Friday, May 27, 2011

Moose Tubers!!!

My sunchokes are here! After ordering them in February from Fedco, I thought it would be forever before I received them.

Sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus), also known as Jerusalem Artichokes, are a sunflower relative and a part of the Moose Tubers program at Fedco Seeds. They offer three varieties: Waldspinel, Skorospelka, and Clearwater.

I ruled out the Waldspinel despite its rose color since it is prone to knobbiness. The Skorospelka is regarded a favorite among cooks since it's relatively knob-free. I chose the Clearwater because they are knobless and Will Bonsall's favorite. He is one of the directors of Seed Savers Exchange and the sunchoke curator. I decided to trust him and try it out. I'm slightly concerned they are the slowest to break dormancy, but hopefully with our south-facing bed next to the warm house it won't be an issue. At least they are said to be tender into the fall. I can also wait until the following spring to harvest them.

The small box--a perfect 3" cube--arrived with a paper bag of bulbs inside.
A one-pound bag contained at least 10 bulbs. I planted two patches up against the front porch. With their lemon yellow daisy-like flowers, I think they will be a nice back drop to the cistus, catmint, and asphodel. And the color will pop in front of our dark red house.

One thing I was warned about these little tubers is they spread and can be hard to eradicate. I'm hoping they don't travel around too much! I can't wait to harvest my first batch and make them into a creamy, garlic-y puree this coming fall. I'll keep you posted when they sprout.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fruit Trees

Give Seattle-ites an extra day of sunshine and watch them go crazy. The talk today has been, "What? I thought it was supposed to rain. Look at it! Gorgeous day!"

Quickly followed by, "It's not going to last. It's supposed to start raining again this evening."

I'd like to think the forecast is wrong and convince myself they have it all wrong!

Enough of the weather. Let's talk about fruit trees.

First, my 4-variety Asian pear tree is doing well. I'm hoping to get at least one or two pears this year. Last year, I got one fruit that I quickly removed. It's advised to remove all the fruit the first year the plant is in the ground. Once I saw the small fruit, I removed any other spent flowers. It would have been too tempting if I left any more to go to fruit. Here's a sample of this season's flowers in the afternoon sun.

All three espaliered apples are doing well. I have three tiers on the Nittany and two on the Honeycrisp. And I managed to redirect a side branch that I snapped off from one of the Nittany's (see the Oh Snap! post). Once it warms up a little more, I will tie it down to the wire...carefully this time! I don't want a repeat of last year. I also have more flowers this year. I think I accidentally pruned the flowering shoots. Either that or I sapped the tree's energy by letting them fruit the first year.

My biggest surprise this spring is the comeback of my persimmon tree. It didn't do much of anything last year. I didn't expect a lot, but I thought there would have been a little bit of growth at the end of spring and into summer. With our harsh winter and cool spring this year, I thought it was a gonner. I even called Swanson's about getting a refund. Then I looked more closely and realizes it's not dead. There are viable buds promising leaves soon.

I'll keep you posted on fruit production as the season progresses! Hoping for sunny skies from here on out!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Planter Boxes

At this year's Northwest Flower and Garden Show, I bought three Shuksan strawberry plants. I planted them in my one of my boxes on the fence. This is a new experiment. I'm hoping that they will enjoy the heat up there. I was planning on purchasing an actual strawberry pot for them, but decided to work with what I've got instead. We'll see how they do. So far, they seem to be thriving even with the cold we've had since I planted them in February.

In the other box, I sowed Canary Creeper nasturtium. Nasturtiums are my favorite around the edge of a planter box. In the middle, I sowed broccoli raab. The broccoli won't get very big since I'll harvest it fairly soon after it becomes mature. I waited too long last year to use it and the stems were too woody and were not very tasty. By planting them in the box, I'm hoping it will force me to pay closer attention to them.

Nothing yet except for an empty seed packet! Stay tuned...