30 April 2008

University of Central Oklahoma Awarded Green Honors

From: U.S. EPA

University of Central Oklahoma takes top green power honors School is among 18 nationwide to be recognized by EPA for buying renewable energy

For the second year in a row, the University of Central Oklahoma has purchased more green energy than any other school in the Lone Star Conference.

The school bought 26 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of renewable power and earned top honors in the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2007-2008 College & University Green Power Challenge.

The University of Central Oklahoma purchases 100 percent of its power from wind sources. It also has onsite biodiesel production, works with a performance contractor to increase its energy performance, and uses Energy Star-labeled products. The university’s green power buy is one of the largest by a college or university in the nation and has the equivalent environmental impact of avoiding the carbon dioxide emissions of more than 3,700 vehicles.

Green power is produced from eligible resources such as solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, biomass and low-impact hydro. EPA's Green Power Partnership encourages organizations to buy green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with traditional fossil fuel-based electricity use.

Additional information on EPA's College & University Green Power Challenge is available at http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/initiatives/cu_challenge.htm. To learn more about activities in EPA Region 6, please visit http://www.epa.gov/region6.

28 April 2008

The Future of Dirt by Drake Bennett

Today's Boston Globe, at Boston.com has a fascinating opinion article about a rapidly depleting resource: soil. Take the time to click on the link below to read the entire article. It is well written, referenced and thought provoking.

"The Future of Dirt" by Drake Bennett
Highlights -
-oil reserves and dwindling freshwater supply may get all the attention, but modern society is also overtaxing the ground itself.

An increasing number of scientists are starting to emphasize the extent to which soil - even more than petroleum or water or air - is a limited and fragile resource.

Scientists in Australia and the United States have started making rich new earth from industrial waste, and research into the astonishing fertility of a mysterious Amazonian soil may lead to an additive that can boost the power of soil for thousands of years.

Dirt remains, in certain ways, a puzzle: Despite its seeming simplicity, it is a complex system whose fertility arises from the interaction of myriad physical, biological, and chemical properties.
It takes tens of thousands of years to make 6 inches of topsoil.

Because of all the things human beings do to it, University of Washington geologist David Montgomery has calculated, the world today is losing soil 10 to 20 times faster than it is replenishing it.

However, it has also happened that civilizations have improved their dirt. Among the world's richer soils is terra preta, the "black earth" found in certain swaths of the Amazon basin. It is dark, loose, and loamy, and unlike the pallid earth that characterizes most of the Amazon, it is strikingly fertile.
In the last few years, archeologists have established something else intriguing about terra preta: it is man-made. It contains high concentrations of charcoal, along with organic matter such as manure and fish bones - essentially the household trash of a pre-Columbian society practicing a distinctive brand of slash-and-burn agriculture.

The challenge is to make truly synthetic soil that matches the stability and longevity of natural topsoil. (The artificial soils sold by the bag at gardening stores tend to be either natural soil that has been enriched, or potting soil, which is mostly compost and quickly degrades.)

Dick Haynes, a soil scientist at Australia's University of Queensland, has created a synthetic soil from industrial waste products: fly ash from power plants and byproducts of aluminum processing for its mineral components, poultry litter and manure for its organic matter.

Until such methods are within reach of farmers, soil experts are focusing on ways that farmers can protect and even improve the soil they have.

One example is crop rotation, an ancient farming practice now seeing more use in both the developed and developing world. Instead of watching soil blow away from fallow fields between plantings, farmers are alternating grain crops with other crops so that the soil is covered at all times. And if those other crops are legumes like alfalfa, clover, or soybeans, they also take nitrogen out of the air and enrich the soil.

Another technique is to persuade farmers to stop tilling their ground entirely. Tilling, or plowing, is for most people synonymous with farming - traditionally it's been used to control weeds and mix fertilizer into the soil. But it also leaves soil far more susceptible to erosion, drying it out and leaving it bare to wind and rain.
To combat this, a growing number of American farmers are adopting "no-till" techniques, using machinery that inserts seeds through small slits into the ground. After the harvest, the crop remains are left on the field to decay, replenishing the soil in ways that synthetic fertilizers cannot.

To soil scientists, the time horizon is only part of the political challenge. The larger problem may be, simply, that it remains hard for many people to take soil seriously.

Caring properly for soil, whether through additives like biochar or techniques like crop rotation and no-till agriculture, may have a serious role to play in mitigating greenhouse gases.

"Maintaining your soil quality," says Laird, "is maintaining the viability of your society."
Drake Bennett is the staff writer for Ideas. E-mail drbennett@globe.com.

27 April 2008

Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier

This may be the next must have book for anyone who enjoys growing vegetables.

"Perennial Vegetables" by Eric Toensmeier, published by Chelsea Green Publishing. The subtitle is From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener's Guide to Over 100 Delicious, Easy-to-Grow Edibles.

Tempted yet?
Toensmeier says that these 100 edibles are as easy to grow as any flowers you currently have in your perennial beds and borders and that they produce veggies all season.

Toensmeier's biography includes: Board member, Nuestras Raices; librarian forNew England Small Farm Institute; author, "Edible Forest Gardens: A Delicious and Practical Ecology"; teaches ISE course on “sustainable design”. Toensmeier also founded and operated Perennial Vegetable Seed Company.

Toensmeier explains how to raise, tend, harvest, and cook with plants that yield great crops and satisfaction.

OK so that's great. So, what's new?

Here are some of the foodstuffs he recommends we grow to eat - Plantain, Onion, Amaranth, Celeries, Asters (chicory, globe artichoke, Okinawa spinach, sunchoke), Malabar spinach, Cabbage (kale, broccoli, Turkish rocket and arugula), Curcurbitaceae (cucumber and Chayote), Yam family, Euphorbiacae/Spurge, Fabacaea/Pea (Hyacinth bean, water mimosa, perennial beans), Breadfruit, Solanaceae (ground cherry, peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes), etc.

Plant seed sources are provided, too. Since I think it is best to buy from seed companies as local as possible, or at least close to our horticultural zone, I'll list them for you.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, G & N Ramp Farm, HCR in Arkansas, Plant Delights Nursery, Sand Hill Preservation Center, Seed Savers Exchange, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Then there are several foreign suppliers he used when learning about perennial veggies.

Each plant covered in the book has a map with it showing where in the U.S. the plant is most likely to be perennial.

I can't wait to dig into this book and discover new edibles for our garden and table.

24 April 2008

Grow Tropical Plants in Temperate Climates

If you fell in love with lush plants during a tropical vacation or just want a new look, you will appreciate knowing that tropical plants love northeast Oklahoma summers.

Popular tropical plants include: Coleus, poinsettia, pentas, geranium, elephant ears, banana palm, tapioca, caladium, calla lily, African daisy and sweet potato vine. Gardeners love them for their rich leaf and flower colors.

Tropical plants thrive in the heat and humidity we have in July, August and September when many of the plants we enjoy in the spring and early summer are exhausted.

Every spring, flats of the more common tropicals fly off the shelves at home improvement stores and garden centers but few gardeners take home some of the more unusual tropical plants.

This week, a truck pulled into Blossom's Garden Center on Hancock Road to deliver 750 tropical plants from a Florida grower. Lora and Matthew Weatherbee are betting that local gardeners are ready grow a wider variety of plants with flowers in hot pinks, lush vines with vivid blue flowers and huge oleanders with sprays of pink flowers.

"We have gallon sizes at $5.99 for patient gardeners and 3-gallon trellised plants for those who want instant gratification," Lora said.

The view when you drive into the parking lot will remind you of a tropical destination you have visited or seen on television — plants with white, soft pink, hot pink, red, yellow, blue, gold and crimson flowers are lined up to be appreciated and taken home.

To use these plants effectively there are several ways to go. You can put one in a planter, add a few to an established perennial shrub border to convert an existing bed or start a new bed.

Perfect places also include poolside, near the hot tub or kiddies pool, the front porch or back door where you can see them often.

These plants will thrive until fall temperatures go down to 40-degrees so they will be beautiful for around five-months. Then, you can put them in pots that to be brought in for the winter, take cuttings to grow indoors, dig up the root ball and protect them over the cold months or treat them as annuals and replace them next year.

Here are some tropical plants to consider for your summer and fall garden

Star Jasmine — White flowers on vines with dark green shiny leaves. Sweet scent thrives in moist soil in full sun. Plant in window box, hanging basket or in an established shrub border where they can climb.Easy to over winter in the house.

Ixora coccinea or Jungle Geranium — Clusters, 2.5 inches wide, of gold or coral flowers on bushy shrub related to Gardenias and Coffee plant. Enjoys moist, acid soil.

Duranta or Skyflower — Deep blue flowers on trailing or climbing vine. Dainty leaf and flowers, graceful, arching 6-inch sprays of color. Use as specimen plant or in the border. Train to a form with a single trunk or let it flounce over an edge or at the feet of other plants. Full sun, well-drained soil, and monthly fertilizer. Good winter houseplant.

Allemande or Golden Trumpet — Yellow flowers on fast growing vine. Climbs but does not twine so has to be tied in place and trained. Combine with plumbago, lantana for striking color. Full sun, well-drained soil. Over winter indoors. Milky sap can irritate sensitive skin when pruning.

Mandevilla or Diplandenia — Light pink flowers, hot pink flowers and one with variegated leaves and pink flowers. Vines grow best cascading from an arbor, fence or tree. Sun, water, compost and fertilizer make them grow best. Diplandenia can also be pruned into bush form.

Chilean Fire Bush or Embothrium coccineum — Protect this small upright tree from the wind and enjoy the show of red-orange clusters of tubular flowers favored by hummingbirds. Hardy to 10-degrees. Slow growth for the first two years, then grows to 20-feet. Deep well drained soil.

Pandorea, Bower Vine, Jasmine — Woody stemmed, bushy vine with fragrant pink flowers. Moist but well drained soil. Prefers hot sun but part shade will work. Tolerates dry after being established. Take cuttings or save the seed for next year.

Tropical hibiscus tree, Braided hibiscus tree, Hibiscus bush form Thrives in humid hot weather. Grow in an established border or containers. Use two to frame an entry. Full sun, rich moist soil. Fertilize monthly with high potassium product. In winter, use as houseplant or protect roots in garage.

Oleander — Tough shrub with 5-inch long leaves and clusters of pink flowers. Thrives on heat so great for concrete patio, sidewalks, pools and driveways. Wants to dry out between watering.Blooms on new growth so remove seed pods and prune both to shape and to keep it blooming. Sap can irritate sensitive skin. Cold hardy to 35 degrees.

Passionflower — Large flowers in blue, purple or red on vigorous, climbing vine. All attract butterflies. Grow fast on fence, tree, trellis or arbor. Full sun or part shade will make them happy to bloom until freezing weather.

"For the price of a flat of marigolds, you can have a traffic-stopping Mandevilla or other tropical plant," Matthew said. "They can make you feel as though you are on vacation all summer."

23 April 2008

Garden Tour, Vacation Planning, Garden Info on the Net

Sorry - no photos tonight - Blogger won't take any uploads - probably the lightening, rain, etc.

If you are in Tulsa June 7 and 8, don't miss an opportunity to go to the Audubon Habitat Garden Tour. Six gardens, $5.00 - Information: 918-521-8894.

So, here's a question for you: What will you do about your garden when you go on vacation this summer?
Do you hire someone to come water? What about deadheading, harvesting vegetables, watching for insect infestations, etc.?

J. L. Hudson Seeds issued a catalog update with new offerings. So far, I've had good luck with their seeds this spring. Let me know what your experience has been.

The American Society of Landscape Architects publishes an interesting newsletter online. This week they talked about Earth Day and linked to a great green blog called
Two Steps Forward written by Joel Makower. Makower writes about sustainable business, clean technology and green marketplace.

What's going on in your garden?

22 April 2008

What to Plant Now for Summer

In today's garden the daffodil and the iris looked like they came from the same color palette.

The weather has given the go-ahead signal for planting.
Oklahoma State University Fact Sheet HLA6004 is a planning guide that has all the information you need to get it straight.
Vegetables to plant now from seed include: Cucumber, green beans, peppers, eggplant and okra.
Tulsa Master Gardeners is the place to go for tips and timing on planting herbs. Most herbs need the heat we are just now getting. If you haven't started the seeds indoors yet, they can be planted outside.
Direct sow in the garden when night time temperatures are 50 and above (like now): Alyssum, cornflowers, nigella, stock, calendula, etc.
Start indoors: Asclepias, calendula, columbine, grasses, heliotrope, hollyhock, pansies, phlox, zinnias, etc.
I've started so many seeds you can't walk in the shed tonight. We had to bring in everything because dangerous thunderstorms were predicted.
The castor beans are getting their true leaves, as are the asclepias, gourds, peppers and nicotiana.
Nicotiana is so tiny and shallow rooted. I don't know how you get it out of pots and into the ground. I'll have to research its moisture needs, too.
More lettuce and spinach plants went into the ground today, the broccoli is forming edible heads, we are eating radishes and lettuce.
What's growing where you are?

20 April 2008

Worm Giveaway at Earth Day

The Junior Master Gardeners and their sponsor were the big workers at the worm giveaway.

We gave away 115 vermicompost kits and ran out by 10:30 in the morning.

Channel 22 was there to interview the master gardeners about the project. They explained how to take care of the worms when adoptive parents took them home.

The Junior Master Gardeners made kits, putting in food and worms.

Everyone had a great time and more than a hundred new vermicomposters got started with saving the earth.
If you came later than 10:30 after we ran out of worms, live locally and want a kit, email me at mollyday1@gmail.com. Maybe we can arrange a way for you to get one.

18 April 2008

Best Containers for Container Gardening

Most of us plant in the ground and in pots of one kind and another. Vegetables are bred to grow in pots, collections of flowers look fabulous in pots, strawberry pots filled with herb plants cannot be beat for culinary pleasures and pots of cheerful flowers on a porch or balcony bring a smile. Fruit trees and shrubs in containers make dramatic additions indoors and out.

There are advantages and disadvantages to clay, coir and moss lined baskets, plastic, plaster, hypertoufe and concrete planters.

Concrete heats up and stays hot in the summer, clay breaks during freezing weather, plastic doesn't breathe, coir lined baskets don't hold moisture - on and on.
(I wanted bamboo outside the kitchen window of a previous house and knew about its tendency to take over the neighborhood. So, we bought two huge, unmovable concrete planters. They were beautiful and expensive. Two years later the bamboo had broken both planters and moved into the neighbor's yard.)

If you tend to over-water and pamper plants, clay is a good choice because it dries quickly. If you have little time to care for plants, plastic has the advantage of holding water.

Clay protects plants from drastic temperature changes. Plastic is inexpensive and comes in lots of sizes but tends to fall over in the wind.

Glazed pots can be beautiful but pricey and sometimes do not have drainage holes drilled in them so plants' roots rot.

Also, if you fall in love with a glazed pot be sure its finish is non-toxic. A good compromise is to buy that beautiful pot and put a plant in a plastic pot inside the decorative one.

There are some beautiful and inexpensive (relatively speaking) foam-like plastic pots available now. They come in all sizes, hold moisture and usually have holes drilled in them. I bought a few last year and left one outside all winter - the finish chipped off with the freeze and thaw. The one that spent the winter in the shed is in perfect condition.

The size of the pot may be more important.
Using a huge pot for a collection of small plants can cause problems. When the plants are first planted, they will not take up enough of the water provided and will have a tendency to rot the roots. It is better to plant the small plants in a better fitting pot and put something in the bottom of the large pot to support it. Consider an Ups-a-Daisy or a home made version of one that fulfills the same purpose.
Small pots do not allow enough room for root growth and soil nutrients and water.

Dark pots, including black plastic or glazed clay will tend to make plants wilt more readily than lighter color ones.
There's a website called Container Gardening Guru with tips on painting clay pots, building wooden planters, potting mixes, etc. and if a windowbox is just what you need to decorate your home or garden shed, check out www.windowbox.com.
Find a pot and fill it.

17 April 2008

How to Set Up a Home Vermicompost System

Growing a garden has too many benefits to list. Even if you do not have time to dig in the yard, you can help the earth by feeding your food scraps to a bin of Organic material makes up two-thirds of the waste in any city. The food in that waste can be recycled through the use of worm composting.
Compost worm information and starter kits will be given away this Saturday when Muskogee Farmer’s Market celebrates Earth Day.
The primary benefits of worm composting include the production of “black gold” worm castings to add to potted plants or back the earth and a way to use up kitchen scraps without sending them to the landfill.

Build a compost worm bin for your home or apartment —
1) Buy a plastic or wooden box 10 to 18 inches deep and drill air holes around the sides about half way up and drainage holes in the bottom. Compost worms, red wigglers or Eisenia fetida, cannot function in light so do not use a clear or see-through container.
2) Compost worms need air to breathe through their skin so make sure the container is not closed with a tight lid. If the container came with a lid you can drill holes in it to use as a top or put it under the compost bin to catch any water that drips out.
3) Worms move by wiggling their muscles and they need loose bedding to crawl around so put moist torn newspaper and shredded leaves in the bin for bedding. They will eat the bedding so make sure it is free of insect spray. Other bedding choices include damp shredded office paper, straw, or moist shredded cardboard.
4) Put food in the container a few days before you add the worms because they have no teeth and have a hard time eating fresh fruits and vegetables. If you cut the food into small pieces it will be ready for them sooner.
5) Bury the food a few inches below the surface and change the feeding spot each time.
6) Food to add includes funny smelling leftovers from the refrigerator (no meat), bread - even if it is moldy or dry, spaghetti, fruit and vegetable trimmings - no matter what condition they are in, eggshells, oatmeal, leftover cooked cereal, cornmeal, teabags, coffee grounds with the filters, etc.
7) Do not feed them meat, fat or dairy.
8) Redworms do not live in soil; they live in leaf piles, manure and dead plants. Gather worms from under a pile of leaves not from under the soil level.
9) Add more bedding when the first bedding seems to have disappeared. Sprinkle a little water on the worm home to keep it as moist as a wrung out sponge but not wet.
10) If the bed is kept at around 70 to 80 degrees the worms will eat everything quickly. In fact, they eat their weight in food every two days. At 45 degrees they hibernate and eat nothing. At 30 degrees they freeze.
11) Lots of other critters could come to live in the worm bin including bacteria, fungi, springtails, sow bugs, fruit flies, and mites.
12) If you plan to keep the compost kit in the house and many people do, put a kitchen towel over the top to keep light off of the worms and to keep fruit flies away. Lots of compost worm bins are kept under the kitchen sink where it stays dark and warm and where food scraps can be easily added.
13) Be sure the bin is draining so it never smells bad. If it starts to smell, add dry shredded newspaper and check the drainage holes.
14) After three to five months dump the vermicompost bin onto a surface where you can provide a strong light. Make several small piles. The worms will wiggle down to the bottom leaving the compost on the top. Remove the compost, wait for the worms to go further down and remove compost again. Put the remaining worms and vermicompost back into the bin with clean bedding and food.
15) Use the compost you harvested. Add it to water to make compost tea, sprinkle it on top of houseplant soil or mix it with potting soil, vermiculite or perlite. Feed your plants with it.
For decades, back yard gardeners have piled yard waste to let it decompose and then put the resulting mulch into their vegetable and flower beds.

As cities around the United States look for ways to reduce the amount of garbage going into landfills, they set up recycling centers, yard waste shredding operations and public compost areas. In a state-wide program to dramatically reduce trash, CA distributed worm composting containers and compost worm vouchers to everyone on trash routes (www.zerowaste.ca.gov).

The red wrigglers for Earth Day at Muskogee Farmer’s Market came from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm in Pennsylvania, www.unclejimswormfarm.com, and Rising Mist Organics in Kansas, www.wackyworldsof.com.

Go green this Earth Day and start feeding your leftovers and scraps to a bin of compost worms to keep that garbage out of the landfills.

16 April 2008

Plant Herbs for the Kitchen

This is a perfect time to put some herbs into your life. Whether you plant them in pots or in the ground, fresh herbs have the ability to change food flavors in ways bottled herbs cannot.

Herb plants are readily available at garden centers, herb festivals and farmers' markets right now.

Culinary flavors to plant in spring include: Leeks, parsley, cilantro, chives, mint, dill, fennel, oregano and basil.

You can start seeds if you prefer that approach to buying plants. If you buy seeds, you will have dozens of plants to harvest over the next few months.

This is also the time to plant lettuce, spinach and other greens. Fresh herbs snipped into fresh salad greens is one of the real treats of spring.

Herbal vinegar is a wonderful way to use herbs if you have a successful planting. There is nothing like homemade herbal vinegar to dress fresh salads.

14 April 2008

Frozen Vegetables

This morning at sunrise the frost on the mustard and lettuce was quite beautiful.
Fortunately, it warmed up enough that we could put all the flats of seedlings outside to sunbathe. Since it is the last freezing night of the season, we uncovered the perennials, raked leaf mulch, pulled weeds, planted lettuce and generally celebrated the coming of warm weather.

In the shade garden, native phlox and bluebells are blooming. They were just planted last year so it isn't a great big splash but it still takes away the winter blahs.
Tulips are still bursting with color despite the frosty night last night. And, the daisies my friend Susie gave me last fall are in full bud. I'm eager to see what they are like in bloom.
Ready, set, go get ready to plant!

13 April 2008

Spring Tips and Best Plants from the Experts

Lantanas have had a place in my garden for decades. This pink and yellow one has long been a favorite. New varieties have variegated leaves.

For variety, here are some
Spring Gardening Tips from White Flower Farm (used with permission)
1) Do prune roses! Remove blackened and weak stems. Don't prune too hard; leave healthy canes of floribundas and hybrid teas at least one foot above the ground.
2) Do prune Wisterias before they leaf out to promote flowering.
3) Do remove old foliage around the new growth of perennials. Keep mulch several inches away from the stems. This will help prevent disease or rotting.
4) Do plan to grow tomatoes in containers this year. It's easy, fun, and you'll get great tomatoes. Try 'Celebrity' tomato, which grows well in containers.
5) Do plant Geranium 'Rozanne', the 2008 Perennial Plant of the Year.
DO NOT'S: 1) Don't use harsh chemicals on your lawn or gardens this year. It doesn't take any longer to use organic products.
2) Don't plant shrubs too close to your home's foundation -- read plant labels and allow for growth.
3) Don't miss out on time-saving, pre-planned gardens -- order online. The design and selection are done for you.
4) Don't forget to use compost and organic mulches. They re-use natural materials and are safer for the living organisms in your garden -- including you!
5) Don't use full-strength liquid fertilizers every time you water annuals -- you will burn the roots of your plants -- less is more!

And another great set of suggestions in my inbox this windy Sunday are from Graham Rice at
Transatlantic Plantsman .
Rice listed his top ten perennials. Click on the link for full descriptions but the thumbnails are:

Cenolophium denudatum - resembles a perennial version of Bishop's weed (Ammi majus)
Cortaderia selloana 'Evita'
Echinacea purpurea 'Green Envy'
Eryngium planum 'Jade Frost'
Euphorbia 'Helena's Blush'
Geranium pratense 'Laura'
Helleborus x ericsmithii 'Ivory Prince'
Heuchera 'Rave On'
Iris "Brown Lasso'
Sedum 'Marchant's Best Red;

OK, now, how many of them do you know and have ordered? Or, how many of them are you going to look for? I mail-ordered one of them and it arrived already. I can't wait for it to come out of dormancy so I can photograph it for you.

The Weather Service predicts much better gardening weather ahead: Mon 60/37, Tuesday 68/50, Wed 72/56, Thurs showers 70/52, Fri 69/49, Sat 75/59, Sun 79.

12 April 2008

Cactus, Blossoms, Herb Festivals and Butterfly Gardens, Oh My

CHAOS CACTUS NURSERY came to Muskogee today for the Azalea festival.

One of the very cool hand made items they brought was the frog home. Terri Mann and Bill Keeth's booth was swarmed with people when we were there. We bought wonderful succulents and hand made pots for great prices.

They will be at all the various herb festivals around the area. Don't miss them at the 19th Annual Herbal Affair & Festival, Saturday, April 19, 2008 / 9 am to 4 pm, Downtown Triangle, 2nd and Main, Sand Springs, Oklahoma. I can't go because I'll be at Muskogee's Earth Day celebration promoting vermicomposting.

Click on this link to read my article about them from Sept 2007. Or, contact Terri and Bill at Chaos Cactus Nursery in Sand Springs 918.241.3252 and email puppyfoots@hughes.net

I was at Blossom's Garden Center yesterday and took a few photos to cheer us up through this weekend of freezing nights.

I'm growing a bunch of plants to make a native butterfly garden at Honor Heights Park. The details haven't been worked out yet, but I'm thinking that if I grow the plants and donate them the Parks Department will come through with a sunny spot.
The plants for caterpillar food include: Parsley, Asclepias, dill, fennel. The plants I'm growing for adult butterfly nectar include Bishop's Lace and Scented Nicotiana.

What's happening where you grow?

10 April 2008

Spring Flowering Shrubs - Make More by Propagating


Published April 09, 2008 06:37 pm -
Gardening: You can propagate softwood cuttings By Molly Day

Everywhere we look right now there is something blooming. Forsythia, flowering almond, flowering quince, bridal wreath, and other shrubs grab our attention as we drive through neighborhoods.

Most of these spring blooming shrubs should be trimmed right after the flowers fade to be replaced by leaves.

But the removed cuttings can have a better fate than landing on the compost pile or in the trash bin. The tips of the branches can be rooted to make more plants to use in your own yard or to give to someone who just bought a home or who needs replacement shrubs.

Branch cuttings taken in the spring for the purpose of propagating more plants are softwood cuttings.

Softwood is not the new tender growth shrubs have now. Test for softwood stage by bending the stem near where you would be taking cuttings. If it snaps it is ready to use. If it is flexible and does not snap it is still too green. If it is not flexible at all it is too old to use.

The methods for propagating these shrubs are as numerous as the people writing about the process.

Most agree that a sharp cutting instrument must be used in order to avoid crushing the end of the stem. All but the top few leaves are removed from the cutting so no green material is under water during the rooting process.

Rooting hormones are sold in most home improvement stores. Their effectiveness diminishes with time and they no longer work at all after six months. If rooting hormone is used, the cutting is dipped into the powder or liquid and shaken off. Too much rooting hormone reduces the possibility of rooting.

Cuttings are placed in a pre-moistened sterile medium such as perlite or in sharp sand that has been well rinsed. Which ever rooting medium you use, make a hole in it with a pencil and put the cutting into the hole, then firm it in by pressing sand, peat or perlite firmly around the cutting.

Here are directions for a rooting bucket from “Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden.” Put two inches of gravel in the bottom of a one gallon plastic bucket. Using a sharp knife, cut slits in the bucket just at the top of the gravel. Fill the bucket to the top with sharp sand. Fill with water and let drain until the water is clear. Make holes in the sand and stick the cleaned cuttings in the sand. Keep the rooting bucket in the shade and check for water periodically.

Some gardeners keep the cuttings moist and warm by covering with a plastic bag or the top of a clear plastic bottle.

Forsythia, bursts with yellow flowers in early spring. Experienced gardeners find that they can take branch end cuttings and stick them in the ground where they want them to grow. They can also be rooted in peat moss, perlite, peat moss and sand.

Flowering Quince or Chaenomeles speciosa, locally called Japonica can be rooted the same way. The old-fashioned variety has pink-orange-reddish flowers that bloom at the same time as Forsythias. New cultivars: “Texas Scarlet,” has tomato-red blooms; “Cameo” has pink flowers; and “Jet Trail” has white flowers.

Roots grow on branch end cuttings in peat moss or sand, within one or two months. Carefully check one cutting after a month. Plant rooted cuttings in pots and then in the ground next fall.
Pink Flowering Almond or Prunus glandulosa rosea plena has powder pink flowers at the same time as Forsythia and Flowering Quince are blooming. It is also called Sinesis. Thomas Jefferson planted these shrubs in his Monticello garden in 1794. Take cuttings after flowering ends and leaves emerge; root as above.

Bridal Wreath Spirea or Spiraea vanhoutti, has branches of white flowers the same week all of the above shrubs are blooming. Take Spirea softwood cuttings are taken when the leaves emerge and root in moist sand and peat moss.

Making new plants is most likely to succeed when the cuttings are taken from a healthy plant. The desire to replace a dying plant by taking cuttings is understandable but may not work.

Propagation summary: Use a sharp knife and take three to four-inch cuttings from the growing tips. Make the cut at a slight angle just below a leaf node. Remove all flowers and the lower leaves. Dip the end into rooting hormone and put the cutting deep enough into the medium (sand, vermiculite, peat moss, etc.) that the cutting will stand up. Roots emerge from the former leaf nodes so be sure there are nodes down in the medium. Water and create a greenhouse effect with plastic bag, glass jar or clear plastic box. Place in a semi-shady spot out of direct sun. Cuttings root best at 65 to 75 degrees. Remove the covering to check on their progress, allow air to circulate and the top of the soil to dry a bit.

For rooting other types of plants, refer to the Rooting Database at the University of California, Davis Web site http://rooting.ucdavis.edu where you can search by Genus and Cultivar.

08 April 2008

In the Potting Shed

A rainy cold day like today is perfect for spending several hours in the shed. I had the camera out there to take a few photos. When I looked up from planting, a robin was in the apple tree outside the window.


This photo of the potting shed was taken last week but it gives you an idea what we are up to - we are up to our eyeballs in baby plants that we hope will succeed! One of the re-potting pleasures was taking Bishop's Lace seedlings out of their starter pots and moving them to 1-inch cell trays.
The seeds (and the photo shown here) were from Renee's Garden Seeds.
BISHOP'S LACE I used seed starting mix and sprinkled the seeds on 4-inch pots. Out of that one pack of seeds, I transplanted 125 seedlings today. Every seed must have germinated. For the most part that is the experience I have had with Renee's seeds: terrific germination.

Rest assured, I can kill the plants after they come up so I still have a mediocre live plant rate. But the seeds are reliable.
Renee is having a spring sale giving ten percent off all orders. Here is a link to check out what she has.
The sale is good until April 23. Enter this coupon code at checkout: DSC57.


A question came up about the worm hotel that my husband designed and built for raising red wrigglers. You can see that he used Dollar Store plastic storage containers. There is a square hole cut out of the middle of each tub except the bottom one which has drainage holes drilled in it. I've stopped feeding in the bottom tub. Now food goes in the top three bins to get the worms to move up. Are they smart enough to move toward the food? Evidently they are because I found a few in the top bin yesterday.

07 April 2008

Vermicompost Worm Give Away April 19 for Earth Day

I thought you would enjoy an update on the whole composting with red wrigglers idea.

Now we have two compost worm structures going at our house. The tower of worms is outside protected by the shade of a couple of trees. The bin of worms that I'm growing for the great worm kit giveaway for Earth Day is safely tucked inside the garage.

Every day I check them, look for them, feed them, give them fresh newspaper shreds, fresh veggie and fruit scraps from the kitchen. Tonight a friend contributed some well rotted scraps for them.

For Earth Day, I bought 200 plastic cups. They are 32 ounce opaque with a large enough bottom to be stable.

In each cup I'll put used coffee grounds, compliments of our local Starbuck's.

Then, since they will be given to kiddies, I'll put food in the cups. Probably oatmeal and cornmeal for the giveaway. Then a worm goes into the cup.

Each new worm home will be topped off with crushed leaves and damp shredded paper.

Thanks to Vista Print I was able to have 200 cards printed with cute pictures and complete directions for taking care of the worms. The directions include feeding, keeping them moist and checking them periodically to see how they are doing.

Muskogee Farmer's Market is financially sponsoring the compost worm kit giveaway. We are happily doing the raising of the worms. The Junior Master Gardeners from Whittier Elementary School are going to attend the Earth Day celebration to tell other kids how cool it is to raise worms using leftover food. Should be great fun for everyone.

Thanks to a Google alert, I have been able to read about the hundreds of other people who are vermicomposting. There are a lot of us! Maybe there will be a national compost worm day in our future.

New Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch

Betsy Clebsch has done it again -
her "New Book of Salvias" is terrific.

Clebsch said that since Salvias are known for their healing properties due to the chemicals in their make-up, they appeal to peoples around the globe.

Well, that may be true but their beauty and their appeal to butterflies keeps their numbers increasing in my flower beds.

Clebsch describes herself as an amateur botanist and lover of plants. She lives in the mountains between San Jose and Santa Cruz California - my old stomping grounds. Salvias there are sometimes evergreen.

Timber Press is the publisher. The book is softcover, 344 pages and around $20.

There are so many salvias that thrive in our gardens. And, oh the colors! Of course I want the ones that are fragile here but I actually grow a dozen of them that are hardy here.

Mountain Valley Growers is one of the sources on the web. I've had pretty good luck with their organic plants.

If you have some salvias, consider adding more of these reliable bloomers.

If salvias are new to you, start with ones recommended for your heat and cold zones. The first year in the ground you will have to tend them but after that they return to perform well and often increase their footprint over the years.

04 April 2008

Vegetables in the Flower Garden

So many thoughts came together today while I was potting seedlings of Red Russian kale, Pak Choi, bulbing fennel and other beautiful edibles that I love to grow by themselves and in flower beds.

Last year's Red Russian kale is still gorgeous despite several freezing nights this winter. It is surrounded by daffodils in the front bed right now.

Today's post from the Transatlantic Plantsman is about Joy Larkcom who evidently originated the whole idea of cut and come again salad greens as well as planting edibles in flower beds. Go figure - Who knew there was a Queen of Vegetables?

The online link is to Telegraph.co.uk and the author of the column and blog is Graham Rice.

Rice says Larkcom "tested thousands of varieties, identifying those ideal for the organic home gardener and, in a series of classic books, all recently updated - The Organic Salad Garden, Grow Your Own Vegetables, Oriental Vegetables (all published by Frances Lincoln) as well as Creative Vegetable Gardening . . ."

And, in today's Tulsa World newspaper, Jay Cronley talked about the popularity of gardening.
Cronley's column is called, "Bury your troubles digging in the dirt."

The online conversation for garden writers this week has been dominated by talk of a resurgence of gardening. Garden writers and speakers say that more young people are coming to their talks and asking questions about growing vegetables as well as decorative gardens.

Steve Solomon's book, "Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times", is one of my favorite reads on the topic of vegetable gardening. But then again I have not seen any of Larkom's books yet.

Tomorrow I'm mixing up some of Solomon's recipe for his complete organic vegetable garden fertilizer.

Here is the recipe: Mix 4-parts seedmeal (I use cottonseed meal because it is available here) plus one-fourth part agricultural lime plus one-fourth part gypsum or double up on the lime plus one-half part dolomite plus one-part finely ground rock phosphate or one-half part kelpmeal or one-part basalt dust.

Try to find the book if you are interested in vegetable gardening. Solomon was the founder of Territorial Seed and now lives in Tasmania. His blog is Soil and Health - the depth of information about soil is astounding.

And, before you buy that flame weeder (I can't be the only one craving a flame weeder), take a deep breath and read this column from the Basehor Sentinal in Basehor Kansas. Author, Gwyn Mellinger will pull you back to Planet Earth in a piece titled Gardening Industry Targets Baby Boomers, Their Wallets.

What a week we have coming - 70 degree days and 50 degree nights. The spinach and arugula seedlings will have to be planted in the next two days.

Hope you are enjoying having your hands in the dirt.

03 April 2008

Carson Borovetz Nursery for Annuals and Vegetables

Carson-Borovetz Nursery Muskogee Oklahoma

Aquilegia or Columbine is a good choice for half-sunny spots.

Annual flowers to fill a bed, a planter or hanging baskets are displayed by the thousands at Carson Borovetz Nursery, 3020 North Street, between York Street and Country Club Road.

Pete Carson has the exclusive distribution for Earth Smart chicken compost in Muskogee and he ordered seven tons of the bagged compost this year. The six tons he brought in last year all sold out.

The nursery also offers professional growing and bedding soil mix in three-cubic-foot bags for customers' beds and pots.
"Loyal customers come back to us because we have good products," Carson said. "In a small town, word of mouth makes or breaks your business."

Brenda Logan was shopping at the nursery last weekend for the Eufaula Inspiration Garden. Dr. Troy Garrett of Checotah recommended Carson Borovetz Nursery to her.

"Dr. Garrett helped us with the rose bed for the gardens," Logan said. "The main big bed was sponsored by the Bank of Eufaula. Then, Arvest Bank, various individuals and the Texana Fire Department sponsored beds. Today, I'm buying several flats of red petunias for the fire department's bed."

"We planted beds yesterday and we want everyone to come see the gardens when they are at their best in June and July," Logan said. "There are beds shaped like an angel, heart, red hat, high heel and the state of Oklahoma."

Carson Borovetz was buzzing with customers, most of whom were well aware that there could be another freezing night ahead that would kill their boxes of annual flowers. But, the urge to garden is too strong to resist buying.

Here are some of the plants to look for when planning your spring and summer gardens whether you are planting in a public space or at home. Black-eyed Susan Vine Sunny Lemon Star (Thunbergia alata) for hanging baskets, grows to 8 feet if fertilized every few weeks. Likes lots of water and full sun.
In addition to hanging ferns, a plant for hanging baskets in half shade is Torenia Summer Wave Wishbone Flower. This annual likes moist soil and grows to 6-inches tall and 12 inches wide.

A good choice for a spot where the deer like to roam is deer-resistant Yellow Marguerite Daisy (Argyranthemum frutescens). It likes full sun and moist soil, grows to 36 inches tall and flowers all summer.
For dry spots, Carson recommends rose moss (also called rock rose and portulaca), purslane, periwinkle and perennial sedums such as dragon's blood (red-ish) and gold carpet stonecrop (yellow-ish).

Chocolate Chip Ajuga would be a good choice for a part-shade, sunny spot that has good drainage such as a rock garden area. It grows to 6 inches tall with lavender flowers and can become a groundcover in the right situation.For that same partly sunny bed, Dragonfly Mix Columbine (Aquilegia) would be a taller choice that grows to 18 inches.

Lantana is available in five color choices — Dove Wings, white; Samantha, yellow flowers and variegated leaves; Pink Caprice, pink and yellow flowers; Lady Olivia, orange and pink; and, Gold Mound, bronze gold flowers.

For "no-fuss" color that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, go for Salvia with red, purple or lilac flowers. Sun or part-sun, 15 inches tall, moist but well-drained soil.Around the Salvia, plant lavender flowered Vinca vine or Plumbago.
If you like to offset bright colors and whites with silver or gray, choose narrow leafed Icicles Helichrysum thianschanicum that grows to 15 inches tall in full-sun with fertilizer every two weeks.

Or, Silver Mound Wormwood (Artemesia) for well drained spots in full sun. Grows up to 10 inches tall.
For the tomato and pepper growers, Carson Borovetz always has many varieties to choose from. Local gardeners rely on Pete's good plantsPeppers: Cayenne Slim hot, Hot Banana, Anaheim Chili Mild, Jalapeno Hot, Banana Sweet and Bell.Tomatoes: Red Grape, Roma, Whopper, Celebrity, Beef master and Jet Star.

"The energy prices, natural gas, has gone up," Carson said. "It has cut into our profit for the past six years. It takes a lot of money to stay on schedule with heating the greenhouses."

Nonetheless, there are lots of flowers to buy -Purple Homestead Perennial Verbena, Wave Petunias in six colors, Sweet Potato Vine, Strepto-Carpella, Bacopa, Strawflowers, and more.And there are many accent plants such as Coleus, Asparagus Fern, Crimson Fountain Grass, and other grasses.
Carson has a wide selection of flowers in flats, pots and hanging baskets for every garden location.

Carson Borovetz Nursery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Information: 918-682-4404.

02 April 2008

April Planting for Fall

With the excitement of getting going on your spring garden take a minute to think about fall.
Some of the plants started from seed in April have their big payoff in October.

Purple millet is started from seed now so it can thrive in the heat of the summer, producing those glorious six-feet tall burgundy plants and seed heads that persist until a hard freeze.

Last year I posted here that I have lots of Purple Millet seeds from two years ago and anyone who wanted some could email me at mollyday1@gmail.com. Three people requested some seed. One from Alabama, one from Arkansas and one from Texas.
The requester from Texas is sending me seeds of Texas Star Hibiscus in exchange. I'm jazzed to say the least.
The photo is of a Texas Star Hibiscus that I took at a fabulous restaurant near Tulsa, called Living Kitchen.

So, when you are out shopping for spring, think about fall, too. Castor beans, Nepeta, Asters, Zinnias, Purple Millet, Asclepias, Autumn Joy Sedum, Toad Lily, Chrysanthemum, Goldenrod, Helenium sneeze weed and Joe Pye Weed are easy to grow plants that are planted now and will make your garden look wonderful in fall.

Lots of vegetables are hard workers into the fall, too. Plant a variety of chard such as rainbow chard or Red Russian Kale for fall beauty. Eggplant, gourds, okra, peppers, tomatoes and others are harvested until the first frost.
The Red Russian Kale I planted last year persisted in the front bulb bed all winter. We ate some of it from time to time and it is still as beautiful as ever.
I find the Rainbow Chard seeds picky to germinate. Overplant the seeds - plant more than you think you will need. Those lime green and red stems in the fall garden never fail to get attention from visitors.