Picture Snob

March 4, 2011

Burgandy plum tree makes ripe fruit in July


Right now we are getting the weather we should have gotten in January when we were getting spring. We've had snow and rain and cold cloudy days that are hopefully reminding the fruit trees, especially the plums and peaches, that it isn't time to open up flowers and expect bees. My plums always rush the season.


In the mountains the weather is so changeable that even if you don't get fruit because of a late freeze, the flowers themselves are a lovely harbinger of spring. The Burgandy plum has medium sized fruit with reddish purple skin. The flesh is deep red and sweet.
When eating your fresh plums, know that the pit is small giving you more fruit to enjoy. The fruit of this plum can be dried, eaten fresh, or made into jams and jellies, and
it is self fertile, so no need for another tree.

This plum variety only needs 250 to 350 chill hours, so a good choice for mild winter areas, yet it will take some cold. Ripens early July, but keeps well on tree till mid August.
Shipped as a potted five gallon tree in its original soil and container which means it doesn't have to go right into the ground.

At Burgundy Plum Tree

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February 24, 2011

A snowed in garden still gives vegetables


When your garden looks like this, covered with snow, someone might think that it is in bed and undisturbed until spring melt. But if you've planned your garden well, you can go out with the shovel and dig up some ruby red treasures and some golden nuggets. I did just that today. The snow was about 6 inches deep. It had melted from the day before and I was able to fine the beet and carrot rows without any trouble. Surprisingly, the earth was not frozen and not soggy, but broke up well as if ready to plant.

Here are the carrots ready to clean and peal. The looks so bright and chock full of nutrients.


And here are two of the beets, semi cooked. I'm going to cover them with olive oil and roast them in the oven. They will be sweet and delicious. Detroit Red is an easy variety to grow and mid winter, a great garden treat.


At Detroit Dark Red Beet Seeds

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February 22, 2011

Johnny's Seed Catalog is unique among seed companies

Johnny's catalog just came and is very impressive. The company is employee owned and was started in the 70's by a 22 year old with $500 savings. The employees own 30% of the company and should own 100% by 2015 which is unusual and commendable. Ownership-Image.jpg

The company originates in Maine and as one might guess, is geared toward cool weather growing. The lettuce section is the most extensive I've seen, ten pages of familar and rare varieties, but a special section on baby salad mixes and another on micro mix varieties which are vegetable seedlings harvested while small and used for salad and gourmet cooking. They sell ounces and up to 25 pounds of seeds so they are used by large growers as well as home gardeners.

Many vegetable sections come with a very helpful chart showing the variety and the days to harvest, the color, disease resistance and other attributes of seed. The corn section is small, only three pages, but they advertise a an innoculant which should help corn survive in less than ideal conditions. There is a good explanation of SE, SE+, and Synergistic varieties which helped me understand what those labels mean.

This Spring Treat corn is a "slightly sturdier plant and better eating quality than Kandy Kwik, which Spring Treat replaces. Good cool soil vigor."


They have an extensive selection of herbs from Angelica to Wormwood, eighteen pages and about thirty pages of flowers which includes some wildflower mixes. The tools and supplies section ha a lot of season extender items. Agribon is featured as both a lightweight insect barrier and a heavy weight heavy freeze protection of down to 24 degrees F. They show plastic and biodegrable mulchers which I've never seen before. A white on black mulch keeps the soil cool and the black side down suppresses weeds. They sell a red plastic mulch developed by Penn State which suppresses weeds, keeps the soil warm and hastens the ripening of tomatoes. It's not recommended for hot weather states.

Lastly, they sell a range of harvesting knives and tools and are featuring a Tubtrug which is a flexible food grade plastic tub to use for harvesting or for mixing fertilizer.
They come in three bright colors and can be left outside with no harm from frost or UV.

At Johnny's Seeds

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February 16, 2011

Today I put lettuce in the ground


The warm dry weather continues here in NOrthern California. It's worrisome because the river is below normal and the snow pack is negligible. We need more winter here desperately!

But today in the warmth of the 2pm to 4pm sunshine, I dug a small row and planted some lettuce, a mix of Black seeded Simpson and Buttercrunch and romaine. It's supposed to rain next week so I watered a little and am hoping some sprouts will show themselves. The night time temperatures are down into the twenties and that might discourage the seeds from germinating but it's certainly worth a try. It means early lettuce at the end of March or early April which would be wonderful.

At Select Salad Blend Lettuce

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February 14, 2011

Southern Exposure Newsletter has a few good tips - February 2011


If you're in the Mid-Atlantic region, February is the month for seed starting! Right now you can start lettuces, parsley, early brassicas, and bulb onions from seed in flats. Ira recommends starting hot peppers during these first few weeks of February since they take a long while to get going. During the middle of the month, get your sweet peppers and eggplants going and continue other greens and brassicas. Start globe artichokes now from seed to get in their required chilling days and you'll have a better chance of harvest in their first year.

If you have troubles with your radish, spinach, pea, carrot, or beet starts, try pre-sprouting them on paper towels in an incubator to give them an extra advantage, and keep planting every two weeks. Incubators and heating mats in general are great tools for speeding up your germination and helping your seedlings wake up ready and raring to go. If you're working outside with cold frames or Reemay garden blankets, start spinach, bok choi, lettuce, Mizuna mustard, and other cool weather greens. Forellenschluss is a great lettuce for this time of year and br ings a pleasing crunch to early spring salads.

At Hydrofarm Seedling Heat Mat

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February 9, 2011

Dropping by your local nursery sometimes pays!

I41niSOfALyL._SL500_AA300_.jpg've been buying trees to plant around the house. Last week I bought two cherry trees, a Bing and I Queen Anne to help with pollination. I put them in what will be the front yard where they will grow tall but not tall enough to block the view! Cherries do pretty well here, but the birds are a real competitor for the fruit and like all fruit trees in the area, a bear can really trash a tree easily. Nonetheless, I'm very happy with the purchase and fell optimistic about maybe having some cherries in my front yard.

While I was at the nursery, I saw some ratty looking lavendar plants, four of them, which she gave me. No one else is going to buy such a sad looking plant and so I brought them home to plant around the foundation of the house. I'm going to intersperse them with Gazanias, rosemary, and Shasta Daisys to bring an array of color which will be perinneal and easy to care for. The deer don't like rosemary or lavendar and I'm not sure what they will do to the flowers, but I'm excited about making the area outside which is such a mess from construction, into a pleasant place to be.

If you can't find freebies at the nursery, here's some lavendar from Amazon:

At The Patent Magic Herb- Lavender

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February 8, 2011

Hosta in the shadow of the house


I have a dark triangular shaped corner of the house where only shade loving plants will grow. I've been doing some investiaging and have come up with several good species to use at this site. Of course Hosta comes to mind immediately. Hosta comes in many varieties. In New England you see it everywhere as it loves moisture and shade. Some have leaves that are small, curly and variegated while others have wide, broad leaves and a single shade of green. Hosta grows from spring till fall, then will die off during the winter. They are great to share with family and friends because they are easy to divide. This is best done in the spring and if replanted in good soil and they will thrive. There is not much you can do to kill off these plants.

The down side is that Hostas are notoriously a favourite food for deer, slugs and snails, which commonly cause extensive damage to hosta collections in gardens. However, the hosta makes up for this failing by sending up stalks of lovely lily like flowers that come in a variety of colors from white to blue. There are as many as 45 varieties and the plant is used for food in Japan where it originated.

At 'Delta Dawn' Hosta - Shade Perennial

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February 7, 2011

Eden's Dark Margin, a shade loving perennial


I had to do some searching to get the name of this plant. The nursery owner thought it was a Bergenia Cordiflora. The leaves are a deep purple rather eggplant hue. She tola me that it would do well in shade and is also easy to care for. Now I find out it has big violet blossoms in the spring, so I'm very hopeful this will thrive in the partial shade along with the Hosta.

What I've learned is that Bergenia are incredibly hardy, and reliably evergreen throughout nearly the entire continent. Eden's Dark Margin forms a mound of large, leathery green leaves with pencil-line red edges, turning deep maroon during winter. Short stems of magenta-purple flowers rise above the foliage in mid spring. It seems perfect for edging along the house or massing as a groundcover. They say Bergenia sometimes look a little beaten up by winter. This one certainly does, but I love the purple leaves and best of all, the name! Eden's Dark Margin! Wow! I guess paradise had a shadow side and this is what would grow there!

At Heart Leaf Perennial - Bergenia Cordiflora

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January 31, 2011

Leftover broccoli plants put in the ground January 24th


While I was at the nursery, buying trees, I saw a six pack of broccoli plants which had not been bought and sitting cold and lonely until a bench. Christine the nursery owner said I could have them so I brought them home and today had time to plant them.

I have no idea if they will grow or if they will go immediately to seed. But I think it's worth a try as some critter got into the garden and ate all the winter cover crop and then ate the broccoli and kale. I finally got the fence fixed just after the artichokes had been munched down. It's so upsetting. I felt so much better when the fence was solid again(at least I hope it is). It feels so out of control to be raided at night and have your food eaten by the raider. I think it is a deer, so I"ve put up another wire and hung streamers of cloth from it. I also set the have a heart trap with dog food(ringtail cat, skunk), a carrot(rabbit, gopher), and some cheese. So far no luck with the trap, but there's also been no more damage in the garden.

So the broccoli went in today. The soil was so cold it was hard to put my hands in it to break it up. I sprinkled some compost and manure around and mulched it with straw. Because I felt so sorry for the little plants, I used warm water to soak around the plant hoping it would make them feel like they were planted in a great spot.

At Green Calabrese Broccoli 500 Seeds-GARDEN FRESH!

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January 26, 2011

The Chinese Elm--another shade tree possiblity!


The Chinese Elm is resistent to Dutch ELm disease and also to the beetles that attack the American Elm. The Forest Service site has an article on it calling it the "Weed of the Week". Any tree that falls in the "weed" catagory gets my interest.

" It is almost evergreen in mild climates. The small leaves are dark green and shiny, alternate, elliptical to ovate, serrated, and 1.5 to 2.4 inches long. Fall foliage is yellow, gold, orange, red, purple, and green, in early- to mid-November. Greenish-yellow flower occur in the leaf axils with inflorescences opening in August and early September. Fruits are lime green, quickly maturing to a deep russet in September and October. The seeds are winged and are dispersed primarily by the wind. This moderate to rapid growth tree can reach a mature trunk diameter of 3 to 4 feet and often forks to produce a vase shape. Young bark is a flaky brown-gray color, but mature bark is an exfoliating, mottled, and flaky combination of gray, green, orange, tan, and red-brown as seen in the photo above. This species develops a rounded crown with very fine branches."

It sounds good to me. I like that it adapts to poor soils which is what it will be experiencing here, and also dry conditions. It escapes in urban areas which gets it the "weed" moniker, but I doubt I have anything to fear considering my heavy clay soild and summer drought conditions.

At 2 Chinese Elm Trees!

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