31 July 2010

We Feed Butterflies

Outside the kitchen window we feed butterflies and watch them.

Bruised and over ripe fruit plus Gatorade are on the menu.

A cement leaf is glued to a 4 by 4 post tall enough
to make the action visible from inside the kitchen.

The Gatorade is a healthy, hydrating, snack for the butterflies in this heat.

We tried ripe bananas but they brought too many flies.

30 July 2010

Imidacloprid Found in Most Homeowner Insecticides Kills Good Bugs

by Dr. Vera Krischik, Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota

Native plants used in restoration for wildlife and food plants from apples to zucchini require pollinators. Bees and other beneficial insects offer valuable ecosystem services in both natural and managed agriculture ecosystems, so it is essential to protect them. Pollinators and beneficial insects are experiencing serious decline due to insecticide use, lack of nutritionally rich native plants for pollen and nectar, and lack of habitat. Continued loss of pollinators will have an impact on the natural resources and the economy. This issue has been addressed by the Xerces Society, National Research Council Report, the Congressional Research Report, testimony by the National Academy of Sciences to the US Congress, and the media in newspapers and television programs.

Cornell Univ: Admire, Condifor, Gaucho, Premier, Premise, Provado, and Marathon contain Imidacloprid.)

(Pesticide Action Network UK - Imidacloprid is manufactured by Bayer)

Systemic neonicotinyl insecticides used on landscape plants and crops are considered as a major factor in pollinator decline. After the 1998 ban in France of the systemic seed treatment Gaucho (active ingredient, imidacloprid), French researchers found that imidacloprid is translocated from coated seeds at planting thru the growing plant to nectar and pollen in flowers. In May 2008 a large number of bees died in Germany and the government banned the use of 5 neonicotinyl insecticides, including imidacloprid and clothianidin. A similar event was document in April 2010 by bee researchers at Purdue University. However, in the US use of these 5 neonicotinyl insecticides is very common in greenhouse, landscape, and crops. Almost all of the seed and furrow insecticide applications to corn, canola, soybean, and potato use neonicotinyl insecticides. Native plants grown in greenhouses and transplanted outside may contain high levels of imidacloprid which may kill pollinators.

Research in Vera Krischik's lab in the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota demonstrated that nectar and pollen from greenhouse plants treated with soil applications of imidacloprid contained significantly higher amounts of imidacloprid and its metabolites, than from a Gaucho-seed treatment. The label of Gaucho states that 0.375 mg AI for corn and 0.11 mg AI of for canola of imidacloprid should be applied. The greenhouse rate used on perennial landscape plants states that 300 mg AI/ 3gallon pot with 1 plant can be used. This is an 800 times higher rate for corn and 2700 times higher rate for canola. Consequently, greenhouse and urban landscapes use higher concentrations of imidacloprid, which are often reapplied and used at peak flowering, which results in higher concentration being translocated directly to flowers. Consequently, these levels have great potential to alter behavior or kill pollinators and beneficial insects more than the seed treatment Gaucho where most of the research has been done.

Our research on greenhouse rates of imidacloprid showed that the amount of imidacloprid found in nectar of 2 flowering plants was 20 ppb to 41 ppb from a single soil application compared to 1.9 ppb imidacloprid in sunflower nectar and 0.6 to 0.8 ppb in canola nectar from a seed treatment. For buckwheat and milkweed landscape plants, a label rate of soil applied imidacloprid (Marathon 1%G) was translocated to buckwheat nectar at 16 ppb (Krischik et al. 2007) and milkweed at 41 ppb/flower (Krischik et al. 2010). These concentration of caused high mortality of beneficial insects, such as lady beetles, lacewings, and a small parasitic wasp (Smith and Krischik 1990, Rogers et al. 2007, Krischik et al. 2007, Krischik et. al 2010).

There are multiple ways that plants in urban landscapes can contain imidacloprid -contaminated nectar, since it is commonly applied in the landscape for many pests (Krischik and Davidson 2004) and many greenhouse plants are treated with prior to sale and transplanting. Imidacloprid may persist in nectar for a long time, since soil applications were effective against foliar pests for 1 to 2 years in containers (Szczepaniec and Raupp 2007, Gupta and Krischik 2007, Tenczar and Krischik 2007) and landscape trees (Cowles et al. 2006, Frank et al. 2007, Tenczar and Krischik, 2007). Injections of concentrated volumes of imidacloprid (Imicide, Pointer) applied to trees trunks and roots were effective for 12 months for ash (McCullough et al. 2003) and linden (Johnson and Williamson 2007). A soil application of imidacloprid to Eucalyptus tree resulted in 500 ppb in nectar and pollen, which will kill any insect feeding on nectar and pollen. Tree injections of imidacloprid at flowering are cause for concern, since linden flowers are a good source of nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.

Practice IPM and only use insecticides if you actually witness an insect and associated problem. Think kindly and widely of the need to conserve pollinators and beneficial insects. Apple, cranberrie, blueberries, almond, citrus and 45% of our food plants need pollinators.

27 July 2010

Freebie Alert - AHS Magazine is online

As a one time offer, the magazine of the American Horticultural Society is online free of charge.

Click here to see this beautiful publication, click through its pages and consider joining AHS in order to receive free admission into gardens around the country as well as The American Gardener.

A tip of the trowel to The Transatlantic Plantsman for sending out the information. Graham Rice's blog is excellent so if you can take one more email subscription, consider taking his.

25 July 2010

Sunday Night Tidbits - Stories, Websites, etc. Plus: What's This Euphorbia?

The Texas Discovery Garden, Butterfly House and Insectarium in Dallas is dedicated to informing and educating children and adults on the natural world.
Check it out at http://www.texasdiscoverygardens.org

Have you seen the Science Tracer Bullets from the
Library of Congress Science Research Services? It's at http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/tracer-bullets/

The American Society of Landscape Architects reports "George Hargreaves, FASLA, a leading U.S. landscape architect, is working with British landscape architecture firm LDA Design to create a $200 million, 2.5 square kilometer site for the 2012 Olympic games in London. One key goal of the project is to ensure the park will serve the community well once the games are over: Out of the 2.5 square kilometer site, one square kilometer will be transformed into permanent parkland."
Read all about it at this link.

Jim Conrad's Naturalist Newsletter from Hacienda Chichén beside the Maya ruin of Chichén Itzá in the central Yucatán, Mexico, is always loaded with photos and fascinating nature information from his part of the world. You can visit Jim’s backyard nature site at

This tree was given to us as a Euphorbia but I can't identify it. Can you help?

24 July 2010

Orange Dogs Eat Gate of Heaven

Providing plants for butterflies to raise their young is a good hobby for those of us with asthma who can't have furry pets around all the time.

The Giant Swallowtail butterfly lays one egg on any plant in the Rue family, including citrus trees and Devil's Walkingstick. Her caterpillars are considered pests in citrus groves. But here in zone 7 Oklahoma, they are welcome to eat the Rue plants we grow specifically for them.

We planted a Prickly Ash, Toothache Tree or Zanthoxylum americanum, also, but the leaves are 8 feet high and we can't see caterpillar activity up there.

Oklahoma Biosurvey provides information on everything flora and fauna in our state. Their butterfly link has selected links to larger, informative sites.

The rue plants came from a gentleman in Oklahoma City who gave me two starts that I have been babying for two years. This year they are large enough to attract a single egg and the resulting Orange Dog caterpillar in these photos.

Common Rue, Ruta graveolens, likes hot dry conditions and can be sensitive to our coldest winters. Also called Herb of Grace, Rue leaves are eaten by humans as a salad green. It's believed to improve eyesight clarity.

Some believe that Rue has the power to repel disease and others believe that it dissipates negative vibrations in our lives. The leaves contain rutin.

There is a saying that the best Rue grows from a plant in your neighbor's yard but they can also be started from seed. The Seed Depot offers the seeds in a variety of package sizes, up to 5,000 seeds.

22 July 2010

What Time Is It? It's Four O'Clock

Annual flowers that re-seed themselves are a treat for hard working gardeners. We depend on our annuals and tender perennials such as Four O'Clocks to come up on their own.

Marigolds, zinnia, euphorbia, salvia, daisies, nicotiana or flowering tobacco and many more plants go through their annual cycle, dropping mature seeds on the ground at the end of the season. The seeds lie there, dormant, until conditions suit their nature and they sprout.

Some plants re-seed generously. Euphorbia marginata (Snow on the Mountain) and morning glory pop up all over the place while flowering tobacco tends to come up only where it was grown the year before.

The more plants you raise from seed, the more likely it is that you will recognize them the following year.

I planted larkspur seeds three years in a row before any lived long enough to bloom. Larkspur seeds are sprinkled in the garden between August and November. When they emerged the following February, I pulled them all out, mistaking them for weed seedlings.

Four O'Clock and Snow on the Mountain seedlings moved in five years ago, arriving with a load of compost or manure we had delivered. Each year they come back but in smaller numbers. When the beds are cleaned out in the spring, all but a dozen volunteer seedlings are removed.

As seeds drop year after year, plants revert to the appearance of the parents. The zinnia seeds we planted five years ago were multicolored and now the volunteers produce mostly solid pink flowers. The first year the Four O'Clocks bloomed, the flowers were pink with yellow centers and now they are almost solid pink.

Four O'Clocks are also known as the Marvel of Peru or Mirabilis Jalapa. Mirabilis means wonderful and Jalapa is Mexican town. Their Four O'Clock and Beauty of the Night names come from the fact that the flowers open in the late afternoon and close when the sun hits them. When it is cloudy, the flowers remain open all day. The Marvel of Peru name is because the plant was originally found in the Andes Mountains of Peru in 1540.

There are 50 Mirabilis annuals and perennials that grow in Central and South America and the U.S. We treat Four O'Clocks as annuals, replanting the seeds every year, but they are actually tender perennials, cold hardy to zone 8 or 10. The tuberous roots could be dug up after frost and protected during the colder months, then replanted in the spring, like dahlias.

The plants become fairly large and branched. By this time of year, the ones in full sun are 3-feet tall and and up to 2 feet wide. The plants in half shade are flopping over but still blooming their hearts out.

The 1 to 2-inch trumpet shaped flowers come in red, pink, violet, yellow, white, speckled, striped and multicolored. Since they flower at night their pollinators are moths.

The 2 by 4-inch leaves are deep green, so the plants quickly fill an open spot in the garden. Once they are established, they will continue to bloom even if you forget to water them.

The seeds can be started indoors 6-weeks before the last frost in 70 to 80 degree soil. They can also be planted directly into the garden when the soil warms in April.

Renee's Garden Seeds - www.reneesgarden.com - has the new Broken Colors variety. The Jefferson Monticello store - www.monticellocatalog.org - offers heirloom colors. Park Seed - www.parkseed.com - offers Limelight that has hot pink flowers and lime green leaves.

If you grow re-seeding flowers, move some of the seed heads to other places in the garden this fall. Just lay them on the ground and watch for tiny plants next spring.

20 July 2010

Gardening Talk - 65 Years Ago

Gardens change with the times.

Methods such as composting go in and out of style.

Plants such as coleus go out of fashion and return 30 years later.

Garden writing also changes. New books tell readers how to landscape a home and how to design a perfect flower bed. In the past, however, garden books reflected more of the author’s interests, preferences and passions.

From 1939 to the 1950s, Dorothy H. Jenkins wrote garden books and a column for the New York Times called “Around the Garden”. The topics are similar to todays, including, planting, pruning, and how to lay out a flower bed, but it is worth revisiting Jenkins’ books for the charm of her 1940’s writing style.

Excerpts from Jenkins 1945 book, "Annuals for Every Garden" -

Annual flowers vary from gaiety to sedateness, the plants from midget to climber, and may be either dependable or temperamental according to the individual.
To the photographer annuals may mean the cosmos that provided the background for a distinguished picture, to the gardener the sweet peas grown successfully for the first time last year, to the traveler sunflowers from a train window or nasturtiums from a Maine dooryard, and to the man in the street a haunting memory of a flower that he hasn’t seen since childhood.

Annuals may be precocious by virtue of completing their life cycle within one year. That it is possible to plant their seeds during nine months of the year, may be regarded as a pesky nuisance or a blessing. … January starts the great transformation of greenhouse, sun porch or sunny window into a plant nursery.

A red letter day is the one sometime in April when the eager gardener picks up, with all the expertness of a farmer, a handful of soil… .

In spring the garden is a theatre where one exciting performance follows another. We pause in our earthbound tasks to watch the shifting scenes and if we sow with the peach and apple blossoms, we find ourselves transplanting with dogwood and lilac.
Sweet peas are entwined in the sentimental moments of our lives. The fragile, graceful and fragrant blossoms have the delicacy which makes them an inevitable choice for a girl’s first corsage, for the flower taken to a new baby, or a floral compliment to a gracious lady of any age.

When shorter evenings and chanting katydids force us to realize that summer is beginning to merge into fall, annual asters, like starry flowers they are, burst into exultant bloom. That is, we hope they will if such wide-spread nuisances as wilt and yellows disease, beetles and leaf hoppers have not succeeded in distorting flowers or laying low the plants.

On bright mornings in September it seems as though every fence post in town is hung with the gleaming funnels of Heavenly Blue morning glories. Sometimes a few moonflowers which have not yet gone to sleep are little white clouds in the sea of blue. Entrancing as is the Heavenly Blue, whether used over an arbor, along a fence or beside the kitchen door, it is far from being the beginning or the end of the annual vine story.

Jenkins’ romantic turn of phrase is tempered with advice about using poisoned bran to control garden slugs. The formula is one tablespoonful of arsenate of lead, one tablespoonful of molasses and one cupful of wheat bran. Of course, she advised against using it where children play.

The dog days of summer are perfect for reading about gardening…inside.
Find out more about historic gardens at Garden History Info (gardenhistoryinfo.com), Garden History Girl (gardenhistorygirl.blogspot.com), Sprouts in the Sidewalk (sidewalksprouts.wordpress.com) and the American Colonial history blog (americangardenhistory.blogspot.com).

19 July 2010

Gardening in 100 Degres

Both the summer and fall gardens are on my mind when I have two minutes to rub together. Renee's Scarlet Flame Zinnia is coming up. I'm starting the seeds where they receive afternoon dappled shade from the nectarine tree.

I think they are out of stock for this year but here's what tempted me to try them -

Zinnia elegans - Radiant, ruby=red blossoms of densely double flowers with tiny golden starred crowns. Vigorous plants produce abundant flowers even in tough summer conditions.

And from Sand Hill Preservation, Gill's Pippin winter squash seeds are up. Here's the scoop on them from the catalog -

Gill's Golden Pippin: 95 days. (C. pepo) A vining, golden acorn from the old Gill Bros. Seed Co. Excellent growth and productivity. Flesh is unbelievably superb for an acorn type. I typically don't like acorn squash because they are too blah. Gill's has a sweet (almost nutty) flavor that makes you go, Yum!!! It was prominently featured in Gill Bros. 1960 catalog and justly deserves the honor that it received at that time. I do not understand why it ever dropped out of large scale, commercial production. Pkt. $2.75

And, on the advice of the Tomato Man's Daughter, the plants are covered to help prevent sun scald. That black krim on the end gets uncovered each time a storm blows in.

And, speaking of storms, we had another half-inch of rain two nights ago.

Add in the 100-degree heat of the day and you'll know why we are in by 10 or 10:30 every morning and go outside in the evening only to turn the water on and off.

16 July 2010

Share What You Have to Share

Most of us aren't wealthy. But we all have something we can share.

YVC, Youth Volunteer Corps of America is a national program designed to help children. The goals detailed on the website:
1. To engage young people in service projects that are challenging, rewarding and educational.
2. To serve the unmet needs of the community and its residents.
3. To promote among young people a greater understanding & appreciation for the diversity of their community.
4. To promote a lifetime ethic of service among young people.

So, we had two groups of YVC participants here - a dozen each day for two days.

What did we have to share with them? We all baked bread together.

They toured the yard - veggies, fruit, herbs, flowers, butterfly habitat. Here they are picking and eating blackberries.

When the bread was all baked they made sandwiches and had lunch.

Whatever you have going on - share it.

Butterflies and Skippers, Oh My

The lilies are showing off everything they have.
And, the butterflies like what they have.
Today I saw two more butterflies and a skipper that were new to our garden - but the camera was not at hand, unfortunately.

Inside the bush basil plant, skippers and bees are collecting nectar.

15 July 2010

Find Some Euonymus for Your Garden

Plants that stay green throughout the winter can add a spark to a home landscape. In the case of white or gold tipped Euonymus, one could say they add a sparkle.

One of the most durable shrubs and vines, Euonymous is available in many growth forms. They tolerate part sun to part shade or full shade and have no special soil needs except good drainage. Euonymus is ignored by rabbits and deer.

Most nurseries use the name Euonymus to cover all forms. It is a good idea to become familiar with the varieties in order to select the right plant for the space and purpose you have in mind. For example, Euonymus alata Monstrosa is known as deciduous burning bush.

Euonymus japonicus (or japonica) is a tough broadleaf evergreen. Some just call it japonica, Japanese Euonymus, or spindle tree. One bush variety called Ovatus Aureus has oval leaves with yellow and white margins. Silver King is similar.

Euonymus japonicus Microphyllus has tiny leaves. Microphyllus Variegatus is a dwarf form with tiny leaves edged in white. Silver Princess is similar in appearance but a tougher variety. It grows slowly into a 3-foot round bush.

E. japonicas Gold Spot has dark green leaves with a gold splotch in the center. It will grow up to 6 or 8 feet tall. Golden is reversed with leaves that have yellow on the outer rim and green in the center.

Another E. japonicus, microphyllus Pulchellus, Aureus or Butterscotch (any of these three names may be used), has shiny toothed leaves that are bright green edged with yellow.

Euonymous fortunei is hardy and heat tolerant. Its ability to climb, crawl or grow into a bush make it valuable in many garden settings. The summer flowers are insignificant but will result in berries if pollinated.

E. fortunei Vegetus is tall and bushy with large leaves. E. fortunei Kewensis and Harlequin have blotched leaves bordered with white.

E. fortunei Emerald Gaiety will grow into a 4-foot tall bush, a ground cover or a small vine that clings to a support. The leaves are green with a wide white margin.

Emerald ‘n Gold grows up to 2-feet tall with yellow edged leaves. Its prostrate form makes it a good ground cover around trees.

Sparkle 'n Gold has leaves edged with green-yellow that turn slightly orange in cold weather.

Harlequin is a low, trailing E. fortunei that stays under 10 inches tall. The leaves are speckled with green, yellow, cream and pink.

Ivory Jade grows into a 3-foot tall mound that will become 6 feet wide. Its deep green, round leaves have a white margin.

Kewensis has half-inch leaves with white veins. It is a trailing groundcover that grows under 6 inches tall. Given support, Kewensis can also be grown as a fine vine.

Minimus and Moonshadow are low growing groundcover forms with half-inch leaves.

Blondy is a new variegated E. fortunei. The leaves are touched with a yellow blotch and the stems are yellow.

Frosty Pearl has cream and white edges on dark green leaves. This variety likes a lot of shade. It will grow up to 5 feet tall as a climbing vine or can be allowed to grow as an evergreen mounding shrub.

Coloratus is a rapidly growing groundcover with dark, glossy green foliage. When the temperature drops the undersides of the leaves become a plum color (Purple Winter Creeper).

All Euonymus are easy to propagate from cuttings. In our climate their insect and disease problems are few.

Euonymus scale is uncommon on the large, evergreen, Manhattan Euonymus patens. A late winter dormant oil spray is recommended for other varieties.

All varieties of Euonymus are usually pruned annually to maintain their desired shape and form.

11 July 2010

Blooming Today

The front driveway bed is mostly tall plants such as these daylilies and hardy phlox. Other plantings over there include Joe Pye Weed, Asters, crape myrtle, etc.

This Coreopsis Golden Dream is a new plant introduction from Blooms of Bressingham that is simply beautiful. The demure size of both the plant and the flowers make me want a dozen more to plant in a cluster.

Black Pearl ornamental pepper is one I put in last year for the first time. Everyone who walks the garden notices it. There's something about the purple-green leaves, pink buds and black peppers that combine to be sheik rather than gaudy.
I saved some seeds last fall and overwintered one plant. Some seeds that were left on the ground last winter came up in the past two weeks but those plants are only about 4-inches tall so far.

Atom Gladiolus from Old House Gardens came up for the third year in a row. What a trooper. I ordered enough more this year to have some to give away.

10 July 2010

July's Butterflies

It is a thrill to see the results of our changed gardening practices.
Do you know what this is on the rue (Ruta graveolens)?

Proven Winners Heliotrope is one of the best butterfly
nectar plants a gardener can have. Checkerspot is my guess.

This is a 3 year old bulbing fennel plant. Everyone I tell
that we grow it for the butterfly caterpillars says, "I like
to eat it." Well, we eat plenty of it, too.

What's this one?

Want to guess what's on the Phlox?

There is a lot more about raising butterflies at http://www.butterflynature.com/raising-butterflies.html
- enjoy and join in the fun.

08 July 2010

Fabulous Fall Gardens Start in July

Ah, the lazy days of summer with a dozen distractions to keep us away from garden maintenance. On top of taking care of existing flowers, herbs and vegetables, we want to keep everything beautiful for fall.

There is nothing more depressing to a gardener than an August view of tall weeds choking the perennials and a bunch of dried out annuals. Fortunately, gardens are forgiving and there is still time to build a productive and pretty back yard scene before Labor Day.

Start with pulling the weeds, pruning the annuals and fertilizing the perennials. If recent rains passed by your place, give the beds a good soak to get them ready for this month’s activity.

Kim Walton, flower, herb and vegetable vendor at Muskogee Farmer's Market, said she is planting everything from cucumber to zinnia seeds right now. The seeds will come up in a week and produce until frost.

In contrast, herb grower Sharon Owen, owner of Moonshadow Herb Farm is harvesting not planting.

In June and July we harvest and preserve herbs, as well as press and dry flowers, Owen said.

For home flower and vegetable gardeners, these cool mornings are ideal to work outside right now. Clear the weeds, work in composted manure, compost, or other soil amendments, and water the beds.

If you want to grow in containers, pull out or prune the old plants, mix compost into the soil and water it in.

Then turn your attention to what to plant. For example, if you want a late fall tomato harvest, take 6-inch cuttings of your best tomato plants, remove the lower leaves, and root them in soil. They will be ready to plant in two-to-three weeks.

The key to estimating whether or not something can be planted now is the days until first freeze and how long each plant takes to mature. Another important factor is the plants' heat tolerance.

Soil temperature right now is about 80-degrees which is too hot for most seeds to sprout so plan to start new seedlings indoors or in pots in dappled shade.

Our average first frost date is Nov 3 and average first killing freeze date is Dec 1 (http://tiny.cc/wfc65). There are about 145 days between July 8 and Dec 1. Look at the packets of any leftover spring seed and read the days to maturity.

Many home garden foods take 90 days to mature such as: Beets, carrot, Brussels sprouts, Fava beans, cauliflower. Some take 60 days, including: Early carrot, early cabbage, Swiss chard, and collards.

Plant seeds indoors now for parsley, chervil, cowpeas, climbing/pole green beans, cilantro, sweet corn, eggplant, Malabar spinach, Pak choi, peppers, winter squash, tomatillos, broccoli and parsnips (http://tiny.cc/lmssj).

Instead of starting seeds indoors, you can buy established seedlings at garden centers over the next few weeks. When planting in the summer, make the hole a little deeper add some insulating peat moss or compost to planting row, water, and then plant.

After the row or bed is planted, water and immediately mulch around the tender new seedlings to keep the soil surface cool. Planting seedlings in the evening will also help. Check for drying out every day until their roots sink deep into the earth.

Late summer and early fall flowers that can be planted in July include: Morning glory, sunflower, cosmos, zinnia, scarlet runner bean and Inspire series geranium.

If you skip fall vegetable gardening, put in a cover crop such as winter peas, soybean, clover, mustard, oats, wheat or alfalfa to help prepare the soil for next spring (http://tiny.cc/cb78a). Planting these now will prevent weed seeds from taking over any bare soil. The plants are turned into the ground in the spring.

07 July 2010

Botanical Interests

My garden column this week is about getting the fall garden going. I contacted Michelle DePaepe at Botanical Interests and here are her wise words for your fall gardening consideration.

Most cool season veggies will do well as a fall crop. Late Summer is the best time to start crops that have a long crop time and like to mature in cooler weather like Brussels sprouts and cabbage.

Broccoli and Cauliflower make good fall crops, because their florets can get larger before bolting, and they'll have fewer pest issues at that time of year.

If you have a couple of months or so of cool weather in the fall, you could plant successive crops of lettuce and spinach.

Beets, Carrots, Peas, winter radishes like Daikon and Watermelon Mantang Hong.

Top of my list, though, would kale. It's very frost tolerant, so you may still be harvesting in November or even December in your zone. It's a nutritious must to go with all those delicious fall meals. The Italian Lacinato is expecially wonderful!

I agree that Lacinato is about the best kale to grow and I keep it going almost year 'round here. I knew we should start winter squash now but who knew we could still start watermelon? Well, of course she was not referring to the fruit, she meant their watermelon radish!

If I didn't already have so much going on I would order a pack of those cuties.

06 July 2010

Sowing French Climbing Beans in July

To mix things up, I ordered seeds from Chiltern in the U.K. The seeds I'm soaking today to plant tonight are labeled French Bean, Climbing, Hunter.

An Internet search yielded a bean-growing page from British tv called, Love Home. There is an excellent resource of information on growing these English climbers at this link.

Some excerpts -
Originally from South America, French beans are a great choice for the kitchen garden. If you pick the pods when they're young and tender, you won't have the chore of slicing and stringing usually associated with runner beans. There are two types of French beans, dwarf varieties (the most common) and climbers. The compact bushes of dwarf varieties grow 30cm-45cm high. Climbers can reach 2m. Dwarf beans tend to crop over a relatively short period, so gardeners normally make successive sowings. Mature climbers produce pods all summer.

French beans can grow in most soils, providing they aren't too heavy or too acidic. Nevertheless, a rich soil incorporating plenty of well-rotted compost and organic material is important if you want to get the best out of this crop. The plot should be well dug, to at least a spade and a half's depth, because French beans have deep roots that need plenty of elbow room downstairs.

Hunter is a classic variety of climbing French bean...going for a dwarf French bean, try Annabel. This stringless variety is also well-suited to growing in pots. The Prince is another popular dwarf variety, which produces flat pods.

When dwarf French bean seedlings turn into young plants, earth up the lower stalks to give them more support. Earthing up simply means gently heaping soil around the base of the plant. It's a good idea to mulch dwarf and climbing varieties with organic material. As well as retaining moisture and keeping down weeds, the mulch will add some extra nutrients to the crop. If you like, you can add a layer of clean straw at the base of the plants for lower pods to rest on. Slugs can threaten seedlings and young plants. Protect seedlings with bottomless plastic water bottles. Surround older plants with grit or serrated rings cut from larger plastic bottles.

As your French bean seedlings mature into young plants, flowers will develop. This is the point at which to start watering on a regular basis, rather than only when the weather is dry. This will encourage more flowers and hence more pods to form.

French beans are ready for harvesting between 8 and 12 weeks after sowing. Keeping the crop well-watered at this time - and on into late summer - is vital. French beans suffer if they're allowed to become too thirsty.

Apart from slugs and aphids the most likely problem you'll encounter is halo blight. This bacterial condition emerges after cold, wet periods and produces brown spots surrounded by yellow halos on the plant's leaves.

Did you know that the beans inside French bean pods become haricot beans when they are dried? If you fancy brightening up the odd winter day with a warming casserole of home-grown haricot beans, try drying the last of your crop. Stop picking and wait until all flowering has ceased and the pods have turned golden brown. Leave the plants alone as long as the weather stays dry. When wet weather threatens, cut the plants at ground level and hang them somewhere dry and airy until the pods are truly brittle and beginning to split. Then shell the beans and dry them out further on a sheet of paper for a few more days. Store them in an airtight container. Don't forget to compost the old plants so that they will enrich your soil for next year's crop of home-grown veggies.

Love Home is loaded with do it yourself topics worth browsing.

05 July 2010

Rose Pink Sabatia angularis (Gentian) - also Marsh Pink and Bitterbloom

This pretty pink flower grows in a cluster to about 6 inches tall before it becomes prostrate and starts to look like it is creeping along like a phlox.
Its distribution is Wisconsin in the west to southern Ontario and New York in the east, southward to Florida and Texas according to http://www.nearctica.com/flowers/dtoh/gentian/Sangul.htm.

Rose Pink is a biennial, also known as Marsh Pink and Bitterbloom according to http://2bnthewild.com/plants/H361.htm.

Other wildflower sites I found useful when clicking around to identify Rose Pink



http://www.okprairie.com/Flowers.htm#June Wildflowers






01 July 2010

Phlox - Woodland, Annual, Perennial, Creeping, Clumping, Tall, or Short

Most Phlox are American natives so they are easy to grow in average soil. They all have a show of flowers that lasts for weeks.

Tall, perennial, garden phlox, blooms in the heat of the summer and into the fall. Creeping and native phlox bloom in the spring.

Early varieties were susceptible to powdery mildew, a fungal disease (Erysiphe cichoracearum), that turns the leaves a grey-green color, but new hybrids have eliminated that problem.

Some of the new varieties are Phlox paniculata Little Boy, Phlox paniculata Laura and Phlox paniculata Purple Flame.

Little Boy is short and has lilac blue flowers with a white center. Grows 20-inches tall and wide. Laura is lavender with a white eye in the center. Long blooming, grows 30-inches tall and two feet wide. Purple Flame is a 12-inch tall dwarf that blooms into September. Spreads to two-feet wide.

What is commonly called Thrift or Moss pink is the groundcover Phlox subulata. This variety grows in well-draining soil so it is perfect for spring color in rock gardens and other hot, dry spots. About 4-inches tall and 2-feet wide. Colors: White, pink, rose, lavender and blue.

The annual, seed grown, Texas native Phlox Drummondii, blooms in white, cream, pinks, lilac, rose, purple, reds, and almost black. Some have a contrasting eye color. The tall varieties include Finest and Fordhook Finest. Dwarfs include Beauty, Globe, Petticoat and Twinkle. Flowers last until frost.

Oklahoma native phlox include Woodland Phlox, Phlox divaricata, or Sweet William Phlox. It grows to about one-and-one-half feet tall under deciduous trees in the shade. The fragrant, blue flowers bloom in the spring, with a bloom time that lasts over a month. Plant on and around spring blooming bulbs, in rock gardens. Shop for these varieties: Arrowhead, Dirigo Ice, Fuller’s White and London Grove.

Prairie Phlox, Phlox pilosa, forms a low growing clump. Prairie is a mildew-free variety with blue to pink, long lasting flowers. Look for Chattahoochee, Mood Blue, Eco Happy Traveler and Ozarkana.

The best way to prevent powdery mildew is by removing and destroying the stalks and leaves of your plants in the fall. That measure will help slow the arrival of the disease next summer.

In one study of phlox, the least disease prone were: David, Windsor, Alpha, Blue Boy, Prime Minister, Orange Perfection, Starfire, H.B. May, Fairest One, Bright Eyes, Dorffrendl, Dodo Hanbury Forbes, Eva Cullum, Franz Schubert and Fairy's Petticoat.

The most disease prone were: Sternhimmel, Adonis, Mt. Fuji, White Admiral, Mrs. R. P. Struthers, Pinafore, New Bird, Dresden China and Anja.

If you grow heirloom phlox, check the bottom leaves and at the first sign of mildew, spray with a fungicide. Another precaution is to divide them every two or three years so air can circulate throughout the clump.

To divide a tall garden phlox, dig up the entire plant in the fall or spring. Discard the center roots and stems and cut the outer shoots into new, small plants and re-plant them in prepared soil at least a foot apart.

Garden centers have summer phlox in stock now so you can see the colors. Perennial Pleasures Nursery in Connecticut offers 128 varieties (perennialpleasures.net) and native phlox is available from Wild Things at wildthingsnursery.com.

Park Seed and Thompson Morgan have annual Phlox drummondii seeds. They germinate in a week at 62-degrees. HPS Seed offers a mix of perennial Phlox paniculata for fall planting. Prairie Moon (prairiemoon.com) has seeds for P. paniculata, P. maculate and P. pilosa.

All the perennial varieties can be propagated from fall stem cuttings and root division.

Phlox has scented flowers that attract hummingbirds, skippers, moths and butterflies. There are varieties for every garden.