Sunday, May 27, 2012

A couple more iris

Unidentified yellow iris. This is on the 2-acre property that Ning is planning to buy.
Unidentified apricot colored iris. Today I played the honey bee and took stamens from various irises and transferred them to pistils of other irises, to see if hybrids will develop. This was semi-random. No idea if they will set seeds.

Backyard Orchard Culture: Progress Report

Here are the two plums today. As the fruit grow larger, I can see them better. Not covered with fruit, but will have more this year than ever before. Not bad for 3 year old trees.
Hollywood Plum
Shiro Plum
Liberty apples
Strawberrys in bloom

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Kitchen Garden

The containerized beans are growing great, and now have their first flowers. I guess I didn't start them too early.
Ning set up this raised bed. The potatoes were volunteer - I don't know what type they are. They are so vigorous. He used compost that came from the chicken bedding.
The tomatoes are starting to bloom. The first is Better Boy. I guess I didn't start these too early either. Despite the rain and rain and rain and rain.


Not doing anything to the figs now - they are just growing. This might be the best breba crop ever.
King.  The crop is so heavy, the branches are already drooping.
Lattarula - ditto.  I'll hold off any pruning until after the June harvest.
Cuttings from King. I have more - what will I do with them?

More on Irises

It's raining and raining and raining and raining. Not the best for perfect form and durability of iris blossoms, but the rains are part of living in the Pacific Northwest.
I think this one is "Blue Knight". A contrast to the dark purple iris in the back yard.
Immortality. I will move this after it blooms. Immortality can rebloom in the fall if it's happy. The invading grass has been a problem, but by blooming it's identified itself for refurbishing.
Sunny Disposition. Also a rebloomer. I'll do a similar renovation after it blooms.
Edith Wolford. This is not the best time to move German Irises, but this plant was completely overwhelmed by grass. the leaves and rhizomes are weak and spindly. If it recovers, it will be more because of this plant's durability than my treatment. I thought this might be Edith Wolford, and after digging it up discovered a tag that confirmed my "theory". Lucky.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bumblebee Delite - a small flowered variety. I need to clean it up so that it blooms better next year. Not fragrant.
"Liaison". It's been blooming for 10 years, and is is several places in my yard. I think it's time for a selected special location. fragrant.
Spiced Custard - a subtle color combination, bought at a big box store about Oct 2010, this is the first bloom. Nice. Not so fragrant. Mid size, more compact than some of the others.
This is the plan - edging to keep the grass out. For newer plants that are not too large, 2 or 3 can go into a group. For established selections, there may be one in a group. For rescues I may add several to the same group. These are slightly raised, to reduce risk for rot. The edging should keep grass out.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Field Trip to Shreiner's Iris Farm

Yesterday we made a trip to the Shreiner's Iris Farm in Oregon. These are some of the photos.

Grown for preparation of rhizomes for sale and shipping. Row upon row, beautiful irises as far as I can see.
Standing in the field.
Bought these 2, one as a replacement for American Classic, that I seem to have lost, and the other, Kissed By The Sun, is new to me.  I will plant them in one of the beds I'm preparing for improved iris growth.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Backyard Orchard Culture: Thinning baby fruits for better harvest.

Once fruit has set on the tree, it's time to thin the baby fruits for best yield. By thinning, each of the remaining fruits will get much more leaf-produced sunshine-generated energy. That means much larger fruits, more flavor, and earlier yield.

In years when I did not thin, my fruits were small and not as tasty.

 In my yard, thinning time is now - for apples, pears, asian pears, peaches, plums. If there are already about 1 fruit every 4 to 6 inches of branch, they don't need to be thinned. They say the fruit should be about one human fist apart. I have fat fists, so I left them slightly closer together. Do not thin tart cherries, sweet cherries, mulberries. It would just reduce the yield. Do thin apples, peaches, pears, asian pears, plums, unless setting was sparce. I'm not sure figs need thinning - mine drop a lot so I let the tree decide. I might remove a few that are too closer together. In my climate, the time to thin is now, to a few weeks from now. It may be a little early but I get excited. This week I thinned pears, asian pears, and apples. The peach fruits are sparse, but on branches where there are many clustered together, I thinned them to 1 per spur.

These are Liberty Apple, a disease-resistant apple that tastes great and bears well every year. This tree is on an ultra-dwarfing stock, so at 8 years old it is only 5 feet tall. It's more of a bush, than a tree. The blossom clusters set very well. Almost every blossom set. There are 4 to 8 baby apples per cluster. Left in place, the apples will be late, small, and not as flavorful. All but one or 2 should be removed, per cluster. Even with thinning this little tree may have a hundred apples this year.

Some people use their fingers to pull off the small fruits. I find that I pull of the entire spur, or twist and damage the remaining apple. I have fat clumsy fingers. So, I use a kitchen shears. To avoid spreading disease, I run them through the dishwasher between uses, once per tree. That also washes off the sticky sap.  This scissor is in a slightly wrong place - that's the one little apple I left in place. It's not easy taking a pic while holding an apple branch and a pair of scissors.  I avoiding thinning my fingers, and still have 10 on each hand.
After thinning, I have one apple per cluster. I left one per spur, which are about 4 inches apart. In each case, I tried to leave the biggest apple in place. When they grow a little bigger, I may remove a few of the closest-together ones, but basically the job is done. I'm pretty sure I left healthy baby apples - the blossoms that did not set just fall off now, whereas these have a nice start of little apples.

Of the other apple trees, the North Pole was also due for thinning, so I did that.  Also the Jonagold.   Both of these also set very well this year.  Of the new ones, Karmin de Sonneville and Honeycrisp, this is just their 2nd year of growth, but they are covered with flowers.  I thinned them as well.  I would like to get a few apples from each of those, even if it stunts future years.  I want them to be stunted.

My other preparation today was to spray each tree with some neem oil. Neem is organic. It is an extract from neem trees. Neem oil reduces fungal disease and aphids. I find it helpful, although not as helpful as selecting the right variety. My Golden Delicious got a leaf blight every year despite spraying, and Liberty so far has not got any blight, even when I don't spray. I finally cut down the Golden Delicious, and have new small starts of Karmin de Sonneville and Honeycrisp, both of which I expect to give a few apples this year. Jonagold is in between on the blight issue, so I neemed it well this year. Jonagolds are very good. I wish I could find a Jonathan or some scion wood from a Jonathan, which were my favorite apples when I was a boy.  Karmin seemed to get a little blight late in the year last year, but I still want to try with that one.  Karmin has interesting, downy furry leaves.  The apples are said to be among the most flavorfull.

In a few weeks, I will also cut the tips from the apple branches. I do that when they have about 6 inches of growth. Doing so stimulates spur formation for next year, and makes the tree/bush very compact.   But for now, they just need some sunshine and an occasional rain.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Backyard Orchard Culture: Progress Report.

Asian pears have set lots of fruits. I forget which variety this is, on the 3-graft asian pear tree.
Here is another variety on the same tree. Coming along nicely. These will need thinning, for larger, earlier fruit.
The Illinois Everbearing mulberry flower clusters. The leaves have some spots. I hope that's not a bad sign, just effects of 2 weeks of chill and rain.
Petite negri fig, lots of brebas.

Family tradition flower: Oriental poppy

This is only a family tradition flower because I remember my grandfather growing them from seeds, so I did as well. However, it's not an actual "heritage" or "heirloom" plant, because I bought the seeds. My father told me that he tried growing opium poppies, Papaver somniferum, without success. This was in a much different era from today, and it was legal to grow opium poppies. For that matter, it might still be legal to grow opium poppies, but I'll stick with the Papaver orientalis.
Last year, I moved these from a less suitable location. I was concerned, due to a reputation for difficult transplantation. They did indeed not prosper last year, but they survived. This year there are many flower buds on this plant, and a few on a second plant. The original location also now has 2 small poppy plants, from root fragments that were broken in the digging up process. Those are accidental root cuttings, or may have grown from seeds that fell from prior flowers. These were grown from seed, which is what makes them "heritage" for me (a family heritage of growing poppies from seed, not that the actual variety is heritage). These poppies grew for several years before blooming, but are now quite prolific and beautiful. These buds are growing fast. I expect full fledged poppies in a month. Even though Papaver orientalis is not a source of opium, it is a source of thebaine, which is used to make oxymorphone - the ingredient in the powerful narcotic, Opana. So far I have not seen people in the yard licking these plants. My suspicion is that, being ornamental varieties, the thebaine is in such a small amount that it would be useless for anyone to try. 'Hey - get out of my yard!"

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Kitchen Garden Progress Notes - Container Gardening

The yellow wax bush beans that I planted a 2 weeks ago. There appears to be some slug damage, so I added Worry Free organic slug bait.
Egyptian Walking Onions, multiplier onion, loves this method of growth. I planted these Oct. 29th. We did not eat many scallions this year, so these will go mainly toward eating onions and starts for a larger number for this fall. I don't know why we didn't eat more scallions, I love eating them.
German Garlic from Southern Exposure, also planted Oct 29th. They are also flourishing in the tubs. There should be some great garlic this summer.
Tomatoes I planted in a tub last week. The temp today is 49 - probably too cool, although last week it was in the 70s. The tubs warm up faster, so may be OK. This tub has seedlings from mesclun that should be ready to pull out in a couple of weeks. The sticks are mulberry prunings, an attempt to see if they grow by the "stick it in the ground" method that I use for figs, grapes, and forsythia. And roses.

Backyard Orchard Culture: Progress Notes

Most of the fruit trees are near the end of blossoms. Some of the apples are midway through blooming, and a few blossoms straggle on, on the pears and cherries. Now some of the baby fruits are starting to show, giving me a hint of what to expect this year.
This is Almaden Duke cherry, planted last Spring, so just over a year after planting. Many of the buds took. The tree is about 3 1/2 feet tall. Since I want it to remain dwarfed, I'm going to let the fruits continue. Plus I want to see what they are like. Impressive, really impressive, to get fruit the 2nd year after planting, even if only a hand full or bowl full.
Hollywood plum. A few scattered fruit have taken. I thought it might not have any, due to frost while blooming. These are so good, I'll settle for having just a few.
The peaches that I planted in tubs late this winter. Starting to leaf out. I underplanted one with lettuce and one with cilantro, so as not to waste the soil and space.
Shiro plum. Judging from the number of tiny embryonic plums, I think there will be a bowl full or two. Like the Hollywood, I wondered if I would get any due to frost while blooming. Home-grown Shiro are so good, it's worth the wait and worth the trouble to get even a few.
Surefire Cherry - I'm guessing, about 4 years old now. I planted tart cherries largely because of late blooming, to miss those early frosts. This one is the latest of my many varieties, as far as blooming goes. They should set well, and we should get a pie or two. These have a wonderful flavor, different from the sweet cherries, and when very ripe can be eaten out of hand, sweet and tart at the same time, with red juice.