Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ridiculous Radish!

Prior to this summer, I had never saved seeds from a radish. But after a successful and tasty radish growing season this spring, I decided to leave a few unharvested and let them go to seed. It didn't take long before the Blanche Transparente radishes I grew in a large ceramic pot sent their seed stalks skyward.

And I'll be honest, it seemed like a Jack and the Beanstalk experience. The radishes kept growing larger and fatter and the seed stalks kept growing higher and higher. Between March 28 and June 28 the radishes morphed into massive monsters. Have a look at these photos.

5-inch long Blanche Transparente radishes harvested on March 28, 2012.
5-foot long Blanche Transparente radish and seed stalk pulled on June 28, 2012.

Yes, you read that correctly. This particular radish was over 5-feet long from root to seed pods. Here's a close-up of the root next to the pitchfork.

This radish root is longer than the business end of my pitchfork!

Last but not least, here's a photo of me holding the root. Despite its ridiculous, elephant-trunk-like shape, it was actually fairly light for its size.

Massive Blanche Transparente radish harvested from a ceramic pot.

I cut the seed stalks from each root and left the seed pods intact. They are now tied together and hanging from a rafter in my garden shed to dry out completely before I collect all the seeds.

Ridiculous radish indeed!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Espalier Fig IV

My most recent blog post about figs quickly generated lots of good comments. But one comment in particular stood out from the crowd. Check it:

"When I saw the headline I was SOOO excited that finally I was going to see what happened to the espalier you hacked off. What a tease... Please don't make us wait too much longer... Helen"

Well Helen, this post is for you.

On March 15, I did what some would consider a barbaric pruning job of my espalier fig. I sawed off all the vertical limbs just above the very bottom growth nodes. It was a job that even George Washington of great cherry tree chopping prowess would have to acknowledge with a tip of his hat.

Heavily pruned espalier fig on March 15, 2012

I'll admit at first I was a bit worried about the recovery of this fig tree. But at the same time, I was aware that fig trees are nearly impossible to kill. So basically I sawed, then sweated, then decided to sit back and let Mother Nature take it from there.

What does the espalier fig look like approximately 100 days after pruning? You wouldn't even know that I laid my hands on it.

Espalier fig on June 27, 2012. Most of the vertical limbs are nearly 7 feet tall. My dog Scout is in the picture to show you my fierce and formidable fig defender. I trained her so well to protect my fig trees from any number of different predators that she barely lets me near them without a promise from me to share the spoils.

The majority of the vertical limbs are now 7 feet tall, covered in lush foliage, and loaded with unripe figs. I'm also attempting to extend the right-most horizontal arm of the espalier. Last year I accidentally broke it off and it didn't re-grow. This spring, it shot out another arm and I quickly started to train it horizontally.

Slowly extending the length of the right-most vertical limb of my espalier fig near the shed door. I hope to train two vertical growths from this new extension over the next year or two.

Because I'm a bit clumsy, I also accidentally broke off two vertical growths early this spring. I'm still kicking myself about it because one never grew back and the other caused some lasting damage to the tree.

A sad reminder of what dragging a heavy garden hose can do to the tender new growth of a fig tree. Snapped it right off. Now it's just an ugly stump.
This growth was also damaged by a garden hose that I was trying to un-kink. The hose swung up in the air and snapped off the original growth that started in March. This skinny shoot that is now almost horizontal is a second growth. I'm waiting for it to harden off a bit before I train it vertically, otherwise it may break off again.

As a result of breaking off the growth in this second area, I exposed the fig tree's right horizontal limb to excessive direct sunlight due to lack of protective foliage. Believe it or not, a fig tree can get a pretty nasty sunburn and this is definitely the case with my tree. Have a look at the sun-damaged bark.

Sun damage on the right horizontal growth of my espalier fig. Hopefully it will recover. Some literature suggests that you can whitewash the exposed trunks of fig and other fruit trees to protect them from sun damage. Cue the SPF jokes...

Lastly, here are two pictures showing the new vertical growths. The first pic shows the base of a growth, and the second pic is take from above to provide a different perspective.

This year's growth directly above a pruned area. I stripped off two leaves to expose this area for the photo.
This is the same vertical growth depicted in the photo above. Note the figs growing above nearly every leaf. I can't wait for these babies to ripen, and neither can Scout (and every other bird, squirrel, ant, and creature in the yard).

So there you have it, Helen! A post about my espalier fig just for you. Hope you enjoyed it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

They're Figgin' Huge!!

When healthy and planted in a good location, fig trees can grow unbelievably quickly and become very productive. Here is a photo of my fig trees 15 months ago after I transferred them from pots into the ground.

Fig trees down the left wall of .09 Acres in late March, 2011.
What do they look like today on June 14, 2012? Check it.

Fig trees down the left wall of .09 Acres in mid June, 2012.
Yup, pretty darn beastly if I do say so myself. Let's take a look at them in more detail.

4 year old Negronne fig. This plant is almost 6 feet tall and equally as wide. I pruned it heavily in early March to encourage multiple branches to grow from the pruned areas. It is beginning to form a nice multi-stem shrub.
5 year old Violette de Bordeaux fig. This plant is almost 6 feet tall and nearly 8 feet wide. I also pruned it heavily in early March to maintain a mult-stem shrub. It is important for me to prune my figs to a manageable size in such a small yard.
Negronne and Violette de Bordeaux figs. Looking good.
Very young LSU Purple fig. This plant is just over 1 year old and has a long way to go. I actually dug out another fig tree (thought it was a Strawberry Verte fig but it turned out to be a Magnolia fig...they split heavily in high humidity) previously planted in this location and replaced it with the LSU Purple.
6 year old Celeste fig from Paradise Nursery. This is the first fig tree I ever purchased, and now it has really settled into a permanent home. It is 7 feet tall and nearly 9 feet wide. This is always the first fig variety to ripen in my yard, usually in early July. Waiting...
Some of you might be wondering if all the heavy pruning I do in early spring to maintain smaller plants significantly reduces the amount of figs that I harvest. The answer to that question is quite simple. No. Here are two pictures of figs on my Violette de Bordeux fig tree, which I have pruned heavily for 3 years.

Unbelievably prolific variety of fig. But it takes great patience to watch these little VdB figs grow and ripen.
More young VdB figs. I'm optimistic that this will be an epic year for figs.
I plan on taking pictures of these figs again in the winter after they have dropped all their leaves to show the overall form of each multi-stem shrub. I also plan on taking pics during the pruning process next March to better illustrate how I prune my figs. And stay tuned for an update on my fig espalier later this summer.

Happy growing.