Thursday, June 22, 2017

Panache Fig Chimera Leaf

The Panache fig and I have a love hate relationship. I love how beautiful it looks but I hate the fact that it won't ripen properly here in Seattle.

Then I go and find a Chimera branch on the tree and I love it again. I'll air layer this guy and see if I can keep the sport as another tree. It's kinda cute if you ask me.

Che Fruit 2017

So I bought a male and female Che fruit from Hidden Springs Nursery. Previous to that my "Self Fertile" variety from Edible Landscape has been dropping fruit 2yrs straight.

I figured I'll take the seeds if it means I can get to eat a fertile fruit. There are reports that the self fertile variety can drop fruit for 8yrs. I don' think I have the patience for that.

Well the tree is loaded this yr! Let's hope they hang on.

BB10 Fig

So much hype behind these BB10 figs from Dan. I buckled and bought some very expensive cuttings. It's acclimating in it's 1 gallon. Definitely time to fertilize this guy. You can tell by the leaves that it's a little hungry for some nitrogen.

Pakistani Mulberry Update

The 2nd yr in ground Pakistani Mulberry is absolutely loaded this yr! Can't wait to start picking some ripe fruit.

Late June update:

Brandon St. Unknown Fig

I've sent some of the Brandon St. Unknown figs cuttings to a handful of fig growers and there are reports that it is the earliest ripening breba in their collection. Which is probably why it can ripen 2 crops here in Seattle.

"I've never had a fig (breba) this early in Lancaster...ever. It was raining today and had been a pretty mild spring. The variety was binbin's "Unk Brandon". Binbin has some really BA unknown varieties. Anyway, despite the rain, the fig was really sweet, slight crunch and absolutely delicious. It didn't split, and the flavor was not diluted ( although it was my first one ever, so I don't know if the flavor would be even more concentrated under better conditions). My daughter thought it tasted like a ripe strawberry, and I'm inclined to agree. Prior to today, the first brebas I've had were desert king (June 28) and rockaway green (June 30). "

Bill from

Shiro Plum Cross Pollination

Shiro plums are delicious. They are self pollinating but I've noticed that for 2yrs in row the production for this tree has been abysmal. I do have an italian plum tree but it's across the entire yard and not an compatible pollinator for the Shiro. I may have to pick up another variety to help it with the cross pollination and increase the yield. Most likely the Methley Plum.

For cross-pollination, trees must bloom at the same time or have overlapping bloom periods. "Redheart," "Early Golden," "Ozark Premier" and "Methley" cultivars pollinate Shiro plum trees. "Methley" is a low-chill-requirement plum tree with hardy blossoms, making it compatible with Shiro plum in mild-winter locations. "Starking Delicious" is a registered cultivar that shares the same bloom period and cultural requirements as Shiro plum, making this tree a suitable pollinator for Shiro plum. Because these plum trees are all cultivars of the Japanese plum, Prunus salicina, according to the definition of Lerner and Hirst, Shiro plum is self-fruitful. In this case "self" refers to the species, not the particular cultivar. Although a single tree may set a small crop of fruit, heavier crops result from pollination by another cultivar.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Super Easy Method to Air Layering your Figs

I've seen and tried a few different air layering techniques. Well this is the simplest and quickest way that I've seen on how to do it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

2017 has been a cool season so far

2017 has proven to be one of the coolest and wet seasons so far. The figs are not loving it. Most of the Brebas have dropped and the main crop is far behind. We might have touched into the 80s for about 1 or 2 days but most of the time we're struggling to hit 70.

This is the site that I'm getting used to. It's great for the grass but terrible for fruit production.

Because of the wet season, no amount of copper spray was able to save my stone fruit from the dreaded leaf curl disease. My brother's and sister's tree looks just as bad. It's enough to make me want to rip it out.

Black Madeira from KK - Air layer

The Air layer on my KK Black Madeira is starting to root.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Rooting figs in agar. Let's get Nerdy and grow figs via Tissue Culture

Tissue culture plants isn't a new thing but it's relatively new to Figs. I've purchased a few varieties grown in this method and they tend to grow very bushy with lots of suckers. I wanted to try this for rare figs since it would make sense to put so much effort into growing a Dessert King this way.

After some research, I purchased some key ingredients to making the agar gel.


Distilled Water
Plain Agar powder
Kinetin .1 gram dissolved in 100 ml if water. then use 2.5 MLs of that solution
Sterilizing Tablets
Cups with caps

The most important part of this process is keeping your work space super duper clean. Which is tough because I have 2 small boys that are constantly sick and love getting into everything.

After mixing the ingredients accordingly and microwaving the solution until the agar is melted into the water I poured the solution into pre sterilized cups and wrapped them with saran wrap.

The point of this project is to easily reproduce rare varieties without having to lose too much wood from doing cuttings. I pinched my Ponte Tresa (which is somewhat rare still) to induce branching and fig production. I took the tip, washed it in bleach and alcohol to get ride of any mold spores. I then cut the green stem into little pieces and placed them into the agar gel with nutrients.

Keep in mind to spray all of your equipment with your alcohol solution. You cannot be too cautious about that. The last thing you want is a petri dish full of mold.

This is my 1st crack at this and for all I know I could've just made a cultivation for a bunch of bacteria but we shall see. More to come.

Update: 6/15/17
Just as I feared, looks like I did not properly clean the cuttings and I've got a crazy amount of mold growing.

6/25/17 Round 2: This time I'm using a Black Madeira. Cleaned extra long with bleach, alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide. I also made sure to clean my tweezers. They may have been the culprit the last time.

Notching your fig trees to induce branching

Notching is a practice of inducing a plant to grow a new branch. My I 258 fig is getting a bit tall and top heavy. I want to develop it's branching and then probably air layer the tips. I also don't want to sacrifice fruit production so I decided to notch 1st then air layer after it fruits.

This plant has 3 great strong branches. These will become my scaffolding branches for arterial branches.

Here you can see the new bud breaking where I notched it. Notches have to made above a bud where you want the new branch to grow from. This tricks the plant into thinking that the branch has been cut and so it spends it's energy into growing a new branch.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mei Li Ya Fig Cuttings

I took a chance on Amazon and bought some Chinese Fig cuttings called Mei Li Ya. These are suppose to be large yellow figs. Some say it's the same as Jin Ao Fen but I have both so I'll be able to compare next year.

Another try at Mutingia Calubra the Cotton Candy Tree (Jamaican Cherry)

I'm giving this tree another shot. This time I bought it through etsy and it's a smaller tree than the previous ones I've purchased.

AKA - Kerson Fruit

Well the good news is, is that it survived the shipping, unlike it's predecessors. Hopefully I can keep this one alive long enough to taste the fruit!

Quartz Crystal Digging at Hansen Creek in Washington State

Other than figs I love collecting crystals. So I was excited to finally get a chance to go hiking at Hansen Creek in North Bend, WA. It's where you can find a quartz and amethyst crystals. Its about a 45 minute drive from where I live and only about a 2 mile hike to the site.

The digging is simple all you need are clothes you can get a little dirty in and a small hand shovel.

We brought along the kids. My 3yr old loved the hike.

The views are quite spectacular.

After a couple of hrs you can come home with a fair amount of crystals. It's especially easy to collect after a nice rain storm, the crystals just shine back up at you and all you have to do is pick them up.

To get to the big crystals you have to dig but most of the little ones can be found fairly close to the surface.

Here we are sorting out 2 hikes worth of crystals.

Once you clean them and shine them up they are quite beautiful.

Monday, June 12, 2017

What's the dirt on potting soil?

So what's the dirt on good potting soil for your plants and figs?

There are a few different approaches on what's good potting soil. From what I've researched. There are some criteria to potting soil that should be met to be considered good potting soil.

1. Good Drainage
2. Water and nutrient retention
3. Allows aeration for your plants roots

(Fertilization is another topic)

Let's start with #1 Drainage:

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is use hard clay top soil in your plant pots. It's got terrible drainage. So most of us should turn to soil purchased from the store or make or own compost.

Many bagged potting soils are made up of peat and some from coco coir. It doesn't really matter because we want to amend the soil any ways.

Below is a list of available soil amendments out there that you can use to make the soil drain better.

1. Perlite
2. Vermiculite
3. Gravel
4. Pine Bark
5. Sand

Sited from the National Garden Association: Adding Pine Bark to your soil is a great way to amend your soil as well as keeping it aerated and loose for good drainage.

What about what I've read about pine bark or wood sucking out the nitrogen from my soil?

Well it's true but only to a limited extent. Read this:

"All over the Internet ,when you go looking for information about using wood or wood chips in gardening, you read about how certain items will suck nitrogen out of the soil. When you start looking for factual evidence though, it seems very hard to find any scientific study that backs this up. Why is that? 

Wood, when it comes in contact with soil, activates mechanisms in certain bacteria which then consume nitrogen as food so they can decompose the wood. If this wood is sitting on top of the soil (fallen tree, dropped tree branch and so on) then these mighty bacteria will become active, but only to a depth of around 5mm. This means that the answer to the nitrogen "robbing" wood is only involved in a minute area under and around the piece of wood. Bury that piece of wood and you will be able to measure nitrogen depletion about 10mm from the wood (in all directions since the wood is under the soil). This brings the "nitrogen loss" caused by wood into the magical realm of "Urban Myth" since such quantities of nitrogen are small (minute really) when put into proper comparison of ava. This can be shown simply by looking at the soil in a forest floor, dead wood fall, leaves, dead undergrowth are all present and yet new growth is always present, even next to dead wood you will find nitrogen needy ferns growing. If the myth about wood was true, these plants should not be there, or at least not thriving as they do. 

Most of us use wood chips for paths and mulching around trees, areas where the small amounts of nitrogen being used by the bacteria are truly negligible in significance to the growth rate of the plants near by. Keep in mind that this is because in nature, almost all the available N is in compound forms and slow release is the norm. Trees feeder roots are normally located from half the distance from the trunk to the outer edge of the canopy drip line (some species go out past this drip line further than others). What does this mean to us as growers? It means we don't have to worry so much about nitrogen loss when it comes to bushes and trees, unless we want to cover an area from the magical 6" diameter away from the trunk all the way out, 3 or 4 feet past the outer edge of the canopy drip line. Tree roots (the feeder ones we are most interested in) live from half the distance trunk to drip line out to around 3 or 4 feet past the drip line. These "important" (and they really are) roots are found at a point of 1-2 cm below the soil surface down to around 30-40 cm deep. The holding roots (tap root and large spreading main roots) go deeper since their job is to hold the tree in place under the stresses of wind events. How deep these roots penetrate is dependent on how far down bed rock is found. That is why my state (Arkansas) has such a large number of downed trees in heavy storm events, the bed rock is close to the soil surface, no deep roots means the trees aren't well anchored. On my farm we are lucky, there is up to five feet of soil depth and the bedrock is highly fractured, so tree roots can anchor really well (and these roots keep adding to the fracturing of the bedrock).

The gardens, where we should be worried about nitrogen being bound up by wood (especially chips) are the perennial and annual vegetable and herb gardens, these plants don't have roots (for the most part) that go deep and widely spread, usually their roots are very near the surface and within a 1 meter diameter circle from the main stem. 
Squash and other vining plants put roots out all along their vine leaf nodes, but these are still shallow roots, so they are vulnerable to nitrogen binding by any wood chip mulch we might put down. 

Nitrogen, the kinds we plant growers are most interested in, as I mentioned earlier, is a slow release nutrient when provided in natural forms. For faster access to plant roots, synthetic forms are needed, not what we want to hear! 
Natural Nitrogen comes to plants in large chain molecules, Nitrites, Nitrates, Ammonia salts are the normal, natural forms we can put into soils via composts, manures, urine and teas made from mixtures of these along with greenery. Compost is a very long term additive, it actually takes five years for it to give up all the soil and plant goodness it contains. Which makes it very much an ideal additive in gardens. 

Now that you know more about nitrogen forms found in nature, it should be easier to go about using woodchips for a mulch. They really don't cause any problems by "robbing Nitrogen" from your plants, especially if you use compost around or over them. The nitrogen from the compost will leach through those wood chips and still find the soil beneath your mulch chips. If you build a hugel and use greens and or compost as part of your filler ,then most likely you have made up for any Nitrogen loss that buried wood might cause. And if you top dress with compost or do a chop and drop of cover crops, like most people do, then you have added more slow release nitrogen than the wood might take up. Mother Nature loves to use wood to build soil, so there really isn't any reason we should not follow her lead and do the same. We just don't need beavers to make chips out of trees like she does."


Water & Nutrient Retention:
It's a fine line between well draining and cactus mix. When I water a pot I want that water to feel moist for atleast a day or 2 depending on the outdoor conditions. If it drains through and completely dries within hours it's too loose and if it doesn't drain through after a few seconds of watering it's too dense.

I do not ever just use bagged soil straight out of the bag. I like to come up with my own cocktail to create the perfect mix. Keep in mind if you're buying a bag of soil, the manufacturer is trying to maximize their profits so they will not have everything that you would want in the soil. It's like making your own burger vs going to McDonald's.

So what goes into all of my pots?

Bagged soil 60%
Perlite 20%
Small bark 10%
Compost 10%
Osmocote slow release - handfuls
Lime is optional - handfuls

Keep in mind that the anything you grow in a pot should be regularly fertilized. But that's a whole other article in itself.

By having nice fluffy loose soil for your pots, as a result of amendments for better drainage you allow oxygen to get to the roots of the plant.

It's the same thing as when you thatch and aerate your lawn. Which allows for nutrients, water and oxygen to easily reach the roots which results in a much healthier and thicker growth.

Seattle is unique in that we have an extremely wet fall - spring and one of the driest summers in the country. So the soil in our pots have to be able to account for drainage of lots of water and strong retention in the summer. Just be aware of you climate and create the best soil according to your climate.

How to Bonsai your fig

I helped my brother move some stuff over the weekend and he had these beautiful bonsai planters laying around collecting spiders. So I asked if I could have them. 

I searched my collection for a fig plant with the smallest leaves and saw my petite negra fig that I had grown from laying a cutting horizontally in the soil. This particular little guy already had a nice tree shape to it.

By rooting it flat, this eliminated the ugly stump look of a cutting and makes the plant appear as if it was grown from seed.

I've also wrapped the branches with some metal wiring so I can train it to bend in certain ways. 

Since this will be bonsai'ed I will use very low nitrogen fertilizers so that the plant doesn't grow too large for the bowl. My focus will be on fruit and also to grow the trunk thicker without letting it grow too tall. 

I'll use Silica blast to strengthen the cell walls and help it grow a nice thick trunk. Stay tune for updates.