My pear trees look as if a giant spider went on a drunken frolic among the branches. Rather than fine silk spun in an orderly web, strings run vertically from branch to branch and branch to ground. Yet there is method in this madness. Mine.
As I spell out in my new book, The Ever Curious Gardener: Using a Little Natural Science for a Much Better Garden, plants produce a natural hormone, called auxin, at the tips of their stems or at high points along a downward curving stems. This hormone suppresses growth of side branches along the stem, allowing growth from a bud at the stem tip or high point be the “top dog,” that is, the most vigorous shoot.
Within any plant a push and pull goes on between fruiting an stem growth. Both require energy, which the plant has to apportion …
The UPS guy delivered two large, long boxes last week. Laid out in each box as in a coffin was what looked like a sturdy, 4-foot long stick. You wouldn’t think that either stick, one labelled Clarabel quince and the other labelled Abbe Fetal pear, could ever become a tree, could ever even come to life! Unpacking, then holding one of the sticks up, its bare roots dangling in the air, I had my doubts about the plant’s viability, even though I’ve planted many bare root trees over many years.
Bare root tree soaking
Bare root trees are grown at a nursery and, sometime between fall and spring while still leafless and dormant, are dug up, their roots shaken free of soil, and shipped. Before shipping a tree, a good nursery will tuck moist sphagnum moss, shredded newspaper, or other water retaining material in among the roots, then …
Around here, eating fruit isn’t always just about eating fruit. Following my last bite of this Macoun apple I’m eating, I flick out the seeds with a paring knife into a cup. Same goes for pears and their seeds. Early in summer, I spit out Nanking cherry seeds into a waiting vessel. All these seeds are for planting,
Seeds of these cold hardy plants won’t sprout as soon as they hit moist, warm dirt. If they did, the young seedlings would be snuffed out by winter cold. It is after a period of exposure to cool, moist conditions that they — thinking winter over — sprout. Seeds in dropping fruits, of course, enjoy this experience naturally and poke up through the ground first thing next spring,
Wanting to keep a close eye on my seedlings, I plant them in pots and seed flats rather than let them do what …
Whoosh! Summer is speeding past. Cicadas have come and gone. Same goes for Japanese beetles. Temperatures have cooled dramatically.
And now it’s raining plums. That’s a good thing, and something not easily achieved in this part of the world without, at least, some sprays. The main threats come from plum curculio, Oriental fruit moth, black knot, and brown knot. The first and the last are my most serious plum pests, curculio causing young fruits to plummet to the ground early in the season and brown rot turning nearly ripe fruit into masses of gray fuzz.
Although a few early season sprays, the last in June, knocked out many curculios and reduced inoculum for later infections of brown rot, pruning is all-important in my arsenal against pests. In late winter, I clipped off or partially back enough branches so that remaining ones would …
Now is a good time to plan and plant for some home-grown fruits — pears, for example. Here’s an excerpt from the pear section of my NEW book, Grow Fruit Naturally (Taunton Press, 2012, signed copies available from my website, listed at right):
My ‘Yoinashi’ Asian pear, now in bloom
Pears come in two “flavors:” European and Asian. European pears, which are most familiar in American markets, are typically buttery, sweet, and richly aromatic — and pear-shaped. Asian pears are typically round with crisp flesh that, when you take a bite, explode in your mouth with juice. Their flavors are sweet with a delicate, floral aroma and sometimes a hint of walnut or butterscotch. Both kinds of pears have been cultivated for thousands of years, and within each type exists thousands of varieties.
Pears of either “flavor” are easy to grow. But …