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.