SPRING IS AROUND THE CORNER

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Posted by Gordon | Posted in News | Posted on 10-02-2017

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.

Loquat

Loquat

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.

Razzmatazz Grape

Razzmatazz Grape

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.

Doyels Blackberry

Doyles Blackberry

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.

Goji Berry

Goji Berry

 

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.

 

GORDON

HAPPY NEW YEAR – 2017

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Posted by Gordon | Posted in News | Posted on 01-01-2017

As a younger man, I can remember wondering whether I would make it to the change of the century – 2000.  Well, I think I have done a pretty good job of hanging in here and credit my good fortune on working hard, especially in the garden, and eating many of my fruits and vegetables without the poisons so attractively presented to us in the grocery stores.

UPDATE

I am looking forward to another good year in the garden as I have Davis and Kathy and my son, Cam, to help an old man get the work done.   We have had some setbacks this year via the weather.  It started with an unbearably hot summer which ran me into the house and this fall we were visited by hurricane Matthew.  Luckily, we had no damage done to the garden but the surrounding acreage suffered.  We lost 40 large Live Oaks from the frontage along the marshes of the Coosaw River as well as two Laurel Oaks that fell across the garden shed.  There were an additional 60+  oaks of various type that went down in the maritime forest around the ten acres we use as our homestead.  We will leave these forest oaks where they fell to serve as nurse trees for the forest regrowth but we will continue to cut and remove the debris along the salt marsh and drive.  It took us a day to cut our way back into the property and it will be a good year before we remove all the evidence of our losses close to the house.  The surprising thing is that our environment still looks like a dense forest.

DRIVEWAY BLOCKAGE TO HOUSE

DRIVEWAY BLOCKAGE TO HOUSE

The jest of this is that we have a lot with which to become preoccupied before we can “play” in the garden.

I must report that we lost five langstroth, double brood box hives.  Matthew’s winds (120 mph) or the small tornados that it spawned turned the hives over and destroyed the bees and comb.  We have one active hive in one of the new top bar hives I have built.  These hives are screwed to the supporting tables which have their legs buried in the ground so they will not turn over.   This spring I will order four more queens and bees to populate the other four top bar hives.  I had planned to place the langstroth colonies into the top bar hives this spring but Matthew changed that plan.

DOWNED OAKS BY HOUSE

DOWNED OAKS BY HOUSE

DRIVE ALONG MARSH FRONT

DRIVE ALONG MARSH FRONT

SHED DAMAGE

SHED DAMAGE

 

THE GARDEN

We did get six raised beds planted with a variety of green crops which are growing well and will produce heavy crops this spring. I have already harvested some small turnips and greens to add to a mutton stew (very good by the way). It is always a joy to go to the garden in mid winter and find bell and banana peppers still on the plants.  If we don’t get a frost, the plants will become large pepper plants this spring and summer and give us more than we can consume.  Our citrus crop is light this year but we can certainly claim that we had one.  Here it is January first and we have not eaten all the oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, Myers lemons and navels not to mention the large group of bananas growing on one of the two year old trees next to the house.  There are some short term benefits to our warming weather.  I even have four pineapple plants doing very well in the garden. These should produce pineapples that are better than anything you can find in the grocery store and then we can plant the tops and get more plants while the original plants start to bear a new crop.

Unfortunately, the artichokes (globe) did not make it through the summer.  I will not plant them in the tall raised beds as they dry out too much.  This spring I will place them is a low raised bed and mulch them heavily.   The hay bale tomato bed grew wonderful tomato plants but the crop was moderate to disappointing.  I’m glad I planted 40 plants in the regular raised beds as they exceeded expectations.  I had thought I could use the decomposing hay bales as mulch this spring but they have disappeared into the soil.  We have a very healthy population of earth worms.  I have filled out the blue berry bed (went to south Georgia and picked up some special high production hybrids which I can’t remember the variety name) as well as filled in a few spaces in the fig hedge.  I have to purchase 12 thornless blackberry vines this spring as we had some plants that did not get through the summer heat.

I went to Lowes in October and found that they had one of their 8 foot rolling trays loaded with plants at a discount price (all 10 layers for ten dollars)  so I filled the trays with dianthus (120 plants) and 800 ornamental kale.  I had learned that ornamental kale was edible like regular kale but it was a little tougher and required longer cooking.  I decided that I would grow a large crop of it and use it as a winter and spring cooking green.  Well, I can only say that the garden looks like rows of colorful “flowering” kale.  I decided to cut a couple heads and try them.  They are not tough nor do they have a stronger flavor that regular kale.  I took the heads, which are loose unlike like cabbage and cut them up with scissors and cooked them for an hour in water.  I then drained the water off and cut in a half stick of butter and three crumbled slices of bacon and seasoned with salt and pepper.  Fantastic cooked green side dish.  Rachael Ray has a great Portuguese Kale Soup recipe on line which I am going to try next (google it for details).    This is a grand discovery as you might be able to find the starter plants at an affordable price in a local store after the planting time draws near to its end.  I had often wondered if you could eat the ornamental but did not know if it was safe to harvest from an old flower bed due to any poisons that may have been put on the plant.  Getting the rejected  starter plants is a safe way to go.  You can always buy the kale seed and star them yourself if you can’t find them cheap somewhere.

I will keep you posted on our planting progress.

GORDON

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE SEAISLANDGARDEN

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Posted by Gordon | Posted in News | Posted on 24-12-2016

 

Merry Christmas to all my Facebook and garden blog friends. I am putting this on both my Facebook pages because I don’t know the difference between them. At any rate, I have decided to send my Christmas card this year via Facebook as well as my garden blog as I think it will get to everyone to which I usually mail cards – plus some. The postage to mail out several hundred Christmas cards was getting prohibitive so I will move up to the 21 century and try it this way this year. If you want a physical card, I understand you can copy the attached image and hang it on your mantle.

It has been an interesting year. Glenda has had some health issues but things are under control and we are looking forward to a great 2017. As we are all now healthy we have a lot for which to be thankful. We are delighted that both Andi and Cam have joined us here in the forest with their families allowing us to watch our grand kids grow up. Keegan is 15 and Katie is 9 which makes me too old to remember. It has been a joy. WE ALL WANT TO WISH EVERY ONE OF YOU A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A GREAT 2017.

I will update all on our garden soon but I have to get through the holidays and plant the winter and spring garden.

Gordon

MERRY CHRISTMAS

I DON’T WANT TO BRAG BUT THIS GARDEN IS THE BEST I HAVE EVER GROWN

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Posted by Gordon | Posted in News | Posted on 14-05-2016

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GENERAL GARDEN REPORT

SPRING GARDEN 2016

SPRING GARDEN 2016

It must be the exceptionally pleasant weather, the well composted horse and chicken manure with an addition of 31-0-0 fertilizer to combat the nitrogen drain caused by the manure because the garden reminds me of Jack and the Bean Stalk fantasies.  Everything, and I mean everything, is growing well and promises to produce more that we can consume.  The greens ( lettuce, collards, kale and chard have already exceeded our abilities to keep up with it.  The peppers are starting to bloom among the volunteer Malabar spinach and are barely above the radish greens.  Our giant mystery rape plant (6 feet) has finally gone to seed and has produced thousands of seeds for us.

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GARDEN MIX

GARDEN MIX

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There are a few vegetables that when grown well in the garden really show their stuff.  Cabbage is one of them and although I only have a dozen planted they dominate their section of the garden ( I doubt that I would have room to grow more as they take up so much space but I enjoy cooked cabbage and slaw so they will always have a place in the garden).

I planted a dozen replacement artichoke plants to remedy the loss resulting from our accidental removal of the plants last year.  They are as big as the one remaining original plant and will soon start their bloom.  The carrots are having trouble getting enough sun because everything else is shading them.  I am going to have to find a safe sunny place for them.  This year we have both the rainbow and green variety of Swiss Chard and both are doing exceptionally well.  We are not harvesting fast enough.  Cucumbers are starting to climb the trellis and the Brussels Sprouts are starting to form sprouts along the stems.

This year I obtained from a friend (who obtained from the Clemson University experimental station) a variety of European Lambs Quarter.  Unlike the Lambs Quarter we have here in America, this one has a rim of purple around the top leaves which does not fade when the plant is cooked which makes for a very colorful cooked vegetable.

 

Our sugar peas are about finished and they were delicious but I have now planted cucumbers next to the trellis they were growing on and okra on the others side of the row.   I have dug and prepared two 50 foot rows for the Kentucky Wonder pole beans and planted 5 mounds of squash under hoop protection from the squash bore moth.

Blackberry and Blueberry are starting to swell and the figs are starting to appear at the leaf junctions.  We had a wonderful citrus bloom this spring and the trees set a lot of tangerines and oranges.  Not many grapefruit nor naval oranges and lemon seem to have set.  I have planted two new lime trees (two varieties) which should produce in a couple years.

NOW FOR THE TOMATOES!

I planted 40 tomato plants in straw bales this spring as an experiment (I had heard it was a good way to grow them here and they did not get many of the ground-born virisus tomatoes get.  I also planted 20 additional plants the standard way in the garden beds just as a precaution.  In order to get the hay/straw bales seasoned so as to be ready for the plants, they have to be partially composted.  This is done by digging holes in the bales and placing every two days a half cup of high nitrogen fertilizer into the holes.  This starts the breakdown of the straw bale and in two weeks it is ready to have composted manure added in the holes and to plant the tomato plant.  All went well as can be seen in earlier photographs.  After about two weeks of normal growth, something happened that turned the plants into monsters.  They are 8 feet tall and are said to be able to reach 10 feet.  I have stopped adding anything to them in the hopes of slowing their growth.  One of the things about tomatoes is that they can become very vegetative.  That is to say that they can be big and tall and very strong plants with very few tomatoes.  I want tomatoes!  I have read that it only takes about 5 leaves on the top of a branch to supply a big bunch of fruit with enough energy to grow and the thinness of the leaf cover allows the sun to ripen the fruit.  Some specialty growers actually prune the leaves off their plants to allow the fruit to grow.  My plan is to thin the leaf cover from some of the straw bale plants and test the theory.  My plants are starting to set tomatoes so This is a good time to start the experiment.  I will only prune the plants on the bales as the raised bed plants get a lot of sun.

BEES

Bee Primer

TOP BAR HIVE HIVES

TOP BAR HIVES

I have been keeping bees for almost 50 years. When I was a young biology teacher, I used honey bees as a teaching tool when I taught animal behavior courses. I had an observation hive in my classroom with a connecting tube through the wall whereby the bees could access the outside environment. We would slide the observation panel away from the glass side and watch the bees do their thing – waggle tail dances, egg laying, rearing brood, superseedures and making new queens. All the good stuff.

Later, a friend and I had 50 hives here in Beaufort. It was not a case of our becoming involved in a commercial honey business but more like a failure to know when to say we had enough hives.

Today, I have three standard (Langstroth) bee hives. Each are made up of two deep brood boxes.

OLD SQUARE HOVES

OLD SQUARE HIVES

I have stopped stacking supers on top of the brood boxes as I don’t spin the honey out any longer.  At my age it is to difficult to lift a 50 lb brood box or a 35 lb super full of honey comb with 10,000 bees flying around looking for a vulnerable spot to investigate.  In fact, I don’t even eat honey any longer due to my per-diabetic condition. So one might question why I keep bees. The answer is simple. I enjoy working with them.  I also am worried that our bee population is crashing due to the miracle insecticides created by the likes of agricultural giants like Monsanto (they contribute or are the primary cause of the disappearance of many other beneficial insects like the Monarch Butterfly).

An off topic comment is to ask you if you have noticed any difference when you drive today as compared to when you were younger. I used to drive between Myrtle Beach and Columbia, South Carolina when I was in college. When I got to my destination, I had to wash all the smashed insects from my windshield or I would not be able to see. Today, I will often not hit one insect when I drive between Beaufort and Columbia. Wonder why?

I have bees so that they can pollinate the Sea Island Garden. It seems that my production is substantially better when they are present. If I did not keep them, I would have none in the garden. Today, I went to Grayco (about 8 miles from the garden) to purchase small hinges (more on this in a minute). There was a profusion of Ligustrum blooms on the many shrubs in the parking lot. The fragrance was almost overwhelming much like a citrus bloom. There was not one honey bee on the blooms. I have never seen a Ligustrum bloom devoid of honey bees. It brought home the fact that we are loosing our pollinators. If that happens, as many as 1/3 of the human population on earth will starve to death. That is 3 to 4 billion people.

The first limiting factor to the human population was the inability to fix atmospheric nitrogen into a form that plants could use. That problem was solved by two of Hitlers scientist. Nitrogen is also used to produce explosives and gunpowder. Items Hitler needed. Aside from fueling the second world war munitions, the process also made it possible to add several more billion inhabitant onto the earth which could now grow enough food to maintain the extra billions. Today we are facing a second limiting factor to the human population – producing enough food to support our masses. We might be able to grow the plants but we can’t get to the fruits, grains, vegetables, etc. without the pollinators, also called honey bees.

Since I don’t actively expand the size of my hives to allow for additional storage of honey, my hives fill up to capacity and the queens then form a swarm with all the older bees in the hive and leave en mass to find a new location in the forest (or in the eves of your home). They leave a new fertile queen with all the young bees and those to emerge soon to maintain the old hive. It is called a supersedure and is the natural way by which bees expand their numbers in the wild.

This Spring, my three hives produced 7 swarms. More to come later in the season. I was able to “hive” two of them. The rest escaped and went into the forest to replace those that have been disappearing.

Aside from replenishing the wild stock, this was a good thing because I had decided to switch from the old Langstroth hives to the newer, more easily worked and less disruptive hive style – the top bar hive. Originally designed to be used by the Peace Corp in Africa to help expand small business opportunities. It is cheap to build and easy to work.

I ordered a hive from eBay (jmorrow@wi.rr.com) and was delighted by the quality craftsmanship of the product I ordered a second hive from Joe and used it as a pattern by which I could make my own. I have built two additional long (30 bar) hives and two smaller “nuc” hives(12 bar). This makes 6 new top bar hives (time to stop making hives).

My plan is to keep these six hives and once they are self sufficient to sell the three Langstroth hives (with bees).

I have placed the new hives into the garden apiary and installed the two swarms. I will divide two of my existing hives into the other top bar hives. I have designed a hinged top for the top bar hives so that all I have to do is swing the top open and remove a top bar from the hive and cut off 5 lbs of honey comb when ever I want. As I stated above, I don’t eat the honey any longer but a lot of my garden friends do.

GORDON

 

EUROPEAN LAMBS QUARTER

EUROPEAN LAMBS QUARTER

 

 

 

NO RAIN AT THE SEVENTH ANNUAL WISTERIA SOIREE!

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Posted by Gordon | Posted in News | Posted on 28-03-2016

How lucky can we get?  It was a perfect day.  Overcast, yes but not a sprinkle.  Cool but without “no-see-um” or mosquitoes.  A wonderful Soiree where we ate and visited, made new friends, admired the rapid growth of the Spring garden and just had a great time.  We had guest from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as well as from California and Canada.  Several new local guest voices their intent to join us in the garden – always an encouraging event.  We welcomed the Graves family from Saint Helena who are starting their own raised bed garden, fish pond and chicken coop – people after my own heart with which we will exchange ideas.  I only wish that more of you could have been there but it took 17 brave soles to gamble with that weather forecast.  Hopefully we will enjoy the usual sunny weather we have come to expect for our soiree afternoons.  PLEASE PUT THE LAST SATURDAY IN MARCH – 2017  ON YOUR CALENDAR FOR THE 8TH ANNUAL WISTERIA SOIREE.   But you don’t have to wait a year to visit.  Call any time and check to make sure I will be here and come up, down or over.  I had many visitors this year and enjoyed each and every one of them so don’t stay away even if you are far away.  I had visitors from Pennsylvania, Georgia and Tennessee but the farthest came from France.

Gardening is a wonderful activity but it is a true joy when it is shared with others.  Come visit, ask questions and make suggestion

7th ANNUAL WISTERIA SOIREE

7th ANNUAL WISTERIA SOIREE      GORDON

I’M A DAY AHEAD OF MYSELF – TODAY IS THURSDAY – NOT FRIDAY

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Posted by Gordon | Posted in News | Posted on 24-03-2016

That makes the weather prognosis even better as the front may be out of here by Saturday.  In any event, the 7th Annual Wisteria Soiree is on for 1:00 Saturday the 26yth of March.  See you then.

Gordon

WINTER STORM SELENE CAST ITS CLOUDS ON OUR 7TH ANNUAL WISTERIA SOIREE

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Posted by Gordon | Posted in News | Posted on 24-03-2016

We have been lucky for the first six Wisteria Soirees but it looks like our luck has run out.  The weather reports put the front over us tomorrow and holding for Sunday so a one day delay will not solve the problem.  That problem is that there are several people planning to attend from distant areas including Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Colorado and California so a one week delay is also out of the question.

It is too bad that the weather has put a damper on the plans as it has been such a perfect Spring with the garden in full growth mode and the citrus in full bloom.  FORTUNATELY, WE HAVE A LARGE 25 X 40 COVERED SHED in which we can move the activities into.   It is very possible that the rains will be light for most of the time with only occasional heavy downpours.  I don’t believe a cancellation or rescheduling is possible so The seventh Annual Wisteria Soiree will start at 1:00 tomorrow and go until the last person leaves.  I know the weather will affect the attendance but I urge you to come.  You will be able to stay dry and the Frogmore stew and other eats will still be very good as well as the company.  Add your rain coat and umbrella to the chair, bug spray, covered dish, and drink of choice that you will bring.  I understand that during much of the time the event is scheduled it will be only overcast.

I really hope to see you tomorrow.

Gordon