In an hour and a half this morning, a 20’ long by 3’ wide bed of spired, aging corn stalks morphed into a bed of succulent, young greenery in the form of endive and Chinese cabbage transplants.
Before beginning this job I harvested what ears were still ripe on the stalks. The yield from this first corn planting was small, both in quantity and size of ears. Old fashioned Golden Bantam, as told by its name, normally yields small ears — but not usually as small as the 3 to 5 inch long ears I harvested.
Planting in “hills” (clusters of 4 plants) usually provides for adequate pollination, but poor weather at a critical developmental stage might have thrown pollination awry.
At any rate, with ears harvested, I lopped each stalk in half with my Hori-Hori knife, then dug straight down right around the base of each hill to sever the …
Some gardeners sit tapping their fingers waiting for the first tomato of the season to finally ripen. I don’t. I’m waiting to sink my teeth into my first-picked ear of sweet corn.
Not that my tomatoes don’t taste really good, but they’re also good all winter dried or canned, as is or as sauce. Or just frozen.
An ear of sweet corn, though, captures the essence of summer. Not just for flavor and texture. It’s the whole ritual of peeling back the husks and snapping them off at their bases, brushing away the silk before steaming the ears, and then, holding an ear at each end, biting off kernels from one end to the other like an old fashioned typewriter carriage. (An image perhaps unknown to readers below a certain age.)
An art to harvesting corn at the just-ripe stage, and anxiousness for that first taste, make …
With blossoms spent on forsythias, lilacs, fruit trees, and clove currants, spring’s flamboyant flower show had subsided – or so I thought. Pulling into my driveway, I was pleasantly startled by the profusion of orchid-like blossoms on the Chinese yellowhorn tree (Xanthoceras sorbifolium). And I again let out an audible “Wow” as I stepped onto my terrace, when three fat, red blossoms, each the size of a dinner plate, stared back at me from my tree peony.
Both plants originate in Asia. Both plants are easy to grow. Both plants have an unfortunate short bloom period, more or less depending on the weather. Fortunately, both plants also are attractive, though more sedately, even after their blossoms fade.
The tree peonies have such a weird growth habit. I had read that they were very slow to grow so was quite pleased, years ago, when each of the branches on my new plant extended …
Given sun, heat, and reasonably moist, fertile soil, watermelons are easy to grow. The greater challenge is in harvesting them at their peak of perfection. Even professionals sometimes fall short, as witnessed by not-quite-ripe watermelons I “harvested” awhile ago from a supermarket shelf and, a couple of weeks later, from a table at a local farmers’ market. That was while I was waiting for my own watermelons to ripen — the delectable variety Blacktail Mountain. But should I have been waiting? All sorts of indicators are touted for telling when a watermelon is ripe. The part of the melon laying on the ground supposedly turns yellow. The tendril opposite where the melon in question is attached dries up. Or my favorite method: thumping. Knock you knuckles on your forehead, your chest, and your stomach. The sound of a ripe watermelon should …
With all the supersweet, tender ears of corn readily available at farms, farmers’ markets, even supermarkets these days, why do I bother to grow my own sweet corn? Because it tastes better, much better. Corn can be too sweet, and too tender for many of us maizophiles. I grow the variety Golden Bantam, which was the standard of excellent in sweet corn a hundred years ago. Its fat, golden kernels are toothsome, giving you something to chew on (but they’re not too chewy), with a rich, corny flavor. And yes, they are also sweet, just not supersweet. Corn is a relatively pest-free vegetable that warrants space in any garden. I grow corn in hills (clusters) of three plants each with 2 feet between hills in the row and two rows of hills down each 3-foot-wide bed. With each stalk yielding one …
Into the ground goes the stinking rose. That’s garlic. As a matter of fact, by the time you read this my garlic cloves will have been in the ground for awhile, since the beginning of the month, already sending roots out into the soft earth.
Planting garlic this early is sacrilege in most garlic circles. But it may make sense.
Garlic needs a period of cool weather, with temperatures in the 40s, to develop heads. Without that cool period, a planted clove merely grows larger, without multiplying. Which is why it’s planted in fall. Spring-planted garlic might still get sufficiently chilled or needs to be artificially chilled, but yields are generally are lower than fall-planted garlic.
Lower yields could also be because the cloves, planted in spring, must put energy into growing both leaves and roots. Roots grow whenever …
Aug 30, 2012 #34
A GARDENER’S NOTEBOOK
by Lee Reich
I killed Miss Kim. Sure, she was pretty enough, with lilac purple flowers late each spring. In fact, she is . . . I mean “was” . . . a lilac, although she was Syringa patula, a different species from the common lilac (S. vulgaris).
The very reason that I had planted Miss Kim was because she was different. She would blossom later than the common lilac, extending the season when lilac blossoms and their fragrance could be enjoyed. Later in summer, her leaves were never to be marred by the powdery, white coating — powdery mildew disease — that mars the leaves of common lilacs. And her expected stature, no more than 6 feet high, would be fitting for the bed of perennial flowers that she would call home.