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Urban Gardener: March Lions Prowl

Saturday, March 22, 2014

 

Dwarf Asian pears are a prime example of a diminutive tree that packs a punch, believes Leonard Moorehead.

Urban gardeners are hardy hopeful types. Remnants of ice and snow persist in every corner. Battle hardened winter mulches are solid. Then there is that inquisitive spirit that motivates us all and a closer inspection brings a smile to the lips and warmth to the heart. I may have found my first mantis cocoon. And brave Turk’s capped whorls are lifting the mulch to demonstrate the careless advocacy of a Fall gardener and his sack of tulips: I estimate another 4 or 5 weeks for bloom.

A modest and humble fruit

Cold crisp winds, the full moon in Virgo, and I actually walk the garden with a long envelope and a big felt tip pen: that cousin to knowledge and understanding, the list. “A new Honsui Dwarf Pear” for certain and then I agree with myself and write in “2”. An early lesson in astrology compounds the fact that my sun sign is also in Virgo, I grin at the homage to the stars and the ritual writing. Yes, I’m tethering my dreams to a moment and planting more Asian pears. They are modest, humble fruits of divine flavor and full mouth chewing goodness.

The horticultural world has such extraordinary horizons. The miracle of life pulses within every garden. Color, scent, form, are my dictates, fragrance a demand. Urban gardeners may confront every gardener’s dilemma , the year to year transitory nature of many neighborhoods. Happily, community gardens are ever more popular and accessible to many interesting and friendly people. I’m grateful that 5 or 6 years before anyone’s memory an anonymous gardener had planted a peach tree, an apricot, and a pear tree in the community garden. No one really owned them, they were planted too close to old chain link fence or hard against a decrepit picket fence mostly hidden by morning glories for much of the season and of course, right on the edge of the sidewalk. They didn’t care, they simple offered beautiful flowers in the spring and sometimes produced crops without any care at all.

Pruning and care

I mulched them and piled compost around their trunks and admired lovely blooms, enough to justify the minimal effort of pruning off congested limbs. I ate my first apricots in decades from a single branch of a small tree bent down with fruit and somehow preserved from the squirrels, the arch foe of urban gardeners. None of these fruit trees require much space and grow well against sunny walls, can be shaped to conform within odd irregular space and endure. Trees offer a glimpse over time’s horizon. To plant a tree that will reward months or years away is confidence manifest.

Dwarf Asian pears are a prime example of a diminutive tree that packs a punch. These hardy pears are a short six feet tall and about 6 feet in diameter. Their tough bark is much like the beeches and just as appealing. This pear gave 24 large pears its first year! The second season a double sized crop. The pear is attractive year round as habitat for birds and a constant visual delight. Plant for the long term my friends. If you don’t and insist upon the spring rash of lettuces, radishes, and mesclun, you’re overlooking an essential dimension of every garden, time.

Time as a full moon tussles the sun for the sky is fluid. We are within its grasp and from this grip we cultivate the moment and plan for the future. I’m daily grateful for careful soil preparation: lots of compost, a generous couple pounds of bone meal, lime, and green sand were carefully dug and mixed. The saplings looking ever so much like broomstick sized sticks. I heeled in the soil and stepped back to admire my handiwork, returned, adjusted the sapling’s posture and took a moment. Contemplation is prominent in the garden. Never underrate these moments of mindful planting.

Was I taken in by some hideous malevolent website? No, friends. The golden calf thrives in the late winter garden. I staked the pears a few months latter as a freak tropical storm whipped through the neighborhood. Pairs of wooden stakes driven deeply into the soil and taut lines with a cloth collar will contribute to the tree’s preferred posture. Fruit trees offer many opportunities to groom and shape. Have some fun, it’s your garden and the living organisms are only too willing to participate in garden frolics. At three years old the fruit trees no longer need support. Their vertical growth adds proportion to the garden. Ever a refuge for birds and dreamers, fruit trees in the urban garden are worthwhile and deserving. They are robust.

Now is a great time to spray the fruit trees with an organic oil based copper emulsion to control fungus and scab diseases symptomatic much latter in the spring and capable of fruit loss and cosmetic damage. Just as our hearts go out to sick friends and loved ones, fungus and insect pests can be cured with care and action. Treatment is to spray once a week from dormancy up to the bloom. Mix your own oil spray for pennies on the gallon and monitor the garden for infestation. Go ahead and smother over wintering fungus and eggs cases with this treatment.

A season of hope and renewal

They are also testaments to hope and faith in the future. This is the elemental truth of the gardener. March lions growl, blood red talons flex in the frost. Sunshine will banish this cold hearted creature. Sunlight will open the land. Persephone returns. Asparagus, crocus, daffodils, tulips, snowdrops, chives, introduce the new season. The garden’s hibernation is over. A full moon in Virgo is a thoughtful sign, the equinox is right around the corner. It is written in the stars and felt in the ground. Let’s check out seeds and plants, join community gardens, make new friends and have fun growing your garden. I bet you’re hooked already. And if you hesitate to plant something that might take more than a few weeks, I understand and urge you to go ahead, plant something that takes a little time, a little more time than it will take to determine a career, raise a child, hold someone’s hand through thick and thin, make the electric bills and rent. It’s worth it. It might actually be your turn.

 

Leonard Moorehead is a life-long gardener. He practices organic-bio/dynamic gardening techniques in a side lot surrounded by city neighborhoods in Providence RI. His adventures in composting, wood chips, manure, seaweed, hay and enormous amounts of leaves are minor distractions to the joy of cultivating the soil with flowers, herbs, vegetables, berries, and dwarf fruit trees.

 

Related Slideshow: Spring Has Arrived: 25 Great Events in New England

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