Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ground Hog Day

Red Russian kale planted last fall and still growing.
A few days ago I complained that it didn't feel like winter, but did not yet feel like spring.
The days since then have definitely felt like spring to me.
Georgia Southern Collards, yummy yum.
On Tuesday, I removed the plastic from the low tunnels protecting the kale, collards and lettuce. Spinach is sprouting where I planted it among the lettuce and the little radishes keep on growing. Some of the lettuce also is starting to regrow. I replaced the plastic on the lettuce beds with frost blanket (an extra heavy row cover), but did not cover the kale and collards.
So now you can see green stuff in the garden.
That's what makes it feel like spring, the green, not the warm days.
Green is the color of spring.

So this Groundhog Day has come and gone. I don't know about where you live, but any groundhog here (and yes we have groundhogs in Kansas) would have had to be quick about seeing his shadow. The sun came up in a hazy sky and seemed pretty wan most of the day, although during much of the morning I could see a shadow. It was another exceptionally warm and dry day, which means that the rest of the season, until the equinox will be wintry, according to ancient lore.

The blackberries have been removed from more than half the
blackberry bed, which has been reshaped and contained and will grow
lovely carrots in the loose dirt this spring and fall.
And we should get a start tomorrow, with much cooler temps and rain, blessed rain... 100 percent chance the last I saw, with a bonus of thunder. Then rain mixing with snow on Saturday and possibly turning to all snow with potential for some accumulation. Not a drought-breaker, but a start.

One other thing that has it feeling like spring is that I was looking around today noticing all of the projects to get done this spring -- there are always projects to do, that's not the spring thing -- but I was beginning to feel that tickle of panic worrying that I won't be able to get it all done. That sense of urgency that the season is passing by too quickly, that is spring. But it's only early February. Chill out girl.

Branching out.
Figuring out how to prune this problematic
William's Pride apple took a good long meditation.
February is the beginning of fruit tree pruning and we started yesterday. Hubby has been reading the pruning section in "The Apple Grower" by Michael Phillips (excellent, excellent read) and another book all about pruning all sorts of fruit and nut trees and shrubs. So his head is full of pruning knowledge. I read "The Apple Grower" last year, so I've got some of it in my head still.

The important thing with pruning fruit trees is to develop a good structure called "scaffolding." You pick a few good branches at the right location on the tree and cut away the rest. Crotch angle and vigor and balance are some of the things to look for. Phillips wrote that one should first approach the tree and take a deep breath, then sit in silence with the tree, looking at its shape and considering what its shape should look like. Then you start cutting.

Hubby and I made it through five trees yesterday (OK, four, it was too early to do the peach in our Sunset Grove). The task took several hours as each of us contemplated and considered, then we discussed and finally we pruned and trained. Yes, you can teach an apple tree tricks -- or rather, how to grow properly. It took plenty of twine and rocks to train these trees.

A little pruning and training, and William's Pride
has a better look.
To train, we looped one end of the twine onto a branch and tugged it in the proper direction, usually to get a more horizontal angle, but also to pull it one way or another to fill in space around the tree. The other end was looped around a stone or tied to the cage or one of the posts holding the cage (which prevents the deer from loving the trees to death).

It can look a little odd having all those bits of orange twine stretching from limb to ground, but next year when we remove it, we will have a better shaped tree.

In a few days, we will do some heading cuts on the laterals (the main branches growing horizontally from the trunk) to encourage the proper type of growth. Early pruning invigorates growth. During late spring and summer, we will cut out excess branching, as pruning at that time discourages new growth.

Apricot tree in bloom last year.
Pruning and training of stone fruits -- peaches, apricots, plums, cherries -- will be done later in the spring, maybe April. It's nice to be able to spread out the pruning job. Apples and pears now, other trees later. Not sure about the hazels, will have to check on that.

I did three trees today.

Paw paw flowers.

Hubby consulted while I did the work. He is suffering the injustice of being sick while on vacation. He thought he was improving yesterday, but today (his actual vacation day) was much worse. Interesting how that so often happens to people, getting sick as soon as vacation starts. I think it's a sign of too much stress on the job.

We've got three trees on order for planting this spring, two apples -- Ashmead's Kernal and Hudson's Golden  Gem -- and a paw paw (variety, Mango). We are accumulating quite a selection of fruits. Last year I added a quince tree -- Aromatnaya -- along with the more ordinary grapes and blueberries. The fig tree is under wraps right now, although it probably didn't need the protection this year. A couple of honeyberry shrubs also are on their way. They supposedly taste like blueberries, but are easier to grow. We will see.

Here's hoping your Groundhog Day was a good one!

Straw bales were packed around the fig tree (which was trained horizontally)
to protect it from winter weather. The row cover helps hold loose straw
in place. More on fig growing later.

1 comment:

Meggie said...

I'm in Texas and I'm definitely confused about the weather. Two days ago it was 80 degrees. My kitchen garden is growing like is should be March or April. I'm afraid my fruit trees will bloom and another freeze will come along and take my blooms.
I enjoy reading your blog.