Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bakyard Orchard Walkabout

Midsummer, the yard and backyard orchard is jungle-like in greenery.
On the left Illinois Everbearing mulberry. This is year #3. Not many mulberries yet, but the ones I get are incredibly good.
Container gardens, tomatoes, beans, onions, peppers.
Left to right, pole beans, King fig, Sal's fig (in white pot), Bonanza miniature peach (2 peaches this year - leaf curl disease again), and some branches of Lattarua fig.  The Sal's will move to the Battleground place soon.
The purple leaf tree is Hollywood plum.  The plums are still firm but getting closer.  On the far left, one of the ginkgos I grew from a seed, now about 10 feet tall.  Half as tall as the one the same age, in the back yard.  The difference is likely the benefit of watering, improved soil, lots of dog "product" over 10 years in the back yard.  The mulch is made from prunings I took from the cherry trees.
The grass is brown for the summer.  It will grow back.  Apple on the right is Jonagold.

Charlie standing by Liberty Apple.
The yellow fruits are Shiro plum. We've eaten a few. This week they should be in full juiciness and sweetness.
Today I noticed the summer figs starting to soften. Maybe a week away? This is variety "Petite negri", red inside, blue-black outside. My favorite.

Scene of the Crime

Murder most fowl in the hen house. I've discovered that instead of the usual 3 hens, we now have 2 hens and a pile of feathers. No calls yet from CSI-Vancouver.
There's not even a corpse to draw a chalk outline around. I suspect raccoons. Possum or rat wouldn't carry the body away. I think. The survivors are traumatized. One has witnessed a similar crime before. If only she could talk.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


I don't know the name for this one. It's quite beautiful. It's now mid season for lilies. The orientals are just beginning. Tiger type lilies are finishing. I pollinated Citronella with pollen from Orange Turks Cap lily (Lilium henryi). The Asiatic lily hyrids are long gone, and the Trumpet lilies are almost gone as well.

First fig of the year.

The prize goes to Lattarula. I had one yesterday but it was slightly spoiled on the tree. So the is the first really good fig. At 72 grams it's a fair sized fig, nice and juicy and sweet.
I also planted 3 little fig plants at the new place in Battleground. More on that later. The soil is a little better than it was originally here in Vancouver, but not much. Plus, it's mid summer, hot, dry. As potted fig plants, they should have less transplant shock than one dug out of the ground. I planted 2 King figs, each about a foot tall, and one Petite negri, which I've been growing for about 4 or 5 years and has a fair number of small figs on its branches. With lots of water and lots of mulch, maybe they will do OK. One year I left a potted Petite negri fig plant sitting on the deck without water for about 2 months, and it survived.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Beans are ready

These are the beans I planted in tubs April 14, so roughly 90 days from seed to bean.
There are lots more beans on the plants, ready or barely formed.
The beans themselves aren't visible until you get right into the plant.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Iris Order

Order came from Schreiner's Irises. I don't usually "endorse" a source or product. This blog is just my garden diary. But this is different. The rhizomes from Schreiner's were the best I've ever bought. They were carefully packed in excelsior. The tubers were beyond plump - they were like elephant iris. The were clean, healthy, and the leaves were green. I'm so impressed. They also sent two "bonus" tubers, varieties I didn't order. The bonus tubers were just as beautiful as the ones I bought. Schreiners is at schreinersgardens.com. No room for other additional varieties in the yard now. I had to dig out the patch of Bumblebee Delite, pull out the weeds, and install a weed border as I did for the others, for one and for a couple of rhizimes from Bumblebee Delite, and the found Iris I previously labeled Rescue Me but that isn't really a variety. These are the varieties I'm planting. The pics are from the Schreiner's online catalog. I hope they don't mind, especially since I just gave them a AAA rating.
Pink Bubbles.
Mariposa Skies.
Crimson Cloud.
Gay Parosol.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Garlic from seeds

I've been reading several internet postings on growing garlic from seeds. As far as I can tell, this isn't currently done except in research and by some dedicated hobbyists. Garlic plants have been cultivated from cloves for eons - probably in a continuous string of generations (clones) dating back thousands of years. As a result, they have nearly lost their capacity to make seeds. Some don't even make flower stalks (scapes). Those that make flower stalks/scapes are the "hard neck". In the ones that do make scapes, much or all of the flower head is replaced by tiny baby garlic bulbs (bulbils) instead of flowers. Those bulbs can be grown into plants, but they are genetic clones of the parent plant. It turns out that there actually are flowers, but they form more slowly than the bulbils, and are crowded out and die before blooming. Getting garlic to make flowers involves removing the bulbils before they take over the room and resources of the scape. The covering is split open, and twezers are used to remove bulbils as soon as possible. Removing the covering from this scape, it looks to me like these are flowers. The bulbils must not be formed yet. I will leave it in place, and wait for the other 3 plants whose scapes I inadvertently left in place.

This may not work at all. I've never done it. Gardening is always an experiment.

The potential advantages of seed are many. In the millenia of cloning, genetic diversity is lost. There is some mutation and adaptation via rogueing, because sports also form. But overall, the genetic diversity is decreased, and the ability to adapt more quickly to environmental challenges or growth in new areas, becomes decreased. In addition, if seeds can be formed, so can hybrids. Hybrids give us more choices, and increase potential adaptation and development of variety, such as larger bulbs, or growing faster. Again, based on reading multiple articles, once a new generation of garlic is produced by seeds, subsequent generations are easier to produce. Finally, it's mentioned that viruses are passed through cloning, but not through seed production. I've seen that said for other plants too. I don't know if garlic varieties are virus infected - probably not as bad as with plants that are grafted (fruits, roses) or have long lives (figs), but it's been proposed that producing virus free seed-produced plants would mean more vigor and higher production.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Paw Paw Trees

Here are the 2 containerized Paw Paw trees I bought yesterday at Portland Nursery. When I walked past them I thought No! Impossible! They are the named varieties, Sunflower and NC-1. Based on my readings, the roots are delicate. The trees are best planted while in growth, not dormant. It is best to shade them for the first 1 to 2 years.   I'll have to identify a spot, clear it, enrich it with compost, and plant them. Not sue if I'll do that now or just keep them in the containers and plant next Spring.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Room to expand

This weekend we bought 2 acres in Battleground Washington, close to Vancouver. It will give us room to spread out. Currently it's all in a "before" state. Lots of room to plant and grow. Doubtless in need of a lot of compost too.
View from the driveway and side street, looking Southeast. I don't see that there's been an attempt at gardening, beyond a few shrubs and trees.  The blooming tree is a red buckeye.
It's mostly grass. Lots of room to start a small orchard and garden plots.
These photos were from late May. It's not as green now. This is the view looking North, from the main street.
This camera ket changing the color settings. The grass is not really fluorescent.  Looking up at the house.  The blackberries on the right aren't hurting anything, and if we get to them will provide some juicy berries next month.
Looking down from the house. Lots of room for gardening, as noted earlier.
Here is that neglected iris. From the shape, it appears to be an old variety. Newer ones are more ruffled. I plan to move it, divide, and also bring many more to a dedicated iris bed or two. Or 3, or more.  Something where I can control weeds and let the irises really shine.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Allium gigantium

Decided to dig these up. The cluster was nice, but I would like to have them spread around the garden some more. Allium gigantium makes a brief, very colorful show. Then the leaves die down and that's all for the year. This bunch consisted of one bulb, planted about 5 years ago. Now there are multiple. It's a very rich corner of the garden, lots of compost over the years. No surprise they've done well.
I will let these dry out until it's time to plant fall bulbs. They will be in the basement, cool and dry, stored same as onions. I'm impressed with the size, and number of bulbs. Also some little new starts, for future big bulbs.


First one I've ever bloomed. Nice.

Making Hybrid Iris, Iris update

An update on the seed pods.  They continue to swell.  Now the color is becoming more pale, starting to brown.  I take that as a sign if imminent maturity.

I walk past this every day. I water it occasionally so that it won't dry out. The original rhizomes are growing a bit as well.  The pine cones are an impromptu mulch additive.  I collect them when walking the dogs and throw them around on the mulch.  They add interest, and eventually break down like the rest of the bark chips.  They dont seem to cause a problem to the irises.

The edging rings are working well for keeping weeds out. I still go in and groom the soil a bit.  I pull weeds as soon as they are visible.  Irises that I have not dug up and transferred to the new little beds are more weedy.  This is easier to maintain.  Since I've watered these to get them established, they are growing more leaves.  I may stop watering them next month, so they can harden off for winter.  Some of these are miniatures that I rescued from a bed so covered with grass the plants were not visible, and most died off.  I'm glad they are growing again.

These rings are slightly raised above the surrounding area, to improve drainage.  They dry out quickly, which is what I want this winter.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Plums From Seed, part 2.

There are many conflicting versions regarding how to sprout wild plum, and other stone fruit seeds. I have a pretty good supply, from collecting plums. They have been washed and allowed to dry. Most are in an envelope after being allowed to dry overnight. Based on several you-tube videos, I chose 5 pits for removal of the hull. I used a vice grip so I could adjust the force, and because I don't have a nutcracker.
Vice grip and plum pits, dried overnight. These are wild plums. The pits are the size of a sweet cherry seed.
The first pit flew across the room. I used a little more finesse for the others. They cracked easily, releasing the inner kernel. Cool! They look undamaged.
I moistened a paper towel, squeezed out the excess, wrapped the pits, placed them in a ziplock back, and placed them in the fridge. Now I need to wait one to 2 months. After that, I don't know - if they start growing, it's the wrong season (fall) to plant outside, but maybe they'll grow on the window sill. I did a web search on coat removal and stratification and scarification. Coat removal would be a "complete" version of scarification. It appears that coat removal is beneficial for germinating seeds of fruits with pits, and many other seeds. In addition, stratification for peaches and plums, by refrigerating, shoulf last about 10 weeks. For example, from Iowa State Horticultural News, Cherry, Peach, and Plum (Prunus species) Harvest fruit when full mature. Remove the seed. Seed may be sown in the fall or stratified seed may be planted in the spring. Stratify the seeds at 33 to 41 F. The sour cherry (Prunus cerasus) requires 90 to 150 days, the peach (Prunus persica) 98 to 105 days, and European plum (Prunus domestica) 90 days. Seed of plums and peaches should be planted 2 inches deep. Sow the seed of sour cherry at a depth of 1/2 inch.

Garlic Harvest. Container gardening.

Garlic did very well in containers. Sine one container garlic was falling over and drying out, I pulled up about half. Here they are:
I left in the still-firm plants, only pulling out the drier looking ones. This is Inchelium Red.
Interesting variation of size. I really don't think so many could be grown in this size space in the ground. This is half of the container's plants. This method works very well for me.
Two grocery store garlic heads, average size, are shown for comparison. I'm amazed at the size of these garlic heads. This may be variety and technique. I think they are larger than last year's crop. They've had successive generations to adapt to my conditions - I think I've been growing them about 8 years. I will leave these in the shade and out of rain to dry out for a week. It's in the 80s outside. I'm not putting them in the sun - one ear when I did that, they cooked. They will be stored in the cool dry basement in a single layer, in a cardboard box.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Onions, Garlic in Containers. Allium harvest.

It's July in the Maritime Pacific Northwest, so onions, garlic, and other alliums are ripening off. The garlic and elephant garlic are not quit there, so I've left them in their containers. They won't get further water, however. Same for the container of Egyptian Walking Onions.

This was my first experiment growing White Potato Onions (heritage multiplier onion) in containers. I didn't get all of the weeds pulled in late Spring, but they did well anyway. Pleased at the size and number of onions. Two weeks ago, I moved the containers out of the rain and sun, to the north side of the house, to dry off without baking. That's a good part about the containers.  I was concerned about these last fall for 2 reasons.  First, I planted them late, so I didn't know if they would get off to a good start.  Second, I was concerned the plastic containers would either heat up too much, or freeze too much.  They did fine.
Here are the White Potato Onions,  pulled up. This is one container of onions. I don't think you could have so many in an equivalent 2 foot diameter disk in the soil. I will leave them here to dry out. It's in the 80s today so they should dry in a week.
One of the garlic containers. This one is hardneck garlic.  Hardneck garlic forms a scape - the flower head that creates tiny bulbils if allowed to mature.  In early June, we removed the scapes and stir fried them - yummy flavor.  Early removal of scapes is thought to increase the size and yield of the final garlic bulbs.    The plants are starting to dry out. I hope it doesn't rain. These wooden containers are too heavy to move to a sheltered spot.  Since this is the hardneck, it's the  German White Porcelain garlic that I bought and planted last fall.  I forgot to label them, but that's how I can tell the difference.  Glad I sorted that out.  Also it makes sense, because I planted the extra cloves of German White in with strawberries and peppers, and those also sent up scapes.
This one is the softneck garlic.  Softneck garlic does not have a scape.  Inchelium Red garlic, which is what I started with a few years ago, is softneck.  So now I have identified the varieties.
These Allium gigantium were in an inconvenient location. The flower stalks were completely brown, dry, and crispy, so OK to dig up. These started as one bulb about 2 years ago, so pretty good yield here, 5 bulbs. They'll get stored in the garage in paper bags, when dried off, and be replanted in the fall. They are the size of a medium onion.  I don't know if they are edible, and not all that interested in finding out.  However, they area an onion and garlic relative, and are ripening at the same time as the onions, so I included them here.

This Egyptian Walking Onion was mixed in with the White Potato Onions. I could tell because of the "head" of onions that it produced. It's not quite ready to harvest, but I did anyway. I want to see if it will dry off like the other onions, for storage.

Plums. Backyard Orchard Culture

Not ripe yet, but getting closer. This is the best crop so far from Hollywood and Shiro.

Shiro. Hard to see in the picture, since the plums are green.  They will show better when they change color to yellow. I love these plums
Hollywood. Ditto - the most I've had from this tree. I like that the leaves are purple, which makes the purple plums less visible to birds and bypassers.I love these plums, too.
These are a yellow wild plum, the size of a sweet cherry. They have a sweet, sprightly flavor. The tree is down the street, and it doesn't look like anyone is eating them. I picked up the plums from the street, cleaned the seeds, and will plant some now in flower pots, to stay moist and germinate over winter or next spring; plant some in the fall in containers an place outside or in the fridge, and give some away. Even though they are small, they ripen with cherries, much earlier than the other plums. They are as big as sweet cherries, so they can be thought of as a "different cherry" to make the small size more acceptable - but they really are plums. Very juicy and sweet.
Here are the cleaned seeds. The seeds on the plaid washcloth are wild cherry seeds. Two years ago I saved some, planted them, then neglected to water the little trees in the hot summer, and they died. I want to try again, using backyard orchard culture methods of dwarfing by summer pruning.

Creating Hybrid Iris

While the irises were blooming, I diligently transferred pollen among varieties. I may have pollinated 30 flowers - lost count. Of those, only 3 flowers "took".  That's all I need - no room for zillions of iris seedlings.

This was Spiced Custard pollinated by Immortality.   I did not bag the flowers, so it's possible there is cross pollinaton with a different variety.  The pods remind me a bit of poppy seed pods.  
This was an un-named purple/blue iris rescue, pollinated by Liaison.  In general, I pollinated blues with blues, and yellows or oranges with yellows or oranges, and anything with white.