Saturday, November 30, 2013

Friday, November 29, 2013

Quince Fruit

Fruit of Ornamental Quince
While pulling weeds around the shrubs, I discovered these on a quince bush. I assume this is a Chaenomeles hybrid   The quince was planted late winter, so is only about 18 inches tall.  Not sure what, if anything, I'll do with these.  I read they are astringent and bitter.

Nearing Completion of Raised Bed Garden

 I bought the wood last week.  This time there will be one 4 X 8 bed and one 2 X 8 bed.  In the location where I want to finish installing raised beds, that is how the spacing works out.

Yesterday I cut the wood.  It's easy on a table saw.  Two 2 X 6 X 8 ft long planks were cut into 4 foot sections, and one into 2 foot sections.  For the corners, a 2 X 4 was cut into 11 inch sections.
 This morning I thought, I'm in no hurry.  I'll see if I can pre-drill the corners.

That wasn't too bad.  So I used 3 inch deck screws to assemble them.  I discovered, it's easier if I remain standing and use something as a workbench, which was the cage that was sitting there anyway.

That wasn't too bad, so I cut woven plastic feed bags and stapled them to the inside, and the bottom edge, for liner.  We've been saving them for that purpose.
 I don't know if the liner will make them last longer.  But that's why I'm using it.  I don't want to use preservative chemicals or paint.  The liner is free and otherwise would have gone into the landfill.

I thought I only had enough for one bed, so completed the narrow one.  Later Ning told me he had more chicken feed bags but I was too tired to work on the other bed.

Last, I cut sections of chicken wire.  In previous posts, I used hardware cloth.  Hardware cloth has smaller holes and is stronger.  It's also more costly.  I might regret it but this time I went with chicken wire again.
I did the construction work next to the house.  It's easier on a level, paved surface.  Then Ning helped me put it on a wheelbarrow and move the bed to its final location.

It's nice having one started now.  I can fill it gradually through the winter, no hurry.  The usual combination of mile hill soil and compost, roughly 50:50 mix by volume.  There are lots of mole hills to collect now.  For the bottom layer, there are sod pieces that will compost in place.  I put those in upside down.  There has not been a problem with them regrowing.   Also some pulled weeds.

The 4 X 8 bed required 6 planks.  The 2 X 8 bed required 5 planks.  For one additional plank, the larger bed has double the growing area.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sclumbergeras in Bloom

 The Schlumbergeras didn't get much attention this year.  I left them on the shady east side of the house and watered when I thought of it.  Moved them inside in October.

They bloomed nicely any way.  Nice fresh happy flowers for this time of year.

Products for pest control, fungal disease, and animal pest repellent.

Bionide Hot Pepper Wax

Lilly Miller Chelated Iron Plus
 I was looking for something else in the garage.  Found these products.  I don't know how old.  Maybe 5 years old.

Hot Pepper Wax might be reduce risk for animals chewing on tree bark and stems.  Two potential benefits.  The wax might have antidessicant properties, reduce frost damage on immature fig shoots.  Hot pepper extract might reduce chewing.

So I used up that spray on the fig trees, saturating the bark, the stem tips, and the tree wrap.

I would like to come up with a home remedy.  If I can figure out a sprayable wax.  Maybe the wax component is minimal, could as well be replaced with canola oil or neem oil.

This summer I noted Ning's ginkgo trees were not as green as the older one I planted.  Multiple potential reasons.  Ning's ginkgos were grown in container several years, until late last winter.  To avoid too much root damage, we left potting soil pretty much in place.  Mine was in more of a native soil.  I don't remember - if I gave mine some epson salts in the early Spring, too.  Maybe. And maybe some fish emulsion. 

I also noted mulberry leaves were pale.  That may be a mulberry tree characteristic.  Or this variety.  I was thinking, either magnesium (epson salts) or iron.  Or both.

I also read about iron supplements for fig trees, on an internet forum.  I was looking for some to apply during late winter.  I found this container.  So now that's taken care of too.  I prefer completely organic, but then how do I dispose of this?  It's not herbicide or pesticide, so I will use it up.  There isn't much.  Later find a completely organic source.

 Also thinking about what to use for fungal spots on the bearded iris leaves.  This year I did not use anything.  The spots were significant by fall.  Maybe it doesn't hurt anything.  In previous years, neem worked well for leaf spot and for aphids.  I found this partially used container.  I can use it up in the Spring.
Green Light Neem Concentrate

Early early early planning for next year

I ordered the following seeds from

3270021Dwarf Green Long Pod Okra$1.951$1.95
3270071Emerald Okra$1.951$1.95
3250351Minnesota Midget Melon$2.251$2.25
3030061Roma II Bush Green Bean
Size Options: 1 ounce - $2.25
3310141Cayenne Long Red Hot Pepper$1.951$1.95
3310171Hungarian Yellow Wax Hot Pepper$1.951$1.95
3370211Dark Green Zucchini Summer Squash$1.751$1.75
3300011Oregon Sugar Pod II Pea$1.951$1.95

It's early.  Planning ahead gives me something to look forward to.

Some of the choices are proven performers for me.  The zucchini, Roma bean, Minnesota Midget melon, and the peppers have all done well.  Some are my standards.  The Okra varieties have potential due to their short season - the okra.  Some are shorter growing, so may work OK in a covered bed.  So far I held back on tomatoes.  I have lots of tomato seeds from previous years.

I also placed this order from Burpee.  Except for the compact Okra, all are heirloom varieties.

Okra, Baby Bubba Hybrid(54114A - 1 Pkt. (35 seeds))54114AThis dwarf variety is only half as tall as other okras and perfect for large containers.1$4.95$4.95
Borage(61481A - 1 Pkt. (200 seeds))61481AYoung leaves for salads and lemonade.1$4.95$4.95
Pepper, Hot, Lemon(54320A - 1 Pkt. (30 seeds))54320AHEIRLOOM. From Ecuador, as hot as any Cayenne, but with a truly unique flavor.1$5.25$5.25
Pepper, Sweet, Banana(62976A - 1 Pkt. (125 seeds))62976AHEIRLOOM. An All-America Selections Bronze Medal winner for 1941 and still extremely popular.1$3.95$3.95
Pepper, Hot, Tabasco(53275A - 1 Pkt.)53275ASmall, very hot peppers that lend the kick to the famous hot sauce.1$4.95$4.95

I want  to use1/2 of a a raised bed entirely for peppers.  Foraging in the vegetable garden for them was fun this year.  They added a lot of flavor to many meals.  They need some extra animal protection.  Maybe a chicken-wire fence.

The plan for okra is to raise plants indoors.   Then transfer to a covered raised bed, for warmer growth.  If last years' seeds grow, I may also have Clemson spineless.  Which didn't do great, but were my first attempt, ever, at growing okra.  It was nice using a few pods in soups.

A raised bed is 4 X 8 feet.  A half bed is 4 X 4 but one will be 2 X 8.

Thinking about it - 

1/2 bed for okra
1/2 bed for tomatoes.  Maybe a whole bed.
1/2 bed for peppers
1/2 bed for bush beans.
1/2 bed for pole beans.
1/2 bed for Zucchinis.
1/2 bed for butternut squash.
1/2 bed for melons.

This totals to 4 raised beds for summer / fall vegetables.

1/4 bed for snow peas. These are early, something can replace them in June.

Currently I have 1 bed planted in garlic.  Done in June so can be used for warm season vegetable.
1 bed for onions.  Also done in June so reusable.  That worked well this year for beans.
1/2 bed is shallots.  Those are done in July so can be used for a late vegetable.
1 bed is ready for winter or fall growing.  Maybe greens, radishes, scallions.

There are 11 1/2 raised beds, or will be when I finish the 1 1/2 currently pending.  3 are flowers, 1 is strawberry, leaving 7 1/2.  Other thoughts:  Eggplants.  have been a challenge, maybe1/2 of a covered bed would be warmer.   Chinese cabbages.  Those get eaten by cabbage worms. Even one with a row cover disappeared. 

The last 1 1/2 raised beds.  I have the wood.  It is cut.  Half of the holes are pre-drilled.  Maybe I'll assemble the sides this weekend.  I need to check on whether I have liner and hardware cloth or chicken wire to annoy the moles that want to tunnel into the beds.

The pics are all from

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lycoris. Progress Report.

Lycoris radiata
 The lycoris radiata leaves are greener.  The lycoris squamigera looks unchanged.  As I would expect.

We've had the first and second frosts.  These leaves look unaffected.

Not much else to do.  Which is just as well.  Feeling sick.

Lycoris squamigera

Mushrooms / fungi /


Mushroom Circle - using i-phone

Mushroom circle - using camera
Big mushrooms
Everywhere at the Battleground place, there are mushrooms now.  Big mushrooms, little mushrooms, clusters, a fairy ring / mushroom circle.  Dark brown.  Near white.  In raised beds - new soil; in lawn - old soil, in the orchard, on the hill.  It's amazing how many mushrooms there are.

I don't know their names.  I don't know if any are edible, so I won't.

Looking at them now, there are so many, the soil must be well populated with mycelia throughout.  So I think adding mycorrhizal inocculant must be like bringing coal to Newcastle.  Probably not needed.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Trip to Quincy, ILCemetery

My parents' gravesites, Quincy IL

Cemetery Iris May 2010

Iris memento
Last weekend I paid my respects to my  parents. They died in 2009 and 2010, nine months apart.

It's been 3 years since I've been there.  Being ill, I made the trip short.  Fly in to St.Louis, stay overnight; drive to Quincy, visit the cemetery.  Return to St Louis for overnight, then fly back to Portland.

The grass has not filled in completely.  There is a lot of clover which helps.  Being fall, the leaves scatter the lawn.  It's nice.

After my mother's funeral, I walked around the cemetery and pondered graves, trees, and the general surroundings.  This was a clump of bearded iris there.

At the edge, there were some discarded plant trimmings.  That included a couple of shriveled rhizomes.  I brought back two small pieces as a memento.  They were discards.  They may require a few years to bloom.  I don't know if they match the cluster here.  If they do survive and grow, I will ponder them and appreciate where they originated.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ginkgo Trees. Progress Report. Some ginkgo trees in China.

My backyard ginkgo.  Now about 16 years from seed, give or take a year.  I didn't catch it soon enough to show the color in full leaf.

Seated picture is in Xi'ian China, 2 weeks ago.  I tried to take various photos of ginkgo trees, during vacation in China 2 weeks ago.  The other photos are from other places during that 2 weeks in China, as labeled in captions.

With gingko tree in Xi'an China.

Ginkgo tree in container, at muslim temple in Xi'an.

Large Bonsai styled ginkgo tree in Changdu, China

Stylized ginkgo tree at temple in Szechuan.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Bearded Iris Raised Beds

Bearded Iris Bed #1
 This week I added a layer of leaf compost to the bearded iris raised beds.  I covered the soil surface, except on and adjacent to the rhizomes.  I want to keep the rhizomes exposed.

This is the last thing needed for them this winter, other than minor puttering to remove dead leaves.  They look pretty sad with the dying leaves.  I think they are like that every year.
Bearded Iris Bed #2

Bearded Iris Bed #3
 The anemones that I planted last winter at the front of Bed #1 are growing now.  That surprised me.  I thought they might be dead.

There are a couple of plants to remove from Bed #1 but no hurry.  Those are a trailing rosemary, a couple of Laburnum cuttings, and some ginkgo seedlings.
Top L-R: Kissed by the Sun, California Blue, Immortality.  Bottom L-R:  American Classic, Red Dirt Road, Accent.

Iris germanica, with mushrooms.
New start of Owyhee Desert
 Bed # 2 is pretty much as I want it.

Bed # 3 has some reserved spaces for rhizomes from Old House Gardens, to arrive in April.  At the left are Egyptian Walking Onions.  I expected to pull those as scallions, but deer ate them.  The remainder have a chicken wire cover.

The established cluster od American Classic, Kissed by the Sun, Accent, Immortality, and Edith Wolford all survived their move from the Vancouver yard.  They should have good displays next year.

The Iris germanica clump, planted this spring as a new rhizome, has a mushroom companion.  I don't know if that is commensual or infecting.  It could be inoculum from the filler soil, or from the mycorrhizal inoculant.  The iris looks OK so I am leaving it alone.
Clump of Cherry Garden

New start of "Los Angeles"

Expanding clump of "Helen Collingwood"

New start of "Alcazar"
They new rhizomes, planted late summer, all look OK.  For reference, this is Owyhee Desert, which looks settled in and is making increase.

The Cherry Garden clumps also survived their moved from Vancouver and appear to have increased.  Last year's TLC got them growing rapidly.  They might look better in a different location.  I have 4 clusters of those.

Los Angeles did not appear to grow as fast as some of the others, but I think this rhizome, from "Historic Iris Preservation Society" is settled in.

Helen Collingwood grew one new rhizome last year.  This year it has increase of 3.  It is settled in and the rhizome looks robust.  It looks promising for bloom next Spring.

The last one, Alcazar, from Historic Iris Preservation Society this summer, looks settled in.  It has increase of 4 new buds to develop into rhizomes.  I'm curious about whether it will bloom next Spring. 

Not much else to do with the bearded irises now.  Hard to just watch them in dormancy, but that's the season.

Orchard ready for WInter

Home Orchard
The little orchard is ready for winter.  This week I added a layer of leaf compost on top of the mulch surrounding each tree.  Most of the trees are as pruned as the need to be.  For the most part, that's just removing a few terminal buds and small wayward branches to guide future growth.

I removed a fair amount of growth from the plum tree that came with the place.  Purpose, keep it compact, and keep the center open.  Last week I did the same for what I think is an apricot tree.

Most of the young fruit trees appear to have flower buds for next year.

Between now and Spring, I plan to remove the one jujube sapling, over to the bee garden.  Replace that with a 4-year-old plum currently growing in Vancouver.  There is a peach on order from Raintree, to plant in late winter. 

The last of the peppers.

Barrel-grown Thai Hot Peppers

Cayenne, Peter Pepper, Thai Chili Peppers, and a Golden Sweet Pepper
This is the last, or near last, of barrel-grown peppers.  Pretty good for November.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Planning for 2014 Garden

I've been looking in the online catalogs for next year.  I know it's early.

Main things I'm interested in so far -

Short season Okra.  This year I had a few on "Clemson Seedless" but nothing to write home about.  I want to try containerized and transplants.  Burpee has a dwarf hybrid, "Bubba". 

Bush Butternut Squash.  Also from Burpee.  It would be better, take less room in a raised bed.

Snowpeas - this time, I want to grow the actual Chinese type.  If not in an online catalog, I can probably buy local.

So far.  Peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, beans too.

Acccessible Gardening

I've been reading several books and articles about accessible gardening.  By accessible, I mean for the senior gardener, or someone with decreased energy, strength, coordination, stamina.  I need to consider the strength and stamina issues, especially.  Concepts I've taken to heart, some as I recall from reading, others from concepts of home orchard gardening and my thoughts.

Raised beds.  Easier in every way.  They don't need digging. Weeds don't invade nearly as fast.  Weeds are also easy to remove.  They don't need much cultivation.  For any needed chores, the higher level is easier to work.  Lining the bottom with hardware cloth might help with mole prevention.  Lining the inside with plastic might help them last longer.

Containers.  Similar to raised beds.  They can be moved to better locations when needed.  For overwintering, it's easier to move the container, than to dig up the plants.  They do need more attention for watering.  Wood is better than plastic.  Wood insulates, so less watering is needed.  Line wooden containers with plastic liners so they don't deteriorate as fast.  With holes in the bottom for drainage.

Pruning.  Prune fruit trees back for more compact size.  Keep branching lower.  It's not much effort to prune when the trees are small.  Lower more compact branching means fruit is easier to harvest, and later pruning will also be easier.  Other training is also helpful.  For example, I bend some tall growing branches to lower position, and tie to fencing or post, for more accessible flowers, fruit, and pruning.  After a year in the bent position, the tie can be removed.

Mulch.  The wider area mulched, the less mowing and weeding.  I saved paper food containers - pizza boxes, cereal boxes, cardboard - which I used as a bottom layer, then covered with either straw or grass clippings.  The grass clippings break down faster and provide nutrients in the winter for next Spring.  The straw lasts about one season.  Either is much less effort and cost than bark mulch.  More easily available.   When weeds come up through straw mulch, I can bend them over and bury with more straw.  Much easier than digging them up.  Mulch really does keep the ground softer, so weeds are easier to pull.

Seating.  I keep a place to sit and rest.  I have a bench in the raised bed area.  I need to add something in the little orchard, in the shade. 

Edging.  Keeps weeds away from trees or shrubs or borders.  I don't know if this is better than just mulching.

Tools.  I keep in mind which tools are easier to use.   Some for prying out weeds by the roots, are better than a hoe.  A garden fork is sometimes easier than a hoe or shovel.   String trimmer makes fast work of weeds at edges.  Electric is lighter than gas.  I exercise care not to damage shrub twigs or tree bark.  Hardware cloth, used to make sleeve to protect tree bark from animal chewing, can also protect from the string trimmer.  If the hardware cloth sleeve is very loose, it can be left on the trunk for several years.  By using zip ties to fasten the hardware cloth in a ring, it's easy to put together, and easy to cut and take apart when the time comes.

Geometry.  Still working on this.  Rectangular shapes for tree mulch and raised beds, is much easier than circles.  It's easier to mow a straight line, than a circle.  I may wind up extending the mulch areas so they connect the trees in rows, and I can mow the long rows without backing up to mow between trees within rows.  The vegetable raised beds are already in rank and file arrangement, easy to mow and work between them. 

Plant choices.  I need to avoid some high maintenance choices.  Invasive varieties need to be avoided.  I have a spearmint that should be removed completely - too rampant.   It's difficult to pull out.  Bad choice on my part.  It does smell very good.  I might keep some for tisanes.  It will need edging or limitation by mowing.  Other choice is plant size.  In some cases, buying a larger plant may mean less nurturing in the long run, compared to a larger plant.   Plants that need too much effort for deer / rabbit / vole protection, should not be planted.  Unless I have a good reason, like I love my figs and plums. 

Fall Garden Chores.

No photos today.  Doesn't look like much.

I mowed the little orchard, until rain started.  I used the grass catcher, and collected grass clippings to mulch around the Buddleias and some of the fruit trees.  I try not to use too thick a layer.  Maybe 2 inches thick.  I extended the mulched areas a little.  It will break down quickly in the rainy weather.  It's a start.

Antique botanical sketch of mint.

I wanted to remove the rest of the culinary herbs from the bearded iris beds.  It was a nice idea.  If there was more room, I think it would be a great idea.  But with the small space, the herbs encroach too much on the bearded irises.  The herbs did not go to waste.  I moved them to the mulch rings around the fruit trees.  There the herb flowers will benefit pollinating nectar collecting bees.  And I can use them in the kitchen as needed.  I cut some tall mint.  It will be in the garage drying.  If it dries well, I can use it for mint tea (tisane).

Antique botanical sketch of Thyme

Among the herbs I moved, traditional thyme, French thyme, Lemon thyme; a short variety of Catmint - short but still encroaching on the bearded irises - and violets.  Most of these should provide bee forage.  I'm not sure about the violets.

Antique botanical sketch of violets

Violets are not considered a culinary herb, although some people candy the flowers.   I'm trying them because they are compact, make a mat that is difficult for weeds to penetrate, might be difficult for moles, too.  The roots are shallow, so I think not competing with the fruit trees.  They too were competing with bearded irises.  Not much, but shading the rhizomes.  So I moved them too.

I also planted in-ground, a 2-gallon size Lavatera.  I've gave it TLC all summer.  I have to plan for decreased energy, meaning fewer plants that need extra care.  With my illness, fatigue is a growing challenge.  It will have the rest of fall, winter and spring to establish roots before leaves and new branches grow.

I also did some minor shaping pruning for several fruit trees.  For the most part, that meant cutting the tips from branches, so they will branch out lower and more compact.  Peaches, Plums, Tart Cherries, Apricot seedling. 

Not much left for winterizing the orchard.  Much less work than last year.  I have a plum tree to move from Vancouver.  A jujube will need to move to the bee garden, to make room.  Late winter, add one peach and one jujube.  Get some compost to mulch the trees that I haven't so far.  That's about it.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Overwintering Pelargonium, Citrus, Brugmansia, Zantedeschia, Opuntia

Time to overwinter containerized plants, or give up on them.

Pelargoniums (zonal geraniums)  are still green and blooming, but some neighborhoods have already experienced frost.  I moved mine into the attached, frost-free but unheated garage.  For most of the winter I don't do anything to them.  I might add a little water late winter.  I think these are just 2 years old.

Braziliopuntia braziliensis, from Wikimedia commons
I have a Opuntia neoargentina also known as Brasioliopuntia braziliensis, which is frost tender.  I've managed to keep it alive for 20 years, by bringing it inside or keeping cuttings.  I think the current plant is about 6 years old.  It will be in a bright cool room at the battleground place.  Last year I kept it in the basement without watering.  It didn't thrive, but it did survive.  I want to repot it into a larger container and would like to see it bloom next year.  Photo from wikimedia commons.  Mine is not nearly that big.

I have an unnamed Zantedeschia that I've grown in containers for 25 years.  I bring it inside for the winter.  It bloomed this year, but not much.  Needs re-potting in fresh growth medium.  It's in the garage now.

The Brugmansias are kept in the garage overwinter.  I try to let them, and the other plants, sit outside in a rain-free location for a few weeks before bringing inside, to start dormancy.  That way they don't grow weak useless growth while in storage.

I also brought Epiphyllum oxypetallum to Battleground to keep in sunny cool room.  I also kept that in the basement last year without water.  It wasn't that healthy looking, but bloomed twice.

The Meyer lemon, Kumquat, and unnamed 15-year-old seed-grown citrus are in cool sunny bedroom window.

That's about all of the overwintering I can handle.  If it doesn't freeze tonight, I have an aloe to bring in. 


 This is the season for mushrooms in the Battleground yard.  I don't know the varieties.

Having read about the importance of mycorrhizal fungi, I welcome the appearance of these organisms.  Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of vast networks of underground fungus - mycelium.  A number of works express alarm at practices that result in killing off mycorrhizae.  Fertilizers, herbicides, and tilling are the main culprits.

These fungi are considered beneficial.  They interact with plant roots to bring water and nutrients into the plants.  There is also a disease-resistance benefit.  Mycorhizae help build soil structure.  They are part of the soil ecosystem balance.
 I have added mycorrhizal inoculant to garden beds and plantings of trees and shrubs.  Given the prevalence of local mushrooms, that might not be necessary.

I think all of these originate with the local soil.  There were smaller mushrooms in one iris raised bed.  Those could either be of local origin, or via the inoculant.