16 July 2018

Reducing Water Use

Drip irrigation main line and drip line
It is only mid-summer and the gardening season will continue well into October. Pruning, watering, deadheading, weeding, and planting for the fall, will keep gardeners busy. 

We are also in the season of outsized water bills so it’s time to consider how to minimizing use in the garden. 

Try to apply moisture at soil level rather than overhead which evaporates it by half.  Drip irrigation systems are available in a wide range of prices. Soaker hoses work well too, and usually last two years. We  also use metal irrigation bubblers for areas that need to be soaked or deep watered. 

Water young trees at drip line
A summer-fall garden should be planted now. Tomato, pepper and herb plants are available but use seeds to plant zinnias, basil, cosmos, cucumbers, sunflowers and marigolds. Water new seed beds with the mist setting on a hose attachment. 

Oklahoma State University fact sheet HLA-6009 at http://osufacts.okstate.edu has tips on what to plant now.

Any tree that is less than a year in the ground  should have supplemental water. Identify the longest branches of the tree.  Using drip or soaker hose or a bubbler, water the area at the end of those branches. That area is where water drips off the branches during rain so it is where the tree’s roots are. A soaker hose wrapped in a circle at the drip line is effective.

Water early in the morning or evening to reduce evaporation and so the plants’ leaves are dry by nightfall. Water deeply to encourage the roots to grow down into the soil away from hot soil surfaces. Container plants can be grouped for a drip system. 

Foliar feeding is the exception to the general no-moisture-on-plant-leaves rule. Water-soluble fertilizer can be sprayed on the top and bottom of  plant leaves as a nutrition boost. Apply foliar spray at the coolest part of a windless day. Use a watering can rose or sprayer with the finest mist available for maximum absorption.

12 July 2018

Flower Garden and Nature Society Costa Rica Program

The Flower, Garden & Nature Society of Northwest Arkansas will meet 
Saturday, July 21, at 10:00 a.m. for a 
program about the beautiful flora and fauna of Costa Rica. 

Joyce Mendenhall, master gardener and active member of FGNS of NWA and Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, will share photos and facts of her trip to Costa Rica.  

The meeting will be held in the Student Center of Northwest Technical Institute at 709 S. Old Missouri Road in Springdale.  Doors open at 9:30 a.m. for refreshments.  Membership is not required for first-time visitors.  Info:  479-466-7265 or facebook.com/fgnsofnwa.  

08 July 2018

Artemisia is Dusty Miller and Tarragon and More

Artemisia vulgaris
Some gardeners call Artemisia a weed but this European native has made itself at home in America, Artemisia, also called wormwood, Sweet Annie or Mugwort, has scented leaves so it is rabbit and deer resistant. 

In ancient times Mugwort was an herb of protection to ward off evil spirits. Its Latin name, Artemisia, comes from it being dedicated to Artemis and Diana. 

Roman soldiers put Mugwort leaves in their sandals to help them walk longer and faster. Medicinally it has been used for pain, a stimulant, a sedative, an ingredient in beverages (Absinthe) and smoked as Sailor’s Tobacco.

Some of the varieties available as plants and seeds include -

Artemisia stelleriana, Dusty Miller, the familiar silver, plant that gardeners tuck into flower beds. There are several hybrids available that mature at  between 4 and 12 inches tall, with 1-inch wide, soft leaves and yellow flowers. Very adaptable.

Artemisia frigida, or Fringed Sage, grows well in xeriscape settings such as rock gardens and un-attended beds. In part-shade it can become floppy as it grows taller through the summer but it can be pruned back to make the stems more sturdy.

Artemisia lactiflora Guizhou
 Artemisia lactiflora Guizhou, or White Mugwort, is a sun loving variety with dark green leaves, black-green stems and large plumes of creamy white flowers. At four to five feet tall it can be used as a seasonal screen. 

Artemisia ludoviciana Silver King, or White Sage,  is used by landscapers to naturalize large areas with poor soil. Its silver foliage grows to 2 or 3 feet tall. Also called Silver Wormwood and White Sagebrush.

Artemisia spreads by rhizomes and will take over if it is grown in rich soil. Avoid over watering.

One variety that does not spread by rhizomes. Artemisia dranunculus var sativa is the culinary herb French Tarragon or Russian Tarragon that is widely used in sauces and meat recipes. The seeds are sold under the name Mexican Mint Marigold. Plant them in the spring.

06 July 2018

July 16 The Garden Lady C. L. Fornari

Tulsa Herb Society Presents “Garden Lady” C. L. Fornari for 30th Anniversary Celebration July 16th Educational Speaker 
Tulsa Garden Center

What:  The Cocktail Hour Garden: For most of us, life is jam-packed. In the 21st century it becomes even more important to take a break at the end of the work day, put aside our digital devices and reconnect with other people and the natural world. This talk explores how we can all benefit from a garden created for the senses. Whether you sit in such a space with a cup of coffee in the morning, an iced tea in the afternoon, or a cocktail at the end of the day, The Cocktail Hour Garden will be a refuge where you can relax, recharge, and reconnect with other people and the natural world. 

Who: C.L. Fornari is a writer, speaker, radio host and garden consultant. She is the author of several books including Coffee for Roses and The Cocktail Hour Garden. She gardens at Poison Ivy Acres on Cape Cod, and her initials may or may not stand for “Compost Lover”. https://www.gardenlady.com/ 

Who Should Attend:  Gardeners, anyone who deals with stress in their lives, All ages. 

Where:  Tulsa Garden Center Auditorium,  2435 S. Peoria Ave, Tulsa,  OK 74114

Media Contact:
Carol Puckett
Chair, Publications, Tulsa Herb Society

30 June 2018

Egyptian Walking Onions are Allium cepa profilerum

Allium cepa profilerum
Egyptian Walking Onions are neither Egyptian nor able to walk. But, they are an easy-to-grow onion that can be used from top to bottom. 

The underground part of the onion resembles a leek and can be used in cooking just like leeks. The hollow stem is used as a substitute for green onions when it is small. The seeds that form on the top of the stalk are harvested and used as pearl onions or shallots. 

Once you have planted a row, you can watch them grow and spread as they ‘walk around’ your garden.  If the small onions on the top of the stalk are left un-harvested, the stem will fall over from their weight. Wherever those little onions touch the ground, new plants are formed. Plus, the underground bulb will multiply. Soon you will have as many onions as you can use.

Egyptian Walking Onion
Gardeners who have a patch of Egyptian walking onions are happy to share roots and seeds to get you started. If you want to purchase the seeds though, there’s a website for that, www.egyptianwalkingonion.com.

 Their Latin name is Allium cepa profilerum, meaning they produce new plants. Some common names include perennial onions, winter onions, tree onions and top onions. They are hardy in zones 5 to 9.

The seeds or top onions are planted 1-inch deep and 8-12 inches apart early in the fall. They will emerge in the spring, looking like green onions at first. The first year they will produce green tops and shallot-like onions under ground; the second year they will produce seed on top of the stem. You can decide how many to harvest and how many to leave for seed-making.

They can be planted in a flower bed, a vegetable- herb garden or in containers.  Give them full or part sun, well-drained soil and room to spread. We grow them as a perennial, leaving some in the ground every year, so we have not replanted seed in 20 years.
Attachments area

24 June 2018

Astilbe for Shade with Red Pink or White Flowers

Shade gardens are a treat in the summer. Walking through or just looking at shady places with a collection of thriving plants can make us take a deep breath and relax.

Astilbe is one of the shade and moist-soil plants that looks great long after its flowers have faded. Most Astilbe varieties are originally from Asia. They are cold hardy from zone 3 to 9, as well as rabbit and deer resistant. Very few insects or diseases bother them and Astilbe tolerates being near black walnut trees.

The key to keeping them growing well is to never let them dry out and divide them every few years. They form clumps with long underground rhizomes that have to be dug and separated into more plants. A thick mulch will help keep their roots from drying and keep the leaves green all summer. Fertilize them annually with a balanced product such as 5-5-5.

Shop around as there are many variations in size, leaf shape, flower colors, etc. For example, Astilbe Bridal Veil is 3 feet tall when its white flowers are in bloom. Astilbe Purple Candles is 4 feet tall when in bloom. Smaller varieties such as Fanal and Visions are 1 foot tall with dark red flower spikes. The roots are on sale at American Meadows (https://bit.ly/2ylTQVy).

Astilbe Fanal
Astilbe is about the only member of the Saxifragae plant family that is upright. Most of its 400 relatives are mat forming and low growing. Astilbe’s other names include Goat’s Beard and False Spirea.

Astilbe gets along well with many plants that make a shade bed that is beautiful for three seasons. Consider these companion plants that have similar moisture and light needs: Hosta, ferns, azalea, rhododendron, impatiens, heuchera-coral bells, caladium, hydrangea, black eyed Susan and columbine.

22 June 2018

Tomato Diseases to Watch For

Entomology and Plant Pathology, Oklahoma State University 127 Noble Research Center, Stillwater, OK 74078 405.744.5527 Vol. 17, No. 19 http://entoplp.okstate.edu/pddl/pdidl 6/22/2018

Tomato Disease Update
John Damicone, OSU Extension Plant Pathologist
Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology Oklahoma State University

See https://apps.dasnr.okstate.edu/SSL/entoplp.okstate.edu/pddl/2018/PA%2017-19.pdf

Tomato diseases are rearing their ugly heads as fruit are set and some rainfall and a lot of humid weather has returned. After visiting some market farms last week and putting another string on plants in my garden, this is what I saw: Bacterial spot and speck These diseases are very similar in that they cause defoliation of plants from the bottom up and cause fruit spotting. They are difficult to separate in the field as their symptoms are very similar and may occur together. They are also difficult to separate from Septoria leaf spot, a fungal disease. 

Entomology and Plant Pathology, Oklahoma State University 127 Noble Research Center, Stillwa
Image result for septoria leaf spot

See https://apps.dasnr.okstate.edu/SSL/entoplp.okstate.edu/pddl/2018/PA%2017-19.pdf

Symptoms begin as dark, mostly circular, greasy appearing, water-soaked spots on lower leaves (Fig. 1). Spots rarely exceed about 1/8 inch in diameter. Leaf spots caused by bacterial spot and speck are smaller than early blight, another fungal disease and lack the concentric rings associated with early blight. Spots may or may not be surrounded by a yellow halo, which is more typical of bacterial speck. When spots become numerous, leaves may develop varying levels of yellowing, shrivel, and die. The diseases progresses from the bottom of the plant upward. Fruit spots caused by bacterial spot and speck are different and their symptoms are useful for differentiating the two diseases.

Fruit spots caused by bacterial speck are generally pin head size (Fig. 2) while fruit spots caused by bacterial spot are larger, reaching up to ¼ inch in diameter and a scabby appearance (Fig. 3). In my observations, fruit spots generally occur infrequently in our climate and the most damage from these diseases are from the plant defoliation which reduces plant productivity and longevity. Bacterial spot and speck are common where crop rotation is limited by space constraints. This is a common problem in residential gardens and small market farms. Generally 3-year rotations away from tomatoes and peppers are necessary to impact levels of the diseases. Other practices are management of infested crop residue and control of volunteer tomatoes because the disease is seed borne. Ultimately because there are no resistant varieties, spray programs with copper- based fungicides are required to minimize bacterial spot and speck.

In situations where there is uncertainty in whether tomato diseases are fungal or bacterial, it is best to apply a tank mixture of a copper and chlorothalonil (e.g. Bravo, Daconil, or Ortho Garden Disease Control).

Consult the OSU Extension Agent’s Handbook (Circular E-832) for more information and a listing of registered home and commercial formulations of copper and chlorothalonil.

Figure 1: Foliar symptoms of bacterial spot and/or speck

Figure 2: Bacterial spot on tomato Image result for bacterial spot

 Bacterial canker Bacterial canker is typically a problem in commercial field and greenhouse tomato production. It’s a very destructive disease because it can kill entire plants. Symptoms initially appear as a foliar leaf scorch beginning at the leaf edges. The leading edges of the scorch appear page green in color (Fig. 4).

Petioles of affected leaves develop small blister-like cankers from which the disease gets its name (Fig. 5).

Fruit on affected plants develop white “bird’s eye spots” which are highly characteristic of the disease (Fig. 6). Control of bacterial canker should focus on excluding the pathogen from tomato operations and sanitation measure to limit its carryover from year to year. The pathogen survives on crop residue, tomato stakes, transplant containers, and greenhouse surfaces. It is important to eliminate its carryover from year to year. Bleach solutions (10%) are effective in cleaning up canker infestations on stakes and surfaces.

Figure 4: Bacterial canker on tomato foliage. F Figure 5: Blisters or cankers on petioles caused by bacterial canker. Image result for bacterial canker

Figure 6: Fruit spots caused by bacterial canker. Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TWSV) has been a sporadic problem on peanuts and tomatoes in Oklahoma for many years. It has never reach severe levels here compared to south Texas or the Southeastern U.S. We’ve had a tomato sample test positive for this disease in the Plant Disease and Insect Diagnostic laboratory this year and I have an infected plant in my garden. This is not a major outbreak by any means but keep an eye out for it.

Symptoms on tomatoes appear as bronzing or stippling on the upper leaves and petioles (Fig. 7). Occasionally ring spots are visible in the leaves. Symptoms appear on individual branches or entire plants.

Eventually terminal shoots of affected plants turn yellow or brown and eventually wilt and die (Fig. 8).

TSWV is spread by thrips feeding on infected plants as juveniles. The thrips become infective when they molt into adults. Current research indicates that thrips transmit the virus in the late fall and winter to weedy hosts which then serve as local sources of the virus for thrips the following spring. Planting tomato varieties with resistance to the disease in the best management strategy. It’s probably best to cull out infected plants soon after symptoms appear so that they don’t serve as sources of the virus for thrips. Image result for spotted wilt virus

Figure 7: Bronzing of tomato foliage caused by tomato spotted wilt virus. Figure 8: Wilt and death of tomato foliage caused tomato spotted wilt virus

21 June 2018

Japanese Beetle Alert

Extension Entomologist Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) has begun emerging this summer and our earliest reports are coming from Ottawa County.  

Image result for japanese beetleEntomology and Plant Pathology, Oklahoma State University
Vol. 17, No. 17 http://entoplp.okstate.edu/pddl/pdidl June 20, 2018

Scout Now for Japanese Beetles in Ornamental, Fruit, and Row Crops Eric J. Rebek, Extension Entomologist Tom A. Royer,

Although this exotic, invasive pest has been steadily expanding its range westward, it is primarily a problem in the eastern half of Oklahoma. Japanese beetle is becoming one of our most significant insect pests because it congregates in large numbers to feed on the foliage, fruits, and Distribution: Japanese beetle is native to Asia and the first U.S. report is from Riverton, New Jersey in 1916. The beetle was likely introduced as white grubs hitchhiking within the root zone of irises shipped from Japan.

The beetle is common in all states east of the Mississippi River, except Florida, and is steadily encroaching westward. The distribution of Japanese beetle in Oklahoma is currently limited to approximately ten counties, but the beetle is widespread throughout several northeastern counties including Adair, Cherokee, Delaware, Tulsa, and Wagoner Counties.

Isolated populations have been found in Creek, Kay, Oklahoma, and Payne Counties, and the pest likely occurs in small pockets elsewhere in the state. Life Cycle: Japanese beetles have one‐year life cycles. Overwintering larvae migrate upward in March and April and resume feeding on plant roots until May, when they move deeper in the soil, form an earthen cell, and pupate.

Adults emerge late June through July and are active during the day, commonly found feeding and mating in large numbers on susceptible plants. Females repeatedly enter the soil and can lay 40‐60 eggs during their lifetime. Eggs hatch 1 to 2 weeks later and first instars begin feeding on plant roots.

The first instars molt in 17 to 25 days, while second instars take 18 to 45 days to develop and molt again. Most grubs reach third instar by late September, and by October they dig deeper into the soil to overwinter. Hosts: Adults feed on more than 300 different plant species and are considered major pests of ornamental, fruit, and vegetable plants. Japanese beetles also attack several row crops, including soybean and corn. Adults tend to prefer feeding on roses (Rosa spp.), flowering crabapple (Malus spp.), birch (Betula spp.), elm (Ulmus spp.), and zinnia (Zinnia spp.).

Japanese beetle is also an important economic pest of grapes and other economically important crops.

Damage: Adults feed during the day, preferring hot weather and plants located in full sun. In fruit and vegetable crops, defoliation often results in reduced yield. Healthy host plants can survive even complete defoliation by the beetle, but young or weak host plants may not be able to withstand heavy attacks. Adults also feed directly on fruits and flowers of ornamental, fruit, and vegetable plants. Image result for japanese beetle first instar

Feeding damage to these tissues is characterized by large holes, and fruits and flowers are often consumed entirely under intense pest pressure. When feeding on foliage of soybean and other plants, they prefer consuming the softer leaf tissue and avoid any leaf veins. This creates a leaf “skeleton” that is referred to as skeletonization. The visible damage they cause can be very disturbing to someone unfamiliar with their feeding. In soybeans, they typically feed on the upper leaves of the canopy and are more numerous along the field margin. This can result in overestimating the amount of actual defoliation that is present in the crop.

 When scouting for defoliation, collect leaves from the upper, middle, and lower portions of the canopy and scout the interior of the field to get an accurate estimate of actual percent defoliation. To estimate defoliation in soybean, randomly collect 6 leaflets (2 from the lower, 2 from the middle, and 2 from the top of the canopy) from 5 locations and estimate percent defoliation by averaging the defoliation level from 30 leaflets using the visual chart below. (see http://entoplp.okstate.edu/pddl/2018/PA17-17.pdf)
Image result for japanese beetle defoliationJapanese beetle will feed on the leaves, but the mostserious injury occurs when they feed on corn ear silks as the plants are pollinating, causing a reduced number of kernels. To estimate ear damage, check 5 randomly chosen plants from 5 locations within the field. Be sure to check plants within the field, because this pest tends to prefer feeding along field margins. Count adult beetles, and estimate the length of silk remaining on those ears. Estimate the maturity of the corn by counting immature tassels and shaking emerged tassels to see if pollen is still being shed. Consider an insecticide application if there is an average of 3 or more beetles per ear, silks have been clipped to less than ½ inch, AND there is less than 50% complete pollination. For control suggestions, refer to CR-7167: Management of Insect and Mite Pests in Soybean, or CR-7192: Management of Insect and Mite Pests in Corn. Both fact sheets can be obtained from your local Cooperative Extension Office or through Oklahoma Extension Fact Sheets at http://factsheets.okstate.edu/.

Cultural control for landscape plants: Handpicking adult beetles can be effective when they first colonize landscape plants. Beetles are less active in the morning and evening when it is cooler and can be killed by dropping them in a solution of soapy water.

Japanese beetle traps, which contain an aggregation pheromone and a floral lure to attract both males and females, have been commercially available for several years. However, these traps usually attract more beetles than they capture, leaving landscape plants vulnerable. In addition, adult Japanese beetles can fly one mile or more, so beetles that are caught in traps are readily replaced in the landscape by colonizing individuals. Thus, the use of Japanese beetle traps is generally not recommended. The only situation where traps may be useful is if traps are used across a large area like an entire neighborhood. If traps are used, they should be checked and emptied regularly, making sure to kill any live beetles by dunking them in soapy water. Biological control: Biological control of Japanese beetle is an active area of research, and several species of natural enemies have been released against this pest in other states. However, establishment has been limited for parasitic flies and wasps released for Japanese beetle control. Efforts are now being directed toward biological control of these beetles with disease‐causing microbes, and several insecticide formulations contain these microbial agents. Chemical control for homeowners:

There are many insecticides labeled for Japanese beetle control, and several are available to homeowners. Look for insecticide products containing acephate (Orthene), carbaryl (Sevin), bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, deltamethrin, lambda‐cyhalothrin, or permethrin. When adult activity is heavy, insecticide sprays may be needed every 5 to 10 days. Applications of imidacloprid (e.g., Bayer Advanced Tree & Shrub Concentrate) should be made at least 20 days prior to Japanese beetle adult activity. However, check the label carefully for pollinator protection requirements for use of products containing imidacloprid and other neonicotinoids. In general, soil applications of insecticides to target larvae will not reduce adult Japanese beetle populations because adults are strong fliers and colonize landscapes from surrounding areas. For insecticide recommendations for nurseries, homeowners, and fruit crops, refer to E-832: OSU Extension Agents’ Handbook of Insect, Plant Disease, and Weed Control.

17 June 2018

Achilleas Love Heat

Achillea or Yarrow is a friend of the summer garden since it blooms consistently throughout the hot months. 

Yarrows are part of the Aster family which is very well represented in Oklahoma gardens during the summer and fall. Achillea was named for the Greek mythological Achilles whose soldiers used yarrow to heal their war wounds. Yarrow has two common names that refer their healing properties:  Allheal and Bloodwort.

Yarrows grow to about 2-feet tall and wide in a sunny border. The naturalized-native and most common Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, has white flowers and has been known to pop up in gardens and yards without any effort on our part.  A. millefolium can spread by seed and by rhizomes.

Achilleas do well in unfertilized, moist to dry soil, in full sun to part-shade. Poor soil is fine if it does not stay wet. They even tolerate humid nights and late-summer droughts. If they get tall enough to flop over, just prune the stems back so they will bush out.

 The most colorful Yarrows, the hybrids, are less likely to spread and have stronger stems. Rozanne and Friends (www.geraniumrozanne.com) is a good place to look at the color varieties before you order or purchase.  There are several yellow, gold, red, violet and white colors available.

Yarrows are deer and rabbit resistant, cold hardy in zones 4-8, and are recommended for rock gardens, prairie garden beds, borders, containers and butterfly gardens.  They are often planted with roses and make long-lasting cut flowers for bouquets.

The Achillea Ritzy Rose in the photo is a 4-year old plant in our sidewalk bed that receives minimal attention and has hot concrete next to it. Its companion plants are Joe Pye Weed and fall asters (Aster tartaricus). That little corner attracts bees, butterflies and other pollinators until the first freeze.

10 June 2018

Muskogee Land in Trust

Sustainability, conservation and preservation have been trends in gardening  for several decades and many gardeners make an effort to use best practices such as fewer chemicals to improve the bit of earth they have to work with. 

Imagine being the environmental steward of 170-acres of natural landscape with rock formations, native plants, waterfalls and a manmade lake. Over the past 30-years, Ken Laubenstein has worked to sustain the legacy of his land, making improvements that continue the progression toward sustainability for wildlife.

Laubenstein’s property, Forest Lake Preserve is in Muskogee’s Gooseneck Bend. He is professionally retired but is an active Oklahoma State University, Muskogee County, Master Gardener. The land he lives on is permanently protected from destruction and development because he put it into trust with the Land Legacy which is a regional version of the Nature Conservancy. Land Legacy has 30,000 acres in trust in OK.

The 6.5 acre lake was on the property when Laubenstein purchased it 30 years ago, but he has consistently improved and upgraded it to attract and support wildlife. In addition to pulling out trash, he built four islands where water foul nest and make their homes. The pond is brimming with fish and turtles.

Four-wheeler trails run throughout the property for maintenance and there are several strategically placed benches where he can sit and watch wildlife. He said that every year he observes more and more bird species as the land becomes more established as a refuge.

On a recent tour, we observed native trees such as Pine, Cedar, Ash, Bald Cypress, Sassafrass, Locust, several Oak varieties, Ash, Elm, Redbud, Dogwood, etc. Native wildflowers are present all along the paths and walkways. 

The property is busy with regional wildlife, including beaver, skunk, deer, lizards, roadrunners, raccoon, armadillo, possum and rabbits. Since it is protected, hunting is not allowed.

Preserving a place for wildlife is a gift to future generations that few will take on. Laubenstein hopes that his Forest Lake Preserve will be used for research and education as well as environmental recreation.

03 June 2018

Prune and Water Thornless Blackberries Now

Our blackberry row
Thornless Blackberry plants are beginning to make fruit even as the plants continue to produce more blossoms. They are also sending up the canes that will bear next year’s fruit. All this activity on the plants’ part is a signal to home gardener that it is time to do some maintenance. 

There is plenty of advice available about selection, planting and care. Oklahoma State University Fact Sheet 6215 about growing blackberries in the home garden is at https://bit.ly/2L2nyAp. Another good resource is at https://bit.ly/2sfgDg3

During fruiting season blackberries need 2 to 4 inches of water a week. Their roots are shallow so watering more frequently at ground level rather than a deep soak or watering overhead will give the best results. A mulch made of organic material such as straw can be spread around them to keep the moisture level consistent.

The fruit should be harvested every other morning and only the dull-black ones should be picked. Shiny berries aren’t ripe yet. The fruit from thornless blackberries does not keep well so refrigerate soon after picking.

Right now the shrubs are producing next year’s fruiting canes and they must be pruned or tipped to about 4 feet tall. The lateral branches should be pruned to 12 to 15 inches long to keep the plants upright and full of berries next year. A Texas grower made a video illustrating how he prunes the 700 plants on his farm (https://bit.ly/2sg8wQp)
Tip-prune the non-fruiting canes now
Remove all the dead branches to prevent disease. While doing maintenance you will see new plants emerging a foot or two from the main plant. Remove these suckers and plant elsewhere or put them in containers to share with other gardeners. Leaving the suckers in place will create wide rows that are challenging to take care of.

Thornless blackberries are planted in Feb. Four plants will supply a family of 4.

27 May 2018

Herbs are Easy

Herbs are so easy to grow they are among the plants that are ideal for young gardeners because they will have success from their first attempt. 
Winter protection helps herbs survive cold temperatures

Herbs add scent in bouquets and their flavors create delicious beverages, salads, vegetables and meats that rival any restaurant fare. 

Patsy Wynn of Tulsa Herb Society said that since most herbs are ancient, they add history to the garden. Wynn said she cooks with basil, rosemary, thyme and oregano mostly.

“Mediterranean herbs are the easiest to grow,” Wynn said. “Give them average soil, plenty of sun, a little fertilizer and average water. The biggest mistake is keeping them too wet.”

Herbs and vegetables can be interspersed
To create an easy-to-grow container, Wynn suggested an airy, tall, fennel plant for the middle, golden oregano or sage for the center and parsley or thyme for the low growing plants. Just be careful to not over-water.

The kitchen herbs we grow come from the parsley and the mint plant families. From the parsley plant family: Dill, Celery, Caraway, Fennel, Cumin, Celeriac and Parsley itself. From the mint plant family: Oregano, Peppermint, Sage, Monarda, Thyme, Basil, Lavender, Rosemary and Lemon Balm.

In our area, many herbs are annuals and have to be planted every year. We plant basil, parsley and dill from seed every spring. The ones that live all winter outside in an average or mild winter, include: Rosemary, Lemon Balm, all the mints, Sage, Lavender, Thyme, Oregano and Fennel. In a really cold year, many of those will struggle unless they are protected with cover.

Grow herbs for their flowers, scent, kitchen flavors and bouquets
Pick up some herb plants at farmers markets and garden centers. They will add fragrance, flavor and pollinators such as butterflies to your life.

Tulsa Herb Society meets monthly on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Their schedule is posted on the Tulsa Garden Center website attulsagardencenter.com under the Event-calendar tab.

20 May 2018

Comfrey the Power Plant

For herbalists and organic gardeners Comfrey is considered a power plant for its healing properties. 

Wild Comfrey, Cynoglossum Virginian is a short plant that populates wooded areas from Texas to New York. The name Cynoglossum is Greek for hound’s tongue, referring to the shape of the 14-inch long leaves. 

The sun-to part-shade comfrey in our garden, Cynoglossum officinale, is also called Symphytum officinale and Hound’s Tongue in the plant trade. It grows into a fairly large plant and forms colonies. The dangling clusters of blue flowers make it recognizable as a relative of the culinary herb Borage. 

Comfrey is cold hardy in zones 3 to 9, disease and insect resistant. It can grow 3 to 5 feet tall with large, fuzzy leaves. It is not suited to formal or small gardens.

Biointensive gardeners cultivate comfrey as a compost crop since the leaves provide a highly desirable, nutrient-rich biomass. Called a wonder plant by permaculture growers, comfrey draws minerals from 10-feet deep, is made into liquid manure, attracts beneficial insects, can be used as a mulch and as a weed suppressant on garden paths (seewww.tenthacrefarm.com).

Comfrey’s medicinal uses come from its function of increasing cell production, enhancing the body’s ability to heal and knit injuries. The plants’ healing properties have earned it names of knitroot and boneset. On the internet dozens of homeopathic products called Symphytum are available. 

The plant in the photo came from Moonshadow Herb Farm at the Muskogee Farmers’ Market. Horizon Herbs is an online source http://www.horizonherbs.com/ that is reputable. If you would like to grow comfrey and prefer a variety that does not spread, look for Bocking 14 or Russian Comfrey, Symphytum x uplandicum. 

Seeds are also available. They take a few weeks to come up and prefer 45 degrees for germination.

17 May 2018

Garlic Scapes - Harvest Now

Garlic Scapes
Garlic scapes are the flower stalks and flower buds of hardneck garlic, leeks and onions.

If they are not trimmed off before they flower two things happen: 
1) the plants' energy goes to producing flowers, inhibiting the growth size of the garlic heads underground; and,
2) the pollinators enjoy the pollen of the garlic flowers and tiny garlic plants come up everywhere in your flower beds the next year.

How do I know? because more than half of the scapes in the red colander are from our flower beds.

The scapes must be picked young if you want to use them. If not harvested now, they dry up and become tough/stringy and horrible to use in pesto. Definitely harvest them before they form flowers.

This year we also grew leeks and they are now forming scapes, too. They will get used in the same recipe. But there are lots of other recipes
 Garlic Scape Carbonara – Sarah’s Cucina Bella
Garlic Scape Pesto – Dorie Greenspan
White Bean and Garlic Scape Dip – The Kitchn
Pickled Garlic Scapes – Not Without Salt
Garlic Scape Pizza – Herbivoraceous
Asian Pickled Leek Scapes – A Baking Life

Here's what I do with ours. I use scissors to cut them into pieces that easily fit into the food processor bowl and turn it on. Then, I add enough olive oil to make a slurry. After that add lemon juice, salt and 2 cups of walnuts. Run the food processor until it's all smooth.

The result is a creamy spread or aoil that I freeze in small containers. Last week I used some of last year's production on a vegetable side dish. So good. 

Our farmer's market also has scapes at some of the vendor tables. Don't miss out on these wonderful spring greens!