Showing posts from February, 2010

Sunflower Seed Hull as Mulch or Compost?

Martin Bebb who lives close to downtown Muskogee, sent an email with an offer for anyone in who might want some sunflower seed hulls to add to their compost pile or to use as a mulch.

The sunflower seed hulls are the collection of several years of feeding birds.

You can contact me or email Martin directly at if you would like to have them.
St. Lynn's Press just published "Tomatoes Garlic Basil" the latest book by gardener and garden writer Doug Oster. List price is $19 and the online price is $12.
It's a lovely read and I was able to go through it today from back to front because the stories were delightful.

In honesty, it could have been called Mostly Tomatoes with a Pinch of Garlic and Basil. Tomatoes are the bulk of the story - to page 159. Garlic is pages 159 to 197 and basil is pages 197 to 227.

Oster's writing style will carry his readers along, with nostalgic remembrances, up to the minute gardening tips and recipes for savory dishes.

Since it's a tomato growing book, let's start there. You will find gardening information on seed starting, pruning, staking, seed saving, pests, diseases and soil. Plus, heirlooms vs hybrids, tomato varieties past and present. And, future tomatoes as well, since Oster explains how to hybridize your own tomato variety to get the characteristics you seek.


See You Saturday at the Gardening School

Gardening Basic Training
9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
St. Paul United Methodist Church
Activity Center
2130 W. Okmulgee AV

This half-day class is organized by the Muskogee City Wellness Initiative and will bring together several experienced local gardeners and educators to introduce participants to the wonderful world of growing food.

In these times of super-sized everything — from meal servings to TVs and waistlines - gardening offers a plateful of fun and fulfillment for any and all who partake.

Some of the hot topics and featured speakers will include:

• Choosing a garden site and growing backyard fruit, Sue Gray, Tulsa County OSU Extension.

• Earth-friendly gardening, Doug Walton, Muskogee Farmers Market.

• Selecting vegetable varieties, Matthew Weatherbeee, Blossoms Garden Center.

• Seed starting and transplanting, Martha Stoodley, Master Gardener.

• Irrigation and weed control, Kim Walton, Waltons Farm.

• Kitchen garden herbs, Sharon Owen, Moonshadow Herb Farm.

Free Gardening:…

Buy and Treat Seed Potatoes Now for March Planting in Zone 7

Potatoes are thought to originally be from Peru because pictures of them are on ancient pottery from the area. They were prepared for storage by stomping on them and drying them for future use.

Potatoes came to North America from Europe in the 16th Century. Today, each American eats 65 pounds of potatoes every year.

In our area, potatoes are a cool season crop grown in spring and harvested in summer. Since well-drained soil is important to prevent rotting, small crops can be grown above ground in containers layered with straw, compost and soil.

Buy seed potatoes in February, so you have time to prepare them for planting. Planting time is between Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day, depending on the weather. One expert recommends waiting until it is warm enough for dandelions; another says plant when it is 50-degrees.

John Harrison of Harrison Fruit Stand said that potatoes can rot in a heavy spring rain.

"I don't plant mine until March," Harrison said. "If t…

Year-Round Gardening - the Complete Idiot's Guide

Sheri Ann Richerson is a best selling author. She teamed up with Delilah Smittle to produce The Complete Idiot's Guide to Year-Round Gardening.

Richerson's website, here doesn't say much about the book so let me tell you what I've found.

It is a very upbeat presentation of the many ways to extend your growing season. For example, row covers, cold frames, bubble wrap, and tunnels.

The chapter on start with the soil, explains micro and macro nutrients such as nitrogen, the qualities of healthy soil, and how to improve what you have.

Compost is explained, fertilizers recommended, and seed starting is covered.

Some of the unusual ideas include placing heating cables at the bottom of a raised bed to get the temperature up when needed. One of the authors wraps her greenhouse in bubble wrap in the winter. And, she keeps finches in the greenhouse.

Aspirin water is recommended for greenhouse plants. Dissolve 3 aspirin (80 mm) in 4 gallons of water and spray.

If you are in the market …

Chlorophyll In His Veins by Bobby J. Ward

Noble County Oklahoma native J. C. Raulston was a modern plant hunter who became an educator, horticultural ambassador and plantsman at North Carolina State University. Now, there is an 8-acre arboretum in his name.

Here's a link to the Raulston Arboretum so you can take a look and maybe plan a visit.

The book is available at author Bobby J. Wards's site here.

On a recent trip, I had time to read the entire 350 pages and loved every minute of it. We have all read about the Brother Gardeners, Bartram, Fairchild et al from the 1790s. Lancaster was a modern day version with an equally complex life.

It's interesting isn't it that most of us know less about Raulston than we do about those historic figures?

Ward was a friend of Raulston for 10 years before J. C.'s death in an auto accident in 2006.

Biography, plant history, botany, Oklahoma, institutional politics, sociology - it's all here.

DIRT! The Movie

"Dirt! The Movie",produced by Independent Lens is nothing short of remarkable in its scope and approach.

Inspired by "Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth" by William Bryant Logan, the one-hour PBS documentary will be an eye opening and inspiring watch for millions of Americans. Here's a link to the YouTube trailer.

There is a list of community showings and a discussion guide so you can help people in your community become active. This is the discussion pdf link. Pages 7, 8 and 9, of the pdf provide references and plenty of links you can use to keep the conversation going.

The history of soil and its importance to animal life is demonstrated from the beginning of time to the present. The role we can each play to maintain and improve the health of our life-giving soil is illustrated in interviews with activists around the world.

It's unfortunate that there are a few portions in this otherwise well-rounded production that are inappropriate for young viewers.

For e…

From the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce

This is the new marketing effort of the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce

What do you think?

Wazzup? Lots of Things!

Broccoli, kale and Chinese cabbage seedlings got to sunbathe today. They are still pretty spindly. Inside, still under lights, lettuce seedlings had a fan on them for several hours today.
Jewels of Opar seedlings are coming up among the seeds and stems I laid on top of sterile germinating mix. They were on a heat mat until they came up.
Most seed companies say to plant pea seeds directly in the ground rather than inside, but my luck is improved by starting them inside where the birds and squirrels can't snack on them.

Dianthus, pinks, seedlings are so fragile when they are getting started. Hard to believe what tough little plants they will eventually become.
This is a sage plant that I brought into the shed for the winter. As it grows I use the leaves in the kitchen.
I'm planting seeds almost every day so it better warm up soon - the shed will be too full in a couple of weeks.

Steve Owens Speaking Here Feb 20

Free and open to the public
Feb 20, 2010 at 1:00 p.m.
Steve Owens, owner Bustani Plant Farm
"Plant Hunting in Kenya for Oklahoma Gardens"

Garden Education Room, Honor Heights Park
Sponsored by Friends of Honor Heights Park
Talk followed by membership meeting

Steve and Ruth Owens, owners of Bustani Plant Farm in Stillwater OK, focus on growing unique plants for gardens in Oklahoma as well as other states with similar growing conditions.

Steve and Ruth travel to Africa looking for new plants. This Saturday, he will give a talk for Friends of Honor Heights Park members and guests. His topic is plant hunting in Kenya but since he is knowledgeable in all things horticultural, participants should come ready to learn a wide spectrum of details about how to succeed in their gardens.

In a telephone interview, Steve said, Gardeners can get a good idea what we have from the website ( and from the free catalog, but, there is a much greater variety available to anyone who…

Cabin Fever? Can't Wait for Spring? Start Some Bulbs Inside - They Will be Ready to Bloom in a Few Weeks

I started these paperwhite narcissus in the pot after Christmas. Like many bulbs, they will emerge in about 10 days and bloom within a month or so.

Take a look at these daffodil Websites for other narcissus ideas.
The American Daffodil Society is here
The online daffodil conversation is here.

Consider rain lilies, lily of the valley, calla lilies, snowdrops, crocus, iris, tulips, and hyacinths, too. They will all succeed indoors and bring spring a couple of months ahead of schedule.

As gardening projects go, this could not be easier.

Select a shallow pot - 6 to 8 inches deep at the most.
Fill with soil to within 2 inches of the top.
Arrange the bulbs on top of the moist soil.
Fill in with a combination of soil and pebbles to anchor the bulbs in place.
I like to top it with pebbles or chicken scratch to help keep the surface dry and free of gnats.
Put the pot in a cool room.
Check in a week and when green leaves emerge from the bulb, move into the sun.
Press your finger onto the soil and wate…

Blossom's Pre-Order

This is such a cool idea for veggie gardeners to know about.

For the second year, Blossom's Garden Center in Muskogee is offering an opportunity to pre-order veggie starts so you don't have to drive around from one garden center to another looking for what you want.

You let them know now what you want and they have it for you to pay for and pick up when they open mid-April.

The order deadline is in two weeks - March 1 - so click over and take a look.

Here's the email from owners Matthew and Lora Weatherbee -

We promised you an email when we opened up our vegetable plant booking this year. Customers seemed very happy with this service last year. Simply go to our website and let us know what vegetable plants you want and we will save them for you for pickup in April. It's a great way to guarantee that you'll get the varieties you want. No payment now. You can pay for the plants when you pick them up in April.

We have not raised our prices. They are the same as last year.

Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms - the North American Guide

Once in a while a really good reference book comes along that should be on every library's shelf.

Most adults avoid eating unidentified plants but we are all being nudged to be more aware of which plants can be harmful to our pets and children.

I grow several plants that I know are poisonous - castor beans, iris, oleander, many houseplants, and nightshades such as tomatoes and potatoes. But we don't have pets or children on our place eating random leaves or tubers.

We also have regular outbreaks of mushrooms on our property - we don't eat any of those either because we don't know the difference between the harmless ones and the ones that would make us sick.

A couple of years ago when I went flower picking to make Queen Anne's Lace jelly, the boggy area where it grew was also host to hemlock that is awfully similar. I had to memorize the details of each flower structure to ensure a poison free product.

This well-illustrated reference would be helpful to all of us who in…

Bonnet House, Ft. Lauderdale Florida - Go see it

Thinking of travel to Florida? History buffs, art lovers and garden tourists will all find Bonnet House worth a visit.

Located on 35 acres of Barrier Island on the Fort Lauderdale Florida shore, the Bonnet House grounds and home reflect the nature of the residents who needed a retreat from their hectic lifestyle. There are no huge rooms that echo, no workout room with rows of equipment, just peaceful surroundings accented by hand-made and hand-painted art.

The history of the property began with Chicago attorney Hugh Taylor Birch who purchased 3 miles of Ft. Lauderdale beach for a dollar an acre in 1893. Birch spent the winter on the beach, swimming in the ocean, and trekking the native hardwood hammocks. His daughter, Helen, married Frederic Bartlett and the couple received part of the Birch land as a wedding gift.

The Bartletts named the residence, Bonnet House after a yellow lily that is native to the fresh water slough on the property. Bartlett’s third wife, Evelyn Lilly, spent win…

Lettuce Combos help gardeners get some of everything from Renee's Garden Seeds

Renee's Garden Seeds is one of my favorites. I have high standards for germination rate and information on successful growing. If there isn't an explanation of how to grow the plants and if the seeds don't germinate, I stop ordering. No doubt you do the same thing.

Another reason I enjoy using Renee's is that the website is easy to navigate and stuffed with useful information.

Since I spent the afternoon transplanting lettuce seedlings, I have lettuce on the brain and explored Renee's combination packs for future planting.

So, here are the combo lettuce packs they are offering this year. Consider the wisdom of a variety pack to get a colorful salad bowl without buying 3 different envelopes of seeds.

The photos are from the website - there is no print catalog. Use the link above to access the details on each blend.

Baby Mesclum Cut and Come Again

Heirloom Cutting MixItalian MisticanzaFarmer's Market BlendAsian Baby Leaf MixRuby Emerald Duet Container Lettuce French B…

Phacelia tanacetifolia - Purple Tansy

The Bountiful Gardens 2010 catalog lists Phacelia tanacetifolia - 1250 seeds for $2.25. Lavender flowers, forms dense carpet, helps soil hold moisture, prevents weeds between plants and rows AND attracts beneficial insects. Plus, makes good compost.

Anything to attract pollinators gets my eye. I ordered the seeds this morning. Do you grow Phacelia Purple Tansy? I'm asking because the cultivation information is contradictory from site to site.

Small Farm Success says it is planted widely in California vineyards.
Grows quickly, one of the top 20 bee attracting plants, high quality nectar for a long period with abundant flowers.
It's native to the southwest U.S. and Mexico, needs dark and cool soil - 37 to 68-degrees to germinate, spring planted seeds flower 6 to 8 weeks after germination, and requires 13 hours of light to flower.
AND - if you want your crops pollinated, plant purple tansy to bloom at a different time because pollinators will avoid your crop in favor of tansy's n…

Venidium fastuosum

Fedco Seeds listed Venidium fastuosum in their 2009 catalog. Have you heard of it? Its common name is Namaqualand Daisy or Monarch of the Veldt.

The USDA Plants Profile indicates that it grows as a native only in Calfornia.

Fedco says it is
Daisy-like flowers close up in dreary weather, but will open in ten minutes if cut and brought indoors. Lloyd says their large center disks shine black like a healthy dog’s nose. Glorious creamy-white 4" flowers have vivid black centers. With multibranching habit and deep-cut fuzzy leaves, Venidium sprawls 2-1/2' and needs a dry sunny location to remain upright. Intolerant of wet feet, keels over when saturated. Start indoors, transplant out after danger of frost. Keep deadheaded for long bloom production. Space at least 2 feet apart. Unless sales pick up, this is the last year we will offer. ~500 seeds/g.

The photo above was on FortuneCity and it's the only one on the 'net.

Have you grown this? I'm going to order the seeds and see…

Garden Writer Tovah Martin - author of The New Terrarium - speaking in Tulsa Feb 13 at 7 p.m. for OK Horticultural Society

Terrarium gardening is creating a small indoor garden using closed or partially closed clear containers. Their appeal is that they bring nature indoors while keeping the maintenance low. And, terrarium plants such as ferns and mosses thrive with the low light in most homes and offices.

Tovah Martin, author of The New Terrarium: Creating Beautiful Displays for Plants and Nature, will demonstrate this simple art during her talk in Tulsa on Feb 13.

Tovah Martin
Terrariums & You – how to used recycled containers to make indoor gardens
Tulsa Garden Center - Saturday, Feb. 13, 7 p.m.
Free and open to the public
Martin's books will be available for purchase and autographs after her talk

In a phone interview, Martin said, I've been doing these for decades. At any given moment I have 20 or more on display in my home.

Terrarium plantings can be as simple as a single plant in a covered jar or as complex as a variety of plants in a large container with rocks, moss a…

Klehm Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery- Non Vining Clematis

One of the wonders of this time of year is receiving so many dreamy and exciting catalogs.

Take a look at this dreamy and exciting non-vining clematis in the
Klehm Song Sparrow catalog that arrived yesterday.

It needs a much more glamorous name. Clematis integrifolia Rosea really doesn't make it for me.

How about Clematis Pink Butterflies? Clematis Vivid Pink Origami? Don't those flowers look like origami swans? Look at these on Sparkling Sweet Origami.

Iowa State Extension Service has the scoop on successful growing here.

The highlights of the article are:
Some non-vining clematis bloom in summer.
They act more like perennials with upright, bush-like growth habits.
Solitary clematis (Clematis integrifolia) is 18-24 inches tall and wide with small, nodding, flowers.
Each stem is topped with a single flower.
It blooms for a long time, from June into August. (I bet it wouldn't bloom until August in our zone 7 heat though I would love to try it.)

Most clematis, regardless of bloom t…


Lavatera is in all the seed catalogs.

Fedco Seeds' catalog describes L. trimestris thusly, " Every stalk is covered with single funnel-shaped blossoms....Cut when flowers are unfurling or have just begun to bloom. Vase life is one week...Botanical name honors the 16th century Swiss naturalist brothers Lavater, and the three-month bloom time in warmer climes. (150 seeds costs 90-cents).

Lavatera is a mallow or Malvaceae. A website dedicated to this plant family,, introduces it with these comments, "Malvaceae is known as the mallow family in English; as les Malvacées in French; as Malvengewächse in German; as Le Malvacee in Italian; as Kaasjeskruidfamilie in Dutch; as Malvaväxter in Swedish; as Katost-familien in Danish, as Kattostfamilien in Norwegian; as Malvakasvit in Finnish, as kassinaerilised in Estonian; as Mályvafélék in Hungarian; and as Slazowate in Polish. Tiliaceae is known as the lime family in England, as les Tiliacées in French; and Lindeng…