I'll tell you what these light rains have been good for, though: weeds! Usually, I hardly give weeds a second thought (as would be expected from someone who wrote Weedless Gardening). Not this year, though. So many weed seeds keep sprouting that I have had to give weeds a second thought and even spend a few minutes weeding every few days. Other gardeners I've spoken to concur that this season has been a particularly bad (or good, if you're a weed).
I'm dealing with weeds the same way as always: usually just pulling them as I see them, mulching with grass clippings or wood chips, occasionally hoeing, spraying with vinegar and, on my terrace, flaming - except more often.
My daughter Genevieve enjoyed her weekend visit, and especially the shelling peas she got to eat fresh from the garden. Sunday afternoon we drove with her back down to Philadelphia. Monday morning my wife Deb and I visited Longwood Gardens, the old DuPont estate three-quarters of an hour outside of the city. Longwood is a thousand acres of horticultural heaven encompassing practically everything that anybody would want to see gardenwise, including stately trees, orchids, vegetables, espaliered fruits, water lilies...need I say more?
Longwood's plants receive an amazing amount of care. As we walked around, we saw many gardeners watering individual plants, pruning tree branches, shearing hedges, deadheading flowers and, of course, weeding. I'm jealous. I could use some help like that here - or else make my seemingly ever-expanding garden smaller.
Back home, blueberry season is upon us. People tell me about all the blueberries they pick up in the Gunks - true, no doubt; but I go to the Gunks for scenery and exercise. I eat blueberries at home, and contend that my blueberries, planted in full sun and in soil that gets water as needed, are more abundant and at least as tasty as those in the mountains. And I can pick them whenever an urge for blueberries strikes me, which happens a few times a day.
Dessert tonight began with "grazing" the lowbush blueberries growing decoratively in a bed behind a stone retaining wall in front of the house. From there, we had a gooseberry interlude, tasting Welcome gooseberry, which is tart, but is the first gooseberry of the dozen or so varieties that I grow to ripen. Finally, the pièce de résistance: highbush blueberries growing inside birdproof cages in my backyard. The largest of these berries are almost the size of quarters, with humongous flavor to match.
Blueberries are my best and most reliable fruit crop. I give the bushes the soil they like and they give me plenty of berries. Peat moss in the planting holes, periodic applications of sulfur, an annually applied mulch of wood shavings, wood chips or leaves, an annual sprinkling of soybean meal for nitrogen and regular watering provide the needed moist, well-drained, very acidic, humusy soil conditions in which they thrive. The cage makes sure that we, and not the birds, get those berries. The birds can have the wild ones.
I'll be spreading the blueberry gospel with a workshop on "Growing Blueberries" on July 22 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at my house. E-mail me or call (845) 255-0417 for more information - soon, if you're interested, because space will be limited.
Any gardening questions? E-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll try answering them directly or in this Alm@nac column.