30 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.

29 August 2009

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, microwaving, borax-cornmeal-salt mixtures, etc. Here's a link to a North Dakota State University description of the various recommended methods.

The photo below is an Amaranth that volunteers every year in the same spots. Several years ago I planted hybrid Amaranths and over the years this is the one that persists from the seeds that fall onto the soil every fall.
Another new one to my garden this year, Tiger Eye Amaranth, looks like a sun loving Coleus in the garden. No matter which Amaranth I add to the assortment every year, each one is a delight when the summer heat drags on.

28 August 2009

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 from 10-12 pounds and are excellent keepers."
Recipes for winter sqush
If you have other ideas for using, serving winter squash, email me at mollyday1@gmail.com - we will have lots to make into coleslaw, bake into pies and puddings as well as make "pumpkin" soup.

27 August 2009

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. Smooth seed peas like Cowpeas are usually used like dry beans in soup and stew.

Sixteenth Century English children ate pea porridge so often the poem, “Pease porridge hot, Pease porridge cold, Pease porridge in the pot Nine days old” was written to show how tired of them they were.

Wrinkled English peas are removed from the pod at harvest. Snap peas are harvested while the pods are still tender and before the peas inside become large.

Chinese or Snow peas are Pisum sativum macrocarpum and Sugar Snap Peas are across between Snow Peas and English Green Peas

If you have garden space or a pot with a trellis where peas could be planted, choose a wrinkled seed variety that resists fusarium wilt. They mature 60 days after planting.

Plant a fall crop of peas as an edible green manure cover crop. Planted in wide rows, one inch apart, they grow weed free. Pea plants pull nitrogen into their roots and stems. After harvest, and before the plants die, dig the vines and leaves into the ground to improve the soil for next year’s garden.

One of the heat tolerant peas to plant this time of year is Wando, available at Sunburst Seeds, 1815 North Street in Muskogee, 918.687.0548.

Plant seeds in prepared soil at 1 to 1.5 inches deep and one inch apart. Barbara Damrosch recommends planting fall peas in a 4-inch deep trench and filling in the trench as they grow (http://tiny.cc/Nlbbc). Using an innoculant is said to increase the fall harvest.

The seeds should not come in direct contact with fertilizer. English peas can be trained up a trellis or allowed to sprawl. Snap peas grow 6 feet and more; a fence, brush pile or trellis keeps them off the ground.

Harvest English peas when the pods are round. Two harvests can be made.

Harvest Sugar Snap Peas every two days, beginning one week after flowering. If some are left behind and discovered later, they can be cooked like English peas.

The health benefits of one half-cup peas include 4 grams of protein, about as much as an egg. Plus they provide folic acid, vitamin A and iron. Snow or Sugar Snap peas have 2.6 grams protein, vitamin C and Potassium (http://tiny.cc/ZFIFp).

Stir-fry Sugar Snap Peapods with peanut oil, portabella mushrooms, soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds. Or, serve as raw snacks with or without a dip.

English peas with lettuce: Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a 3-quart saucepan. Add 2-cups chopped Iceberg lettuce. When warm add 2-cups peas, one-fourth cup chopped green onion or shallots, one-fourth teaspoon marjoram, one-Tablespoon chopped parsley, 2 teaspoons sugar and 1-teaspoon salt. Simmer 10 minutes. Serve with a tablespoon of butter.

26 August 2009

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.

24 August 2009

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 department suggested that they would be perfect as "a natural product for cut stems for the cut flower industry. In addition, the pods are so unique that they could be used to decorate salad bars or harvested for ethnic food wholesalers."

The plants are not sold in stores but the seeds are readily available.

Many gardeners complain about a low germination rate with Hyacinth Bean Vine seeds, probably because we all are over-eager to get them growing and start them before the heat they need is available.

Like all pea family plants, legumes, they attract few insects, have no diseases to speak of, and draw nitrogen out of the air to deposit in the soil.

A Lake Country Point of View blog author provided an in-depth exploration of the plant's history and culture.
Misouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis includes this beauty in its Plants of Merit list.
This is a plant you will be glad you have in August, September and October. Plan to plant some seeds next June.

20 August 2009

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 lived unless it at least 80 percent sustainable. Even if we skip the optional 20 percent one year, there would still be great, minimal maintenance plants.

Klingaman calls these sustainable plants survivors. For example, many trees will thrive with minimal attention after that first year of regular watering.

Some shrubs fall into the sustainable category. Flowering quince, locally called Japonica, is an example of a tough shrub. Junipers, and Forsythia are also in that category. We think of Azalea and Holly as tough but they cannot survive without water during a drought.

Sustainable gardens also help sustain the gardener by requiring minimal time for maintenance. Minimal time usually means less spraying, fertilizing and watering which are all better for the health of the soil and wildlife.

In a recent article, Klingaman said, I've begun bringing my own survival-of-the-fittest approach to my own garden planning: First, I use lots of rocks. I know they’ll survive. Next, I find myself dividing and moving about the plants that flourish in my garden to give them more precious space.”(http://tiny.cc/L8Z28 )

Like many gardeners, Klingaman enjoys trying new plants and seeds (20 percent of the garden) but also appreciates the need to have low-maintenance bones of the garden in place (80 percent).

In my shady hillside yard, Liriope, several of the various Epimedium (barrenwort) and Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae survive despite heavy clay soil, neglect and general mistreatment, so they’re deservedly gaining prominence, Klingaman said. I’m also starting to identify which hostas have long-term survival potential, so they'll get more room as the less-vigorous ones check out.

Klingaman's quest is to fill his garden with survivors whether they are heirloom or new introductions from the plant trade.
Let nature fill the water basin, let birds eat the bugs off plants and let the worms till the soil. Gardeners' part of the arrangement is to avoid poisoning natural predators, use compost to attract worms and dig a rain basin.

In the end, work less and enjoy more could sum up the sustainable approach.

Dr. Gerald Klingaman grew up in Mulhall, Oklahoma and recently retired as Emeritus professor of Horticulture and Extension horticulturist at the University of Arkansas.

Dr. Klingaman is a prolific writer for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Learn2Grow.com, Arkansas Gardener (http://tiny.cc/TFZXi ), Arkansas Online (http://tiny.cc/LUALx).

Klingaman has volunteered with the Northwest Arkansas Botanical Garden in Fayetteville since 2003 and is now the executive director. He designed and built the Children’s Garden.

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs has the Euphorbia amygdaloides also called Mrs. Robb’s Bonnet Spurge (http://tiny.cc/Nggda).

Heronswood (http://tiny.cc/4PLLT) and Plant Delights (http://tiny.cc/iMC16) offer several varieties of Epimedium. For fall color in a woodland garden use Epimedium x versicolor Sulphureum http://tiny.cc/tssAI.

19 August 2009

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 could get to them that they were too immature to germinate.

Live and learn - leave the seed heads on until the pollen sheds.

The winter squash that we planted - TN Sweet Potato Squash - is making fruits that exceed a foot in length. Seedlings of a few fall greens are in the English pea bed and flowers are working their buds off to impress us.

18 August 2009

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 918.4636300
65 or older tuition waived Brandi Gunn 918.463.6309

Blogger is not allowing photo uploads - it is the most inconsistent software ever invented.

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?

16 August 2009

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 20% of your time at work. And, in economics, 80% of property is owned by 20% of the people.


If 80% of my garden is supposed to be relatively work free, only 20% of my garden should be demanding large blocks of my time.

I think I'm doing something wrong.

15 August 2009

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 Mycobacterium vaccae, 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 pet dander, pollen, dust etc. and fight allergies and infections.

Dossey goes on to write, "Nature deficiency disorder has been proposed as a term for the problems we create when we build a wall between the natural world and ourselves. I am highly susceptible to this malady. When I spend too much time indoors, I become increasingly moody and morose. There's only one cure: take a hike, go camping, or root around in my veggie garden. These activities are more than a hobby; they have become an essential part of my life and an important element in my personal health plan."

Me, too. How about you?

14 August 2009

Inhabitat green blog has a terrific entry for August 13 where industrial designer Lea Bogdan wrote 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 happen. If you wish to change your delivery options for the Superpages, contact your local publisher or call Idearc directly at 1-800-888-8448. Superpages recycling information is available online or on the inside cover of your directory.

Yellow Pages
Another powerhouse behind the big books is RHDonnelley, responsible for the Dex Yellow Pages, AT&T Real Yellow Pages in Illinois and Indiana, and EMBARQ Yellow Pages. I received fantastic news from Dex Brand Directories - just last month, they kicked off their Select Your Dex program, where consumers can specify the type and number of Dex Directories they receive. You can change your options online or call 1-866-60-My-Dex. Their website also provides information on recycling your old Dex directory.

I also found out that AT&T has been pushing for strictly on-demand delivery service in many areas. They faced controversy two years ago when the state feared a raise in costs for 411 call operations and contested the proposal for residential Whitepages to be strictly on demand in Raleigh, NC. Unfortunately, organizations like The Yellow Pages Association spend millions lobbying against on-demand directory programs. Due to the powerful lobbying, proposals from state legislators to make unsolicited delivery of phone books illegal were unsuccessful in Alaska, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina and Washington. You will be happy to know that earlier this year AT&T restarted the discussion for on-demand distribution in North Carolina and additionally in Missouri. Similar, successful programs already running in Texas, Georgia, and Ohio have proved that less than 2% of the population requests print directories when given the option, so we hope they are able to broaden the reach for on-demand circulation."

In our town of 40,000 there are competing phone books so they are all delivered here and most go directly into paper recycling. Now I know there is a choice to cancel them.
Big green thanks to Lea Bogdan and Inhabitat.

13 August 2009

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 zones or 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 that like to be hot for a few weeks followed by cold include pansy, alyssum, calendula, corydalis, bachelor buttons, love-in-a-mist, Joe Pye, Datura and many others. Most perennials and many biennials are planted in the fall.

Nasturtiums and Zinnias grow from seed to flowers in 35 days. Also plant seeds of these flowers with 45 days to bloom: Bachelor buttons, Cosmos, Marigold and Hyacinth Bean Vine.

Flowers with 50 to 60 days to bloom include: Verbena, Impatiens, Alyssum, Morning Glory and African daisy. The old Thompson and Morgan seed germination database is available at
Tom Clothier's site where you can look for germination temperatures, weeks, etc.

Plains Coreopsis and Dahlia need 60 days. Flowering cabbage and flowering kale take 11 weeks.

If you want to speed up the process, you can pre-germinate the seeds in moist paper towel or vermiculite. Keep them warm until they sprout and form roots, then plant them in pots until they are ready to plant in the ground.

Garlic and shallots should be ordered now to plant in September. Farmer’s markets have locally grown varieties that are sure to work well.

Look up the number of days from seed to harvest for your favorite vegetables and select those with 70 days or less to maturity.

For example, bush beans mature in 50 days, so seeds started now will have table ready beans by the middle of September. Burpee’s Tenderpod bush bean was the 1941 All America Selection and is still one of the highest rated (http://bit.ly/lbiDU).

Another AAS selection, Buttercrunch lettuce is ready in 65 days and can take the cold (http://bit.ly/zS6eY). Green onion, chive and arugula seeds can still be sprinkled into the garden and harvested before winter. Arugula is good for pesto, late fall salads and on sandwiches.

And put in cool season Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbages. At the Tulsa Master Gardener's site (http://bit.ly/4wgJu9), Sue Gray advises, "But keep the B.t. handy. Bacillus thuringiensis dust or liquid is the smart way to keep cabbage looper and diamondback moth caterpillars off your plants." Bt is sold as Biobit, Dipel, MVP, Steward, and Thuricide.

In August and September these seeds are planted: Kale, chard, mizuna, mache, Asian greens and asparagus. Gray says to watch for flea beetles and cucumber beetles in the fall. As soon as the plants come up, cover them with a floating row cover fabric to keep the bugs off the leaves and prevent them from laying eggs in the soil. Check under the fabric daily.

OSU Fact Sheet HLA 6009 has several ideas for fall vegetable growing at http://bit.ly/oqSdx.

Between August 10 and 20, plant bush beans, lima beans, cucumbers, beets, Chinese cabbage, head cabbage, collards, and green peas. After you harvest the peas, dig under the leaves and vines before the first freeze.

Oklahoma’s best varieties are listed in OSU Fact Sheet HLA 6032 at http://bit.ly/sgCnR.

11 August 2009

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 pots for over a month, languished under an oak tree while we were on vacation, were planted in an area that receives little attention. And, yet they bloomed.

10 August 2009

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."
You can read the entire report at WSSA.

It would be good if someone could come up with another word for deadheading. The removal of faded flowers helps the plant make more flowers. But deadheading? Surely lovers of all things pretty could use a prettier word.

09 August 2009

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 photo and a real photo of Primula vialii. He says, "I would suggest that never in the vast history of life on earth, in the stars and in the galaxies beyond has a plant of Primula vialii flowered like this!"
Here's the link. Enjoy.

Today in the garden: continued apple picking (plus a few tomatoes and cucumbers), watering, bug and egg hunting (and destroying), weeding, fussing over seedlings, and taking deep breaths while butterflies and hummingbird moths flitted all around me.

07 August 2009

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 to Garden, displayed photos of her garden taken by the Martha Stewart Staff. Click over and take a look. She says they want bright shade and moisture. You'll want Angelica Gigas in your garden, too.
Chocolate Flower Farm offers the seeds from their own plants. They say that the seeds are rarely offered commercially because the seeds have to be sown fresh and most people who grow them have plenty of seeds to share. And, order seeds now because it likes to be planted in the fall to get a chill before germinating.

06 August 2009

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 minerals in clay soil.

Eupatorium stems should be allowed to stand over the winter to protect the root crown from freezing. Cut them to the ground in late winter before new growth emerges.

The plant family Eupatorium was named for King Mithridates VI Eupator of Pontus (120 to 63 BC). Eupator ate a variety of poisonous leaves with the belief that it would make him immune to their effects.

Joe Pye was a New England Native American healer who used the leaves to cure typhus during the Civil War.

Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium purpureum is a U.S. native plant that becomes a 2 to 4 feet wide clump with mauve flowers on 5 to 8 foot tall stems.

Eupatorium dubium or Little Joe is a dwarf variety that grows to 3 feet tall and 1 foot wide with reddish-lavender flowers. Baby Joe is even smaller.

E. Bartered Bride has white flowers and E. maculatum Gateway has purple stems with dark mauve flowers.Eupatorium coelestinum, Hardy Ageratum, Thoroughwort or Mist Flower, grows one or two feet tall with lots of blue flowers on red stems for 6 or 8 weeks. It will spread by rhizomes to fill in as a ground cover to accent tall grasses.

White Snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum Chocolate) is popular with garden magazine editors. Fine Gardening calls its brown leaves and white flowers deliciously colored. White Snakeroot can be bothered by mildew, leaf spot and blight. Common names include Indian Sanicle, Squawweed and Deer-wort-boneset.

Spotted Joe Pye Weed or Smokeweed, Eupatorium maculatum, has light purple flowers.

Hollow Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium Fistulosum, commonly called Queen of the Meadow, has white to lavender blooms atop 12-foot tall stems.

A new variety, E. fistulosum Atropurpureum, called Glow Queen of the Meadow, with rose wine flowers on red stems, received the Garden of Merit Award from The Royal Horticultural Society.
Tea made from Eupatorium cannabinum or hemp Agrimony leaves was believed to detoxify since it causes vomiting and acts as a laxative.

Boneset tea was used to ease the symptoms of dengue fever, a mosquito born disease known as breakbone fever due to the extreme joint and muscle pain.

The tea appears to have analgesic and fever reducing effects similar to aspirin.

Alternative Nature recommends burning dried leaves to repel flies. Plants for a Future Database says the leaves of Agrimony have been put on bread to prevent mold and the juice of the leaves has been used as an insect repellant for animals.

The Royal Horticultural Society Database lists these common names: Grass Root, Gravel Root, Indian Sage, Kidney Wort, Marsh Milkweed, Quill Wort, Sisters of Healing and others.

05 August 2009

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 seed I have tried (culinary sage and mist flowers were exceptions) but the batting average has been much higher.

I'd like to know what's working best for you this year. Email me at mollyday1@gmail.com or post a comment.

02 August 2009

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.
Suggestions: *Get rid of mulch around squash *Apply insecticide to the base of the plants. Diatomaceous earth/pyrethrins are recommended for organic gardens. For gardeners who are not worried about organic treatments, use esfenvalerate, permethrin, or carbaryl as the active ingredient to control squash bugs. Apply in June (too late for that) and then reapply. *Check plants weekly for eggs. Here's the link to read the whole article.
To make the jars of pickles, I checked under every leaf for the right size fruit. Look what was lurking in the cucumber vines this morning.
Cicadas are here every year. They do not wait the 17 years of the 17 year locust cycle you often hear about. The Gardeners Network has a thorough article about them here. The female Cicada lays 600 eggs - good grief we are defenseless.

01 August 2009

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 90 varieties, and the Perennial Yellow Daisy Bulletin covers 36 of them. It's a terrific free resource for all of us to enjoy and learn from.
For the Perennial Yellow Daisy trials, 282 entries were sent in by 52 companies. There are photos of the trials field, each plant and a summary of the winners. Quite a resource for plant lovers.

While you are on the RHS site, click over to their Plant of the Month link, here. It's a well researched list of desirable plant selections.