Yearly Archives: 2009

[indoor shiitake,snow on tunnels, endive in tunnels

The 3-foot-long logs resting against the wall near my front door are not for firewood; they’re for eating. Not the logs themselves, of course, but what’s growing inside of them. As I write and as you read, thread-like fungal mycelia are spreading within, digesting wood and growing bigger and stronger. Sometime next fall, delicious shiitake mushrooms should start popping out of the bark.

Any old rotting log will not produce delicious, or even edible, mushrooms. A couple of weeks ago, I inoculated these logs with spawn of selected strains of shiitake mushrooms. The spawn originally came from www.fieldforest.net, via my friend Bill Munzer, who had some spawn left over from a shiitake growing workshop he recently held. The spawn arrives as inoculated plugs which get hammered into holes drilled into the logs. A coating of wax seals in moisture.

Read the complete post…

[poinsettia, winterize trees, dead gardenia]

Time for the next step in hunkering down for winter – not by caulking around windows, not by propping snow shovels next to the front door, not by waxing up the skiis. What winter will need is flowers. Or, at least, I need flowers to make winter more pleasant.

Poinsettias and jasmines are the flowers du jour. Not that either is blooming yet. As I said, it’s time for the “next step” in preparing for winter. Both these plants would naturally bloom sometime in spring but I need them blooming in the depths of winter.

I began planning for both plants’ winter bloom back in September’s balmy days. Not much was required. All the plants needed were nights of uninterrupted darkness and cool temperatures. And, for the jasmine, also being kept on the verge of thirst.

Read the complete post…

[rosemary, black walnuts, frost]

Looks like another of my rosemary plants has bit the dust. And this one did so very early in the season. Too bad, because it was a very elegantly trained tree form rosemary.

I brought this rosemary plant indoors a couple of weeks ago. With outside air streaming in through frequently opened windows and flames dancing in the woodstove only occasionally, the plant, along with other newly moved houseplants, would – should – have had time to gradually acclimate to the drier, warmer air indoors. I paid careful attention to watering, even filled the saucers beneath the pots with water to raise the local humidity and supply some water from below by capillary action.

The photo at left is of my rosemary plant pre-death.

I evidently didn’t pay enough attention to the rosemary tree. The problem with …

Read the complete post…

[broccoli, uncommon fruits, nuts]

A few months ago I wrote that I once saw eye to eye with ex-President Bush – that was H. W. Bush, and we saw eye to eye about broccoli. Neither of us thought much of broccoli, in my case, it was my own, home-grown broccoli that failed to please.

This year I thought I’d make a real effort to grow good broccoli to see if perhaps I could effect an about face. The crop from my first planting was awful. I persevered with a second planting, sown in seed flats in June, for a fall crop. I gave each plant adequate spacing (2 feet apart in the row, 2 rows per 3 foot wide bed), planted them in soil enriched with soybean meal and an inch depth of compost, and kept an eye out for cabbage worms. The heads have been …

Read the complete post…

[commonground fair, eliot coleman, pawpaws]

Along with tens of thousands of other people, I descended this past weekend upon the small town of Unity, Maine, population 555. The attraction that drew all of us to this little town a half hour inland from the coast was the Common Ground Fair, sponsored and on the grounds of MOFGA, the Maine Organic Farming and Gardening Association (www.mofga.org).

The Common Ground Fair is a real old-time country fair focusing on farming, gardening, and rural skills such as timber frame construction, weaving, and tanning hides. No glitzy midway or bumper car rides at this fair. Instead, there are horse-drawn rides and demonstrations such as mowing with oxen, natural hoof care, and border collies herding ducks and sheep. Garden and farming talks covered everything from starting a vegetable garden to growing grain to – my own presentations – landscaping with fruit plants and …

Read the complete post…

[FRESH FIGS, MANDALAY BEGONIA]

Eating a fig

 

Yesterday, September 2nd, I picked my first fig of the season, a big, fat, juicy, sweet Green Ischia, also known as Verte. For days, I’d been watching it swell in the tree in the greenhouse. Finally, it was drooping from its stem and the skin gave in readily to my touch, so I picked it and took a bite. Delicious.

Figs have unique bearing habits, which is why I am usually able to harvest those first Green Ischias a few weeks earlier than I did this year. Some fig trees, Green Ischia being one of them, bear fruit on both last year’s stems and on new, growing shoots. The previous year’s stems bear the earlier crop, the current shoots bear the later crop. (With some fig varieties, each of these crops looks and tastes different.)

Last winter, a propane glitch …

Read the complete post…

[GARDEN FRESH DINNERS, GOLDEN BANTAM, BRAIDED WEEPING FIG]

My wife commented at dinner the other night that everything we were eating had pretty much the same ingredients. The salad, besides lettuce, parsley, celery, olives, and dressing, had freshly sliced tomatoes, onions (as scallions), and peppers. Skewered and from the grill, were roasted eggplant and, again, tomatoes, onions (bulbs), and peppers. And our home-made focaccio was topped with – you guessed it – tomatoes and onions, in addition to garlic and fresh rosemary.

Not that either of us was complaining; the meal was delicious, and not by some culinary sleight of hand. The good taste came about because most of the meal came from our backyard garden. I had chosen flavorful varieties of each vegetable to grow and they all had been gathered within an hour of their being eaten. In the case of the sweet corn, also part of that dinner and almost every lunch …

Read the complete post…

[hibiscus sawfly, wood sorrel, hardy kiwifruit]

Elegance doesn’t generally wow me in the garden (or in architecture or home furnishings); lack of elegance often does. A most inelegant, cheerful flower is now in bloom. The plant is hibiscus, not the tropical one with glossy leaves and coaster-sized flowers, but the hardy, herbaceous perennial ones now sporting dinnerplate-size, red-bordering-on-hot-pink blossoms. What fun!

Looking at my plant more closely, I see that chewed up leaves are making the plants look . . . okay, perhaps a bit too inelegant. The culprit is the hibiscus sawfly, which looks something like a housefly as an adult, except the body section right behind its head is orange-brown in color. The real culprits, though, are the young, the small green caterpillars, who do the feeding.

So here’s my reminder, for next year, to pick the caterpillars off the plants early in the growing season. The caterpillars are also susceptible …

Read the complete post…

[ducks and plums, bug baffler, rethinking doyenne de juillet]

Ducks

My ducks are as useful as they are humorous. I’ve always appreciated their fast-paced, duck walk patrol of the grounds for various insects on which to feast. But this year I’ve had a bumper crop of plums, and the ducks are being a big help with them also.

 
The thing about plums is that a lot of them drop to the ground. Some of them – not too many, I hope — drop because they ripened before I got to them. Some drop because they have an insect developing in them, such as larvae of the dreaded plum curculio. And some drop because some disease has taken hold. With all the rain this year, quite a few are gray and fuzzy with brown rot disease.

I merely bemoan the loss of plums that drop before I get to them; my loss is the duck’s gain. Fruits that …

Read the complete post…

[hibiscus tree find, doyenne de juillet, MICROWAVE SOIL]

Smith & Hawkens’ loss is my gain. That’s Smith & Hawkens, the upscale gardening store that sells . . . actually, I’m not exactly sure just what they do sell. They used to sell some very high quality, or at least very expensive, gardening tools, such as stainless steel digging forks and spades that were very decorative on garage walls even if never used. They also used to publish some excellent gardening books, such as Carolyn Mayle’s 100 Heirloom Tomatoes for the American Garden and Elvin McDonald’s 100 Orchids for the American Garden. And then they sold gardening clothes. And then they sold furniture for the garden. And then they sold “flaming pots” for decorating your terrace.

Which is why I ended up poking my head in at a Smith & Hawkens retail store last weekend. Smith & Hawkens is going out of …

Read the complete post…