29 June 2010

What's This Bug?

An early morning walk around the yard after a night of rain yielded some interesting sights, not the least of which is this bug.

The grandgirls and I spent an hour searching bug sites on the Internet and haven't exactly identified it yet.

Do you know what it is? Post a comment or email me at mollyday1@gmail.com. Thanks.

28 June 2010

Tulsa Herb Society July 12 - free speaker

The Tulsa Herb Society welcomes Crescent Dragonwagon to Tulsa
Tulsa Garden Center, 2435 S. Peoria Ave., Tulsa, OK
July 12th from 7:00 to 8:30 pm.
Crescent Dragonwagon, Ellen Zolotow is a writer, teacher, and performer who works in the literary, culinary and dramatic arts and the author of more than fifty books.

Presentation "Food, Shelter, Story: The World comes to us by Plate and Word"

Crescent Dragonwagon

Food, Shelter, Story:
The World comes to us by Plate and Word: The last two decades have seen a deepening and genre-blending of culinary writing, which reflects our growing understanding that food always, has something to say.
Its languages are not just personal but historical, ecological, political, national, regional, economic, cultural, spiritual. What, how, where, why, and when do we eat?

How does our food come to us? Though eating may appear to be a matter of satiating hunger while giving us sensual pleasure and nourishment, it's complex, tying us to the world and intertwined in every aspect and condition of human life. Food and eating tell us about matters both current and timeless.

During our evening with cookbook author, poet, teacher and blogger Crescent Dragonwagon, we'll learn to listen more closely to what we eat-including the herbs which have added flavor and fable to our plates for centuries. And we'll hear what they have to tell us about the world we live in and the stories we tell about it.

After Dragonwagon's presentation, she will sign copies of her cookbook the Cornbread Gospels.

Event chair Sue Stees along with decoration chairs Patsy Wynn and Dianne Rodehaver and refreshment chairs Dede Boedeker and Kay Schleuter promise a delightfully herbal evening.

For more information contact Patsy Wynn 918.496.8019 or visit www.tulsaherb.com.

Admission is Free

27 June 2010

Make Your Own Potting Soil

Many wonderful plants can and should be grown in containers.

Frankly, I resist planting containers because of the cost of bag after bag of potting mix. For the budget minded there is an alternative. It isn't free, but is a a vast improvement over the commercially available products.

Here's one recipe for a suitable mixture -

1 Part bagged Topsoil, 1 Part compost, and, •1 Part builder's sand

To improve the mix add to each 8 quarts
2 Tablespoons cottonseed meal, 2 Tablespoons soft rock phosphate, and 2 Tablespoons greensand

It's worth chasing down the ingredients. Give it a try and let me know your results.

24 June 2010

Top Ten Gardening Mistakes

Everyone who has a hobby made mistakes while learning the skills needed to succeed. Usually over time, we make new mistakes as we try new methods. New gardeners make different mistakes than those with experience, but we all kill plants.

Dr. Doug Welsh, was the coordinator of the Texas state Master Gardeners program for 21 years. He is the co-author of Xeriscape Gardening: Water Conservation for the American Landscape and the author of Doug Welsh's Texas Garden Almanac and produces two weekly Texas gardening programs.

As the keynote speaker at the Texas Master Gardeners' Conference, Welsh detailed gardeners' top ten mistakes. Are these your top ten mistakes?

1. Overwatering - Twenty-five percent of water used by people in towns and cities is used for landscapes and gardens. Overwatering encourages shallow roots and stresses plants. His tip is to watch crape myrtle and hardy hibiscus shrubs for signs of needing water. When they wilt it is time to water. Water so the soil is wet several inches down, encouraging deep roots.

2. Overfertilizing - Too much fertilizer causes excessive growth and can burn plants.
Sixty to 70 percent of the plant marketplace is owned by the big box stores. They offer specific fertilizers for camelias, azaleas, etc. Gardeners do not need to buy four kinds of fertilizers. It’s just marketing. A product is never the answer to a gardening question.

Cultural practices and soil development are more important than fertilizers. For example, gardeners who collect grass clippings and leaves and compost them will have better soil and plants, improve the health of the environment and reduce the use of chemicals.

3. Misusing pesticides - There is more snake oil in the horticulture industry than in most. Be skeptical. Look for data that proves the value of the products you are considering adding to your garden.

Neem oil and Spinosad are the best products available that do not harm beneficial insects or birds. Use neem for soft biting insects such as mealy bugs and aphids and spinosad for hard biting ones (caterpillars, thrips and beetles). Chemical use can upset the balance of nature.

4. Improperly identifying a problem - Identify whether the problem is an insect, disease or environmental. Insects pierce, chew and suck on plant parts. Diseases are caused by fungi, viruses, bacteria and nematodes. Do not treat cultural problems such as water, light, nutrients or chemicals with a fungicide or pesticide.

5. Using plants that are unproductive and or poorly adapted to your area. For example sun tolerant coleus can take full sun in Michigan but not in the south.

6. Planting the right plant in the wrong place. If you have a small space, avoid planting an oak tree that will reach 60 feet high and 40-feet wide.

7. Failing to prepare the soil before planting. This is the worst mistake made by gardeners. Untreated soil is one percent organic matter and that is not enough to support healthy plants. In hotter climates, microorganisms break down organic matter quickly. Every time you plant a vegetable in the garden you have to add organic material such as composted manure, shredded pine bark or compost. Think like a plant. Eliminate weeds, add organics, till, aerate.

8. Failing to use mulch. This is the highest impact, lowest tech method. Mulch prevents soil disease splash, saves up to 25% water, keeps roots cool, reduces weeds. Mulch beds and containers with 2 to 4 inches of organics.

9. Planting at the wrong time. For example, one 40-degree night will permanently stunt the growth of a tomato plant.

10. Failing to think long term. Let your garden evolve slowly. Avoid shrubs and vines that need weekly pruning, daily watering or are disease prone.

23 June 2010

Corporate Gardeners

Large and small organizations around the country are adding gardens for employees. I do hope this is not a phase but a real change.

The American Society of Landscape Architects reports that Yahoo, Google, PepsiCo, Kohl's, Toyota, Aveda, and others have paid for the gardens to be established.
Pat Guinn's Triplets

The problem is that employees like the idea but don't make time to work on the gardens. Perhaps they aren't GIVEN the time to work in the garden. But, on the other hand, that's an everlasting problem with home gardens, too. We buy the plants, amend the soil, put the plants in and are defeated by heat and weeds.

Hopefully, executives won't see the weedy, dry plots as a failure of the effort. Hopefully, they will try again next year. Just like the rest of us.

Busy In the Garden

This is a busy season in the garden and most of us are wishing for rain or recovering from rain.
Remember spring when it was cool outside and the garden possibilities seemed endless?
Summer's heat dashesd some of those spring fed dreams because watering and mulching take up a lot of time and there are so many fun things to do.

A new e newsletter from Fine Gardening's Janet Macunovich provides watering ideas worth considering - Excerpts and the link

Water makes up 90 to 98 percent of every plant we grow. It holds leaves and stems aloft, just as air in an inner tube keeps a tire round. All the nutrients plants need to grow, color, flower, multiply, and defend their tissues against pests are produced by the solar-powered chemical reactions that take place in the watery soup within the cells.

Twenty years of gardening has taught me to ignore generalities .. .

The first step when determining a watering regimen is to test your soil's water-holding capacity.

First, soak a 12-inch-diameter spot with a hose for about two minutes. After the water has had a chance to settle, thrust the head of a trowel into the spot so it reaches 3 to 4 inches below ground level. Pull the trowel toward you to make an opening, then reach in with your hand to feel the soil at the bottom of the opening. When watered well, soil should feel cool and damp at the bottom of the hole. Dig a new hole in the same spot every day and note the number of days that elapse until the soil at the bottom of the hole feels warm and dry. That's the number of days you can go without watering during a rainless period.

Macunovich reviews each method of watering with her experience-based advantages and disadvantages.

Click over and see if your preferred method is the same.

19 June 2010

Cleveland County Master Gardeners Demonstration Garden

The Cleveland County Master Gardeners in Norman OK were the hosts for this year's MG Conference.
I have never been to a conference where the hosts were more hospitable. Even though we were strangers to them, we were welcomed with open arms, conversation, food, and wine tasting (Dancing Rabbit Creek wine from Paul's Valley is wonderful).

The Native American Garden is the baby of Dr. Fred Schneider, retired professor from North Dakota. Schneider has been collecting native seeds for the past 35 to 37 years and the garden is sporting his finds.

The Demonstration Garden also has a Serendipity Garden, vegetable garden, butterfly garden, etc.

Among the Master Gardeners who were at the event were the ladies at the wine tasting table, Juliana Michael in blue and Tracey Payton (in the orange shirt), Horticulturist for Cleveland County.

This is one of my favorite snaps from the event because it made me laugh.

The volunteers grow enough produce to donate over 1200 pounds to charity.

It was hot and windy in Norman Thursday night but we wouldn't have missed this event for anything.
If you are in the Norman area, it is free to visit the garden, ask questions and learn what grows.

17 June 2010

Tulsa Master Gardeners' Showcase Tour June 26 & 27

Tulsa Master Gardeners Showcase Garden Tour
Self-guided tours:
Saturday June 26 from 9 to 5 and Sunday June 27 from 11 to 5
Contact: Sheryl Chadd, Garden Tour Chair, 918.742.7662 or mg@tulsamastergardeners.org and www.tulsamastergardeners.org,
Tickets $7.50 includes tour and garden talks at the OSU Extension Center

Saturday talks: 11:00 Safe Sex in the Garden by Sandie Bailey, 12 noon The Buzz About Bees by Helen Hickey, 1:00 Dealing With Tomato Problems by Lew Melone, 2:00 Gardening for Butterflies by Jim Thayer

Sunday talks: 12 noon Safe Sex, 1:00 Butterflies, 2 Tomato Problems, 3:00 Bees

Next weekend the Tulsa Master Gardeners Showcase Garden Tour will attract hundreds of plant lovers. Sheryl Chadd, tour chairwoman, said that 140-volunteers have been involved in putting on the tour this year.

There will be Master Gardeners at each home answering gardening questions, Chadd said. And, we will have cold water at all of the homes.

According to Chadd, the variety of gardens range from sunny to shady, from huge to small and from basic to elaborate.

The Master Gardener program was started in Washington in 1972. When the extension agents were overwhelmed by calls for information about gardening, plants, soil, etc., Dr. David Gibby decided to train local gardeners in exchange for their staffing the telephone. The first 300 volunteers helped 7,000 gardeners that year See http://bit.ly/cG7lGa.

Today, 60,000 Master Gardeners across the country staff horticulture hotlines, coordinate planting projects, run demonstration gardens, manage public gardens, work with groups, publish newsletters, and broadcast radio and television programs. For example, OK Gardening from OSU and the Rogers State University Master Gardeners programs are on public television weekly.

David Hillock, state coordinator for the OK Master Gardener Program said there are currently 1500 active Master Gardeners in OK. The Tulsa group has a new program called Tulsa Blooms, placing planters in business districts.

Annual conferences are available for graduates. The Oklahoma MG conference is June 18 in Norman and OK Master Gardeners attended the Texas MG Conference in Dallas last month.

Muskogee Master Gardeners Oyana Wilson, Anita Whitaker and Leah Cawvey staff an information table at the Muskogee Farmer's Market to answer questions and distribute OSU Fact Sheets. Look for them June 26th at Grill Crazy.

Many garden answers can be found on Master Gardening websites. A 5-page list of links called Websites for Oklahoma Master Gardeners - Problem Solving is at http://bit.ly/aixwpJ with links to Extension service offices around the country as well as dozens of other resources.


1) Colonial Revival Garden, 2417 South Owasso AV near South Peoria and E 61st is an 80 year old home in Maple Ridge; Colonial Williamsburg inspired garden, formal beds, roses, lavender, and redwood pergola. Flowers, herbs, perennials and recycled plants.
2) Tropical Paradise, 7926 South Hudson AV off East 81st ST, pool, cabana, meditation garden, greenhouse and water features. A 3-year old garden with western sun.
3) Get Away Garden, 7340 South 69th East Place near 71st and Sheridan, koi pond, arbor, rustic implements, greenhouse, succulents.
4) The Patio Garden, 3120 South Florence Court near South Harvard AV and East 31st ST, 20 by 60 foot duplex garden with 90 plant species. A shade garden was destroyed by the 2007 ice storm, making room for all new sun-loving plants.
5) Victorian Tea Garden, 6302 East 77th Place near 81st and Sheridan, bright yellow and brick house with romantic gardens and pink flamingoes. Victorian inspired furniture, poolside gardens, herbs, shade.
6) OSU Extension Office gardens, 4116 East 15th ST near Tulsa Fairgrounds, 11,000 plants put in and cared for by Master Gardeners, Wall Garden of heat tolerant plants, Confetti hanging baskets, Rainbow Kitchen Garden, Container Kitchen Garden, Italian Cuisine Garden.

15 June 2010

Will You Have a Fall Vegetable Garden?

It is time to consider seeds for a fall vegetable garden.

Even though my broccoli is still making secondary edibles mid-June, I must consider starting seeds for that better that ever fall crop. How about you? Is a fall garden in your plan?

According to OSU Fact Sheet 6009 the schedule for fall gardening is -

Tender Vegetables - harvest before frost
Beans, Bush Aug 10-20 Days from planting seeds to harvest 50-60
Beans, Cowpea July 15-Aug 1 Days to harvest 75
Beans, Pole July 15-30 Seed 60-70
Beans, Lima Aug 10-20 Seed 70-80
Cilantro July 15-Aug 1 Seed
Corn, Sweet3 July 15 80-100
Cucumber Aug 10-20 Seed 60-70
Eggplant July 15 80-90
Pepper July 15 90-110
Pumpkin July 15-30 Seed 100-120
Summer Squash July 15-Sept 1 Seed 40-50
Winter Squash July 15-30

Semi-hardy may continue to grow and be harvested after several frosts
Beans, Bush Aug 10-20 Seed 50-60
Beans, Cowpea July 15-Aug 1 75
Beans, Pole July 15-30 Seed 60-70
Beans, Lima Aug 10-20 Seed 70-80
Cilantro July 15-Aug 1 Seed
Corn, Sweet3 July 15 Seed 80-100
Cucumber Aug 10-20 Seed 60-70
Eggplant July 15 80-90
Pepper July 15 90-110
Pumpkin July 15-30 Seed 100-120
Summer Squash July 15-Sept 1 Seed 40-50
Winter Squash July 15-30 Seed 100-120

Semi-hardy - may continue to grow and be harvested after several frosts
Beet Aug 1-15 Seed 60-70
Broccoli July 15-Aug 15 70-80
Brussels Sprouts July 15-Aug 15 90-100
Cabbage Aug 1-25 Plants 18-24 16-20 - 75-90
Chinese Cabbage Aug 1-25 Seed 75-90
Carrots July 15-Aug 15 Seed 12-18 1-2 .25 70-80
Cauliflower Aug 1-25 Plants 70-80
Collards Aug 1-Sept 1 Seed 75-85
Garlic Sept 1-Oct 15 Bulbs (cloves) June the following year
Irish Potato Aug 1-15 Seed potatoes 90-110
Kale Sept 1 Plants 50-65
Kohlrabi Sept 1 -70
Leaf Lettuce Aug 1-15 Seed 60-70
Leek Sept 1 Seed Late spring the following year
Mustard Sept 10-Oct 10 Seed 40-50
Onions Sept 1 Seed, Sets Late spring the following year
Parsnip July 15-Aug 15 Seed or Plants1 120
Peas, green Aug 15-Sept 1 Seed 60-90
Radish Aug 15-Oct 10 Seed 20-40
Rutabaga Aug 15-Sept 15 Seed 80-90
Spinach Sept 5-25 Seed 50-60
Swiss Chard Aug 1-Sept 15 Seed 50-60
Turnip Aug 1-Sept 15 Seed 50-60

Muskogee residents' closest 2011 seeds are at Stringer Nursery on 41st in Tulsa. (BA to Garnett, right on Garnett, left on 41st. Stringer is on the right.) I was there on Sunday - some seeds are in now with more to come.

11 June 2010

Potatoes Grown in Cages

The potatoes grown in wire cages did pretty well. We lined each cage with wheat straw, then alternated straw and potting soil.
Then we put 3 seeds into each cage, topped with soil and straw.

Each cage was made from 5 feet of chicken wire, secured with duct tape and stood on top of wire to keep out moles.
Each container yielded about 2.5 pounds of fingerlings. That was an experiment.

The rest of the seeds we planted in the raised bed with the garlic and those plants still have green, albeit flea beetle chewed, leaves and aren't ready to harvest.

10 June 2010

Bring Flying Flowers Into Your Garden

The most beautiful and watchable life in our gardens include butterflies, moths and skippers. Called the Lepidopteran order of insects, they pollinate plants as well as feed songbirds, reptiles and amphibians. Their pollination helps create fruit, vegetables and flowers.

These insects go through metamorphosis in four stages
A fertilized egg that hatches in about a week.

The larval or caterpillar stage. During this period of life they eat leaves, shedding their skin several times as they grow larger.

A pupa or chrysalis that the caterpillar attaches to a plant with silk. Inside the case, the caterpillar turns to liquid and forms into a butterfly, moth or skipper.

The adult emerges with wet folded wings in about 2 weeks.

Butterflies, moths and skippers need flower nectar, water, sunshine, a mud puddle and caterpillar food to raise the next generation.

They also need a chemical free environment without pesticides, herbicides and other poisons.

To attract adult butterflies and moths, provide tall plants like shrubs and fall asters in a sunny location for protection from predators.

Many flowers, herbs and fruit produce nectar from spring to fall to feed the adults. Some hobbyists put out over-ripe fruit on tall feeders for the butterflies.

These flying flowers seem to prefer mass plantings of the same plant. A bed full of zinnias or petunias will attract dozens, if not hundreds of skippers and butterflies while they are in bloom.

White flowers will attract the most night feeders such as moths. Red, orange, pink, purple and yellow flowers attract the most butterflies.

Male butterflies need a muddy place to gather because they eat the minerals in the mud to pass along to the female during mating.

The plants you provide for laying eggs and raising young should be placed well away from bird houses.

Native plants attract native butterflies but hundreds of flowers will attract some form of adult Lepidoptera.

Nectar plants that attract adult Lepidoptera -

Spring: Carrots, violets, native cherry, vetch, clover, lilac, lunaria, catnip, coreopsis, blackberry, sweet pea, sweet William, daffodil, Dame’s rocket, and hyacinth

Summer: Dill, Queen Anne's Lace, parsley, pentas, goldenrod, lemon balm, milkweed, butterfly-weed, coneflower, petunia, mint, marjoram, bergamot-Monarda, sage, marigold, black-eyed Susan, mallow, passionflower, pipe vine, yarrow, honeysuckle, privet, cosmos, heliotrope, lantana, tithonia-Mexican sunflower, verbena, leek, chives, daisy, daylily, bachelor buttons, fleabane, feverfew, blazing star, lily, sunflower, veronica, hyssop, borage, phacelia

Fall: Aster, basil, moonflower, fennel, thistle, obedient plant, sedum, sneezeweed, Joe Pye weed, yarrow, ironweed, globe amaranth, zinnia

Female Lepidopterans lay eggs only on the plants that their caterpillars can eat when they hatch. If you want to help the butterflies raise their young, you have to let them eat the leaves of your plants.

The plants they eat, called host plants, have leaves that look chewed when caterpillars are growing. You can watch the caterpillars grow daily and shed their outer skin as they fatten.

Plants for Caterpillars: Dill, aster, spicebush, fennel, parsley, passion vine, flowering tobacco, cabbage, mallow, sneezeweed, alfalfa, nettle, hops, partridge pea, sorrel, cress, pipe vine, leadplant, clover, vetch, thistle, violet

Trees for Caterpillars: Poplar, oak, birch, native cherry, dogwood, elm, hackberry, paw paw, tulip poplar, sassafrass, locust, willow

The caterpillars will stop eating for a couple of days before they begin to form a chrysalis. If you look, you will find the chrysalis near the plants they were eating.

Look at the 135 native Oklahoma butterflies, moths and skippers at Butterflies and Moths of North America - http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/.

Some to watch for include Fritillary, Hummingbird, Monarch and Queen, Sulphur, Question Mark, Hackberry, Swallowtails (Tiger, Spicebush, Black, Giant and Pipevine), Cloudywing and Duskywing skippers, Clouded, Broken-dash and Least Grass Skippers.

09 June 2010

Evening Primrose or Sundrops are Oenothera

The wildflower Evening Primrose, Oenothera macrocarpa is also called Ozark Sundrops. The Great Plains Nature Center site says that pollination is provided by large hawkmoths and possibly hummingbirds.

The flowers have a distinctive, large X-shaped pistil which projects beyond the stamens.

GPNC site also says
Evening Primrose is a complex of four similar subspecies which occur in the southern half of the Great Plains.

1. Fremont's Evening Primrose (subsp. fremontii) - found in chalk badlands and rocky hillsides in northwest and north central Kansas and four counties in Nebraska. Formerly considered a separate species, it has smaller flowers and shorter wings on its seed pods than the other three.

2. Hoary Evening Primrose (subsp. incana) - found from southwestern Kansas to the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. Hoary Evening Primrose is densely covered with short hairs.

3. Oklahoma Evening Primrose (subsp. oklahomensis) - found from the Gyp Hills of south central Kansas south into Texas. This subspecies is the only one that is completely hairless.

4. Missouri Evening Primrose (subsp. macrocarpa) - widely distributed from central Texas through Oklahoma and eastern Kansas to southeast Nebraska. It is also found in limestone glades in the Ozark Mountain region of Missouri and Arkansas. This has the largest flowers and seed pods of any of the four.

The seed pod of this species is very distinctive. It has four papery wings on it that allow the pod to be blown about by the wind, helping to scatter the seeds.

My plant is taller than me, not a low to the ground sprawler. Oenothera glazioviana Tina James is the variety, a biennial like the rest. I found out about this variety through Cindy Cope and the Botanical Garden of Northwest Arkansas. I started the seeds about 18 months ago and it is blooming now for the first time.

Unlike other plants with flowers that bloom only one day, evening primrose is at its prime when we have coffee outside early in the morning. By afternoon, those blooms are gone. The next day, new blossoms appear.

At the Vanderbilt University site, "It is believed that the Indians taught the pilgrims about the medicinal benefits of evening primrose and then it was quickly exported to England. It was in England that the name King's Cure-all was adopted. Externally, evening primrose was used to heal wounds and calm skin that was inflamed. Internally, the Indians used the root of the plant to calm whooping cough, asthmatic cough and tuberculosis cough. In addition, it was used as an astringent, a pain killer, sedative and diuretic."

Baltimore garden writer Tina James popularized this plant and is said to host Evening Primrose Parties at which guests watch the flowers slowly open. The flowers' scent is sweet and attracts butterflies.

There isn't much on the Internet about Tina James. But here's a quote I found, "Gardening is any way that humans and nature come together with the intent of creating beauty."

Her book "Cooking With Herbs: 100 Seasonal Recipes and Herbal Mixtures to Spice Up Any Meal" was published by Rodale Press in 1999.

At any rate, I probably shouldn't have planted it where I did but I couldn't resist the idea of having it close by and watching the flowers open.

08 June 2010

Incredible Edibles: 43 Fun Things to Grow in the City by Sonia Day

Master Gardener Sonia Day has released a new book that encourages city dwellers to do a little home gardening.
Day writes a garden column for the Toronto Star, so you know that her advice is geared toward gardeners in the north. By the way, Toronto is zone 6 by their formula and zone 5 by the U.S. system - here's that scoop.

With that said, the book focuses on 43 plants to grow - a great summary for anyone who would like to grow some of their own edibles but doesn't know where to start.

So, what are the recommended edibles? They include: Asparagus Peas, runner and pole beans, chard, cucumbers, fava beans, melons, mesclun, herbs, strawberries, etc.

The approach is to re-think grow-your-own. Don't think of it as old fashioned farm house veggie and fruit growing for survival, but think of it as growing delicious, fresh, nutritious and beautiful additions to the table.

Use a small bed or pots to keep things under control - you don't have to plow up the back and front yards as some writers recommend.

Number six of Day's Ten Commandments for this reasonable approach is a good one: "Plant things properly then baby them a bit" Practical advice. Plant a few of something and enjoy it rather than planting 100 tomatoes and becoming overwhelmed and abandoning the whole thing when the weeds grow up.

For each of the 35 vegetables, Day provides 2 pages of information and tips. For example, fava beans -
Degree of difficulty - can be tricky
Needs - cool weather
Where - in the ground or in containers
etc down the page
And! How much to grow - 2 plants

Then the plants are described including how to harvest, cook and eat them plus a gentle reminder to compost the pods.

Day recommends best varieties for Canada. If you live south of Toronto, go to your state extension service website to check for varieties best for your U.S.D.A. planting zone.

Here is the link for Oklahoma's best varieties.

Here is the link to Cornell's best varieties page. The Cornell site is compiled by home gardeners.

Barrie Murdock filled the book with 75 wonderful photos of cleverly plotted gardens, closeups of the plants.

Day moved to the country and wrote a book about it called "The Middle-Aged Spread" - you can check out that book at her website here.

"Incredible Edibles" is a 128 page paperback of accessible informaiton with a list price of $14.95 that sells for around $10 online.

06 June 2010

Joy in Your Garden by Joy Bossi & Karen Bastow

Joy Bossi earned a degree in Botany and went on to teach at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. She followed that career with work in a nursery, television and radio gardening programs, garden consulting and now a book. Here's a link to her website,Joy in the Garden.

Collaborating with Karen Bastow, Bossi summarized her experiences, thoughts and ideas about gardening into a paperback that runs 144-pages.

According to this Utah article, Bastow is a humanitarian gardener who has worked in Kenya. Both are Master Gardeners.

Anyone who wants to garden in the Southwest and Rocky Mountain regions would do well to grab a copy of this easy to read volume.

Even if you aren't in her planting zone, Bossi give really good tips.

"When you cover your soil with 2+ inches of good compost, every time it rains or you irrigate, a mild compost tea is produced. From the plant roots to the microbes, that tea will make every soil body happy!"

"A tree on the north gives your neighbor afternoon shade."

"Whether you choose to corral your raised beds with a structure, or simply mound your soil, you should follow the same simple guidelines.
-A bed should be no wider than 4 feet to be easily reached from both sides, but the length can be as desired......... ." (more tips follow that one)

"The soil used to fill deeper raised beds should not be mixed with any of your garden soil because garden soil can possibly contain disease organisms and will certainly compact too heavily."

"Living at high altitudes (5000 feet and above) can easily cut short the growing season even before the first part of September....So be prepared to cover your garden and protect from the first frost."

And, Bossi includes family recipes for mouth watering Cornish Pasty, Fried Green Tomatoes.

The book is organized by season and is loaded with useful information for short growing season gardeners. If the photos are from her home, it's amazing what Bossi is able to accomplish in the Salt Lake City altitude and U.S.D.A. zone 5 weather.

A quote from the HersUtah dot com article (link above) will give you a feel for the author's approach to time with plants and soil -
"It's a time to have times of reflections in this busy, crazy world that we live in," she said. "And it is really important for the values that can be taught in a family - the work ethic and the law of the harvest - what we sow, we end up reaping."

This title could be a lifeline for anyone gardening in the northern zones and in high altitude. What a great gift it would make. It's $17 and about $13 at online booksellers.

05 June 2010

Blue Flowers in the Wall Street Journal

Ian Scroggy took these photos of blue poppies in a private garden in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, UK. Ian posted them on the Daffodil Network (daffnet) and gave me permission to post them here.

ANNE MARIE CHAKER had a piece in the WSJ about blue flowers - which I LOVE. I won't copy/paste the entire piece but will encourage you to go read it.

Here are a couple of excerpts and the link

"Blue is the most elusive, most coveted color in gardening, where some of the most skilled practitioners take pleasure in attempting to grow the near- impossible. Much of what passes for blue in the plant world—lavender, lilac, larkspur - is actually a shade of purple.

Plant colors are the products of chemical "pathways" in a plant, the molecular reactions responsible for everything from attracting pollinators to converting light to food. Pigments known as anthocyanins produce a range of colors including red and violet. Others known as carotenoids produce shades of orange. But no single pigment produces a true blue. Additional steps at the molecular level, involving the addition of metal ions or other molecules, are necessary to achieve blue - which helps explain the color's scarcity.

A mystique has evolved around blue flowers over centuries, with searches for the legendary blue rose appearing both in Slavic myths and Chinese folk tales. An Australian research arm of the Japanese conglomerate Suntory Holdings Ltd. introduced a blue gene from pansies into a rose to create a blue rose, the "Applause," which it plans to introduce in North America in the next couple of years, a Suntory official in Tokyo says."

Tip of the trowel to Chaker. Good writing and a fascinating subject. Click on the link above to read the entire piece.

03 June 2010

Things You Need

Most of us have favorite tools we use in the garden. We reach for the old familiar friends when heading out to weed, dig and prune. But there are new tools in the marketplace and some items you might not have thought of as garden tools.

A new set of tools came out from Radius this year . The digging fork, shovel, spade, long handle weeder, bulb auger, transplanter, etc. all have a top handle that is round and cushioned, providing 4-times the gripping space.

Radius also makes a Pond Shark for cleaning out the koi pond and a Gator Grabber that is wonderfully easy to use for picking up leaves and other garden debris without stooping over.

To make the watering easier this summer, consider adding a new hose and an Excel Wobbler. Space the Wobblers every 24-feet, attached to a stand, and turn on the water. A hose bib extender could reduce the hose dragging hassle and make life a little easier, too.

And, when shopping for a new garden hose, you will find rubber, vinyl and combination materials. For longer life and greater strength, look for a reinforced hose with crush proof couplings.

The inside of a garden hose grows mold and bacteria. If your pets and children like to drink from the hose while playing outside, look for Ames Microban antimicrobial hoses or products made from 100 percent new, non-recycled, non-carcinogenic materials.

Traditional cultivation tools include flat-bladed hoes and hand held weeders. Long handled barbeque tongs, screw drivers, kitchen paring knives, grubbing knives and other unlikely tools also find their way into gardeners' hands at weeding time.

The taproot weeder has a forked end and a bulky handle. Several companies make a long-handled, ergonomic version that reduces bending and kneeling while pulling deeply rooted weeds.

A Warren hoe has a pointed end for pulling out weeds between rows. For a large garden a Scuffle, Stirrup or Dutch Hoe is the tool of choice. The tool end has an oscillating stirrup with two sharp sides, that move back and forth on a hinge. They come in 3, 5 and 7-inch widths.

The DeWit Spork from Holland is a combination of a spade and a garden fork. It has a long T-handle and a sharp-edged, carbon steel, head that is shaped like a shovel with broad forks at the end.

Fiskars makes dozens of new-design tools for just about every use. Their PowerGear and rear pivot pruners are easier on the hands. The PowerGear and Power Lever loppers have shock absorbing bumpers that work to reduce muscle exhaustion from reaching and pruning.

The company that makes Liquid Wrench makes several items that are helpful for gardeners.

Their Silicon Spray applied to a shovel makes cleanup easier. It will also waterproof plastic, metal and wood tool parts. Use Penetrating Oil to get rid of rust and lubricate squeaky gate hinges. White Lithium Grease is useful on all-weather items such as hinges – it resists both melting and freezing. Chain Lube applied to a garage door will prevent weather related corrosion, and Lubricating Oil applied to hedge clippers will prevent hinge rust.

A useful tool for relaxing after the gardening is done for the day is ThermaCELL, a mosquito repelling patio lantern that works up to 225-square feet.

The lantern is a portable light with a butane cartridge that powers the mosquito repellent. Two batteries power the LED lights. The repelling mats are good for 4-hours. ThermaCELL also makes a portable, butane-powered mosquito repellent to tuck into a pocket or onto a belt www.thermacell.com.

Father's Day is around the corner. Give the men on your list something they can use.

02 June 2010

Take Cuttings as You Prune

Early summer pruning is one of the tasks we are working on right now in order to keep plants shaped, remove branches that are askew or damaged, allow sun to flow through to the ground and remove spent flowers.

For example, the Euonymus in the photo weaves through a chainlink fence and looks nice until its stems poke up above the fence like wild hair blowing in a convertible.
Today, I took cuttings of an heritage azalea at a friend's house before it is pruned for the season. So with the dipping hormones prepared, I took cuttings of a gorgeous tree Euphorbia, some trailing purple petunias and a Salvia that I replant from stem cuttings every year.

Softwood stem cuttings, recently grown stem tips, are tender and have to be handled carefully.They are snipped from plants about this time of year - late spring on the calendar but early summer in the yard.

A tip cutting is the tip bud of the stem and enough stem to hold 3 leaf nodes.

Semi-hardwood cuttings are taken between late summer and early winter, from deciduous and evergreen perennials. Hardwood cuttings are made when the plant is dormant in the winter.

As you prune a favorite perennial, you can take cuttings, dip them in rooting hormone and then stick them into a starting mix, usually a combination of peat moss and pearlite.

The cuttings are protected from direct sunlight, misted regularly to keep them moist and given a few weeks to strike roots. In some plants it's easier than others. But as long as you are doing it for fun and to see if you can fill your garden with plants you made, you'll get a kick out of seeing what works.

I've been reading "Propagation Handbook" by Geoff Bryant. It's a book from Australia, published in 1995.

Better Homes and Gardens link has basic tips.

North Carolina State University link has a list of plants and which type of cuttings to use.

Washington State University link has very helpful photos of the steps, as well as a chart of plants and when to take the cuttings.

Get a bottle of rooting hormone, a bag of peat and pearlite and give it a try. It's free fun and you might end up with a new hobby in the bargain. Once you have a success or two, it will be irrestible to keep trying.