Rosemary Rooting

I’ve been doing a lot of “layering in place” experiments, which is I guess technically air layering.  I basically cut a slit in a plastic pot, wound the stem of the plant – in this case rosemary – wire the pot closed using bonsai wire, and then fill the pot with a loose potting soil.

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For the rosemary, I also used some twine to bend the growing end so that it was below the level of the pot. I decided to cut one free recently, to check on root development.

I’m happy to report that all went as planned, and the rosemary developed a nice set of roots. I’ll work this one up to one gallon size and plant it out somewhere in the forest later this year.

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Felix Gillet Institute on NPR

Excited to hear a story about the Felix Gillet Institute on NPR today. I was just visiting with my Felix Gillet quince yesterday, and it’s looking well established, and will hopefully put on some good growth this year after all of this rain.

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Burning Boards

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Worked a little today on the raised bed project, using a propane torch to burn the cedar boards I milled over the summer in a yakisugi sort of way…

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Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beetles!

If you look closely, you’ll see Frank.

Frank Takes Care of the Beetle Trees

It was a tough year for the garden, and a tough year for the forest as well.  Drought-weakened trees succumbed to beetles all throughout the county, including many in my little bit of forest.  Specifically, nine very large pines, and several smaller ones died shockingly quickly toward the end of the summer.  Most were very close to the house, much closer than I feel comfortable felling myself, so local forester Frank came in and climbed them, taking them down in sections. He dropped them with precision, resulting in very little collateral damage.  On the bright side, I now have many more logs for milling, and am hatching plans to build a Finnish sauna!

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Milling Cedar for Raised Beds

Spent much of the summer milling cedar for some raised beds.

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I’ve got a pretty sweet bunch of boards stacked and drying, the largest being more than 14″ wide, and with more to be milled.

 

Milled

Once the rains come, I plan to treat the boards using a “Shou-sugi-ban Yakisugi” technique.

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Lots of Layering Lately

I’ve been spending long hours in the garden, puttering and propagating, and lately doing a lot of layering. This propagation technique seems particularly suited for plants that are inclined to root from cuttings, and for those that readily root when their branches bend down and come into contact with soil.  I simply slice a plastic pot stem to stern, cut a hole in the bottom big enough for the branch, remove any leaves or small branches that might otherwise rot when exposed to damp conditions in the pot, wound the branch by scraping or cutting away some of the bark, wire the pot shut at the top and bottom to hold it together, and fill it with a planting medium of primary perlite.

Pictured above is such an arrangement on a prostrate rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis).  Rosemary grows especially well here, requires no irrigation at all once established, and provides spring forage for bees, who swarm its blue blossoms early in the season when nothing else is blooming.  The twine is simply support.  I’ve got a similar setup on the established, productive pomegranate, and I’m trying one on the Arbequina olive, which according to some accounts is easy to root – I’ve had little luck to date, but am hopeful.

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One of My Favorite Things

Blueberries

That is all.

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Graduation!

To conserve rooting medium, water, time and space, I typically root cuttings in gang pots, which depending on what I’m rooting might hold a few to as many as a dozen cuttings. For instance, when I prune the blueberries in the winter, I’ll reduce the branches to 6 or 8 inch cuttings, and stick them all in a shallow pot. When they’ve rooted in the spring, I break up these gang pots and re-pot each rooted cutting into its own 1 gallon container, and then grow them up until they’re ready to be planted in the ground.

Pomegranate Cuttings

With the recent warm weather, one such gang pot of pomegranates (Punica granatum var. Al-sirin-nar) really found its roots and had a growth spurt, so I potted up each of six rooted cuttings in its own pot. When they’re ready, some of these six will join their brethren out in various forest plots, and some will remain to fill out some recently annexed areas in the garden proper, all as part of my efforts to reduce water usage – pomegranates don’t seem to be thirsty at all once established.  Like many established fruit trees here, the oldest pomegranate has decided that this drought year is THE year to fruit, so hopefully there will be a few nice poms to eat in a few months.

Pomegranate Flower

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Seeding Nettles and Others

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Finally got around to seeding (a little late, I realize) stinging nettles (Urtica dioica), alum root (Heuchera richardsonii), creeping Oregon grape (Mahonia repens) and salal (Gaultheria shallon). The nettles I planted for pesto, the alum root because I’m intrigued by its astringent properties, and the Oregon grape and salal I hope to one day add to the most recent native food forest plot.  In other news, the bare root walnut I planted early in the spring has finally awakened, and, having learned the hard way that deer will eat young walnut leaves, I’ve protected it from the get-go.  Hoping that it makes it through what promises to be another dry summer…

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Double Digging

Double Diggin'

Spent the last few weekends double digging the garden beds, and planted out the summer annuals.  Double digging is the process of creating deep soils by removing a bunch of dirt from a bed, breaking up the soil at the bottom – I also incorporated some manure – and then piling the soil back on top.  I’ve been experiencing a slow decline in yields from the garden proper, I think because the whole thing has become choked with roots from the surrounding trees.  Due to the ongoing drought, I’m scaling back my annual beds this year, so I’m focusing on better yields from fewer plants.

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