I wonder if that is correctly stated since Winter never got here. Today was 65 degrees (2/10/2017) which is very indicative of our winter weather this year. We have had a two day Winter…We still have the rest of February and all of March but I would not be surprised if we don’t get a good freeze. That will be great for our citrus trees and the hoped for heavy production but it doesn’t bode well for the heat of the Summer. Global Warming is starting to make itself very apparent. I have noticed the movement in the high tide mark into the high ground and its affect on the oaks growing close to the marsh edge. Our garden is 300 feet from the salt marsh and on a rise so we will not have to move it for years but if we get the expected rise that is projected (20+ feet), my kids may have to look for higher ground.
As I reported in the last blog, I planted several green crops in addition to the ornamental kale. All have done very well and exceed our ability to consume. The oak-leaved lettuce is the mildest and the favorite but the others (rape, turnips, mixed greens, collards and mustard) make a great cooked vegetable. I planted six sweet potato slips last year in a spare space in one of the beds. I ignored them and did not even take the time to harvest the tubers. Last month, after the vines had died back, I noticed several large basketball sized mounds in the bed. After removing and cleaning the potatoes, I was astounded at their size. I kept them to grow slips from this spring as I knew they would be tough and stringy. My son, Cam, however, took one of them and laid it on the grate over an outdoor cooking fire along with a large sirloin stake. When he cut it open and added butter, we learned that it was one of the better sweet potatoes we had ever eaten. So much for the sweet potato slips.
Regular peas are in and we will put some edible pod sugar peas in this week. I have started the tomatoes (from seed) in the greenhouse. I am growing Rutgers as the main crop as they are hybrids with great resistance to most of the problems here and are the tomato of choice for local home gardeners. We all like some of the heirloom varieties and I will grow a few of them but the bulk (75 to 100 plants) will be Rutgers.
The plan for the rest of the garden will be the regular plantings with a preference for heat tolerant varieties. I will post what we plant as we put the starts in. I am assuming that by mid June, the heat will start to gum up the pollen and slow most of our production. This coincides with the “killer” heat of the summer which drives the gardeners into the house.
The Brown Turkey Figs (which are very heat tolerant) are doing well in the hedge rows and should start to produce an acceptable volume of figs this summer and increase in yield each year. I have introduced 5 new Myer’s lemons, taken from root cuttings, into the garden which gives us 9 trees. The Myer’s lemon sprouts true whether from root cuttings, rootings or seeds as they are not a grafted variety. I also added two new lime trees (different varieties) as well as 10 new kumquat seedlings and two Loquat (Enobotrya japonica) or Japanese Nedlar.
These trees are found all over Beaufort and kids and birds are often seen eating the “Chinese plums”. I find that one needs to acquire a taste for the fruit but once achieved, they are very good. Their medicinal uses include flavoring for cough syrups and use to ward off various colds and virus.
Several years ago, I purchased an unknown variety of orange which I planted along with several other odd and often sour varieties. This tree attained a height of 14 plus feet in three years and produced four dozen fruit for the first time this year. I was excited and once the fruit turned a bright orange, I picked one. There is no describing the horrible smell and taste of this orange. I can’t believe it was commercially propagated. The taste was not sour but to say it was nauseating is to understate the case. This tree will be removed from the garden and another plant will take its place. It is too bad as the tree had a good habit and grew fast and promised to bare a lot of fruit.
I have wanted for years to grow good table and wine grapes but success in doing so has alluded me because there is a virus that grows in the vessels of the grape vine (in the South) that plugs the vessels and kills the table and wine grape varieties here. The only grapes that do well in Beaufort are the slip grapes like the scuppernong and muscadines. I have learned of a new breakthrough in the breeding of a table grape with a muscadime that solves this problem (the RazzMatazz grape). Last year the one year old plants sold for $100 each. Too much for our pockets but the price has dropped to $50 a plant this year so I bit the bullet and ordered one. If it proves to grow as described, I will root a group of runners and start a small arbor or trellis.
We have been very unhappy with the production we have gotten from our thornless blackberries. The first year was a fair crop but we expected it to improve as the cain and root crowns became bigger. That has not happened. I have since learned that the average volume in reality is a quart per plant. That is not what we were led to believe. We have over 50 plants under bird netting and seldom get more that three pickings of a gallon each harvest. I have researched and found a thornless variety that is said to produce ten times the average yield. The crowns cost $20 each but again, it they are what is reported, I can root additional plants and expand the blackberry patch. I don’t believe this variety has the resistance to many of the pest of the blackberry nor is the berry as sweet and large as the other varieties and the seeds are said to be larger than most but if the production volume is 10 times that of the others – that is a lot of blackberry pies and cobblers.
Last but not least of our new plantings is the Goji Berry. I have ordered one plant to see how well it does here. It is a current health food rage but is said to have a unique and likable flavor so we are trying it.
I WANT TO REMIND EVERYONE THAT WE ARE PLANNING TO HOST THE WISTERIA SOIREE ON THE LAST SATURDAY IN MARCH SO PUT THE DATE ON YOUR CALENDAR AND STAY TUNED FOR MORE DETAILS.