Monthly Archives: April 2015

BLUEBERRIES OUTSIDE, APHIDS INSIDE

 Plant the Best-Tasting Fruit

   My sixteen blueberry plants keep me in blueberries year ‘round, so I’m not planting any this year. But you are, or should be. The bushes are attractive in every season, with white blossoms in spring, foliage that looks spry all summer and turns crimson red in fall, and stems that shade to red in winter. The bushes are almost pest-free. And the berries are healthful and delicious.

    All you would-be blueberry planters out there: Pay attention to the soil for your plants, about which I’m going to offer advice. Too many people plunk a blueberry bush into a hole dug in their lawn and then wonder about the lack of berries. Poor growth, that’s why. The plants bear fruit on one year old stems. If shoots grow only a few inches one year, there’s little room on which to hang berries the following year.   …

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POPPING, PRUNING, AND EATING

 

Popcorn Gets Bigger, But Medlar Is Still Ugly (Not To Me)

   A couple of weeks ago I wrote about increasing the poppability of my home-grown popcorn by exposing the kernels to the vapor of a saturated salt solution. Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored popcorn, a variety that usually pops fairly well, popped to 1/3 greater volume.    This week Pink Pearl, a variety that’s not usually a very good popper, underwent testing. The result: No effect of the treatment; both the treated and untreated batches popped pretty well. Was it the change in the weather, stronger hints of spring? Perhaps. (Previously, I pointed out how cold weather outside turns indoor air drier, perhaps too dry for good popcorn popping.) At any rate, Pink Pearl was tasty.

Medlar Teaches How To Prune A Fruit Plant

    The weather change also had the effect of drawing me outdoors more — for pruning. Looking at my medlar …

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ELUSIVE AZURE AND FRUIT

Too Hot Here For These Gems, But Maybe I Can Trick Them

   It was decades ago that Norman — gardener, orchid expert, one-time cattle farmer, and lawyer — described to me his first sighting of blue poppy, Meconopsis betonicifolia. He was traveling in England, and at this particular garden was a pond whose far side was electrified by the sky blue petals of blue poppy, perhaps the purest blue of any flower. The mirrored surface of the water stepped up the voltage, as do the frilly clusters of golden anthers trembling in the center whorls of petals.    Since then, I’ve lusted for blue poppies but have yet to see the plant in bloom. Twice I tried to grow it, from seed. Each time the seedlings germinated and got off to a good start. Each time, in July, as temperatures here started to get steamy, the plants collapsed, dead. …

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HOME GROWN GRAIN & GRAIN-ISH

 

Popcorn & Chestnuts, Bigger is Better But Not Always

   Orville Redenbacker’s popcorn may be an “exclusive kernel hybrid that pops up lighter and fluffier than ordinary popcorn,” but my popcorn — nonhybrids whose seeds I’ve saved for many years — tastes better. I grow two varieties, Pink Pearl and Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored Popcorn.    This winter my popcorns’ poppability was especially poor, probably because of the weather. Really! Popcorn pops when the small amount of water within each kernel, heated above the boiling point, builds up enough pressure to explode the kernel, turning it inside out. For good popping, a kernel needs an intact hull and moisture within. Not just any amount of moisture, though, but as close as possible to 13.5%.    (Other whole grains, such as wheat berries and rice, don’t pop with the same explosive force as popcorn because their hulls are porous.)    My popcorn spends winter, …

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