Monthly Archives: August 2014

WESTWARD HO, FOR FRUIT MEETINGS AND EATINGS

Fruit Nuts, Including Me, Nurseries, & Wild Blueberries

Are there organizations for people who make and eat cheese; build and ride motorcycles; write and read books; grow and savor fruits? All I know is that the answer to the existence of the last-named organization is a rowsing “yes!” I know because I recently returned from Oregon, where I converged with other fruit nuts  for the annual meeting of North American Fruit Explorers (www.nafex.org, and nuts, incidentally, are also covered under the organization’s umbrella).

No need to don a pith helmet and traipse off to Borneo to be a fruit explorer. Not that you couldn’t, and be one. No, this fun meeting brought together everyone from backyard growers with a few fruit plants to AN 88-year-old guy who grows over 3,000 varieties of apples. Fruits represented ranged from apples and pears to pawpaws and persimmons and, even more rare, haskaps and gumis. …

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GOOD FUNGI AND BAD INSECTS

Fungi I Like and Bean & Japanese Beetles (Don’t Like)

Where once scorned or appreciated only after being sautéed in butter, fungi have finally come into their own. If you’re among those who isn’t awed by fungi except when they’re sautéed, swallow this: each gram of soil (the weight of a paper clip) might house over a million fungi, or anywhere from 10 to 100 pounds of them in the top 6 inches of a 1000 square feet of soil. And most of what they do — for plants and soil, forget about your taste buds for now — is beneficial.

I recently heard of a project using fungi as a building material. On exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s PS1 in New York City is Hy-Fi, a cylindrical tower built our of bricks made from fungi that have been fed cornstalks, the fungi’s fine, thread-like hyphae growing to create dense …

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WEEDS, BIRDS, & PEST-FREE CURRANTS

 

I Battle Weeds and Birds, but Currants are Care-free

Part of my weedless gardening technique (which I thoroughly fleshed out in my book Weedless Gardening) involves — sad to say, for some people — weeding. After all, no garden can ever be truly weedless. Even people who spray Roundup eventually get weeds as they inadvertently “breed” for Roundup-resistant weeds, which now exist. My techniques are weed-less rather than weedless.

Which brings me to hoeing. Most years my hoe rests on its designated hook in the garage. This year, it’s hardly made it back to garage, mostly just leaning up against the garden fence alongside the gate. “And why is this?” you might ask. The answer is rain. This season, rainfall has been dropping in sufficient amounts at regular intervals, all of which has coaxed good plant growth, including that of weeds.

More importantly, the rainfall has promoted plant growth in paths and …

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Eerie White to Golden Flowers, with Some Fungi Helping Out

White Indian pipes, mycorrhizae, and a golden flower

I do occasionally tear myself away from the farmden. So into the woods I went last Friday and as I was hiking along and glancing down at the trail, I came upon one of my favorite flowers. It’s a favorite not for its beauty but for what it hints at of goings-on beneath the soil surface.

The flower was indian pipes, Monotropa uniflora, an eerily white plant that looks like a upright tobacco pipe whose stem has been poked into the ground. Yes, it’s white. All white. You might rightly wonder how the plant synthesizes carbohydrates for energy and for structure. Photosynthesis, which makes carbohydrates,  requires chlorophyll, which is green. Indian pipes don’t need chlorophyll because they get their carbohydrates from neighboring trees.

Join me while I go below ground. Stopping for a look at the roots of indian pipes, we see that they …

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Plagues Come & Go, With Some Help, and Seattle-time

Meet me in St. L . . . Seattle

Come hear me lecture on August 10, 2014 on “Luscious Landscaping, with Fruiting Trees, Shrubs, and Vines” at 1 pm in the Garden Room at Magnuson Park. For more information, go to http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/755459.

Plague again; keep calm

Every year it seems some new plague is ready to attack plants. A few years ago, late blight of tomato moved to the fore. Emerald ash borer, threatening ash trees, was first found on our shores in 2002. (Figuratively; literally, the insect, native to Asia, was first noted in Michigan.) What’s next?

Perhaps a calmer outlook is called for. A decade or so garlic mustard seemed ready to take over our world. Not so, now, perhaps because it’s being crowded out by Japanese stilt grass, which itself seems now ready to take over our world. Garlic mustard is …

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