28 February 2007

Spearmint Tea Helps Hirsutism

Recently it was reported that an extract from daffodil bulbs is used as an effective treatment of Alzheimer's.

Today another surprising plant based treatment was announced.

The condition of unwanted hair growth on women's faces is called hirsutism and a variety of treatments have been tried with varying levels of success.

The treatment that was successful in a medical trial was an herbal tea made by pouring a cup (250ml) of boiling water over 1 heaped teaspoon (5g) of dried leaves, and leaving it for 5 to 10 minutes.

The study results appeared in Science Daily online.

Ready, Set, Go

On the heat mats and under lights, seeds of greens, cabbage, butterfly weed, parsley and fennel are coming up and doing well.

The Brussels sprouts seedlings have already been transplanted into their own individual 2-inch pots and have been outside on sunny afternoons to get tough enough to plant in the garden in a couple of weeks.

March is here and while it is still a bit early to start tomatoes and peppers, seeds of lettuce, everyone in the cabbage family, herbs and several flowers can be planted inside under lights.

Be sure to plant your seeds in sterile seed starting mix. Or, use my method of sterile soil mixed with perlite on the bottom and seeds planted in vermiculite on the top.

Read the back of the seed package and follow the directions. If it says to plant indoors 6 weeks before last average frost, plant them this week under lights. Our last average frost date is April 11th.

25 February 2007

Peppers and Beans, oh my

Bill McKay, a distributor of seeds from Italy, is looking for a few gardeners who would like to participate in a summer seed trial of beans and hot peppers.

Test varieties include: calabrese (ex. baccio satana, ex cilegia from Franchi Sementi); calabrese from fuscello tessoro; Red Cherry from Franchi Sementi; Topepo Rosso Piccante & San Salavtore piccante, both from Fuscello Tessoro. Bean Trial: new pole beans, Smeraldo & Garrafal Oro. McKay said that "both have been requested numerous times by customers who have eaten them in Europe and say they are amazing beans." Also included supermarconi - a really good eating bean.

Contact McKay at seeds@growitalian.com and he will send out 5-10 seeds for each variety. "Each participant will grow each variety out keeping notes on the trial sheet provided. If possible, they would take some photos with a digital camera. We can post the results up on the website in the fall. This was a lot of fun last year.So, if you are interested in participating, send an email to seeds@growitalian.com Please include your mailing address. Specify which trial you want to participate in. I will try and get these out by the middle of March. Please select only one trial."

24 February 2007

Weather, Seed Starting and Blogs

After an inch of rain and a little hail, the 40-mile an hour winds made today another unlikely day for enjoying the garden.

But, it worked out well for starting seeds inside in 2-inch pots. Early spring vegetables and a few flowers are on heat mats and under lights so they will be ready to plant outside in April.

Here is a find - a website that lists gardening blogs around the country. Even though several of the listed blogs are not current, there are many amusing clicks. A few are written from our zone 6 but none from northeast Oklahoma or northwest Arkansas yet.

22 February 2007

Wild Things Nursery

A unique Oklahoma plant grower, Wild Things Nursery, grows Oklahoma native plants for your gardens. The catch is that they only sell at herb festivals so you have to chase their appearances to get these wonderful naturalizers.

On the Wild Things website (click here) they list the shows, with links to many of the show's own weblinks. Examples: April 7 - Norman, April 14 - Herb Day in Brookside (41st and Peoria in Tulsa), April 21 - Sand Springs and April 28 - Jenks.

These shows are great fun and the growers, like Marilyn Stewart at Wild Things, are walking libraries of information about their herbs.

This is a link to the Wild Things Plant List for 2007. Click on the magnifying glass several times to make it big enough to read the details about planting habitat.

Happy planning until planting season begins.

20 February 2007

Fluff Up Your Potting Soil

After reading over and over again that potting soil is the best way to make sure our plants are happy in their potted homes, a gardening expert says it is not good enough.

Carlo Balistreiri, the executive director of The Gardens at Turtle Point in Tuxedo Park, New York, says that you need to add drainage to commercial potting soils (click to read).

Add one or more of these products until the bagged soil is fluffy: Perlite, small gravel, grit or coarse sand.

Balistreiri says, "This will allow air to the roots AND improve drainage in the pot--two critical components for the health of your plants."

19 February 2007

Root Room?

Oh, these glorious break out days when it is not freezing or too wet to be in the garden. Finally, yesterday, the red onion sets could be planted in between cutting limbs, weed pulling and moving compost.

Crocus are blooming, daffodils are making flower buds, hyacinth buds are visible nestled in the center of their emerging leaves and tulip shoots were hiding under the oak leaf mulch ready for sun. All sure signs of spring.

Enthusiasm can lead to planting too many things too close together for their health resulting in poor root growth (lack of water and nutrients) and poor air circulation (diseases like mildew and mold).

A 1927 book on vegetables has been posted onto the online Soil and Health Library.

Specifically, take a look at the chapter on onion root growth. One onion's roots grow a foot wide and over 3-feet deep.

Flower bulbs need similar growing room and depth in order to thrive. So, when the spring planted bulbs arrive, give them plenty of root room.

18 February 2007

Search for Defender Potatoes

If you eat commercially available french fries or plan to plant potatoes, look for Defenders.

The US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Center found that Defender potatoes are the only ones with a natural defense against Phytophthora infestans that causes late blight.

This means the potatoes can be grown by organic farmers - good news for growers and consumers since less spray late in the season means healthier food.

The USDA says Defender plants produce high yields of long, white-skin potatoes with proportions of starch and sugar that make them well-suited for processing and they also hold up well as fresh produce.

The seedlings should be available since this research was released a couple of years ago. If you have seeen them in a catalog or store, please let us know the sources.

16 February 2007

Chihuly fountain at Atlanta Botanical Garden


Thinking about adding an artistic fountain in your gardens?
Dale Chihuly, whose glass art is featured at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, designed this fountain which graces the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Nancy Robinson posted this photo on daffnet - an online conversation about daffodils. Used with permission.

Winter Planning for Spring Planting

We still can't really get out into the garden but we can look at catalogs, order plants and seeds, read books and attend one of the dozens of gardening programs available right now.

P. Allen Smith's website and his television program on gardening are good ones. In his gardening email newsletter this week he recommended ways to think about planting borders and beds.

Consider contrasting plants next to each other such as ornamental grasses with Phlox
Look at leaf texture - put a fern next to a hosta
Consider leaf and flower color. Purple and orange are popular this year.
But if you prefer a more subtle look, put grey plants like dusty miller into the mix.
Allen says to use yellow sparingly. White flowers can soften a garden arrangement.
Always a good idea: Start your plan with one single color (red, blue, yellow) and work from there.

14 February 2007

Sweet Peas for Spring Scent

It's about time to pull supplies together to plant sweet pea vines. Renee's Garden Seeds (click here) has fully illustrated instructions on planting sweet pea seeds indoors for transplanting outside early to mid-April.

Our zone 6b last frost date is April 15th so sweet pea seeds would be planted indoors the first of March if you use Renee's guidelines.

Renee suggests that instead of soaking those large seeds with thick out coating, you use a nail clipper to nick them. Take a look at the photos at the link to see how it is done.

12 February 2007

Don't Worry - Get Flowers!


The scientists at Harvard University have concluded that flowers in your home will increase your compassion, chase away anxieties, worries and the blues.


Flowers in your home make you happier and that happiness transfers to your life in general.


In addition, flowers boost energy and enthusiasm in the workplace.


So, if you were considering sending Valentine's Day flowers or planting flowers to cut for inside your home, the benefits could be far reaching.


The greatest benefit from people in the study came from flowers in kitchens, dining rooms and living rooms, where they spent a lot of time at home. They said they wanted to see the blooms first thing in the morning.

11 February 2007

Light Up Your Plants' Life

Fluorescent lights are recommended for starting seeds and cuttings or for growing herbs.

Bulbs need to be within 6" to 8" of plants to provide enough light for seed germination.

Cuttings of shade loving plants should be 15-inches from the light bulb. Cuttings of sun-loving plants will enjoy being 12-inches from a full-spectrum bulb.

Seedlings and cuttings need between 10 and 16 hours of light to get a good start. They do need to rest every day so a timer would be great for turning on and off.

Plants called Short-day plants need 10 - 13 hours, Long-day and day-neutral plants can take up to 18 hours of fluorescent lighting.

10 February 2007

Spring Planting - Mertensia - BlueBells

A fellow garden writer said he has had good luck with Virginia Bluebells in his Northeast Oklahoma garden.

They are not sold in garden centers so I ordered a few bulbs from the mail order nursery he recommended.

The United States Department of Agriculture plants database says they are native to the US which is a great find. It seems that so many of the plants we buy are native to Europe, Asia and parts south such as Mexico and South America.

Plants native to our own soils should be stronger and resist diseases. The USDA map indicates native growth of Virginia Bluebells includes Kansas and Arkansas - why not Northeast Oklahoma, too?

If you haven't visited the Plants database, click on the link above for a treasure chest of plant information.

07 February 2007

Freeze is coming

The best protection for your plants that are outside in pots is watering. Dry plants will die in a freeze, watered plants will be more likely to survive. So, go out and check all the potted plants and make sure they are moist.

Keep the plastic gallon jugs that vinegar and milk come in and use them for watering outside. We keep four of them full of lightly fertilized water by the back door so it is always convenient to grab one and water the potted plants when they look dry.

06 February 2007

Variegated Dogwood

'Wolf Eyes' Dogwood will be available this spring.

Like all dogwoods, it prefers to be tucked under other trees and grows slowly to 9-feet tall. Prune to shape.

Wolf Eyes has to be taken care of to look its best - the leaves dry out if it is not watered during a hot, dry drought and it doesn't like wet feet.

This spreading tree has star-shaped flowers and red-orange fruit in late summer that birds enjoy. The leaves turn pink to red in the fall.

Cornus Kousa (Wolf Eyes) received the Theodore Klein Plant Award in 2006 from the University of Kentucky Nursery and Landscape Program, the Kentucky Nursery and Landscape Association and Yew Dell Gardens.

04 February 2007

Best Garden Plants for Oklahoma

Later this month, I'm going to write a review of this book, but I didn't want to wait to let you know that it is out: Best Garden Plants for Oklahoma by Steve Owens and Laura Peters, 2007,
Lone Pine Publishing International, softcover, $16.95. (Available on Amazon.com and Walmart.com and other online sellers for $11).

Steve Owens, of course, is the host of our own Oklahoma Gardening on tv every week. Laura Peters is the author of 24 gardening books.

The book has the look and feel of a field guide: Easy to use as a reference for planting as well as plant identification.