Friday, February 29, 2008

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Greens in the garden...

Agina Cutting Celery (Pinetree).... Like celery, minus the crunch.

Upland Cress. Mmmmm... Prolific. Crunchy. Nicely bitter.

Red Sails lettuce and Chervil.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fruit tree and dormancy

Oh, for the record, my pear tree (a Hood from Wilson) broke dormancy last week. All the figs have new growth, as do the pomegranates, mulberries, and most the raspberries (including tony_k's). The only things still dormant are the apples and nectarines.

Flatwoods Plum and Fennel

I was given this bushy little tree, and told that it was a Chickasaw plum... but I've long suspected that it was misidentified, mostly because its growth habit is so low and weedy. I'm pretty sure now that it's Prunus umbellata, the Flatwoods Plum. After blooming in February, these trees produce small, fairly bitter little fruits. A couple of years ago the trees in this area produced a prolific harvest, and I picked a bunch with my son from neighbors' trees. We filled a few buckets, and made a tart and jelly from them. I think the trees are highly variable, and some trees have fairly sweet fruit while others' fruit is sour or bitter. Anyway, the best use for them is jelly, which you can sweeten until the bitterness and sourness is no longer perceptible.

Florence Fennel. This bunch is over a year old. It suffers a bit in the heat and humidity, but produces bulbs pretty readily during the cool season. I like the fronds (in salads) almost as much as the bulbs.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A garden update in pictures

Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis) from saved seeds. What a happy, trouble-free flower.

A perennial or hardy geranium (G. oxonianum 'Claridge Druce', I think). It's been living quite happily in this pot for years. Blooms nicely all spring.
'Prosperity" on fortuniana rootstock.

Peas from my intensive circular bed. Working GREAT! the carrots are planted in a trench, and for whatever reason seem to grow better there. Maybe they get more water?
I'm letting some of my favorite lettuces go to seed for next planting season.

My mum had a huge old dead cedar cut out of her yard. I got the shredded limbs and branches (the tree company kept the wood, of course...). Beautiful, fragrant, and strangely melodic -- as I tossed it onto my paths and beds, the larger pieces produced that distinctive sound I associate with cedar, like two pencils hitting one another.
Smells like a giant hamster cage in my yard!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The garden in February

I've been growing a geraniums from seeds the past few seasons. They seem to be far hardier than the ones I buy at the bigboxstores -- many of them survived the summer and are blooming again for a second year. The key, aside from growing them from seed, is to keep them in full shade and very dry throughout the hot/wet season. These are Summer Showers Ivy Geranium (the one on the left) and Ringo Deep Scarlet Geranium, both from Swallowtail. I would rate them generally very easy to grow from seed. It surprises me how rarely people grow them from seed.
My Flordaprince peach started to bloom a bit this weekend. Too early, really, but the cool weather over the past few days should slow things down. I love the geometric patterns on the bark, which are brought into relief by the dormant oil I use to keep scale and other pests at bay.

My collards have finally started growing.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Time to install that drip irrigation...

Considering it's a La Nina winter, we've had quite a lot of rain. But it looks like our luck's run out.

Monday, February 04, 2008

My espalier system

I built this espalier frame during December, using three-quarter inch electrical conduit and fittings from chainlink fences. I've planted two kinds of tropical apples (Dorsett and two Annas) and one pear tree (Hood). The length of the trellis is about thirty-five feet.

On either end, I have grapes (Black Spanish and Nesbitt). Along the privacy fence behind the trellis, I have planted Bababerry raspberries and a Fry Scuppernong grapes.

That's four trees and two grape vines in a space that's about one-hundred square feet, or the space that's typically recommended for one tree in a commercial orchard.

You can't see it in this picture, but I've started to run heavy wire every couple of feet to trellis the limbs of the fruit trees, starting at one foot from ground level (for the micro-sprinkler irrigation line) and then about two feet, four feet, and six feet. (I've only run the first two wires so far.) The trellis is seven feet high, which is more or less the exact height of my comfortable reach. (I didn't use a tape measurer when building it, instead relying on my body to tell me how high the trellis should be built and how low the first wire should be strung. The first wire for the tree limbs is exactly as high as I can comfortably reach down, about two feet.)

The whole idea is a system of "human-sized" plants: I won't get on my knees nor will I climb a ladder. It's a rejection of the commercial orchard ethos -- I don't want to maximize production: Instead, I want to minimize inputs and maximize long and varied harvest -- the "backyard orchard culture" promoted by Dave Wilson. What's more, all my reading about tropical apples and pears indicates that horizontal growth and aggressive pruning is the way to maximize production.

Here is my inspiration...

Various seedlings...

This method is my current favorite for starting seeds -- three ounce plastic cups and shredded coir. It doesn't solve the problem of damping off, but the coir is very loose and doesn't decay or compact, so the roots grow quickly and since there's little microbial action, the seedlings seem more vigorous to me. The downside is that I need to use chemical fertilizers, since the coir is basically inert and therefore even fish emulsion doesn't do much. I use a watered-down Miraclegro solution once every other week or so, when I'm feeding my orchids.
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'Prosperity' rose

I love the drama of these roses -- all gold and satin. They are pinkish when in bid, and white when blown. This bush is about four years old, on 'Fortuniana' rootstock. It blooms most of the year, but most dramatically in spring.
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