Monthly Archives: January 2016

CHERRIES JUBILEE (I HOPE)

More Plants?!?!?!

    You’d think, after decades of gardening in the same place, that I by now would have planted every tree, shrub, and vine I could ever want or have space for. Not so! Every year I make up a “Plants to order” list, unfortunately before I hone down just where I’ll sink my shovel into the ground to prepare a planting hole.    Topping my list was Carmine Jewel cherry, a tart cherry that’s also good fresh. (Tart cherries often have higher sugar levels than do sweet cherries; but they also have tartness and other flavors that offset that sweetness.) The biggest draw for Carmine Jewel is its stature — no more, at maturity than 6 or 7 feet high. And a bush, not a grafted tree, so that if cold or deer nip back branches, new sprouts from ground level bear the same cherries that the rest of the …

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WINTER ‘SHROOMS, SUMMER DREAMS, & A WINNER

Mushrooms Think It’s Autumn Again

   The 15 oak logs sitting in the shade of my giant Norway spruce tree more than earned their keep last year. Seven of them got inoculated with plugs of shiitake mushroom spawn in the spring of 2013; eight of the were inoculated in the spring of 2014. With little further effort on my part, reasonably good flushes of mushrooms appeared through spring and summer, then heavy flushes through fall until the mild weather turned frosty.    My friends Bill and Lisa, also shiitake growers, told me a few days ago how they’re still harvesting good crops, cold weather notwithstanding. They brought one of their logs indoors, where it stands in the sink of their laundry room. Great idea!    I don’t have a laundry room, but I do have a cool, dark, moist basement, i.e. mushroom heaven. So a few days ago I carried one of my …

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TO SAVE OR NOT TO SAVE, & A FREE BOOK!

New Seeds Needed?

    “Ring out the old, ring in the new.” But not all the “old,” when it comes to seeds for this year’s garden. I’m flipping through my plastic shoeboxes (I think that’s what the boxes are meant for) of vegetable and flower seeds, assessing what old seeds are worth keeping and what new seeds I need to order.    Seeds are living, albeit in a dormant state, and, as such, have a limited lifespan. The longevity of any seed depends, first of all on the kind of seed, its genetics. Most seed packets come dated; if not, I write the date received on the packet.    Few seeds have as short a viability as parsnips. (No matter to me; I don’t grow them.) More astounding is the longevity of some seeds, especially the current record-holder for longevity, Silene stenophylla seed, possibly 32,000 years old, found buried in a squirrel burrow …

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MULCH, SOMETIMES BETTER LATE THAN EARLY

Cardoon Gets to Stay

    I haven’t yet given up on cardoon — growing it. But eating it? I just about give up. It’s like eating humongous stalks of stringy celery having just a hint of artichoke flavor.    As an ornamental is how cardoon has made itself garden-worthy. Like most perennial plants, it grew only leaves this past season, its first season here. But what leaves they were! As I said, like “humongous stalks of celery.” Not much good for eating but nice to look at. The edges of the three-foot-high stalks were winged with undulating, pointed blades (each stalk is a leaf), and the whole plant is a very Mediterranean-looking olive-green.    If all goes well, next year should provide an even better show, when flowers also appear. Cardoon is in the thistle family. It’s as if you injected our common (Canadian) thistle with steroids. In addition to those giant leaves, …

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