i received twenty-nine ramp seeds ( top photo ) from southern seedman in vanleave mississippi today and the bed that i cleared of winter wheat yesterday will become their home next weekend...this may be a long-term germination...they need cycles of both heat and cold to break dormancy and it could take two years for them to come up...fortunate that this is an even longer-term project than that ( at least i hope so )...i am not sure how clearly this will be discerned but with the second and third photos i am trying to provide a contrast of the jerusalem artichokes' behavior last season compared to this...the second photo is of the perennial garden project on july 28. 2011 and the third is on july 28, 2012...the sunchokes this year are much sparser even though i planted the same number of tubers...in one or two plans a smaller size could be an inherited trait but this year's crop seems thinner and shorter...last year ( and the year before ) the plants were so dense the shade they created made them self-mulching and there was no need to weed...i have found myself going over the gaps in the plants with a warren hoe this year to root out grasses and aerate the soil which has become badly compacted...smaller plants...earlier blooms...i won't know the true impact of this until harvest but i have been reading that farmers in this drought ridden state have been finding corn cobs with no kernels and soybean pods with no beans...droughts can be cyclical but eighty degree days in march are anomalous no matter what way you cut it...we will, i suppose, have to wait for march 2013 to see if it is something that continues...and for the 2013 crop of sunchokes ( although there won't be any on campus...only out back ) to see if it has any similarities that can be called a trend toward a climatic shift..my hope is that the behavior of native perennials will provide some clue ( which is another reason for the ramps...besides a taste for leeks )...the fourth and fifth photos are of the eastern gamagrass clumps on july 28. 2011 and today...they have grown and are reproducing wildly...still cycling terminal spears through proaxes flowering and maturing seeds that i can only have harvested a fraction of...an odd perennial season so far and there will doubtlessly be more to tell.
up and out the door early to campus to do some maintenance work on the pgp ( had a quick look at the community garden as well...but just a look )both hopi blue maize plants are flowering and the larger of the two is fully open ( top photo ) but there's more going on...the lager of the three tillers coming off the base of the large plant is producing a flower as well ( second photo ) which would indicate to me that there will be more ears in the works...and while we're talking ears a second one has tasseled on the main stalk of the larger plant ( third photo ) i am geeked entirely about this and i don't care who knows it...most engineered corn produces one ear...sometimes two but rarely ( at least in the dense yellow # 2 that i've been observing in the last few years )...this multiplicity of ears is reminiscent of the northern tepehuan's ear production last year ( i believe that plant in my back yard produced forty-four ears...i don't expect that much from the maize ) and is just another line of evidence about maize ancestry...my only existing brussel's sprouts are on campus and they seem to be doing well there...i have heard about a dearth of sprout germination form a number of quarters this season so i am hopeful that they will be productive...we'll see what happens as autumn approaches...i will be going out in my yard later to bring in the last bed of winter wheat and begin preparing it to sow the ramp seeds when they arrive...those two beds will become committed to the inland sea oats ( if they winter over here ) and the wild leeks...more movement away from annuals...the last photo is of the perennial garden project at around seven this morning...so far so good...more as it develops.
7-29-2012 10:56 a.m.
the second bed of wheat just yielded 753 seed heads for a total of 1632 from two beds...just some vital information about threshing and winnowing work.
after i was finished helping plant geraniums at the iu northwest community garden today ( top photo ) i strolled over to the perennial garden project just to have a look...not expecting much since i was there yesterday evening but the garden always has a surprise or two to pull...the hopi blue maize is in full flower but what caught my eye was the fact that one of the the nascent ears had produced a tassel...i asked myself how i had missed that yesterday but a review of the photos from yesterday evening shows no sign of a tassel anywhere so it appeared in the matter of about sixteen hours..well..okay..humans can accomplish a lot ( good or bad ) in sixteen hours...why not maize? it's a hard working plant...so far so good for both gardens everything in the community garden seems on schedule despite the dry weather...and while the perennials are still behaving oddly ( or, at least, differently ) compared to the last two seasons i believe things will turn out well...whatever happens it's sure to be posted here.
more maize news and a touch of corn war morphology...both hopi blue plants have flowered ( the smaller is around forty-seven inches tall and the larger is sixty-two...so far...that's th ebiggeron in front in the top photo )...have a look at the hopi blue flower in the second photo and the gamagrass flower in the third...the structures are similar...yes they are both grasses and the gamagrass flowers are attached to the seeds and the maize flower isn't ( and that's a nascent ear in the fourth photo...i see at least three on the larger maize plant...the sweet corn i grew last season each produced two ears...i'm hoping for more on the tillers growing off the base )..i will have to have a look at the northern tepehuan teosinte flowers from last autumn to see if there's any resemblance there..a touch of evidence for mary eubank's viewpoint perhaps...perhaps not...definitely a similarity...my inland sea oats seeds arrived today so one of the shaded under the locust trees is spoken for for next season at least...if they successfully winter over there will be another perennial bed...they are native to the southern tier of states so there is a bit of a question in my mind about their hardiness in the face of what might not be the mild winter of last year...i also found a source for ramp seeds so the neighboring bed will be sown with wild leeks later this summer...seems they need a stretch of warm weather to break root dormancy and then cold weather to break shoot and stem dormancy...a very early spring crop ( earlier than elephant garlic, i wonder ? ) a mild winter may have the inverse effect on them that a severe one would have on the oats...a wait-and-see proposition...they like to grow in the shade of deciduous trees and like leaf litter mulch...the twenty odd trees in my back yard can make them feel at home and they're a native species and a perennial to boot...win/win.
i was at work this morning a bit after seven when the sky turned black and bruised and we had some old fashioned horizontal rain and the attendant power outages...so after work i drove over to campus to see if everything was alright ...fortunately it was ( the i u northwest community garden came through fine as well ) and as a bonus both the larger hopi blue maize plants have begun to flower so if it all goes well there will be ears of blue corn down the road...the eastern gamagrass continues to develop new proaxes and cycle them through reproduction...some are flowering ( forth photo ) and some are hardening and shattering ( fifth photo )...i have to wonder how many seeds scattered in the wind this morning and how many of those i have missed will actually germinate...when i planted gamagrass in the autumn ( november actually )of 2009 i put in thirty seeds and three germinated...ten percent viability...apparently that's enough...they aren't going anywhere unless someone takes a bush hog to them
the sweet potatoes out back arc coming along fine...trailing across the ground and seemingly enjoying the heat...the scarlet runner beans are filling the trellis but i haven't seen any signs of flowers yet...they are a cool weather crop and they may be waiting until autumn to produce beans...or they may just say no...the squash continues to produce new buds along their vines as they utilize the sunflowers as a natural trellis...there is northern tepehuan teosinte coming along in the backyard as well as on campus and as they flower i will be cross pollinating them to see how many ears they will produce...getting the seeds to maturity may not prove any more possible than it did last season but there is always hope that if the summer heat lingers into autumn that the season may be long enough...the last photo is of daisy hanging out by the runner beans, squash, and sunflowers...critter patrol on duty.
after researching this for a few months i believe i have found perennial grain to grow in the partly shaded beds that i had winter wheat in this season ( actually still do have wheat to harvest yet...time is at a premium )...my only question is about its ability to winter over here...inland sea oats ( chasmanthium latifolium ) grows along shady creek beds and roadsides across the southern tier of states and i just purchased enough seed to cover a few hundred square yards...it's used mostly as an ornamental grass ( and as usual for this sort of thing shipping was far more costly than the actual seeds )but it also produces a fairly high seed yield that can be threshed and winnowed as a grain crop...it's not native...but it is a perennial and that is what i am trying to refocus on after some diversions ( although i am not done with the "green manures" yet...there are cowpeas in one of the beds that has been harvested and i will still be working on creating my own organic matter to fill the beds ) if everything falls into place this autumn there will be another set of perennials to add to the mix and the perennial garden project can get back to is roots ( that wasn't intentional...but you can groan anyway if it suits you ) i bought the seeds form a small family owned seed supplier in texas who say they specialize in plants native to their region and do not sell seeds they don't produce on their own land...i imagine i will be in touch with them for some advice on planting and what, if anything, i can do to help them winter over...spring 2013 and 2014 will be a bit suspenseful over this issue and i will need all the help i can get.
i really was going to leave the whole zea business be for a bit...give it a rest...there are a few people out there who are as geeked about it as i am...but we surely must be a minority of the species...however, when i got to campus this morning the hopi blue maize support roots were out in full force ( second photo ) and they are impressive...as a corollary to this the northern tepehuan teosinte is producing a second set of them ( and will continue to produce them until autumn ) the zea diploperennis will be sprouting them soon as well...forewarned is forearmed...there will be more photos.
the central stalk on the flowering hopi blue maize is three feet tall ( the upper leaves are up to over four feet ) and there are three branches growing out of the base...the other two are smaller and still only have a single stalk so i am awaiting developments there...it will be interesting to compare the morphology of the maize with the northern tepehuan teosinte on campus and in my back yard...the connection between the two plants is manifest in their appearance ( as is the relationship with the zea diploperennis...catastrophic sexual mutation seems a bit farfetched to me as an explanation of maize husks...the plant didn't commit suicide...the trait seems to me to have been the result of artificial selection over generations )the yams, asparagus, intermediate wheat grass, and eastern gamagrass are continuing their reproductive frenzy as well...i finally caught a gamagrass seed head that was mature but had not shattered yet...so i netted a handful of seeds to add to my collection...i worry about how many i must already have missed...they have a low germination rate but the plant is relentless once established...all perennials seem to be invasive.
it's been a couple of days since i visited farmer brown's soybean field and things have taken a turn for the so-so...parts of the field have started to wilt badly and the leaves on other plants are beginning to curl up ( transpiration again...only i'm not watering this field )...some of the volunteer corn is trying its best to produce ears ( third photo ) but others are obviously mutated well away from the corn we all know in fields...spiky..no flowers...no tassels...no ears...just an approximation of nature...compare that with the heirloom hopi blue on campus and you'll see why i am not a big fan of industrial seed companies relying instead on a number of small suppliers and what i can find in seed banks and what the usda has that i can use...one generation of industrial feedstock and then mutant city...makes me wonder where we're headed.
7-18-2012 5:15 a.m.---
quite a bit of traspiration from somewhere else ( illinois and iowa, i'm guessing ) fell as rain here last night whicjh means; 1) there will be some relief of the water stress in the above soybeans ( and the attendant industrial crops around the area ) and, 2) i don't have to go to campus to water tonight after work...the coverage of the rain wsa nothing like statewide...a swathe of the northern tier of counties...and the radar still shows a dearth of precipitation west of here back through the corn belt...we've had about thirty percent of our normal rain so far and this isn't anything like a broken drought
the maize and its ancestor weren't the only grasses suffering from the weather...the eastern gamagrass had some curl to its leaves as well...it's a perennial ( like the zea diploperennis ) and has a much deeper and extensive root system then the maize so when it starts to curl you know things are turning ugly...it will recover though just like the maize and teosinte...it just takes a bit longer...the larger of the hopi blue maize is preparing to flower...a sure sign the season is progressing...it's about three feet tall ( nothing like the engineered giants in the industrial fields...more like sweet corn ) so hopefully there will be ears forming soon and i can give away blue corn...the bottom photo is the perennial garden project about five this evening...still a bit of green in a prched university lawn...hope it rains soon.
life got in the way of garden maintenance yesterday so i missed a day of watering ( i knew i wouldn't be able to be there yesterday so i soaked the garden sunday evening...but it's bloody hot ) and the plants told me about it this afternoon...the hopi blue maize had some seriously curled leaves when i arrived on campus and so did the zea diploperennis...i watered them thoroughly and then strolled over to the i u northwest community garden to take some photos and measurements...when i came back i soaked the garden again but the grasses had recovered well in the thirty minutes i was gone...their leaves had uncurled and a second dose of water can only have helped...one wonders if and when the heat and drought will break...or if daily visits will become the norm.
an industrial worker and university student (everyone needs a hobby...my hobbies have evolved and, to keep things straight, i have left my formal student career behind for reasons that are too detailed to delve into here...continuing to be a student of life however and not adverse to learning...stasis is death ) sliding down the back side of middle age...a social loner with collectivist leanings...explain that.