Monthly Archives: November 2012

PRUNING, I CAN’T RESIST

Now is generally not a good time for pruning outdoor plants. Too bad. With the lawn nicely trimmed and vegetable and flower beds tidied up, it’s all the more difficult to resist the urge to lop back at least some misplaced or congested stems on trees, shrubs, and vines.

Redosier dogwood, neglected

I can’t resist. I figure little or no harm should come as long as I choose carefully what to cut. One reason not to prune now is that any wounding — and pruning does wound — stimulates a certain amount of cellular activity near the cut at a time when plants should be hunkering down for winter. Resulting cold injury can be minimized or nonexistent if pruning is restricted to the most cold-hardy plants. Also, gaping wounds won’t heal until spring so are open to pests. Here I rationalize …

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OILING MY EYES

I’ve always wanted to oil the eye of a fig, and finally got around to it a couple of weeks ago. Not that oiling a fig’s eye is something new or something that I came up with; fig lovers have been oiling their eyes at least since 300 B.C.E. And our reason for doing it is to speed ripening.


My oiled fig is the variety Kadota, which grows in a pot sitting in a sunny, south-facing window. Still, the amount of light streaming through those panes this time of year is around 500 foot-candles, as compared with a 10,000 foot-candle bath from summer sunlight, which figs do love. Light intensity and duration dropping daily justified a little oiling to speed up ripening. All that’s required is a drop of oil placed on the eye — the ostiole — of the …

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THINGS NOT SO ROSEY

Lest anyone believe that everything is always rosy here on the farmden, it ain’t so. True, right now, vegetable beds are brimming over with crisp, tender heads of delicious lettuce, broccoli, endive, and cabbage, and upright stalks of aromatic celery and leek. And, yes, the floor of the greenhouse is verdant with developing, young lettuce, large, leafy kale and Swiss chard plants, and 10 foot tall fig trees bearing fruits


But let’s start with those figs, three different varieties of which live with their roots right in the ground in the greenhouse. Green Ischia has been bearing large, copper-colored, firm, sweet fruits for weeks and weeks. No problem here.

About 8 feet from the Green Ischia grows a Brown Turkey fig. It kicked off the season as usual, loaded with fruit that started ripening in early September. Then scale insects …

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WORMS, WEEDS, AND BACTERIA

Autumn weather has been stellar this year, with a welcome number of crystal clear, sunny days, balmy temperatures, and enough rain to keep plants happy. Imported cabbageworms are evidently also happy, judging from the holes with which broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage leaves are now riddled. Even worse, looking more closely I see dark, green caterpillar poop down in among the leaves. And even worse than that, all that feeding weakens the plants and — I think — ruins their flavors (even after they’ve been thoroughly washed).


Problems from imported cabbage worms, as well as two other leaf-munching caterpillars, diamondback moth and cabbage looper, are easily dispatched. All three pests are members of the insect order Lepidoptera, which includes moths and butterflies; the organic insecticide B.t., short for Bacillus thuringienses and commercially sold under such trade names as Thuricide and Dipel, …

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THE CLOSING SCENES . . .

In the wee hours of the night of October 12th, temperatures here plummeted to 24°F, and it’s about time. Not that some garden plants wouldn’t have enjoyed a few more weeks of frost-free weather, but in the recent past, that depth of cold would typically arrive on the scene a couple of weeks or more earlier.


So I had plenty of time to prepare everything for the frigid night. Drip irrigation timers, filters, and pressure reducers are safely stowed away in the basement until next April. Frost-tender houseplants are lounging near sunny windows. The extra vents on the greenhouse have been sealed shut for winter. And the near-final cleanup is well underway.
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Tidying up the garden is a very satisfying job, especially in a no-till garden like mine. (I detail the benefits of no-till to plants and humans in my …

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