31 July 2011

Best use for a turkey deep fryer

We bought a propane deep fryer to use as an outdoor canner after seeing our friends Richard and Jan Farris's setup at their farm. It was inexpensive, used, at a garage sale, but had to be taken to the car wash to get all the grease unstuck.
 Today's project is quarts of pie filling.

28 July 2011

Water efficiencies

In a normal year, summertime watering is a time to take a look at your plants, pull a few weeds and notice problems to address.

Drought and extreme heat make watering more of a necessity.  This year we have to pay attention to shrubs, trees and perennials as well as annuals and containers.

Shrubs and trees do not have to be watered every day or every week. In fact, regular, shallow, watering can cause roots to grow to the soil surface where hot sun will scald them.
Hand watering is the best method of caring for plants. And there are many hand watering tools to help with the chore, including bubblers, adjustable spray guns and sprinkler attachments. Unfortunately, for busy people, hand watering is too labor intensive and time consuming, so other methods have to be used.
There's no better way to water a corner and fill a bird bath than a handheld hose.

There are several ways to water a garden include flood, drip and sprinkler.

Drip irrigation is one of the most water-efficient but it requires set up and maintenance. For many home gardens, flood watering is a good alternative but it has to be watched or it will waste a lot. Automated sprinklers require mechanical set up and if they are installed correctly they are efficient.

Drip irrigation was popularized at vineyards where tiny emitters consistently put a drop of water onto each vine’s root. Do-It-Yourself systems are available now for homeowners to use in patio pot gardens and in perennial flower beds.

They are great for times when you will be away, but not a good solution for normal summer use.  Over the course of several weeks, the plants’ roots will hug the area around the emitter and shrivel in the soil not directly watered.
Soil that is not getting water will deteriorate. The microorganisms, worms and insects that keep the soil healthy and provide nutrition to plants, need water to thrive.

Soaker hoses minimize water waste but provide moisture only in the immediate area. In order to be effective, soaker hoses should be looped around rather than strung out in a straight line.
Sprinkler systems are useful tools to reduce the time and labor involved in watering. Rotor sprinklers used on large lawns pop up 4-inches above the ground and can throw water 25 to 60 feet.  Spray head sprinklers throw water 15 feet and are used for small lawns and groundcover.

Overhead sprinklers waste water in evaporation but can be useful when there are shrubs in the area that get in the way.
In a year of normal temperatures and rainfall, established trees and shrubs do not need to be watered. But during periods of extreme heatand drought,
 it is a good idea to water all the valuable plants in your landscape. During a drought,
even evergreens need to be deep watered at the root zone.

Root zone watering is applying a large amount of water directly to the soil where the roots of plants can use it.  Attach a bubbler to a riser or to the end of the hose where the water will flow a few feet away from the trunk of a tree or shrub.

Flowers and vegetables need an inch of water a week. New plantings and moisture loving plants need more.  The soil around fruiting vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes should be soaked.
The surface of the soil will always look dry, so dig down an inch to check for moisture before watering. When you water, water deeply to keep the plants’ roots moving down.  Overhead sprinkling causes plants to send their roots to the surface, making the plant weak and vulnerable.

Water as early in the morning or as late in the evening as possible.

27 July 2011

Snake - can you help me identify this visitor?

Sitting on the couch with my first cup of coffee this morning, I looked out the door and saw a visitor.
That little back deck gets all kinds of visitors including, birds, all manner of bugs, lizards, frogs, turtles but this morning's snake was the first to actually come to visit so close to humans.
The photos on Snakes of Oklahoma's site (here) make me think it is a juvenile Black Ratsnake, Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta.

The Herpes of Arkansas site (here) has info
 on our entire population of alligator, lizard, snake, turtle, frog and salamander friends.

 From the photos and description on the Herps site, another guess could be the Prairie Kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster calligaster). Take a look at the photos here.

It is clear that this visitor was not happy to see the long lens pointed in its direction!
If you can help me identify my new friend post a comment
or email me please  MollyDay1@gmail.com.

24 July 2011

Euonymus Scale on heat stressed plants

 Our Euonymus fortunei has enough water but can't overcome the extreme temperatures to protect itself from Euonymus Scale. And, the poor thing has a bad case.

The ladies are the brown bits and the gentlemen are the white ones.

The University of Kentucky Ag site has a good summary and advice for treatments.
Since I won't spray poisons during butterfly season, I'll cut it back to the trunk and do harsh water treatments to remove as much as possible until I can do more in early winter.

It can become invasive (Invasive.org) in some areas such as PA - also zone 7, but it has not in our yarden.

Spellchecker has some amusing alternative choices for Euonymus ;-)

21 July 2011

Weeds: In Defense of Nature’s Most Unloved Plants by Richard Mabey

Weeds of Oklahoma palmer amaranth

Weeds must be the most adaptive plants on the planet. No matter where you garden, weeds quickly move in.  Shade, baking sun, soaking soil, wind – none of those conditions can prevent weeds from planting their feet in soil that few other plants would tolerate.

Richard Mabey, England’s favorite garden writer, thinks we should love weeds and even respect them.  His new book, “Weeds: In Defense of Nature’s Most Unloved Plants” is a good read, even though it probably will not convince many gardeners to embrace weeds.
Weeds of Oklahoma Blue mustard

One of Mabey’s friends says that he never weeds his vegetable garden because weeds provide shade and moisture for the roots of his vegetable plants in the heat of summer. And, maybe we could all relax a little about our gardens’ uninvited plants.

In many neighborhoods there is a mixture of landscape and garden styles. Some have a lawn of native plants or weeds and others have carefully planted and tended grass. Gardeners remove weeds from flower, vegetable and herb beds. Lawn owners pull weeds from between the blades of grass.
Farmers plow and spray to keep the weeds out of fields. Many of us mulch everything in sight to prevent weed seeds from even sprouting.

Non-gardeners use their time in other ways. They do not tend fields, grass, beds, or pots. Not everyone is concerned with weeds.
Weeds of Oklahoma Cheat

“Plants become weeds when they obstruct our plans, or our tidy maps of the world”, says Mabey. “If you have no such plans or maps, they can appear as innocents, without stigma or blame.”
Most plants that are now considered weeds were valued plants at one time and in their home country.  For example Striga is now commonly called Witch weed because it is so destructive in field crops. But in its home country of Kenya, visiting dignitaries walked on paths covered with its pink flowers.

Weeds are widely travelled.  With the worldwide movement of people and products, it is impossible to tell where some of them started out. Gardeners on all five continents consider stinging nettle, chickweed, bindweeds and dock to be weeds but at one time they were only found in England.
Weeds of Oklahoma - Crabgrass

Plants travel the globe both intentionally and accidentally. The little wildflower known as American or Canadian fleabane, arrived in Europe inside a stuffed bird. Pirri-Pirri-Bur, a weed from New Zealand has entered most countries in wool shipments. Pineapple weed went from Oregon to international ports in the tread of tires the late 1800s.

Weeds are willing to grow where other plants will not. Mabey’s examples include bombed out cities, sites of chemical spills and cracks in concrete, rock and asphalt. In this sense, they are enthusiastically and beautifully growing in places that are bruised.
In order to thrive, weeds have to grow quickly or hold back and lie dormant. For example, Tumbleweed seeds can germinate in 36-minutes. Some Fat-hen (Lamb's Quarters) seeds sprouted after being found in a 1700 year old archaeological site and Rocket seeds in a 2,000 year old Roman site were still able to sprout and grow.
Weeds of Oklahoma - ryegrass

Weeds know other ways to survive. Field bindweed and creeping thistle put out chemicals that prevent grain crop seeds from germinating. American quackgrass not only takes the nutrients from the soil but has a chemical that kills corn.

On the other side of the fight, wheat, oats and peas, prevent Lamb’s Quarters from germinating and cotton prevents Witch Weed from sprouting.
Weeds in the Bible, plant names and more, the fascinating story of botany and history, “Weeds” by Richard Mabey, was published 2011, by Ecco Harper Collins (www.harpercollins.com). The 324-page hardback is $26 list and $12 at online retailers.

18 July 2011

Trombetta di Albenga Squash is Curcurbita moschata Duch

We are enjoying the Trombetta Squash.

Male flowers have no fruit at the base.

Here's the problem with growing squash - squash bugs.

They lay an endless number of eggs that have to be removed every day.

The reward is watching these little trumpets grow.

You can grow this squash on a trellis where it will hang but our plants are crawling on the ground like a winter squash. It is tender and flavorful - good eats.

17 July 2011

Sunday Tidbits and Links

In Terrebonne Parish, LA, the BP oil spill is producing a silver lining of sorts.
Houmatoday.com reported in an article today that if it had not been for the oil spill and subsequent clean up, BP would not be paying to have archaeologists and scientists research pre-historic Indian finds.

In the 100 sites of buried pre-historic Indian settlements, researchers have found 1300 year old bones, pottery and weapons. The evidence indicates that the now sandy area was a deer and elk filled woods.
Full article here.
Fritillary Butterfly identification matrix at Buterfly Conservation dot org

The Journal of Weed Science reported that the over use of herbicides is resulting in herbicide resistant weeds. Reported in Newswise.

"At least 21 weed species have now developed resistance to glyphosate, a systemic herbicide that has been effectively used to kill weeds and can be found in many commercial products. Some weeds are now developing resistance to alternative herbicides being used"

By the way, the Weed Science Society of America sends out a really interesting email newsletter. If you are as interested as I am, click over
the WSSA website.

Another of my favorite regular emails come from the Yale University Marsh Botanical Garden. The newsletter, called "Liquid Sunshine and Plant of the Week" are the botanical and creative product of
Eric Larsen the Manger of Marsh Botanical Garden. Larsen is smart enough to have a sense of humor and really knows his botany.

This week's plant is Trumpet Vine (Campsis raidcans), about which Larsen said, "As for culture, I will quote Michael Dirr one more time: “If you cannot grow this, give up gardening.”

At the end of this week's newsletter, Larsen wrote, "Liquid Sunshine and Plant of the Week are not protected in any way, so if you can’t think of anything better to plagiarize, be my guest. It would be nice to hear from you though. Tell me how your garden grows, what’s new with the kids, the grand kids, the job or lack thereof. The views and opinions expressed within are in no way reflective of or endorsed by Yale University, Marsh Botanical Garden or any of the therapists that I may (or may not) have visited over my tortured adulthood."
And, another email subscription you'll love is Daniel Mosquin's Botany Photo of the Day from UBC in CA.
Plant lovers and botanists from around the world contribute a favorite plant photo and description for each issue. Every single issue is worth a click and the comments are often as interesting as the post.
It is easy to subscribe and they ask no probing questions. Just provide an email addy.

Our water bill in this record heat and drought was $350 this month. We have already made decisions about letting some plants die and will have to make more tough choices in the months ahead.

How are you coping?

14 July 2011

Lead Plant - Heat Loving Amorpha canescens

One shrub that blooms no matter how hot it gets is Amorpha.

There are 15 species of Amorpha that are native to North America. They grow in dry prairies, scrub and sandy ground as well as woodlands and riverbanks. Amorpha’s native habitat ranges north and south from Canada to south Texas, New Mexico to Louisiana and Wyoming to Minnesota. They thrive in zones two to nine.

Amorpha canescens shrub has small, gray, aromatic leaves and tall racemes of small, dark violet flowers. It grows to about 3 feet tall. The common name is “lead plant” and one writer speculated that it was found growing on a lead mine and another said that its presence was thought to indicate where there was lead underground.

One seed source, Lorenz’s OK Seeds in Okeene, (580) 822-3655 and www.lorenzsokseedsllc.com, says it looks like it is covered in white lead.

The flowers bring bees and wasps for nectar. The caterpillars of Colias cesonia (Dogface Sulfur) and some moths eat the leaves. In turn, the insects feed the birds in our gardens. Deer and rabbits enjoy eating lead plants since it is a high protein pea.

Bowood Farms in St. Louis (www.bowoodfarms.com) offers the plant and they say it is cold hardy in zones five to eight. Bustani Plant Farm (www.bustaniplantfarm.com), where I bought my plant four years ago, rates its cold hardiness in zones four to nine. Owner Steve Owens said that another common name is Prairie Shoestrings because of its long deep stringy roots and 15-foot deep central root.

Prairie Moon (www.prairiemoon.com) commented that the tough roots made pioneer plowing difficult, causing early settlers to name it Devil’s Shoestrings. In Minnesota, it was called “Buffalo Bellow Plant” because it bloomed during bison rutting season (http://tinyurl.com/65864mu).

In traditional medicine, the leaves were made into tea to kill intestinal worms and treat eczema. Dried leaves are used to treat cuts and a tea made from the roots is used to ease stomach pain. The twigs are used to treat rheumatism.

 The other Amorpha shrub that is a beauty in hot weather gardens is Amorpha fruticosa, known as False Indigo. It also has gray leaves though they are larger and more round. False Indigo will grow up to 10-feet tall over its lifetime. It also has purple flowers.

Its native range goes from coast to coast — most of the United States from Canada to Mexico.
Also known as Desert False Indigo, this plant likes gravely sites that are moist part of the year. In our zone seven it freezes to the ground in winter but in warmer climates it can become weedy unless pruned.

False Indigo deer resistant and attracts butterflies. It can tolerate really wet soil followed by dry periods so is considered a good substitute for butterfly bush in a rain garden or dry creek. Rainscaping.org suggests it for erosion control, as well as boggy soils.

Several moth caterpillars use the plants’ leaves as food so they might be eaten to the stems over the summer.

Horizon herbs has the seeds available (www.horizonherbs.com) and Forest Farm (www.forestfarm.com) sells the plants.

To grow Amorpha from seed, start in the fall with pre-soaked seed in pots of light, well-drained soil. Amorphas are all members of the pea family so germination is increased with the use of legume (pea and bean) inoculant bacteria. They will take two months to come up.

These plants are best suited for naturalized gardens since they do not have tidy or compact growth habits. Lead plant only grows a few feet high but it can spread to 4 feet wide.

 In our garden Amorpha is happy growing in the sun along a rock walkway.

12 July 2011

Dill pickle day

It happens once a year. Jon makes his enormously popular dill pickles. The ritual includes a few trips to Conrad Farms in Bixby while we anticipate the perfect size cucumbers and the bucket of fresh dill.

On our third trip Sunday, the stars aligned. The cucumbers were the right size and the dill was fresh. Today was the perfect day for his pickle adventure - I was out for the day.

When I returned home, the pickles were canned and the leftover dill was a source of amusement.

It was reassuring to know that the dill had not been sprayed with pesticides - do you see the swallowtail butterfly caterpillar? It is now outside on the fennel we grow for swallowtails.
And, ta da, here is this year's pickle production. And, I didn't have to do a thing!

10 July 2011

Catch Me if You Can - Hophornbeam Copperleaf - Threeseed is Acalypha ostryifolia

It seems that every state extension service I checked this morning is talking about a weed/pest in my flower beds. I don't think I've ever seen the infestation so bad as this year. Of course, I blame the heat because I'm blaming the record breaking heat for everything right now.
The topic of my dismay is Hophornbeam Copperleaf.According to the Plant Encyclopedia online, and other references, it has many pretty relatives including Chenille Plant.

Here's the Illinois post on Acalypha ostryifolia

Hophornbeam copperleaf is a summer annual species in the Euphorbiaceae family. This plant family, also referred to as the Spurge family, includes several other problematic weed species, many of which have a milky sap. Hophornbeam copperleaf, however, does not contain the characteristic milky sap of other Euphorbiaceae family members. It is indigenous to Illinois and most commonly found in the southern third of the state. Over the past 5 years, however, we have identified populations in cornfields and soybean fields progressively farther north in the state, and in 2000 we identified a population as far north as Tazewell County. Several other copperleaf species can be found in Illinois, and while most of these other species are not generally considered problematic in agronomic production systems, Virginia copperleaf (Acalypha virginica) can be a troublesome weed species in southern Illinois.

University of Tennessee's pdf is here

Texas puts it in their top 25 problem weeds list (with photos for identification)

University of Missouri gave it weed of the month status (a dubious distinction).

The Southeastern Flora site calls it Pineland threeseed mercury

Anyway, it has seeded and whenever I can get a minute away from watering to pull weeds, I take them out by the dozens.

Are you seeing this weed this year?

07 July 2011

Don't eat these plants!

Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are well known by gardeners and hikers, especially those who are unfortunate enough to be allergic to them.

Hemlock is a famous poisonous plant that blooms freely in open fields and ditches alongside Queen Anne’s Lace and Black Eyed Susans.  Hemlock looks like a carrot when it is young and resembles wild carrot when it flowers.

Common Vetch, a small vine with purple flowers, is toxic, as is Bleeding Heart, a popular shade garden plant.

Many grasses can become poisonous if they are infected with the deadly fungus ergot. Ryegrass is especially vulnerable.

Jack in the Pulpit, Green Dragon and other members of the Arisaema or Arum family are also entirely toxic. The corms, leaves, stems and flowers contain bundles of calcium oxalate that pierce mouth and throat tissue. Skunk cabbage is another member of that family to avoid.

Jimsonweed or Datura, sacred thorn-apple,
is grown for its beautiful flowers and grows in the wild. All parts of the plant and all of its relatives in the Brugmansia family contain indole alkaloids that affect the nervous system. The symptoms resemble belladonna poisoning.

Mayapple, in the barberry family, is a highly prized spring flowering woodland perennial. The entire plant with the exception of its ripe berries can be fatal if eaten. It has 15 active poisonous compounds.

Milkweeds poison livestock and humans if eaten raw. The toxicity is low but the milky juice that the stems contain can cause a rash on sensitive skin.

Pokeweed is a beautiful wild plant with purple-black berries that are loved by birds.
The entire plant is poisonous, including leaves, roots, stems and seeds. People who enjoy eating pokeweed in the spring boil the young leaves in 4 changes of water to remove the toxins.

St. Johnswort plants contain a phototoxin that causes inflammation. It is commonly used as a medicinal herb to calm the nerves and ease depression.

Cherry Laurel, a small tree or hedgerow plant produces poisonous flowers, fruits, leaves and seed kernels. Its relative, Carolina laurelcherry is also toxic.

Yew is an evergreen tree or shrub with red berry-like fruit. The needles contain a poison that causes severe abdominal illness.

Box or boxwood shrubs are very common landscape plants. All parts of boxwood contain steroidal alkaloids which are poisonous.

Pieris japonica is a shrub with leathery leaves and white or pink flowers. The leaves are toxic if eaten. Symptoms include prickly skin, headache, weakness and slow heartbeat.

Rhododendrons and azaleas are shade loving shrubs that flower in the spring. The leaves, flowers, pollen and nectar poison bees as well as the honey they produce from the flowers.

Clematis is a flowering perennial woody vine. Many plants in the buttercup family, including Clematis contain protoanemonin in the leaves and sap. It causes skin blistering in some people. Eating the leaves causes inflammation of the mouth and digestive tract.

Morning glory is a flowering vine that returns from seed. The seeds contain amides of lysergic acid. Symptoms include nausea and hallucinations.

Wisteria is a vigorous woody vine with purplish flowers in the spring. The entire plant is toxic. Eating 2 seeds can cause serious illness.

Children and pets put just about everything into their mouths so keep an eye on them when visiting gardens and parks.

Concerns? Contact the American Association of Poison Control Centers (www.aapcc.org and http://oklahomapoison.org) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-222-1222.

An online chart of common poisonous plants is at Texas State Department of Health at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/lawn_garden/poison/poison.html.

A good reference to have around is, “The North American Guide to Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms” by Nancy Turner and Patrick von Aderkas.

04 July 2011

Cacti photos from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Peru

Via an email posted on Cacti (cacti_etc@opus.scs.agilent.com), Sherrah Adelaide, in Australia, mentioned that he uploaded his cacti photos to http://cactushabitat.com/
and with his permission, I am passing along the link. Gorgeous photos. The notes below are from the site.

The photographs are accessed from the LOCATION INDEX hyperlink.


Then select state/province lists which are linked to place names which are linked to albums of the photographs. If you don’t know the state that your location is in, refer to the species list which lists country, state, location for each species. With this information you can navigate to the location.

The date order list is provided to give a guide as to what can be seen at a leisurely place if you are travelling by car. This and the species order list includes species and some locations for which photographs haven’t been included. The records are included for completeness and you can find other photographs of the same plants at nearby locations. These species list is not linked to the photograph albums at this stage as MS Excel doesn’t sort hypertext links. Use your web browser to search place or species names (IExplorer: Edit; Find on this page).

More detailed location information / GPS is not available, please don’t ask.

The resource link includes links to cactus, botanic and geograhic web sites, some hints, a selection of books with GPS / specific location data and a reputable guide.
I hope you enjoy the beauty of these plants in their natural environment.
Chris Sherrah Adelaide, Australia

02 July 2011

Whats Growing On Here

It was either 103 or 106 today, depending on the thermometer we consulted. This summer will break some records for temperatures and water usage. Here's some of what's growing on at our place.

It's blackberry time. We cleaned out the bed last year, removing all the sucker plants (100 of them!) so this year's harvest will be considerably smaller but still enough for us.

This smart box turtle comes to the front door every morning to chow down on the insects that were attracted to the porch light overnight. There is a turtle at the front door EVERY morning. Same one? Who knows?

Our garden isn't large enough to put in very many cabbage family plants but I try a few every year. The cabbage was a success. I bought 4 seedlings and got 4 heads - a much better return than the Brussels sprouts.

I grow a few eggplants every year, mostly to make eggplant caviar to can. Now that it's ready to put into jars we can eat the rest of the crop in other dishes.

We put in 200 cloves of garlic and the harvest was about 160 heads. We didn't mulch or water the bed this year, despite the unusual drought conditions so the harvest was good. Jon enjoys pulling and cleaning the crop.

The grapes are starting to get ripe. These are concord plants we bought from Andy Qualls at Qualls Fruit.

A mockingbird made this nest in the carport. Her babies keep her busy!