Category Archives: Gardening

The End of Chestnuts? No!

Blight Strikes

I looked up into the tree that I had planted 20 years ago and saw what I had long feared: two major limbs with sparse, undersized leaves. Blight had finally got a toehold on the Colossal chestnut tree, which, for the past 15 years, has supplied us with all the chestnuts we could eat. (“Colossal” is the variety name, apt for the size of the chestnuts it produces.)My first inclination, before even identifying chestnut blight as the culprit, was to lop off the two limbs. Once I got up close and personal with the tree, the tell-tale orange areas within cracks in the bark stared me in the face.There is no cure for chestnut blight. Removing infected wood does remove a source of inoculum to limit its spread. In Europe, the disease has been limited by hypovirulence, a virus (CHV1) that attacks the blight fungus. Some success has been …

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AH-CHOO!

A Dark Cloud Hovers

The end of May and early June is such a glorious time of year in the garden, with plants thoroughly leafed out yet still showing the exuberance of spring growth. (Those of you to the north of me, Zone 5 in New York’s Hudson Valley: your time will come. Y’all to the south: enjoy your camellias, southern magnolias, muscadine grapes, figs, and . . . all the plants I wish I could grow this far north.)Yet even on the clearest, sunny day — and especially on that kind of day — a dark cloud hangs overhead. Hay fever, literally from hay that is, grasses; and nonliterally, from tree pollen.

Every year the small white blossoms opening on multiflora roses signal that a sneeze season is on. That’s why this late spring allergy season is sometimes called “rose fever.” Rose is not the culprit; is just an easy to …

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Aquatic Matters

Rain, Rain Go Away; And It Did

Now that this spring’s incessant rains have stopped, we can settle in for dry weather. I hope.

Yes, I should be careful about what I hope for, but plants and people generally enjoy clear, blue, skies. For plants, those days mean plenty of light — actually, more than enough, but no harm done — for photosynthesis, which translates to better flavored fruits and vegetables, and conditions inimical to fungal diseases.

A plant only benefits under these conditions, of course, if it also has enough water at its roots. To that effect, yesterday, in celebration of the second clear, sunny day, I turned on and checked out the drip irrigation system that provides that water to my vegetable plants and blueberry bushes. (With mulches and choice of appropriate plants, all other plants are on their own.)

Despite the drip irrigation and self-sufficiency of other plants, some hand watering …

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TIME TRAVEL

18th Century, Here I Come!

Is that me playing the fife? No.

I just returned from time travel one month forward and a couple hundred years backward. Both at the same time! I did this with a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, where black locust trees were in full bloom, which is about a month ahead of when they will be blooming up here in New York’s Hudson Valley.

The impetus for this time travel was Colonial Williamsburg’s Annual Garden Symposium, at which I was one of the presenters. (I did presentations on espalier fruit plants and on growing fruits in small gardens.)

Williamsburg is a magical place anytime of year, and especially so, for me, in spring. (I first fell in love with the place on a family trip when I was 7 years old; on subsequent visits, I’ve forgone the three-cornered hat I wore on that first trip.)

The …

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Fruit Tree Pruning

The Why, and the Easiest

Following last week’s missive about pruning fruiting shrubs, I now move on to pruning my fruiting trees. Again, this is “dormant pruning.” Yes, even though the trees’ flower buds are about to burst or have already done so, their response will still, for a while longer, be that to dormant pruning.I mentioned flower buds, so these plants I’m pruning are mature, bearing plants. The objectives and, hence, pruning of a young tree are another ball game. As is renovative pruning, which is the pruning of long-neglected trees.

Most fruit trees need to be pruned (correctly) every year. Annual pruning keeps these trees healthy and keeps fruit within reach. This pruning also promotes year after year of good harvests (some fruit trees gravitate toward alternating years of feast and famine) and — most important — makes for the most luscious fruits.

With that said, as …

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SOIL MATTERS

Plastic on My Bed?!

You’d be surprised if you looked out on my vegetable garden today. Black plastic covers three beds. Black plastic which, for years, I’ve railed against for depriving a soil of oxygen, for its ugliness, for — in contrast to organic mulches — its doing nothing to increase soil humus, and for its clogging landfills.Actually, that insidious blackness covering my beds is black vinyl. But that’s beside the point. Its purpose, like the black plastic against which I’ve railed, is to kill weeds. Not that my garden has many weeds. But this time of year, in some beds, a few more sprout than I’d like to see.

The extra warmth beneath that black vinyl will help those weeds get growing. Except that there’s no light coming through the vinyl, so most weeds will expend their energy reserves and die. And this should not take long, depending on the weather …

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A Podcast and a Workshop

I was recently on Joe Lamp’l’s gardening podcast talking about “uncommon fruit.” They’re worth growing because they’re easy, they’re ornaments, and, with few or no pest problems, they’re easy. And they have excellent and unique flavors. Listen to the podcast here.

Also, I’m hosting a pruning workshop at my New Paltz, NY farmden: