Off to Sichuan and Yunnan

This blog is going to have to go on hold a while, as I leave this Saturday for three weeks in China. I will be visiting research and botanic gardens in Sichuan (map) and Yunnan (map) provinces and meeting (soon to be) at a number of ag and forestry universities there. I am really looking forward to it (though these last few days home a getting a bit hectic as I finish off the last of my pending local projects and prepare materials (and gifts) for the trip. If want to follow events on this trip (with a lot of picture, I hope), here is a link to the China Blog I have created. I will post here again on …

ShepherdOff to Sichuan and Yunnan

My Apologies – But It’s All Good

I have been remiss in my attention to this blog, and I apologize, but I have been busy with other exciting things. First I have been writing a few articles for the newly-new publication Modern Farmer, and havej ust been appointed to their Advisory Board. This Thursday we’ll be leaving for a week in Vermont, and will be stopping through Hudson (NY) to visit with and old friend, who is now their Executive Editor. After that we’ll be visiting family in both the northern and southern parts of the state, and, if weather permits climbing my old friend Camels Hump in between. Second I have been given the opportunity to help Earth Harvest Organics meet the surging demand for organic fertilizers …

ShepherdMy Apologies – But It’s All Good

Transplanting Onions

I will confess that onions are one of my favorite crops (and foods). But they are also one of the crops that most shows how we need to understand the plants we are growing before we can grow them well. Onions are related (both in botanic and practical ways) to other bulbous plants, like Daffodils, Lilies, and other plants you may have bought (or traded for). If you look closely (the key to good gardening) you will see that storage organ (the bulb) is above the roots, and separated from them by a sort of “frontier” where one world meets another. Those two worlds are the above ground and the below ground, and their meeting point is the “crown” of …

ShepherdTransplanting Onions

Transplanting Beets

A hundred to a hundred and fity years ago transplanting beets was not uncommon close to the big Northeastern cities, where there was near year round demand for fresh produce.  Market gardeners forced plants into early production using “hotbeds” fueled by manure they brought back from the center cities after delivering their produce. They even had special vegetable varities for “forcing.” Nice system, if you can maintain it…and internal combustion remains a niche market. (Many of these older varieties are now attracting attention as market gardeners move toward the widespread use of “high tunnels.” (7.5MM results from Google in 0.47 seconds) Beets are just about the only “true” root crop that can be transplanted, and using a few tricks from …

ShepherdTransplanting Beets

The Crown Of The Plant (Crown of Creation)

If you are thinking about how to grow vegetables, and how to grow them well, then one of the key things to know about plant structure is what is meant by the “crown” of the plant. The crown is the spot where the above ground parts of the plant meet with the below ground parts. If you are growing plants for food this is a an important distinction, because the plant part you are cultivating (root, shoot or fruit, for example) will differ in its needs, depending on where on the plant, and in the environment it is located. Tomatoes need some sun to ripen well, while their cousin, potatoes need to be covered in soil or they will develop mildly …

ShepherdThe Crown Of The Plant (Crown of Creation)

Da Vine – Moving a Mature Grape Vine

Making big changes (again) in my overall garden plan. This time it involves pulling back on my grand plan:  to grow everything for everytime from everywhere…and concentrate on my own personal (lifestyle) pleasure. Call me foolish, call me old. In practical terms this means that I am pulling out the failed grape trellis (which was created after the failed grape arbor that was consumed, leaf by leaf by the Japanese Beetles and the Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs). All tolled, the horseshoe pit brought a whole lot more to my life than those high maintenance grape vines did. Of course nothing is simple in this life. Three of the four grape vines were stone cold dead, but one lived (we had …

ShepherdDa Vine – Moving a Mature Grape Vine

A Tale of Two Kales

It was the best of kales; it was the worst of kales. (Where the Dickens did I read that?) I was watering yesterday and gave little attention to the stray kale (Lacinato) that had somehow gotten in with a patch of garlic . What I did notice, though, having just moved from watering the Brassica bed, was that there were no flea beetle holes in its leaves. NONE.   Yet the same variety, fifteen feet away (and surrounded by other Brassicas) was too pitiful for the table.   Its pretty well known that diverse plantings make crops plants harder for pests to find, and of course there is a wide belief in particular companion planting combinations. I haven’t found most …

ShepherdA Tale of Two Kales

Garlic Is Up – Is Spring Here At Last?

Yesterday it finally felt like spring though there is snow in the forecast for Tuesday. This has been the toughest winter here in the northern Shenandoah Valley for at least 20 years, and it seems like it is not over yet. We just can’t shake the shivers! But we did finally got a chance to sit out on the back porch yesterday in the warm sun and thin the trays of seedlings that had been languishing in the sun room window. The hardy stuff (lettuces, broccoli, rainbow chard and some Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage) even got to sit out overnight. While we were thinning the flats  with tiny scissors (always cut off extra seedlings instead of pulling them out, which disturbs …

ShepherdGarlic Is Up – Is Spring Here At Last?

Dodging The Frost Bullet

Going right from high summer to early fall this year!  Just last week it was in the 90s, and now we are getting 40s – 70s for temperatures every day. Monday night we even got down to 38F here in Bakerton. Normally our first frost wouldn’t be until mid-October, though just 30-40 miles to the west, over the Allegheny Front, it would be fairly normal. This really shows the importance of micro-climates. Those of you have heard one of my talks know that I am big on the idea that most anybody can be successful at gardening if they just follow a few basic principles, and pay close attention. Two of the interlocking principles that I talk about involve paying more attention to …

ShepherdDodging The Frost Bullet

The Cultural Importance Of Food Crops

The USA is an immigrant culture, with a broad range of food traditions imported from around the world. This is no less true of Canada, as this article from the September 23rd issue of the Toronto Star shows. A quick visit to community gardens in first and second tier cities across the continent also shows this clearly as many plots are maintained by recent immigrants, and their plantings are full of crops many longer established Americans might not recognize. The eggplants to the left represent Thai, Turkish, Japanese, Indian, Laotian and Italian varieties. All of these varieties are from the eggplant trials in Burlington, VT’s Intervale gardens in 2002. Here is a comprehensive photo gallery.

ShepherdThe Cultural Importance Of Food Crops