January 2015 garden tour

Bok choy and gai lan harvest. Incidentally, too much bok choy is potentially harmful.
Bok choy and gai lan harvest. Incidentally, too much bok choy is potentially harmful.
Robertson navel orange (Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck ) blossom.
Robertson navel orange (Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck ) blossom.
Peas have really pretty flowers. Heirloom snow pea (Pisum sativum) called, "Mammoth Melting Sugar Pea"
Peas have really pretty flowers.
Heirloom snow pea (Pisum sativum) called, “Mammoth Melting Sugar Pea”
'Sharp blue' blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum sp) blossom. A young plant I didnt expect to start setting fruit.
‘Sharp blue’ blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum sp) blossom. A young plant I didnt expect to start setting fruit.
Heirloom snow pea (Pisum sativum) called, "Mammoth Melting Sugar Pea"
Heirloom snow pea (Pisum sativum) called, “Mammoth Melting Sugar Pea”
Bok choy (Brassica rapa Chinensis group) Ready for harvesting and thinning out.
Bok choy (Brassica rapa Chinensis group)
Ready for harvesting and thinning out.
Water droplets from the evening's dew on the gai lan (Brassica oleracea).
Water droplets from the evening’s dew on the
gai lan (Brassica oleracea).
Water droplets from the evening's dew on the gai lan (Brassica oleracea).
Water droplets from the evening’s dew on the
gai lan (Brassica oleracea).
Fragrant hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis). The first of the spring flower bulbs to bloom.
Fragrant hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis). The first of the spring flower bulbs to bloom.
Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale). I've been trying since 2010 to get a flower. The tiny seeds have high germination rates but once sprouted, they are super delicate. They are easily damage and uprooted by the terminal velocity of a droplet of water. Last year, I was able to nurse them to a good size-- about an inch tall. Then one day to my horror, I found all ten or so of them chomped down to soil level by a single catepillar. Furious and devasted, I swiftly dealt with the problem and held out little hope that the plant would grow back. Grow back it did. I have two plants that have leaves about 6 inches long. Now that we're in the clear, it is a waiting game.
Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale). I’ve been trying since 2010 to get a flower. The tiny seeds have high germination rates but once sprouted, they are super delicate. They are easily damage and uprooted by the terminal velocity of a droplet of water.
Last year, I was able to nurse them to a good size– about an inch tall. Then one day to my horror, I found all ten or so of them chomped down to soil level by a single catepillar.
Furious and devasted, I swiftly dealt with the problem and held out little hope that the plant would grow back. Grow back it did.
I have two plants that have leaves about 6 inches long. Now that we’re in the clear, it is a waiting game.
Freesia (Freesia) bud
Freesia (Freesia) bud
Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale)
Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale)
Gai lan
Gai lan
Some softneck garlic variety that was available at the supermarket. The fine green strands are garlic chive spouts. I had a gazllion seeds to scatter with haste after the rain got to the container holding them.
Some softneck garlic variety that was available at the supermarket. The fine green strands are garlic chive spouts. I had a gazllion seeds to scatter with haste after the rain got to the container holding them.
Strawberry
Strawberry
Shallots. These were first grown in the garden last year from shallots that sprouted before they could be cooked.
Shallots. These were first grown in the garden last year from shallots that sprouted before they could be cooked.
African daisy (Osteospermum)
African daisy (Osteospermum)
This goji berry has been overwhelmed by the fugi that was triggered by the rain. The course now: strip the leaves.
This goji berry has been overwhelmed by the fugi that was triggered by the rain. The course now: strip the leaves.
My first time growing celery. I use it in gumbo and chicken noodle soup; and that's pretty much it.
My first time growing celery. I use it in gumbo and chicken noodle soup; and that’s pretty much it.
Bok choy grows quickly and will be my staple vegetable crop.
Bok choy grows quickly and will be my staple vegetable crop.
Recieved fresh garlic in a Community Support Agriculture (CSA) box last year and decided to dry it out and grow it. I dont know what variety it is other than that it is a softneck.
Recieved fresh garlic in a Community Support Agriculture (CSA) box last year and decided to dry it out and grow it.
I dont know what variety it is other than that it is a softneck.
The kaffir lime air layered last year by John. http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/earthkind/landscape/air-layering/ This year, I hope to see more leaves on it. With the leaves, I use it for green curry.
The kaffir lime air layered last year by John.
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/earthkind/landscape/air-layering/
This year, I hope to see more leaves on it. With the leaves, I use it for green curry.
Carrots, celery, gai lan
Carrots, celery, gai lan
wood sorrel (Oxalis bowiei)
wood sorrel (Oxalis bowiei)
'Green Globe Improved' artichoke
‘Green Globe Improved’ artichoke
Elephant garlic with 'Chesnok' garlice (foreground)
Elephant garlic with ‘Chesnok’ garlice (foreground)
Elephant garlic
Elephant garlic
'Turkish Giant' garlic. Appears to be slow growing.
‘Turkish Giant’ garlic. Appears to be slow growing.
'Turkish Giant' garlic
‘Turkish Giant’ garlic
'Chesnok' garlic
‘Chesnok’ garlic
Dill
Dill
Recieved fresh garlic in a Community Support Agriculture (CSA) box last year and decided to dry it out and grow it. I dont know what variety it is other than that it is a softneck.
Recieved fresh garlic in a Community Support Agriculture (CSA) box last year and decided to dry it out and grow it.
I dont know what variety it is other than that it is a softneck.
Blueberry blossom. Blooming early this year. 'Sunshine' blueberry
Blueberry blossom. Blooming early this year.
‘Sunshine’ blueberry
Blueberry fruiting early this year. 'Sunshine' blueberry
Blueberry fruiting early this year.
‘Sunshine’ blueberry
Garlic chive wintering
Garlic chive wintering
Heirloom snow pea (Pisum sativum) called, "Mammoth Melting Sugar Pea"
Heirloom snow pea (Pisum sativum) called, “Mammoth Melting Sugar Pea”
Daikon
Daikon
Blueberry (Vaccinium x 'Sunshine Blue') The leaves have green from a rust color.
Blueberry (Vaccinium x ‘Sunshine Blue’)
The leaves have green from a rust color.
Mystery plant. Very likely planted by a bird. I like the purple fringe. I am going to see if it'll flower. A flower will certainly yield another clue.
Mystery plant. Very likely planted by a bird. I like the purple fringe. I am going to see if it’ll flower. A flower will certainly yield another clue.
Roquette Arugula (Eruca sativa) Ready for making a Bollini’s Pizzeria Napolitana, Monterey Park arugula salad: roasted chicken, bacon, goat cheese, corn, & arugula.
Roquette Arugula (Eruca sativa)
Ready for making a Bollini’s Pizzeria Napolitana, Monterey Park arugula salad: roasted chicken, bacon, goat cheese, corn, & arugula.
Tea (Camellia sinensis var. sinensis) seeds from Shenzhen, China. There is nothing particular about Shenzhen other than that this ebay seller had the lowest price. If I can get any of these tea seeds to germinate, I will have to wait three years before I can start making my own tea.
Tea (Camellia sinensis var. sinensis) seeds from Shenzhen, China. There is nothing particular about Shenzhen other than that this ebay seller had the lowest price.
If I can get any of these tea seeds to germinate, I will have to wait three years before I can start making my own tea.
Upon closer inspection they were indeed leaf buds (and not bugs). The is the Goji berry that had its leaves striped off because they were infested with fungi.
Upon closer inspection they were indeed leaf buds (and not bugs). The is the Goji berry that had its leaves striped off because they were infested with fungi.
Goji berry leaf buds
Goji berry leaf buds
Walking by this pot I spot what appears to be leaf buds.
Walking by this pot I spot what appears to be leaf buds.
Walking by this pot I spot what appears to be leaf buds.
Walking by this pot I spot what appears to be leaf buds.
Ranunculus tuber
Best I can do is to hope that these will still grow.
I might be a bit late on getting these Ranunculus tubers back into the ground. There's mold caused by the winter rain.
I might be a bit late on getting these Ranunculus tubers back into the ground. There’s mold caused by the winter rain.
There are a bunch of seeds attached to this Ranunculus floret. When loose, they resemble crushed red peppers. The germination rate is said to be very low. I have thousands. Surely one will grow.
There are a bunch of seeds attached to this Ranunculus floret. When loose, they resemble crushed red peppers. The germination rate is said to be very low. I have thousands. Surely one will grow.
Ranunculus seed florets
Ranunculus seed florets
Gai lan
Gai lan

February: fruit in the garden

'Sharp Blue' blueberry
‘Sharp Blue’ blueberry
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Pomegranate
First ripe strawberry of 2015
First ripe strawberry of 2015
Strawberry
Strawberry
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Robertson navel orange blossom
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‘Sunshine’ blueberry
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Bearss lime blossoming
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Goji bery
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Robertson navel orange

 

Moro blood orange on the tree, 2015.
Moro blood orange on the tree, 2015.
Ripen dropped Moro blood orange, 2015.
Ripen dropped Moro blood orange, 2015.
Dropped Moro blood orange, 2015.
Dropped Moro blood orange, 2015.

February: flowers in the garden

Freesia, violet flower
Freesia, violet flower
Swordlily orchid with misshapen petals due in part by a hungry katydid
Swordlily orchid with misshapen petals due in part by a hungry katydid
Freesia bud. Violet.
Freesia bud. Violet.
Purply daylily
Purply daylily
'Mr. Lincoln' hybrid tea rose grows in after a being pruned.
‘Mr. Lincoln’ hybrid tea rose grows in after a being pruned.
Lantana
Lantana
Amaryllis finally growing back after being cut back in late November. I discovered that they wont flower unless they are cut back.
Amaryllis finally growing back after being cut back in late November.
I discovered that they wont flower unless they are cut back.
When Amaryllis are not cut back, they dont flower but instead make offshoot bulbs. This was one of the three bulbs that has been growing for a couple of years now. Without looking up the answer, I am waiting to see how long before it will flower. Given the size, not anytime soon.
When Amaryllis are not cut back, they dont flower but instead make offshoot bulbs. This was one of the three bulbs that has been growing for a couple of years now. Without looking up the answer, I am waiting to see how long before it will flower. Given the size, not anytime soon.
Paperwhite
Paperwhite
Daffodils
Daffodils
Tulip
Tulip
Golden poppy
Golden poppy
4 o'clock. These flowers are weed like. They set a bunch of seeds that scatter and grow all over the place.
4 o’clock. These flowers are weed like. They set a bunch of seeds that scatter and grow all over the place.
Freesia bud
Freesia bud
Ranunculus sprouts
Ranunculus sprouts
Since I dont know what ranunculus look like, I was not sure if the sprouts were ranunculus or weed. Seeing the seed covering on the sprout is reassuring.
Since I dont know what ranunculus look like, I was not sure if the sprouts were ranunculus or weed. Seeing the seed covering on the sprout is reassuring.
Ranunculus tubers
Ranunculus tubers

February: vegetables & herbs in the garden

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‘Green Globe Improved’ artichoke grown from seed last year
Arugula
Arugula
Biggest bok choy grown thus far. It is in the spot with the most amount of sun.
Biggest bok choy grown thus far. It is in the spot with the most amount of sun.
The spot in the garden with the most sun.
The spot in the garden with the most sun.
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The mint are coming out of hibernation.
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Broad leaf parsley
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Spinach. Update: I planted these two into the ground and they were immediately gobbled up by the pill bugs.
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The garden’s second generation shallots. These were grown from the seeds of supermarket shallots.
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‘Turkish Giant’ garlic
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‘Stuttgarter’ onion
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‘Purplette’ onion
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I started some paprika peppers last fall and never got around to transplanting them.
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‘Anahiem’ peppers set and grew through winter.
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‘Fajita’ bell pepper
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‘Fajita’ bell pepper growing despite it being winter.
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‘Turkish Giant’ garlic slowly growing.
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Fennel pretty much seeds itself.
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Elephant garlic grown from the bulbils. Here the elephant garlic lifted its hard bulbil shell into the air. It is going to take at least a couple of years before they get softball sized.
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First time growing ‘Chesnok’ garlic. Thus far the quickest garlic (aside from Elephant garlic) in the garden.
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First time growing Daikon. It is a fast growing plant.
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Broccoli floret flowering.
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Broccoli. It produced only a bunch of tiny florets. Which made for a quick snack when I am outside checking on the plants.
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‘Mammoth Melting Sugar Pea’ heirloom snow pea
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Bok choy
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The bok choy grew faster than I can figure out what to do with them. I have to remember to thin them out more aggressively in the future. Otherwise, the slugs end up enjoying them.
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Bok choy flower
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‘Red Creole’ onion seedlings

 

Fostering tomato plants

When you are a gardener, people know that you are the go to person when it comes to plants. They may ask for plant sitting favors. Fellow gardeners will share their plants with you. Once in a while, you may be called upon to foster a plant. I had such opportunity for the first time when a friend with a couple of Roma tomato plants sent a text over asking if I would be interested in fostering them. They were used for a photo shoot and now they needed a home.

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Commercially grown starter Roma tomato plants
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Fostering these two Roma tomatoes.
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Roma tomato planted and topped off with compost. Some of the leaves closest to the ground have been pitched off. This helps reduce the chance of mold spores bouncing off the ground and onto the plant.

 

A look into the past: January 6th, 2015

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Orange fungi on rose

The garden is still pretty dormant in January. There is not too much to do but to prune, plan, and pace hectically from the anticipation for the weather to warm up. When the pacing is not enough, the best part about January is that you can actually go outside and prune.

The best time in the year to prune is dependent on the climate and plant characteristics. Generally, pruning occurs after the threat of frost has past. Left alone, the plant will bud when the weather begins to warm. However, pruning stimulates the plant to bud. If there is frost, the buds will be damaged.  Here in Zone 10, January is generally accepted as the ideal time to prune.

There is not a lot for me to prune this time around other than the roses. Upon the task, it was discovered that the roses had orange fungi (aka ‘rust’) on them. Since the roses were to be pruned all the way back to just the branches, I was not overly affected. As for how the fungi go on there, it was related to the week of down pour. Fungi spores are everywhere in the dirt. With the rain drops reaching the dirt at terminal velocity, the spores are sent upward by the resultant force. From the lower part of the plant, the fungi make their way upward. The best recourse is to spot the affected areas early and remove them with care.

The mold abatement process needs to be carefully handled. When not, the problem is actually exacerbated. Careful handling practices are mindful of mitigating spread of spores. These practices include:

  • Literally carefully handling. The affected area(s) needs to be disturbed as little as possible so as to prevent the spores from being dispersed. The same care is needed once the affected parts are cut from the plant.
  • Dispose of into the refuse container. The trimmed parts need to go into the refuse container; and not into a compost pile.
  • Wash: hands, any intermediate containers used, and cutting implements
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Pruned ‘Mr. Lincoln’ rose

This Mr. Lincoln rose was received bare rooted last April.  The plan was to put this Mr. Lincoln rose into the ground on this day. However, it was decided that it might be better to allow it to hang out in the pot for a bit longer.

Though I have found that roses are like weeds. As long as the root is present, it’ll grow.

February 7th, 2015 Update:

‘Mr. Lincoln’ hybrid tea rose grows in after a being pruned.

Pruning does not magically turn the weather warm so we impatiently wait some more. During this time we go over our seed inventory, check the plots in the garden, and plan out what we will be growing. All the while, we have our eyes out for new plants to try. This is the period when restraint is often times difficult to practice. Going over the many seed and plant catalogs while not wanting to purchase more than the dirt we have for them is difficult. There will always be a new plant to try to grow and each new season is an opportunity to satisfy that urge. The fun is in deciding on what new plant or plants to grow.

 

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January 29th, 2015 Update:

holybasilpacket
Richter’s Herb seed packets: Holy Basil

Last year I learned of Holy Basil but also discovered later on that I was growing the wrong variety. Now I have the seeds of the variety basil that is also known as kra pao. It’s the variety of basil used in traditional Thai dishes.

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Baker Heirloom Seeds seed packets
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Burpee seed packets

This year I have many goals with the garden. One of them is to grow enough corn to last me through the year without having to buy corn from the supermarket. The other is to grow more of the ingredients that make green curry. With the corn, I am curious to know the yields and taste between heirloom and hybrid varieties. To maximize the growing season, I selected the ‘Dorinny Sweet’ heirloom corn for its cool climate characteristic.

February 11th, 2015 Update:

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‘Dorinny Sweet’ heirloom corn sprout. Planted Jan. 30, 2015

The Dorinny Sweet heirloom sweet corn sprouted after about a week and a half.

Planting carrots out front

Front of the house planter
Front of the house planter

This planter in the front of the house was untapped dirt. Where the wood sorrel grows, it will be replaced with root vegetables. First some prep needs to be done.

Wood sorrel turned into the soil.
Wood sorrel turned into the soil.

January 25th, 2015. The wood sorrel is turned into the soil to add nutrients.

Turned in wood sorrel closed up
Turned in wood sorrel closed up
Front planter with compost added
Front planter with compost added

February 8th, 2015. It would have been nice to have turned the wood sorrel in earlier so that it may be broken down more. To speed things along, compost is added on top. Afterward, ‘Scarlet’ carrot seeds are indiscriminately sowed.

'Scarlet' carrot seed pack.
‘Scarlet’ carrot seed pack. My first pack of carrot seed.

These seeds were purchased last year for $1.99. With lots of seeds in the pack and many carrots grown, they have turned out to be a really great value.

You cannot have your lawn and garden it (too)

IMG_6956Or can you? The always difficult choice of choosing between maintaining an open space or realizing a garden to its maximum potential is a conundrum faced by a good number of gardeners.

While there may be space to build and grow a serious garden, your family’s need for open space may supersede that want. As with most conundrums, sometimes the best we can do is to settle and get what we can get.

Last year, the idea to dig holes into the lawn for planting was conceived. I already had a good number of pots with plants in them. Why not turn that idea around? Instead of pots above the ground, the ground was turned into pots. Holes would be dug and replaced with nutrient rich soil. Then a plant would be planted. In some ways, these were better pots. A plant’s roots have a better chance expanding into the hard dirt than it does trying to push through plastic or clay pots.

Holes were dug. The side and depth of the hole was dependent on the plant’s needs. This year, I am planning to expand on this practice. I am starting with the far end of the lawn. It is the part of the yard where it can be seen from the living room. I prefer to grow flowers here. Already back there are roses. Now, I am adding ‘Red Sun’ sunflowers to the view.

Sunflowers are one of the easiest flowers to grow. Other than protection from bugs and slugs early on, they do not require too much.

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Using a trench shovel, five holes are dug: about a foot apart, about 10-inches deep and 6-inches wide. The dirt that was dig out is piled for back filling later.

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Before back filling the dirt, compost is added and mixed in to turn the dirt to soil. Plants love compost; even low maintenance plants like sunflowers. While sunflowers do not need much, as a gardener, you’re going to provide your plants with as much as your able to. Just like you would your children.

'Red sun' sunflower seedling
‘Red sun’ sunflower seedling

Many of the plants in the garden do not get sowed directly in the ground as they are unable to survive the onslaught of slugs and armadillidiidaes (pill-bugs).  Even in these old yogurt containers, they are in peril. Out of the eight sunflowers that sprouted, one was taken down by a slug. The sunflower seedlings were eventually moved to the drought tolerate garden. Up here, they are safer. Slugs do not hangout here. The soil is dry and there is very little for them to much on. Further, it is quite the journey for them should they want to snack on these seedlings. They’ll need to cross through a dry path and scale a two and a half foot brick wall. To give them credit, it is not that they are unable to, it is not worth their trouble to. The same applies to the pill-bugs. There’s not too much for them up here worth hanging out for.

'Red sun' sunflower seedling
‘Red sun’ sunflower seedling

Here’s one of the ‘Red sun’ sunflower in the morning after it was planted into the ground. All but one was chewed on in some form or another by slugs. I am hoping that they are mature enough to withstand the slugs.

February is getting fantastic

Freesia bud
Freesia bud

It is starting to warm up here in Zone 10 and the gardening has already begun to spring into full movement. Seeds are sprouting, flowers are blooming, fruit are ripening, and it is about to get crazy up in here!

This weekend (February 6th, 7th, & 8th, 2015) was a productive one in the garden. I had many pictures to snap, new ground to break, Ranunculus tubers to plant, and carrots to sow among other fun gardening activities. There were even a couple of surprises. Stay tuned for the updates.

The Moro of the story

Moro blood orange on the tree, 2015.
Moro blood orange on the tree, 2015.

It was not too long ago when I started to seek out fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants. Many of these sought after fruits and vegetables are not likely to found at the local produce section. The reasons are that these crops are generally not commercially viable or not in demand enough. A ‘non commercially viable crop’ is crop that either: do not produce enough, take longer to produce, do not ship well, are difficult to grow, etc. Because of those factors, the price for the crop will be too high for the average consumer. Unable to sell their crop, the growers and sellers then would more likely to be left with crop rotting in the stands.

Where these goodies are not likely to rot are on the farmers’ market stands. With much lower overhead, the growers are able to provide market goers with reasonable prices. When in season, one of the fruits one expects to find at a farmer’s market are blood oranges. The fruit of the blood orange is more likely to be tart. Tartness is a characteristic one does not seek out in an orange. What is sought after are the antioxidant properties.

There are a few types of blood oranges with the most commonly available blood orange variety being the Moro blood orange, Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck. As for the availability of blood orange trees, they are now widely available. Like at the farmers’ market, the tree variety most commonly available is the Moro. That was the first tree I picked up.

Is that the Moro of the story?

Moro blood orange tree, 2015.
Moro blood orange tree, 2015.

No, that is not the Moro of the story. The Moro of the story is to do with what I discovered about oranges this year. When I brought the tree home almost a year ago, I did not plant it into the ground. Instead, I kept it in its container. The reason is that I was not sure if the spot I selected would be its permanent home. Staying put in its container, it set blossoms and then fruit. It was doing well through summer. When fall came around, it started to become sad. It began to shed leaves. Unable to support all the fruit, it began to drop them. It is still winter and more than half of the fruit have been dropped. When the fruit is dropped, they are usually green. I would collect them and put them into the compost bin.

Dropped Moro blood orange, 2015.
Dropped Moro blood orange, 2015.

Today, I noticed that another fruit had dropped. In the hunt for the dropped fruit, I also recovered a ripen orange from amongst the ivy. That led to the discovery that oranges continue to ripen despite being disconnected from the tree.

Ripen dropped Moro blood orange, 2015.
Ripen dropped Moro blood orange, 2015.