Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Small fruits (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, blueberries, muscadine grapes) are much easier to grow than large fruits (apples, peaches, etc) and I find raspberries the easiest of all and they are my favorite.  I pretty much ignore my Nova raspberries.  I put compost around the roots when I have extra, cut back the canes after fruiting, pull out excess canes and weed around them.  They reward me with two flushes of fruit a year, a large flush in spring and a smaller flush, of often larger fruit, in late summer to fall.  Voles have done some damage, but not enough to really stop these vigorous canes.
Yesterday I made the jewel of a pie above:  freshly picked, organic raspberries, sugar and a homemade top crust.  There are many pleasures to gardening and eating the results is the greatest reward!
Happy gardening!  (A tip: you can thicken any fruit pie filling with minute tapioca, follow package directions).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fire Blight

Fire Blight

Have you noticed that pear trees (ornamental and fruit-producing) look pretty bad this season?  If not, take a look when you are around and about and you may notice lots of blackened areas on the trees (the fruits-yes, even ornamental Bradford pears produce little fruits) might be blackened and shriveled and the new growth leaves likewise.  This is probably fire blight, and we have been having a hard time of it this season. There has always been a little of this bacterial disease in my yard- my apple tree gets a bit, but is mostly sturdy and resistant.  This year I first noted it on my fire-blight resistant Moonglow and Magness pear trees.  Last season Magness had it, almost enough the kill the tree completely, but seems OK this season.  This year, however, the Moonglow is more affected.  

Fire flight is caused by a nasty bacteria that can kill a tree, if the bacterial disease spreads to the root zone (and it probably will, especially on a small tree, if you take no action).  The first defense is the plant fire-blight resistant varieties, but as my experience has shown, these are resistant to the bacteria, not immune to it. Next, to keep your tree as healthy as possible, plant it away from other susceptible host plants, like many apple varieties (oops, I messed up there- my pears are too close to my apple tree!).  Use compost as a fertilizer to insure steady, not explosive, growth.  When you first see the signs of fire blight (leaves or stems that turn black) you need to out race the disease by selective pruning.  Cut the branch below the infected area (you will see where the stem turns black, and cut several inches below that).   Spraying an infected tree with an antibiotic spray or, early in the growing season, an organic, copper-based spray will also limit the disease. The copper spray is necessary to suppress the cankers which overwinter all over the tree bark, and which spread the disease in spring.

The photo above shows three cuttings from my pear tree to help identify fire blight. Look carefully at the cutting on the left.  See the sprout of leaves at the top and how that twig is black?  Then how the branch near to it is black too?  That is fire blight.  The cutting in the middle seems healthy, green leaves and brown bark.  The right most cutting has a black stem and one dead, shriveled shoot on the bottom right.  Though the leaves look good, this twig was destined to die, as it is infected with fire blight.  If you see new growth that is all black, leaves and stem, sometimes curled in a shepherd's crook shape, that is fire blight too.
Hope you are avoiding the blight and have a happy garden!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Garden Apps?

Look for an entry soon on garden apps for thr ipad, my new toy! And please let me know if you have some favorites I can try! Happy Gardening!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sad plant, happy plant

Ah, my favorite theme: right plant, wrong place. Perhaps it is my favorite garden theme, because I do it so often: that is, I put a great plant in the wrong spot. Sometimes this is clearly my fault- I am running out of yard for certain plant types, but buy them anyway, and simply hope I can make it work. But other times, this error seems "thrust upon me," that is, the plant worked well where it was first placed, but conditions have changed: the neighbors trees (or mine) are larger and cast more shade, the weeds have invaded, etc. Above are photos of two plantings of the same plant, a lovely bearded iris.  In the first case, the trees overgrew and shaded the plant too much.  It produced few blossoms on spindly plants and tipped over pretty easily (though bearded iris are often guilty of this).  In the second, the plants are in full sun, are as happy as can be and have produced a huge number of blossoms.  So, I guess one corollary to the theme above is to move plants that are not working in their spot to a better place!
Happy gardening!