Yearly Archives: 2014

COMPOST, FERTILITY, & SUSTAINABILITY

Compost and/or Living or Dead Organic Material = Sustainable Fertility

Maple leaves already dapple the ground in red and yellow (early this year), one morning showed off what was to come with frost on the windshield, and each day the sun each hangs lower in the sky, yet I’m getting ready for spring planting. Really! Yes, I’d rather do it now than in spring.

Beds of spent vegetables have been cleared. Okra plants, in this cool weather, just sat in place, hardly producing any new pods. So out went the plants. I severed the main roots with my hori-hori knife (www.oescoinc.com) and yanked out each stem. When corn is finished, it’s finished. Beds of early corn got replanted with endive, lettuce, and other late vegetables, but the latest beds of corn were harvested too late for replanting. Clearing away old vegetable plants not only clears the deck for next spring but also …

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FLOWERS FOR THE VEGGIE GARDEN

Zinnias In and Colchicum Outside

And the winner is  . . . Every year boxes of plants arrive at my doorstep, sent by nurseries and seed companies hoping to wow me with their products which I will then praise and induce you all to purchase. Most of the plants turn out to be ho-hum, perhaps new but not necessarily better than what’s been around for decades. Not so this season, for a charming yellow flower that’s been blooming nonstop all summer long and offers no indication as yet of expiring.

That plant is  . . . unfortunately I lost the label so have been sleuthing for days now to give this winning plant a name. It looks much like a zinnia, a single flowered zinnia, that is, one with a single row of petals. The plants are compact, a little more that a foot high and wide, and — very un-zinnia-like …

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Fruit, Grain, & Vegetable

Homegrown Persimmons, Popcorn, and Brussels Sprouts, All in Abundance

It’s raining persimmons! And every morning I go out to gather drops from beneath the trees. And every afternoon. And, depending on the wind and the temperature, sometimes early evenings also.

The fruits are delicate, their soft jelly-flesh ready to burst through their thin, translucent skins. Most fruits survive the trip from branch to ground unscathed because of the close shorn, soft, thick lawn landing pad that awaits them. I pop any that burst right into my mouth or else toss them beyond the temporary, fenced-in area as a treat to my the ducks or to Sammy, my dog who has developed a taste for the fruit. (The ducks, Indian Runners, hardly fly but Sammy, if he put two and two together, could easily hop the low fence and beat me to the fruits.) Repeatedly gathering fruit through the day is needed …

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HOW GREEN, OR NOT, IS MY THUMB?

Apples a Bust, Pears a Success, Gooseberries a Bust, etc.

Early autumn is a good time for me to find a sunny spot on the terrace with a comfortable chair, pluck a bunch of grapes from the arbor overhead, and ponder the fruits of this year’s labors. And I mean “fruits,” literally: what were my successes, what were my failures, and what do future seasons hold?

In good years, my apples are very, very good; Hudson’s Golden Gem here.

To many people, to too many people, “fruit” means apples, the equivalence having deep roots since pomum is Latin for both apple and fruit. My apple crop this year, whether measured in pounds or number of fruits, is zero. Among my excuses are the wrong rootstock for the site, trees still recovering from last year’s onslaught of 17-year cicada egg-laying, apples’ pest problems making them among the most difficult fruits to …

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A BOUNTIFUL SEASON AND “DELIGHT”-FUL VINDICATION

My Green Thumb, or Not?

I wish I could say that my ever-greener thumb is responsible for the baskets overflowing with tomatoes and ripe red peppers in the kitchen, and strings of fat, sweet onions hanging from garage rafters.  Ripe figs hang lax from branches, a drop of honeydew in each of their “eyes” telling me they want picking. The season has been bountiful. 

I can’t recall anything special that I did this season that would have boosted the harvest of so many different fruits and vegetables. The soil, as usual, got lathered with an inch deep layer of compost. Transplants and seeds got started with hand watering, then drip irrigation automatically quenched plants’ thirst from then on. I kept my usual eye out for insect or disease pests.

Sweet Italia peppers, like everything else, bore in abundance this season.

Further deflating my own gardening prowess is the fact that a …

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Controversial Garlic & Corn

When to Plant & Whether to Plant, Corn & Garlic

Into the ground goes the stinking rose. That’s garlic. As a matter of fact, by the time you read this my garlic cloves will have been in the ground for awhile, since the beginning of the month, already sending roots out into the soft earth.

Planting garlic this early is sacrilege in most garlic circles. But it may make sense.

Garlic needs a period of cool weather, with temperatures in the 40s, to develop heads. Without that cool period, a planted clove merely grows larger, without multiplying. Which is why it’s planted in fall. Spring-planted garlic might still get sufficiently chilled or needs to be artificially chilled, but yields are generally are lower than fall-planted garlic.

Lower yields could also be because the cloves, planted in spring, must put energy into growing both leaves and roots. Roots grow whenever …

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Hormones Get Pumping

More Brussels Sprouts, Cabbages, & Pears with Hormones

It’s time to get the hormones pumping. No, not by me embarking on some testosterone-fueled, garden-related feat of strength or endurance. Not even my own hormones, but the ones in my plants, more specifically my brussels sprouts plants. And actually, quashing the action of one hormone so that other hormones can come to the fore.

Let me explain: Brussels sprouts are not only a member of the cabbage family but are the same genus and species as cabbage, as are broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and kale. Differences in these plants lie in the way growth of the stems and leaves are expressed. Cabbage has a single stem that’s been telescoped down to very short internodes, resulting in a tight head of overlapping leaves. With kale, internodes along the stem are further apart, allowing each leaf to unfold fully on its own. They also look different …

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End of Summer? Enter the Fall Garden.

Fading Summer Brings in Fall Greens, and Hollyhocks for Cheer

There’s a flurry of seed sowing and setting out of transplants going on here. Am I deluded that it’s springtime? No. Autumn is around the corner and there are vegetables to be planted.

For many gardeners, summer’s end and the garden’s end are one and the same. But planning for and planting an autumn vegetable garden bypasses the funereal look of waning tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and other vegetables that thrive only with summer heat and long days of sunshine, and puts plenty of fresh vegetables on the table. Having an autumn vegetable garden is like having a whole new garden, one that gradually fades in, like a developing photograph, as summer vegetables fade out.

Autumn vegetables come to the fore as tomatoes fade away

 

Which is why today I tucked two dozen endive transplants into a double row of holes spaced fifteen inches apart in …

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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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