Blog

August 16, 2012

Last Chance to Plant with the Boston Tree Party!

 

We hope you’re having a wonderful summer! We’re excited to announce that we will be doing another round of plantings this fall.  But this will be the last one!

After this final planting, we will be shifting our focus towards our current network of 70+ participating communities and their 50+ pairs of apple trees. Stay tuned for more info on an exciting Delegation gathering this fall and the release of several new tools and resources.

So if your community has been on the fence about joining, you have one more chance! The deadline for joining the Boston Tree Party as a Tree Planting Delegation is the last day of this month, August 31, 2012. Please contact beth@bostontreeparty.org for more information.

We look forward to working with you!

August 14, 2012

How to Keep Apple Trees Happy in the Summer

Here are some important tips for keeping your young apple trees thriving during the summer from pomologist John Bunker:

1. Most important, keep a lookout for borers in the trunk of your young apple trees.

Unfortunately in our area, the roundheaded appletree borer (Saperda candida) is the number one enemy of young apple trees.

Photo by Dawn Dailey O'Brien, Cornell University, Bugwood.org

The borer beetle lays its eggs under the bark near the base of the tree. The developing larvae tunnel through the wood, eventually weakening the tree until it crumbles and falls over. The trouble sign is small deposits of orange sawdust, called frass, at the base of the tree. Left unchecked, borers usually mean death for your trees.

Borers thrive in shady moist warm environments. Keep grass back at least 6″ from the tree base. Keep a lookout for the frass. Locate the hole or soft spot in the trunk and insert a wire until you locate and kill the larvae. Cut away soft, spongy pockets with a knife. Even serious carving is less harmful to the tree than leaving the larvae alive inside.

After years of experimentation, I think that painting is the best deterrent. I’ve tried a number of recipes and this is my favorite. It’s easy and requires no hard-to-find ingredients. Mix white interior latex paint with joint compound. (The stuff you smear on sheet rock joints and nail holes – you can buy a small tub at any hardware store. Some exterior paint formulations contain ingredients that can harm the underlying phloem.) The consistency should be thick but still quite easy to paint, not glob on. Repaint periodically or each year as needed. This mix will help deter borers. It will also make for easy detection of any infestation you may have. Look for the frass! Using the paint method, you will also need to put some sort of screen or plastic rodent protector around the trunk during the winter months.

We are experimenting with a borer-protection formula using more benign ingredients. It doesn’t last or adhere as well as the paint-joint compound mixture, but it appears to work fairly well.

2 qt quick lime
4 gal milk
1 gal boiled linseed oil

Mix well. Thicken as needed with clay or Surround (available in the Organic Growers Supply section of the Fedco Seeds catalog). Apply with a paint brush. Reapply as needed.

2. Another summer problem could be an assortment of caterpillars. Squish them with your fingers or snip out the branch and burn or dispose of it.

3. Keep weeds away from the trees, ideally at least 9 inches from the trunk.

4. Mulch the ground around the tree with chipped up brush (NOT bark mulch).  Mulch out about 3 or 4 feet from the trunk.

5. Make sure to keep your trees watered in weeks it does not rain much. You want to aim for about 1 inch of water a week.

Have fun and have a wonderful rest of the summer!

August 13, 2012

Protecting Trees in Mass from Invasive Insects

At the most recent meeting of the Boston Urban Forest Council, Eric Seaborn of the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation discussed invasive insects and how they threaten our local trees.

The most dangerous and/or prevalent invasive insects include Asian Longhorned Beetles, Emerald Ash Borers, Gypsy Moths, and Hemlock Woolly Adelgids. August is Asian Longhorned Beetle Awareness Month in Massachusetts, and he spent the majority of his talk focusing on the Asian Longhorned Beetles, the most recent invasive threat in our state since its discovery in Worcester in 2008.

The damage these invasives cause to trees in our state range from cosmetic to devastating. All invasives weaken trees, which with climate uncertainty and serious threats from development, can be the difference between success and failure for some of our more iconic and important local tree species, especially the sugar maple (which the Asian Longhorned Beetles especially love and can kill).

Many streets in Worcester have had all of their trees removed due to Asian Longhorned Beetle infestation, and the effect of removing all trees from an entire street has serious impacts on neighborhood cohesion, property values, energy use in homes, wildlife biodiversity, health of residents, and other factors. As Eric pointed out, without beautiful street trees, cracks in the pavement are more noticeable, physically and metaphorically.

While the state is working hard to prevent any further spread of the Asian Longhorned Beetle and minimize damage from other invasive insects, their resources can only go so far. They are hoping to train more people to help spot invasives around the state, creating watch groups of government officials, professionals, non-profit organizations, and residents who can dramatically expand monitoring potential.

If you would like to help keep an eye out for invasives, please visit this website for more information and an amusing video explanation: http://masswoods.net/outsmart.

In other news from the BUFC, another round of Grow Boston Greener grants will be available for organizations in Boston to help plant trees, including fruit trees! Stay tuned for more info in September.

July 26, 2012

Pomologist John Bunker Dishes on Heirloom Apples

One of our official apple advisors, pomologist John Bunker, recently sat down to an interview about heirloom apple trees for the Radio Sandy Springs show America’s Home Grown Veggies with Kate Copsey.

John began by describing how he originally became interested in working with heirloom apple trees in his 20s. Moving to rural Maine in the early 1970s, John discovered a wealth of local trees that had sadly been neglected. By learning from older locals John was able to develop a knowledge of and passion for restoring these great old trees to former glory.

John’s favorite thing about heirloom apples is the “incredible assortment of diversity of colors and shapes and sizes of the old varieties.”

One of his passions is the 15-20,000 varieties of apples that were known to exist in America only 150 years ago, just a small fraction of which are grown today. The exciting thing about these old varieties is that because apple trees can live so long, many that we think are lost could be out there somewhere, waiting for rediscovery!

So tune in for John’s advice on the growing requirements of apple trees, the best way to learn to care for trees, a defense of heirloom varieties, and stories about seeking out some of the most rare local heirloom trees.

It was a great show with lots of apple info, so we really encourage you to check it out!

Direct mp3 link: http://www.radiosandysprings.com/podcasts/VeggieHourJune23.2012.mp3

June 27, 2012

Apple, Cheddar, and Onion Drop Biscuits

In case you missed the recipe from the posts about our spring events where these biscuits were served, this really is a recipe worth trying! Baking with apples is a great way to use fruits from last year’s harvest that may be a little off from their long time in storage.

apple recipe

Savory and a little bit sweet, these are wonderful as a snack, served along a bowl of soup for lunch, with a chunk of cheese as an appetizer, or with a drizzle of honey for an unusual dessert.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds firm tart apples
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick + 4 T.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (6 grams) plus additional for egg wash
  • 1/2 cup sugar (4 ounces or 113.5 grams)
  • 1 cup (4.5 ounces or 130 grams) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 more for egg wash
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (sage, thyme, or chives, or a combination)
  • 1/4 cup caramelized onions, chopped (optional)
  • 3 cups (13.5 ounces or 390 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar OR 1 tablespoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)

Directions:

  1. Position a rack at the center of oven and preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.
  3. Peel and core the apples, then cut them into small chunks. Placed them in a single layer on the baking sheets and roast until they are slightly softened and feel dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. (If they feel very soft but not dry, you have probably used a softer apple; further oven time will not dry them out, but they will still be fine to use.) Let the apples cool completely on the counter or in the fridge before making the rest of the dough. Leave the oven on if you will be continuing with the rest of the steps soon, otherwise this step is a great make-ahead the night before.
  4. Place the butter in the freezer for roughly 15 minutes, until firm. Grate with a box grater to get even shreds. Add these to the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or a bowl you can use a hand mixer with), along with the cooled apple chunks, salt, sugar, cheese, cream, 2 eggs, herbs, and onions (if using). Beat for 30 seconds until uniformly mixed. Sift the flour and baking powder together over the bowl, then beat on low until just combined. Do not over-mix.
  5. Scoop onto baking sheets that have either been lightly buttered or lined with a fresh sheet of parchment paper. You can make these any size you want, from bite-size to large biscuit-sized. I always find that a scooper with a sweep mechanism works best for this kind of sticky dough, but spoons are just fine.
  6. Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Brush the scones with the egg wash and sprinkle them with the sugar if you desire a sweeter version, or salt for a savory one – either way what you’re after is better browning on top and a little crunch.
  7. Bake until firm and golden, about 15-30 minutes (15 for small bite-size ones, more for larger sizes). With a spatula, lift them to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. They are slightly addictive warm from the oven.

Notes:

Do ahead: This makes a fairly large batch, and these biscuits are best only for a few days after baking. However, it is very easy to bake only part of the batch and freeze the rest formed but unbaked (without the egg wash). When you want to use them, you don’t even need to bother defrosting – simply brush them with the egg wash and sprinkle with salt or sugar, and bake them still frozen for just a few extra minutes.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

 

June 11, 2012

Join the Boston Tree Party in celebrating good food!

Interested in creating opportunities for and celebrating good food – food that is healthy, affordable, and sustainably produced? Want to join a grassroots campaign for better food policies?

Food Day 2012 (the second annual event) is scheduled for this October, and organizers are hoping it will be bigger and better than last year! Beth Nollner represented the Boston Tree Party at the second Food Day planning meeting of the year, and discussed ways we could get involved in this great annual event. We are still working on how we can be involved, possibly by supporting / joining others who have activities and events in the works. [But we are planning a great BTP event for a weekend in the fall, so stay tuned for details on that!]

One key message from the meeting was that, while the day itself is important (which organizers compare to Earth Day) and all the activities that were held last year were a great expression of the ideas and ideals behind the day, it’s about much more than that. Like the Boston Tree Party itself, Food Day is also about creating a community and building a network around the issues and topics we all care about deeply. So if you would like to learn more and join in the fun, check out the Food Day website.