Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Just Some Stuff Around the House

When we moved in we discovered 13 orange trees that hadn't been shaped in awhile. They were heavy with fruit and the branches were criss-crossing with dead limbs. I did some "finger pruning" (snapping off dead twigs)..."pruning to harvest" (cutting off huge branches)...then "pruning to shape" to try to tame the trees. It took quite a number of weeks to do it since we needed to juice the oranges and could only have so many bags around at one time. Well after a few light rains....poof... shiny new green leaves. Another light rain and I am smelling the most wonderful smell wafting into the blossoms! I'm happy I didn't prune off all the fruiting wood and I'm glad they all aren't blooming at the same time (it would be overpowering).
The lower part and upper parts of our property have about a 45 degree slope. They were both head-high in grass and vines and tree seedlings when we got here and we have been working hard to tame them. At the same time we know we only have the dry season to get it together before the rains and erosion problems can start. Besides weed whacking, vine pulling and planting coconuts We rake all the cut grass into mulch piles with the hopes of composting on the spot (once we get moisture). Putting these horizontal to the slope will stop any soil from sliding further down and create some terracing for us. The areas under the mulch are cool and damper so I keep stealing the partially composted stuff to put around new or relocated plants. I think it is a good plan. This terraced area has green beans and a tomato plant, a aji dulce pepper plant and some zucchini plants in it. The only odd thing about Puerto Rico is that there isn't green food. Everything is an odd cut of meat or a weird (but good tasting) root. I have a problem with eating food all the same color, but in this perfect climate I can grow everything as long as I can find seeds or a real vegetable to get seeds out of. My neighbor chucked a partial tomato into her yard and is now harvesting. I took her lead and have a million little free starts of things that will soon be food!
Here's the upper hill and another pile of sticks/brown matter or what I call "gold". Soil here is wonderful but not real deep. It is a heavy soil and amending with leaf debris and grass cuttings helps keep moisture in and improves the soil structure. It is lots of work turning and moving it but it really really helps.

Look at these trees! They have decent shapes now and the canopy will leaf out when we get some rain. I have also removed grass from under the tree out to the drip line. This should help moisture and fertilizer get to the feeder roots. Two down and 11 more to take care of!
These were a nice surprise to find in the yard. They were planted on the slope of the gully and need to be moved up-slope a little for maximum viewing. Something else to do in the planting/wet season. The cut heliconias are larger than my shoes and last over a couple weeks in the house.

There are many nice plants in the yard but the trouble has been finding them and figuring out what is a weed and what is a plant to keep. Everything needs dividing or rejuvenating. Another job for spring. I can't help myself though and have to do some clean up, redefining where the beds are and mulching with my "grassy gold". This area is under the mango that has large mangos. The mango has finally blossomed and I have cleaned up the bed underneath it. Later I will divide and move plants - more free plants.

This dove made a nest and a "little one" in the tree outside our bedroom. I call the doves "microphone birds" because they sound amplified all the time. The nest showed up one day and the dove didn't move out of it for a couple weeks. The baby hatched and then today - poof - they are gone and the nest has blown out of the tree.

There is a bed I revamped under the mango.When I finally clean up an area I find little rock walls or hidden structures. I find pieces of rebar that at some point either kept a weed whacker from hitting something or it propped something up. Lots of mysteries in the yard. I keep waiting for some of the plants to do something so I can decide what to do with them. Every day is exciting. Things seem to grow overnight. I have red tomatoes already, zucchinis that are finger length and little peppers. All stuff I planted from seed...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jeff and Katrina,

You have done a great job with the yard already, it looks amazing! Your garden should produce you a lot of good vegetables with a few good rain showers.

BTW, the big mango tree in your last picture (with the flower bed underneath) produces rather large mangoes that taste like pineapple (no kidding!). Mango season is quickly approaching and you will have a lot of them. Ask my Mom for the recipe for "dulce de mango". Its kind of a mango preserve (spread) that is made similar to pear preserves. They make it with brown sugar and cinammon and its awesome.

Also, the trees up in the hill (3rd picture from the top) behind your grass compost pile are called "Albizia" or White Acacia (Siris). They are not native and have spread all over the island. They are considered kind of a nuisance and were originally introduced by the Department of Natural Resources (DRNA) to create some shade along the roads. They propagate with no effort and people don't usually like them since they cover large portions of land typically used for agriculture or cattle. You may want to keep 'em under control if you want to keep them in your property. Here is a link for info:

Take care,

H Jr.