My "fertilized" blueberries


The Choice is Yours

Plants occasionally need fertilizer and when they do, you can choose between using either an organic fertilizer or a synthetic (aka chemical) fertilizer. Organic fertilizers are derived from natural sources such as ground rocks, animal byproducts and manures, and plants or parts of plants. Synthetic fertilizers, in contrast, are factory made.

Composted garden beds

“Fertilized” beds in autumn

Most of the nutrition plants get from the ground is from nutrient ions (an atom or a group of atoms with an electric charge). For instance, calcium enters the root as Ca++; the two pluses are the result of the once neutral calcium atom losing two electrons. Whether a fertilizer is organic or synthetic, the form the plant eventually sees as food is an ion. People sometimes use this as a argument that it doesn’t matter to the plant whether its food source is organic or synthetic. But . . .  Read more

Coldfames (not mine)


A Fourth Dimension for the Garden

A “coldframe” is one of a few ways to add a new dimension — time — to gardening. Especially, for me, vegetable gardening. It inserts time where time does not exist. Instead of my gardening season screeching to a stop with a hard freeze sometime in late November or early December, a coldframe extends it a few weeks, possibly even more. And it can do the same thing at the beginning of the season, getting plants going and harvested sooner. (Multidimensional vegetable gardening is covered more thoroughly in my book Weedless Gardening.)

At its most primitive, a coldframe is nothing more than a clear plastic or glass topped box set directly on the ground, functioning in the garden as a miniature greenhouse. My simplest coldframe was made from four pieces of scrap pine boards notched together into a three-foot by six-foot rectangle. The covering was quarter-inch plexiglass whose previous incarnation was that of a floor runner beneath office chairs.Primitive coldframe

My most elaborate coldframe was a purchased structure, looking much like a miniature barn with a double-wall, polycarbonate plastic roof that folded open or closed along tracks in the eaves. Read more


Optimizing Winter for a Fig Plant

For those of us who grow figs in cold climates, where winter lows reliably plummet below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, this time of year brings some nervous expectation. You want the buds to pop out and start growing, but not too, too soon.

Fig stem beginning growth


Except for maritime climates, such as in the Pacific Northwest, where winters are what I term “coldish” rather than “cold,” figs need some sort of protection in truly cold winter climates. The challenge in maritime climates is using variety choice, pruning, and site selection to get fruit to ripen in the relatively cool summers. In these climates fig buds gradually unfold usually in synch with the gradual warming weather in spring.

Not so for protected figs in truly cold winter climates, whether plants are in a pot or in the ground, wrapped or buried. For directions here, allow me to excerpt my recent book, Growing Figs in Cold Climates: Read more