Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Okra Seedlings and Fig Cuttings. Progress Report. 12.31.13

Carini Fig Cutting 12/31/13
 I was concerned about the Carini Fig tree after freezing to 8F a few weeks ago.  Today the tree looks like there might be some frost damage, but not dead.  Frost damage is visible on several fig trees as withered, blackened stems.  The main stems are OK, including the Carini fig.

I noted a branch which I had pruned off earlier, but did not save the cutting properly and it dehydrated in the fridge.  Today I cut it back closer to the trunk.  There are roots, and a small green bud.
Carini Fig Cutting 12/31/13

Dominick Fig Cuttings 12/31/13
 I cleaned the cutting, rinsed, pruned a bit, and potted in seed starter medium.  This is how I handled a start from Sal's Fig last year and it grew nicely.

This looks OK.  That looks alive bodes well for the main tree as well.

Okra Seedlings and Fig Cuttings 12/31/13
I would be disappointed to lose this tree.  It has a great story, grows nicely, and developed delicious figs the first year of growth.  It did so well, I gave away 3 starts.  I regretted not saving one for myself as a backup.  This cutting is now the backup.  I hope it grows.  It looks like it might.

The Dominick fig cuttings have nice root initials along the stems.  They look like they are ready for a great start.  It's only 2 weeks after starting them.

I rinse the cuttings every other day in plain water.  When the paper towel starts looking stained or mildewed, I discard it to compost and replace with another water soaked, not quite dripping wet paper towel.  This time I used a diluted houseplant food, designed to use as a weak solution.

All cuttings, and the seedlings, are on the heating mat under a one-bulb fluorescent light.  I need to get a timer for the 2-bulb system.  Someone who I won't name liberated the previous timer, leaving me with this one.

The Baby Bubba Okra seedlings are not as lanky as the Dwarf Green.  They probably don't have enough light.  The light is on 12 hours, off 12 hours.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Late December Gardening. Seedlings, Kitchen Garden Prep, Raised Beds, Lime. 12.28.13

Okra Seedlings

Seed and Cutting Setup
Today didn't do much.  In winter garden work can be when I feel like it.

Noted the okra seedlings have germinated.  That's 4 days.  See warming mat makes a big difference.  I had soaked them 1/2 day before planting.  That probably also helped.

I don't know how they will do inside.  That's why it's an experiment.

Chili pepper seeds have not germinated yet.

Opened fig cutting bags 2 days ago, and rinsed them.  Anticipate doing the same tomorrow.

Today -

1.  Spread lime in raised beds and around trees and shrubs.  I calculated the amount as 1 pound per 4 X 8 raised bed.  I estimated the area around the trees and shrubs, and orchard trees, and applied similar amount.  Two 25 pound bags.  Will need another later.

2.  There were some garlic plants and perennial onion volunteers that I pulled out a week or two ago when I cleaned up that raised bed.  I had set them aside.  Today I separated them into individual plants, and planted them.  They did not look the worse for wear despite sitting outside a week or 2.

3.  Spread blood meal around onion starts.  Something has been eating them.  Maybe the blood meal will be a deterrent.  The amount is the recommendation of nitrogen supplement.

4.  Cleaned up the strawberry raised bed.  Removed the fencing.  Raked out the deteriorating straw.  Pulled the few weeds.  Did not cut off dead leaves.  That can be later.  Plan:  Mulch this winter with compost.  Later this winter build a better fencing system, maybe a hinged box with chicken wire sides.  Wait until growth starts, to add straw again.

That's about it.  Sounds like a lot, but non of it was difficult and none took very much time.

More kitchen garden planning. 12.28.13

Image source:  vintageprintable.com

This is a table, template originating from about.com.  I edited out the vegetables I don't want, added others, changed for family of 4 to the 2 of us, and made some other changes.

In the raised beds, one row is 4 feet.  A bed is 4ft by 8 ft, a half bed is 4 ft by 4 ft.

Over-planning but have been sick and this makes me feel better.

Beets 1 row Spring + Fall plantings.  Trying again. Protect.
Bush Beans 1½ beds Succession Plant.  Experimenting with varieties.
Pole Beans ½ bed Single Planting.  Northernmost bed due to height.
Carrots 1 row Succession Plantings.  Experiment with varieties.
Swiss Chard 1 row Re-Grows after Harvesting Outer Leaves
Sweet Corn 1 row? If there is room.  Needs deer protection deer.  Needs to be on north side so not shading other plants.
Cucumbers 1 row Single Planting.  Experiment with varieties.  Pickles + fresh.
Mesclun 1 row Spring + Fall Crop for greens.
Lettuce 1 row Succession plantings.
Onions 1 bed Winter onions already planted for winter growth + scallions.
Perennials are June harvest, October re-plant.
Snow Peas 1 row Succession, Spring and Fall plantings
Okra 1 bed Multiple varieties, experiments.  Needs soil warming method.
Garlic 1 bed Already planted.  June harvest, October re-plant.
Sweet + Chili Peppers ½ bed Multiple varieties, some known + some experiments
Winter Squash + Pumpkins 5 hills Outside raised beds due to sprawling vines.  Multiple varieties.
Radishes 1 row Succession Plantings
Summer Squash ½ bed Multiple Varieties.  3 hills.  Bush types.
Tomatoes 1 bed Multiple Varieties. 1 to 2 each.
Turnips 1 row

Spring + Fall plantings.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Some Old Botanical Illustrations. 12.26.13

These are selected images I liked from vintageprintable.com public domain downloadable images. The illustrate the topics very well.

Pelargonium, zonal geranium


Red Mulberry


Soil pH for various plants. 12.26.13

Image source - vintageprintable.com

After having the soil tested, and reading the recommendations, I looked up what a number of my garden plants require.   According to the info I could find, many would tolerate soil pH in the range of my soil, pH 5.05.  Which must make sense, because they grew in it last year.  However, if I lime the soil, maybe some or most will be more vigorous, or more productive, or produce earlier.

From this site - the gardenhelper.com  I edited out vegetables I don't grow and don't plan to grow.
Vegetable Optimal pH
Beans 6.0-7.0
Beet 5.6-6.6
Broccoli 6.0-7.0
Cabbage 5.6-6.6
Cantaloupe 6.0-7.0
Carrot 5.0-6.0
Catnip 5.0-6.0
Chili pepper 5.0-6.0
Chives 5.0-6.0
Cucumber 5.0-6.0
Dill 5.0-6.0
Eggplant 5.0-6.0
Garlic 5.0-6.0
Kiwi 5.0-7.0
Lettuce 6.5-7.0
Mint 6.0-7.0
Vegetable Optimal pH
Okra 6.0-8.0
Onions 6.2-6.8
Parsley 6.0-8.0
Peasmage 5.6-6.6
Peppers 6.0-8.0
Potato 5.8-6.5
Pumpkins 5.0-7.0
Radish 6.0-7.0
Raspberry 6.0-6.5
Rhubarb 5.0-7.0
Rutabaga 5.0-7.0
Shallots 5.0-7.0
Spinach 5.0-7.0
Squash 6.0-7.0
Strawberries 6.0-7.0
Sunflowers 6.0-7.0
Sweet corn 6.0-7.0
Swiss chard 6.0-7.0
Tomatoes 5.5-7.0
Turnip 5.0-7.0
Zucchini 6.0-7.0
From various websites,

Image source vintageprintable.com

Apple - 5.0 to 6.8
Bearded Iris - slightly acidic to almost neutral, about 6.8
Buddleia 5.5 to 6.5, another site states 6.0 to 7.5. They grew like crazy in my ph 5.05 soil. Cherry - 5.5 to 8.0 prefer 6.5; another site state 6.2 to 6.8
Chinese Haw - 4.3 to 7.3
Dogwood 5.0 to 7.0
European Ash 5.0 to 8.0
Figs - 6.0 to 6.5
Ginkgo - 5.0 to 8.0
Golden Chain Tree - 5.0 to 8.0 Iris - 6.5 to 7.0
Linden - 7.0 to 8.0 but another site states 4.5 to 7.5 and prefers 7.0; another site states 5.0 to 8.0
Lilac 6.0 to 7.5 but there is a massive lilac in our soil pH 5.05
Mulberry - 5.5 to 7, another site states 5.5 to 6.5
Okra - 6 - 8 Paw Paw - 5.5 to 7.0 but another reference states 5 to 6
Peach - around 6.5
Pear - 6.0 to 6.5 but tolerate 5.0 to 7.5
Persimmon - 6.5 to 7.5 Plum - 5.0 to 6.5
Quince - 6.0 to 7.0
Red Twig Dogwood - 5.0 to 8.0
Tomato - 6.0 to 7.0 better if 6.5 to 6.8
Weigela 6.0 to 7.0

Acidic, 4.5 to 6.0:
 Pieris, Rhododendron, Azalea, Camellia.

Not related to this topic, but thought about after looking for images to ponder for this post.  The vintageprintable image at the top does not give a source, but the caption states those are 3 year old black locust trees, form seed, in Kentucky.  About 1910.   That's a lot of growth in 3 years.  It makes me wonder - is it because they are from seeds?  Because they are a fast growing black locust?  Because the climate and soil in that Kentucky forest was super good in the 1900s?  All?  I think more people should try to grow trees from seeds.  We would have more diversity, the trees would be free, and if some achieve that size, that fast, then there would be faster biomass accumulation and faster shade.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Soil Analysis. 12.25.13

This report is very helpful. It changes significantly how I am going to supplement my garden and orchard soil this year.

I'm very impressed.  It is a well written, easy to follow report.  They were fast and thorough.  I am happy I sent them a sample and will make use of the recommendations.

The main points-

- My soil is very acidic.  They recommend lime.  That also increases the calcium.
- The iron level is super high.  I thought form the leaves iron was low.  I planned to supplement it.  Wrong thing to do.
- The recommendations include adding trace boron, trace copper.   For that, add a tiny amount of borax, and a tiny amount of copper sulfate.  The recommended amount is so small, I don't know if I will do anything about that.  Better to under-do it than over-do it.  Too much boric acid is toxic to plants.
- The recommendations include adding some epson salts for magnesium and sulfur.
- I thought the soil would need more potassium and phosphorus.  In reality, the potassium is high, and phosphorus is very high.  So just add a nitrogen source.  Fish emulsion might be a good source.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Garden Planning 2014. 12.24.13

From Victory Seeds, average last frost dates:

Average last frost date for Vancouver WA:  May 14
Average last frost date for Battleground WA:  May 21 

Most of my vegetable gardening is in Battleground.  One difference - I may be using water walls and row cover to protect from frost.  That can pus the date forward a little.  

Then from calculator on "The Cheap Vegetable Gardener" - I edited out vegetables I won't be growing and made a few other changes.  Super handy calculator.  The author has most of the vegetables I want to grow.  I used the Battleground last date, May 21.

Vegetable Name Seed Start Date Estimated
Onion - I'm using bunching2/19/20144/25/20146/24/2014
Pak Choi (1st)3/12/20144/6/20145/11/2014
Lettuce (1st)3/12/20144/6/20145/6/2014
Swiss Chard3/19/20144/20/20145/8/2014
Cabbage (1st)3/19/20145/1/20146/22/2014
Spinach (1st)4/9/2014N/A5/24/2014
Turnips (1st)4/9/2014N/A6/8/2014
Carrots (1st)5/10/2014N/A7/24/2014
Winter Squash, 5/10/20146/16/20148/28/14
Zucchini / Summer Squash5/10/20146/16/20147/4/2014
Lettuce (2nd)5/14/2014N/A7/8/2014
Carrots (2nd)6/27/2014N/A9/10/2014
Cabbage - Napa8/24/20149/21/201411/7/2014
Onion - Bunching8/24/2014N/A11/2/2014
Turnip (2nd)8/24/2014N/A10/23/2014
Lettuce (3rd)9/3/2014N/A10/28/2014
Spinach (2nd)9/10/2014N/A10/25/2014

I think radishes could be earlier.  Maybe with peas. The chart is earlier than I've been starting tomatoes.

This year I want to get out the "Wall-o-water" and see if any of them hold water.  Then use them for tomatoes, peppers, okra.

Fig Cuttings and Okra & Pepper Experiment. 12.24.13

It's very early to do this.  But what harm does it do.

Prepped cuttings a nice guy sent me for Maccool Fig and more that another nice guy sent for Dominick fig.  Both are family propagated figs that family members made available for others.  Can be searched on figs4fun forum.

Washed the cuttings.  Trimmed to right size about 4inches. Thoroughly clean tools betwen varieties.
Used sharp knife to make vertical incisions near base.  Roots often grow much faster from the cambium layer exposed by the incisions.
Dipped in Dip-and-Grow at 1:5 dilution.  This is from last year.  I hope it's still good.
Labeled- very important!

Then wrapped in wet but not soggy paper towel.  Place into plastic food bags.  Seal.

Also set out seeds of 2 okra varieties to soak.  Plant them tonight.  Baby Bubba and Long Green Dwarf.  Those because both are sold as more compact or dwarf so if the grow indoors I might have room for them.

And 2 pepper varieties.  Tabasco and Red Portugal.  Planted seeds directly in seed starter medium.  I will cover with plastic in a while.

I will grow them under lights, on a heating mat.  If the grow, that's very interesting.  If not, it wasn't much effort.  My coworker told me she starts okra plants before now and grows them all winter.  I read peppers can make nice houseplants.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sauerkraut Day 2. 12.22.13

It's been a day and a half after mixing up the sauerkraut.  The bubbler is putting out about a bubble a minute.  The airlock has pushed all of the water to the exit side. Much faster than the first batch.

The second jar is also bubbling.  Has not spilled over yet.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Solstice Gardening. 12.21.13

It was a nice day.  40s and 50s, sunny.  I slept very late.  Needed to, Ive been sick.

Today I did some kitchen garden chores....

Added one wheelbarrow of mole-hill soil to the last raised bed.  It's about 1/3 to 1/2 full now.  Covered half of that with leaf compost which after other chores was all I had left.

Added 2 wheelbarrows of 50:50 mole-hill soil:leaf compost mix, to the original first raised bed built late summer 2012.  It had settled several inches.  Covered with a couple of inches of leaf compost.  At one end is a 6 inch wide row of chinese chives.  I covered those with compost too. 

Cleaned up the 2nd bed from last year.  It has grown garlic, onions, and Chinese chives at one end.  Then pole beans last summer.  I raked out the weeds and largest pieces of straw mulch, filled in some low spots, then covered the rest, including degrading straw mulch, with a couple inches leaf compost.  This bed also has a 6 inch wide row of Chinese chives at one end, which I covered with an inch of compost.  Those are fully dormant, not at all visible exceot a few drued flower stalks.  No tilling, not needed and causes loss of soil structure and organic matter.  Now that bed is ready for next Spring.

Planted 3 rows of Egyptian Walking Onion sets I found in the garage.  They were pretty dried out but look viable.  Those went into a raised bed that has a low tunnel row cover for protection.  It is an unusual time to plant but the soil was soft and easy to plant in - raised beds are wonderful.  

Found a plum seedling and a ginkgo seedling in that last raised bed.  I remember planting those seeds fall 2012.  moved to where I have other tree seedlings heeled in until I figure out where to plant them.

Using the ipad photo blog function for the first time.  Here is my fire.  Off to shower and rest.  It sounds like I did a lit but none of these chores was difficult.  The ground was soft, the compost was dry and light, the weeds pulled wth almost no effort.

Orchids. 12.21.13

Cymbidium hybrid

Oncidium hybrid
Some of the orchids are blooming nicely.  This is a great thing to have on the gloomy winter days.

Today is Solstice, the day when the Northern Hemisphere starts facing the sun again, bathing us in the star's radiation.  Longer days will follow, then warmer and ultimately Spring will come.

Meanwhile, it's nice to have some flowers blooming in my room.

Each plant summered outside with minimal attention.  They are so beautiful, this year I should give them some TLC.  They are all several years old.  So that means I can grow orchids.  Cool.

Sauerkraut. 12.21.13

Making Sauerkraut
It's not gardening outside.  But making sauerkraut is a way to grow something - lactic acid bacteria ferment the cabbage and juices to make the sauerkraut.

These are 5 pounds of organic cabbage, finely sliced with 3 tablespoons of coarse seasalt.  Pounded a bit in a big bowl, packed firmly in the jars.  The airlock was via the internet.  I think it's not necessary, having read about other ways to seal the fermenting concoction.  So the other jar has a plastic bag filled with water to seal the top.  I placed in on a plate in case there is overflow.

I miked in a few spoons of kraut and a few spoons of liquid from the last batch, to jump-start the fermentation.

Now it sits for a few days or few weeks in a cool place.

If I can protect them from cabbage worms, rabbits, slugs, and deer, I want to grow cabbages and use my own to make sauerkraut, next year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Arbor Day Foundation Trees. 12.19.13

Crepe Myrtle

File:White-dogwood-tree-sky-spring - West Virginia - ForestWander.jpg
White Dogwood

File:Chinese Rain Trees in Lin Sen Park 20101114.jpg
Golden Rain Tree

File:Eastern Redbud.png
Eastern Redbud

Last summer I joined the Arbor Day Foundation.  As a  bonus, they sent a tree package, which arrived yesterday.

The package contained 6 to 12 inch seedlings of:  Eastern Redbud, Golden Rain Tree, Crepe Myrtle, and White Dogwood.

I heeled them in, in the vegetable bed, pending actual planting.

These were all 6 inches to a foot.  We will plant them along the edges of the property.  Given the small size, they will be movable for a few years if we don't like those locations.

(All images source:  Commons.wikimedia.org)

Soil sample sent off for testing. 12.19.13

I sent the soil sample to "Simply Soil Testing".    Since the raised beds are collected from mole hills, I went around the yard collecting soil from multiple mole hills, let it dry for a couple of weeks indoors, then packed in zip-lock bag.  Tues I went to the post office and mailed the sample.

WA State extension doesn't test soil for gardeners, so I went with this commercial firm.

This is their instruction:
 How to Test Your Soil

1. Print out the Soil Submission Form

2. Collect soil samples from the areas to be tested. Follow the simple recommendations in our Sampling Guide to obtain soil samples that are truly representative of your soil.

3. Choose a soil test option (see table below).

4. Fill out the submission form and send it together with your soil samples and a check to the address listed on the form.

Now it's just a matter of waiting a week or two for the results.

Testing for organic content, pH, phosphorus, potassium, and major and trace minerals.  They don't test for nitrogen, which varies too much.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Honeybee order for 2014.

Today had to call in sick.  Don't like doing that but miserable.  Just on line a few minutes then back to bed.

image source:  vintageprintable.com
Checked beehive yesterday.  Happy to see bees still there and healthy looking.  Just pulled one bar, briefly and partially, to check.  They started flying out instantly.  So closed again.

I have foam and newspapers in the roof of the beehive to help with warmth.  Only one of the 3 openings is open. 

Went online to check varieties to order for beehive #2.  The main choices are Italian and Carniolan. 

Reading up (also here) on advantages and disadvantages of the subspecies - Italian honeybees are gentle, forage widely, less likely to swarm.  Numbers are slower to build up.  Resistance to disease and mites might be an issue. The queen has a light golden color that is easy to see.

Carniolans build up populations quicker but swarm more quickly too.  They may be more disease resistant than Italian bees.  The darker queen is more difficult to see.

Image source:  Vintageprintable.com

I decided to go with Italian bees again.  The deciding issues were swarm tendency.  I still don't know why my numbers dropped so much late fall, but I wonder about swarming.  

Disease resistance and cold tolerance would be major reasons to go for Carniolan bees.  I am still thinking about them for future hives.

So I reserved a box of Italian honeybees.  They arrive in April so it's a long way away.  I like to plan ahead.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Buddleias after the freeze

Buddleia globosa

Buddleia hybrids, Peach Cobbler and Blueberry Cobbler
Buddleias are partially hardy. I've read in cold winter climates, the tops are killed.  They grow back rapidly from the roots, so act as perennials.

Here they are usually a large woody shrub. 

I wondered with the big freeze, whether they would die to the ground.

Most of the large summer leaves were frost damaged.  Many were shed.  The smaller, axillary bud leaves still look OK.

I don't know if the complex hybrids have been tested in such a cold winter.  It will be interesting to see what they do.

Similar for Buddleia globosa.

Fig trees after the freeze.

Brunswick fig after the freeze
 After the freeze to 8°F or 9°F, depending on what site you believe, I wanted to to a welfare check on the fig trees.  It would not surprise me if all of the buds were frozen and twigs dessicated.

Hard to say, but so far, so good.  Many of the terminal buds are frozen and dessicated, but lateral buds seem less affected.

Brunswick, so far, looks good.  I don't see any chewing damage, either.  On this or the other trees.

Champagne is a hybrid of Celeste, which is considered cold tolerant, and an unknown variety.  Developed at Louisiana State University.  Again the terminal buds look dessicated.
Champagne fig
 Give the rapid growth, it would not surprise me if this tree was unprepared for winter.  First year trees are often the most affected.  But so far, it looks OK.

Similar situation for Atreano.  Atreano is more well established for Pacific NW.  But again, this tree grew rapidly and the growth was not hardened off before winter.

Carini is completely untested for Pacific NW, being a family heirloom variety from Pennsylvania / New Jersey.  Those states get some cold.  Growth for Carini was not as rank as Champagne and Atreano, so it may be better lignified.  Looking OK, there are still lateral buds.

Smith, a Louisiana bayou heritage variety, is also untested in the NW.  One site speculated Smith was brought to the US from Yugoslavian immigrants, centuries ago.  So it may have more cold hardiness than one would guess.  Also grew rapidly, maybe a little better lignified than the two in the former chicken yard (Champagne, Atgeano) .  The twigs are an interesting light brown. 

Atreano fig
 LSU Tiger, similar to Champagne in origin, and also untested here.   Also, with growth not as rank as the former chicken yard trees.  South of the house - as are Carini, Sal's, Smith, Petite negri - so maybe a degree warmer. 
Carini Sicilian fig

Smith Louisiana fig
 Sal's fig has come through winters here in adverse conditions - in cotainers, frozen solid.   It should be more established now.  I have it wrapped for rodent protection, and sprayed with hot pepper wax - as with all of the other trees.  It looks OK.  Next year I want to train Sal's into a more vertical, less bushy shape. Easier to manage.
Louisiana Tiger fig

Sal's Sicillian fig
 So in summary, with high probability of future freezes ahead, and a historic, 40 year freeze behind us, so far, so good.  Better than expected.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ginkgo Trees in China, October 2013

Me, sitting in front of wrapped ginkgo tree at Xi'an

Row of gingko trees at Xi'an emperor complex

A classic form for ginkgo tree at Xi'an.

Outside Xi'an Muslim temple

Wall at Xi'an Muslim temple.

At Chengdu

At Chengdu Wuhou temple

Chengdu Wuhou temple

Chengdu Wuhou temple

Chengdu Wuhou temple

Chengdu  Wuhou temple

Ginkgo at Mt. Emei, Sichuan

Ginkgo tree at Mt. Emei, Sichuan

Ginkgo tree at Mt. Emei, Temple, Sichuan