Category Archives: Fruit

FRUITFUL FUTURES

Making the Best of It

Eek! Mice (or rabbits)! Not the animals but the damage they have wrought. The bark on virtually all my pear grafts of last year has been nibbled off enough to kill the grafts.

Once I calmed down, I realized that all was not lost. All the chewing was above ground level, leaving a small amount of intact bark still in place. The plants aren’t dead, just their portions above the chewing. The near-ground portions could be grafted again.

Daisy showered with petals (more on this later)

(Most fruit trees neither come true from seed nor root readily from cuttings, so are propagated by grafting a scion — a short length of one-year-old stem — of the desired variety onto a rootstock. The rootstock is the same kind of plant as the scion variety and could be a seedling or a variety developed for special rootstock purposes. My …

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OUTDOOR MAPLES AND INDOOR KUMQUATS

Sap Season

Get your taps in. It’s syrup weather. Maple syrup. At least here in New York’s Hudson Valley, the sunny days in the 40s with nights in the 20s that are predicted should get the sap flowing.

  I say “should” because I haven’t yet checked sap buckets that I hung out on the trees a few weeks ago when winter temperatures suddenly turned warm; it was sap weather back then. That day was hopeful: I drilled holes an inch and a half deep, lightly hammered in the spiles, hung buckets, and attached covers over the buckets. Frigid days and nights that descended soon after that kept sap flow in abeyance.

  My “sugar bush” amounts to only three sugar maple trees. I used to have four, but a large tree that was a truly magnificent representative of its species began an irreversible path to its death. “Maple decline” is a disease …

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THANKS

I’d like to highlight, today, what makes this blog possible. 

First of all, it’s you, readers. The positive feedback I get is very rewarding. I’ve had great opportunities — academically and “in the field” — to learn about growing plants and caring for the soil, and have put all this into practice for decades. My hope is that in entertaining you with all this, your tomatoes, apples, zinnias, and all the rest grow healthier and tastier or prettier. I appreciate the positive (even the sometimes negative) comments from you all.

Second, if you’ll look at the bottom right corner of my blog posts (or scroll way down near the end on a mobile device), you’ll see some banner ads. Nothing flashy or moving or obnoxious in any other way. Just simple links to a few advertisers.

These seven advertisers are special; these are companies whose products I stand behind. I’ve used them and …

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FROM GROCERS’ SHELVES TO MY FLOWER POTS

Exotic, tropical fruits are turning up more and more frequently on grocers’ shelves these days: dates, papayas, guavas, and others. I look upon these fruits opportunistically, because within each lies dormant seeds that can be coaxed to become exotic, if not beautiful, indoor plants that might even provide a delicious fruit harvest. Such plants provide a break from the humdrum of spider plants, philodendrons, and Swedish ivies. 

Seeds of tropical fruits usually germinate best if planted as soon as the fruits are eaten. Cold-climate fruits, in contrast, have innate inhibitors that prevent seed germination until they feel that winter is over.

So all that’s necessary to grow most tropical fruits is to wash their seeds and sow them in potting soil, using the old rule of thumb of burying a seed to twice its depth. And then wait.

DELICIOUS, BUT HARD TO SAY

  I have harvested fruit grown from the seed of a …

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ALMOST LIKE SUMMER

Fresh Veggies

When I was a child, it seemed that winter vegetables were mostly peas and diced carrots, conveniently poured frozen out of plastic bags into pots of boiling water. Yuk! Winter notwithstanding, my backyard garden still offers plenty of fresh winter vegetables. Let’s have a look. Kale, of course, looks unfazed by snow and plummeting temperatures. Not only does it look unfazed; it also tastes very delicious.

More surprising is the endive that I planted back in August, then covered beneath a “tunnel” of clear plastic and slightly insulating row cover held aloft by metal hoops in late October. Temperatures about a week ago went as low as -8° Fahrenheit! Thanks to the additional insulation from almost a foot of snow, now melted, the endive is still lush and tasty.

The rest of winter’s fresh garden vegetables are not in the garden. Most are in plywood boxes in cold storage, first in …

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SNOW’S COME AND SO HAS FRUIT

Free and Attractive Mulch

  Beautiful. Floating down from the sky. A white blanket of “poor man’s manure.” That’s what gardeners and farmers have called snow.

In fact, snow does take some nitrogen from the air and bring it down to ground level for plant use in spring. Not that much, though. Just a few shovelfuls of real manure could supply the same amount of nitrogen as a blanket of snow.

  Mostly, what I like about the 15 inch deep fluffy whiteness now on the ground is the way it insulates what’s beneath it. Fluctuating winter temperatures wreak havoc on plants, coaxing them awake and asleep and awake and asleep as air temperatures go up and down and up and down. Each time plants are awakened, they become more susceptible to subsequent cold, the whole problem exacerbated with borderline hardy plants.

Anticipating cold weather and snow, last fall I cut back a cardoon …

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CLOSING “SHOP”

Chips, Not Hay, In This Case

“Make hay while the sun shines.” Good advice, literally in agriculture and figuratively in life. And I’m following it these days, in agriculture. Not making hay of course, because that sunshine is only effective in summer and fall, partnered with heat.

The “hay that I’m making” is actually mulch that I’m spreading. A few weeks ago I put my “WOOD CHIPS WANTED” sign out along the road in front of my house. In a short time, an arborist was kind enough deposit a truckload of chips. I figured I could spread it on the ground beneath some of my trees and shrubs, especially the youngest ones. There, next summer, the mulch would keep weeds at bay, slow evaporation of water from the ground, and feed soil life, in so doing enriching the soil with nutrients and organic matter.

Usually, by this time of year, my piles of …

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FINAL HARVESTS

Compressed Gardening Experience

People are so ready to sit at the feet of any long-time gardener to glean words of wisdom. I roll my eyes. Someone who has gardened for ten, twenty, even more years might make the same mistakes every year for that number of years. I, for instance, swung a scythe wrong for 20 years; I may have it right now. Even a wizened gardener who has evaluated and corrected their mistakes has garnered experience only on their own plot of land; these experience may not apply to the differing soils, climates, and resources of other sites.

When I began gardening, my agricultural knowledge and experience was nil, zip, niets, rien, nada. But — and this is important — I had easy access to a whole university library devoted solely to agriculture. Hungry to learn, I read a lot. (I also was taking classes in agriculture.) In one year I …

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FROM PAST TO PRESENT

Br-r-r-r-r-r

This post originally appeared November 7, 2009. Here’s an update with commentaries  on how things have changed — and not changed — over the past 11 years.

Dateline: New Paltz, NY, October 19, 2009, 5:30 am. I bet my garden is colder than your garden. I was startled this morning to see the thermometer reading 23 degrees F. Not much I could do at that point about protecting “cold weather” vegetables still in the garden, some covered with floating row covers and some in “plein aire.” The thing to do under these circumstances was wait for the sun to slowly warm everything up and then assess the damage.

2009

I ventured out to the garden for a survey in the sunny midafternoon. Joy of joys. None of the cold-hardy vegetables was damaged by the cold. Romaine lettuces stood upright and crisp, arugula was dark green and tender, radishes were …

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GRAPE and NUTS

Long-term Grapes

About a month ago, I picked a bunch of grapes as I was walking around the farmden with a friend, and handed it to him to taste. “Wow,” he exclaimed, eyes lighting up, “that really has taste.” That was the variety Brianna, one of many I grow that are otherwise not well-known, surely not to anyone who doesn’t grow grapes. My friend and I went on to agree that store-bought grapes are, “at best, nothing more than little sacks of sugary water.”

All that’s history now. Over the past month, most of the remaining grapes have either been harvested, eaten by birds or insects, or rotted, although a few very tasty berries can be salvaged here and there from some ugly bunches still hanging.

But are those grape-ful days gone yet? Years ago I read about how, over a century ago in France, fresh grapes were sometimes preserved by cutting off …

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