30 November 2013

Daylily Kindly Light

Daylilies or Hemerocallis come in so many heights, colors, and flower forms that only a public garden could have a significant number of them in a collection.

Even though yellow is not a flower color I aspire to have more of in our garden, this Kindly Light Daylily is one that is so lovely, it is hard to resist.

Old House Gardens catalog describes it as "decidedly different" and the first spider Daylily.

The roots are $7.50 each at http://www.oldhousegardens.com/display.aspx?cat=daylily&page=2

Daylily Diary has a gorgeous photo at http://daylilydiary.com/day_kindlylight.htm

The American Hemerocallis Society's website says it blooms mid-season and grows to 2.5 feet tall.

Click over to their site at http://www.daylilies.org to learn more about these wonderful plants.  If you click on search all, you arrive at a link with 76,000 daylilies to browse.

You will find that Daylilies can become the backbone of a flower garden because they are so easy to grow,  bloom for weeks, and return year after year without much work on the part of the gardener.

Plus they come in all colors, single, double, tall and short. Short Daylilies are 12 to 24 inches high and there are several to choose from. Tall ones are 4 to 6 feet tall. Yes, 6 feet tall. Bloomingfields Farm Daylilies in Connecticuit has them separated by height so you can design an entire bed in layers. Click over to http://www.bloomingfieldsfarm.com/short-tall.html. They also have a link for the ones to use as groundcover, at the roadside, long blooming, season of bloom, heirlooms, new introductions and Top Ten.

Another great Daylily site is Riverbend Daylily Garden at http://www.daylily.ws/ near Xenia Ohio. You will see Daylilies on their site that you've never seen before.

Add a few Daylilies to the flower gardens, you'll be glad you did.





28 November 2013

Apple Trees are the All-American Fruit

Apples have a reputation for representing harmony. Just consider how common the sayings “in apple-pie order” and “don’t upset the apple cart” have become since they were popularized in 1796. And, the expression “As American as apple pie” means that something is approved of or normal.
Most of us think of freshly picked apples eaten out of hand, made into pies, cakes and tarts, juice, apple butter and sauce. Some varieties are better for each of those uses. 
Seventh generation orchardist and apple grower, Tom Burford, has spent his life among apples and apple trees in VA, where apples have been cultivated since the 1700s.
Tom Burford at Albermarle
In his new book, “Apples of North America” Burford says, “For 50 years I painfully watched the disappearance of the apple culture and the emergence of so-called beautiful apples, a source of malnourishment that even posed a consumption risk from chemical contamination.”
In response to the reduction of apple varieties available, the North American Fruit Explorers started teaching classes about lesser-known apple varieties and grafting. In the process they searched for and restored flavorful apples to gardens and markets.
OK State University Fact Sheet HLA 6210 (http://bit.ly/1iEEZ7d) recommends only the varieties Burford considers flavorless including Gala, Fuji, Red and Golden Delicious.

From page 17 through page 209 of “Apples of North America”, almost 200 apple varieties are illustrated and described in detail, beginning with American Beauty and ending with York. One variety per page, the fruit’s original and other names are listed so you can shop for the trees or fruit. Each one’s history, tree and fruit description, disease resistance, pest vulnerability, season of ripening, uses and storage quality is provided.
Part two of the book is an orchard primer with tips for location, layout, planting site preparation, variety selection, rootstock, nursery stock, and how to taste an apple. The next section on planting and cultural management will give you the tips you need to succeed with pruning, watering, feeding, care for mature trees, rejuvenating neglected trees, diseases and pests.
He suggests that you plant summer-fruiting varieties such as Early Harvest and Pristine for applesauce. If your goal is winter storage plant winter-ripening varieties. If you are concerned about frost, plant late-blooming varieties that can be planted at the bottom of a hill where cold accumulates.
One popular apple in our area is Arkansas Black which is listed as having excellent storage life, and as being good for dessert, pie, frying, apple butter and cider. It is susceptible to apple scab and fireblight but less susceptible to codling moth damage. It is pollinated with Ben Davis, Winter Banana, Yates, Grimes Golden, Red or Golden Delicious and crabapples.
Cannon Pearmain trees were planted at Tomas Jefferson’s summer home. Its other names include Alpain, Anderson, and Cannon. Pearmain is resistant to major diseases and the fruit stores well.
Goldrush was developed at Purdue University. The fruit ripens in the fall, is very resistant to apple scab and stores well.
One of our 2013 apple trees
Hoople’s Antique Gold is a russet apple that mutated from a Golden Delicious apple. It has intense flavor, resists diseases, ripens in the fall, and stores well.
To control tree size and to understand the care your apple trees will require, purchase the correct rootstock.

For example Malling 27 and 9 are susceptible to fireblight and suckering. Geneva 30 resists fireblight and collar rot but it will snap in high winds unless staked. Rootstock Malling-Merton 111 is reliable and resistant to apple aphids.
Burford ‘s favorite apple is the last one he ate. Reading his “Apples of North America: 192 Exceptional Varieties for Gardeners, Growers, and Cooks” will make you want to plant trees. Available from Timber Press at www.timberpress.com.

 




26 November 2013

Buying and preserving your Christmas tree


XMas tree farms in OK
Thanksgiving weekend is a popular time to buy and put up a Christmas tree while the family is together. Scotch Pine and Virginia Pine are two of the most popular varieties for our area.

The Oklahoma Christmas Tree Association has a handy map of Christmas tree farms in the state. 

Here are links for surrounding states that have associations
Arkansas www.arktreegrowers.com
Illinois www.ilchristmastrees.com
Indiana www.indianachristmastree.com
Iowa www.iowachristmastrees.com
Kentucky www.kychristmastrees.com
Louisiana www.southernchristmastrees.org
Mississippi www.southernchristmastrees.org
Tennessee www.tennesseechristmastrees.org
Texas www.texaschristmastrees.com

Tips from the experts Selection of a Fresh Tree
The basic rule of thumb when purchasing a Christmas tree is to buy a fresh tree and keep it fresh.
 
There are two simple tests for freshness. First, check the condition of the needles. If bent gently, the needle from a fresh tree should bend rather than break. This test is not necessary at "Choose & Cut" Farms. The second test for freshness is to lift the tree a few inches off the ground and then drop it on the stump end. If outside green needles fall off in abundance, the tree may not be fresh. Pine trees shed the inner needles. This is a normal process and not the sign of an old and dry tree. At "Choose & Cut" Farms the dry brown needles will be shaken out when your tree is cut.
Care of a Fresh Tree
If you purchase your tree from a "Choose & Cut" Farm, place your tree in a bucket of water or your tree stand when you arrive home.
 
If you purchase your tree from a retail lot or allow the cut end to dry, simply make a fresh, straight cut across the trunk about an inch up from the original cut, and immediately place in a bucket of water or your tree stand. This opens the tree stem so it can take up water.
 
Don’t ever let the container dry out or a seal will form and a new cut will be necessary. Fresh trees are thirsty. They may drink from one pint to a gallon or more of water per day. so please water daily.
 
A few decisions should be made before going out to buy a Christmas tree. Decide where you are going to place the tree in the home. Be sure to choose a location away from heat sources, such as a fireplace or radiator. Also, decide on the size (height and width) of the tree you want.  Whether you cut it yourself or purchase from a lot, keep the tree well-watered and be safe with children, pets, etc.



 

23 November 2013

Soil quality is more important than you think

Here's a link to a must read from The Dirt - http://dirt.asla.org/2013/11/16/what-makes-soils-healthy/

Here are a few quotes to entice you to click over -

“Growing plants is the goal,” said James Urban, FASLA, Urban Trees + Soils, at the 2013 ASLA Annual Meeting in Boston. To grow healthy plants, one needs healthy soils, and landscape architects who understand soils and know how to call a soil scientist. In a wide-ranging talk, Urban and his co-presenter, soil scientist Norm Hummel, discussed the qualities and properties of healthy soils and how landscape architects can specify new dirt the right way, particularly in challenging damaged urban landscapes.
...

"Urban said there are eight critical properties of soils, which soil biologists can test to determine if soils meet specifications. They include structure, texture, density, nutrients, PH, organic matter, and density, which are all “inter-connected.”

More often than not, Urban said trees and plants don’t do well because of the physical properties of soils rather than the chemical. If something goes wrong — a tree is stressed, shows early fall color, or even dies — landscape architects may be planting the wrong trees and plants for the soil types.

Some details on soil’s physical properties: The structure of soils has to do with how well-glued together the soil particles are. Particles are attracted to other particles — and organic matter glues them together. Clay soil has a strong structure due to the stickiness of the soil. Silt soil has a weaker structure, while sand has no structure at all. Sandy soils are useful in areas that need to drain.
Urban added that man-made mixed soils are very different from natural soils. Mixed soils include soils that have been broken apart and put back together.

Soils are also made up of spaces or voids where water can flow. Ideal forest soils have a void space of about 50 percent, while urban compacted soils are around 20-30 percent. With the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), Urban said more landscape architects will need to measure soil structure.
Soil texture is also important to examine. Clay, silt, and sand all have different surface areas given the unique sizes of the particles. Fine sand is .24mm, while silt is 2.4mm, and clay, nearly 24mm. Just within the family of sand, there are huge differences as well, with fine sand having properties distinct from coarse grains."

....

But compost is most often added to soils to boost the amount of organic matter. This is often used with disturbed urban soils that have suffered from erosion and compaction. Compost types include yard waste (grass, wood chips), bio-solids (treated municipal sewage), animal manure, and mixed waste. Some regional compost specialties include pine bark and rice hulls. Hummel added that soils have a “disease suppressive capacity.” Still, he cautioned against the practice of using 90 percent compost and 10 percent soil, saying that a “tree planted in that will simply fall over or die.”

Now, go over and read the rest!

21 November 2013

Dog Tooth Violet is Erythronium



http://www.muskogeephoenix.com/features/x296453124/Dogtooth-violets-thrive-in-shade
 
If you have shade, you'll love Dogtooth violets.
Erythroniums have several vivid names including Fawn Lily, Trout Lily, Tooth Violet and Adder’s Tongue. There are 20 species of these sweet, spring-flowering bulbs.  They form clumps that grow to a maximum height of 4-8 inches.

The bulbs look like a 2-inch long tooth (dogtooth) and the stems that shoot up in the spring hold pendants of flowers. Flower colors include lavender, pink, yellow and cream.

Native to forests, separate species are identified as growing east and west of the Rocky Mountains. East of the Rockies, we can grow White Fawn Lily (White Trout Lily); Yellow Dogtooth Violet (Yellow Adder’s Tongue); Gray Dwarf Trout Lily; Yellow Trout Lily; and Dimpled Trout Lily.

The Trout Lily name comes from the brown spots on the leaves, said to resemble brook trout spots. 

 Trout Lily Root and Leaf from Hiker's Notebook
 

Erythroniums that grow west of the Rockies include: Avalanche, Glacier, Klamath, Sierra and Tuolumne.

Like their cousins the tulips and hyacinths, Erythroniums bloom in the spring and are dormant underground in the summer. Most commonly found in woods and mountain meadows, they prefer compost-rich, well-drained soil.

Erythronium americanum is found across the eastern U.S. and west to MO, and OK. Prairie dogtooth violet, E. mesochoreum, also called white dogtooth violet, is found in dry places and glades from TX to NE. 

Under favorable conditions, Erythroniums will create dense colonies, spreading themselves by bulb, stolons, and seed.

The seeds may germinate on the ground after they fall but not for several months, so to multiply them in your garden, plan to harvest and plant them yourself.  Every two years, dig and divide the bulb clusters and relocate them around the garden under trees or shrubs.

Dogtooth bulbs Scottish Rock Garden Club
 

Steve Vinisky, owner of Cherry Creek Daffodils (www.cherrycreekdaffodils.com) said that Erythronium bulbs have a tendency to move down in the soil.

Vinisky said, “In the old days, the British dug an 8-inch deep hole measuring 12 by 12 inches and put a roof slate on the bottom of the hole where they planted the bulbs. They put 6-inches of amended soil on top of the slate, put the bulbs in and filled the hole with soil. The roofing slate prevented the bulbs from moving too far down to bloom.”

Erythroniums do better in the ground than in containers. Vinisky said they will bloom, but that pot planted bulbs get too much heat and not enough drainage or moisture.

“The best place to plant them,” Vinisky said, “is in full shade or where they will get a few hours of eastern sun. The main problem gardeners have with them is that slugs love to eat them.”

Tucking them into a dry part of a Hosta bed can work though Erythroniums prefer less moisture than Hostas. Moist soil in the spring is critical. If there is no rain, water an inch a week during their growing season. Dry soil in the summer and fall is best.

After they bloom, leave the foliage (leaves and stems) in place rather than cutting them off. The leaves absorb sunlight, making food to strengthen the bulbs for next year’s flowers

Plant the bulbs pointy side up, 5-inches deep in well-worked soil. Fertilize them in late winter with one-quarter of the strength recommended.

To be successful with a fall planting of Erythronium bulbs, they should be as fresh and well-cared for as possible. Vinisky said that the large bulb houses purchase their bulbs from Holland and while that works well for tulips, Erythronium and other tiny ephemeral bulbs can dry out too much before they are shipped.

With fingers crosses, I planted Erythronium revolution White Beauty x hybrid Pioneer Strain.

Vinisky reassured me, saying, “If you can meet all of their requirements, they are easy to grow”.

 

18 November 2013

Horticulture Careers Website - for careers in England, Wales, Scotland

Although the jobs themselves are identified as being in England, Wales and Scotland, the
Grow Careers website has plenty of information about hort careers for those who are interested in the field.

The career dropdown menu starts with arborist and ... keep scrolling ... ends with soil scientist.

Click on Plant Science as an area of interest and you'll be completely informed about that career.

Such as:
 
Make a difference in developing new food crops and technologies which will help feed an ever-growing global population and aid their well-being. Help find urgently needed solutions to the environmental challenges we face. New pests and diseases are appearing all the time and we need scientists to help us fight them.
.. . . . .
There are many science careers either within horticulture or interacting with horticulture and the topics below attempt to give a general flavour.  However there are many more; for example engineers designing machinery or greenhouses and mathematicians studying plant populations, Plant Health Inspectors and Lecturers.
 . . . .

Horticultural Scientist / Crop Physiologist / Taxonomist

What they do: Horticultural scientists and crop physiologists study all forms of plant life in the laboratory, in the field and in the natural environment.
. . .
Their work could include identifying, classifying, recording and monitoring plant species, understanding their growth and how to improve it or studying the effects of the environment on plant life.
Career path: For most jobs you will need a degree. Relevant subjects include botany, horticulture, plant biology, plant science, environmental science and ecology.
Where they work: You could find work as a horticultural scientist in areas such as:
•    government research institutes
•    universities
•    conservation organisations including botanical gardens and collections
•    food producing companies
•    retail companies (fresh produce)
•    food processing & marketing companies
•    consultancy & supply companies
More info: Botanical Society of the British Isles, Careers Advice,  SCI Horticultural Group, The Natural History Museum, HORTAX, the Horticultural Taxonomy Group, Society of Biology
 You get the idea - great resource for selecting or changing careers.

17 November 2013

Taiwan Encyclopedia of Life

Focus Taiwan has announced an online reference of life in their world.
 Here's the article

"All it takes is a click to learn about Taiwan's smallest owl or to listen to the sound of endemic green tree frogs, thanks to a new encyclopedic database that profiles almost 13,000 species of animals, plants and other life forms in Taiwan.

The Chinese-language-only "Taiwan Encyclopedia of Life," officially unveiled Tuesday, is part of a global project that seeks to provide one-page profiles of all of the 1.9 million known living species on Earth, including fungi, protists and bacteria.
Work on creating the database started in 2011, when Academia Sinica, Taiwan's top research institute, and the Forestry Bureau under the Council of Agriculture began collaborating.

The following year, Academia Sinica signed an agreement with the global Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) Secretariat to become its 16th partner. The Chinese-language encyclopedia was set up in October this year.

Over 100 schools, research institutes and experts were involved in writing and reviewing the information on the Taiwanese encyclopedia, which currently profiles fish, insects, birds, mammals, spiders, amphibians, reptiles, corals and other life forms, according to the Forestry Bureau.

The encyclopedia includes images, audio and video clips, descriptions and book references and can be accessed at: http://eol.taibif.tw/

The global EOL website, unveiled in 2008, currently offers information on 1.35 million species and boasts a collection of close to 2 million images."

And, here's a link to the Taiwan Encyclopedia of Life. Most Americans will be unable to read it but it is fun to browse.

16 November 2013

Dahlberg Daisy, thymophylla tenuiloba, is Golden Fleece, Tiny Tim, etc.

This little member of the Asteraceae family is in the Genus Thymophylla and the species is named tenuiloba. It is also called Bristle leaf, Pricklyleaf, Dogweed, Fe, Dyssodia tenuiloba, Dyssodia tenuiloba var. tenuiloba and Thymophylla tenuiloba var. tenuiloba.  



A friend in Phoenix harvested seeds from his plants and sent some so of course I planted them in the shed in a celltray under lights, and they are popping up. 

Dahlberg Daisies popping up with seed attached

The leaves release a  lemony scent when crushed.
Hardy in zones 4 to 11, the stems only reach 6 to 11 inches and a foot at maximum height. But they are covered with 1-inch, scented, yellow flowers in July and August. Usually Dahlberg Daisies are grown as a groundcover, planted between pavers and in rock gardens. The leaves are fern-like.
 Dahlberg Daisy's North and Central American relatives include a few annuals, perennials and biennials that want lots of sun and average, well-drained ground, needing very little water. Too much water will cause root rot.

Outsidepride.com seeds$5 for 5,000
Rob's Plants calls them a must have. They can be cute in hanging baskets and window boxes.  

Iowa State has these germination tips 

1. Fill a seed starter tray with soilless potting mix to the brim by hand. Do not pack the soilless mix, it should be light and fluffy. Use a seed starter tray that has 2-inch-deep individual cells.

2. Place three Dahlberg daisy seeds in the center of each individual cell, picking them up with tweezers and setting them directly on top of the soilless mix. Dahlberg daisy seeds are tiny, so you can sow them on top of the soil.

 3. Water each planted cell with a spray bottle set to a fine mist, until the soil is evenly moist, but not saturated. Water directly after planting and at least once a day after that. Do not let the soil dry out during the germination process.

 4. Set the planted starter tray in a spot with daytime air temperatures of 75 to 80 F and eight hours of bright, direct sun per day, such as a south-facing window, directly after the first watering. Nighttime temperatures should not fall below 65 F. The seeds should sprout in around 14 days.

OutsidePride says, "Dahlberg Daisy Golden Fleece is normally treated as an annual, but sometimes survives for a second or third season in frost free areas. Start the Dahlberg Daisy seeds indoors 8 - 10 weeks before the end of frost season. Sow the ground cover seeds on the soil surface and press them in. Keep the seeds moist until germination occurs. Transplant the Dahlbery Daisy plants outdoors once frost season is over. Dahlberg Daisy Thymophylla is used as a spring and summer ground cover plant for masses of color. It is good where a low edging is needed, providing color for several months. Dahlberg Daisy Golden Fleece also makes an excellent showing in a porch planter or a hanging basket. It blooms for several months, but flowers best in late summer when temperatures begin to cool a bit. Dahlberg Daisies are quite tolerant of dry conditions and suffer during periods of high rainfall and humidity."

In North Dakota, they plan up to 16-weeks between seed-starting and planting out. If that's accurate for our area, I'm actually on time with something for a change!
 

14 November 2013

Raise Bees Eat Honey!

Beekeeping is a popular hobby and, if you enjoy using honey on your toast and in your tea, you might want to have a few hives in the back yard. 

In 2012 U.S. Apiculture, or beekeeping, produced 147 million pounds of honey but that was less than in previous years and more beekeepers are needed. Honey has been a dietary staple for a long time. In Spain, cave drawings dating to 6,000 B.C. show people climbing cliffs to reach honey hives.
 
  Local beekeepers Ruth and Lonnie O’Dell started their beekeeping hobby in 1971 and this year their 10 hives produced around 120-pounds per hive.

“I was teaching carpentry at Indian Capital Technology Center when I brought a swarm of bees home in a box,” said Lonnie. “Anyone with a garden should have a hive to pollinate their vegetables and fruit.”
The sweet rewards of beekeeping require an investment of time and money but there are several reasons the O’Dells have enjoyed it for so many years.
Ruth said, “Everyone who gets into it is taken by watching the bees. They are mesmerizing.”

The O’Dells said that the basic investment in a hive and a swarm of bees costs around $250 and that a beekeeper could recoup almost all of that money the first year. An extractor costs another $300 for a hand operated one and up to $900 for an electric model.

They recommend two suppliers: Dadant (www.dadant.com) and Walter T. Kelley (www.kelleybees.com). Both companies have information on how to get started. Kelley’s site defines a “newbee” as someone who has had bees for up to 18-months and has survived a second winter. A hobbyist is one who has survived two winters and has up to 50 hives.

Lonnie and Ruth would like to share their experience and enthusiasm they so they are starting a Muskogee club for anyone who has bees or is interested in becoming a beekeeper.  If you would like to contact them call 918-687-4572 or email odell59@suddenlink.com. 

The health and allergy-prevention benefits of eating local honey are well-established. But Lonnie said he thinks that being stung by bees is the reason he has never had any arthritis. Pure local honey is the most effective.

“The honey we sell is raw and strained two or three times,” said Ruth. “Inexpensive honey sold in discount stores is from India and China. Some is diluted with corn syrup. We sell out every year.”

  During the summer, beekeepers feed their bees sugar water as well as growing sweet clover to ensure adequate supplies of nectar. In winter, bees stay around the hives eating leftover honey.

White and yellow sweet clover Melilotus Alba and Melilotus officinalis are often grown to improve the soil but they are also a great benefit to honey bees.

“Honey bees go to whatever is sweetest,” said Lonnie. “If there is sweet clover nearby, they will ignore the fruit and vegetable blossoms because the clover is sweeter. You could plant clover between now and February to get the plants established but that clover will not flower until 2015.”

Yellow clover seed is available (5-pounds $20) from Outside Pride (www.outsidepride.com). Purdue University says yellow sweet clover is more drought tolerant and better adapted to the Plains.
The O’Dells said that having a fence helps keep the bees out of the neighbor’s yard because with a fence in place, the bees will fly up before they fly out. In the summer there are 80,000 bees in each hive.
  “At this time of year, the 20,000 bees in each hive are making cleansing flights, bringing water back to the hives,” said Lonnie.

13 November 2013

Yellow Fever - free book about daffodils by David Willis

David Willis has written a seminal book about daffodils and has made it available free online.
Thanks to Daffnet for letting us know.

Free pdf download of the book is at this link
http://dafflibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/Yellow-Fever.pdf

And, it has over 400 pages of information about our favorite bulbs.

Willis is amazing!

11 November 2013

Waxed Amaryllis bulb - a no-water selection

Last year at FloraHolland Trade Fair 2012 in Aalsmeer (Netherlands) grower Vreugdenhil Bulbs and Plants from ’s-Gravenzande already showed a new series of waxed amaryllis bulbs.


And, the bulb flowers for up to 6-weeks. Here's a link to the company on-site catalog section where they are featured http://www.amaryllis.nl/pages/catalogus_index.php?categorie_id=5
 
At the this week held 2013 fall edition of FloraHolland Trade Fair the company also showed Velvet Touchz and Wrapz amaryllis’, trade names that speak for themselves.
 
The original pay-off ‘no water needed’ is now upgraded. The umbrella brand for Waxz, Velvet Touchz and Wrapz will be in the future No Water Flowers.
 
Consciously the original plant name is set aside, as amaryllis is associated with the fall and winter seasons. No Water Flowers will be sold for a much longer period.

The Waxz and Velvet Touchz No Water Flowers could also be seen at the official New Varieties and Concepts showcase of the 2013 fall edition of FloraHolland Trade Fair.

09 November 2013

Sunchokes, Jerusalem Artichokes are Helianthus tuberosus

Sunchokes, also called Jerusalem artichoke, sunroot, and earth apple, are sunflowers with an edible tuber. There are about 80 species of Helianthus that include annuals, perennials, plants for dry woodlands and prairies, as well as plants for swamps.
 
Sunchoke native range
Helianthus tuberosus is native to North America.
 Vegetarians in Paradise says, "The Jerusalem artichoke is a tuber that grows underground like the potato but is harder to harvest because the tubers cling to the roots and become entwined. Cultivated varieties of sunchokes grow in clumps close to the main root or rhizome while wild ones grow at the end of root.
Like their family members of sunflowers, they can grow from 3 to 12 feet high with large leaves and flowers that are 1 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter.
They grow well in almost all soil with the exception of very heavy clay soil, but do best in alkaline soil.
 And, they can become invasive.
Jerusalem artichoke tuber
 
Sunchokes are easy to grow from tubers that weigh about 2 oz. and have 2 or 3 sprouts emerging. Plant them deep, about 3 to 4 inches underground. They do best when planted in little hills for better water retention and to make harvesting easier. Plant them in the spring through early summer, and harvest them fall through early winter. Be aware that any tubers left in the ground that were not harvested will reseed themselves. Many farmers are reluctant to go into heavy production of the sunchokes because of their ability to take over and become a serious weed problem."

They spread by rhizomes and have rough, hairy toothed leaves that grow up to a foot long. The flowers that bloom in the fall are deep yellow daisy-like. Sunchokes are cold hardy in zones 7 to 9 and heat tolerant in heat zones 9 to 7.
 
  Our plant friend Russell Studebaker gave me a tuber and instructions to plant it 3-inches deep. The logical place for it was at the end of the garlic bed.
 
The instructions above and elsewhere say to plant them in the spring and harvest them in the fall but I only got my hands on it last week so it is being planted now.
 
 
According to NC State U. there are a few varieties to consider if you want to plant them.

Purdue U. gives the historical background, "Several North American Indian tribes used Jerusalem artichoke as food prior to the arrival of European settlers. The explorer Champlain took Jerusalem artichokes from North America to France in 1605. By the mid 1600s it was widely used as a human food and livestock feed there."
 
"The artichoke became a staple food for North American pilgrims and was thought of as a new feed in a "new Jerusalem." A second theory is that the word Jerusalem is a twisting of the Italian word for sunflower-girasol. One additional explanation involves a 17th century gardener named Petrus Hondins of Ter-Heusen, Holland who was known to distribute his artichoke apples throughout Europe. Ter-Heusen was modified to Jerusalem in the United States. In recent years the fresh tubers have been widely marketed in the U.S., but in quite limited quantities."
Sunchoke planted at the south end of the garlic bed
 
 Of course, in France, Jerusalem artichokes are used to make alcoholic beverages - they are so chic.
 
IL Wildflowers page says this sunflower grows 9-feet tall!

Arrows point to petiole or leaf stem
 "A better name for this sunflower would be 'Indian Potato' because the native people of North America cultivated and ate the edible tubers, which are produced in substantial quantities. These tubers have fewer calories per gram than the familiar 'Irish Potato' (a South American plant), and are better for diabetics because the carbohydrates and sugars can be assimilated by the digestive tract without insulin. However, the tubers can produce flatulence in some people. This sunflower can be reliably distinguished from other sunflowers by the partially winged petioles, which are ½" or longer on the larger leaves.

With the exception of Helianthus annuus (Annual Sunflower), the leaves of Jerusalem Artichoke are wider than other prairie sunflowers in Illinois. It also has stems that are covered with bristly white hairs, unlike Helianthus grosseserratus (Sawtooth Sunflower), which has smooth stems. The green bracts at the base of each flowerhead are usually wider than those of other sunflower species, which typically have linear-lanceolate bracts."

Winged petiole or leaf stem
  So, now we have one and in a year we will hopefully have a few to harvest and try on the table. 
 
 

07 November 2013

Herb Spiral - How-to build one for your home and what to plant


Raised beds can be all sizes and shapes, including circles, rectangles, squares and half-moons. While visiting Germany last month we saw our first Herb Spiral, a semi-circular raised bed where a wide variety of herbs can be grown in a small space.












Our cousin Inge Bonfert said she built the one at her new apartment six months before moving to Morlenbach Germany. Hers holds over a dozen herbs in a 6-foot raised and sloping bed.
“After I located the apartment where I wanted to move, I told the landlady what I wanted to do and she not only agreed that I could build it, her family helped with the construction,” said Bonfert.


Herb spirals are built to resemble a snail shell, with each spiral moving downward, supporting plants that require more and more moisture. At the bottom a small pond is placed where water-loving herbs can thrive.  

The growing environment at the top is constructed to have drainage for plants such as rosemary, thyme and lavender. In and around the pond, watercress and Water Mint thrive.

The spiral bed can be held together with a structure of rock, brick, or wire. The heat of the sun is absorbed by the outer rocks or bricks and gravel is used for drainage in the upper portion.

Bonfert said she wanted to build the herb spiral because she uses quite a lot of fresh herbs in the kitchen every day.
“Also, it is the smallest unit of permaculture possible, making it an ideal, attractive, addition to small garden spaces,” Bonfert said.
The whole idea behind permaculture is to find a sunny spot for your mini-garden close to the kitchen so you can leave it in the same place for years.

Measure the size you want your finished garden to be. In the middle of the planned space, put a stake with a string attached and mark the finished size with stakes, flour or garden hose. The finished garden does not have to be perfectly round but the pond will ideally face some shade to keep it cooler in the summer.  
Over the area of the planned bed, lay down newspaper or old cardboard (with any tape or plastic stripped off) to act as a building site and weed barrier.
Use rocks to lay out the foundation of the spiral. The outer edge is only one rock deep and you will need to stack several rocks to make the highest point. As the wall grows taller, fill in with gravel and/or sand to add drainage and to hold the structure in place. The compost and soil will go on top, creating a raised bed. Your spiral can go clockwise or counter-clockwise, and can be as tall or compact as you want it to be.
At the end of the spiral where the small pond goes, cap the soil with flat rocks that frogs could use to gain access to the pond.
When construction is complete and the soil is in place, water the entire bed and allow it to settle. Add more soil where it is needed and plant the herbs or seeds.
Bonfert said, “The place I went to buy the stones gave them to me and the sand I needed to mix with the soil was from a local construction site. My only purchase was potting soil and plants.”

There are several methods and materials that can be used to build spiral herb beds.
Internet resources
Well-illustrated rock wall Herb Spiral - http://bit.ly/17FOIU8
Helpful video of process, starting with compost and cardboard on the bottom - http://bit.ly/16SOoF
Rock – double -spiral design - http://bit.ly/az4IIE

Basic rock construction - http://bit.ly/aMhTw
Wire and rock method - http://bit.ly/MC0imK

05 November 2013

Field Guide to Texas Insects - online reference

Texas A & M AgriLife Extension has a handy online insect reference for your browsing, research and what-is-that disputes.

Check it out at https://insects.tamu.edu/fieldguide/

Then, at http://vegipm.tamu.edu/imageindex.html, you can click on a photo and get information.
 "High resolution color photographs of insects common to the vegetable garden have been grouped into clusters to aid in identification. Click on the insect group to go to a higher magnification view of the photo. When you find the insect you wish to identify, click on its photo and you will receive a page of detailed information that describes the insect and how it damages plants. At the bottom of the detail page, you may search the vegIPM database for cultural, biological and chemical controls for the pest."

And, what the insects eat, their identity and what they look like in life stages is at
http://vegipm.tamu.edu/INDEXBYVEGETABLE.HTML

Very handy if you grow fruit and vegetables.

03 November 2013

Growing vegetables in zone 7

November in our vegetable garden has plantings that are the result of much earlier activity.

If the weather is lovely like it is this year, we continue to have snacks from our little growing space.

This week we are eating beans, peppers, arugula, radishes and broccoli raab. The snow peas are over a foot tall but do not have flowers yet.
Snow peas in November
Calendula

 
Bean flower
Unlike those enviable, energetic souls who enjoy extending the gardening season into a 12-month cycle, we do not  put up plastic row covers or try to grow in greenhouses. By the time the hard freezes arrive, we are content to eat what we have preserved, shop in stores, and give ourselves a break.

The calendula planted around and inside the vegetable garden to attract pollinators is working double time as most of our flying friends are finding shelter under leaf piles every night now that it's in the 30s after dark.

Fall beans
The beets are about 3-inches tall, the Red Russian kale is only 2-inches high so far. The other many seed types I've put in the ground are just starting to peek through during these sunny days.


Arugula


Most years, I just keep planting with the thought that sunny, warm fall days will never end. Some years they stick around until January and like most gardeners, each year I hope this will be one of those .

In the meantime, we planted new fruit trees, a new shade tree, hundreds of daffodil bulbs and have been generally enjoying the time outside. Long may it last!