25 January 2017

Protection from the Cold

We love our cold-hardy Gardenias and worried that they wouldn't make it through the winter without cover.

Home made plant protection
For the past two winters, we've experimented with a cover of pine straw and soil but when we uncovered the shrubs in the spring, the leaves were still green but had fungal spots.

This year a cover was constructed to protect them from the worst of the cold temperatures, while allowing rain and sun to penetrate.

Wood frame wrapped with wire
Corners were stapled together
Here's how Jon did it.

A wood frame was constructed with wood scraps, stapled with a staple gun. The frame was wrapped with chicken wire.

The burlap was stapled to the wood frame and completely wrapped the wire frame. The plants still look good under there.

Re-purposed coffee sacks were draped

The burlap was stapled to the wood

17 January 2017

Red Hills of OK and KS - talk on Jan 31 - Wichita

Ken Brunson
The Kansas Native Plant Society is sponsoring a talk on Jan 31st at 6:30,
The location is Dyck Arborteum, 177 W Hickory Street, Hesston KS, just north of Wichita.

The speaker is Ken Brunson and his topic is Fire Recovery in the Hills.
Ecologist and field manager Ken Brunson of the Nature Conservancy knows a lot about the Anderson Creek Wildfire of March 2016 that consumed about 390,000 acres of land in Oklahoma and Kansas. 
By some estimates, this was the biggest private lands fire in the U.S. since records have been kept. Several hundred head of livestock were killed, thousands of miles of fence, and at least a dozen houses were destroyed. Positive and negative impacts to land and wildlife varies, and Ken will show photos as part of his presentation about this fascinating story.

Come for supper at 6:00 p.m. or just the lecture at 6:30 p.m. ($2 for lecture, $7 for supper and lecture). Call 620-327-8127 by 4 p.m. on Friday before the Tuesday lecture for supper reservations.
Contact: Brad Guhr brad.guhr@hesston.edu 620-327-8127 or Phyllis Scherich pscherich@yahoo.com 620-213-0751
Beautiful Dyck Arboretum of the Plains  in Hesston KS is a primary sponsor.
Ken Brunson's blog, called The Kansas Outback, is at this link.

09 January 2017

After Freeze Plant Care

We've already had a hard freeze but this weekend's rain, sleet and maybe, ice storm will make matters worse for our vulnerable plants.

Here are some good reminders from Buchanan's Native Plants

 After a freeze, some plants may show signs of frost damage. Frost damage can reveals itself as dark areas on leaves, a burnt appearance, or wilting. Here are some things you can do to help protect and nurture a plant with frost/freeze damage.

1. Don’t prune: Although frost damage can be unsightly, you should not cut back dead or damages leaves or branches. This is very difficult for many gardeners, as cutting something unhealthy off their plant feels like the natural thing to do. However, the damaged leaves still have benefit by acting to protect the remaining plant from wind and chill. Besides, pruning promotes tender new growth, which is the last thing we want before winter is over. Keep your shears away until spring (late February for perennials and early March for tropicals) when the weather begins to warm. Spring is the time to cut back dead matter and let new growth take over. Feel free to trim plants all the way to the ground, just leaving a few inches of old growth. After you prune, use a fertilizer. Microlife 6-2-4 is an outstanding organic fertilizer that will help your plants with the production of new leaves and branches.

2. Add Compost/Mulch: It’s never a bad time to add compost and mulch. In fact, adding these two during the winter helps to further insulate plants’ rootzones while supplying plants with essential nutrients and the microbiology the need to stay healthy and happy. We recommend Vegan Compost from The Ground Up, because it contains a diverse range of microorganisms and is full of both macro and micro nutrients for plants. For mulch, the Native Hardwood is best, double-ground and aged, apply a 2-3 inch layer.

3. Prevent further damage: A damaged plant may not have what it takes to make it through another freeze. Protect these tender plants by bringing them inside if possible. If this isn’t possible, wrap them in frost cloth. Cover the entire plant and secure well at the base to ensure no wind can move under the cloth. Wrapping a plant may make the difference between life and death in the garden. Before a hard freeze, water your garden well. Water saturated soil holds heat better than a dry soil. Keep damaged plants well watered but be mindful that plants need less water in cooler weather.

06 January 2017

Vertical Gardening Benefits Schools and Cooks

The New Yorker published an exciting article about vertical farming efforts on the east coast.

Growing crops in the city, without soil or natural light.
 By Ian Frazier


Ingrid Williams, AeroFarms’ director of human resources, lives in Orange New Jersey but knows Newark well. She has degrees in labor studies and sociology from Rutgers. Williams told me. “There’s an AeroFarms mini-farm growing salad greens in the cafeteria of my daughter’s school, Philip’s Academy Charter School, on Central Avenue. I volunteer there all the time as part of parents’ stewardship, and I know the kids love growing their own lettuce for the salad bar.”

We need more Ed Harwoods in the US with messianic enthusiasm.
"The mini-farm’s inventor, Ed Harwood, of Ithaca, New York, sold it to the school in 2010. Harwood is a sixty-six-year-old man of medium stature who speaks with the kind of rural accent that sometimes drops the last letters of words. He has been an associate professor at Cornell’s famous school of agriculture, and he began his career as an inventor by coming up with revolutionary improvements in the computer management of dairy cows, an animal he loves. His joyous enthusiasm for what he does has an almost messianic quality."

And 76-year old Despommier and his wife are still working to improve the world - 
 ‘What would you like the world to be like in 2050?’ They thought about this and decided that by 2050 the planet will be really crowded, with eight or nine billion people, and they wanted New York City to be able to feed its population entirely on crops grown within its own geographic limit."

Agricultural runoff is the main cause of pollution in the oceans; vertical farms produce no runoff. Outdoor farming consumes seventy per cent of the planet’s freshwater; a vertical farm uses only a small amount of water compared with a regular farm. All over the world, croplands have been degraded or are disappearing. Vertical farming can allow former cropland to go back to nature and reverse the plundering of the earth. Despommier began to give talks and get noticed. He became the original vertical-farming proselytizer."

David Rosenberg, CEO
AeroFarms’ CEO David Rosenberg, used his grandfather’s invention to start a business called Hycrete, which he later sold, though not for a sum so great that he has chosen to fund AeroFarms himself. In recent years, his new start-up has raised more than fifty million dollars in investment, about twice as much as has any other vertical farm, or indoor farm of any kind, in the U.S.

Like the original Aero Farms Systems, this company would base itself on Harwood’s patented cloth for growing the plants and on his nozzle for watering and feeding them. It would build the vertical-farm systems but not sell them, grow baby greens commercially, and scale the operation up gigantically. This change in fortunes left Harwood thunderstruck. “I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “How many inventors have inventions sitting around, waiting for a break, and then something like this happens?”

Though many of the hundred-plus employees seem to be diffused throughout the enterprise and most vividly present in cyberspace, everybody gathers sometimes in the headquarters building for a buffet-style lunch, at which Rosenberg makes a short speech. Talking quietly, he repeats a theme: “To succeed, we need to be the best at four things. We need to be the best at plant biology, the best at maintaining our plants’ environment, the best at running our operational system, and the best at getting the farm to function well mechanically. We have to be the best total farmers. And to do all this we need the best data. If the data is not current and completely reliable, we will fail. We must always keep paying close attention to the data.”

Phillips Academy Charter School is still growing strong.
"Harwood’s original prototype mini-farm, the one he sold to Philip’s Academy in 2010, still produces crops six or seven times every school year. "

Catkin Flowers, left
Environmental Science Teacher Catkin Flowers keeps it going. "The teacher who keeps all this machinery in good order is Catkin Flowers. That is her real given name. A tall auburn-haired woman in her forties, she starts her science students working with the farm when they’re in kindergarten. “We use the farm to teach chemistry, math, biology,” she explained to me one morning between classes. 
“The students learn with it all the way through eighth grade. I think the farm is the reason our science scores are so competitive in the state. We get the kids involved in running the grow cycles and then solving the problems that inevitably come up. That’s how kids really learn, not from sitting back and watching the grownups do everything.”

And, Marion Nestle of Food Politics blog,  is proud to have been mentioned by WikiLeaks as an enemy of the sugary drink industry! What a mensch she is.

"On another morning, I stayed for lunch. First, Mentesana took me, along with Marion Nestle (not Nestlé; she’s no relation), the nutrition expert and N.Y.U. professor, on a tour of the school. A Clinton campaign e-mail released by WikiLeaks the day before had referred to harassment of Nestle by the beverage industry because of her book “Big Soda: Taking on the Soda Industry (and Winning),” and she was in a great mood, proud to have been mentioned. 

Phillips Academy Charter School farm
Robert Wallauer, the school’s young chef, introduced himself. He has worked for famous restaurants, but decided he could contribute more to the public good by running school kitchens. The entrée was a Chinese-style dish of pasta with chopped vegetables. I told him it was so delicious that if this were a restaurant I would come back and bring my friends."

01 January 2017

Native Plants Conference Feb 4 in Tulsa

The Oklahoma Native Plant Society Indoor Outing is in Tulsa this year! Great news for those of us who live in the eastern part of the state.

Registration is now available online at the link above.

topic Landscaping with Native Plants
time  8:30 to 4:00
location Tulsa Garden Center 2435 S Peoria

To register
Conference is $15 per person
plus optional meal
Lunch is $10 per person
3926 E 33rd ST.
Tulsa 74135

Connie Murray 918.8453170