Garden Report: January 27

Seems like forever since I wrote about what is happening in the garden, what with everything else going on. And we did get more than our annual average rainfall in the space of a week there, so not much has been going on outside.

Nonetheless, there is garden news. On Saturday we drove up to Sebastopol to see a friend and go to the Redwood Empire chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers' scion exchange. It's good clean fun for fruit collectors, and we picked up a couple new figs (Blue Celeste and Bourjasotte Grise), 3 plums (Old Green Gage aka Reine Claude Dore, Transparent Gage, and Reine de Mirabelles), and a pluot (Flavour Supreme, one of the few whose patent has expired).

The tables are arranged with bags of scions sorted by fruit type and then into large alphabetical chunks, so it's not too hard to find a specific variety you might be looking for. The real catch is that you have to rely on others to have labeled their bags properly.

Tables of scions

This year I brought scions to share for the first time. Some Winter Pearmain, Akane, and Cox's Orange Pippin apples, a couple of Asian pears (all gone by the end of the day; next year I will bring more), and some Black Tartarian cherry.

They also have tables with grafting experts who will answer questions and do grafts for you. I had one of the experts do my four trees that needed grafting, so I could get a better idea why my grafts keep failing. I talked to three different grafters and between the three I think I know what I'm doing wrong (keeping my scionwood too long, not adequately protecting it from drying, and grafting too close to where dogs might be knocking against the tree and damaging it).

Grafting tables

The chapter sells rootstocks for a nominal price -- I bought four for $10, an exceptionally good price although the choice is obviously limited.

Selling rootstock at the scion exchange

It was pretty crowded, but not the total mob scene I heard happened in Berkeley this year. By noon, when we left, the figs were mostly gone, the grapes were ravaged, and the very rare fruits had been wiped out. I'd wanted to get some kiwi cuttings, but the mob around there didn't die down until they were all gone. (Probably just as well since I don't technically have anywhere to plant them.)

Today the rain broke and I dug my holes. I'm planting the four plumlike trees in a line along the front path. You may recall that in October I dug out the many many lavender plants that lined the path. Since then I've been spraying with Roundup to kill the Bermuda grass as needed (it was remarkably easy to do it this year, I don't know why). It looks terrible, but today I got my holes dug and managed to sift enough soaking wet compost to amend the soil somewhat, and got the new trees in the ground:

Front path

It's supposed to rain tomorrow and the rest of the week, so I'm counting on that to wash off the pathway for me.

In keeping with the general philosophy of intensive orcharding, I planted the trees very close, so they will form a wall. I'll have to prune them pretty heavily to keep the path clear.

Plums planted by the path

I expect they will make a mess of that concrete walk in ten years' time, but by then I hope to have removed the path and replaced it with something a little more attractive, and I can do a root pruning when I do that.

So, happy new trees. (The figs are potted up to root in the laundry room. Booooring.)

Other things I did between rain showers over the last week include laying down a layer of hay in the vegetable garden:

Hay in the vegetable garden

And this afternoon, I put down some cardboard to start killing grass for a nice planting bed along the chicken shed:

New planting bed

Mostly because we had a bunch of cardboard that was just sort of piled in the hallway and it was time to get it out of the way, but also because it would be nice to get a planting bed going in that part of the yard.

Everything is really soggy out back right now; the sump makes the lawn sprinklers run every hour or so which is a pretty substantial amount of water when you add that to the rain. So mostly I'm staying off the lawn so as not to make a mess of it. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

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posted by ayse on 01/27/10