Schlumbergera Cacti in Full Bloom. 11.9.19

Here are two of the Schlumbergera cacti that I bought two years ago at the grocery store. There are the typical “Thanksgiving cactus” and grow very easily. I place them outside in about May, in a semi-sunny location, give them occasional water and, sometimes, a little Miracle Gro. In the fall, I bring them inside. No special treatment. They grow buds and bloom like crazy.

Tying a Columnar Apple Tree on M27 Rootstock, for support. 11.9.19

This is a NorthStar (generic designation for propagation from the NorthPole™ cultivar) columnar apple tree on M27 rootstock. M27 is highly dwarfing for some non-columnar apple cultivars, but I think some of the height designations are for total tree biomass, which is linear for columnar trees instead of three dimensional. Therefore, I don’t know how large or vigorous it will be. I’m hoping for less vigor than the original tree, for smaller final size and easier maintenance and grooming.

M27 is a weak growing rootstock that requires support for the tree, lest it lean and even fall over. I did not have a stake for this tree, and it was listing to the West. So I placed a stake to the East, and pulled it back to vertical position. I use cotton clothesline, which is soft and has large diameter, which I think is more gentle on the bark and wood.

Creating a Redlove™ Era™ Apple Espalier. 11.9.19

This will be one of the espalier trees in my future fruit and vegetable garden. The tree will need to be moved there after the fence is constructed and the garden beds are ready, late Winter or early Spring. Meanwhile, I wanted to tie down the branches for the first of the espalier arms.

The original plan was to make an open center, vase shape. I planted this tree last January and allowed all of the branches to grow. Espalier is a change of plan. There were sufficient, well placed branches for the middle height horizontal cordons, and for one of the lower ones. There is a strong center branch that I can prune to produce the third level, which will be the top. I think there is potential for a new bottom branch to grow for the other lower cordon but that will be a wait and see issue.

I did not want to wait for the branches to harden and become brittle before bending them. They were a bit stiff, but they bent OK.

The Redlove™ Era™ apple is a new cultivar, developed in Switzerland by Markus Korbelt for his Lubera European nursery. The Redlove™ series consists of several red-flesh, or red and white stripe flesh, disease resistant apples. I don’t know the flavor which will also be affected by my terroir. When this tree bears fruit, it will be the first taste for me of this new type of apple.

Ten month old Redlove™ Era™ apple tree, before bending the branches into the first of the horizontal cordons for espalier training. 11.7.19
The branches were tied, using cotton clothesline, to bamboo sticks, which were then bent to horizontal conformation. 11.7.19
Another view of the same tree. 11/7/19

Applying Black Plastic Now for a Grass and Weed Free Garden Bed in Spring. 11.9.19

I am rearranging the garden beds and creating a new “orchard” with miniature trees and espalier trees, during the next few years. This area will be permanently fenced, hopefully keeping deer away so I don’t need to struggle with makeshift fencing. Watering is also a challenge, so I will concentrate the gardening in less far flung beds. This area is near the well house and I intend to install a semi-permanent water pipe under ground to this area.

Meanwhile, since half of the area is grass, I am converting that to garden bed. The other half is already garden bed, and I want to prevent over-winter weed growth. In the past, about 4 months of black plastic accomplished both tasks. I cleaned up the vegetable garden beds and used 4-mil black plastic sheets, weighted down with pavers. One area, which was sweetcorn and annual flowers, I cleaned up and simply put down about 18 inches of maple leaves. Those leaves will prevent growth of any leaves, and the bottom-most leaves will ultimately be mixed into soil to re-enrich it. I also piled some leaves onto the black plastic. Those leaves will be used next year as mulch.Weeds grow here, all winter long. The soil tends to become quite heavy and difficult to dig in Spring. The plastic will warm the soil, not allow much water to soak the soil, and exclude light so that the weeds and grass die. Underground creatures tend to stir it up, and bacteria and fungi break down the roots. It works nicely for preparing a garden bed without a big gasoline operated tiller and without heavy digging on my part.

Garden put to bed for Spring. Black plastic on some areas, leaves on others. 11.9.19
Previous experience with black plastic, applied 1 Jan 2016 and removed 21 April 2016.
Just after removing black plastic. Grass is dead, there is some remaining moss and mole tunnels.
I used a hand tilling device, basically 4 tines and handles, to till the area. It worked great, minimal effort, soft soil.

NorthPole™ (NorthStar) Apples. 11.2.19

There were not many apples this year on my original “NorthPole ” apple tree. I like these apples very much. Last year I let it overbear, so this year it took a break. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find patent or trademark information for this tree, so that I know if it is safe (allowed) to propagate it for my own use. As far as I can determine, this variety is not patented (so it is OK to propagate it) but it may be trademarked, so it is not OK to call clones of this tree by the trademarked name. That gets awkward, but like medicines (“Prilosec ” is the trademark name of omeprazole, for example) it happens all of the time.

The only thing I know to do is to give the clones a new name, and hope that people read it so that we know what we are talking about. On a fruit forum, as a result of suggestion by another member but with a change of my own, I’ll call clones of “NorthPole ” apple, “NorthStar apple. I searched on that name, and did not find any apple called NorthStar.

NorthStar apple (generic for NorthPole Apple
NorthStar Apple
NorthStar Apple

Harvesting Apples. 11.2.19

This has been one of our best apple years yet. The Jonared, Liberty, and Winecrisp were the most productive late apples. The most productive early apple was Gravenstein.

With upcoming predictions at about 30F, I decided to harvest the rest and bring them in. Not just the freezing, but blue jays have been destroying about an apple a day as well.

The Jonareds, a red sport of Jonathan, are still looking great. Here are a few. So are the Winecrisp.

The GoldRush, a late ripening, long keeping, disease resistant apple, had red spots on the apples. I though, oh how cool. But looking it up, that is a sign of a tiny insect called “San Jose Scale”. So this winter, I’ll spray the branches of all of the trees with dormant oil, a rather nontoxic spray that should smother remnant of those insects so there are not more next year. I read that organic orchards do not have much of this pest, because other insects eat them, so I hope that is the case.

Jonared Apples. 11.2.19
GoldRush apples, showing San Jose Scale. 11.2.19