Monthly Archives: May 2014

To Fertilize or Not To Fertilize, That is the Question

Looking out on my vegetable garden last week, I noticed some yellowing leaves on kale transplants. Perhaps the yellowing leaves were just a legacy from the kale transplants adjustment to their home outdoors. In the greenhouse, lettuce that I planted last month lacked its expected exuberance.  Perhaps slow growth of lettuce was my imagination.

Or perhaps the lettuces and kales needed some fertilizer. Vegetables are generally heavy feeders, and leafy vegetables especially so. My garden doesn’t get fertilizer per se; the plants get all they need from compost. Years ago I calculated that a one inch depth of fully ripened compost could thoroughly satisfy the nutritional needs of vegetable plants — even intensively planted vegetables — for a year, and that’s what my plants get. As an added benefit, compost, in contrast to chemical fertilizers and even most organic fertilizers, offers a wide spectrum of nutrients in addition to …

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What’s New Farmdenly?

In this early part of the growing season, I’m frequently asked, “So what new and exciting plants are you growing in the garden this year?” And just as frequently, I can’t think of anything. Not that gardening isn’t “new and exciting” every year, what with the vagaries of the weather and pests, and their interaction with planting, pruning, and soil care.

Well, this year I can think of at least four new and exciting plants I’m growing.

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I actually have grown cardoon before, perhaps 25 years ago. And up until this weekend, I had no desire to ever grow it again. The plant is like a giant celery with spiny stalks that must be tied together so that they get blanched and edible. Or supposedly edible, once you removed the tough strings running down each stalk. Blanching and de-stringing was a lot of trouble, too much trouble for me considering …

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The Unknown Known

   To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, defense secretary under W, there are the known knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns. Donald, you forgot about the unknown knowns. Lets talk about gardening, not war, and the knowns that need to be better known.

Visitors to my garden (actually workshop attendees) were oohing and ahing over some 18-inch-high stalks each capped with a crown of leaves beneath which dangled a circle of red blossoms. Aptly named crown imperial, Fritillaria imperialis, deserves to be more widely known. No one seemed put off by the skunky aroma that suffuses the air even feet away from the plant; I like it.

Perhaps crown imperial would be better known if the bulbs didn’t go for more than 10 dollars each. My gardens’ profusion of crown imperial stalks is more an indication of my green thumb than …

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Of Nuts & Mice

  How could I resist? Road crews that had been trimming trees along power lines were finishing up work almost right in front of my house with a whole truckload of wood chips. Spreading chips had not been on my “to do” list; now it was, right after the crew graciously dumped contents of the truck in a space between my chestnut trees.

Chestnuts are trees of the forest. Mine, like many of those deliberately planted, have grass at their feet. The wood chips, I reasoned, would make the ground more home-like for the trees. Forest soils are typically overlaid with a layer of organic (that is, living or once living) materials: fallen leaves, twigs, limbs. These organic materials rot, in the process releasing nutrients as well as putting nutrients already in the soil in forms more readily accessible to plants. The organic feast encourages fungi, bacteria, and other …

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Books to Forage By, or Not

   I’m more of a cultivated-food type guy than a wild-food type guy. I like to be able to go right out my back door to grab a tomato from a row of tomato plants than have to hike into the woods for a few nibbles of American black currants.

With that said, plenty of overlooked foods — wild plants — grow right at our feet. Plenty of chickweed makes its way in among my early spring lettuces, and more purslane than I could possibly eat insinuates itself at the feet of my corn plants. Black raspberries grow in a semi-cultivated state along the edge of woods here. And when I do head for a walk in field or forest, how nice to come upon wineberries and other refreshing, wild treats. And not everyone has a garden (shudder the thought!).

If, for one reason or …

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