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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Landscape and Garden Fall Clean-up

In Gardening, Landscaping on October 16, 2011 at 9:36 am

October

The days are cooling down. Frost is imminent. The sun, with its long, low rays, mellows its vibrant intensity. Morning start dark and evenings come early. It is time to hang the winter lights on the porch. The fall leaves begin their annual journey to the ground. It is time to clean-up, and prepare for the long chill.

Points to Remember on Fall Clean-ups

  • Vegetable gardens need cleaned of debris. Destroy/burn plant debris, especially tomatoes, peppers, coles, cabbage, kale, melons, cukes, and squash plants. Rake soils clean of weeds and mulch for the winter. As I clean up my garden, I give my excess vegetables to my geese and chickens. I throw the complete tomato plants to the birds to clean up. Then I can burn the plants they don’t eat. Composting at the end of the season is generally not recommended, because the debris contains a years worth of disease and bugs. I would not be afraid to compost end of the season debris if I had a shredder, and some fresh horse or chicken manure. The fresh manure layered with in the debris should reach warm enough temperatures to sterilize the compost. But why take the chance. Once you get tomato wilt it is difficult to nearly impossible to get rid of. Fall clean-ups are a must for the vegetable garden.
  • The cottage garden also needs fall clean up. Remove annuals after frost. Most perennials can be cut back slightly, but not completely. I like to neaten them up taking off maybe a quarter of the top growth, leaving the rest of the growth to protect the roots through the winter. Most perennials are fine going through the winter with no pruning. Let the snow and frost dance through your garden on the seed pods and bare branches of your perennials. Grasses should not be fall pruned. Wait till early spring
  • Most shrubs should not be pruned to go into fall. Pruning may stimulate growth. Prune in the early spring after the buds begin to break, especially roses. When Spring flowering shrubs are pruned in the fall, the pruning essentially cuts off all the spring flowers. Mophead hydrangeas, forsythia, lilacs, and spirea all have developed the flower buds by fall. Some shrubs need a little bit of added protection to survive our winters. Mophead hydrangeas and roses are an example. Wait until the ground is completely frozen before mulching for winter. This can be clear into November or early December. If they are mulched too early the ground stays too warm for too long and risk damage by January’s brutal freeze.
  • Dead branches should be pruned out of trees at anytime. Sometimes it is easier to do this while leaves are on the trees. It would be better to wait till trees are dormant. Trees absorb the green chlorophyll in the leaves for winter food. That is why the leaves turn color. By allowing the trees to go completely dormant, the tree has the maximum amount of winter food. Prune trees in late winter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Rocky Pointe Landscaping provides a fall clean-up service and irrigation blow-outs. They service Lake Chelan; South Shore, Lakeside, Chelan, Manson, and the Chelan Falls Area. They also service the Okanogan and Methow Vallies; Methow, Twisp, Pateros, Brewster, Bridgeport, Okanogan, and Omak.

Call Cascade Mechanical for winter weatherization. Have them check out your HVAC system before the snow flies. Make sure your running efficiently. Electric rates keep going up, especially in the Methow Valley and with the Okanogan PUD. Ask Marty what you can do to save electricity this winter. It may be simpler and less costly than you imagine. Trust a professional that will be there to provide you that emergency winter service. Cascade Mechanical serves: The Lake Chelan Area – Manson, Chelan, Lakeside, and South Shores; Methow Valley – Methow, Twisp, and Winthrop; Okanogan Valley- Pateros, Brewster, Okanogan, Omak, Tonasket, and Oroville; I also know that they will go East into Ferry County and service Republic, Malo, and Curlew; Douglas County and South – Bridgeport, Mansfield, Coulee Dam, Electric City, and Coulee City.

Frozen pipes are a winter nightmare. Don’t forget to get everything buttoned up for winter. A hairline crack in your house skirting can be a source for a sub-zero wind to freeze your water solid. Have Swisher Plumbing inspect your plumbing and fix that pipe that freezes every winter. Swisher Plumbing serves: North Central Washington, Chelan, Pateros, Brewster, Bridgeport, Okanogan, Omak, and the Methow Valley

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Tomato Test Trials

In Gardening on October 11, 2011 at 7:53 pm


My daughter and I evaluated our tomatoes this last week. It was definitely not scientific. We picked the best two or more tomatoes off of  multiple plants. If we tasted a poor quality tomato we give it a second chance by tasting an additional tomato of the same kind. We are at the end of the season, and the tomatoes flavors have noticeably changed over the season.

I developed a seed list from “100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden” By Carolyn J Male, past family favorites, and my seed catalogs. My seeds came from Sandhill Preservation, and Baker Seed.

Our Favorites -Three Stars ***

Better Boy was definitely the Garden Star this season. It produced an amazing amount of fruit, uniform size, an excellent flavor. I don’t know where I picked up Sungold, but it produced early sweet cherries. A salad favorite. Large Cherry has the classic sweet cherry tomato flavor not found in any other tomato I grew. Red September was a gift packet Sandhill Preservation sent me to try. Red September was a pleasant surprise, beautiful, medium size fruit, that have outstanding acidy flavor. Golden Rave was another surprise find. A small plum tomato, firm, and very tasty for a yellow tomato. I like the meaty textures of plum/Roma types. This was the star of Kerri’s Summer Garden Salads. Colorful, tasty, immensely productive, Golden Rave is a must grow again. One tomato that is not here, and that I could not find was Pineapple. I hope to find the seed for it next year.

Acidy, Juicy, Good Texture, Productive, Tasty
Excellent Flavor, Sweet/Tart
Sweet, Excellent Flavor
Beautiful, Excellent Flavor/Tasty, Acidy
Sweet, Juicy, Tasty

Good Tomatoes Worth Growing -Two Stars ** 

I do like variety, and most of these tomatoes have a quality that is worth adding to the garden. Hughes is one of the best tasting yellow tomatoes with a classic garden fresh tomato flavor. Taxi is productive, but a little bit mild in flavor. The bright yellow color, and firm texture are extremely lovely in salads. Celebrity and Super Sioux are excellent, but do not rank with Better Boy in size and productivity. Box Car Willie is a beautiful heirloom. Its texture and flavor do not quite match its beauty, but it is worth giving another shot. The Striped Roma  is colorful and can be variable in flavor. It is best when firm and not overripe.

Old Fashion Rich Flavor, Silky, Sweet, Tasty
Beautiful, Firm, Mild Flavor
Delicious, Classic Flavor, Beautiful
Soft, Good Taste, Beautiful
Classic Mata Flavor, Tasty
Sweet, Good Flavor, Beautiful, Tough Skin

 OK Tomatoes with some good qualities – One Star *

These tomatoes I found to be acceptable, not necessarily disappointing, but without at least one great quality to require me to want to keep them in the garden. They are all good, but not great.

Acidy, Sour, Good Flavor
Sweet, Silky, Pretty
Mellow, Good Tomato Flavor
Beautiful, Tart, Acidy, Mellow/Flat Flavor
Sweet/Tart, Acidy, Juicy
Good Flavor, Acidy, Large, Soft Texture

 Poor Performers

Disappointingly Poor

Flat Flavor, Acidy, Sour
Mushy Texture, Poor Taste, Spit-Out Yukky
Flat, Poor Flavor, Bad-Blah

Onion Crop

In Gardening on October 11, 2011 at 7:40 pm

I grew three kinds of onions, Ailsa Craig, Red Zeppelin, and Candy. I bought my onion seed from Burrell’sShumway’s and Jung’s seed catalogs. I start my onions in early February in a south facing window in the house. I plant about 25 seeds to a 4″ pot. I set  my onion plants out the second week of April. I don’t like to get ahead of the weather. I will wait a week or two, before I plant early. I do lightly fertilize with triple ten, and then I fertilize throughout the early part of the growing season. Onions are heavy feeders.

I was very pleased with my onion crop. This was my first year at our new place. My garden is in the Okanogan Delta silt/clay ground. Beautiful garden soil. The Candy and Red Zeppelins are much firmer/harder bulbs than the onions I grew in Oklahoma. I’ve been pulling them since June for cooking and canning use. I’ve sent several bags to family and friends.  I’m a little lazy with the weeds after the summer sun hits. The weeds shaded the onions, the tops dried out and fell over, and they cured nicely. I got them in the garden shed before the rains came, so they have dried out nicely.