29 October 2017

A Few Winter Tips

Plant containers for cuttings
When taking cuttings of cold hardy perennials for rooting over the winter, you can use your bare bed space to keep them outside.

 Instead of putting the containers on top of the soil where you have to keep them watered, plant the containers in the ground. The soil will keep them warmer, rain and snow will keep them moist and they can easily be covered late winter for getting jump start on growth.

Clamshells for winter sowing
 I also use this method for planting seeds (in clear plastic clamshells) that need cold stratification to germinate.

  In these two are Agastache and Chinese Parasol tree. Over the next couple of weeks  they will have lots of company.

  If winter sowing seeds is new to you, here are a few sites
 - http://wintersown.org/
 - https://getbusygardening.com/winter-sowing-seeds/
 - https://www.facebook.com/groups/wintersown/
 - http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2012/11/winter-sowing-101-6/
 - https://www.thespruce.com/what-is-winter-sowing-1403095

  The basic idea is that perennials need and want cold, moist, stratification in order to germinate. Putting them directly onto the ground risks their being washed away by hard rains. The containers can be left on top of the ground but  you have to water them more.

My go-to seed germination chart is at http://tomclothier.hort.net/

DIY mini greenhouses
In order to protect my herbs a little longer, Jon wired together salvaged house windows that I use as mini-greenhouses out in the beds.

Under glass there is parsley, oregano, marjoram, sage, lovage and rosemary.

Since the glass is there, I stuck several Red Russian kale seeds in the ground. The seeds are up and were undisturbed by the freezes we had the past two nights.

Lots of plants were not damaged by the freeze including perennial herbs that can take a real beating and keep on producing delicious leaves as well as food for pollinators.

Our garden has lavender, lemon balm, oregano, mints, sage, thyme, rosemary, sage.

Of course, the basil turned black. I put in 20 or more basil plants this year from seed but didn't buy seed for next spring. I'm anticipating lots of volunteers from all those gone-to-seed giant basils out there.

20 October 2017

Pine Cones - How-to Treat for Crafting and Gardening

If you have pine cones on your property it is tempting to use them for 1) seasonal crafts and 2) to top newly planted fall crop beds (keep out neighborhood cats and dogs).

There is more than one method to kill the insects and mold living in pinecones but I have always used the oven rather than the chlorine bleach or vinegar methods.

Heating them in the oven for 30 minutes at 250-degrees F not only makes them better (debugged) household decorations, it causes them to dry out and expand to be a bit larger as the sap melts and the moisture evaporates. The melted sap adds a little sheen, too.
Single layer on cookie sheets in oven
Collect the number of pinecones you need for beds and/or crafts.
We filled a wheelbarrow in 10 - 15 minutes in our back yard, picking up the in-tact ones and leaving the broken and moldy ones.

We're collecting for newly planted beds at a local school plus tiny ones for holiday table decorations.

We constantly pull pine tree seedlings from our flower beds but if you want to grow trees from the pinecones you collect, there's a YouTube video for that. Read the comments section, too, where others give more tips on their methods.

You could also make these cute sprouted pine cone bonsai for your holiday table.
Put the bottom of a lime-Sulphur-treated pinecone in a cute container filled with soil and keep it moist.

If I had any crafty ability at all I'd make these cute people!

We have lots of pine cones if you want some.

16 October 2017

Water Primrose is Ludwigia peploides glabrescens

Spaniard Creek on the Arkansas River
During a visit to Spaniard Creek Park  yesterday we saw an aquatic plant that was attracting hundreds of fall pollinators including bees, wasps, butterflies, and skippers. The patches of flowers were covered and abuzz to the point that we all squatted down to watch.
It turns out that this source of insect pollen is none other than Creeping Water Primrose. The South American variety is Ludwigia hexapelata and the US native variety is Lusdwigia peploides glabrescens.

South American Water Primrose is so invasive in fact that in many states there are programs to eradicate it to prevent its clogging irrigation channels, rivers and lakes. In addition it is well known as mosquito breeding heaven. The native variety, L peploides is called aggressive rather than invasive.

Ludwigia peploides glabrescens
 Illinois Wildflowers says "This perennial plant is ¾–2½' long. It either floats on water or sprawls across the ground. The stems are light green to red (often the latter), glabrous to sparsely pubescent, and terete. Alternate leaves along these stems are 1¼–3" long and ½–1" across; they are elliptic, oblong-elliptic, oblanceolate, or oblong-oblanceolate in shape and smooth along their margins. The leaves are usually glossy green in appearance, although sometimes they develop patches of red or yellow. ... The blooming period occurs from late spring to early fall, lasting several months. The flowers are diurnal.
"The flowers are cross-pollinated primarily by bees, including honeybees, digger bees (Eucerine), and Halictid bees. Other visitors, such as flies and skippers, are less effective at cross-pollination. These insects obtain nectar and/or pollen from the flowers. Some insects feed destructively on Creeping Water Primrose. This includes the flea beetles, Altica litigata and Lysathia ludoviciana, and a leafhopper, Draeculacephala inscripta. The Mallard and possibly other ducks feed on the seed capsules. Because of the large dense colonies that this plant often forms, it provides good cover along shorelines for various insects, frogs, and other wetland wildlife."

We saw several box and snap turtles in and among the Water Primrose at Spaniard Creek Park.
If you haven't visited Spaniard Creek Park, this is a gorgeous time of year to walk along the water's edge as the trees enter their fall stage and drop acorns. There are very few campers now so walkers have plenty of room to roam and appreciate the beauty of Oklahoma fall.

06 October 2017

Layer Perennials to Make More Plants

Lots of perennials can be layered to make more plants. While some recommend doing it in the spring, I've had good luck starting the process in late summer and early fall, too.

Basically, what you'll do is select a lower branch of a healthy plant and put it on the soil. Once you know where on the branch the soil will intersect, you remove all the leaves from that area and scar it by scraping the outer bark near a leaf node.

That leaf node/scarred area is placed on the soil and gently pressed in. To keep the rooting site in contact with the soil put soil or newspaper on top then anchor it with a rock.

Simple layering
 You can also pin the branch's leaf node area to the soil after removing the leaves and slightly scarring it. Called simple layering.

Some recommend air layering by wrapping the stem but that method has never worked for me.

Tip layering
Plants to consider layering method include roses, Beautyberry, Blackberry, Snowball shrub, Pyracantha, Hibiscus, Holly, Laurel, Lavender, Creepers, Forsythia, Azaleas, and many houseplants.

You can also do tip layering. Dig a 3-inch hole and insert a shoot tip and cover it. The tip grows down then bends and comes back up.

Layering is easy and it's a kick to see all the new plants you'll have available next spring.

02 October 2017

Get Ready for Next Year This Fall

Five Star Hibiscus seed pod
I'm collecting seeds almost daily now. This week Jon grabbed the seed pods of the Chinese Parasol Tree. The Five Star Hibiscus has to be checked a couple of times a week so the seeds don't just drop to the ground.

Fall is such an exciting time of year. The migrating birds are returning, garlic is planted, daffodils are peeking out of the soil for a sunshine snack and I'm planning next year's gardens.

Chinese Parasol Tree seeds with pods
 In addition to collecting seeds and visualizing where I'll plant the seedlings next year, I'm deciding what to take clippings of to overwinter in the shed. I'm already digging lilies, dividing the bulbs and replanting them around the various beds.

Soon it will be time to divide the Hemerocalis - Day Lilies.

What will you be collecting to make next year's garden gorgeous?