This in from UMass Extension: "With the continued surge in interest in growing one's own food, some clients will be asking their landscapers for help on how to get started. UMass Extension's 2010 Home Garden and Small Farm Series starts in a few weeks with a number of workshops on growing and managing fruit plantings in the backyard! Locations vary around the state. To see a full schedule and more details, go to UMassGarden.com.
Feb. 27: Growing & Pruning Apples in the Home Garden - Belchertown
March 6: Grafting Apple Trees, A Hands-on Workshop - Peabody
March 13: Growing & Pruning Berries in the Home Garden - Weston
March 20: An Introduction to Growing Grapes - Belchertown
March 27: Small-scale Viticulture for the Serious Grower - Belchertown
April 10: The 100-Square-Foot, 25-Tree, 5-Variety Backyard Apple Orchard Fruiting Wall - Peabody
April 17: Growing & Pruning Berries in the Home Garden - Northborough
April 24: Managing Weeds Organically - Topsfield"
To register, go to UMassGarden.com. Take advantage of UMass Extension's valuable outreach programs.
Living on Earth
A frequent visitor and friend, the product of a very 'privileged' (i.e., deprived) background in a Latin American country, but open and ingenuous, would exhibit insatiable curiosity about innumerable mundane aspects of Island life in the semi-rural Higgins household. Cooking, gardening, fishing, various activities and ways of making a living - they would all be met with "How do you know how to do that?" "Where did you learn that?" He'd had the most elite upbringing and education money could buy, yet felt he knew only useless things.
In the quest to live well, it is not enough to shop expensively and discerningly at the market. It is not enough to have the perfect potager, orchard, or gourmet kitchen tended by unseen hands. No, increasingly it means having the patience, skills, and the know-how to accomplish this for yourself and your family, because it makes one's life more useful, meaningful, and worth living.
Homegrown meets 2/21 from 3 to 5 pm at the Agricultural Hall.
Two Island organizations hosted enjoyable dinners last week that were different yet complementary. Both were given by groups sharing as a goal an increase in Island agriculture and I thank them.
On February 4 Island Grown Initiative (IGI) hosted its fifth annual Farmers' Dinner at the Agricultural Hall. After a satisfying feijoada dinner, with wonderfully minced, delicious collards, by Sarah Mackay and Sonia DeStefani, the group received updates about IGI's various programs, including a running slideshow of its programs on the plain walls of the meeting room. Adam R. Moore, the executive director of Sheriff's Meadow Foundation (SMF), spoke about SMF's plans to incorporate increased agricultural usage into its Island holdings.
The next night, Slow Food M.V. presented a dinner and film duo at the Chilmark Community Center. Robert Lionette and Jan Buhrman prepared the equally satisfying menu of beef and pork meat sauce with lentil and farro pilaf, butternut gnocchi with mixed greens, salad, and bread pudding. The film, applauded by all, was "FRESH" by Ana Joanes and associates. It features the by-now familiar names and faces, and some unknown ones as well, that articulately represent the views of many: our farm bill is absurd and long overdue for revision and has spawned a food industry that is killing those who eat its products and pay for its subsidies.
Clearly, it is unnecessary to produce everything locally in order to cook and eat well, but it does add a dimension. Equally positive and consequential - much as one may produce for one's own table - is rounding out the missing pieces from nearby producers and economies, rather than from far-off ones.
It gives me satisfaction that more and more of my friends and neighbors are making these connections: between heightened enjoyment of eating and cooking, and the existence of food produced nearby, maybe as close as the backyard or greenhouse. (Remember: Martha's Vineyard was a food exporter in the 19th century.) Also gratifying is that the Island is generating organizations, like IGI, SMF, and Slow Food M.V., with interlocking aims and goals.
The Perennial Plant Association has announced its 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year, Baptisia australis, also known as blue false indigo. This hardy perennial member of the Fabaceae grows three to four feet tall and three to four feet wide with an upright habit. Baptisia australis is an excellent plant to anchor the back of the border.
On the Island, Baptisia blooms in late spring for about three weeks, with violet-blue lupine-like flowers. Plants thrive in full sun, are easily grown in well-drained soil, and are drought tolerant after establishment. Site the plants carefully. Baptisia grows a deep taproot: once planted it needs to remain there. Deer avoid the plants. Read Tony Avent's more comprehensive description of Baptisia species: plantdelights.com/ Tony/baptisia.html
To Do Now:
Prune orchard trees now, or choose a workshop from the above list. Apply a top-dressing of compost (manure or muck) to the root run out to the drip line. Look for crossing branches and limbs and prune with the aim of opening the center so that sunlight reaches the tree's interior. Leave twigs exhibiting the fruiting spurs, somewhat gnarled-looking constructions, that contain the flowering buds.
Susan Murphy at Murphy Blueberry Farm (508-645-2883) will teach pruning of highbush blueberries in return for willing helpers. In a nutshell, the aim is to eliminate unproductive old wood and encourage vigorous new wood. New wood is characterized by red color and fat flower buds; woody and twiggy old wood has few or small buds.
Grapevines are pruned to differing systems, and so are more complicated. A clear and well-illustrated Royal Horticultural Society article is: apps.rhs.org.uk/ advicesearch/Profile.aspx?pid=284