30 November 2010

End of November Gardening

It's a tough time of year: Still 60 during the day but every sign of the fall garden has been knocked down by freezing nights. Just 10 days ago a few butterflies were lingering on the fall asters giving the illusion that winter might not come this year. Silly to even think about it, of course. But I know those late butterflies are hiding under the leaves out there and will emerge as early in the spring as they possibly can.

Lettuce seedlings outside in a cold frame.

The lettuce seedlings in the cold frames are doing quite well despite the 20-degree nights. I worry about them and wonder if they should come inside the shed and continue to grow under the lights in there.

The tropical plants that spend the summer by the hammocks get tossed into the shed at the first sign of cold weather. Later this winter, I'll take cuttings and grow more for next year.

Plectranthus (on the left) blooms all winter in the shed.
They continue to bloom inside the shed most of the winter, cheering us up when only flowering plants will do.

29 November 2010

Leaves of Three can be very pretty - Poison Ivy

Visit The Poison Ivy Center at this link.

After we moved to our little 3-acre bit of the world, I had poison ivy rashes about 4 months of the year. The photos I had seen didn't really help much with prevention.

Finally, when I took the Master Gardener class, Sue Gray taught us how to identify it and now I rarely have a problem. Also, when I'm weeding around trees in the woody areas, I use a poison ivy soap immediately after.

Keith Kridler of Mt. Pleasant TX talked about Poison Ivy on Daffnet recently -
"This vine creeps along the ground until it finds either a tree or wall or fence that it can attach anchoring roots to and within a few years the vine will be at the very tops of the tallest trees. Once the vine matures it begins to bloom profusely attracting all sorts of native and non-native pollinators to the high percent of the sugars in the nectar, but this nectar comes from minuscule blooms.

In the fall there are tens of thousands of BB sized white fruit on these vines. The fruit is eaten by over 40 species of birds during migration and these birds digest the fruit surrounding the seeds. The seeds pass through the gut of the birds and often get dropped hundreds of miles from the mother vine creating many more vines the following year.

While it is a tremendous asset and food and nectar source for wildlife the milky white sap contained inside EVERY part of this plant will create a profusion of boils, blisters and open sores once it gets inside the human body. Burning of the leaves and or woody vines or even the roots of this plant and then inhaling the smoke will create massive damage to the lungs of a human.

These leaves vary in color from vine to vine or probably from different locations and depending on the composition of the soil these leaves will be canary yellow, flaming orange, screaming candy apple red or the darkest, deepest shades of maroon, practically a blue black red on occasion.

We gardeners must be aware that when weeding our flower beds that there WILL be sometimes hundreds of these new seedlings sprouting in the rich soils we created for our flowers."

Various mnemonic rhymes describe the characteristic appearance of poison ivy:

1."Leaves of three, let it be."

2."Hairy vine, no friend of mine." Poison ivy vines are very poisonous.

3."Raggy rope, don't be a dope!" Poison ivy vines on trees have a furry "raggy" appearance. This rhyme warns tree climbers to be wary. Old, mature vines on tree trunks can be quite large and long, with the recognizable leaves obscured among the higher foliage of the tree.

4."One, two, three? Don't touch me."

5."Berries white, run in fright" and "Berries white, danger in sight."

6."Longer middle stem, stay away from them." This refers to the middle leaflet having a notably longer stem than the two side leaflets and is a key to differentiating it from the similar-looking Rhus aromatica - Fragrant sumac - is a plant species in the family Anacardiaceae native to Canada and the United States.Fragrant Sumac is a woody plant that can grow to around 2 meters tall. It produces yellow flowers in clusters before anthesis...

7."Red leaflets in the spring, it's a dangerous thing." This refers to the red appearance that new leaflets sometimes have in the spring. (Note that later, in the summer, the leaflets are green, making them more difficult to distinguish from other plants, while in autumn they can be reddish-orange.)

8."Side leaflets like mittens, will itch like the dickens." This refers to the appearance of some, but not all, poison ivy leaves, where each of the two side leaflets has a small notch that makes the leaflet look like a mitten with a "thumb." (Note that this rhyme should not be misinterpreted to mean that only the side leaflets will cause itching, since actually all parts of the plant can cause itching.)

9."If butterflies land there, don't put your hand there." This refers to the fact that some butterflies land on poison ivy, since they are not affected, which provides them protection as their predators avoid eating the plant.

10."If its got hair, it wont be fair" This refers to the hair that can be on the stem and leafs of poison ivy.

Whatever device you use to identify its many colors, forms, leaf shapes, stem shapes or colors, be sure to keep your hands away from it. For those of us who are allergic, the rash is very itchy and lasts for weeks.

28 November 2010

November walk at Greenleaf State Park

A sunny November day is just right for a nature walk though I'll admit that about an hour is what we enjoy - no marathoners here. The camping and lodging at Greenleaf are dated, but for a winter walk, the trails are quite nice.
Water oak or Sassafrass? I'll admit we didn't pay much attention to anything but the color and the size of the leaves as we walked by. Have you seen the site "What Tree is This?" I found it while searching for leaf shape/tree identification guidance this morning. The site is an online service from the State of SC - here's a link to the beginning page that is worth a read.
Greenleaf Lake is visible from the much of the trail.

Johnson Grass is a perennial, invasive weed that makes tons of seed on a beautiful seedhead, pretty enough to attract birds and small mammals to eat it and distribute the plant far and wide.
Here's the walking path - gorgeous weeds aren't they?
 Driving toward home -
.. wonderful sunny early winter days....

24 November 2010

Thanksgiving Symbols

The first pilgrims arrived in the new world in 1620 with little to prepare them for the winter they faced. The next year, the drought of 1621, led them to pray and fast and ask God for a bountiful harvest to keep them from starving.

The crops were saved that year and the pilgrims held a communal celebration feast in the autumn. The tale is folklore, and, though we accept it, nothing was written to confirm the story. Despite that, Thanksgiving was declared an American national holiday in 1941.

The symbols of Thanksgiving focus on fall harvest and giving thanks. In addition, many would add football, skiing, church and walks in the woods.

Decorations for Thanksgiving include fall leaves, gourds, pumpkins and cornstalks. Early Europeans made a type of wicker scarecrow that they filled with fall harvest fruits, and that evolved into the scarecrows used today.

Cobs of colorful corn have been a popular decoration for decades and across cultures. Native Americans were growing corn when the pilgrims arrived. Since they believed that the Corn God taught them to grow it, corn is revered. The tradition was passed on when Native Americans taught the pilgrims, and now, serving corn for Thanksgiving dinner is a tradition.

Pumpkins and squash from the late harvest were originally cooked with maple syrup and made into pies. Now pumpkins are also used as decoration, cooked to fill ravioli and made into soup and cookies.

Very much like today, the pilgrims enjoyed apples raw, stewed, and in desserts.

Cranberries, always harvested in the fall, were originally called crane berries for the pink blossoms and drooping stalks. The pilgrims sweetened the berries with maple syrup.

The cornucopia has been the most common symbol of fall harvest festivals. The horn shaped container is always overflowing with an abundance of fruit, nuts, flowers, ribbons, breads, vegetables and decorations.
Fitzwitty Cookie Company made cornucopia cookies
for Thanksgiving this year.

Dating from 400 B.C., cornucopia means horn of plenty. The word is made of two Latin words cornu (horn) and copia (plenty).

The horn was originally a goat’s horn filled with an endless supply of fruits and grains. In one story of Zeus's childhood he was sent to a cave for safe-keeping where Amalthea cared for him. Amalthea used a goat's horn to muffle the sound of his cries in order to protect him from discovery.

In one version of the myth, the goat tore off the horn to present to Zeus as an offering. Another interpretation is that Zeus broke off Amalthea's horn accidentally and then promised that she would always have an abundance of whatever fruits she desired. Later, that myth evolved into three Roman goddesses of plenty - Copia, Fortuna, and Pax.

Demeter, goddess of the harvest and Pluto the god of abundance both have a cornucopia as one of their symbols.

Cornucopias also featured in classical art. Tyche the goddess of good fortune and prosperity holds a cornucopia upright, representing Dionysus the god of wine and festivity.

The cornucopia is also a popular religious symbol. In the ancient world it was stamped on Jewish coins, and was found on seals and rings of the Maccabean era as early as 160 BC. Roman coins dating to the year 161 feature two cornucopias as decoration.

Today, greeting cards, homes, and church tables are decorated with wicker, ceramic and bread dough cornucopias filled with an abundance of breads, flowers, fruits, nuts and fall vegetables.

The state of Idaho has two cornucopias in its flag and state seal. North Carolina and New Jersey each have one on their state seals. And, the coat of arms of Peru includes a cornucopia.

No matter which myth prevails, or where one lives, the cornucopia symbolizes an abundance of blessings.

23 November 2010

November vegetable harvesting

We went out early this morning - before my yoga class - to harvest mustard and kale. There is a vegetable lasagna in our future and the kale will be the green layer.

Even though these greens will survive a freeze, they suffer some burning on the leaves. So, there we were in jackets, outside, before 7, with clippers and little pails. The sun coming up was beautiful on the leeks and broccoli.
The garlic is in for a shock.

With the recent 75F (23.8C) degree weeks, it has be coming up all over its raised bed.
Ha! After the upcoming 25F (13.8C)degree nights predicted, it will be hunkering down again. Then, we'll scoop up the pine needles and mulch.

Here's a shot of our little vegetable garden this morning.

Center right you can see the clear plastic cold frames where the winter lettuce grows.

The tree on the far right in the photo is a nectarine.

Around the veggie garden fence and up the trellises, the Austrian peas are getting tall. They care not about the weather!

21 November 2010

Sunday Tidbits - Serbia's portable planters and this winter's weather forecast

Portable gardening wins a competition - Inhabitat posted photos from the Venice Architecture Bienniale. In the green category, the Serbian entry included traveling planters made of tubing, old cooking pots and casters.

They were inspired by the wife of a Serbian poet who said she wished for a tree that "would run after (her) down the street".

Here's where Serbia is on a map

This is a clever city-dweller, apartment balcony idea. When I lived in an apartment with a balcony these would have fit the bill - they can be made tall enough to catch the sun as it moves above the railing and easy to use - no gardening on the floor!

Click on the slideshow link - Inhabitat's link is here

Also, if you have time, clicking around the La Biennale site is fun - the short video winners include an animated, decidedly black humor one called The Naturalist.

And, now on to this winter's weather
from Gary McManus at the Oklahoma Climatological Survey we get the news that this winter is predicted to be drier than average.

December rain = less than average

McManus goes on to say that overall it is predicted to be a warmer winter due to a strong La Nina event. But he cautions us to remember that this is all about average temperatures and that it can still be really cold.

December temperatures = above average

"Weather will still occur, climate just smooths out the edges. Sometimes those
edges can be doozies, however" McManus said in his OCS email.

I feel optimistic about my winter vegetable gardening!

20 November 2010

Christmas Tablescapes - Tulsa Herb Society

Yesterday's post was fall and Thanksgiving table ideas. Today you will become inspired to plan your Christmas tablescapes.

Inspired? Me, too!

19 November 2010

Fall Tablescapes

The photos below are from the Tulsa Herb Society Tablescapes event.

Tomorrow I'll post the Christmas Tablescape photos.

18 November 2010

This Year Make Your Holiday Table Decorations With Mother Nature

TULSA HERB SOCIETY Carols and Crumpets, Dec 4, from 8 to 3

Tulsa Herb Society Craft sale
Tulsa Garden Center
2435 South Peoria AV
Snowflake Café open for lunch 11 to 2

Information Patsy Wynn 918-496-8019

At their annual Herbal Holiday Tablescapes event last week, Tulsa Herb Society members demonstrated that one-of-a-kind holiday decorations are as close as your closets and the back yard. They used colorful combinations of family treasures, gourds, fresh and dried herbs, pine cones, flowers, seashells, and found objects to decorate a dozen tables.

Some of their ideas are simple and classic. For example, bouquets of fresh herbs were put into a collection of cow creamers to use at each place setting, a pomegranate was placed on top of the bread plate, native nuts and gold clematis seeds were artfully strewn across a tabletop.

A fall harvest luncheon tabletop used climbing ferns to wrap tall candlesticks and freshly clipped sage and parsley to surround the base.

Gourds were wrapped with colored mesh and topped with sprigs of rosemary and ivy.

Vickie Barbour and Jane Bolze created a children’s Santa Table with a snowman theme. The table featured a snowman balloon from Barbour's balloon business, plastic ware, nuts and holly, and snowman napkin rings made by Bolze.

Go out in the yard and pick what you have, said Barbour. You can use holly, branches with berries, nuts and seed pods.

At a Christmas table, drummer boy candlestick holders were filled with fresh herbs and a rosemary tree was circled with fresh, red, carnations. The table top and chairs were decorated with 72-inch by 26-inch red plaid scarves, plus pine cones, bows and beads.

The Christmas Brunch table by Patty Moore featured a small sled topped with a nativity scene in clear glass, herbs and oil lamps.

Moore said, We live our history and we use several generations of decorations including our grandmother's quilt as the table cover.

The oriental themed table included items gathered in the orient and decor from three generations of family members.

Reach into your imagination and your cabinets and pull things out, said decorators, Mari Migliore and Julie Knebel. We went to each other’s houses and said, yes we need that. Start by pulling out things you enjoy and build the table from there.

For the Woodland Christmas table, Eve Joseph made clove-studded orange pomanders and stacked them into a tier. For the napkin rings, she used tiny birds’ nests from a craft store, fresh rosemary and cinnamon sticks.

At a Rhapsody in Blue breakfast table, a blue and yellow quilt was the tablecloth and the centerpiece was filled with fresh herbs, and yellow flowers. Blue Willow dishes and blue glassware with yellow napkins completed the theme.

Tina Messick's Harvest Luncheon was inspired by a rural, fall harvest theme. Messick is one of 12 children so her table top holds generations of memories and collections. Her table was covered with chickens, roosters, fresh flowers and herbs.

My mother collects the cow creamers and I have my own collection, said Messick. I go to estate sales to add to my sterling silver and dish collections.

Even the abundant refreshment table was decorated. Linda Connor used a birdbath, birdhouse, purple peas, lemon peppers and painted twigs from her back yard as the foundation of a tiered centerpiece.

THS members have been busy making crafts, jams and jellies for the annual Carols and Crumpets event. This year it will be held on Saturday, December 4 from 8 to 3 at the Tulsa Garden Center, 2435 South Peoria AV.

For the next few days, I will post additional photos from the event. Everyone who looks at their creative table scapes will get at least one new idea!

15 November 2010

Frosty weather is ideal for some seed starting

Snapdragons are one of many plants that we have to start from seed in the fall. Their preferred germination temperature is 39-degrees though they will tolerate a warmer spot. I think that even with the 28 and 33 degree nights, the shed has only been as cold as 45 degrees.

The seeds have sprouted and I've begun to divide and re pot them to individual pots to grow on. Their preferred growing temperature is 50-degrees F or 10 C.

Tom Clothier's hort dot net has the old Thompson and Morgan seed starting chart that is reliable and easy to use though you have to have the Latin name. Snapdragon's Latin name is Antirrhinum. Use the link above to migrate to the chart.

Home Town Seeds sent me some sample packs to try and they have all germinated very very successfully. The seedlings in the photos are their Giant Tetra Snapdragon.

We know that larkspur and poppy seeds have to be planted by Thanksgiving to have flowers the following spring. Elizabeth Loveland wrote a piece on Fall Sowing of Seeds for Suite 101 a few years ago that is a good reference for other seeds to start this fall.

Loveland suggests Love in a Mist, Bells of Ireland, sages, Verbena and others. She says that hardy annuals and those that re-seed reliably are two good bets for frosty seeding.

Perennials to plant now from seed include purple coneflower, feverfew, monkshood and asclepias. You may not see any emerge until next spring so just take care of them and trust Mother Nature to send them up after they freeze and thaw.

14 November 2010

The Last Monarch

Last week I posted a photo of the Monarch butterfly chrysalis that was attached to a succulent. Before that 28-degree night the succulent was moved into the shed, in filtered light.

We took a 10 day trip and the day after we returned, the chrysalis had become clear. We could see the butterfly fully formed inside. Like worried grandparents we hoped it could be born despite the unusual circumstances.

The next day, here it is, drying its wings on the succulent. I moved it so it could hang out on a yellow milkweed. I had brought the blooming milkweed inside so the butterfly would have some nectar if it hatched.

After a few hours, I put it outside in the sun. There was still time to fly south to Texas and make the trip to Mexico.

Sadly, she decided to stay here. Yesterday afternoon when I went out to the shed to pot up lettuce seedlings, there she was, hanging onto the (also stored in the shed for the winter) split leaf philodendron. Now, it's probably going to be too cold for her to make the trip.

Don't get me wrong, I'll enjoy her company. But she won't have a mate and a family and a vacation in sunny Mexico.

By the way, you can tell it's a she because there are no little black dots in the center windowpane area of her wings.

13 November 2010

What's this native pea? Have a guess?

I collected these seeds from a native pea that comes back every year from the previous year's seeds. I've never seen the flowers, only the seed heads. Until I remove them those little seed pods in my hand are collected into a sort of Chinese puzzle, each pod held up by the surrounding ones.
The leaves are finely toothed, grey-green and all together look like a little evergreen tree. They are softer than they look.
In this seed head, you can see that the individual pods have opened. I think it's beautiful. But what is it?

11 November 2010

I love to grow salad in the winter

Eating a plant-based diet goes in and out of fashion. Whether it is because of doctor’s orders, or sympathy with animals, thousands of Americans spurn seafood, red meat, and chicken in favor of nuts, fruits, grains and vegetables.

Nutritionists say that we can prevent disease with just two animal product free days a week.

Salads play a role in those two meat-free days, but with winter coming, appealing salad greens will be expensive and difficult to find. Fortunately, lettuce and other greens are reasonably easy to grow, even in the winter

Loose leaf lettuce, such as bronzeleaf and mesclun mix, are harvested a few outer leaves at a time and left to re-grow. Head lettuce, such as Winter Density Romaine and Arctic King butter head, are usually harvested all at once.

To grow lettuce in a protected place, all you need is seeds, a container filled with a combination of potting soil and compost, a fluorescent bulb light source and a watering plan. Loose leaf lettuce grown from seed is ready to harvest in 40 days.

Clear plastic clam-shell containers work well as mini-greenhouses for seed starting.

Fill one with 2-inches of moistened potting soil, sprinkle seeds on the top and spray with a hand-held pump sprayer. Close the top of the container and put in a brightly lit, warm location. The seeds should be kept moist and remain partially exposed to light. Open the container top when seeds sprout and transplant in a week.

To grow greens outside, use a homemade or commercial cold frame to protect plants. A raised bed made of a single square of cinder blocks, can be topped with windows or a frame of clear plastic on cold nights. Remove the cover in the morning.

On freezing nights, use a hoop tunnel topped with polyester such as mid-weight Reemay. Or, make a set of cloches out of plastic milk cartons. Just remove the screw top and cut off the bottom of the carton and secure over the plants. Remove in the morning.

One bale of straw can help. Spread it on the ground around the plants to protect the roots and when a freezing night comes, move some mulch onto the lettuce and then remove it the next morning.

Leafy green vegetables with thicker leaves, such as chard and kale, are more cold-hardy than lettuce, and are also easy to grow. Some years, we harvest red mustard, red Russian kale and dinosaur kale outside until February. Mache, also called corn salad or lamb’s lettuce, is a small, frost hardy lettuce that can be harvested through a few inches of snow.

Oriental, or Asian greens, such as pak choi, red mustard, rocket-arugula and mizuna thrive in the short days of winter. The leaves become more peppery and hot as they grow but are mild when small.

OSU Fact Sheet 6009 Fall Gardening (http://tiny.cc/e0bf1) suggests planting mustards (greens of all kinds).

In The Salad Garden, Tom Thumb suggests growing Amanda, Dandia and Magnet varieties in an unheated greenhouse over the winter.

East coast gardener Eliot Coleman recommends Brune d'Hiver and Mache for winter in his Four Season Harvest.

In Garden Primer, Barbara Damrosch says lazy gardeners choose fast-growing loose-leaf Salad Bowl, Bibb, Boston and Buttercrunch because they mature quickly. She says to maintain constant moisture and to fertilize with cottonseed meal or fish emulsion.

Salad Leaves for All Seasons: Organic Growing from Pot to Plot by English gardener Charles Dowding covers salad growing in containers, greenhouses and garden plots. For winter he recommends purslane, chicory, chard, mustard, Asian greens and radicchio.

Bountiful Gardens has seeds for many winter varieties – 707-459-, http://bit.ly/a0kR0O and bountiful@sonic.net.

Grow some salads this winter!