Repeat Blooming Orchids

I have a small collection of 5 orchid plants. They are growing in our indoor sun room where they receive some early morning sunlight and some late afternoon sunlight. One of them is about 10 years old. Three of the others are 3-5 years old. Each of them has bloomed many times, even though I haven’t fertilized them in several years. They typically generate 1 or 2 flower stems once a year, but the flowers last for months.

Orchid care has been pretty easy. I water them every 2-3 weeks by taking them outside and spraying them with a hose. Orchids hate standing water, so I make sure to let all of the water in the pots drain away before taking them back inside. I no longer soak them in a sink full of water. Other than watering, orchids don’t seem to need fertilizer or any other special care to generate repeat blooms.

Two of my orchids are in bloom now:

March 19 2018 | Orchids | No Comments »

Purple Cauliflower

I like to experiment with new vegetable varieties. Last year, I decided to grow cauliflower for the first time. White cauliflower is available in most grocery stores, so I thought it would be fun to grow purple cauliflower, which I have never seen in a grocery store.

Last March, I purchased and planted seeds of two purple cauliflower varieties, Purple Of Sicily Cauliflower and Mulberry Cauliflower. After thinning and transplanting the seedlings, I grew about 6 plants of each variety. Both varieties grew into very large plants and produced large crowns of cauliflower, much bigger than typical broccoli crowns. After more than 4 months of growth, I harvested the cauliflower crowns in mid-July. The crowns of the Mulberry cauliflowers were very large and were a beautiful, bright purple color. One of these is shown in the picture below.

Unfortunately, both varieties of cauliflower got attacked by aphids, even though I had most of them covered with mosquito netting. They managed to get under the netting, because it wasn’t tightly secure around the beds. The Purple of Sicily cauliflower crowns were nearly covered with aphids. Although still edible, most of the crowns were not appetizing to eat.

Some of the Mulberry cauliflower crowns were mostly aphid free. I roasted them in the oven, because I really enjoy the taste of roasted white cauliflower. However, even after 30 minutes of roasting at 375 degrees, the crowns were still tough, chewy, and not appetizing, even though they had browned at the tips. They were nothing like roasted white cauliflower, which I have cooked many times. I still don’t know what went wrong with the consistency of the purple cauliflower being so tough. One theory I have is that I harvested them too late. They might have been more tender a few weeks earlier when the crowns were smaller. Other possibilities are that the heat of summer or failing to cover the crowns with the leaves (blanching) made them tough. Many sources assert that cauliflower is best in the fall.

March 14 2018 | Cauliflower | No Comments »

A Rainbow of Dahlias

Last June, some of the big box stores in our area had a large selection of dahlia plants in bloom. They seemed to have every solid color, but what most impressed me was how large the dahlia flowers were. Some of the flowers were 8-9 inches in diameter. I bought red, magenta, purple, yellow, pink, and orange dahlias to add to my garden. The magenta colored dahlia had the largest flowers (maybe 10 inches in diameter). They were full of beautiful flowers through July and into August, and they continued to bloom in Sept. Although starting in August, they got mildew on their leaves and produced less flowers.

A few of the dahlias I bought last summer I kept in pots. Earlier this month, I transplanted those tubers, which are now dormant, from pots into the ground near our fence line. They usually don’t start coming up until April, so it’s not too late to transplant or subdivided dahlias. Below are some pictures from last July.

February 28 2018 | Dahlias | No Comments »

Late Winter Garden

Some of my fruit trees are already blooming in late February, including my nectarine, almond, and mutli-grafted pluot, which is shown below.

The Dabble Dandy pluot graft is full of blossoms after having set no fruit last year (lower right in picture). The blossoms of Dabble Dandy and Flavor Supreme pluots are overlapping with the later blooming Flavor Queen and Flavor King pluot grafts (upper left and right, respectively), which need to be cross-pollinated by Supreme and Dandy. Last year, the King/Queen bloom times did not overlap for very long with Dandy/Supreme, and none of the 4 varieties set as many fruits as previous years. Luckily, the weather for the most part has been sunny and dry, which should be great for pollination.

This year, I set out sugar snap pea seeds in the ground early on Feb. 2 (Cascadia, Sugar Ann, Sugar Lace, and Super Sugar Snap varieties). I planted left over seeds from last year. Most of the seeds have sprouted. I have the bed covered with mosquito netting that is supported by sticks to keep the seedlings from being eaten. A part of this bed (with the netting off) is shown below.

I planted these same 4 varieties last year. The Sugar Anns were the first to produce peas, in late April. Cascasdia produced the most peas, throughout May until mid-June. They were also the most tasty and my favorite overall. The other two varieties also produced well (mid-May to mid-June). Below is a picture of the 3 dwarf varieties (Sugar Ann, Cascadia, Sugar Lace) last Apr. 27.

For a few weeks in May, they produced so many peas that I ended up giving a lot away. The quality of our peas has been very high season after season for the past few years that I have been growing them. I would rank sugar snap peas near the top of my list of produce that is most worth growing at home. The pea pods are very crisp and flavorful, especially when compared to the taste and freshness of store bought sugar snap peas that I have purchased. And I can’t say that about all home grown produce. My home grown potatoes, for example, have not tasted different than store bought potatoes, although they were fun to grow and pesticide free.

February 27 2018 | Peas and Pluots | No Comments »

Mosquito Netting

We have 3 cherry trees growing in our backyard. They are about 8 years old. The varieties are Bing, Rainier, and Royal Rainier. In previous years, I have found maggots inside some of the cherries. Last year, most of the cherries were infested with maggots, especially on the Royal Rainier. I noticed small flies buzzing around the fruit. I suspected that the flies were spotted wing drosophila (SWD). Most of the cherries were brown and inedible looking from the insect damage. I ended up throwing all of them away.

I was on the verge of removing all of our cherry trees, because I didn’t want to implement a spraying regime. I had the same problem with raspberries in the past. I sprayed the raspberries back then, but it didn’t help. I ended up removing all of my raspberries. But I wasn’t ready to give up on the cherries just yet. It has taken several years for them to reach the size they are and to start producing fruit. Also, removing the cherry trees now would require much more work than removing raspberries.

So this year I tried something different. I have netted the cherry trees with bird netting in past years to keep birds away, but the holes in bird netting are too large to keep out insects. The only type of netting I am aware of that has a mesh fine enough to keep out small flies is mosquito netting. So earlier this year, I bought some mosquito netting.

After our cherry trees were out of bloom in mid-April, I wrapped mosquito netting around our Royal Rainier cherry tree and tied it with twine around the trunk. I then rolled any open parts of the netting together and sealed the openings with clothes pins to keep insects from flying or crawling in. It helped that I have pruned this tree to keep it under 8 feet tall. I didn’t bother to net the other two cherry trees, because they set very few cherries this year. Here is what our tree looks like netted.

Last weekend, I harvested most of the Royal Rainier cherry crop. Here’s what they looked like inside the tree.

And here is what they looked like after harvest.

They look beautiful and taste amazing. Not one of the cherries appears to have been touched by birds or insects. We have eaten most of them already, and we haven’t found maggots in any of them. The netting also allowed me to leave the cherries on the tree long enough to fully ripen.

Netting a tree is extra work, and it is probably not practical for large trees over 10-12 feet tall. However, I think it was worth the effort. Mosquito netting is easier to work with than bird netting, because it doesn’t get caught on things as easily. And it keeps out all kinds of pests including insects, birds, and squirrels.

In fact, I am so happy with the results of the mosquito netting that I am using it to cover some of my other fruits and vegetables. For example, I am using it to cover broccoli and cauliflower to keep out cabbage moths and aphids. I am also using it to cover my blueberry bushes as shown below. Even though the netting has a fine mesh, it appears to be letting in enough sunlight for these plants to remain healthy and grow.

June 08 2017 | Blueberries and Cherries | No Comments »

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