Yearly Archives: 2022

WAITING FOR FIGS

(Much of the below information is gleaned from my book Growing Figs in Cold Climates and a video I presented, now available online.)

Affliction

If you’re not growing figs because you think your cold winter climate is wrong for them, you’re wrong and you’re missing out on an exotic treat. Figs can be grown just about everywhere. If you are growing figs and you’re in a cold winter climate, the fruits should be nearly or already ripening.

Impatience is the affliction of the cold climate fig grower. I’m feeling it right now, as I write. That impatience comes from watching little figlets forming and expanding early in the season and then just sitting on the branches, doing nothing, seemingly forever. Knowing something of how fig fruits develop and grow, and ways that ripening can be hastened along helps soothe my affliction.

Let Me Know Thy Ways (of Fruiting)

Most varieties of figs …

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LUSCIOUS LANDSCAPING

From Alaska & the White Mountains to my Garden

Lingonberry a plant of harsh, cold climates. I’ve seen the plants poking out of rocky crevices in Alaska and high in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, all of which makes all the more surprising the stellar performance of my plants in this hot summer. For years they sat quietly, growing slowly and slowly spreading; this summer, the plants took off, their underground stems reaching further than usual and aboveground stems sporting a very respectable crop. Or, I should say, crops, plural; more on that later.

Here in the U.S., lingonberries are little known and, when they are known, it’s as jars of jam. But merely utter the word “lingonberry” to someone Scandinavian and watch for a smile on their lips and a dreamy look in their eyes. Each year, thousands of tons of lingonberries are harvested from the wild throughout Scandinavia, destined for …

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MY BICOASTAL PLANT

A Tree Takes a Plane Ride

I managed to pack lightly for a journey, many years ago, to the West Coast, toting along only an extra pair of pants, a couple of shirts, and a few other essentials. But on the return trip, how could I resist carrying back such bits of California as orange-flavored olive oil and chestnut-fig preserves? The most obvious bit of California that I brought back was a potted bay laurel plant (Lauris nobilis), its single stem poking out of my small backpack and brushing fragrant leaves against the faces of my fellow travelers.

Bay, with its subtropical pals, rosemary and citrus

Not only did the bay laurel bring a bit of California to my home, but also traditions dating back thousands of years from its native home along the Mediterranean coast. Ancient Romans crowned victors with wreaths of laurel and bestowed berried branches upon doctors passing …

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A BACTERIA TO THE RESCUE

A Cabbageworm is a Cabbageworm is a . . . Not!

A few weeks ago, one or more of the few species of “cabbageworms” began munching the leaves of my cabbage and Brussels sprouts plants. They ignored kale leaves, thankfully, because it’s my favorite of the three.

A laissez fair approach would have left the cabbages and Brussels sprouts mere skeletons, so I had to take some sort of action.

For the record, “cabbageworms” are actually not worms, but a few species of caterpillars all classified — and this is important — in the order Lepidoptera. Here’s the lineup: A cabbage looper arches its back when moving, and is light green with a pale white stripe along each of its sides and two thin white stripes down its back.

Cabbage looper

A diamondback moth larvae is 5/16 inch long, yellowish-green, and spindle shaped with a forked tail.

Diamondback moth larva

A cabbageworm (yes, …

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HEAT? DROUGHT? NO PROBLEM.

Physiological Workaround

Portulaca is a genus that gives us a vegetable, a weed, and a flower. All flourish undaunted by heat or drought, a comforting thought as I drag the hose or lug a watering can around to keep beebalm, an Edelweiss grapevine, and some marigolds and zinnias — all planted within the last couple of weeks — alive.

Portulaca employ a special trick for dealing with hot, dry weather, which presents most plants with a conundrum. On the one hand, should a plant open the pores of its leaves to let  water escape to cool the plant, as well as take in carbon dioxide which, along with sunlight, is needed for photosynthesis. On the other hand, the soil might not be sufficiently moist or the pores might end up jettisoning water faster than roots can drink it in, in which case closing the pores would be the ticket.

Portulaca gets around this …

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GROWING FIGS IN COLD CLIMATES video recording now available.

Watch, listen, and learn — on your own time — about GROWING FIGS IN COLD CLIMATES, with a recording of a webinar with Lee Reich. Now available online.

Learn about the nice quirks of figs, subtropical plants native to hot, dry climates, that make it possible to grow and harvest fruit from them even in cold climates. With that covered, I detail some practical applications of this information. Winter care, pruning, varieties, and speeding up ripening will all be covered. If you already grow figs, this webinar will help you grow more or better figs, and be able to manage them more easily. If you haven’t yet experienced the rewards of growing figs, you have a treat in store.

To access this video, go to www.leereich.com/video

TWO DISAPPOINTING FAILURES, TWO DELICIOUS SUCCESSES

Help!!

As flaming red petals drop to the ground beneath my pomegranate bush, I’m not hopeful. Sure, the flowers are beautiful, but the plant is here to give me fruit.

To survive winters here in New York’s mid-Hudson Valley (Zone 5), my plant’s home is in a large flowerpot which I cart into cold storage in late December and back outdoors or into the greenhouse in late winter or early spring. Even my cold-hardy variety, Salatavski, from western Asia, would die to ground level if planted outdoors. The roots would survive that much cold because of moderated below ground temperatures, but new stems that would rise from ground level would need to be more than a year old before flowering.

Potted pomegranate, but NOT mine

Growing in a pot, my pomegranate (and other potted fruit plants) need regular pruning and repotting. To prune the pomegranate, I snip off young suckers growing from …

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RAISING BASIL(S)

Continuing Education

“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, & no culture comparable to that of the garden. Such a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, & instead of one harvest a continued one thro’ the year. Under a total want of demand except for our family table I am still devoted to the garden. But tho’ an old man, I am but a young gardener.”

That’s what Thomas Jefferson wrote to Charles Willson Peal on August 20, 1811. Mr. Jefferson had it right. One thing, among many other, that makes gardening so rewarding for me is that there’s always something new to learn about plants and their cultivation.

Take basil, for instance, which I, like many of you, have grown for many years. I’ve always been satisfied with a good harvest, …

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WISE AND NOT SO WISE

A lot about this year’s vegetable garden warrants my patting myself on my back; other things warrant a nuggy (virtually impossible unless I was double-jointed). Let’s start with the pat-worthy stuff. Perhaps you’ll find some of it useful in your vegetable garden. Perhaps you’ll want to comment on it.

Good Moves

Sweet corn is one of my favorite vegetables, both fresh in summer, and frozen in winter. Evidently, chipmunks are also fans. I plant sweet corn — the old variety Golden Bantam — in hills (clumps) of three stalks per hill, the hills eighteen inches apart in the row, with two rows running the length of each three-foot-wide bed. I spread out the harvest with four plantings, the first on about the average date of the last frost, mid-May, and the last planting the end of June.

With a variation on traditional corn planting — “one for the rook, one for the crow, …

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PAYBACK TIME

Not a Gardener? I’m Honored

Perhaps some one or two of you readers of this blog might be just that — readers, not gardeners. An occasional reader has admitted this to me. Although I feel honored to be read by any non-gardener, herein is my effort to get humus under the fingernails of you gardening equivalents of “Monday night quarterbacks.” 

I reckon that now, when plants are lush and have already offered or are hinting at future offerings of fruits, vegetables, and flowers, is the easiest time of year to spur your enthusiasm. Also, it’s still not too late to start a garden. I started my first garden -– in Wisconsin -– on August 1st and reaped tomatoes, beans, and other vegetables!

I could begin by going on and on about the favorable economics of gardening, wowing you with statistics about how much cheaper it is to grow broccoli, peaches, and tomatoes than …

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