Does Coffee Cause Cancer?


In today’s email, P.D. Mangan says not to worry:


“…does coffee consumption cause cancer?

The evidence says that it does not. In fact, coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of many cancers.

Coffee consumption is associated with a modestly lower risk of many cancers, and no increased risk of any cancer. (Study here.)

Coffee consumption at 2 cups a day is associated with about a 30% lower risk of liver cancer, and a 44% decreased risk of liver cancer in people with liver disease. (Study here.)

And coffee is associated with a lower all-cause death rate.”


Not drinking coffee is also associated with writing significantly less words per day. Also, most scientific research is bunk.

Growing Fruit Trees from Seed – What about Chill Hours?


TB writes:

“You recommend getting seeds from low-chill fruits to experiment with/grow fruit trees from seed (for Florida). However, recognizing that fruit tree seeds have random genetics, that suggests that low chill adaptation might not be inherited. Also, experience with  apples suggests that some high-chill varieties can do very well in the tropics. [Irvine, California – in Orange County – used to be a commercial production area for apples!]

For experimenting in a warm climate like Florida, why not try seeds from cultivars that are (instead) selected for taste, size, or other features?  I have seeds from higher chill varieties (Catalina plum, an awesome white nectarine, a giant yellow apricot, sour cherries, etc.) and am thinking of experimenting with these in my zone 10 area.”
Good questions.
I am not at all against experimentation with planting seeds from fruit trees outside their “proper” range. However, there are a few different questions and assumptions we need to untie here before I get into that.
The reason I recommend planting seeds from varieties which are known to produce in your chill range is because fruit tree seeds do not have truly random genetics.
There is variation in what you’ll get, most certainly, but it isn’t a crapshoot any more than when you have children.
I’m of mixed German and Anglo-Saxon heritage. My wife is mostly Anglo, Irish and Welsh. We are solidly European in our genetics.
None of our children look like this:
Or this:
Instead, my children look pretty similar to my wife and I. Their eye colors range from blue to grey to brown and some of the children have brown hair, others have blonde – but there’s definitely a similarity in build, complexion, facial features and even temperament among our children.
The apple, as they say, does not fall far from the tree.
Genetics in fruit trees are similar. I recommend planting seeds from low-chill varieties in low-chill areas because the resulting offspring are more likely to be adapted to the climate than seeds planted from trees unadapted to the region.
That said, this seems to be more important with peaches and other stone fruit than it is with apples. Apples are a different case. Their relation to chill hours seems to be more fluid. Someone wrote me once and told me they were growing quite a few northern varieties in Zone 9, far from their supposed range.
I planted multiple varieties myself, then never got to see the experiment through because I moved to the tropics and left my mini orchard behind. I also own this book.
Peaches, however, can be really stubborn about blooming when they’re adapted to higher chill hours. I had some Florida King peaches (over 300 chill hours required) which staunchly refused to bloom for me for years.
They were grafted trees. It may be that Florida King peach pits would grow and adapt to a different amount of chill hours – but from what I’ve been told at UF, chill hours tend to be heritable.
By all means, collect and plant seeds from trees outside your range if you’d like to experiment. The genetics are variable and they may or may not work. My recommendation to plant seeds from varieties that grow locally is based on probabilities for chill hour success, not a sure knowledge that it won’t work.
Plant away and see what happens – there’s really no loss, and you may gain a new variety that produces in your area.

Strawberries are loaded with pesticides


And top the “Dirty Dozen” list yet again:


“Strawberries once again top the annual ”Dirty Dozen” list of produce found with the most pesticides.

And once again, experts not involved in the report say they worry the list will discourage people from eating fruits and vegetables, especially people on budgets who view higher-priced organic produce as unaffordable.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization focused on human health and the environment, issues the “Dirty Dozen” report each year. EWG researchers this year found that more than 98% of samples of strawberries, along with spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries, and apples, had residue of at least one pesticide. A single sample of strawberries had 20 different pesticides.”


The complete list ranks as:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Grapes
  6. Peaches
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Celery
  11. Potatoes
  12. Sweet bell peppers


Strawberries aren’t particularly easy to grow unless you have the right climate and decent soil, a very green thumb, or lots of pesticides / chemical fertilizers.

Big Ag opts for the last of the three.

For a couple of years I had two beds of strawberries:


They produced poorly and I really didn’t work at them enough to make them worthwhile. I gave them lots of compost and foliar feeding but eventually gave up and switched to a much more productive berry.



I did learn from my friend Jo that strawberries love fish emulsion. If you feel like growing them, see if that works for you.

You can also make your own fish emulsion/fertilizer, as I share in Compost Everything.

Fish emulsion makes a lot of plants really happy. I’ve used it off and on for years. I can’t find it for sale here but plan to make my own when I get my own property. It stinks to high heavens but plants don’t have noses.

One last thing on strawberries: has anyone else noticed that despite how perfect they appear, store-bought strawberries are barely worth eating?

I don’t even get the appeal of buying strawberries. They’re watery, bitter and terrible even when they look nice and red.

The Curse of the Bradford Pear


I used to have a Bradford pear tree at a house I owned in Tennessee. The flowers were beautiful but I considered the tree a useless waste of space because it didn’t produce edible fruit.

Then I was sent this and I find the story on Bradford pears gets worse:

“All those white blooming trees you see everywhere… do you think they are pretty? If you knew what they actually represent, you would choke on your morning coffee and gag on your scrambled eggs. All those white blooming trees you see now are an environmental disaster happening right before your very eyes.

I’m talking about every white blooming tree right now, with only the exception of wild plums, which is a short multi-flora tree that seldom reaches over eight feet in height. All the other white flowering trees in today’s environment are an ecological nightmare, getting worse and worse every year and obliterating our wonderful native trees from the rural landscape.

If it’s blooming white right now, it’s a curse. This dictum especially applies to that “charming” Bradford pear your dimwitted landscaper planted in the middle of your front yard. Indeed, lack of smarts is what has led to this disaster. Bradford pear is worse than kudzu, and the ill-conceived progeny of Bradford pear will be cursing our environment for decades or possibly centuries yet to come.

 When Bradford pear was introduced as an ornamental in 1964 by the US Department of Agriculture, it was known then that this tree possessed the weakest branch structure in nature. Also, the tree was assumed to be sterile. Bradford pears will seldom last more than 20 years before they bust themselves apart at the seams. That’s actually the good news… (read the rest)”

The good thing is that if you have a Bradford pear tree, it accepts grafts from better pears. Cut it down, then when shoots grow back from the stump, graft good pears onto them!

The blooms on fruiting pear trees are just as beautiful as Bradford pear blooms – and they’re followed by fruit. Using the root system of an existing Bradford pear will give the scions you add a great advance on production.

How to Germinate a Peach Pit (Animated)


I decided to try something different on YouTube this week. Since my previous video on how to germinate a peach pit has been popular, I thought “hey, wouldn’t it be fun to animate the process with stop-motion?”

And so I did:

It’s really kind of a mess but this video will help me work some kinks out. I need to work on lighting, background and focus. The camera’s autofocus was not reliable and neither was the exposure, as you can see from frame to frame. I adjusted as best as I could in Final Cut after the fact but it’s not as good as getting sharp, well-lit shots at the beginning.

My YouTube viewers liked it, though, with the exception of one guy who wasn’t happy I didn’t animate all the way through to planting orchards and harvesting fruit:

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 7.53.25 AM

It’s always the potheads or the vegans…

If you are interested in seeing the results of growing peaches from seed, I’ve shared my successes both here and on YouTube:

I’d like to create more “Animated Gardener” videos. It’s fun to do and so long as I keep the videos short it doesn’t eat up too much time.

What do you think?

For the Love of Paw-Paws Kickstarter


Author Micheal Judd has launched a kickstarter campaign to fund the printing of a new book on America’s wonderful native pawpaw:


“I have been passionate about paw paws for a number of years and am set to create a mini manual that jumps right into growing, caring for, harvesting, and using paws paws – from seed to table. To make this possible I am asking support from my extended community to help cover publishing costs; full design, layout and print ready files.

By jumping in and helping Kickstart this Paw Paw Mini Manual you will help create a resource that will inspire and guide thousands to plant and care for trees that provide food, medicine, habitat, and regenerative ecosystems – all of which will be very good for the planet and your karma.”


I don’t believe in karma, but I do believe in pawpaws – and in Michael Judd’s knowledge and writing skill. I bought his book Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist when it came out a couple years back.

$25 and you’ll get your own signed copy of his upcoming pawpaw book. Sounds like a deal to me. Back it here.

A Pruned Mulberry Tree


Victor sent pictures of his mulberry tree, post pruning:


In my previous post, it looked like this:


I told him he could hack the living daylights out of it, but in his words:

“Like Moses tapping the stone, however, I hedged about cutting down to 4 feet and it’s more in the range of 5. Reverse of a rule in illustration- it’s always easier to add something to an image than edit it out- I feel like I’m in a position to cut some more if you think I haven’t gone far enough.”

He’s right – if you cut too far, you can’t add back. However, I had to learn that with mulberries (and peaches, incidentally), what seems like severe pruning rarely is. Most of the time, I wish I’d cut farther. By mid-summer I’m always saying “wait! Slow down, tree!”

Look at this peach for example. That sort of low, spreading form happens when you prune the young tree to around ONE FOOT from the ground. That’s severe! But it makes for a very manageable tree.

Victor’s mulberry will grow back and jump for the sky. And there’s always next year to prune more. I would probably take off a lot more of the small branches if it were me, but I didn’t start off pruning that way. I learned how much trees could take over time and had to be encouraged by people like Paul Miller of Rainbow Star Farm in Gainesville to see just how much potential a tree can have when tightly controlled. It feels like you’re going to kill it but you probably won’t.


‘Tis the Season for Planting Bare-Root Trees


My sister Stephanie bought a variety of fruit trees and has been busily planting them in her Delaware yard.


Hard work, but she had some help:


Bare-root trees are truly amazing. A lot of fruit trees, including apples, pears, and stone fruit, can be dug during dormancy, have the dirt knocked off their roots, have their roots pruned to almost nothing, be shipped across the country, and re-planted – and they’ll act like nothing happened in the spring, bursting into beautiful growth.

It’s still amazing to me. Trees sleep HARD!

My favorite source for bare root trees is Peaceful Valley in California, AKA Grow Organic. I’ve never had one of their trees fail on me, and I’ve planted at least a dozen. Willis Orchards, TyTy Georgia and Gurneys? Not so much. Avoid.

I have to admit, I’m a little jealous of Steph. I love planting trees. And look at that beautiful soil!

Pruning Mulberry Trees to Keep Them Small


Mulberry trees are one of my very favorite fruit trees, providing a huge amount of berries for very little work.

However, they also grow like mad and can become a tangled, unruly big mess of a tree if you just let them grow.

With this in mind, Victor wrote me to ask about pruning mulberry trees to keep them small:

“I am feeling very fortunate that I came across your YouTube vid on mulberry pruning as I have been reading through a number of Google sites regarding the matter and they are very discouraging regarding pruning. I dare say you are almost at odds with everything I have been reading online. 

I planted a mulberry tree in one of my gardens 2 autumns ago along with a cherry. The mulberry is of the red/purpleish variety. We experienced a warm winter that first year after planting and she went ballistic by the springtime. The fruit was very tasty but the birds managed to get the majority for themselves. I had intended to keep the tree from getting out of control so that picking wouldn’t become a complete hassle and with an eye on keeping it netted somehow to discourage the birds. 
I was hoping to prune it this winter but then started reading the negative info online regarding consequences, etc.. I just need some pointers how to maintain the girl so it doesn’t run away from me and overwhelm the garden. Would it be possible to send you some shots of the tree and you could explain the do’s and don’ts to me? Would really appreciate it.”
Here are some pictures:
Mulberry2 Mulberry1
As you can see from the first photo, that mulberry tree can’t get too big or it will cause some trouble with the gardens.
As it is, it’s not a bad size; however, they’ll grow 6′ in a year, easily.
If it were my tree and I wanted to keep it small, I’d do something like this:
Take it down to 3-4′ and get rid of a lot of the little tangly branches as well. It should still make a decent amount of mulberries on the new growth this spring. Right now, before it wakes up, is the time to prune. It’s easy to see and shape the structure.
And remember – you can chainsaw a mulberry to the ground and you won’t kill it. They’re amazing.
Here’s an article I wrote back in November with some more ideas on pruning mulberries. That covers “festooning” as well. Here’s a mulberry which I treated that way:
That would still be too sprawling for Victor’s garden space, but it’s a good way to keep the trees shorter and the fruit in reach.
Finally, Victor isn’t just your average gardener. He’s also a highly talented illustrator currently working for Rolling Stone. When I saw his portfolio linked in his signature I thought, “hey, I’ve seen that guy’s work before!”
Just attack those mulberries with a little artistic pruning and they’re going to do great. Unlike some other fruit trees, mulberries can take a ridiculous amount of pruning and shaping.
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