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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day December 2011

Happy GBBD!  Join host Carol and other bloggers as they show off their winter fare.  Not much is blooming now outdoors here, but Zepherine Drouhin, Queen of my roses, first and last rose to bloom in my garden most years, blooms on despite frosts.
Meanwhile indoors, I have some plants that are still providing some color.  This geranium was outside but I brought it in to overwinter by my sink, to give me something cheery to look at while I wash dishes.

I bought this at the local Home and Garden Fair, it probably needs repotting to a larger size pot to bloom more next year.  It was described as Salmon but I would call it more of a peach, though it darkens closer to salmon as it ages.

I even had 3 blooms on my fantabulous Epiphyllum anguliger, though I failed to watch closely enough and missed them when they were fully open.:-(
The faithful Phalaenopsis orchid blooms around every six months.
My aquaponics system, fertilized by 4 Shubunkin goldfish, and made usable for the plants by bacteria  that change the ammonia fish wastes to Nitrites, and then to Nitrates-
I have been experimenting with this system for 2-3 years, and have found that the fish wastes don't contain enough Phosphorus to make vegetables grown for fruit/pods fruit well, I've tried cucumbers, tomatoes, and pole beans.  Cucumbers also had a problem with pollination, I tried hand-pollinating with a brush but that was not successful.  However I did get some fruit with gynecious cucumbers that were parthenocarpic- set fruit without pollination.   What tends to excel in my system are plants grown for leaves, especially Basil and other herbs as in this photo.
Here are my fish-
I have had some problems with pumps.  My expensive pump stopped working rather fast so I've been using some cheap Harbor Freight pumps.  They also clogged up and wouldn't work, but I ran one in vinegar for a while and unclogged it so it is working again.  I also have a back-up hand-powered pump for pumping water out of boats.  It only takes a few times of flooding the beds a day to keep the system going.

Well, Happy Holidays!   -Hannah

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday

I'm a week late for Wildflower Wednesday hosted by Gail at Clay and Limestone, but she has graciously left it open so I'm adding to her list.  Join us there for other posts on native plants and wildflowers.  Not much is blooming in my yard now so here are some rose hips from the rose that grows wild in my woods-
Some other native plants in flower or fruit can be seen on my post for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, here.

I'm starting some more seeds now in hopes of getting some blooms next year, I know the Fragaria vesca, Alpine strawberries, will bloom and fruit.   I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving, I had dinner with 5 of my 6 grandchildren, so that was great.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Low Carbohydrate Prolific Turnips

Most of my vegetables I grew this summer are now blackened by frost, but not so the wonderful turnips and kale. These turnips were planted at the midsummer window, July 15, for sowing cool season plants so that they will attain sufficient size by frost to overwinter in my zone 8 (but with lows sometimes in the zone 6-7 range) garden.   This year I tried a new turnip, Bianca Colleto Viola, from Gourmet Seeds of Italy.  It is elongated and so ends up actually larger than round turnips I have grown, like Purple Top, and sticks up out of the ground, very easy to size up for harvest.  They get very large, these I picked today weigh 4 lbs. (1.8kg)  together.
 Even though large, they are nicely textured on the inside, juicy, sweet, and tender-
They can be grated for a mild radish-like addition to a salad, dressed up with herbs like dill as a stand-alone salad, or used in strips for a vegetable tray.  Since they are lower in carbohydrates than potatoes, 5.1g per 100g  versus 20g  per 100g, they are excellent as a replacement in diets to avoid raising the blood sugar, like the Zone diet, or other health diets.   Potatoes have a glycemic load of 9 and an Inflammation Factor of -59 (Nutrition Data)  while turnips are healthier with a glycemic load of 1 and Inflammation Factor of -1!    Turnips can be substituted for potatoes in most recipes, though they are higher in moisture content so adjustments may be necessary, or they can be grated or sliced and salted for a while to drain off or squeeze out some water.  Turnips are very good mashed like potatoes, but steaming will result in drier cooked turnips that will mash better.  Milk, cream, or sour cream can be added along with butter, and herbs of your choice, like dill, rosemary, or parsley, along with pepper and salt as preferred.  Or use olive oil, coconut oil, or your favorite vegan choices when mashing.   Turnips can also be used in stir fries, or fried in butter until brown and simmered until tender, alone or with onions, meat, or other vegetables.  They can be made into gratins with a white sauce, onions, and cheese.  They can be roasted alone or with meats along with onions, whole garlic cloves, carrots, celery, seasoned with bay leaves, thyme, and pepper.  The Victory Garden Cookbook, by Marian Morash, is an excellent source of recipes for these and other vegetables.

So, in addition to enjoying a seemingly endless supply of turnips from my two thickly sown 15'x3' beds, I like the greens and especially the new growth that will spring forth in late winter/early spring.  By then the roots will not be edible but the abundance of greens and flower buds will supply vegetables for the table when otherwise there would be none.  Bon Apetit!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day and Fall Fruits

Happy Garden Blogger's Bloom Day!  Join the many gardeners for bloom day on May Dreams Gardens and thanks again, Carol, for hosting!   I like the blooms best on my Christmas cactus also, except I think it was a Veteran's Day Cactus this year.
I use my concrete east-facing porch for overwintering things in pots, here are some pansies that didn't get set out yet, left from my Swedish Mother-in-law's 100th birthday celebration-
My tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is blooming its small fall blooms-
And surprise, one of my 10 year old Camellia sasanqua's, Apple Blossom, is finally setting some blossoms, still buds,  though Yuletide seems to have none.
An alpine strawberry has a few blooms, I'm starting a lot more of these for next year-
Marie Pavie rose blooms on in the cold-
But main attractions at this time of year are the late fruits.  Here is the decorative inedible berries of Viburnum davidii-
There are a few fruits ripening earlier this month that round out the gardening year, and provide some special tastes when everything else is gone.  Pawpaws, Asimina triloba,  are a real treat.   They are the largest native North American fruit, an important fall food to the early settlers and the Lewis and Clark expedition.    They are lower in water content than most fruits except the similar in consistency banana.    The other members of the Custard Apple family are tropical, and Pawpaws have an alluring tropical taste.    I can tell when they are ready to pick because they start falling on the ground.  At that point they are still hard and green, but I check them often for softening, at which point they are ready to eat.  I have two large seedling trees from Burnt Ridge Nursery, but strangely only one fruits.  Perhaps its pollen is not compatible with the other tree.  I also have a small 3' grafted tree which grows very slowly and has not flowered yet; perhaps when it does it can pollenate the other tree.
Another fruit ripening late and able to go through some frosts is the hardy kiwi, Actinidia arguta.  It has much the taste and internal appearance of the larger fuzzy kiwi, but doesn't need peeling.  Male and female plants are separate so a male is required.   I grow them without a trellis, just supported by a very tall heavy T-post, and allowed to weep in an umbrella-shape.  They will grab onto any nearby tree.  A strong trellis would make them much easier to manage.
Another fruit that is very late and variable in ripening so only part are ripe at present and many are green, is the native Huckleberry.    I have a transplanted bush from the Olympic Peninsula, and it is quite large now and bears heavily on the end of branches.
It is very fiddly to pick the berries, they are very close and with short tight stems, and not all ripe at the same time.  Plus there are little dried brown mummy berries mixed in and abundant spiders hiding on the stems that fall into the bucket, and refuse to come out again.  So the picked berries require picking through to clean.  
Not so the wonderful Aronia, which seemed to start getting black earlier this year, and are a little over the hill by November.  Plus I didn't get around to picking the berries in the top of the bush since I needed more room in my freezer, and the birds or squirrels managed to strip the remaining berries off the bush.   But the Aronia berries are such a dream to pick, in nice discrete clusters hanging from a single stem, all ripe at the same time on the whole bush.
A very late ripener, still green, is the Azarole, Cragtaegus azarolus.  I hope the weather will permit them to ripen.
That wraps things up from the PNW, cold and expecting snow at higher elevations. 


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fall a Great Time to Start New Beds

Here in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), spring is a good time to plant some annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees, but since there is a dry season starting in late spring that lasts until the fall rains start, plants that are sensitive to drought or heat, or that need to develope new root systems, such as new transplants, often do better started in the fall.  I'm working on a new bed that will have a border of these seed-grown Dianthus 'microchip' plants, here shown from another bed planted last year.

This bed has been a rose bed that has become overgrown with grass and other weeds, and backed by an overgrown garlic bed that I am digging.  Part that is not yet dug is being kept dry to dig later.
The new bed will have a row of daffodils, and for more of the front border, some rooted cuttings of Dianthus Alwoodii alpinus-
and will also feature a gorgeous Rozanne hardy Geranium-
Calluna vulgaris 'Hillbrook Orange, which will hopefully bloom next spring'-
I'm also planting some seed-grown Aquilegia formosa, the native red and yellow Columbine; Erysimum wheelerii, a native wallflower; some strawberries, variegated Oat grass, oregano, thyme, Veronica, and some transplanted tall bearded irises and daylilies.  The irises and daylilies are from clumps that needed dividing.  Irises can stop blooming if they become too crowded, I replant the newer actively growing tips and discard the old mother rhizomes.

Another bed I am continuing to work on is my new bed under a Big Leaf Maple for a Berberis darwinii.
I'm transplanting some Lingonberries that have become overgrown and stopped bearing in another location.
Hopefully they will do well here.  I wanted to keep a look of dark green shiny evergreens here, and also want to transplant some Wintergreen-
So, happy fall planting!


Monday, October 31, 2011

Fall Splendor to Celebrate some Victories in the War on Voles

Cause for celebration: I had a much lower level of damage in my vegetable garden from voles this year.  My main strategy involved increasing the amount of lava rock added to the planting holes.  I had previously used lava rock in the bottom and sides of planting holes for daylilies and thus prevented the roots  from being eaten off, leaving a rootless floppy dying plant, which was happening.  I had tried putting some lava rock in furrows when planting vegetables last year.   This year, I increased the amount into a thicker layer in planting holes and furrows.  Last year I lost a couple of nearly full-grown squash plants and some cucumbers; this year none. Sometimes several tall pole beans have mysteriously wilted overnight, their stems nipped at the ground- this year only one!

The second line of defense is sprinkling cayenne pepper over the bean seeds and putting a 4" galvanized nail into the ground next to pole bean seeds.  It can be difficult to recover all the nails the next year or in fall and has some danger- WARNING, use at your own risk.

The third line of defense with pole beans, and I even did some of the bush beans, was wrapping the stems with around 8-9" of aluminum foil, tearing off that length then cutting them into four 3" wide pieces.  I stack the strips before cutting.  It can be a little difficult pulling them apart but it seems easier to me than cutting each strip in 4 pieces by itself.   I had a really good bean year, many of the pole beans were scarlet runner type beans that like the cool days and nights in the Pacific Northwest.  They don't do very well in heat.  They can get tough pods if left on the vine too long but I have been shelling beans for shellies and they are very good, similar to the lima beans of my southern upbringing, meaty and succulent.  What some people call mealy or potato-like.  I like them like that, just as I like okra plain, boiled, mucilaginous and able to slide right down your throat.  I was raised on Southern cooking...

Anyway, lava rock is pretty cheap, close to $1.00 for a 5 gallon bucket, and fairly lightweight for a rock.  I use 5 gallon buckets which are a little heavy but not unmanageable for me, and load them into my car or van.    10 buckets was enough for one season, and since they don't break down or go away, they will be there in the ground next year and eventually perhaps I will not have to add any more.  Deer are supposedly repelled by having to walk on it on the ground surface as well.

Splendor in the Japanese Cutleaf Maple, a cascade on the untrimmed side-
Layers in the cut-away driveway and walkway side-
Side view with a flutter of blueberries-
Acer  palmatum 'Purple Ghost' is finally looking like a tree, though still small, after 5 years-
The newspapers are to try to control the weeds and ground covers there because I want to plant Alpine strawberries next year.  The voles will doubtless go crazy under all that cover, but don't seem to bother the strawberries.

So, here's wishing you success in your battle with the critters,  Hannah

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Blight and the Covered Tomato

I threw together a much less elaborate tomato covering this year, using the pvc pipe I had cut last year for my extensive tomato house, and 10' wide plastic sheeting.  I only covered the shorter determinate tomatoes, because of  time and difficulty constraints.  Covering protects from frost and also keeps the rain from splashing up late blight spores on the plants and deters its development.   I grew mostly the short tomatoes this year because of the discouraging cold springs we have had the last 2 years that result in the tomatoes being a whole month or more late in ripening.  I was also using them as poisonous roots to protect interplanted beans, and I considered this a success, something worth doing again next year. The short plants resulted in a lot less work doing staking, running wire supports, and tying up vines.   I could use just 1-4 bamboo stakes per plant for staking, and  ran only one longitudinal wire down the rows to which I could tie some of the stakes for stability.  With taller tomatoes I typically would have 4 wires run at two levels for a bed 2 rows wide, to which I would tie vines as well as additional bamboo poles for stability to tie up additional vines and keep the wires from sagging.  There were a few tomato cages thrown in at intervals to support some vigorous growers.  I tried some varieties I had not grown recently, or that had not sprouted for me before using peat pots.  I get much better germination, especially of old seed, with ziplock bags and damp paper towels.

This was my determinate tomato list , source, name, started, and yields in pounds-
TSF Azure paste det 2/8/2011 4.53
 MS Martino's Roma det 2/8/2011 8.44
 HL Mtn Princess  det 2/7/2011 7.81
 MS Napoli det  2/7/2011 7.56
 ***tr New Big Dwarf det 07 2/7/2011 13.81
 TSF Novinka Kubani det 2/8/2011 2.38
 EH Or Spring det 04 2/7/2011 1.81
 SH Prairie Fire det 2/7/2011 1.25
 EH Princip Borghese  det 2/7/2011 7.44
 ALF Ropreco det 2/7/2011 1.77
 MS San Remo det 2/7/2011 3.19
SH Siberian Pink  det 2/7/2011 0.22
 SH Tricot Czech det 2/7/2011 4.81

I did have more plants of New Big Dwarf.

This was my indeterminate tomato list and yields-

 ebay Rostova heart ind 2/7/2011 10.47
 ebay Shilling Giant heart ind 2/7/2011 12.56
  ebay Super Italian Paste ind 2/7/2011 1.31 
 ebay Virginia Sweets ind 2/7/2011 1.31

Total yield-   90.67  #  at $3.00 per pound for organically grown = $272

(Sources- Abundant Life Seed Foundation- reduced varieties after fire, Ed Hume, Heirloom Seeds, Mariseeds,  Sandhill, trades, Tanager Song Farms- not selling seeds at present)

While I liked the heart tomatoes, which is my favorite category of tomato, meaty, few seeds, and often with a luscious texture and taste, I will return next year to some of my old standbys, Verna's Orange Oxheart, Sochulak, and Ukraine Heart.  I also want to find new seed for an old favorite bicolor, Lucky Cross,  the last time I grew it, it didn't come true from seed.  I want also perhaps to try some other bicolors, since I like their texture and fruity flavor.
Here is my tomato covering this year, rather makeshift.  I had to add some flying buttresses since my first attempt was not stable enough and leaned , had some sagging which filled with water, etc.  Being able to pull the plastic tightly to the vertical supports kept it from sagging, and I ran the plastic to the ground on the windward side so had no blowing over problems after the first adjustment.  It is working to prevent late blight and frost destruction.   There was at least one night below freezing.   I may still be able to get enough tomatoes for our salad for a while.  Here are some tomatoes under my cover, Ropreco-
And another paste, Martino's Roma-
And these are my tall indeterminate plants which have not been covered for comparison, completely decimated by late blight and frost-
Another tomato I will grow next year again is Legend, which is rather late but has some late blight resistance so can fill out that difficult late season ripening slot.  I also want to pursue the early ripening cold tolerant tomatoes a little more.

I research tomatoes on the Gardenweb forum.  Plus I like their bean forum and others, lots of archives to search.

Happy Fall, Hannah

Saturday, October 15, 2011

What's Blooming Today October 15, 2011

Thanks to Carol and her fairy friends for again hosting Garden Blogger's Bloom Day!  We have slipped into the grey and perpetually dripping, misting, or raining days of fall, but  my containers on my deck, are still doing well, here some mums and some purple Calibrachoa.
I don't actually have much blooming this time en masse except the Japanese Anemones, in pink and purple,
These cheery Snapdragons have actually volunteered in my baskets for 2 years running.
There are a few Dianthus superbus with their feathery blooms.  This one is ablaze-
And the more demure pinks-
This one looks almost iridescent-
A large Cyclamen hederifolium bulb somehow ended up over near my woods-

Some of the Agastaches are valiantly trying a few last blooms-
Pink Panda strawberries are blooming here and there-
And the very common and reliable Sedum 'Autumn Joy' are putting on a show,
A similar color in my favorite rose, Zepherine Drouhin, first and last rose to bloom in my garden-
And another pink flower, Spirea japonica 'Little Princess, contrasting with leaves that have their fall flame colors on.
Similar colors in their everyday foliage, Berberis thunbergii 'Rosy Glow', contrasting with Variegated Silverberry, which has little out of focus flower buds coming on, soon to open to waft a delightful fragrance across the yard.
Meanwhile over in the vegetable garden, colorful blooms on my Cardoon plant-
One of those mysterious disappearances, my usual fall asters are nowhere to be seen....  Yours are heart wrenchingly beautiful, Carol.  Sigh.  And the variegated foliage on your toad lilies is so crisp and lovely.

Happy Bloom Day, Hannah