|Rossa de Verona Radicchio|
|Start with leeks and carrots.|
Musings, impressions, poetry, pictures and everything else about my experiences in gardening, especially as I learn about taking it to a new level.
|Rossa de Verona Radicchio|
|Start with leeks and carrots.|
The sweet potatoes I set out a couple of weeks ago are producing sprouts! It's particularly exciting because this is the first time I've grown my own slips.
I've cut free five already and stuck them in soil to root. The first to produce sprouts were two of the all purple ones (top of image). A third all purple (lower center) is being pokey about sprouting, but I think I saw a tiny little sprout on it yesterday.
The next to sprout was one of the Jerseys (lower right), a white variety that is very sweet. Its sprouts are not yet big enough to cut and root, but it's getting close. A second one (lower left) has tiny buds on it, and a third (in a different container) is being stubborn. Three of the six Japanese sweet potatoes (purple skin, white flesh) are just beginning to sprout.
These won't provide all of the sweet potato slips I want to plant. Soon I will order a few Murasaki (like the Japanese ones) and Bonita (white) from K-State through a local hardware store, and in May I'll buy all of my orange variety from a local nursery that gets in huge slips that are already rooted. We are going to be laden with sweet potatoes come fall.
It's also time to start "hardening off" the baby cabbage and broccoli plants. In two to three weeks, depending on the weather forecast, they will go out into the garden soil. A two- to three-week hardening off period helps them adjust to the great outdoors.
Tiny eggplants are reaching toward the lights, and bell pepper seeds are just beginning to germinate.
Bees visit the crocus blooms and purple rock iris outdoors, the winter aconite is beginning to fade, and little green shoots are popping up all over.
Lastly, indoors, the walking iris has finally bloomed. Last year it bloomed in late January. I'm not sure why it's so late this year. It probably needs to be divided into two or three pots. It doesn't look crowded, but maybe the plants feel crowded.
Can't wait to see what's next.
And that's exactly what it is.
But they aren't just any old sticks. They are cuttings from two hazelnut (filbert) trees that I hope will develop roots and eventually become nut-producing trees.
The two original trees were planted below the dam at the bottom of our hill. However, they were planted too far apart to pollinate each other properly, so no nuts. I found two nuts on one of the trees one year, but otherwise, none.
That could be because hazelnuts fall to the ground when they're ripe. The trees are surrounded by tall grass, so even if they produced nuts, unless I happened to see them on the trees (not real likely because I don't visit them often) there isn't any way I would have known nuts were produced. Plus, squirrels and other critters would have scavenged them before I could get to them.
So I'm going to try rooting these cuttings and growing the trees/large shrubs in the cultivated areas around our house. I took some cuttings last year, but in late March, I think. No luck with those, so I'm trying again. I covered the cuttings with a plastic bag to maintain humidity and left them in our attached garage to acclimate more slowly to a warmer environment. In a few days I'll move them indoors.
After reading a couple of things on rooting cuttings from woody plants, I might shove these a little deeper into the soil, and make up some homemade rooting solution to pour onto the soil in a few days. Rather than buying a rooting hormone I can place one-inch pieces of fresh willow growth in a jar and pour boiling water over them and let them soak in a sunny spot for 24 hours. Pour that into the soil.
You also can use honey as a rooting solution: 1 tablespoon honey in 2 cups of boiling water. Stir well and let cool. Pour into the soil around your cuttings within two weeks.
Or, apple cider vinegar and cinnamon. Before sticking the cuttings into soil, dip the ends into a solution of 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon) of cider vinegar in one gallon of water, then dip into ground cinnamon and poke into the soil.
I cannot vouch for these methods, but I do know that fresh cuttings from the ends of willow branches contain root-stimulating properties. I will probably try the honey solution, because the willows are still dormant and I've already put my sticks -- excuse me -- cuttings in soil.
I am hopeful. A year ago this past fall I took cuttings from the fig trees my husband was preparing to dig out. I think I took a dozen cuttings and one took hold, even though it was the wrong time of year to do it. That same year, but in the early spring, I took a cutting or two of the elderberries when I pruned them and just stuck them in the ground. They took root and grew leaves.
So I'm hopeful. I guess that's what my gardening adventures are all about... Hope.
Before I go, here is a link to a Web site with instructions on how to propagate trees from hardwood cuttings. It doesn't mention hazels, but still, I'm hopeful.
|Flowers of the sweet potato vine. Yes, they do look like morning glories. The two are closely related. Both are species of Ipomea. However, morning glories are somewhat toxic, and every bit of the sweet potato plant is edible.|
Start! Sprouting, that is.
Last week I put my "seed" sweet potatoes in a paper bag and set them in a warm spot for the "pre-sprouting" process. About the middle of February I'll pull them out of the bag and put them in soil. You can lay them in flats or place them vertically in pots and cover lightly with damp soil. Set them in a warm, bright location and wait for the sprouting to begin -- if it hasn't already started during pre-sprouting.
When the sprouts are six to 12 inches long, cut them free and root them in either water or soil. You can plant them straight into the garden soil, if it's the right time of year. The sweet potato is a tropical plant, so the weather and soil must be warm.
Last year I started planting sweet potatoes in mid-May (I'm in Northeast Kansas), but can wait until late June. These were robust, rooted slips purchased from a local nursery. I also planted slips ordered from Kansas State University research garden. Those slips don't arrive until sometime in the first two weeks of June, and they are not rooted. While they can be directly planted in the garden, I feel better if I root them first. It is best to root them in pots of soil, rather than in a jar of water. If you root them in water, don't crowd them or cover a lot of the stem with water, as that will encourage rotting. I also ordered some slips from a seed company. They arrived late and were in poor shape due to being shipped during the hottest days we had last summer. I put them in a pots of soil and many of them survived.
This is the first time I've tried growing my own slips. I bought organic sweet potatoes from the grocery store because we've eaten all of the white-fleshed sweet potatoes I grew last year. They must be organic, as conventionally raised ones often have been sprayed with something to prevent sprouting. I will still buy some from the nursery and K-State this year, but the ones I got from the grocery store are different varieties. I will keep you posted.
Once you've planted the slips in the garden, water them regularly until they are well established. I often water the newly planted slips daily, especially since I'm often watering new seed beds daily at that time. Hot sun can stress the slips and delay their recovery, so I like to shade them a bit by suspending shade cloth over the beds. And I put up temporary fencing because the rabbits and deer find the leaves much to their liking.
When pruning the vines, go ahead and eat the leaves. The younger ones are tastier and more tender. Cook them or eat them raw. The vines produce a milky sap, but don't let that worry you.
In late September to just before the first frost in October, I will start digging. Don't leave them until after frost or the soil starts to cool a lot, as that will damage your tubers.
For more information on a sweet potato expert, check out this video from the Douglas County Extension Master Gardeners YouTube channel. It's from the advanced education segment that followed one of our meetings.
|Winter. Baskets of bounty are a thing of the past season.|
You can do lots in the winter... like, study. Head on down to the library and check out a bunch of books on various garden topics. If you're planning to save seeds from your garden this year, look for "The Seed Garden," published by the Seed Savers Exchange. You'll learn how far apart to plant different varieties of almost every vegetable so you get clean genes, as well as many other tips on seed saving.
"The Organic Gardeners Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control" is a great book for troubleshooting garden issues.
If you'd like to check out insect material, look for "Bees, Wasps, and Ants," by Eric Grissell. A really lovely book to read if you have any interest in honeybees is "Sweetness and Light," by Hattie Ellis. Also look for "Letters from the Hive," by Stephen Buchmann, and "The Hive," by Bee Wilson.
There are so many books on gardening that it is impossible to list them all. These are just a few on my bookshelf that I like to go to from time to time. Comment with your favorite book about gardening and how the rest of nature impacts your garden.
Lots of material also can be found online. Kansas State Research and Extension has an online "bookstore" from which you can download for free numerous publications. During the pandemic, K-State also started producing a monthly online event call the Garden Hour, at noon on the first Friday of each month. You must register to receive a link to access the live broadcasts, but you can find previous episodes on the Garden Hour Archive.
Also during the pandemic, my Extension Master Gardeners group created a YouTube channel where we now post recordings of the educational presentations that follow each monthly meeting, as well as a few Speakers Bureau videos, short, educational videos by individual Master Gardeners. We also developed a more extensive Web site that includes upcoming and past activities, as well as blog posts about various topics.
Counting seeds and conducting germination tests on them is another winter activity. I went into detail on how to do a germination test in a Barefoot Gardener post last year. The next post detailed results.
I will try to post, from time to time, links to other sources, as well as helpful books. Mother Earth News is a good place to look for information, as well, both the hard copy magazine and online blogs.
Remember, winter is a time for rest, though. Don't get too caught up in being productive. Study and rest.
However, it is time to start transplants for onions, leeks and cabbage, as well as to start sprouting sweet potatoes for slips, which I will discuss in my next post.
Apparently, yesterday (Jan. 17) was a traditional date for wassailing the fruit trees.
I missed it again.
I don't know what is magical about that particular date, so do your wassailing whenever it suits... but in winter.
For those of you not familiar with this tradition, wassailing the fruit trees means having a party and parading through the orchard, banging drums, pots and pans, cymbals or making any other kind of raucous noise, presumably to scare away evil spirits that might harm the trees. Or maybe it's to wake up the trees. It's not clear. Then you select the main tree, or the most productive one and pour hard cider (preferably made from the recent harvest) on its roots, blessing it. You and your entourage must have cider, too. In some traditions the poorest tree would be threatened if it didn't shape up. I'd prefer to give it kind words and extra fertilizer. Sometimes toast is hung from the tree branches. I don't know why toast. It's just a thing that's done. Whatever, whenever, make it a party... even if it's just for you and the trees. Have fun. Hug the trees.
|The prettiest apples from this past year's crop.|
It seems more than coincidental that wassailing falls in the midst of pruning season for apple trees. A couple of weeks ago we spent about a week pruning ours, one tree a day. We've still got a couple more to do, but that needs to wait until some more urgent projects are taken care of -- like cutting firewood for next winter. We've got until March to finish the pruning. Other fruit trees are pruned at a different time of year.
Pruning goes much easier when two people are working on the same tree. One of us pruned from the ground, while the other climbed onto the ladder. When one of us was uncertain about whether to make a cut here or there, we had a second opinion readily available.
The most time-consuming part for you is cutting up the apples -- especially when they are as dinged up and chewed up as ours were. Slice, core and chop the apples, no need to peel. Fill the slow cooker to slightly mounded, but so the lid will stay on. Add seasonings, if you wish. I added a teaspoon or two of cinnamon to my recent batch, but I don't always add spices. Our apples were a little on the dry side, so I added about a cup of apple juice. However, I have made apple butter without the apple juice. Turn the slow cooker on high for about an hour or so, until you see the apples begin to cook down, then turn to low. Then leave them be, except for an occasional stir, for eight or 12 hours, until it's as thick as you want it. At some point, you'll want to crack the lid to allow moisture to escape. That will allow it to become really thick.
I canned this year's batch of apple butter, but I often just put it in small jars and freeze it. Canning it requires the addition of lemon juice (but, oops, I forgot it) and the extra steps of processing. Fortunately, it can be processed in a boiling water bath.
Then we can put together a cobbler or crumble at short notice, by taking out the formed apples and setting them in a baking pan. (BTW, they are really tasty when still frozen.) It doesn't take long for it to thaw enough to add the topping and bake. Please feel free to adjust seasonings and such in the following recipe to suit your taste.
Up next: Wintering and sweet potato slips
To be followed by more recipes!
|My husband, the wizard, conjuring fire.|