Yearly Archives: 2010

(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…

(Untitled)

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) …

Read the complete post…

(Untitled)

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 …

Read the complete post…

(Untitled)

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.

(Untitled)

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 …

Read the complete post…

(Untitled)

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 …

Read the complete post…

(Untitled)

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 …

Read the complete post…

(Untitled)

In an hour and a half this morning, a 20’ long by 3’ wide bed of spired, aging corn stalks morphed into a bed of succulent, young greenery in the form of escarole and radicchio transplants.

Before beginning this job I harvest what ears were still ripe on the stalks. The yield from this first corn planting was small, both in quantity and size of ears. Old fashioned Golden Bantam, as told by its name, normally yields small ears — but not usually as small as the 3 to 5 inch long ears I harvested. Planting in “hills” (clusters of 4 plants) usually provides for adequate pollination, but scorching weather at a critical developmental stage might have thrown pollination awry. At any rate, with ears harvested, I lopped each …

Read the complete post…

(Untitled)

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 …

Read the complete post…