Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Night Gardener Awakes

Uni is over for the year, Summer is grudgingly arriving and the Night Gardener awakes! Well, the Night Gardener is always awake at night, but at this time of year his horticultural productivity rises dramatically. The winter kale crop has reached it's zenith as you can see. Our kale seeds were gifted to us by Peter Cundall and bare the name to prove it. While they were very slow getting started and ended up being consolidated to only a quarter of the large raised bed, they have exploded under the influence of a little dynamic lifter. Do I like eating kale? This is a question yet to be answered. An ancestral relative of the cabbage, sharing its distinctive aroma, I am curious to see if it can be substituted into cabbage based dishes. One in particular combines cabbage with bacon, butter and parsley to startling effect. Not sure if that's fair though, pretty much anything goes with that particular culinary trinity. Perhaps its a taste I'll have to acquire. It worked with cider.

Kale is not without it's ravenous enemies. Just this afternoon I noticed a plague of green caterpillars with near perfect camouflage! I'm fairly certain what I have here is the formative vessels of the White Cabbage Butterfly. Once you spot one of them all of a sudden they are everywhere. So far I have tried spraying with Spinosad and jumping up and down a bit. If that doesn't work, my next plan will involve bacon, butter and parsley, taking care to wash the spray off the little buggers first.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Topworking or, The Royal Society For Putting Things On Top Of Other Things

This year, is going to be a great year, for the royal society for putting things, on top of other things (Please see here for further explanation). I'm doing my bit for this illustrious society in the form of topworking. Topworking is an arborcultural process commonly employed in orchards where new varieties are grafted onto mature trees. The aim is to preserve all the time and effort that has gone into growing the existing tree while diverting its efforts toward a new crop. Two of my front yard fruit trees fall firmly into this category. A 'Story' Apricot and Plumcot, planted in the same hole have grown well but fruited poorly. The Story, known also as an Early Moorpark, grows like a rocket but produces a small crop for its size. The plumcot is a slower grower and last year produced its first ever fruit, singular. Long story short, I'm impatient and I don't have years to sit around waiting for a tree to produce just ONE fruit (although I actually do and probably will). My intention is to use these two trees as an experimental platform to test new grafting techniques I haven't tried before and to try some of the multitude of plum and apricot varieties available to kinds of people who sit up late at night looking at fruit on the internet. The grafting techniques best suited to topworking are the Cleft and the Bark Inlay. Both these are suited to joining stock and scion materials with dissimilar sizing. Choosing between the two may be merely a matter of preference and success rate, but I've also found that the Cleft graft is better suited to smaller stocks and Bark Inlay comes in to play with the thinker, older branches. Below are two Cleft grafts onto the Apricot. They vary only in the material used to seal the cleft as I decided tape would most likely provide the better seal. The first variety is a Green Gage from my next door neighbor. Like green lollies on a stick they are the sweetest plums I've ever tasted. The second is an unknown plum also next door. With a wide variety of unknown scion wood incoming its going to be fun detective work trying to find out what they all are. Coming up in the next post, my first attempt at a Bark Inlay graft.

The Plum and Apricot Experimental Grafting Platform or PAEGP, take that NASA.

Cutting the cleft and coddling it while the scion wood is prepared. The cut requires restraint and a hammer.

 Tile spacing wedges! My innovative contribution to Cleft grafting. They force open the gap and keep it open while you whittle away.

The first graft sealed with sticky purple grafting wax. I reckon when I'm an old man I'll still be using the same tub of this stuff.

I am particularly proud of the alignment of the wood on the right. I mean I'm my own harshest critic but, I think its master craftsmanship.

The tape sealed second graft.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

It's Apple-ing Now Sir, But Why?

For the second year running I have experienced the querky phenomenon of autumn apple blossom and fruit.While this is far less of a problem than coddling moth or the icy massacre of a hail storm, autumn bud break (as I call it) has the potential to reduce the following year's yield not to mention confuse the bees. If I wanted to be irritating, I would name it "bi-anneal bearing" which is both a per-existing apple tree condition and a confusing measurement of time if you think hard enough about it. The activity occurs at the tips of the new growth with clusters of flowers followed by bunches of abnormal, elongated, Chernobyl-style fruit. The fruit never gets past acorn size and hangs on the tree until you pull them off and hock them at something. Why does it happen? No definitive answer so far with the internet being, as always, useless. As everyone knows, true gardening wisdom is only contained in mouldy old books that nobody owns. My strongest suspicion is climate, to be specific an unusually long 'Indian Summer' we had this year. Perhaps as Summer rolls on and on the trees decide to skip winter and get on with spring. The other suspects are rainfall and fertilizer. The last few years have produced excessive autumn rainfall and I may well have provided excess late Summer feeding. The only one of these factors that I can influence is fertilizing so next year there will be a test. I will feed some of the apples in late Summer and skip others and then we'll see. At the moment it's nothing more than a botanical oddity as the growth that blooms prematurely is almost always pruned back. However when the trees are properly established it may occur on the delicately nurtured fruiting spurs wasting the following years potential crop. I will continue searching for answers.

Deformed Corryong Pippins

Autumn Summer Strawberry's