river muse

Never stop growing

By CASS COLLINS
Posted 3/31/21

The great thing about gardening is you never stop learning. I have been tending a garden for more than 30 years in one place or another. But until now, I never knew the value of mycorrhizae …

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river muse

Never stop growing

Posted

The great thing about gardening is you never stop learning. I have been tending a garden for more than 30 years in one place or another. But until now, I never knew the value of mycorrhizae fungus.

Whenever I would find it, lurking in a container or a flower bed, I would yank it out and dispose of the plant, fungus and all. But now, thanks to a Reddit gardening group online, when I spied some white fungus on the asparagus crowns I planted last season, I took a photo and asked the group what was happening. Minutes later, the responses came from all over: It was good fungus! Beneficial bacteria! I should be embarrassed by my ignorance (and I am), but just in case you are a newbie gardener, I want to spare you the horror of thinking your garden is crawling with bad fungus. Oh, the plants I have wasted over the years! I read gardening books and watch YouTube videos but never encountered an explanation of mycorrhizae before.

With age and a pandemic, gardening has grown more important in my life. I managed to bring herbs from the garden to overwinter inside and they have thrived. I treated the powdery mildew that plagued sage leaves with a spritzing of vinegar water, and gnats that frequented the seedling trays got a sprinkling of cinnamon that dispensed with them and smelled nice, too.

I never had much luck with strawberries until last summer. Then, an old strawberry pot I had started producing fruit and gave me enough for my morning yogurt much of the summer. At the end of the season, I wrapped the pot in some bubble wrap and tied it with twine, leaving it to winter on the deck. Peeking through the wrap now are healthy-looking strawberry leaves.

Two little lime trees I bought as seedlings in Provincetown several years ago have outgrown two repottings and are now on their third, in matching red vessels from the Dollar Tree. One has five blossoms on it. The other looks healthy and tall, though a little less productive. They spend the winter indoors near a south-facing window.

Back in 2006, when a flood took out three of the four fruit trees in our little orchard, I pretty much gave up on growing fruit in my backyard. The lone orchard survivor, a pear of unknown provenance, was left to tilt in its flood-struck position and grow small hard pears that fed deer and squirrels only.

This year, spring came not a moment too soon. Sunshine and 60-degree temperatures arrived on March 21, right on schedule. I know there will still be frost until May, but sweater weather drew me to my local Agway to dream anew of an orchard. Many neighbors had already preceded me and laid claim to apple, peach, plum and pear trees that stood like little soldiers waiting to be loaded in pickup trucks and taken home. I picked out two peach trees and listened to my Agway expert explain how to plant and care for them. At home later, a friend and neighbor posted an Instagram of his 40-year-old peach trees, started from pits and full of buds, reaching toward the sun in a cloudless sky. I will pick his brain for more knowledge as I try to guide my peach trees through many productive seasons to come. Never stop growing.

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