Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Liberty Apple Tree

My "Liberty" apple tree that I had grafted and brought home a year ago from the Spring Propagation Fair is doing well, I am happy to report. It had a challenging first Summer in the ground. Temperatures were in the nineties consistently for months and it didn't get as much watering as it probably needed. Both my "Chehalis" & "Spartan" trees died above the graft but this "Liberty" managed to survive. The rubber band around the graft deteriorated and fell off last Fall The graft has healed over and the tree is now one unit. It put out one 5" new shoot last year and now that branch has sprouts up and down its length. I am hoping a cooler Summer and better care on my part allows this tree to make big strides in its growth this second year.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Greens Harvest - Week #3

On Saturday I managed to find a window between the rain showers to harvest some salad greens. As I lifted the row cover from the first bed, I discovered that the Wasabi" arugula had bolted. It wasn't a complete shock, thanks to a warning I received last week from Dave at Our Happy Acres telling me arugula was quick to bolt when temperatures rose.

It was a little frustrating though, since I hadn't even harvested any yet. So I took some small scissors and cut what I could away from the bloom stocks. I couldn't resist popping two small leaves in my mouth to see if this really, truly did taste like wasabi. The answer quickly came as my mouth caught fire, my nose begin to tingle, and I started coughing. It tastes exactly like wasabi! My sister, the heat lover of the family agreed. She did comment though, once she mixed it with other greens and poured dressing on the salad, she could no longer taste the wasabi flavor or feel any heat. What a fun variety to experiment with. Thanks Territorial Seed!

The greens have really started to come on this week. Just two weeks ago it was difficult to pick enough for 3 small dinner salads. Today I could pick that amount from any one of the three raised beds.

 Along with my garden helper Padma, we harvested:

  • "Heirloom Cutting Mix" Lettuce - 1.7 oz
  • "Charger" Spinach - 1.7 oz
  • "Sweet Greens and Reds" Lettuce - 2.0 oz
  • "Catalina" Spinach - 2.3 oz
  • "Wasabi" Arugula - .2 oz
  • "Renee's Baby Leaf Blend" Lettuce - 1.7 oz
  • "Mild Mustard Mix" - 1.0 oz
  • Total Harvest - 10.6 oz.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Merel's Favorite Daffodil

Back on March 5th, we planted 25 bulbs of the daffodil "Merel's Favorite". These bulbs had been sitting in a box in the garage since last October, so they were more than ready to be planted.

The good news is, the bulbs were still firm and viable when we planted them. And now, since they went in so late, we have a pretty display of daffodils in late April!

I think the color combination of white petals with yellow trumpets is my very favorite, so I am really loving this variety. "Merel's Favorite"  has rounded, pure-white petals and a very vibrant, long, yellow trumpet.

Not quite all of the bulbs produced flowers this year, which isn't a surprise considering the stress we put them through. Still, from 25 planted bulbs we have 29 blooms to enjoy. Here's hoping they settle in and come back even stronger next year.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Few Plant Purchases

Today I was on a mission, running various errands all over town. But I did manage to find the time to make a quick stop at The Lane County Farmers Market and Down to Earth. At both places a few plants jumped into my basket!
  • "Candy" Onion - a yellow skinned sweet onion. Not a keeper, so I harvest and use this one throughout the Summer
  • "Red Wing" Onion - This hybrid red onion is a large one that is suited to Northern climates. Perfect for fresh salads and slicing. It keeps longer than any other red onion and the internal color gets deeper red during storage.
  • "Snow Crown" Cauliflower - An early, adaptable variety. Good quality, medium-sized white heads. 2 lbs. heads are 7"-8" across. An AAS winner.
  • "Red Riding Hood" Penstemon Schmidel - Zone 5-6; Partial to full Sun. Covered in bright red tubular flowers on long stems. 24' X 30" tall by 18' X 24" wide. Blooms in the Summer. The goal of the Dutch breeders of the Riding Hood series was to breed plants with excellent Winter hardiness, a compact growth habit, a longer flowering season, and numerous showy flowers.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Happy Earth Day

Rhododendron "Seaview Sunset"

Happy Earth Day 2016!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Maple Blooms and Sky High Pollen

This year our native Big Leaf Maple trees look more like Golden Chain Trees. They are absolutely covered in long, gold tassels. The tassels are much more numerous than in a normal year and are much longer as well.

The two 80 degree spells that we have had this April have encouraged the Maples to come into full bloom earlier and with a vengeance. A high tree pollen count is 200 and one weekend here the pollen count was over 1200! I have had allergy symptoms this year like I have never experienced before and I am not the only one.

Another result of this massive maple bloom is our lack of Evening Grosbeaks at our birds feeders. The Evening Grosbeak arrive at this time of year to feed on Maple Blooms. While there is always a good food supply, they normally end up using our feeders quite a lot. But this year, they are mostly staying away from the feeders and feasting in the trees. The air is full of their distinctive "Churr" note and we can see them flying in the distance from one tree to another. But only a few birds have come to the feeders to supplement their diet at this point. I am hopeful that once the maple blooms fade, the Grosbeaks will return to our feeders for a few weeks before moving on to higher elevations.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Continuing to Plant the Spring Kitchen Garden

This past weekend, I had hoped to get my onions planted. But like so many things on my "to-do" list it didn't get done. So this week, after work and dinner, I have been puttering in the Kitchen Garden, getting it ready for some serious Springtime planting. I had to start by re-weeding the whole area. The rainfall that we have received, combined with the very warm temperatures, has been the perfect recipe for weeds. It took two night to get most of the area weeded. Then tonight, with Dad's help, I rebuilt a long raised bed. Then I planted 16 "Pontiac" onion starts purchased last weekend at Down to Earth.

"Pontiac" is a hybrid, disease resistant, yellow storage onion. It has a very large size potential and strong, bronze colored skin that protects the bulb well in storage.

I was pleased to get all of the young plants settled in tonight as we are expecting a rainy day on Friday and I was hoping to have them planted before the rain hit. I will plant the rest of this raised bed with a fresh use onion variety, but I haven't purchased those plants yet. I finished the evening by planting a small bunch of chives in the corner of the garden. I have always loved the happy, purple chive blooms that appear each Spring. I am hoping over time this clump will increase and I will be able to enjoy freshly cut chives in the future.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Surprise Volunteer

A week ago or so, something caught my eye in last year's melon bed. I glanced down and thought I saw a group of sprouted sunflower seeds. That wasn't a surprise, given the close proximity of this bed to the bird feeders and our large active chipmunk population. But last Sunday I realized there were more sprouting seeds and I took a closer look. Imagine my shock when I discovered that these weren't groups of sunflowers but instead clumps of young Watermelon plants! Last year I grew "Blacktail Mountain" watermelon here. They did quite well. I didn't get around to harvesting the last few melon and they sat here and decomposed throughout the Winter. So combine non-hybrid seed with extremely early warm weather and you get a bed full of volunteer watermelon plants!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Second Harvest of the Year

"Speckled Troutback" Lettuce

Another beautiful Sunday, with the high hitting 80 degrees. It sure doesn't feel like April in Oregon! I finally had time in the late afternoon to head to the Kitchen Garden and harvest another round of salad greens.

When I lifted the remay cover off of the first bed, I was surprised to see some bloom stalks in the mustard. This is my first year growing mustard, so I am learning as I go. Perhaps it is very sensitive to heat, and these warms days that we have had in the last week has inspired it to bolt?

Next door, the "Wasabi" arugula is making a valiant fight against the "Catalina" spinach. The will to survive is stronger than the gardener's planting mishaps! I just might be able to harvest some arugula after all. So here is the summery of this weeks harvest:
  • "Heirloom Cutting Mix" lettuce - 1.2 oz
  • "Sweet Greens and Reds" lettuce - 1.2 oz
  • "Catalina" spinach - 1.4 oz
  • "Renee's Baby Leaf Blend" lettuce - 1.0 oz
  • "Mild Mustard Mix" - 1.1 oz
  • Total harvest - 5.9 oz

"Renee's Baby Leaf Blend" lettuce

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Blooming Wild Cherry

Right now all of the "greenness" of our forest is punctuated by wild Cherry Trees. Spread by bird droppings, these trees are quite common along the roadways. They are never more noticeable than in the Spring, when their branches are cloaked in a sea of white blossoms. I image they are also full of busy pollinators, who will assure another crop of cherries this Summer. Then the gorging birds will spread some more seeds throughout the forest floor, starting the cycle over once again.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The First Greens Harvest of the Year

A bed of "Heirloom Cutting Mix" lettuce

Yesterday evening I harvested my first picking of salad greens. These three raised beds were seeded back on February 13th, as an experiment to see how early I could plant, and then harvest, salad greens in this mild El Nino year. Last year I planted seed on April 12th and had my first harvest May 25th. So, it took much longer for the plants to mature this year - due I am sure to cooler temperature and less daylight in February and March, but I was still able to push my first harvest date back 6 weeks. I would call this a success!

A vibrant bed of "Sweet Greens and Reds" Lettuce

My crazy bed of Catalina" spinach and ""Wasabi" arugula. Yes, this was a seeding mistake but I am rolling with it! May the toughest plants survive. 

" Renee's Baby Leaf Blend" lettuce

With the Spring "heat wave" we had this past week, with high temperatures reaching 80 degrees, all of the greens really took off. Their growth in just one week was significant.

"Mild Mustard Mix"

So, I don't have a huge harvest total to report, but I am pleased with my first harvest all the same;
  • "Heirloom Cutting Mix" Lettuce - .4 oz.
  • "Catalina" Spinach - 1.0 oz.
  • "Sweet Greens and Reds" Lettuce - .5 oz.
  • "Renee's Baby Leaf Blend" Lettuce - .2 oz
  • "Mild Mustard Mix" Mustard - .6 oz
  • Total harvest 2.7 oz

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Apple Blossoms

Our wild apple tree, down that the bottom of the hill, has begun to bloom this weekend. Like everything eles I have described this past week, it too is blooming earlier than normal.

While the poor tree is scrawny and contorted as it tries to reach for sunlight though the surrounding fir trees, it still manages to bloom and set a few apples each Fall.

We let the apples drop from the tree every Autumn and the deer and possible a few bear happily enjoy the bounty. We happily enjoy just watching it move from bloom to mature fruit each season, year after year.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Ipheion Uniflorum "Rolf Fiedler"

My small patch of Ipheion Uniflorum "Rolf Fiedler" is blooming in the sunset flowerbed. 

This variety of spring starflower is such a vibrant blue. While the whole clump is only 5" X 5" and just 4" in height, it is such a showstopper! How can you not love that stunning shade of blue?

Considering that my starflower patch was started with only 4 bulbs, planted back on January 8th of 2012, it has expanded quite nicely. It would be very interesting to dig up this patch in July when it is dormant, to see how many bulbs it has naturalized to over the past 4 Springs. Such a wonderful little plant to enjoy each Spring.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

First 80 Degree Day of the Year

Mahonia Aquifolium "Oregon Grape" in full bloom

Today we enjoyed our first 80 degree day of the year. It hit just 80 degrees but felt so very warm. The air is full of tree pollen and the plants are bursting with growth. Due to the abnormally warm weather, many plants are wrapping up their whole bloom cycle in less than a week which is a shame. We wait a year to enjoy the beauty of so many things and to have them appear and then disappear so quickly is such a disappointment. Last year we didn't see our first 80 degree day until May 9th, so I don't know what that means for this year; even more heat and drought or just an abnormally warm week. I am certainly hoping for the later.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Late Season Daffodils

As the calendar marches along, so does the daffodil season. We are now enjoying what I call our Late Season daffodils. These varieties are the last to open for us each year. While it's wonderful to be able to enjoy these blooms it is also bittersweet because once they are done, we are finished with daffodils for another year.

Down by the road, we have two amazing clumps of "Passionale" daffodils.

These pure white daffodils have a soft peach trumpet.

They have come back reliably year after year.

On the other side of our gate is this group of "Roulette" daffoldils.

This white daff's trumpet is yellow, with the outside ringed in orange.

One of my favorite daffodils is "Holland Sensation". We have planted it twice over the years, and both times it hasn't done well for us. This clump is down to 2 blooms this year. I do love its soft, almost frosted yellow trumpet.

Over in the meadow we have two patches of "Golden Ducet" daffodils. Both groups return reliably each year. It is certainly unique, with its crazy, cut up petals and trumpet.

When we first stared planting daffodils, we planted two clumps each of "Fortune" and "Fortissimo" in the meadow. Over the years each variety has diminished before completely dying out. But to our surprise this year, we had 5 "Fortune" and 2 "Fortissimo" return this year.

The 2 "Fortissimo" are spread out about 10 feet from each other now. Either one came back from each of the two clumps we planted, or a underground rodent did some bulb moving!

Up on the bank we have a nice patch of "Serola" daffodils. These were planted many years ago. While they all didn't naturalize, enough did that we have a cheery group here each Spring.

"Serola" isn't a quiet daffodil! It has bright, lemon yellow petals with short, vibrant-orange trumpets.

I don't think any daffodil that we have planted has done as well as the drifts of "Flower Record" up on the bank. Even the group planted around the base of the ginkgo tree, which gets watered heavily all Summer, returns with vigor year after year.

Unfortunately, with all of the warm weather we have had this past week, the "Flower Records" are already fading. I don't think they have been blooming for more then a week.

Closer to the shop we have a small clump of "Decoy" daffodils.

This pretty variety has white petals and a salmon-pink trumpet.

Back in the flowerbeds, we have a small group of "Thalia" daffodils. These Victorian beauties have a sweet fragrance and each stem has multiple white blooms.

In the corner of the front flowerbed is my clump of "Jamestown" daffodils. I brought these bulbs back from my trip to Maine in 2012 and they have returned reliably ever since. They have a unique bloom. The petals are quite rounded and the yellow trumpet is very shallow,ruffled, and flat.