Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Early Xmas. Chips. 12.14.15

Now and then I call an arborist in my neighborhood and ask for him to leave a pile of tree chips in my driveway.  Thank you!  That saves him the hauling/dumping costs, and saves me the cost of the wood chip mulch.

This batch smells really good.  Pine. 

Yesterday my neighbor was hauling a load of tree leaves to be disposed of.  I asked if I could load them into my pickup.  Thank you!  Those are now already spread on the garden bed for next year's corn / squash / sunflowers.  They'll keep the weeds from growing, plus be mixed in a compost in situ.

Based on past experience, this batch of pine chips will take about 6 or 8 pickup loads.  They should be enough to refresh the front garden borders, and most of the orchard.  I want to be as water-wise as possible next year, and avoid the labor for weed management.  This will help significantly.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Mushrooom. 2.14.15

Growing under a fir tree.  This mushroom looks malevalently beautiful. 

From web search, apparently this one is Amanita muscaria.   We'll leave this one alone.  In fact, I'm not eating any of the mushrooms in our yard.

Planting a Home-Grown Hollywood Plum Tree. 10.14.15

Hollywood Plum Cuttings at One Year.  Late 2014

Hollywood Plum Tree at 2 years.  12.14.15
Today I added a Hollywood Plum tree to my little orchard.  It's too good not to use.  I took cuttings early 2014, replanted the resultant little trees late 2014, and now have some nice trees.

The tree was minimally root bound.  I teased the out and trimmed the longest ones.

All new trees get the mulch, hardware cloth to repel voles, and fencing to repel deer.
Roots on Hollywood Plum Tree.  12.14.15

Planted, Hardware Cloth  Sleeve, Deer Fence, and Mulch.  12.14.15

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Peecycle. A Follow Up. 12.12.15

In Jan 2014 I wrote a fairly extensive blog post, with references, about use of urine as a fertilizer.  I won't repeat that discussion, but link here.  I still think it's  an important concept, and worth repeating.  These are the learnings for 2015, almost 2 years later.

-Peecycling means saving urine in a container, for use in the garden.
-Urine has similar organic plant nutritional value, as organic fish emulsion.
-The main ingredient in urine that contributes to plant nutrition, is urea nitrogen.
-If stored, the urea nitrogen is broken down into ammonia and carbon dioxide.  That results in a highly alkaline solution that sterilizes any potential pathogens.  If used directly, the soil bacteria do the same thing.  Used as described here, I don't think the alkalinity is enough to change the pH of the soil in any meaningful fashion.   Soil here is acidic, so if there was an effect, it would be beneficial.
-Urine is safe.  Urine from a healthy person does not cause a risk for infections.    To sterilize the urine, it can be stored for a few weeks.
-The main negative is salt content.  Don't add more salts to an already salty soil.  My Pacific NW soil is very low in salts, based on recent laboratory soil testing.  So that is not an issue here.
-In my soil, there is plenty of potassium and phosphorus, and most trace nutrients.   Nitrogen is the main soil nutrient that is needed.  Urine is very low in potassium and phosphorus, so likely doesn't change those nutrients much, unless the soil is deficient.  Then the contribution would be helpful.
-In other soils, there are different needs.  There is a movement against adding phosphorus, which harms the environment.  Potassium is often high - a soil test would be needed to determine that.  

In 2015, I used peecycling for nitrogen-demanding garden plants, especially corn, tomatoes, and squash. I did not do a randomized trial, comparing plots with and without.  So this is not a valid university trial.

We saved the urine in plastic bottles from orange juice or cider.  Most were approx 2 quart size.  For fertilizing, we poured it into a 2-gallon watering can, then rinsed the pee bottle 3 times with water, pouring the water each time into the watering can.  So that is a 1:4 dilution.  We poured that on the ground in the corn row, or around the tomato or squash plants, about one watering can full per 100 square feet.  We estimated the 100 square feet as about 5 X 10 feet, guessing the distances.

If stored, some dissolved minerals bind to the sides of the container.  I'm thinking those are potassium phosphate, or ammonium salts, but not sure.  This can be unsightly on the bottle, but is not harmful.  After emptying the bottles, they can be filled with water and left sitting for a week.  The water dissolves those minerals, resulting in a cleaner looking container.  Sometime 2 water treatments are needed.  I use that water for watering as well, those minerals also go into the soil, so nothing is lost.

In all cases, after watering the diluted into the soil, I watered again with a second watering can with just water.  That soaks the diluted urine a little deeper. I did not notice any odor, although I may not be sensitive enough to know.

The result was excellent production of all three.  I was very surprised at how well they did.   Corn, squash, and tomatoes, all had excellent yield.  The plants grew vigorously and fast, and the production was excellent - large fruits and excellent flavor.  We had the most tomatoes and squash that we have ever had.  This was my first time for sweet corn, which was excellent.  All three crops received the fertilizer at 2 or 3 week intervals, until the corn tassels start to grow, or the tomatoes start to bloom, or the squash starts to bloom.

For some flowers and herbs, I also used the same fertilizer.  I quit when the flowers started to grow.  Chinese chives were big and tender, and rebounded quickly from harvest for second and third and 4th crops.  Nasturtiums grew too large, making big bushes with very large leaves and few flowers.  Daylilies were big and vigorous, and made many beautiful, big, flowers.

I used much smaller amounts for the young shade trees, using one diluted bottle per tree, in late winter and repeating in early spring.  Those were watered in extending to the drip line and a little beyond.  Growth was excellent.  Linden trees, maples,  and ginkgos responded very well to the additional nitrogen In fact, I was kind of awed at how much growth the maples produced - more than 3 foot of sturdy, stout branch growth.

I did not use nitrogen boost for the producing fruit trees that are already big enough - the plums and the cherries.  If they were smaller, I would have.  I do not want to overstimulate leaf and stem growth at the expense of fruit--bearing growth.  For persimmons, I read that extra nitrogen can lead to fruit drop.  Those trees were so small and young, I did fertilize them to stimulate more growth.  I read that the first year fruit often drops, and they did.  This year the Asian and Asian/American hybrid are tall enough, and will get no extra nitrogen in 2016.  The American persimmons are still very small, so I will fertilize those in early 2016.  The pawpaws grew very well, and have many flower buds now.  I don't think that fertilizing them prevented formation of next year's fruiting wood, and it did stimulate growth a lot.  I will fertilize the smaller ones and not the larger ones.

Apples and pears are susceptible to fireblight.  Rank, excessively vigorous growth is especially vulnerable to the disease, especially in the early Spring.  I have seen that happen, fast rank growth suddenly looks like it has been torched.  So for the smaller pome trees, it's a gamble.  You want them to grow well the first couple of years, so you don't have to wait too long for the onset of production, especially the first taste.  The pear trees and Asian pears are all big enough, so they will get no nitrogen boost.  Some of the apples are big enough - they won't get any, or won't get much.  The smallest apples might benefit from the extra nitrogen during their first year.

I thought about this when I bought the Maxie pear this week at Tsugawa nursery.  In the ground, this tree is 8 foot tall.  It is plenty tall, so needs no nitrogen boost.  If I bought a whip by mail order, shipping requirements result in it being much smaller and shorter, and I think I would have to wait longer for it to bear, or risk fireblight by fertilizing.

Figs are more sensitive to freezing if the growth is too rank and soft.  For the smaller ones, which is most of the Battleground fig trees, the plan is fertilize early - say, May, but not after that.  Use about 1/2 as much as on the corn, so 1 original 2 quart bottle goes to about 200 square feet.  That method worked nicely this year, and all growth was hardened off well before the first frost.  Most of my Battleground figs are in the 3 or 4 foot tall range, so still some growth is needed before I get significant production.  I hope to get a few bowls of figs here this year, and still have the big, very productive, Vancouver figs to satisfy me for the next year.

If you fertilize and the growth is fast and tender, then there is no rain, you risk losing the crops to leaf burn. Ditto for concerns about salts.  Concentrated salts lead to leaf burn and in severe cases, can kill plants.   Think of lawn spots where dogs urinate.  This can be a motivation to reduce salt in the diet, healthier for all.  By diluting and watering the dilute urine into the soil. we did not have any leaf burn issues at all, on any of the plants that we fertilized.  This was an especially hot, dry, summer.  We watered the vegetables and youngest fruit trees regularly, but only watered the young maples, lindens, and maples, 2 or three times.  Those are in the range of 10 to 20 feet tall.  They did not have any leaf burn at all.

Since we are planning some beds for chicken feed next year - seed sunflowers, milo / sorghum, and flint corn - I want to save some urine for spring use.  The same large juice jugs should work fine.  Many writers recommend storage for auto-sterilization.  There is more odor, which passes fairly quickly, especially when watered in.  There are no special requirements.  The jugs can be stored in shed or garage.  Some of the ammonium content is lost due to the alkaline state of the stored product.  Used quickly on opening, and watered into the acidic soil, I think this loss would not be a lot.  At least for manures, ammonia loss are significant only  if the manure is left on the soil surface.  Loss is also less if applied to tilled soil instead of residue, and in cool temperatures.  Similar concepts apply to use of diluted urine.

No fertilizing regimen is a cure all.  Judgement about which plants to fertilize, when, and how much, is important.   Every plant has it's own needs, and those needs change with stage of growth.  This method is mainly good for nitrogen-demanding plants at the time that they need extra nitrogen.  For the past 2 years, this is the only fertilizer that we have used, and the results were all positive.

Some people are very squeamish about peecycling.   On a web forum, several members were close to horrified about the topic, some spread misinformation and one member was almost threatening.   In addition, it's anatomically much easier for men than for women.  No system can be suitable for everyone in every circumstance.  A lot of education is needed to improve acceptance and reduce prejudice.  Peecycling, is sanitary, prevents excess nutrients from going into rivers and streams, probably prevents medications from going into rivers and streams and disrupting fish reproduction and concentration into fish.  Peecycling conserves water, reduces reliance on chemical / natural gas production of nitrogen, so is a responsible measure for those who, like me, want to be stewards of the environment and reduce our own role in climate change.  Peecycling is hygienic, safe, responsible, easy, and effective for many crops.

(All images public domain, from vintageprintable.com)

Addendum.  Pee-cycling is now almost sort of mainstream, to the extent that you can purchase Peecycling Coffee Cups and mugs.  Maybe people are less squeamish than I thought.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Soil Test Report. 12.8.15

Here is a summary of the soil test report from this week's test.  The area tested was the home orchard, and the report recommendations were based on that.  I had this done by simplysoiltesting.com in Burlington Washington.  Their reports seem very detailed and understandable.  The interpretation below is per their report.

Image via vintageprintable.com
Soil Test report
Phosphorus 227 ppm =  very high
Potassium 431 ppm = very high
Calcium 1405 ppm = high
Magnesium 222 ppm = high
Boron 0.7 ppm = medium
Sulfur 3.7 ppm = medium

Organic matter 8.8% = high

Soluble salts 0.14 mS/cm  low
Zinc 1.7 ppm = high
Manganese 4.0 ppm = very high (normal is 0.7 - 1.4)
Copper 0.7 ppm = high
Iron 46.5 ppm = very high (normal is 2.5 to 5.0)

pH 5.31 (3 years ago this was 5.05)

They don't test nitrogen, stating it is too transient.

They recommend lime 44 pounds per 1000 square feet - if mixing to 8 inches deep, or 11-14 pounds if scattered on soil surface, nitrogen 2.3 pounds per 1000 square feet, and small amounts of borax and sulfur supplements.  They give recommended amounts of organic supplements, which is what I requested, as either blood meal, Alaska fish fert (46 pounds per 1000 sq feet - could get expensive and stinky), organic urea, 5 pounds per 1000 sq feet.  It's up to me to determine the peecycle amount.

Image via vintageprintable.com
When tested 3 years ago, most was similar but  the pH is higher.  I did spread lime at that time.  That may explain the increase in pH and calcium since the last report.  I have not used any fertilizer other than peecycling.  I think back then they stated calcium was also low, and at that time also recommended some borax similar to this time.  I did not supplement borax.

Despite the low pH, most of the trees have done well.  Maybe they'll do better with further correction of the acidity.

New Fruit Trees. 12.10.15

Home Orchard.  12.10.15
This week I added 2 new fruit trees to the home orchard.  I stopped by Tsugawa nursery on my way to Longview for an appointment.  They had some nice fruit trees, left over from the 2015 season.  Now leafless, with the year's root and stem growth completed.  I think these are bigger and have more roots, compared to the expected incoming stock or anything mail order.  They are varieties I was going to add, after considerable reviewing on the internet.
This winter is warm and wet.  I don't think there is any disadvantage to planting now.  If the ground was frozen, that would be an issue.  But it isnt.   I've planted in December before, and the trees settled in perfectly.

Maxie Pear Tree.  12.14.15
There may be a challenge finding s spot for each of the trees that I want to add.   The trees from Tsugawa were Honeycrisp on "semidwarf" rootstock, and Maxie hybrid pear on quince rootstock.  Maxie is a hybrid between Red Bartlett and Nijiseiki Asian pear.  It is described as having the juicy crispness of the Asian pear, with the Bartlet flavor.  With more ripening, it is reportedly more tender, like European pears, but can be eaten at the crisp stage.  Starks describes Maxie as resistant to pear scab, although the bigger problem here is fireblight.  Maxie was developed in New Zealand.   I expect to graft pollinating varieties / supplemental varieties onto each.  They both appear to have lots of viable flower buds on spurs.  This tree will not get nitrogen supplement, because rapid growth may be more susceptable to fireblight.

The Honeycrisp is next to another apple.  The Maxie is on its own, other pear trees are uphill and upwind.  It will need pollinizer scion.  I'm thinking Shinseiki, which is very vigorous.  Honeycrisp will get, maybe scion from 2 or 3 varieties of apples to make it into a multigraft tree.

Honeycrisp Apple Tree.  12.14.15
Neither had much winding roots.  They were potbound.  They should settle in without a hitch.  I did add hardware cloth vole-guard sleeves to both.  The apple got deer fencing, and so will the pear when I buy some this weekend.

Tsugawa offers a veteran's discount.  It's a nice gesture.  I appreciated that.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Plans for 2016. Growing for hen food. 12.3.15

Chicken food can be costly.  You don't always know what you are getting.  We have room on our 2 acres to experiement with additional crops.   I don't know the art and science of chicken feed.  I read there needs to be a balance of protein, and amino acid type.  Some feed plants contain anti-growth substances such as saponins that need to be cooked out.  Some plants are eaten by deer.  They ate all of our buckwheat this year.  This web page contains a list of various seed protein content.

Amaranth.   Long history as a crop, thousands of years.  High in protein but also saponins. Keep untreated under 20% of chicken diet, treated - cooked - under 40%.  Dried leaves can also be used.  Protein 14% to 18%.

Broom Corn or Sorghum.  Not good as a main component of feed, poor quality protein and contains anti-nutritive tannin.  Probably a little is OK, as a minor part of the feed, but not much.

Whole grain corn - It's possible to add some whole grain corn to supplement part of the hen diet.  Corn is the main grain used in poultry feeds in the USA.  Corn grain is 10% protein.    Corn has no intrinsic toxins.  Corn grain is 72% starch and high in lipids.  Some of the pigments may carry over into the egg yolks (xanthophylls).  From OSU extension, "corn grain is deficient in lysine, methionine, and tryptophan; all of which are essential amino acids. The major protein in corn is zein. Zein is a poor quality protein; both in terms of a poor amino acid profile and low solubility. As stated, the lipid content in corn is relatively high. The lipids in corn increase energy content and palatability. In addition, the lipids provide essential fatty acids. In terms of minerals, corn grain is very deficient in calcium and moderately high in phosphorus."  I was thinking about growing Indian corn, preferably a northern strain that would be harvestable here.  Deer and rabbits don't seem to eat our corn plants.  We would have to keep them separated from sweet corn, because of detrimental cross pollination.

Legumes.  There are concerns about soy, and about GMO soy.   Soy is shipped long distances.  Soy is a high quality protein and oil seed.  Other legumes are possible, but need processing.  I don't jave a good substitute in mind.  During summer, our free range hens forage all types of plants, weeds, and bugs, so get various protein sources.  Keeping deer out of legume plants would be challenging.  Deer love eating bean and pea plants.  Soy contains anti-nutritive saponins which apparently  can be inactivated by heat processing.

Sunflower seeds.  Apparently, can be partially substituted for soy.  Not clear, less than 15% or 30% of feed.  Protein content is about 26%.  The sunflower seed heads can be left in the chicken yard or chicken house for them to peck out the seeds.  They don't need any other processing.  This site states they can be no more than 30% of the hen feed, which is a lot.

This is an incomplete post, to be edited as I read more and learn more.

(All images via public domain, vintageprintable.com)

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Fruit Tree Seedlings. Winter Growth. 12.2.15

Fruit Tree Seedings.  12.2.15

Germinating Red Pluot Seed.  12.2.15
Status report for fruit tree seedlings, 12.2.15

Apricots.  3 seeds germinated.  About 1/2 of what I tried.  These were the first, about 2 months old now.

Peach. so far only one plant.  Most of the seeds rotted.  These are all from Oregon Curl Free.  I repotted the plant today.  Leaves were pale.  Now in regular potting soil.

Red pluot.  4 seeds germinated of about 8 attempted.  I removed one from paper towel / zipper lock bag today.  The roots are easy to get off the paper towel if the paper towel is very wet. The first one to grow is looking good, abnout one month.
Germinating Red Pluot Seed.  12/2/15

There are some unknowns with these.  For the ones in the sunroom, temp drops into the 40s at night.  Daylength is short.  I don't have them on artificial lighting.  I don't know of the short daylength will induce dormancy, or if growth will continue into Spring.  I don't think temperature is an issue as long as the sunroom doesn't get much colder.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Pink Banana Squash. 11.30.15

Ning, Pink Banana Squash, Long Island Cheese Pumpkin.
  Earlier this fall.

Now cooking up Pink Banana Squash. If I remember correctly, this was 16 pounds. The Long Island Cheese pumpkin was a little less. We cooked one of the pumpkins already. The first step is cut it open. A cleaver and rubber mallet seemed like the safest approach. Lots of flesh. Lots of seeds to roast. 2nd step, scoop out seeds, place on baking pan, add a cup of water, cover the end with aluminum foil, and bake for 1 hour, until a fork easily pierces the skin.

Out of the oven, one hour  at 350F.

After cooling  to almost room temp.  Soft, tender flesh scoops out easily with a large spoon. 

Scoop into food processer and briefly puree. I'm not certain this is needed, the flesh is very tender.

After this, I set aside 2 cups for a pumpkin pie. The rest is frozen in 2 cup portions for future baking. I either place them in glass containers with tightly sealed top, or heat-sealed freezer sealer bags that vacuum out all of the air.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Orchard changes and plans. 11.29.15

During the cold winter season, there is more time to ponder what I will do next year.  I gave up on 2 peaches - Indian Free - no peach in about 8 years of growing it, and Oregon Curl Free - probably 75% killed by canker.  I don't want it to be a reservoir of disease for others.  If it's only going to bear one year then succumb to disease, why bother?  It could be the rootstock.  Citation seems to be canker-prone.  Peaches are hard to graft, or I might have tried to salvage some scion.  Removing them now will give me a change to clean up the locations.

Current thoughts, subject to change.  Photos are just old illustrations, not meant to depict these varieties.

Image via vintageprintable.com
Apples.    Links are to descriptions, I haven't decided on sources yet.
Add one tree, Winecrisp.  Starks states, "Disease-resistant to scab, fire blight, and powdery mildew. Stores up to nine months."  A PRI co-op disease resistant variety.  Orange Pippin states very good flavor.  Science Daily fluff article in 2009 states "More than 20 years in the making".
Add some grafts.  None of these are patented.  "I've given priority for disease resistance and complex flavors, but also some historic types.  Growing them might be the only way I ever taste them.
Sweet-16.  From University of Minnesota, a source of many good varieties including Honeycrisp, SweeTango®, and Zestar®.  "Crisp and juicy with an exotic yellow flesh and a very sweet, unusual sugar cane or spicy cherry candy flavor. The fruit stores for 5 to 8 weeks. Tree is very vigorous and fruit may be subject to premature drops. Introduced in 1977."  Various websites state Sweet-16 has spicy flavor notes and is vigorous and disease resistant.
Image via vintageprintable.com
GoldRush.   Another PRI co-op apple.  Disease resistant, vigorous, long keeper.   GoldRush was designated by the State of Illinois as the state apple - good marketing my University of Illinois.  A low-ethylene producer, which helps in longer storage.
Baldwin - a very, very old heritage variety, not much grown now.  Triploid, like Jonagold, so needs a pollinizer but can't serve as one.  Not a problem on multigraft.  Origin in the late 1700s - Wikipedia states around 1740, no special disease resistance, I just want a taste of the past.  Spur bearing.  Exceptionally good pie apple.
Newtown Pippin.   Another very, very old variety.  Grown by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin.  Origin in late 1700s.   Spur bearing.  Most of the NY harvest goes to Martinelli's sparkling cider.   I tasted some locally grown Newtown Pippins, made a pie, it was very good.  Mostly it's the idea of a more-than-200-year-old variety.    Nothing notable as far as disease resistance.
Milo Gibson - a hobbyist apple  Reported as "licorice flavored with hints of banana" .  Not much info on this one but the flavor sounds interesting.

Image via vintageprintable.com
Euro Plums.   I will use scion for grafting, not adding new trees.
Mt. Royal.  Self pollinating, heavy producer.  Developed in Quebec prior to 1903, so a heritage variety.  I want to replace most of my unidentified plum with something that produces and tastes better.  I can overgraft it with these.
Seneca.   Large Red Plums, from NY Exp station 1972.  Reportedly good for Pacific NW. 

Hybrid, Asian/American Plums.  These are some notes I had written down, but some info summarize here.  Primarily for multigrafts.  A couple of new trees, on Hollywood / cerasifera / myrobalan root stock I have already grown.
Pembina.  Hansen, 1923.  Dark red plum, yellow flesh, juicy sweet heavy yield. 
Superior - large golden plum that blushes pink.
Waneta - Yellow blushed, red fruit.  Hansen, 1913.
Pipestone.  Prunus salicina X Prunus americana "Wolf".  U. Minn 1942.  Needs pollinator. 

 I need something else to obsess over.  I've driven these plans into the ground.

Cleaning up brambles and Hawthorn Thicket. 11.29.15

Himalayan blackberries taking over natural scrub.  11.29.15
 We have 2 acres, separated by a narrow access road.  They are separate parcels that were bundled by the bank when we bought this property on short sale.  The first acre is the house, a slope, much of the orchard, and some shade trees.  The second acre is more flat, with more fruit trees, vegetable garden, wildflower meadows, and about 1/4 acre of a thicket.  Behind the thicket is a small ravine, separating us from other properties.

Much of the thicket is Douglas Hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii) and Himalayan blackberries.  I have also seen the name "Black Hawthorn".  Douglas Hawthorn is native, and the USDA considers it useful to stabilize slopes and prevent erosion.  According to the US Forest service, "Douglas hawthorn is an excellent soil and streambank stabilizer."  I want to keep the hawthorn healthy.

The problem here is the Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) which has taken over the area.   Himalayan blackberry is the Pacific Northwest's answer to kudzu, but with a worse attitude.  The blackberry is considered a noxious and invasive weed.  Control is not required, because they are already so widespread.  However, for restoration, removal is sometimes recommended.  According to the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, "This species spreads aggressively and has severe negative impacts to native plants, wildlife and livestock.".  My livestock consist of a herd of deer, but I get the point.

Apparently goats eat them, but deer, in their life mission to be eternally obnoxious, do not.

I can't spray with herbicides.  First, I prefer organic, and second, I don't want to damage the Hawthorns.  So it means manual removal

Himalayan blackberries are notorious for fighting back.  For an old guy with limited energy, I need to use less force and more thinking.  The brambles are difficult to remove, due to long, strong vines that interweave and have nasty thorns.  If I use pruners to remove a foot at a time, chopping them up as I go, they don't take a lot o physical strength or stamina, just persistence  and occasional cursing.  OK,  frequent cursing.

I am also taking out fallen trees, but leaving the rest.  The brambles will need continued maintenance,  to remove crowns that will represent a reservoir of renewed growth next year, until removed.  Flatter areas can be mowed with lawn mower.
Douglas Hawthorn thicket exposed and beautiful.  11.29.15
In the second photo, an uncleared bramble area is seen on the right.  The piles are chopped brambles, which will be composted.  While living, young brambles are tough, they soften to a paper-like consistency when dead, and should compost reasonably quickly.

Once exposed, these trees have a birch-like bark appearance, and the twigs are decorated with lichens.  Very nice.  It's nice spending the afternoon outside during the brisk fall and early winter weather.  I could not do this in the summer.

The blackberries are delicious, but it's hard to get to them due to the brambles.  A domesticated, thornless, tamed type would be better.

The second acre from across the access road.   The cleared hawthorn is on the left.   11.29.15

Sunday, November 22, 2015

First Frost. 11.22.15

First Frost.  11.22.15
Today was the first killing frost at Battleground.  I'm kind of glad.  Now I can clean up the flower borders and the remainder of the vegetable beds. Yesterday this nasturtium was vigorous and full of life.  Not much there for frost to kill - nasturtiums, four o'clocks, marigolds.

I'm trying to keep the sunroom from frosting.  I have a heater on a timer.  Last night it got into the low 50s which is OK.  In the sunroom, I  have fruit seedlings and daylily seedlings, as well as orchids and cactuses.

I have a long list of changes for the home orchard when late winter rolls around.  I keep changing it based on internet research.  Mostly new grafts, and a few new trees.  Main criteria are disease resistance, non-mainstream varieties, heritage varieties, and potential for better performance in this climate.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Fungus on Cherry Bark. 11.15.15

Fungus on Cherry Tree.  11.15.15
I don't know what this is.  It's on the North side of an approx 6 year old Almaden Duke cherry tree.

The tree has never amounted to much.  If it dies, it's not that much of a loss.  There are 2 suckers from the rootstock.  They could be grafted to start a new tree on the same roots.  Assuming the fungus is localized.

These mushrooms are on the North side of the trunk.  There are none on the South side.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Walking Around. More Fall Color. 11.8.15

Volunteer Seedling Japanese Maple, and Seedling Ginkgo.  Ginkgo seeds from Vancouver WA, about 6 years.   11.8.15

NoID Japanese Maple.  11.8.15

Leaf Color, Nikita's Gift Persimmon.  11.8.15
Illinois Ginkgo from seed my Dad collected in mid 1990s.   11.8.15
Leaf Colors on Saijo Persimmon.  11.8.15

Ning's seedling Ginkgos.  He wants to prune these to a big bonsai-like ornamental.  Seeds collected Vancouvern WA as above.  11.8.15

Orchard at 3 years. 11.8.15

Home Orchard.  11.8.15

Home Orchard.  11.8.15
This is the main orchard at 3 years.  There are also fig trees by the house and in the 2nd yard, apples and pears in the second yard, and columnar applesn by the house.

More should be producing next year.  Some of the plums have triple buds at the nodes for the first time.  Triple buds should indicate flower buds.  Those are:  Methley, some multigrafts, grafted Hollywood and Shiro, and some on the 1st year Ember grafted onto Hollywood rootstock that I planted here a couple of weeks ago.  Sweet Treat Plurerry has triple buds.  All of this is something to look forward to.

Others that look promising are Pawpaws NC-1 and Sunflower.   Rebecca's gold does not look like it, and Mango is just at first year.

The Asian Persimmons bloomed last year, so I am hopeful for next year.

The cherries should all produce next year.  They have lots of flower buds. Except Almaden Duke, which has tiny fungus mushroom-looking things growing out of the trunk.  Bad sign.  And some of  the apples should produce, they did this year and have active spurs.  Ditto for Asian pears and Euro pears.

Q18 peach and Charlotte peach have triple buds with fuzz - also look like potential flowers

Losses:  Indian Blood, I'm giving up.  No fruit and poor growth, it's been at least 5 years.  Minidwarfs on M27, I'm giving up.  Not worth the hassle and wait for minimal and bad yield.  Oregon Curl Free looks like it will die.

Anticipated additions or replacements:   Nadia Cherry Plum, Surefire Cherry.  Looking at web info, Rebecca's Gold Pawpaw may be late bearing.  I might buy an Allegeny Pawpaw which should be earlier and is a new-generation Peterson variety, probably the best of the best.  An apple and an Asian Pear.  That fills all of the empty, emptying, and potential new spots.

Just daydreaming.   I really don't need more fruit trees.  Pawpaws take 3 or 4 years, at least to bear.  That's a long way out, to start one at this point in my life.

There is a Korean Bush Cherry in the driveway that needs to be planted.  Possibly bloom size.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Persimmon, Pawpaw, and Peach Trees Fall Color. 11.3.15

Nikita's Gift Hybrid Persimmon.  11.3.15
Today I stopped by the One Green World nursery outlet in Portland.  Fall is a good time to plant many types of trees.  I found two fruit varieties to try:

American persimmon "Prairie Star" (Diospyros virginiana) and  Korean bush cherry (Prunus japonica).   More on the bush cherry later.

Back at Battleground, the persimmons have nice fall color.  The best is Nikita's Gift - a hybrid between Diospyros virginiana and Asian persimmon,  Diosyyros kaki.  The little Prairie Star also has nice color.

Asian Persimmon "Saijo" had a tough summer, too much heat.  The leaves curled, but did not fall off.  They have nice color now, but it's hard to see due to the curled leaves.  Maybe next year it will do better.

The other American persimmon, Yates, doesn't look like much this year as far as leaf color goes.

Prairie Star American Persimmon.  11.3.15

Saijo Asian Persimmon.  11.3.15
Other fruit trees / plants with nice fall color were the NC1 Pawpaw and the genetic dwarf peach seedling.  The peach seeedling has fuzzy buds.  Those might indicate flower buds for next Spring.  It is about 3 years post germination.

It was interesting looking at the persimmons at One Green World.  They had several Nikita's Gift persimmons with big fruits on the 1 foot tall plants.  I asked the clerk how they accomplish that.  He didn't know.  They also had a kaki persimmon from Xian, which had little green fruits.   That did not seem promising to me, November and no where near ripe.

Mine may have received too much nitrogen this year.  It is a gamble.  Too little nitrogen, growth is puny.  Too much, and fruits don't set or fall off.   I will probably fertilize the two little American persimmons prior to Spring, but not the Asian and hybrid, which are both over 6 foot tall, so I don't need growth on those so much as wanting to taste the fruits.
NC1 Pawpaw.  11.3.15

Nikita's Gift Persimmons at One Green World Nursery.  11.3.15
American Persimmons are not yet developed as commercial fruits.  The challenges are, they tend to be small, too soft to ship, and have a bad reputation because anyone who has tried an unripe one never wants to try again.  When ripe, they are very soft, and lose their astringency.  They also have the challenge that, in their wild state, male and female trees are separate, and the females require pollination to form fruits.  Many varieties of Asian persimmons lost the need for a male to pollinate them (parthenocarpic), and those fruits are seedless.  Saijo does not need a pollinator, and apparently neither does Nikita's Gift.  Yates / Juhl is parthenocarpic.

James Claypool was an amateur who attempted to breed persimmons as an ideal fruit for home gardener or orchard.  He trialed thousands of hybrids, starting with varieties from earlier, mainly amateur, developments and improvements over wild persimmons.  When Claypool developed an illness and could no longer work on his persimmons, the Indiana Nut Growers Association took over.

Seedling Genetic Dwarf Peach.  11.3.15

Yates (Juhl) American Persimmon.  11.3.15

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Plum Pollination. 10.27.15

Among the more challenging aspects of growing Asian and Hybrid plums is pollination.  Some varieties self pollinate, many require a different plum variety.    Different websites have different information.  In different areas, rules that apply in one area might also not apply in another, due to differences in temperature or bloom time.  Sometimes, you just plant a tree or trees and hope for the best.

The nursery sites are not always accurate, or don't necessarily give the wanted information.  The source of the information is not usually given.

Raintree.com - my source for Shiro and Hollywood.  These 2 seem to pollinate each other.  Shiro is described as partially self pollinating, and Hollywood is described as self pollinating.  They bear well in my Vancouver yard, without other visible plum trees in the neighborhood.

Hybrids can indicate any species with another species, but usually refers to Asian species hybridized with native American species.  Asian species give larger size and more meaty flesh, American species add to the flavors and give much better cold compatibility.  Many of the hybrids are about 100 years old, so are nonpantented, and do not have industry or university sponsors or advocates.

University of Minnesota Ag Experiment Station workers did a detailed project regarding hybrid plum pollination  in 1950.   Among their tables, abstracted below.  I summarized only the varieties that I have seen for sale as trees or scion, various sources.

Prunus simonii

From Table 3.   Hybrid and native plums rated as good pollinizers.
Kaga.  P. americana.  12 recipient varieties tested.  Early bloom.
Toka.  P. american X P. simonii.  22 recipients tested.  Early bloom.
South Dakota.  P. americana or P. americana hybrid.  27 recipients tested.  Medium late bloom

From Table 4.  Hybrid and native plums rated as fair pollinizers.
Ember.   P. salicina hybrid X P. americana.  24 recipient varieties tested.  Bloom season, mid.
Hanska.    P. americana X P. simonii.  17 recipients tested.  Early.
Superior.  P. salicina X (P. americana X P. simonii). 18 recipients tested.  Early / mid.
Shiro.  P. salicina hybrid.  1 recipient tested.

From Table 5.  Pollinizers tested and rated as poor.
Prunus salicina "Shiro"
La Crescent.

Other comments from the  1950 U Minn paper -

The study began in 1932, and extended for a number of years.

It was noted that native plums had good pollen viability, while hybrids had generally poor pollen viability.   Some had 50% with aborted pollen grains.  Many of the hybrids produced pollen with empty or aborted pollen grains.  Toka was shown to have good viability but a poor pollinizer.  However, in the tables Toka is listed as a fair pollinizer.

Lack of fruit production may be defective pollen, low viability of pollen, or pollen incompatibility.

Among hybrids, more of those with female American plum parent, were good pollinizers. P. simonii may also contribute something to hybrids, in terms of being good pollinizers.

The authors also note that many of the hybrids resemble mainly their female parent.  They go on to say that  this may be due to apomixis, reproduction without sexual fertilization.

So you might think you have a hybrid, based on pollination, when reality the variety is selfed.

Rutland Plumcot.
From Table 8.  Compatibility. Recipient named first, pollen sources follow.  P=poor, F=fair, G=good.

Ember.  Hanska (G), Kaga (F), Superior (G), Toka (G), S. Dakota (G), not self.
Hanska.  Ember (G), Superior (F), Toka (G), not self
La Crescent.  Ember (P), Hanska (P), S. Dakota (G), Toka (G), self not mentioned
S. Dakota.  Ember (F), Hanska (G), Superior (F), Toka (G), not self
Superior.  Ember (P), Hanska (G), Kaga (G), Superior (G), Toka (G), does pollinize self.
Toka.  Kaga (G), Superior (G), not self.
Underwood.  Ember (P), Hanska (F), Kaga (G), Superior (F), Toka (G), self not mentioned.
Waneta.  Ember (G), Hanska (G), Kaga (G), Superior (F), Toka (G), self not mentioned.

This seems to disagree with other reports of Toka pollinizing self.

Finally, there is also an issue of bloom season.
Prunus cerasifera

From Table 8.  Varieties of plums suggested...

Early bloom season - Superior, Toka.
Mid bloom season - Ember, Underwood.
Mid to late - South Dakota.


Info from TheFarNorthGarden.com website:
"P. salicina hybrids were developed by crossing native wild plums with plum varieties from California that were not hardy, producing hardy trees with good quality fruit. These include 'Pembina' (sometimes called 'Prairie', 'Acme' or 'Elite'), 'Patterson Pride', 'Brookred', 'Geddes' and 'Perfection' (sometimes known as 'Superb'). These hybrids will only produce fruit if they are pollinated by a wild plum, and they do not provide pollination for any type of plum, including each other. This may explain why some growers have poor fruit production with these trees."

Another lesson - plums of the same variety can have different names.

From "Plums on the Prairies" - by Rick Sawatzky, University of Saskatchewan
On terminology - " Pollinators , usually insects, are vectors of pollen movement. Pollinizers are plants which provide the appropriate pollen for other plants"

On Pollinizing - " George F. Chipman who edited the Prairie Gardener for many years and who wrote about plum pollination in 1934. He summarized a study done by Prof. W. H. Alderman at the University of Minnesota by saying, “...very few hybrid plums would accept pollen freely from other hybrids, but they would all accept pollen from native plums”. 

A precaution comes to mind -  not from a specific source, but from my observation - most of these studies and comments regard plums grown in the Midwest, and usually the North Midwest at that.  There, the climate is not friendly to most Asian plums, which is why they are interbred with American species.  Therefore, the pollen from Asian plum varieties might not be tested on the hybrids.  Both Toka and La Crescent have Shiro as a parent, so Shiro might pollinize those varieties.

From LMtreefarm -
Brookgold - Asian plum
Brookred- Asian plum
Greenville  - Asian (Burbank) by P. nigra
Patterson's Pride - P. nigra X Asian plum, 1960
La Crescent - Howard Yellow apricot X Shiro Asian plum 1923
Pembina - Native Canadian plum X Asian plum "Red June"
South Dakota - pollinator for hybrid plums, a selection of Prunus americana.  1949
Tecumseh - Shiro X "Surprise" -
Toka - Native plum X Chinese plumcot P. simonii.  1911.

Toka plum

HardyFruitTrees states La Crescent is "Also known as 'Crescent', 'Golden La Crescent' and 'Golden Minnesota'. La Crescent is a cross between the 'Shiro' plum (Prunus simonii x Prunus salicina x Prunus cerasifera x Prunus munsoniana) and 'Howard Yellow' plum ( Prunus americana). It was introduced in 1923 by the University of Minnesota Fruit Breeding Farm"

The source has some nice things to say about La Crescent - "sweet and juicy...golden-orange color...flesh is yellow like an apricot... melting and not fibrous... freestone... taste has an hint of apricot. and they note that it is a poor bearer and must be pollinized by and American or Canadian plum.

Of Pemina, they state - "hybrid between a Japanese plum (Prunus salicina) and a Canadian plum (Prunus nigra)... self-sterile... must be pollinated by a wild plum tree, or a pure American plum tree (Prunus americana), or a pure Canadian plum (Prunus nigra)....introduced in 1923 by Niels Ebbesen Hansen from the South Dakota Experimental Station in Brookings"


Based on all of this information -

-Of readily available varieties to pollinize Hybrid plums, Toka seems to be the best candidate.
-South Dakota seems equally good as a pollinizer, but is harder to find.
-It's not clear to me that Asian plums have been tested as pollinizers for hybrid plums.  It's worth adding them into the mix in this area.
-If a pure American or Canadian plum can be found, those are considered among the best pollinizers for hybrid plums.
-Probably, the more types in the mix, the better the chances for a good crop.  If there is not room for multiple plum trees, or ability to are for multiple plum trees, multigraft is an option.


Images are public domain via U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection. Rare and Special Collections, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, MD 20705.  " The majority of the paintings were created between 1894 and 1916."