Grafting my own Maple Tree

Thursday, July 30, 2015

All fixed up - still green
A couple weeks ago, our area was hit with a severe storm - Tornado Warning severe. The wind whipped through and beat up trees all over the place.

We had downed branches throughout the neighborhood. No tornado actually touched down and all things considered, I thought we came through pretty unscathed....but then I noticed the lowest branch of my front Maple tree touching the ground.

I inspected the wound and realized that when I pressed it back together, it made a nice tight seal.

So I got out the duct tape - gaffer tape to be exact (it's what I had on hand, plus it will come off better when the wound heals.) And I taped that baby up!

Then I made a sling with some yarn to help support some of the branch weight.

This will be my 4th or 5th plant I have healed with tape. I've healed blueberries, squash, onions, flowers, and now a Maple tree.

Will the wound heal? Time will tell, but it's been a few weeks and all the leaves on the branch are still green and alive. The branch had been severed down to a thin sliver of bark. But it looked like a perfect grafting slice to me and I thought - "hey, if you can graft plants on to each other this way, I can sure as heck graft it's own branch back on!"

I will update as the years go by....

Still Alive After 1 Week

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

This year I had some very wild gardening ambitions. One of those involved rooting cuttings of my blueberry bushes. 

I prune the blueberries every winter and thought I'd try to get the cuttings to root. Most of them were hardwood (and old!) but they were going to be tossed anyway and I thought "what the heck."

They kept drying out in the bucket so I transferred them to the garden soil. This space was open for a long time waiting for our last frost date to hit.
They sat there all spring, and even after I planted a few things. I probably pulled them out too early, but it seemed they were past the point of coming back to life and I moved on. Until last week.....

I swear my plants must shudder when they hear me coming. Sure, I plant them, water them, and feed them. But I'm also like a bull in a china shop. Somehow, I manage to break off stems, knock off flowers, and pull up roots. 

Last week was no different. As I was assessing where I could separate the Northland blueberry next winter, I somehow ripped off a branch of the Chippewa blueberry.

I happened to have a water pitcher with me at the time and I popped the little guy into the water. That was last week....
Somehow, it's still alive. Like, really alive. The cut at the bottom is a rip. It's not nicely cut, it's not angled correctly, there are no rooting hormones, and of course it's the wrong time to take cuttings - late July!

Now that I've made a big deal about it, the plant will probably shrivel up. If not... then I guess I have a new Chippewa - which just so happens to be my new favorite blueberry. Too bad I have no more space for plants....

Acquapura personal water filter Review #spon

This personal water filter comes with 3 layers of protection - the initial screening filter, a charcoal filter, and then the membrane barrier. For something that's so easy to carry (and fits in any sized backpack), that's about all you can ask for. It's easy to use and self explanatory. It even comes with a few extra primary filters.

There are two ways to use this filter - like a straw drinking from the water source directly, and from a bottle. This is really useful, but....I found that our water bottles (generic Kirkland water from Costco) do not fit into the top. They "fit" but they do not screw in to the top and the water would absolutely leak out. 

Maybe a bigger soda bottle or something like a fatter dasani water might fit inside. You should check this out before you plan on packing a water bottle and this filter and heading out into the wild. If you were planning to drink your water bottle, then save the bottle for filtering, be sure you've found one that actually fits the top.

I will keep this in my backpack and will continue the hunt for a water bottle that fits the top.

Disclosure: I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received.

Lift Bar Review #spon

How do I explain this lift bar.... Well, it does vibrate your skin and feels okay as a facial massage. It doesn't seem to harm the skin or do anything dangerous. I found it much more pleasant to use when I put some Vitamin C and/or HA on my face first. I did my best to cover the entire face and use the side of the bar to focus on tough areas (areas with clogged pores and extra wrinkling.)

Results? I have not seen any changes but I have only used it for a few weeks and I've had some technical issues that made me really not want to use it. The issue - the device does not turn off! It takes me a few minutes every time to try and get it to turn off. Then I'll come back and find it turned itself back on and was jumping all over the bathroom counter.

This drama makes it annoying to use and has really scuffed up the 24K coating. If there is zinc under the gold, then I should start seeing a rash if any more of the gold rubs off.... This makes me not want to even deal with it, but if it can work to improve my skin, then I really want to keep working with it. Make sense?

I will keep trying with it for a few weeks and will update this review if it turns out my skin starts improving and/or if I can solve the inability to get this lift bar to turn off. It should be simple - you twist up and down. Grrr...

Disclosure: I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received.

2015 Garden Update Part 13 - New Additions

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Changes have been made to the garden!! I'm going to start with the most exciting.

We have added a cherry tree!

young northstar cherry tree
An ornamental shrub died and that left an opening in our landscape! So I bought a Northstar cherry tree to take it's place. This cherry tree is a dwarf (a dark morello cherry grafted onto dwarf stock.) It is an earlier variety so it should produce fruit before the spotted wing drosophila ramp up their populations. Of course, I will have to battle birds to get any cherries, but just seeing the tree makes me so happy!

I have planted a few things around the tree to protect it from disease and insects (in a guild, so to speak.) There are onion chives (to repel pests)

I also planted Shasta daisies (a natural insecticide and a host for lacewings - which eat some cane borers) and salvia - to attract the bumbles.
I really like salvia - it attracts bumblebees like nobody's business. But I found it looks better if you prune off the dead flower stalks and it also keeps it from flopping over so badly. It transplants and divides easily. We have always had 3 in this spot but one died last year. I just cut a bit off of the one in the upper left and stuck it in the ground in the center bottom. It was in the heat of summer (Not the best time to transplant or divide!) and the little plant struggled and fought, then came out swinging with new growth - complete with flowers. Yay!

I also transplanted 3 parts of this same plant back near my garden and the summer transplants are holding their own (in the worst soil, if I do say so myself!)

The second most exciting addition to the garden are these:
I found 3 blueberry plants on clearance for $5 and popped them into the ground. This means we have a whole new blueberry variety! Yay!!!!! But I would be lying if I said I just "popped these into the ground."

Actually, I dug and fought with the rock hard clay for a few hot and sweaty hours, then added a ton of compost/peat mix to finally plant these bad boys.

I was so hot and sweaty and dirty and gross, or I would have brought my camera out to show how horrible the soil really is. Jumping on the shovel made little dents at a time!

The soil reminded me of class 5 and reinforced for me that our suburban soil is nothing more than subsoil/rock fill leftover from the construction process. Of course, this was dumped on top of the severely compacted clay subsoil that was left as our "base soil." So sad....

So I whipped that crap soil down onto the rock ledges. If you remember from the strawberry renovation, the rocks are covered with a slim 1 inch layer of clay, then fabric, then mulch. Not a useful growing space. But they might as well hold some soil and grow a few pollination attractors!

This is the soil after I added some of our forest soil on top!
 And then planted a few perennial flowers:
I wish I could show what that soil was really like.... I think it would have required a video - a long, grunty, angry video.

Another addition is the ornamental grasses. The truth is, I hate these grasses. But my husband loves them and they will add a lot to the privacy of our yard. I added 7 of these plants around our fire pit, in front of the spruce trees. They will both help as a wind block and a privacy screen.

Since I thought this "secret garden" view was great, I am looking forward to what happens when the grasses grow up (and of course the trees continue to expand!)

Why do I hate the grasses? For one, everybody grows them. That makes me hate them on a non-conformist level. But the second reason I hate them is because they are expensive!!!!! I only bought 4 plants. I made them become 7 - yes, in the heat of summer, I know!

They cost $105!!!

And the very last reason I hate them - they are toxic and inedible. Some reed grasses are edible - these are not. 1 and 3 were my main reasons until I actually bought them. Now I hate them mostly because of the price....

Moving on.

The kids helped me make 3 cages for my honeyberry bushes. Why??? I was going to make them anyway since I need to protect these (and the blueberries) from rabbits in the winter, but also because somebody hopped over the fence and smashed a little plant to death this week.

So the cages are up now to prevent any more stepping incidents and then they'll be buried and ready for fall. Double win.

FYI - bunnies do not usually chew on trees in the summer. They go after the soft wood and bark of young trees and shrubs in the winter because they are starving for food. They prefer leafy greens and when they are abundant will leave your woody plants alone. Smashing feet know no seasons....

The casa blanca lillies are flowering and making the containers look respectable. Actually, these keep their flowers for a long time. I am going to save the bulbs and plant them again next year, but with full sized strawberry runners and bachelor buttons to fill the bottoms. No more messing around with seeds of various flowers in these pots. 
We finished the flax harvest! This is a picture of the winnowed flax before screening. I was too lazy to take a finished picture. We started with 1/2 tsp of seeds and ended up with 3/4 of a cup. Not bad, but not great. I will plant these as some of my pollinator flowers next year but only a few.
 A picture of the leeks. I love these guys.
The raspberry flowers are opening and are swarming with bees. For some reason, it seems late to me.... And although the berries are super tall (without any extra water, what??) it seems there are fewer berry buds than I remember in the past. Alas, that is why I blog about the garden. Every year, I think - wait, I remember so much more, wasn't this all big and green by now, etc? It's helpful to go back and see that every year is different but the same. It helps me stay sane with the progress or lack thereof.

 Now onto the Firsts:

Our first cucumber:
Our first ground cherries are dropping to the ground. I've eaten 2 of them. They are exactly as I remember and I will keep growing these from here on out...

Our first "non-shrivelly" squash! Yay!
 Our first scarlet runner beans - though they seem to be something different...
 Our first baby watermelon. Really...smaller than a!
It should be noted that our "first tomato" was found rotten on the vine yesterday. I have no idea why it rotted. It didn't seem like blossom end rot (of which I am all too familiar.) Maybe it's something different. Working with heirlooms for the first time, I am hoping it's not a disease. A lot of the tomatoes have significant hail damage so that may be partially to blame. Or the fact that I hadn't been watering the garden all season - then started watering regularly once I realized my mistake!

I am gathering up a ton of seeds.
 Lol - that barely looks like a ton, but it's coming along.

The 2nd batch of peas are struggling to get upright.
I created a trellis to help them get up and over the fence. It went up yesterday. Maybe they won't make it in the shade, but if they don't at least they will provide some nitrogen fixing goodness to the strawberry bed. And you can see from the photos above, I have collected enough pea seed for next year.

And finally - I leave you with the most ominous vision in my garden. Seriously, this photo scares the crap out of me! It scares me every time I look at it in real life too!

More articles from this year's garden:

19 Tomatoes and counting
Growing Heirloom Tomatoes without electricity
2015 Garden Part 1
2015 Garden Part 2
2015 Garden Part 3
2015 Garden Part 4
2015 Garden Part 5
2015 Garden Part 6
2015 Garden Part 7
2015 Garden Part 8
2015 Garden Part 9
2015 Garden Part 10
2015 Garden Part 11
2015 Garden Part 12
Keeping Slugs off Your Strawberries Forever!
Growing Flaxseed in the Home Garden
Growing Potatoes from the Grocery store 
Growing Potatoes from Grocery potatoes - the results
Growing Espalier Grapes on a Fence
Can Tomatoes Survive temperatures below 28 Fahrenheit?

A full list of the edibles in our garden as of July 2015:
Aronia chokeberries
Walking onions
Rhubarb (victoria)
5 Varieties of Blueberry (bluecrop, northblue, northland, chippewa, northsky)
3 Varieties of Red Raspberry (2 summer (latham & boyne), 1 fall - heritage)
Red, White, and  Pink Currants (JVT, champagne, jewel/blanca)
2 Varieties of Gooseberries (wild, picsweet)
Black Raspberry (wild)
Dill, Sage, lemon balm, thyme, parsley, cilantro, basil
Garlic chives
Onion chives
6 Varieties of Tomato (coyote, brandywine, mr. stripey, moneymaker, rutgers, siberian)
2 Varieties of Potato (russet, yukon)
2 Varieties of Grapes (1 red - valient, 1 white - niagra)
2 Varieties of Strawberry (1 june quinalt, 1 alpine)
Fava beans
Bush beans
Snap peas (2 types)
Butternut squash
Cucumbers (2 types)
Bell Peppers
Sweet Corn
Pineapple Ground cherries
Crookneck squash
Swiss Chard
Bok choy
Purslane (2 varieties)
Golden Flax
Scarlet Runner Beans
Honeyberries (2 varieties)
NorthStar Cherry

Magnetic cell phone holder review #spon

I recently received this magnetic cell phone holder for review. At first, I thought I didn't really need it because my cell phone easily fits into my car's cup holder, but it's so convenient to have the phone attached at a higher level - especially if you are using the speaker phone or using the map function like a gps.

The device is self explanatory and very simple to use and install. I have an old palm pixi and it holds my phone up fantastically. When we tried to use it on my husband's iphone, it didn't quite have the pull to hold the phone with his case on.

You have two options with this device. Either you stick a metal  piece onto the back of our phone or you put the metal piece into the space between your phone and case - no sticking. Without the sticking, heavy phones have a hard time staying up. If you have a case on the phone, the best idea is to adhere the metal to the back of the case. If that won't work for you, then you probably don't want this sort of holder.

Plus - it should be noted that the phone does end up blocking a significant portion of one of your vents. If you only have a few vents in your car, this might be an issue. If you have plenty or rarely blast the a/c, then it shouldn't be a worry.

Disclosure: I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received.

Travel Bottle Set Review #spon

Disclosure: I received complimentary product for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and this article does NOT contain affiliate links. No compensation was received.

I received this Travel Bottle Set to review and I am thrilled with it. I was looking for something just like this over the holidays and somehow this one skipped my search.

This set contains the perfect sizes for carrying a weeks worth of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap, and sunscreen. The bottle are squeezable, easy to use, and look great.

They come in their own zip pouch and can be reused. The best part about these bottles (besides being reusable and tsa approved) are the labels. Each is clearly marked so there is no guessing what is in each bottle.

I am considering getting another set for my daughter's swim bag (instead of hauling a huge bottle of shampoo each day). The bottles are made of BPA free silicone.

Growing potatoes from the grocery store - Success!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Can you reliably plant grocery store potatoes? Most people caution against it....or say if you are going to do it, then at least plant organic potatoes.

This year, I decided to give it a try. The plan was to buy organic yukon gold potatoes in January and let a few sprout eyes.

Then in January, some of my non-organic russets started sprouting eyes.
Never one to waste, I put them in an old egg carton in the window and let the eyes grow.

A few weeks later, I grabbed a bag of....nonorganic.... yukon golds and saved a few for seeds. This was, of course, the wrong way to do it right?

Since we have wireworms in our soil, I planted the potatoes in boxes.
These were old flower boxes - containing part soil,  part potting mix. I composted inside them last summer and covered them with leaves over the winter.

The potatoes went in the ground on March 31, 2015.

They came out roaring!
They just looked so great. Big, Green, Alive! They stayed like this for a few weeks. Then as it started to become nice and hot, they did this....
I think this might be blight? Maybe it was because I never fertilized them. I thought fertilizer was supposed to cause scab? Or was that manure? I don't know. I tried to water them almost everyday, but the soil was always dry. So dry it pulled away from the box. Container gardening is hard....

I wondered what was going on inside, and I finally couldn't take it anymore. On July 20, 2015, I dumped one of the russet boxes out (there were 2 russet, 1 yukon gold.)

Nothing would come out.... so I had to dig a bit.

It turns out the soil was pretty dry. And the box bottom had completely rotted away.
This is what was inside the dirt:
There were quite a few little potatoes, but fewer than I think is possible. I think I planted too many plants per box. They were very dirty, but I found no evidence of wire worms. When I cleaned them up their skins all rubbed off:
Skin is overrated.... Actually, this means they are too young. Not too young to eat, but too young to store. So I do need to let the rest mature, then cure for awhile with all their dirt on, then I can store them, wash them, eat them, as usual.

I steamed them and mashed them up. They were good little potatoes.

I will let the other two boxes fully mature. I am guessing just a few more weeks. But knowing that the boxes are rotted out, I am only going to be able to move them once, so I'll wait until I need the boxes moved to get the last potatoes.

Growing Golden Flax in a home garden - Zone 4

Friday, July 24, 2015

This year, I experimented with many healthy/survival plants. Right now, we can easily buy flaxseed at the grocery store (for a reasonable price) and incorporate it into our diet. But I want to be able to have access to flax even if grocery stores no longer carried it (or no longer carried food at all!)

Why grow flax?

  • It's a great source of lignans and omega-3 fatty acids
  • It is frost hardy
  • It grows pretty little blue flowers (attracts bees)
  • The straw can be used as mulch or to make linen - for clothing, baskets, twine 

Flax is super hardy. I planted it by seed straight into the garden on March 31st in zone 4. It was still fully winter at this point, though our snow pack had completely melted. I planted about 1/2 a teaspoon of seeds.

The flax seeds germinated within a few days and stayed alive and well through many weeks in the low 20s (Fahrenheit.)
golden flax seedlings
Golden Flax Seedlings
They grew quickly and stayed erect without need of staking or a trellis. In 2015, I grew them in front of my tomato bed. They made a great companion, staying in their own area, and inviting bees to the other plants.
A thin row of flax among tomatoes - early May
blue flax flowers blooming
Their flowers were beautiful - but fleeting. Each flower only lasted a few hours before it toppled to the ground.
flax seed heads forming
 Flowers opened up daily, but those that fell left behind little round seed pods (bolls).
Tying flax up like sheaths of wheat
On June 22nd, almost 3 months after planting the seeds, the flax started falling down. It was shading my tomato plants and getting "wild" so I tied them into bundles like sheaths of wheat.

The bottoms were already starting to yellow a bit.

Eventually, weight of the seed bolls combined with hail damage caused the sheaths to topple over. They were no longer able to stand up - even with help.

This, combined with the fact that birds were starting to nip the bolls, led me to bag the heads. I covered them in netting bags (jelly bags.)
bagging flaxseeds to protect the bolls from birds

Any seeds that drop will be caught in the bags, and birds will no longer be able to damage the seed bolls.

Here are the seed bags all collected:
I stripped the stems and used the little leaves as mulch. They didn't go very far.... Then the rest of the stems were thrown into the compost.

Here's a shot of the inside of the bags - mostly bolls with a bit of stem.

These were stripped off using a wide toothed comb. The stems were placed in the garden and compost piles.

Once these completely dry out, I will roll the bolls and winnow out the chaff.

Each boll has 10 seeds in it.

Flaxseeds after a few winnowings - really high wind is required because flax seeds jump!

In the end, we harvested about 3/4 of a cup of seeds (once all the winnowing and cleaning up was done.) From 1/2 a tsp to 3/4 of a cup is amazing, but it's still not cost effective to grow this on a regular basis.

In the future - I will grow flax as a pretty blue flower - hard and early - to attract pollinators and save a few seeds. I will always have seeds on hand for eating and emergency planting.  But I will buy the bulk of my flax seeds. You just can't beat the price of flaxseed in the stores (even organic!)
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