Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Monday, January 24, 2005
Digging planting holes
There is another but minority opinion (I haven't come across it more than once) that says to dig the hole as above but to not add amendments of any kind because if you do, the roots will grow around and around in the hole you've dug, where you've kindly supplied all the nice nutrients. Keep the soil uniform and the roots will spread out evenly. They also recommend not staking trees, having wind stress make the trees root faster and spread farther.
I used the second method because it seemed logical. I believe the trees have stood up better in windstorms because the roots did spread. Our neighbor has had a terrible time with windstorms. Two of his medium sized trees were felled and I believe it's because they (the landscapers) added mulch to the original soil. None of our trees have fallen in spite of some being top heavy and unstaked. Any thoughts on this?
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Friday, January 21, 2005
I also bought a Santa Rosa plum but it died almost immediately after planting despite it's robust appearance. I replanted the hole it came out of with another plum - I can't remember the name - which turned out to be a wonderful tree with an abundance of very good fruit. In its second year it has produced about 25 plums which I stupidly left on the tree too long so the catbirds got about half of the crop despite some bird netting - actually fine deer fencing material I had left over.
We have two other plums that have not produced any fruit. They are suposedly Santa Rosa but they looked more like peach trees when they first started growing and not like the Santa Rosa that died. These were purchased from the Arbor Day Society. The trees were really more like twigs when they arrived, a single stem completely branchless, only about a foot in height, sent bare root in a plastic bag with nothing to hold moisture to the roots. I didn't think they would grow but they are hardy plants, one being trasplanted twice and heavily cropped by deer yet keeps on growing. The other is in a more sheltered location and despite being almost ripped out of the ground by our hyperactive dog, is almost 8 feet tall...but no fruit.
So I guess one out of four ain't bad. I'm still hoping.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Growing fruit cont'd...Amelanchier canadensis?
Walking through Home Depot a couple of years back, I spotted an interesting looking large shrub or small tree with skinny multiple trunks and rounded leaves that I was not familiar with. The tag read Shadblow...what a strange name, followed by Amelanchier. I made note of the name and consulted my American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Garden Plants which further described the plant as a serviceberry. They also gave other names for the plant-Juneberry, Shadbush etc. They further described the plant as having numerous white flowers in the Spring and edible sweet berries in the Summer but that one would have to compete with the birds who apparently relish the berries. I liked the look of the plant which was sort of Japanese-ie with slender multiple trunks about 7 feet tall with branches starting only at the topmost 1/3 of the plant.
I rushed back and bought all three for sale. Luckily no one bought them during my research. These have turned out to be a great buy. The leaves turned a very nice gold and red in the Fall and as promised bloomed profusely in the Spring and produced an abundance of berries in the summer. I was so afraid the birds would get them before we had a chance to taste them that I picked many in an unripened red cherry colored state. We made a pie out of the berries but I didn't care for the taste, sort of like an anemic, bland cherry pie but my wife liked it enough to eat it all. I decided to wait and give it a chance to ripen which should be a dark purple black and be damned if the birds got them but interestingly the birds weren't the least bit attracted to the berries. Perhaps they were satiated, eating mulberries instead which were also in season.
We made a pie out of these fully ripened berries along with a handful of blueberries and the taste was magnificent. I later discovered that our neighbor directly across the street had a huge tree about twenty feet high by ten feet around (multiple suckers) absolutely loaded with fruit. I didn't recognize the tree as a Shadblow because its size and many trunks made it look like a massive bush, sort of like a giant forsythia. She would always ask to pick wild blackberries (actually domesicated blackberry gone wild) in the undeveloped lot behind our house but didn't think the service berries were edible, didn't try them and told her kids the berries were poisonous. Even after I told her it was edible and ate a few right in front of her she was reluctant to even try one! But she said I could help myself to as much as I wanted so I picked about a couple of gallons of the stuff. My brother-in-law who is a self proclaimed connoisseur of berry pies, having grown up in the Pacific Northwest where they have the true wild blackberry, tiny ones that grow on fire cleared lands in the mountains, proclaimed the pie delicious and almost as good as a wild blackberry pie! High praise indeed. I must say that I've had a piece or two of wild blackberry pie and it is a wonder. As mentioned previously a handful of blueberries and some lemon juice help to give it some tartness as the serviceberries don't have any tartness.
What a find, a beautiful small tree with Spring and Fall interest and fruit to boot! The berries were an important survival food for the Indians who mashed it with meat and fat to make pemmican. It's called a Shadblow because the tree flowers in Spring when the Shad (fish) swim upstream to spawn.
We found one more tree at a different Home Depot but have not seen one since. I guess it depends on the garden manager/buyer if they get them in or not. We bought the trees for $29.95 and I've seen them at local nurseries for $125 for the exact same size and more than $300 for larger specimens. We could never afford that! The four trees are doing very well but they do sucker so I have to be diligent to remove the suckers to maintain the beautiful form they have now. I've rooted the suckers so we have two 2 feet tall plants and four others about 6 inches tall planted in the yard. Trouble is the deer love to eat the tender leaves so the little plants are stunted. I don't know how the deer find these little plants but they do! The first three trees we bought were planted as a copse on a berm in the backyard. The fourth a lone sentinel in the side front, giving a little privacy screen from the neighbors.
Now that I know what it is, I see them everywhere-in college campuses, government building landscaping and housing development landscaping. Amazing that I could overlook such a wonderful plant. I'm glad it caught my eye that day.
Monday, January 17, 2005
Adventures in fruit growing
I planted about 15 blueberry bushes and these have produced only enough fruit to make a pie or two. Not quite the 15 pounds per plant the catalogs promise. This is quite shameful because we live in the second biggest blueberry producing state-Michigan being the first. I keep acidifying the soil by heaping on the peat and sulfur and have even resorted to feritlizing the plants but to no avail. The berries are quite tasty though so it's worth the effort and it's nice to just pick the fruit off the bushes and pop them into your mouth.
We've planted four apricot trees but one died immediately. The first year about 15 fruit set and were doing ok after the June fruit drop but either the birds nicked the fruit or they never ripened. Last year we had none but the trees grew fairly well so I'm hoping this year we'll have some edible fruit if we manage to keep the birds away. One tree was "Moonglow" which requires the "Sunglow" for fertilization. The nursery only sold the Moonglow and I didn't find out 'til later why this tree hasn't produced any fruit! Now why would this nursery do this? A warped sense of humor? Needless to say I don't buy stuff from them any longer.
To be continued.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
One more on fungus and I'll stop, I promise
The darned thing is that almost all the affected plants are in full sun and not densely planted so they get lots of air and are not in dampish conditions at all.
Friday, January 14, 2005
They are us!
I also read in Discover magazine I think, that only 15% of you are you. 85% of you are made up of aggregations of other bacterial and fungal cells. I may be misinterpreting this but I think that's what I read. Will try to find the article.
We seem to have a lot of mushrooms here in the Northeast. The wet weather in the past couple of years no doubt has contributed to the flush of the fungus. We had huge puffballs in our yard the past summer. Try cutting into one of these with the mower. Poof, the air is filled with brown spores. Supposedly all puffballs are edible but I haven't had the nerve to try them. Went out with the mycological association on a beginners intro to mushroom identification. Found a few edible ones, they weren't very delicious but these were not listed as being very choice. My elderly father finds a lot on his daily walks. He brought back a deadly amanita-yellow cap with white sprinkles on the top. He thought it was edible! But he thinks all the mushrooms he finds are edible. Luckily he doesn't cook.
Got a lot of ticks on that mycological assoc. outing though. Five of the nasty buggers on me. I only thought to do a clothes off full body search when I felt one crawling on my arm. Shocked to find four more securely fastened to my body. Luckily they weren't the deer tick. Those are so small I probably wouldn't have noticed until the skin got irritated from the bite. I had a crawling sensation all night long. But that's what you get when you walk through the woods in these parts.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Growing lichens part 2
From the Smithsonian website
Erik Acharius website Beautiful pictures
Lichens of North America book website
Of course the Brits have their own lichen society The British Lichen Society
And from the lichen.com site
Some growing information
Caring for lichens in your garden
"Pollution and human damage are hard on lichens. Because they are slow growing, lichens take time to become established. If you are building and lichens are going to be destroyed by your new home or garden, it is possible to move them to a similar environment where they'll gradually re-establish. As with all native plants, they should never be removed from protected areas such as national parks.
Lichens and mosses only grow in areas where the air is clean and will not flourish in gardens in polluted inner-city suburbs. They look distinctive growing on rocks along a garden path or on the trunks of trees. The best way to reproduce them in your own garden is to break off pieces, place them where you wish them to grow, and keep them moist. Watering rocks will also encourage algae, mosses and lichens to grow."
And from the backyard nature site
Lichens reproduce in two main ways:
* The fungus part produces reproductive structures that further produce spores. If a spore lands and germinates, and the resulting hypha finds the right species of alga in the neighborhood, the hypha will grow through the algal cells and a new lichen will start developing.
* By asexual (vegetative) techniques. One asexual strategy is that of fragmentation, which simply involves a piece of a lichen breaking off and this fragment then grows into a new lichen. Lichens also produce on their surfaces microscopic, dust-like particles composed of one or several algal cells closely enveloped by fungus hyphae. These are known as soredia. Each soredium can produce a new plant. Lichen fragments and soredia can be transported great distances by wind and water."
So there you have it. I'll try scraping some off the one rock I have that has lichen growing on it and paste it onto other rocks. What will the neighbors think now? What is that wacko doing? First he paints white goop all over the rocks and now he's doing who knows what to the rocks. Rocks in the head I tell you.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Growing Lichens on rocks
Today I went out again with brush in hand. Since it had just rained last night I thought the yogurt wouldn't dry so quickly and I used it full strength this time. The rocks look weird with white streaks slathered on top and on the sides. Now we have fog so hopefully lichen spores (?) will have time to land on the yogurt and establish itself if indeed that's the way they propagate. I need to do some research on how lichens grow. Will report back later.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Monday, January 10, 2005
I've planted some lenten rose, H. niger but have seen no activity at all. I thought it was supposed to bloom around Christmas time?
Our indoor plumeria (frangipani) plant is about to bloom! It's the Singapore variety. White blooms with a yellow center and dark green, rounded tip, evergreen leaves-the only non deciduous variety. I planted it mainly for its scent and hopefully it will perfume the house. Here's a good site for growing and caring for plumerias The Plumeria Place
My dad who lived all his life in Hawaii says that the plants on the mainland don't have smell. "Even the cilantro and green onions don't have a very strong odor...not like in Hawaii". I'm inclined to think he's right. We grew a jasmine here, the same variety that they make hedges of in Hawaii. They mistankenly call it a "mock orange"; the leaves and red fruit make it look like a small orange tree. The scent is similar to the perfume of orange blossoms. But here it gave off a very meagre scent a faint shadow of the ones in Hawaii.
Saturday, January 08, 2005
We had a Toulouse goose named PT (this was way before the Dodge PT cruiser)when we lived on the Northshore of Oahu in Hawaii. He went missing for a couple of weeks so we thought some feral dogs got him. Then one day a neighbor told my wife that "your goose is living in someone's carport about a block away". Sure enough my wife checked out all the carports and there he was, nonplussed but happy to see my wife. People are so mellow in Hawaii, the people living there never complained to us to come get your x*%#@*! goose.
A couple of weeks back I glimpsed my favorite bird, the white-breasted nuthatch, actually my second favorite, the first being the red-breasted. I rarely see these birds although they frequented our feeder regularly when we rented a home with overgrown brush alongside the house.
At the home we have now, we get only the usual suspects, house finches, sparrows, does, starlings. In the summer blackbirds, cowbirds, catbirds, goldfinch, barn swallows and grackles are commonly seen and in the winter we see more chickadees, titmice, juncos and cardinals. We have a resident mocking bird and a sharp shinned hawk would sweep down on the birds at the feeder but we haven't seen it for about a month now. We usually see one ruby throated hummingbird on the migration north and south. Wrens and yellow bellied sapsuckers are rare, the downy woodpecker being more common. Once this summer, I did observe a white eyed vireo, very close up, looking for bugs in a rhododendron while I was knee deep in water in the fishpond--quite a treat.
When living in Baltimore I saw one of the strangest birds I've ever seen. A flat headed American woodcock was flying slowly and I do mean slowly (this is the slowest flying bird known), very close to town. Obviously lost, the ungainly, nocturnal woodland bird, frightened and disoriented was flying erratically along the tree lined streets. Something I'll remember for a long time.
Friday, January 07, 2005
USDA zone 6 worldwide
It picks up again in Sapporo Japan, just below Seoul Korea, in a narrow band across China through Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Interior Turkey and around the Caspian and Black seas to Ukraine, Romania, much of eastern Europe including Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Czech Rep. Poland and most of Germany. All of Denmark up to southern Sweden and interior Norway all the way up to the Bering sea, the northern 3/4 of Iceland and a huge section of the coastline of southern Greenland!
Also some interior sections of Argentina in South America.
What really surprised me was how far north it went in Norway--to the very northern most coast line. I mean this should all be tundra. This must be above the Artic Circle. And Greenland? I could easily believe that Iceland could be zone 6 with all the geothermal vents but Greenland? I thought it was all covered with ice. Who knew?
Thursday, January 06, 2005
I bought some oriental poppy seeds from Swallowtail Seeds . Pretty cheap and they shipped quickly. We can't wait to plant and see what the blooms will be like this summer.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
I saw the last of the ladybugs trying to get into the house a few days ago. I didn't think it could survive temperatures in the teens we had a few weeks ago but they're tough little critters. I read an article in the local newspaper where this guy claimed he bought and released millions of these ladybugs and was responsible for populating much of the NorthEast. Well this claim turns out to be bogus because the Dept. of Agriculture actually did the releases. The ones that try to come into your house in the Fall are Asian Ladybird beetles.
Here's some interesting sites: Iowa State University
Oregon State Univ. site didn't know they came in so many variations.
Excellent write up by Susan C. Jones, Ph.D. on the Ohio State U. site
Another observation: If you click on the pictures the full res. photo will appear in a new window. It loads pretty quickly even with a dial up connection-pretty cool.
What geological conditions produced this dark band? A mystery I'll never solve.
Monday, January 03, 2005
Everytime we have a hard rain or when it has been raining for a few days and the ground is saturated, earthworms appear all over our driveway and sidewalks. I think the worms are trying to keep from drowing so technically it isn't suicide, where one has the intention of killing themselves. They're trying to save themselves only to be stranded on the pavement and eventually get stepped on, run over or dry up and die anyway. I have not noticed this phenomenon anywhere we've lived but here in central New Jersey.
My wife tries to rescue them by throwing them on higher ground but there are just too many of them--you literally can't take a step without mashing a few. And they're hard to pick up, wriggling and squirming. You end up injuring them by scraping them along the rough pavement or squeezing them too hard, pinching their soft bodies. I've since learned that other kind hearted souls try to do the same but it is a Sisyphean feat.
I think this happens because we have a few and I mean a few inches of topsoil the builder trucked in, overlaying hard or mucky clay depending on whether it is dry or wet. The water just lies on the ground if we get too much rain and only slowly gets absorbed or runs off.
We've lived in Hawaii, the left coast, the midwest and in Maryland but I haven't noticed this phenomenon. Maybe I haven't been observant enough or have forgotten but it only seems to happen here. Anyone notice this where you live?
Here's an interesting worm blog: Worms of Endearment. I believe an article was written about the blogger, Amy Stewart, in the New Yorker magazine? It was about growing worms to get rich schemes. Or maybe it was about someone else.
Fire Alarm Escapades
For the past week or so we've been plagued by the fire alarms going off in the early morning hours. This usually happened about 6:00 to 6:30 a.m., intermittently for three days. We have the alarms hardwired so they are all coupled. When one goes off, all go off at the same time. What a din. I found that we have eight alarms scattered throughout the house.
When it first happened I was brushing my teeth so I was running around the house literally foaming at the mouth. Checked to see if there was any smoke. No, ok, so I grabbed a stool and started to pull out all the batteries. It's hard to get your mind in gear that early in the morning especially with 100+ decibels screeching 2 feet above your head. In my muddled brain I thought a battery was going bad (we heard a chirping sound earlier in the week) and that triggered the alarm. The trouble was, which one? Anyway I managed to pull all the batteries but that didn't shut them up so I ran to the circuit breaker, tripped the main breaker and they slowly went off one by one as the juice ran out of their system. Except for one. I could hear it in the distance. Ran upstairs before it stopped but too late, not a peep.
I called the fire department told them it wasn't an emergency but wanted to know what I should do. The dispatcher said, "get out of the house now!" I said, "you don't understand..." he cut me off saying "I know it's cold but get everyone out of the house now" it was below freezing. I told him that there was no evidence of fire or smoke “the alarms are malfunctioning” and "besides we have a 87 year old Alzheimer's patient in the upstairs bedroom” and trying to get her moving even when she's awake and cooperative is no mean feat.
The fire chief was the first one here. After he made note that there was no fire I asked him what caused the alarms to trip. He replied that after 10 years the alarms become unreliable and some start to go bad. His suggestion was to go to Lowes or Home Depot to buy and replace all the alarms. Said it would be about $5.00 apiece. Well maybe 10 or 20 years ago but they're more like $12-13 now. Our neighbor down the street had the same problem but he replaced his without the battery back up thinking, "what are the chances of having a fire when the electricity goes off?" Well, my thinking is in line with Murphy’s law; if it can happen it will. So I paid the $2.50 extra per alarm. Cheap insurance.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I still needed to solve the problem of finding the last chirping alarm. My wife thought that opening the garage door somehow triggered the alarms. It happened twice when she opened the door. I guessed that the somewhat balky garage door was sending a spike of electricity, triggering the alarms. So I made a note to buy a replacement inside switch. But it happened again even when we used the in-car opener.
After searching over and over, I finally located the missing eighth alarm. It was in the upstairs hallway. I knew there was one in the hallway but two? We thought the builder had hidden an alarm in the attic to get back at the first owner because he was such a bastard.
Well, I finally replaced them all. The fire chief said it would be easy, "just pull out the plug and stick it into the new one--well not quite, because, the plug was of a different configuration and didn't fit. The retaining ring also didn't fit so I had to essentially re-wire and re-install all eight! The new ones have two lights and the alarm that triggers all the others will stay lit so you can tell which one set them off. Cool huh?
I threw the old ones into a box in the basement thinking that I would use them as battery powered alarms around the basement and forgot about them until yesterday when one of them went off. I finally found the offending bugger. I ripped out its battery guts with great relish. This was the malfunctioning alarm that caused all the problems, almost $100 and half a day of my time. The garage door was a red herring. Just a coincidence.
So that was it...except I heard another faint chirping sound in the basement. Good lord it's come back from the dead. After confirming that the offending alarm was truly dead, I found that the carbon monoxide alarm in the basement was indicating a low battery charge. Another coincidence and the chirp we had been hearing for the past week!
I still have an uneasy feeling. I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Sunday, January 02, 2005
But that's the advantage of a digital camera for an amateur like me--take a lot of pictures and choose the best one. With a point and shoot film camera I would have been hard pressed to take a picture like this. With the viewfinder not showing what was being captured and not having a macro lens it would be all but impossible. Even with a single lens reflex camera you would have to buy a macro lens and you don't have the luxury of popping it into the computer for a quick look.
Now all I have to do is learn to use the darned thing!
Funny thing about the Picasa and Hello programs that I'm using to post the pictures; it gives me the ability to post several pictures to a single webpage but when I choose that option, it doesn't do it but places each photo on separate pages. Oh well...
Saturday, January 01, 2005
New Year's surprise
We have four witch hazels, two red Hamamelis x intermedia, Carmine red and Corylopsis, spicata actually a winter-hazel with drooping flowers in spring and the one that's blooming now the yellow probably H. japonica, Sulphurea--it's a guess, the plant didn't come with a tag. It also has a wonderful scent much like freesias I think.
The red witch hazels are just showing a bit of color in the bud opening and probably won't bloom for another two to three weeks. But I look forward to its much welcome color in mid winter. When I first saw the bloom I must say I was badly disappointed after reading all the hype of "bright winter color, and wonderful perfume" in various books and magazines. The color was a dark dull red. The scent subtle. But I think I will have a better appreciation of it this year since my judgment won't be colored by overly enthusiastic writing. It aint no camellia but has the subdued dignity of a winter plant.
Also the rest of the buds on the camellia are blooming again after the short cold spell. The temperatures went down into the low teens last week and burned the ends of the flower buds which turned brown but the inner part of the flower remains the vivid dark pink of my earlier photo. We are now in a warm period, today's temperature was well into the sixties. I was out in a t-shirt scooping out rotting leaves from our pond and pulling out the leaves and flower pods of the water lillies. Strange weather for January.
- Name: Ki
- Location: Zone 6, New Jersey, United States
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- Bhut Jolokia (world's hottest pepper) update
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- Anemones and Tricyrtis
- Wordless Wednesday? Not quite ...
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