Persimmons (not growing) on a branch


Take a Moment for Forethought

Luscious photos now splash pages of mail-order catalogs, the web, and plant tags at local nurseries. It’s hard to remain rational about planting this time of year, and more so the colder the last winter’s climate.

What I’m suggesting is to give plantings some forethought and, rather than looking for either ornamental or edible trees and shrubs, considering plants that fulfill both functions. That is, trees and shrubs that earn their keep year-‘round with leaves that remain lush and verdant all summer, then light up with fall color, and, of course, bear fruit, and perhaps unfold with eye-catching blossoms in spring.

Persimmons ripening

Persimmons ripening

Lots of trees and shrubs fill this bill, but here I’d like to restrict consideration to fruits that I would pop into my mouth right out in the garden; doctoring up as jam or in a pie is not obligatory.  Read more

Raised beds


Universal Plant Needs

Although garden plants hail from all corners of the world, they have surprisingly similar soil requirements — best attended to before planting. Simply put, most garden plants need soils that are well-supplied with air (yes, roots must breathe!), water, and nutrients. And one other important ingredient, organic matter (sometimes called humus), that witch’s brew of living and once-living organic materials in various states of decomposition that, in addition to contributing to the just-mentioned needs, also includes a friendly microbial community for optimum plant health.

Aeration must be the first consideration, since plants are unable to utilize nutrients, even in fertile soils, if roots lack access to air. There are two causes for waterlogged soils: either the water table is too high, bringing water up from below; or the soil has pores so small that they cling by capillary action to too much water that falls from above.

Deal with a high water table by either choosing another site for planting, by raising roots above the water table, or by lowering the water table. Growing plants in raised beds is the way to bring roots above a water table. Raised bedsBuild beds high enough to take the roots up out of the water, and wide enough so they don’t dry out too quickly. Read more

Dwarf Liberty apple tree & Sammy


Popular Though They May Be . . .

Apples may be a common fruit, second worldwide and in the U.S., bested only by bananas, but they surely are not the easiest ones to grow. At least not over much of this country east of the Rocky Mountains, and here on my farmden. Throughout this area, insects and diseases are ready to pounce on virtually every unsuspecting apple tree.

Pesticides will control these pests but, if needed, are effective only if used rigorously: trees must be regularly and thoroughly doused with the correct material, used at the correct concentration, and applied at the correct times. No wonder the average gardener is daunted at the thought of growing apples!

Dwarf Liberty apple tree & Sammy

Dwarf Liberty apple tree & Sammy

The prospects for backyard apples, organic apples, even in pest-prone regions brightened a few decades ago. Not all apple varieties are equally susceptible to diseases, and apple breeders went to work. Read more