Category Archives: Pruning

IT’S A GAS!

 Last Tomatoes & Peppers

   Late fall, and my thoughts turn naturally to . . . ethylene! You remember ethylene from high school chemistry. A simple hydrocarbon with 2 carbon atoms double-bonded together with 2 hydrogen atoms attached to each of the carbon’s remaining two free bonds. C2H4. It’s a gas, literally, and an important industrial chemical transmuted into such products as polyethylene trash bags, PVC plumbing pipes, and polystyrene packing “peanuts.”    Oh, I forgot, this is supposed to be about plants. Ethylene is synthesized in plants and is a plant hormone with — as is characteristic of hormones — dramatic effects in small amounts.    I think of ethylene as I sliced the last of the season’s fresh garden tomatoes for a sandwich a couple of weeks ago. Note that I wrote “fresh,” not “fresh-picked.” The tomatoes had been picked almost two months prior from vines I was cutting down and …

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VIRTUAL TRIP TO MEDITERRANEAN

Goodbye to Figs (For Now)

   With yellowing leaves and dropping leaves, my greenhouse figs are looking sickly. But all is well in figdom. A common misconception is that figs are tropical trees. They’re not. They’re subtropical, generally tolerating cold down to near 20°F.. And their leaves are deciduous, naturally yellowing and dropping this time of year, just like maples, ashes, and other deciduous trees.    My greenhouse thermostat kicks on when the temperature inside drops to about 35°F. Daytime temperatures depend on sunlight; they might soar to 80° before awakening the exhaust fan on a sunny day in January, or hover around 35°F. on an overcast day that month. All of which is to say that the weather inside my greenhouse matches pretty well that of Barcelona and Rome, with hot dry summers and cool, moist winters. And figs grow very well in those Mediterranean climates. And go dormant.    I …

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MORE PRUNING, AN INVASIVE?

Training Sessions

   Anyone appalled at the apparent brutality with which I approached my grape and kiwi vines a few weeks ago, pruning shears, saw, and lopper in hand, would have been further shocked today. But no harm done. (The kiwis are “hardy kiwis,” that is, Actinidia arguta and A. kolomikta; fuzzy kiwis are not cold-hardy here.)    Left to their own devices, grape or kiwi vines would, every year, grow larger and larger, eventually, if once coming upon something to climb, sending their fruits further and further out of reach. Or, if not out of reach, then increasingly tangled in a mass of stems. In the dank interior of that mass of stems, many a grape would have rotted rather than ripened.    Most importantly, though, grape or kiwi berries on untended vines don’t taste that good. Self-shading cuts down flavor-producing photosynthesis. And the plants’ energies must be spread among too …

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BLUEBERRIES OUTSIDE, APHIDS INSIDE

 Plant the Best-Tasting Fruit

   My sixteen blueberry plants keep me in blueberries year ‘round, so I’m not planting any this year. But you are, or should be. The bushes are attractive in every season, with white blossoms in spring, foliage that looks spry all summer and turns crimson red in fall, and stems that shade to red in winter. The bushes are almost pest-free. And the berries are healthful and delicious.

    All you would-be blueberry planters out there: Pay attention to the soil for your plants, about which I’m going to offer advice. Too many people plunk a blueberry bush into a hole dug in their lawn and then wonder about the lack of berries. Poor growth, that’s why. The plants bear fruit on one year old stems. If shoots grow only a few inches one year, there’s little room on which to hang berries the following year.   …

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MANURE ABSOLVED, PRUNING STARTED

Horse Manure: Not Guilty, So On To Pruning

    A dark cloud no longer hangs over my horse manure, that is, the horse manure that I occasionally truck over here to add to my compost piles. I wrote a few weeks ago about the possibility of herbicide that, when applied to hay, retains its toxic effect when an animal eats the hay and even, for a long time, after that animal’s manure has been composted or spread on the ground.    My herbicide residue concerns were soothed with a simple assay that showed satisfactory growth from bean seeds in both hay that was suspect and hay of known integrity. Also, the bedding in the horse manure is mostly wood shavings rather than hay.    But another ugly dragon kept raising its head above the manure. Another chemical, this time, Ivermectin, a de-worming medication given to horses (and other animals). Ivermectin or its metabolites …

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