Moving Time: AppleJade Now Lives at www.brainripples.com

AppleJade has moved! Please update your links:

http://brainripples.com/category/garden/

New Beginnings, Copyright © 2010 Jade Leone Blackwater

I am excited to announce that AppleJade now has a new, permanent home at www.brainripples.com.

My blogs Brainripples, Arboreality, and AppleJade will all live together under one domain. For those who prefer the original channels, my blog will be simply categorized by Studio, Forest, and Garden respectively. You can read more details here.

All AppleJade content published at applejade.wordpress.com will remain as-is for the time being, so that no active links will be broken. In coming months I hope to republish the best content at my own website including reviews, articles, features, and other goodies.

I wish to extend my thanks to the great folks at WordPress.com, without whose free hosted blogging services, friendly support community, and awesome technology, the AppleJade blog could not be possible.

Onward!

The garden is sleeping and so is AppleJade

Greetings of the New Year to all!  My garden in Kitsap County, Washington is sleeping, and so is the AppleJade blog (as you have probably noticed).

Blogging will resume by the Spring Equinox (Autumn Equinox for our friends in the southern hemisphere) in March 2010.  Until then, keep thinking green thoughts!

Autumn Shadows

Autumn Afternoon Light, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

October Harvest

October Harvest, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Today’s harvest includes a healthy bunch of semi-ripe tomatoes (and there’s plenty more where these came from).  I’m rooting cuttings from the healthiest vines to see how long I can keep them growing indoors through the winter.

There are also loads of yet-to-be-harvested purple-podded pole beans.  Half of them are still purple, and the other half are now mostly brown.  It’ll probably take a few hours to collect all the rest of the bean pods from the vines!

We have a couple handfuls of small jalapeños and sweet green peppers remaining.  Now that the plants are slowly dying back, I’m finding spring-sown parsley and lettuce that are thriving in the cool weather.

Pictured here is the first (and tiniest) of our pumpkins.  Three others are about two or three times this size, but only one is safely within the fence.  The exposed pumpkins will likely be claimed by the husky once they ripen.  (He’s been pulling and eating the rainbow carrots from of the cold frame, and harvests all the tomatoes that grown outside the fence.  I’ve learned to deliberately plant vegetables he likes around the yard so he can help himself all summer.

Also shown are the honeycrisp apples and a couple bananas from the local farm stand this morning (where I also grabbed some bigger pumpkins, and learned that they will be selling live Christmas trees this season).

The biggest colander is full of counter-ripened tomatoes for this weekend’s pasta sauce.  And the fragrant bunch of flowers include marigolds, peppermint, chives, nasturtiums, clovers, dandelions, lavender, and fireweed curls.

Next I’ll begin culling the tomatoes from the cold frames to make way for cold season vegetables.  My favorite cold weather crops for the cold frame include cilantro, lettuce, spinach, and other greens, as well as radishes, onions, and carrots.  This year I’ll also be including cauliflower and broccoli, and I’m considering an experiment with winter squash.

Late Tomatoes, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Autumn Garden Updates

Sunflower and Honey Bee, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone BlackwaterHappy autumn everyone!

If you’re wondering where I’ve been all summer, the answer is simple: out in the garden.  Autumn is my favorite season, but learning to grow food has vastly broadened my appreciation of the warm, sunny growing months.

Despite my goals to be more a more diligent blogger for 2009, I have instead focused the majority of my time on writing fiction and poetry, and growing food and flowers.

Kind thanks to reader Diana Hunt for encouraging me to get back to business at AppleJade.  To start us off, here’s a quick peek at what I was doing out in the garden during June, July, and August…

Foxglove Blooms, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

In June we were smitten with strawberries.  These plants have been growing here without any help from me for nearly 10 years.  They have happily consumed a sizable chunk of the vegetable patch, and this autumn many of them will be relocating to new beds which are being established in the rockier and less-hospitable parts of the yard.  My reasoning is that the strawberries are so hardy and so happy to propagate that they should make excellent (and tasty) pioneers.

Happy Strawberry Harvest, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

The corn plants grew steadily through June and July, and I really should dedicate an entire separate post to what they accomplished this year by creating so much food out of so little soil.  We ate sweet, healthy corn all through the month of August.

Young Corn Plants, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Pumpkins had a slow start, and I think we now have three pie-worthy squash out there which are just beginning to turn orange.  My plan for next spring is to start the squash in the cold frame as I did with the corn, and then transplant when it’s warm enough in May.  This was a successful approach for the corn harvest, so hopefully pumpkins and other squash won’t mind the transplant method.  Pumpkins will definitely have a post of their own so you can see their progress and learn about their flowers.

Young Pumpkin Plants, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Sunflowers dominated the scene all around the yard this year.  We collected almost all the seeds from our Pennsylvania sunflowers, and those seeds waited patiently from 2007 to be planted here in western Washington this year and subsequently bloom upwards of eight feet.  They’re just finishing now.  I managed to get three of the largest seed-heads indoors to finish drying, but the rest have been claimed by the busy blue Steller’s jays (Cyanocitta stelleri).  As with corn and pumpkins, the sunflowers deserve a post of their own to show just how much they accomplished this season.  (And yes, that’s me, standing in front of some of the corn and sunflowers just before the first flowers opened.  The purple-pink blush behind the corn is from the foxglove (genus Digitalis) and fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) two of my favorite local wildflowers, coming in to full summer bloom.)

The Gardener, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Marigolds, lettuce, cilantro, beans, and many others have boomed throughout the garden and pop up just about everywhere.  I moved all the arugula and other greens out of the cold frames when they went to seed, and let the plants finish in the cooler corners of the fenced-in vegetable garden.  They should be dropping those seeds very soon now thanks to the wind and rain, which will hopefully result in a fresh crop.

Marigold Treasure, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Tomatoes grew strong, vibrant, and healthy all season, but left me with a plethora of green fruits.  They have only just begun to ripen, and as a result many of them are coming indoors as soon as they begin to to show yellow or pink where they can finish among the warmth of the kitchen.  I’ll continue to keep them ripening outdoors until the tomato plants finally turn brown – which I’m guessing isn’t too far in the future.

Green Tomato Load, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

For now, I’ll leave you with a nasturtium, another friendly flower which can be found just about everywhere around the garden.  While all parts of nasturtiums are edible, I’ve resisted collecting too many flowers or seeds for dinners in the hopes that the plants will successfully re-seed themselves for next summer.  I’ll let you know my success when they reemerge next June.

Friendly Nasturtiums, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Book Review: Plan Bee

Plan Bee by Susan Brackeny © Copyright 2009Plan Bee: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hardest-Working Creatures on the Planet

by Susan Brackney

The book for today’s review was provided by: Perigee Books, Penguin Group (USA)

The harvest bounties, floral comforts, and kitchen creations that I share at AppleJade would none of them be possible without the bees.  This is why Susan Brackney’s book Plan Bee is one of my favorite book reads so far this year: it is fun to read, useful, and relevant.

Plan Bee tells us about the biology, history, lore, and functions of bees, emphasizing the honeybee and its place in agriculture.  Susan Brackney writes Plan Bee from her own honeycomb adventures, such as they were launched at the intersection of curiosity, love, and a fateful garage sale.

Plan Bee by Susan Brackney, Queen Bee, © Copyright 2009Brackney affords her readers the unique opportunity to learn about the art and science of beekeeping by candidly sharing the fruits of her own learning process along with a spoonful of humor.  Brackney provides meaningful scientific information including physiology, habitat, and ecology, as well as domestic beekeeping (apiary) and its history.  Although she details the nuts-and-bolts of bee workings, Brackney provides no indecipherable scientific diagrams, and no unpronounceable terminology.

Throughout Plan Bee Brackney interlaces cultural context, folklore, mythology, and the many uses and applications of bees, their activities, and their byproducts.  The reader’s focus is aligned to incorporate flowers, table honey, pollination, and agriculture.  Brackney helps attune the reader to the significance and importance of bees and their well-being for the health not only of humans, but also the environments of which we are all a part.

Plan Bee by Susan Brackney © Copyright 2009In addition to the wealth of what I learn in its pages, what I like most about Plan Bee are the little moments of recognition that I feel as I read: wild flowers that I recognize from my Pennsylvania gardens, wild bee homes that I find in my Washington gardens, and raw, local honey that I search out in farmer’s markets and local stands wherever I go.

In Brackney’s book I hear the balance of practicality and sustainability that I attempt to achieve in my own life.  Although she provides great information for aspiring apiarists, she also offers simple suggestions which everyone can try.  For example: she suggests that an easy way to help all bees might be to leave a corner of the lawn to “go wild” with weed flowers, or to raise the lawnmower blades a few inches in order to spare the violets and clover.

By helping her readers to understand Why Bees Matter, Brackney inspires us to action.  I came away from this book knowing that I’m not ready to be a beekeeper, but that I am prepared to grow more flowers, provide the trappings of wild bee homes, and offer bee-baths (located away from the existing bird-baths).  Brackney provides a measured sense of doable action with suggestions for anyone who wishes to improve – or at least not worsen – the fate and survival of bees.

In Plan Bee Brackney titles her Final Note, “Who Needs Chickens Anyway?”.  We learn at the beginning of her story that Susan Brackney ended up on the honeybee path when she first decided she was ready to try something new; a garage sale which offered a beekeeper’s gear cast the deciding vote in the toss-up between chicken-raising and beekeeping.

For this twist of fate, I feel that we are all fortunate: Susan Brackney’s Plan Bee invites its readers to re-approach the world with curiosity in order to explore, investigate, and notice.  Like a bee, Brackney gives careful attention to each subject as if humming from flower to flower, connecting insects with habitat with agriculture with humanity with choices with actions.  Plan Bee leaves its readers with a sense of wonder for, and belonging to, the natural world and all its honeyed sweetness.

 

Wild Bees and Wild Flowers, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Pre-Solstice Garden Updates

Dianthus Awaits the Butterflies, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

The June solstice is just around the corner, and my garden is ready:

Sunflowers and corn have each been transplanted out of the cold frame and into their respective beds.

Sunflower at Sunset, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

The heliotropes (flowers which turn with the sun, including sunflowers) stand healthy on three-foot-tall stems lining a new flowerbed located along the northern fence line of my yard.  These sunflowers are the progency of my Pennsylvania garden including both the giant and the shorter, red sunflowers.

Flower Bed Beginnings, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

What was once a barren stretch of grass is now home to flowers selected from all around my yard including daisies, dianthus, bee balm, columbine, carrots, daffodils, and many others.  I’ve packed a lot of plants into this small space, which is also the new home to 10 trees (originally received from The Arbor Day Foundation some eight years ago) including dogwoods, hawthorns, and crab apples.

North Corn Bed, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

The corn (which, if you didn’t know, is a really big grass) now lines the western fence line in two long beds of approximately 40 plants each.

Corn Sprouts: Fairy's-Eye-View, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Once the corn was put in place, the beds were sown with beans, pumpkins, zucchini, and melons, with a few sunflowers and nasturtium seeds to artfully anchor the ends of each.  I am pleased to say that the corn is well ahead of the requisite “knee-high by the Fourth of July” benchmark.  This is my first real attempt at growing corn; after three years of living around Pennsylvania farmland for inspiration, I am eager to see my results!  Beyond the fenced yard is a healthy wildflower patch containing foxglove, fireweed, daisies, and brambles, which I have carefully encouraged for some 10 years.  I hope that these flowers will help to attract the wild pollinators that I need for the vegetables.

South Corn Bed, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Why are the growing beds all fenced in, you may ask?

Blackfoot Troublemaker, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Tomatoes, peppers, basil, and marigolds which once in habited all free window spaces inside the house are now safely settled in the vegetable garden.  Although the tomatoes were looking a little scraggly indoors, they positively exploded outside.  I’m sure that flowers are only a week or two away.  The basil hardly seems to have noticed the move, and the peppers are slowly catching up thanks to the warm weather we’ve enjoyed.

Happy Tomato Starts, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Meanwhile, back in the cold frames the arugula, lettuce, assorted salad greens, and cilantro have all made a great showing, and are ready to bolt like nobody’s business.

Late Spring Cold Frame Harvest, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

I plan to dig them out in chunks and pop them in the flower beds so they can flower and seed to their hearts’ content.  Personally, I think arugula, radish, and cilantro flowers are lovely.  So too for the furry purple flowers of the chives plants which welcome me to the vegetable patch each morning.

Welcoming Garden Chive Flowers, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

The peas also need to come out of the coldframe and into the garden – they’ve grown big enough to create a trellis out of each other for support!

Renegade Pea Plants, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

And of course, summer wouldn’t be complete without the sweet, ripe strawberries swelling like so many rubies in the vegetable garden:

Summer's Ripening Strawberries, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

What’s next?  Believe it or not: autumn.  The efforts needed for summer vegetables were all completed in winter and spring.  Now that those tasks are behind me, there’s little else to do but water and weed and watch and harvest.  What’s important now is to plan, prepare, and plant for the coming cool seasons.

For me this means moving things out of the cold frames so I can begin successions of lettuce, greens, onions, carrots, and other small veggies.  I want to get these started now and continue sowing seeds at roughly two-week intervals from now through October.  These will provide the food supply for autumn, and ensure that I have plants at several stages of maturity (rather than one, big, massive patch of lettuce that’s ready all at once).

In addition to the food plantings I am also focused on developing the flowers which grow throughout the gardens.  I have healthy seedlings of calendula, borage, and marigolds, and recently added mature bergamot (also called bee balm or monarda), lavender, and rosemary to compliment my existing collections of mints, thyme, parsley, chamomile, and other flowers and kitchen herbs.  Thanks to my mother and eldest sister I was able to stock up on seeds via Seeds of Change, so my personal seed bank includes hollyhocks, dahlias, bergamots, sages, and many others.

Ahead at AppleJade I’ll be sharing ideas for creative ways to reuse packaging for seed starting, earth-friendly ways to reduce your slug and pest populations, and plenty of ideas for recipes to make use of your garden bounty!

Quiet Bird Retreat, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

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