Saturday, April 30, 2011

Starting Another Dendrobium nobile from a keiki

Dendrobium Yellow Song "Canary" grew a nice keiki so I decided to remove it and pot it up. Some of the web references, that I read, claim that keikis siphon energy off from the parent plant. Removal of the keiki ("keikiectomy"?) might help it grow and bloom. I don't know if the authors truly know that. But it's part of web orchid lore. There's also the fun of watching a new plant grow.

This was a keiki that I started in July. This was a nice, easily blooming variety, white flowers with blue fringes. It grew a nice fat looking pseudobulb cane, and now is producing 2 new sprouts. It's been getting the "weakly, weekly" 1/4 strength plant food treatment, high nitrogen growth formula version.

I've left it in the original container and growth medium. It may be good for another 6 months or year, before repotting is needed.

This is the Dendrobium Yellow Song "Canary" and keiki. I let it grow longer than I intended. I think no harm was done.

A section of parent pseudobulb is cut off along with the keiki. I don't have the fine touch, to just pull it off without causing damage. So I cut a section instead. The green root tips are a sign of healthy active growth.

Similarly, I removed the remainder of the cane, from above the keiki.

Some cinnamon is added to the cut surfaces. That's for mold prevention.
Resting in new container on bark-based orchid mix. Before adding medium, I placed the bamboo support stake into the pot. Easier that way. Less likely to damage the keiki's roots.
Now more bark medium is added. The top of the medium is at the juncture of keiki with stem.

Now it's just a matter of care. Same as an established orchid plant. I watered to settle it in, but will try to hold off more watering for a week or so. Probably best not to have watered the first day. I don't have the self discipline to wait.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fig Progress Report

In another posting, the brebas on "Vancouver" (probable Brunswick) are shown.

Other trees with brebas now include Hardy Chicago (only a few, small), Petite Negri (few, small), Lattarula (more) and Desert King (many more).

I will try to avoid too much optimism. Brebas often enlarge then fall off. It would be great if they grow and ripen instead.

Meanwhile, I took the Desert King cuttings out of the refridgerator and stuck them into the half-barrel containers. I don't know if they will grow but the effort expended was truly minimal - I just stuck them into the growth medium such that about 9 inches was below soil line and 3 inches above soil line. If even one grows, I plan to start a tree to be kept in a less prime location. Then I expect to remove the existing tree. This is a long term plan. It takes about 3 years to reach significant fruiting stage.
Fig brebas, embryonic figs beginning to swell. Often, many if not most drop. I hope that most will stay this year.

One view of front border. The white flowers are "Stella" cherry.

A view of backyard orchard. I don't know the cherry varieties.

Pink Cherry in Bloom.

Each year, someone suggests this tree is either about to die, or that I should cut it down. Each year, it is more beautiful than the year before. Today the earliest blossoms are open, with many more to follow.

Tomato progress report

The tomato seedlings are almost too large to maintain outside now. The temperatures are still in the 40s at night, so too soon to plant outside unprotected.

I've been setting them outside in the morning, and bringing inside at night. The day temperatures are into the 50s and 60s, for the most part.

They are a little more leggy than I like, but still OK. If too leggy I can just plant them deeper.

I wasn't going to set up the "wall-o-water" units but under the circumstances, I think they are the best approach. I took the soil temperature, it's 50 degrees, so technically warm enough to plant. I will leave these units in place for 2 days then plant tomato plants. There will be some extra plants to try elsewhere. The arrangement is not planned. My garden not only has an "organic" soil/pest management/compost/plant food philosophy, but apparently has an "organic" constantly evolving shape. Not planned that way, but it is what it is. Nonlinear, no straight edges or 90 degree corners.

I planted 3 tomato plants in this barrel, too. One has a plastic container cover. I'll look around and see if I can find more, otherwise I'll buy something at the grocery store today. I think it's still too cool to have them completely unexposed, at least at night. A cover would also result in warmer soil & roots.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Doing what the honeybee does.

The sweet cherries and pears are blooming nicely. It's chilly and rainy outside at the moment. I didn't stay outside very long. I have a bad cold.

This is a 5-variety pear tree. I played the honeybee, using a paintbrush, taking pollen from flower to flower. With compact trees, it's easy to pollenate several dozen flowers in 10 minutes. That's plenty. Pears require pollination from a different variety. With a multigraft tree such as this one, I can go from variety to variety without going from tree to tree. The pollen is a bit wet. I don't know if that's good or bad.

I found the label for the Asian pear combo tree. The varieties from bottom to top are Shinseiki, Yonashi, Hamese, and Mishirasu. One is missing, I think Yonashi. Stock is OHxF 97

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Container gardens, early spring

The potato project was described yesterday. Here are a few others.
The mixed winter greens an vegetables are behind last year. Radishes, mesclun, spinach, lettuce, and some scallions from seed. They are starting to grow faster now. The chicken wire protect from kitty cat and squirrel doing their gardening. It works. I planted seeds more thinly this year. Less need to think them out now. The green onions have all been eaten. I recommend that everyone who likes early vegetables and loves green onions to grow Egyptian Walking onions. One of the stars of the early vegetable garden. I have many more in the ground. Some of those are too big to eat now, which is good. That means more for later.
Another of the barrel planters. "Inch by inch, row by row. Gonna watch my garden grow." Or in this case, "patch by patch." If I get ambitious I'll add tops to the barrels. That will let in light and warm them up more. That's if I get ambitious.
The potato project was described yesterday. Here are some of the other containers.
The strawberries are growing nicely. Each plant has several leaves. These were the bare root plants that I started 2 months ago. They looked near-death. Every plant survived and grew. I see that some have a few roots above the growth medium. I'll add another inch. Enough to cover the roots. Not enough to cover the crowns. The white spots are crush eggshells. I use them to add calcium.
Peaches are still blooming. I usually go out with a paintbrush and play the honeybee, pollinating the flowers. This year I'm not. There are usually way too many pollinated flowers, resulting in way too many fruits. Then they need to be thinned. Good peaches only happen if they are at least a hand width apart. That's a fat hand like mine. Maybe 6 inches.. That's for genetic dwarf peaches. If there is a lot of leaf curl, many if not all of the peaches are lost, and pollination was not worth the effort. The trees are lovely. If they did not have peaches, they would be sold purely as ornamentals. That is, except here in the Maritime Pacific Northwest, where ornamentals that get leaf curl are not needed. It lookes like the infestation could be small. It's on some leaves. Not all tips. Leave curl results in a very pretty appearance at this stage. The leaves have a maroon variegated edge and start to become curly. Evil is sometimes quite pretty. It usually gets worse as the leaves grow. Wait and see. Treatment now is not helpful. Maybe the midwinter copper spray was helpful. I try not to get my hopes up. It would be great if that method worked.

Friday, April 15, 2011

White Cherry, Harbinger of Spring

This white cherry is one of my favorite things about this house. I'm guessing it was planted when the house was new. That would make it 45 years old. The thick trunk suggests it is an old tree. This year it's blooming about 4 weeks later than 2010. I will need to prune dead wood from the top this year. That will be after bloom is over, and after the rains have stopped. Summer trimming reduces risk for rain-borne disease. Meanwhile, I can enjoy the tradition of oohing and ahhing over the double white blossoms. Under the tree, daffodils are blooming, ferns are starting to unfurl, and hostas are beginning to poke through the mulch. I avoid disturbing the soil. Except minor planting and cleanup. Soil disturbance would hurt the tree. I did spread some chicken coop cleanings around the tree this winter, to give the tree s nutritional boost. Not much, just a thin layer. Then mulched with bark nuggets. It's a low maintenance part of the yard.

Potato barrels 2.0

I just finished reading the book, "Potato, A history of the Propitious Esculent", by John Reader. The potato has a fascinating history. They started in the Andes, in Peru, Chile, and Argentina, and were one of the first plants to be domesticated. They fueled the Inca empire, but Spanish invaders destroyed the Inca civilization. I guess throwing potatoes isn't as effective as horses, metal weapons, and smallpox. The potato then used the Spanish to spread itself around Europe, and the world, fueling population explosions and all sorts of history. All of which inspired me to become more ambitious about potato barrels. The starts that I planted in January grew above the soil line, frosted, and looked dead. I gave up looking. Yesterday I saw they have sent out new shoots. About half survived. They have healthy-looking, thick, dark green leaves on stout stems. They are barely above the soil line. There were some remaining spaces. I bought a tiny bag of chitted potatoes, "Satina" variety, and planted the empty spaces with starts. Satina is a small, oval, yellow fleshed, nice looking potato. The bin at the plant store only had a few remaining starts, but that's all I wanted. The starts cost 30 cents. Feeling ambitions about growing potatoes in barrels, and with good experience last year, I wanted to add more. I found this plastic container for $7.99, much, much cheaper than the wooden containers and should last as long or longer. It might over heat, mid summer, but I have a plan for that. Apply shiny foil to the outside when it starts to become hot. That will lower soil temperature by 10 or more degrees, from my measurements a few years ago. Meanwhile, the dark plastic should soak up some heat and might speed early growth. I got out the electric drill and drilled about a dozen 3/4 inch holes in the bottom for drainage. Easy. Then added about 6 inches of potting soil. I planted a different variety, "Carmine." According to the clerk, carmine is red inside and out. I could not find information on this variety on the internet, so we'll see. I covered with about 3 inches of potting soil. When they grow to about a foot tall, I'll add anouther 6 inches, and repeat when they grow another foot. It's hard not to plant too many. These are spaced about 9 inches apart. That might be too close for optimum growth, but is a little further apart than last year, and they did fine. Looking at my blog last year, I'm about 5 weeks behind planting the potatoes. The trees are blooming late too - maybe 3 or 4 weeks late. I think they will still do fine.

Tomato seedling progress report.

Here are the tomato seedlings now. Amazingly fast. Now I'm concerned they will get too big before planting outside. I'll figure something out. I'm thinking about making some cloches, but I might get out the "wall-o-water" units instead. They are more trouble but they work really well. These are SuperSweet 100, in a south window, with a fluorescent desk lamp for supplemental light. They are more compact and look sturdier than the other plants. That might be due to the lamp, the South window setting (rain rain rain clouds clouds clouds) or the variety. The little seedlings stretching toward the light are the many year old.pepper seeds, I planted thinking they would not germinate. I need to juggle plants around so they get more light.
These are all of the others. Taller, a little floppy, but OK. I think I'll replant them today.
The roots grow very easily through the coconut coir pots. It's almost like there is nothing there. I've always thought that pressed peat pots were not so root friendly, so did not use plantable pots. The coir pots have changed my mind. Even so, the tomatoes need to be up-potted, so this time I'll use the plastic pots. I'm concerned that roots will dry out when sticking out, and the coir pots become soft and might break easily when wet, especially with the larger size / heavier soil. I up-potted the SuperSweet 100 seedlings into plastic pots. Also one of the slicing tomatoes. It's only 48 outside now. Against the house, I think it's warmer, and not in the rain. I'm setting them outside in a sheltered, south-facing spot. This will start the hardening off process. I will bring them inside at night. Now in the "sun" (if you can call it that, rain rain rain) the differences are more apparent. Supersweet 100 from the South window, desk-lamp are stout, dark green, compact plants. Slicing tomato from east, grow-lamp are lankier, lighter green, a little floppy. Not scientific at all. I think the difference is the laps, with the desk lamp being much brighter.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

More seeds

Getting a little excited about the tomato seedlings, so I started some peppers as well. These were old seeds, no way to know if they'll grow, except to germinate them. Some date back to 2006. The newest are dated 2008. Varieties included "Bulgarian Carrot", "Big Red" and a Cayenne pepper. I planted 3 seeds per pellet, 2 pellets each, so if one of 6 grow, I get a plant. If they don't germinate, it's not a problem. There will be plenty of plants available at the nursery in late May, which is when they go into the ground. I planted the seeds in the same coconut-husk pellets that I used for tomatoes. Better pic here of the cups I up-potted the tomato seedlings in, same manufacturer as the pellets. The pellets are called "Planter's Pride." The cups are called "Fiber Grow" and website is I like these. The tomato seeds started at least equally well to starting in peat. Compared to peat, the product seems a little less hydrophobic, allowing better hydration. The pots are more porous than peat pots. I don't know in the long run if that's good or bad, but so far they seem no worse and possibly a little better than peat-based products. So far, "like".

Tomato Seedlings

Still struggling with computer programs. The editor that I bought seems to automatically remove pixels, and the photos are less crisp. My review at the momenr of "Phot Explosion" is that it sucks. So, I downloaded Picasa, which is easier to use, and free, but removed all of my cropping. I also worry that, being from google, it might upload onto the internet without my knowing, or collect information. Plus, this program now unedits some of my edits. Damn programmers..... but here we are. Here are the tomato seedlings in their original "pellets". The pellets are coconut-based fiber, much mroe environmentally friendly than peat. They worked really well. The seedlings are 2 weeks from bare seed. Amazingly fast. It's still not too late to start tomato seeds here - about 6 weeks from time to plant outside. I may start some peppers now. They go in even later. These were all old tomato seeds, up to 6 years old. They all sprouted. Roots are sticking out of the sides, as long as an inch outside the pellets. Time to replant them. This is the coconut-fiber based product I'm using for plantable containers. I've placed a couple of spoon-fulls of organic potting soil into the containers, then added the tomato seedlings, still in their pellets. I've added more organic potting soil to fill in around the pellets, then covered them as well, then watered them in. Here is the lighting setup that I'll use for a few weeks. It doesn't seem as bright as last year. Maybe the bulbs need time to warm up. Or need replacing. They are 20-watt bulbs. Gardening blooks usually call for 40-watt, but these are half as long, so half the wattage. I added some foil to reflect light back onto the seedlings. The plnats are only a few inches from the bulbs. The short distance maximizes the impact of the lights. They are cool bulbs, so no concern about burning. They do warm the air a little, which is beneficial. Overall I'm pleased with the seedlings. I did not order new seeds at all this year. Except the coconut-fiber pellets and pots, I did not buy new supplies. The plastic contaners are old. I may size them up one more time, this time into plastic pots, when they outgrow the current containers. The seedlings are all varieties that I like: Lemon Boy (favorite #1), Better Boy (favorite #2), Cherokee Purple (favorite #2), Black Krim (favorite #3), Supersweet 100 (favorite #4), 4th of July (second chance at becoming a favorite, pretty good last year and produced before the others). I have 3 plants of each variety, so 15 plants total. They will go into 3 beds of 5 each, more or less. Last year was a bad tomato year, partly climate and partly I was overworked and could not tend them. This year is already starting out better.