Showing posts from August, 2009

Peas in a Folie a Duex

Live and learn.

The first planting of fall peas was a complete flop. Trying something new is a bit of a madness with gardeners isn't it?

So, today I tried a second planting. This time I soaked the pea seeds between sheets of paper towels until they plumped up. Last time I put them in pots and in the ground like I would in the spring. Spring it worked. August, they stewed in there.

Peas in a Folie a Duex though the madness is entirely my own. On the left the peas soaked between paper towel sheets. On the right pea seeds as they come out of the envelope.

Will it work this time? The weather is certainly more pea-like. In the 50s tonight should be pea weather, shouldn't it? There will not be a Legume a Trois - no third planting. If this planting does not sprout, I'll put in something else...though I was hoping for a nitrogen fixing crop.
The photo is of the spring crop planted in 1-inch cells - they did quite well. Sigh.

Late Summer Heat Puts Amaranth Front and Center

There are several Amaranth varieties growing and blooming on our little slice of the Earth. One is 7 feet tall, another only 6 inches with broad, pink and green striped leaves.

Pigweed is one common name used for all varieties...that's not my favorite flower nickname, however. Chinese Spinach is a nickname I can live with.

All Amaranth varieties have nutritious leaves used as a food source for hundreds of years. The seeds are a source of vegetarian protein used in many ways from popping to steaming. Ground into flour, gluten free pastries are made from the seeds.

Globe Amaranth, an old fashioned everlasting flower, is seen here with Wave Petunias in a bed by the garden shed. This fall I'll dry some of the dark red/purple Globe Amaranth flowers in silica beads to use over the winter. The Strawberry Fields and Bicolor Pink would probably fade to some grey color.

There are many ways to preserve flowers successfully: Air drying, silica, antifreeze, glycerine, pressing, sand, microwav…

Tennessee Sweet Potato Squash

The inch of rain that fell yesterday greatly improved the prospects of the plants, flowers and fruit production. Overnight our plants turned a corner and became productive.

Slow Food USA has the best article about this unusual heirloom.

Male flower

Flower in profile Beautiful leaves
Female flowerFlowers as big as my handsFemale flower with fruit Heritage Harvest Seeds' site says it is an "historic squash (pre 1874) that is thought to have descended from the old Potato Pumpkin of the south that was introduced in the 1780’s from Jamaica via the slave trade. The Tennessee Sweet Potato Squash may actually be the same as the Potato Pumpkin that Thomas Jefferson grew at Monticello. First listed in 1847 by New York seedsman Grant Thorburn as Green Striped Bell and renamed by Burpee in 1883. The squash are pear shaped with a creamy white skin and striped with very faint green stripes. The flesh is to cream colored, fine grained and dry. The fruit average about 10-12 inches long and weigh f…

Peas the Wonderful Legumes

Peas are an ancient vegetable from the Mediterranean and Central Asia. Peas dating from 7,000 B.C. were found in Egyptian tombs and the Bible reports that they were one of the foods brought to David in the desert.

Fresh peas as we know them were developed in Holland. They were such a sensation in the court of Louis the Fourteenth that poems and songs were written praising them.

Thomas Jefferson’s gardener-chef James Hemings grew 30 varieties. U.S. President Andrew Jackson's favorite dish was Pease Pudding with onions, carrots, celery, butter, nutmeg, sour cream, and sugar.

Peas are actually legumes or beans. Today over 1,000 varieties are grown.

Legumes from Europe and Southwest Asia include peas, chickpeas and lentils. India and East Asia gave us Soybeans, Azuki and Mung beans. Black-eyed peas are from Africa and Peanuts and Butterbeans are from South America.

English peas (Pisum sativum) are either smooth or wrinkled, with the smooth having more starch and the wrinkled being sweeter.…

Health Care for Your Plants

Duane Campbell of Bradford County PA (zone 6b) is a regional expert in all things plants and soil.

One of his recent articles focuses on health care for plants: Sun, soil, air, etc.

"Just as colds and flu can lay low people who are taking care of themselves properly, even healthy plants can succumb to common bugs and diseases when the season is right. That's what medicines are for. Call an antibiotic a pesticide and people would think twice before swallowing it, but that is just what it is."

Check out his columns at this link for Daily Local News.

Campbell's water garden piece at Bella Online is here.

He has been writing about gardens and gardening for 30 years and knows his stuff. Check it out.

Hyacinth Bean Vine

Hyacinth bean vines are grown in the U.S. as a fence or trellis climbing decorative plant. The vines twist around everything they can reach - including shrubs, trees, perennials and other vines. The vines are so strong that they need hefty support to hold them.

Horticulturally known as Dolchios lablab and Lablab purpurea, Dolichos lablabeds, Bonavist, (Family: Fabaceae), it is grown in China as an edible. In America, gourmets are slow to adapt to serving them on salads. The lovely lavender flowers are edible, too.

In China they are called pig-ears.

I just received my copy of "Food Plants of the World: An Illustrated Guide" by Ben-Erik van Wyk . Hyacinth Bean is described as a perennial vine but that only applies to zone 10 and 11 and above.

Van Wyk says the pods are used to make a soy sauce like condiment in Myanmar. The plants are widely grown in Africa, India and Southeast Asia. The dry beans are 25% protein and are mineral rich.

The University of Kentucky agriculture departme…

Do Less = Sustainable Gardening Redefined by Gerald Klingaman

Sustainable gardening is the term used for gardening with the least.

Instead of blasting the garden with chemical fertilizers and bug sprays, use the least possible. Rather than using a timed system to irrigate lawn and gardens on a schedule, wait until plants signal a need for water.

Gardeners who use a sustainable approach make an effort to add back to the earth. Simple changes can make a difference. Examples include: Use sheets of newspaper under mulch instead of plastic, make a compost pile, dig a basin in the garden to collect rainwater or switch to wildlife friendly fertilizers such as composted animal waste or seaweed.

Last Saturday when Dr. Gerald Klingaman spoke at the Northwest Arkansas Flower and Garden Club in Fayetteville, he added his own twist to the whole topic of sustainable gardening.

Klingaman chose The Quest for a Sustainable Garden as the topic for his talk knowing that gardeners cannot resist a few high maintenance plants.

Any garden we plant is destined to be short l…
Monarch butterfly caterpillars are all over the gardens - adults on the flowers and caterpillars eating the leaves. It's not unusual to see them dancing in small clusters as we pull out of the driveway and walk in the back yard.
There is one adult and half a dozen caterpillars on the Asclepias - butterfly weed - in this photo.
We planted a small amount of purple majesty millet this year rather than what seemed like a crop in the past two years. We'll get enough seed for next year but won't have so much to harvest.

Seed amaranths are used as a protein grain by the people of many countries - it contains 10% protein.

Many gardeners grow millet to feed groundfeeding wildlife and their birds, such as parakeets, with homegrown grains.

The oxblood colored leaves of Pennisetum glaucum are dramatic as the summer heat changes them from their immature green. The seed heads are so pretty with the pollen attached.

A couple of years ago I was so eager to harvest the seeds before the birds cou…

Northeast Oklahoma News Tidbits

Three tidbits of interest to Northeast Oklahomans

Getting Herby
Tulsa Herb Society's Brown Bag program at noon on Thursday August 20th is on Herbal Vinegars. It will be held at the Tulsa Garden Center. I'll be there helping.

Congratulations Kylee Vaughan
We are proud announce that a 5th grade student from northeast Oklahoma is a First Place National Winner in the Smokey Bear Woodsy Owl poster contest. Kylee Vaughan's poster stood out in a sea of 17,000 entries.
Samilou Smith, art teacher for K through 8th grade at Maryetta Public Schools in Adair County, near Stillwell OK, encouraged her students to enter their posters.
You can click here to see all the winning entries.

Adult Education
Connors State College Horticulture Director is offering evening fall classes.
Cacti and Succulents begins Tues. Sept. 6
Tropical plants begins Tuesday, Oct. 6
Each class meets in Warner one night a week for five weeks from 6 to 8:40 p.m
Instructor Debby Golden 918.463.6265
Enrollment Sonya Baker 918.4636…

Lovely Repeaters

Several flowering plants are into their second go round for the summer. These are the ones that bloom in the spring from seeds left on the ground over the winter and then re-seed and return for a mid-August bloom.
This white one is nicotiana or flowering tobacco. The link will take you to "2009 Year of Nicotiana" at the National Garden Bureau's site.

After the first bloom fades and the plants look worn out, I pull them up and leave the seed heads on the bed. The seeds germinate in the mid-summer heat, come up and bloom late summer.

Zinnias, tithonia (Mexican Sunflowers), Verbena bonariensis (photo below), Marigolds, Red Russian Kale, and cleome all perform this way in my garden if the weather is right.

Some gardeners consider any plant that behaves this way to be a weed.
What do you think?
Do you enjoy this about some of your plants or does it interfere with your garden design plans?

Sustain the Gardeners

Yesterday I went to Springdale/Fayetteville Arkansas to hear Gerald Klingaman speak. The title of his talk was The Quest for a Sustainable Garden. (After 31 years as professor of horticulture, he now is the volunteer exec director of the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks.)

When presenting his basic premise, Klingaman referred to his 80-20 rule for sustainable gardening: 80% of the garden should be plants that can take care of themselves for the most part, leaving the other 20% for your pet plants that are higher maintenance.

I couldn't help but think that if one had a garden well established with those 80% plants, one could take a year off of gardening altogether. Maybe one could spend a year traveling and reading instead of being a servant to one's garden. Hmmmm.

Back when I taught management and quality classes, we called that the Pareto Principle. For example 80% of problems come from 20% of customers, 80% of profit comes from 20% of products, and 80% of productivity comes from 2…

Dirt Therapy Scientifically Proven

Dr. Larry Dossey, Former Chief of Staff of Medical City Dallas Hospital reports in the
Huffington Post that Dr. Chris Lowry and his colleagues at the University of Bristol and University College London "exposed lung cancer patients to a common, inoffensive microbe called Mycobacteriumvaccae, found in soil. The patients unexpectedly reported increases in their quality of life, including a brighter mood. The researchers wondered if this effect was caused by stimulation of neurons in the patients' brains that produce serotonin, a feel-good chemical."

So then there were laboratory trials "The bacteria had the exact same effect as antidepressant drugs," Dr. Lowry said. (Read more here.)

Why not just do gardening to get the Prozac effect? The scientists asked the same question.

What followed is the "hygiene hypothesis" that being exposed to dirt's natural bacteria, fungi and viruses strengthens human immune systems. That way the immune system can ignore pe…
Inhabitat green blog has a terrific entry for August 13 where industrial designer Lea Bogdanwrote a piece about phone books.

Not plants and gardens but there is quite a bit of cross-pollination between gardeners and those who are concerned with the environment in general.

Click on the green link above to read the entire posting - here's the upshot of Bogden's research

This is a quote from Bogdan's work.

I presented these ideas along with snapshots of the abandoned phonebook clutter, to media contacts at the biggest players in the directory business. I was actually expecting deaf ears, but instead I received responses that were enlightening.

Verizon Superpages
The media relations representative from Idearc Media LLC, the company responsible for the Verizon Superpages, quickly replied with an informative and apologetic email. He said that the bottom line is it shouldnt be happening and we are working diligently to make sure it doesn't happ…

Keep the Gardens Going

Don't miss out on the third season of gardening in Oklahoma or other areas in zone 7 and above.

Even though the August heat is still with us, we can plant cool season vegetables, perennials and spring flowering bulbs.

If you don't know your plant zone click on the appropriate link -
United States zonesor worldwide plant zones or the AHS heat zone map.

Hazzard's Greenhouse and Seeds lists thousands of varieties of flowers, vegetables, herbs, grasses, and walk-on-plant seeds in their online catalog. You can click on the Search feature and enter a common or Latin name to find what you need.

Joyce Hazzard created a free shipping coupon for anyone reading this. Enter MSFS in the place for coupons at checkout or use the code for phone orders at 989.872.5057.

Start seeds in containers so you can control moisture and temperature. This is especially true for heat sensitive greens. Refrigerate lettuce seeds for a few days and then soak them in water the day before planting.

Flower seeds th…
From time to time, members of Garden Writers receive trial plants of new introductions. Most of us either plant them in our home garden or give them to a friend to plant.
The idea behind our receiving the plants is that the growers want to know how well they do. We answer questions like where they were planted, how well they grew in our zone, etc. When they work well, I write about them so you'll have the scoop.

If you love blue flowers as much as I do, you will want to know about this one, called Blue Chiffon Hardy Hibiscus, Hibiscus syriacus from Proven Winners. Rose of Sharon is one of the many common names for this group of cold tolerant shrubs. Other names include Althea

The species is a native of China and India. In Connecticut they are considered invasive according to U Conn's Plant Database page.

Here's a link to the Proven Winners description and photos. The photos posted here are from the plant I received and treated horribly. The poor things sat in their shipping …
We all spend a lot of hours every week pulling weeds. Or, if we don't, the garden is full of weeds by late summer without any hope of a beautiful result in September.

A two year study was conducted in Alaska by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and the results were published by the Weed Science Society of America.

All the container grown plants for the study were purchased from nurseries. The soil was incubated and "researchers found 54 weeds or invasive plants had been transported alongside the container-grown ornamentals. The five most common included: sticky chickweed (Cerastium glomeratum Thuill.); hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta L.); common groundsel (Senecio vulgaris L.); La Plata sandspurry (Spergularia plantensis [Cab.] Fenzl); and birch (Betula sp.)."

The conclusion? "Based on the Alaska data, it is clear that container plants play a role in the spread of weeds that can be a risk to native plants and wildlife habitats."
Morning Glory Ensign or Convolvulaceae Ipomoea was new to me when I picked up a pack of seeds in Arkansas at a bakery/produce stand. Thomas Jefferson's garden is the most famous place they have been grown.
The packet said Tricolor and indeed there are three colors blooming. Sweet cover for the chain link fences.

The Courier Mail in Australia ran a story about a journalist hunting for an acid-spitting Mongolian Death Worm.
"The worm apparently jumps out of the sand and kills people by spitting concentrated acid or shooting lightning from its rectum over long distances..." Be sure to click on the worm link.

Garden writer Graham Rice writes the Transatlantic Plantsman blog - he lives on both sides of the Atlantic - and his recent entry is about the absurdity of the photos and promises in seed and plant catalogs.
Have you ever bought seeds or plants that disappoint when compared with the descriptions and photos? Me, too.
Check out Graham's entry where you can see a gee whiz ph…
Do you know what this is? It's the caterpillar that is eating the Spicebush, ergo it is a Spicebush Swallowtail larva. Cute, eh? And, you know it does not have eyes. Those spots that resemble eyes are to make predators think it is dangerous.

Here is a bug of another stripe - the dreaded eggs of the squash bugs that would like to decimate all squash plants. I inspect the leaves every day, often twice a day. Sometimes I find adults to dispatch, but most often just eggs.

Then, there is another joy of August - the apple tree is loaded with enough apples to share and enough to put up for the winter.

The tree was from Stark's ten years ago and it has been producing for about 6 years. Everyone who eats one says it is the best apple they have ever eaten.

After reading about Angelica Gigas several times, I bought and planted seeds in the shed in late winter. There are 4 plants left after all the usual die off that occurs due to fickle plants, my neglect, bugs, etc. Margaret Roach at A Way t…

Eupatoriums = Joe Pye Weed, Queen of the Meadow, Hardy Ageratum, White Snakeroot, etc.

Joe Pye Weed is a highly desirable late summer flower for the back of the flowerbed or in a large perennial bed.

Tom Fischer shows them being used for mid-summer, late summer, fall and winter combinations in his book Perennial Companions: 100 Dazzling Plant Combinations for Every Season.

After buying Joe Pye Weed plants for several years and seeing them fail, growing them from seed proved to be the most successful approach for my garden. I used seeds from Prairie Moon and the germination rate was terrific.
Seeds can be sown in the fall. They germinate best if they are kept warm (64 to 72 degrees) for a month, then cold (25 to 39 degrees) for at least 6 weeks. A cold frame, a cold greenhouse or winter sowing outside in containers would work. Keep them moist.

Eupatoriums bloom from July to mid-fall with a generous number of nectar flowers for butterflies followed by seeds for songbirds. Most want moist soil, afternoon shade and are easy to grow once established. They can thrive on the miner…

Pompeii F-1 Italian Sauce Tomatoes from Renee's Garden Seeds

I signed up for the periodic email newsletter from Renee's Garden Seeds and saw that they had conducted field trials on paste and sauce tomatoes and decided that these were the best.

So I switched from the variety I grew last year and tried them, starting the seeds in Feb.

Verticillium and Fusarium Wilt resistant, the Pompeii Italian Sauce Tomatoes are starting to pump up the pressure to cook and can.
For the past few weeks, there have been 6 or 8 to cut into a pot full of other tomatoes, peppers and garlic to put up in jars. But this week, the plants can be picked every day. They have no juice to speak of until they are cooked. Very meaty. Renee's site says they are an exclusive and indeed I have not been able to find much of anything on the Internet about them. Cornell's site lists them at Reimer Seeds, too. Not available from Totally Tomatoes either.

Renee's is one of my favorite seed sources because for some reason I have better germination luck with them. Not every s…

Great Start for August in the Garden

This is a home made butterfly feeder. A handmade leaf shaped plate was attached to a 4 by 4 and we put over ripe fruit in it to feed butterflies. At one point there were 20 butterflies on the peaches at the same time. Here's a great butterfly identification site, Butterflies and Moths of North America.
The feeder is 5 feet off the ground so they can land safely.

The rest of the peaches had to be picked today and the garlic dills had to be made. So we split up the chores and got it all done.

The mess of greenery in the photo is: In the front bottom of the photo is the TN Sweet Potato Squash. Behind it is tomato vines comingling with cucumber vines. A friend invited us to pick corn yesterday morning and while we were in his garden he pointed out squash borer eggs. So, I checked every one of our squash leaves this morning and found 8 leaves with clusters of copper colored eggs. Thanks, Richard. Colorado State University Extension has the scoop on squash beetles and their offspring. Sugge…

Cool Bananas + Royal Horticultural Society Plant Bulletins

Stokes Tropicals sends out a periodic email with new plants available. Some of their offerings are on sale. These cool bananas are only two of an entire page of wild looking banana plants they have. Take a look at them here.
Did you know about the Royal Horticultural Society's Plant Bulletins? I found the link today while researching next week's garden column. Here's the introduction "The results of major trials are now being produced in full colour bulletins. They include full descriptions of the Award of Garden Merit plants, comprehensively illustrated. Background botanical and cultivation information is also included as are useful selection tables, comparing the different entries in the trial.
The bulletins are compiled by the scientific and horticultural staff at Wisley, with advice and assistance from our Plant Committees." You have to have or download Adobe to open the PDF. For example, the Bulletin on Runner Beans covers 48 varieties, Herbaceous Sedums covers…