Sunday, December 28, 2014

Puttering. Training Young Fruit Trees. 12.29.14

Peach Variety Q-1-8 undergoing training.
 I puttered around a little and tied branches of young trees in the directions I went them to mature.  The other choices are, leave them alone, or prune off branches that grow in the wrong directions.

These were all growing together in a bunch.  I tied them to the deer fencing, bending branches to make a vase-shaped tree.  After one year, they can be untied.

I did the same for other trees, peaches, persimmons, pears, plums.  I did the same for apples, too.

It doesn't look like much.  The good training will make a big difference in a few years.

Propagating an oriental poppy. 12.29.14

P. orientale root divisions.  12.27.14
 I don't know if these will grow or die.  My intent was to dig up and move an entire clump of Papaver orientale, intact.  I ort of remember my grandfather growing them, but those may have been Papaver somniferum - an entirely different species.  P. somniferum is opium poppy, I think it's not a good idea to grow that one. 

Back to the oriental poppy, P. orientale, these were raised by seeds planted 13 years ago.   They became a big clump.  I wanted to move it to the Battleground border.  When I dug it up, it separated into big roots, like horse radish.  This has been a mild winter.  They have soem green leaves even now.

They are already dug up.  I separated and planted each root section.  If they grow, they grow.  If not, I know this doesn't work.

I did read that oriental poppies can be propagated via root cuttings.  Image is this poppy clump, Ma 22, 2013.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Winter Project: Apple bags. 12.17.14

I haven't had as much success as I would like, with apples.  I get them to the point where lots of apples are forming.  Then a lot go to pot.  Distorted, wormy, shrunken apples.  Liberty is pretty good, not much disease or insect damage.  North Pole, one of my older trees with lots of apples, almost never yields an edible apple.  They are distorted and gnarled looking.  Jonagold, very few usable apples.  I got a good apple from my tiny Golden Sentinel apple last year.

The issue is disease and insect related.  From what I read, commercial orchards spray and spray and spray and spray.  Even organic orchards have their organic sprays.  I've been trying my backyard apples with no spray.

Reading about the options, some gardeners insert each developing apple into a modified ziplock bag.  The bag serves as an impermeable shield against most insects and disease.  The result is a vastly improved yield of edible, supposedly perfect, apples.  An added benefit, they ripen 2 weeks earlier.  Some gardeners staple the bags in place.  Others think that is not needed.  One writer refers to this as a "Ziplock® Orchard"

The concept of bagging apples is common in Japan, where a large fraction of the crop is bagged.  They use opaque bags, which must be removed to allow color formation and ripening.   They also apply stencils, which prevent color formation under the design, resulting in a yellow tattoo on a red apple.  The Japanese apples bring a high price premium, but it is happening less now because of the labor involved.  Young rural Japanese people have other things to do, than bag apples.  Prior to use in Japan, in the past century apples were bagged in France.

The apple bags are super easy and quick to make.  A box of sandwich-size zipper bags costs a couple of dollars, generic.  Mine came to a little over 1 cent per bag.

Use a sharp scissors.  Cut the 2 bottom corners, for drainage of any water that leaks into the bag.

Cut off the top flaps, because the zipper will go around the apple stem.  Most stems are too short to accommodate the top flaps.  Open the bag before cutting the flaps, or it's a trial to get open.

I prepared 200 for next spring, then put them in my gardening cabinet.  Spring is busy, better to make them now.  I doubt I'll need anything near 200, but there they are.

From the articles I read -

#The bags do not result in overheating the apples.  But the apples do wind up larger and ripen about 2 weeks sooner.

#Insects and disease do not enter through the cuts.  Rarely an insect enters around the stem.

#Some apples might have a not-perfect smudgy appearance.  That is not clear - the same author stated, so did their non-bagged apples.

#The bags must be applied very early - just after petal drop.  Thin the fruit at the same time.  If applying bags when the apples are larger than, say, a dime, then some insect and disease damage may be beginning, and you are locking the barn door after the horse was stolen.

#Based on my readings, bags work for solid fruits, like apples, pears, quince. But not for soft fruits, like peaches and plums, which may rot.

#The bags are not 100% effective, and work better in some climates than others.  Where they do work, they are much cheaper than spraying.  It's possible the bags are less effort than repeated spraying, especially with dwarf trees - no ladders.  With bags instead of sprays, you are not indiscriminately killing both harmful and beneficial insects by spraying everything, especially since multiple sprays seem to be needed.   So, both carnivorous insects, and pollinating insects both live to do their important jobs, and you can promote a beneficial garden ecosystem.

#Other types of bags, such as paper, are more trouble.  Rain and wind are more damaging to paper bags.  The bags must be removed for fruit to color properly.

#The zipper bags can be left on the fruit for storage.  According to my readings, the fruit will last longer than non-bagged fruits.

#I wonder if paw paws would ripen a couple weeks earlier too?  If mine set this year, I might try.

So this project is done.  It will be summer before I know if it works.   I have not done this before, so I can't vouch for the method.  Several writers swear by it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Fig Cuttings. 12.23.14

Botanical - A curious herbal - Fruit - Ficus (The Fig Tree) p125
Image via

Today I started a few fig cuttings.  These were from a fig forum member in Marshall TX.  Celeste and LSU Gold.

Soon I will be packaging cuttings for fig forum members as well.

 No energy...

I also planted in the ground, a clump if Chives, and a rosemary plant.  Those I had out a month ago when putting a walk way through the middle of my border.   They've been sitting out of the ground.  They don't look stressed by the experience.

I also planted a red current bush.

 Pulled a few weeds.

Trimmed a few plum branches.

Nothing much.

Gardening in late December.

Still some hard freezes ahead, I'm sure.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Perfect Gardener's Gift. 12.21.14

Muck Boots.  12.21.14
This was a gift from me, to me.  I saw them on another gardening website.  I did not write down which one.

I've been wearing neoprene winter boots.  They crack, I repair them, they crack, I repair them.  I've used bicycle inner tube repair kits, and duct tape, and Gorilla tape.  They just crack and leak again.  Water soaks in.  My feet and socks are muddy and soaked.  I also wear hiking boots.  The water soaks in and my feet are again, muddy and soaked.

First wearing, these Muck boots were awesome.  Sturdy, thick, nice lining, comfortable, warm.  I can't promise they won't crack, but they seem a lot better made.

I love the Pacific Northwest.  I hope the boots will help me love it more.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Moving Volunteers and Tree / Shrub Starts 12.19.14

No photos - raining and didn't want to damage camera.

This week I found more suckers in the lilac hedge.  Dug them out for starts at the battleground place.  About 18 inches to 2 foot tall.

There was a hazelnut by the house, same size range.  Moved that, too.

Near the Vancouver house is a stand of Staghorn Sumac.  I found 2 clumps in the 2 foot tall range and moved them.

Free plants are good.  These are locally proven, locally adapted.  The seedlings increase genetic diversity.  They are organic.  Not fuel spent going to store to buy them.

Reading about sumac, some sources state they are deer food, other state deer don't browse them.  I have one sumac tree, different variety, that was partially tasted by deer, then apparently left alone.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thomas Jefferson on the ideal garden. 12.18.14

"I have often thought that if heaven had given me choice of my position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden. No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden. Such a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, and instead of one harvest a continued one through the year." 

--- Thomas Jefferson (August 20, 1811, to Charles W. Peale)

(Image of Monticello via

Persimmon Daydreaming. 12.18.14

American Persimmon.  Image source commons.wikimedia,org

American persimmon.  Image source
I've been thinking about adding an American persimmon tree.  I have a location in mind.

There are a few varieties described as not needing a male to pollinate them.  Yates, Prok, Meader.   Time to bear is listed as 3 to 5 years.

The varieties at Starks are 1 to 2 feet tall, in air pots.  Those are containers with open bottom, so the roots are "air pruned" resulting in bushier root mass and considered more likely to survive.  That size is small to my mind.  I have grown other trees from smaller, however.

Burnt Ridge also carries persimmon trees.  I sent them an email asking size, time to bear.

I only want to try one tree.  Yates or Prok are options.  Yates has more of a flavor description, Prok has more claim about how much they bear, and larger fruit.  Those are not side to side comparisons.

Starks gives ideal planting time as early march.  Will think about it some more.

We bought Asian persimmons at the grocery store the past couple of weeks.  Hichaya was much better than Fuyu.  Fuyu are more common.  They are better if allowed to ripen until soft.  They are like a tropical fruit flavor, a jelly in a fruit skin.

Germination Testing. Beans and Okra. 12.18.14

Clemson Spineless Okra Seeds.  3 years old.  8/10 Germinated.  12.18.14

Roma II bean seeds.  3 years old.  7/9 germinated.  12.18.14
This is the end of the germination test.

Two to three year old seeds.

Okra Cajun Jewel remained at 9 of 10 seeds germinated.

Okra Lee remained at 1 of 10 seeds germinated.

Okra Clemson Spineless increased to 8 of 10 germinated.

Bean Roma II increased to 7 of 9 germinated.

Pretty good germination rates overall.  I only need a couple of each okra, to test them, and only a couple row of the beans.

This was a quick test.  The rate might be higher if giving a few more days.

It's way to early to grow these.  I added the sprouts to the compost bin.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Germination testing before ordering. 12.16.14

Okra seed packets showing water damage.  12.16.14

Okra Cajun Jewel at one day of germination.  12.16.14

Okra Lee at one day of germination.  12.16.14
 I think it's a good idea to check last year's seeds for germination, before ordering others of the same variety this year.  Not that I heeded my own advice.

Still, I wanted to see if some of the varieties I had but didn't try last year, had potential for this year.

Last spring I spilled water on the envelope holding the seed packets.   I let it dry at ambient room conditions.   Some of the packets are water stained.  I thought that might doom the seeds.

Sunday pm, I placed 10 seeds each of these 3 varieties in small jars, with shallow water.  Monday morning I transferred the seeds to damp paper towels, and placed them in zip-lock bags on seed starting warmer mat.

Now, tuesday am, here is the early result.

Cajun Jewel:  9/10 germination.
Lee:  2/10 germination.
Clemson Spineless.  1/10 germination.

I think it's still very early.  Very surprised at those Cajun Jewel.

I also placed Roma beans, packed for 2012, on damp paper towel, in ziplock, without presoak.  So far, there is 1/10 germination.  I think it's very early.

Okra Clemson Spineless at 1 day of germination.  12.16.14
Roma beans at 1 day of germination.  no presoak.  12.16.14

Monday, December 15, 2014

Plum Scions for 2015. 12.15.14

Botanical - Educational plate - Fruit - Drupes eductational plate (1902)
Image source:

I went ahead and placed an order to Fedco. Apple scion as in previous post. Each will be a branch on a multigrafted tree, so I don't need room for more trees.  And so there is a range of ripening times, so I don't suddenly get more fruit of a particular type, than we can use, and waste  them.   Also the following plum varieties:

"Ember.  Late Summer. (Prunus salicina Shiro x P. americana var) 1936... red-blushed fruit...Rich yellow juicy sweet flesh is very firm and meaty but tender.... Tastes and looks like an apricot...

La Crescent. Late Summer. (Prunus salicina Shiro x P. americana Howard Yellow) 1923.... thin-skinned yellow fruit is sometimes blushed with a little pink. Tender yellow juicy fle...aromatic and suggestive of apricots...

South Dakota. Late Summer. SD 27. Prunus americana unknown parentage. 1949... tough yellow skin with bright red blush. Medium-firm yellow flesh is meaty, juicy, sweet... very long flowering period... pollinator for all hybrid plums...developed before 1907.

Hanska. Summer. (Prunus americana x P. simonii) 1908. Medium-sized bright red fruit with a heavy bluish bloom. Firm fragrant yellow semi-freestone flesh. When cooked, the fruit has a strong apricot-like flavor reminiscent of its Chinese “apricot plum” parentage. "

All info is from the Fedco catalog,  edited for brevity.  It seems like a lot.  On the other hand, how much does 1 plum, or 1 apple, cost at the grocery store?   Each scion is $5.  If these take, each grafted branch can give a couple dozen a year, for potentially many years.  They are intended to give a diversity of size, shape, flavor, color, and ripening times.  The main trend here is 3 with apricot flavor.  I hope they are much more adaptable to this area, compared to apricots.  Toka has some of that too.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Final Seed Order. 12.12.14

 Art - American - Print - American Farmer

 Today was the final seed order for next year.  This batch was via / Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  Beautiful catalog, amazing selections of open pollinated, often heritage varieties of vegetables and flowers.  I ordered almost as much to support the company, as to buy the seeds.  Again, emphasis is on short season, or cool summer varieties, or ones that emphasize flavor and look possible in this cool maritime climate.

Jing Orange Okra - 60 days, very pretty looking plant.  Not many seeds for the price, but it only takes a couple.  I am trying several okra varieties again.

Melrose Pepper - Italian variety, sweet.  I have plenty of left over hot pepper seeds, but my stomach doesn't  handle them now.

Crookneck-Early Golden Summer Squash - love summer squash and it will be fun to have something other than Zucchinis to share.

Gelber Englischer Custard Squash - ditto.

Jumbo Pink Banana Squash - nostalgia variety.  My great aunt gave me seeds and they were so productive, made great pumpkin pies.  Listed as good for this region. 

Petite Mix Marigold - I've grown this one before.  Nice, maybe the marigold scent will repel animals.

Alaska Mix - Nasturtium - I've grown this one before.  I wonder if it will be pest resistant, with the peppery leaves.  I can't see buying annuals when a packet of seeds goes much much further for much less money.

Most of the vegetables will only be a couple of plants per packet.   This will be the rest of my "test garden" - see which ones do better for me.

Image source:

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Hollywood Plum Cuttings. 12.9.14

Hollywood Plum Cuttings, Root Growth.  12.9.14

Hollywood Plum Saplings.  12.9.14
Today I dug up the remaining Hollywood Plum cuttings.  These were hardwood cuttings taken, I think, in April.  They were treated with rooting hormone then stuck into the soil in the tomato bed.  They did not receive any special treatment, other than what the tomatoes needed.

I did the same with Shiro plum.  None grew.  And with an ornamental quince - not sure if any grew, need to check again.

I potted them up.  I don't know what I will do with 6 new plum trees.  Two have bud grafts of Shiro.  It's a wait until Spring to see if those take.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

The effect of compost. Kitchen garden winter prep. 12.7.14

Untreated soil vs. soil with 2 1/2 years of compost and TLC.

Garden gold.  Chick house cleanings for the kitchen garden.
 Today I did some cleanup and winter prep for next Spring.  I don't like seeing the raised beds full of dead tomato and pepper plants and weeds and bean stalks.

Several of the raised beds have settled significantly.  I topped the off with soil from this raised bed.  That used 2/3 of the bed's soil.  The other 1/3 is perennial - Chinese chive, which I consolidated from this raised bed and another.

The difference is soil appearance is dramatic.  The native soil, on the left, is what the enriched soil, on the right, looked like 2  1/2 years ago.  The difference is 2 /12 years of adding chicken house compost, leaves, kitchen scrap compost, worm compost, coffee grounds....

I filled partially full with yard soil, then mixed in a wheelbarrow full of chicken house cleanings.  That is a year old, but dry so not composted.  Too rich to use immediately.  This being December, there will be 5 or 6 months to mellow before use.  Plan for this area is bush beans.

I also added a cup of lime based on last year's soil test result showing low pH and low calcium.

Then I topped off with more yard soil, then more chicken house cleanings.  Let the earthworms and bacteria and fungi do their thing now. 

Several of the beds are cleaned up now.  When spring comes, prep for planting will need minimal effort.

The other thing that needs to be done for these beds is better animal fencing.  That is another project for this winter.

For the beds that I topped off, I removed the larger, tougher plant stems to go into the compost heap.  I covered the cardboard/grass clipping mulch with a layer of improved soil.  No major digging, the soil is already well aerated and rich.
Cleanup half done.  12.7.14

My kitchen garden in winter.  12.7.14

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Seed Order. 12.6.14

Seed packets.  Image source

Seed packets.  Image source
Today I placed a seed order with   They have the broadest and best selection.  The seeds are open-pollinated, saved varieties.  No GMOs, and not owned by GMO-godzilla corp. 

In a way, ordering seeds early shows optimism that there will be another year.

These are the varieties that I ordered.  Short season plants were a big priority.  Climate here is cool relatively sort summer, sandwiched between a cool long spring and a cool long fall.

Watermelon, Blacktail Mountain.  65-75 days.  Developed in northern Idaho.  Most watermelons are in the range of 85-100 days.

Watermelon, Petite Yellow.  65-80 days.

There were also 2 varieties of early, small-sized cantalopes.  Eden's Gem 65 - 80 days, Minnesota Midget - 60-75 days, and and Asian melon, Sakata's Sweet. that last one takes longer, 85-95 days.  I might try the melons south of the house, which may be warmer and is full sun.  I grew Minnesota Midget in the past with good result.

The timing for winter squashes doesn't matter as much.  They ripen late fall.

Squash Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck.  10-20#squashes.

Squash, Long Island Cheese.  6-12 pounds.

Summer Squash, Yellow Crookneck.  55-60 days.

Some dry beans.  I don't think the timing is as important for these, either.  I have not grown dry beans before.

Calypso.  A bush variety.  70-90 days.

Hidasa Shield Figure.  I assume this is a vining bean.  90 days.

Cucumber Suyo Long.  For Ning.  65 days.

Lettuce, Seed Savers Mixture.

Okra, Star of David.  60-75 days.  Which is pretty good for okra.   The only way I know to grow it here is in containers, and I'm still learning the best way to do that.  I also have a couple okra plants that I am overwintering.  That may not work at all.

Pepper "Kalman's Hungarian Tomato".  65-75 days.  Last year my peppers were too hot for my surgically modified stomach.  These are milder.

This week I also placed an order with Burpee's.  Those were more in the hybrid category. 

Peppers - Hot Sweet Thing, Golden California, Sweet Nikita, Sweet banana.
Tomatoes - Better Boy - I always grow that one,  Sunny Boy, Jersey Boy, Sungold - always grow that one, Supersweet 100 - always grow that one, and Roma.
Corn - Early Sunglow and Trinity - both early varieties.
Pea Oregon Sugar Pod
Bean, Gold Mine and Early Bush Italian.
Squash, Burpee Hyb rid Zucchini, Walthan Butternut, Golden Egg, Galeux D'Eysines, Pumpkin Rouge VIF D'Etampes
Okra Baby Bubba - good for containers, did well this year, and Clemson Spineless.

It seems ambitious, but not too bad.  I cleared the raised bed for tomatoes today.  The beds have settled, so I added enriched soil to the top.  That was this year's zucchini bed.

I did the same thing for the pepper bed, which will be in the same place as this year.  That bed also got a wheelbarrow of kitchen scrap composed, heavily populated with earthworns.  Lots of coffee grounds and teabags went into that too.

Zukes will go into this year's tomato bed - half ready.

Bush beans will go into this year's onion bed - half ready.  That will have a less enriched soil.  I'm counting on the beans to enrich it.

Other squashes / pumpkins  will be allowed to sprawl, like they did this year.

Corn - to go into the other tomato bed from last year.  Haven't cleared that one yet.  Or maybe outside the raised beds, if I can put up some deer fencing.

Okra - containers.

Others to be determined.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Apple scion, heritage varieties. 11.29.14

Apple Varieties.  Image Source:

Apple Varieties.  Image Source:
I discovered a company that sells apple scion wood, heritage varieties. in Maine.  I didn't count, looks like more than 50 varieties.  They are sold as 8 inch scion, shipped in March, order deadline is Feb 20th. 

I went through the varieties, and read the evaluations in Apples of North America, by Tom Burford.  That book reviews 192 "Exceptional varieties" of historic apples.

I know I can graft apples.  Of the apple grafts I made last year, 6 of 6 apple.  All grew vigorously.

First priority is disease resistance.  Especially fireblight, endemic around here.  No use growing a variety that will give years of frustration.  For example, Golden Delicious.  On the other hand, Liberty has never been affected, and bears well every year.

Second, I went for descriptions of exceptional or unusual flavor., or other exceptional traits.

Top choices, for now.

Granite  Beauty.  approx 1815.  Early bearing, moderately resistant to the major diseases.  Spiciness compared to "coriander or cardamom."

Keepsake.  1978.  A cross of NM 447 and Northern Spy.  Resistant to fireblight and cedar apple rust. Flavor described as "sweet, spicy, and strongly aromatic." states "Unattractive, irregularly shaped... Fine grained, hard, very crisp, juicy light yellow flesh. Strongly aromatic flavor. Very hardy...  Keeps in storage through April."

Priscilla.  1961.  Developed by the Purdue, Rutgers, Illinois consortium which specialized in disease resistant apples.  A seedling of 601-2 and Starking Delicious.  Described as "crisp and aromatic." states, "very resistant to fireblight."

Redfield 1938.  Wolf River X Niedzwetzskayana Red Crab,  NY program in Geneva.   Resistant to the major apple diseases.  Described as "red flesh, dry, very tart."  Leaves are red/bronze color, and flowers are large, deep pink. states "Medium to large...Dark red with dark red flesh. Juice is red. Not for fresh eating".

I may choose one or two more:

Porter.  around 1800.  Moderate resistance to the major apple diseases.  Taste "fine grain, crisp, tender juicy, subacid". states developed in 1840, "Pure yellow skin with crimson blush, tender, sweet... juicy..."

McIntosh seems passe, but is a standard.  1796, white flesh sometimes with red tinge.  "Fine grain, crisp, tender, subacid to sweet".  Moderate resistance to the major apple diseases.  The idea of growing an apple that has been around since 1796 is amazing.

Six seems like a lot.  They would be grafted onto one or two trees.

This is all speculation at the moment. 

Overwintering a chili pepper. 11.29.14

Red Portugal Chili Pepper.  11.29.14
This is a chili pepper plant I started from seed late December 2013.  I kept it on the front deck.  Others of the same variety, at the same time, went into a raised bed.  They bore well, but the container plant bore better.

As an experiment, I moved it into the sunroom for the winter.  It's been there for about one month.  Most of the chilis are ripe and can be used now, fresh chilis in November.

It looks a bit puny.  Some hobbyists grow their peppers into big shrubs, and keep them year round.  They may get peppers earlier, and later, than in-ground plants.

Peppers are normally grown as annuals, but I think they are tropical shrubs, that happen to bear in their first season.  So if they can be kept alive through the winter, they will be larger and more productive.

The negatives, this one at least looks kind of sad, except for the bright colorful fruits.  They are also aphid magnets.  No aphids on this one yet, possibly due to the fact it never went into the ground.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Schlumbergera. 11.27.14

Schlumbergera.  11.27.14
This is my oldest Shlumbergera.  Started from cuttings, about 2003 I'm guessing.  Nice salmon color.  Just beginning to bloom.

No special care.  Outside East side of house in shade for the summer.  Water when I think of it  Bring back inside in October.

Progress Report and Review. Linden Trees. 11.26.14

Image source:

When we bought the 2 acres in Battleground, there were few trees.  One of the first things I wanted to do was get some started.  We took possession Summer 2013, July.  Not a good time to plant trees.  I did anyway.  During fall and winter, 2013, I planted 4 Tilia cordata "Greenspire", and 1 Tilia america "Redmond."  The Greenspire trees were close-out end of summer at Home Depot.  Redmond was mail order from an Oregon nursery, bought and planted in Dec 2012.

I had some reasons to choose lindens.    There is some nostalgia.  There were lindens on my street, in my boyhood neighborhood.  My street was named for them.  Linden flowers are used in herbal teas (tisanes), and are fragrant.  Linden flowers are considered prime nectar sources for honeybees.  Given the trees are 3-dimensional, and can grow to very large size, they have potential for far more nectar than 2-dimensional use of land for perennials or annuals.  Lindens grow in a wide range of climates, so they have a chance for a long future, even with climate change.   Planting any tree is an act of defiance against the selfish destruction of environment in modern times.  But I also want the trees to have a chance to contribute in other ways, and be adaptable to potential evolution of local climate.

Ancient linden from
 From University of Florida Extension, '`Greenspire' ...grows 50-75 ft tall, spread 40-50 ft, ...normally seen 40-50 feet tall with a 35-40-foot-spread...faster growth rate than the species...dense pyramidal to oval crown which casts deep shade...prolific blooms...small fragrant flowers appearing in late June and into July. Many bees are attracted to the flowers..."

Redmond American linden has similar growth characteristics, but with wider spread and much larger leaves.  Redmond is also considered an excellent nectar and pollen source for honeybees.  For American lindens, " When flowering, the trees are full of bees, hence the name Bee-tree; this species is favored by bees over others and produces a strongly flavored honey."

Linden flowers from
I had bought the Greenspire trees on deep discount, end of season.   This is almost a worst-case scenario.  At end of season, the roots are wound around the pot, increasing risk for self-girdled, self-killed trees.  Cutting off the winding roots, which I did, leaves the top out of proportion to the roots but is necessary for good future root spread and to prevent girdling.    In summer and fall, it's hot and dry, risking killing the trees shortly after planting them.  I did water frequently, and mulched generously.

All 5 trees settled in without a hitch.  Last year growth was so-so, enough to know they were establishing, but not super-fast.  None bloomed the first year.  The second year, they all grew much faster, putting on about 2 to 3 feet of growth.  I did give them organic nitrogen boosts in winter and spring, which may be why.  I watered frequently the first summer, but only a few times in summer 2014.  That is important - I read Greenspire and Redmond do not tolerate drought well.  They did fine.  The second year, none of the Greenspire trees had flowers.  The Redomond linden had several flowers.  Not dramatic, but I got to see some bloom on my own tree.
On the issue of nitrogen supplementation, there's this:  "Basswood is classified as a nitrogen-demanding species because it grows poorly on sites deficient in nitrogen. With increasing nitrogen supplies, basswood growth increases markedly, approaching a maximum radial increment when 560 to 670 kg/ha (500 to 600 lb/acre) of nitrogen are added. Basswood leaves have high contents of nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, and potassium at the time of leaf fall and they contribute most of these nutrients to the forest floor."  In my case, the added nitrogen was "pee cycling", with 2 liters, diluted to 2 gallons, and watered into the soil once in late fall and again in the spring.  From the same site, it is noted that basswood trees (Tilia americana) rate of growth is faster than other northern hardwood tree species.  That is important for me.  I want to see my trees grow.

Based on the first 2 years' experience with Greenspire and Redmond lindens, they settled in very well, had no summer or winter damage, and have made great starts.  Last winter, they tolerated the coldest winter conditions in local memory, without any damage at all.  If they continue to grow as well, I hope they will provide a little honeybee forage next year, and in the long run, will be my heritage as majestic trees for a future generation.

I haven't tried them yet, but basswood / linden leaves are edible for humans and animals, and reported as "tasty" "Edible raw or cooked you can make a salad using the leaves as the main ingredient like lettuce. Cooked they lose flavor and shrink in size considerably....  the flowers are edible raw or cooked a tea can be made from them. Two tablespoons per cup."  The author notes that the leaves have a mild flavor, slightly sweet, and tender.  He eats them at a small size.  The author also notes that the cambium is tasty as well, with a cucmber flavor.  Which reminds me, I need to check on the trunks to make sure they all have protective hardware cloth sleeves.  I wonder why deer didn't eat the leaves. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Apple Propagation. Some Experiments. 11.24.15

Apple graft removed from trunk of rootstock. 11.25.14

Apple sucker removed from trunk of rootstock.  11.25.14
 In March, I grafted a NOID apple from my yard, onto sprouts that had emanated from a culled Golden Delicious apple tree.  I don't know the rootstock - the tree was in the semidwarf range.  In 7 years, it gave no apples, and it had recurrent blight problems.  So I cut it down. 

This Spring, I saw sprouts that had grown up from the old rootstock.  I chose 2, and grafted a NOID columnar apple onto them.  The were 6 inches apart.  I thought, if only one grew, that was OK.  If both grew, I could cut off the smaller one.

Today, I dug out the smaller one.  These sprouts turned out to be attacked to the trunk, not more distant roots.  It was difficult to remove the grafted sprout with any intact roots.

It will be interesting to see if, in removing this one, I killed the other one.  It was more distal, so the taller one may have lost its main roots.  I did not dig further to find out.  It seems fairly attached to something in the soil.

There was also a small sprout.  I was not gentle, did not mean to keep it.  It looks viable, so I'll give it a try.

I have seen apples and peaches with this few roots survive and grow.  They are almost like a big cutting, but with a few roots already growing.  The most difficult part with cuttings is getting through the stage of initiating roots.  Once the first roots grow, they serve as the start for many roots.
Apple experiments, potted up.  11.25.14
These are now potted up.  I'll try not to expose them to too severe of a freeze.  They may take a while to grow.  If the rootstock heals and grows, I can use it for future grafting.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More Winter Protection for Little Fig Trees. 11.16.14

Protection for small fig trees.  11.16.14

Rodenticidal Creature.  11.16.14
Very easy.  I upended some unused garbage cans over the little fig trees.  Held in place using concrete blocks.  That will give a little added protection from cold and wind and solar dessication.

The plastic sheets between the trees are there to kill grass.  They will remain in place until late winter / early Spring.  Then I can plant borage, phacelia, hyssop, or wildflowers, for bee forage.  Borage forage works especially well. 

Then, I can mow up and down the sides of the fig row, instead of around each tree.  Much easier.

The little cat appeared out of nowhere.  I think he / she lives under the deck.  Our cat disappeared a month ago, and now a new kitten has appeared.  I don't believe in reincarnation - but here we are. 

With so many mice and voles and baby rabbits, the little cat should have plenty of prey.  I've been giving her left over food from kitty cat.  She avoids me, but is letting me closer each visit.

I know cats are considered bad for wildlife, but there are so many little invasive mammals, I think it's OK to have her.  In the countryside, redators are needed to keep rodent populations in check.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Horseradish. 11.16.14

Horseradish.  11.16.14
There are 4 plants I know of that are said to be better after a freeze.  One is American persimmon.  The others are Brussels Sprouts, Jerusalem Artichokes, and Horseradish.

I dug up one of the Jerusalem Artichokes - barely any to bother with.  I don't know why.  Might be the nitrogen boost I gave them.  I don't have any Brussels Sprouts or American Persimmon.

I planted the horseradish 3 years ago next to one of the little Cherry trees, to discourage moles.  Unless the mole likes piquant meals.  Now it's too close, and horseradish is difficult to get rid of once it starts.  Which is OK, I'll leave it there.

Here is what I dug out.  Nice and spicy hot.  Now to figure out how to make some horseradish sauce.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Frosted Fig Trees. 11.13.14

Frosted Fig Trees.  L=Hardy Chicago.  R=Petite Aubique.  11.13.14

Frosted King Fig.  11.13.14
Last night there was a hard frost at 28° F.    The fig trees in Vancouver still had leaves which have not turned yellow or fallen.  I don't know the effect on the tree.  Some trees, if not dormant when they frees, can die.

Interesting to look at the difference.  Hardy Chicago, no damage.  Petite Aubique, leaves are frost killed.

It isn't the end of the world if there is freeze kill.  Just interested in the differences, and whether there is.

In the (South) back yard, King had some freeze killed leaves, while Lattarula, a few feet away, did not.

The one - year - old starts, Carini and Dominick, already went dormant and I placed them in the garage a few days ago.

Same with Smith, which has been dormant for a few weeks.

Carini is Sicilian.  Dominick is an Italian variety, otherwise not known what part of Italy.  Both were maintained by Italian Immigrants and their children/grandchildren for many decades.  Cuttings were via their proud families or friends in N. Jersey.

Hardy Chicago is also Sicilian.  Via New York, then Chicago. 

King is a California hybrid.  I suppose Petite Aubique is French, although it was mis-named and who knows.

Smith is a Louisiana fig, kept by family, reportedly introduced by the Becnel Nursery near New Orleans.   A Louisiana fig blogger reports that Smith was sold by the Becnel Nursery in Bell Chase, LA, and was a Croatian variety, while others thought it Italian.    Smith is not  on the LSU Ag Center fig pamphlet , or in an article in the Times-Picayune from last year, - apparently not widely grown.  According to Durio Nursery in Opelousas, LA, " Smith - A superior, old fig cultivar that has been in the Becnel family for over 100 years.  It is a big, flattened, yellow fig with brown shading.  The color of the flesh is a deep red and it has a drop of honey at the eye.  The quality of this exceptionally sweet fig is outstanding...considered "the best fig" by those who know and grow it in the parishes close to the mouth of the Mississippi river."  Coming from an area that is so much warmer than here - I still remember boot camp at Ft. Polk, LA, standing outside in formation in short sleeves, in January - Smith is unproven, probably untested here.  So I have one in the ground, and the other in container.
Frosted Lattarula Fig.  11.13.14
 I've kept fig trees in garage for the winter, many times.  It's an attached, but otherwise unheated garage.

Lattarula is more difficult to figure out the provenance.  It is the same fig, grown by Thomas Jefferson at Marseilles, as "White Marseilles".    It's also called "Blanche", "Italian Honey Fig", and "Lemon Fig".    This tree is well known for this area (as is King), so I imagine the frost won't bother it this year either.  It's been through worse.

Fig Starts in Garage.  Dominick, Carini.  11.13.14

2 year old Smith Fig in Garage.  12.11.14

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Some Images from Vintage 11.11.14

Botanical - Flower - Daffodils - Advertisement 1913
Vintage images of Daffodils.  source:

Browsing, online source of vintage, public domain images that are free to use.

I enjoy these old images.  They involve much more effort, artistry, skills of observation, talent, than any photo.

These images relate to recent plantings.  They demonstrate the continuity of gardening through the ages.

Botanical - Flower - Fritillaria - Italian (1)
Fritillaria rubrum "Crown Imperial"  source

Fig Row. Final Fall Cleanup. 11.12.14

Fig Row.  11.11.14
Today I took a little time to clean up the row of fig starts.  Most have wire screens.  There has been no rain for  days, so grass was mowable. 

All mowed grass went into mulch.

Plastic covered areas will be used for bee forage next year.  Killing the grass with plastic cover for the winter.  Late winter I can plant the bee plants.  Most likely annual herbs such as I grew this year in other locations.

The end result will be a row.  Then I dont have to mow circles around the trees.  Much easier and faster, low maintenance.

They have all hardened off.  Not as soft as last year.  Most are about knee high to waist high.  Most are multiple trunk.

If there is super-cold predicted, I'll protect better.  Otherwise, the main protection is screening for herbivores.

Containerized fig trees are in shed now.  No need to panic when there is a hard freeze.  That method worked last year down to 8° F.

Prediction for tonight is 27° F.  I also moved containerized figs at home, into the garage.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Orchard Cleanup. 11.9.14

Orchard Cleanup.  11.9.14
Not much to clean up.  I'm changing approach to soil surface.  Previously, I planted various herbs around each tree.  Now I wonder of the more aggressive of those - peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm - competed with the tree growth.  The soil is very soft and moist today.  So for the first row - Saijo persimmon and the 3 paw paws, I pulled out the herbs and covered with collected maple leaves.  That's the end of the leaves, so something else will have to serve the rest.

Previous mulches have done a good job.  Soil was very soft and crumbly - not soggy clay.

Reading some permaculture, I wonder if this is what some hobbyists call the start of a "food forest".

Propagation Progress Report. Trees and Shrubs. 11.9.14

Forsythia Cutting at about 10 months.  11.9.14

Ginkgo biloba seedlings at about 2 years.  11.9 .14

Laburnum Cutting at about 2 years.  11.9.14
Today I dug up some of the starts I had around the yard  Some were in a vegetable bed that I want to re-orient to vegetables next spring.  Some were in a hedge row and had been chewed by herbivores (Laburnums).  The gingkos needed to come out of the iris raised bed before the roots extended past the chicken wire bottom.

I planted one forsythia start where I dug out the laburnums.  The other is shown here.  I repotted with intent to give more TLC next year for faster growth.

Similar for the ginkgo seedlings.  These have good root systems.

One laburnum was especially chewed up.  So much for them being toxic and repelling herbivores.  The other had more roots than expected for size.

Not bad for not trying all that hard.  Especially the forsythias - all I did with those was stick dormant prunings into the ground, late winter.

Laburnum Cutting at about 2 years.  11.9.14

Repotted Plant Starts.  11.9.14