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Steve Oh

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since Oct 27, 2015
SW Ohio, 6b, heavy clay prone to hardpan
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Recent posts by Steve Oh

Paw Paws aren't difficult to grow, but they are particular about getting started.
I posted some "advice on growing Paw Paws" several years back, that covers most of the issues.

I've learned a lot about growing these trees from trial and error, and observation in the wild.  
You can easily succeed in growing them by following a few simple guidelines.

Good luck and happy gardening!
4 months ago
Asparagus is usually our first harvest, along with some sorrel and sea kale.  At first I was conflicted about harvesting the early leaves of the kale, but the plants were so huge (six feet across), that I realized I needed to slow them down a bit by eating the early leaves.  Some years the older leaves of the kale get too bitter (but this year they are just as good as the young leaves) and the sorrel loses it's lemony flavor as the season progresses.

After that, it's usually peas, and then the other brassicas (besides the kales)

Here, people usually advise holding off until Mother's Day to plant vegetables, but we monitor the weather closely and often plant two week before, if frost seems unlikely.
Know your plants and plan for their individual requirements when mixing them.  As has been stated above, blueberries do well on the drip line of trees as they like moisture and light shading.  But trees grow, and the shade and drip line grows too.  I've done this more than once, and I know I'll get five years of good, then a slow decline.  You can move the berries while dormant, but you'll always have a poorer season (or two) as their roots re-establish.

Cane fruits require constant pruning when planted with other species, otherwise they take over.  They also prefer more sun, although light/partial shade can actually improve their production in very hot locations.

Berries in general behave similarly, wanting more shade, less heat, and less wind as the average soil moisture levels decline.  In constantly moist areas, berries can do well, in the wind, near a stone wall (heat retention) in full sun.  In drier areas, blocking the wind and providing some light shading while avoiding placement near large thermal masses, will work better.  Wind and heat robs the plant of moisture.  As with everything in life, it's a balancing act, and you need to pay attention to the balance.  

The most robust wild blueberry plants I've ever seen were growing in the pine barrens, in sand. Dappled shade from the pine trees (picture a matchstick pine forest with needles only on the top 20% of the tree trunks) with lots of moisture retention from a thick bed of pine needles which also provided acidity, and the winds blocked by the forest itself, apparently was perfect for this wild species.  These berry plants produced large, delicious berries in unbelievable quantities.  You would have expected the sandy soil to lack the moisture retention required for fruit production, but there was a perfect balance of other components of the ecosystem that made this area nirvana for blueberry plants.  The plants were spaced so evenly, (several feet apart) that it almost looked planned, obviously crowded plants didn't do well and died off, leaving a perfect spacing for walking around each bush for picking the fruit.  This seemed a fairly static environment, overall, but it was fluid and self-repairing, as large pine trees died, the opening allowed other trees and plants to take hold, replenishing the area for a while, and the best berry producing areas shifted around, over the years.  What this region had, that kept it idyllic, was a large volume which gave it the capacity required to stay productive overall, as some areas rejuvenated.  You'd find exceptional specimens of prolifically producing oaks, or a clearing filled with fruiting sumac, as you wandered the region, and often an old giant hardwood stump long dead and now surrounded by mature pines and berries.

Truthfully, this was not an efficient production area in terms of bushels per acre per season, but it was self-sustaining over hundreds of years (the area was know for generations to produce great wild berry harvests).  If you added up the total production and divided it by the required human input (0) the yield would shame any commercial farm, but, we individual humans deal in much shorter time scales and the volumes we have at our disposal are very small.  Over the long term, nature, on it's own does a far better job, but we can create some uniquely productive and beautiful places if we take the time to learn how the needs of the plants evolved for the ecosystem where they thrived.
Our small plantings attempt to mimic some of these ideal conditions, by supplanting a natural area's  shear volume and flexibility, with human labor.  It's a poor substitute that requires a lot of attention to detail, but it can work if you do your part and garden wisely.

If you've every had, what you thought was, a perfectly-balanced planted area, just walk away from it for five years and watch nature humble you.  Your hard work will be well on it's way to being replaced with what is really best grown in that spot.  If you could come back in 100 years you'd see the succession and probably see none of your initial efforts.  My point being that our gardens require constant human input to do what we want them to do, we can minimize that effort through careful planning and thoughtful husbandry, but in the end we are trying to force nature to bend to our will.  That can be achieved, in the short term, but the harder we try to bend nature, the more effort it takes.


Cane fruits naturally grow in more open areas at the edge of the trees or clearings with lots of sun and good moisture, blueberries tend to like some protection and a bit of shade, fruit trees thrive when they aren't competing for nutrients to create their large, energy-expensive fruits.  You CAN put these plants together, but their diverse requirements mean more effort to allow them to thrive.
4 months ago
We had almost zero dandelions this year.  
I hope you find some to help your business, there were't enough around here to even notice, except by their absence.
4 months ago
Any sort of food smell will attract scavengers.  Bears are opportunistic scavengers, if you put edibles, even scrap edibles, within nose-shot, they'll come looking, unless you have something to discourage them (for black bears, this typically means dogs...for brown bears, guns and vigilance.)
You're not going to be able to compost outside without attracting them, if you're not willing to discourage them. (bears are edible, not particularly tasty, at least in my experience, but edible, and eating them definitely discourages them from visiting...until the next one comes along.).

You could build a steel or heavy plastic compost bin, but the bears would still come to investigate, even if they can't get in, or ...  You could always throw some extra-smelly food scraps behind a not-so-close neighbors hedges, and let the bear be their problem.


4 months ago
I guess it's a love or hate thing.  I can't stand the flavor.  But I do know some folks who enjoy it.
I eat quite a lot of strong-flavored vegetables, I love sea kale and apios americana, but bitter melon is a huge "NO" for me.
4 months ago
First let me link my post on how to grow paw paw's:  Growing Paw Paws

I don't wish to create an argument with other members, but I disagree that paw paws are a true under story tree.  They require protection from Southern sun for the first two years (maybe three is they were from seed in poor soil.)
Full sun and plenty of it, is the correct growing conditions for 4+ year old trees. Paws are spindly and weak if grow in semi-shady conditions in maturity.

There is a dramatic difference between shade-grow trees and full sun trees after 6 years.
Sun grown paw paw trees take on a pyramid shape with extremely dense branching and foliage, you can't see through them they are beautiful and full and look very tropical.
Shade grown paw paws are spindly and thin, with little foliage and most of that at the top of the tree.

A mature sun-grown paw paw can produce 50 fruits at six years and more and larger fruit at eight years, a shade grow tree, at six, will be lucky to produce a dozen fruits, and I wouldn't be surprised at only 5-6 fruits.

Some caveats ... I am in zone 6b (just on the edge of 6a) and more southerly trees will receive more and hotter sun, so may require an extra year of shade.
Some errors, I've noticed in advice in growing paw paws; first, always use white shade cloth, never black or dark.  I use old bed sheets, black cloth will add to the stress of the tree by adding heat, you are trying to reduce the heat for the first two years, use WHITE shade cloth.
Also, do not surround the tree with shade cloth and cut off the wind, block the Southern quadrant only, and leave the rest open, the sapling needs the wind.

The trees do get frost damaged in cold winters, with tips usually dying back 2-4 inches if they see much below -5F for too much time.  This really doesn't seem to cause much problem for the tree, there are a lot of buds and the few that die off at the tips don't cause the tree to be misshapen in sun-grown trees.  However, I've seen a severe cold spell kill a shade-grown four-year-old tree, to the ground.  The massive tap root will allow even a completely top-killed tree to survive, in most cases, but several years of severe winters will kill a shade grown tree, whereas a sun grow tree will thrive under the same conditions.

I noticed, what looked like some japanese beetle damage in the photo's above, that's pretty normal, but the beetles prefer other plants and don't cause a big problem with mature trees.  (Although it's common to find them on the trees in the spring.)

I don't argue that paw paws can be a bit of a challenge to grow, they need more effort than typical garden trees.  The secret is to keep their "feet" out of standing water, and shade them from Southern sun for their first 2-3 years using white cloth and plenty of ventilation.


A picture of a mature sun-grown paw paw two feet from the end of our asphalt drive way.  South is to the right of the image, the driveway is E-W.  The trunk is about 8" in diameter:
8yo Paw Paw


This tree has about 80 fruit maturing and is eight years old.

Here is a four year old tree, shaded for the first two years:
4yo Paw Paw


South is directly behind the camera.  A sharp-eyed plant person might noticed the Ohio-native passion flower vine growing on the fence.  This tree was a "what the hell, I have an extra seed" and received less compost and also competes with our asparagus bed to the left, but still has about 20 fruits maturing, even at this young age.  It also received two years of shade with a white sheet over a tomato cage blocking the southern exposure.  The bed is raised about 8 inches above grade, which helps keep the surface roots drier in our heavy clay soil.


4 months ago
220v AC will definitely need an inverter, as solar only provides DC, also, yes, you would need batteries. Small PVAs generate relatively little of power, which is typically stored in batteries so larger loads can be run. You might charge your cell phone from a solar panel, but even then it's better to charge a battery to use when charging the phone. The number of solar panels (and batteries) will depend on the current (amperage) draw of the pump and the amount of run time. Deep well pumps use a lot of amps. You would probably be better off using the generator as you would be looking at a pretty significant solar installation for a deep well pump.

I don't have much experience heating a pump house, hopefully someone else here can give you advice on that aspect.
3 years ago

Tyler Ludens wrote:I skip compost altogether and just put raw materials on my garden and let them compost in place. But I'm super lazy.



We often do the same. It works quite well as long as we bury it to keep the critters from carting it off.
3 years ago
I have similar experiences to Todd. Although, I don't doubt that compost teas can be beneficial. I think, like any soil amendment, they are only beneficial when there is a specific problem to be addressed.
At least for me, side by side testing has shown no difference in "tea-ed" plots vs those grown without compost tea. I skip the extra step and just add compost when it is ready, that seems to work far better, for me, than making a tea.

Of course, depending on your soil conditions, you may have a different experience, so I suggest you test and see. I strongly recommend "testing" rather than just assuming something will or will not work, as soils vary widely.
3 years ago