Friday, May 22, 2015

Fruit Tree Protection

Santa Rosa Weeping plum

I had no particular plan yesterday to deal with my fruit trees, but as I was walking I noticed that the pile of mulch was still by Waldo park. The neighborhood has a work day and cleans and puts mulch around the bushes and trees in the park every spring. They get a huge pile of mulch for this. It is always more than the park needs. The remaining bits of the pile sits outside the park fence rotting. Any of the neighbors can come and take it as it is no longer needed. The park is a few blocks from my house. I figured I ought to bring some to a spot or two that still needs mulch. I brought out my wheelbarrow and got one load. It was enough to cover the spot under my weeping plum tree. I used to let this bed grow volunteer sunflowers, cilantro, and sweet alyssum, but with the tree there I've been having trouble keeping those volunteers down. The mulch ought to help.

Ginger Gold apple

Then in the afternoon I noticed that my apple tree had some half inch long baby apples on it. I hadn't really been looking as it also still has blooms on it. It has been setting apples over a long period this year. I always use protection - well for my apple trees. I don't spray pesticides. Instead I put on little footies when the apples are tiny to keep all those apple pests out of my apples.

I pick the best and biggest apples on the tree. Some I can see are already damaged as they have indentations on them. But the perfect bigger ones are wrapped in the footies and tied on with twist ties. I don't cover them all as the tree can only support an apple about every eight inches or so. I don't even do that many. Though I'm not particularly even about picking my best baby apples on a branch. I used 85 little footies then ran out. But that is fine. I'm a little worried that it may be too much even though I wasn't particularly dense in picking my apples. 85 seems like a lot of apples for a tree that is only 8' tall and not particularly thick in foliage.

Over the next few days I'll go out and take off any baby apples that aren't in footies. Two years ago we had a great flush of apples and then the next year the tree barely bloomed. It isn't supposed to be a biennial bearer, but I've heard that if the tree sets too many one year, it won't the next. So hopefully my thinning will work. If not I'll have to thin more vigorously in future years.

I have another apple tree, but it was attacked by some kind of caterpillar. I'm thinking the winter moths that invaded our state (I think from China), but I'm not sure as I didn't notice when they were feeding and they seem to be gone now. It bloomed later too. So the baby apples it does have are small. The biggest ones of those are damaged. I'll come back in a week or so and see if there is enough worth saving to protect the tree. A few really aren't worth it as I have to net the whole tree later to keep the squirrels away. And netitng the whole tree is not worth a few apples.

I also noticed some stress on the Ginger Gold apple tree. So I watered that one and the smaller Honey Crisp. I watched the forecast yesterday and they said we were in a mild drought right now. We have only had about a third of an inch of rain in May. And we are down 4 to 6 inches since March. All my other fruit trees have been getting watered regularly, but these two apple trees are landscape plants and I don't water my landscape on a regular basis.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Morning Routine

Mizuna ready for picking

I'm starting to set into a routine with my greens now that so many are ready for picking. These greens are what I'm freezing for the winter - mizuna, spinach, kale, and soon to be chard. I pick them as soon as I get up in he morning. I only pick one bed, which so far ends up being a bit over a pound and a half. It has been cold in the morning recently. I keep forgetting to wear my coat so my hands get a bit numb with the moisture on the leaves. I bring them in. Photograph and weight them. Clean and blanch them. At this point I love standing over the stove as it makes me so much warmer. As soon as they are blanched and in their ice bath, I bring up yesterdays greens from the freezer to package up. I save some of today's greens for the evening meal and fill my now empty mini silicon loaf molds with greens and freeze them. I toss the wash and ice bath water onto the raspberries - though tomorrow it might be the strawberries. And let the hot water cool on the stove to heat the house a bit as it cools down. Then I make breakfast. It is a very calming and happy routine.

Mizuna after picking

I cut the leaves from one side one time, and the other the next

In other years I've done larger bouts of preserving of greens. This way is easier on me. I don't spend so long over the stove and the chore is done before breakfast so doesn't take up my day. This routine will only last for another couple of weeks as then the spinach and mizuna will get ripped out. Then I'll be left with just chard and kale. It will be hotter. I'll want to do larger batches if I can to avoid heating the house up so often. But my current routine is nice while it lasts.

Two sisters bed starting to be planted

And as to yesterday's garden chores, I planted up another batch of corn seed that I soaked for a day before planting. You can just see a corner of the one I planted a week and a half ago. It is up. The squash I planted on the end of that bed came up, but one damped off, so I'm chitting some more seed. The squash for this new bed will be butternut. I've got the seed soaking in a paper towel. As soon as it starts to send out roots, I'll plant them. I might need to put a cutworm collar around the seeds as I found two cutworms when I prepped the bed.

Kohlrabi starting to form

I also got under the row cover to the bed with the kohlrabi, Michihili cabbage, and some turnips. The bed needed weeding. I lost one kohlrabi to something. Since it was big and wilted and died I'm guessing root maggots. But the rest look great, so I'll have a lot of kohlrabi this year.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Before yesterday the last time it had really rained was April 21st - almost a month ago. Not that we got a lot. We could use about 2" now to really soak the soil. Don't get me wrong. I'm really happy we got that quarter of an inch, but I noticed that even the weeds along the bike path were starting to wilt. And there is no more rain in the forecast. Nature really needs a good soaking right now. We aren't in any trouble or anything. The rivers are still running high from all the snow we got earlier in the year. But May is typically wet around here. I've been wondering if I should water my apple trees. The ones in the rock wall bed get plenty of water as they are on a soaker hose because the strawberries are there. Strawberries really need regular water thus the hose. But trees are more resilient. And their roots go down deeper. But the apples just set a lot of fruit and I'm thinking if I want to eat it and not have it drop, maybe the hose should come out.

Since it was raining I did some housework and got some buns made. Mine are gluten free. I used to love to make bread, but now that I can't eat any at all from the store (because they contain gluten or potato starch) it seems a bit more of a chore. I still need to make my mock rye. Maybe today. What I really ought to do is make two loaves and freeze a lot. But my mock rye is sandwich bread and I only have one pullman loaf pan. Hmm should I invest in another?

I did get a little gardening done. I saw that the long range forecast is for a warming trend. Usually I'd start rooting my slips about a week from June 1st, my planting date. But since it is getting warmer and not colder I figured a few days early would be nice. Their spot is already empty as it had the overwintered spinach there earlier.

In addition I killed yet another cutworm. The day before I got four. I go out every morning for this chore. Half my carrots are missing already. I know there is at least one cutworm left. I couldn't find him as he didn't drag his leaf down into his lair. He just chopped the leaf off and ate it on the surface. Every time I squish a cutworm I wish I had chickens to feed them to. I'm sure they would appreciate the cutworms more than I do.

I've also noticed that only two of the asparagus crowns are still alive - sort of. I planted ten two years ago. Last year half of them didn't come up. This year half of the remaining didn't come up. The two left are very weak and they aren't long for this world. Asparagus hates it here. So mine is destined to come from the store from now on. Does anyone remember Kate and Garden Bloggers' Death Day? That was a hilarious meme. I would have had so much great death material for this month if the meme was still around. But on the good side I have a 4'x 4' area that needs to be filled - the other half bed that died last year is filled with Brussels sprouts and spring onions. The empty area has volunteer dill all over it. I'm thinking of thinning it out on one side of the bed and sowing some cilantro on the other side. Last year I didn't have nearly enough green coriander. But I have space to fix that this year.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Kale to Parsnips and Turnips

Spring planted Red Russian kale

For the first time this year I'm growing spring planted kale. It is going very well so far. I've had the first harvest from one side of the bed. I'll harvest the other side this week.

Overwintered kale

Usually I just have overwintered kale that bolts really quickly. I don't mind that as kale blossoms are so good. But the hard winter is leaving the plants pretty weak. The blossom shoots are getting really spindly, so it was time to take them out.

Oh and did you notice the little white flowers in front of the kale? Those are mache. This is the last year I'm growing them. I just don't get much of a crop for the amount of work I put in with them. Most of what is overwintered is too ragged to eat in the spring and the new growth doesn't last long enough before they bloom. And what is there is so tiny it drives me crazy to pick it.

Molly the cat keeping the compost area free of mice

So I pulled the whole bed. I forked up the bed to aerate it. I fertilized and raked it smooth. And sifted a wheelbarrow of compost to cover it in. While I was at it I finished sifting the rest of the compost to empty the bin. All the finished compost is in one of my black composters awaiting the next time I need it. And I now have an empty pallet bin which is good as all my others are full.

I planted the bed up half with parsnips under a row cover to keep the soil moist as they sprout, and half with the start of some turnips. I made ten rows for the turnips and will seed two rows every Monday. Well that is the plan. You all know that it doesn't always happen. So far my successions have gone well though. I'm hoping the when the sixth Monday comes up the first rows I seeded will be ready to come out. Turnips are not like radishes though. Radishes come right on schedule for me. Turnips ripen here and there. So I'm guessing I'll be picking some, but not others and I'll have a gap in the sowing. But that is fine. As soon as it empties I'll start the rotation again.

I'm a bit worried about the turnips. I had uncovered kale in this bed. I could see a horde of root maggot flies hovering around. They must be able to smell all the kale roots. I tried to shoo as many away as I could, but I'm sure I missed some. I might have maggoty turnips. I'll go out again before they sprout and do some more shooing. Maybe it will work. Just parsnips would be a much better rotation, but parsnips are still experimental and I don't want to use a full bed on them. And I really want more turnips.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Harvest Monday, 17 May 2015

Bok choy, tatsai, mizuna, choy sum, chives, and radishes


Lots of kale and a little choy sum

Lettuce and pea shoots


Sage, not shown more sage, oregano, and a little parsley


There was a lot of preserving going on this week. I've dried all the sage and oregano. I've canned some rhubarb. And I've frozen some mizuna, spinach, and kale. And I've eaten a lot of greens. Right now my fridge is stuffed with kale blossoms, lettuce, and radishes. I wanted to pick the lettuce not because I needed it on Sunday but because I had just watered it and it got hot yesterday. I think the cold of the fridge improves lettuce somewhat. So I like to get it in for at least a day before I eat it.

  • Greens 6.18 lbs
  • Greens, Asian 3.19 lbs
  • Herbs 1.78 lbs
  • Peas 0.31 lbs
  • Roots 1.08
  • Weekly total 12.54 lbs
  • Yearly total 18.15 lbs
  • Yearly Tally $-258.61
  • Fruit
  • Rhubarb 2.73 lbs
  • Fruit yearly total 2.73 lbs
  • Fruit yearly tally $-165.33

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

It's Alive

I really thought my rosemary had died. I even placed an order for more rosemary to replace it. Not just one plant but four to have more backups. But it seems it has pulled through after all. I live in zone 6b which really is too cold for rosemary. Even the hardiest types are only sort of hardy here.

I'm scattering the new rosemaries around the garden. This one is in a spot in the circle garden. In the middle with the other herbs. The spot used to house some garlic chives, but they too didn't like last winter. I had one tiny sprout try to push up but it fell over and died. I'm not going to replace it as I don't use it much anymore. The rosemary on the other hand is one of my most used herbs.

Another herb that I replaced yesterday was my Mojito mint. I suppose I should have picked a different one as I've killed one off already, but I like the taste. If it dies again, I'll probably try a different variety.

I need more of another herb I have. Not that I use it as an herb, I just like the look. You can see the blue green mats of my dianthus along the path just under the white fencing on the left. I want to try to get the plant to cover the area and have the pavers open in between. The dianthus does slowly grow, but it doesn't spread quickly. I could rip out the plants and divide them. But I didn't want to spoil the nice mounds they have now. So I'm trying to root them in the spots I want them with cuttings. I'll have to keep them well watered for quite some time. I just hope it works. If it doesn't, I'll wait until the dianthus has finish flowering then rip them all up and divide them.

And last but not least of the herbs that I was dealing with yesterday, is my oregano. It looks so pretty at this time of the year. You would think that bloom time would be the best, but I've never really liked oregano in bloom. It gets kind of scruffy. But I always let it bloom because the bees love it. I am contemplating not doing it though as it seeds all over the place. I'm constantly pulling baby oregano out of the rest of the herb circle.

I cut half the oregano off and dehydrated it. Today I did the other half. That is all the oregano I'll need this year. I love the herb but don't use a ton in cooking. That is enough to fill up a spice jar.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Revamping the Spinach Bed

Since I harvested the last of the overwintered spinach on Thursday, I decided Friday was a good day to redo the bed before all the weeds and bolting spinach were pulled.

This bed is made from some bricks from a walk that was taken apart. They aren't laid down with any kind of foundation, but just put on the surface. Over time the soil from inside the bed sinks.

And the bricks start slowly falling into the bed which leaves gaps on the sides. So every couple of years I take them out and put rocks under them and put them back. It is a bit of a chore, but not all that hard. And I like the brick lined beds which are hot in the summer and grows my sweet potatoes and melons better than my wooden raised beds in the rest of the garden.

Plus I like the pretty circle pattern. Which I can't do in wood. As you can see I got rid of the bolting spinach and the weeds. I raked the soil smooth. Then I sifted enough compost to cover the bed. I like to add about an inch every year. Some years they only get a half of an inch which is what I consider the minimum to keep the beds healthy. Because I almost always have a real crop in the beds, I can't use things like cover crops. My garden isn't that big. So I make a lot of compost and leaf mold every year. Anything to get organic matter into the soil.