Showing posts from March, 2007

My Butterfies Rock

These are adult painted Lady butterflies dining on orange slices. Double click on the photo to make it larger and look at the plant leaf on the left where the just hatched caterpillars are eating the hollyhock leaf. Then look at the tiny black dots on the paper towel and the plate - that's how small the caterpillars are the day after they hatch out of their blue eggs.Muskogee is celebrating Earth Day for the first time this year on April 21st. The celebration will be part of the opening of the Muskogee Farmer's Market in its new location at the Civic Center on Okmulgee St.My small part of Earth Day is that I am raising butterflies to make kits for a giveaway. Five weeks ago I received 30-painted lady butterfly caterpillars from an education/science company. They grew over two weeks into a size that we recognize as a caterpillar. Then they stopped eating, made chrysalis and emerged as butterflies. The adults mated and laid eggs on the plants in their box and now the cycle is re…

Gardening Friendships

Asiatic Lilies emerging
Consider joining some clubs that are focused on gardens, gardening or specific plants that interest you.
Muskogee Garden Club is affordable for most enthusiasts at $15 a year. Tulsa Garden Center's membership is $25 and includes a newsletter.
Most associations and societies have a website rich with growing tips, enthusiastic gardeners to chat with and meeting notices.
Here are a few other possibilities to consider: Alpine Garden Society, American Association of Amateur Arborists, Azalea Society of America, American Bonsai Society, American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta, International Bulb Society, American Clematis Society, American Daffodil Society, American Horticultural Society, North American Cottage Garden Society, Perennial Plant Association, American Iris Society, North American Rock Garden Society, Saxifrage Society, The Violet Society or maybe the Weed Science Society of America.

Tomater Growin

The photo is Larkspur coming up from the plants I let go to seed last summer.

Carson Borovetz Greenhouses on North Street in Muskogee is open and tomato plants are 3 for a dollar. I bought Jet Star this year because Pete Carson said they were the best seller of all the kinds he grows.
I will confess to being a person who likes to know a lot of stuff. A few years ago in the vegetable section of Lowe's I was looking at tomato plants. As is my custom, I asked the women there what kinds of tomato plants they were buying.
The shortest of them, a woman who looked like she had planted many gardens in her life, looked up at me and said, "Don't you know nuthin?"
I skipped a breath, blinked and thought of all those years I attended college and sat in offices and what a waste all of it would seem in her eyes.
It is easy for me to confess ignorance so I did just that. With that same gruffness, she told me to buy an Arkansas Traveler tomato and to plant it twice as deep as it was in …

Let's Propagate

There is a vining variegated euphorbia on one of the fences that I plan to propagate this week. Spring is the right time to take cuttings and make new plants out of them because you want to use wood from this year's growth that is firm, not soft.

Other plants that are easy to propagate include geranium, roses, blackberries, mums and pentas.

You will need a sterile potting medium such as vermiculite or sand, a clean container and clean scissors or knife.

Take the cuttings from the top 4-inches of the growing tips or cut a side shoot from a healthy plant. Just as with pruning, the cut should be at a slight angle.

A node is the place where a leaf emerges and the cut should be made below the node because you will remove the leaves and those are the places where the roots of your new plant will emerge.

Carefully remove any leaves or flower buds that will be on the planted part of the stem but leave a few leaves on the tip so the plant can gather energy.

Not everyone uses a planting hormone …

Plants for Water-Wise Gardening

These red tulips are planted in clusters across the front of our yard and have come back three years now. They are a visual treat every time.

The spring this year is great compared with last year! Remember that we had already experienced drought and record breaking heat by this time last year.

The lack of rain is worrisome, though. In addition to the usual sprinkling of the seed beds, we have started watering the flowering fruit trees to make sure they have enough moisture to produce fruit.

If your thoughts are turning to water-wise plants, take a look at the High Country Gardensonline catalog for some beautiful xeriscape ideas.

Xeriscape sometimes implies that you have a desert garden in Phoenix or Albuquerque, but even water-wise gardens in Oklahoma do well with these types of plants. Waterwise plants include sage, salvia, asters, agastache, achillea, grasses, penstemon.

It is important to group these low-water plants together. If they are mixed in the same bed with thirsty plants like r…

Gardening Blogs

When we have worn ourselves out gardening, it's time to do something else. Clicking around the Internet can be a great non-television way to relax and rest.

If you plan to go to the opening of Moonshadow Herb Farm this weekend, here's a link to a blog about scented geraniums - check out Geranium Blog before you go to Moonshadow to buy Sharon Owen's selections.
The photo is native plum blossoms.

Are you a tree lover and hugger or just in the market for tree-talk? Here is a blog that waxes poetic about trees and has photos of trees so you can see what they look like. Click here for the link to "A Tree Grower's Diary" with writing and photos by Julie Walton Shaver.
And, since it is time to start working on the lawn, click on the Lawn Care blog for an expert's advice.
Earth Friendly Gardening is a writer's blog that is focused on sustainable gardening for a healthy planet.
An acknowledged expert in treading lightly on the earth, Henry David Thoreau, has his …

New Way to Plant Seeds

Johnny's Selected Seeds has a new product that looks like it would work for several situations.
It's a 4-inch round, paper disc, full of seeds. Right now they offer only chives, parsley, thyme, arugula, cilantro and basil. The parsley disc contains 46 seeds and sells for a dollar per disc in a 5-disc pack.
Today's garden photo is the spring wind blowing daffodil blossoms. I hope your early spring vegetables and flower seeds are coming up and that your perennials are letting you know they are still alive. There is plenty to do - digging compost into beds, mowing, transplanting and dividing. Take time to enjoy the view while you are out there working.

Last but not least, here's a fun link to Dragoo's Skunk Page, Dragoo Institute for the Betterment of Skunks and Skunk Reputations. Skunks, the Mephitidae family, superfamilyMusteloidea, do not live in Europe anymore, though they did live in Germany about 11-12 million years ago. In the Musteloidea family: otters, badger…

Pruning Spring Flowering Shrubs and Vines

You already know that it is advisable to prune any and all dead diseased and damaged limbs, branches, vines - that's a given. Oh, and snip out tree limbs that cross or rub, too.

But flowering shrubs and vines are confusing to keep track of if you have several types. Hydrangeas in particular are challenging because some varieties bloom on old wood and some bloom on new wood.

(The photo is this morning's new growth on a clematis vine that blooms dark purple.)

Here are excerpts from a column on spring pruning by Pat Howell who writes the "Easy Gardener" column for the Tacoma Silver Spring Voice in Maryland. (Click on the link to read in full.)

Some plants like to be pruned BEFORE they bloom because they bloom on new wood - that is, they form their flower buds now.

Some shrubs bloom on old wood - they formed their flower buds last fall.

Right now Azaleas have this year's buds and so you would not prune until AFTER they bloom.

Hard pruning With sharpened hand pruners, or s…

Mid-March Gardening

If you missed out on the garden fun today, rain may prevent you from being out there the rest of this week. At least we hope so.
To Do: Do remove winter debris from bulbs and corms as they come up but leave some leaves and mulch around other perennials because we could still have a freeze before April 15. If you already bought some tender plants re-pot them and water them with diluted fertilizer. They can be put outside for a few hours on these balmy days but have to come in at night. For the same reason, start tender annuals inside the house, in a cold frame or greenhouse. We are almost a month away from being able to plant many flowers and veggies outside. Read the seed package, look up the plant's hardiness or ask in this blog.
One of the most useful tools in keeping plants healthy inside is a fan. Running a fan on low keeps the air circulating and reduces the chance of fungal disease (damping off) attacking vulnerable seedlings.

Free Flower Calendar Pages

If you could use a few months of calendar pages to track garden activities, there are some beauties at Cal's Plant of the Week.

Click on this link Cal's Plant of the Week and scroll to the bottom of the page where you will find "Calendars" with gorgeous photos - pages that you can print at home.

You can also subscribe to Cal's Plant of the Week which is provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Botany & Microbiology and specifically Cal Lemke, who is OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well.

This sunny weather while the ground is still soft has been wonderful for catching up in the garden. Today I moved a hot pink monarda (bee balm) from a vegetable patch to a more suitable location. When it was little, 3-years ago, it was fine, but last year it competed with the basil for being 4-feet-tall and wide and heavily scented.

The hydrangeas survived 2006's awful summer and icy winter to emerge this week as thoug…

Oklahoma Mesonet - Current Soil Temperatures

The soil temperature today is in the upper 50s and is warm enough to plant some seeds but not others. It's easy to find ideal germination temperatures for any seed by searching the seed packet or the Internet.

Oklahoma Mesonet is an online service that you can access by clicking here.

Here are a few examples of soil temperature preferences.
40 degrees- F soil - Plant endive, lettuce and pea seed
45 degree F soil - Plant carrot, radish and spinach seed. Set out cabbage transplants, potato starts, and onion sets
50 degree F soil - Plant beet, parsley, parsnip and Swiss chard seed
60 degree F soil - Plant snap bean, sweet corn, cucumber and turnip seed.
Set out tomato seedlings
65 degree F soil - Plant lima bean seed
70 degree F soil - Plant okra, southern peas, squash, pumpkin and watermelon seed. Set out eggplant and pepper transplants
75 degree F soil - Plant cantaloupe seed. Set out sweet potatoes.

Tomatoes From Seed

If you have any interest in growing tomatoes other than the half-dozen available at garden centers, starting seeds is a good way to get variety. Seeds are available for Heirlooms, old fashioned and new hybrids. There are so many seeds in an envelope, sharing with another gardening friend is a way to double the types you grow.

In response to a question about when to start tomato seeds, Renee Shepherd of Renee's Seeds said, "Generally speaking, the goal is to start your tomato seeds six or eight weeks before the last frost date or another guideline would be that they are ready to plant out when temperatures are regularly in the 50s both day and night. I prefer this second criteria, as it gives leeway for local conditions."

For me, pictures speak louder than words. Follow this link to Renee's Garden Seeds instructionson growing tomatoes from seeds - with photos of every step for us visual learners. The photos go from first seed planting, to dividing seedlings, planting i…

Gardening Info -

The graduates of the OSU Master Gardening program in Tulsa are active and their website is a resource for local gardeners.

The newest offering is an email newsletter that is offered to anyone who signs up at

Also at their site: A link to the OSU Fact Sheets and Announcements of events, including their plant sale. Here is a quote about the sale from the link:

The plants in our sale are sold in two different ways: one group is to be preordered and prepaid no later than Friday, March 30, 2007 (click here for an order form). Preordered plants will be available for pickup on Thursday, April 19,2007 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. We will also have perennials and premium annuals available for purchase only on April 19, 2007 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on a first come, first served basis. In this exciting part of our sale, we will be offering over 100 different and unusual varieties. of perennials, premium annuals, herbs and hanging baskets priced from $2.00 to $14.00.…

Million Bells are Petunias

A reader posted a comment that sent me to the Internet for research.

The comment was that "petunias and calibrachoa (million bells) can benefit greatly with a little PH manipulation. They prefer a slightly lower PH and regular fertilization. A little garden sulpher (available at Lowes) works great."

Million bells actually is a petunia.

The reader will be happy to know that their experience regarding those flowers' pH preference was studied at Rutgers and Cornell Universities. Thanks for the tip and the reminder that it is important to provide the correct pH levels for good gardening results.

Here's a link to the study and an excerpt is below.

Northeast Greenhouse IPM Notes
May 2006 A publication of Rutgers and Cornell Cooperative Extension Vol. 16, No 4
Puny Calibrachoas? It May be Thielaviopsis
We attributed this disease reduction to a pH effect: lower pH will help the plant and suppress the fungus. Aim to keep pH well below 6.0 for best results; pH 4.8 will prevent disea…

Spread the Wealth - Divide Perennials

The main reasons to divide perennial plants are to make them smaller to fit a space and to create more plants. Division can also help rejuvenate sad and overgrown plants.

When the following plants make themselves known this spring, go ahead and divide them. It's a good idea to prepare pots or dig and prepare the new planting hole before you start. That way the roots will be protected and not left in the wind and sun.

Aster, Bee Balm (Monarda), Blanket Flower (Gaillardia) , Blazing Star (Liatris), Catmint (Nepeta), Chrysanthemum, Coral Bells (Heuchera), Coreopsis, Cornflower, Daylily, (Hemerocallis), Ferns, Hardy Geranium, Hardy Zinnia (Heliopsis), Hosta, Obedient Plant (Physostegia), Coneflower (Rudbeckia), Ornamental Grasses, Perennial Salvia hybrids, Phlox paniculata, Purple Coneflower (Echinaceapurpurea), Shasta Daisy, Speedwell (Veronica), Spiderwort (Tradescantiavirginiana), Stonecrop (Sedum), Wormwood (Artemisia species) and Yarrow (Achillea species).

Potting and Planting Mixes

When you buy bagged compost, planting mix/soil, potting mix/soil, composted manure and all the other sterile products available, check the fertility and pH on the bag. Do they advertise it to be 2-10-3 or 10-46-0? Is the pH (acid - sweet) level high or low?

Geraniums and pentas prefer a high pH requirement (6.3-6.5) and pansies prefer a lower pH (5.5-5.8). The wrong planting soil and amendments could lead to a disappointing result and providing the right environment can give you a gorgeous result.

Starter Fertilizer for Seedlings

Starter solutions available in nurseries, are usually called something like quick start. They are diluted to keep from burning tender stems, leaves and roots.

Here's a recipe for how to make your own from OSU Fact Sheet 6007-4.

Add two tablespoons of 19-46-0 or 12-24-12 or 10-20-10 fertilizer
to a gallon of warm-ish water to dissolve thoroughly.

Apply a cup of the diluted fertilizer to each plant, but avoid pouring it directly on the plant stems.

Pouring into the planting hole before adding soil and then the plant would be ideal for a small garden, but probably not practical if you are putting in 300 eggplants or cabbages.

Spring days!

Sunny and 70-degrees - what a great day for being outside in the garden.

The photo on the left is Dragonwing Begonias in the greenhouse at Blossoms Garden Center in Muskogee.

Those of us without a greenhouse were outside planting beets, lettuce and other cool weather seeds.

You could also scatter seeds of poppy, bachelor buttons and other flowers that enjoy a chill before bloom. The seeds I planted in the fall are up and now I'm going to put more in the bare spots.

Tree trimming continues with the sound of chain saws having become a part of our neighborhood environment.

Wait a little longer to trim and prune shrubs. Any shrub that blooms in the spring has already set its flower buds and trimming will cut them off. Just wait until the bloom ends - then prune.

Arnold's had vegetable plants in stock and people were grabbing them left and right. If you have little vegetable plants, hold off on putting them out yet. Keep them under lights and warm until we see if there is another hard fr…

Blossoms Garden Center Muskogee

Lora and Matthew Weatherbee, owners of Blossoms Garden Center in Muskogee gave me a peek into the greenhouses today. Over the next few blog entries you will get to see what's growing and will be available March 31st when Blossoms opens for the season.
One of the plants, Diamond Frost Euphorbia from Proven Winners has exceptional heat and drought tolerance and is said to produce a nonstop cloud of airy white blooms. The plant has already won 38-awards in its short life.

Horticulturist Tim Wood said on his gardening blog, The Plant Hunter (click to read),"The small white flowers are so abundant that the cumulative mass of flowers creates a beautiful show akin to Baby’s Breath. What is most remarkable is that this plant bloomed from the day I planted it until the day I had a heavy frost in my garden. It is a blooming machine."

Spring and Summer Bulbs

Spring blooming bulbs are springing up all over town and the summer blooming bulbs are in the stores. In our back yard there are white-white, yellow-yellow and yellow-white daffodils blooming around the tree trunks and in the mostly winter-dull garden by the shed.

JoostPennings of the Netherlands took this photo at The Lentium (click to see more photos).
Get out and enjoy the flowers. And then go get a few summer bulbs like calla and canna lilies to brighten your summer garden.