Harvest Highlights – Part II – Fruit

December 07, 2016

Now for the fruits of our labor. 2016 was our fifth season and we finally picked a substantial amount sm-east-pear-orcas-wp_20160803_002of apples, enough to test and to share. For the first time kiwi berries developed and both chestnuts produced fully pollinated nuts.

We still need to inspire one or two fruit lovers to take on more care of the fruit trees but, in the meantime, we are forwarding a written orchard management plan to CityFruit in hopes of enticing one of their orchard stewards to help with management next year.

To expand my own education, I continue with classes and workshops and I follow-up with summary articles for publication in the WCFS BeeLine.

Berries began in May with the Honeyberry and ended in November with Albion strawberries and a few everbearing Heritage raspberries. (There are ripe black nightshade berries but we didn’t allow enough to survive to make jam this year.)

The apple and pear varieties had a good fruit set except for the William’s Pride, recovering from its huge outburst in 2015, and the Northern Spy, which is still hiding behind the apron. We grow just a few European pears but we landed enough of the sweet Harrow Delight and the meaty Orcas to begin the complicated tasks of testing for ripeness and determining storage times.

bitter-pit-wp_20160821_002We thinned over 100 apples from the Honeycrisp and we still ended up with a mountain of them. There was some evidence of bitter pit (chemical imbalance involving calcium) but almost all of the apples were edible.

We applied nylon footies and netting to a sm-fuji-w-apples-wp_20160911_001percentage of the apples in order to determine whether these barriers would help prevent insect damage from either or both apple maggot or codling moth. The good news is that the only insect damage was from earwigs munching the tops of a few apples. As such, we can’t yet report as to whether the footies or netting are effective pest barriers.

The four-way pear is now a three-way pear. Pseudomonas (widespread bacterial group) set in sm-pear-pseudomonas-wp_20151018_003during the summer of 2105. Some, fearing spread of disease, urged us to take out the tree. Instead, we pruned out the black branches, including one entire grafted variety, in hopes that the tree would heal. The tree bounced back this season and bore fruit.

I stacked the deck by hand pollinating the chestnut trees and we got nuts from both trees. We are experimenting with the easiest way to remove that softer, bitter inner layer of skin from these protein packed gems.

The hardy kiwi plants are my spiritual practice. They don’t like our wet soil but I refuse to give up. We finally got one of the females to the fruiting stage this year and then she just up and died. No note or anything. We replaced her and hope for better luck. There is another female, still alive, who witnessed the whole thing. We hope she learned something from the fate of her sister.

Remember, you do us a favor just by walking through the orchard. You are all welcome to the regular third Sunday, 2-4 work parties, and you don’t have to stay for the whole time.

Ruth

Harvest Highlights – Part I – Vegetables

November 30, 2016

The bounty from our seven vegetable gardens was spectacular and, beginning mid-May and 161121-sm-sues-lettuce-wp_20161121_16_18_27_proending mid-November, we donated over 300 pounds of produce to the University District Food Bank. Thanks so much to experienced gardeners Sue Hartman and Nancy Helm, sluggers in the batting lineup with Team Mother Nature.

Nancy filled our spare garden bed with organic seed potato. With surplus compost, she periodically hilled up the potato rows. What a strategy! The potato harvest was huge and easy to dig up. Nancy was in awe of Sue’s beautiful greens: “Now I know that floating row cover is worth the effort, continuous harvest and cleanup helps prevent disease, and crowding plants is bad.”

tomato-wilt-wp_20160721_001Indeed, Sue’s chard, kale, collards, lemon cukes, zucchini and tomatoes belonged in an art gallery. However, there was a bit of ugly. We came face to face with Spotted Wilt Virus this summer. (photo) Sue thought it would be easier to deal with determinant* tomatoes in cages (versus trellis). Indeterminate tomatoes do not appear to be susceptible to this disease and are less prone to splitting, so next year she will grow a row of indeterminate tomatoes instead. She also grew powdery mildew resistant summer squash but it did not sufficiently resist. We will try a milk spray early next year to keep the mildew at bay.

161121-sm-celeriac-harvest-wp_20161121_16_24_34_proWe spoke to the produce manager at the University food bank to find out what their clients snatch up fast. In response, we have made more room for collards. We now drop off produce later in the week; early in the week, the food bank garners unsold produce from the weekend farmer’s market events.

I learned that tomatillo plants could sprout new plants from a branch lying on the ground. (This is ‘layering’. Blackberry plants are quite skilled at this type of propagation.) And, when homegrown radishes are too hot to eat fresh, they are mild and delectable when roasted. Early on, I was disgusted with the low germination rate of the French marigolds but I had to eat my words because it only took two plants to fill up a big space full of bee-friendly small flowers. (photo)!

We used less than one CCF (748 gallons) of City water this year. The rest of our water needs, bombus-small-on-marigold-wp_20161028_001about 2,500 gallons, came from rain stored in the cisterns. We added only organic approved inputs including cardboard, donated compost and wood chips, burlap bags, agricultural lime, some blood meal, and fish fertilizer.

Gardeners note! Sue donated well-labeled seeds and they are in the shed for your use!

We welcome Mitch as our new gardener and we warmly bid farewell to Ryan who is moving out of Washington.

Ruth

* Determinant – plant stops growing when fruit sets on the top bud. Indeterminate – plant will grow and produce until it gets cold

Moonlight Hunt

October 31, 2016

While cleaning up after sheet mulching under the grape trellis, I noticed the box cutter was missing. Yikes! The blade on that tool was open. I looked everywhere I could think of, then, I looked back at the six-inch thick layer of chips on top of overlapped bike boxes. Hmmm … under there somewhere?

Many people were coming to the orchard soon, including kids. I visualized some child finding the box cutter. I knew I had better make an effort to find it.

I asked Aurora Rents about renting a metal detector but the representative was hesitant since the lost tool was close to a metal fence. I needed advice from the pros.

I left a message with Mark Kulseth, president of Cascade Treasure Club, the local metal detecting metal detector sm WP_20161028_004and treasure hunting organization. I asked him about the different types of metal detectors, thinking that I might buy one and then donate it to the Tool Library (so other gardeners could find those precious pruners buried somewhere in their garden.)

Mark emailed some general information about metal detectors and wrote that he would stop by the next time he was in Seattle. Wow!

All metal detectors will detect underneath the coil but when they get to close to large metal items, such as our chain link fence, there will be interference. With a small diameter coil (3″), it might be possible to detect the object.

He advised me to purchase a Garrett metal detector at KellyCo. An entry-level machine like the Ace-250 would do but it does not come with a small coil. Small coils are after market accessories.

Mark and a friend pulled up to the orchard on Friday and took a few tools out of his truck. He explained that, being near a fence, the best procedure is to use sweeping motions, from the fence inward, listening for an extra tone to indicate more metal than just the fence.

As we walked to the spot where I was sure I had lost the tool, he told me a story of a woman who was positive she lost her beloved engagement ring within a certain two-block area. Mark hunted with patience but came up empty handed. She called him a week later to say she found the ring in a sack of potatoes on her back porch.

Of course, I was thinking, “What if my tool is not where I have asked him to look! I don’t know where the stupid tool is. What a potential waste of his time!”

Sun, Nov 20, 2-4, Work Party
Sun, Dec 18, 2-4, Work Party

Mark turned on his detector in the grape chips and in six seconds he pulled up the box cutter! Easy peasy for a pro. It had not even rusted yet … still perfectly useful.

I was thrilled and he was glad to get on his way. He said he had plenty to do to get ready for the club’s annual Moonlight Hunt, where they all go out with no flashlights and search for coins that are painted black. One of the coins will have a code and the finder will earn a nice new metal detector.

I should show up at this event and just paw around on my hands and knees to search for that special coin!

Ruth

This is a re-post since WordPress ap Jetpack failed to notify subscribers of original post Oct 28.