Pole, shortening spurs to keep the columnar shape.

Then I pruned about half of the back yard roses. Some of the David Austin roses were at least twice my height, so about 12 feet tall. Wow! Too tall and too messy, cut them back to about 2 feet. They should come back fine. This is counter to conventional wisdom, that they should be pruned when danger of frost is past. However, they start growing before then even if unpruned, and my neighbors prune midwinter and have good growth, so they should be OK.

The Illinois Everbearing Mulberry got a couple of snips but is too puny to call that pruning. Just enough to guide shaping of the young tree. Last year was it's first and it had it's first "two" mulberries. So this year there may be a few more.

I freel a little better about the yard. It's starting to look more groomed / less messy. That's a good part about winter cleanup.

The brush pile is growing quickly.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Year's Day Pruning

Today I pruned the grape vines (overhead arbor), and most of the fig trees.


Grapes - last year I had more grapes than I could use. A lot went to waste. Plus, the vines were a bit overgrown, and many grapes were undersize. I pruned more heavily, leaving fewer buds. That will reduce # of grapes a little, but I hope means less maintenence requirement and therefore better quality grapes that I enjoy more. Less waste.

There are still 2 more grape vines to prune. Maybe tomorrow or next week. But the New Year's tradition of pruning grapes was kept. Cold day pruning means no bleeding. Waiting for warmer weather means the vines bleed a lot.

Figs = Not much pruning. Removed dead figs that never ripened. Cut taller branches from the centers of the trees, to maintain a "bowl" shape and shorten the trees. Removed badly placed brances. Cut suckers from the bases. Even though I stated "not much pruning", I filled a wheel barrow with the prunings. I haven't pruned Desert King yet - as a 100% breba (early summer crop) variety, I'll just remove the biggest branches, to maintain small size without losing brebas. Brebas form on growth from previous summer, so most pruning should be after the brebas are harvested. Thought about leaving suckers in place, for a bush shape. However, I wrap the tree trunks with a strip of plastic and apply Tanglefoot, to keep ants out of the figs. It works, but takes time and effort. A 3-trunk fig bush means 3-trunks to wrap, so more work. Plus, more difficult to weed around the tree. So I'll keep them as compact small trees instead.

2010 is over. 2011 has begun.

On New Year's day, I like to reflect a bit and think about what to change in the year ahead.

2010 sucked, for the most part. My Dad became increasingly frail, had a number of medical crises, and died. It's been hard trying to know what to think about it. We all die some time, and we all lose our loved ones, and for most of us our relationships are not perfect. Over the past 2 years or so, there were many times I thought he would die, and basically did my grieving mostly before he actually died. But now he's gone, and I'm done worring about doing the right thing, or saying the right thing, or taking care of him, or keeping him from suffering too much. It's done. Except the times I worry about whether I was a good son. I tried.

This is a blog on the internet, so I can't talk about my job. All I'll say, is I did a lot of soul searching and, well, I can't say more. I'm still employed - better than the alternative.

I had a very rough year.

Working so hard, the garden went to pot. No, not THAT pot - please, the most exciting thing in my garden is the chili peppers and tomatoes. That being said, the peppers were the best I ever grew, but I worked so hard I never got out to harvest many, and a lot went to waste. So did a lot of tomatoes, apples, and grapes. And strawberries. And beans dammit. And (oh the horror!) some of the figs went un-picked. It started out good, but when things ripened, I just didn't have a chance to get out there and get them. Much of the front went to weeds, which will take some time to clear out.

I didn't have a chance to cover the peaches for the winter, so expect to lose next year's crop to peach leaf curl. We'll see.

New Years' Resolutions. These are not things that I promise myself, they are how I hope to make improvements and have a better year.

At work, I took a huge pay cut, in hopes of working fewer hours. It's not win/win (mostly it's lose/lose) but we have to do what we have to do. I hope living is a little better for it this year.

This year I'll finish the final bathroom. Not that big of a project, really, and it's the basement bathroom, so it's not sitting there staring at me like the master bath did for 2 years. No pressure, just a little at a time.

I'll cut back some on the garden. The front mini-orchard will have grass instead of mulch, except a couple of feet surrounding each tree. Grass doesn't get as weedy and is easier to maintain. I already spread grass seed this fall, so this resolution is already under way.

I discovered an organic weed killer made from citrus oil (I think - It's "Worry Free Weed And Grass Killer" and contains a citrus extract, d-limonene as the herbicidal compound). I can spray that in places where weeding is a big hassle. Such as on the mulch around the fruit trees, where the kitty cat digs it up and creates nice fertile miniEdens for weeds. I tried it this fall on some of the irises, which are very difficult to weed by hand, especially when infiltrated with that &@^#*%! Aegopodium podagraria (bishopweed) and I think it worked, without killing the irises. Anything that kills Aegopodium can't be all bad, even plutonium. I bet the *$&#^* Aegopodium is growing around Chernobl. Anyway, if the Avenge is effective, that will reduce labor a lot. I've been trying to kill of the damn bishopweed for 9 years, but it got ahead of me again in 2010 and a lot of ground was lost. So I'll try it next year, including the rose bed and under the fruit trees, when weeds infiltrate the mulch. I wonder it kitty cat will like the smell?

Raised beds and barrels are definitely the way to go, when possible. I'll add a couple, and definitely reuse the ones I have. Here, the extra warmth gives a head start, and weeds are a non-issue in the potting mix.

I may remove a couple of non-performers. That's hard for me to do. "Just one more chance". I have an apple and a fig in mind. And one grape vine, although it's not performing due to location. Maybe I'll take a cutting and plant it in a different spot - that grape is a tasty variety.

I will be less of a purist about "sustainability" - for example, when I get a big pile of prunings, I'll take them to the recycle center, for them to grind and compost them, instead of me chopping them into mulch. And while there, I'll get a truckload of compost for the return trip. That will save a lot of time and effort. That's also the issue with grass in the "mini-orchard" - although since I let the lawn go dry in the summer and almost never fertilize, the only energy input is into mowing, and much of that is with a handpowered push mower. Well, maybe the grass is not less sustainable than the mulch.... (Thinking as I write).

So that's about it. 2011 will be more about cutting back, lower expectations, and compromise. And maybe a chance to smell the roses. But it will still be about lots of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Especially since so many are already established, so most of the work is done, and just need a little trimming and cleaning up.

Repotting a cymbidium

I like this cymbidium a lot. Here it is at its peak. The compact size can be misleading - cymbidiums have a lot of roots compared to other orchids. They're like Clivias or Daylilies in the shape of the leaves and the mass of roots compared to their tops. I have one cymbidium in the state of almost-rebloom, so I hope that means I'm able to grow them and they're worth the effort.

Here is was just before repotting. I thought about leaving it until the bitter end, but instead of being fresh and joyful, it looks sad now. Time to accept that and clean it up.

It came out of the pot easily. This was about a 1 quart pot. The original mix looks like a medium grade bark.

I love the mass of roots, like a handful of night crawlers. Massive amount of roots. At this point I also cut off the old flower spikes, to get them out of the way, and trimmed off any dead or broken looking roots with a sharp sterile pruner. There were not many bad or damaged roots. At the center was a tightly packed mass of sphagnum - probably what the plant was started in. I removed it. My theory is that it can be a source of rot when the plant is in my hands, as opposed to in a tiny starting pot in the hands of the original grower.

I wanted to use a pot about the same size, but with so much root mass, I moved it up instead. Some authors recommend cutting off the roots. I don't know what's best, but this is how I did the last one and it did very well and is about to rebloom soon.

Here's the mix I've been using for all of my orchids. Medium grade fir bark, some perlite, some oyster shell calcium.

Now I've added the bark medium, with lots of tapping and shaking and holding the plant in place. It was interesting that even with the mass of roots, when I poured the old medium back into the old pot, it filled it to within 2 inches of the top. The dead leaf tips are also pruned back. I sprayed it with neem oil, which I hope makes it more disease and insect resistant, and also gives the leaves a nice shine.

Before potting, I wrote a description of the plant and the date on the inside rim, using a Sharpie. That way I know what's what, but in an unobtrusive way.