30 March 2010

Plant Some Seeds of Four O'Clocks for a Floral Clock a la Linnaeus

Four O'Clock's are an old fashioned annual flower that blooms in the afternoon and closes at night. Marvel of Peru gives a clue to the reason they are annuals in our zone 7 weather - they are from areas where the weather is Peru-like - no freezes in the winter.

The seeds are large and come up in a week or two. The plants grow 3 to 4 feet tall in my garden by the end of the summer. I probably should pinch them a few times to prevent that end of the summer leggy look but I never get around to it.

Mirabilis is the Latin name for these summertime beauties. It means wonderful. They are very easy to grow so they are a good choice for a child's first garden. Plus the fluttery things are attracted to the flowers on sunny afternoons - hummingbirds, butterflies and skippers will visit the open blooms.

At Yale.edu there is a fun article from 2006 on Mirabalis. According to the author, Eric Larsen, who found the information on the BBC site, you can plant a floral clock garden for hourly sequential flowering.

Here's an excerpt and the link so you can read the rest of the article.

The idea that one can design a floral clock has intrigued generations of garden designers since Linnaeus proposed the idea back in the 1700s. It is doubtful whether Carl actually planted a garden where the flowers were arranged so that they would announce the time of day by their successive flowering, but his son worked on the idea more fully after the elder Linnaeus' death.

In Philosophia Botanica, pere Linnaeus classified different plants by the types of flower production. For instance, Meteorici have flowers that open and close by weather conditions.

Tropici are flowers that open and close depending on the length of the day. Aequinoctales are plants that bloom at a fixed time of day unaffected by weather conditions.

These of course are the plants one would choose from when designing a floral clock.

Back in the 19 Century, it was all the rage to plant floral clocks, which were basically a circle divided into twelve with plants in each segment that would flower. Below I provide a partial list of plants that would work for your floral clock project. Bear in mind that some plants would need to be replaced as their season of bloom passes.

2:00 AM Night blooming cereus closes
5:00 Morning glories, wild roses
6:00 Spotted cat's ear, catmint
7:00 African marigold, orange hawkweed, dandelions
8:00 Mouse-ear hawkweed, African daisies
9:00 Field marigold, gentians, prickly sowthistle closes
10:00 Helichrysum, Californium poppy, common nipplewort closes
11:00 Star of Bethlehem
12:00 Noon Passion flower, goatsbeard, morning glory closes
1:00 PM Chiding pink closes
2:00 Scarlet pimpernel closes
3:00 Hawkbit closes
4:00 Four o'clock opens, small bindweed closes, Californian poppy closes
5:00 White waterlily closes
6:00 Evening primrose, moonflower
8:00 Daylilies and dandelions close
9:00 Night blooming cereus

The list above is from a BBC web-site, hence some of the English-sounding names. Your observations and thoughts are welcome on the times of flower opening, floral clocks or any other subject.

There is a variety called Broken Colors, with multiple colors, shades and hues on the flower. Another flower on the same plant will be completely different. This plant isworth growing if just for the flower colors, but add the aroma and you have a surefirewinner.

Plant of the Week is a publication of the Marsh Botanical Gardens. Opinions expressed herein do not reflect on the official policies of Yale University. We also welcome guest columnists, contributions and salty snack products.
Until next week, Trying my best to entertain - Contact: Eric Larson (eric.larson@yale.edu)

29 March 2010

2009 Heirloom Tomato Trials - Winners Announced

The Kerr Center’s tomato demonstration trial results were announced this week.

The trials were grown on the Cannon Horticulture Plots – a five acre site that features loam soil with moderately poor drainage, about 3.1 percent native organic matter, and a pH range from 6.5 to 7.0. Phosphorus and potassium levels are low and medium, respectively.

I've summarized the results with little editing and you can click on the link above for more info.

In 2008, the field was planted to an all season cover crop of sorghum-sudangrass to smother bermuda grass and build the soil. This was followed with a winter cover crop of grain rye, common vetch, and crimson clover, which was mow-killed with the mow residue used as mulch.

16 heirloom varieties were grown in the trial. Most were red, pink and purple fresh market types. All were grown from seed in their greenhouse on March 20 and transplanted to the field on April 30, when soil temperatures reached 67.

They used drip irrigation and applied the mulch over the next 10 days.

Several weeks of cold heavy rain followed. Fortunately, very few plants were lost. Because the plants set out April 30 had grown little during early May cool weather, replacements set out on May 15 readily caught up.

Varieties were laid out in short plots of three plants each and replicated twice for a total of six plants per cultivar. Transplants were set three feet apart with row spacing of six feet. Each plant had a tomato cage that measured 15 inches in diameter
and 4 feet in height. All were sanitized in advance using a light chlorine spray.

They seeded buckwheat between the rows on June 8 to encourage pollinators and other beneficial insects, and also to suppress weeds. Adjacent areas of the field were planted to purple-hull peas and

MARMANDE Red Fresh Mkt. Low Medium 26-Jun
BRANDYWINE Pink Fresh Mkt. Low Poor 1-Jul
BLACK FROM TULA Purple Fresh Mkt. Medium Medium 1-Jul
OZARK PINK VF Pink Fresh Mkt. V. High Good 1-Jul
PRINCIPE BORGHESE Red Roma Drying/Canning High Good 1-Jul
BEEFSTEAK Red Fresh Mkt. High Good 1-Jul
EVA PURPLE BALL Pink-Purple Multi-purpose High Good 3-Jul
MORTGAGE LIFTER Pink Fresh Mkt. High Medium 6-Jul
CHEROKEE CHOCOLATE Purple Fresh Mkt. Medium Medium 6-Jul
HOMESTEAD Red Fresh Mkt. Medium Good 6-Jul
ARKANSAS TRAVELER Pink Fresh Mkt. High Good 8-Jul
OLD VIRGINIA Red Fresh Mkt. High Good 10-Jul
T.C. JONES Yellow Fresh Mkt. Medium Medium 10-Jul
RUTGERS Red Canning/Fresh Mkt. V. Low Good 13-Jul
BIG MONTH Red Roma Canning/Fresh Mkt. Low Good 13-Jul
CHEROKEE PURPLE Pink-Purple Fresh Mkt. Medium Poor 16-Jul

All plants received a split side dress application of custom blended organic fertilizer on April 30 and May 18. They applied, in pounds per acre, a total NPK equivalent of 39–13–18. They sprayed all varieties six times during the season with dilute foliar sprays made predominantly from soluble fish, seaweed, humic acids, and trace minerals.

They used drip irrigation sparingly since the plants were already well mulched. It became clear that the plants were getting too much water and fruit quality suffered accordingly. A symptom they learned to recognize was the upward curling of plant leaves - apparently in an effort to expose the under-leaf stomates to sun and wind to transpire more water.

Weed control required minimal attention thanks to mulching and covercrops.

They suffered minor amounts of pest damage with tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) in mid-June. As fruit developed, they also found significant levels of damage from both tomato fruitworm (Helicoverpa zea), tomato pinworm (Keiferia
lycopersicella), and stink bugs (Pentatomidae).

Labeled amounts of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and a saponin-based surfactant were applied July 3, 7, 14,and 23.

Diseases were much less of a problem and more easily managed. Both septoria blight
(Septoria lycopersici) and early blight (Alternaria solani) appeared during the season. Labeled amounts of Serenade (Bacillus subtilis)and Seacide(fish oil) were applied at the same time as Bt, and seemed to hold these diseases in check.

Discussion (mostly unedited)
We were not at all satisfied with our management of insect pests. As already mentioned, we needed an earlier-flowering cover crop to bolster populations of beneficial insects before they are needed in the tomato crop. Also, we needed to
begin applying Bt sprays earlier in the season and make more applications.

While insect pests reduced the marketability of some of our tomatoes, radial cracking and were much greater problems. The high incidence of cracking and splitting was a consequence of the rainy growing season and heirloom genetics - few of the old heirlooms have been selected for crack resistance. Mild cracking is not
a great deterrent to farmers market and roadside sales. Severe cracking, however, is unappealing and can affect shelf life. To counterbalance
cracking problems, we often harvested fruit slightly early, rather than waiting for vine ripeness.

From a commercial perspective, the bestperforming varieties were not only those with
high yields, but also those with high marketing percentages - reduced cracking and insect damage. The heirlooms that did a good job of meeting these criteria in our trial were Ozark Pink VF, Principe Borghese, Beefsteak, Eva Purple Ball, Arkansas Traveler, and Old Virginia.

These criteria are somewhat less critical for home gardeners, especially those pursuing new taste experiences or novelty. Several of the varieties in
out trial might fill that need.

Most heirloom varieties tend to be indeterminate types. This means that they are more vining, and tend to spread the harvest over a long period of time, often producing ripe tomatoes up until frost.

Determinate types are more compact plants whose fruits tend to ripen over a shorter period of time, typically two to six weeks. Determinate types are favored by processors, growers with short marketing windows, and gardeners with limited space.

Marmande is a moderately early, semi-determinate,tomato. The fruits are red, slightly ribbed, averaging about 4-6 ounces. The Baker Creek catalog describes it as a popular old French variety, originally developed by the Vilmorin Seed Company. Marmande did not produce well in our trial, but the fruit quality was good.

Brandywine is, perhaps, the most reputable of heirloom tomatoes, touted, particularly, for its distinctive flavor. It is a potato-leafed variety.
William Woys Weaver writes that potato-leafed tomatoes first appeared in the U.S. in the 1860s,an introduction from France. According to Weaver, Brandywine did not
originate with the Amish, as widely believed, but was a commercial release from the
Philadelphia seed company Johnson and Stokes in 1889. Carolyn Male writes that it was named for the Brandywine River in eastern Pennsylvania.

There are now several Brandywine varieties in catalogs. Weaver holds that the pink variety is the original Brandywine, and the yellow Brandywine, a true mutation. Amy Goldman, on the other hand, claims that the original Johnson and Stokes release is actually the lesser known Red Brandywine, which has normal leaves and deep red fruit; the potato leafed varieties, she writes, are more properly known as Sudduth's or Quisenberry's Brandywine.

In all cases and variants, Brandywine fruits grow large and heavy, but are thin skinned and not suited to shipping. The pink, potato leafed Brandywine is prone to cracking and splitting when grown in the South.

Black from Tula originated in the Ukraine. Goldman writes that it was originally imported from Russia by the Seed Savers Exchange in 1996 and made commercially available in the U.S. in 1998.

It is among the better-known exotic tomatoes. The fruit has prominent green shoulders, rose black skin, and chocolate tinged flesh. The coloring puts some people off, while others are attracted not only by the appearance, but also by
the rich old-fashioned flavor.

The Baker Creek catalog and other sources state that Black from Tula is one of the largest purple varieties, with 8 to 12 ounce fruits. Our fruits were true to description, but smaller on average. Cherokee Chocolate, the only other dark purple
we trialed, was much larger on average.

Ozark Pink VF This pink-fruited variety was originally developed by the University of Arkansas for vine ripe harvest by market growers and home gardeners.

True to catalog descriptions, the fruit is not firm enough for shipping, but is quite resistant to cracking. The eating quality and shelf life were both
good. Our plants were also very productive.

Pink VF was the highest yielding variety in our trial.
Ozark Pink VF has an indeterminate growth habit and was specifically bred for staked production in our hot, humid, and disease prone region.

Principe Borghese This interesting semi-determinate variety produces a great abundance of small, 1 to 2ounce grape and pear shaped fruits. In the Kerr Center trial, the fruits were firm and resisted cracking and splitting quite well. Principe Borghese is especially well suited for sun drying.

Apparently,it is common to pull whole branches and hang them outdoors until the fruit dries. In some seed catalogs, such as Pinetree Garden Seeds, this Italian variety is listed separately from the rest of the tomatoes, under foreign vegetables and, unfortunately, gets overlooked.

Beefsteak The term beefsteak is commonly used to describe a type of tomato, as opposed to a specific variety. Beefsteak varieties typically produce large, somewhat flattened fruits with thick, solid flesh and few, small seed cavities.

According to the Baker Creek catalog, the variety known as Beefsteak is a popular, standard variety, with rich, old time tomato taste.

Eva Purple Ball The origin for this variety is the Black Forest region of Germany, where it is traced back to the 1800s. Like Brandywine and Black from Tula, Eva Purple Ball ranks among the better known heirlooms.

Male writes that it is a variety without obvious faults, one that is widely adapted and performs well for just about everyone, everywhere.

Both Male and Goldman remark on the consistently shaped globular fruits that typically weigh about 4to 5 ounces. It has excellent taste for fresh market uses, but is multi-purpose.

The Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog claims it is well adapted to hot and humid climes, and has excellent resistance to fruit and foliar diseases. It was certainly one of our best performers!

Mortgage Lifter There are numerous lines of mortgage lifter varieties. It appears that the one we purchased is the interestingly named Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter – named for the West Virginia breeder, who owned a radiator repair shop in the 1930s.

The beefsteak type fruits are mild tasting, large and smooth, often weighing in at a pound. On the down side, they crack and catface readily. Stems, too, are often hard to remove. These characteristics are apparently shared by all the mortgage lifter
varieties. Mortgage Lifter has an indeterminate growth habit and plants tend to grow large.

Cherokee Chocolate is a dusky, brownish colored mutation of the popular Cherokee Purple variety. Chocolate performed better for us than its
better-known sister, including earlier fruiting.

Homestead was developed in the 1950s for Florida growers. It has good disease resistance and, unlike many heirlooms, is good for shipping.
The fruits are red, globular, medium-sized.

Arkansas Traveler is a familiar and popular variety in our region, and has been grown for generations throughout much of the South. It tolerates heat and humidity, and is crack and disease resistant. Fruits are medium-sized, smooth
and pink/rose-colored. The flavor is good, but considered unremarkable.

Old Virginia The Baker Creek catalog tells us this variety was commonly grown in Virginia during the early 1900s. They suggest it as a good choice for globalwarming gardening, because it sets fruit well despite hot summer weather. The dark red fruits are typically 6 to 12 ounces in size, with an old time sweet tart taste.

T.C. Jones is a beefsteak fruit type that originated from Kentucky. It was the only yellowfruited variety in our trial and it proved a favorite for its taste. Its growth habit is indeterminate and the vines grow quite large.

Rutgers A New Jersey heirloom, with a determinate growth habit, it is considered fairly popular among area gardeners. We were surprised, then,
that it did so poorly for us.

Big Month An Amish heirloom, it is the only true Roma-type we included in our trial. Big Month is named because all of its fruit tends to ripen
together making a big month of harvesting and canning. Its performance was disappointing,though it might have done better in a drier year. According to the Baker Creek catalog, this variety is highly drought resistant. The summer of 2009 was anything but droughty at Kerr Center!

Cherokee Purple Like Brandywine and a few others mentioned, Cherokee Purple is one of the legendary heirloom tomatoes, touted in good part simply for being delicious.

According to Male, the variety is over 100 years old and was supposedly grown by the
Cherokee. Its genealogy, however, is questionable. Male laments the confusion and blames it on the embellished descriptions in many early seed

Apparently the name Cherokee Purple captured the imagination of seedsmen and
promoters as well as gardeners!Cherokee Purple is indeterminate and disease resistant, making it a good choice in the South. Fruits are relatively large, about 10 to 12 ounces. It yielded moderately well for us, but we encountered much cracking and insect damage.

27 March 2010

Trilliums Are Coming Up

The Trillium Discussion for Enthusiasts has a new online glossary thanks to Jim Shields at Shields Gardens and his cohorts.

Shields Gardens is in Westfield Indiana. Check out the Shields beautiful site here.

The online discussion is over my head most of the time but I joined to learn about Trilliums. The plants in my garden were sent to me by a couple of generous members of the discussion group.

Edgewood Gardens website has lovely Trillium photos.

The Trillium Discussion archives are here and it is searchable if you have a specific question about these spring beauties.
The Woodland Plant Picture Gallery and Trillium Identification page is on the home page here.
Have you checked? Are your Trilliums coming up yet?

25 March 2010

Tomatoes - Grow the Best, the Biggest, and the Sweetest This Year - Tips from the Tomato Man's Daughter

Tomatoes are the most popular home grown food. Actually a fruit, most people use them as a vegetable. Once called Love Apples, tomatoes were thought to be poisonous and were grown only as ornamental plants.

Today, the competition is fierce to grow the first, the sweetest and the biggest fruit a home gardener can produce. We might all improve our chances for an abundant harvest with some advice from an area expert.

Lisa Merrell is the daughter of Tulsa's Tomato Man, Darrell Merrell. She calls her business The Tomato Man's Daughter (www.tomatomansdaughter.com). At The Old Home Place-the same location of her father's business, Lisa sells tomato, pepper and eggplant seedlings.
During the season, Lisa sells 30,000 plants at festivals and the Old Home Place. Most of those plants are grown from seeds Darrell and Lisa saved in a freezer over the past two decades.
If you go
The Old Home Place, 2208 West 81 St, Tulsa OK
Open Monday through Saturday April 8 to May 29
9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
tomatomansdaughter@gmail.com and 918-446-7522

She starts all of these seeds in trays. The trays are filled to the top with Sunshine LC1 potting soil and watered. The soil is given time to absorb the water before planting.

Tomato seeds need 70 to 85-degree warmth to germinate so I use only warm water, Merrell said. They take 3 days to germinate in a climate controlled warm spot or 5 to 7 days to come up on top of the refrigerator.

Lisa grows 85 tomato varieties. Her Top Ten tomato varieties for 2010 are Cherokee Purple, Carbon, Yellow 1884 Pinkheart, Sioux, Eva Purple Ball, Royal Hillbilly, Grandma Suzy's Beefsteak, Break O'Day, Oxheart and Sweet 100.
To get an idea of the size of this one-woman operation's responsibility, consider starting 780 flats of 3-inch pots.

The seeds started on Feb 16 were planted into pots on March 9 to have them ready for her Early Bird sale April 8 to 14. In addition to the Old Home Place, Merrell will sell her plants at the Sand Springs Herbal Affair & Festival on April 17 and at the Jenks Herb and Plant Festival on April 24.

Each plant is $3.50, with a buy-12-get-one-free deal.

Merrell's Tips - Planting Tomatoes

Select a site with at least 6-hours of sun. The plants appreciate afternoon shade in late summer.

Add compost to planting soil. Mushroom compost is proven to work well.

Add a pound of composed manure and a tablespoon of Epsom salts to the planting hole.

An alternative to animal manure is a mixture of 1 Tablespoon blood meal, one-half cup bone meal, one-half cup greensand, 1-Tablespoon Epsom Salt, 1 whole banana, and 2-crushed calcium tablets.

Plant 3-feet apart. Bury the plant half way up the stem. Bury or remove the lower branches.

Water during planting and again after planted.

Mulch with straw or hay.

Water twice a week with a soaker hose or the equivalent of one-two gallons of water per plant per week.

Merrell's Tips - Growing Tomatoes
Soak the soil to 8 inches deep twice a week. Punch holes in gallon jugs and put them into the ground next to tomatoes at planting time. Fill the jugs twice a week while you are checking plants.

Mulch plants, and fertilize with alfalfa, Epsom salts, or manure. Shake plants gently twice a day after flowers appear to help set fruit.

Spray with Bordeaux before any signs of disease appear.

Use Bacillus Thuringiensis to control tomato hornworms and Pyrethrum for spider mites and aphids.

Blossom end rot is a water-soaked spot on the bottom of the tomato that turns black. Extreme weather conditions during a growth spurt are the culprits. Foliar feeding with liquid calcium can correct the problem.

Prune if you want to shape plants but it is not necessary.

Cover plants with shade cloth in July and August

With a cat standing guard over freshly planted seeds in sterile soil, what could go wrong?

22 March 2010

Quotes from Duane Campbell's "Best of Green space" with photos of our daffodils with 8-inches of snow.

"Last month I resolved not to make any more New Year's resolutions. So far I haven't broken it. How are you doing with yours? But the itch is still there, so I'll make resolutions for other people. For Free."

Then, Campbell goes on to why you should get a seed starting lighting system set up in your home.

"Of course you don't want an ugly shop light hanging in a bedroom. So tart it up. Spend an extra two dollars for a can of spray paint to match the wallpaper and use brass decor hooks in the ceiling. You could even glue a little lace along the edge of the light; that's what my wife would do."

On the topic of replanting potted flowers -

"About the time the (Easter) lily fades, mothers will be wallowing in azaleas and hydrangeas and mums. Can they be planted out in the garden? I have no idea. Probably not."
"Though there are hardy varieties of all of these, the Mothers Day plants are often bred for greenhouse culture and won't take our winters. Or maybe they will. But there is usually no way of knowing.
Here's how to find out if they're hardy. Plant them outside. If they are still alive next summer, they are."

"There has been an inordinate amount of claptrap written about pruning clematis, some of it by me. There are three different types of clematis, and each has its own complicated pruning regimen. I have tried to explain it to myself, also without success."

On vegetable gardens
"There are people who still believe that a vegetable garden must be out back and must consist of only vegetables. These are often people with fond childhood memories of long hours under a hot sun with a hoe. Character building, their fathers said. As adults, these people would rather eat soggy string beans out of cans for the rest of their lives than make a vegetable garden. Well, you can do it. And you can do it without a hoe. In fact without much effort. Except once, the first year, at the beginning."

More good stuff from Duane Campbell in his current articles here.

20 March 2010

What's a Femivore You Ask?

The online magazine Grist would like to tell you.

To help you decide to click over to the link above, here are a few ideas from the piece -

Peggy Orenstein wrote an article for the New York Times Magazine called "The Femivore's Dilema".

Orenstein said she knows women who grow vegetables and now raise chickens.

She says "Femivorism" is grounded in self-sufficiency, autonomy and personal fulfillment.

The author of the Grist article, Bonnie Powell, says we all need to be mindful that our organic cages do not become as tight fitting as women's cages of past generations.

Is there a growing pressure for women to work, cook locally grown food, plus grow it themselves? Thoughtful reading at those links.

Do you feel pressured to grow food, be the cook, preserve the food you grow, etc.? Are we working just as hard as our great grandmothers for no apparant reason?

19 March 2010

Online Bird Database from Cornell University

Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society launched eBird in 2002. Whether your interest in birds is as a casual observer or someone who enjoys bird watching and photography, take a look at their website here.

18 March 2010

Still So Much to Learn

For the best gardening advice, ask growers and gardeners who know the conditions in your local area.

Tonight, the monthly meeting of Muskogee Garden Club will be held at Blossoms Garden Center, where owner, grower and plant enthusiast, Matthew Weatherbee is giving the presentation.

Feel free to join the meeting if you are interested in learning with other local gardeners.

If you prefer learning about gardening while lying on the couch, here are some titles to consider from the recent crop of new books -

Best of Green Space: 30 Years of Composted Columns by Duane Campbell. 220-pages, B. B. Mackey Books. 16.95 Paperback

Duane Campbell gardens and writes in PA. At age 67, he has gardened for decades and has a point of view that is loaded with humor and hard-won experience. His columns of practical advice are reprinted in a monthly format.

Campbell is all about enjoying gardening on a budget and he urges you to get as many plants as cheaply as possible with tips on how to do just that.
Grow Your Own Vegetables by Carol Klein. 224 pages, Octopus Books. 19.99 7 by 10 inch paperback with lots of color photos.

Carol Klein writes gardens and has a television show called Grow Your Own Vegetables, in England. Klein wants everyone to know how easy it is to have some home grown produce and her book is a testament to her enthusiasm. Each vegetable has its own mini-chapter with planting information and encouragement.

North American Guide to Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms: How to Identify More than 300 Toxic Plants and Mushrooms Found in Homes, Gardens and Open Spaces” by Nancy Turner and Patrick von Aderkas. Timber Press, 373 page hardback. 29.95

Both of the authors are professors at the University of Victoria British Columbia.
Children and pets are more likely to be endangered by unsuspected leaves, fruits and roots, since adults rarely eat unidentified flora. This book is a thoroughly researched and illustrated reference suitable for anyone who wanders in nature collecting plants, as well as those who care for children. Mushrooms, algae, flowers and fruit are covered.

Talking Dirt The Dirt Diva's Down-to-Earth Guide to Organic Gardening by Annie Spiegelman. 286 pages, Berkley Publishing Group. 15.00 paperback in 6 by 9 inch format.

Spiegelman gardens and writes in CA where the weather favors gardeners' efforts. The use of Latin plant names is dubbed to be snooty, a garden plan encouraged, and pollination is explained.

This is a great book for a beginner organic gardener. Tips and techniques are explained in easy to understand chapters. Organic fertilizers are defined, plus how to plant a tree and prune a shrub, grow fruit and vegetables.

Teaming With Microbes: The Organic gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis. 220 page hardback, Timber Press. 24.95

Both of the authors garden in Alaska but in this case it doesn't matter if their experience is outside your growing area. The call to build healthy soil is universal.

This is a wonderful book. It begins with easy to understand soil science, nutrients, life in the soil, soil texture and structure. In addition, bugs, insects, mold, worms, and fungi - all important to the soil web -are each covered.
The second half of Teaming With Microbes explains how the soil web contributes to the success of your gardening efforts.

For local information, don’t miss the opportunity to meet other plant lovers, inside the greenhouse, at Blossoms Garden Center tonight.

If you go
Muskogee Garden Club
Thursday, March 18 6:00 p.m.
Blossoms Garden Center
3012 East Hancock RD between York and Country Club
Information – 918-683-0581

17 March 2010

Wild Things 2010 Schedule

Wild Things is one of the Oklahoma native plant nurseies I have found to be reliable over the 3 years I've bought from Marilyn. Her plants live, survive, thrive.

They have no storefront so you have to show up where they are vendors. I always order in advance so my things are set aside ahead of time.

Wild Things website with the plant list

Phone 405.382.8540 or 405.255.1707

email marilyn@wildthingsnursery.com

upcoming dates where they will be with plants

April 3 Norman Farmes Market 8:00-12:00
April 10 Herb Day in Brookside 9:00-4:00 41 Peoria, Tulsa
April 17 Sand Springs Herbal Affair 9- 4:00
April 24 Jenks Herb N Plant Festival 9:00 -5 :00
May 1 Norman Farmers Market 8:00- 12:00
May 7 Wild Flower Workshop -Lawton
May 15 Edmond Farmer’s Market 8:00-1:00
May 22 Audubon Garden Tour, Tulsa
May 30 Edmond Farmer’s Market 8:00-1:00
June 12 Will Rogers Park Oklahoma City 10:00-4:00
August 18 Douglas Tallamy (author of Bringing Nature Home)Oklahoma City
August 19t Douglas Tallamy in Tulsa, Tulsa Garden Center 7:00 pm
September 18 OHS Garden Tour for Connoisseurs, OKC
October 2 Monarch Migration - Butterfly Festival, Cole OK 10:00 - 4:00

Plant list is here. You get to choose PDF or Excel for viewing.
Probably anyone is zone 7 will find plants of interest.

16 March 2010

Mid-March Seedlings

There are thousands of baby plants coming up in the garden shed and in the cold frames. Some of them, like the pink Bellis, are too tiny to photograph - just little green dots on the top of the soil.

But, here are a few

This pan is Hanover Salad Kale. The seeds of this salad and potherb came from England. Cook's Thesaurus covers greens here.

The Five Star Hibiscus seeds came from last year's plants. I collected the seed pods in October. Originally, I received the seeds a few years ago in a trade with someone who read the blog.

Calendula officinalis is a must for a carefree garden, isn't it? Skippers and butterflies love it and gardeners appreciate its easy going nature.

At the left you'll see one cell of seedlings. On the right I'm placing one root ball into a small opening in fresh potting soil.

Basil, Scented Trio - Seeds from Renee are already pretty. Of course they are good for both the kitchen and the pollinators. The trio includes lemon, cinnamon and Red Rubin.

This is such an exciting time - planting seeds and seeing them become tiny plants, transplanting them and providing the conditions for them to grow. What are you doing in the garden?

14 March 2010

Feeling Daffy?

Daffodils are about the best thing that these chilly spring days have to offer. They are critter proof and multiply from year to year. And, that divine scent. What's not to like?

Midwest Living magazine ran a story called the "10 Top Daffodils for the Midwest".

For thorough information on Narcissus or Daffodils - same thing different name - go to the American Daffodil Society website.

Some of the more glamorous daffodils are available from Mitsch Daffodils in Oregon. There are 3 links at the site - Garden Daffodils, Exhibition Daffodils, and Better Mixture. The photos are from the Exhibition link - what daffodils!
If you want some gorgeous daffs and want to economize, Mitsch's Better Mixture is the bargain route.

This is the time to go look at the wide variety of daffodils to choose from. The are planted in the fall for early spring bloom.

We are hooked. Right now there are about 400 blooming in our back yard with an equal number still in bud. It's heavenly.

13 March 2010

Japanese Beetles beat by pelargonium flowers, Fungus beat by compost beneficial fungus Trichoderma

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that you can beat the beetle blues with pelargonium type geraniums.

Yes, those fabulous, though a little smelly, geraniums we associate with window boxes in Germany.
Geranium Photo from Maureen Gilmer's MoPlants
article excerpts
- Japanese beetles cost us $450 million a year.
- Within 30 minutes of consuming geranium flower petals, they become paralyzed. Within the 24 hours of paralysis, their predators eat them.

Here's the link to the entire piece.

At the link above, there is a link to another interesting piece of research - "Can the Right Potting Mix Replace Fungicide?"

The answer is yes, if the potting mix has Trichoderma strain 382 beneficial fungus added to it.

It's all about making compost and making your potting mix 20% compost to get those beneficial microbes. Read more in a 2006 article here.

12 March 2010

Another New Coneflower - hot pink

Do you think you want this new Echinacea in your garden?
It is an AAS winner for 2010 called Echinacea purpurea PowWow Wild Berry.
Hot pink cone flowers - shriek with joy or in horror?

For a direct link to coneflower/Echinaceae seed starting tips from Harris Seed click here. Basically - 70 to 75-degrees, do not cover seed. Allow 10 days to emerge.

Seed sources:
Park Seed
Ivy Garth
called me and said they have the seeds. I couldn't find them on the website so you may have to call or email them if you want their 100 seeds for $11.75 deal. email is sales@ivygarth.com and phone is 800-351-4025.

11 March 2010

It's March - the Daffodils are Calling Us Outside to Play in the Dirt

Lisa Merrell - the tomato man's daughter - is starting tens of thousands of tomato seeds in her kitchen for spring sales. Her curious cat is checking her methods.

The daffodils are blooming, encouraging us to be outside with our hands in the dirt. The area’s last average date for frost is April 15, so it’s too early to plant tender annuals. However, you can be outside enjoying the sun and laying the groundwork for a beautiful spring.

This week you could -

Dig up and divide last year’s clumps of perennial garden phlox, and thin them to five shoots. Replant the clumps six inches apart.

Revitalize perennials. Cut clump with a shovel. Use a spading fork to loosen the soil and lift plant pieces. Save the healthy outer ring. Prepare the planting hole by loosening the dirt. Add fertilizer plus compost or peat moss. Replant one segment of the plant in the original location.

All perennial flowers – When young shoots are 4 to 6 inches tall, snip the stems near ground level. Stems will be stronger and flowering will improve. Snip just above a leaf node. The stem will branch out from there so cut above a bud that is facing out rather than toward the center of the plant.

Increase the size of peony flowers by removing side buds as they appear. Disbudding allows the top flower to become show quality and size.

Improve the soil in established beds. Add a layer of compost after removing all existing weeds.

Get a soil test at OSU Extension. Take eight to twelve soil samples from 4-inches down. Combine them all in a bucket and take a baggie full to your local Extension office. In Muskogee, they are at the Fairgrounds. Call 918-686-7200 for details.

Clean out the birdhouses for spring arrivals.

Prune and fertilize fruit trees and berry brambles. Spray peaches and nectarines with fungicide. Spray all fruit trees with dormant oil.

Make a small pile of tree and shrub prunings in a corner of the yard to shelter birds. Or, trim to use as support for morning glories and other annual vines. Grow gourds on a pile of twigs.

Use 6-inch tip prunings of shrubs to propagate new plants. Remove all but the top few leaves; dip the clean cut stem in rooting hormone. Place in clean sand. Remove the bottom from a clear plastic beverage container and place over the cuttings to use as a cloche. Put in the shade, keep watered and watch for new growth.

Cut and bring inside, stems of forsythia, flowering almond and other early blooming twiggy plants.

Fertilize spring blooming bulbs.

Re-seed and fertilize tall fescue, bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass.

Cut perennial ornamental grasses down to 6-inches, making room for new growth.

Clean out flower and vegetable beds. Remove weeds to the compost pile.

Apply fertizer with systemic insect and disease control to rose shrubs. Prune to 3 to 5 canes.

Summer and fall blooming perennials such as asters, daylilies, and sedum, should be divided now. Replant the extra pieces or give some away to a new gardener.
Start seeds for warm season flowers and vegetables inside. They will be a month old by April 15 and ready plant after being hardened off.

Plant cool season veggies such as broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, carrot, lettuce, peas, spinach or turnips. Plant strawberries and grapes.
Dump out last year’s patio pots. Put the used potting soil into a flower bed or in the compost pile. Clean out containers with diluted chlorine bleach or vinegar.

Plant herbs and native flowers to attract beneficial insects.

Use a shovel or edging tool to edge beds, cutting off trailing weeds.

Repair walkways, outside furniture and trellises.

Or, better yet, go for a walk and have a picnic.

10 March 2010

Aroids - Beautiful Photos

A Flickr photo album of Aroids from Sin Yeng and Peter Boyce is now online.

Their incredible images are here.

Bee Talk from Evolutionary Biologist Olivia Judson in the NYT Opinionator Blog

Normally, I would just provide a link to a column online but the NYT Opinionator links have been behaving unpredictably and you will want to read this one.

Here is the link - the footnotes are worth reading if you can get there from here.

"Breezy Love, or the Sacking of the Bees"

Birds do it. Bees do it. Beetles, bats and light summer breezes do it.

I refer, of course, to that raunchiest of sex acts: the pollination of flowers.

When it comes to sex, plants have more headaches than the rest of us. One problem is that they can’t travel about to find a mate — they are, after all, rooted to the spot — so they have to depend on intermediaries to bring egg and sperm cells together.

For mosses and ferns, the intermediary is water. For conifers like pine trees and cypresses, the intermediary is wind. But for most flowering plants, the intermediaries are animals.

Flowering plants are the largest, most successful group of plants on the planet today. There are thought to be more than quarter of a million different species — nearly 10 times more than all the other types of plants added together. (To put things in perspective, the number of living species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals combined is less than 58,000.) The flowering plants include roses and waterlilies, grasses and oak trees, tulips and orchids. They include, in short, most of the plants that come to mind when one thinks of vegetation.

It was not always thus. Before the mid-Cretaceous, 100 million years ago or so, flowering plants were scarce: conifers and their relations ruled the landscape. But then, for reasons that are not well understood, flowering plants upstaged all others, and the Earth came into bloom.

Flowering plants were not the first to seduce animals into spreading their pollen for them. Fossils suggest that some earlier groups of plants, now extinct, had evolved a dependency on insects like scorpionflies. Nonetheless, the earliest flowers appear to have been pollinated by insects, and the full-scale blossoming of flowering plants coincides with the rise of animals as go-betweens. Bees, for example, buzzed onto the scene with flowering plants; the evolutionary history, and success, of both groups is intimately linked.

The appearance of flowering plants brought a new flamboyance to the planet. Flowers pollinated by animals tend to be big and colorful; they often smell. (To a human, flowers pollinated by bees typically smell pleasant; flowers pollinated by flies tend to smell foul, like rotting meat.) Often, flowers offer something for the animal to eat — a sip of nectar, perhaps. Sometimes, they provide heat.

(One plant that heats its flower is Philodendron solimoesense, an Arum from the South American tropics. In doing so, it turns itself into an assignation hotel for scarab beetles. The beetles arrive in the evening, spend the night feeding and mating, spend the morning recuperating and head off to a new flower later on — complete with pollen from their host. Sure enough, the heat saves the beetles energy. Beetles in a heated flower don’t have to use as many calories to keep warm as they would if they spent the night outdoors.)

Yet, from time to time, flowering plants abandon their animals, evolving instead to throw pollen to the wind. Wind-pollination — if you’re a vocabulary fiend, the technical term is “anemophily,” meaning lover of wind — has evolved at least 65 times in flowering plants, and around 10 percent of the species do it. Indeed, as I mentioned last week, many grasses are pollinated by the wind.

It's not clear what causes this transition, though there are several ideas. One is that it happens in plants that, although generally pollinated by insects, already have a small capacity for wind pollination — small, light pollen grains, and flowers that can, in principle, catch pollen if it floats past on a breeze. Then, the balance between insects and wind can easily shift. In a tropical forest, for example, the advantages of insects are great: they provide highly targeted pollen-delivery in a complex milieu. But in big open spaces, the wind may do a better job - especially if the climate is inhospitable, and insects are few. Such circumstances may cause a shift away from traits that lure insects, and enhance those that seduce the wind.

A plant that has sacked bees or other insects can make its flowers smaller, less colorful and more aerodynamic. Liberated from the expense of making nectar, it can make more pollen instead. A bee, after all, can only carry so much pollen at once. The wind is not so limited.

And wind-pollinated plants tend to produce huge quantities of pollen. Whereas animal-pollinated plants produce a median of 3,450 pollen grains for every ovule, wind-pollinated plants produce almost 10 times as much. No wonder wind-pollinated plants are the chief causes of eye-itching, nose-tickling human misery. (It's not just the anemophilous flowering plants that are to blame, though. Wind-blown cypress pollen is a major cause of allergies in some parts of the world.)

This massive production of pollen is usually put down to the inability of wind to make reliable deliveries.

Charles Darwin himself suspected the wind of being a fickle and inefficient messenger, and that view has largely held until this day. But there is little actual evidence that wind-pollinated plants have more difficulty getting themselves fertilized than other plants do. (Indeed, plants seem adept at plucking pollen of the right species out of the breeze. How they do this isn’t known.) Moreover, in animals, large numbers of sperm tend to evolve when competition between different males to fertilize a female’s eggs is fierce. In many wind-pollinated species, plants flower all together, and for a brief time. Perhaps wind-pollinated plants face greater competition from their rivals.

But whatever the causes, I'm glad that most plants have not sacked their bees. In a world pollinated only by gusts and breezes, spring would be less beautiful. And, for many of us, it would also be more tortured."

Judson is the author of "Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex." She is a research fellow in biology at Imperial College London.

09 March 2010

08 March 2010

Deals on Bulbs

Brent and Becky's Bulbs 10% discount deal on bulbs
this week includes six that begin with the letter "a" -

Achimes through Anemone. Here's the link.

07 March 2010

Gardening on This Warm Weekend

We planted seed potatoes in 8 cages and soil-surface planted the rest of the seed potatoes in the garlic bed.

The raised bed where the garlic is planted had to be weeded first, of course. For surface sowing: Place the potatoes in the bed, then put 8 inches of wheat straw on top and water it down.

I did a germination test on some winter squash seeds and this is what the seeds look like when they emerge. Huge roots and leaves grow out of the seeds. It's a true miracle, I tell you.

For perspective, here's the vegetable garden 2 months ago. A far cry from what it looks like tonight.

04 March 2010

Basil Basil Basil

While some plants remain old fashioned, basil keeps moving ahead with the times. There are now over 60-types on the seed and plant market to choose from.

Some have large leaves and are used in place of lettuce for a modern twist on low-carb wraps. As an addition to herb and flower beds, basil has something for everyone – tall, dwarf, bush shaped, columnar, anise, citrus flavored, spicy hot for Thai cuisine, sacred, African Blue, ruffled, red, and variegated.

They are all Ocimum genus in the Lamiaceae or mint family, native to hot dry areas such as Africa and Italy. Give them full sun and a little water.

The Dallas Arboretum named Basil Pesto Perpetuo and Basil Boxwood plants of the month for March.

Last summer I grew a 3-inch pot of Perpetuo in a 5-gallon container where it grew 3-feet tall. The pale green, cream lined leaves have a fresh pesto scent. Boxwood grows to form a 12-inch tall globe.

Gardeners preserve basil by drying it or making it into pesto that is frozen to bring summer’s flavor into the dull days of winter. Basil teas are known for curing after dinner ailments.

Basil plants will be available in April. To grow from seed, sow seeds indoors now in moist sterile germinating mix. Plant one-half inch apart in a 70-degree room. Move plants into full sun or 16-hours of artificial light when they emerge. Fertilize sparingly. Pinch frequently.

Tomatoes Garlic Basil, a new book by Doug Oster devotes 25-pages to this beautifully scented herb. Oster says basil was used to preserve mummies in ancient Egypt. For the living it is said to relieve stress, improve circulation and make your skin beautiful. (St. Lynn's Press)

The recipes in Oster’s book include Goat Cheese and Pesto Puff Pastry, Spicy Basil Chicken, Pesto and Easy Baked Basil Fries. He takes stem cuttings from his garden plants in the fall and keeps them growing in the basement all winter under 24-hour lights.

Basil varieties

African blue ornamental or dark opal basil– seeds will not grow identical new plants
Have purple leaves that become green as lavender flowers appear. Grow Osmin Purple for sweet addition to salads.

Dwarf bouquet, dwarf bush fine leaf, dwarf green globe and piccolo - Plenty of basil flavor for front of the border or pots and window boxes

Genovese Italiano Classico, Sweet Italian Large Leaf - All-purpose clove-scented type for large production

Holy basil, sacred basil, Tulsi, is known for medicinal benefits. Pink-purple flowers, leaves are light green, clove flavored

Fine Verde - Greek basil with mouse ears, slightly hot

Lettuce leaf or green ruffles has large crinkled leaves with mild flavor for wraps. Mammoth has the largest leaves.

Nufar and Mozzarella are a Genovese varieties with resistance to fusarium wilt

Persian anise - Spicy licorice flavor for sausage and bean dishes

Pistou forms a round, 6-inch tall plant for the sidewalk or the outside of a pot

Violetto Dark Opal - An edible purple-leaf ornamental to add to salads. Red Rubin is used for flavored oil and vinegar – easy to start from seed.

Lemon and lime – great flavor for seafood, sauces, and vinegar

Cinnamon- Used in Thai and Asian cooking

Thai – Purple flowers on green leaves. Pretty enough to use as a garnish

Gourmet Seed, 585-398-6111, gourmetseed.com, discount code GSD10

LeJardin du Gourmet 35-cent seed packs, 800-659-1446, artisticgardens.com -Combination pack has a mix of all basils in their catalog

Johnny’s, 877-564-6697, johnnyseeds.com - Bouquet Mix includes lemon, Thai, cinnamon, and purple

Renee’s Garden, 888-880-7228, reneesgarden.com - Scented Basil Trio has Cinnamon, Red Rubin and Mrs. Burns citrus for butterfly and flower garden

Thompson & Morgan, 800-274-7333, Thompson-morgan.com - Basil Collection has Cinnamon, Bush, Lemon, Sweet, Thai

03 March 2010

And, another green thing - recycle cellphones

The wind and rain have showered trash along our streets and I'm on a mission to pick it up - all of it.
So, in the afternoon, out I go with 2 grocery bags, to pick up the litter recent winds delivered. It's gratifying work, not unlike clearing out the garden beds this time of year.

Since we recycle glass, paper, plastic, cardboard, metal, all non-protein foodstuffs and garden waste, our gigantic can is practically empty most weeks anyway. There is plenty of room for the soda bottles, chewing tobacco containers and other junk along the road. The beer cans, plastic, etc. will go into our recycling bins.

Tech Soup sent out an email of resources today, including info on recycling cellphones. Evidently, we aren't very good citizens about recycling cellphones - 90 percent of them are tossed rather than recycled.

"They" say we aren't recycling cellphones because we are worried about the data stored on them being misused...email addresses, photos, text messages, etc.

Now there is an answer to that concern, too.

From the press release
When you're ready to retire a cell phone, it's actually not very difficult to erase your data. It doesn't take special software, but usually entails just a few keystrokes. The problem is that phones mostly have different keystrokes. Here's an example of how to do a master erase for a Motorola model C168I phone:

1. Press MENU, down arrow to Settings, select
2. Down arrow to Initial Setup, select, up arrow to Master Clear, select
3. Enter 4 digit code (1234), select OK, then Yes

Click here to read the article from Tech Soup.

Click here to go directly to the Wireless Recycling website for detailed instructions on the Cell Phone Data Eraser for all phones.

Gopher Lips

The University of Arizona Extension Service - Cochise County Master Gardeners newsletter is always worth a read even though our gardening concerns are quite different.

Photo from DesertUSA
One of the interesting tidbits in the March issue is that gopher lips are behind their teeth so when they are destroying your carrot crop they won't get any dirt in their mouths.

02 March 2010

Fatal Attraction - The Plants that Hunt

National Geographic posted a series of about 30 photos of carnivorous plants.

Click over and enjoy the show. Here's the link.

There's also a good article written by Michael Pollan here. His topic is the pollination of orchids - good writing by a plant lover.

01 March 2010

Fayetteville Arkansas - Organic Workshop

Organic Veggie Gardening For Beginners, March
Saturday, March 6 from 10:00am to noon
and repeated Thursday, April 15 at 5:30 p.m.

Leigh Wilkerson, gardener and author
beginner organic growing in any amount of space

two hour class
beautiful images of bountiful gardens
tips, techniques, and resources for beginners

$10 for members, $15 for non-members
FREE admission to class with the purchase of new BGO membership
Pre-registration requested so we'll have plenty of handouts.
Email ozarksalive@gmail.com for more information or to reserve your space

All American Selection Winner - Double Cherry Zinnia

Is there a more agreeable flower to grow from seed than zinnias? They come up from seed, add color until frost and bring skippers and butterflies by the dozens, followed by finches who want the dry flower heads.

One of the 2010 All American Selections, double cherry zinnia is widely available now.

Double Cherry Zinnia Seed Sources
Park Seed - 25 seeds $3.
Ivy Garth Seed - 250 seeds for $15.00
HPS Horticultural - 100 seeds $6