Thursday, April 21, 2011

April days in the garden ~ sun, rain, snow and hail

A picture of a rhododendron at the nursery where I work on the weekends, the rhododendron is the Washington state flower, we have them wild all over the coast of Washington, mostly the lavender ones.

The weather has been cold and springlike, it was 35 degrees and snowing this morning, and the last couple mornings have been 36 degrees, then warm up to around 50 degrees during the day.  We've  had weather all over the place this last week, from sun and rain to hail and snow.  I remember over the years we've had hail on Easter during our egg hunts, so this is somewhat typical weather.  I think it may be a little colder than normal, as the dandelions are just beginning to bloom.  Speaking of dandelions, the bees are covering every one they find open, collecting loads of pollen to bring back to the hive.  The fruit trees have yet to bloom, and the sap is slowly beginning to flow in most of the trees.  The cherry buds are getting larger by the day, and will be spectacular when in bloom. 

My muscles are getting a work out again on a daily basis,  pulling weeds, digging beds, pitch forking and maneuvering a heavy wheelbarrow.  Muscles that lay dormant through much of the winter are happily felt once again.  Now is the time I'm moving and  planting, flowers, shrubs and trees. I have seedlings started on a warm radiator by the Southern windows.  They look out on the cold and are happy to have their roots all toasty and warm. 

Over the last few days I've been working on the perennial and vegetable beds, weeding and amending everywhere.  In the spring most of the things I do in the garden requires muscle and strength.  I know my muscles are getting a good work out by how they feel, by how much I groan when moving, and how soundly I sleep. 

I don't know if I've shared my philosophy for my garden before, but in a nutshell it's an organic test garden.  I call it a test garden because I experiment and test things and see what works.  This is why sometimes I plant things earlier than normal to test and see when the ideal time is to start things in my ecosystem.  I also test propagating with cuttings and creating rootstock.  Over the last couple days I've worked on the grafted fruit tree rootstocks I started 2 years ago, I labeled and identified them, cut back the rootstocks, weeded, and still need to amend and mulch the bed.  I also took 130 cuttings from 7 different berry bushes I have, 3 different types of gooseberry (Jahn's prairie, hinnomaki red and poorman), 2 types of serviceberry (autumn brilliance and smoky serviceberry), an aronia berry, and a high bush cranberry.  My cuttings don't always take, but my success has been pretty good.  I'm a little late in taking them, March is probably better, but we'll test and see.  Last year I started a few new bushes of each berry plant, and almost every cutting worked.

I'm happy to report I have nicely rooted kiwi plants 6 of them from last year that I started.  They are all hardy kiwis.  I have both hardy kiwis and one fuzzy kiwi, the kind you buy in the grocery store.  The hardy kiwis are the ones I'm counting on for a harvest.  They are small for a kiwi, they are the size of an extra large grape, with a sweet taste of kiwi.  The varieties I have are Kolomitka kiwi and Ananasnaya "Anna" Kiwi, I have a male and female of each variety, if you want fruit you have to have both a male and female.  They are planted along the back of my garden, with plans for a large arbor this summer.  I planted them about 3 years ago, so this will be the year they really take off.  I am looking forward to having an abundance of hardy kiwis.  I've read they are good for storing through much of the winter, so this is a real plus.

I am a big fan of berry bushes, and think they should be one of the first things you get started in your garden, strawberries are the most faithful fruit I have they will produce fruit the first year, and every year more and more, consistently giving you quality fruit.  Raspberry and blueberry bushes can be fit in most backyards and produce some fruit the first year and much more the second year.   On a new homestead, you will want to get your fruit trees planted right away, they will take from 3-5 years to begin to really produce.  If you plan to stay in a place, plant nut trees, they say when you plant nut trees, you plant them for your grandchildren.  I planted seedlings of  5 chestnut trees , 5 black walnut trees  and 4 filbert trees (3 filberts died the first winter).  I planted the trees 2 springs ago, this will be their 3rd spring year here.  I also have an almond tree, but I'm not sure if we're warm enough for it to produce fruit, we'll see it's still growing. Plus I planted a heartnut  tree to pollinate the butternut tree that is about 12 years old. 

I hope you're  having fun this spring and are getting outside.  A nice yearly spring ritual is planting a tree, make it an edible tree, shrub or berry bush.  Do you have a favorite edible berry bush or fruit tree?

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