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I wrote a book about preserving food. The same step-by-step instruction and full-color photos you find in my blog. Buy it at Yes, You Can 

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Sprouts

Amazon.com is a terrific source for certified organic seeds intended for home sprouting. Dress up salads, stir-fry, sandwiches, spreads, and other dishes with homegrown sprouts of all kinds. Follow this link to order your sampler or to find home sprouting kits.

 

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Posts Tagged ‘pears’

Food in my Kitchen Garden!

Young pears

Anywhere I point a camera at the pear tree it captures an image with many pears. I’ve never seen so many pears on the tree in a season. If they reach maturity, I’ll have a lot of preserving to do!

As I rushed around a week ago Friday getting ready to drive to Ithaca, I captured images that demonstrate food is happening in the garden. I was happy seeing so much progress early in the season but I must not have been wearing my reading glasses.

You see, when I capture photos, I can’t tell immediately whether they’re well-framed, in focus, or properly exposed. Even with reading glasses, the tiny view screen on my camera can make blurred images seem sharp. I discovered when I reached Ithaca that the tiny view screen conceals all kinds of unexpected details. The shocking truth appears in the last photo of this post.

I wish I’d downloaded the photos before I left home so I’d spotted the problem while I could do something about it. I remain optimistic. Perhaps this was an isolated problem that will simply have gone away by the time I get home. No, I don’t believe that. What I believe is that someone else has beaten me to the first peas of the season. Rats.

Lettuce patch

With only a few plants mature, we’ve eaten a reasonable amount of lettuce salad—mostly from plants I’ve removed to thin the patch. I planted nearly exclusively romaine varieties this year. I like the crispness and it seems every year there are more shades of romaine from which to choose.

Basil babies

One of my favorite sprouts, basil, came on strong about six days after I set seed. This is a purple variety, and there is classic green Genovese basil about six inches to the right (not in the photo). I planted six varieties, most from seeds Renee’s Garden gave me to try.

Early tomato blossoms

This is totally crazy, but there are already blossoms on my tomato plants. Well… only the Stupice plants have blossoms, but that’s as it should be. Stupice is a “cool weather” variety that matures in about 55 days! There’s some chance the first will ripen by June 30th, but most certainly I’ll be harvesting in July. That has never happened in my small kitchen garden.

Sweet pepper baby

If tomato blossoms in early June aren’t crazy enough, I found a sweet pepper on its way to maturity. This must have developed from the one flower that had opened before I set the seedlings in the garden. Still, I’ve been impressed that my pepper plants didn’t seem to notice I ripped them out of communal planters and set them into my planting beds. There was no wilting and no apparent slowdown in growth.

Pea pod and aphids

The photo that made me shudder when I loaded it onto my computer and looked at it full-screen is of my first pea pod of the season. One plant flowered about three days ahead of the others. On this day (June 6), two pea rows were green hedges smothered in white flowers. In the middle of it all was this tiny green pod I captured in pixels. Casual inspection of the closeup revealed quite a community of aphids apparently enjoying the little pod.

 

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Fruit Flowers for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Apple blossoms on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

My apple trees had more blossoms than in any past season. If all become fruit, I’ll need to rent a stand at the farmers’ market.

What an awesome spring we’re having! Sure, it was unpleasantly cold until it wasn’t supposed to be. Sure, perennials remained dormant until early April. But oh, my! Daffodils and hyacinth exploded in April, and eventually warm days coaxed forsythia to bloom.

I got my spring vegetables planted. Pea vines are about five inches tall and starting to wrap tendrils onto the trellises. Five types of lettuce are putting out second leaves and pak choi plants are starting to develop their own distinctive shape. Carrot plants are just sending up their first feathery leaves, as are the cilantro and dill seedlings that have emerged in my herb garden.

Large leaves are emerging from between the two thin first leaves of the spinach seedlings, and the onion sets have sent up spikes more than four inches tall. It has been warm enough for the past week to plant tomato and pepper seedlings in the garden and so far I’ve set out 28 tomato plants.

Peach blossoms on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

The old broken down peach tree blossomed as if its life depended on it. It has done so every year since the trunk snapped at least five years ago. Though the crown of the tree rests partially on the ground and connects to root solely via a bark-covered hinge, the tree consistently produces a fine crop.

There are plenty more seedlings to plant, and many, many seeds as well. But that’s not what I’m writing about today.

Best Ever Spring for Fruit Trees

My fruit trees were very cautious this year. Some years they’ve burst into full bloom in early April, but they had none of that this spring. Even as warming soil coaxed spring vegetables into action, the fruit trees held out. Buds swelled and looked ready to pop for weeks, but low nighttime temperatures kept the buds tight. My last blog post was about those fruit flower buds.

Pear blossoms on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

My pear tree appears robust until you look closely at its trunk. The trunk’s core is hollow from about the soil line to three or four feet above the ground. In 2008 I mail-ordered two trees to replace the old pear tree but they’ve yet to produce fruit. In the meantime the old, sick pear tree continues to make fruit and this year it’s outdoing itself.

Only in the past week, meteorologists assured us we’d have no more nights below 48F degrees. The fruit trees seem to have gotten the news. The blossoms popped and we had several days of awesome color.

That’s it. The fruit trees bloomed and temperatures soared (87F degrees today) and petals plunged to the ground. A few still hang on, but the pear, peach, and apple trees have had their showiest moment of the season and will now get down to growing fruit.

I can’t remember a better spring start for fruit trees in central Pennsylvania. Perhaps this will be a bumper crop year; well-needed after last year’s brutal fruit-killing spring.

Learn about Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

Purple Leaf Plum blossoms on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Since 2008, I’ve been posting photos of this tree and telling readers it’s a Moonglow pear. I mail-ordered a Moonglow and a Bartlet pear tree in 2008 and planted them close together so they’d cross-pollinate. So far, they’ve produced no fruit. And, since last season I’ve been suspicious that they’re not actually Moonglow and Bartlet trees. They came labeled as Moonglow and Bartlet, but they look identical. Flowers, leaves, colors, textures are as if they are a single tree.

Maybe real Moonglow and Bartlet trees are indistinguishable from each other, but these trees also look little like other pear trees I’ve seen. Finally, yesterday I gave in to my suspicion and tracked down the Purple Leaf Plum tree—which is obviously what I planted. It’s a very sad waste of SIX YEARS’ anticipation that I’d soon be harvesting pears from my beautiful trees. Apparently, Purple Leaf Plum trees produce edible fruit, so they might not be a total loss… but they’re sure taking their time getting around to it.

Blueberry blossoms on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

As the fruit tree blossoms are dropping petals, my blueberry plants are in full-bloom. They’ve grown enough that I might get two or three handfuls of berries this season. I’m so looking forward to years when the blueberry plants are three or four feet tall and five feet in diameter.

 

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Buds on Nearly Wordless Wednesday

Apple Flower Buds

 

Peach Flower Buds

 

Pear Flower Buds

 

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Pumpkin and Pear Post Produce: October, 2011

Let’s start with “Post Produce.” Inspired by Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, Your Small Kitchen Garden blog sponsors Post Produce on the 22nd of every month. I encourage bloggers everywhere to tell the world what they’re consuming from their kitchen gardens. Do you have fresh produce? Are you using preserves?

Post your Produce and then return here and link to your blog so other Post Produce participants can see. I hope you’ll join me this month. (Here’s more about Post Produce.)

And My Produce Is…

This isn’t all the squash I’ve harvested, and there’s still more in the garden. Notice the two rather small squashes on the left side of the stack. One of those cooked down into exactly a cup of mashed squash that went into a pear and pumpkin pie.

For this, the second ever Post Produce, I present pumpkin! Well… it’s actually butternut squash, but I use winter squashes and pumpkins interchangeably in my baking. I have quite a heap of butternut squashes and neck pumpkins, and there are still four decent-looking but very small blue hubbard squashes on the vines.

But the story actually begins with pears. Pears have teased me for more than a decade as I’ve experimented to find compelling ways to incorporate them into baked goods. I’ve learned that concentrating pear juice by boiling away a lot of water barely intensifies the flavor, and by the time even very thick pear syrup combines within cake or bread, it might just as well have been raw sugar.

I’ve also made many custards that contained pear juice, but they’ve all tasted pretty much like regular old custard. In fact, this year I thought I’d finished with my whole “baking with pears” period. And then it struck me: I’ve had pumple pie a few times, and was always unimpressed (pumple is pumpkin pie with embedded apple chunks). But it seemed to me that combining pears with pumpkin would result in a much more compelling pie filling.

Ready for pie? Pears and raisins add texture and visual appeal to a slice of pumpkin pie. Please let me know what you think if you bake one of these beauties.

Experimenting with Pears and Pumpkin

I’ve made a few pear and pumpkin pies in the past few weeks. The first was poached pears baked into pumpkin custard, and it was fine. However, I felt it could use a bit more texture, so I made another that included homemade raisins. Along with texture, these provide flavor bursts that make the pie complex and unique.

I hope you’ll try my pear and pumpkin pie. If you do, please let me know what you think of it. I’ll be serving this at Thanksgiving, but I’ll probably bake a few others as long as there are fresh pears available at the local farmers’ market.

I put the recipe for pear and pumpkin pie on another page so it wouldn’t slow the loading of my blog. It contains a list of ingredients along with step-by-step instructions and many photos. Find them on the page titled Cooking Pear and Pumpkin Pie from Your Small Kitchen Garden.

Now You Post Produce!

Show off your garden produce in your blog. Then, return here and create a link to your Post Produce post. After you link, leave a comment so other participants can find you!

 

 

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Raisins for Pie at Your Small Kitchen Garden

My entry in October’s Post Produce is about pie. The pie involves pears and homemade raisins–both visible in this photo. I hope you’ll join me and bloggers everywhere on Saturday, the 22nd to share whatever you’re consuming from your own garden.

My small kitchen garden still has a few winter squashes, green beans, peppers, and carrots holding on against interminable rain and increasing cold. There’s not much out there, so I’ve put more and more attention on what’s available at the local farmers’ markets. Recently, I bought several pounds of seedless grapes and used my dehydrator to convert them into raisins. I posted about the procedure over at Food Dryer Home. Have a look if you need encouragement to make your own raisins. Please trust me: homemade raisins are so worth the trouble to make them.

What Pie has to do With It

I made raisins because I’ve been developing a recipe—a pie recipe rooted in about seven years of experimentation with pears. The recipe uses stuff from my small kitchen garden, and I plan to present it presently in my pending Post Produce post.

Post Produce? Pear Pie? All will become clear before I go to bed on Friday, October 21 (tomorrow).

Join Post Produce!

Saturday the 22nd is Post Produce day. The idea of Post Produce is to encourage bloggers everywhere to share with the world whatever they’re consuming from their gardens. Are you harvesting citrus fruit? Post about it! Are you opening home-canned produce for dinner? Post about it! Do you have awesome vegetables fresh from the garden? Post!

Follow this link to find more details at the Post Produce page. On Saturday, show or tell us about your produce, and then return to Your Small Kitchen Garden, and create a link back to your post. If you’re so inclined, visit all the Post Produce posts to see what bloggers are growing to eat all over the world.

 

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Barbeque Sauce from Your Small Kitchen Garden

My pear-and-tomato barbeque sauce begins with equal parts of tomato sauce and pear mash. I created it because I hated composting the mash left over from juicing pears when I made jelly. It will be very satisfying to use tomato sauce cooked down from tomatoes that grew in my own small kitchen garden (didn’t happen this year because I lost my tomato plants to late blight). The sauce has a curious balance of sugar, fruit, and sour so it works well with savory dishes and with sweet ones.

While Your Small Kitchen Garden blog may have seemed quiet for the last few weeks, I have posted! First, I created a new page on the site that lists all the articles I’ve posted—on my web sites or on friends’ sites—about preserving produce. Some of the posts are about things you can find in my book, Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too. Others are recipes or techniques that didn’t make the book or that I’ve only learned about (or created) since the book came out.

Click the Preserving option on this site’s menu to find the list of articles. Once there, scroll down and you’ll also find a few videos about preserving produce.

Where’s the BBQ Sauce?

As I add more articles to Your Small Kitchen Garden, I’ll choose some longer, photo-heavy pieces to place on pages rather than within the blog. I did that recently with an article about canning tomato chunks, and even more recently I added an article about making and canning pear-and-tomato barbeque sauce.

This is a classic tomato and molasses BBQ sauce but with a whole lot of pears included. It’s fruity and sweet, but with noticeable sour. It has no heat, though I once mixed some with cayenne pepper and decided the heat didn’t improve the flavor; it just changed it.

Check out the recipe and procedures on the Pear and Tomato Barbeque Sauce page. Once you make your own sauce, make pizza using the BBQ sauce in place of standard pizza sauce. Then leave a note with your reactions; I’d love to hear you gave it a try—even if you don’t care for it once it’s done.

 

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Early Fruit Blossoms in my Small Kitchen Garden

This spring’s early start has peach blossoms busting out all over with pear and apple blossoms anxious to pop. When a fruit tree gets and early start, it often loses fruit when more typical weather returns.

Every year that fruit trees have graced my small kitchen garden, I’ve faced an uneasy springtime vigil: Will my fruit blossoms survive?

Fruit trees produce blossoms in response to increasing warmth. By late April, the temperature has usually been high enough for enough days that we get a dramatic display of white, pink, and purple.

Early Spring Kills Small Kitchen Garden Fruit

Two phenomena are particularly distressing to any fruit-grower: a late freeze, and an early start.

While the pear blossoms have held off longer than the peach blossoms, this cluster will probably pop within two days. Meteorologists predict a freeze in two days. Will my peaches and pears survive?

Late freeze—In some years, we see the typical gradual warming that brings on the blossoms in late April. However, with all those gorgeous blossoms on the trees, a cold front drops out of the north and temperatures plummet below freezing.

The opened blossoms freeze, killing the fruit. The kitchen gardener loses out.

Early start—In some seasons, the air temperature rises in March, staying relatively steady for several weeks. Fruit trees react by budding up and putting out blossoms weeks earlier than is typical. If the “unseasonable” warmth continues, there isn’t a problem. However, usually an early start leads to an abrupt return of “seasonal” temperatures. This means sub-freezing nights that can kill fruiting blossoms and destroy hope for a fruit harvest.

Edgy Vigil in my Small Kitchen Garden

During an early start, I can’t help but monitor the bud clusters on my fruit trees. As long as the buds remain tightly closed, even a deep freeze isn’t going to hurt them. When the clusters start to loosen up, I become particularly concerned. Will blossoms pop early this year? If they do, will a nighttime freeze exterminate my fruit crop?

So far, my apple trees are keeping a tight grip on their petals, but the warm weather will almost certainly make them let go in early April. It’s more common for them to wait until late April. That two-to-three week difference could make the difference between a bumper crop of fruit, or a very poor harvest.

This year the vigil started in mid March. It has been crazy warm, and the trees are responding. In fact, my peach trees are in full bloom, pear trees are close on their heels, and my apple trees—the late bloomers of my fruit trees—are threatening to pop. Experience tells me this is very, very bad. Heck, last year we had a killing frost in lat May!

I’m enjoying the gorgeous fruit blossoms, but I’m not happy about them. If Mother Nature blankets us with cold air, there may be nothing to harvest this summer and fall. While I continue my vigil, there’s nothing I can do about the outcome. I don’t need the fruit harvest to survive, so I’ll merely be disappointed if there’s a killing freeze. I can’t imagine the anxiety of a commercial fruit grower when faced with such an early start.

Subscribe to Your Small Kitchen Garden Vlog

Your Small Kitchen Garden blog has introduced a video blog titled Visit with the Gardener, in which I share snippets of what’s going on in my garden and/or kitchen. I try to keep the videos under two minutes and provide either useful tips and techniques – or encouragement – for you to try new things in your kitchen gardens.

Please have a look, and jump over to Youtube to subscribe to my channel. Here’s the link to my channel: Your Small Kitchen Garden Vlog. And here’s an example of a recent post on the vlog. Please enjoy:

Other useful information about fruit blossoms:

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Small Kitchen Garden Fruit Tree Update

Back in November when I planted them, the roots of my young fruit trees looked a lot like this one. Still, all three tree, two pear trees and a sour cherry tree, are growing vigorously.

Last autumn, I reported in Your Small Kitchen Garden about my decision and subsequent effort to plant fruit trees in the fall. Only after ordering trees from an on-line nursery had it occurred to me to seek customer reviews of the nursery. The reviews I found made me a bit edgy, and I wrote about it in a post titled Aggravation in my Small Kitchen Garden.

Still, I was pleased with the arrival of my order, and with the condition of the plants when I unwrapped them. In a post titled New Pear Trees in my Small Kitchen Garden, I shared the story of planting them.

More Angst About Summerstone Nursery

My post about Summerstone Nursery (the Aggravation post) has drawn a few comments from obviously unhappy customers. I don’t doubt these people have had bad experiences, and I stand by my earlier comments: I suspect there are exponentially more satisfied Summerstone customers than there are angry ones. I happen to be one of the satisfied customers.

Consider the photograph from last November’s post (above, right), showing the bare root of the sour cherry tree I planted then. I imagine a large number of people would say that this tree has no roots; it looks, after all, like a stick. The roots of all of my new bare root trees were similar to this one.

The blossoms on my new moonglow pear tree are a beautiful soft pink. The leaves of the plant are a greenish purple. It will be a bit of a wait, but I’m looking forward to seeing this in bloom once it’s full-grown.

Now have a look at the gorgeous blossoms and purple/green leaves growing from my Moonglow pear this spring (left). The sour cherry tree and my Bartlett pear tree aren’t as sensational, but all three fruit trees have produced new branches and leaves and are growing vigorously. (I have no photo of the sour cherry tree because it’s inside a makeshift tree tube to protect it from rodents and cutworms.)

The pecan trees look dead, but I can’t blame that on Summerstone Nursery: a few days after I planted them, a wild animal gnawed several inches off of each one. My subsequent efforts to protect them from further damage stressed them, and I think they’re not coming back (though I continue to hope).

Summerstone or Not?

Based on my experience with Summerstone, I would buy from them again. Here’s my rationale:

  • Their prices are low; replacing dead plants at half price is inconvenient, but it would bring the total cost up to what you’d pay for your first purchase at other on-line nurseries.
  • They have variety that many on-line nurseries don’t.
  • All my interactions with them have been satisfying.

Would I recommend that you buy from Summerstone? No. Don’t buy from Summerstone Nursery unless you live near them and can pick up your plants in person. Don’t buy from any nursery unless you can pick up your plants from them in person.

You could learn a lot from visiting a nursery or garden store, and when you’re there, you can select specific plants with the help of experienced professionals. The advantages of buying locally in-person are so great that I can think of only one reason to buy plants on-line: Buy plants from on-line nurseries only if you can’t find what you want at a store near you.

My Fruit Tree Prognosis

I’m confident my two new pear trees and my new cherry tree will be fine… assuming I take care of them properly. I won’t be harvesting fruit from them for several years because they’re all under two feet tall. Still, I’m pleased with how this fruit tree project is going.

 

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New Pear Trees in my Small Kitchen Garden

A mailing tube leaning next to my front door signaled it was finally time to plant fruit trees.

It seems a whole season has passed in my small kitchen garden since I started encouraging people to plant fruit trees in autumn. Then, I reported on the impending demise of my pear tree and my decision to add a new tree this fall. Autumn arrived very slowly, so the frost that sends trees into dormancy came late—the nursery didn’t ship my trees until early November.

The good news is: they arrived at the end of last week, and they look fine. What’s more, I planted them during the weekend, and documented the experience as-promised. Of course, autumn made itself known during the weekend, so tree-planting was less pleasant than I’d have liked: I don’t believe the temperature rose above 40F degrees, and a dusting of snow fell as I was packing my gear back to the garden shed.

According to instructions on Summerstone Nursery’s web site, I unwrapped the young trees and watered them from root to tip.

Kudos to Summerstone Nursery

A young bare root sapling may have very few roots branching off the main stem. This is the sour cherry tree’s root section lying against the back of a shovel. It’s easy to understand why someone might feel they received “sticks.” Young trees are sticks that haven’t yet grown into logs.

In one of my posts about the fruit tree saga, I explained that I first ordered trees, and then looked for customer reviews of the vendor from whom I ordered. Most reviews were negative, and I was a tad concerned. Later, I reported that I had ordered three trees via the vendor’s web site, then emailed a change request to add two more trees. When I received a shipping notice, it listed only the original three trees along with the charge for just those three.

Surprise, surprise: when I opened the package, I found five trees inside. All were clearly labeled, and all were apparently in good or better health. Assuming they are actually the varieties of trees I ordered, I have only a tiny complaint about the vendor, Summerstone Nursery: I wish they’d managed the change request accurately. Now I need to review my credit card bill and mail a check to Summerstone if they didn’t charge for the additional trees I’d requested. Still, based on this one experience with Summerstone Nursery, I’d buy from them again, and I’d recommend them to other gardeners.

To plant trees in a lawn, first remove the sod where you’re going to dig a hole. I’m planting two pear trees in the same hole. This simplifies a lot compared to spacing the trees out: Pruning two trees so close together is like pruning one tree. Watering and treating for insects is easier with the trees close together, and bees will work both trees as one, with luck, resulting in a high pollination rate. I dug a rectangular hole because I used this patch of lawn for illustrations in another blog post about cutting a garden bed into a lawn (including detailed instructions for how to cut sod). Eventually, I’ll mulch the area into an oval shape. For a single bare root tree of this size, you could dig a hole about the width of a shovel, and a foot deep… but I encourage you to dig broader and deeper so you loosen the soil where roots will grow a year or two down the road.

Bare Roots for a Small Kitchen Garden

With the sod removed, dig. You need to dig several inches deeper than the root section of the tree. Pile the sod and soil on a tarp or in a wheelbarrow; you’ll need it later (don’t bury the sod under the soil as you’ll need the sod first). Planting instructions from most nurseries tell you to set the tree so that the graft is above the soil line. In many cases, a layperson can’t identify a graft, so this information is useless. If there’s an abrupt bend or a bulge in the twig just above the root line, that’s probably the graft. If the twig seems continuous, embed the tree so that all roots projecting from the main twig are underground… but all tree branches or leaf buds are above ground. If you’re just not sure, planting shallow is safer than planting deep—the root stock will hold up better in contact with the soil, but anything above the root stock may suffer if it’s underground.

One recurring criticism of on-line nurseries is that the trees they ship are no more than sticks. For the uninitiated, I understand this concern: young trees are pretty much just sticks. Were you to buy a tree of this age already potted, you wouldn’t think twice about it; what few roots it had would be concealed by soil.

However, the trees I purchased were delivered “bare root.” This means they were removed from the soil in which they were growing at the nursery and wrapped in moist packaging for shipping. The leaders of my bare root trees (the leader is the top-most vertical branch with a terminal bud on its tip) looked like perfectly healthy branches on any of my mature fruit trees: thin, supple, and lined and tipped with healthy leaf buds. The bare root end of my trees had only a few thin roots—but certainly adequate roots to support trees of this size.

When the hole is six or so inches deeper than the root section of your tree, line the bottom of the hole with the sod you removed at the outset… but with the grass side down. You don’t need to do this, but why waste the great nutrition in that sod? Buried, the sod will break down over the winter, and make your tree happy when its roots grow down in the next growing season. (Don’t plant the tree with its roots in contact with the sod.)

Planting such young trees creates a few challenges:

1. When grass and weeds are under a blanket of snow, tender tree bark becomes particularly appealing to rodents. If you don’t take precautions, your young trees will be perfectly healthy one evening, then barkless and dying the next morning.

2. If prevailing winds perpetually blow on your young trees through the winter, the trees may dry out. Sometimes you’ll lose a leaf bud or two and the tree will remain viable, but if all the buds go, there’s little hope for the tree. Ideally, you protect the stick-like baby with a windbreak… and if you’re clever that windbreak can double as a rodent-excluder.

Some years ago, the industry invented tree tubes. These are rigid or semi-rigid cylinders that can surround your saplings, protecting them from rodents and deer until the trees are tall enough and woody enough to withstand furry pests. If you’ve driven through tree-planting country, you might have seen forests of these tubes springing up in fields.

Spread soil on the sod until the hole is the correct depth to accommodate the tree. Then hold the tree in place and gently fill with soil around it. Continue adding soil to cover the roots of the tree; stop when the entire hole is about an inch below the surrounding soil.

A tree tube might extend four feet above the ground, completely hiding a seedling whose crown is only two feet up. That seedling concentrates on growing up the tube to reach sunlight. Using a tree tube increases your tree’s chances of surviving its first years in your small kitchen garden.

I can’t tell you yet how easy these tubes are to find. I phoned a local garden store in search of tree tubes, and they suggested I consult a local forestry authority. I’m hoping a home improvement store might carry them, but if that doesn’t pay off, I’ll be back to ordering on-line. There are plenty of companies selling tree tubes, or tree shelters, or tree guards, or grow tubes on-line.

I wish I’d thought to track these down before my trees arrived. Now I have to fight off rodents hand-to-hand until I can acquire some tree tubes.

Add water. Don’t add a little water. Your job now is to flood the hole. Do so gently without washing away soil. Rather, let water trickle into the hole so it soaks in and eventually saturates the soil you dug out and added back; this may take ten or fifteen minutes (for a single tree in a much smaller hole it might take two or three minutes). When there are puddles around your tree, shut off the water and lightly press down the soaking soil with your foot. As you do this, gently adjust the tree so it points straight up (or at the angle you desire); the soil will be so loose and sloppy that the tree will move around easily, shifting often as you tamp down the contents of the hole. Add more soil on top to soak up excess water.

Erect some type of anti-rodent protection… and a wind block if the tree isn’t well sheltered. I fashioned a three-sided fence using sections from my planting bed; I won’t need them around the vegetable patch until spring. However, if I find tree tubes, I’ll remove the fence… What ho! I just got an idea for fashioning makeshift tubes from junk. I’ll experiment and let you know how it works.

Here are some other articles about planting fruit trees:

  • Peach Tree Guild | The Lazy Gardener – Luckily for me now is a good time to plant fruit trees: when they are dormant. The cultivar is Elberta, which seems to be a pretty reliable peach according to what I have read. With some of the species I already posses I threw together …

  • Vegetables Gardening Fruit Trees – Well the first thing that I want to talk about would be that fact that it is a great time to plant fruit trees in Winter this time is best because all the sap in the stems and leaves of the tree has fallen back down into the roots to …

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Pears Are Ready

Back in August, my pear tree was full of large, beautiful pears just starting to drop off the branches… and attracting the attention of a local squirrel.

On about August 15th, the pear tree in my small kitchen garden dropped a pear. All the pears on it at that point were green: completely not ready for eating. However, I long ago learned that when the pears in your tree(s) look full-grown, and then one falls of its own accord, it’s time to harvest. My blog post of August 15, Harvesting Pears, explains.

It’s Pear-Eating Time!

From mid August until a week ago, I’ve had about three dozen pears cold-aging in the refrigerator in my basement. That’s about six weeks of cold-aging. Last weekend, I removed four pears from the fridge, and set them on my kitchen counter. Yesterday, I ate one of those pears. I wasn’t disappointed: it was sweet, juicy, and smooth as any pear I’ve ever eaten.

I don’t know what variety of pear grows on my pear tree. I’d guess Bartlett because there is no pollinator nearby, but the pears always come in full. Oddly, my pears never seem to ripen yellow. Rather, they become light green when they’re ripe, though some develop a reddish patch on whichever side gets the most sun.

To determine whether they’re ready for eating, I sniff them. If they smell like pears, they’re ready—or close enough.

A Harvesting Pears Amendment

As I’ve been sniffing pears during the past week, it occurred to me that in my first post about harvesting pears, I didn’t mention something that seems painfully obvious: It’s important to monitor the pears you put into cold-storage. If a single pear turns ucky (in my experience, at least one pear always turns ucky) it will try to share its uckiness with all surrounding pears. Leave a pear that’s turned bad with your other pears for three or four weeks, and they’re likely all to come out bad.

This little gem came out of cold-storage about a week ago and is exactly ready for eating. If you let pears ripen on the tree, they’ll likely develop hard spots and become grainy. Several weeks of cold-storage before final ripening assures they’ll come out smooth, sweet, and juicy.

I hope this hasn’t happened to any of you. And, I hope that if you didn’t believe me when I wrote about this in August, that you ran a test with at least a few pears. If you had harvested and stored your pears when the first ones fell from the tree, you should have a luscious store of fruit to carry you for several weeks—or even months into late autumn or winter.

For those of you who left pears to ripen on the tree: if the pears are already soft and you find them unpleasant to eat, use them to make jelly. Pear jelly is sublime–a perfect spread for toasted english muffins (but a rather odd flavor in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich).

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