Sunday, May 29, 2011

citrus twist: raising foolishness to fruition

this year i’m growing three dwarf citrus trees, ordered from one of those gimmicky, back-of-magazine-style novelty ads, like, “magic hair balm: watch your hair grow three feet in a month! just $5.95”--only this ad features small trees loaded with an implausible amount of flawless fruit, nestled in dense, perfect, dark green foliage.

my mom, undoubtedly in the midst of that same january desperation for green growing things that drives early seed catalogue sales, was sold on the fantasy. since she prefers if i grow her plants for her she shelled out $9.95 plus shipping to buy me a dwarf trio: venous orange, meyer lemon and key lime.

predictably, they showed up at the tail end of winter looking like twigs with a few tattered leaves glued onto them. their soggy, dead-looking roots were crammed into 2x3” black plastic pots, with errant spindlies popping out here and there. i looked at them with skepticism, but i potted them with optimism!

the weather was terrible for the first few months and i couldn’t put them outside, so they did nothing. the last month or so, though, i’ve been able to leave them outdoors a bit, and now they’re taking off. all three are making new growth, sprouting more leaves, and the venous orange has over a dozen pink buds on it, two of which are about to open. they’re supposed to smell sweet and wonderful--i can’t wait.

i thought citrus trees were tropical, but i read somewhere that many of them are native to the mediterranean region. boise's summer climate is similar to the mediterranean, and i ended up ordering a few other mediterranean-style dwarf trees to grow in containers, like this fig:

it’s an italian honey fig, a zone away from being hardy here but i read up on how to keep it protected over winter so it (hopefully) won’t die.

and an olive:

this one still looks sad and twiggish, just like the citruses did at first, but i’m hoping it will take off eventually. i had the perfect pot for it.

i also got some nanking bush cherries, which showed up as bareroot stems without even a single leaf, but they’re getting green and leafy now. it’s all experimental, i’m not deluding myself into truly believing any of these cheap mailorder twigs will yield, but i can’t help imagining how cool it would be to grow my own meyer lemon.

Friday, May 27, 2011

garden fail friday: when a radish is not a radish

first garden fail friday of the year! although i’ve had plenty of fails already this season, i was waiting for a good one to kick it off properly. this fail is full-on user error, lack of knowledge, lack of experience with one of the supposedly easiest, most fool-proof veggies to grow in a home garden: radishes.

the problem is, i didn’t realize different varieties require different growing seasons. there are spring/summer radishes and fall/winter radishes. some will only grow in certain temperatures, some will only grow when the weather is changing from warm to cool.

early this spring, i grabbed all 10 radish varieties in my seed collection and stuck them in the ground. they all germinated, they all grew, but only a few of them made roots--six (6!) of the 10 types made top growth only. it is totally perplexing when you look at one radish growing happily just inches away from another that wants only to make leaves and a thin, woody root.

so i started looking them up one by one online, and i noticed a trend. black spanish radish: fall/winter variety. watermelon radish: winter. violet de gournay, china rose, etc etc...six out of ten, fall and/or winter. the only four radishes i planted that are successfully making radishes are french breakfast, sparkler white tip, japanese white icicle and plum purple. the odd thing is, i looked at the seed packet for watermelon radishes and it specifically instructs you to plant them in spring.

i should have caught on earlier, though. last year the first radish i ever tried to grow was china rose, and it only made top growth, then i planted sparkler radishes in practically the same spot and conditions and they grew just fine. it never occurred to me i might be planting them at the wrong time--i totally associate radishes with springtime.

anyway, life gave me radish greens, so i made sautéed radish greens. they’re very tasty, like spinach but with a little kick. that mitigates the fail somewhat, but it was still unfortunate because i wasted all those seeds and all that space that could have been used to grow other things.

anyone else failing lately? as before, if you post about it on your blog i’ll link to it here, or you can offload the burden in the comments section if you prefer.