Monthly Archives: January 2021

FROM GROCERS’ SHELVES TO MY FLOWER POTS

Exotic, tropical fruits are turning up more and more frequently on grocers’ shelves these days: dates, papayas, guavas, and others. I look upon these fruits opportunistically, because within each lies dormant seeds that can be coaxed to become exotic, if not beautiful, indoor plants that might even provide a delicious fruit harvest. Such plants provide a break from the humdrum of spider plants, philodendrons, and Swedish ivies. 

Seeds of tropical fruits usually germinate best if planted as soon as the fruits are eaten. Cold-climate fruits, in contrast, have innate inhibitors that prevent seed germination until they feel that winter is over.

So all that’s necessary to grow most tropical fruits is to wash their seeds and sow them in potting soil, using the old rule of thumb of burying a seed to twice its depth. And then wait.

DELICIOUS, BUT HARD TO SAY

  I have harvested fruit grown from the seed of a …

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MYCO-WHAT?

It’s Greek To Me (and You)

This far north, there’s only a little to do garden-wise this time of year, so let’s sit back and ponder the wonders of plant life. Mycorrhiza, to be specific. Wait! Don’t stop reading! Sure, the word “mycorrhiza” appears intimidating. But mycorrhiza are important in your garden, in the forest, to your trees and shrubs, maybe even to your houseplants.

First, the pronunciation. Say: my-ko-RY-za. It sounds nicer than it looks. 

Now let’s take the word apart to see what it means. “Myco” comes from the Greek word meaning “fungus” and “rhiza” from the word meaning “root.” Mycorrhiza, then, is a “fungus-root,” an association between a plant root and a fungus so intimate that the pair has been given a name as if it was a single organism.

Mycorrhizal blueberry root

Win-Win

The association is symbiotic, beneficial to both parties. One end of the fungus infects a plant root, …

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MY VINES GET IN ORDER

Pruning vs. Training?

A long time ago, when I first started growing fruit trees and vines, I read a lot about the all-important pruning and training they require. But I couldn’t get clear on my head what exactly the difference was between “pruning” and “training.” I went on to learn that and a whole lot more about pruning (through books, as an ag researcher for Cornell University, and with practical experience), and eventually wrote my own book about pruning, hoping to present the techniques with more clarity and completeness than all the books I had read. Perhaps my book, The Pruning Book, does that.

Okay, to answer my question of yore. “Training” is developing the young plant to a permanent framework that is sturdy and will always have its limbs bathed in light and air, and whose fruits hang within easy reach.

Kiwifruit within easy reach

Training involves some pruning as …

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LOOK BEYOND POINSETTIA GLITZ

A Harem of Males

Phew, what a year 2020 was! Well, it’s over and, at least at this writing, things look hopeful for the future, at least from my perspective. Except if you live in a tropical or subtropical climate, there’s not much distraction from anything gardenwise, for now, so let’s take a close look at a plant no doubt sitting on many coffee tables and windowsills. Poinsettia. I’m not a big fan of their appearance, but I do like them as botanical curiosities.

Let’s share some botanical lore of this plant by setting your holiday poinsettia on a table in good light for a close look at its flowers. I say “close  ” because the flowers are not those large, red, leaf-like structures. The large, red, leaf-like structures are just that — leaves, albeit modified leaves called bracts. The bracts attract pollinating insects to the plant.

The actual flowers of the poinsettia, …

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