19 September 2018

Green Horizons Newsletter

Green Horizons newsletter reprints articles of interest they have collected.

The link will take you to the September 2018 issue.


16 September 2018

Soil Temperature is Key to Success

I am a terrible gardener. Though this column is about the importance of soil temperatures for fall gardens, my lazy gardening practices come into the discussion later. 

Plant roots grow in soil that provides nutrients, structural support, moisture and microbes. The health of your food and ornamental plants begin there. During the day, soil collects heat and keeps the roots warm at night when air temperatures fall. 

Soil temperature is more important than perfect watering methods, fertilizers and pest protections. The optimal soil temperature for seedlings is easy to find on company websites, seed packets and at online databases such as www.tomclothier.hort.net

This week I was searching for ideal germination temperatures for fall-planted greens because seeds by the scoop purchased at Arnold’s Fruit Company in Muskogee come without growing tips. 

According to Oklahoma Mesonet at www.mesonet.org, soil temperatures at 4-inches deep have dropped from 85 to 75 in the past week, making it possible to plant fall vegetables. These seeds will not germinate if the soil is 85 and prefer the 70-degree range.

It’s all about roots and shoots. Seeds absorb water and form a root before they produce a shoot above ground. Spinach wants 75-degree soil, lettuce wants 60-75 degrees, radishes and chard 65-85, etc. (https://bit.ly/2wK1fK8).

Now, back to my being a terrible gardener and how that connects with this topic. In our garden many plants are allowed to go to seed because we collect the seed to use next year, the seedheads are beautiful, fall migrating birds enjoy feasting on them and their tall weedy structures in the pollinator beds provide cover for butterflies and their babies.

As fall cleanup in the ‘lazy-gardener’ sections began this week I found tiny seedlings of parsley, kale, cosmos, castor bean, and zinnias signaling cooler soil temperatures just right for new seeds. 

We also leave weedy places for turtle habitat after finding them nesting among thick weeds we had ignored all summer. Feel free to use our ‘habitat for wildlife’ excuse for your weeds.

09 September 2018

Hostas Brighten Shade

Hostas, also known as Plantain Lilies, are part- shade-loving plants that are grown for their beautiful leaves rather than their flowers.  

Fall is the ideal time to divide and plant more in your garden. After digging a clump of roots with a shovel or trowel, soak the root ball long enough to pull apart the multiple plants that have developed and become entwined. There is a video at https://bit.ly/2Po4sYm that illustrates how.

Hosta varieties have leaves from 6-inches to 6-feet across and leaf colors from blue to gold. Mail order plants usually arrive in 4-inch pots and can take a few years to mature to their full size.  Hosta roots do not grow during the winter like other perennials so they should be divided and planted soon.

Gold leaf varieties: Midas Touch and Good as Gold.  Blue leaf Hostas: Blue Heaven, Blue Angel and H. sieboldiana Elegans.  There are also some varieties with purple flowers and cream tipped leaves, 

All Hostas are vulnerable to deer, snail and slug damage. They need regular water to look their best but their roots will deteriorate if they stand in water. An application of mulch will preserve moisture and reduce weeding. Usually Hostas are planted with ferns, Astilbe, Columbine, Oxalis, Coral Bells, etc.

Tulsa Hosta Connection’s annual Hosta sale is Sat, September 15 from 9 am to 2 pm. at the Tulsa Garden Center, 2435 South Peoria. Publicist Carol Puckett said club members divide Hostas and other perennial plants from their gardens and put them into containers for the sale. The price for named Hostas range from $5 to $8 and un-named Hostas can be as low as $2 to $4 each.

Hostas are native to Japan, Korea, China and Russia. They are in the Asparagaceae family, along with other familiar plants such as Agave, Asparagus, Chionodoxa, Hyacinth and Scilla. They were named in 1812 for the physician and botanist, Dr. Nicholas Thomas Host.

02 September 2018

Snow on the Mountain is Euphorbia Marginata

Snow on the Mountain is a native plant in our area; it is also called Euphorbia marginata, Summer Icicle, Spurge and Smoke on the Prairie.  Its clusters of white-tipped, green leaves (actually bracts) sit on top of  24-inch tall stems, brightening wildflower beds.

Like its cousin, the Christmas Poinsettia, Snow on the Mountain bracts take center stage and the tiny green flowers in the center are barely noticed. The plant stems contain a sap that make them deer and rabbit resistant.  They like full-sun, although we have a few that get only afternoon sun. Any soil will do and they do not need fertilizer.

Plant the seeds with other fall-blooming cutting flowers such as Zinnias, Dahlias, Asters, Joe Pye Weed and Mums.

Handle the stems with care until you know if you are allergic to the sap. Snow on the Mountain often re-seeds to grow new plants the following spring but seeds are also widely available for purchase, including Johnny’s Seed (www.johnnyseeds.com) and Prairie Moon Nursery (www.prairie moon.com).

There is only one stem per plant but they are still valued for creating unique bouquets. Cut the stems before the flowers fully open and sear the end of the stem with boiling water.

Soak Euphorbia seeds before planting in the spring or plant them in the fall. It can take them a few months to emerge even when they are kept at the ideal 68-degrees. They need light to germinate so barely cover the seeds with vermiculite or sand to hold them in place. Thin the plants 8-inches apart.

There is also a native red bract Euphorbia cyathophora that is found less often in the wild. Its other names include Painted Poinsettia, Painted Leaf or Fire on the Mountain. It’s pretty but not as dramatic as Snow on the Mountain.

Euphorbias (all 2,000 of them) were named by Carl Linneaus for Euphorbos,  a Greek physician who studied and wrote about plants and their medicinal properties around 50 BC.

26 August 2018

Divide Daylilies Now

Now that the Daylilies have completed their three-months of flowers, it is a good time to divide them. Soon, all their leaves will be invisible and you will have to wait until next spring to find them again. 

Daylilies are not the same as true lilies but are called that because their blossoms look like true lilies but their flower last only one day. They are all originally from China (http://daylilydiary.com).

Hemerocallis flava and Hemerocallis fulva are the orange daylilies you see growing in ditches and old homesteads. They have been cultivated for their medicinal properties since 479 BC and their bulbs are still cultivated for flour which you can purchase or make. (Daylily Root Cake recipe at https://the3foragers.blogspot.com)  Many gardeners make fritters with their flowers.

Divide yours to make more plants. Start by cutting the remaining leaves so you can see the root crowns at the surface of the soil. Dig a large circle around the entire clump,  allowing for the roots that grow several inches out from the center.

Pry the clump out of the ground and turn it over. You can hose off the clump to separate the roots or you can use a shovel and cut through, making several smaller plantings with soil attached.

If you cut the entire ball into chunks, turn the plants right side up and tease out the roots. Each new plant will have a fan of leaves with a cluster of roots attached.

Plant each root in a spot with loose, amended, prepared soil. You can space them a foot apart or as close as 6-inches apart. The closer they are the more established your bed will look next spring but the sooner they will have to be divided to keep the flowers coming.

One fan per planting hole
 There are thousands of Hemerocallis hybrids. You can find them in 10-to-60-inches tall and with early, mid-season and late flowers to keep the show going for several months. There is a grower in Oklahoma City, Stout Gardens athttps://www.stoutgardens.com who welcomes visitors.