Showing posts from August, 2014

Bean picking and canning

Each year we do less and less canning but some things are a must for our pantry to keep the flavors of summer on our table.

In the past our friends Jan and Richard gave us quarts of canned field peas but not last year. So, what's a gardener to do but grow their own?

What we learned this year is when to harvest them. Only the beige colored ones are easy to pull out of their bean shells. Anything greener is way too much work. Live and learn.

Another lesson? They are about the easiest crop to grow - no bugs bother them, no diseases attack them AND they add nitrogen to the soil just by being there. Win Win Win

Here are those peas in their jars already making my mouth water for the taste of them this winter. There are still enough on the prolific, healthy vines out there for us to eat a bunch this fall.

This ends the tomato canning for this year, also. These dozen quarts of tomatoes contain six heads of our garlic, herbs from the garden, peppers and tomatoes from the Farmer's Market…

Plant Database Online from USDA

Here's the link to the USDA Plant Database - where you can find information about plants, mosses, etc. that from all over the US and its territories.

The plant names include distribution, species information, characteristics, images, links to more information and references.

The site is focused on land conservation and provides information intended to provide an information exchange throughout the world.

The PLANTS site is a collaboration between USDA NRCS National Plant Data Team(NPDT), theUSDA NRCS Information Technology Center(ITC), TheUSDA National Information Technology Center(NITC), and many other partners. 

Pollinator conservation has its own link full of references to other resources. 

Also, click over to the Fact Sheets & Plant Guide at

There is a lot to explore and discover!

Master Gardener Classes - Muskogee County

Master Gardener Certification Classes Cost $100
Start Sept 25 at 1, Muskogee County Extension Office, Muskogee Fairgrounds
Information: Mandy Blocker, Extension Educator ag/4-H, 918-686-7200,
Facebook: Muskogee County Master Gardeners

If you like to work with garden plants and help people, becoming a master gardener might be just
the thing for you. Master gardeners are trained volunteers who help the public with their gardening
questions, work on community gardening projects, assist with hosting public classes and volunteer in
the Muskogee County Extension Office.

From the first class in September to the last class in December, participants receive in-depth training
in gardening from Oklahoma State University Extension specialists.

All classes will meet from 1 to 5 on Thursdays. The schedule of classes includes
September - 25 Basic Botany taught by Mandy Blocker
October 2 – Woody Ornamentals taught by Dr. Mike Schnelle
October 9 – Plant Diseases taught by Jen…

Our Garden in Late August - Zone 7

The end of summer is coming whether or not we are ready for the tasks ahead. You know, the pruning, digging and dividing. Then there's the transplanting this year's plants to their better, new, location because trees grew and now it's too shady where they were or it's too dry where they are .....

Fewer flowers are blooming by late August but there are enough to keep the butterflies and skippers happy. The upside is that weeding takes less and less time as fall approaches.

 This year we've had more dragonflies than ever, probably because there was some rain this summer unlike previous years.

Lots of projects present themselves at this time of year and although we spend 5 hours a day out there, we can't seem to get it all done.

The parsley did better this year than usual and since we plant it for the Swallowtail butterflies to raise their babies on, whenever there is one it's cause for celebration.

The pumpkins and squash seem shocked by the heat this week. …

Two New Must-Have Books

Two new books, “Native Plants of the Southeast” and “The Living Landscape” written by garden writers from the east coast of the US focus on their part of the world but definitely pertain to zone 7 northeast Oklahoma in the Ozark Plateau.

Book authors and publishers always forget about us because they still think of OK as being the landscape they saw in dust bowl movies even though only the OK panhandle was in the central part of that tragedy.

With our normal rainfall at 44-inches annually, and our lowest temperature recorded at zero, the climate zone is the same as many eastern states covered by these two beautiful books.

“Native Plants of the Southeast: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best 460 Species for the Garden” by Larry Mellichamp was published by Timber Press this year. It is a 384-page, 8 by 10-inch hardback with 542-color photos. The list price is $40 ( and $25 at online retailers.

The author, Larry Mellichamp is a botany professor at the University of NC at…


The sunsets are outstanding in the mountains.

Horseradish is Armoracia rusticana

Growing horseradish, Armoracia rusticana, is a timehonored tradition for vegetable and medicinal gardeners. Native to southeast Europe, the Egyptians were known to use it in their cooking as early as 1500 B.C. In Europe it was used medicinally as a rub for sore joints as well as being rubbed on foreheads as a headache and sinus-pain treatment.
During the Renaissance, horseradish root became a staple of German diets as a meat relish, spreading from there to Scandinavia and Britain where it was eaten with beef and oysters.
In the North American colonies it was called a radish. Perennial horseradish plants were grown as a useful root vegetable that was stored in the root cellar with the roots of parsley, parsnips, turnip, carrots, beets and skirret which is another perennial root crop.
The strong flavor of horseradish is due to the same oil found in all the other mustards and brassicas. In 1700, one American author wrote about preparing shaved horseradish root, mixed with sugar and vinegar …

On the back fence - habitat plants

All along the north part of our 2.5 acre fence, we have planted habitat for turtles, pollinators, birds and whomever else wants to seek shelter from the summer heat. There are vines for butterfly caterpillars to munch, small and large flowers to provide pollen for daytime and nighttime eaters (moths, skippers, butterflies, bees, wasps, etc.) The native peach trees drop fruit for fruit seeking butterflies and the peaches are munched by small mammals. Here are a few snaps from the north fence.

Gardening Myths - your money and time

Every year more garden articles, blogs and books are written filling our heads and bookshelves with new discoveries, methods and ideas. As it turns out, just as in any field, some of it is junk, a lot of it is myths that have been repeated for generations and the much of the rest incorrect information distributed by well-meaning but inexperienced writers.

Some gardeners believe that all bugs are bad despite books and programs describing the important and positive impact of earthworms, lady bugs, damsel bugs, beetles, green lacewings, assassin bugs, praying mantids, minute pirate bugs, spiders, hover or syrphid flies, predatory stink bugs, and big-eyed bugs. Yet, bug poisons continue to be applied with abandon in the form of sprays, granules and dusts.
Another myth, the results of which can be observed in every neighborhood, public garden and planting strip, is that applying mulch around the trunks of trees is beneficial. In fact, mulch applied any closer than 6 to 8 inches around any wo…

Anise Agastache is Agastache foeniculum and Anise Hyssop or Blue Giant Hyssop

This beautiful native plant, Agastache foeniculum is often grown as an edible though originally we bought the seeds so pollinators would have more to eat in our garden and mosey over to the fruit and vegetables. This one is hardy in zones 4 to 9 and can grow to 4 feet tall. Ours are in part shade so they max out at about 3 feet tall. Covered with bumble bees, this wonderfully scented member of the mint family is a delight to brush by and weed around as it release its yummy licorice scent into the air.
Plant the seeds outside in the ground or in flats this fall and they will reward you for years to come as they self-seed a little every year but never so much that you regret planting them.

Plants for a Future describes its edible qualities "Leaves and flowers - raw or cooked. They are used as a flavouring in raw or cooked dishes. Excellent raw, they have a sweet aniseed flavour and are one of our favourite flavourings in salads. They make a delicious addition to the salad bowl and c…

Pollinators love Joe Pye Weed - plant seeds this fall

Joe Pye Weed is an all American native plant that is loved by every pollinator that visits our garden. The plants are rarely sold commercially but it is well worth purchasing and starting seeds if you like to watch butterflies, skippers and bees.

The post I wrote about it last year is here.

It's best to start seeds in the fall and there are a few Eupatorium varieties to choose from. Here's a bit more about that from a 2009 blog entry when I planted these original plants from seed that are still providing nectar today.

Anyone who wants what is called a butterfly garden should have some Joe Pye but it is a weed, er um wildflower, in enough places that gardeners shun it. Also, it's big, tall and a bit coarse compared to lilies and roses.