Archive for February, 2012

Espalier Apple Tree Fence

Mature espalier apple tree fence

Mature espalier apple tree fence

Espalier is the art of training trees, very often fruit trees, to grow on a flat plane. This technique not only creates an interesting plant structure – a ‘living sculpture’, but also is useful as a space saver for small space gardens.   Trees trained in the espalier technique are trained against a flat wall, building, or against a free-standing structure.

I’ve long been fascinated by lovely photographs of espaliered trees in beautiful garden settings, which prompted me to do some reading and sit in on a seminar where I took copious notes.  It is from this research that I gather my information to share with you.

I’ve chosen an espalier project in an effort to create a ‘living fence’ for along a wood plank sidewalk which leads up to the entrance of my bed and breakfast/guest house.  The walkway was wide open to the driveway, yard, and the harsh winter winds, so it was in want of being a bit cozier.

Plank sidewalk with post structure

Plank sidewalk with post structure

I’ll need to build a structure to support my trees rather than utilizing a wall for support, but for blogging purposes, the technique of espalier is the same no matter the structure you select.  I chose apple trees as my plant material for the benefits of spring flowers, summer foliage and fall fruit that will dangle from the structure like ornaments, beckoning my guests to help themselves! During the winter months I’ll utilize the structure for stringing white mini lights.

Apple trees lend themselves well to many espalier forms.  The pattern I’ve chosen is a horizontal tiered cordon method, therefore the structure I’ve built is specific to the horizontal pattern as seen in figure a.

When planting the trees, orient the branching along the cables where they will be secured during the pruning process.

Lower cordon of the espalier apple trees

Lower cordon of the espalier apple trees

The art of espalier is based upon the complex relationship between auxin and cytokinins, two growth hormones in plants.  Auxins have a cardinal role in coordination of many growth processes and are essential for plant body development.  Cytokinins promote cell division in plant roots and shoots.  Pruning changes the relationship between auxin and cytokinin. When a leader branch is growing straight up, auxin levels are at a higher rate and growth is more vertical.  The more you angle a branch, the greater you are changing the relationship of auxin to cytokinin, and there becomes less vertical growth, but more horizontal branching and more fruiting.  This is the reason for pinching back perennials and annuals, and is witnessed when you bend a rose bush on a hoop as a result there are more prolific blooms.

My young trees were supple and with good lateral branching, therefore I capitalized on that attribute and merely secured the lower branches to my first tier wire cable, using soft vinyl stretch tie.  I pruned subsequent buds and branching from the trunk moving up to the next set of branches at the second tier of cable structure, securing the supple branches in a similar manner.  Had the branches been woodier, I would have slowly moved the branching down to position, creating a temporary structure to ease the branches down in to place at the cable wire.

Espalier tree with two horizontal cordon tiers

Espalier tree with two horizontal cordon tiers

As you’re training your apple tree, keep the small shoots along the cordon trimmed back to 4” to 5” long.  Your tree will continue to grow and mature, and every flower will become a fruiting bud.  Eventually your fruit tree will become its own support structure.  In general, espaliered trees’ fruit will be larger and sweeter, because their fruit is exposed to more sunlight and the trees have been pruned regularly to keep their shape.

Three espalier apple trees after one month growth

Three espalier apple trees after one month growth

The three espalier apple trees have been growing for about one month.  They are all healthy and filling in nicely with leaves and new growth.  I have pruned off any new budding branches that have sprouted from the main stem, in order to keep all of the growth directed on the two lower lateral cordons that I’ve secured to the horizontal cables.

I had selected two buds to become the third cordons which will become next year’s growth along the third cable on the structure.  These young branches are growing out nicely.   Depending upon the rate of growth, I may secure these branches to the third cable later this summer.  You can see the upper new branching in the photo below.

Selecting new growth for the next cordon

Selecting new growth for the next cordon

An espalier tree is never ‘finished’.  They require pruning at least three times each season in order to maintain the beautiful structured shape; I recommend June 1, July 1 and August 1.  This particular walk way enclosure will require two more years of growth to reach the uppermost, fourth horizontal cable.  Then after wards, it will just be ‘maintenance’ pruning.

Advertisements

Comments (2) »

Eradicating Buckthorn

Purging Buckthorn Rhamnus cathartica

Image via Wikipedia

Clearing brush and eradicating the invasive species ‘Buckthorn‘ is an ongoing project on the farm.  Today we’re working to clean up an area on a slope toward the lake.  Buckthorn is a problem because it out-competes native plants for nutrients, light, and moisture, it degrades wildlife habitat, it threatens the future of forests, wetlands, prairies, and other natural habitats, and contributes to erosion by shading out other plants that grow on the forest floor.

In a days work we can go from this

Fallen rotting trees and Buckthorn brush

Fallen rotting trees and Buckthorn brush

to this

Buckthorn and decaying trees removed to allow hardwoods to thrive

Buckthorn and decaying trees removed to allow hardwoods to thrive

After cutting the Buckthorn we create a burn pile to burn the brush so as not to spread the seeds.  Buckthorn is listed as a ‘restricted noxious weed’ in Minnesota, and it is illegal to import, sell, or transport buckthorn.

For removal of the Buckthorn we use a chainsaw and sometimes a brush cutter.

Our tool of choice, a chain saw

Our tool of choice, a chain saw

Stumps should be treated immediately after cutting (within 2 hours) with a herbicide containing Triclopyr  or Glyphosate (Roundup) to prevent re-sprouting.

Managing Buckthorn is a part of life on an 80 acre farm in Minnesota, something that all farmers and many homeowners accept.  We choose to focus on the positive aspects of clearing brush such as, “it’s agood workout” and “it’ll be nice to be working outdoors today” or “the dog would love the exercise”.

Dylan

Dylan

An almost greater problem while working with a chain saw in the woods, is unknowingly sawing in to wire grown in to a  tree from a former farmer who used the tree as a fence post.

Tree trunk with wire grown in to it

Tree trunk with wire grown in to it

This really messes up a chain saw.

We spend most ordinary Sundays trying to be good stewards of the land.  Our goal is to leave this farm in better shape than it was when we took it on.  Someday we’ll be Buckthorn free and I  can promise I’ll never use a tree as a fence post.

Dutch Lake Guest House Bed and Breakfast, MN

Dutch Lake Guest House Bed and Breakfast, MN

Our little part of the world, now Buckthorn free!

 

Comments (2) »

Spinach and Feta Quiche

Spinach and Feta Quiche

Spinach and Feta Quiche

Our Bed and Breakfast guests are served meals in their private guest house, so we prefer to prepare dishes that hold the heat and stay warm as we carry them to the guest house, which is next door to our home.  That’s why we often like to serve quiche, as we can bring an entire pie plate full of the breakfast dish and avoid cutting pieces which would cool too quickly.

Ingredients:

2 deep dish pie crusts

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 red onion, sliced

1 16 ounce bag baby spinach, washed and stems removed

2 8 ounce packages feta

1 8 ounce package finely shredded cheddar cheese

eggs, beaten

1 cup half-and-half cream

salt and pepper to taste

*Makes 2 quiche pies

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Olive oil in pan

Olive oil in pan

Add the oil to a large skillet over medium heat.

Saute garlic and onions

Saute garlic and onions

Saute garlic and onion in olive oil until onion is translucent.  Stir in spinach.  Cook until spinach is wilted, then remove from heat.

Stir in spinach

Stir in spinach

In a bowl, wisk together eggs.

Wisk eggs

Wisk eggs

Wisk in half-and-half cream, season with salt and pepper.

Egg, cream and seasoning mixture

Egg, cream and seasoning mixture

Divide the spinach, onion and garlic ingredients between the two pie shells.

Spinach mixture divided between two pie shells

Spinach mixture divided between two pie shells

Add 8 ounces of crumbled feta to each pie.

Add feta

Add feta

Pour egg mixture over the filled pie shells, dividing evenly.

Ready for baking

Ready for baking

Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Pull the pies out and sprinkle tops with 4 ounces grated cheddar cheese on each quiche, then bake for an additional 25 minutes or until center is set.

Sprinkle with cheese

Sprinkle with cheese

Let cool for 10 minutes beforing cutting.

Spinach and Feta Quiche

Spinach and Feta Quiche

So nice; there’s one for our guests and one for us!

Leave a comment »

Rum Cake Recipe

Dutch Lake Guest House Bed and Breakfast Rum Cakes

Dutch Lake Guest House Bed and Breakfast's popular rum cake

Our Dutch Lake Guest House Bed and Breakfast rum cake recipe is our most requested recipe of all.  It’s been our tradition since we opened our doors in 2009, to serve a personal size rum cake with every meal!  And since I’ve gained a few pounds over the past year, I feel that now I’m legitimately able to share the recipe.

Dutch Lake Guest House Bed and Breakfast's kitchen sign

Dutch Lake Guest House Bed and Breakfast's kitchen sign

So here we go.  The recipe first came to us from my sister-in-law Nikki, so, among family, we call these treats “Nikki’s Rum Cakes”.  Thank you Nikki!!

Ingredients:

1 package yellow cake mix

1 package vanilla instant pudding

4 eggs

1/2 cup cold water

11/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup dark rum, divided

Glaze:

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup water

1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter and flour 10 mini cake pans.  Set aside.

Butter and flour 10 mini cake pans

Butter and flour 10 mini cake pans

To make cake, in large mixing bowl combine cake mix, instant pudding, eggs, 1/2 cup cold water, oil, and 1/2 cup of the rum.  Beat at high-speed for 3 minutes.

Fill the 10 mini cake pans half full with the batter.  The cake batter will rise as it bakes.  Bake about 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove cakes from oven and let them cool for 15 minutes.

To make glaze:

In sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter.  Stir in the 1/4 cup water and 1 cup sugar; bring to a boil.  Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove pan from heat and stir in remaining 1/2 cup rum.

Glazing the rum cakes

Glazing the rum cakes

To complete cake:

Invert cake on to foil or wax paper.  Prick all over with toothpick.  Use pastry brush to brush gaze all over warm cake.  Allow cake to absorb glaze for 5 minutes.  Repeat brushing on glaze and letting cake absorb glaze until all glaze has been brushed on to cake.  Cakes may be frozen.

Prepare to fall in love!

Prepare to fall in love!

Comments (1) »

For The Love of Succulents

Succulents planted in a low concrete container, topped with polished black stones.

Succulents planted in a low concrete container, topped with polished black stones.

Succulents are unusual plants that come in a wide variety of  shapes, sizes and colors.  They are drought resistant plants which store water in their wide leaves.   In the middle of winter, growing succulents indoors offers us a taste of fresh green as well as an interesting conversation piece for our guests.

'String of Pearls'

'String of Pearls'

Your local garden center may offer many unusual varieties of succulents to select from.

Place your succulents in a sunny window as they thrive in the bright sun.

Succulents are drought resistant plants designed to withstand extremely dry weather conditions.  Over watering a succulent is as bad as not watering it at all.  Water when the soil becomes dry and pulls away from the edges of  the pot.  Succulents require well-drained soil with adequate drainage.

The room temperature should be between 55 and 75 degrees.

Fertilize succulents every few months.

Comments (1) »

USDA unveils new Plant Hardiness Zone Map

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a new version of its Plant Hardiness Zone Map (PHZM), the first update since 1990.

The 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location. The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree F zones.

For the first time, the new map offers a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based interactive format and is specifically designed to be Internet-friendly. The map website also incorporates a “find your zone by ZIP code” function.  The map is available at  www.planthardiness.ars.usda.gov .

Our farm has changed from zone 4A to zone 4B.  Click on the link above, enter your zip code and see if your zone has changed.

Leave a comment »

Miniature Gardening

Gnome with wire vine

Gnome with wire vine

We can’t wait for spring to arrive so we can get out in to the garden!  Miniature gardening indoors is a perfect way to satisfy that gardening urge while there’s still snow on the ground.  These miniature plants are absolutely luscious!

Fairy with an African Violet

Fairy with an African Violet

 

Gnome with Club Moss

Gnome with Club Moss

 

Fairy with Hypoestes "Pink Splash"

Fairy with Hypoestes "Pink Splash"

To read more, enjoy the blog linked below.

http://ottenbros.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/terrarium-and-miniature-garden-plants/

Comments (2) »