22 September 2017

Oct 1 - 7 Monarch Watch at Hackberry Flat Center

Join the Wildlife Department Oct. 1-7 to tag monarchs and watch them roost.
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Sept. 22, 2017
Monarch NR

Monarch butterflies will be tagged at Hackberry Flat WMA during their fall migration. (Jena Donnell/ODWC)

Annual Monarch Watch at Hackberry Flat Center

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will host a Monarch Butterfly Watch the first week in October at the Hackberry Flat Center near Frederick.
“We’ll be tagging monarchs in the mornings and watching them go to roost in a stand of soapberry trees in the evenings,” said Melynda Hickman, biologist for the Wildlife Department. The Monarch Butterfly Watch is a free event and registration is not required.

Morning Tagging:  October 1, 2, 3, and 7
After a brief discussion of butterfly basics, monarchs collected from the area will be tagged as a group. Meet at the Hackberry Flat Center by 9 a.m. for this hands-on activity. 

Evening Roost Watch:  October 1, 2, 3, and 6
An open air trailer will take visitors to a longtime monarch roost site within the management area. Meet at the Hackberry Flat Center by 6:30 p.m. Bring a collapsible chair and light jacket for your comfort; activity ends at 8 p.m. 

“Hackberry Flat has so much to offer,” Hickman said. “We’re excited to be able to share this experience with butterfly and wildlife enthusiasts from across the state.”
Both morning and evening activities will be held regardless of weather conditions, but morning tagging activities will be limited to the number of butterflies available at the roost site.
“So many things can affect their migration,” Hickman said. “Changes in wind speeds, wind direction, weather fronts and potential storms can all affect how many butterflies will be at Hackberry Flat during the event.”
Participants can contact Hickman one to two days before their planned arrival to check on the progress of the migration at Hackberry Flat WMA.
To get to Hackberry Flat Center, from the south side of Frederick, take U.S. 183 south for one mile, then go east on Airport Road for three miles. Follow the blacktop road south and continue six miles. Watch for signs to the Center.
Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area offers 7,120-acres of wildlife recreational opportunities. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, along with many conservation-minded partners, restored this legendary wetland, creating a vast mosaic of wetland habitats for prairie waterfowl, shorebirds and other wetland-dependent birds. Upland areas of native sunflowers and cultivated fields interspersed with mesquite have become one of the state’s premier dove-hunting destinations. Open for scheduled events, the Hackberry Flat Center offers interpretive guidance for wildlife enthusiasts, students and educators. For more information, log on to wildlifedepartment.com. Participants of these programs are exempt from needing a Wildlife Conservation Passport or valid hunting or fishing license while on Hackberry Flat WMA.
For more information about this event, or other programs held at Hackberry Flat Center, contact Hickman at melynda.hickman@odwc.ok.gov or by calling (450) 990-4977.

Monarchs Tagged at Hackberry Flat Found in Mexico
“Visitors and school groups tagged 476 monarchs as part of Hackberry Flat Center’s 2016 Monarch Watch,” Hickman said. “This March, three of those tags were found more than 1,200 miles away in the El Rosario Sanctuary in Michoacán, Mexico.”
“It’s amazing to know the butterflies we saw in southwestern Oklahoma made it all the way to Mexico,” Hickman said.  
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18 September 2017

Save Seeds Now for Next Year

Gardeners who save seed from their favorite flowers, herbs and vegetables from year to year are ensuring that their garden will please them. The seeds we choose to save are our favorite variety from the best plants, which means that they will be an improvement on the ones purchased.

Of course, money is saved by collecting your own seeds particularly if you usually purchase specialty seeds by mail order and add in the shipping costs.

Over years of saving only the best, the seeds available for the next season’s garden will produce top quality heirloom plants that are acclimated to your weather, water availability and climate, plus GMO-free.
 Save the seeds of plants with the qualities you prefer: Color, disease resistance, when they bear flowers or fruit, insect protection, size, length of storage in vase or basement, texture and yield.

Annuals are the easiest to save. Snip and save the seed heads of zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, petunias, columbine, dill, parsley, lettuce, kale, chard, leeks, etc.  If the seeds you originally purchased were of hybridized plants, the seeds you collect probably will revert back to one of the parents so it is more rewarding to use seeds from non-hybrid varieties.

If there is an annual growing in the garden now that you would like to have again next year because of its height, fruit size, insect resistance or yield, mark it with a tag of some kind so you remember not to cut it for a vase or cook with it.

Seeds that are gathered too early will not be mature enough to produce plants next year. If you are saving vegetable seed, the fruit has to be completely ripe in most cases though slightly immature seeds of beans, tomatoes, and leaf vegetables are often viable.

Fleshy fruit such as cucumber, squash, and pepper should be completely ripe. Tomatoes should be soft, cucumbers yellow and peppers red. On the other hand, once fruit has rotted, the seeds are deteriorated and useless. 

After the seeds are collected they have to be cleaned, sorted, dried and carefully stored.  For home gardeners this process can be done on a clear, dry day sitting outside or at the kitchen table.

Tomato seeds have their own requirements but it is worth the trouble if you have an especially good tomato that you want to grow again. Soak tomato seeds for a few days to ferment them. The good seeds will sink to the bottom of the container and the poor seeds will float to the top. Cucumber seeds can be treated the same way.

Seeds must be completely dry before storing.  After cleaning out the chaff, air-dry the seeds on newspaper for a week or two and change the paper once or twice a week. Large seeds of peas and beans can take 2 weeks to dry thoroughly.

Heat from a light bulb can be applied to the seeds but keep the temperature under 110 F.

Storing seed correctly will keep them alive and inhibit sprouting. Many gardeners keep their saved seed in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. If the seeds are completely dry, many types can be stored in a home freezer.

Store the thoroughly dry seeds in glass jars with tops or in envelopes stored in glass jars.  Mark each envelope or jar with the plant name before storing.

Baby food jars and others with a small rubber gasket are ideal because they keep out moisture that can damage the life of the seeds. Cans with tight lids work just as well as glass containers.

If saving seeds is new to you, start with something you love. Next year you will have your own heirloom plants to enjoy.

10 September 2017

Wingstem or Ironweed is Verbesina

Wingstem or Ironweed is classified as a weed by the Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide but we planted it intentionally as a butterfly nectar food for our yard since its flowers are abundant in the fall when there is little else for our flying friends.
Ironweed or Wingstem is Verbesina alternaefolia

One if its other common names is Ironweed and there are several other plants with that common name, including Veronia novemboracensis which has blue-purple flowers in the fall.

Pine Ridge Gardens in NW Arkansas was the source for our original plant. It has taken several years for it to become 12 feet tall and begin to sucker out into the dry bed where it lives.

Since the blossoms are small we find a lot of skippers nectaring on the flowers. Oklahoma's Bina Flower Moth and Aluring Schinia Moth use these plants to raise their caterpillars.

Wingstem, a member of the Aster family, is definitely an American native plant and can be found flourishing in open fields.

Other plant relatives include Yellow Crownbeard (Verbesina helianthoides) and Frostweed or White Crownbeard (Verbesina virginica).

As they mature in the fall, the petals of Ironweed flowers pull back or become reflexive.

There are 300 plants in the Crownbeard genus. They all have flowers that resemble miniature sunflowers, no matter which color they are.

These are not front of the garden plants. If you have a part or full sun spot where you can let them go, Ironweeds will thrive, providing nectar for butterflies, a nursery for moths and seeds for a bird-friendly yard.

03 September 2017

Garlic - Buy Your Seeds NOW

Worldwide, 2.5 million acres of garlic are grown to meet the needs of our kitchens and natural health pharmacies. Most of that garlic is grown in Asia, specifically China. CA has the largest growing area in the U.S. It is one of the easiest fall-planted crops you can grow in a kitchen garden.
Garlic can be planted from the seeds of the flower but only under special conditions so most of us just use cloves of garlic as seed. When you buy a head of garlic at the produce stand or farmer’s market, you break it apart into cloves. Each of those cloves has the potential to produce a head of garlic.
Garlic planted now will be harvested next June. You must get going on ordering seed. Most companies run out of stock on varieties.
You can tuck seed (cloves) into any sunny flower or vegetable bed or in a deep container where it will mature over the winter and next spring. We usually plant ours between now and Christmas.
Select seed from recommended garlic varieties to ensure the best crop next summer. Look for the flavor and amount of heat you prefer, of course. Some varieties have small or large heads; some are long keeping cultivars and others are best eaten fresh out of the garden.
For pickle making and roasted garlic we prefer large cloves. The small, flavorful, clove varieties are great to chop for pizza, tacos, salad dressings, stir-fry and soup.
Garlic seed = clove of garlic
  When you order garlic seed, you order not only by size and sharpness or mildness of flavor but also how long the harvested heads will keep.
The Rocambole garlics have the best flavor, according to the experts. Their names include: Carpathian, Killarney Red, Russian Red and Spanish Roja. They do not store well so they are grown for eating in the fall.

Purple Stripe and Glazed Purple Stripe Rocambole varieties store a little longer and have a more intense flavor. Those varieties include: Samarkand, Shatili, Shvelisi and Vekak.
Asian varieties such as Pyongyang and Asian Tempest also store well.
Artichoke garlics resemble what grocery stores call giant garlic, which is a leek or mild onion. Those include: Kettle River Giant, Lorz Italian and Tochliavri.
If you enjoy large clove garlic, try these varieties: Leningrad, Music, Romanian Red, Rosewood, Zemo, Bai Pi Suan, Bogatyr and Siberian.
Creole garlic stores well for many months and growers like the flavor. Varieties include: Burgundy, Creole Red, Manuel Benitee, Pescadero Red, Roja de Castro, and Ajo Roja.
Silverskin varieties store longest. They can be hot rather than complex in flavor, so they are recommended for sauté rather than fresh use. Some of the names include: Locati, Nootka Rose, Rose du Var, S & H Silver, Silver White and Wedam.
The early maturing varieties include the Turbans: Luster, Shandong and Uzbek

Garlic scapes June 2011
Sellers also refer to garlic as hardneck or softneck.  Hardnecks are more cold-hardy and best for northern gardeners. Softnecks grow well in mild climates such as ours, store longer, and braid more easily.
Plant the seeds in prepared soil, in a sunny location. Spacing is 6-8-inches apart, in 10-inch-wide rows. Plant cloves deep enough to cover with an inch of soil. Fertilize lightly with 10-10-10 or an organic equivalent, then water, and mulch. Keep the area completely weed-free and the soil moist to prevent shriveled heads. Fertilize again in the spring.
For more information: Online check out www.wegrowgarlic.com or the book, “The Complete Book of Garlic” by Ted Meredith, 2008, $40, Timber Press (timberpress.com) and $22 at Barnes & Noble (barnesandnoble.com).
You can also go to your local farmers' market and buy a few heads of garlic to plant. Separate each head into cloves. Only plant the largest cloves - they will grow the largest heads.