Thursday, March 30, 2017

Fruit Tree Blooming Notes. 3.31.17

Methley Plum.  About 25% in bloom.  3.31.17

Nadia Plum Cherry Hybrid.  About 1/3 in bloom.  3.31.17
As of today, the Asian plums are the main fruit trees with blossom.  Hollywood and Crimson Pointe, both with myrobalan heritage, are in full, amazing bloom.  I cut a few sprigs from Crimson Pointe and placed near other blooming plums to assist pollenizing insects.  Crimson Pointe is sold as an ornamental, but I like the plums.  They are small, larger than sweet cherries, very juicy and richly flavored.  The seeds are a bit large for a small plum, so they would never sell as a fruit tree.  I'm not sure if it is self pollinated, I think so.  I think Methley also has some myrobalan DNA, and is also starting to bloom with about 25% of its flowers open now.  Nadia Plum Cherry hybrid has about 30% of its flowers open, but I'm not sure that such a young tree will behave the same way as a mature specimen.

Peaches and other plums will probably  start to open soon.  I'm seeing significant pink in the swelling buds.  Most of the Asian pears have tufts of flower buds emerging from each bud, so won't be far behind.

I don't know how well the pollinating insects will do with the rain and chilly weather.  I saw a lot of tiny bees on the Crimson Pointe tree and a few on other trees, today.

Unknown Asian Plum, possibly seed grown.  About 50% in bloom.  3.31.17
Hollywood Plum in full bloom.  3.31.17

Crimson Pointe Plum in full bloom.  3.31.17

Spring Flowers. 3.30.17

Each Fall, I buy some bags of daffodil bulbs and plant them.  Over the years, some persist and multiple, while others fizzle out.  In the long run, that means each year there are more and more blooming in the Spring.  I forget where I plant them, so it's a nice surprise.

Grafting Progress Report. 3.31.17

Variegated Plum Seedling, Graft.  3.30.17
So far, most of the grafts look OK.  None have dried out and none look dead.

The pictured graft was made from scion taken from plum seedlings that I grew in 2015.  The seedling leaves were a mixture of red and green.  The plums were purchased at a farm stand.  They had labeled them "Pluots" but I don't know.  They were dark burgundy red plums.  I grafted so that I would have a better chance of fruiting, sooner, if it is going to happen at all.

Other grafts that look like they are starting to grow:  Most of the Asian pears have swelling buds.  The Asian pears and Chinese Haw on hawthorne scrub, have swelling buds. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Grafting Day. 3.20.17

Image via USDA Image Collection.
Thanks to the Scion Exchange and my fellow fruit growing enthusiasts at the Home Orchard Society, some nice guys, I came home with several varieties that I wanted to graft as soon as I could.

Today was drizzling all day, not too bad for some grafting work, so I spent the afternoon in the home orchard grafting. In general, I leave about 3 inches per scion, and try to make sure it has 3 buds, and the diameter matches the understock. I have not learned bark grafting and cleft grafting for large understock, which just seems to expose the tree to too much potential disease due to the large wound, but it does work for others. So, I look for low branches about the same size of the scion, and use those. For young trees that are still a small size, that seems to work very well for me.

 What I grafted, today and yesterday:

1.  To the injured, new, 4-way Euro plum, I added Yakima plum to a branch that appears to be off the understock, and Yellow Egg plum to replace the Italian plum branch. .
Yellow Egg Plum.  Via USDA Image Collection.
2.  To my Stanley plum tree, I added Jefferson Plum.  I have been unable to find info about that variety.
3.  To the old green plum that came with the Battleground place, which might be a green gage plum, I added Yellow Egg and Yakima.  I usually cut the scions into pieces with 2 buds, so one scion usually gives me a couple of grafts.
4.  To the Rebecca's Gold pawpaw, I added grafts of Wilson pawpaw.  Those were so delicate, and they have flower buds, and I'm not sure they have leaf buds, so who knows if they will take,
5.  To the Illinois Everbearing mulberry, I added Noir de Spain mulberry, 2 grafts.  The internode spaces were very long, so I made those as 1-bud grafts each.  There is a bit if scion remaining, so might add more.
6.  To one multigraft apple, I added Fameuse apple.
7.  To other multigraft apples, I added Dolgo crabapple, Firecracker red flesh apple, and to Jonared, I added Jonathan, which I am curious to see if the redder sport is a sacrifice in flavor compared to the original.
8.  Yesterday I also grafted scion from Fedco, Sweet-16 apple, King David Apple, and Opalescent.  The first 2, I already grafted, but they had so little growth that I want to try again.
Fameuse Apple.  Image via USDA Image Collection.
9.  To an Asian pear tree, I added Chojuro.
10.  To Aromatnaya quince, I added Crimea quince. 
11.  I added spare pieces of scion to the hawthorn thicket, Crimea quince and Chojuro Asian pear.
12.  I also planted cuttings from Limon quince and Aromatnaya quince to see if they grow from Spring planted hardwood cuttings.

That's it for playing in the orchard, grafting.  I did not cut myself - always a good thing.  I know I don't "need" any more fruit varieties, but no harm in grafting on new varieties to see how they do and maybe get a taste in a  couple of years.  They may also help with pollination.  I got to try my hand at grafting some species that I have not tried before - mulberry, pawpaw, quince.  If any - or all -  do poorly or are not good, I can always prune the bad ones off, without losing a tree.  Ditto if one is way to vigorous and takes over a tree.

I'm using images from the USDA image collection.  They are public domain.  I don't know if the USDA will have funding cut and drop the collection, so it's nice to peruse them while there is a chance.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Home Orchard Society Scion Exchange 3.19.17

Today the Portland area Home Orchard Society had a scion exchange / propagation fair event in Clackamas, Oregon. I helped some with the set up yesterday, and again helped a bit with the event today. It was a lot of fun. Lots of people, especially home orchard nerds like me. I brought some handfuls of scion from my own trees - mostly the persimmons - to add to the already massive amounts. Naturally, now I have some more grafting to do, and did that this afternoon. I'll list the scions later.
2017 Home Orchard Society Propagation Fair.  3.19.17

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Planting an Echinacea seedling. 3.8.17

Echinacea seedling at about 5  months.  3.8.17
I have several Echinacea seedlings growing in cut - off plastic milk cartons.  I haven't found much guidance as to how well they do here in the wet Northwest.  Plus, I read that rabbits like them.  I planted this one in a vegetable garden bed today, as a test run.  I'm tired of protecting things from rabbits, voles, and deer, so I left it unprotected to see what happens.

Coppicing Buddleia. 3.8.17

Buddleia hybrid "Blueberry Cobbler" before coppicing.

Buddleias after coppicing.

In late 2012 / early 2013, I planted a row of hybrid Buddleia. I was diligent and bought the varieties that are approved by the state of Oregon as non-invasive inter-generic sterile hybrids.  These had advertised final heights of around 4 to 6 feet tall.  These were mainly "Blueberry Cobbler", and "Peach Cobbler"  but I also added "Miss Ruby" and "Miss Molly", a different series with a more red coloration.   Later I also planted the "Flutterby Vanilla" hybrid, and "Yellow Honeycomb", although planted in the row with the other established and vigorous shrubs, they didn't have much chance to grow.  I think "Yellow Honeycomb" survived and bloomed this year, but was mostly overshadowed by the very nearby and gigantic "Peach Cobbler."

I know that buddleias are controversial, partly due to invasive potential, and partly because they serve as nectar sources, but not leaf sources, for butterflies.  I planted them because these were approved by the most restrictive state, as sterile / noninvasive.  I had other goals, deer resistance, rapid growth, very dry tolerant, long blooming sources of nectar for beneficial insects and hummingbirds.  Butterflies have many other plants in my yard, to lay eggs on and make cocoons, if they so choose.

As it turned out, the Flutterby Grande (Peach Cobbler, Blueberry Cobbler) were way too vigorous.  Instead of 4 to 6 feet, they grew to around 15 feet tall so far.  There doesn't seem to be an end.  I wonder if they will become shade trees.  The bushes have similar width.  As for the flowers, "Peach Cobbler" was fairly pretty, but "Blueberry Cobbler" was downright ugly.  I have prettier weeds.  The flowers had a faded Kodachrome appearance, not a hint of blueberry blue.  For both, as the individual florets open on the raceme, they looks nice at first, but then the older florets turn brown and dry out, long before the last ones open.  Then the brown dried racemes stay on the bush until the next year, unless cut off.  The look is sad and messy.  The Miss Molly variety is not as large, reaching 5 or 6 feet, and the racemes are shorter, and are at a height that is easier to deadhead.  I mix up the Miss Ruby and Miss Molly varieties, I have both but they are so similar I can't tell the difference.  One might be a little more compact than the other.

I rarely saw a bumblebee on these flowers, never saw a honeybee, and rarely saw a hummingbird.  There were occasional butterflies.   Deer don't touch them.  As far as I could tell, they don't even taste them.  I kept them partly for privacy and as a windbreak, and also because I didn't have the energy to cut them down.

This winter, I decided I would keep them, but coppice them for better control.  Coppicing is a fairly standard way to manage rangy Buddleias.  They bloom on new growth, and theoretically will put on several feet of growth before blooming, but unlikely to grow more than 6 feet, if that.  I'm not certain about that.

So, as of today, all of the hybrid buddleias are oppiced, all trunks cut back to about one foot tall.

I can't say that I recommend the "Cobbler" types at all, although "Peach Cobbler" blossoms can be pretty at first.  Definitely not the "Blueberry Cobbler" unless you want to grow a special "ugly garden" to make people feel depressed.  We will see if the "Vanilla" or the "Honeycomb" varieties do better now that the others are so severely cut back.  "Miss" whoever - "Molly" or "Ruby" - is nice, doesn't grow nearly as big, and the flowers stay in range for dead heading and have less of the dried ugly appearance of the "Cobbler" types.  My neighbors have admired those.  I think they have a place, and I do like them.  Note, I also have the variety "Low and Behold Blue Chip", which does stay very compact, around 3 to 4 feet tall with almost no pruning, and bees do like those flowers.  I do like that one as well.

Now I need to figure out what to do with all of that pruned brush.  Some are nice straight, long sticks, might be good for garden stakes.

Kitchen Garden. Planting Onions Outdoors. 3.8.17

This is a progress report and the start of a garden experiment at the same time.  As for the progress report, the onion seeds that I planted earlier have had mixed success.  A few days ago I set out the first batch of Ailsa Craig.  The white globe and red globe seedlings had poor germination and died quickly, leaving few survivors.   The Patterson hybrids for long term keeping actually had good germination and are looking good, but I think they are not yet sturdy enough for outdoor life.

I wasn't confident about the seedlings that I started, and the sets looked crummy, so when I was at a nursery this week, I bought a bundle of plants.  They were cheap, it won't break the bank.  However, I did not initially want to go that route.

Here is the experiment.  In the same garden bed, I have a row of sets, a row of plants that I grew from seeds, and 2 rows of plants that were bought as plants.  It's not a real science experiment because they are not the same variety, but then I'm not going to publish in a science journal anyway.

As the other seedlings start to look better, I'll plant them in the outside bed too.  We eat about one onion daily, and some are sold as long-keepers, so maybe there will be enough for a 9 month supply.  Maybe not.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

About Chestnut Trees. 3.5.17

Source:  Athens Science Observer.
Chestnut trees have been part of agriculture for centuries, native to Asia, North America, and Europe.  The American Chestnut trees dominated forests in the American Northeast and Appalacia, some eliciting the same sense of awe and wonder of the West coast's redwoods.  The trees were the keystone species, providing nuts for wildlife and humans.  Our generation does not remember them, because they were wiped out by chestnut blight during the first half of the 20th century.  Of the billions of trees that died, a few appeared to have genetic resistance to chestnut blight, and are part of the source for new trees being planted to begin restoration of the species.  Sources of new strains of blight resistant, or blight tolerant, chestnut trees include, progeny of the American chestnut trees that survived; hybrids with resistant Asian species, and their progeny via selected breeding, and genetic engineering.  There is also a virus disease that attacks the blight fungus, and may prove helpful.

In addition to the American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) There are 8 or 9 species, including species from Europe (Castanea sativa), Japan and South Korea  (Castanea crenata), and several from China as well as other American species.  Only the Asian species, which evolved in association with chestnut blight, are widely resistant to the disease.  Some species of chestnut make for trees in much smaller sizes, compared to American chestnut, although there are exceptions, including the massive millenia-old "One Hundred Horse Chestnut Tree" on Sicily, which is not a horse chestnut but rather a chestnut tree that could shelter horses.   The European and Asian chestnuts have larger nuts, compared to American chestnut, but the American chestnut is reported to have the best flavor.

As a food crop, chestnuts are more like a grain, or potato, compared to most other nuts.  That comparison is based on flavor and the much higher amount of carbohydrates, with much less fat and protein.  Depending on the variety, they are starchy, sweet, and a good source of carbohydrates.  Chestnuts are rich in folic acid, minerals, and mono-unsaturated fats.  Because they were lost to the American psyche, we don't have a lot of tradition with chestnuts in our diet, but in Asia and Europe chestnuts are a staple.  Chinese chestnuts are making a foray into the European market after European chestnuts trees are also seeing damage from a predatory wasp, also from Asia.  US chestnut production is only 1% of world production, but may grow as Americans learn to enjoy them.   One barrier is that chestnuts don't keep as well as other nuts, lose flavor or develop off flavor in storage.  Therefore, like many foods, home grown or local chestnuts are more likely to taste best.

Image source:
After I cleared a few thousand feet of blackberry brambles from my property, I was left with a significant amount of barren soil.  I've broadcast grass seed to hold soil and allow mowing, to prevent return of blackberries.  However, this area is ideal for addition of potentially large - growing trees.  I wanted trees that might bear in my lifetime, preferably within 5 years.  It's said that we plant trees for those who follow, but my experience is that a lot of people just love cutting trees down, so I want to experience some of what I plant regardless of what future people do.

Walnuts, butternuts, hickories, pecans may all produce nuts here, but take longer to bear, compared to chestnuts.  Filberts bear younger, have more compact, bushy trees.  I have a few filbert trees, including some wild ones near the cleared area.

With a permaculture bent, I decided to add some chestnut trees.  Grafted hybrids may start bearing in 3 to 5 years, and seedlings may start bearing a few years later.  They are fast growing.  I did not see estimates of growth per year, but I suspect in the more than three foot-per-year category, similar to some maples.  I've had some maples put on 5 feet in a year, so possibly that much.

Source:  German botanical image, 1903.
I already reviewed some considerations in a post yesterday, but here are some again, and some additional thoughts.

1.  At least two different pollen-bearing varieties are needed, if you want chestnuts.   They can not be the same variety.  Each will provide pollen for the other.
2.  Watch for pollen-sterile or pollen-free varieties, which will not pollenize another tree.  OK if they are just a shade tree, or if you have several varieties.  But I would not plant one as one of a pair.
3.  Chestnut trees are large, in the shade tree category.  Websites generally state they need to be at least 20 feet apart, some stating 30 feet, but no more than 50 to 100 feet from the nearest pollen producing chestnut.  I would not worry about the redwood size trees in photos.  Most modern ones will never grow any where near that big, although some of the newer American chestnut trees might one day rival their ancestors.
4.  Even in blight free areas, there is risk for future blight infestation.  I prefer choosing disease resistant cultivars for what protection can be given for future generations.  Most will either be an Asian species or hybrid with Asian species
5.  Grafted varieties will bear sooner, and are more predictable as far a s quality, compared to seedlings.    Since these are a long-term commitment, I think it's wise for the average person to invest in the grafted varieties for your pair of trees, then possibly a seedling if you want another wild card tree.
6.  Deer and rodents can kill the young trees, same as for many other species.  They will need a vole-sleeve of hardware cloth for a few years, and a deer cage until too tall for deer browsing.

Possibly one day I will be able to follow up this blog post with photos of my growing trees, and later with photos and descriptions of the chestnuts.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Planting a New Chestnut Sapling. 3.4.18

Bareroot Hybrid Chestnut Seedling.  3.4.17

Chestnut Sapling Root System.  3.4.17
 I'm working on a separate post about chestnut trees.  Meanwhile, this one arrived today from Burnt Tree Ridge Nursery.  I confused myself a little when I placed the order, but that's my fault and the sapling itself looks very nice.

Chestnut orders in catalogs are confusing.  There are some points to remember.

Important points about ordering nursery Chestnut trees.

1.  Aim for disease resistant varieties.  There are lots of disease resistant varieties.  Chestnuts are subject to a few diseases that can kill the trees.  Even in a chestnut blight - free area, such as Pacific NW where I live, someone could unknowingly bring the disease here, and start an epidemic.  Best to use disease resistant varieties, if possible.

2.  Seedling vs.Graft.  They are not the same.  There are many named varieties.  It's confusing in catalogs, because some are sold as grafts, and some are sold as seedlings from those varieties.  Chestnuts are not self pollinating, so the seedling is only genetically 1/2 the named variety, and is 1/2 something else.  You don't know what the paternal, pollen half would be.  It could be a related variety, or an entirely different species.  For example, the seedling that I bought was a Japanese X European hybrid.  If the pollen parent is another Japanese X European hybrid, then the seedling MIGHT grow up to be similar to the named parent.  On the other hand, the pollen parent could be an American Chestnut, a Chinese Chestnut, a European, or a Japanese species.  Since it's not labeled, it's a gamble.  Grafted varieties are not the same kind of gamble.
Label.  3.4.17

3.  Chestnuts are not self pollinating.  So, at least 2 trees are needed not more than 100 feet apart.  Some websites state not more than 50 feet apart.  The pollinating tree does not have to be the same species.  Some hybrids do not produce pollen.  It's important to check the description.  It's not much use getting a chestnut tree without a pollinizing companion tree, unless you just want it as a shade tree.

In this case, I bought the seedling, thinking it might pollenize the two grafted hybrids that I bought from a different nursery.  The seedling was much cheaper.  The label states it  is not a pollenizer - oops, ,my fault for not reading the catalog description more thoroughly - but how do we know, not knowing who was the pollen parent?  Maybe the named variety is not a pollenizer, but this offspring via different paternity is.  I don't know.   I may graft a branch or two with one of the other trees,  next year.  That could solve that problem.

4.  Seedlings take a few years longer to start producing nuts, compared to grafted trees.  That works the same way for fruits.

That's about all for this post.  I am thinking about putting together a more detailed post about Chestnut trees, in general, regarding why they are highly desirable for permaculture and heritage trees, and more about their biology and history.

Planting a Bare Root European Plum. 3.4.16

This winter I ordered a multigraft European plum, which came today.  So I planted it.

At times I debate the wisdom of ordering trees from mail order nurseries.  There are good things and bad things about this tree and its service.  This was from Raintree nursery.

The good things - it was available.  Multigrafts such as this can be challenging to find locally.  This was billed as "Seneca, Early Laxton, Rosy Gage, Italian, and Stanley" with minus one, wildcard, so sold as a 4-graft.  It's a gamble as to which one is going to be missing.

The tree was very sturdy, and the root system was very good.

The labeled grafts on this tree:  Stanley, Italian, Rosy Gage.  The remaining, large branch, is not labeled so no way to know.  It's difficult to decide, but this tree might have all 5.  I don't need another Stanley, so i will overgraft that with something else.  What I wanted the most were Rosy Gage, Laxton, and Seneca, and I'm only clear on one of those.  Pay your money and take your chances.  I would call this somewhere between good and bad, at least they filled the order correctly.

The bad thing - Below the graft, on the rootstock, the bark is badly damaged, girdling half way around the tree.  It should still grow, and heal the wound, as long as this damage does not become infected.  This kind of damage might be OK for a sale tree, but not for a premium priced tree.  I imagine this is machine damage, although it could be animals.

So I planted.  The wound is above ground.  I need to add a wire guard tomorrow, forgot today in the rain.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Planting Greens. 3.2.17

Today I planted some more seeds for greens.  These went into large containers on the deck.   Mesclun, Swiss Chard, and Spinach.

I've discovered that I have a lot of replicate seeds packets, same variety or same general type but different years.  Some are pretty old.  To use them up, I'm combining seeds from older and newer varieties, then planting.  I always need to thin anyway.  If the older seeds don't germinate, then less to thin.  If they do, then it's the same as if I used all new seeds, but using up the old packets in the process.  No sense keeping the old packets if I don't use them up.  Smarter, would be to always check my collection before buying any more.  This year I did, so most of the seeds that I'm planting are from the box of seeds from the past decade.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Planting Daylily Seedlings. 3.1.17

Daylily Seedlings at about 3 months.  3.1.17
Today I planted outside, some of the daylily seedlings that I have been growing under lights.  I hybridized the plants last summer, transferring pollen from some flowers that I liked, to others that I liked, of different colors or shape.  When the seed pods matured in the fall, I collected the black seeds, stratified on moist paper towel in zipper bags, in refridgerator,  rinsed off mold or mildew and germinated on moist paper towels in my home office.  When they germinated, I transferred them to seed starting medium, about 8 seedlings per 4-inch plastic flower pot.  This is easier than the cell-packs, less messy, and the seeds don't wind round and round.  I grew these under lights, but soon will need the lights for tomatoes and peppers.  So I planted them in a raised bed with rabbit protection fencing.  Soil temp is about 50F. 

Since the sun is still low in the sky, and it's raining all week, I didn't harden them off.  If it was more sunny or hot, I would gradually harden them off first.

The plan is to grow these in a vegetable bed until they bloom, probably next year.  Most of the daylilies that I started last year were eaten by rabbits, so I started over.  There are a few in containers that might be bloom size this year.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Planting Potatoes and Onions. 3.1.17

First Potatoes Planted.  3.1.17
 The first batch of potato starts looked like they are sprouted enough to plant, so here they are.  I'm growing them in the ground the conventional way, and will hill up soil around the plants as they grow.  It's a bit wet outside.  Soil temp is 50F.

I also planted the first of my home-started onion seedlings.  The most sturdy were Ailsa Craig.  Germination was not great,  but there will be enough to see how they do.

The onion sets that I bought were in a plastic package.  I was unable
Ailsa Craig Onion Seedlings.  3.1.17
 to see inside the package until I opened it.  Many were already sprouted.  I prefer that they not be so far along before planting, but here they are.
Store-bought Onion Sets.  3.1.17

So the first of the onions are planted.   Meanwhile, the mesculn and arugula have germinated in their raised beds, the Chinese chives are growing nicely after I divided and replanted them, and ditto for the batch of Egyptian Walking Onions that I divided and replanted for early scallions. The garden is moving along nicely.

Early Growth of Divided Egyptian Walking Onions.  3.1.17

Early Growth of Chinese Chives.  3.1.17

Arugula Seedlings.  3.1.17