Central Virginia Organic Gardener

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

Monday, June 25, 2012

Partial Success

The phrase "partial success" in gardening is about as exciting as the sports chant "We're Number 2,"  but partial success is what I have and partial success is what I will accept.  Last summer I had just come off a more than full-time, academic-year job and had sadly neglected my garden, including my peaches.  We got very few peaches and a lot of brown rot.  This year, I vowed to do better or to chop them down. We extensively pruned in winter and I sprayed dormant oil.  In spring, I sprayed organic caterpillar sprays and organic anti-fungals.  I sprayed Surround (tm) several times during the growing season and had my husband (a great guy) thin the young peaches severely.  This year, we have better yield, still too much brown rot to be happy with, but more good, whole fruit and, some damaged fruit that we can salvage. The photo above is an example of the best of the peaches- the white spots are the Surround (a kaolin clay spray that deters bugs).  So, no chopping down this year.  I intend to do the same routine, plus have better orchard clean up this year to reduce overwintering fungal spores and bugs. Here's to an ever better 2013 harvest!

Happy gardening!  Remember to click on the podbean link and listen to my podcast, or find it through itunes:  VirginiaOrganicGardener.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fun Critter

I spent about 5 hours in the garden this morning (gone are the days were I could spend 8 or 9 hours gardening) and I have the sore muscles to show for it!  But, as I tell my husband, this is good sore.  I was puttering in the shade garden, near my fading voodoo lilies (Dracnunculus vulgaris) and saw a strange mass on one of the fading spathes.  I reached out to touch it, but stopped when I realized it was this cute frog!  It is amazing what you find when you look.
Happy garden discoveries!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Book Review: "Fifty Plants..."

Laws, B. (2010).  Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History. Buffalo, NY:  Firefly books.

It is not an exaggeration to say that plants changed the course of human history.  Indeed, plants are the basis for life. Without them, we would not exist as a species nor would most others.  Plants are the basis of our food supply: yes, even meat eaters need to thank plants for creating all the consumable flesh in the first place.  Plants do more then feed up: they house us (wood frame homes), fuel us (petroleum and coal are ancient, decomposed plant matter), clothe us (linen, cotton, ramie, even wool, secondarily as the sheep eats grass to produce it, and silk, as the silk caterpillars need white mulberry leaves), provide medicines (digitalis for heart failure, vinca for cancer treatment, caffeine...well I view it as a medicine!), dyes and pigments....  Plants can also harm us, poison us (neurotoxic mushrooms, poison ivy....), or cause mental confusion and addiction (marijuana, coca, opium).

This is an interesting little book.  I took it  a camping trip with my nephews and niece and it made for interesting conversation as we all tried to identify the 50 plants and explain why (they did a great job).  It is not a gardening books per se, though has some interesting factoids for gardeners (hops is related to cannibis, Anglo-Saxon warriors dyed their skin blue using woad, sunflower seeds can be used to make blue, black, purple and red dyes).  I liked the book because it it increased my general store of knowledge of the history and cultural significance of plants.

The one disadvantage of the book is its brevity.  At about 217 small-format pages of text with lots of illustrations (many of them quite nice), it does not have the space to get into much depth on each plant (it reminded me of one of those DK books: visually lovely, but a bit shallow).  But it does provide interesting info and whet one's appetite for more.  A good book to borrow from a local library or buy as a gift for a plant-loving friend.

Happy gardening!