KEEPING THE FAITH

Transplant Shock

A recent telephone call to my sister caught her setting zucchini transplants in her garden. “Transplanting zucchini?” I queried. “Have some faith in nature.” Transplants on sale this time of year too often entice gardeners to set out set them out in the garden rather than drop seeds into furrows.

I pointed out that not every plant likes to be transplanted. Tomato plants yanked out of the soil will resume growth in a few days if their roots are covered with moist dirt. Roots will sprout even if just a stem is in moist soil. But the roots of plants like corn, poppies, melons, cucumbers, and squashes (zucchini included) resent disturbance. Carrots, parsnips, and many other root crops also transplant poorly. Their taproots become the harvested roots. If bent or broken while young, forked, rather than straight, smooth carrots and parsnips result.

This is not to say that it is impossible …

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GUT PLANTING

Not My Usual Approach

I couldn’t help myself, so yesterday I broke protocol. After quite a few days of bright sunshine with daytime temperatures in the 70s, even the 80s a couple of days, I went ahead and planted all the tomato and pepper plants that I’ve been nurturing since their birth a few weeks ago — six weeks for the tomatoes, ten weeks for the peppers. Looking ahead, warm sunny days should follow, with night temperatures are predicted to dip down only into the 50s.

My usual protocol has been to plant not with my gut, but with the calendar date. Over the years I’m come up with a detailed chart of when to sow and transplant different kinds of vegetables based on the average dates of the last killing frost. Here, that date is around May 21st. Or, it used to be. (That chart — which I included in my …

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A WEBINAR AND A PLANT SALE

Webinar: GROWING FIGS IN COLD CLIMATES

Harvesting your own fresh figs, which offer a very different gustatory experience from dried figs, is possible and easy even if you live where winters are cold. Even where summers remain cool. Once you know why fig allows this, various methods can lead you to fig-dom. I’ll cover the why, some of the methods, and detail the all-important methods of pruning.

Date and Time: Monday, June 6, 2022, 7-9 pm Eastern Time
Cost: $35
Space is limited and registration is necessary. Register and pay (credit card or Paypal) here, or at:
https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_4hqKduDNSyiuRGPBlmBObg

Contact me if you’d prefer to pay by check.

Plant Sale

This year the 14th(?) Annual Plant Sale will be held live, here at Springtown Farmden. Plants, available in limited quantities, include mostly fruit plants, including Nanking cherries, grapes, hardy kiwifruit, lowbush blueberry, highbush blueberry, hardy orange, and, of course, figs.

This year, there’ll also be lots of …

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SPRING SEEDING: WHEN?

Truth From a Thermometer

Stop by my vegetable garden this time of year and you might see one or more thermometers poking out of the ground. No, I’m not experimenting with a new way to monitor the soil’s health. Soil temperature can serve as a guide for timely sowing of seeds outdoors. Seed sown in soil that is too cold won’t germinate; just sitting there waiting for warmer weather, ungerminated seeds are liable to rot or be eaten by animals.

Lettuce, onion, parsnip, and spinach seeds can be planted earliest. They’ll germinate just about as soon as ice in the soil thaws. At the other end of the spectrum are seeds of melons and squash, which won’t germinate until the soil temperature reaches sixty-five degrees. The minimum temperature required for germination of other vegetable seeds is as follows: forty degrees for beets, cabbage and its kin, carrots, peas, chard, parsley, celery, and …

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Webinar planned: GROWING FIGS IN COLD CLIMATES

Yes, you can be picking fresh fruit from your own fig tree even if you live in a cold climate! I’ve grown figs for decades, beginning in Wisconsin and now in New York’s Hudson Valley. 

Figs can be grown successfully in cold climates because, among other things, they are adaptable plants and have unique bearing habits.

Learn various ways to get plants through cold winters, how to prune the plants, how to harvest the fruit, how to speed ripening, and more. 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 for you.

Monday, June 6, 2022, 7-9 pm Eastern Time

Cost: $35

Registration is necessary; register and pay (credit card or Paypal) at:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_4hqKduDNSyiuRGPBlmBObg

SOMETIMES CALLED SPARROW GRASS, SOMETIMES ASPARAGOS

Many Reasons to Grow Asparagus

In my book Weedless Gardening, I begin the section about asparagus with the statement “Forget about the usual directives to excavate deep trenches when planting one- or two-year-old crowns of asparagus.” More about planting in a bit; let me first lay out my case about why YOU should grow asparagus.

With most vegetables, by the time you taste them fresh-picked somewhere, it’s too late in the season to plant them in your garden. Not so with asparagus. Borrow a taste from a neighbor’s asparagus bed, or from a wild clump along a fencerow, and you’re likely to want some growing outside your own back door. Minutes-old asparagus has a very different flavor and texture (both much better) than any asparagus that reaches the markets. The time to plant is now.

A big plus for asparagus is that it’s a perennial plant, so once a bed is planted, …

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THE JOY(S) OF COMPOSTING

Dinosaurs and Snake Eggs, and More

Most benefits of compost are well-known: it takes out your “garbage,” it fertilizes your plants, it’s teeming with beneficial microorganisms, yadda, yadda, yadda. One too often overlooked plus for compost is the thrill of discovery, discovery of things other than compost in the pile.

Discovery might range from the mundane to the sublime. Among the mundane discoveries is that glint of a lost kitchen fork as it emerges from within the chocolatey pile. Same for the favorite vegetable peeler or the lost stainless steel coffee strainer.

More towards the sublime end of the spectrum would be the dinosaur that surfaced as I was turning a pile a few years ago. A dinosaur! Yes, a small, plastic one that got there from who knows where. 

More seriously sublime was the clutch of about three dozen soft, white eggs about the size of quail eggs that came into view as …

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PLANT STRAWBERRY PLANT(S)

Humble Appearing Beginnings

The UPS man’s face is a familiar one this time of year, as he brings me boxes and bags of plants from all around the country. I can’t count how many times I’ve met his brisk walk up the driveway to retrieve a box of strawberry plants. A strawberry bed languishes after a few years, typically five years, and when that happens, I just choose a new site and order new plants.

Epsey strawberry, painted in 1911

I begin again with new plants, because although strawberries are perennial plants, old plantings eventually pick up diseases from wild strawberries and related plants. By planting a new bed the year before the old one is due to expire, there’s no break in enjoying fresh strawberries every June.

Opening the box of strawberry plants just arrived provides a sorry sight to the eyes: twenty-five plants, leafless or nearly leafless, bound with a …

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TEASING APART HYDRANGEAS

Good Answer

When someone asks me how they should prune their hydrangea, I give them the answer that most people don’t like to any question “It depends.” What else can I say? It DOES depend. One or more of a few species of hydrangeas commonly make their home in our yards, and you have to approach each, pruning shears or loppers in hand, differently.

Let me tease apart the answer by, first, taking a look a what hydrangea or hydrangeas we may be growing, and then how they grow and flower, which, in turn, speaks to when and where to start snipping away.

Mopheads and Lacecaps, and Oakleafs

If the hydrangea plant in question is a shrub bearing blue or pink flowers, it’s a so-called Bigleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla). Mopheads types, also called hortensias, bear softball to volleyball size clusters of florets. Lacecap types bear flat-topped cluster of small, hardly conspicuous florets surrounded by …

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GOURMET FERTILIZER

Vegetarian Plants

The other day in the hardware store I overheard someone ask the clerk for some rose food. My eyebrows went up as I thought to m’self, “Are they kidding, thinking that roses need their own special food? Next, I’ll hear about plants that prefer vegetarian or kosher food, perhaps fish emulsion on Fridays?”

All this food science when it comes to plants may boost fertilizer sales, but it hardly bothers plants either way. Plants take up the bulk of their nutrients as ions (charged atoms or groups of atoms) that are dissolved in water in the soil. Rock particles, as well as humus and organic fertilizers, decompose to release nutrient ions slowly into the soil solution. Chemical fertilizers are already in ionic form, so when you sprinkle a handful on the soil, they dissolve as soon as they contact water.

A Well-Rounded, Wholesome Diet

What’s so special about rose food for roses? …

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