J Grouwstra

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since Dec 24, 2017
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Fryslân, Netherlands
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Recent posts by J Grouwstra

It's a couple of years futher on now , so I can give an update on my Zanthoxylum bungeanum.
An important question I had was: does it need a pollinator? Well, I do get some fruit now, but very little compared to the amount of blossom the tree had. So maybe a pollinator tree would improve this, or maybe local insects aren't familiar with this exotic tree and that's what's preventing a good pollination... I just don't know.
But I'm getting some pepper off it. Last year there were just a few fruits, maybe 3 or 4, which is almost nothing, this year it's over a dozen; still little, but it's going somewhere.

I should say I gave up the allotment where I had this tree and moved it to my home garden. It's darker here and that's a disadvantage - the tree isn't growing much anymore due to its new location, but at least it's staying healthy, and the replanting itself didn't set it back. But in a better location the yield would probably have been better as well.

I just tried one of the fruits, or I should say hulls of the fruit, because you take the hulls, not those shiny pearls - I'll try sowing them. I was pleasantly surprised; it does really taste like pepper, and there's also a strong citrus flavour present.
2 years ago
I've grown a couple of varieties from seed, Victoria being one of them. Victoria is quick to establish, probably that's the reason why this variety is often sold as seed. The other rhubarb I started from seed is Näsåker, a much less common variety with a Swedish origin.
Growing those two varieties from seed gave two quite different experiences.
I started both in spring. Victoria grew quickly, and already gave large plants the second year, while Näsåker was still small in its second year. It made me doubt whether Näsåker would come to anything, while Victoria already looked amazing. But in the third year Victoria began to bolt a lot, with the edible stalks becoming thinner and thinner, and Näsåker was now really beginning to size up, without bolting. Right now and the plants should be in their fourth of fifth year, I'm appreciating Näsåker much better than I do Victoria. All my Victoria plants continue to bolt, and give me thin stalks, while none of the Näsåker rhubarb has bolted on me yet, and the stalks are such that, when I'm harvesting, I'm looking for the thinnest ones; they're very big. They have a pleasant red colour as well.
The only thing that the Victoria has up on the Näsåker is that it's earlier. After a mild winter it can be quite a bit earlier, when there's a late cold snap there's not much difference.

My guess is that a slow growing, slow to establish rhubarb will also be slow to bolt, and that a faster growing rhubarb will also bolt faster. That usually goes for veg: what grows fast, will be quick to make flowers.
So if it seems to take a bit long to get your rhubarb established; that might actually turn out to be a plus. Good luck!  
2 years ago
Potatoes are normally divided in early and late potatoes, and it's the early ones which sprout easily. The late ones are better keepers.
Potatoes can be stored in a fridge, if you have no other place that's cold enough.
3 years ago
The most authoritative study about the fatality rate of Covid-19 is that of John P A Ioannidis, who looked at the data of a huge number of studies world wide. It's a well known study, and published by the World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/bulletin/online_first/BLT.20.265892.pdf. The basic conclusions are all listed in the first page, in easy to read sentences.

When the virus first showed up, it struck quite hard, because there was little immunity. Over time, immunity in the population has built up, this is a natural occurrence; people's bodies are able to resist the virus better now; the fatality figures have come down and are still going down.
So if you want to compare with the flu, it's difficult to make that comparison a fair one. The flu has been around for longer, and there are vaccination programs around it. Still it's a lethal disease for many people. You can compare the flu with a wild animal that we've learnt how to tame but is still making lots of casualties. Then Covid is a new wild animal, it could strike by surprise because it was unknown, but slowly we're taming it. Do you want to compare the flu and Covid-19 both in their tamed form? Then keep comparing the data as they continue to evolve, but it could become a silly comparison in a while, as viruses come and go and perhaps in a while Covid-19 could be all but gone. The Spanish flu went rampant and then disappeared again, and so have lots of other, less lethal viruses. Then Covid-19 could also remain rather dangerous for certain people; it's still now a real threat for very old people.
EDIT: The flu comes back in a different strain every year, but Corona viruses have a habit of disappearing, so this one is likely to disappear at some stage. End of Edit.

I would advise people who want to form an opinion about the virus and what measures to take to gather data, just lots of data. Not individual stories and images, because they can skew the big picture. There's lots of data out there, the virus has been around for almost a year now and has been intensively studied. There are conflicting opinions about strategies, but then it's always good to go back to the data. There are even plenty of graphs that help evaluate the effectiveness of the measures.
3 years ago
fàilte! Skye would indeed seem a challenging place to do gardening - wet, boggy, never warm in summer... A bit of shelter would seem a necessity for most plants.
I've lived in Scotland for some 15 years, have visited Skye a few times, so I can imagine what your conditions are like.
I guess I'll go reading your blog for a bit now.
3 years ago
Interesting subject! I'll certainly follow some of the recommendations being made here.

Michael, I can send you some seeds of 'Friesje', a very tasty tomato that I got from a German who got pleasantly surprised by it. I grew it for the first time this year, and I've already sent quite a few people seeds, because in my opinion this tomato is a hidden gem. Not only is the taste good, I'm also still harvesting daily from my two plants, while other tomato plants have withered away due to the weather and late blight. The tomato is a large type of cherry tomato, originally from East Friesland, which is a part of Germany, and it's also for sale there - the link includes a picture: https://www.dreschflegel-shop.de/fruchtgemuese-und-obst/tomaten/stabtomaten/salattomaten/1953/salattomate-friesje?c=103.
The Pennines - border area between England and Scotland - are beautiful, and easy to reach from Newcastle (North Shields), so that's an area I can definitely recommend. It's fairly empty, not many cars, and I've always found drivers in the UK very courteous.
You'll find many single track roads in the countryside. Cars will have to stay behind you if they haven't got a good view ahead of them to safely overtake you. In my experience drivers have always been very patient. You'll have to accept being on the same road as cars, as separate bicycle lanes are nearly non-existent. But then there are so few cars, the situation can't be compared to that in The Netherlands.
What I would recommend for Britain is getting a rear view mirror. Not many cyclists in flat Netherlands use one, but especially going downhill at high speed, when you want to keep your eyes on the road in front of you, you'll still want to be aware of traffic coming from behind. And of course your brakes need to be good in the hills!

Cycling with full camping gear is really tough in the hills. Whenever I saw fully packed cyclists in Scotland, having an arduous time, I tried to make out their brand of bicycle. It was usually a Dutch brand, so I knew; 'silly Dutch people'. The scenic roads you'll want to be cycling are never flat, the bigger roads will be, but they're busy roads, and not the reason you came over.
So I would try to organise your stay in a way that would allow for day trips with your bike, unpacked, instead of planning it so that you would be fully packed most of the time, because that would be really tough.    
3 years ago
Probably the best approach is very climate dependent, so would differ a lot, dependent on the region where you are. I'm in zone 8, and my autumn sown carrots or parsnips would just grow during winter and bolt when summer comes. In zone 6 it'll be different; a youtube vlogger from Nova Scotia I follow sows his parsnips in November and he says they come up after winter.
I should be better with spring sowing, but then my main problem becomes another climate feature: drought. Tiny seeds have a problem germinating during the very dry springtime we have here. In autumn and winter the soil always remains moist and germination is very successful, but in spring direct sowing becomes very hard. My heavy clay soil doesn't help either. This winter was very wet, and I thought I could postpone sowing parsnips until February. Wrong; a month later still almost nothing had come up.
I knew about Bill Mollison's method of using a plank, had never tried it, but this seemed an ideal moment to give it a try. I used a small plank from a wrecked pallet, and immediately noticed the soil underneath remained moist for days on end without me having to water. Some three weeks later I saw small seedlings appearing and I could remove the plank. That's the day the picture shows, more seedlings have surfaced since, and I now need to thin. So, depending on your climate and soil, an old plank can indeed be a big help with germination.  
Another suggestion might be Chocolate Vine (Akebia), which also gives tasty fruit - provided you have at least 2 genetically different plants for pollination. The variety Akebia quinata turned out to be winter-green outside at my place, in a sheltered position. I've also got an Akebia pentaphylla, which isn't entirely winter-green here, but has been in leaf again since the end of March, which is way earlier than most bushes and trees at my place. So Chocolate Vine will already provide shade in spring. It's a fast grower once established, but that might go for all climbers; they need a few years to establish themselves. If you want something for this year pole beans would indeed be a good suggestion.
4 years ago
I agree with Jay Angler. Possibly something like this: http://www.foragingpictures.com/plants/Blackberry/h0010.htm.