Yearly Archives: 2013

Fruits Galore, But Not Apples

Check out www.youtube.com/leereichfarmden, a new video is up about me and my cat pruning kiwi vines.
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Growing fruits is one of my specialties but, sad to admit, I may be the worst apple grower I know. What’s worse is all the time and effort I put into growing my apples, even way before they begin to fruit.

Mine are all super-dwarf trees, planted because these small trees yield more from a given land area than large trees and they eliminate the need for ladders. Usually, dwarf trees are made by grafting the

desired variety onto special dwarfing rootstocks. Mine are M.27, M.9, and Bud.9. But dwarfing rootstocks have weak root systems that barely support the trees and cannot forage far for nutrients and water. So the trees need staking and the best of soil conditions.

My super-dwarfs are special. They are interstem …

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Who’s Got a Pretty Garden?

The Liberty Bell was not the goal of my recent visit to Philadelphia. Instead, I made a bee-line for Chanticleer (http://www.chanticleergarden.org), a public garden in Wayne, just outside Philly. It’s one of America’s great (as in fabulous, exceptional, matchless) gardens. Like other great gardens — the ones that I consider great, at least — flowers are not the main attraction at Chanticleer.

The beauty of Chanticleer rests, in large part, in its “structure.” That is, the enduring qualities of the views, the shape of the land, the large trees, the paving that leads your eyes and your feet, and the walls.

One special structural feature of Chanticleer is its ruins. Yes, ruins! Not actual ruins, but a stone mansion, roofless and apparently falling apart — all built to look that way. Why? Because ruins add a romantic air to a garden. Dilapidation. Plants re-enveloping the decrepitude, much …

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A Scything I Do Go . . .

What a lucky gardener I am to have a one-acre field at my disposal. Not for planting, though. Except part of it; I couldn’t restrain myself.

When I moved here, many years ago, the caretakers of the field — before it was mine –mowed it every couple of weeks all summer long. Before them, another neighbor had mowed the field once a year with a sickle bar mower attached to his tractor. Nowadays, I mow the bulk of the field once a year with my tractor’s

brush hog attachment, which is, in essence, a giant rotary motor. But I mow the edges and a significant portion of the field by hand, with a scythe.

(Stay tuned for a scything video posted on my “Life on the Farmden” video series; link to the series above, to the right.)

So what’s so lucky …

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Flowers and Grapes

I thought the reason for the bags was obvious, but the eyes of just about everyone who steps out on my terrace turn upwards and then a quizzical look comes on their face. “Why are those bags up there,” they

ask. The bags enclose bunches of grapes hanging from the vines, and their purpose is to fend off birds, bees and other insects, and disease.

The payoff for tediously fitting slit paper bags around individual bunches, then stapling the folded over opening down around the stem, has come. Usually, not always; sometimes I open a bag and find nothing inside. But while many unbagged bunches are marred with bird pecking and black rot, the bagged bunches, at their best, reveal perfect bunches of plump, juicy grapes. We bag about 100 bunches each spring.

The longer grapes hang on the vines, …

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Viruses Are Good . . . Sometimes

I suspected, and recently confirmed, that my raspberry plants have the “flu.” Okay, not the flu (as in influenza), but a virus, in any case. The plants looked okay but they weren’t bearing their usual abundant crops. And the berries that they were bearing seemed a little crumbly.

The virus culprits were narrowed down to two possibilities, raspberry dwarf bushy virus and tomato ringspot virus. Either of these viruses may also bring on patterned yellowing of leaves, or not, depending on the raspberry variety, time of year, and other variables. (No, raspberry dwarf bushy virus does not make raspberries grow dwarf and bushy.)

Not that viruses are the only things that can make raspberries crumbly. Tarnished plant bug is an insect that feeds on developing flowers and fruits of raspberries and a slew of other plants. If too many druplets of a berry are eaten, the rest of the …

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Better than a Boxer and Goodbye to Mac

Check it out! New video up at www.youtube.com/leereichfarmden showing step-by-step preparation of weedless beds in autumn.

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Some people consider owning a Porsche Boxer to be a luxury; I consider crunching through winter snow to the greenhouse and picking a fresh head of lettuce to be a luxury. This lettuce-y luxury must be earned at a price that is more than monetary. It was a couple of weeks ago that I started paying for part of this year and next.

The goal is to harvest a head of lettuce every day from now through winter and on into next spring. That takes planning.

So at the end of August I filled a 4 by 6 inch seed flat with potting soil and sprinkled a different variety of lettuce into each of four mini-furrows. Covered with a pane of glass and watered, the seeds soon sprouted,
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Tomatoes and Corn, mmmm

And the winner is . . . (drum roll) . . . Lillian’s Yellow. Last week’s tomato growing workshop here climaxed with a tomato tasting of 15 heirloom varieties. Many of the fruits came from Four Winds Farm in Gardiner, NY, which specializes in and, in spring, sells transplants of, heirloom varieties.

In order to be semi-scientific about which heirlooms tasted best, I splayed them out on a tray, and as I sliced each variety, we tasted and rated them on a scale of 1 to 10. Occasionally we went back to tasting prior ones to see if taste buds were getting dulled or if we had started out setting the bar either to high or too low.

Lillian’s Yellow’s victory, with an average rating of 8, came as a surprise. After all, it was up against Brandywine, which is a top contender in every tomato taste-off. Carolyn Male, …

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No-Till & Compost, and Still Problems

One of the best things about no-till gardening is not having to till. The soil of my vegetable garden hasn’t been disturbed for over 2 decades. Besides avoiding the hassle of tilling, not having to till makes for quicker and easier planting.

Today, for instance, I planned to clear a bed of harvested edamame plants to make way for lettuce. Easy! I just pulled up each plant, coaxing it along, if necessary with a Hori Hori knife so that I had the tops and only the main roots in hand. Once plants were up and out, light use of a lawn rake gathered up dropped leaves, pods, and other debris, and brought what few weeds were still present into focus for removal. In 20 minutes, I had the double row of plants in a 20 foot by 3 foot wide bed cleared, and the bed cleaned up.

“Quicker and …

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Plums and Pears

New video now up: See www.youtube.com/leereichfarmden.

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Whoosh! Summer is speeding past. Cicadas have come and gone. Same goes for Japanese beetles. Temperatures have cooled dramatically.

And now it’s raining plums. That’s a good thing, and something not easily achieved in this part of the world without, at least, some sprays. The main threats come from plum curculio, Oriental fruit moth, black knot, and brown knot. The first and the last are my most serious plum pests, curculio causing young fruits to plummet to the ground early in the season and brown rot turning nearly ripe fruit into masses of gray fuzz.

Although a few early season sprays, the last in June, knocked out many curculios and reduced inoculum for later infections of brown rot, pruning is all-important in my arsenal against pests. In late winter, I clipped off or partially back enough branches so that remaining ones would …

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Blueberry Challenge and Aromas Good and Bad

Book Giveaway: AND THE WINNER IS: Andrea Jilling. Andrea, please contact me about mailing out the book. Everyone, stay tuned for more book giveaways in future weeks.

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Blueberry-growing used to be so boring. Each autumn I’d spread soybean meal beneath the plants as fertilizer and top it with 3 inches of leaves, wood shavings, or other mulch. Late each winter I’d prune. In late June, netting would go over the top of the plants and from then on, into September, I’d harvest oodles of blueberries.

Earlier this year I knew things could get interesting. Spotted wing drosophila (SWD), a new pest fond of many fruits, showed up last year in the area and an encore was predicted. And then, starting in early August, my harvested blueberries began to soften quickly and were soon swimming in their own juice. The culprit, SWD, was here, in numbers, with plenty of enticing berries …

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