Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Empress Tree

When we visited our friends on Vashon Island last fall, I noticed their very attractive unusual tree.  It had broad leaves and interesting dark brown seed pods over the entire tree.
Then she told he how her husband had tried many ways to get rid of it.  The seeds fall out of the pods and make a big mess on the patio, so he first cut it down (it grew back) and then sprayed it with Roundup (no impact on the tree).  Still, the seed pods were so pretty that I collected a few.  Ron strongly suggested that I NOT plant them.  He isn't very fond of any deciduous trees, and wasn't looking forward to one that produced a bunch of new trees.
So the seed pods are still sitting on my windowsill, and I was still thinking about whether and where to plant them.
When we went back to Vashon to visit last week, the tree was in bloom, and it was one of the most beautiful trees I have ever seen!
The blossoms are in clusters in almost the shape of lilac clusters, but the flowers are much larger, and each one looks more like an orchid than anything else.
Even the leaves are pretty.
Needless to say, I'm planting my seeds and hoping for the best!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Greenhouse Update

So after a long long cool wet winter/spring, we are finally into some really beautiful sunny days.  I'm new to greenhouse gardening.  We were careful to find the sunniest spot in the garden for the greenhouse, and plants have been starting wonderfully.  I've got all kinds of flowers, and vegetable plants started, and have already moved some into the garden and flower beds.
Today, on our first full sun day when it got to just over 70 degrees, the greenhouse was more like an oven.  I'm going to get a thermometer to keep track of the temperature in there, but know I need to do something to provide a bit of shade. 
I had a roll of black plastic so I tried to improvise a mini-shade, knowing that I would need it soon if not today.  The greenhouse has a built in gutter on the east and west sides that is about an inch wide - I left the black plastic folded so I can open it up for more shade if I need to.  Then I tucked the black plastic into the gutter and wedged a dowel into the gutter on top of the plastic to hold it in place.
So greenhouse gardeners - what do you do about full sun days when your greenhouse can heat up quickly and fry all your plants?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Projects, Projects, Projects all day long....

My little orchard is really starting to thrive, but when you have six mature apple trees, there is a lot of thinning involved in the spring!
My dear departed friend, Steve Smith, who was an expert on all things apple tree, told me that I should thin the apples to no more than ONE every five inches.  Yikes, I have a big job ahead of me, as that involves removing about 95% of all the blossoms. 
I found the perfect tool for removing blossoms/baby apples - the tiniest Fiskar scissors are perfect for the task.  They are very sharp and I can work with precision.  I used to pinch them off, and my thumbs would be sore for days.  I have about 10 hours into my thinning program and am pretty much done - once again, hoping that I have thinned them too severely.  I worry about that every year, but always have a huge apple crop, so it's getting easier.
Ron helped me pressure wash all the decks, which were a combination of green and brown after a very wet winter.
When we built the house, we tight-lined the gutters under the front slab and into a French drain.  However, we left way too many trees so the tree debris plugged up the drain, and our gutters were overflowing every time it rained no matter how many times Ron cleaned them.  So he decided to make an open ditch from the porch down the hill away from the house.  That looked so awful that we decided to tight-line it and cover it.
So both drain pipes are tight-lined, the yard is a muddy mess, but the problem with overflowing gutters should be solved.
In the meantime, my greenhouse is flourishing - I have really nice looking tomato plants, pumpkin and squash that are ready to go into the main garden, and all kinds of flowers growing.  In spite of another wet month, the corn, beans, onions, carrots, kohlrabi, peas, and potatoes are all up and growing in the main garden area.