Archive for May, 2009

Apple Trees

One of my top priorities for this property was to plant some trees.  Since the removal of the giant, dead tree last year the front garden has looked pretty bare and exposed.  The house is also the only one on the block without city planted elms in the front yard.  To get the tree lined street look and also maintain my ‘edible-first’ mantra I wanted fruit trees.  Apples are fairly hardy in this province and after some research I decided I would need two in order to get any fruit off of them, since there are no apple trees in the neighbourhood to cross-pollinate. My local nursery isn’t open on Sundays due to ‘family values’, whatever that means so we went to a new place which was only a few blocks away.  I have to say, I might have a new ‘local nursery’.  

While there I found two varieties that I had read about online as being hardy for my area.  At 60 bucks a piece they were fairly inexpensive too compared to what I’ve seen around the city.  I settled on a Parkland and a Norland tree.  They are supposedly compatible and bloom at the same time, which is important for cross-pollination.  They are both fairly similar in fruit quality and timing and produce medium sized eating apples.  Apparently the Parkland has better storage qualities than the Norland, but I’m not sure I have room to store apples anyway, so I might have to learn to process them somehow.  

Planting was fairly straightforward.  I lined them up parallel to the elms next door and spaced them to frame the house.  I dug up sod and down roughly two and half feet through the nastiest clay I’ve yet come across.  Two wheelbarrows of nasty clay and some decent topsoil.  What to do with it?  I feel like throwing it in the dumpster, but I can’t see the city liking that too much.  Anyway, once that was taken out I mounded up a bit in the middle of the hole and detangled as best I could the rootballs of each tree.  I spread the roots out around the mound and backfilled with a mixture of well rotted sheep and cow manure, some peat based garden amendments left over from the blueberries and some good quality top soil.  I watered every few inches of backfill to moisten everything up while settling the soil and finally gave a good soaking once all was lightly firmed down.  I took care not to bury the grafts and pruned off all suckers.  Finally I covered up the moist planting holes with some cedar bark mulch I had kicking around.  

 

The house as it looked when we bought it

The house as it looked when we bought it

 

The house as of Sunday

The house as of Sunday

 

 

 

I haven’t staked them yet and not sure if I will.  It is fairly windy right now but I’m concerned about encouraging weak trunks and roots by staking.  If I do decide to I guess I’ll have to pick up some suitable wood and something to tie them with.  

Again, the hardest part will be to pull off blossoms, as it was with the blueberries.  These trees were just covered in blooms and surrounded by bees at the garden centre.  It makes me cringe to pick each flower off, but its for the best interests of the tree and for me as well, I guess.  I haven’t gotten them all off yet, as you can see in the picture, but I’ll go out and pluck a few more off today if the weather smartens up.  Then, the plan is to pick the majority off next year, about half the year after and a third the year after.  Removing blossoms helps direct growth to the roots and prevents the tree from going through boom-bust cycles of producing tons of fruit one year and little the next year.  On the plus side I should find something to do with apple blossoms, they smell fantastic.  I believe they’re related to roses?  Not sure on that but I thought I’d heard that somewhere.  

Anyway, has anyone grown these trees or have general tips on apple trees that I should know?  Leave me a comment!

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Tulips and other flowers

This house didn’t come with much in the way of plants or garden beauty.  However some tulips and hollyhocks have come up this year.  I knew the hollyhocks were there but the tulips were a surprise.  Moving in in July tends to keep spring blooming bulbs a secret.  There is also an abundance of chives and some fuzzy leaved ground cover along the west side of the house.  I planted a few echinacea and a foxglove last year and am glad to see they are coming back.  

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This part doesn’t strictly meet my edible requirement but I have no heart to rip them out.  Plus I do need a place to put in my favourites like bleeding heart and columbines so this perennial flower bed might just be the place.  It is quite bare since we weeded it on Saturday but I’ve added some more echinacea seeds, scattered some hollyhock seeds and put in some dill.  Hopefully this area will evolve and take shape over the next few summers.  

Also, notice the shiny new downspout.  Although its not the most convenient of downspouts it does reflect the new eaves we’ve had put on the house.  No longer will the rain run straight off the roof and wash away the soil in this bed… or damage my foundation.  This house is in good hands again.

Animals

Well, as much as I want a flock of backyard chickens I don’t think this city is ready for it… and I’m most likely not, either.  So our only farm animals so far are our two cats, Wendel and Winston.  They were both adopted from the local Humane Society and have been a great addition to life here.  Wendel was adopted back in November and Winston joined us in February of this year.  They are both the same age but seem to have quite a bit of a size difference, with Wendel being the larger of the two.  

Wendel

Wendel

These are a few pictures of their first trip outdoors.  They are on leashes/harnesses due to my belief in responsible pet ownership.  I can’t understand people who let their cats run free.  They are smart animals but are still susceptible to fights with other cats, dog attacks, cars, and the odd cruel person.  Indoor cats also live longer lives, are healthier and have lower vet bills than indoor/outdoor cats.  I want these guys around for a long time.  

Winston

Winston

Frigid Weekend

The Victoria Day weekend is traditionally when most people put in their gardens and generally expect frost to be a thing of the past.  Unfortunately the weather has been awful this year.  Cold records broken in winter and less than a handful of sunny days above 15 degrees thus far.  Although Saturday was quite nice (I even got in a round of golf) and Sunday was fairly decent Monday and today have been awful.  I’m starting to get a little worried that I’ll never get my frost hating plants in the ground.  rain_clouds

Blueberries and Strawberries

Just an update on the blueberries since I just planted them in the ground.  I was originally planning on placing them on the northwest corner of the house to receive partial shade.  However, we have decided to get new windows soon and I didn’t want to place too many permanent things near the house just have them trampled down.  So they have received a much more prime location on the western edge of the property in full sun.  I dug each hole roughly two and  half times the size of the root ball and then backfilled with peat moss and composted sheep manure.  A nice deep watering on each one should encourage root growth throughout the summer. Blueberries

The hardest part of the whole experience was plucking off the beautiful little flowers and knowing that I won’t get a single, delicious blueberry this year.  A part of me really wanted to cheat and leave a few on but I know that I’d just be setting the bushes back for next year.  

As you can see there is a lot of room left for another plant maybe in the middle, depending on how big they get.  I’m never good at estimating how big plants will get and always regret my overcrowding later.  But there is a lot of sod left to come up so I could always extend the bed to the north in the future.  How many bushes would I need for two people anyway?  

 

Next, we have the strawberries.  These are planted just south of the blueberries (just above them in the picture).  I dug them up at the same time as the rhubarb from my parents yard.  Unfortunately that week was busy and cold and they sat in a plastic bag with some wet newspaper for about seven days and enduring a few light frosts.  Regardless the leaves were still green and I put all twenty of them into the ground.  After three days a few of them look like they may have gone to the big strawberry field in the sky but the majority are showing some enthusiasm for life.  I’m not too broken up about any losses.  They were free and to be honest I can’t recall what type of strawberry they are anyway.  I inherited a few plants from my aunt when I was probably 11 or so and big into gardening then.  I planted them in a crappy northern exposure beside my parents yard and they haven’t been thinned or cared for since, yet still produce the most delicious berries.  If these die I can pull another twenty out of that bed at my parents and still be doing them a favour.  Still, its always encouraging to see things thrive in the garden. 

The strawberry bed also received a nice layer of manure and some nice top soil.  The soil in that area isn’t particularly full of clay compared to the rest of the yard, but it wasn’t good, either.  Its a big question of ‘we’ll see’ what we get out of there, but I remain optimistic.  I’m hoping to get enough for at least one strawberry feast or maybe even a strawberry/rhubarb pie.  That rhubarb is sure seeming to take off.

Blueberries

The garden centre at work is in full swing (although under cover right now due to the crappy weather) and they are selling some big pots of blueberries that look like they’re in decent condition.  I usually like to frequent the local garden centre but these were really inexpensive and I do need to worry about budgeting since I’m planning on splurging on apple trees later this week.  So I bought three bushes.  They’re highbush I believe and were in blossom. The flowers are fairly inconspicuous but quite pretty when you notice them.  

blueberryf

I’ve decided to put them in a little triangle formation on the northwest corner of the house.  They’ll get direct sun in the afternoon until early evening, which should be fine for the partial shade loving plants.  I also picked up a big bag of peat moss.  I’m trying to avoid peat based products since they’re fairly non-renewable but blueberries do need the acidity that comes with peat moss and it will also help counter balance the clay… so I’m making an exception. Once they’re in the ground all those pretty little blossoms will be plucked off to direct energy into the roots, so unfortunately no berries this year, but I’m hoping this year’s sacrifice pays off.  

I’ll post some pics after I put them in to show how it looks, so check back then.

Does anyone have any experience growing blueberries?  Any tips on planting/maintenance?  Leave me a comment.

Snow!

Nothing throws a wrench into my spring momentum like a day of snow. It’s not all that much and I’m sure it’ll be gone by this evening but still, snow. What a pain in the ass.