Friday, January 27, 2017

Onion Seedlings. 1.27.17

Onion Seedlings.  1.27.17
The onion seedlings are looking pretty good.  At first I thought germination was not adequate, but they appear to have filled in over the past 2 weeks.  These are on a seedling mat, and under fluorescent lights.

I am also testing some hot pepper seeds, obtained from a package of dried peppers at the Chinese grocery store.  Those are very hot peppers, variety unknown but of the Thai type.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Home Orchard Chores. Deer and Rabbit protection. 1.19.17

Stone Fruits.  Image via

Today I did some orchard chores.

Last year I planted 3 blackberry cultivars, 5 plants of "Prime-Ark Freedom", a thornless primocane upright blackberry, 3 plants of "Ebony King", a reduced thorn standard upright blackberry, and one plant of "Columbia Star", a new thornless trailing blackberry. Most were in the fig tree row, and were subjected to deer and rabbit foraging. Prime-Ark Freedom was much loved by rabbits, while all of them were chewed, chopped off, and pulled up, by deer.

Yesterday and today I prepped an orchard bed, which consists of the mini-dwarf "Liberty" apple and dwarf "Jonagold" that I moved from Vancouver earlier this winter, and extends to a semidwarf "Winecrisp" apple that I planted bare-root in early 2016. This bed was squashes and tomatoes in 2016. I fenced it off, using 1-inch mesh plastic fencing. This fencing is better to avoid deer browsing, because they cant pull leaves and stems through the mesh, unlike metal 2 x 4 inch fencing.

There was room for a row of the 3 Ebony King blackberries, and separately for the "Columbia Star" blackberry, which will need a trellis. These are not protected from rabbits, who only seemed to like the "Prime-Ark Freedom" variety. In a separate bed, with fencing that should also protect from rabbits, I planted the "Prime-Ark Freedom" plants. Some of these look like they had significant freeze damage.

Persimmons.  Image via
The ground is quite wet. I tried to minimize any tromping, by staying off the garden soil as much as possible and working from the edges.

I also worked on deer fences in the main orchard. Mostly, I now have larger cages for several of the trees, which were subjected to deer browsing via pulling stems through the larger fencing openings. Most got the 1 inch plastic mesh. I have about 5 trees remaining that need some deer cage adjustments, mainly making the cages bigger.

Most of the deer cages are as big as they will ever need to be.  As the trees grow larger, most will be too high for normal deer browsing.   The deer cages are a hassle, and make it more difficult to mulch, weed, prune, and otherwise maintain the area.  Over the next few years, I hope to remove several if not most of the cages, and change to just mowing between trees.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Lessons from Kitchen Garden, Orchard, and Yard, 2016.

This is my summary of what did well and what did not, and general progress, from 2016.   It was a great gardening year!  I learned a lot, had great food, a few failures, and the best kitchen garden ever!

January -
Transplanting /Dividing Bamboo.  A Sawzall is about the only way I can figure, to cut away bamboo starts from an old colony.  It worked. If I had to do it over, I might have cut them back by 1/3 or 1/2, to reduce summer wilting.  Still, all survived and put out new canes.

I watered several times during the hot summer, but not as much as I expected.
It helps to apply a thick layer of mulch.

I started seeds for pepper plants in Mid January.  They did fine, but I don't think they did any better than plants I started in February or March in previous years.

I started okra seeds in mid January.  They grew, sulked, and did not thrive.  Starting okra seeds in June worked better, but nothing like, say, growing it in Alabama.

I transplanted a seed-grown ginkgo tree, about 12 feet tall, mid January, and many lilacs that were taller than I am.  All did fine, not with major growth but at least survived, produced some new stems, and made it through the year.  I expect them to need another year to fully take off.  They got extra water, using the 5-gallon bucket method 1/4 inch hole in the bottom of each, 2 per tree or bush, once weekly during the heat.

Using black plastic to start a garden bed works really nice.  Leave it in place for a few months, that kills all of the grass and weeds.  Then dig in the plant remnants and moss, a month before planting.  I think voles lived under the plastic for the winter, but maybe they fed the owls and cats.

I planted Favas Feb 27.  They did great, grew well, produced great, and were delicious.  But for some reason, I didn't eat them all.  I don't know why.  Sometimes I need to try something a few times, for it to kick in.

Growing potatoes from tall sprouted potatoes, didn't produce much.  I did get some, but not worth the effort.  Compost them.

Planted primocane, thornless blackberries from tissue cultured starts, in Feb.  They started slowly, then took off.  I got a few tastes.  Deer love eating these, as well as other cultivated types.  Other than the weed Himalayan blackberries deer eat them all to the ground.  I have a spot for them, to move them later this winter.

I think cement block raised beds worked better for peppers, compared to wooden beds.  These were repurposed blocks.  Compared to wood, the cement blocks give a warmer bed.  They worked well for Chinese chives too, but those are not particular.  This year I want to try these for okra, and move some of the Chinese chives to a less picky spot.

Dandelion greens make for great, healthy, nutritious, free chicken food supplement.  The chickens love it and the eggs have more orange yolks.  Dig a few dandelion plants and transplant them to a coddled vegetable row, and they make more tender, bigger, tastier greens compared to the ones from the yard.

I gave up on apricots, and container peaches.  Too much trouble for the peaches, although it did work well.  Apricots just don't grow for me here, despite many tries.

At least for me, grafting kiwi and persimmons were pretty easy.  I waited until the rootstocks were growing, while storing scion in plastic bags in fridge.  Grafting ginkgo was not hard, but they were slow growing.  We'll see this year.  So far the only total grafting failure is lilacs.  I got one of three fig scion to take, so that's not easy for me, but not impossible.  Grafting tomatoes works, but is a lot of trouble.  They need a lot of attention to humidity.  I lost about 2/3 of them.  Not sure they were worth the effort but it's fun to try.

Potatoes do great here.  Productive, deer don't eat the plants, and harvest is like a treasure hunt.

Tart cherries make the most amazing pie, whether from a wild tree or Montmorency.  100% worth the effort.  I hope the Montmorency tree is happier this year, I neglected it too much.

First crop ever of Methley plums, awesome too.

Milkweed has a wonderful fragrance.  It's a unique and pretty plant.  Honeybees love them.  Grown from seeds, they need a year to bloom.  I think they transplanted OK in the fall, but won't know until this Spring.  They are late to come up.  I gave up on them, then was surprised.

I can't believe how well sweet corn did.  Planted every 2 weeks, blocks of 4 rows each, 5 feet by 5 feet. Trinity, Bilicious, and Bodaceous, were all great.  Mirai was too sweet and watery, I didn't like it.  For me to not like a sweet corn is saying something.

I discovered it is possible to germinate and grow 10-year-old bean seeds.  We had seeds that old in the basement, stored cool and dry.  Planted directly in the soil, none grew.  Keeping them in plastic zip-lock bags, on moist paper towel, changing the paper towel if starting to mildew, we got maybe 5% germination.  Of those, some were mutants but there were plenty for a great crop of Chinese green beans, and seeds saved for 2017.

The summer kitchen garden was my best ever.  Lots of sweet corn, tomatoes, greens, green beans, plums, peaches, pears, apples, potatoes, onions.  Keeping ahead of it was a challenge at time but I loved spending the time outside.
Had the first taste of Sweet Treat Pluerry.  Nice flavor.  We'll see if the tree produces this year.  Bloom is early, might not pollinate well. 

Zucchini fritters are great for breakfast and a good way to use that prolific summer vegetable.

I really love mulberries, Hollywood plums, and every kind of fig.  All produced OK.

This was a bit of an off year for plums, compared to 2015.  I may have let them over-produce in 2015, or the bloom time vs. frost time were not favorable in 2016.  Either way, we had enough.

Gravenstein apples are delicious, found these apples then bough a tree in the fall and planted it.

Summer fresh  fruit is heaven.   I also enjoyed my first taste of Summerred apple, which was refreshing and a little spicy.

Collard greens are delicious, cut into strips and stir fried.  Collards grow very well here, but cabbage worms and slugs leave many holes in the leaves.

Sutton Beauty is a good, very old fashioned apple.  The columnar apple trees, NorthPole, Scarlet Sentinel, and Golden Sentinel, are all quite good and  fairly early.

Tomatoes, peppers, and okra were all late summer, but really good when they came on line.  I think the cement block raised beds were ideal for peppers.

Summer planting in July, was perfect for turnips, Chinese radishes, and Daikon.  Some salad radishes did well then too.  I did not get any success with kohlrabi or broccoli.

We grew more pumpkins, zucchinis, and squashes than we knew what to do with.  Some we gave away.  Some we processed and froze for later use.  I need to learn more ways to cook them, especially savory instead of sweet.

I learned how important it is to bare-root container trees for planting into native soil.   I did that with this Gravenstein tree, and with a Dawn Redwood.

I  loved those persimmons.  Nikita's Gift was more productive, more vigorous, and had a more interesting taste, compared to Saijo.  This was the first year that either produced fruit.  Saijo was nothing to sneeze at - delicious, sweet, juicy, and big.  Basically, I fell in love with persimmons this year.

On the negative side, I gave up on honeybees.  They are too much trouble, to expensive, and it's too disappointing when they die off - this year was the 3rd year and 4th colony that I lost.  That's it for those.  I'm about to give up bearded irises, but not yet.  Most of the year the plants are just plain ugly, weedy, and tend to rot.  On the other hand, they are durable enough that I might leave them growing in the fence row. 

I don't know what I loved most about gardening this year.  Every time I ventured into the yard and garden, it felt like an adventure.  Sometimes it takes many attempts to get something to do well, then it does and you don't know why.  Maybe random chance, or this was just a good year.  The summer fruits were amazing, the sweet corn made it all worth while.  Even the potatoes were a treat.  Those pumpkins and squashes are delightful, even if I didn't know what to do with all of them.  We tried many new ways of cooking many of our crops.  Learning that I really do love persimmons was a delicious adventure.  There were foods or varieties that I've never tasted before in my life, and they were wonderful.  I can't say that 2017 will be as great, but I'm grateful for a year where I got to enjoy so much time in the garden, experience so many new treats, and nurture myself, my household, and the land itself.    I'm ready are rarin' to go for another year of digging, planting, pruning, grafting, hoeing, transplanting, propagating, harvesting and savoring.

Seed Order. 1.14.16

The seed order from Territorial Seed Co. came today.  Makes me anxious to dig.  The foot of snow and temps in the teens, makes that a bid difficult.  I can, and did, plant the Patterson storage onion seeds indoors, same method as for others.  I've been saving milk cartons, cut to about 5 inches deep and drilled drainage holes.

The first of the Ailsa Craig seeds, planted 1/7/16, germinated.  So that's one week for the fastest among them.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Starting Onion Seeds. 1.7.17

I decided to grow onions from seeds this year.  After reading a number of web pages and viewing some videos, now looks like a good time.  They can be started Jan, Feb, March.  The seedlings can very crowded in the container, 25 or more per container.  Some garden writers state more than that.

Unfortunately, my seeds from Territorial Seeds did not come yet.  I have some Ailsa Craig seeds from Baker Creek for summer onions, and bought some Red Globe and Ringmaster White Globe for storage. I hope the Territorial Seeds come soon, since those are the long keepers.

I planted roughly a seed per every 1/4 inch although didn't measure.  These are in cottage cheese containers with holes drilled through the bottom, and filled with moist seed starting soil.