Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Progress Report. Mostly Allium family vegetables.

No pics today. Today I built raised bed #3. Filled about 3/4 with soil/leaf compost mix. The top soil was muddy - not the best way to build a garden bed, but not much choice. I did not tramp it down, kept my feet off, and mixed in about 25% compost, so it should be OK. When it is filled, this bed will contain ornamentals that need fall planting. I noted last weekend that the Chinese chive seeds I planted have germinated, and are 1 inch tall. Not sparse. The germination must be approaching 100%. Issue now is will the seedlings survive winter? I'm betting yes. But I have more seeds to plant in spring, in case they don't. Yellow Potato Onions in the first bed are 100% sprouted. Most are about 4 inches tall. Yellow Potato Onions in the 2nd bed are about 50% sprouted. Egyptian Walking Onions in both beds are 100% sprouted, and about 4 to 6 inches tall. Inchellium Red garlic in the first bed is about 1/3 sprouted. German Porcelain garlic in the 2nd bed is 100% sprouted and about 5 inches tall. Some of the Dutch Shallots in the 2nd bed have sprouted. Three plants so far. So far none of the Safeway Shallots have sprouted. Cilantro seeds are also sprouting in the onion "bucket" planters. Planted at the same time as the onions. Not bad for late October.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Planning the garden for next year.

It's early. Way early. But with little more to harvest, and not much to plant, I'm thinking about next year. My goals for vegetables next year: Productive in a short season, cool summer, that I have in Maritime Pacific NW. Reliable. Vegetable crops that are amenable to saving seeds for future seasons. What I'm thinking about so far: Melon, Minnesota Midget ( The melons are quite small - 4 inches. Fine with me, less waste. They'll be like apples or other fruit. "Resistant to fusarium wilt. 60-75 days." That's a short season. The vines are short too, 3 feet long. I can grow under a frost protector for warmth. Will look for other choices in the 60-75 day range. Watermelon, Blacktail Mountain. Also 6 to 12 pound melons. Developed by a northern Idaho gardener, where nights were in the 40s. 65-75 days. Roma bush beans always do well for me. Seedsavers doesn't have them, but Territorial Seeds has them, and they are open pollinated. 59 days. Probably a pole bean. I have old old packets of Chinese pole beans, will try to germinate them. If they don't grow, there are other choices to look for. Red Burgundy Okra. Also fast, 55-60 days. I have not thought about growing okra - it's a warm climate crop - but in raised bed with row cover, planted late, maybe it's worth a try. Along with some chilis. Or Dwarf Green Long Pod at which is a compact plant: 24-30 inches tall, and 52 days. Compact size is good if plants need protection from deer. Maybe I'll get some Pink Banana Squash for an out of the way corner in the sun. Long season, 105 days, but some nostalgia there and maybe they'll ripen in the fall soon enough to have for thanksgiving. Chilis - thinking about cayenne, which always produces for me, and a small hot pepper such as Thai. Hungarian Banana peppers always do well for me too. Tabascos are late - might not be worth the effort. I don't know yet. This one looks good -Hot Portugal, 65-75 days. These from Territorial, Miniature Yellow Bell and Miniature Red Bell, both at 55 days. Tabascos from 90 days. That one's a long shot for me, but I have grown them before. Row cover / raised bed should help for all of the chili peppers. Hungarian Hot Wax also There is also Hungarian Sweet Pepper at 68 days. Not bad, might be better than the baby early bells. I like yellow summer squash. There is Early Prolific Straightneck at 42 days. Same source, Dark Green Zucchini 50 days. Those are my thoughts so far. Subject to complete change. This does not include tomatoes. Probably Supersweet-100, Sungold (hybrid but exceptions can be good), Better Boy, an Italian tomato, and a couple of heirlooms. More research needed there. ANother melon that looks good, from Prescot Fond Blanc Melon. 70 days, but not clear on climate needs.

Chicken Fortress Progress

This view looks into the chicken fortress. I've built a shelf for the nesting boxes. The nesting boxes are old plastic recycle bins. So I'm recycling, or repurposing, the recycle bin. That idea was from a website about what to use for nesting boxes. The dowel work is re-purposed from odds and ends from the garage. The wire cage material is from an old chicken cage kit that's been sitting around for a decade. About half of the wood is reused. Next, the door, window doors, and some doors for access to the egg nests, then straw and it's ready for the hens.

Moving a Small Mulberry Tree

Now it's fall. It's chilly.  It's raining every day. Good time to move some more trees, I think. Better than summer, when I moved other trees. This time it's an Illinois Everbearing Mulberry. I originally planted it March, 2010. So it's had 2 summers to grow. I decided it will be hard to keep the growth controlled. The exposure was north of a privacy fence. The neighbor to the south has a massive uncontrolled apple tree, also competing. At the Battleground place, it will have full sun to the East, South, and West. So maybe more mulberries. They are very tasty. One of the most delicious fruits I grow.
"Mulberry Tree Wrap" in an old vinyl tablecloth for travel. No pics digging it up. It's the usual, dig a trench, then try to dig deeply under the tree. It was difficult to dig under the tree. Despite the rain, the ground under the tree was dry and hard.
This is my one chance to inspect the roots. Impressive root system. The roots look thicker than the trunk. They were not very deep. Maybe 18 inches, at the most.
Here we are, planted and mulched with about 3 inches of leaf compost mulch. I did line the hole with chicken wire, to annoy and frustrate the mole.  The mole had a tunnel at exactly this spot, so I think the tree was a sitting duck.

I read on another website that mulberries are a tree "not" to plant, due to the berry production. The main concern is that birds eat the berries. Then the birds defecate, the purple poop stains cars. The berries also stain sidewalks. There are no sidewalks here, and no place to park a car near the tree.  Cars are few and far between.  My plan was to keep the tree small, and cover with bird net. I may still do that. I could have cut it down, and bought a new bare-root tree to plant in Spring. Then I would lose two years of progress. By moving it, I may lose some progress, but not much.

I pruned about 1 to 2 feet of new branch growth.  That will make up for root loss.  I don't think I lost a lot of roots.  Probably less than 20%.  Maybe less than 10%.  That compares to commercially grown trees, which I read lose 85% of their roots when moved.

There is also concern about spread of mulberry trees via seeds in bird poop.  I don't think that's an issue here.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ginkgo biloba seed preparation

It's pretty easy.
They've been in the baggies for a few days. I imagine that if I wanted to wait longer, I would need to refrigerate or keep them cool outside.
It's easy. The seeds mush out. Knife is optional. I did not wear gloves. For the sensitive, gloves are a good idea. Separate the seed from the pulp. Placed the seeds in a bowl of water. The pulp went into the compost. This was under a kitchen hood that vents outside. Working outside is a good option too. Otherwise loved ones will complain about the odor.
Rinsed under running water. Dried on paper towel. Once dry overnight, I'll keep in the fridge until planting.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Home Orchard Society

Went to the meeting today. It was a great experience. I felt like I was among kindred spirits. Lots of fruit to view and taste.
Zillions of Apple varieties. All so much better than grocery apples.
These are the biggest. I don't need apples this big. They are fun to look at.
Grapes. Home grown grapes are fit for kings. People don't know what they are missing. Tasting many, I'm still convinced that grapes with seeds are superior to seedless grapes. Those tart tasteless things that pass for grapes in the grocery store should have a different name. They are not even close.
Chinese Haw / Shan zha. I didn't get a change to taste them. First time I've seen one. Second time might be on my own tree. Two years? Three?
Medlars/ I didn't get to taste these either. Another time. Later, other attendees told me they taste like spiced apple sauce.


My best buddy. Snoring. He twitches in his sleep, once in a while. Just being there, he makes the studies, and take-home work, go better.

Oncidium hybrid

Orchid started blooming. Oncidium hybrid.

More Gingko photos

This week collected ginkgo seeds. Surprised and oddly excited to discover that several of the trees I thought were male, are really female. Maybe the last time I looked they had not reached tree puberty yet. This changes my hypothesis about this long row of trees. More than half were female. So they must be seedling raised, not grafts. Good.  There must be 10 female gingko trees in this treeway.

There's nothing about the tree's anatomy that tells us she's female.  Only the presence of the seeds below the tree, gives it away.
Another female ginkgo tree in the same treeway.
Ginkgo branches, laden with seed.  In my earlier days, I called these "fruit".  The look like fruit, are fleshy like fruit, and contain an inner seed like fruit.  But botanically, the derivation of the flesh is a different part of the seed bearing structure, so the fleshy part is the outer layer of the seed.  Confusing.
Pleased the camera took some nice pics this time.
Ginkgo fruit scattered on the ground.    Even with so many, I don't smell the butyric acid that bothers many people.  Unless I pick them up, and smell my fingers.  Then it's there.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Through the glass of the home office window. The little point-and-shoot camera lacks the crystalline clarity of the Nikon super duper SXYZ camera. For that matter, so does the glass. Its OK. The birds don't mind. Carpodacus mexicanus.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tale of Two Ginkgos

These 2 trees are the same age, grown from seed from the same parent. They were started from seed collected by my Dad, about 13 years ago.
This tree was planted in the ground about 11 years ago.  This is my back yard.  The tree first spent about 2 years of growing in a flower pot. I'm guessing about 20 or 25 feet tall.  It's a beautiful tree.  I'm proud of it.  This area of yard is the dogs' "restroom".  They pee and poop here daily.  The poop gets cleaned up, mostly, although some is missed.  It gets watered weekly or every other week, to rinse the grass and ground to prevent odor.  The watering, and the nitrogen from the dog urine and feces, have resulted in rapid strong growth.

This photo is taken today.  The leaves remain dark green.

The trunk is too big for my hand to reach around.
The leaves have the typical bilobar appearance for ginkgo.  As a younger tree, the leaves were larger and had a deeper cleft.
This tree is the same age, from the same source at the same time. It was kept in a container for one additional year, and planted in the front yard. It gets watered occasionally, but not nearly as often as the tree in the back yard. Like that tree, it's basically in the full sun.  No "doggie special treats."   It's much smaller than the first tree.  About 10 feet tall, so less than half as tall.

This photo is also taken today.  The leaves are already bright yellow.
I can easily grasp this trunk.  No where near the diameter as its twin.
The leaves are similar size and morphology.  Beautiful leaves.
I think the entire difference in growth and leaf senescence is due to the doggie fertilizer and watering.      There has been no chemical fertilizer and no other difference that I can see.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Transplanted Trees

The Almaden Duke Cherry did perk up a lot. That's what a week of cool weather and rain can do. The leaves are not yet yellowing for fall. A few are damaged, but overall it took the transplanting well. With little root damage, and little loss of leaf, I think it's OK to let it bear cherries next Spring. If it chooses to do so. It will be nice to get our own fruit the first Spring here.
The Sal's Fig I moved the first week of ownership, last July. TLC and watering every week resulted in a healthy move despite the midSummer timing. These are its first figs, ever. They are very tasty. I think better than Hardy Chicago or Petite Negri. That might be my imagination.
That little Maple I moved last week. There is some sunburn of the leaves. That would not have happened if I'd waited a week, but they are about to fall off anyway. It's ready to settle in for winter.

New Chicken House

The hens will be quite happy with their new house. It's a children's play fortress. There are no children around, so it's a liability. Clever construction, didn't want to waste it. The fortress has a 2nd level, built as a deck. It did not have a roof. The floor was plain dirt. I've added joists and a floor. That will be warmer and easier to clean and keep clean.
Last weekend I added a roof. Nothing elaborate, it's just chickens. We've joked that we may build a ladder inside for the chickens to go to the 2nd level and look over their realm. For this fall we will concentrate on the more practical lower level.
Next comes windows. I have old bathroom cabinet doors left over from a remodel, the right size. Some chicken wire screen, framing, and paint remains to be applied. And a door, with a chicken door. Maybe 2 weekends of work.

Garlic and Onions: Progress report

The German Porcelain garlic has grown rapidly. These were planted 9/27. A few were visible last week. Most are 2 or 3 inches tall. Some of the multipliers (Egyptian Walking) are also about an inch above ground, but most are not.
These are the Yellow Potato Onions that I planted 9/9/12. I think roughly half are growing. Time flies. That's about one month. I'm not concerned about the ones that are not visible yet. Chances are it's too early to think about it. With fall rains starting, no need to water now. Once the plants are clearly visible, I'll weed better. I don't want to injure new sprouts. The Inchelium Red Garlic, planted 2 or 3 weeks earlier, is way behind the German Porcelain Garlic. I see one sprout, about an inch tall. I'll feel antsy until many more of them are visible.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ginkgo seeds near harvest

My "source" for ginkgo seeds is nearly ready to harvest.  The seed-fruits now have a butyric acid odor, telling me they are starting to ripen.  I picked up a few.  Will pick up more and clean them next week.

This is one of the two female ginkgo trees in a block-long row of ginkgos. I imagine they were originally grafted trees on seedling stock, and the scions didn't make it. Allowing the rootstock to grow, giving the female trees. That's a wild guess. I can't tell, by looking, a female from a male ginkgo tree.
Here is the little ginkgo tree I moved to the Battleground place. A little sunburn on some leaves and remained droopy. It survived the end of the dry season. I think it will do fine. I'll look forward to new green perky growth next year.

More fruit trees for the little orchard.

I bought some fruit trees, mail order, from One Green World. OGW is about a 2 hour drive from here. Not too far. I had them shipped ground freight.  It's fall, cool outside.  Figured they would survive the trip, and they did.

The trees were nicely packaged.
I think they did a great job preparing the trees for shipment.  There is also a male kiwi vine, more on that later.
No injuries that I can see. The jujube trees were smaller than I expected. I guess they will catch up. I also expected them to be bare root. They were container grown. Maybe the web site stated that and I missed it.  Despite small size, they look completely healthy.
I made a "mole basket" from chicken wire. I've learned my lesson. I think the wire will rust away in a couple of years. The openings are big enough for roots, for many years to come. A 10 year old root would fit through the chicken wire. By that time, the wire will be long rusted away.
Planted Jujube.  Mulched with compost.  Good time to plant.  Cool, rained yesterday, and started drizzling after I finished.

I bought 2 varieties: Li and Coco. I've never eaten a jujube. Apparently the fruit is plum sized, sweet, crispy like apples, with interesting flavors.
Jujube "Li", from OGW. There was no photo of "Coco", which was the 2nd one I bought.

According to the catalog, Jujubes grow to 8 to 10 feet tall.  Compact, nice size for a fruit tree. From the web site "Thought to be native to Syria and China... primarily grown in China...ornamental small thorny tree...loves a dry and mild climate....grows in Mediterranean countries and has since biblical times. Chinese gardeners developed the small fruit until it became superior and dessert cultivated in Japan, Iran and Afghanistan...Other names for this fruit are Chinese date and tsao. "
Chinese Haw "Red Sun". Ning remembers Shan Zha (Chinese Haw) from northeast China, where they are native. Apparently the fruit is between cherry and plum in size. They look like crab apples, in the photo. I've never eaten one. From the OregonLive blog: "grows at a moderate rate to 20 feet tall...10-12 feet wide. Lobed, oaklike leaves...3/4-inch-diameter white flowers explode in May in finger-length trusses, followed by clusters of glossy crimson edible fruit that ripens in mid- to late October." They label Red Sun as "Da Mian Qii") From OneGreenWorld, where I bought the tree:
Chinese Haw "Red Sun" OGW states the tree bears the 2nd year from planting.
Planted. Had a brain spasm and forgot a mole basket for this one. Will probably be OK.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Moving a young, volunteer maple tree

This maple grew up in a border, at my house in Vancouver. No room there. I decided to move it to the place in Battleground.

This takes me back to when I was a boy. Often a neighbor or family member would have a volunteer tree, and give it away to someone who needed a shade tree. It's a nice memory.  People should do that now.  It would be neighborly, and promote successful, locally adapted species and varieties.

I guess most trees now are clones, grafted to seed-grown rootstocks. Then grown in field-nurseries.  Then bare-rooted, shipped, and sold, or bare-rooted, shipped, and sold to big box stores or nurseries, to be resold. Nothing wrong with being a clone, but it means the tree is probably shipped from a distance, the variety or species may not be locally adapted.  I've seen tropical species sold here.  They won't survive.  The lack of genetic diversity gives propensity for widespread disease, and loss of mature specimens, years later. I'm guessing that a tree on its own roots is more vigorous, but I don't know that.

I have also read, starting with a small tree, it will adapt quickly and surpass trees that were planted at much larger size.  This tree is now plated about 25 feet from the red maple, we planted a few weeks ago.  So we can have a "competition".  Will the little tree catch up to the big one?  Not a fair competition.  They are not identical varieties.  This little tree may or may not be a "red maple".  Acer rubrum.  The leaves look more like red maple than Norway maple, Acer platanoides.   There is also Acer macrophllum, the indigenous "Big Leaf" maple.  This does not quite look like those, either.  Time will tell.

As with other trees, I chose a generous distance from the tree and sliced vertically, making a circle around the tree.  This is a small tree, about 3 feet tall.  I think it sprouted from seed last year.
Continuing the circle.  One side is a short, retaining, stone wall about one foot high.  That made digging easier.  I did not have to dig on that side.
Then the trench, dug farther from the tree.  There didn't turn out to be much root.  I don't think any roots were cut or broken.  That will make for easier adjustment to its new environment.  This area has been enriched with lots of compost.  Digging was easy.  It's been dry for most of the summer.
I placed the tree into a plant container for transport.  I was not able to plant it last night.  So I watered it thoroughly.  Holes in the bottom prevented water-logging.  No wilting at all.   Looks as good as it did before digging.
Now in the ground.  I've been reading, it's better to plant trees at slightly above ground level.  That makes for better drainage.    It may be an issue for compacted soils.  This hole drained very quickly so it is not compacted.  I usually plant bought trees at approximately ground level, as close as I can determine.  It can be difficult to judge.  It's not rocket science.   This tree was "happy" choosing it's own level, so that's were I replanted it.
Filled in, watered, mulched with compost.  Now we await fall.