Showing posts from October, 2012

Nature's Doctor - Mammals and Insects Self Medicate

The Scientist reported that animals and insects self-medicate when they have the need.

CHIMPS " More than 30 years ago, Michael Huffman, who studies evolution of social systems at the University of Kyoto, noticed that wild chimps were treating themselves by ingesting foods with special properties that fight intestinal worm infections." 
. . .
"Huffman first encountered self-medicating chimps in Africa in the 1980s. He recalls watching a sick chimpanzee suck juice from the bitter leaf plant. A traditional healer, Mohamedi Seifu Kalunde, told Huffman that bitter leaf was used medicinally by the local people, the WaTongwe. The plant didn’t provide nutrients to the chimpanzee, and is rarely used by healthy chimps, but sick animals are commonly observed ingesting the plant, and their symptoms usually resolve soon after. Huffman’s later work identified several compounds in bitte…

Self-watering planters - how to build and where to buy

Here's an update to my still-popular 2008 post on how to build your own self-watering planters, sometimes called Earth Tainers -

Complete plans are at Tomato Fest under earthtainer

There's a variation on the theme at and

If you'd like to see it on video, Kansas State has a Master Gardener presentation at

After you go to the click,look at the list on the right - there are another 20 methods using a variety of container sizes, styles and materials.

If you prefer to purchase self-watering containers, remember Lechuza - gorgeous, functional solutions to watering inside and out.

Fall Foliage Photos around D.C.

Our friend Harry Pfohl has taken spectacular photos of the scenery around D.C. and his home in MD.

Most of us visualize huge structures and concrete when we imagine the  D.C. environment and I thought you'd enjoy his views of that part of our world.

Last November, several of Pfohl's D.C. nature photos were in the Washington Post and you can see them here -

Master Gardener classes offered in Muskogee OK

The Oklahoma State University Master Gardener program is coming back to Muskogee in January or February 2013. The new Extension Educator, Mandy Blocker is taking names of the people in our community who would like to be on the email list to hear more about the program.

Blocker spoke at Muskogee Garden Club last week and said that there are three questions interested students should ask themselves: 1) Do you want to learn more about the culture and maintenance of many types of plants?; 2) Are you eager to participate in a practical and intense training program?; and, 3) Do you have enough time to attend the trainings and serve as a volunteer intern?

The Master Gardener program is a volunteer training program with the purpose of developing community volunteers. In most areas of the state (and around the country) Master Gardeners are a vital resource for their communities.

The program is designed for anyone who has a genuine interest in horticulture, who would enjoy sharing their experience…

Fern Genus of 19 Species Named for Lady Gaga

From Duke Today

Durham, NC - Pop music megastar Lady Gaga is being honored with the name of a new genus of ferns found in Central and South America, Mexico, Arizona and Texas. A genus is a group of closely related species; in this case, 19 species of ferns will carry the name Gaga.

At one stage of its life, the new genus Gaga has somewhat fluid definitions of gender and bears a striking resemblance to one of Gaga's famous costumes. Members of the new genus also bear a distinct DNA sequence spelling GAGA.

Two of the species in the Gaga genus are new to science: Gaga germanotta from Costa Rica is named to honor the family of the artist, who was born Stefani Germanotta. And a newly discovered Mexican species is being dubbed Gaga monstraparva (literally monster-little) in honor of Gaga's fans, whom she calls “little monsters.”

"We wanted to name this genus for Lady Gaga because of her fervent defense of equality and individual expression," said study leader Kathleen…

Butterflies of the World

Bryan Reynolds of the Butterflies of the World Foundation in Oklahoma, has updated his webpage to include new photos.
Highlights include some Phaon Crescents, Great Purple Hairstreaks and a Southern Cloudywing Egg, most photographed at the Pontotoc Ridge Preserve and the Oka'Yanahli Preserve in Pontotoc and Johnston Counties respectively. "

Go to
Click on "butterflies" to see Butterflies by Family - photos and narrative.
Click on "slide show" to enjoy a lovely photo show of Bryan's pics.
Click on "links" to go to reference links, see Reynolds' choice for binoculars, books, etc.
Click on "programs" to see Bryan's workshop list and his speaking schedule.

Castor Beans - harvest the seeds this fall for next summer

At Gurney Seeds, regular green leaf castor bean seeds, Zanzibariensis, are
10 for $4.00 plus shipping - 40-cents each.
At Johnny's Seeds the green leafed variety is 50 seeds for $25. The Carmencita Bright Red seeds are aslo 50 seeds for $25.00. Dust Bowl Seed sells them
$2.49 for 20 seeds. These gorgeous tropical looking plants originated in East Africa, probably Ethopia but
they were also found in Egyptian tombs dating from 4,000 B.C.
Lots of information about these unique plants are at Wayne's Word. palomar . edu which is an online natural history textbook.
The oil was part of my growing up years - my mother and grandmother tried to disguise the horrible taste of castor oil with sugar but it really never took with me. Better the oil should be used for its ancient use - as lamp oil.
Castor beans are monoecious, each plant has male and female parts.   The female flower is the little spiny ovary that becomes the fruit or seed capsule. The bright red bits with feat…

Superbells (Millionbells) Calibrachoa Lemon Slice from Proven Winners

Superbells Lemon Slice has been amazing at the rocky edge of
my herb bed this year.

It was one of the garden writer trial plants that Proven Winners sent out at the beginning of the summer.

This sweetie pie has bloomed on the rocky edge of my herb bed
all summer through record breaking heat and drought. Even when
it was 107 and we were gone on vacation (not watering) it kept blooming.

Talk about a Proven Winner.

There are bunches of other Calibrachoa colors from Proven Winners and I have planted them whenever PW has sent them to me. But, Lemon Slice has bloomed the best, survived it all and has a permanent place in my heart.

Check out the Blackberry Punch and other colors on the PW website

Water is Gold - award winning video by Greg Harriott

Landscape Architecture Magazine posted the winning videos -
" water conservation screened in Beverly Hills, California, this week as part of the 5th annual Intelligent Use of Water Film Competition. The top prize went to Isla Urbana, a documentary film by Greg Harriott about a nonprofit in Mexico City that is working with people who have poor access to water to harvest rainwater from their rooftops. (You can watch the video above).

The audience choice award went to “The Wash,” a racy public service announcement by Carla Dauden aimed at homeowners who wash their cars in their driveways. The competition was sponsored by the Rain Bird Corporation, which provides irrigation products and services. (Watch “The Wash”

Also on Youtube is this video (in English) from the New Cities Summit in Paris, May 2012…

Make worm compost for a healthy garden

Making compost for our gardens is as simple as finding a shady place to make a pile of leaves, plant trimmings and grass clippings.
Left alone, a heap compost pile will produce a soil additive that builds plant-protective beneficial micro-organisms and encourages worms to till the soil for you.
A compost pile that is turned and watered will produce finished compost more quickly but the quality of the finished product will be about the same.
Our compost pile is surrounded with a stack of cinder blocks to hold the contents in place. Other frames can be made of discarded pallets, a wire cattle panel, or chicken wire.
The easiest method, incorporation, or composting in place, uses no pile or bin. Holes are dug in the garden and non-protein, non-fatty kitchen and food waste is buried. In a month or more, the waste breaks down and contributes to the soil, fertilizing future plantings.
Any area that is not being used to grow plants can be put into service. The hole has to be large enough to bur…

Make a bulb centerpiece for the holidays

Here's what you'll need to know to make arrangements of blooming daffodil bulbs for gifts or a holiday centerpiece. This is a wonderful activity to share with children.

Select bulbs that grow in warm climates since cold climate bulbs from Holland require chilling. In order to force bulbs from cold climates such as tulips, you'll have to pot and chill them before bringing them into the house. Amaryllis are also from a warm climate and need no chilling period.

Over the years, I've eliminated most of those bulbs from my forcing routine because warm weather daffodils are the easiest, and therefore the most reliable for me.

(If you want to know all there is to know about bulb forcing, get this incredible book, “Bulb Forcing for beginners and the seriously smitten” by Art Wolk, $24.95, AAB Book Publishing, The University of Missouri has easy to understand charts for forcing a variety of bulbs at

In the daffodil …

Spring Blooming Flower Bulb Planting Depth and Spacing

We are often told that the basic rule is to plant flower bulbs twice the diameter of the bulb. Well, except when we are told to plant them two to three times the height of the bulb.

Maybe a general rule is sufficient since most bulbs are pretty hardy. Here are the general rules -

Tulips are planted about 8 inches deep
Small bulbs such as crocus and hyacinths are planted 4 inches deep

The planting depth is measured from the bottom of the bulb. So, 4 inches deep means make the hole 4 inches deep rather than put 4 inches of soil on top of planted bulbs.

Bulbs are planted nose up and basal root plate - the flat part on the soil. If you have sticky clay, you can add a bit of drainage material under the bulbs. I've used gravel from our driveway though I've read that sand works as well.

Also, it is recommended that you dig a bed or trench to plant all the bulbs rather than using one of those bulb planters and putting them in one at a time. When we plant 100 tulips or daffodils at a …

landscaping suggestions needed

How would you rehabilitate the landscaping at this historic home?

Plant Spring Bulbs Now in Pots or Plots

Nothing says spring like a pot or plot of tulips, daffodils, crocus and hyacinths. They are in the stores now because spring blooming bulbs are planted in the fall. Plenty of sun and good drainage are all they need.
Though they have been grown in Holland since 1590, tulips came from the near east originally. Because of their formal appearance, tulips look great in rigid beds in lines of color.
Purple, yellow, red and parrot tulips can be blended together or planted in banks/stripes of color. Plant early, mid-season and late blooming varieties in separate groups so you have flowering blocks of blooms rather than blotches.
While most hybrid tulips are annuals here, the small, non-hybrid (called species), tulips may return. Look for these Species tulips: bakeri, clusiana, kaufmanniana, saxatilis, sylvestris, tarda and whitallii.

Daffodils or Narcissus can bloom early, mid-season or late. They are reliable and will multiply. The variety of daffodils grows relentlessly and now includes minia…

Pinch It to Make It Perfect

Here's a 4.5 minute video from Greenhouse Growers on how to correctly pinch plants to make them full, grow correctly, well, make them perfect!

The video was put together, edited and produced by Floricast, Purdue University, Cornell University, Kansas State University and North Carolina State University.

Click and learn!


Vermicompost making with red wriggler worms

I'll be cleaning out my worm bins soon. If you are in the Muskogee area and have some interest in  starting a worm compost bin, let me know and I'll give you some starter worms.

Here's my 2008 article about one of my compost worm projects.

Here's the Texas extension service info on compost worms

Here are some interesting sites about composting with red worms:

Red Worm Composting

Earth Worm Digest

Uncle Jim's Worm Farm

Urban Agriculture

Allied Waste Company has good basic how to info on their site and they aren't selling anything either. < ; - )

Here are their basic instructions on Start a Worm Bin
- Find or build a shallow container (about l6-l8 inches deep), wooden boxes, plastic storage containers work well. Drill drainage holes.
- Fill your worm bin with moist bedding - brown leaves, shr…

Free Butterfly Guide App released 10-3-12

117 adult butterflies and caterpillars are illustrated and described on this brand new app for iphone, ipod touch, and ipads with IOS 5.0 or later.  The application " draws on three decades of data compiled by Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis."

"The app can be used to look up butterflies by common name, scientific name, family and color. The app also allows users to enter their own notes and photos and record sightings. Whitaker hopes that the app will ultimately be able to collect users' observations and photos into a publicly accessible "citizen science" database."

The project was funded by the National Science Foundation-sponsored Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship in Rapid Environmental Change, or REACH-IGERT, at UC Davis.

From Melissa Whitaker on iTunes,,
 "The Butterfly Guide provides an interactive field guide to over 100 butterfly species in the San Francisco Bay Ar…

Best Methods for improving your soil

Fall and winter are an ideal time to shift our focus to improving the soil for next year's garden. You want to improve soil texture, friability, water retention, beneficial bacteria/insects and fertility.

Here are some possibilities -

Plant alfalfa seed now and dig in the plants early next spring. Or, purchase bales of alfalfa hay and mulch the garden 3-inches thick. Alfalfa meal and pellets are available from feed stores, too. For use in a non-manure farm setting  -

Blood meal from the slaughterhouse provides nitrogen. Alternatives for the squeamish include cottonseed meal and soybean meal from the feed stores. Bone meal is an old-fashioned slaughterhouse product that gets mixed reviews these days. Bone meal and blood meal are usually combined and added 2 pounds per 100 square feet of garden. See…

Sweet Alyssum is a mustard or Brassicaceae

Well, who knew? Or, remembered? Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) is in the same plant family as the Brassicaceae that make it to our table at mealtime, including chard, kale, Brussels sprouts, etc.

They are cold hardy in zone 9 and above which makes them an annual in most of the U.S. and indeed most of the Northern Hemisphere. Native to the Mediterranean, Turkey and Southern Europe, we usually plant seeds in pots in late early March to put out in April after last average frost.

Alyssum murale is Yellow Tuft, native to Canada and cold parts of the U.S.
Propagate by seed in the garden or indoors 4 to 6 weeks before last frost. Do not cover the seeds - they need light to germinate.
Germination temperature: 55 F to 75 F  Days to emerge: 14 The name Lobularia means "small pod" for the miniature fruits or seed pods.

Even more amusing is that Alyssum (190 species by the way) means "not madness" from when Alyssum was an herb taken to cure rabies. At one time is wa…

Save Monarch Butterflies by planting milkweed in our gardens - USDA

Trapping Weevils and Saving Monarchs USDABy Dennis O'Brien October 1, 2012

Ensuring the monarch butterfly's survival by saving its milkweed habitat could result from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) studies initially intended to improve detection of boll weevils with pheromone traps.

Charles Suh and his colleagues at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Areawide Pest Management Research Unit in College Station, Texas, have found a pheromone formula that is attractive to a major milkweed pest, the milkweed stem weevil.

The discovery stems from research originally designed to help improve pheromone lures used in Texas to monitor the boll weevil, a major pest of cotton. The lures haven't always been effective, so the researchers worked with the pheromone manufacturer to improve the pheromone lure used in the traps.

The researchers set up traps along roads in Texas to compare the standard and experimental lures for attracting boll weevils. They checked the…

Fall is for planting garlic 2012

Worldwide, 2.5 million acres of garlic are grown to meet the needs of our kitchens and natural health pharmacies. Most of that garlic is grown in Asia, specifically China. CA has the largest growing area in the U.S. It is one of the easiest fall-planted crops you can grow in a kitchen garden.
Garlic can be planted from the seeds of the flower but only under special conditions so most garlic growers just use cloves of garlic as seed. When you buy a head of garlic at the produce stand or farmer’s market, you break it apart into cloves before cooking with it. Each of those cloves has the potential to produce a head of garlic.
Garlic planted now will be harvested next June. You can tuck seed in any flower or vegetable bed or in a deep container where it will mature over the winter and next spring.
Sharon Owen at Moonshadow Herb Farm plants by the moon and will plant her garlic Oct 8. We usually plant ours between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Select seed from recommended garlic varieties to ens…