Author Archives: Lee A. Reich

Talking Fruits & Pleasant Aromas

Potted alpine strawberries

Alpine Strawberries, Gumi Fruit, David Austin Roses and Catalpa

Earliglo strawberries are on the wane. Time to move on to other fruits, still strawberries but very different strawberries in all respect. Alpine strawberries. The largest of them are the size of a nickel but each packs the flavor of a silver-dollar sized berry.

UPCOMING LECTURES BY LEE REICH:

August 6, 2014, “Trials, tribulations, and rewards of growing fruit” meeting of Home Orchard Society (www.homeorchardsociety.org/), North American Fruit Explorers (www.nafex.org), and California Rare Fruit Growers (www.crfg.org) Conference, Troutdale, OR.

August 9, 2014, “Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden” and espalier tour, Western Washington Fruit Research Foundation (www.nwfruit.org), Mt. Vernon, WA.

August 10, 2014, “Luscious Landscaping — With Fruits!” sponsored by City Fruit, Bradner Gardens, Plant Amnesty, Seattle Fruit Tree Society, and the Washington Association of Landscape Professionals, http://leereich.brownpapertickets.com, Warren G. Magnuson Park, Seattle, WA.

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Chickens & Gooseberries, A Bad Combination

Chickens, Gooseberries, Rose Pruning & Asparagus

Good gardening is not religion. Balancing and rebalancing is what’s needed, not the constraints of dogma. You want to garden naturally? Dogma would dictate doing nothing, in which case you wouldn’t have a garden. You want to grow only native plants? Then forget about tomatoes, apples, and tulips. And are the plants you want to grow truly native on your “back forty,” or down the road where the soil is slightly wetter in summer?

Gooseberries and chickens are what turned my thoughts to the need for balance today. I grow over a dozen varieties of gooseberries, dessert gooseberries with flavors akin to those of grape, plum, and apricot. I also “grow” seven Bantam chickens; they provide decoration, insect control, eggs, and some degree of entertainment.

On the downside, chickens’ scratching in my garden beds in search of insects and seeds messes up what could be a very neat and orderly space.

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Of Poppies, Snow, & Herbicides

Oriental poppies, now in bloom with large, floppy, flaming red blossoms, are worth ooh-ing and ah-ing about. Likewise for Snow in Summer (Cerastium tomentosum), with small gray-green leaves and small white flowers, except that too few people know or grow this plant.  Here, the two plants look especially congenial together with Snow in Summer hugging the ground at the feet of the poppies and spilling over the rock wall that supports the bed in which these plants grow.

 No skill is needed to grow Snow in Summer, or to propagate it. Plant it and it will spread, rooting as it creeps but never with frightening speed.

Alas, the show from either plant is all too transient. Poppy foliage is soon to yellow and melt slowly back into the ground. And by the time you read this, blossoms of Snow in Summer will have tapered off and its leaves will have lost …

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Lawn Nouveau & Gooseberry Trees

Come visit my farmden on June 21st between 12 pm and 4 pm as part of the Open Days program of the Garden Conservancy. Admission is $5, the proceeds of which go to the Garden Conservancy, whose “mission is to preserve America’s exceptional gardens for the education and enjoyment of the public.” For more information about the Conservancy, go to www.gardenconservancy.org; for more about the June 21st visit, go to

https://www.gardenconservancy.org/opendays/open-days-schedule/openday/884-ulster-county-open-day or call 888-842-2442.

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Some people contend that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I disagree, and especially this year. I’m acting on the belief that if more than three people mention the same thing to me, something is amiss. More than three people have commented on the beauty of their lawns this year, that is, the greenness of the grass on their side of the fence. And …

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Holly Needs a Male, and Cold Peppers

Connecting the drip irrigation to the spigot behind my compost pile today, my eyes fell on five nearby Meserve holly bushes. Which brought my thoughts back to last fall, when I realized that I’ve never seen berries on those shrubs.

Hollies are dioecious plants (“two houses”): some are male, others are female. Only the female plants bear the bright, red fruits that, along with spiny, shiny leaves, are so essential a decoration for the winter solstice. To bear fruits (which are ripened ovaries, the female flowers must be dusted with pollen from male flowers.

Last fall, I reasoned that the lack of berries could be that the plants were too young (no, I planted them over 15 years ago), that the plants were too shaded (if so, there would have been at least a few berries), that late frosts were killing the blossoms (unlikely every year), or that …

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To Fertilize or Not To Fertilize, That is the Question

Spreading compost

Looking out on my vegetable garden last week, I noticed some yellowing leaves on kale transplants. Perhaps the yellowing leaves were just a legacy from the kale transplants adjustment to their home outdoors. In the greenhouse, lettuce that I planted last month lacked its expected exuberance.  Perhaps slow growth of lettuce was my imagination.

Or perhaps the lettuces and kales needed some fertilizer. Vegetables are generally heavy feeders, and leafy vegetables especially so. My garden doesn’t get fertilizer per se; the plants get all they need from compost. Years ago I calculated that a one inch depth of fully ripened compost could thoroughly satisfy the nutritional needs of vegetable plants — even intensively planted vegetables — for a year, and that’s what my plants get. As an added benefit, compost, in contrast to chemical fertilizers and even most organic fertilizers, offers a wide spectrum of nutrients in addition to …

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What’s New Farmdenly?

In this early part of the growing season, I’m frequently asked, “So what new and exciting plants are you growing in the garden this year?” And just as frequently, I can’t think of anything. Not that gardening isn’t “new and exciting” every year, what with the vagaries of the weather and pests, and their interaction with planting, pruning, and soil care.

Well, this year I can think of at least four new and exciting plants I’m growing.

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I actually have grown cardoon before, perhaps 25 years ago. And up until this weekend, I had no desire to ever grow it again. The plant is like a giant celery with spiny stalks that must be tied together so that they get blanched and edible. Or supposedly edible, once you removed the tough strings running down each stalk. Blanching and de-stringing was a lot of trouble, too much trouble for me considering …

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The Unknown Known

   To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, defense secretary under W, there are the known knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns. Donald, you forgot about the unknown knowns. Lets talk about gardening, not war, and the knowns that need to be better known.

Visitors to my garden (actually workshop attendees) were oohing and ahing over some 18-inch-high stalks each capped with a crown of leaves beneath which dangled a circle of red blossoms. Aptly named crown imperial, Fritillaria imperialis, deserves to be more widely known. No one seemed put off by the skunky aroma that suffuses the air even feet away from the plant; I like it.

Perhaps crown imperial would be better known if the bulbs didn’t go for more than 10 dollars each. My gardens’ profusion of crown imperial stalks is more an indication of my green thumb than …

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