30 October 2015

Duck Eggs Daily: Raising Happy Healthy Ducks ... Naturally

This book, Duck Eggs Daily: Raising Happy Healthy Ducks, is a fun read even though we can't possibly raise ducks here.

Lisa Steele's first book, Fresh Eggs Daily, gave readers an equally informative view of raising chickens. The duck book though, is one of a kind. Steele's YouTube channel has 43 cute, cuter, cutest video clips of their feathered friends.

Ducks are a different breed of bird, and, while Steele assumed that they could be raised together, she found that they were better if given their own individual space. Most notably because ducks play in the chickens' water dishes!

Chapter Four: "A day in a life with ducks" explains the ducks' need for routine and how to be sure they are comfortable if you have to be away from home.

Facebook Duck Eggs Daily
What fascinated me is their nutritional needs. In addition to feed, ducks should get grit, egg shells, oats, probiotic powder, seaweed/kelp, brewers' yeast, garlic, dried herbs (fennel, marjoram, nasturtium, parsley, bee balm, dill, oregano, thyme, cilantro, oregano, sage, tarragon, alfalfa, basil, dandelion, marigolds, spearmint, chervil, celery seed, dill). And, they eat earthworms, grubs and all manner of insects they can get their bills on.

What a healthy diet! We should all take advice for our human dinner table from that list. Well, if you substitute whole grain for grit anyway.

Ducks' bedtime is between 5 and 9 pm depending on the position of the sum - summer vs winter.
They are quiet fowl, laying eggs without a squawk, waking up without a yowl, wandering the yard without a peep, making them better than chickens for people who live in neighborhoods.

Ducks are great pets for children/families, and, they are cute to watch with their head bobbing and tilting, walking in rows, mud dabbling, foot stamping, surfing, preening, one-leg standing and sleeping with an eye open.

And, there are recipes for these nutritious eggs. Mayonnaise, pasta, curd, Cheesecake, soup, etc.

The book is easy to take along for reading or reference - it's one of those hardcover, 7 by 7-inch books, about 150 pages. $14 at online book sellers. Published by St. Lynne's Press, Oct 2015.

28 October 2015

Mites are Biting

Australia Dept of Agriculture & Food
It's mite season, ladies and gentlemen, and they are causing wide spread itching. There are two types that are causing the most trouble: 1) straw itch mites and 2) oak mites.

Don't ignore the symptoms, the Australian Dept. of Agriculture and Food points out, "In severe cases of mite attack, victims have reported headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, mild diarrhoea and joint pains."

Prevent oak mite bites If you see brown and crusty edges on oak tree leaves, be aware that mite activity is possible. Don’t sit under oak trees or on nearby lawns. Illinois Dept of Public Health.

Prevent straw mite bites by avoiding straw bales

1. Straw itch mites are the topic of this week's entomology pest alert from Oklahoma State Univeristy.. Here's the link -  http://entoplp.okstate.edu/pddl/2015/PA14-43.pdf

US Pharmacist dot com
"These mites are associated with stored commodities including hay and have been commonly found in wheat straw hay. Recently, a sample of wheat straw hay was submitted to the Plant Disease and Insect Diagnostic Lab at Oklahoma State University and it contained several straw itch mite females that were about to lay hundreds of eggs. Given the warmer temperatures and the identification of these mites in hay, individuals may experience chigger like bites on arms and trunk of their bodies."

Makes me want to scratch just to read about them.

"Symptoms of itch mite bites When individuals are working with hay that is infested with mites they can develop skin irritations from the abdomen to their shoulders. In severe outbreaks the mite bites can occur all over an individual’s body. This mite is a non-burrowing mite and the bite mark is a result of a reaction to the mite’s saliva. A characteristic of the bite are usually presented as a red welt with a central blister and is accompanied with a severe itching sensation. Rubbing or scratching the bite can result in secondary skin infections or dermatitis."
Spider Mites
Colorado State U

Click over to the link and read the prescription for dealing with mite bites if you handle any hay or straw this season.

2) Then, my plant friend, Jerry Gustafson said in an email that he has been researching oak mites because so many people in Tulsa are being bitten, including him! He says they are "very rampant" and he has been bitten 50 times already in his own garden.

The itch keeps people awake at night, and the irritation can become lumps as large as grapes. In a search for relief he said he's been using Aspercreme with Lidocane from Walgreens and finds it to be effective.

Gustafson pointed out that Spinosad (pet and human safe) is effective for lice, fleas, ticks and spider mites so it may help kill oak mites since all mites should be related. 

Deet does not repel mites; mites are transported by wind so they aren't flying toward you.

In doing a bit of research I found this tidbit on USPharmacist.com (excerpts)
"During the summer of 2007, hundreds to thousands of Chicago-areaƜ residents went to emergency rooms  were dealing not only with the mysterious bites, but also with the return of swarms of cicadas after a 17-year hiatus.

 According to an entomologist and mite expert from the Illinois Natural History Survey, Ed Zaborski, there was a connection between the bites and the return of the cicadas; it is his belief that the bites came from a microscopic itch mite called Pyemotes (pronounced "pie-uh- moat-eez") that is known to cause dermatitis in humans.1 These mites appear to have fed on cicada eggs.1 

Similar outbreaks had been reported as far back as 1852, when an itch-mite outbreak associated with sacks of wheat occurred in France.4 More recently, outbreaks were reported in Kansas (2004) and Nebraska (2005) in which pin oak trees were the source of the itch mite known as Pyemotes herfsi.5 In the Kansas and Nebraska outbreaks, the mites fed on midge (a small, two-winged fly) larvae inside galls.6 Galls are irregular growths that appear on plant branches and leaves and commonly occur on pin oak trees. Insects and mites manufacture growth-regulating chemicals that react with plant hormones and produce the galls. These galls provide the mites with nutrients and protection from pesticides and natural enemies.7 
Oak itch mites
eating midge larvae
in an oak gall
Il Dept of Public Health

If it gives you any satisfaction, mites would rather bite insects since they receive no food from biting us. We are just something to try, biting us accidentally, when they just can get enough nourishment from midge larvae. Source: mitetreatments.com

25 October 2015

Excellent Landscaping Tips

Love the plants that love you back and demonstrate their love by thriving in your climate, soil and garden, says David Culp. Skip the garden designs invented by Europeans and find your own American style, using the colors that please your eye.

If you go to the effort of making a plan for the garden, start by installing the hardscape such as patio, walkways and walls since the plant selections themselves will change as you learn what works and dies over the years. The hardscape is there to stay.

According to Culp, no single garden style is exactly right or appropriate so use other gardeners’ ideas and adapt them to suit your situation. When it comes to color combinations, take risks and use the palette that you prefer, planting them in varying heights and forms.

Even color-themed gardens benefit from a variety of accent colors. For example a white garden changes character if it is accented with blue and purple, silver and grey, bronze and yellow or pink and red. Just avoid accenting a white garden with off whites; they just look dirty, Culp says.

The shapes of the plants you choose, rather than the color of the short-lived flowers they produce, give the garden its punch and drama. Upstanding plants and man-made elements give the garden the vertical structure that balances the basic horizontal nature of any garden.

Culp uses pillars planted with climbing roses, cold-hardy banana trees, small groups of bamboo stake teepees planted with vines, canna lilies and tall flowers as vertical accents. Each of these features is repeated throughout the garden providing unity.

In shady gardens, Culp recommends using plants with bold leaves such as Hostas, placing the largest varieties in the back and the small-leaf varieties in the front of the bed.

Use several specimens of the same plant to give a long-blooming period and a sense of continuity. For example, plant early, mid-season and late-blooming daffodils in the same bed.

A good choice for dry shade under and around tree roots is Carex ornamental grasses. There are enough beautiful Carex varieties that a collection, repeated in a wooded area, would provide assorted leaf colors and shapes for interest.

Culp says that part of the theatre of a garden is how plants move themselves around. Consider the original clump of Crocus that has now drifted several feet from its original spot, the re-seeding annuals such as poppies and zinnias that emerge the following spring and summer everyplace except where they were the previous year.

The re-seeding and spreading flowers that Culp prefers include: Corydalis (shade and woodland), Thalictrum (Meadow Rue, native, sun-shade), Rudbeckia (coneflowers), Dicentra (bleeding heart, rock garden), Stylophorum (Celandine wood poppy) and Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow bulbs).

Culp (www.davidlculp.com), author of “The Layered Garden” has defined himself as a gardener ever since his grandmother entrusted him with a handful of bulbs to plant where and how he chose. Now, with decades of garden experience and professional work in the field his passion is to empower others to garden.

Using plants’ elements of shape, color, size, structure and height to create a design is the key to having a garden where you want to do the daily work to keep it going.

Gardens are living, growing, and dying art projects that never finish being designed, according to Culp. In his two-acre garden, only one part of the garden is in peak beauty at a time rather than trying to make the entire space pop in the same week or two.

“The Layered Garden” (Timber Press, 2012, $25) is loaded with suggestions and photographs to empower every reader who wants to enjoy a three-season garden.

21 October 2015

Purple Flowers of Fall

Our garden is always loaded with shades of lavender and purple in October.

Purple Reullia is my blog's header photo.

Here is a photo essay of  more of the flowers blooming in blue and purple today.


Mealy Cup Sage
Purple Heart


Thai Basil
Beautyberry shrub

Tall native Asters

15 October 2015

"Building Soils for a Secure Future" Jan 8-9 2016 Save the Date

The Horticulture Industries Show 2016 will be in Tulsa Jan 2016
Early Bird Registration begins end of Oct. Deadline December 22
"Building Soils for a Secure Future"
Tulsa Community College, NE Campus
3727 E. Apache, Tulsa, OK

Keynote Speaker is Jeff Moyer, Interim Executive Director, Rodale Institute

Information http://www.hortla.okstate.edu/research-and-outreach/programs/HISPhone 405.744.5414

11 October 2015

Mums are Chrysanthemum, Dendrantha and Dendranthemum

 Cooling, fall, temperatures make us seek out mums and their incredible colors that stand out on the season's misty days.

 These new beauties from Blooms of Bressingham are cold hardy in zones 5 to 9. This first year in our garden they are blooming in October but evidently next year when they return they will bloom closer to August-September.
Radiant Igloo

Pumpkin Igloo
Pumpkin Igloo hardy mum is jaw dropping gorgeous in our flower bed.

On the B of B website they look more orange-rust colored.

They tolerate most soils but will fail if they are left to dry out.

Evidently the Igloo series has many colors. Click over to the link to see them all and choose some for your containers or flower beds.

08 October 2015

Ruellia - Mexican Petunia - Fall Flowers!

Ruellia, Tall purple Mexican Petunia
One of the flowers blooming now is Mexican Petunia. While the two-to-three foot tall variety with lavender-purple blooms is the one we commonly see, there are several others in the Ruellia family that are native to the US.

Ruellia seeds are easy to start, and, a few years after they are successfully started they will form small colonies of plants, adding cheerful color to fall flower beds and feeding migrating butterflies and skippers. Ruellias are free of insect and disease problems

The seed-grown plants in our garden came from AZ where seedlings come up even when it is 115-degrees F.

If you are building a butterfly habitat, Ruellias are important not only as reliable fall nectar for adult butterflies but also as caterpillar food for several butterflies and moths. One of them, the Common Buckeye, is a beautiful and unique sight with several large false eyes on the wings. The caterpillars are black, white and orange with soft black spikes.

There are several Ruellia varieties, heights and flower colors. Ruellia plants found for sale in garden centers vary so check the tag for cold hardiness.  The heights range from 10-inches to 3-feet tall and the petunia-shaped flowers vary from white-pink and deep pink to lavender and purple.
Ruellia, dwarf pink Mexican Petunia

The USDA plant database (http://plants.usda.gov) lists these varieties as native to the US:  
Ruellia caroliniensis or Carolina wild petunia, Ruellia drummondiana  or Drummond's wild petunia, Ruellia humilis  or fringeleaf wild petunia,  Ruellia nudiflora or violet wild petunia, Ruellia parryi  or Parry's wild petunia, and Ruellia strepens  or limestone wild petunia.

Garden catalogs that refer to Ruellia spp, meaning species, are offering Ruellia caroliniensis wild petunia seeds or plants. Ruellia caerulea Morong  Britton's wild petunia, has pink flowers and grows in all the southern states but was planted there.

Those are not the most common varieties sold, however. The one that is written about most often and sold widely is Mexican petunia Purple Showers, Ruellia brittoniana.  Purple showers spreads by underground stolon rather than by seed. In FL where growing conditions are ideal for it, Purple Showers is considered to be invasive.

Missouri Botanical Garden named Ruellia simplex Purple Showers one of their Plant of Merit selections, mentioning its durability in wet or dry, sun or shade. They list its hardiness as zones 8 to 10 but point out that with protection it will grow as a perennial in zone 7.

Mexican Petunia brittoniana was named a Texas Superstar plant by Texas A&M University because it tolerate wet or dry soil, thrive in full sun but tolerates part shade.

In addition, plant breeders have introduced several dwarf varieties in recent years.

The smaller dwarf Katie or Nolan’s dwarf is small enough for the front of a border. The clumps grow about 10-inches tall and the flowers are pink, white or purple.

Although dwarf Katie plants can grow in hot, dry locations, they are said to be hardy only in zones 8-11. Our dwarf plants have returned for four years so far.

Pink dwarf brittoniana Bonita, hardy in zones 8 to 10, would either be an annual or have to be protected during freezing temperatures. Ruellia elegans Ragin Cajun, has flowers the color of red peppers, is slightly taller, and cold hardy in zones 8-10.

Mexican petunia can be shared by digging up rhizomes, by collecting seeds and by rooting cuttings in water, depending on the variety.

Prairie Moon Nursery (www.prairiemoon.com) and Jellito Seed (www.jelitto.com) offer lavender flowering Ruellia humilis seeds. Hardy in zones 4 to 9, R. humilis matures at 12-inches tall. Plant Delights (http://www.plantdelights.com/) offers six Ruellia varieties.

Ruellias were named for Jean de la Ruelle, herbalist and physician to Francois I, King of France in the 16th Century.

05 October 2015

Our Fall Vegetable Garden 2015

Lettuce seedlings
to pot up
red radish
Wax beans
Hedged my bets- planted peas (cool) and
cucumber (heat) seeds along the fence.

Silverskin beans harvested daily
and we find more the next day!
Arugula ready to harvest

 Red Russian Kale
seedlings to re-pot

Red Russian Kale
- seeds directly sown
Dinosaur Kale

02 October 2015

Hawthorn Tree's Fall beauty

Hawthorn berries
Last June I wrote an article about the beauty and sustainable value of Hawthorn trees, Crataegus.

Hawthorn fruit hangs in clusters
Now it's October and our largest tree, which we received free with a membership to the Audubon Society 15 years ago, is decked out in its red-orange splendor.

They are related to roses, of all things. But, when you think about it, those berries look a bit like rose hips.

The berries are called haws.

I've read that people make Haw Jam out of the berries but we usually have enough jam without harvesting our Hawthorn berries or our Elderberries for that matter.

Plus, the haws can cause digestive upset in humans.

the thorns are incredible

 The berries aren't ripe yet so the birds will leave them alone for a while. The birds that favor haws include: chickadee, mockingbirds,  robins, thrushes, and waxwings will be all over them.
Hawthorn trees provide berries for food and thorns to protect nests from predators

01 October 2015

What Is This Plant?

A friend is looking for a plant identification. So far the guesses have been crabapple and cherry.
Take a look at the photos and tell me what you think.