Showing posts from January, 2007

Green and Organic News

On the green front, California is considering a ban on all light bulbs that are not energy saving fluorescent. The ban would phase out all other bulbs by 2012.

Of interest to organic gardeners and eaters, England proposed refusing to accept any produce that has to be flown into the country. The organic certification organization, Soil Association, cited the fact that air planes pollute the environment as their rationale.

England and Canada are removing lawn pesticides to shelves behind the counter where purchase will require a prescription-type form.

In the United States, organic growers and milk producers are having difficulty keeping up with demand. The industry as a whole is growing. In response, the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee designated Representative Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) to chair a new subcommitteeon Horticulture and Organic Agriculture.

Think spring!

Bare root stock is in

At Lowe's in Muskogee as well as other outlets, you will find late winter and early spring planted bare root plants.

Here's what's in:
Flowers: Forsythia, dahlia, peony, white and red honeysuckle, blue and peegee hydrangea, hosta, lily, caladium and elephant ears.
Vegetables: several varieties potatoes and asparagus.
Fruit: Grapes (concord, black monukka, red flame, etc); blackberries, raspberries (brandywine, latham red, heritage); and strawberries.

Each of these plants has its own unique features and requirements.

All bare root plants are drying out every day they sit in the boxes. Buy early. The roots can be soaked for an hour or up to overnight but you will have better luck if they have not been sitting around in a heated store for several weeks before you bring them home.

In addition to the information printed on the packages, here are links to useful OSU fact sheets

Home Fruit Planting Guide

Vegetable planting tips

Perennial Flowers for specific sites

Noble Foundation hoop house

Steve Upson at the Noble Foundation in Ardmore said he would send (at no charge)
CD/DVD instructions for hoop house construction to anyone who emails him.

Steve Upson email address is

$100 hoop greenhouse plans

Cleaning out old emails, I found a few links of interest to those who would like a set of building plans for a small hoop greenhouse. Both provide photos, diagrams and list of materials with approximate cost to build.

From North Carolina State University Extension services - 12 by 14 foot = 168 sq foot

From Washington State University Extension services - 10 by 42 foot = 420 sq ft

And, the originating document about row covers and hoop houses is also a good read

Small inexpensive greenhouse

A new question came in about how to build a small green house inexpensively.

A hoop house is usually recommended as a small project greenhouse. Take a look at the listings on this link at Build It Solar. Lots of possibilities there.

Also, check the library. There are several do-it-yourself books with plans for basic greenhouses.

Some long-time gardeners think that with global warming, a home gardener only needs a simple cold frame unless you have your heart set on a greenhouse. There is a set of instructions for a raised cold frame at Ron Hazleton's site. Click here to see them.

If you can't find what you want at the library or online,
The Noble Foundation in Ardmore has a DVD with instructions on how to build a $500 or $600 hoop house which is the minimum they cost to construct.

Seeds for lavender and herbs

A reader asked about growing lavender and other herbs from seed and when to start them inside.

For mail order seeds, two possibilities are Johnny's at and Renee's Garden at

If you have a greenhouse you can start seeds now but if you are planning to grow from seed in the house you will need a florescent shop light type setup that hangs a couple of inches over the seed pots. One writer suggests lining the wall behind the seedlings with mylar to intensify the light.

Renee's lavender seed package indicates that the seeds germinate at 60-to-70 degrees so they will need to be kept warm enough to get started. Or you will have to wait until the weather warms up above our current 30-degrees. You can click around Renee's site to read the packets on the others seeds they offer.

Johnny's is very popular with local growers - here is the link to their lavender selection.…

Garden Related Business Ideas

On the east coast, in Trenton New Jersey, a 19-year old started a gardening related business.

He and his college friends gathered all the food waste from their college, Princeton University. They grew worms in the collected garbage and sold the resulting fertilizer in used soda bottles.

The company, called TerraCycle, has grown 300 to 600 percent every year. They project $100 million in sales by 2015.

Plants love worm fertilizer and retailers do, too. Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Home Depot and some WalMart locations stock it. Target is on line to carry the product next year.

TerraCycle puts 30,000 gallons of worm fertilizer into 50,000 bottles a week. Look for this great, organic product.

The full article is at

Weeds in late winter gardens

These two 60-degree days between the cold blasts have worked wonders for those of us who need sunshine for a feeling of well-being.

Yesterday, I pulled all the tiny weeds out from among the emerging poppies and daffodils in a 20-foot long bed out by the compost bins. To sit in the sun on a beautiful, warm day, rescuing tiny plants took my attention away from the ice storm damage all around.

Gardening is therapeutic in its ability to make everything else seem unimportant, no matter which plants survive Mother Nature's many and varied moods.

Fast growing shrubs and trees

A dozen people have asked about fast growing shrubs and trees this week as we consider replacing our plantings.

There are three kinds of shrubs to consider: Deciduous, Evergreen and Coniferous.

Deciduous shrubs drop their leaves in the winter and include forsythia, viburnum, Euonymous, barberry, shrub rose, beauty berry, crape myrtle, and others.

Evergreen plants include holly, boxwood and pyracantha, nandina - heavenly bamboo, etc.

Coniferous shrubs include Thuja - American arborvitae, white pine, Canadian hemlock, Japanese yew, etc.

The disadvantage of so-called fast growing permanent, structural plants is that they tend to be weak and need to be pruned more often. Leyland cypress, frequently recommended in Oklahoma, can grow two or three feet a year. Fast growing trees like silver maple and the male pear trees, called Bradford pears split and tear in the wind (and ice!).

Consider your needs and resist selecting plants that say "fast growing" on the label. The one great use for…

Iris Convention OKC

It is a rare treat that the American Iris Society is holding their national convention in our state.

The dates are April 30 - May 5, 2007 in Oklahoma City. The conference is an official centennial event and is being hosted by the Oklahoma Iris Society.

Convention Registrar: AIS Convention 2007, Betty Lou McMartin, Registrar, 8904 NW 80th St., Oklahoma City, OK 73132-4013, Phone: (405) 728-9839, Email:

Early registration by March 1 2007 is $180, then it goes up to $205 and $230.

For registration information click on this link

Warm-blooded plants

If you live in the country or have taken a winter walk in the woods, you may have seen skunk cabbage coming up with its characteristic pink and white pod-like new growth. The ice and snow on the ground around the plant will have melted.

I had always thought that the melting allowed the plant to emerge, similar to a late winter or early spring bulb such as crocus. But no. The plant actually is warm blooded. Skunk cabbage provides its own warmth; its leaves and flowers cannot tolerate frost.

To read more about thermogenesis and skunk cabbage click on this link.

Think about the "Little Shop of Horrors" with the plant that seemed to have animal qualities. Spooky.

Road Salt Tolerant Plants

The use of deicing materials is necessary on streets, sidewalks and sometimes on driveways. But the shrubbery and trees that line those areas suffer from contact with the salt.

Evergreens will die back from salt hitting their needles and next summer we will see the results of salt on trees and shrubs. Grass that has been doused with salt, simply will not come back.

Since we will probably have to replace some street and driveway plantings, it would be good to put in some of the dozens of choices for salt-tolerant ones.

Trees with a high salt-tolerance include: White Cedar, Gray Dogwood, Cockspur Hawthorn, Golden Rain, Crabapple and Sargent Cherry.

Shrubs with a high salt-tolerance include: Siberian Peashrub, Pfitzer Juniper, Silver Buffaloberry, Vanhoutte Spirea, Adam's Needle Yucca, and others.

It's a good time to plan for spring planting.

Oklahoma Rising

There is little to do in the garden but the audio visual presentation of "Oklahoma Rising" at the link below will give you the strength to go out and drag a few ice-laden limbs today.

This may take a while to load.

Ice Storm

Wow! The photo is our garden shed after the ice storm broke the trees around it. This summer, there were flowering vines, purple millet and flowers on the right, bird houses and flowers on the left. The best thing to do is wait until the ice melts to assess a plan of action. Don't try to remove any tree branches unless they are blocking something like a driveway or door. Pulling on them now could cause even more damage. I've been searching for this poem for you and found it this morning. Enjoy. The kiss of the sun for pardon
The song of the birds for mirth
One is nearer to God's heart in the garden
Than anywhere else on earth

Dorothy Gurney 1858 - 1952

Davis Field live weather report link

Stuck inside and want to see the weather map?

Here is a link for live Doppler weather, temperature, etc. located at Davis Field just south of Muskogee.

Winter freeze

Even I will not try to garden this weekend as we have a few days of winter that a British friend of mine would call "proper weather".

We did fill all the bird feeders with black sunflower seed, suet and thistle. Tomorrow and as long as this freeze lasts, we will add boiling water to the birdbath so the birds have a place to get water.

Two companies have sent the seeds I ordered but I will wait another couple of weeks to start the Brussel sprouts and other cool weather plants inside. Most years, I start them so early that they become too leggy and weak before I can put them out into a cold frame.

Cover up your legs with a blanket and enjoy a good read with a cup of something hot to drink.

Have bugs or fungus?

Houseplants suffer from the stale, dry air in our winter homes, but more than that they suffer from overwatering.

Seeing little black flying bugs in and around house plants is a sign that the plant's soil needs to dry out more between waterings. The bugs are harmless to the plants but helpful to let you know when to cut back on water.

Running a small house fan close to plants in the house can help them, too. The air circulation helps strengthen the stems. Also, when watering house plants dump out any water that remains in the saucer. If you have ferns and think they need humidity, fill a shallow pan with stones and put the pots on top of the stones. Keep the water below the level of the top of the stones.

And then there are the small, yellow mushrooms in houseplants. They are the reproductive structure of a soil fungus. Also harmless to plants but poisonous to people and animals, so just to be on the safe side, remove them and dispose of them.

Green roof funding

I heard that the library in Ft. Smith Arkansas has a green roof though I haven't checked it out yet. On the green roof topic, this just came into my email.

The American Society of Landscape Architects Library and Education Advocacy Fund (ASLA Fund) will receive a $22,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for outreach and education programming surrounding the Society’s new green roof demonstration project.
The grant will fund an exhibit, a student workbook, and a discovery program to help raise awareness of how green roofs improve air and water quality, reduce the urban heat island effect, manage stormwater run-off, replace bio-habitat, and provide esthetic amenities to tenants and neighbors and economic benefits to developers and building owners.

“One of the main reasons ASLA decided to build a green roof on our headquarters was to show people what a green roof looks like and demonstrate the many environmental and economic benefits,” said Nancy C. Somerville, execu…

Red Yucca

I saw red yucca plants at Blossom's Nursery in Muskogee last year but have not seen any in bloom yet.

There are photos of a mass planting at this link and they are beautiful!

Red yucca's horticultural name is Hesperaloeparviflora. A garden writer wrote about it surviving at least -25F without benefit of snow cover in a friend's Minnesota garden.

Like the familiar evergreen yuccas in our yards, the red variety grows to 2-3ft high, with a spread up to 4ft. The flower stalks are 4 feet or taller.

The only attention my yucca requires is grooming twice a year. In particular after blooming, the faded flower stalks can look unattractive. In the winter, I remove the dead leaves at the base and usually find several baby plants under there.

As for summer attention, yucca requires nothing on your part, not even water.

The leaves are prickly, so plant yucca where children and pets do not play. When you need to gro…

Weeds, perennials or re-seeding annual flowers?

Earlier this year we had a chain link fence put up because the neighbor's huge dogs wanted to live in our yard.

While the crew was outside, I pulled weeds, enjoying the balmy weather. The fence company owner said his wife grew a lot of herbs and "that henbit sure is a problem the way it grows into everything."

What's henbit?

You may already know, but I started looking into weeds to find out. A gardener has to be able to recognize weeds when they emerge so we know what to pull and what to leave.

There is an old saying that you can tell a weed from a desirable plant by how difficult it is to pull: The expensive perennial will come out easily and the weed will hold on for dear life.

If you are also curious about what's what in your flower beds, Oklahoma State University provides this easy to use website that will help identify the weeds though they do not offer to help pull them out.

Green Roofs

In the latest issue of Brooklyn Botanic Garden's online science journal, Urban Habitats, there is a special section on the use of green roofs as nature habitats for plants and birds. Researchers from Europe and the U.S. show that green roofs are effective when used for nature.

The publication, Urban Habitats and the issue on green roofs is at

One green roof in Germany, built 90-years ago, was planted with an orchid garden in native soil. Their success led to more green roof being put in place in London over the past 15 years. Now ecologists are hoping green roofs will help solve the problems of degraded urban environments.

Successful Seed Starting

I ordered flower, vegetable and herb seeds today and it made me think about how many seeds have been planted too early. Instead of growing strong stems with healthy true leaves, they get tall with thin, lanky stems.

Resolve this year to learn more about each type of seed and give them what they need to be successful: Sterile pots, sterile starting soil, light source, warmth, run a fan on them to make strong stems and pick them out to reduce the number of seedlings per pot. It is New Year's Day after all and resolutions are in order.

Organic Gardening Magazine provided guidelines for a few vegetables that will serve as examples.

Broccoli seeds - 4 to 6 weeks from sowing to transplanting. Plant outside 2 weeks before last frost. Translation: Assuming our last frost to be April 15, seeds should be planted inside between Feb 15and March 1 and moved outside April 1.

Melon seeds - 3 to 4 weeks from sowing to transplanting. Plant outside 2 weeks after last frost. Translation: Last frost is A…