Monthly Archives: October 2015

CLEAN UP, THEN SHAVE

 Out with the Old (Plants)

   Ostensibly, I’m clearing away old plant debris from the vegetable and flower gardens to spare next year’s garden a full onslaught of overwintering disease and insect pests, and so that, come spring, the soil is ready and waiting for seeds and transplants. I’ll admit it, though: I like the garden looking neat going into late autumn. As Charles Dudley Warner wrote in his book My Summer in the Garden (1889), “the closing scenes need not be funereal.”    As of this writing, frost has not yet struck; as of your reading, it probably will have. Following that event, I will remove all dead plants. I’ll grasp the tops of smaller plants, such as marigolds and basil, give them a twist to sever the smaller roots, then lift and toss the plant into a waiting garden cart. If I tried to do that with old pepper, tomato, …

Read the complete post…

Luxuriating in my Greenhouse

How Cool is That (Greenhouse)?

    Having a greenhouse is a much-appreciated luxury. To avoid being profligate, I eke all that I can from its every square inch in every season.    For starters, it’s a cool greenhouse — temperature-wise “cool,” not “ain’t this a cool greenhouse” cool. Winter temperatures are permitted inside drop to 35°F. before the propane heater kicks on. And in summer, roll-up sidewalls let in plenty of cooler, outside air to save energy (and noise) in running the cooling fan. Demands on the cooling fan are also minimized by letting summer temperatures reach almost 100°F. before the fan awakens.    I have to choose my plants carefully for them to tolerate such conditions.    Right now, lettuce, arugula, mâche, celery, parsley, kale, and Swiss chard seedlings and small transplants trace green lines up and down ground beds in the greenhouse. I sowed seed of most …

Read the complete post…

I Find Common Ground, and More, in Maine

 My Favorite Country Faire

   Two dogs, one cat, six ducks, and one chicken are trusted to the care of friends; sourdough starter is re-fed and chilled; plants are on their own. It’s hard to leave the farmden. But this trip — to Maine — is well worth it.    Walking through the entrance gate to the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine, my senses are overloaded with color and fragrance. Along either side of the entrance path are boxes piled high with bright orange carrots, spilling over with the blue green leaves of kale, or packed full with yellow or red beets. Also flowers, herbs, and cheeses. Pervasive is the resiny fragrance of sweet Annie (Artemesia annua), which for some reason seems to be perennially the signature herb of the fair. Buckets are filled with stems for sale; knapsacks sprout bunches of purchased sweet Annie from their zippered pockets; and girls …

Read the complete post…

SLOW SEED

 Appreciated but not Touched

   “Flower in the crannied wall, I pluck you out of the crannies, I hold you here, root and all, in my hand, Little flower . . . “ Whoa! Hold on there Lord Tennyson! Relax, little flower. I’m not doing any plucking.    I had hardly a hand in some of my best plantings, and that little flower is one of them.    There’s a small, moss-covered ledge at the base of the brick wall next to my front door, an east-facing spot that enjoys some morning sun in summer but shade from the nearby north wall the rest of the year. In short, it’s a perfect place for a summer vacation for my orchids, bonsai, and cyclamen.

Cyclamen flower in a crannied wall

    The cyclamen is Cyclamen hederifolium, sometimes commonly called Persian violet (though a violet it is not; hence the need for botanical names). Although …

Read the complete post…

SUCCESSES, EDIBLE AND OTHERWISE

 Stand Up Straight!

   I am particularly proud of my Brussels sprouts this year — and I haven’t even tasted them yet. How odd that I should be proud of this vegetable that I spurned in the past, often quoting a friend who referred to them as “little green balls of death.” Then I put my own twist on that description, saying that perhaps the friend meant that Brussels sprouts were only palatable a “little boiled to death.”    I’ve come around, and decided, a couple of years ago, that Brussels sprouts were worth growing, despite their high demands on space and time. For good production in northern climates, the seeds need to be sown indoors in early March, and then harvest doesn’t start until October or sometime after the first frost. And for all that waiting, each plant — a mere single stalk with whorls of leaves from top to bottom …

Read the complete post…