Sunday, December 31, 2006

One Year Ago. And Some Puttering Today

Here is a photo of Ning's Pond, Dec. 15, 2005. The fish are visible under the clear sheet of undisturbed ice.

Nice to have some perspective. This year, the pond has not frozen yet. I got out my "pre weblog" ie., paper-based-log, from the past 2 year (I suppose this would be a plog?) and reviewed some of the notes from about this time of year. One 12/21/05, I had pruned the roses, and spread coffee grounds around on the new tomato bed. I had reviewed the tomatoes from the year before, concluding that Lemon boy and better boy were the best in 2005 (production, size, and flavor, like we used to have in Quincy, Illinois), and the best gourmet-flavor was Brandwine; the worst were stupice and juliet, which I did not try again. Two weeks later I had pruned the grapes, and sprayed lime-sulfur on the peaches, apples, cherries, and roses.

Something to look forward to, by 1/20/06, the chinese chives were 4 inches tall, the hellebores were blooming, and the daffodils and tulips had broken through the soil surface and were 1-2 inches tall. That's only 3 weeks away.

By early January, I was also spreading compost on the raised beds.

For the most part, everything went well. I think that I was much too early, however, in pruning the roses, so they will be done much later this year (maybe early March).

As for today -

I did prune grapes ('Price' and 'Farmer's Market'), leaving the arbor grapes (Interlaken, Canadice, and Venus) for the next round. It's difficult to decide whether to prune by the "spur" or "cane" method, so last year I used a mixture of the two. These are in unconventional settings (Price is over a gate, and Farmer's Market is along a fence and growing up into an ornamental cherry) so the standard Kniffen method won't do. Basically, on each vine, 3-4 canes were kept, and a replacement spur for each cane, plus spurs on the trunks or older canes. I'll photograph the arbor grapes, when they are pruned, for record-keeping.

I also pruned the cordon - type apple (North Pole) to keep it columnar - shortening small branches back to spurs; the dwarf peaches to remove dead material and keep them open, and thin the new growth; similar for the back-yard cherries and pear.

The peaches have much evidence for disease - peeling bark and gelled sap, and dead twigs. Pruning them was the horticultural equivalent of debridement. I wonder if they will survive, let alone provide peaches this year? They look pretty good now that their 'surgery' is done, but only time will tell.

The ginkgos were lightly groomed (there isn't much there to prune yet). Just removal of twigs before they become branches in the 'wrong places'. I was careful to clean & sharpen the pruning shears before this (and between each of the fruit trees). The tallest one, in the back yard, did get 'limbed up' so that now the lowest branches are at about 4 feet. Just to find out if it can be done, some selected prunings were heeled-in, in a vegetable bed, to see if they will take root and grow next Spring.

Figs were also pruned - Vancouver, Petite negri, and Brown Turkey. The objective, here too, was to keep a compact, but open, bowl-shaped tree (similar to the peaches and cherries). Some prunings will be mailed to other gardeners, for cuttings.

A few lillies, galdiolus, crocosmia, and other dead stems were removed and chopped as well.

Nice day outside. It's a little dangerous leaving me in the yard with a pair of pruning shears - kind of like the saying. "Give a man a hammer, and he'll discover loose nails everywhere" - but I don't think that I overdid it. And I feel better now.
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Opuntia (final). Meyer Lemon.

Part of the rationale for growing opuntias is to see if I can eat them. Initially, I hoped for some 'prickly pears'. Since there have been no blossoms, there have also been no fruits.

In addition to being a fruit, prickly pear cacti (opuntias) are also a vegetable. The pads, stripped of thorns, are rich in vitamins and fiber. Called nopales (or nopalitos when prepared), they are a traditional Mexican food. There are quite a few recipes for nopales.

I'm surprised that, with so much Mexican food available, and with the incorporation of Mexican food into the American lifestyle, that this vegetable is such a mystery to us. I did have some when in Mexico this fall, they seemed like a fairly routine vegetable. Maybe Americans are just not interested in having more vegetables.

OK, on to new topic - it looks like the Meyer Lemon has some lemons that are ready to pick. The plant itself is quite small. Gardenweb has many entries expressing frustration with this tree. It may not be amenable to 'out-of-zone' thriving, although some information is available on Winter care. This tree has survived the Winter so far in a sunny, cool room, and the three lemons look ripe. Considering the small size of the plant, 3 lemons is more than I expected this year. I'll post again when I know what the lemons taste like.

Meyer lemons were originally found by Frank Meyer (not Fred Meyer) growing as potted trees in Peking (now Beijing) in 1908. They are thought to be hybrids between a lemon and another citris such as an orange or mandarin.

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

More opuntias. Tomato order (so soon!). Flu bug.

This is one of the opuntias in the yard. It was a gift, a small plant in a small pot. I up-potted it into this container in 2004. Not enthusiastic about it, it was left outside winter 2004/5. It grew fast last year, so leaving it outside this winter again. Trying to keep it out of the rain, under the belief that cacti survive cold better if dry (that's what the books state).

A handsome specimen from a web site. Hopefully not copyrighted, given the age of the card.

Ordered the following tomato seeds from This site was reliable last year so using it again. Varieties:
Lemon Boy - my favorite yellow. Here it's been very productive, juicy big tomatoes with a 'light' tomatoey flavor.
Celebrity - did not grow last year but want to try again. Disease resistant, productive, real 'midwestern' type tomato flavor.
Better Boy - grew OK last year, better in 2005. Good production, big 'midwestern' flavor tomatoes.
Black from Tula - new to me. Last year Cherokee was so good (but not productive), I want to try another black variety.
Cherokee Purple - "purple" but also called "black". not very productive, but so good that I had to hide tomatoes to save them for myself (don't tell Ning).
Supersweet 100 - Ning's favorite. After trying all of the varieties of cherry tomatoes, this one was still the most flavorful and productive. Most of the others either didnt make many, or they didn't have much flavor. Or both.
Tiny Tim - a very dwarf variety, never tried before. 15 inches tall. Will use in border areas or containers to produce some early cherry tomatoes or have them in spots that are too small for larger varieties.

I've been achy and tired. Probably combination of a virus, year-end iniatives / increased load at work, and some short day affective disorder. Looking ahead to the tomatoes helped a little. Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 25, 2006


These drawings from the USDA web site, original text is: Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated flora of the northern states and Canada. I like these old drawings.

These are less likely to be damaged by cold and rain, compared to desert cacti. The two in the "GrowingGreener" yard are looking sad and have never bloomed, although they have survived the cold wet weather for several winters. I keep hoping for a 'prickly pear' to taste. Unknown varieties. If I can find a source, I would like to try an Opuntia fragilis (since it's native to WA) or an Opuntia microdasys, since it seems to remain small so I could bring it inside for the winter.

The images can be 'clicked' to render them more readable.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Dormancy Indoors and Out

This brugmansia looks like it's doing OK in the garage. It's getting the "dry, dark, and chilly" dormant treatment. This method is recommended on a number of sites. Apparently, Brugmansias originate in low elevations of the tropics - whether they experienced conditions when they were in chilly dark dry situations for a few months, I don't know.

Most of the garden is overwintering in the usual method of leaving things alone for the winter, maybe with some mulch. This is probably OK for everything with a cold-winter provenance. The figs are a bit borderline in this respect, but most should survive here.

Most of the geraniums, like the brugmansia, are getting the chilly / dark / dry treatment. Some gardeners recommend taking geraniums out of the soil. Here too. These are brought into the garage pot and all.
Some plants won't take the dry /dark / chilly and can't survive outside either. This citrus tree (I'm not sure if lemon, orange, or grapefruit) was grown from seeds 7 years ago, and survives mostly on neglect. It gets light and minimal water inside during Winter. The Anigosanthos is still green, and has produced a couple of small flowers in December. A few more seem to be pushing up from the leaves. It's getting minimal water in the same window. This is my first attempt at this plant - no way to guess if it will survive another 3-4 months of this treatment. So far, OK. I think it is not dormant, just slowed down.

Two of the geranium cuttings died (forgot to water for several weeks) but this one managed to pull through.

I tried to learn about dormancy. A number of writers seem to view it as being like a human who needs sleep. I suspect that's not proven. I think that it depends on the plant, where it came from (it's provenance), and how it's being treated now. For example, a plant in a purely tropical environment that is the same year round, might not need dormancy. Plants from the desert, which become hot and too dry sometimes, and cold and dry others, might have more than one type of dormancy. Spring bulbs are probably "doing something" when we think they are dormant - growing roots, forming embryo flowers and leaves, so that they can burst forth with rapid growth and blooming as soon as weather allows. Similar for shrubs and trees, with some root growth during the fall or winter, and the formation of tiny flowers and leaves within the buds for a big show in Spring. Some plants actually 'prepare' for dormancy by storing carbohydrates - this is hormonally mediated. Other plants may simply be 'marking time' or surviving adverse weather conditions.

I need a nap.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

It's cold enough

In the 20s to 30s. They like the fireplace.

No garden or bathroom work today. This weekend I did 2 1/2 days "homework" - roughly 20 hours; now it's time to just veg.

I think it's time to 'get real' on the bike issue this winter. I dont think I can do the coldest rainiest months (Dec, Jan) but need to be in shape for the rest of the year. Will do treadmill. Weight up 5# so will work on that, less to "haul" on the bike when I'm back on it.

128/97 82 213# Posted by Picasa