Monthly Archives: May 2015

MORE PRUNING, AN INVASIVE?

Training Sessions

   Anyone appalled at the apparent brutality with which I approached my grape and kiwi vines a few weeks ago, pruning shears, saw, and lopper in hand, would have been further shocked today. But no harm done. (The kiwis are “hardy kiwis,” that is, Actinidia arguta and A. kolomikta; fuzzy kiwis are not cold-hardy here.)    Left to their own devices, grape or kiwi vines would, every year, grow larger and larger, eventually, if once coming upon something to climb, sending their fruits further and further out of reach. Or, if not out of reach, then increasingly tangled in a mass of stems. In the dank interior of that mass of stems, many a grape would have rotted rather than ripened.    Most importantly, though, grape or kiwi berries on untended vines don’t taste that good. Self-shading cuts down flavor-producing photosynthesis. And the plants’ energies must be spread among too …

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EEK, A DINOSAUR IN MY COMPOST PILE!

 

A Creature Not Really So Strange

    One of the strangest creatures I ever found in my compost was the dinosaur that emerged today as I turned the pile. It was worse for the wear, the gash in its head probably from my machete, the “solar powered” shredder I use for stemmy compostables like corn stalks. (Think about it.) After a year in the pile’s innards, the dinosaur’s greenish, scaly skin has been bleached almost white.

Dinosaur emerging from compost pile

    I typically build compost piles through summer and into fall, then turn them the following spring. Turning, not absolutely necessary, lets me mark the piles progress and, as needed, fluff it up for aeration or sprinkle it if too dry. Many people use fencing to enclose a compost pile, which is effective as an enclosure but exposes the pile to too much drying air. My bins, made from artificial …

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DRAMATIC PRUNING & NOT-TOO-BIG ONIONS

Henry IV Method of Pruning

   Deb get’s a little nervous every time a go into the garage for some pruning tools this time of year. Not because she’s afraid I might hurt myself but for what I might do to the plants. Today it was so-called “renovative pruning” of the St. Johnswort ‘Sunny Boulevard’ shrubs that line the western edge of the brick terrace. I approached the shrub with some unconventional pruning tools.    Let’s first backtrack and put everyone at ease. A shrub is a shrub because it’s shrubby; that is, it’s always growing new shoots at or near ground level rather than developing a permanent, upright trunk off which permanent limbs and new shoots grow. Some shrubs — most shrubs, in fact — get congested with too many new and older shoots rising from their base and too many old shoots that no longer perform well, in this case …

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FEAST OR FAMINE

Is Gardening Too Easy?

    Control yourself, Lee! Growing seedlings this time of year is too easy. Within a single packet of seeds  is the potential for a gardenful of vegetable or flower plants, even shrubs and trees. As such, a packet of seeds is relatively inexpensive.    I have envisioned delphinium in my garden, its tall, blue studded spires backed by the fence surrounding my blueberry planting. I could have just gone out and purchased a few potted delphinium plants, but I wanted a bolder effect so purchased instead a packet of seeds. Who would have thought that germination would be so good. After all, the seed germinates best when fresh and likes some cool temperatures to awaken; some people freeze the seeds in ice cubes for awhile before sowing them. I used nothing but patience, and not that much was needed.    I couldn’t bear to discard most of the seedling, …

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QUICK, NO WORK GARDEN, FOR STARTERS

Prescription for a New Gardener

    It seems like everybody’s a gardener, or is becoming one, this time of year. And a lot of people have been asking me questions. Like my niece Lana, for instance, who moved along with her husband, a baby, and a toddler to a new house last fall and is ready to dig into a garden this spring — but, as Lana said, a garden “that will be easily manageable for her and interesting to her 3 year old.” (The one-year-old is still enthralled with her thumb and other such things.) So, for Lana and other beginning or non-gardeners, here is a simple plan for a small garden that requires almost “no time.”

A small, productive garden

    The most stringent requirement for this garden is sun. The more the better. And the closer the garden is to the back door, the more you will be …

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