Friday, February 24, 2017

Thai Pepper Plants from Grocery Store Peppers. 2.25.17

These are some peppers that I bought at the Asian grocery store.  Just for fun, I broke a couple to obtain seeds, and sprouted them on moist paper towel in a ziplock bag.  Now I'm transferring them to seed starting soil to see what happens.

Chitting Potato Starts. 2.25.17

 Chjitting potatoes refers to sprouting them before planting.

Chitting potato starts.  2.25.17
These are potato starts that I bought at Home Depot a couple of weeks ago, and Fred Meyer this week.  The first 2 boxes are Red Norland, the puny ones to the right of those are Yukon Gold, and the bottom grey/brown ones are Burbank Russet.  I use certified seed potatoes to avoid disease.

I just opened the boxes.  Most of the first ones are already sprouting but not too much.  The boxes are a good size to cut into half to serve as trays for sprouting in the window sill.

Now I need to get the garden bed ready.  That may take a week or two.

It's hardly worth buying potatoes by mail order.  The shipping alone is much more than several full bags of potatoes.  Buying these from local stores is much less expensive.  The flavor of home grown is excellent, and by growing them organically I have no concerns about pesticides so I'm not concerned about eating the skin, although I wash them and eat the skins anyway.  Yukons and Russets keep several months in a cool dry room.  Not sure about the Red Norland.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

KItchen Garden. Fava & SnowPea seeds, Chinese Chive & Perennial Onions. 2.21.17

Today was nice, no rain, sunny and warm.  I  just now got around to planting Fava bean seeds, which I intended to plant last week.

Planting Fava Bean Seeds, photo from Feb 2015
The photo was from feb 13 last year, but they look exactly the same now.  These went into a tomato raised bed with deer protection fencing.  I added about 1/2 pound of lime to the 4 X 8 bed due to known acidity and calcium deficiency, mixing the lime in thoroughly before planting.  It would have been better to lime the soil a month or two ago.

I also covered with chicken wire to prevent bird foraging.

I also planted those mixed Snowpea seeds, in the same way.  As an afterthought, I am soaking some to see if they are actually viable.  Some are more than 5 years old.    Apparently, they are only viable for 3 years.  I may buy some more and plant them to be safe.

Tree ring container with onions, May 2016
I also dug out 6 clumps of Chinese Chives from the cement block raised beds, teased out grass infestation, and planted in raised tree-ring containers.  Photo is the same tree-ring containers last year, containing Egyptian Walking Onions.  These are stacked 3-rings high, reversing up-side-up with up-side-down to make a somewhat tight stack.  These are convenient height to work with, remove weeds, and cultivate the soil with a large heavy-duty kitchen fork tool.   Again, this time I mixed a trowel of lime with the soil.  That is not necessary for these alliums, but I thought maybe it would boost their growth or add nutrients, given how acidic my soil is (pH 5.3 to 5.5).

I also divided several clumps of Egyptian Walking Onions, replanting in raised beds as separate plants.  That is not required but makes for better individual scallions.

Second photo for illustration is a tree ring planted that I set up in 2015 for daylilies.  These are put together using re-used cement block - type edging, designed to place around trees.  They are not expensive, comparable or less than most whiskey barrel planters but last longer, are easier to take apart and move, and will last longer than I live.  I do put chicken wire on the ground before placing the first ring, to keep moles out.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Grafting Projects in Home Orchard. 2.19.17

New Pear Grafts.  2.19.17
Healed plum whip and tongue graft at one year, done in 2015
It seems seems early, but with buds already swelling, I wanted to get some grafting in.  I think I've done it this early in the past, mid to late February.  Most of the scions are refrigerated in plastic bags, and will keep for several more months if needed.  It's OK if the understock tree is already growing, and for some, that is an advantage.

My grafting goals this year:

Preserve a few varieties from my old trees in Vancouver, so I have them in my new trees in Battleground.

Make something more useful out some of the scrubby Hawthorn trees, by converting them into Chinese Haw trees.  This is an experiment.

Add pollen sources to grow internally on some trees.  I've noticed that the tiny pollinating insects tend to go from flower to flower within a tree.  By having pollen sources in the same tree, maybe there will be better fruit set.

 • As usual, I want to add some novel varieties.  Those will be added as I receive scion, especially the apples from Fedco and possibly some from Home Orchard Society.

•  Seedling fruits may start to bear sooner if grafted onto a mature, bearing fruit tree.  That gives a chance to evaluate the seedling variety several years sooner than letting it mature on its own roots.

• By creating multigraft trees, I have more varieties in less space than I would if they were all on their own rootstocks.  You get pollenizing  varieties for better fruit set, and potentially widely spaced ripening times so that instead of bushels of one apple type all at once, you can pick various types from July to November.

• Taking scion from your own trees, they are free.  Buying scion is usually much, much cheaper than buying trees.  Scion from scion exchanges is also free.

Healed apple whip and tongue graft at 6 months, done in 2014.
Grafts so far.  All of them are whip and tongue.

1.  This week, I grafted pear varieties, I think Anjou and Bartlett, from the old multigraft.  Whatever they are, they are good pears, delicious, proven in this area.  I added both to both of the new pears in my Battleground yard, Rescue and Orcas.

2.  I have a tiny Honeycrisp apple on M27, which is way to dwarfing for that variety.  After maybe 10 years it is still only 2 feet tall and gets one or two apples a year.  I took scion from that "tree" and grafted onto a more vigorous Winecrisp apple tree, one year old on a more vigorous semidwarf rootstock.

3.  I grafted two variegated burgundy on green plum seedlings, from plums that I bought in 2015, onto 2 of the younger plum trees - Toka (onto a rootstock sucker) and Ember.  I grafted one onto the Sweet Treat Pluerry.  I also grafted an American plum seedling onto Ember plum, to see if that would pollenize that tree.   I also grafted some variegated plum seedling onto a higher branch on Methley plum tree.

4.  I grafted several Chinese Haw scions onto suckers or younger trees in the Douglas Hawthorn woodlot.  I hope they take and make those into something productive, and maybe also not grow so top heavy and fall over like the original trees have been doing.  Both are in the Hawthorn genus, Crataegus, so I imagine they will take.

5.  To the Maxie hybrid Asian-American pear, I added Hamese and Hosui.  Last year I added Rescue and unknown Asian Pear from the Battleground yard.   I may convert that Rescue branch into something else, such as Shinseiki or Nijiseiki.  I don't need a bushel of one variety of Asian pear to ripen all at once, and it's nice to have multiple types ripening at potentially different times.

5.  Pending:  3 apple varieties from Fedco, and if I am luck some persimmons from Home Orchard Society.  I have more apple varieties now than I need, so for the most part I'm not planning to add more.  If I'm up to it, I  might make more use of some of the Hawthorne seedlings / suckers as experiments.  Hawthorn appears to be closely-enough related to pears that some pears can be grafted onto some hawthorn rootstock.  Some do better than others.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Planting Winter Seeds. 2.15.17

 I'm being adventurous and planting some winter-starting seeds for the kitchen garden beds.  The first batch, mesclun, arugula, radish blend, lettuce blend.  I used up old radish seeds by mixing them with the newer ones.  If the old ones don't grow, then the plants will be further apart which is good.  I usually overplant seeds.  If they do grow, that's fine, I'll just thin to the appropriate distance.

These seeds went into cement-block
raised beds that are warmer than surrounding ground-level soil.  A week ago, I scattered wood ashes on the soil and mixed thoroughly.  There have been some rains since then to dissolve the minerals.   A longer time would be better but this is what I have.

Last year I planted Fava beans and snow peas about now, and they were very healthy and vigorous and productive.  This time I'm planting them in a standard raised bed that had tomato plants last year.  That bed was given a dose of lime about 2 months ago. 

Onion seedlings. 2.15.17

Onion Seedlings.  2.15..17
So far, so good.  Some of the seedlings succumbed to damping off.  The hybrid "Patterson" and the old historic "Ailsa Craig" seem to be the toughest.  Still a few weeks to go before planting in the kitchen garden.

Blackberry Clearing. 2.15.17

Blackberry Clearing.  2.15.17
Over the past few weeks, I've been spending a few hours on each nice day, clearing blackberry brambles.  This area is the final 1/4 for this patch.  The cleared area is almost the entire photo, bare soil.  It took me about 15 months of work off and on.  I cleared part of it last fall and broadcast grass seeds in early winter.  That is the faintly green part.  The cut-off trees were dead and fallen, intermixed with brambles.  The fencing surrounds the Metasequoia tree that I planted last October.   For the most part, I'll broadcast more grass seed, so the regenerated blackberry vines get mowed down with lawn mowing.  I also added one garden bed, about 6 by 12 feet, and at the edges planted perennials from other parts of the yard.  Also some flowers planted for where I laid Baigou to rest near the Metasequoia.  Behind those standing and leaning trees, about 10 to 15 feet beyond, is a minor ravine and seasonal creek.  I want to plant some more good trees to hold soil.  Closest to the dying Hawthorns I'm planting a row of fast-growing cypress.  In the lawn, I think I'll add a couple of chestnut trees and a native maple seedling.  Those Douglas Hawthorns and native filbert trees don't seem able to stand for that many years.