Monthly Archives: February 2014

Bananas, No, Yes.

Yes, we have no bananas. We do have a banana tree.

Decades ago I was in a similar situation. How could I resist a catalog ad for a dwarf banana tree, one that wouldn’t grow more than 6 to 8 feet high, so could be accommodated within the confines of a standard room? I bought the small pup, which is what small, plantable offshoots from the mother tree are called, and planted it in a large pot. The pup grew. And grew. And grew. The plant topped out at 6 to 8 feet but the developing leaves, rolled up and pointing skyward before unrolling and flopping down, reached a lot higher. Banana isn’t really a tree; it’s a giant herb whose “trunk” is, in fact, made up of concentric layers of rolled up leaves that don’t flop down to a more horizontal position until they unroll.

“A mature tree …

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Graft, the Good Kind

My friend Sara had a question about graft, which made me immediately think of a recent news item stating that, for the first time, more than half of the members of Congress are millionaires. You rarely hear about graft these days, perhaps because dollars are so ubiquitous a lubricant for our political machinery. No need anymore to elevate the practice with a special word.

But Sara was talking about grafting, not graft, and it was for tomatoes. Apples, peaches, and other fruit trees have been grafted for centuries. Tomato grafting is relatively recent, at least in this country. Sara wanted to know my thoughts about grafting tomatoes and whether we should pool our resources to get some plants.

Grafted tomatoes might grow more vigorously, might be resistant to soil-borne diseases, and/or might be more tolerant of salty, wet, or cold soils. A grafted plant has a specially …

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The Season Begins

Gentlemen (and ladies, and kids), start your engines. The 2014 gardening season has begun, here on the farmden, at least.

The day began with my lugging the big pail of potting soil from the cold garage to a warm spot near the woodstove. My home-made potting soil — equal parts peat, compost, garden soil, and perlite, with some soybean meal thrown in — is moist when I make it, so was frozen solid. Not usable or suitable for germinating seeds.

Once the potting soil defrosts and warms, I scoop it into a seed flat and a small plastic tub into which I’ve drilled drainage holes. Firming the soil in place with my Furrow Maker, a small board with spaced out,

The Furrow Maker in action

1/4-inch dowels glued to its underbelly, creates a miniature farm field. Into the tub’s “field” go rows …

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Thank You.

Thank you to everyone who offered to send me seeds of ‘Gardener’s Delight’ tomato from Britain. I have some seeds, and will of course, post the results of my little experiment — in August.

The Capillatron & A Bit of Alyssum

Alyssum’s problem may be that it’s too easy to grow. Sprinkle some alyssum seeds on the ground or plug in some transplants, water, and forget about them. Soon you have a mound of tiny, white flowers. That also might be alyssum’s problem. No traffic-stopping colors or humungous or odd-shaped blossoms.

But why think about alyssum (Lobularia maritima) this time of year? Because my alyssum just opened the first of its tiny blossoms. Let’s backtrack, to last spring.

As usual, I was going to sprinkle alyssum seeds on the ground to fill in some areas along the edge of a flower bed where, in all honesty, the plants would probably go unnoticed. Then I realized how much I actually like alyssum if I stop to look at it, and I especially love the blossoms’ honey-like aroma. So instead of

sowing seeds …

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