Save The Date: Home Orchard Society Fruit Propagation Fair and Scion Exchange on March 6th

If you are interested in growing mini-dwarf fruit trees, then you will want to come to the Home Orchard Society’s Fruit Propagation Fair.  The event will be held on Saturday, March 6th, 10am-4pm, at the Washington County Fairgrounds, Hillsboro, Oregon.  If you become a Home Orchard Society member at the show, you can get in free! HOS Members pay $4/person, $8/family, and others pay $6/person, $10/family.
Here is a quote from the email they sent me describing the event:

“By mixing and matching the scions (the part of the tree that determines the fruit) and rootstock (the part of the tree that controls the size and growth characteristics of the tree) the possibilities are endless. We have hundreds of varieties of delicious apples, peaches, pears, Asian pears, plums and more, including many types that are rare or heirloom, for you to choose from.

The hundreds of scions & cuttings are free from HOS members. Rootstock is available at a nominal cost. HOS volunteers will be there to show you how to graft trees yourself and give you expert advice. For a small charge, you can choose the rootstock and scion you want to use to “Make-a-Tree:” create exactly the kind of tree you want, and someone will graft it for you. Berries and other edible garden plants will be available for sale.”

More information (including directions) available at http://www.homeorchardsociety.org/scion_exchange/

And to whet your appetite for grafting mini-dwarf fruit trees, check out my video on the subject:

Please leave a comment–do you grow mini-dwarf fruit trees on your property, and what types do you grow?  Do you graft your own trees?

Start Potato Starts Indoors Anytime Now

We bought our seeds and potato starts last weekend.  A couple of days ago I started the process of getting the potato starts ready to plant outside.  This method comes from Steve Solomon’s excellent vegetable gardening book entitled Gardening When It Counts, which you should get if you do not already have a copy.  The library may have a copy for loan.  To start your potatoes, get a couple of empty egg cartons.  Place the potatoes so that they are crosswise of the egg-cup side, which will give a bit of air circulation underneath them as well.  You will want to place these in a sunny windowsill or under grow lights, as I am doing.  Be sure to keep the labels with the potatoes, because they all kind of look alike at this stage.  Keep the lights on for 14-16 hours each day, and before long you will see green sprouts growing out of them.

The idea is to start the potatoes growing sprouts roughly six weeks before our last spring frost, after which you can plant them outside.  As we haven’t had a true frost here since January, we may be out of the woods, but who knows with the unusual weather patterns we are having now.   Each potato that you place in the ground will need two growth sprouts per two-inch piece.  This could occur on a single potato, or you can cut a larger potato that has several sprouts into pieces and plant the pieces.

I have read that it is always a good idea to start with seed potatoes rather than just going to the store and picking up potatoes to plant out, and I would tend to agree with this, even though seed potatoes are more expensive than grocery store potatoes.  The grocery store potatoes may harbor a potato disease called scab, and once that is in your garden soil it is very difficult to eradicate it, so it is best to start with certified clean seed potatoes and keep your soil healthy.

Forsythia in Bloom!

It’s early, but the forsythia is in bloom already.  This yellow deciduous shrub is a great early bloomer, with bright yellow flowers.  It also functions as a living trellis for my ‘Polish Spirit’ purple clematis, which blooms in the summer when the forsythia is out of bloom.

Its partner in this picture is a flowering viburnum shrub, an evergreen one that has a very long season of bloom, and is a great winter food source for hummingbirds.

Is your forsythia in bloom?  What else do you grow with it–leave me a message in the comments.

Mini Iris reticulata in bloom!

I love tiny blue-flowered bulbs, and so I am happy to announce that the mini iris reticulata are in bloom–see here:

They have a little yellow and white center, as you can see, and so they are set off well by anything yellow, in this case, a few winter jasmine blooms in the lower left-hand corner.

These small bulbs are planted in the fall, and bloom in winter.  I try to fertilize them in fall and spring, which helps them rev up for blooming.  A good fertilizer is Ann Lovejoy’s recipe, which is a mix of alfalfa pellets in any form and compost, roughly even proportions.  This is an organic mix that will eventually break down and help improve the tilth of your soil as well.

You’ll also notice the bulbs are mulched with shredded leaves.  If you put a thin layer–two inches is plenty–of shredded leaves on your bulb beds, when the bulbs bloom, it helps them to keep from getting mud spattered on them during all the rain we typically get during their bloom time.  You can use maple leaves shredded–whatever you have handy in your garden–for this purpose.  Don’t use whole large maple leaves, however, because they will mat down and slugs will hide out there and destroy your plants.  Shredded is the way to go, and you can run over them with your lawnmower with a bag on it, or get a little leaf chopper and use that.

Crocus Blooming Now!

Beautiful early crocus are starting to bloom in the side garden–they really open up when the sun comes out and warms things up.  Here’s a couple of photos:

The bottom photo is of a crocus called ‘Pickwick.’  It’s a little hard to see, but they are white with lavender/purple stripes with a bright yellow center–very pretty.

Crocus bloom at the same time as snowdrops, primroses, Chinese witch hazel, viburnum and Japanese flowering quince.  The small bulbs are planted in the fall for spring bloom.

Flowering Quince Starting To Bloom

The beautiful and bright flowering quince is starting to bloom in my garden.  The Latin name of this particular cultivar is Japanese flowering quince Chaenomeles X ‘Texas Scarlet’, and it is a beauty.  Here is a picture:

You can make a beautiful winter combination of this shrub, which is a hummingbird food plant, along with Chinese witch hazel ‘Arnold Promise’, which blooms at the same time, along with Viburnum, an evergreen shrub that has pink buds and white flowers, hummingbird food, which blooms for a very long time and comes in a wide variety of cultivars, and then underplant with crocus, grape hyacinths, ‘Tete-A-Tete’ mini narcisus and mini irises.  Absolutely beautiful!

Leave a comment, and tell us if you grow other cultivars of Japanese flowering quince.

First Salad Greens Bed Of The Season

Okay, I know it’s really early, but it’s been over 40 degrees at night, and so I took a chance on salad greens.  Mind you, under plastic and tough greens.  This is what I planted out:

  • ‘Southern Giant Curled’ Mustard Greens
  • ‘Red Giant’ Mustard Greens
  • ‘Tyee’ Spinach
  • ‘Magenta Sunset’ Swiss Chard
  • ‘Ruby Red’ Swiss Chard
  • ‘Chioggia’ Beets
  • Arugula

Here is a video of information I made about how I start early salad greens:

Hopefully, the weather will cooperate, but so far, so good–if this works, we’ll have fresh greens for the kitchen by April!

Leave a comment, and let me know what has worked for you in terms of seed choices and row covers for early food production in your home garden.

Top Seed Picks for The 2010 Growing Season

Here is a list of some of the most reliable seeds that I have grown in the past and will continue to grow this year:

  • Salad Greens:  ‘Tyee’ spinach,  ‘Ruby Red’ Swiss Chard, ‘Chioggia’ and ‘Bull’s Blood’ beets, Arugula (also called Roquette), ‘Southern Giant Curled’ Mustard Greens, ‘Red Giant’ Red Mustard Greens (also called Gai Choy), Mizuna mustard greens (also called Siu Cai, and Xiu Cai), Double Purple Orach (deep purple leaves–tastes a bit like spinach)
  • Eggplant:  ‘Nadia’ eggplant (dark purple skin), ‘Casper’ eggplant (white skin)
  • Sweet peppers:  ‘Marconi’ Sweet Italian Frying Pepper (These are long red peppers), ‘Gypsy’ peppers (yellow peppers that ripen a bit before ‘Marconi)
  • Tomatoes:  ‘Costoluto Genovese’ tomatoes(great for fresh salads), ‘San Marzano’ tomatoes (excellent for drying and for making sauce–good fresh as well), ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes (these ripen late in the season and are huge and delicious)
  • Pumpkin:  ‘Rouge Vif d’Entemt’ Cinderella pumpkin(beautiful for decorating, and good to eat)
  • Bush Beans:  ‘Royal Burgundy’ bush beans (lavender flowers produce purple beans that cook up green), ‘Purple Queen’ bush beans(beautiful purple flowers and stems on the plants that produce purple beans that cook up green), ‘Pencil Pod’ bush beans(chartreuse foliage, lavender flowers and yellow beans that cook up green)
  • Pole Beans:  ‘Scarlet Emperor’ Runner or Pole beans (beautiful red flowers that hummingbirds like, and great green beans), ‘Violet Podded Stringless’ Pole beans (beautiful lavender flowers and purple beans that cook up green)
  • Basil:  ‘Genovese Italian’ basil (large leaves are wonderful fresh in salads or prepared in pesto, you can also freeze the leaves for winter use)
  • Cucumbers:  ‘Green Slam’ cucumbers (These are great for fresh eating and they produced early in the season and tons of them)

Try some of these out–I’ve had good success growing them!