31 October 2008

Not This Week, But Winter Is Coming

Cinthia Milner wrote The Dirt: Do Not Disturb, for the Asheville, NC, Mountain Xpress. In the column, Milner explores the relationship between plants in winter dormancy and the pleasures of our own chances for rest in the winter. Milner says that by Nov 1, she has the bulbs planted and her garden mulched for the winter.
Click to read "The Dirt: Do Not Disturb"; it is a lovely piece of writing.

Here's the little frog that came in with the plants this week. Yes, it is time to bring the houseplants in, clean them up, repot a few and find the saucers we put away last spring.

Common wisdom dictates spraying plants with insecticidal soap before bringing them in for the winter but usually I check them over under bright light and simply rinse them off. A few spiders hitchhike indoors but they don't live very long once they are inside.

PLANT SENSE could be just the help we need for next season's garden planning.
Have you heard about this new gizmo for gardeners? Plant Sense developed and is distributing a product called EasyBloom that uses your computer to help you succeed in the garden.

The EasyBloom sensors measure solar radiation, moisture and temperature over a 24-hour period. The data is download to your PC via a USB port. Then, the information is mapped against a Web-based database of plants. PlantSense suggests types of plants for those conditions.

I found one at Amazon for $60. Here's the click if you want to take a look.

Need Info? There is a new search engine that may help you find information, if you are looking for worldwide stories. Try Silobreaker for research on topics such as agriculture, horticulture, soil science. The site's search results include news, blogs, research, audio, video and other digital media content from global news, shared, user generated and open access sources.

Thanks to Bates Information Services, at www.BatesInfo.com/tip.html, for the for the tip. You can subscribe to the search tips newsletter at that link, too.

30 October 2008

New-To-Me Seed Companies

This succulent is solid green in the summer. After the freeze, it turned a lovely pink.

A fellow gardener and a garden writer recommended two seed companies.
1. Chiltern Seeds in England at www.chilternseeds.co.uk
2. Pinetree Garden Seeds at www.superseeds.com/

Here's what I ordered from Chiltern
Calendula officinalis 'Dandy' Price: 1.60
Salvia horminum 'Oxford Blue' Price: 1.78
Corydalis lutea Price: 1.95
Calendula officinalis 'Art Shades' Price: 1.52
Cabbage 'Flower of Spring' (Heirloom open-pollinated pointed heart variety)Price: 1.43
Bean, Climbing French (or Pole) 'Hunter' (flat pods) Price: 2.23
Lettuce Mixed Varieties Price: 1.90

From Pinetree Garden Seeds I ordered
MAMMOTH RED CLOVER 1 1/2 LBS Price: $5.95
ALMA PAPRIKA PEPPER (70 days) Price: $1.30
PIMENTO PEPPER (75 days) Price: $0.75
CREGO MIX ASTER Price: $0.75

The gardener who told me about Pinetree Garden said that the packets are less expensive than other providers because they contain fewer seeds.

Who do you usually order seeds from?

28 October 2008

Before the First Hard Freeze

Before last night's hard freeze (26-degrees F) I took a photo of one of the pumpkins we tried to save by draping the vines with sheets.

My cousin sent the seeds from Germany for this one because it's one they use to make their pumpkin soup. This teardrop shaped variety is more meaty and less watery than the variety we grow for Jack-O-Lanterns in the U.S.

Stringer Nursery in Tulsa had the seeds last week but I didn't notice the brand name. If you see the seeds let me know what variety they are.

When we were in Germany Kurbis soup was being served in the restaurants but we ate it at family and friends' homes.

While searching the Internet for the variety of the seeds, I found a food blog entry about the soup.
Click here to read more about the yummy cream of squash soup we love so much at the Matters of Taste blog.

The butterfly bed by the front gate was gorgeous until last night. This is a sunset photo, just 8-hours before most of them turned black and began their long winter's nap.

That mum in the front (it's actually on the side of the bed) is a mum that I bought last year at the Muskogee Farmer's Market. Or, maybe it was two years ago.

The trick I learned this year is to prune, prune, prune until August, in order to keep the plant short enough to hold the weight of the eventual flowers.

As much as I dreaded the results of the freeze, I have to confess that it was nice to have a day off enjoying the realization that all that's left to do this fall is plant the garlic and daffodils. Well, plus tend the lettuce experiment in the cold frames.

26 October 2008

Trilliums Blooming in New Zealand

Here in Oklahoma we had to cover our tender vegetables before coming in for the night. We have half a dozen soup pumpkins, several peppers and tomatoes that will still produce after the two night frost passes.

At the other end of the planet, in New Zealand, it is spring. Dave Toole posted blooming Trilliums that he grew from seed in his garden.

Dozens of Trillium photos are posted along with the Trillium discussion board

The Trillium discussion list is manged from the Netherlands.

The picture gallery is here
The publisher of Fine Gardening, Taunton Press, has a good article about Trilliums online at
Aren't they wonderful?

25 October 2008

Outdoor Pavilion by Smith and Hawken

If you were thinking of buying a gift for a garden lover, this is something wonderful to consider.

Not a plant to take care of. Not fruit trees that need spraying and harvesting. Not a tool to use.

But a place to be, a place to enjoy the fruits of your labor. A place to read a book, stare at the sky, whatever.

Specs: This modular pavilion is produced with 4 mm wire, powder-coated to endure outdoor conditions. The crisscross design of the trellises is great for climbing vines. Pavilion price is $2,021. (Furniture not included.)

Kit includes 13 Wide/Tall Trellises and 6 Narrow/Tall Trellises
Crafted from durable 4mm wire, powder-coated to withstand weathering
Each piece features a slightly distressed finish
Classic criss-cross design supports climbing vines without detracting from your garden's beauty
Available in Black and Matte Grey
Dimensions: (Wide/Tall 21” W x 84” H Narrow/Tall 10.5” W x 84” H)
Materials: Powder-coated wire

Smith and Hawken outdoor furniture link.

23 October 2008

Durable Trees to Plant Now

Many, if not most, residential property values are improved with the planting of trees.
Fall is the ideal time to put new trees and shrubs into home landscapes and public spaces.

Carri Abner, former Arborist with Muskogee Parks and Recreation Department said that Muskogee residents should know how lucky they are to be able to plant such a wide variety of trees and shrubs.

Without information, we tend to plant fast growing trees such as poplar, silver maple and Bradford pear. Nothing wrong with them in terms of their beauty. It's just that they are short-lived, split in storms and their branches tend to break on a regular basis.

Durable trees - a term I learned from the USDA, U S Arboretum site, are a better, long-term investment.

Here are some trees that are good choices for our area.

Oak (Burr, Shumard, Swamp White, Water, Sawtooth) – Medium growth rate to 40-75-feet tall.

Birch (Heritage River, Dura-heat) 40 feet tall – good for wet locations. Heritage grows fast.

Cypress (Arizona Blue Ice, Leyalnd, Bald) – Tough trees for most soil, 50 to 80 feet tall – Bald is good for wet locations

Elm (Princeton, Lacebark) Durable street or shade tree - 40 to 60-feet tall.

Green Giant arborvitae - Pest free, tolerates deer grazing, grows a foot a year to 60-feet tall

Greenspire Linden – Shade and street tree that prefers moist soil. Grows to 60-feet.

Bloodgood London Planetree – Durable, ornamental bark, 70-feet tall.

Autumn Blaze Red Maple - Rapid growth to 40- feet tall. Any soil, fall color, seedless.

Atlas Cedar – Silver blue needles, 30 to 40 feet tall in moist soil.

Chinese Pistache – Withstands drought and heat. Grows to 25-feet tall and wide in full sun to part shade.

Tulip Poplar - Fast growing to 70-feet tall. Leaves are tulip shaped.

Eastern Redbud – Flowers in spring, 20-feet tall in light shade.

Canada Red Chokecherry – Large shrub that suckers or train to tree form. Grows to 20-feet tall in well drained soil

Red Rocket Crapemyrtle – Fast growing, durable, mildew resistant, grows to 20-feet tall.

Fall is the ideal time to put trees and shrubs in their permanent location. Abner said their roots would have plenty of time to settle in before freezing temperatures arrive and they will benefit from early spring rain.

Dig a hole the same depth as the distance from the top of the soil in the can to the bottom of the can. Widen the hole to 3 to 5 times the diameter of the container. Crumble the dirt removed.

Remove the plant from the container and loosen the roots. Place the plant in the center of the hole and fill with the original soil. Do not amend the soil. Water it in, let the soil settle and fill the hole no higher than the top of the root ball. The root ball can be 1-inch above the surrounding soil.

To stake the tree, put one stake on each side and make an “8” shape out of soft material. Top the planting area with 2-inches of mulch spread out to the edge of the planting area. Leave 5-inches around the trunk free of mulch.

Resist pruning. The lower branches protect the trunk from sunscald in the summer. Maintain a 3 to 5-foot weed free zone around the trunk. Water weekly if there is no rain and only when the temperatures are above freezing.

Wrap the trunk in harsh winters. Some insects make homes inside trunk wrapping, so check periodically to keep the tree trunk healthy.

Fertilize newly planted trees and their second year. Fertilizing at planting time can push new growth of branches and leaves that the trees are not able to support.

20 October 2008

Children Love Being In Your Garden

The Ontario Oregon paper, the Argus Observer, has a great column about children in your garden. The writer, Tammy Jones, has been (admirably) working with the Junior Master Gardener program. Greening Up Your Thumb: Garden With Your Children

Here are some of Jones' observations:

Children are very interested in going out and playing in the dirt.

They want to know what you are doing and why.

Children especially love worms, or they especially hate them. So, let them know about worms.

Tell them what they do for the soil and how much they are needed in the garden. A really cool fact about worms is they have four hearts. Let your children know this and other facts about the lowly worm.

Children love bugs of all kinds. Even girls want to know about them and want to hold and look at them.

Jones went on to say, "This week, our program planted a tree at the Payette Primary School to teach children how to plant a tree and what kinds of tree shapes interest them. "

So, dear readers, I'm an older person who loves worms and children. Where can I find more children to share my worms growing project with? Want to come over and share my worm enthusiasm?

Soil Students Learn Old Fashioned Methods of Field Testing Soil Quality

Everything old is new again.

If the Internet and the news are to be believed, many Americans are growing their own vegetables, baking their own bread and eating at home.

Part of the impetus is to save money while savoring great eats. Part of it is the food scares - grow your own salad greens to avoid e-coli. Also, with jobs becoming more scarce, there simply is more time to do things at home.

My relatively new interest in all things dirt has led me to looking for information everywhere. When we were in California a few months ago, hubby's step-mother generously allowed me to take his grandfather's soil science text book from the family library. In it, the author teaches soon-to-be-growers how to assess their own soils.

I love reading the old textbooks and cookbooks. They give me snapshots into our grandparents' and great-grandparents' lives. I wonder if the back-to the-earth movement of the 1960s and 1970s will return.

In today's issue of Science Daily, there is a story about soil scientist students learning to estimate the quality of soils the way it used to be done: by hand and feel. The students evaluate the soil and then lab equipment is used to confirm or grade their analysis.

Here are some excerpts from the article. Click on the link above to read it in full.

The ability to estimate soil texture-by-feel is an important skill that students and registered soil scientists should learn.

D.P. Franzmeier and P.R. Owens, Purdue University, write about how soil texture can be determined by using the texture-by-feel method in an article in the Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education.

When the texture-by-feel method is used, the estimator takes a soil sample about the size of a marble up to the size of a golf ball. The person estimates the texture by rolling, squeezing, flattening, and pressing the soil between his fingers. Each person develops his own technique for estimating texture. The important point is that while learning the technique, he must always compare his results with laboratory data.

A computer program assesses student performance for estimating particle-size distribution and soil texture. If the estimate coincides exactly with laboratory results, the score is 100%. If the estimate and laboratory results are as far apart as possible, at opposite corners of the texture triangle, the score is zero.

Soil Science Society of America has lots more information on the topic as well as the original article and links to more scientific journal articles.

18 October 2008

George Ball's Blog

In a 1996 edition of his Burpee Home Gardener publication, George Ball wrote about an idea for a Garden Party. His premise is that since there are more gardeners than either Republicans or Democrats, gardeners should come together to change things as their own party.

Ball says gardeners are too busy to attend political rallies. We are not busy playing golf, we are digging potatoes and dividing perennials.

"You don’t hear them braying on talk radio or read their soil-smudged vituperative letters to the editor. Gardeners are still the Silent Majority."

He lists the strengths of gardeners: Down to earth, planning, love of nature .... . . .

So, nation of gardeners, click here to read Ball's pithy commentary. While your are at the blog be sure to click on the little link at the top of the page, Beeway. Great photos of flowers and bees.

Another click of interest on the blog is Heronswood Top 20. It is their best sellers with links to learn more about each.

In case you don't know who George Ball is, he is one of four brothers that took over Ball Horticultural Company in 1949. Since college graduation, Ball worked for the family business and worked his way up to president of Pan American Seed. Then, they purchased Burpee seed and he became president of the holding company in 1993. Other executive positions followed. Burpee bought Heronswood Nursery and Ball is president.

Planting Trees for Future Generations

City, country and suburban dwellers benefit from the trees surrounding them on the street, in parks and back yards. They provide cover for the birds we enjoy hearing, give us shade on a hot day, and remind us of the wonders of nature's annual regeneration in spring.

Today's Writer's Almanac includes a poem, Planting a Sequoia, from The Gods of Winter by Dana Gioia. The author describes working in the orchard to plant a tree in the wind and rain.

In Sicily, their father planted trees to commemorate life's bookends: Births and Deaths. In this poem, they wrapped a lock of hair and a part of an infant's birth cord into the planting to memorialize a son for immortality.

This morning's Internet research has been all about trees for a Thursday column on the topic.

Muskogee is one of many recipients of the generosity of Apache Oil Foundation's'effort to plant a million trees in storm devasted areas, especially Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Thursday's column will be a list of the trees that will be available this coming Saturday and thumbnails of information about each one.

Some of the most informative links I found on the topic of trees

Doing a little research before buying a tree can lead to healthier specimens in your yard and help avoid huge disappointments. Some common examples - 70-foot tall trees planted under power lines will be topped by the utility company. Trees that grow to 40-feet wide in a small back yard will have to be removed. Small trees planted in a huge open space will not thrive. Deciduous trees and flowering trees make messes in pools and hot tubs. The list goes on.

Hubby and I have wasted plenty of money and sweat equity learning the hard way to read and do the research first, buy later.

But, by all means, plant a tree a year, in your yard, at a school, at church, wherever. Future generations are depending on our wisdom and our concern for their ability to see 30-year old trees.

17 October 2008

Seeds of Change On-line Discussions Provide Help for Gardeners

I suppose everyone knows about the great resources at Dave's Garden, Garden Guides and Garden Web.

Do you use any of the online gardening conversations to socialize, find advice, exchange plants or seeds, and to learn from other gardeners?

If so, which online gardening community do you plug into when you have a question or seeds to share?

Seeds of Change has several Forums where gardeners exchange ideas and information.

Click on the one for seed saving to read about how to do it for a variety of plants.

For example, at the thread on amaranth you will discover that amaranth pollinates by wind rather than by insect action.
Amaranth seed can be planted directly into sunny soil between April 15 and June 15. To save the seed, bag the heads with row-cover fabric taped to the stem.

The Cockscomb Amaranth Celosia in the photo is the grandchild of seed I planted three years ago. It self-seeds around the yard and is one of the stars of the September and October garden beds.

There is also a Seeds of Change Forum for preserving what you grow, with recipes, canning, drying, pickling, etc.

Topics in the Flowers, Ornamentals and Herb category include: Sunflowers, Roses, Lemon Balm, Stevia, Mint, Chicory, Basil, Prairie Plants, and more.

Here is a link to all the Forums. Let us know which sites you visit.

Bulbs for Christmas Bloom

When shopping for bulbs, bigger is better. Try to show up at the store the same week the bulbs arrive and dig through those boxes and pick out the biggest and blemish free of the lot.

I ordered 50-Scilly White Narcisus for forcing indoors on the windowsill in the kitchen. Look at the size bulb I received from Touch of Nature. That's a 6-inch kitchen ruler holding TWO bulbs. Scilly white can also be planted outside to bloom in early early spring, late winter. It is scented but not as heavily as Paperwhite which offends some people.

Daffseek says about Scilly White: Usually three to twenty flowers to a stout stem, sweet scented and very short cupped. Perianth segments rounded and often somewhat crinkled.
Dwarf - Year Reg: 1865
Fertility: Both Seed and Pollen
ADS Historics List

WEB ONLY - This link will take you to a fall bulb sale from a great supplier. You won't find the offer on their website so you'll have to use this link.

We'll Bounce Back/Economic Stimulus Sampler from Old House Garden Bulbs

Gardening teaches us optimism, and despite the economic storm sweeping the planet these days, we know sunnier days will come again as surely as spring itself. To help you get through the gloom, we’ve put together this special new sampler. For just $30 we’ll send you at least $50 worth of fabulous bulbs that we simply have too many of this fall. Yes, $50! Though actual choices will vary, possibilities include ‘Little Witch’ and ‘Queen of the North’ daffodils, ‘White Henryi’ lilies, ‘Diana’ and ‘Columbine’ tulips, Elwes snowdrops, and Crocus tommasinianus ‘Albus’. No matter what we choose for you, this is one investment that’s sure to bring you glorious returns. For zones 5, 6, and 7 only (sorry!), and only while supplies last.
#CO38 -->Add to Basket:
1/$30 2/$60 3/$90

Don't miss out on blooming bulbs at Christmastime.

16 October 2008

Globe Amaranth for Butterflies, Potpourri and Dried Flower Arrangments

Globe Amaranth is another one of those plants that goes by several different names including Gomphrena globosa, flower of immortality, and everlasting bachelor button.

Whatever it is called, growing this little plant is a busy or lazy gardener’s dream.

The plants were originally from Guatamala, Brazil and Panama so they are heat and humidity tolerant. They are easy to grow in our area from seed and they will bloom until the first freeze.

The old fashioned varieties were peach and pink “flowering” plants that grew 2-feet tall. The pretty colored gomphrena buttons we think of as flowers are not actually flowers. They are bracts. Just as what we think of as the bloom on a poinsettia is actually a bract or a collection of colored leaves surrounding a tiny flower.

New varieties and colors include 4-to-6-inch dwarf plants to border the front edge of a bed or to fill the space around a tall, potted plant.

Seeds can be started as early as January in a greenhouse or on a south facing windowsill in March. Plants and seeds can be put out in the garden after April 15th. The seeds benefit from an overnight soaking before planting. They need light to germinate so do not cover them. The germination rate is low, so plant extra seeds.

Globe Amaranth blooms best with 6-hours of sun; afternoon shade is fine. Water regularly until plants are established and fertilize with flower fertilizer. After that, they are relatively carefree with few requirements. Keep them on the dry side to prevent mildew on the leaves.

Plant globe amaranth where you can enjoy the butterfly show. To fill a bed, pinch back the stems the and put the plants about 18-inches apart.

Globe Amaranth is widely used in dried flower arrangements and potpurri because they retain color for years. If you want long stems for drying, plant them no more than a foot apart so they are forced to reach for the sun. To dry the flowers, cut entire stems before the flower bracts are competey open and hang them upside down in a shady place.

Fertilize pot grown plants weekly and keep the pots out of afternoon sun after the roots have filled the pot. Mature standard plants are about 18-inches tall and wide with 4-inch long leaves.

Strawberry Fields is the most popular red variety. Other colors include Bicolor Rose, Lavender Queen, Red, White, etc. Buddy and Gnome 6-inch-tall border varieties that require little care and can take the heat of a sidewalk. Look for the new hybrid varieties, QIS, Woodcreek and Tall.

Seed sources: Johnny’s Seeds www.johnnyseeds.com - bi-color and mixed. Park Seed at www.parkseed.com - All Around Purple. Renee’s - reneesgarden.com – Mardi Gras Parade mix of red, apricot, carmine. Stokes - Stokeseeds.com – 13 varieties of Buddy, Gnome and Woodcreek.

Save a few flower heads each year to use as the next year’s seeds. If they are planted in a bed, they will return from seed by themselves as volunteers.

14 October 2008

Lovejoy's Trowel and Error

Trowel and Error is a 2003 book that I got through an online bookswap, Paperback Swap. Sharon Lovejoy compiled 700 quick tips in an attractively laid out format that makes it fun to read. Her illustrations are delightful.

Lovejoy's website has information about her other books, including Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots. (Note: Some of the links on the site do not work anymore and the newsletters link goes only to 2005.)

Here are a few of the 700 tips in this great little volume.

Trap gypsy moths with sticky backed shelf paper folded inside out taped to a tree. Replace after rain or when full of insects and eggs.

Moles are actually beneficial to have in the garden because they eat grubs. Use the soil they throw in your potted plants.

Buy rolls of inexpensive wrapping paper and coat it with canola oil. Spread on beds and cover with mulch. Make planting holes wherever you want.

Activate the compost pile with nitrogen found in rabbit food or kitty litter if you are short of fresh grass clippings.

Combine a tablespoon of castor oil, a tablespoon of liquid soap and a gallon of water. Drench the soil of potted ferns to perk them up.

The book is available from Lovejoy's site as well as from book sellers and the Internet. Here's more information from an eBay Epinions writer with more of the tips.

12 October 2008

Protect Pot Planted Spring Flowering Bulbs

The daffodil orders will be delivered soon and we will be planting them in beds and pots. Brent Heath of Brent and Becky's Bulbs conducted some experiments on how to maximize bulb health over the winter. Heath found that container planted bulbs need the consistently cold temperatures that they can usually get in the ground.

Keep potted bulbs cold but not frozen hard. You can use bubble wrap, recycled Styrofoam ice chests or a thick mulch of pine needles, bark chips or newspaper to keep the temperature even. In late February uncover the pots, water and expose them to full sun.

Clemson Extension has a great fact sheet about bulbs and varieties here.

Northern gardeners are advised to keep their potted bulbs in a garage or basement to prevent a killing freeze. The Master Gardeners of Frederik County PA have good advice for zone 5 readers.

Wherever you live, plant spring flowering bulbs to ensure spring flowers that will pull you out of the winter blues.

09 October 2008

Musa basjoo Japanese Fiber Banana - Hardy to 20-degrees Below Zero

It may look like a fragile plant, but Musa basjoo Japanese Fiber Banana is cold hardy to 20-degrees below zero. Musa is the most popular banana tree for landscapes as cold as zone 5 in Kansas and Pennsylvania.

In our zone 7, gardeners plant them in gardens permanently close to a building or fence and mulch them in the winter. By the end of the following summer they can grow to 15-feet tall.

Matthew Weatherbee, owner of Blossoms Garden Center in Muskogee, grows them at home and sells them at the nursery.

They really do survive the winter when planted in the ground, Weatherbee said. They will freeze down but come back from the roots bigger than the year before. They also multiply and one tree becomes a clump of trees. This is a great plant!

Park Seed is offering the plants this fall. Transplant mail order plants into larger pots and keep them inside for the winter while their roots expand.

If you have one outside in the ground, the roots will live even when temperatures dip to 20-below zero, but the leaves and trunk will die back to the ground.

To care for a plant in the ground, remove the dead leaves and prune the trunk to around 2-feet tall after the first killing frost. Mulch the trunk with six to 12-inches of straw, bark or pine needles. Avoid leaf mulch since it tends to stay wet and form a mat.

Some gardeners wrap the stem with burlap and top the plant with an upside down garbage can to protect it for the winter. One gardener wrapped the trunk with Christmas lights and turned them on at night to keep the trunk warm.

Each leaf frond grows up to 18 inches wide and 6-feet long. Healthy plants will make new pups around the base. Remove the pups, plant them in pots and over-winter them indoors. Or, leave them in place and let a colony develop.

Other than Japanese beetles, few insects or diseases bother Musa basjoo but it can be killed by under or over watering.

The roots are shallow so pay attention to how dry the soil surface is. Do not allow the roots to stand in water for long periods of time. When planting Musa in the garden, amend the soil with compost to improve drainage.

To move a potted Musa basjoo indoors in the fall, top it in October before freezing weather arrives. Make a clean cut with a sharp knife at the desired height. Leave it outside until a hard frost is predicted, spray with insecticidal soap such as Safer, and bring it in.

What appears to be the trunk of a Musa basjoo is a pseudostem, in this case, a group of tightly wrapped leaves.

Banana tree leaves are designed to shred in high winds as a survival mechanism in their native tropical habitats. Keep the leaves pretty by sheltering them from hard wind.

For more information: Park Seed http://www.parkseed.com/ and 800-213-0076. Also, Parks has online gardening help at www.successwithseed.org and http://www.theplantcoach.org/.

08 October 2008

Stop Deadheading to Save Seeds

Many gardeners have developed the great habit of walking through the garden, deadheading flowers - removing spent flowers before they go to seed.

Now that October is here, it's time to allow a few flowers to make seeds. If every flower is allowed to make seed, flowering will stop. If just a few are left on the plant, it will continue to flower.

Will you be trying to save any seeds this year? Flowers, herbs, vegetables?

Here's what I do - Collect the flower seeds when the seed head is crispy dry. In our zone 7 several flowers are ready to make seed. I've been collecting them and putting each kind in its own tea can, with the name of the flower written on a sticky note attached to the top. Tea cans are not air tight so the seeds will dry in there. They can be moved to an airtight container when they are thoroughly dried.

I'm casual about the gathering, in that all the zinnia varieties go in one can, all the marigold varieties go in one can but you may want to be more careful.

Dry milk powder folded into a paper towel, added to each can or jar of seeds will keep them dry until spring.

Want more detail? Read what Master Gardener Joyce Moore at Virtual Seeds has to say.

07 October 2008

Papayas in Muskogee

This summer our local nursery, Blossoms, got a shipment of tropical plants from Florida. We picked up a papaya, thinking it would make a fun addition to a hot spot. Not only is it 8-feet tall, it is making fruit.

There are at least a dozen papayas. Will they ripen before the first hard frost? Who knows. In the meantime, it is entertainment for the garden staff (me and hubby).
Can you see it? Between the two plants is the veggie garden's resident toad. S/he bounces around from leaf cover to basil cover when I'm weeding out there.
Eat those buggies, little toad friend.

06 October 2008

October's Flowers and Vegetables

This flower bed is bursting with fall color

In another spot, marigolds peek through Weigela.

Our little vegetable garden continues to work hard.

Every day it produces something that winds up on the table.

Now the former cucumber trellises are covered with gourd vines.

The tomatoes and eggplant became tonight's stir fry. Lettuce seedlings went into the open spots yesterday, in time to take advantage of the October rain.

A package of seeds arrived today. I'm going to try to grow lettuce in cold frames.
Have you had any success with that kind of project? What works? Any advice?

05 October 2008

Peachy Flowers and Fall Bugs

Peach is a just right color for fall. It blends in so well with the bright gold marigolds, shiny yellow bells, red salvias and umber sedum blooms.
Photo: Apricot Blush Zinnia

Photo: Dahlia from Old House Gardens

Can you tell I rely on zinnias to fill the late summer beds and keep them looking exciting until frost?

Photo: And then there are the fall bugs to deal with. The search is on. They aren't red milkweed beetles.

Ah, they are milkweed leaf beetles. Thanks to the Texas Entomology site Texas Ento dot net we now know that their formal name is Labidomera clivicollis.

The Bug Guide calls them Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetles.

Iowa State's site says that there are actually 457 separate insects that eat milkweed. The author notes that the bugs aren't a problem unless one is trying to raise milkweed as a crop.

Well, but I'm raising milkweed to make Monarch waystations

.... so, do I drop those bugs into soapy water or let them eat, lay eggs in the soil and come back in bigger numbers next year?

Not exactly a moral dilemma but what would you do? Let them eat and make babies or drop them in the bucket?

October's Changing of the Guard in the Garden - Planting Seeds

Time to plant fall greenery.
We have just the right weather for putting in a few vegetables to boost the healthy components of winter's dinner table.

Chard, kale, lettuce, broccoli raab, mustard, Pak Choi and spinach can be planted in a sunny spot now and still have time to produce baby greens for salads or stir fry.

Chard, raab and kale can be used to make fresh rolls filled with cooked, seasoned rice.

Raab, rapini or broccoli di rapa, is easy to grow. The new leaves flavor salads and sandwiches, the larger leaves and pseudo broccoli heads can be steamed.

Kale has a dozen varieties. 'Lacinato' is cold tolerant and light frost sweetens its leaves.

Pak Choi is added Asian soup, steamed with garlic and olive oil or chopped into salad.

Spinach lovers don't have to be told about its many uses from vegetarian lasagna to wraps.

Prepare and amend a sunny bed. Use leftover veggie seeds from your spring garden or buy a few packs of the ones you know your family will eat.

I just ordered 5-new kinds of lettuce from Baker Creek. They are our geographically closest seed catalog company. My selection was based on the Cornell growers recommendation site.

Oklahoma State University recommends many varieties for Oklahoma gardens -
Black Seeded Simpson , Grand Rapids T.B.R. , Prizehead (red) , Red Sails
Salad Bowl , Waldmann’s Green, Butterhead , Bibb , Buttercrunch , Juliet , Merveille Des Quatre Saisons, Romaine , Little Gem , Romance, Batavian – (combo. of romaine & head)
Cardinale , Little Loma , Nevada , Assorted Greens
Mizuna , Pak Choi , Red Mustard , Red Kale
Arugula , Mache , Mesclun - misc. salad mix , Mizuna , Radicchio , Upland Cress
Mustard - Florida Broad Leaf, Southern Giant Curled, Tendergreen
Kale - Red - Red Russian, Green - Verdura, Blue - Vates

If you miss this planting season the next one is Feb 15 for early spring vegetable seed planting.

02 October 2008

Caring for Queen Mums

Chrysanthemums are the queens of the fall flowers whether they are in pots, baskets, or cut flower arrangements. Because they are so easy to grow and breed, chrysanthemum varieties have multiplied.

Faribault Growers (faribaultgrowersinc.com) divides their mail order plants into 3-categories: Garden Decorative, Football and Novelties. Novelties are spiders, cushion, and Matchstick. Footballs have 4 to 7-inch blooms. Garden Decorative mums are the ones we find in local stores as plants.

Diana Hartman, president of the Oklahoma City Chrysanthemum Society said, “The plants you can get at home improvement stores are freeze hardy in Oklahoma.”

Lanna King of King’s Mums said, “Heat and rain are not a problem for chrysanthemums as long as you plant them in well-drained beds.”

Tips for your potted mums – Put drainage holes in any pot wrapping paper. Give them a sunny location and moderate water.

When the flowers fade, cut off the dead pieces, put the plant in a bright spot like the garage, and water them occasionally. After the last frost of the winter (around April 15), water and fertilize, then put the plant in a partly shaded place outside to acclimate it. In a week, plant it into the garden with a little slow release fertilizer.

Plant them the same depth they were in the pot, in any good garden soil, where they will get at least 6-hours of sun. Add compost, leaf mold or peat moss to the soil removed from the planting hole before putting it back in around the plant’s roots.

Cutting back and pinching the stems is done in June, July and August.

Hartman grows for chrysanthemum shows, so her plants are staked, one stem to a stick. Every leaf and bud is removed except the top one.

Growers apply Superphosphate, 3-pounds per 100-square feet and Gypsum or Dolomite lime 10-pounds per 100-square feet. Home gardeners use 15-30-15 such as Rapid Grow or Peter’s Potted Mum from August 1 to bloom.

To make more of your favorite mums, take 6-inch cuttings, remove lower leaves, and plant in a protected place.

Chrysanthemums were recorded in China by 15 B.C. and in Japan by the 8th Century A.D. Their roots were boiled as a remedy for headaches, the petals were eaten in salads, and the leaves were brewed as a tea.

Mums belong to the Asteracea Compositae, or daisy, plant family. Their close relatives include dahlias, sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, Shasta daisy, Feverfew and cosmos.

Annual Chrysanthemum varieties such as German Flag, Court Jester, Dunnettii, Shasta, Painted and Crazy daisy, can be grown from soaked seed as long as you can provide a constant 75-degree environment by using a thermostatic heat mat. Do not cover seeds whether you start them in the greenhouse in Feb-March or in the garden in mid-April.

Swallowtail Garden Seeds (http://www.swallowtailgardenseeds.com/) has Rainbow Mix Tricolor, Chrysanthemum carinatum, seeds. The flowers of this annual are daisy-like multi-colored purple, orange, rose, yellow and white daisy-like. $2.95 for a packet with over 2,500 seeds. 2-feet tall, easy to grow.

Thompson and Morgan (http://www.tmseeds.com/) has 8-seed-varieties, and plants including pom pom, Northern lights and coconut ice.

Membership in the National Chrysanthemum Society http://www.mums.org/ is $20 a year. For Oklahoma City chapter information such as meetings and shows, contact Diana Hartman at 405-495-0129 or Oklahoma@mums.org.

01 October 2008

UNM Yard and Garden Newsletter

An excellent issue of Yard and Garden Newsletter is available at this link.

Have you ever cut open a grapefruit and found a germinating seed inside? I have and mused that it was odd and wondered how it happened.

In the October University of Minnesota Extension newsletter, David Zlesak explains that process.

"The phenomena of seeds germinating while still in the fruit on the parent plant is called vivipary. Some specific varieties of plants are more prone to it than others and atypical environmental conditions can also trigger it. It is common to find germinating seeds within grapefruits or oranges because of storage temperatures atypical from what would be found in nature. Generally, viviparous germination is negative because seedlings soon find themselves with limited resources and die."

Who knew?