All the dedicated gardeners have been too busy this week to take any pics (or at least to send them to me), so here’s a good read as a placeholder. From the NYTimes, “Hunting Down the Lost Apples of the Pacific Northwest”:
STEPTOE, Wash. — David Benscoter honed his craft as an investigator for the F.B.I. and the United States Treasury, cornering corrupt politicians and tax evaders. The lost apple trees that he hunts down now are really not so different. People and things, he said, tend to hide in plain sight if you know how and where to look.
“It’s like a crime scene,” Mr. Benscoter, 62, said as he hiked down a slope toward a long-abandoned apple orchard planted in the late 1800s. “You have to establish that the trees existed, and hope that there’s a paper trail to follow.”
About two-thirds of the $4 billion apple industry is now concentrated in Washington State — and 15 varieties, led by the Red Delicious, account for about 90 percent of the market. But the past looked, and tasted, much different: An estimated 17,000 varieties were grown in North America over the centuries, and about 13,000 are lost.
From New England through the Midwest and the South to Colorado and Washington, where small family farms were long anchored by an orchard, most apple trees died along with the farms around them as industrial-scale agriculture conquered American life a century ago.
But some trees persisted. They faded into woods, or were absorbed by parks or other public lands. And the hundreds of varieties that have been found in recent years are stunning in their diversity and the window they open into the tastes and habits of the past…
Apples are where food meets history, hunters say, and a community has risen up around the pursuit of them. Mr. Benscoter fell into it after retirement here in eastern Washington when a friend with a disability asked him to pick apples from an old orchard behind her house, and no one could identify what they were. John Bunker, an apple hunter in Maine, became entranced by the old trees he found growing in the woods. Lee Calhoun, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, started hunting in North Carolina and began to see old apples as a remnant of faded Southern life.
Now, some old varieties have become available again, through small specialty nurseries like the co-op that Mr. Bunker helped start in Maine and through university agricultural programs…
All my mail-order tomato plants have been transferred into new red rootpouches filled with fresh potting mix, and the bags lined up (on the driveway extension) where they’ll get as much sunlight as possible. Today, weather permitting, I’ll get the tomato ladders installed. Twenty-two 15gal planters’ worth of potting mix is a lot of lifting for an old fat lady with creaky joints…
The Spousal Unit has a half-dozen plants of his own to tend this year — he’s convinced there’s plenty of light in the east-facing side yard for tomatoes, which was (barely) true when we first bought this place, but not since the cherry-tree sapling we planted that year has grown into a flourishing tree that shades the one bare wall where the tomato pots used to go. Of course, even if “his” plants set fruit, he’ll still have to share them with two of our three little dogs, who are shameless tomato thieves when given the opportunity.
Long range weather predictions for this part of New England say it’ll be another coolish, rainy summer (dammit). Serenade is an amazing product, but reapplying it twice a week on all my tomatoes, lilacs, and rose bushes is more exertion than I can reliably keep up. Neither my hand strength nor my back muscles are up to coping with the multi-gallon hand or backpack-style sprayers I’ve tried, so I’ve been contemplating investing in a wheeled battery-powered model. Any of you experts got an opinion about utility, brands, etc?
What’s going on in your garden(s) this week?