... growing and hybridizing all kinds of plants in zone 6b Maryland since the 1980's.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Amazing tomato!!!

Almost unbelievable – I picked this little yellow guy back on August 15th! I’m sure it was at a hard green stage when I picked it, so it probably will be very much lacking in flavor, but still… how many home-grown tomatoes will last for half a year without any special storage?!?!

I remember the picking date because our first killing frost came on August 17th . When I heard the weather prediction warnings two days earlier, I went out and picked all tomatoes, ripe and green, and put them down in the basement. The temperature down there is pretty consistent with the rest of the house – 67-68°F year round. So it’s not like some special storage conditions. Basically it’s room temperature. I decided to go ahead and cut it open before it shriveled or rotted (or got eaten) like the rest.

The flesh was very thin and the seed cavities had big air pockets in them, but the seeds themselves looked mostly good and the gel around them was pretty juicy also. Before squeezing the seeds into a little plastic cup, I had to see what kind of flavor this 6 month old tomato would have. Well, I can’t say it would’ve have been the BEST ever salad tomato or slicer for a sandwich, but would you really expect that? Surprisingly…  it did have a nice tangy “umamitomato flavor and was juicy enough that it would have been at least acceptable. Amazing!




Overwintering Peppers

The overwintering “select” peppers are still doing well. I’ve been keeping them in this wagon for easy moving. Most of the time they’re right inside the basement doors where they get some sunlight through the basement door windows. Here they are enjoying a warmer day outside.

I’m hoping to harvest a lot of seed from them in 2016. And because these are all mild peppers, and they will be growing in relative isolation, all of the seeds should produce milds from this point forward. Up until now, I’ve typically had more than 50% hots. It’ll be very nice not having to play “hot pepper roulette” in the future as I taste test down the rows.

Blue Eyed Grass - winter foliage

Here’s a current picture of a dainty little clump of “Blue-eyed Grass” (Sisrynchium angustifolium) that I planted out front a few years ago. I like how this native member of the Iridaceae [the Iris family] has kept relatively green and bushy throughout the winter. It’s not quite as green as something like Mondo grass, but still has decent potential to be explored as a grassy looking groundcover.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

2015 naked seed pumpkin project progress

Lotta pictures and when I uploaded them the blog application decided to rotate a bunch of them willy nilly, so don't be surprised by the weird camera angles. Anyway, I decided it was about time to cut open some of my pumpkins that have been waiting in the basement. I want to get their seeds dried down for 2016 planting. These are from my hull-less seeded pumpkin project so I have to be careful not to leave them too long or I'll have seeds sprouting inside the pumpkins. These are now quite a few generations down the line from an original cross of 'White Scallop' bush squash and 'Styrian Hulless' naked seeded pumpkin. The first five are my favorite picks from the 2015 population - numbered 1 thru 5 with a Sharpie marker. I also cut open 6 and 7 because number 4 had shells on its seeds and I wanted at least one more good seeded one. Glad I did, because number 6 had an unusually thick flesh which was pretty cool.


Here's a comparison of the flesh color and thickness. The lighting wasn't very good so they all look a little bleached out. Note the thick flesh, I'd mentioned on number 6.

 My favorite overall is number 1. Stark white skin (which came from 'White Scallop' squash) and yellowish flesh. High count of plump little hulless seeds. 


 
 Bummer... number 4 had hulls (hence the white colored seeds).

 
Number 5 looks a lot like the 'Styrian Hulless' ancestor. It also has a serious flaw. The seeds have a strong tendency to sprout while still inside the pumpkin. This is something I've been selecting against, so I'll most likely never plant any seeds from this one.

Number 6 with its interesting thick flesh. I should've known by how heavy this guy was! This is a trait I'd like to keep in the population. So since it also has a high number of plump seeds, I'll probably use this one in the future plantings.
 Number 7 was another dud - with shells on the seeds.
 When all the seeds were safely drying back down in the basement. I put 1, 2 and 3 in the oven and baked them for almost 2 hours. Then I scooped out the flesh and processed it in the food processor.
I put 8 cups in the freezer (2 cup portions in each sandwich bag) to freeze and still had enough puree to be the base for two loaves of squash bread.

I don't generally follow any recipe anymore when I make bread, but this is essentially just white bread made with pumpkin puree in place of the water.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Cuttings from some long time survivors [roses]

Back in the late 1990's, I planted dozens [literally] of roses on the back corner of the lot that we later built our home on. Since only four roses have survived all this time, I decided I should try to take some cuttings and get them propagated. Keep in mind, these have been totally neglected and also surrounded by Rose Rosette Disease infected roses.

First is a huge chunk off of the almost dead Rosa helenae. I left two other canes as insurance. I think the dense shade of the maturing trees all around is probably mostly to blame for the sad state that this rose is currently in.

Second is 'Alexander MacKenzie'.
 Here's that 'Alexander MacKenzie' shoot sticking up out of honeysuckle and poison ivy. The trees overhead are also shading it heavily too.

The only survivor that I didn't take cuttings from, was I think 'Lilian Gibson'. I hope to dig it and move it in the Spring. Here are bundles of the other survivors - the Rosa helenae, the 'Alexander MacKenzie' and 'Ash Wednesday'. I've got them soaking in willow water and plan to wrap them in damp newspaper (burrito style) to callous for a couple of weeks.

Friday, January 8, 2016

More rose cuttings rooting

Yippee! Having more success this season than all the previous times I've tried (all put together).
Here are some more pictures of those bracteata hybrid cuttings that are rooting so nicely. I took the container outside and opened it up to let out a couple of flies that I think hatched out from the charcoal (that had a little bit of composty stuff like old cat food accidentally mixed in with it). Anyway, the five cuttings on the left are "Pink Monster". Second picture shows their sprouts. Third picture shows the root systems showing along the side of the clear container. You can also see in this third picture, the change in amount of perlite in the two layers. I mixed a lot of perlite into the top layer (where the bottom end of the cutting was located), so that it wouldn't be to wet.


 
Here's another successful rooting - a cutting of the F1 hybrid Rosa arvensis X soulieana. This hybrid seems to be very susceptible to Rose Rosette Disease so I was afraid I was going to lose this last one of five seedlings. So I'm especially happy to be able to root it. I also was trying out a different container made from two 2-liter ginger ale bottles pushed together. I cut the top bottle so that it still has a little of the curved part (near the neck of the bottle). That way it easily fits inside the bottom bottle which has a straight edge at the top.
 
 
Lastly, are some newer cuttings I took in late December. Seems like they've been wrapped in damp paper for about three or four weeks. They've got great callous tissue formed but no roots yet. To encourage roots, I'm giving "willow water" a try. "Willow water" is supposed to be a natural rooting aid - made from cut up pieces of willow branches soaked overnight. I think the recommendation is to soak the cuttings before callousing, but I didn't have the willow branches available at that time, so we're trying it this way instead. The paper in the background is the damp paper the cuttings have been wrapped in while callousing.
 
 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Rose rooting update

Follow-up from the posts on Dec.7th and Dec.17th... I'd burritoed in wet newspaper some rose cuttings and gotten them to form callous tissue on the cut ends. Afterwards I dipped the calloused bottoms in "Dip N Gro" rooting hormone and planted them almost horizontally in a clear plastic storage bin. I just noticed today that "Holy Moly" there's a whole bunch of roots showing along the side where the bottoms of the cuttings are close. But there's quite a bit of difference among the different roses - one rooted very well, one moderately and one isn't showing any roots along the side yet. Here's the bin with a LED aquarium light on top so that the sprouts get at least a little bit of light.

Here's the great roots forming on the "BH1" bracteata hybrid. [It's a complex hybrid - Rosa bracteata X (rugosa x palustris)] I'm happily surprised at how vigorously this one is rooting. This is the one I've also called the "pink monster" and it seems to be most people's favorite of the four siblings.
 Here are the buds beginning to sprout at the other ends of those "BH1" cuttings.
 Here's the decent roots forming on "BH3", one of the white-flowered siblings of "BH1".

 And at the far right end of the container, I'm seeing no roots action yet from the cuttings of Rosa multiflora X rugosa.
 
Even so, it's great to be getting any roots at all. I usually have an awful time trying to root anything, which is one of the reasons that I've always appreciated roses that send up suckers.