30 January 2014

New books for vegetable gardners from Tammi Hartung and Ira Wallace

Planning for spring’s vegetable garden usually includes looking at a few books or online references to refresh and increase our knowledge. There are two new ones to consider adding to your bookshelf. Both authors are women who not only garden but also invest time in observing the natural rhythms of plants and animals.

Tammi and Chris Hartung
  Colorado organic gardener and medical herbalist Tammi Hartung wrote, “The Wildlife-Friendly Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Food in Harmony with Nature.” Published by Storey Publishing, the 144-page softcover book helps gardeners deal with the challenges of bugs and animals that seem determined to eat more of the garden than the gardener gest to enjoy.

Rabbits, snails, deer, moles, birds and beetles all want their share of our produce and Hartung’s point of view includes all these creatures in her wildlife-friendly plan. She observes them from various locations in the garden as well as from motion activated cameras. Her idea is to get to know wildlife in our gardens and enlist their help rather than killing them or even engaging in battles with them.

Habitat for birds and beneficial insects are the backbone of the natural garden. Hartung’s suggestions and reminders include: Build the soil rather than feeding plants; convert grass into growing space without digging (add a thick layer of cardboard or newspaper and plant on top of it); and, welcome wildlife.

The recipe she provides for compost activator tea contains nettles, comfrey leaves, kelp or seaweed and alfalfa rabbit pellets. Add water, steep and pour onto the compost pile.

Her observations about companion planting include: catnip attracts ladybugs that eat aphids and whiteflies. Chamomile, dill and fennel attract parasitic wasps that control caterpillars. Horseradish repels potato bugs. Garlic repels aphids, tree borers, snails, flea beetles and squash bugs. Mint attracts lacewings and lady bugs as well as repels flea beetles, cabbage flies and mosquitoes.

Beautifully illustrated, easy to read and loaded with useful tips, “The Wildlife Friendly Vegetable Gardener” is a helpful resource for anyone getting started with sustainable practices.

Ira Wallace
 Ira Wallace, author of “Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast”, is on the board of the Organic Seed Alliance and is the owner of the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (www.southernexposure.com). The focus of the book includes Delaware to OK and all the states south.

All the familiar practices are covered: Feed the soil with organic fertilizers, conserve water, monitor soil pH, start plants from seed, and grow your own transplants. One point Wallace makes is that healthy soil has plenty of organisms and grows plants that can withstand some insect damage. Chemical fertilizers kill beneficial microbes on contact, making plants weaker.

Phenology, the study of recurring patterns in plants, predicts the ideal planting time based on observation. Wallace provided a useful chart of natural gardening signals. Her tips: when dandelions bloom plant beets and carrots; when daffodils bloom plant potatoes; when forsythia blooms plant peas; when redbuds bloom the flea beetles arrive, etc. The book’s focus is zones 6 to 9; we are zone 7.

In the Garden Planning section, Wallace outlines easy to grow, slightly more challenging and just plain challenging crops for home gardens. The midsection of the book, “Get Planting”, is a month-by-month to-do list. You will learn about starting plants from seed under lights as well as how to start the same plants early outside by using protective covered tunnels.

The last section is a directory of edibles and a chart of what to plant when. There is a list of resources from seed catalogs to tools and soil tests at the back.

It was published by Timber Press (www.timberpress.com) and the list price is $20. To learn more about phenology visit The National Phenology Network at www.usanpn.org.






29 January 2014

American Daffodil Society - new webpage

The American Daffodil Society has a newly designed webpage that is much easier to navigate, faster to load, plenty of drop down menu items and is well worth a look if even love daffodils half as much as I do! Click over to http://daffodilusa.org/

Join us at the 2014 American Daffodil Society National Daffodil Convention in Little Rock, Arkansas, March 27 – 30, for Daffodils in the Natural State. Enjoy a spectacular daffodil show, educational symposiums, and garden tours.

28 January 2014

Inch by Inch, Row by Row, Gonna Make this Garden Grow, Gonna Mulch It Deep and Low

 Pete Seeger May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014 singing the Garden Song. 
Words and music by Dave Mellett

Lyrics to Garden Song
Inch by inch, row by row,
Gonna make this garden grow.
Gonna mulch it deep and low,
Gonna make it fertile ground.
Inch by inch, row by row,
Please bless these seeds I sow.
Please keep them safe below
'Til the rain comes tumbling down.

Pullin' weeds and pickin' stones,
We are made of dreams and bones
Need spot to call my own
Cause the time is close at hand.
Grain for grain, sun and rain
I'll find my way in nature's chain
Tune my body and my brain
To the music of the land.


Plant your rows straight and long,
Season them with a prayer and song
Mother earth will keep you strong
If you give her love and care.
Old crow watching from a tree
Has his hungry eyes on me
In my garden I'm as free
As that feathered thief up there.


Inch by inch, row by row,
Gonna make this garden grow.
Gonna mulch it deep and low,
Gonna make it fertile ground.
Inch by inch, row by row,
Please bless these seeds I sow.
Please keep them safe below
'Til the rain comes tumbling down.

Pullin' weeds and pickin' stones,
We are made of dreams and bones
Need spot to call my own
Cause the time is close at hand.
Grain for grain, sun and rain
I'll find my way in nature's chain
Tune my body and my brain
To the music of the land.


Plant your rows straight and long,
Season them with a prayer and song
Mother earth will keep you strong
If you give her love and care.
Old crow watching from a tree
Has his hungry eyes on me
In my garden I'm as free
As that feathered thief up there.


[ These are Garden Song Lyrics on http://www.lyricsmania.com/ ]

26 January 2014

Keep Winter Sowing

There is still plenty of time to sow seeds outdoors, even in this weather in January. You know you can plant perennial seeds all winter - shrubs and trees, both woody and herbaceous (trunks and twigs all winter or die back to the ground in winter).

Here's my Jan 2014 column about how I do it.

And this one from Jan 2012 has more suggestions of seeds I started that year outside in the cold.
Collected seeds for winter sowing
Wow! Look at this one from Garden Tenders dot com with a fancy vent!

So far this winter I have half a dozen containers and three flats out there freezing their little seeds shells off. It's been too busy around here to do more but I have big plans for February.

There are dozens of plants that are considered single-year or annual plants that would work.

Green Roof Growers has a post about their success, with links for Chicago gardeners.

In fact, WinterSown dot org has handy lists of what you can plant outdoors -

Here is their Hardy Annual list and their Vegetable and Kitchen Herb list
for winter sowing - some are surprises for me!

Hardy Annuals Suggested for Winter Sowing

(tender annuals are recommended for sowing a few weeks 
before your winter season ends)

Abronia umbellata (sand-verbena) 
Adonis aestivalis (pheasant's eye) 
Ageratum houstonianum (floss flower) 
Agrostemma githago (corn cockle) 
Alonsoa acutifolia (maskflower) 
Amaranthus caudatus (love-lies-bleeding) 
Amberboa moschata (sweet sultan) 
Anagallis indica (blue pimpernel) 
Anchusa (bugloss) 
Alyssum maritimum (sweet alyssum) 
Antirrhinum majus (snapdragons) 
Argemone mexicana (prickly poppy) 
Asperula azurea (woodruff) 
Brachycome iberidifolia (swan river daisy) 
Browallia demissa (bush violet) 
Bupleurum rotundifolium (ox-eye daisy) 
Calandrinia grandiflora (red-maids) 
Calendula (pot marigold) 
Callistephus (China aster) 
Campanula (annual Canterbury bells) 
Celosia (cockscomb) 
Centaurea (cornflower) 
Centranthus macrosiphon (valerian) 
Chrysanthemum paludosum (mini-marguerite) 
Clarkia elegans 
Collinsia bicolor (Chinese-houses) 
Collomia coccinea (mountain-trumpet) 
Consolida ajacis (Larkspur) 
Convolvulus (dwarf/bush morning glory) 
Coreopsis tintoria (calliopsis) 
Cosmos bipinnatus (tall cosmos) 
Cosmos sulphureus (sulphur cosmos) 
Crepis rubra (hawks-beard) 
Cuphea ignea (fiery cuphea) 
Cynoglossum (Chinese forget-me-not) 
Datura species (thorn-apple) 
Delphinium (larkspur) 
Dianthus chinensis (China pinks) 
Diascia barberm (twinspur) 
Dicranostigma franchetianum (bright-yellow poppy) 
Dimorphotheca aurantiaca (Cape marigold) 
Dracocephalum moldavica (Moldavian dragonhead) 
Echium creticurn (bugloss) 
Emilia javanica (tassel flower) 
Eschschlotzia californica (California poppy) 
Fagopyrum esculentum (buckwheat) 
Felicia bergeriana (kingfisher daisy) 
Gaillardia pulchella (blanket flower) 
Gilia (bird's-eye) 
Godetia (fairyfan, farewell-to-spring) 
Gypsophila (baby's breath) 
Helianthus (sunflowers) 
Helichrysum (strawflower) 
Helipterum (paper daisy) 
Hunnemannia fumariifolia (Mexican tulip poppy) 
Iberis (candytuft) 
Ionopsidium acaule (false diamond-flower) 
Lathyrus odoratus (sweet peas) 
Lavatera (annual mallow) 
Leonorus (lion's paws) 
Limnanthes douglasii (poached-egg plant) 
Limonium sinuatum (statice) 
Linaria bipartita (toadflax) 
Linum (flax) 
Lobularia (alyssum) 
Lupinus (lupine) 
Lychnis (catchfly) 
Malcomia maritima (Virginian stock) 
Malope trifida (malope) 
Malva (mallow) 
Matthiola bicornis (night-scented stock) 
Myosotis dissitiflora (forget-me-not) 
Nemesia strumosa (Cape jewels) 
Nemophila (baby blue-eyes) 
Nicandra (shoo-fly) 
Nicotiana (flowering tobacco) 
Nigella (love-in-the-mist) 
Osteospermum (Star of the Veldt) 
Papaver (poppy) 
Petunia hybrida (petunias) 
Phacelia (scorpion weed) 
Phlox drummondii (drummon phlox) 
Rehmannia angulata (Chinese foxgloves) 
Reseda odorata (mignonette) 
Rudbeckia bicolor (gloriosa daisy) 
Salpiglossis sinuata (painted tongue) 
Salvia splendens (scarlet sage) 
Sanvitalia procumbens (creeping zinnia) 
Saponaria vaccaria (soapwort) 
Scabiosa (pincushion flower) 
Schizanthus pinnatus (butterfly flower) 
Senecio elegans (ragwort) 
Silene armeria (none-so-pretty) 
Specularia speculum (Venus' looking glass) 
Thunbergia alata (clockvine) 
Tithonia rotundifolia (Mexican sunflower) 
Torenia fournieri (wishbone flower) 
Trachymene caerulea (laceflower) 
Tropaeolum (nasturtiums) 
Ursinia anethoides (dill-leaf ursinia) 
Vaccaria (cow soapwort) 
Venidium fastuosum (Cape daisy) 
Viola tricolor (pansy) 
Viscaria (rose-of-heaven) 
Xeranthemum (everlasting flower)

Some good Veggie choices are: 

Allium family (onions, shallots, garlic, chives) 
Artichokes (zone seven and warmer) 
Beans (need very well-draining containers)
Brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards, etc) 
Corn (select an "early" type as it can germinate at lower temps) 
Cucurbit family (cukes, squash, pumpkins, melons, gourds) 
Leafy Greens
Nightshade family (eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes - from real seeds....not "seed potatoes" ;-) 
Oriental veggies (any) 

Kitchen Herbs

Basil (tender annual best sown towards end of winter)
Fennel, Wild
Lemon Balm
Summer Savory
Sweet Marjoram

23 January 2014

Cosmos! Best late summer and fall flowers for our area

Very few carefree flowers of summer delight so many people as the simple Cosmos. Their name evokes their appearance in the garden since the word Cosmos comes from the Greek word meaning orderly, beautiful and balanced.

Cosmos plants are members of the Asteraceae or Aster and Sunflower plant family and are native to Mexico, Central America and the southern US.

With new breeding, the 25 species range from tall and willowy plants to spreading and branched annuals. The flowers are single and double, and come in bright colors from yellows and oranges to pinks and reds plus white. The flower shapes include saucers, bowl, open cup, and tubular.  Most of the flowers measure 2-inches across though some of the side branching blooms are smaller.

In Mexico, Cosmos were known to be grown by Spanish priests

Cosmos atrosanguineus
who gave them the name in recognition of their balanced petals. The priests claimed that they exuded cosmic beauty and harmony.

Cosmos atrosanguineus or Chocolate Cosmos is a zone 10 tuberous perennial that is sometimes available as a container plant in nurseries. The more common Cosmos are rarely available in containers or six-packs, but they are easy to start from seed when the soil is 60-80-F in the spring.  Seeds are available from www.burpee.com.

Some gardeners rely on Cosmos for their fall flower beds. The sweetly scented blooms provide nectar for butterflies, skippers, bees, hummingbirds, and hover flies. The flower stems are long enough to use in small bouquets and the flowers last for a week in the house.


Cosmos likes decent soil and lots of sun but no fertilizer and minimal water. They should be planted at least a foot apart for good air circulation. Otherwise, they are very easy to grow.
The two most common Cosmos are the annual Cosmos sulphureus and Cosmos bipinnatus.
Cosmos sulphureus has long narrow leaves and the flowers are orange and yellow. Cosmos bipinnatus, the one most commonly planted, has feathery leaves that resemble dill or ferns. The flowers range from pink and white to red and bi-colors.
Native to the Americas, Yellow Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus), can grow 4 to 7 feet tall with colorful flowers and yellow centers. Some of the shorter varieties available include: Crested Red, Ladybird Dwarf Red, Ladybird Dwarf Orange, Ladybird Dwarf Lemon and Klondyke Mix.
The Ladybird series mature at 2-feet tall so if shorter plants fit in better with your garden, choose those. Ladybird Dwarf Gold is only 12-inches tall and the seeds are available from www.seedman.com. A collection called Little Ladybirds is available from Renee Seed at www.reneesgarden.com.
Cosmos bipinnatus
Cosmos bipinnatus varieties are the ones with fennel-like foliage and bowl or saucer shaped flowers that can grow to 3-inches across in white, pink and crimson. (Pinnatus means feathered or feathery.) The plants mature at 3 to 5-feet tall and 18-inches wide.
Daydream is white with a pink center, Picotee is white with crimson margins on each floret, and Sea Shells is carmine-red, pink or white. Sea Shells has tube-shaped petals that radiate from the center, often in two colors. The Sensation Series have very large flowers on 3-foot tall plants.
The dwarf Cosmos bipinnatus include the Sonata Series (Sonata White, etc.) that grow to a foot tall and wide in whites, pinks and reds. (Available from www.parkseed.com and www.harrisseeds.com)
Wildseed Farms (www.wildseedfarms.com) offers a dozen seed varieties and a 14-variety combination pack called “Can’t Make up My Mind” for $15.25.
Plant the seeds 1/16th inch deep on raked soil. Seeds will come up within one-to-three weeks. Both Cosmos sulphureus and Cosmos bipinnatus bloom from early summer through late fall. In order to have continuous bloom, spent flowers have to be removed and the entire plant can be pruned or sheared to eliminate seed pods.

22 January 2014

March 19 Oklahoma Forestry Services delivery to Muskogee

From Andy Qualls today - the Forestry truck delivers a wide range of native tree and shrub plants in bare root bundles or supercells. We have purchased the bare root bundles in past years and have had pretty good luck with them in our yard. We buy a bundle and give half of them away. Click on the link to see what they have to offer - great stuff for wildlife plantings!
Here's Andy's email
The Oklahoma forestry tree truck will be at the MCCD parking lot
March 19 , 2014 pm
3001 Azalea park Drive, Muskogee.
Internet tree ordering information is located at: http://www.forestry.ok.gov/order-seedlings
and we have some 2014 catalogs at our office.
Present information indicates that they should be arriving in Muskogee around 1 PM on the above date.
If I find any more detailed information, I will advise in future emails.
Thank you, Andy Qualls , Muskogee County Conservation District
P.S. The D40 “Supercell” containers listed online and in the catalog are 2.5” diameter tree pots that have much larger root systems than the conventional container seedlings. This is a survival advantage but I’m pretty sure that it would be better to order early to ensure availability.
I have had very good luck with Loblolly Pine, Virginia Pine, Shortleaf pine, all Oaks, Redbud, Deodar Cedar and any of the wild plums for our area.
Additional expert forestry information for Muskogee county is available at:
Service Forester:
Oklahoma Forestry Services
Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry
629 Harriet
Sallisaw, OK 749-2805

19 January 2014

Is Horticulture a Dying Art and Science?

The recent newsletter of the American Society of Landscape Architecture (http://dirt.asla.org/) provided a link to a sorry story in the Philadelphia dot com paper.

The substance of the article by Virginia A. Smith is that horticultural sciences are not even close to being at the top of fields of study that will survive in the next 25 years. How to make growing food and flowers appealing to generations of Tweeters and Instagrammers?

"Think of all the careers horticulture is competing against. We need to make it sexier and more relevant in a highly competitive market," said Paul B. Redman, director of Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square and a strong supporter of a four-year remedial campaign outlined in the letter.

I don't know about making it sexier but there is a general lack of interest in growing food, herbs and flowers among those who see the need for wealth and fame. Getting your hands dirty doesn't even touch the problem. Kids don't even go outside is their point so how will we get them to care about plants, plant science and plant breeding?

"More often, in the public mind, "it's a guy with a pickup truck and a lawn mower, a low-paying job requiring manual labor and no college degree," said Mary H. Meyer, horticultural science professor at the University of Minnesota and, as president of the American Society for Horticultural Science, a critical force in the campaign.

Meyer cites other career opportunities: plant breeding; greenhouse and food production; the cut-flower, landscape, and nursery industries; public gardens, parks, and sports turf; research into global climate change, plant pests, and diseases, water quality, biofuels, and food safety and security; and the psychological and physiological benefits of plants.

This crisis is not unique to the United States, as Meyer discovered during a teaching stint in England over the summer: England, the world's horticultural powerhouse, faces the same problems.
In a report in May, the Royal Horticultural Society decried "an alarming shortage of skilled professionals" in horticulture jobs, posing "a threat to Britain's economy, environment, and food security."

"When do most people get interested in plants now?" asked Richard Marini, head of Pennsylvania State University's plant science department. "Usually, when they buy a house, and by then, they're out of college."

(In another sign of the times, 18 months ago at Penn State, the agronomic and turf scientists merged with the horticulturists to form the plant sciences department.)
Matthew Bond, 21, a plant sciences major at Cornell University, found his future the old-fashioned way: He grew up in farm country in Ogdensburg, N.Y., where his father and grandmother were enthusiastic gardeners.

Bond, an officer of the National Junior Horticultural Association since 2009, is worried. The group's membership has plummeted from 1,000 in the '60s to half that number 15 years ago to 300 today. He suggests today's heavily scheduled kids have no time for hobbies like gardening. "They don't even go outside," he said.

Pauline Hurley-Kurtz, chair of the landscape architecture and horticulture program at Temple University, Ambler, says that though student interest in traditional horticulture - ornamental shrubs, trees, and plants - is holding steady, practical courses on growing food, storm-water mitigation, native plants, landscape restoration, urban arboriculture, even beekeeping, had become extremely popular over the last two or three years.

"We're doing much more environmental horticulture here," Hurley-Kurtz said. "It's the way of the future, but we still need professionals who have a background in horticultural science."

There's the challenge.

"There's nothing sexy about plant science until you make it so for kids. Once you do, they're hooked," said Jessica McAtamney, who teaches environmental science and urban gardening at W.B. Saul High School in Roxborough.

Hydeia Brown, 17, from Germantown, could be the poster child for an idealized horticultural future, one that includes not just more practitioners, but more diversity, too. An environmental science major in Saul's horticulture program, Brown wants to make a career out of plants.

"I love science," she said in a phone interview from Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill, where her class is photographing and cataloging the Latin botanical names of pitch pine, American holly, and other trees.

Brown, whose family left their South Carolina farm to move north before she was born, wishes "other kids would come out and experience this. Not a lot of them know about the outdoors. They like electronics and stuff like that."

16 January 2014

Let Beneficial Insects Help With Your Gardening Chores

Sustainable is one of the words gardeners will see everywhere in the coming year. Sustainable means employing practices that allow us to continue gardening with minimal long-term cost to the natural world.

Those practices include everything from planting appropriate trees to minimizing water use.

One practice that gardeners may forget is that of planting food for beneficial insects so they will do some of our work for us as well as eliminating the need for expensive chemicals.

Entire beds placed close to fruit and vegetable gardens can be dedicated to beneficial insect food and habitat. Many beneficial-attracting plants are attractive enough to be tucked into your existing containers or herb and flower beds. Either way, try to have something in bloom for these garden helpers all the time.

Bad bugs eat our garden plants and good bugs eat or live off of the bad bugs. Beneficials include predators, parasitoids, soil builders plus the pollinators. Parasitoids draw their food from other specific insects by laying eggs near the host. When the young hatch, they eat the bad bugs.

Assassin bugs are beneficial since they eat flies, mosquitoes, bean beetles, potato beetles, and caterpillars. Commonly seen on milkweed, the orange and black Milkweed Assassin Bug is just one of many that will visit. Others include Masked Hunter Assassin and Spined Assassin Bug. They also hunt insects on other vegetation including trees, weeds and bushes.
Creeping thyme flowers feed dozens of beneficial insects
The Braconid wasp will take care of garden pests such as armyworm, cabbageworm, codling moth, gypsy moth, European corn borer, aphid, and caterpillars. They are attracted to nectar plants with tiny flowers, yarrow, cowparsnip and sunflowers.
Damsel bugs eliminate aphids, thrips, leafhopper, treehopper and caterpillars. Bring them to your garden with any member of the aster family, yarrow or boneset.
Ground beetles attack slugs and snails, as well as Colorado potato beetle, gypsy moth and cutworms. They also eat weed seeds. Tiger beetles eat a varied diet of many types of insects and bugs. They like to live where there is Amaranth, bunch grass, and a permanent shelter planting.
Harvester butterfly caterpillars and Hover flies eliminate aphids. Attract them with carrot and aster plant family members including: Queen Anne’s lace, dill, fennel, coreopsis, goldenrod and parsley.
numbers 7307 and 7426
at facts.okstate.edU
Lacewings may be the most frequently purchased insect that gardeners want.  They eliminate soft-body insects such as aphid, mealybug, scale, mites and thrip, as well as corn borer. Carrot and aster plant family members also encourage Lacewings to make your garden their home.
Ladybug beetles are the best known of the beneficial insects. Their reputation also makes them popular for purchase by gardeners. Their prey is primarily aphids, spider mites, corn borer and mealybug. Ladybugs like to find a garden with plenty of food and move in to make a family. Add these plants to encourage them:  aster, butterfly weed, native grasses, hyssop, yarrow, cowparsnip and black locust.
Minute pirate bugs attack thrips, spider mite, leafhopper, corn earworm, small caterpillars and other pests. They enjoy the carrot and aster plant family flowers, daisies, sunflowers, elderberry, potentilla, hyssop, boneset, willow and goldenrod.
Plant carrot and aster family flowers for these beneficials:
Spiders destroy many garden pests and probably the biggest challenge to gardeners is allowing them to make a home in the garden. 
Spined soldier bugs clean up an infestation of armyworms, sawfly, potato and bean beetles.
Tachnid fly is helpful against cutworms, armyworms, May beetle, gypsy moth and squash bug.
Chalcid wasps kill budworms, bollworm, hornworm, corn worm, corn borer and codling moth.
Other herbs and wildflowers that attract good bugs include: Alfalfa, clover, fennel, lemon balm, lovage, marigold, mustard, mint, thyme, sage, and vetch. Plant a variety of them to reduce your work in the garden.
ALSO read - OSU Fact Sheets numbers 7307 and 7426 at facts.okstate.edu

13 January 2014

Plants are Thinking Beings says Michael Pollan

Science Kids
No matter how much we know about plants in our gardens and in general, they continue to surprise and amaze us. In a recent New Yorker article, Michael Pollan explores new scientific findings and links us back to Darwin, seeing plants as whole organisms. Brilliant.

Here's a link to the piece in print. Enjoy!

Yesterday's Wind Storm 30 year old tree down

We had a large old black walnut tree in the back yard that the wind took down yesterday.  We didn't hear it come down but all of a sudden this is what we saw out the bathroom window.

 The entire root structure broke off and lifted out.
The chainlink fence is crushed but thankfully it fell away from the house!

09 January 2014

Sowing Seeds in Winter Months for Spring Gardens

Seeds of last summer’s flowers have fallen onto the cold ground and if conditions are favorable, they will grow into new plants next spring. In fact, many, tree, herb, vegetable and flower seeds can be grown outside in the winter. No special equipment is needed:  no greenhouse, no cold frames, and no shelter required.

New Yorker, Trudi Davidorff came up with the term Winter Sowing and has successfully educated gardeners about the wonders of using Mother Nature’s methods to plant your spring garden months ahead of schedule.

Warmth loving plants such as corn, beans, and squash will prefer spring and summer temperatures but asparagus, onion, cabbage, lettuce, spinach and all the chard and Brussels sprouts family will respond well to winter seeding outdoors. Any tree, shrub, herb or ornamental plant that can take a winter freeze will also do well. This month you can winter-sow these seeds outdoors: Alyssum, asclepias (butterfly weed), calendula (pot marigold), corn flower, coreopsis, cosmos, foxglove, hollyhocks, larkspur, petunia, poppy, beets, broccoli, parsnip, chard, carrots, Mache, radish, lettuce, spinach, kale, shallot, parsley and dill.

Some seeds have complicated needs for heat, cold, moisture and light. They have thick seed coats that prevent water from being absorbed until the best time; otherwise, they could sprout and die.

Cool or Cold-Stratification describes the periods of moist-cold that are required to break through the seed coat and challenge the seed’s protective hormones so it can sprout roots and shoots. The temperature has to be between 32 and 45, and the cold period has to be between 1 and 3 months, depending on the plant.

Generally, planting seeds outside in January resembles planting them outside in April. Select high sided trays, clear plastic clamshells, milk cartons cut almost in half, plant flats and other containers with holes. To put holes in milk jugs, just cut the corners with scissors or use a soldering iron to melt holes.

Select sterile potting soil mixes from the garden center or mix peat moss half and half with sand or perlite. Pour hot water over the peat moss to help it absorb water before planting. Wet the soil and let it drain before planting. This method allows the soil to settle so you know how much more to add before adding seeds.

Label each container with the name of the plant and the planting date. For labels, you can use tape, recycled window blinds, strips of milk carton, etc. Write with a paint filled pen or a pencil to mark the labels. You can keep a master list of details, or just mark each container with information such as sun/shade, plant height, perennial/annual, etc.

Follow the seed pack instructions: Press seeds into the soil if they need light to germinate and cover seeds that need darkness.

Put the containers outside, covered or uncovered. With plastic clamshells, the cover can be snapped into place because rain will get in. Punch holes in solid covers for air circulation. Check covered containers weekly to be sure the top of the soil never dries out.

When seedlings emerge, make the holes in the top larger for increased light and air circulation.

Seeds that need cold treatment in order to sprout include: Monkshood, flowering onion (allium), angelica, columbine, flowering cabbage, heather, tea plant (Camellia), trumpet vine, (Campsis), redbud, virgin’s bower (Clematis), dogwood, bleeding heart (Dicentra), shooting star (Dodecatheon), Christmas rose (Helleborus), daylily (Hemerocallis), lavender (Lavandula), bitter root (Lewisia), lobelia, Tahoka daisy (Machaeranthera), Phlox paniculata, primrose (Primula), trillium, globeflower (Trollius), snowball bush (Viburnum), and the viola, violet-pansy family.

Get Busy Gardening - http://bit.ly/1awfgHu
Permies – Homesteading and Permaculture All the Time http://bit.ly/1g7YXVD
Tom Clothier Germination database - http://tomclothier.hort.net
Winter Sown - www.wintersown.org


07 January 2014

Field Guide to the Jewel Beetles (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) of Northeastern North America

Entomologist Morgan Jackson's blog, "Biodiversity in Focus" describes him as a graduate student but he is now also the co-author of  newly published "Field Guide to the Jewel Beetles (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) of Northeastern North America"

Because they can cause so much damage (think Emerald Ash Borer), jewel beetles are important to notice and identify.

The Field Guide was developed and published by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the University of Guelph Insect Collection and the Invasive Species Centre to create a user-friendly resource for jewel beetle identification.

Download the entire searchable book at http://www.biodiversityinfocus.com/pdfs/Jewel_Beetle_Field_Guide_English.pdf
just to look at the pictures if nothing else - what a incredible job they did!

The physical book is a softcover 411 page, 6×9″ and covers the 164 jewel beetle species known from northeastern North America. There are detailed illustrations and photos, as well as 2 identification keys to the 23 genera.

The Field Guide to the Jewel Beetles of Northeastern North America is available free by calling 1-800-442-2342 and choosing option 7.

06 January 2014

Callistephus chinensis is Aster Andrella Giant Mix or China Asters

In all the zones from 2 to 11, China Asters add a cheerful face to the early summer garden. Maxing out at 2 or 3 feet tall with strong stems for cutting bouquets, these beauties can be started from seed and bloom the same year. their flower colors include: White, pink, purple, blue, yellow and violet.

Aster Andrella Giant Ray
They are easy to grow and prefer well drained beds that are watered regularly. In our heat they will need afternoon shade.

The seeds are started indoors 8 weeks before the last average frost date. Since our last average freeze is April 15th here, they would be started mid-February.

Just press the seed into the pre-moistened planting soil, do not bury the seed or cover it.

Seed germination can be slow and or spotty so buy plenty of seed and start early enough. They like 70 degrees to germinate so if your seed starting area is really cold, you'll have to add a little bottom heat to get them going.

Since our heat can be brutal pretty early in the summer, starting them outdoors after mid-April might not give them much time to grow and set buds. However, you could direct sow a second planting then and hope that summer is gentle.

They like air circulation, so when setting the seedlings leave at least a foot and a half between the plants and stagger them a little so they aren't all in a row.

As the flowers mature, deadhead them for a second flush of flowers. They may re-seed so look for their return next year.
Aster Andrella Single
You can choose the Crego Mix or the equally beautiful Giant Ray Mix  pictured above, but I prefer the singles for the garden and for cut arrangements.

As their name implies, they are originally from China, a member of the daisy plant family.  

Not favored by deer or rabbits.

Check at your favorite seed vendor or garden center - there are
so many cheerful varieties and mixes that you'll find it difficult to choose just one.

How to Kill a Tree from Treelink.org

This pdf graphically explains everything we have heard over the decades of classes, conferences and workshops. Thank you Treelink!

Full poster size and readable version is at

02 January 2014

Seed Catalogs - 2014

Plant and seed catalogs are arriving daily and announcements about new plants show up on the Internet by the hour. Plant hybridizers, seed developers and garden product providers are ready for our orders and January is the perfect time to dream that our orders will transform our gardens.

Most of the companies listed below offer garden supplies. You’ll find growing containers, soil amendments, plant tags, row covers, fertilizers and insect controls as well as seeds, plants, tubers, chickens and books.

Disease and insect resistant plant varieties are widely available. Pelletted seeds are covered with a bit of clay that helps tiny seeds stay put where they are planted.

Monsanto and Seminis provide much of the seeds available (http://bit.ly/1cf9zAV). If you want to avoid GMOs, look for terms such as safe seed pledge, open-pollinated and heirloom in the description.

Many companies offer newsletters by email and have seasonal sales if you sign up on their website. Several vendors also sell seeds at eBay.com and Amazon.com. Be sure they are selling fresh seeds before ordering.

Several companies own two or more seed companies and in those cases, only one is listed. All of the companies listed offer non-GMO seeds.

Seed providers -

Amishland Heirloom Seeds, www.amishlandseeds.com (grows her own seed)

Annie’s Heirloom Seed, http://www.anniesheirloomseeds.com

Artistic Gardens, www.artisticgardens.com, 802-748-1446 (40 cent packets)

B and T World Seeds, http://b-and-t-world-seeds.com, searchable by zone

Baker Creek, http://rareseeds.com, 417-924-8917

Botanical Interest, www.botanicalinterests.com, informative seed packets

Bountiful Gardens, www.bountifulgardens.org, 707-459-6410

Burpee, www.burpee.com, 800-888-1447

Chiltern Seeds, www.chilternseeds.co.uk

Cook’s Garden seeds, www.cooksgarden.com, 800-457-9703

Diane’s Flower Seeds, www.dianeseeds.com

Dixondale Farm Onions www.dixondalefarms.com

Eden Brothers, ww.edenbrothers.com,

Ethnobotanical Catalog of Seeds, www.JLHudsonSeeds.net

Fedco Coop seeds and Moose Tubers, www.fedcoseeds.com, 207-873-7333

Garden Medicinals and Culinaries, www.gardenmedicinals.com, 540-872-8351

Gourmet Seed International, www.gourmetseed.com, 575-398-6111

Granny’s Heirloom Seeds, Bolivar, MO, www.grannysheirloomseeds.com

Harris Seed, www.harrisseeds.com, 800-544-7938

Heirloom Tomatoes, www.heirloomtomatoes.net, (every tomato)

High Mowing organic seeds, www.highmowingseeds.com, 802-472-617

Holland Wildflower, www.hwildflower.com, (800) 684-3734 Grows and supplies seed to Crystal Bridges Museum for their wildflower drive. Habitat mixes.

Hometown Seeds, http://hometownseeds.com, 888-433-3106


Horizon Herbs, www.horizonherbs.com, 541-846-6704.  (medicinal herbs)

Jelitto Perennials, www.jelitto.com (German)

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, www.johnnyseeds.com, 877-564-6697

Kitazawa Seed, www.kitazawaseed.com, 510-595-1188 (Asian vegetables and herbs)

Kusa Seed Society, www.ancientcerealgrains.org. Rare wheat, barley, millet, lentil varieties.

Landis Valley Museum, www.landisvalleymuseum.org, 717-569-0401, German settler varieties

Landreth Seed Company, www.landrethseeds.com (800) 654-2407

L'Atelier Vert - Everything French Gardening, www.frenchgardening.com

Lost Creek Shitake Mushroom Farm, http://shiitakemushroomlog.com, 800-792-0053

MO Wildflowers Nursery, www.mowildflowers.net, 573-496-3492. Open pollinated native seed

Native Seeds/SEARCH, www.nativeseeds.org, 520-622-5561. Non-profit organization offers seeds of the traditional foods from the American Southwest and northern Mexico

Nichols Garden Nursery, www.nicholsgardennursery.com, 800-422-3985

Onalee Seeds, www.onalee.com (detailed seed packs)

Outside Pride, www.outsidepride.com, 800-670-4192. Native grass, envirolawn, ground cover


Park Seed, www.parkseed.com Free catalog


Pepper Joe’s, www.pepperjoe.com, 843-742-5116 (all peppers)


Pinetree Garden Seeds, www.superseeds.com, 207-926-3400 (free print catalog)


Planet Natural, www.planetnatural.com, 800-289-6656


Pleasant Hill Grain, www.pleasanthillgrain.com, (ancient and heirloom varieties)


R.H. Shumway’s, www.hrshumway.com, 800-342-9461 (same varieties for 100 years)


Renee’s Garden Seeds, http://reneesgarden.com – great seed packets


Richters Herbs Canada, www.richters.com, 800-668-4372


Sample Seed Shop. http://sampleseeds.com, 716-871-1137 (small packets $1 to $2)


Sand Hill Preservation Center, www.sandhillpreservation.com, 563- 246-2299 (heirloom seeds and poultry)


Sand Mountain Herbs, http://www.sandmountainherbs.com


Seed Savers Exchange, www.Seedsavers.org, 563-382-5990 (Join for the best deals)


Seeds from Italy, www.growitalian.com, 785-748-0959 (generous packs)


Seeds of Change, www.seedsofchange.com, 888-762-7333


Select Seeds, www.selectseeds.com, 800-684-0395


Sky Fire Garden, www.skyfiregardenseeds.com ($2 packs)


Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, www.southernexposure.com, 540-894-9480 (free catalog)


Territorial Seed, www.territorialseed.com, 800-626-0866


Thompson and Morgan, www.tmseeds.com, 800-274-7333 (free catalog)


Thyme Garden Herbs, www.thymegarden.com, 541-487-8671


Tomato Bob Heirloom Tomatoes, www.tomatobob.com, 614-256-6298 (free catalog)

Vermont Bean Seed Co, www.vermontbean.com, 800-349-1071


Whatcom Seed Co, www.seedrack.com, (palms, bonsai, baobab)


White Harvest Seed, www.whiteharvestseed.com, 866-424-3185 (survival packets)


Need more? Go to www.gardenlist.com for a list of lists!