Tag Archives: peas

Making Sense

Lilies, More Than Just Pretty

I’m triply thankful for the lily stems in the vase in the kitchen.

First, for their beauty. The large, lily-white (of course) petals flare out into trumpets, from whose frilly throats poke groups of rust-red anthers and single tear-capped stigmas. The petals spread about 8 inches wide from one side to the other, and the single stalk I plunked into the vase sports six of them!

Second, I’m thankful for the lilies’ fragrance. The heady, sweet fragrance fills the whole room.

And third, I’m thankful that the plants, cut from outdoors where they share a bed with staked Sungold tomato plants, are alive. They’ve been threatened by a relatively new pest, the lily leaf beetle (Lilioceris lilii). This European pest made its North American debut in Montreal in 1945, and its debut on my farmden in 2015.

Lily leaf beetle can be controlled by sprays, even organic ones such as …

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NO SIGN OF SPRING HERE YET, BUT . . .

The Onion Cycle Begins Again

Early February, February 6th to be exact, was the official opening of my 2017 gardening season. No fireworks, waving flags, or other fanfare marked this opening. Just the whoosh of my trowel scooping potting soil into a seed flat, and then the hushed rattle of seeds in their paper packets. And the grand opening was not for a flamboyant, who-can-reap-the-earliest-meal of a vegetable like peas or tomatoes.

No, the grand opening for the season is rather sedate: I sowed onion seeds in mini-furrows in a seed flat. Why onions? In addition to the fact that I love the flavor of onions raw and cooked, onions need a long growing season. The summer growing season is cut short because the plants stop growing new leaves to put their energy into swelling up their bulbs when daylengths grow sufficiently long, 14 hours long, to be exact. Around here, that …

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Peas Please Me

In some gardening circles, a gardener’s worth is measured by how well he or she grows peas: how soon the first pea gets to the table, the crop’s abundance, and, of course, the flavor.  Sad to say, I haven’t been able to grow peas well for about 10 years.

Peas require a humus-y, moisture retentive soil and early planting, all of which I provide. But about 10 years ago, just as the crop was coming on strong, vines began to turn yellow, leaves would flag, and plants would die. The probable cause was fusarium wilt disease (caused by Fusarium oxysporum). This soil-borne fungus invades plant roots and then clogs up the vascular system.

(You may have heard of fusarium wilt of tomatoes and other vegetables. Fear not spread of fusarium among these vegetables, because different vegetables have their own fusarium subspecies. Cucumbers have F. oxysporum f.sp. cucumerinum, canteloupes have F. oxysporum …

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Fuzzy Buds and Snow Removal; Where’s the White Cat?

Did the cheery looking box of “Mickey Mouse” adhesive bandages my friend Bill handed me actually contain adhesive bandages? No. Instead, fuzzy green buds spilled out. An illicit drug? No, again. Those “buds” were sweet fern seeds, which Bill suggested planting.

Sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina) is a native plant, one of my favorites, valued for its resinous aroma. That aroma always transports me in time back to summer days hiking in the White Mountains along sunny, dirt roads lined with sweet fern when I was nine years old. Poor  (but well drained) soil and hot afternoon sun bring out the best in sweet fern. The plant makes do in poor soil by getting its nitrogen from the air with the help of a symbiotic microorganism.

Sweet fern is attractive even if it lacks the flamboyance of showy flowers or colorful leaves. Picture clumps of …

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Planting Dates

A few weeks ago I wrote of the earliness of the season, as evidenced by one of the earliest of the early bloomers, witchhazel. It was already in bloom at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, and the large bush at the front corner of my house has also since come into bloom. A reader, writing from  where temperatures are colder than in my garden, wrote to tell me that he has a witchhazel that started blooming in January! I don’t doubt it.
Witchhazel can mean any one of a few species: Japanese witchhazel (Hamamelis japonica), Chinese witchhazel (H. mollis), vernal witchhazel (H. vernalis), and H. X intermedia, the last of which includes hybrids of the Japanese and Chinese species. Depending on site, species, and variety, the strappy petals might unfold sometime from late fall right into spring. The reader’s plant, the variety, Jelena, at his site probably bloomed earlier than …

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