Category Archives: Home & Garden

Planting Chestnut Trees

As we know, the Chestnut in the United States is a member of the Castanets genus, which is a small group of nut-producing timber trees. C. dentata, the American chestnut, was probably the most valuable timber tree in this country. Certainly it was the dominant tree in the vast hardwood forests. Unfortunately an Asiatic fungus, Endothia parasitica, which gained entrance to N.Y. about 1900, has all but exterminated the American chestnut in this country. Common in the hardwood forests of the eastern half of the United States, only an occasional sucker from the live root system isnow seen from Me. to Mich. and south to the Gulf of Mexico.

Sometimes the suckers become large enough to bear nuts arousing hope that eventually the American Chestnut may acquire resistance to the blight. The U.S. Forest Service, the state forestry departments and others, notably Dr. Richard A. Jaynes, have been crossing American chestnut with the Japanese species, Castaneacrenata and the Chinese species, both of which have resistance to Endothia. Some progress is being made, but hope of producing a timber-type hybrid with sufficient resistance to use in reforesting has not yet been realized.

Although a number of named varieties are available from nurseries, notably ‘Abundance’, ‘Carr’ and ‘Hobson’, because of incompatibility between seedling stock and the scion, many persons have had poor results with them. They are now turning to named selections of the Chinese chestnut which have been made by the USDA. Grafted trees come into bearing in 5 or 6 years. Seedlings often do not bear until 15or more years old. Chinese chestnuts have nuts as sweet as the American and often of larger size. Recommended are ‘Nanking’, ‘ Meiling’ and ‘Ruling’. All 3 produce large nuts of excellent quality. Although the Chinese chestnut is questionably hardy in Zone 3, it does extremely well over most of the country.

Very likely the resistance of both the Chinese chestnut and the Japanese Castanea crenata resulted from living with the disease for several hundred years. On that basis we may hope that eventually the American Chestnut will acquire a degree of resistance some day.

The Japanese Chestnut, C. crenata, is a spreading short-trunked tree that usually re-mains under 30 feet in height. Leaves are oblong, 4 to 7 in. in length with the margin serrated. The burr is about 2 in. in dia. and normally has 2 nuts, which lack the quality of the nuts of either the American or Chinese chestnut. It thrives in much of the country from Zone 4 south.

The Chinese chestnut, C. mollissima, may reach 50 ft. in height. The trunk, however, is short and the crown is broad. The elliptic leaves are coarsely toothed with a white pubescence along the veins. Native to China and Korea, the nuts, 2 normally to a burr, are large and sweet. Hardy from Zone 4 south, several producing orchards in the Midwest and the Middle Atlantic States yield plentiful crops of high quality nuts.

The Spanish chestnut, C. sativa, is a tall tree native to Europe, western Asia and North Africa. It has been in cultivation in Europe for many years. In this country, it is less hardy than either Asiatic species. The nuts are large and well filled when properly grown, but they lack the pleasant flavor of either American Chestnut or the Asiatic species. In recent years chestnut blight has reached Europe and is decimating the orchards of Spanish Chestnut.

The Chinquapin, C. panzila, is a shrubby American tree. Native from N.J. to Fla. and west to Tex. and Okla., its burrs are a little over an inch in dia. and normally contain a single nut. Leaves 3 to 7 in. long are coarsely toothed and have a white felt on the underside.

Interest in the chestnut for landscape use has in recent years been largely concentrated on the Chinese chestnut. It is an attractive spreading tree, both ornamental and equally serviceable as a shade tree. Neither the Asiatic nor the American chestnut is exacting in its soil requirement, but no Chestnut will thrive in soil where drainage is poor. A rocky well-drained hillside with a sandy loam is ideal for chestnuts.

The most serious insect pest is a tiny snout beetle which lays its eggs on the growing burrs in July. The grubs hatch and bore into the enlarging nuts within the burr where they feed on the kernel. These chestnut weevils can be controlled with any one of several pesticides, but it is advisable to inquire of the Extension Service of the State University as to timing and the specific chemical to use. Since this pest pupates in the soil under the tree, control may be had by pesticide treatment of the soil. Other insects are not usually troublesome.

The most serious disease of the Chestnut is the blight, Endothia parasitica, for which there is now no known control. It does not affect the roots which sucker freely. Such suckers sometimes live long enough to produce a few nuts. The U.S. Forest Service has acquired detailed information on several hundred American chestnut trees that have not been killed by Endothia. Records of persisting suckers are also in their hands. It is hoped that a disease-resistant American chestnut may be found to be reproduced vegetatively or to be crossed with a Chinese or Japanese Chestnut, thereby producing a resistant hybrid.

Planting Gourds

These are members of the Cucumber Family belonging mostly to the genera Cucurbita, Lagenaria, and Luffa. By far the largest numbers of varying ornamental hard-shelled gourds are those originating from Cucurbita pepo ovifera which is the yellow-flowered gourd, easily distinguished from the white-flowered Lagenaria types which take a longer growing season to mature properly. Gourds can be grown in any good soil similar to that in the vegetable garden. They need as long a growing period as possible, especially L. siceraria, the reason why some gardeners in the North just do not have a sufficient number of days of hot sunshine to mature the fruits. On the other hand, Cucurbita pepo ovifera ripens easily in Zones 3 and 4.

Gourd Seeds

One should be certain at the start to obtain good viable seed from a reliable source. Seeds-men are selling gourds in 2 ways. The first is “mixed,” that is, several varieties of differently shaped gourds have been used for seed purposes and one can obtain many interesting gourds from such a package. On the other hand, the unscrupulous person will mix seed from a lot of inferior-shaped types together, and still sell them as “mixed” and be correct in so doing. Other seeds-men who have sources of seed from pure stands of Nest Egg, Striped Pear, Spoon or Miniature Bottle, will sell seeds of these types and the gardener has reasonable assurance they will produce gourds true to name. It really pays to purchase well-grown reliable seeds of this type regardless of whether they are sold as individual varieties or as “Super Hybrids Mixed.” Germination is helped if the seed is soaked in warm water for 12-48 hours before sowing. Seed will keep at least a year, (usually several), if put in a dry cool place.

When to Plant Gourds

Good seed should be sown in hills, 6-8 seeds per hill, after all the dangers of frost are over. It is unwise to sow too early for they simply will not grow until the soil warms up. They can be started in pots in the greenhouse 3 weeks before they are to be set out in the garden, thus gaining a few weeks on the ones planted directly in the soil. However, the roots should not be disturbed in transplanting, but the entire pot full of undisturbed roots and soil set out in one careful operation. Certainly this is the way to plant Lagenaria varieties especially in the North, and even then there may not be sufficient time for the fruit to ripen properly. All gourds should be grown in full sunshine, not in the shade.

Theoretically gourds should be trained on a trellis, up some chicken wire or over some brush to keep the fruits off the ground. Most of us do not have time for that and are willing to take our chances with a few of the fruits being marred on the ground. Seeds might be planted twice their length deep in good, friable soil. When seedlings are up the hills might be thinned to about 4 plants per hill, the hills being about 8 ft. apart. If the seed was “mixed” remember that the seedlings will show variation and one should not remove all the smallest seedlings, because these might just be the varieties with the smallest and most interesting fruits.

Fertilizers should be applied as for pumpkins and squash. The roots of gourds are very close to the soil surface hence in hoeing one should be careful not to disturb the roots. They need ample water and should be given plenty of it during drought periods.

Gourd Pruning

Pruning the vines can increase the number of fruits borne per vine. The main stem should be allowed to grow until it is to ft. long, when the end can be removed. It is on this part that mostly male flowers are borne. The lateral shoots bear mostly pistillate flowers. If the end bud of the main shoot is snipped off after the shoot is to ft. long, then the first lateral shoots have the main end buds taken off them when each shoot has developed about 4 leaves, this is sufficient for the pruning. Any sub-lateral shoots, developing after this, are allowed to grow at will. This type of pruning can aid in the production of more fruits.

Gourd Harvesting

Gourds must be thoroughly ripened on the vine before they are picked, for if picked when green or immature they will soon rot. For the varieties of Cucurbita pepo ovifera, the stem where the gourd is attached to the vine should be watched. When this starts to shrivel and dry up, then the gourd should be picked. It is best to cut them off the vine with shears, saving a few inches of stem on each gourd, rather than roughly tearing them off the vine, often severing the stem right at the end of the gourd. If roughly done, this can injure the gourd end just enough to allow disease to enter and the fruit will rot.

Ornamental Gourds

The gourds should not be left out in the field, but rather brought in and washed, often with a mild disinfectant, and set aside a few days to dry thoroughly. The idea is to wash off any soil or impurities which may have become attached to the shell. After a few days they can then be carefully waxed with any floor paste wax, and set aside for use as ornaments. Some will undoubtedly rot, but the majority, if picked when fully mature, will harden nicely and can be used for years.

The white gourds of Lagenaria siceraria should be even more carefully watched and picked just before they start to turn yellowish from too much sunshine. In the South these calabash gourds are easy to grow and to mature, but in the North it is very difficult to grow them properly. They include the Bottle, Depressed Bottle, Powder Horn, Dipper and Kettle.

Gourd Grading

Nest and Dolphin types along with many others are 2 species have green fruits with a rind that is not hard, but dry and papery. These can be a foot long and also take a long growing season. The inside pulp can be dried out and then used as a dish cloth.

It is of interest to note that markings can be made on the shells of any of these gourds when they are half ripe and growing on the vines. Thus, initials, characters, rough line sketches made at this time, eventually look as if they had actually grown on the shell. Also wires, strings or even containers can be placed around the developing fruits in such ways as to permanently change and control the shape. Thus, it is possible to have a square gourd (forced to grow within some confining square metal or concrete box). These then are the popular hard-shelled gourds.

Planting Peach Trees

For more than 200 years the Peach was believed to have originated in Persia and the scientific name, Prunus persica, indicates a Persian origin. However, in tracking down historical references to the Peach, scientists found that at about 1500 B.C. it was unknown in Persia and western India although it is mentioned in Chinese literature more than 500 years earlier. Thus, China is now the accepted origin of the Peach and its move west-ward is traced first to Greece and then to the temperate areas of Europe.

Peaches were brought to North America the Spanish, French and English settlers. Perhaps the fruit was first brought to Mexico by the Spaniards, who also brought them to Fla. in 1565, while English and French settlers brought the seeds to eastern U.S. The native Indians carried this fruit far inland and it eventually reached the West Coast. Today the Peach is of commercial importance in Africa, South America, Europe, Asia and North America.

Peach Growing in the United States

Peaches are being grown in at least 38 states of the U.S. The areas best suited to peach growing are the West Coast states, the East Coast states from Fla. to Mass., and the area south and east of the Great Lakes. The south-western slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Colo. are an important peach-producing area also.

Since the Peach is not a cold-hardy fruit, its areas of growth are limited by minimum winter temperatures. A temperature drop to —10° F. will usually kill many fruit buds and a temperature of — 50° F. will often kill trees. The amount of damage following cold temperatures is influenced to a great extent by the preceding temperatures. Warm weather for several days preceding a quick drop to below zero causes most cold damage. This is especially true after the tree has completed its rest period. In southern areas the bark of trees can be severely injured when day temperatures of 70° F. are followed by a drop to 18° F. above zero at night.

Like all deciduous plants, peach trees require a rest period between the time when the leaves fall and the flowers appear the following spring. Peach varieties differ considerably in their cold requirements for dormancy, the required time ranging from 600 to 1200 hours of 45° F. or below to complete the rest period. Varieties that require the minimum number of cold hours to complete a rest period have been developed so that peaches may be grown in warmer, near sub-tropical, climates. Such varieties are needed for Fla., south Tex. and southern Calif.

The Peach Tree

The Peach is not as long-lived as the Apple. Although some may live to be 35 years old, most peach trees do not live much beyond 50 years and in some areas to years is the life expectancy. The young tree grows vigorously for the first 3 years. During the first year, a well-grown tree will grow from 500 to 1500 total inches of new growth depending upon weather and general culture. In its second season of growth a few fruits will be produced on the tree, but it is best to remove these fruits and so permit the tree to make vegetative growth and to attain good size for early future production. The Peach produces fruit mainly on terminal, year-old shoots, which, for best fruiting, should be about 12 in. long. Fruit buds develop all along this 12-in. shoot and there may be as many as 30 of these. The peach tree that is growing in its third season may produce 75 to 150 peaches. A simple rule of thumb for production is 1 bushel in the third year, 2 bushels in the fourth year, and so on, increasing production by 1 bushel each year until 6 bushels are produced in the eighth year. More or less may be produced per tree, depending upon weather, culture, variety and tree size.

How the Peach Tree is Produced

Peach pits are planted and seedling trees grow from these pits. During June in southern states these seedling trees are budded to known varieties. This is necessary since seedling trees will not produce fruit similar to the parent variety. Usually the fruit of a seedling tree is much inferior to the parent tree. Buds inserted into the seedling tree during June begin to grow within a few weeks and the seedling growth above the bud is removed. The resulting growth from the inserted bud becomes a tree of a known variety and this tree is ready to plant in the garden that same fall or the following year. In northern areas, budding is done in Aug. but, though union of the bud with the stock or seedling occurs, the bud remains dormant until the spring of the following year.

Peach Tree Size Control

In most home gardens, the standard size peach tree is quite satisfactory. It can be maintained at a height of about 8-10 ft. and a width of 12-15 ft. by careful pruning. A very limited number of peach trees are available on dwarfing rootstocks. The use of dwarfing stocks has not been so successful or as widely used with the Peach as with the Apple and Pear.

There are a few natural dwarf peach varieties. One that has had some success is called ‘Bonanza’. A natural dwarf peach tree is one with shorter nodes and more leaves per length of growth than the standard tree, even though it is growing on standard seedling roots. It is similar to the spur type apple tree where the terminal growth is short and the tree is smaller than standard. The true dwarf peach tree produces some fruit but because of its small size, the peaches are fewer in number.

Peach General Culture

To grow peach trees successfully in the home garden, several cultural procedures must be followed. Beginning with proper planting, trees must be fertilized, cultivated, sprayed for insect and disease control and pruned annually. Fruit thinning and limb propping are often necessary as the tree beings to produce full crops of fruit. During drought seasons and in arid regions, irrigation is necessary.

Peach Tree Planting

Spring planting is best and this should be accomplished before growth begins. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the entire root system without crowding. It should be deep enough to allow the tree to be planted at about the same depth of soil in which it grew in the nursery. While digging, keep the topsoil separate from the subsoil. Place some of the topsoil in the bottom of the hole and spread the roots over it, then sift more topsoil around the roots. If you can get rotted manure or compost, mix it with equal parts of topsoil and fill the hole with the mixture. If the soil is extremely acid, mix 1 or 2 lbs. of limestone with the soil in the hole. Soils along the eastern seaboard are naturally acid. Those in western regions are alkaline and do not require additional limestone. Do not put fertilizer in the hole at planting time. Pack the soil firmly around the roots with your feet.

After planting, thoroughly water the soil around the tree. Keep the soil moist during spring and through the first summer. A slight depression about 2 ft. in dia. left around the base of the tree will help to keep water in the root area. In the fall, mound the soil slightly around the tree to reduce ice accumulation and possible injury to the bark on the trunk.

Sunlight

Full sunshine is essential to good tree growth and production. Trees will grow spindly and fruit production will be slight and of poor quality if grown in a shaded area.

Soil

Trees will not tolerate a wet soil. The soil must be sufficiently well drained so that water does not stand on the surface or saturate the root area for days following a heavy rain. Peach trees die quickly from excessive water around the roots.

Peach Tree Fertilization

A nitrogenous material such as ammonium nitrate may be used, or a complete fertilizer; a second application may be needed about 6 weeks later to maintain good vigor. Excessive growth should be avoided because this results in a poor tree framework. An excessively vigorous tree produces an upright growth with narrow, weak crotches where limbs join the trunk.

The amount of fertilizer should be increased each year until the tree receives 1 lb. of actual nitrogen. This may be sufficient to maintain vigor and production, but if the soil is poor, more fertilizer will be needed. On sandy soil, peach trees can utilize 1 lb. of actual nitrogen per year. The growth of the tree and the color of the foliage are good indicators of tree vigor. A bearing tree should make terminal growth that is about 12 in. long and the leaves should have a healthy green color. Light green or yellowish leaves indicate a lack of sufficient nitrogen either because an insufficient amount of fertilizer was applied, because of excessively dry soil or because there is injury to the tree from borers or other trunk or root damage.

Peach Tree Cultivation

Peach trees grow best when the soil beneath the tree is cultivated and kept weed-free. Mulching the soil under the tree is an excellent practice and can be done instead of cultivation. The mulch must be thick enough to prevent weed and grass growth. Straw, wood chips and lawn clippings make excellent mulching materials. An area of about 2 ft. around the trunk should be kept free of mulch to reduce the possibility of mouse injury to the roots and trunk. One should watch for mice runs under the mulch and trap the mice if they are present.

Peach Tree Irrigation

During dry seasons and in arid regions, peach trees must be irrigated. A bearing tree requires about 3 in. of rain per month during the growing season and, if this does not come as rain, an equal amount of water must be applied to the soil. The best method of watering a peach tree in the garden is to place a hose at the base of the tree and to let water trickle slowly for an hour or more. A depression in the soil around the base of the tree will prevent water loss. The period when the tree needs water most critically is during the month prior to fruit ripening. A shortage of water at this time will result in a reduction of fruit size. Drought in early spring will seriously reduce terminal growth and fruit-bud formation for the next year, so water should be applied at any time when the moisture in the soil is low.

Peach Thinning

A bearing peach tree usually produces more blossoms and “sets” more peaches than it can grow to large size and good dessert quality, so the removal of some fruit is necessary. Killing of buds by winter cold or by spring frosts can reduce the crop so that little or no thinning is necessary. A mature peach tree may have 25,000 or more blossoms. This same tree can ripen to good size and quality about 1200 large peaches (6 bushels). Thus, between the time of blossoming and the harvest of the mature fruit, about 95% of the blossoms and young fruit must either drop or be removed by hand. Many of the blossoms drop soon after the petals fall, either because they were not pollinated or because the tree could not supply the tiny fruits with water and nutrients. For this reason, also, a great many more tiny fruits will fall about 2 weeks after bloom.

About a month after bloom, another natural drop of fruit occurs and this is a final attempt by the tree to reduce the load of fruit. The tree will carry most of the remaining peaches to maturity. If there are more than 1500 peaches on the average-sized mature tree, some must be removed by hand or they will be small and of inferior dessert quality. To determine how much fruit to remove, one can take a small section of the tree and count the peaches. This count will provide a rough estimate of the total number of peaches and will indicate whether further reduction is necessary. Usually if peaches are removed so that those remaining are 6-8 in apart, the thinning is sufficient.

The main reason for thinning is to reduce the number of fruits per leaves. It has been shown through research that about 35 leaves are required to ripen 1 large peach of good dessert quality.

Thinning should be completed as soon as the last natural drop of fruit occurs for those varieties ripening in midseason and later. For early ripening varieties, the thinning should be completed before the last natural drop, or about 3 weeks before ripening. This is sometimes difficult because the fruit is quite small and one is not quite sure as to how much fruit will still drop naturally. It is absolutely necessary to thin early ripening varieties early to attain peaches of good size. A peach that is 2 in. in dia. is quite acceptable and there are about 300 in a bushel. A 2.1 in. peach will average about 200 in a bushel.

Peach Harvesting

Peaches ripen rapidly when temperatures are above 80-85° F. As they begin to ripen, they should be harvested every 2 or 3 days, depending upon the temperature. High night temperatures speed the ripening. Of the early varieties, the first few fruits to ripen will have a split pit. This is a normal characteristic. Often mold will be present on the seed. This is also normal and the peach flesh is healthy and good to eat even though the pit is molded. Peaches can be ripened fully on the tree and eaten immediately, or they may be harvested in a firm-ripe condition and held at room temperature for about 3 days. They will then have ripened to excellent dessert quality. Peaches harvested when green and immature may soften, but the dessert quality will be very poor.

Peach Storage

Peaches can be held in commercial cold storage at 31°-32° F. for a month or slightly longer. In the home refrigerator, which is maintained at about 40° F., they will hold for a few days in excellent condition if they are ripe or firm-ripe when placed in the refrigerator. Prolonged holding at 40°-50° F. results in internal breakdown and poor flavor. Firm-ripe peaches will soften and ripen slowly while in the refrigerator, but will require about a day or two at room temperature to develop good quality. Ripening proceeds half as fast at 60° F. as at 70-80° F, and only half as fast at 50° as at 60° F.

Peach Tree Pruning

The year-old peach tree will arrive from the nursery as a branched whip. It should be cutback to about 30-36 in. above the ground. Usually the side branches are weak and too small for framework branches. Cut these branches back to spurs, leaving 2-3 buds on each.

After the tree’s first season, remove all side branches that form a narrow angle with the trunk (less than 45°). Remove 1 of any 2 limbs of equal size that tend to divide the tree into a “V.” Remove suckers or strong branches that fill and shade the center of the tree. To keep the tree well balanced, cut back the stronger frame-work branches slightly. A central leader similar to that of an apple tree may be developed, but an open-center tree with 3 main framework branches is preferred.

After the second season, prune to develop an open-center, spreading, bowl-shaped tree. Remove any large limb that tends to grow up through the center, or across the center. Remove large suckers growing straight up in the center. Retain most of the other growth through-out the tree. As with the 1-year tree, remove limbs with narrow angles and branches of equal size that form a weak crotch.

A peach tree grown well for 2 years will have a trunk 4-6 in. in circumference and a good supply of fruit buds. Moderate and careful pruning at the end of the second season can result in production of as much as a bushel of peaches during the third summer. Severe pruning at the end of the second season will reduce, and may eliminate, the third summer crop.

After the third year, the peach tree should produce annual crops of fruit. Pruning is much the same throughout the first 4-5 years. After that time, somewhat more severe pruning may be desirable to keep the tree within bounds and maintain plenty of strong, healthy, fruiting wood.

Peaches are produced on wood that grew the previous season. The open-center or bowl-shaped tree with a well-rounded base and a wide-spreading top is recommended and generally grown throughout the country. Trees of this type have a larger bearing surface near the ground than do other types. They also have good fruiting wood throughout the center. The height of the tree should be kept to a maximum of 10 ft., the exact height depending on variety, soil, and general culture. It is possible, by careful pruning, to hold the peach tree to a height of about 7 ft. and still maintain good production.

Peach Tree Pollination

There is no serious problem in regard to cross-pollination with the Peach because most varieties are self-fruitful. There are a few varieties that are not, and if these are selected, one must provide another self-fruitful variety for pollination. The ‘J. H. Hale’ is one of the self-unfruitful varieties.

Peach Pest Control

The control of major insects and diseases by spraying and general sanitation is necessary to produce fine fruit and to maintain vigorous trees. Spray schedules are available for home trees and single-package mixtures containing insecticides and fungicides make the job quite simple and safe. To be successful in pest control, the proper materials must be used, applied at the correct time, and the tree must be thoroughly covered.

During the first 2 years in the life of the tree the spray program is not a complete one because there is no fruit. Leaf-chewing insects and borers are the main problems. After fruit production begins, one must follow a full spray program. Some of the most common insects of the peach fruit are plum curculio and oriental fruit worm. The most destructive disease attacking the fruit is fungus and brown rot. Borers can be a very serious threat to the vigor and life of the peach tree. The base of the trunk area should be checked several times annually for signs of borers. A jellylike substance will appear at the soil level if borers are present and they must be destroyed. A soft piece of wire forced into the holes will kill them.

In addition to spraying, certain sanitary practices will help, especially in the reduction and control of diseases. All dropped fruit should be gathered and removed from the area because this is a source of brown rot. Peaches that become infested with brown rot sometimes hang on the tree to shrivel and dry. These are also a source of infection and should be removed during the pruning.

Planting Parsnips

In the East and North, this root vegetable can be left in the ground all winter and dug up as needed for cooking. Freezing seems to improve the texture and gives parsnips a sweeter, more delicate taste. In southern and western states where winters are mild, parsnips should be planted in fall and grown for a winter crop, because spring planting extends the warm growing season too long, making the parsnips woody and tasteless.

Parsnip Planting and Culture

Since parsnip is a long-season crop, seed should be sown as early in spring as possible. Fresh seed should be secured each year. Slow to germinate, the seed should be soaked overnight before being planted out in a rich, deeply spaded, light soil. A generous amount of compost or some other humus should be added to enrich them and to provide good aeration and uniform distribution.

Plant the seed thickly in rows, inches apart. Radish seed should be alongside to mark the rows and keep the crust from hardening. It is wise to mulch the planting as the soil must remain cool during the long germination period seed are in danger of drying out.

As the radishes become of edible size, pick them and weed and thin the parsnip seedlings six inches apart. Cultivate cleanly all until the foliage touches between the rows.

Parsnip Harvesting

Parsnips may be harvested when the ground has little else to offer may remain in the ground over winter dug up during a thaw, or they may bed just before the ground freezes harden stored in a root cellar for winter use. In the ground until spring, dig as needed to new tops start to grow; then dig all rain and store them in a cold place to sprouting. After the growth, the roots lose flavor and soon become lean and limp as well as tough and stringy.

Planting Beans

To the average home gardener the word bean implies only two types, the kidney, snapper string bean and the lima beans, both of which belong to the genus Phaseolus and are native to the Americas. There are, however, a large number of other types, many of which are native to the Old World and include broad beans, soybeans, and Southern Pea Bean, Velvet Bean, Mung Bean and Tepary Bean, to list a few. Beans, as a group, constitute crop plants that are worldwide in culture to provide food for man and animals, to improve soils, for ornament and in some instances, e.g., soybeans, for industrial uses.

Snap or String (Phaseolus vulgaris) are cultivated more generally than any other crop of the bean tribe both for its edible pod and its dried seed. It is a very important home-garden crop in all sections of the U.S. Commercially large acreages are grown for the fresh market, for canning and freezing, and for dry beans.

Bean Varieties

Bean varieties are listed under hundreds of names, many of which are synonymous and are of little importance. Beans may be classified according to:

  1. Use. (a) snap beans for the edible pod, (b) green shell, for the still green immature seed, and (c) dry shell or ripe seed.
  2. Color of pod as green or yellow wax.
  3. Habit of growth, namely dwarfs or bush and climbing or pole. The following varieties are recommended for home garden planting:
    • Green-podded bush—’Tendercrop’, ‘Tender-green’, ‘Contender’, and ‘Harvester.’
    • Wax-podded bush—Pencil Pod’, ‘Cherokee’ and ‘Brittle Wax.’
    • Green-podded—’Kentucky Wonder.’
    • Wax-podded—’Kentucky Wonder Wax.’

Bean Soils and Fertilizers

Beans will grow satisfactorily in most all types of soil but do best in well-drained, warm, sandy loam and loam soils. Growth of the plant is slow and stunted in soils that are either too acid or alkaline and thus a soil pH of 5.5-6.5 is best. Thorough soil preparation is important.

Beans will respond to a normal application of well-rotted animal manure or compost if available, 20-30 bu. per 1000 sq. ft. If no manure is used, increase the fertilizer amount by two lbs.

Bean Planting

Beans are tender to frost and usually are planted after that danger has passed. The seed germinates slowly in soils of a temperature of 60° F. and if lower they may rot. Cold, wet soils result in poor stands. In the North 2-3 or more plantings are made to provide a continuous harvest. In the far South additional plantings are possible.

Bush varieties are planted in drills 1-2 in. deep and 24-30 in. apart. The plants should stand about 2-3 in. apart in the row. Pole beans are planted in hills, 4-5 seeds per hill, and spaced at 24-36 in. between hills. For most varieties the poles should be at least 6 ft. long. Various types of trellises can also be used satisfactorily. Eight or ten hills are adequate for the average family.

Bean Cultivation

Frequent shallow cultivation should be practiced basically to control weeds and to prevent a caking of the soil surface. Commercial growers have used the chemical Premerge or Sinox as a selective herbicide. Again it is not advisable for the home gardener to use these chemicals because they can cause severe damage if not used properly.

Bean Harvesting

Kidney or snap beans are hand picked before the pods are full grown and while the seeds are very small. Harvesting of green-shell sorts is delayed until the seeds have reached full size but are still soft and succulent.

Lima beans (Phaseolus limensis). The lima bean is very tender and, therefore, sensitive to frost and cold or wet soils.

Bean Insects

Both the Mexican bean beetle (a copper-colored, 16-spotted ladybird-type beetle) and the larvae (orange-yellow and fuzzy) feed on the leaves and pods. Larvae are found largely on the underside of leaf. You can control these insects by dusting at 7-8 day intervals and up to 4-5 days prior to harvest with rotenone dust, malathion or methoxychlor. It is important to cover underside of leaves and apply in early morning when plants are damp with dew. Leaf hoppers are green, very small insects that fly quickly when disturbed. Both adults and nymphs attack leaves causing a curling and yellowing condition.

Bean Diseases

Anthracnose, a fungus, attacks the stems, leaves and pods causing elongated, sunken, dark red cankers. The disease is carried from year to year with the seed and the only control is in using western-grown seed; also, do not cultivate or work with the beans when the plants are wet. Bacterial blight appears on the leaves as brown blotches surrounded by a reddish-yellow halo. Control is the same as for anthrax-nose. Mosaics are caused by several types of virus. The affected plants are stunted and have crumpled and yellow-molted leaves. Control lies in controlling aphids which carry the disease and using resistant varieties such as ‘Contender’, ‘Toperop’, ‘Kentucky Wonder’ or ‘Blue Lake.’ Rust shows up as red to black pustules on the leaves, causing leaves to dry up and fall off, carried over from year to year in plant refuse. Burning old bean plants, using varieties which show some resistance, and dusting the plants with sulphur or maneb are possible controls. In the case of pole beans, treat the poles with formaldehyde—1 pt. to 5 pts. of water. Downy mildew on lima beans shows up as a downy white growth. Dust with copper-lime or use maneb as directed on the container.

Planting Bamboo

There are 700 or more species of bamboo in the world, only a select few are native to the United States. They are grasses, belonging to a dozen genera, ranging in size from a few feet to too feet or more. Seldom do they fruit, in the tropics where they are at home they usually are evergreen, but at least 2 species are hardy as far north as Boston, Mass., on the Atlantic seacoast where they have been grown successfully for many years. The farther south one goes, the more species there are hardy, but usually bamboos as such are confined to a narrow strip along the Atlantic Coast from Long Island to a narrow strip of Tex. along the Gulf but including most of all the states bordering the water in between.

On the West Coast, bamboos are grown in southwest Ariz., Calif., and a very narrow strip along the Pacific Coast of Ore. and Wash. Some of the tropical species are grown in Fla. and the warmest strip of land about the Gulf of Mexico as well as southwest Ariz. and southwest Calif., chiefly then in Zones 8, 9 and 10.

Bamboos have woody stems, usually but not always hollow between the joints. They make graceful garden plants; some of the low ones make rapidly increasing ground covers which must be kept under rigid control or they become weedy pests. Some of the taller types grow in clumps. In the tropical regions of the world they are very important economic plants, affording material for building purposes, furniture, tools, weapons and even food, since the young shoots of some are eaten either raw or cooked.

A culm, or vegetative shoot of bamboo, is formed in the spring from food stored in the roots during the previous year, and grows to mature height in a short 5-8 week period. When the shoot matures two ft. high, it is obvious that the growth of this is sometimes so rapid it can be seen with the naked eye when carefully observed against a measuring stick. It is a peculiar habit of these plants that the young growing culm will always have the same diameter at its base that it will have when the culm has reached the final height.

Two types of these grasses are the running bamboos and the clump bamboos. The former sends out underground rhizomes from which new above-ground shoots or culms grow in the spring. These are the hardiest of the bamboos and in fact the 2 Native American species belong in this group, namely, Arundinacea gigantea, the Canebrake Bamboo of the South which can grow 30 ft. high. The former may be used for fishing poles and little else; the latter is sometimes used as cattle fodder. All the so-called running bamboos can become vicious spreading pests if not rigidly restrained in the garden.

It is the tall-growing, often tropical, clump bamboos that have the gracefully arching culms and are so distinctive in the landscape wherever they can be grown. Even though these clumps do not spread as rapidly as the others, roots from a single mature clump may spread out 25 ft. in all directions, absorbing nutrients and moisture from the soil and making it difficult to grow anything else close by. Over 60 species and varieties of running bamboos have been introduced into America, but at present only 24 of these are considered to have sufficient economic or ornamental value to be discussed here.

The running bamboo types briefly mentioned in the following list increase by underground rhizomes and range in height from a few feet to 70 feet. The lowest ones, like the Arundinaria species, are sometimes used as ground covers, but when used this way they should be restrained by metal strips or concrete sunk in the soilabout 2 ft. deep to insure their staying in place. However, in some good soils this barrier may have to be sunk deeper. To keep them a little lower in height, they might be cut off at the ground level every 2-3 years, which makes them denser as well.

Some of the clump bamboos like Bambusamultiplex are used as informal hedges. Even some of the running types like Phyllostachysmeyeri, P. nigra and Semiarundinaria fastuosa are also used this way.

The clump bamboos can be very graceful ornamental specimens. Since these are usually subtropical and tropical species and are usually evergreen, it should be noted that the culms usually take 3 years to mature and harden properly so that their shoots should not be cut for economic purposes until they arc 3 years old. The culms of Bambusa vulgaris are frequently used for making vases and other ornaments, handles for tools, picture frames, ski poles, etc. Those with yellow or striped culms (Bambusamultiplex vars.) are decidedly ornamental, as are clump bamboo, especially with small leaves, is always a thing of beauty, since it usually has a graceful, arching, habit and is always rustling in the slightest breeze.

The edible qualities of some bamboos are noted in the following list. Most of the Phyllo-stachys species are in this group. Not all species are suitable, and some must be cooked, often with changing the water twice, in order to remove the bitter taste. On the other hand, the central part of the new shoot of some can beaten raw, often used in salads.

Usually these new shoots of edible bamboos appear in March, April and May. The period for cutting them is about 3-4 weeks, but it is advisable to mound soil about them to exclude the light and thus prevent them from becoming bitter. The sheath covering the young shoot should be removed, the tough basal part with roots cut off. The tender shoot can then be cut horizontally in sections about in. thick and cooked about 20 minutes. If it is the slightly bitter type, then changing the water after boiling for to minutes proves helpful in eliminating the bitter taste.

Bamboo Propagation

The running bamboos are easily propagated by taking root cuttings, 12 in. long, of the new rhizomes, keeping them moist during the trans-planting operation which should be undertaken any time from Jan. to March depending on the locality. They are planted 5-6 in. deep, usually kept 2 years in the nursery row where they are watered well and not allowed to dry out. They are fertilized with 5-10-5, about one pound or less per too-ft. row. When they are to be trans-planted, it is well to cut the culms back at least two-thirds, and if they are not to be balled, it might be best to cut them to the ground.

Clump bamboos are easiest propagated by division, but only when the weather is warm. It is a mere cutting of smaller clumps or chopping apart of larger ones, but the culms themselves might best be reduced to about 2-3 ft. high when this operation is carried out.

Another way of propagating is to try culm cuttings, often successful with Bambusa species, sometimes not so successful with other species. The culm is cut half way above and below anode which bears a small branch. The open ends of the culm are packed with moist soil and the cutting planted horizontally in the soil, taking care that the culm is about 2-4 in. below the soil surface and the branch comes above the soil surface. If done in warm weather and the soil kept moist, rooting and sprouting should take about a month. A third method is that of layering, in which an entire culm is dug up, roots and all, preferably one not over 3 years old, and laid in a trench, 6 in. deep, in moist soil. A leafy branch or two is left at each node so that they are mostly above ground when the culm is buried. After a few months, one carefully digs down to the original culm, saws through it at the internodes but leaves the new plantlets undisturbed for another 2 months, after which time each plantlet can be dug and transplanted.

Cutting bamboo canes is not as simple as it sounds; for the wood should be thoroughly mature—at least 3 years old—and the canes should best be sawed off very close to the ground. Canes can be straightened by applying heat, or by hanging the cane upside down and applying a heavy weight at the end for several months, or merely by applying pressure to flat green canes as they are dried on a flat surface. In fact, canes already dried but curved can be soaked in water and then straightened.

Bamboo Pests

Insect and disease pests on bamboo are not as yet prevalent in this country. Certainly the gardener with only a single plant or two on his grounds need pay little attention to it. The fungi may prove troublesome, especially bamboo smut. However, the few outcroppings of this disease which have occurred in America have been rigidly handled by destroying plants and roots as well, so it seems unlikely that it will do much damage again.

Bees

Bees play an important role in nature’s scheme of things. There are some 5,000 species of bees in North America. Most of them are important only to wild plants, but several hundred pollinate cultivated crops (over 100 species, for instance, visit alfalfa).

Value of Bees

The value of those which pollinate only wild plants should not be minimized: they help to keep vital cover on millions of acres not used for farming.

Once we took pollination of our crops for granted. But it’s a different story today. In the past 50 years, under the pressures of a growing population, more and more land was put under cultivation. But the more crops we planted, the faster we destroyed the basic means for full crop return. Forests were cut down, woods and wasteland destroyed and burrows ripped up, destroying the homes of the wild bees.

Concentrated plantings of one crop overlarge acreages left the bees no wild plants to live on when the crop was not blooming; with nothing to fill in the gap in their food supply, they starved and disappeared practically overnight. And when indiscriminate spraying with powerful insecticides came along, the wild bees per acre could almost be counted on the fingers of one hand.

We simply do not have enough honeybees. Farmers in every state, according to the Department of Agriculture, could benefit by having more hives on or near their farms. Some areas need two or three times the number of hives they now have, to insure adequate pollination of the crops grown there.

This is where an increase in wild bees would be of immense help. Such an increase would bolster the efforts of hard-working domestic honeybees and show up in a direct rise in crop yields.

Wild Bees

Wild bees have certain characteristics that make them more valuable than their domesticated cousins. They are hardier, working in cold, rainy or windy weather, when honeybees will not venture from their cozy hives. Thus, they provide good sets of seed and fruit even in bad weather. In parts of New England and eastern Canada, this is especially important to apple growers, for the weather is usually bad there during apple-blooming time.

Practically all wild bees form no colonies, in the sense that the honeybee does. The exception to this is the bumblebee who lives in a colony of some 50 to 500 individuals, with a queen and worker castes. Many new drones and queens are produced each year, but only the fertilized queens live through the winter, each one forming a new colony in the spring.

The other wild bees are solitary dwellers. Each female functions both as queen and worker. She builds her own nest, sealing her eggs in cells with honey-moistened pollen balls for the young to feed on. Once this is done, she has no further contact with her offspring.

Wild bees will nest almost anywhere. Sweat bees and mining bees construct underground burrows. Carpenter bees and leaf cutters chisel their nests in timber, or use old beetle boles. Some wild bees nest in the natural channels of hollow or pithy-stemmed plants; others take their homes in abandoned snail shells or cavities in porous rocks.

The majority, however, is soil nesting. Almost any type of soil, moist or dry, loose or packed, flat or vertical, can be their home. Alkali bees, in some areas the major pollinators alfalfa, nest in fairly sandy soil, often in “communities” of several thousand nests less than an inch apart. Seed growers, knowing that communities like these will insure pollination of their alfalfa for two miles around, protect them from disturbance. If small pieces of land are left unfarmed near the alfalfa fields, the alkali bees will also spread to them and establish new communities there in one season.

Tests by various experiment stations showed that on a cultivated plot situated next to overgrown land, wild bees were four times as numerous as on tilled plots surrounded by other tilled land. To increase your wild bees you can preserve some uncultivated or eroded land specifically for bees. Sometimes bee broods found on land that is to be tilled can be moved into these areas. On cropland, avoid working, flooding or trampling the burrows of ground-nesting bees whenever possible.

Field borders, fencerows, ditch banks, and the sides of roadways should be planted to nectar-producing plants. Kudzu and bicolor or Lespedeza cuneata make excellent bee pasturage, or use whatever is suitable for your region. Pithy-stemmed plants like elderberry, sumac and tree-of-heaven make fine nesting sites. They provide erosion protection and food and cover for other wildlife, too. Multiflora rose fences are very good, and bunch-type perennial grasses along the tops of banks are soil stabilizers as well as nesting sites.

Trees for windbreaks and stream bank protection that also provide bee food and homes include the Russian olive, American Elm, catalpa, honey locust, basswood, sycamore, wild plum, and many others. In wood lot management, make sure bee trees are not cut down.
Bee plants are often synonymous with soil-saving plants. The legumes used for green manures, orchard cover crops and in rotations provide bee food in plenty. Often a small planting of clover may be all that is necessary, with regular crop plants, to sustain a goodly population of wild bees all year. Improved pastures and grassed waterways should have some clover in their planting mixtures.

Bumblebees will nest in cans containing a handful of mattress stuffing or similar material, hung up in sheltered places in your outbuildings. Certain other species can be induced to set up housekeeping in cans with lids and entrance spouts, partially buried in well-drained soil. Some farmers break open her trees in the woods, carrying the bees home in any handy container to be set up in suitable places around their farms. When walking through your fields, you can break over the stalks of hollow-stemmed plants like canebrake, teasel, milk-thistle, and wild parsnip, to provide nesting and hibernating places.

Some species of native bees are more efficient pollinators than honeybees. Red clover blooms, having little nectar and the pollen at the bottom of a deep corolla tube, are often passed up by the honeybee; but the long-tongued bumblebee does an excellent job on them. Honeybees can steal the nectar from alfalfa blooms without “tripping” them to release the pollen. But alkali, leaf cutter and bumblebees are pollen collectors who trip every blossom they visit.

On rangelands, where it is impractical to supply honeybees for pollination, wild bees have a big responsibility to keep the range plants reproducing year after year. Every range reseeding program should include adapted legumes and other honey-producing plants to increase the wild bees, and thus improve the fodder and fertility of the range.

Honeybees (Domestic)

The honeybee is a social insect. The queen, drone and worker bees cannot live alone. All members of the honeybee colony divide labor to facilitate work, and there is never a time when the whole colony sleeps. Honeybees take rest periods throughout the day.

The single function of the drones (males) is to mate with the queen. They become sexually mature at ten to 12 days. During the afternoon, virgin queens fly to “drone congregation areas” where mating takes place. Drones die in the mating process and are not present in the colony during the winter.

The queen is the most important part of the colony for two reasons—she lays eggs to ensure the survival of the colony and controls the social order of the colony with the chemical substances she secretes. The queen is different from worker bees in that she has no wax glands, no pollen baskets on her hind legs and no modifications on her forelegs. She is also larger and her abdomen is longer and more slender.

Worker bees are female and perform all other tasks for the colony. The worker bee cleans cells, at first, and later feeds larvae. Her next duty is to guard the hive. After these tasks are completed, the worker bee begins to work in the fields. The ability of the worker bee to change from one task to another insures the survival of the colony. She lives for six weeks during the peak honey season, and six months in the winter.

There are three races of domestic (honey) bees: Carniolans, Caucasians and Italians.

Carniolan bees of the Alpine strain can be distinguished by their dark gray abdominal segments with bands of white hairs. These bees are the finest gray bees in existence and the largest of hive bees. The Alpine strain is less inclined to swarm than other bees and is extremely prolific.

Carniolans are very gentle, quiet on the combs, good breeders, and have a long life. These bees are economic consumers of stores, honest workers and winter-hardy. They build regular combs with white cappings well suited for comb honey production. They are brave in defending their hives, but gentle to humans.

Carniolan queens are darker than the workers, and drones are large and gray colored with or without visible bands.

Caucasian bees are somewhat parallel or merit a good second to the Carniolans in comb honey production. The Mountain Gray Caucasian can be compared to the Alpine Carniola except it is smaller and intensely populating. The Caucasians are more immune to American foulbrood than other standard bees.

Italian bees are most commonly used in America and enjoy a high productivity. “Pure “Italians” are three banded. Extra-yellow strains of four bands are found in the United States. The queens are yellower than the workers, and the drones are darker.

Italian bees are more reliable in their swarming habits, but are really no better or worse than other honeybees. However, these bees may rob and may be a menace. Their defense of their home is normal and they are fair in accepting new queens. In general, Italians are known for their good dispositions.

Proper Table Setting

China, glass, cutlery (flatware) and overall linens together make up the overall look of any setting. On to that framework can be added candles and their holders plus the table decorations, which are the icing on the cake. These are obviously areas where you can add personal touches that may be quite different from anyone else’s, and not even very different each time you entertain. But with imagination and flair, you can be creative with all the elements that go into laying a table. Your existing tableware will have the greatest influence on the table settings you create. You will probably instinctively choose designs that suit the style of your home, whether it is elegantly modem, traditional or has a more relaxed country look. Given this starting point, however, there is no reason why your table has to look the same each time you set it. Of course, you may have a favourite look, and you may always want to re-create it. But there will be occasions, such as Christmas, Easter or at special celebrations, when you wish to make your table look more special than usual. The other main reasons for wanting to adapt the look of your table settings are that, as time goes by, fashions in home style change and personal tastes develop. You may want to reflect these changes in your table settings.

China

The art of successful table setting is to be clever with the crockery, so mix, match, adapt and adorn your dinner service to suit the mood and the occasion. The effective way to mix pieces from different sets is to link them by colour. So by collecting all white or all cream, for example, you can create a wonderful overall effect from pieces that were not necessarily designed to match. Another way is to collect two different but harmonious colours, black and white for example.

Under plates, too, provide a lot of scope. Buy brass to lend sparkle at Christmas or other celebrations, or coloured glass to add a new look on any occasion. Alternatively, you could put clear glass plates on top of those from the main set, with something decorative between, such as leaves, fabric or flowers that will show through and can be changed to suit the mood.

Whatever style of cutlery (flatware)you choose, a collection that complements the overall setting will enhance the look of the table.

Highlight the gold rim of elegant porcelain soup cups by contrasting it with brass. Even if your dinner service is plain, it will look richer if set on metal. Add a gold tassel and wrap party favours in gold organza for very special occasions.

Cutlery (flatware)

Knives, forks and spoons can have a wonderful sculptural quality to them, which may be used in many ways in a table setting. The formal and obvious way is to lay them, in accordance with etiquette, soldier-like on either side of each plate. But try adorning the cutlery, tying it in pairs or threes with ribbon, raffia or string. You could also tie in a place card, or tuck in a flower, leaf or, if you wish, a chandelier crystal, a tassel or a shell for extra decoration.

Glass

Glass is so beautiful that it needs little decoration, but it is lovely to make something special of, say, a pre-dinner cocktail. Frosting the rim with egg white and caster (superfine) sugar is a traditional idea, and one that always delights. Tassels, ribbons, cords and beads can be tied decoratively around the stems of glasses, or golden wire wound around them in graceful imitation of Italian wine bottles.

It is not difficult to be innovative with linens. Napkins can very easily be equipped with unusual ‘rings’, embroidered or embellished with beads. Nor do table cloths necessarily have to have been purpose-made. Any suitable length of fabric — bedspreads, saris, sheeting or curtain lining — will do. When a fabric is not too expensive, you can embellish it with stamps, stencils or fabric paint; choose to appliqué or embroider it, or stitch on less obvious trimmings, such as buttons and shells, pebbles and even twigs.

DECORATIVE IDEAS

Create a table decoration that is as simple as a few seasonal flowers in a vase or as elaborate as a formal arrangement. But the real creativity comes when you add your own flair, perhaps transcending the obvious. Wrap vases in almost anything from brown paper to string to give myriad new looks. Place flowers in vases, ready-tied to give them natural-looking support; if the container is glass, the securing string will add to the decoration. Gild flowers, foliage and berries, and add fruits or vegetables to a floral arrangement. Stand flowers with straight, sturdy stalks, on plates or in shallow bowls, tied to keep them in an upright position.

Fruits and vegetables make wonderful organic table arrangements. As well as the more obvious grapes, pears, figs and pomegranates, use pumpkins and marrows (squashes),perhaps decoratively carved and internally lit with a night-light. Gilding fruits and vegetables, or tying them up with string or raffia, adds the extra touch to make them different.

A witty reference to silver chain decanter labels can be made with a necklace. There is something sensuous about this one, made of chandelier crystals and feathers.

Evocative of American Indian dress, a leather thong bound round and round natural linen, then trimmed with a few game feathers, looks fabulous.

Planting Pear Trees

Pear trees fit well into an organic home-stead. Pear trees are quite hardy and grow well on deep, well-drained loam soil with ample moisture. A heavy mulch or permanent leguminous cover crop produces the best growth. Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilization—it encourages disease—but mulch or barnyard manure is perfectly safe.

Pear Tree Planting and Culture

Dwarf pears are generally planted 12 feet apart in each direction; full-sized trees, 16 to 20 feet apart. Nearly all varieties require cross-pollination; any two varieties that blossom at the same time will cross-pollinate each other. Pear trees are well adapted to espalier training, and thus are a good fruit for small gardens.

Pears are generally planted as one-year-old whips, which are headed back to 30 inches. At the end of the first summer, all except three evenly spaced branches are removed. Each year, these are headed back moderately and three or four shoots are left to make secondary branches. Once the tree comes into bearing, only a little pruning is necessary. Remove enough wood to induce new shoot growth and thin to prevent overbearing.

Pear Insects and Diseases

Fire-blight fungus is one of the most serious pests of pears. Very few trees are completely resistant and those that are usually produce poorer fruit.

Fire blight attacks leaves, flowers, fruit, branches, and trunks, making the infected portions blackish as if they had been scorched. There is no known cure for the blight except surgery. Trees should be inspected for blight every two or three days from blooming time to midsummer. When it is found, the infected portions should be cut out, using sterilized instruments. The cut should be made at least six, and preferably 12 inches back toward the roots. All material removed should be burned.

Pears are not bothered by many other diseases or insects, but occasionally scabs, psyllids, curculios, or codling moths may attack them.

Pear scab appears as a velvety olive-green spot on the fruit, becoming black and scabby at maturity. On the leaves the scab makes black spots. The disease is favored by warm, damp weather which also fosters blight. Remove any leaves or fruit infected with scab, and keep the area under the tree free of fallen leaves and fruit.

Psyllids are jumping insects which produce honeydew that invites infections of fungal molds harmful to the tree. The insects attack the blossoms and prevent fruit set. The best preventive measure is a thorough dormant-oil spray in the spring.

Pear Varieties

Among the favorites of the disease-resistant varieties are the Bartlett, Seckel, Clapp Favorite, Gorham, and Other blight-resistant varieties include Moonglow and Magness. These bear sweet fruit. Colette is a dwarf variety in ripens in mid-August to early September. Nelis is a tasty, yellow green pear and very large fruit. Beurre Bosc and D’Anjou produce hardy fruit.

Soft Furnishing Sewing

Most items of soft furnishing are expensive to buy ready-made but they can he made just as successfully at home and much more cheaply. Curtains and drapes, cushion covers, bed linen and table linen require the minimum of sewing skills and little equipment beyond a sewing machine and an iron.

The choice of fabric plays a major part in setting the style of a room, creating accents of colour to enliven a neutral decor or providing a means of coordinating different elements effectively in a loom. Colour is an important consideration when furnishing a room —light shades tend to open it out, while dark and vivid shades tend to enclose it. Many people tend to play safe by choosing neutral or pastel shades which, although easy to live with, can look rather boring and impersonal.

Making soft furnishings at home is the perfect way to experiment with colour and make a visual statement. Most items require a few metres (yards) of fabric at the most. A good point to hear in mind when selecting fabric is that there are no hard-and-fast rules, apart from trying not to mix

too many different colours and patterns in one setting. Most good stores will supply swatches of furnishing fabrics without charge for colour matching at home.

Another consideration is that the chosen fabric should be suitable for the intended purpose — for example, heavyweight cloths will make up into good curtains and cushion covers but will he too stiff to make a successful tablecloth or bed valance. Many of these details are primarily common sense but, when in doubt, be guided by the sales assistant’s specialist knowledge.

Stamping is a quick and effective way of repeating a design on a wide variety of surfaces, using many different mixtures of paints and inks. It does not require a great deal of specialist equipment; many of the items used are found in most households.

Craft knife: a sharp-bladed craft knife is essential for cutting your own stamps our of thick sponge or foam. Use a cutting mat to protect your work surface, and always direct the blade away from your fingers.

Lino blocks: linoleum blocks are available from art and craft shops and can be cut to make stamps which recreate the look of a wood block. You will need special lino-cutting tools, which are also easily available, to accurately scoop out the areas around the design. Hold the lino with your spare hand behind your cutting hand for safety. Always cut away from you. Masking tape: use for masking off areas of walls and furniture when painting. Natural sponge: available in various sizes, use for applying colour washes to walls before stamping.

Paintbrushes: a range of decorator’s brushes is needed for painting furniture and walls before stamping. Use a broad brush to apply colour washes to walls. Stiff brushes can be used for stippling paint on to stamps for textured effects, while finer brushes are used to pick out details or to apply paint to the stamp. Pencils, pens and crayons: use a soft pencil to trace templates for stamps, and for making easily removable guidelines on walls. Draw motifs freehand using a marker pen on medium- and low-density sponge. Always use a white crayon on black upholstery foam.

Rags: keep a stock of clean rags and cloths for cleaning stamps and preparing surfaces.

Ruler and tape measure: use these to plan your design.

Scissors: use sharp scissors to cut out medium- and low-density sponge shapes, and are especially useful for cutting out the basic shapes. Also handy for cutting out templates. .Sponge rollers: use to apply the paint evenly over the whole stamp. Small paint rollers can be used to load your stamps, though you will need several if you are stamping in different colours. Use a brush to apply a second colour to act as a highlight or shadow, or to pick out details of the design