Shallow Thoughts : tags : garden

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing, Science, and Nature.

Thu, 18 Aug 2011

Green Delicious apples

This past spring I planted an apple tree.

I expected it would be simple, even though I had a couple of goals I wanted to meet. I prefer tart green apples -- no mealy too-sweet red delicious types ... or worse, golden delicious. And I was hoping to get something that matured any time other than mid-October -- because that's when the guava trees go crazy and we're inundated with fruit. So, go to the nursery, find a green apple tree that matures at some other time, buy it and plant it. Right?

Turns out apples are complicated. Some apple varieties are triploid, which has to do with how many chromosomes need to group together to produce fruit. Diploid apple trees can produce fruit all by themselves ("self pollinating"), while triploid varieties need another apple tree nearby -- one that flowers at about the same time -- to pollinate them.

In addition, apparently you can't just take a seed out of an apple you ate and plant it. Well, you can, but it won't grow as well. Modern apple trees take branches from varieties that make good fruit, and graft them to rootstock from different, presumably hardier, varieties.

But as long as they're grafting anyway, that means it's just as easy to make a tree that has branches of several different types. Cool! And with any luck, they'll be types that can either pollinate each other, if they don't self-pollinate.

After failing to locate any pippins or other non-granny green apples, I ended up with a little tree with four branches: fuji, gala, granny smith (we'll just have to compete with the guavas) and ... golden delicious. Yes, it turns out that you can't buy a multi-variety apple tree that doesn't include golden delicious. My least favorite apple. I have no idea why they all include it. Maybe it's an exceptionally good pollinator for the varieties that actually taste good.

I planted the little tree, and amazingly, it flourished. The nice man at God's Little Acre said it would bear this year. I raised an eyebrow -- apples from a little tree that only came up to my waist? (Readers who haven't met me, just take my word that isn't very high.)

But a month or so after planting, the tree was a foot taller and covered with flowers. And a few weeks after that, there were three tiny apples growing: a fuji, a granny and a golden. How exciting!

Exciting for a few weeks -- until two of the three little grape-sized apples-to-be vanished. I still don't know if some bird mistook them for a berry, or a mischievous squirrel wanted something to bury. All I was left with was -- doesn't it just figure! - the golden delicious, steadily growing on its branch.

But wait. Apples all start out green, right? This one certainly was. What if I picked it before it turned yellow? Would that give me that early-maturing green apple I'd been hoping for? Maybe golden delicious wasn't so bad after all.

I eagerly watched over the next month or two as my single apple grew and matured. And last week, it finally started to change from a deep pippin-like hue to a more yellowish green.

So I picked it. And ate it for breakfast. It was excellent: tart and firm.

I hereby announce the invention of the "green delicious" apple variety. I definitely recommend it. I'm looking forward to next year's crop ... which I hope will be a bit larger than this year's.

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[ 18:54 Aug 18, 2011    More nature | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Wed, 28 Jul 2010

The Case of the Missing Gooseberry

Traveling always comes with risks. Aside from the risks you may encounter along the way, there are the worries of what you left behind. Will the house burn down? Will the mail pile up, signalling to thieves that the home is empty? Will the server stay up? On a more prosaic note ... Will the plants in the garden all die from lack of water?

Shortly before traveling to Oregon for OSCON, I acquired a cute little Cape Gooseberry seedling (courtesy of Mark Terranova at the south bay Geeknic). That's a new plant to me -- I'd never seen one before. But it was a cute little thing, and seemed to be flourishing. I had it in a pot on a little shelf where it would get morning sun but wouldn't get too hot in the afternoon, and was looking forward to planting it when it got big enough to withstand our marauding local seedling-loving snails.

[ Missing Cape Gooseberry ] To get it through my planned week-and-a-half absence, I had one of those glass watering bulbs they sell in drugstores. They're supposed to last several weeks, though they don't work that reliably in practice. Still, I saturated the soil with water the morning I left, then filled the bulb and crossed my fingers for no long heat waves.

I wasn't prepared for what I saw when I got back. Something had dug out my little gooseberry and taken it!

I still have no idea what got it. We certainly have some local squirrels who love to dig, and young squirrels (still learning their digging skills) love potted plants. But I wouldn't think a squirrel would have much use for a gooseberry seedling -- they just like the act of digging.

I wonder if cape gooseberry leaves are particularly tasty to rodents?

Ironically, the soil was still quite damp. The little plant probably would have made it through just fine.

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[ 13:17 Jul 28, 2010    More travel | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sat, 27 Oct 2007

The annual autumn easter-egg hunt

I'm sitting here at my desk, taking a break from homework and listening to the plop, plop of guavas falling from the tree outside my window.

Both trees are going pretty crazy this year. Big, ripe, tasty guavas accumulate way faster than I can eat them. I should probably learn how to make jam, but it always sounds so daunting. And this year the squirrels aren't interested (funny, since last fall's squirrels liked guavas quite a lot).

Gathering the guavas always reminds me of hunting easter eggs. They fall into the tall sorrel, or the branchlets sprouting from the bottom of the bigger guava tree, or into the tangled, fragrant mess of lantana that pokes its head around the corner and under the tree. Guavas are smaller than easter eggs and not as colorful, but they're about the same shape ... and the thrill of discovery when you spot that elusive green fruit hiding in the underbrush is a lot like what I remember from those long-ago easter egg hunts.

I just heard another plop. I think I'll go eat a guava.

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[ 21:21 Oct 27, 2007    More nature | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sun, 15 Aug 2004

The Blooming Garden

I spent a few minutes this morning wandering around the garden with a camera.

Those bugs on the dill are odd. No idea why they only liked the one flower cluster and none of the others. But they didn't look like useful pollinators, and did look like they were eating the stems of the flowers, so I clipped off that cluster and dunked it in a bucket of water. (Dave kept suggesting I should spray pesticide, but maybe I can avoid that. I will probably have to use some Cory's to control the slug damage on the beans, though.)

I also learned (via google) that those huge black insects d has been calling "wood boring wasps" are really "giant carpenter bees". A wood boring wasp actually looks like a wasp, whereas these look like black bumblebees the size of a small hummingbird, and make almost the same wing noise as they pass overhead.

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[ 13:20 Aug 15, 2004    More nature | permalink to this entry | comments ]