Yearly Archives: 2010

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Hot and dry — what great summer weather we’ve had for grapes. Every morning for the past few weeks I’ve gone out and picked bunches for fresh eating, and I’ll continue to do so for weeks to come. The bunches aren’t those of just any old varieties; they are varieties chosen from among the 5,000 or so existing grape varieties.

Well, not really. I couldn’t choose from among all 5,000 varieties because many varieties would not grow here. The grapes that grow best here are those derived from fox grapes (Vitis labrusca) and other species native to this part of the world. Concord is the archetype fox grape, with a slip skin, a jelly-like flesh, and that distinctive, foxy flavor. Muscadine grapes (V. rotundifolia) are native to the Southeast, so aren’t hardy here. European wine grapes (Vitis vinifera) …

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On September 25th, from 2-5 pm, I’ll be conducting a “Workshop & Tasting: Autumn’s Delectable Fruits” in my garden. This workshop will cover what fruits are best and easiest to grow, and how to grow them. Everyone will also get to taste delectable fruits such as pawpaws, persimmons, hardy kiwifruit, many varieties of heirloom apples, and more. Space is limited, and the cost is $35 per person. Contact me for more information and to register. Please see my website for contact information.

It’s 10 am and I just came in from the garden where a temperature already 85 degrees and bright sun bode for a scorcher today. Out there, I sowed seeds of spinach, arugula, mache, and Buttercrunch, Romaine, and Red Deer Tongue lettuce directly in vegetable beds and in the cold-frame. Despite today’s heat and …

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On September 25th, from 2-5 pm, I’ll be conducting a “Workshop & Tasting: Autumn’s Delectable Fruits” in my garden. This workshop will cover what fruits are best and easiest to grow, and how to grow them. Everyone will also get to taste delectable fruits such as pawpaws, persimmons, hardy kiwifruit, many varieties of heirloom apples, and more. Space is limited, and the cost is $35 per person. Contact me for more information and to register. Please see my website for contact information.

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Looking around at my fruit trees and bushes, flowers, vegetable beds, and ornamental and fruiting vines makes me wish I had a catchy name for the kind of gardening I do. A catchy name like, for example, “permaculture,” which is all the craze these days.

Everyone loves permaculture. Many budding young as well as experienced permaculturalists have visited my garden to see what I’ve been doing here for the last 25 years. Yes, I have integrated edibles right into the landscape, as do permaculturalists. And, again like permaculturalists, I try to maximize use of the 3 dimensional space in my garden, with, for example, my shade-loving black currants growing beneath my pawpaw trees. I am also …

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Heirloom tomatoes

And the winner is . . . Cherokee Purple. At my recent tomato growing workshop, we also did a tomato tasting. I cut tomatoes, passed out slices, and everyone rated each variety on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being best. The rating was strictly for flavor, to me the most important quality in a home-grown tomato. I try to grow only the best-tasting varieties each year; we tasted some of these varieties as well as a few others I got from Four Winds Farm in Gardiner, NY, a farm that specializes in heirloom varieties.

Here are the ratings, representing a rough average of workshop attendees’ opinions with, I admit, a heavier weighting from me, because I plan to use the ratings to determine which …

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I hate to spray. That’s why last week I wrote that I’d rather snap the ends off ears of sweet corn infested with earworms rather than spray the corn to avert damage. That, despite the fact that the spray, Thuricide, isn’t poisonous to humans and most other creatures besides corn earworms and related insects. Today I had to spray, using this very material on a different plant.

Thuricide, one trade name for the bacterial insecticide Bacillus thurengiensis karstaki, or BTK, is specific against lepidopterous caterpillars. Lepidoptera is the order of insects that includes moths and butterflies (which these particular caterpillars become). Some lepidoptera, such as the swallowtails, are very beautiful. Other lepidoptera, such as those white moths that flit about cabbage, broccoli, kale, and related plants, are …

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Almost everyone, upon taking their first step out my back door, glances upward and says, “What are those bags for?” They’re looking at my grape arbor from which dangle bunches of grapes as well as white paper bags. To me, the purpose of the bags is obvious: to enclose some of the bunches. Perhaps the fact that not all the grapes are bagged is confusing. Perhaps people are thrown off by the inscription “Fresh Delicious Wholesome Baked Goods” printed ini bold letters on the bags, which I bought in bulk from a bakery supplier.

Grapes are a luscious treat not only to us humans, but also to birds, bees, and some furry creatures. And disease organisms, such as black rot and powdery mildew, enjoy “eating” the berries …

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It’s getting very hard to work outside in the garden, especially in early evening. No, not because of the heat. Not because of mosquitos either. The difficulty comes from the intoxicating aroma that wafts into the air each evening now from the row of lilies just outside the east side of my vegetable garden.

These lilies are not daylilies, which are mildly and pleasantly fragrant. Wild, orange dayliles are common along roadways and yellow and hybrid daylilies, often yellow, are common in mall parking lots .(That’s not a dis’; the plants tough and beautiful, and I’ve planted them also.) Neither are these lilies tiger lilies, which lack aroma and sport downward turned, dark red speckled orange flowers with recurved petals.

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Summertime and the livin’ is easy, fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high . . . I don’t know about the fish in this hot weather, but, yes, the cotton is getting high. High for New York’s Hudson Valley, that is. My cotton is now about 10 inches high.

The yellowing, old pages of my Farmer’s Encyclopedia of Agriculture, published in 1914, states that cotton “is successfully cultivated in the United States as far north as Southern Virginia.” I’m banking on today’s hotter and longer summers for a cotton harvest this far north. Not that I’ve invested much in my crop; only 4 plants, started from seed sown in April and each now in its own 2 gallon pot.

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Today, June 30th, I saw my first couple of Japanese beetles of the season. They looked innocent enough, a single one on a grape leaf earlier in the day and then another one on a different grape leaf later in the day.

I know they weren’t the same beetle because each one I saw I wrapped in its resident leaf and squeezed hard. Ruthless? Perhaps. But any beetles now could be — probably will be — forerunners of hoards to come. What’s more, the more beetles that show up, the more new beetles will be attracted. And last summer’s wet weather provided good conditions for the beetles’ egg-laying in grassy areas, so plenty of young ‘uns might soon be …

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