30 April 2007

Seeds, Transplants and Planting

For us gardeners the past few days have been a flurry of ground work. We are outside as soon as the coffee wakes us up and back indoors only for water, lunch or a quick break. Sleep at night is disturbed by being over-tired, if anything.

Today alone, we put 40-transplants in the ground, planted some vegetable and flower seeds and added a few trees to the back border.

The shade garden has several things blooming and also now has Japanese toad lilies from Bluestone Perennials in addition to the Virginia Bluebells planted last month.

A friend shared some toad lilies from her garden and I have no idea what they will look like when they bloom. That same friend gave me a peony today to replace the ones that were lost to a fungal disease a few years ago.

Because of an obsession with iris that lasted a few years, we planted more than we can actually care for. Right now we are in the season of having 100 in bloom on most days in spite of the number of buds that were frozen off over Easter.

Photo: Dragonwing Begonias at
Blossoms Garden Center in Muskogee

Weeding is a big part of spring. Weeds come out so easily when the ground is slightly moist and soft. In the heat of summer, Bermuda grass in the beds will be trying to take every speck of water it can grab.

Most of our shrubs and vines are beginning to produce a second set of green buds or leaves. They will need a few more weeks' growing time to let us know where to cut.

The fullness of all these plantings will be the reward for this spring's work with shovel, trowel, hands and sprinkling attachments on the hoses. The vision of how the flowers will look and how the vegetables will taste keep us going. Our memories of the failures and insect infestations of past years rarely occupy our minds in the spring.

26 April 2007

American Daffodil Society National Convention and Show

The ADS just completed its annual convention and show in Tacoma Washington. Collections of new hybrid daffodils win specific awards. The photos were taken by Tom Stettner, Jr. More of Stettner's daffodil photos can be seen at his website http://home.cinci.rr.com/narcisophiliac/

A 5-stem collection of all American Bred Flowers exhibited by Richard Ezell, won the Red White & Blue Ribbon. The flower names: Tuscarora, River Queen, Mt. Nittany, Hanky Panky and Bender Seedling.

The winner of the Dutch Award was Kathy Anderson for a collection of Vulcan, Cyros, Cameo Flare, Clouded Yellow, & Cryptic.

Winner of the English Award, Kathy Welsh for this collection of Hartlebury, Colley Gate, Royal Marine, Glen Alladale & Shining Light.
You might want to add some of these beauties to your spring garden. One source for a unique collection of daffodils is Mitsch Daffodils in Hubbard Oregon. Mitsch's 30-page catalog is 8.5 by 11-inches with pages of color photos and costs $3.00. In addition to the Internet link, you can contact them by telephone 503.651.2742 and email havensr@web-ster.com for more information and ordering assistance.
Both the link to the
American Daffodil Society and the one to Mitsch Daffodils have pictures of daffodils most of us have never seen, no less grown. Take a look just to enjoy the view and variety.

24 April 2007

Green Trends in Europe and the U.S.

Ah, rain. Hard on the flowers that are blooming but wonderful anyway. Last year's record drought makes late April rain all the more welcome this year.

Take a little break from working outside. Walking or driving on the soil will compact it and eliminate the air pockets needed for healthy plant roots.

Photo: Ipheon (Spring Starflowers) blooming.

A German relative explained to me that when new residents move into her town, they are invited to join in one of the many community gardens. It's a welcoming gesture to express the community's openness to new families.

In Britain, the popularity of growing in community gardens has left the country without any more garden allotments to share. During World War II, 330,000 allotments were used by patriotic citizens to grow vegetables. The trend moved away from grow-your-own for decades, leaving the land to weeds. but now all are taken again.
The Royal Horticultural Society reported that vegetable seed sales have increased by just over 30-percent and the sale of potato starts is up over 60-percent from last year.
The reasons cited include: A desire to be less dependent on giant food producers and imported food in particular; a concern about the safety of commercially available produce; and, for young couples, an attraction to the lifestyle benefits of gardening.
Keeping chickens for fresh eggs, growing culinary herbs and bee keeping are part the the trend in Britain, too. (http://environment.guardian.co.uk/food/story/0,,2052949,00.html)

In other green news, Home Depot, the home improvement big-box store chain, is labeling 2,500 products to help customers select ones that could be beneficial to the environment.
Called Eco Options, the products include natural insect repellents, cellulose insulation, organic plant foods in biodegradable containers, energy efficient light bulbs and natural resource saving appliances. The Home Depot website says, "Eco Options products fall into one of five categories: clean air, water conservation, energy efficiency, healthy home and sustainable forestry."

Making it easier for consumers to choose green options was not a response to an overwhelming demand from the public but was a management decision . Building environmental consciousness in the next generation of home owners is a good citizen goal for the company.

23 April 2007

Spring Planting After the Freeze

The tomatoes are planted, radishes are at their best, iris buds that were not frozen on Easter are blooming, blackberry flowers are bursting out, Salvia May Night is blooming with deep purple spikes of flowers, all the Larkspur volunteers have flower buds and many of the perennials that were black with frozen leaves are putting out bright green growth.

Maybe spring will be saved after all.

There is still time to plant loose-leaf lettuce and replant the flower beds. Garden centers will bring in different flowers soon - the ones that can take heat. Plant a couple of pots, too. That way if a part of the flower bed looks empty next month, the pot can be popped into the bare spot.

If zinnias and other hot weather flower seeds are part of your summer garden plan, there is plenty of time. Last year I planted flower seeds in June that bloomed until the first hard freeze.

If you apply any fertilizer make sure it goes into the ground where plants grow roots. For transplanted seedlings, put the fertilizer into the planting hole and water it in before planting.
Do not fertilize perennials and trees that were badly damaged by the April 17 freeze. Let them come back on their own. Fertilizer can force growth too rapidly while they are vulnerable.Susie Lawrence and Sharon Owen donated 200 herb plants to our Earth Day event. The plants were given to anyone who came to our butterfly table IF they would agree to not spray the plants and to let butterfly caterpillars eat them when their eggs hatch late summer.
The "Animal Baby" books and Ranger Rick magazines we gave to children were donated by Sharon Owen. The children were thrilled to get them.

21 April 2007

Earth Day in Muskogee

Today Muskogee Farmer's Market celebrated Earth Day. Not only were there the wonderful flowers and vegetables and bakery goodies, several organizations gave away Earth Day related items including free trees.
At our booth Jan Farris, Cindi Cope and I gave away butterfly caterpillars in plastic cups for people to take home to raise into butterflies. As many adults as children took home the little kits. Jon Stoodley's photos tell the story of how nature inspires awe in us all.

17 April 2007

Wall-O-Water, Geography and Lettuce

The Wall-O-Waters have been in place for almost two weeks waiting for the weather to improve enough to actually put tomatoes in them. In the meantime, the water in the sides has been warming and will warm the soil.
By the way, on one of my Internet browsing trips, I read the results of some research department that said Wall-O-Water works well for tomatoes but not so well for other vegetables you might think to start early in them. The researchers tried cucumbers and nixed the results.
Behind the Wall-O-Waters -125 heads of garlic that are forming - planted last October using methods of the Tulsa Tomato Man who has been relentlessly generous with garlic-growing advice over the past two years.

On another note, The Association of American Geographers is meeting in San Francisco for an annual convention. "Geography, the science of place, is an integrating discipline and is a pivotal study element in all the natural sciences."
The 80-session titles include some tantalizing topics including: Every Day is Earth Day at USGS, Effects of Sea Level Rise on Population, Global Land Change Detection Using Remote Sensing and Biogeography: Vegetation Mapping. Wish I could rent a movie of it.

Back to garden talk - Renee's Seeds just released a good article on planting and growing lettuce, called "It's Lettuce Time". Here are some highlights -
There are 3-types of head lettuce: Romaine, Batavian and Butterhead. Romaine we know from Caesar salads and lettuce wraps. Batavians are not available in the grocery, you have to grow them at home. They resist bolting in the heat though so may be worth a try. The Butterhead widely distributed in plastic boxes at the supermarket is only one of the many choices available.
Check out the seed types available and the planting tips, too, at Renee's Articles (click for the link).

14 April 2007

Earth Day 2007

If you can't think of something significant or small you can do to acknowledge Earth Day, go to any of the sites below. Each one of them has ideas - from changing light bulbs to planting trees.

Almost every country in the world is bringing attention to the need to celebrate Mother Earth. Select a project, small or large, individual or on your block and join the party.

Divine Caroline - 50 Green Tips for Earth Day - divinecaroline.com
Earth Day In Your Neighborhood - Guide for Kids From 2 to 122 - www.allspecies.org
Earthday Network - Ecological Footprint Quiz - www.earthday.net
EnviroLink - online environmental community - http://earthday.envirolink.org/
Environmental Protection Agency Celebrates Earth Day - http://www.epa.gov/earthday/
International Earth Day (Christian site) - www.earthsite.org
Kaboose Earth Day Celebration (for kids) - http://www.kidsdomain.com
Live Earth 7.7.07 Concert for a Climate in Crisis - http://liveearth.msn.com/
Nature Conservancy Earth Day Events - support.nature.org
Teacher Resources - www.earthday.wilderness.org
U. S. Government Earth Day site - http://www.earthday.gov/
World Wildlife Foundation Earth Day - http://www.worldwildlife.org/earthday/

13 April 2007

Soil Health Cornell University

If you are fascinated by nature, soil and plant health, a new publication available online from Cornell University, Soil Health Manual, has up-to date information.

"Some soil scientists say that there are more species of organisms in a shovel full of garden soil than can be found above ground in the entire Amazon Rain Forest."

"Nematodes are generally the most abundant multicellular organisms in soil."

"All the life in the soil interacts together into what is termed the soil food web."

Frankly, some of the science and math is over my hairspray but it is worth a read through.

Highlights for the non-farmer, non-scientific gardener include:
Page 19 has a chart of soil quality indicators. Page 25 has soil sampling protocols. The Graph of Nitrogen Cycle on page 37 is interesting. There is a graph on page 41 that shows the benefits of adding organic matter. Page 48 discusses the 4 methods of improving soil health: tillage, cover crops, organic amendments and crop rotation.
Click on the link to read more.

Also new on http://www.hort.cornell.edu/ is a link to an article titled, "New site shows forests aren't just timber: think mushrooms, ginseng and sugar". The new site is "The How, When and Why of Forest Farming Resource Center (HWWFF) uses video clips, Web text and images, PowerPoint presentations and text files to provide a one-stop shop for farmers, landowners, researchers, natural resource managers and agencies to work together to create thriving agro-ecosystems out of forest lands."

Good rainy day reading.

10 April 2007

Giant Silk Moth

A pair of Giant Silk Moths resided on our front porch by the
light for a week or so and then moved on to wherever Giant Silk Moths go. They are so pretty.

Their scientific name is Polyphemus. Bill Welch (the Bulb Baron at www.BilltheBulbBaron.com) identified it for me.

Wikpedia describes the moth as having a 6-inch wingspan and purple eyespots on hindwings. The caterpillar eats 86,000 times it's weight in less than two months.

09 April 2007

Bridal Wreath Spirea

Bridal Wreath Spirea is one of the most durable, old-fashioned shrubs for the back of a bed, a hedge row or on a property line.

In the spring, it is covered with tiny rose-like flowers along every branch. During the summer it is covered with oval leaves. This Spirea will grow to 6 or 10 feet tall, depending on how it is trimmed.

Give it full sun and average soil. In the summer mulch will keep it healthy and regular watering will keep it beautiful. Prune and shape the shrub in the winter or before it leafs out in the spring. Spirea prunifolia 'plena' is sometimes spelled spiraea.

The one remembered in farm gardens can become too large for smaller spaces. Hybrids have the same flower rush in the spring but come in smaller sizes. They include:
Double Reeves spirea (S. cantoniensisLanceata’) grow into 3- to 6-foot-tall plants.
Snowmound spirea (S. nipponicaSnowmound’) grows 3–5 feet tall.
Baby’s-breath spirea (S. thunbergii) - lacy white flowers on 3- to 5-foot leafless stems.
‘Mt. Fuji’ has variegated foliage.
S. prunifoliaPlena has double white flowers and grows to 7 feet tall with orange-red fall color.

Spirea is available from many mail order nurseries if you don't have a friend who will give you a section of theirs as a pass-along plant.

06 April 2007

10 Most Magnificent Trees In the World

The Ten Most Magnificent Trees In the World - at least by one person's measure - are listed with photographs on Neatorama.com and if you have a few minutes to take a look you will be rewarded.

The first entry, the Lone Cypress in Monterrey CA was to be expected. The Basket Tree is a surprising feat of patience by bean farmer Axel Erlandson. Erlandson's hobby was to prune and graft trees into fantastic forms.

The Giant Sequoias and Drive Through trees are there along with Chapel Oak and the Tule Tree.

Did you know that a monkey bread tree can store over 30,000 gallons of water in their trunk? That's just one of the tree-facts you'll learn at this site.

05 April 2007

Fun Stuff While We Wait for Good Weather

OK it's freezing in April. We just returned from a lecture in Bartlesville and it snowed the entire time we were there. At least here in Muskogee it is only raining and freezing. Silver lining anyone?

Photos of Mystery Plant - in full bloom below and in bud above so you can see the leaves.

Two fun topics while we wait for better weather.
One is a gardening blog called Garden Rant. The blog itself is always great fun and is especially entertaining today. A visiting writer rants about gardening experts that cause harm to gardens. Check it out at www.gardenrant.com
And second, for your cold spell entertainment, I'm giving away a gardening book to the first person who can identify the plant that is blooming in the dry bed. Enter by clicking on the "comment" link in the blog and letting me know what it is.