- From the crunchy Univest Studios at Lehigh Valley Public Media in Bethlehem, P.A.
It is time for another pathological episode of chemical-free horticultural hijinks, You Bet Your Garden.
Interested in growing your own heirloom apples?
I'm Mike McGrath, and we've got a double header for you on today's show, true believers.
Master fruit-grower Lee Reich will lead us through the world of classic varieties.
And then, the orchard manager for the Seed Savers Exchange will tell us about an upcoming workshop where you learn about grafting apples and keep the trees.
Plus, how to keep your lettuce from bolting in the spring, so stay right with us, cats and kittens, because it's all coming up right now!
It is time to welcome a man who has been our most frequent guest by far, my friend Lee Reich, author of more gardening books than we could name in this entire segment.
And we tend to have him on every time he comes out with a new book.
It's a book-ette, what would you say it is...?
What do they call these things?
- Tiny folio.
- Tiny folios.
"A cornucopia in the palm of your hand.
"This little book features 250 delectable watercolors, "most painted by women artists from the visual catalog of "fruit varieties commissioned by the US Department of AG "between 1886 and 1942."
So this is the kind of stuff they would sell in a botanical garden gift shop or in museums and stuff, right, Lee?
Even just in a regular bookstore, I think that you go to a bookstore and you get ready to check out, and suddenly you see this little book there with some very pretty pictures in it, and some history and some botany.
- I focused on the apples in this book.
They take up a good portion of the book, and I believe you have a special fondness for apples.
So what I'd like to do is concentrate...
I've asked you in advance to pick a couple of varieties that might be of interest to the homeowner that are still available and/or name some varieties that are no longer available but would've been interesting in the home garden.
The Baldwin Apple?
Historically, though, you know, for a home garden, it takes some effort, depending on where you are in the country, to grow apples.
So I would grow apples, the varieties specifically for the best possible flavor.
You can go to the supermarket or local orchard and get all sorts of apples.
But if you want a really different, unique, and delectable apple, grow that yourself.
And so, back to Baldwin.
So Baldwin was not the best apple in flavor.
I mean, I have tasted it, but it was very widely grown in this country up to 1934.
It was a very, very cold winter.
It was historical, there's whole articles written just on the winter of 1934, and it wiped out, especially in the Northeast, that was the most widely-planted apple, and it wiped them out.
And when people replanted, they didn't want to risk losing it again.
- You're killing me here, Lee.
You got to pronounce this one, Belle de... - Boskoop.
So that's a Dutch apple, and it's an heirloom variety.
And I have to say that I have not tasted that one.
I planted it back in the mid-80s, and I think it was on a rootstock that was too vigorous and I had apples planted very close, so I had to keep pruning it to keep it small, which encouraged vegetative growth.
So I never got fruit from it, but I have it on very good authority that's a very good apple.
So this variety is available today, but it's specialty sources.
Most of these would be specialty sources.
- Calville Blanc?
- Calville Blanc, yes, I have had that one.
That is a very not only delicious, but beautiful apple.
It almost looks like porcelain.
It was the favorite apple of Louis XIV.
And it's definitely worth growing.
And, you know, I grew it many years ago.
I don't grow it now, but I limited the number of apples I grow a few years ago.
We move on to Cox's Orange Pippin apple.
- Very delicious apple.
That is the number one apple in England.
And it has been for a number of years.
I did try and grow it.
One problem with growing some of these British varieties and the Dutch variety, Belle de Boskoop, that I mentioned, their climate is, or used to be, it's not that different now, but they have typically, historically very moderate summers where it never gets too hot and winters never get too cold.
And during ripening season, you don't get a lot of heat.
So it influences the flavor of the apples.
So Cox's Orange Pippin is a great apple, but I'm not 100% sure grown here that it would give its best flavor.
- Oh, my Lord, I'm not... Spitzenburg?
Oh, this is...its full name is Esopus Spitzenburg.
So if I was going to grow one apple just for flavor, this is the one.
It has a long history.
First of all, it was Thomas Jefferson's favorite apple.
- That's a good recommendation.
And yeah, he was no slacker when it came to gardening.
And the other thing is that I live right near the town of Esopus, where it originated.
The next one, what a delightful name.
The swear apple?
That was a misprint.
- Oh, okay.
- Now, the people that did these illustrations, they were artists, not pomologists.
So when people sent things in, they might have misread the handwriting, or even people that sent it in might have not known it was.
But zwaar is a Dutch word for "heavy".
And where I am was settled by the Dutch.
And that's another apple that originated in this area.
And once again, not a beautiful apple by today's standards, but very, very good-tasting apple.
- Right, because I see it's covered with specks, and, you know, people are looking for perfect and would never consider that this is the way it's supposed to look.
- Oh, that's a very... That one is very available today, sometimes called "macown".
And it was one of the offspring of Macintosh.
It's not that old.
It's only 100 years old, as opposed to 300 years old.
But that is also one of my favorite apples.
Interestingly, I do grow that one, because just for the flavor, and I grow it and an orchard nearby grows it also.
The fruit tastes totally different from the two places.
- Newtown Pippin.
What is Pippin?
- Pippin just means apple.
- Oh, okay.
I thought that was malice.
- Well, Pippin is a colloquial term for apple.
- The variety originated in New Town, New York, which actually, the name later was changed to Elmhurst.
Which, if you're a New Yorker, you know that's Queens.
Yeah, that's Queens, New York.
And that's also a very old apple, because obviously it has the old name of Elmhurst, and it originated hundreds of years ago.
It was very, very popular.
Such a popular apple that that was the major apple shipped to Britain from the U.S. And when Benjamin Franklin was in England, a diplomat or something, he had boxes of them shipped to him there so he could enjoy them there.
And then, a century later, Queen Victoria was so enamored with this apple, that there was a special tariff on American apples to come into Britain.
She did not have that tariff on Newtown Pippin apples.
- And I have grown that apple, and I've tasted that apple.
And that's another apple that is not at its best when you pick it, you have to let it sit in cold storage till about February, and then, it's really, really good.
Well, this is a good time for me to mention that the book is not just about apples.
You cover a lot of other fruits, but as I was reading it, I'm thinking, "Lee loves the part about apples," and I think the book could have been nothing but apples and still be cool.
And then they might hire you to write a book about all the other fruits.
But anyway, the name of the book is Fruit.
By Lee Reich, R-E-I-C-H, it's from Abbeville Press.
And it's a great thing to just pick up and flip through.
So thank you once again for joining us and elucidating us this time about apples.
- Okay, thanks for having me.
- Well, thanks for being had, Lee.
You know, you're always welcome.
- I always think that when I say that.
- All right.
Take care, man.
We'll see you again.
We just heard and/or saw Lee Reich, our favorite fruit expert, talking about heirloom apples and their beauty, or lack of beauty, but their fabulous tastes.
Maybe you wishes to grow some of your own.
Well, guess what?
The Seed Savers Exchange has a remarkable workshop coming up.
One of the first I've seen of that combines both the visual, over Zoom or something similar, with hands-on experience.
It sounds wonderful to me.
And here to discuss it with me and all yous is Jamie Hanson, the Orchard...what?
- I'm the Orchard Manager at Seed Savers Exchange.
- Okay, see, that's why I get the big money.
I don't know anything anymore.
Jamie, thanks so much for being with us.
The series of workshops really jumped out at me.
Now, before we get into the details, I want to alert everybody that the deadline for registering is March 23rd.
- That's correct, yes.
- So if you want to do this, cats and kittens, jump on it, because you snooze, you lose.
So your workshop comes in a variety of packages.
Tell us about the basic one where you simply learn via video.
- Yeah, so we have a grafting class on April 14-15.
There are seven sessions, so you sign up for a time slot that best meets your schedule, and for $35, you get to attend the Zoom call with myself and our Orchard Advisor, Wendy Lee.
And part of that package is going to be you're expected to have your own sign wood, your own rootstock, your own knife, and we're going to walk you through the process.
So we start with an overview of why do we graft, how do we graft, a few tips on tree care?
And then, we break out into separate rooms with small groups and every group will have a knife coach.
So that will be someone like me, or one of my coworkers.
And we'll walk you through the steps.
You make your cuts whenever we make our cuts.
And by the end of the class, you'll have one tree successfully grafted, and you'll be ready to do the other four on your own.
But as they say on the TV commercials, that's not all!
The materials you talked about, the tools, the scion, which is the part of the plant that you're going to put on to a rootstock to actually grow that variety of apple tree.
You can increase your participation, and Seed Savers will send you, I believe it begins with ten scions?
So if you want to go that step further and you don't have the material yourself, for $75, we send you five M7, rootstock, five historic varieties from our collection, and the grafting tape, the labels, essentially everything that you need other than a knife.
- That's great.
And you mentioned that this is part of this workshop, and part of you providing physical materials is to protect these rare varieties, right?
The only way to do that is to grow them out.
- Yeah, exactly.
So in our collection, we have about 1,000 unique historic varieties and the only way to protect them over the long term is to not only have them in collections, but also have them in the hands of at-home gardeners, of other orchardists.
And so, this workshop is really our way of ensuring that our work isn't standing on its own in our collection, and that we are getting these materials back into the hands of your average gardeners, farmers, and anybody who's interested in historic fruit trees.
And now, let's talk about the bonus round, where you're sending them everything but your own hands to do this with, because there's yet another level, right?
- Yeah, that's correct.
So for $115, you get the five scion, the five rootstock, a thumb cot, your grafting tape, and then, you're also going to get a knife.
And we offer both right and left-handed.
It's important to have that bevel on the right side.
So we really tailor this so that it can meet anybody's needs and also their time.
And for every level, the $35, the $75, and the 115, what's unique about our grafting class is that we also offer three follow-up sessions where we walk you through the first year of caring for your tree, and what all you need to do to protect it from rodents, from the weather, and from maybe your kid in the backyard.
Well, the kid in the backyard is going to wait until it gets big and then climb it.
And that doesn't hurt anybody.
Sometimes they can get the good apples up top.
Is there going to be any attempt to stay in touch with these people?
And in addition, how many years until they get fruit, do you expect?
- Yeah, so we don't have any programs where we reach out to people who have taken the grafting class in the past.
But you can always opt to be on our email delivery service.
We'll be reaching out about all of the different things happening here at Seed Savers.
In terms of how long it'll take you to get fruit on your trees, it really depends on what variety.
Some can produce as early as three years old, and some will take closer to ten years.
So it really just depends on what you receive in those five scions that we're going to send you.
And again, specialized tools that you'll supply?
Go through those again, because I'm fascinated by this.
So the first tool you're going to need is a grafting knife, that's a single beveled edge.
And we have right and left.
You're also going to need the thumb cot.
This protects your thumb whenever you're making those cuts.
And grafting tape.
This is a really flexible tape that holds your graft in place while it's healing.
And then, if you have them, this isn't something that we send but it makes it a lot easier, is a pair of clippers.
And, of course, a tag, which I don't have an example of here today.
How do people sign up?
Yeah, so you can visit our website, SeedSavers.org, and you can look up graphing class and it'll come right up, and then, you just pick your time slot.
There's seven options, and then, we'll send you out your supplies in early April.
- This is just remarkable.
I think it's a fabulous idea.
And thank you for coming on the show to help us understand what's involved.
Jamie Hanson, the Orchard Manager at Seed Savers Exchange, in Decorah, Iowa, thank you so much for being on You Bet Your Garden.
- Thanks for having me.
As promised, it is time to get to the Question of the Week... Eric, in State College, P.A., writes... "This has extended my lettuce season, "except for the groundhog issue.
"Perhaps this year, I will extend the shade cloth "to cover the tomatoes if things get too hot."
Eric, if summer gets too hot for tomatoes in central P.A., I'm moving to the tropics of New England.
Anyway, you point out the challenge in trying to enjoy your first ripe tomatoes in a summer salad.
By that point in the season, heat-sensitive lettuce will send up a tall central stalk, and the leaves will become bitter, as evidenced by a white latex-like liquid on the cut leaves.
Shade cloth is an excellent way to slow this process.
Available at hipper local independent garden centers, shade cloth comes in a variety of percentages, indicating the amount of direct sun it blocks.
It is typically suspended on hoops to hold it above the plants.
The taller the hoops, the better, as a too close to the plant setup might trap excess heat and defeat the purpose.
Professional shade cloth is draped over very tall hoops and left open at the ends to protect against trapped heat.
Used correctly, shade cloth will lower the temperature at the soil level, especially with adequate watering, which is important.
Now, if the water is applied with sprinklers, it should only be done in the early morning.
If you're using drip irrigation, do it when the sun goes down to chill the soil.
Remember that lettuce plants thrive in cool soil, but lettuce seeds do not.
You want to start your first run or two indoors and transplant them into the soil as soon as it's, quote, "workable," which means not frozen.
If you're in an area where frozen soil quickly morphs into hot days, install the plants at night.
If you're in a really cold clime, remove all mulch from the planting bed two weeks in advance to allow the sun to directly warm the soil.
Use row covers to protect the plants from extreme cold early on, then switch to shade cloth when the heat gets hot.
An easy alternative is to situate the plants where nearby trees will provide shade as they leaf out, but they will allow full sun to hit the plants before that.
Note, lettuce sown in the "fall", which really means late August in most regions, will always grow better and easier than spring lettuce.
In late summer, early fall, the soil is warm and ideal for direct seeding, then the shorter days and cooler nights will prevent bolting naturally.
Do you really care if you enjoy most of your tomato and lettuce sandwiches and/or salads in early September?
It's a heck of a lot easier to achieve.
No matter what, pick the tomatoes and greens early in the morning for the sweetest flavors.
Variety choice is crucial.
In the spring, you should only plant varieties touted as heat-resistant, heat tolerant, or, quote, "slow to bolt".
Back in 1994, garden writer Lois Trigg Chaplin compiled a list of heat-resistant varieties for the July-August issue of Organic Gardening magazine.
Her first choice was pretty obvious, slow bolt, which was spelled, and is spelled, S-L-O-W B-O-L-T. And it was indeed the slowest variety to bolt in her Alabama garden.
While the popular variety green ice lasted the longest at a nearby neighbor's place, both are leaf lettuces.
A Florida gardener found Sierra, a loose head lettuce, to be the best at beating his extreme heat.
But it was also the winner in Londonderry, Vermont, a polar opposite in climate.
Oregon State University researchers developed a head-forming variety called Summertime, which should grow in summer, right?
In Dallas, Michigan, another head lettuce won the war.
The romaine variety, Plato, excelled in both California and Clemson University test gardens.
Dr. David Bradshaw, of Clemson, asserts that romaine lettuces in general always outlast other types in the spring.
The classic Amish variety, Deer Tongue, which I grow every year, also gets a shoutout in the article.
And finally, two vibrant red lettuces make the list.
Red Sails, another variety that graces my garden every year, and Rosalita, which has to be Bruce Springsteen's favorite lettuce.
They both resist heat.
Well, now, when the weather gets warm, make sure you have two inches of mulch around the plants to keep the soil cool.
Excellent choices would be compost, shredded fall leaves, or pine straw.
Terrible choices would be any kind of dyed, bagged woodchips, although arborist woodchips can do in a pinch.
Just keep the layer fairly thin.
We finish up with groundhogs.
They are a daunting pest.
They can easily burrow under your beds, and they are excellent climbers.
Any fencing must go down deep and have an unsupported baffle at the top to drop them back down onto their furry little butts.
My first line of defense would be a motion-activated sprinkler.
When it detects something moving near your beds, it throws a couple of cups of cold water at them.
Hope we didn't ruin any of your scratch-off tickets.
Well, that sure was some interesting information about begging your lettuce not to bolt, now, wasn't it?
Luckily for yous, the Question of the Week appears in print at the Gardens Alive website.
To read it over at your leisure or your leisure, just click the link for the Question of the Week at our website, which is still and will forever be... Gardens Alive supports the You Bet Your Garden Question of the Week, and you'll always find the latest Question of the Week at the Gardens Alive website.
You Bet Your Garden is a half hour public television show and hour-long public radio show and podcast all produced and delivered to you weekly from the Univest Studios at Lehigh Valley Public Media, in Bethlehem, P.A.
Our radio show is distributed by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange.
You Bet Your Garden was created by Mike McGrath.
Mike McGrath was created on a dark and stormy night.
My producer is threatening to eat my apples if I don't get out of this studio.
We must be out of time.
But you can call us anytime at... Or send us your email, your tired, your poor, your wretched refuse of a question teeming towards our garden shore at...
Please include your location!
I'm talking to you.
Hey, I'm talking to you!
I'm your host, Mike McGrath, and I have peppers growing, lettuce sprouting, tomatoes waiting for their turn, peas propagating, and more than I care to think about until I see you again next week.