Pollen in the Wind

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July 2, 2019

I am riding my bike around Wallingford, looking for a couple of big Chestnut (Castanea) trees. I know they are here somewhere. Our lonely Prococe tree needs pollen. I have her male catkins stuck on the end of my bike, in case there is another solo tree out there in need of pollen grains. (Chestnut trees receive pollen from the wind, but the second tree needs to be within a few hundred feet.)

Edible Chestnut trees (not related to Horse Chestnut) need pollen from a different variety in order to pollinate properly. We have two varieties at the orchard … or should I say, had two trees. I am afraid the Maraval is in the bardo. She suffered childhood trauma and maybe that set the stage.

When she was tiny, someone, something, broke the main branch. Without a proper grafting rubber strip, I used a rubber band and put her back together and it worked.

But then, more trauma as a teen. In her third season she was in great health and then, season four, there were bumps all up and down the trunk, and side branches were stubby. Bernie, from Washington Chestnut Company , said some name this ‘bubbly bark’. He suggested I cut the tree way back to just the lower part of the trunk. I did so and, once again, the tree recovered nicely.

Sat, Jul 6, 10-12, Work Party
Sat Jul 20, 10-12, Herb Class
Sun Jul 21, 2-4, Work Party
Sat Aug 3, 10-12, Work Party

At this time of year you can smell a Chestnut tree a block away. I can visualize that intersection. Was it 42nd? The house with the big trees is on a south west corner here somewhere.

Back to the poor Maraval. This spring, she was another casualty of winter moth larvae. They defoliated her whole south side. But, after they gorged and headed for the ground to start a new cycle, she showed some new leaf buds, just like the fruit trees did. Whew, I thought, she will be back. I walked away from her to attend more pressing matters.

But then, things went south. The leaves started to droop despite sufficient water. Then they turned brown. She hung on for dear life until, just recently, nothing green remained. (I hope to blog about her autopsy in the future.)

I spot the Wallingford trees. I snip four mature catkins, push two of them into a clean bag, and attach two others to the back of the bike to wave in the wind.

Back at the orchard, the Prococe Migoule is a picture of health. The styles of the female burs have turned yellow and have spread out across the top of the flower; the tree is ready for pollen. I use the catkin like a paintbrush and lightly touch each female bur. If it’s a success, her burs will grow and have two or three nuts in them this fall.

The pollination period lasts two weeks so I am keeping the catkins on my bike. The more – chestnuts – the merrier.

If you want to learn about the various nut trees you can grow in the Seattle area, there is a rare opportunity to tour Burnt Ridge Nursery. July 20 is sold out but there are still tickets for September 14.

Ruth

Welcome to our Demonstration Garden!

May 14, 2019                                                                                                      DONATIONS PAGE LINK

The fruit trees in the orchard this year would amaze anyone. They are striking and flush …
with pests. It’s true. Come and allow us to demonstrate all manner of pest infestation plus other unsightly disorders.

Last year was a record bounty but, this year, we are counting on one hand the number of fruits from most of the trees.

Why, on one small branch of the Mirabelle plum (photo) you can view tip dieback from brown rot, scale, aphids and leaf roller damage. The pear, just after the height of the leaf roller infestation, has now been chewed to smithereens by the California pear sawfly (photo).

Wander over to the Fuji and notice apple blister mite. Then, check out the powdery mildew on the William’s Pride.

This situation takes me back to coaching where you had to make sure you didn’t spend all of your energy on the one high-maintenance kid and take for granted the other 14 well-behaved teammates. So, yesterday, I coddled our precious persimmon. The persimmon, like the mulberry, sits and watches the devastation and only asks for a drink of water now and then. I composted-in-place its weeds, fed it some nice compost and leaf litter, and laid out a coat of chips on top. Namaste.

Sun, May 19, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Jun 1, 10-12, Work Party
Sun, Jun 16, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Jul 6, 10-12, Work Party

Back in February, Allison and I thought we had the winter moth larvae in check. We had banded the trunks then flattened the eggs below the band. The problem was, while we were focused down on that trunk, the winter moth larvae soon would be sailing through the air, landing on whichever fruit or nut tree was within striking distance. Much like a skilled parachutist, I think they tug a certain way on that silken thread to ensure they make it to the canopy. In April, they were landing on our sweaters and hats faster than we could squish them off the leaves and blossoms. We had kept our own trees from propagating larvae but we were defenseless against tall neighboring trees that spit out the little buggers like factories.

Yesterday, I sighed as I cleaned off more dead material from Liberty branches (photo). Oh, but then I looked closely. Was that a little speck of green? Sure enough, the tree is pushing out a new leaf where the others had been eaten.(photo) The Liberty is willing and ready to try again. OK then! We will also find energy to grow and prepare for the next obstacle.

Ruth

Talkin’ Tomatoes

April 16, 2019

I am a tomato addict. One of my favorite memories is arriving in rural southwest Ohio at 6 am after driving straight through from the west coast. We stopped for breakfast at a coffee shop and were served a plate of eggs and fresh picked tomatoes, grown by the owner in his back yard. It’s nearly impossible to find that level of deliciousness in grocery stores, where tomatoes are bred for color rather than flavor. (To find out why this happened check out Flavor Is Price of Scarlet Hue of Tomatoes, Study Finds, New York Times, 2012.)

I love tomatoes that taste good, which is why I like to grow them. I’ve been growing as many as I can for a few years now and learned a few things along the way. There are numerous articles on how to grow tomatoes but it seems that few ever read these. This may be due to the terminology. The minute I ask someone if they are growing Determinant or Indeterminant tomatoes, their eyes gloss over and they start looking for a quick escape. Knowing these basics can result in a less frustrating and possibly cheaper tomato crop. Vegetable starts are already showing up at nurseries and plant sales are right around the corner so – know what you want BEFORE you shop!

Sun Apr 21, 2-4, Work Party
(deviled egg hunt)

Sat May 4, 10-12, Work Party
Sun May 19, 2-4, Work Party

DETERMINANT tomatoes grow like small shrubs or bushes. If you are growing in containers and don’t have huge tomato cages, or aren’t into constructing large trellises, these are the plants to look for. They stay more compact and produce a limited (determinant) number of flowers. The fruit ripens over a few weeks and then they are done. DON’T PRUNE THESE BABIES (except for low foliage that touches the soil) or you will lose some of the fruit. Look for varieties that ripen in 80 days or less.

INTERDETERMINANT tomatoes are vines that keep growing and producing flowers and fruit until the first frost or disease hits. If you do nothing, they will become a tangled mess, so be ready to trellis. Not everyone believes in pruning tomatoes, but I prefer to prune them to 2 or 3 main stems that are trained to grow up a trellis and I remove the suckers at least during the first month after they get planted in the ground. “Suckers” are new vines that start to grow from the point where the leaf meets the main stem. Some varieties are not as vigorous, so less pruning may result in more fruit.

SEMI-DETERMINANT. These tomatoes are bushier than indeterminants but will keep producing for a longer time than determinant plants will. Pruning may not be necessary at all unless you want to promote good airflow by removing some of first suckers that appear low on the plant. They are often more compact and make good choices for containers.

Volunteer tomato-growing enthusiasts:
If you like to grow lots of tomatoes (like I do!) and have the space and lots of sun, indeterminant tomatoes are the way to go. But for those of us who have a sunny porch with space for a container or two, tomato breeders are working on developing better tasting compact varieties. Volunteer tomato growing enthusiasts have developed at least 40 new varieties for The Dwarf Tomato Project and are working with 3 seed companies to release them to the public. Urban tomato growers rejoice!

Tomatoes aren’t that hard to grow, but there’s plenty more to learn and the best way to learn is by giving it a try. There are lots of great resources out there to help you along the way. We plan to grow lots of tomatoes once again for the University District food bank at Freeway Estates Community Orchard. Stop by! If I’m around, I’ll be happy to talk tomatoes with you!

Sue Hartman