October 20, 2009

Saving Sourwoods

Posted in Botanical Highlights, Fall, Native Plants at 1:00 pm by HarvestMan

Young Sourwood Trees

I have been working recently on rescuing some of the more notable small trees and shrubs in my yard from some very invasive honeysuckle and strangler fig vines.  This is a picture I took of a couple of young Sourwood trees that I saved – the vines were shading out even the uppermost foliage of the trees before I cut them down.  For those unfamiliar with this lovely native plant, they are the small trees in the foreground of the photo with red-tinted foliage.

I love Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) – it is a beautiful native tree that thrives especially in the Appalachian region.  It has a slim, upright form with glossy green leaves that turn the most brilliant shade of red in the fall.  Autumn displays are particularly stunning when bright red foliage is contrasted by the cascading, golden-yellow spent flower panicles and seed pods.  Mature specimens even provide good winter form with their strong, slender trunks and well-textured bark.  Sourwood is also of note to agriculturists with apiaries, as the white flowers borne from June to August are known to produce one of the best tasting – and most highly sought-after – honeys available.

I think when I buy my own farm I’ll surround it with Sourwoods.


October 5, 2009

Mondo Propagation Experiment

Posted in Botanical Highlights, Propagation at 1:28 am by HarvestMan

Ophiopogon japonicus

Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon sp.) is a mounding perennial with a form that visually mimics grasses.  Larger species and cultivars of Mondo look similar to Monkey Grass (Liriope sp.), a landscaping staple in the southeastern United States.

The Mondo Grass in this photo is a dwarf cultivar of Ophiopogon japonicus that I am thinking about using as a low-growing ground cover in a shady part of the yard.  In my endeavor to actually cover more than one square foot of ground, I am attempting to propagate these plants by division.  It’s not that difficult really – in a purchased pot of Mondo Grass, each tuft is its own tiny plant – you merely have to dig them up and tease the roots apart.  Mondos can reproduce vegetatively by sending out underground offshoots, and it’s a propagation method much preferred to saving and sowing the difficult-to-germinate seeds.

So here’s my question: Assuming there is room to spread out, do Mondos put out more offshoots when they are isolated or crowded?  I’ve planted a few pots with crowded centers and a few that are more spread out to see which fills in the fastest.  Any thoughts on this are welcome.

September 19, 2009

Salad Box Sprouts

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:52 pm by HarvestMan

First sprouts are up!

Salad box success! These are the first sprouts of the ‘Rat’s Tail’ radish seeds I put out in the salad box. Aren’t they cute? ‘Rat’s Tail’ is an heirloom variety, originally from Java, that doesn’t produce edible roots but makes lots of spicy seed pods. It isn’t the most appealing name for a food crop, but I won’t care what they’re called when I’m eating delicious pickled seed pods this winter.

September 17, 2009

Garden in a Box

Posted in Do-it-Yourself at 7:34 pm by HarvestMan

My First Salad Box

I recently moved into a new place that doesn’t have much good space for growing vegetables – the yard is small and most of it is heavily shaded.  The one patch of lawn that does get sun is, of course, completely infested with crab grass.  I don’t want to use chemical herbicides to get rid of the crab grass, so I’m thinking about sowing in a cover crop of winter rye and hairy vetch to see if that will smother it out.  In the mean time, I really want to get in a few late-season crops before winter so I found an alternative – the salad box.

I came across this idea while walking past a television set my roommate had left on in the living room – Martha Stewart was building a “salad table” with guest Jon Traunfeld from the University of Maryland.  I happened to have just the right materials lying around to quickly put together this smaller version of their salad table.  Instead of using soilless potting media, which is mostly made from peat (technically peat is a renewable resource, but it is rarely sustainably harvested), I used a mixture of potting soil, compost and manure.  Hopefully the mixture will not be too heavy for germinating seeds.

I’m planting the box with ‘Black-Seeded Simpson’ lettuce, ‘Munchener Bier’ and ‘Rat’s Tail’ heirloom radishes, and ‘Bull’s Blood’ heirloom beets.  If it works out well, I may invest in building a whole table for growing my vegetables, rather than digging up the yard.