Monthly Archives: April 2010

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This evening my apple trees were suddenly shrouded in a ghost-like pallor. It was all my doing and all for their own good. The transformation was the result of my spraying the trees with a suspension of white, kaolin clay.

That clay is a commercial product, marketed as Surround and made for organic control of various pests. The pest that I’m targeting is a cute but devastating little creature called the plum curculio. As you might guess from its name, plum curculios also attack plums, as well as peaches, nectarines, apricots, and cherries. Do nothing to thwart the ‘curc’, and, depending on the season, you could end up with no apples. Zip. Nada. Rien.

I’ve used Surround unsuccessfully for many years. The stuff has to be applied repeatedly in order to be effective, every 7 to 10 days, more if it rains. Done. What I didn’t learn …

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I believe I have earned the title of “phenologist.” No, I haven’t been measuring skulls to assess character, which is the realm of phrenology. Phenology, which I have been practicing, is the study of climate as reflected in the natural cycles of plants and animals.

For the past 28 years, I have recorded the dates on which various plants have blossomed or ripened their fruits. My interest was horticultural: In spring, plants blossom after experiencing a certain accumulation of warm temperatures; fruit ripening reflects, to a lesser degree, further accumulation of warmth. The amount of warmth needed to bring on those flowers or ripen fruits varies with the kind of plant, sometimes even with the variety of plant.

Depending on late winter and spring weather, blossoming dates for various plants can vary quite a bit. Microclimate also plays a role, so I’ve tried to always …

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You’d think my chickens and ducks would be more thankful. Ratty, old straw bedding and manure have now been replace by fresh, new straw. But no, the chickens were nonchalant as usual, hardly noticing my work. And the ducks decided to spend the night out – not a wise choice, but then ducks aren’t know for their intelligence. The drake wouldn’t know about the housekeeping anyway because he has chosen or been directed to keep out of the house nights since the female ducks began laying a few weeks ago. He sits nearby from dusk till dawn.

Cleaning out the chicken and duck house a few times a year is little work compared to what the poultry offer in return. The chickens spend all day scratching and pecking for insects and whatever else they find in the lawn and field; the ducks dine by scooping and nibbling. All …

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Up until a few years ago, I couldn’t get sufficiently empathetic to other gardener’s Japanese beetle woes. That, despite the fact that Japanese beetles are not picky eaters and descend upon gardens almost everywhere. The problem – the empathy problem, that is – was that never more than a few beetles ever made their appearance in my garden.

That situation changed – bad for my garden, good for my empathy – around 2005, when beetle numbers started increasing. Nowadays my garden has annual, full-blown outbreaks of the beetles. Last summer’s rain was good for the beetles’ egg-laying, so problems may be severe this year.

Trapping, milky spore disease, walks over the lawn with spiked shoes, and hand-picking all do their part in limiting beetle numbers, but a recent report tells of another tack: geraniums! Botanically Pelargonium, and specifically zonal geraniums, the ones with the dark zones on …

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It’s time to prune trees and shrubs!! I will be holding a PRUNING WORKSHOP at my garden (in New York’s Hudson Valley) on April 10th from 2-5:30 pm. Learn the tools of the trade, how plants respond to pruning, and watch Lee demonstrate pruning of apple trees, blueberry bushes, lilac bushes, and other plants. Limited space, so pre-registration is necessary. The cost is $35 per person with pre-registration before April 6th, $40 otherwise. Contact me for registration information.

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As the writer of the book Weedless Gardening, I would have expected my own vegetable garden to be more weedless. I see weeds in my garden, more than in springs past.

Last summer’s wet weather has something to do with the present weed situation. In a normal summer, with its periods of dryness, drip irrigation (part of …

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