Tag Archives: Lee Reich

Lee Reich Shares Seed Starting Tips & More

Lee Reich's farmden is organized and weed free.

Lee Reich’s spring garden

I love Lee Reich!

Dr. Reich (botanist, retired professor and incredible home gardener) lives on a “farmden” in New York state and is my go to guy for fruit growing, pruning and feeding blueberries, blackberries, apples and more.

In this lovely interview with Lee Reich, another of my favorite gardeners, Margaret Roach, formerly Martha Stewart’s garden guru and author of several beautiful books including the book that launched her blog A Way To Garden.

Get Lee Reich’s simple but very effective recipe for seed starting mix. Take a look at his planting tools – practical, some homemade and all well-used and well-loved.  And watch the two wonderful clips of Reich in his gardens.

Its snowing again here, today, but I am going to my basement, turning on my grow lights and playing in the dirt as I dream of April, May and June.

Happy Gardening, Gang.




Pruning Guru Makes It Easy

Move over Lee Reich. Reich is one of my go to resources for gardening, growing and weeding. He also used to be my “go to” guy for pruning tips and tricks. Although I still love Reich’s book, I have a new, best friend when it comes to pruning.

Her name is Ann Ralph; her book is Grow A Little Fruit Tree.

For the first time since I started reading about and trying to understand what to prune, when and how, I completely understand pruning and I know the answers to the what, the when and the how!

It is so simple that I am amazed!  And Ann Ralph’s approach ensures that your dwarf trees will not be 25 feet high and still growing with fruit totally out of reach.

Here’s the first bit of advice I was surprised by.  When you buy a new fruit tree, cut off its little head!

Ralph calls this, “…the toughest cut you will ever make.” Although the reasons she shares in her book are logical and the outcome desirable, the author notes that many people just can’t bring themselves to do it and guess what, their dwarf stock quickly exceeds all predictions for height and you are stuck with a fruit tree you can’t manage or harvest.

Now for the second bit of advice.  I live in the United States.  Ralph’s “rule?” Prune in June.  Just before Summer Solstice.  Yes, even if you trees have fruit on them, prune.  This prune is for height, not necessarily for shape.

Like a whole lot of people, I was told to prune when the tree was dormant – January or February, before it set fruit.  And so I did.  That’s why all of my trees grew 10 to 15 feet every spring!  Winter pruning should be for shape; pruning a tree back in winter unleashes all its stored energy into growth in the spring and you become the proud owner of a monster tree!

I’m not going to give away all of Ralph’s amazing, practical and straightforward advice.  If you have fruit trees, buy the book.  I got the paperback and the Kindle book and have devoured every word, twice.

An amazing, easy to read and easy to implement book on pruning is gold to any gardener and this book is all of these things and more.

How to Grow Figs, with Lee Reich from A Way To Garden

Two of my favorite gardening resources got together to discuss how to grow figs and the outcome is an information-packed  article coupled with a podcast!

Lee Reich, whose books include Grow Fruit Naturally: A Hands-On Guide to Luscious, Homegrown Fruit, The Pruning Book: Completely Revised and Updated and Weedless Gardening, shares his secrets for growing figs with Margaret Roach — a gardening expert in her own right.

FYI – in case you’re thinking it’s too cold where you live to grow figs, read on.  Both of these gardeners live in Zone 5 and still grow figs.  And the topic of growing figs is one of my favorite.

I have two fig trees in my Southeastern PA zone 6 – one is the Celeste the other was a cutting from a tree brought to America in 1910(?) by a friend’s great grandfather.

Both did beautifully for years, providing so many figs that I gave them away, diced and froze them and made fig jam!

But in the last 2 years, the very cold winters have really hurt them. I am back to just getting stems with leaves growing up from the roots in the ground that survived.   I hope to get figs again next year or the year after because this is a superb fruit.

One of my favorite ways to eat them is right off the tree! But if I manage to get a few in the house, I chill them, cut them in half, place a small round of goat cheese on each half and drizzle balsamic vinegar mixed with honey on each half. Heaven!

I hope you enjoy Margaret Roach’s interview with Lee Reich and give figs a try!

Lee Reich’s Annual Plant Sale is ON!

Lee Reich is having a plant sale!

If you’ve read my book – Grow So Easy; Organic Gardening for the Rest of Us or enjoy my blog, you know who Lee Reich is.  He lives on his “farmden” (farm/garden) in New Paltz, New York, teaches everything from drip irrigation to pruning to organic gardening and is one of my favorite gardening resources.

Reich’s books – Grow Fruit Naturally and The Pruning Book – occupy pride of place on my gardening bookshelves.  And now, you have a chance to meet Reich and even buy some of his homegrown, organic plants!

Reich is holding his annual Plant & Garden Sale on May 30th and is offering organically grown plants including:

  1. Hardy passionfruit
  2. Dwarf banana
  3. Hardy kiwi fruits
  4. Seedless grapes
  5. Two crop figs
  6. White alpine strawberries
  7. Nanking cherries

…and a whole lot more.!  Reich will also have to some tools and books and other garden stuff!  Here are the details.

SALE: Saturday, May 30th, from 10am-2pm (please, no earlybirds)
387 Springtown Rd., New Paltz, NY

For information or updated plant list: 845-255-0417

And, coming up, on June 20th, Drip Irrigation workshop.  Drip irrigation for: greater yields, saving water, less plant disease, easy automation.  Cost: $57
For registration and more information –  http://www.leereich.com/workshops

Grow So Easy – Fall Planting & Gardening Zones

Fall Planting in August?
We’re not even through summer vacation but if you want to extend your gardening season, you should already have the plan laid out and maybe even put some of those seeds in the ground!

That’s right, late July and early August, especially in my zone – 6b – starts right now!

But before we talk about what to plant, when and why, let’s take a quick look at two maps that will help you buy and grow plants best suited to your home town.

Who Says I Can’t Grow Avocadoes In My Back Yard?
When I first hit the dirt and started planning and planting my garden and grove, I considered it a challenge to be told by nameless people, “You’ll never get avocados (pineapple, artichokes, guava) to grow in this zone.”

Unfortunately “they” were right.

If you live in California or the Florida panhandle, you can grow avocados and other tropical fruits and veggies.  You can’t if you live in Pennsylvania.

With dead plants, bushes and trees piling up in my back yard, I decided that maybe, just maybe, I should look into this thing called “zones.”

In The Zone
If you aren’t familiar with zones, don’t panic.  This isn’t the periodic table of elements.  This is the updated (2012) United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zone map.

organic gardeners use the USDA zone map to help them choose cold-hardy plants and trees,.

Gardeners have come to rely on the USDA zone map to choose cold-hardy plants and trees,.

Zones aren’t nearly as complicated as some people would like them to be.  They just look intimidating at first glance.    So, here’s how to read this thing.

Find your approximate location in your state.  For example, I live in Southeast Pennsylvania so my color is a medium green.  Then check the chart on the right side of the map.

Based on color and location, my zone is 6b.  The coldest my zone is supposed to get is -5 degrees Farenheit.  Notice the words “…supposed to be”  and take this information with a grain of salt.  It’s a guideline, not a rule.

The USDA zone chart, which has been published since 1960, helps with getting a handle on when you can set out plants without freezing them to death.  And if you look for the zone chart, you’ll find that it’s being used in lots of places that can help you, too.

Seed packets, plants, trees and bushes are usually sold with the same zone chart and the suggested planting times.  Both help you quickly figure out what will live or die in your backyard…based on environment, alone.

Armed with your zone, you could start to make plant choices that work for you. But there’s one other “zone map” you might want to know about before you buy.

Recently (1995 and if you’re talking planting, that’s recent), a new zoned map has entered the gardening scene.  This one, published by the American Horticultural Society (AHS), looks similar the USDA chart but it tracks heat.

Download your copy and start looking it over.  This map tells you how many days per year the temperature in your back yard is over 86 degrees.

So what?  That’s the magic temperature where plants start to suffer from too much heat.  Who cares?  Why should I track heat?

Because it can do as much damage as cold, maybe even more.  Frost kills plants, buds and sometimes even bushes and trees, instantly.  Heat is a little subtler but just as deadly. And heat damage is even worse during a drought.

What should you look for if you suspect the heat is hurting your plants?

The AHS says the damage can appear in several places.  Flower buds wither. Leaves droop. Leaves may turn brown or even white as the chlorophyll disappears.

AHS describes “death by hear” this way; “Plant death from heat is slow and lingering. The plant may survive in a stunted or chlorotic state for several years. When desiccation reaches a high enough level, the enzymes that control growth are deactivated and the plant dies.”

In his new book, Grow Fruit Naturally: A Hands-On Guide to Luscious, Homegrown Fruit ” , Lee Reich calls the AHS map, “…a work in progress” as it was just recently developed and is still being tweaked.  But the heat map is a good guide to understanding how hot it can get in your garden and how much damage heat can do.

And it should help you to start thinking about what might have a better chance of surviving once you put it in the ground.

Next week, armed with what will survive and thrive in the heat and the cold, we’ll get into what is going into the ground in my garden, right now.  Think beets, lettuce and spinach.