Monthly Archives: October 2010

(Untitled)

Saturday night, October 9th, while I was enjoying myself at a friend’s party around a bonfire, my garden experienced it’s first autumn frost. Temperatures plummeted to about 28 degrees F. The frost was not unexpected, so basil and pepper plants had been draped with old blankets and other pieces of cloth, the two pressure regulators and filters for drip irrigation lines had been swaddled in additional scraps of cloth, and any tender houseplants had been brought indoors or moved to protected places.

My low lying patch of ground in the Wallkill River Valley is a particularly cold spot. Still, twenty-eight degrees was colder than I expected; many nearby gardens didn’t even experience light frost. Despite the covers, peppers and basil were blackened by frost.

Read the complete post…

(Untitled)

A couple of weeks ago I had a most fruitful — and I mean this very literally — experience. I visited one of the USDA’s germplasm repositories. A “germplasm repository” doesn’t sound like the kind of place anyone would want to be, but these USDA repositories are, in fact, sunny, colorful places, often redolent with enticing aromas. In the case of the one I visited, the aroma was of ripening apples.

Germplasm is the stuff that gives rise to an organism, and the USDA has set up repositories around the country to house various kinds of plants. Each repository is situated where a particular group of plants grows well. So Davis, California is home to the repository for figs, pomegranates, and Asian persimmons; Corvallis, Oregon is …

Read the complete post…

(Untitled)

This year, I’m determined minimize the number of scale insects that hitchhike into my home as I bring potted citrus, gardenia, and orchid plants indoors. So beginning 3 weeks ago, every Monday I started dousing the plants with a relatively nontoxic spray, soap. (Nontoxic to just about everything except those scale insects, that is.)

Soap is a contact killer for insects, causing death by collapsing cell membranes, resulting in contents leaking out of cells and dehydration. Sounds gruesome, eh? It’s that or letting the scale insects weaken plants and drip their sticky honeydew, which they exude, on leaves, furniture, and carpet through winter. Fungi then move in to gobble up the honeydew, casting a dark shadow wherever it has dripped. Sounds worse, eh?

Read the complete post…

(Untitled)

I may have committed sacrilege with the “stinking rose” last week: I planted it. The stinking rose is another name for garlic, and the recommended time for planting is around the time of autumn’s first frost, which hasn’t yet happened and isn’t in the immediate offing. In fact, to my way of thinking, I got my garlic in a little too late this year, only because I couldn’t decide where to plant it.

Once a garlic clove is planted, it starts to grow roots and usually pushes a few leaves up out of the soil. Come winter, those leaves might die back; then again, with snow cover, they might not. Other gardeners fear that dieback of leaves in winter will hurt the plants but I’ve never noticed …

Read the complete post…