OUTDOOR MAPLES AND INDOOR KUMQUATS

Sap Season

Get your taps in. It’s syrup weather. Maple syrup. At least here in New York’s Hudson Valley, the sunny days in the 40s with nights in the 20s that are predicted should get the sap flowing.

  I say “should” because I haven’t yet checked sap buckets that I hung out on the trees a few weeks ago when winter temperatures suddenly turned warm; it was sap weather back then. That day was hopeful: I drilled holes an inch and a half deep, lightly hammered in the spiles, hung buckets, and attached covers over the buckets. Frigid days and nights that descended soon after that kept sap flow in abeyance.

  My “sugar bush” amounts to only three sugar maple trees. I used to have four, but a large tree that was a truly magnificent representative of its species began an irreversible path to its death. “Maple decline” is a disease …

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WEED-LESSNESS FOR 2021

WEEDLESS GARDENING WORKSHOP/WEBINAR
 with Lee Reich, PhD, writer, scientist, and farmdener*

Introducing a novel way of caring for the soil, a 4-part system that minimizes weed problems and  maintains healthy plants and soil. Learn how to apply this system to establish new plantings as well as to maintain existing plantings. The principles and practices are rooted in the latest agricultural research and are also applicable to sustainable, small farm systems. 

This system works because it emulates, rather than fights, Mother Nature who, as C. D. Warner wrote (My Summer in the Garden, 1887), “is at it early and late, and all night; never tiring, nor showing the least sign of exhaustion.”

Date: February 22, 2021 
Time: 7-8:30 pm EST
Cost: $35

Register for this webinar at:
https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_WqSCBtOGTqqjGgbOHOuxfg 

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

*A farmdener is more than a gardener and less than a farmer.

THANKS

I’d like to highlight, today, what makes this blog possible. 

First of all, it’s you, readers. The positive feedback I get is very rewarding. I’ve had great opportunities — academically and “in the field” — to learn about growing plants and caring for the soil, and have put all this into practice for decades. My hope is that in entertaining you with all this, your tomatoes, apples, zinnias, and all the rest grow healthier and tastier or prettier. I appreciate the positive (even the sometimes negative) comments from you all.

Second, if you’ll look at the bottom right corner of my blog posts (or scroll way down near the end on a mobile device), you’ll see some banner ads. Nothing flashy or moving or obnoxious in any other way. Just simple links to a few advertisers.

These seven advertisers are special; these are companies whose products I stand behind. I’ve used them and …

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TELLING SNOW

I Grow Taller

“Make hay while the sun shines” is fine advice in its season. For winter, how about? “Prune while the snow is high and firm.” 

My apple and pear trees are semi-dwarf, presently ranging from seven to eleven feet tall. Even though I have a pole pruner and various long-reach pruning tools, I still carry my three-legged orchard ladder out to the trees with me to work on their upper branches. Sometimes you have to get your eyes and arms and hands right up near where you’re actually cutting.

A few years ago, as I was looking out the window and admiring the foot or of snow on the ground, I realized that all that snow could give me a literal leg up on pruning. If I stayed on top of the snow, that is. While the snow was still soft, I was able to do this by strapping on a …

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A NAME FOR A NAME, AND A WEBINAR

(The following is adapted from my book, A Northeast Gardener’s Year.)

It’s Not All in a Name

With only a name to go on, which tomato would you choose to grow: Supersonic or Oxheart? If the name Oxheart seems a bit too gruesome, make the choice between Supersonic and Ponderosa. My guess is that most gardeners would choose Oxheart or Ponderosa for a tomato, Supersonic for an airline. What compels a contemporary plant breeder to give a tomato a name like Supersonic?

Many old-time names of vegetables – Oxheart and Ponderosa tomatoes are examples — were a lot more appealing than some of the newer names. It could even be that a good name is part of the reason a vegetable of yore still appears in today’s catalogues amongst all the new hybrids.

What’s the Difference?

These names I am talking about are “cultivar” names, or what were once called “variety” names. Problem is …

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GET YOUR DUCKS IN ORDER FOR SPRING

WEEDLESS GARDENING WORKSHOP/WEBINAR
Presentation by Lee Reich (MS, PhD, researcher in soil and plants for the USDA and Cornell University, decade-long composter, and farmdener*)

Introducing a novel way of caring for the soil, a 4-part system that minimizes weed problems and  maintains healthy plants and soil. Learn how to apply this system to establish new plantings as well as to maintain existing plantings. The principles and practices are rooted in the latest agricultural research and are also applicable to sustainable, small farm systems. 

Success comes from emulating rather than fighting Mother Nature who, as C. D. Warner wrote (My Summer in the Garden, 1887), “is at it early and late, and all night; never tiring, nor showing the least sign of exhaustion.”

Space for this workshop/webinar is limited so registration is necessary. Sign up soon to assure yourself a space.

Date: February 22, 2021 
Time: 7-8:30 pm EST
Cost: $35

Register for this webinar at:
https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_WqSCBtOGTqqjGgbOHOuxfg 

After registering, you will receive …

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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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