Spent the last couple of weekends working on infrastructure for the garden. Using primarily wood from the property, built an overcoat for the little greenhouse to protect it from the weight of the snow…
…and three raised bed planter boxes from the cedar I milled over the summer…
…and treated with the shou sugi ban process, which leaves the cedar looking and smelling wonderful.
It feels like spring around these parts. The rhubarb is waking up, and the plums, pluots, nectarine, almonds, and Nanking cherries all blooming. Hopefully there’s more rain in the future…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…