Yearly Archives: 2022

LESS SALT IS BETTER

What Does “Salt” Really Mean?

A few years back, one of my neighbors planted a hemlock hedge along the road in front of their house as a screen from the road. Sad to say, the future does not bode well for this planting. The hemlocks very likely will be damaged by road salt.  And the prognosis is similar for those stately sugar maples that line so many streets. Chemically, road salt — at least the more traditional “road salt” — is the same as the stuff in your salt shaker, sodium chloride. Either sodium or chloride ions can be toxic to plants. Chlorine is a nutrient needed by plants, but it is classed as a micronutrient, needed in minute quantities. Too much is toxic. Sodium is not at all needed by plants.

In a broader sense, a “salt” is any ionic molecule, that is, a molecule of two or more atoms in …

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THE BEST HERB FOR A NORTHERN WINTER

Calamity Avoidance

A horticultural calamity averted. Again. Deb was snipping some leaves from our potted rosemary “tree” for salad dressing and said she noticed that the plant looked a little wilty. I was skeptical. Rosemary leaves are so narrow and stiff that they hardly broadcast their thirst. Still, quite a few rosemary plants have succumbed to winter drought here.

I checked the plant and, in fact, the leaves did look a bit wilty. The probe of my sort-of-accurate electronic moisture tester (which I nonetheless highly recommend) confirmed Deb’s diagnosis. The soil was very dry but, luckily, not to the point of killing the plant.

Allow me to digress . . . Soil scientists represent soil moisture levels with four descriptors. Right after a thorough watering, a soil is “saturated,” with all pores filled with water. Saturation is not desirable in the long term because roots need to “breathe” to do their work of …

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A PEAR, 170 YEARS LATER

A Luscious Fruit in Winter

All fruits did well this past season but it was especially a banner year for pears. Why do I mention this now? Because we’re still eating them and they are delicious. “Them” is actually just one variety — Passe Crassane, not a variety you’d find on a supermarket shelf, but which is available as a tree.
Timely harvest, storage, and ripening of pears melds art and science; since this was my first crop from Passe Crassane, I was wary as I sliced off a taste. It was like slicing through butter, a good omen. The flesh was “white, fine. melting, [sugary], perfumed, and agreeably sprightly,” to quote from The Pears of New York, U. P. Hedrick’s 1921 classic. Delicious.

The seed for this pear was sown, literally, by one Louis Boisbunel in Rouen, France in 1845. Ten years later, the tree showed its worth and the fruit made …

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