COMPILED BY MEGHAN LYNCH
Amy Goldman, the author of the Compleat Squash (Workman, 2004) and Melons for the Passionate Gardener (Artisan, 2002), grows hundreds of varieties of heirloom fruits and vegetables every summer, in a mammoth seed-saving effort. With the recent launch of her own Web site, she’s taken heirloom advocacy to the next level. The site chronicles a season in Goldman’s garden, portraying it through excellent photographs and detailed explanations. Besides cultivation tips, visitors will find recipes, resources, produce-inspired fine art, and information on how to become a seed-saver too.
APRIL 16-MAY 8
Gardening Days at Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon, VA 703-780-2000 www.mountvernon.org
When George Washington resided at Mount Vernon, the estate comprised five distinct farms spread over 8,000 acres. But besides farming, Washington had a passion for gardening, evident in the small gardens preserved at Mount Vernon today.
Held annually, Gardening Days celebrates Washington’s small-scale horticultural pursuits. Guests can join special tours of Washington’s curved beds of annuals, perennials, and bulbs, his formal English kitchen garden, and the private area he called his “little garden,” where he experimented with nuts and root crops. A plant sale offers the chance to grow a bit of history; offerings include heirloom seeds cultivated in 18th-century style and boxwood cuttings from Washington’s famous fleur-de-lis parterre.
Sharp Ever After
BY ROGER SWAIN PHOTOGRAPHY BY WEBB CHAPPELL
AS WEDDING PRESENTS, top-quality bypass pruning shears are hard to beat. Few things are more pleasurable than the way a brand new pair cuts effortlessly through the overgrowth. The challenge though, as it is with marriage, is to maintain luster and gracefulness in the years that follow. In each case, the secret, I’ve found, is attention. The more frequent, the better.
Rather than waiting to lose the edge, make it a habit to sharpen your pruning shears regularly. You will need a fine sharpening stone or a fine-grit diamond file. A small rectangular or triangular stone or a narrow file will allow you to sharpen without detaching the blade. Your goal is to hone only the beveled edge of the blade, holding the stone or file at a fixed angle. If you are worried about finding the right angle you can buy one of the several handy devices that automatically maintain the correct bevel.
In the case of blades that have been so badly abused that they now sport deep nicks, more intensive sharpening is necessary. This will require disassembling the pruners altogether. Do this periodically anyway, for it allows you to clean even the inner reaches of your pruning shears. A steel wool pad or a small piece of 400-grit sandpaper can be used to remove the most persistent deposits of gum and sap on the blade and the anvil. When you’ve cleaned everything and sharpened the blade, spray each part with WD-40 or some other protective lubricant before reassembly. Once you become adept at disassembly you may be tempted to replace the blade. With some shears it’s an option, but your pruning shears are your partner. They are an extension of yourself, not to be replaced except under extreme circumstances. And given the necessary love and care, with a top-quality pair, that need will never arise. H
Basic sharpening involves stroking the beveled edge of bypass pruning shears with a fine sharpening stone, moving the stone from the blade point to the base. The goal is to maintain an angle of 22 degrees (or half of a 45-degree angle). Stop when the edge is bright and shiny.
Sharpening will create a small burr of metal on the blade’s edge. This can be removed by passing the stone over the other side at an angle of no more than 5 degrees. This should be done very lightly so as not to create a second bevel that would prevent the blade from making a clean cut as it slides past the anvil.