28 August 2007

Time for Fall Gardening

Next week's garden column will focus on fall gardening so I called Sue Gray, Extension Educator, Horticulture, Oklahoma State University in Tulsa.

Gray wrote a fact sheet for Tulsa Master Gardener's website and contributed to the OSU Fact Sheet number HLA 6009 on fall gardening.

Gray said to clean up the bed and mulch it ten days to two weeks before planting so the soil can be cooled by the mulch. In the meantime, if you are dying to start seeds, start them in pots.

It is still too hot to start lettuce outside so Gray is starting hers inside where the lettuce's preferred 70-degree temperature for soil and air can be met.

P. Allen Smith's newsletter says he is planting spinach this week in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he lives. Smith prefers Bloomsdale Longstanding.

Garden Guides says it is also time to put out flower seeds that need a cold stratification to come up and bloom next spring. Pansy, alyssum, calendula, bachelor buttons, love-in-a-mist and many other seeds should be purchased now and planted in prepared soil in September.

Muskogee gardeners plant Larkspur and poppy seeds around Thanksgiving. West Texas Cooperative Extension has a helpful sheet on flower seed planting and they recommend September for many flower seeds.

Gray said to look at the seed packets - they often say spring or fall seeding. The other item to read on the seed packet is "days to maturity". Gray said anything planted now should mature in 70-days or less.

When I was at Stringer Nursery in Tulsa yesterday, the owner reminded me that all perennial flowers appreciate being planted from seed at this time of year. By the way Stringer has their 2008 seeds in already and they plan to re-order as needed over the winter.

If you have not seen it yet, Winter Sown is a website specifically geared toward information on sowing seeds in cold weather. The Winter Sown link is to an essay on the basics, including a list of plants to consider.

26 August 2007

Buy Fresh Buy Local and the Living Kitchen

Buy Fresh Buy Local is the name of project sponsored by
the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture and the Oklahoma
Sustainability Network. The program is starting in the Tulsa
area and hopes to widen its reach over time.

Last night in Bristow at the Living Kitchen farm table dinner
two of Tulsa's farmer's market managers sat with us.

Rita Scott manages the Thursday night market at 6Th and Peoria and is working with Doug Walton of the Kerr Center on the Buy Fresh Buy Local roll out. Another key player, Leslie Moyer, manages the Wednesday farmer's market at 41st and Peoria in Tulsa.

Garden Rant, one of the most popular gardening blogs on the Internet, sent out a piece on sustainability yesterday, called "Carbon Calculations in the Garden" that discusses some of the issues surrounding the eat local movement that is stirring up conversation and controversy around the world and across world markets.

The Living Kitchen Farm and Garden grows much of the food they serve. The ingredients used are grown or made in Oklahoma. For example, last night's dinner included: Hinton Oklahoma raised Witchita Buffalo; Armenian cucumbers from Three Springs Farm; apricots, corn and poblano peppers from Shanksfarm; wine from Tidal School Vineyards in Drumright, butter from Wagon Creek Creamery; and, garlic, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, zucchini and potatoes from Living Kitchen's own farm and gardens.

Photo: Bibi - that incredible chef at Living Kitchen

The menu last night: Mint Rhubarb Julep with zucchini fritters, herb goat cheese on toast points and chipotle cream cheese with chips.Fried green tomatoes with purple hull bean and corn salad; tomatillo soup with potato herb dumpling, watermelon and lime sorbet, chicken friend buffalo served over poblano mashed potatoes with cream gravy and fried burgundy okra. Hot apple fritters with Porter peach ice cream. Coffee and wine as desired.

Muskogee's Farmer's Market is managed by Doug Walton of the Kerr Center this year. Walton can be reached at 918.686.6939 and via email at doug.walton@suddenlink.net - he has added a table at the Muskogee Farmer's Market for food donations and the Plant a Row for the Hungry Program.

You may not know that the eat local movement was originally funded by the federal government after the 9/11/01 New York City tragedy. That funding is gone now but the idea to buy locally and reduce the amount of transportation required for food has taken on a life of its own.

25 August 2007

Late August Garden: Fritallary Butterflies, Canteloupe and more

After an extensive search of whatsthatbug, I concluded that we have a swarm of Fritillary Butterflies in the yard. They are as calm as two-year-olds after cake and ice cream but freely lay their individual eggs in front of us on the Passion Vine at the front gate.

The caterpillar stage involves the eating of Passion Vine leaves, of course, and there are dozens of the caterpillars munching away.

Or, is this an Oleander Moth caterpillar? No they have long fuzzy hair where these caterpillars have black spines.

Then, I found Bob Moul's photography site with nearly 4,000 nature photos including a time lapsed slide show of a caterpillar morphing into a Swallowtail Butterfly. Tak time to watch the show - it's fascinating.
Photos: The adult butterflies that are swarming and eating and laying eggs in several flower beds.

A tall trellis that was constructed to hold tomato vines was taken over by a cantaloupe vine when the 105-degree days forced the tomatoes to shrivel.Last night's 2.5 inches of rain and cooler temperatures relieved us of watering for a while.
It also helped the garden considerably: The tomatoes have come back to life and the eggplant grew by inches in the past two days. I only put in Renee's Asian Trio and it stays blessedly small.
At the risk of harping, the Zinnias have put themselves on the map, taking center stage in the late summer beds where everything else has put a wet washcloth on its forehead and sighed. Even the Joe Pye Weed gave up the ghost after blooming and feeding butterflies for two months.

Add peppers to the list of vegetables that are thriving.
Three batches of pepper jelly are in the pantry already. I have made 50 batches over the years - many of them more syrup consistency than firm. If you have any interest in making some, the most successful recipe uses liquid pectin. It is: 12-ounces cleaned, chopped sweet peppers, 6-cups sugar and 2-cups of cider vinegar plus a dash of salt.
Pepper jelly is traditionally poured over a block of cream cheese to eat with crackers or cucumber chunks. Most of our is eaten as an accompaniment to chicken and other roasted meat. In old novels and garden books it is served at breakfast with biscuits.
Most recipes suggest Jalapeno peppers but we use sweet peppers and then add heat to taste by putting in pinches of hot pepper flakes until it is the right heat-sweet-sour flavor. What's the right amount of heat? Whatever you prefer.
The recipes say to run the peppers through a food processor but we prefer the aesthetics of using a chunky chopped size. That way, after the required cooking and boiling water bath, there are still specs of color in the final product.

Today the seeds of fall greens were planted in plastic strawberry baskets.
Susie Lawrence of Sand Creek Flower Farm in Braggs told me about this method working well for her. Sterilize the basket in 10-percent bleach water, fill it three-fourths full of sterile planting or seed starting mix, put in seeds and close the top. Check its moisture level daily.
Lawrence takes the seedlings out of the baskets and transplants them into larger containers or right into the garden. I cheat a little and put potting soil on the bottom half and seed starting mix on the top. That way when they put down roots they have some fertility into which to grow.
Enjoy this fall-like weather - it can't last.

21 August 2007

Powder Puff

John Deere Regional Gardening newsletter, Calliandra Seeds, Driftwood Gardens

Photo: Variegated dogwood

Sometimes the Blogger software is cranky and today is one of those days so this will be a short entry with only one photograph.

I rescued some seeds of a Powder Puff shrub at a public garden and was looking for propagation advice on the Internet. One of the sites that came up was a John Deere Regional Gardening newsletter from 2001.

A really good piece of advice on the newsletter is one I had forgotten about. Here is the short version: Sterilize the soil when the last crop has come out of a bed.

"Cover the vegetable garden with clear plastic anchored down with stones to heat up and sterilize the soil once spring crops are finished producing. The soil temperatures can reach 135-F under the plastic, high enough to kill insects, weed seeds, and many diseases. June to October is the best time to do this technique in Florida. "

The link to Muskogee's Upper South Regional garden newsletters is http://content.garden.org/johndeere/regional/report?action=zipsearch&zip=74401&submit=Go%21 and it's another free resource for you.

Back to calliandra - the seeds and information are available at this link to Driftwood Gardens.
Sowing instructions: Scarify the seed and soak in warm water for 24 hours
Sow seed 3/4” deep at a soil temperature of 61-64° F. and keep moist. Seed can be sown outdoors in the fall for spring germination. Sow in standard good draining potting mix
Plant Care: Grow in a standard potting mix; Likes a deep, rich well fertilized soil
Keep moist and feed once a month; Transplant when large enough to handle into pots; Keep humid if in dry conditions by occasional misting.
Fun Facts: Ancient Hawaiians used the wood to make spears; There are 132 species of Calliandra; Makes an excellent plant for collectors of plants for the home or greenhouse environment; The perfect plant for the southern warm regions.

20 August 2007

Fall Vegetable Gardening, Wordsworth in the Daffodils

Hey! It is time to get ready to plant fall greens - lettuce, spinach, beets, chard, broccoli raab and all those wonderful, nutritious goodies. HLA 6032 is the fact sheet number for vegetable varieties for Oklahoma at Oklahoma State University. Follow this link to find out which ones work best.

Photo: Eggplant flowering in our garden

Mississippi State University has a page of advice about fall veggie gardening that reminds readers to fertilize and water before planting seeds or transplants.

Bishop's Hat at the Dallas Arboretum

Two hundred years ago, Wordsworth wrote "I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud". Wordsworth for the Youtube Generation is yours if you click here.

From the website: "It is a poem about the mind's growing awareness over time of the deepening value of an experience, in this case observing the dancing daffodils. Two hundred years after it was published, the poem is still reaching new audiences and inspiring people. Part of our work here at Grasmere is demonstrating how Wordsworth's poetry is relevant today and encouraging young people to enrich their lives by exploring his poetry in their own ways.”

19 August 2007

Dallas Arboretum photos

The Dallas Arboretum is perfectly located next to a lake. In this photo a waterfall greets visitors at the entrance.
As you walk into the gardens there are wonderful architectural and artistic views.
Paths wind throughout the various gardens
This little structure is in the shade garden which not only has a creek running through it and irrigation everywhere but also
a misting system which puts moisture into the entire shade garden and the plants that coat the outside of the children's play house

Plant photos will be uploaded later.

Texas Nursery and Landscape Assn Expo, Dallas Arboretum, Blackberry varieties

Photo: This is the moth parent of that huge caterpillar
- at least it looks big enough to be the parent.

Texas Nursery and Landscape expo was held this week in Dallas and we were treated to plenty of eye candy for plant lovers. We took a lot of photos of new plant introductions.

After the show, we walked a few hours at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden where we saw how many perennials and annuals can withstand Dallas heat if they are watered daily. A click on a map of the Arboretum will give you a sense of the size of their collections.

Later this week, I'll post photos from both.

BLACKBERRIES - In answer to a question about blackberries: Select varieties specific to your climate. For western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma, look for the ones with names such as Arapaho, Navajo, Choctaw, Comanche - you get the drift. These thornless varieties were bred at Arkansas State University to hold up to our climate and adapt to our soils.
Photo: We picked two of these full of berries twice a week during the season.
The original planting six years ago was 3 little sticks of plants.

My garden column this Thursday is about Ryan DeSantis who is studying the effect of carbon dioxide on the health of trees in Oklahoma so I was especially alert to two stories about climate change in today's paper.

Protesters at Heathrow Airport in London set up a camp to protest the proposed addition of a third runway at the airport because of the greenhouse gases that would be released into the environment.


In an effort to bring attention to global climate change, Greenpeace had 600 people lie on a melting Swiss glacier in Bettmeralp. They report that the glacier is shrinking by 110-yards every year. The air temperature was about 50-degrees when the photo was taken. The entire article is at http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=070818214642.2288blmn&show_article=1.

15 August 2007

New Words in the Dictionary 2007

Along with crunk (music), DVR (digital recorder), ginormous (really big) and nocebo (a sugar pill that actually causes a negative reaction in a patient), a few of the new words to be added to the dictionary later this year are terms familiar to garden geeks and foodies.

From their site http://www.merriam-webster.com/info/newwords07.htm
"Here's a sample of the nearly 100 new words and senses now deemed ginormous enough to be included in the 2007 copyright version of the best-selling Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary, Eleventh Edition—available this fall in bookstores everywhere. How many of these words are already a part of your vocabulary? "

Main Entry: hard·scape

Pronunciation: \ˈhärd-ˌskāp\
Function: noun
Date: 1984
: structures (as fountains, benches, or gazebos) that are incorporated into a landscape

Main Entry: mi·cro·green

Pronunciation: \ˈmī-krō-ˌgrēn\
Function: noun
Date: 1998
: a shoot of a standard salad plant (as celery or arugula)

Main Entry: view·shed

Pronunciation: \ˈvyü-ˌshed\
Function: noun
Etymology: view + -shed (as in watershed)
Date: 1981
: the natural environment that is visible from one or more viewing points

I thought hardscape and microgreen were already officially considered words. Viewshed is a new one for me.

Jan 2007 Ice Storm, Canning Outside, History of Agriculture Online

Remember January 2007's ice storm?
Here are two photos to remind you of what our yard
looked like and maybe to help cool off your
forehead from the 103-degrees we are suffering today.

The photo below is the same shed as in the photo above -
but this week displaying Mother Nature's incredible ability
to regenerate herself no matter what the weather.

Gardening at our house is limited to watering morning and night
and maybe a little flower deadheading and vegetable picking.

I have to confess that I am still canning even in this heat.

We bought one of those turkey fryers with a propane tank attachment.
We use the pot for boiling water, sterilizing jars and water bath sealing
- all done outside on the patio in the shade.

While you are stuck indoors escaping heat stroke, take a look at
this website http://chla.library.cornell.edu/c/chla/about.html

It is a link to Cornell University's core historical literature of agriculture.
There are 1900 books online available for browsing and reading.

If you are interested in the past or the present information on agriculture
you will find something about it in one of those books.

11 August 2007

Caterpillars, Chicory and 106-degree August Days

Now this is a caterpillar! These are roaming around the yard and emerge when we water. We think it is the offspring of the giant moths that live here.
Marillyn Stewart of Wild Things Nursery and Sharon Owen of Moonshadow Herb Farm have both identified the mystery plant as chicory, so we will go with that. I just did not know chicory could grow to six-feet tall, but here it is.

This is a side view of the chicory flower.

With the temperatures soaring to 106-degrees this week, watering twice a day will have to be the norm.
The other tough part about the heat is having to decide what to let go.
Some of the annuals are struggling to stay alive so they get a free ride to the compost. Half of the spaghetti squash and all of the potimarron squash are fading fast and will be put out of their misery this week, too.

On the upside the eggplant, basil, cucumbers, peppers, passion flowers, ornamental millet, zinnias, cherry tomatoes, arum, plectranthus, and other plants are thriving.
The blackberries are ending their bumper crop year and what a summer it was for them.
Another cheerful part of the heat is that the grass is slowing down its growth - less mowing is a good thing.

09 August 2007

Themed Gardens

Themed gardens can vary from all blue flowers, all roses, all succulents, or all grasses.

Flowers are wonderful for a few weeks. Developing a passion for a particular type or color flower is fine but can limit the number of weeks your garden looks its best.

One of the challenges is to identify plants that are attractive spring, summer and fall. For this reason, experienced gardeners form a background of herbaceous perennials. These plants create a reliable background and live for years.

Oklahoma State University Horticulture and Landscape Extension Fact Sheet HLA-6410 has everything you need to know to select suitable ones for your yard. Categories include: Cut Flowers, Large Background plants, plants that Prefer Shade, Vines, Showy Foliage, Edging, Borders and Ground covers, Dried Flowers or Showy Fruit.

Large plants provide the backbones of a landscape.

Sit in your favorite chair and notice what you see out the window. Consider putting a large shrub with winter interest or a specimen tree in the site line of the windows where you spend time.

Click through the websites for Sooner Plant Farm in Tahlequah and Tulsa Master Gardeners for ideas.

How much time are you spending outside in these 100-degree August days?

Consider the number of hours you are willing and able to invest when making plant decisions. Put in some low-water plants such as those suitable for Xeriscape. The Texas Extension Service has a link with Xeriscape ideas.

A new bed in our landscape is filled with spring and summer bulbs that are finished blooming now. What's left in the bed for August and September is a collection of shrubs and plants that require only weekly water and very little maintenance.

06 August 2007

Wild Things, Milkweed Caterpillars and Teddy Bear Sunflowers

One of the native plants I bought from Wild Things Nursery this year has grown over six-feet tall and blooms these beautiful blue flowers every morning. They close up in the afternoon.

Maybe Marilyn Stewart from Wild Things will see the photo and let us know what the name of this plant. A friend picked up my plants for me this year and I didn't get a list of what I bought.

After my great butterfly caterpillar give away in Muskogee on Earth Day, I bought butterfly weed or Asclepsis or milk weed seeds and planted the small plants in several places in the hope of attracting butterfly caterpillars.
This photo isn't of the best quality but you can see that the mama butterflies found the plants, laid eggs and the eggs hatched.
The day after this photo, the caterpillar had attached itself to a black plastic flower pot. That's what the spicebush butterfly caterpillar did, too. I would have chosen something more elegant but they seem to prefer those pots I have littered around the flower beds.

This is the second year for planting seeds of Teddy Bear Sunflowers. They are shorter this year because of that bizarre weather we had late spring but they are so sweet everywhere they are blooming. These are the things we enjoy while doing the work part in the gardens.
At the Muskogee Garden Club's sale this year I bought a huge plastic plant saucer that someone had donated.
Yesterday, I put in a stack of flat stones, three papyrus plants in pots and then filled it with water for butterflies.
I read this week that dragonflies will drown in a pool trying to get a drink of water and that we should put a stick or papyrus plant in the water for the dragonflies to hang on.
Oh, and if you set up a water source for your butterflies, it needs to be in the sun.

05 August 2007

Eggplant and Flowers in August

Horticulture Magazine has an email newsletter that has an article on eggplant this week. It's probably too late to decide to plant it but I can tell you that we started Renee's Asian Trio from seed and it is doing pretty well other than relentless insect damage. What a beautiful plant with the purplish stems, lavender flowers and tipped new leaves. There are a couple of small eggplants forming.

In the Horticulture Magazine article, author Tovah Martin suggests planting eggplant to be part of an upcoming trend in gardening: Purple.

Martin has color coordinated the vegetable garden with 'Royalty Purple Pod' bush beans, 'Rouge d'Hiver' romaine and Black Beauty eggplant.

Not quite satisfied with the colors on the grill, 'Applegreen', 'Red Ruffled', 'Listada de Gandia', and 'Casper' were added.

Renee's has eggplant seeds packed with 3-kinds of Italian or 3-kinds of Asian in the same envelope. The seeds are color coated with the legend on the package. This is an easier and less expensive way to get several kinds unless you were planning to plant a field of it.

This is the shed in our back yard that is on the verge of falling down. We just keep planting things in front of it and on the sides. Birds have raised many babies in those houses nailed on it, too.
This photo was taken yesterday, proving the point that when you have something in the yard that is not up to your otherwise high visual standards, you can always mask them with plants.

02 August 2007

Rock Gardening, Edamame, Cleome

DOES IT ROCK? Here is another photo from the display gardens at Laporte Av Nursery in Colorado. I can't get over how many beautiful plants they were able to cram into nooks and crannies.
Our yard will have to have a new rock garden by next summer.

EDAMAME We harvested all the edamame this week - that's the advice of Johnny's Selected Seeds - harvest it all at once. You can cook it and freeze it or freeze it in the pod uncooked. I'll probably cook it first. Edamame is a wonderful snack food with lots of vegetable protein and good to have around.
The photo illustrates how they looked on the stem of the plant when it was time to harvest.

CLEOME This old fashioned flower is doing a great job of cheering up the yard everyplace it is growing. Once you get it established, it will come back year after year. These plants are the offspring of a pack of seeds I planted at least 5-years ago. When the plants look tired, I pull them and lay the dry stems (with seed heads in tact) where I want them to come up the following year. I can recognize the seedlings when they appear in the spring so I pull out the extras and transplant the ones I want. This year there are probably 10 or 12 around.

I'm still doing daily battle with the cucumber beetles and squash bugs. I flood the plants with water early in the morning and just wait for the bugs to show themselves so I can hand pick them off. There are no effective chemical controls so handpicking is the only way to manage them. The squash is worth it.

Enjoy these summer days - August is here and little signs of fall are appearing: The tree leaves are starting to drop, the zinnias are at their peak, the tomatoes are dying back and the daylight hours are growing shorter. Don't complain about the heat - it will be gone soon.