Something Different to Grow in the Kitchen

The nearly ready to eat mushrooms

On Monday I mentioned, in passing, my adventures with trying to grow mushrooms. From this photo, it looks fairly successful, right? Read on.

The mushroom saga, for lack of a better title, began when the Spoiler saw a log that was supposed to grow mushrooms in a gift insert in our local paper. Since I was a little light on gifts for him, I thought that the log might be fun, even though I would be doing all the actual “growing. He would enjoy the eating part.

Shitake mushroom log

So I ordered it. It was a fairly complex thing. It had to be soaked 24 hours in non-chlorinated water before anything would happen. Do you have any idea how much water it takes to cover this log? Half a utility sink, exactly.

So I did that and then set it on a plate (like the other box is sitting) and waited. Nothing. They say if nothing happens in a week, repeat the process and cover the log because perhaps it needs moisture.

Back to the half utility sink of non-chlorinated water. Fortunately I had just bought some plants so I had a large covering available.

A week later, I was growing some nice white mold, but mushrooms–no. So the log is in my potting shed. I will try to get it to produce outside this summer.

Meanwhile , the Spoiler now is looking for mushrooms. So online I go, to this organic kit “guaranteed to grow.” I soak it according to instructions (no nonsense about non-chlorinated water, but I used some anyway), and as soon as I scored the inside of the box, I could smell a nice earthy smell. I knew that this would work.

Here’s the progress:

Perhaps a week after soaking

3 days later

2 weeks after soaking

So this is an unqualified success! The Spoiler gets his mushrooms!

I Can’t Wait To Plant!

Some of my seed and plant catalogs

Well, that didn’t take long.

All you have to do is to look back at my post on January 1 of this year. What I said then was that I thought my gardening in 2021 would be fairly scaled back, as my gardening in 2020 had been.

Apparently though, I underestimated my “pent up” gardening demand.

It’s as if something happened. I am not sure if it was the couple of snows at the end of January and in early February, or what quite happened, but it was as if the “gardening” switch in my brain suddenly got turned on to hyper drive. I can’t wait to plant!

I am poring over catalogs to see what I might want to add to the garden. I am trying to decide how I might incorporate edibles with the copious critter problem that I have. I am planning different container designs (always a favorite thing to do).

I am attending Zoom lectures about different gardening techniques, growing mushrooms from a kit in my kitchen (and that is a story for another day!), and going to webinars about what the plant breeders are doing—one of my favorite topics anyway.

When I am out walking my dog, as she sniffs around my garden beds, I am eyeing them critically to see what can be added, what can be pruned and what can be changed. I’ve already had a little tree pruning done and I plan to do a little more if the weather permits.

Those of you who remember my “sustainable” articles from earlier years know that I am not one to clean up my garden beds too early because I want to ensure that the beneficial insects have plenty of time to survive—so about all I can do outside is prune on warmish days. And while I do love to prune, there’s a limit to how creative that can be.

Fortunately, I am restraining myself from buying (right now, at least) because, well, who knows? We are still in the middle of this pandemic and the last thing I want to happen is to have boxes of plants to arrive when I am unable to care for them.

But it’s such a joy to look at the new plants and to dream! Hope springs eternal!

Generational? Or Something Else?

I was checking one of my favorite sites (yes, it was the National Garden Bureau ([] again, because they had articles on seed starting) when I came upon a new app there for something. And I can’t even tell you what’s it’s for because I clicked right off the the whole site so fast that I didn’t have time to look.

Clearly, I have no trouble with web sites. I have no trouble with computers. I consume all my media electronically, I am embarrassed to admit. The Spoiler reads actual newspapers and I sit in the same room with him and read the same papers on my tablet. I much prefer reading on my Kindle to reading a paper book.

But, when it comes to gardening, I do not want to use apps, phones, meters, tablets, or anything like that. I want to go outside–or during the 6 months of the year when it’s too cold for that, to actually touch my house plants and their soil–with my hands. I don’t want a moisture meter telling me when to water, some light meter giving me foot candle readings or anything of the sort. I have eyes (albeit compromised ones) and hands and gardening is my escape from all the technology that I use in the rest of my life.

A survey conducted by Axiom Marketing in November 2020 said that gardeners 56+ (their categories were 18-28, 29-39, 40-55, and 56+) do not use gardening apps. Only 8% of the 56+ category used any apps at all. I am definitely not in that 8%.

And it’s not that I don’t think that apps aren’t useful. It’s more that I want time away from technology. For a long time, I didn’t even take my phone when I went outside. I didn’t want to hear it ring (perish the thought!) and I surely didn’t want to ever check email.

And while there might be useful functions–planners, graphs, etc.–that the phone can do–I have kept a paper garden journal for literally decades. It’s no hardship to write things down at the end of the day for me. It cements them into my brain. And the physical book is useful for storing garden receipts and notes about what I might need to buy for next year too.

So am I an old gardening lady? Maybe–and that’s fine. But for me, my garden is a place to decompress and unwind. And I am keeping it that way.

Seeds Are Still Available Everywhere. Please Don’t Break the Internet

What on earth occasions the title of this post? What else? Misinformation that I saw somewhere over the weekend on social media.

Luckily, I have forgotten where I saw it but I suspect that it was Facebook or Twitter. The post said that a certain seed company–who will remain nameless because the post was wrong–was only accepting seed orders from commercial growers and woe is me, what on earth was the poster to do?

So of course the first thing I did–because this just sounded crazy to me–was to head over to that seed catalog’s web site. Yes, they are accepting commercial orders only–just until February 10. Is that such a crisis?

So I decided to see what some of the other organic and non-gmo seed companies are doing.

One is closed for the next 4 days to catch up. Another accepts orders only 2 days a week. Reasonable modifications during a global pandemic.

But seed shortages? Commercial selling only? No. Please read carefully. Please don’t panic. And most important, please don’t spread this mistake online and panic others.

More Winter Pruning

Unpruned Japanese Maple

On Monday I showed some photos of my weeping Snow Fountain cherry after it had been pruned. Unfortunately I had no photos of it before it had been pruned, but I think the photo of this Japanese maple, above, will give you some idea of what it might have been like–except the cherry was in worse shape!

I can still handle pruning the Japanese maple and do prune it every couple of years. The unfortunate thing about this maple is that it sweeps out over our driveway–and so it is more susceptible to the Spoiler’s “hacking” every time it comes too close to his car. I just learn to park a little further from it, and therefore to enjoy its leaves. He has to hack it back. You can see where he has “chopped” the ends that hang over the driveway.

Branches in need of pruning

This year it’s definitely a little overdue for some pruning. You can see all the deadwood–evident by the light color. Only the vibrant red twigs are alive.

Part of the problem is that our weather the last couple of years has been a bit topsy turvy. I don’t want to prune too early and spark growth. And then we have no “spring” when there should be spring–say in March. There’s just nothing but terrible weather during the time when I should prune. And then it’s leafing out in the snows of April and I’m saying to myself, “oops, I screwed up again.” But it’s tough to get out and prune in February.

Maybe I will call the lovely ornamental pruner back who did the cherry tree after all. If this year gets away from us again like that, I am going to have to!

Winter Pruning

Snow Fountain Cherry

Normally this time of year, I am out lecturing about all sorts of things, including pruning. This year, because of the pandemic, no. I am not one of those speakers who has decided to present via computer, although I am enjoying other speakers who have decided to do so. I work on screens daily–I don’t want to come home and work with them in the evening. Gardening had been my escape from that.

One of the things I used to talk about when I spoke to clubs about pruning was to know your limitations. I always said that it was far better to call in a professional to prune large trees than to attempt to do it yourself. And while this cherry wasn’t “large” in the sense of height, its limbs were extremely congested. We decided that we needed a professional to come thin it out for us.

You can tell by the size of some of the limbs that were removed here–and by the girth of the trunk–that this tree is quite mature. Not only did I not have the strength to prune this tree properly, but I also didn’t have the proper tools to do it cleanly. And that’s equally important.

Cherries, particularly these with a weeping habit, can be prone to disease, especially if not pruned correctly. The last thing I wanted to do was bungle this.

No, I didn’t cut the top off the tree in the photo. I am trying to show you the huge circle underneath where there is no vegetation. That’s how large the branch canopy used to be. Now, with the branch canopy opened up, light will get underneath the tree so that my beautiful moss can fill in there.

I have seen these trees shorn at the bottom, just like a someone took a bowl and placed it on top and cut around the base. Clearly that’s not the proper pruning method.

The Spoiler’s method was to just hack off anything that got in the lawn mower’s way–also not proper.

This is the proper way to prune–from the inside out, to open up the tree. I can’t wait to see it bloom!

Reminders of a Warmer Time

Aglaeonema leaf with insect damage

I am guessing when you saw that title, insect damage wasn’t what you were thinking. But I confess, every time I see this leaf, I think back to the days when my house plants were outside–so late spring and summer.

In my climate, in an optimal year, if I am lucky, they go outside in early May and come back inside in early September. It’s not that September isn’t warm enough for them to stay outside. It’s a quality of light issue.

When they come back inside, the light level drops dramatically for them, even if I place them in South windows. So the sooner I can transition them in, while light levels are still relatively high, the better it is for them. There is significantly less leaf loss.

Orchid leaf

You wouldn’t think an insect would like to chew a leathery leaf like this, would you, but obviously it did. It took several bites out of several leaves. I find this extremely interesting. It just reminds me of what goes on outside that I never see.