FRUIT HARVEST, WHEN?

Easy to Grow, Hard to Harvest

    Of all commonly grown tree fruits, pears are the easiest, mostly because they succumb to fewer pest and weather problems than do other common tree fruits. Of all commonly grown tree fruits, pears are the most difficult to harvest.
    Timing is what makes pears so difficult to harvest, a skill I’m ashamed to admit I have yet to master. You can’t time when to pick by taste because pears are among the few fruits that will not ripen well on the tree. They start ripening from their innards outward so by the time the outside of the fruit looks and feels ripe, the innards are brown mush.

Concorde European pear, ripe?

    No need to refer me to the guidelines of experts: The skin should undergo an almost imperceptible change in color, lightening or yellowing. The fruit softens ever so slightly, going from …

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SOME REFLECTIONS. . . NOT THAT IT’S OVER

Finish Squash

    “Zucchini bread is for people who don’t have compost piles.” That’s what I told Deb after she suggested, first ratatouille, and then zucchini bread, as vehicles for our excess zucchini.
    Most years I make an early, too large planting of zucchini (about 6 plants), and then, six to eight weeks later, make another sowing of only a couple of plants. The first planting puts enough zucchinis into the freezer for winter, as well as leaving enough for eating. The second planting is to yield an occasional zucchini for fresh eating through summer after plants of that initial planting have succumbed to squash vine borer, cucumber beetles, bacterial wilt, and any of the other maladies that usually do in the plants a few weeks after they begin bearing. Usually and thankfully do in the plants. But not this year.
    Almost every time I check that early planting …

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BACTERIA AND FUNGI, AND GRAPES, OH MY

Upcoming Fall Fruit Workshop

See web page http://www.leereich.com/workshops for details.

The River Runs Green

    Crossing the bridge over the Wallkill River on my way home, I glance to my right to admire the river itself. What a beautiful color it has turned, a bright turquoise. Ponds I pass also have taken on this bright complexion, for which we can thank, or curse, organisms known as blue-green algae (heretofore referred to as BGA).
    Algae, they are not, though. BGA are bacteria known as cyanobacteria. “Algae” generally refers to eukaryotes, organisms with distinct nucleii and specialized organelles. BGA are prokaryotes, lacking such features.
    BGA can be toxic, which is good reason to curse them. Drinking or swimming in contaminated waters can cause problems to humans and other animals, including dogs, who seem to be otherwise able to drink almost any water without ill effect. The “cyan” in the name and the …

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DRY WOOD, & AUTUMNAL AIR

 Passionflower to the Rescue

   When I began, many years ago, to heat my home with wood, I struggled to get the driest possible wood, finally building a 60-foot long woodshed beneath which a double row of logs basked in the direct hit of sunlight from the south. I more recently learned that firewood can be too dry, which is when moisture drops below 15 to 20 percent. Bone dry wood can’t get enough oxygen for a clean, efficient burn, so smoke, within which is locked the potential for rendering additional heat, is produced; pump enough oxygen into the mix, though, and you get an inferno that can damage a woodstove.    So — and here’s the plant-related part — rather than tear down or put siding on my super-drying woodshed, I put some heat loving vines to climb and provide some shade on the south face. Sections of hog-fencing temporarily hung …

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UNPERMACULTURE

Accusations,  (Mostly) not True

I’ve understandably been accused of being a “permie,” that is, of practicing permaculture.    (In the words of permaculture founder, Bill Mollison, “Permaculture is about designing sustainable human settlements. It is a philosophy and an approach to land use which weaves together microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, water management, and human needs into intricately connected, productive communities.” In the words of www.dictionary.com, permaculture is “a system of cultivation intended to maintain permanent agriculture or horticulture by relying on renewable resources and a self-sustaining ecosystem.”)    Walk around my farmden and, yes, you’ll come upon Nanking cherry bushes where forsythia bushes once lined the driveway, an American persimmon tree where a lilac bush once stood, and other edible plants used also for landscaping. In the vegetable garden, I preserve soil integrity by never tilling it, and, in the south field, blackcurrant bushes make use of the space beneath …

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GOOD FRUITS, ONE A VEGETABLE

World’s Best Fruit?

    Finally, I reap the fruits of one of my labors. Literally. The fruit is black mulberry, the species, that is Morus nigra, rather than any of the black-colored mulberries that grow all over the place around here. The latter are species and natural hybrids of white and red mulberries (M. alba and M. rubra).    Black mulberry, native to the Mediterranean climate of western Asia, is not cold-hardy below temperatures in the ‘teens (Fahrenheit) so definitely not cold-hardy here. I first tasted it at a fruit conference in Davis, California and it wowed me even from among bowls heaped high with fresh-picked apricots, peaches, and other seasonal fruits.    I had to get a tree to grow, which I did (from www.whitmanfarms.com). The tree went into a pot with potting soil. As it grew, I moved it on into larger and larger pots, …

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