Gardening tips and more.
The Art of Great Gardening
The sight of turkey vultures drying out their wings in the mornings is an amazing sight to me! Lines of vultures, one next to the other, roosting on fences, wings outspread like so much laundry on a clothesline. The phoebes are back nesting under the eaves of the house and I can hear the killdeer looking for a place to nest on the ground in the vegetable garden, as they do every year.
I think we can (maybe) safely say that spring has arrived in spite of snow, wind, hail and, of course, mud, mud, mud. If you can get into your garden, it's time to plant English peas. I've mentioned in this column last season, that peas like alkaline soil. When you put in your compost, be sure to mix in some readily available limestone with your compost. Put up your trellis when you plant. The seedlings of peas are very frail and can break off if they are disturbed. Be sure to use an innoculant powder of bacteria, Rhizobia, which promotes the formation of root nodules containing beneficial bacteria that converts the nitrogen in the air that is used by the plants. Because of this you do not want to use nitrogen fertilizer for peas. In fact, if you do use nitrogen you could get a lot of growth, but not much pea production. Also, peas do not like being waterlogged, but do increase your watering when they bloom.
There is a lovely little snow pea that I may have mentioned before. Its name is Dwarf Grey and it has a beautiful purple-red flower and red tinged leaves. The leaves and flowers are used as a garnish in salads or stir-fries, but they are the sweetest snow pea I've ever eaten. The advice for edible peas is the same as ornamental peas. They also like the cool weather and alkaline soil. I like to plant mine near the door where their fragrance can't be missed.
The chinese greens, brassicas and spinach seeds can also be planted this month. The requirements for those plants is the same as peas, except if you do plant the seeds this month you will need to provide protection for them against the frosts we will have till May. Row cover tunnels are perfect for this. These plants do not like heat. We need to plant them while the weather is still cool. Of course, we're talking about seeds, not starts, which we can plant later in the month in the warmer parts of the county or wait till May. I've seen my spinach boil to death in the heat. It will rain and the sun comes out and literally cooks them in the soil. My friends who live up on the mountain west of Edray have gorgeous spinach all through the summer because of the cooler weather there. I usually do another planting in August as the earth begins to cool and have had very good luck with that second planting of spinach, brassicas and greens.
My beautiful iris cristadas, little irises that are native to these mountains, but a gorgeous cultivar, bloomed for a little while and then froze! And for the first time ever, the crocuses also froze. I'm hoping some didn't bloom yet and the purples and golden yellow ones will be seen again. The daffodils seem to be waiting for the cold to really be through. They are holding their buds unopened and haven't really done their show yet. As far as bulbs are concerned, I think everyone knows that, for me, other than shrubs and trees, you get the most out of your money. They just keep increasing and showing more color every year. If you plant tulips, plant late blooming ones that wait till May to bloom. They do very well here and mine come back every year. The earlier blooming ones never do.
We started an herb garden a few years ago with a small amount of mostly medicinal herbs such as, wormwood, nettles, rue, echinacea, chamomile, calundula, etc. They overwinter fine here. For some reason I thought they would freeze in winter and not come back. We also planted the peppermint in dappled shade where it gets plenty of water. Unlike spearmint that adores the sun, peppermint, I've found, thrives much better in shade. Our mountains, where they haven't been mined severely or the tops removed, contain almost more biodiversity than any mountains on earth. They are very ancient and full of herbs. My wondering whether herbs would grow well here was a little crazy! I had large herb gardens in California and Texas and, being used to that kind of dry climate, just didn't believe those herbs I planted would become perennial.
By the way, for those people new to the area , if you do not know, the bright yellow flowers you see near the ground along the roads, are coltsfoot. The root of this herb is a powerful herb for the lungs. Seeing herbs in their natural setting instead of in books has been a real treat for me. Heal-all is prolific (also known as Travelers Joy), and also red clover, both of which are some of the most healing of herbs.
If you garden organically, and more and more people are, you'll discover that it is really a simple process. The simple act of planting flowers in your vegetable garden is not only beautiful, but will attract beneficial insects that will attack the bad bugs, as well as bees which are so necessary for pollinating summer crops. The other main hint after all is said and done is to make lots and lots of compost for both your vegetables and flowers. The soil becomes balanced after time, the p.h. straightens out and the acid and alkaline balanced. The critters who live in the soil and turn it for us and provide nutrients, thrive, and you'll find, after time, lots of earthworms. It is not only cheaper to garden this way, but safer.
Serious gardening is in store for us, but the fruits of our labors are more than worth it. Gardening restores our souls and our bodies.
The Art of Great Gardening
February is the month for pruning. Buddleias can be pruned back hard as well as Pussy ?Willows and the red stemmed willow, Salix Britzensis, which needs to be pruned annually or semi-annually to keep them from growing too large and to maintain their red stems. Also, though crab apples do not need regular pruning, any branches coming out from the roots should be pruned out. This is true for all trees. You do not want crossing branches, dead wood, or branches too close to the ground or growing out from the roots.
Try to maintain an open framework on your trees and shrubs and this is the time to do much of this work. You can also prune up into March when we prune our apple trees, as well as April, but if you can get out this month and do some of these chores your new branches and shape of the trees or shrubs would benefit by being pruned early. Old lilacs can be pruned now that may have escaped your attention last year.
As to the red willow, cut back all the stems to a short framework of shoots. You can also prune the main stem back to about 36", and remove branches growing close to the base. Prune back each stem to an outward facing bud about two inches from the stump of hardwood. Your plants will look awful for a while, but within weeks of pruning, strong new shoots will grow.
Pussy willows, as we know, can grow to be gigantic. I brought mine from North Carolina and it's a mammoth variety. The mammoth referred to the catkins, but I didn't realize the shrub could get so mammoth itself. I have a big job with mine as I've neglected to prune them for quite a few years. Because of not pruning there are hardly any catkins on the branches of my pussy willow shrubs anymore.
To prune the pussy willow, remove the dead branches. If your shrub is way overgrown like mine, prune out one third of the oldest branches every year for three years. The wood of the old branches is a grey color. After harvesting the branches with the catkins, cut back those branches to where the new brown wood is showing. These branches would be the vigorous new growth coming from the main stem. Cut to just above an outfacing bud. You want to have your shrub grow laterally rather than up. If you prune to just above an outside node or bud your new branches will grow that way making for a much prettier looking shrub. Also, if you put your harvested pussy willow branches into vases with water, some of them will root. You can take these stems and pot them up, let them get more root growth and plant them out in spring. I have one that took just by putting it into the ground.
Snow is called "poor man's nitrogen" and last years' amount of snow I think was what caused my hollyhocks to be so stunning. I donﾑt know if the same will happen this year unless we get more snow than we have so far. I labeled the different seeds by color and gave them out to friends who wanted certain colors and hopefully they will breed true to color. Hollyhocks are great "passalong" plants. They seed so prolifically there's plenty for everyone! Some of you may already have crocuses blooming. Mine are just beginning and I'm looking forward to seeing them with their promise of more color to come soon in the rest of the garden.
A word on Japanese Honeysuckle...... If they are tangled or overgrown, prune them in early spring before new shoots arrive. Prune them back hard a few inches from the ground as well as removing one third of the old vines. All other honeysuckle can be cut back after flowering to the new shoot produced down on the stem.
An anvil pruner will make a cleaner cut on both trees and shrubs. Those are some of the things I thought might be useful for this month as we study catalogs and decide what we will try to plant this year in our vegetable and flower gardens and, of course, mixing as many flowers in with the vegetables is not only beautiful, but attracts so many beneficial insects. The beneficials tend to take care of the bad guys that can give so much trouble every year. I will write a list of beneficial insect attracting plants in the next column. Until then, we're getting ready for another season of hard work, bountiful harvests and lots of fun!
Don't let fall fool youﾗthere's still time to plant
The Art of Great Gardening
There's still time to plant trees, shrubs and hardy perennials.ﾠ Be sure to water them in and continue to water at least once a week in dry spells this fall.ﾠ You can lose your new plantings if you're not aware of their water needs.ﾠ The morning frosts are not enough to keep your new plantings healthy in time for winter.
If you're planning a wildflower meadow or garden or scattering wildflower seeds in your garden beds, now is the best time to do so.ﾠ As I've said before, fall plantings of wildflowers work much better in our area than spring planting.ﾠ It's not too late to plant spring-flowering bulbs.ﾠ By the way, try to keep your bulb leaves until they are dead before cutting them back.ﾠ The leaves feed the bulbs.ﾠ I know most people have their garlic planted by now.ﾠ I've heard from many people about that.ﾠ Don't forget to mulch them heavily so they won't heave out in winter.
All this late planting activity can be fun and is very necessary to overwinter these plants and flower seeds.ﾠ They need the cold and the winter moisture to do their best and, of course, your trees, shrubs and hardy perennials can put their energy into their root systems rather than into leaves and flowers.ﾠ I received a list of plants that are easy maintenance for us to think about for next year.ﾠ The list came from ﾠdean@plant-biology.com, in which he recommends that you think of growing plants that are native to your area and to supply compost mulch around the plants in spring.ﾠ I would add, not to apply the mulch till the soil starts to warm up because it could rot the roots of the plants if we mulch here in Pocahontas County when the soil is still cold and wet.ﾠ His list of easy to grow plants are:ﾠ French Marigold, Shasta Daisy, Hosta, Moss Rose, Pampas grass, Garlic chives, Chrysanthemum, Daffodil, Violet, Purple Coneflower, Creeping Phlox.ﾠ Of course, there are many more for our area which we will list come next spring.
We can cut back many of our plants now, except I always leave prolific seed-heads such as Echincea and Black-eyed Susans for the birds over the winter. Don't cut back the Grasses or Russian Sage till the spring when new growth appears.ﾠ Your grass clumps can be cut back then and divided.ﾠ There are so many grasses to choose from and you might want to go through the catalogs or websites that specialize in grasses to plan for purchasing in the spring.ﾠ Their selection of grasses is spectacular.ﾠ The grass plant ﾑGracile' is just that - a lovely, slender, graceful grass.ﾠ Grasses are beautiful this time of year when they are flowering.ﾠ Their plumes are their flowers.ﾠ I have grasses whose plumes are in many colors; from a silver to mauve and when the wind blows they are a show in themselves moving in the wind.
Now is the time to mulch and compost the flower beds, trees and shrubs - everything should be composted for the winter.ﾠ Compost is not the same as fertilizers; it will not cause blooming in warm spells through the winter.ﾠ Remember to fertilize out at the outer tips of your trees.ﾠ That is where your young feeder roots are located and they need the feeding, not the larger main trunk.ﾠ Just put out a ring of compost where the tips of the tree are located.
Wait till late winter to do most of your pruning.ﾠ Pruning is so important.ﾠ We have an old Redbud that has put out scraggly little twigs up top with few flowers in the spring.ﾠ This tree is located near our magnificent old large Redbud, which is spectacular every year.ﾠ We cut the scraggly one back viciously after blooming this year (one of the exceptions about late winter pruning) and over summer it burst into strong, healthy branches, instead of twigs, and put out beautiful leaves.ﾠ I am expecting the flowering to be wonderful next spring.ﾠ At least my fingers are crossed that it will! ﾠSo many times, it's either give up and cut the tree down or go ahead and prune it severely and watch it either die or grow into a healthy, beautiful specimen.ﾠ Kind of what life does to us!
By the way, don't you love your hydrangeas?ﾠ Mine always surprise me with their beauty when they die back.ﾠ They make great looking dried bouquets as they change from white to pink to mauve.ﾠ As I write, I keep looking at the PeeGee hydrangea I planted this past spring and its dried flowers are a pale orange.ﾠ I've never seen that particular color anywhere else, it's almost indescribable.
I am about to chop down a black and red pussy willow unless someone would like to come by and dig it out.ﾠ I saw it at a friend's place in North Carolina and the black and red on a pussy willow was so unusual to me.ﾠ I'd never seen one before.ﾠ It doesn't do well for me because I think it needs a warmer place - it was growing in Zone 6, but takes our weather fine. ﾠﾠI think if someone would place it in a warmer area than I have available, it could do very well.ﾠ It's gorgeous when it shows itself to advantage.
Compost piles that are made now can be protected from winter wet with a very heavy layer of hay over it or a tarp to keep it warm and not soggy.ﾠ Just check it through the winter to make sure it hasn't dried out.ﾠ Too much dry or wet will prevent your compost from cooking properly.ﾠ The first winter here, I thought the hay I'd put on my pile was enough to shed water.ﾠ I got a lesson in
West Virginia winters.ﾠ In the spring I had a soggy, rotten mess.ﾠ I rescued it by adding dry matter, turning it often and it revived into an excellent pile.
We're putting in raised beds in the greenhouse for intensive planting of greens and possibly tomatoes through the winter.ﾠ Time for the younger ones here at the farm to do that.ﾠ I'm ready for a nice, cozy winter.ﾠ Yes, I'm going to learn to knit - maybe it'll keep me busy creating new, beautiful things through the winter when I really miss the flowers.
Have a very Happy Thanksgiving.ﾠ We have so much to be thankful for.ﾠ In spite of everything, we have our friends, family and gardens.
Don't let early frosts stop you from gardening
Our frosts have begun at least in early morning and as I write this, the frost is just leaving with the oncoming sun.ﾠ There is still time for some gardening.ﾠ Mainly, itﾒs time between now and mid-November for us to plant garlic.
Every year I plant several different types of garlic.ﾠ There is Elephant garlic, Soft-neck and Hard-neck varieties of garlic.ﾠ Garlic grows best in deep, rich soil and full sun and I always raise the bed slightly and compost heavily as I do for onions to obtain optimal root growth.ﾠ Now is the time to plant because the bulbs will get a bit of growth on them and will not heave out of the ground as easily with winter freezing.ﾠ It is best of plant now as spring planted garlic never does as well. ﾠI also mulch six to eight inches for over winter to prevent heaving, as well.ﾠ The benefit of raising the bed slightly is also so that water will not stand on the garlic, which is very bad for any allium or onion family plant.
Elephant garlic has huge very mild cloves.ﾠ Itﾒs almost sweet and you can freely use it in salads and cooked with other vegetables or roasted by itself.ﾠ Stiffneck garlic is the most cold-hardy, mild and very easy to peel.ﾠ I have grown the German Extra Hardy, which does wonderfully well and Russian Red, which is a great storage garlic.ﾠ Next year I will try the variety Music, which is supposed to be very sweet and pungent.ﾠ The variety Ajo Rojo is more for California and the southwest.ﾠ The Softneck variety is the best garlic for braiding, the strongest flavored garlic and stores great.ﾠ I grow the New York White variety, which has a slightly purplish hue and braids beautifully.ﾠ I have seen people make wreaths of this garlic for storage and itﾒs quite beautiful.ﾠ Iﾒm so bad at braiding, itﾒs shameful, so I donﾒt even attempt it anymore.ﾠ
Itﾒs also time to plant many flower seeds to over winter I usually wait until November, after a hard frost, before I plant, although some seeds can best be planted in January or February, such as the giant rose mallow, ﾑSouthern Belle.ﾒ You wait to plant after a hard frost because before that you may get germination of the seeds, which will freeze out in the winter.ﾠ Itﾒs a sure bet to wait till after the first hard frosts.ﾠ When I first did these plantings I felt like a moron, planting seeds in the cold!ﾠ But it worked beautifully and in the spring I had great early flowers that withstood the frosts of late spring.ﾠ Of course, with many of these seeds, such as poppies, they drop their seeds in time to benefit from the winter cold which they need for best germination in the spring.ﾠ Scatter the seeds, rather than put them in the earth, your mulch over winter will give them the cold and protect them at the same time.
Some of the varieties of flowers we can plant next month are theﾠ corn poppies, California poppy, coreopsis, cornflower, larkspur, Queen of the Prairie, euphorbia griffithi, ﾑFireglow,ﾒblanket flower, cardinal flower, loosestrife, Maltese Cross, Catchfly, Blue Pimpernel, Crown daisy, Clarkia, Chinese forget-me-not, toadflax; ﾠthe list does go on, but I thought that might be enough for now!
If you are going to be putting in a meadow of wild-flowers or just a small planting, fall is the best time, because all those flowers need the cold of winter to germinate best in the spring.ﾠ Also, you will be taking advantage of the winter moisture to help with germination.ﾠ Spring plantings of wild-flowers can be a lot more work to get going because of the uneven moisture in spring.
I have two hydrangeas that I brought with me from North Carolinas, which bloomed beautifully there and have never bloomed here, but I havenﾒt had the heart to pull them out because they leaf out so bright and healthy every year.ﾠ Iﾒve even threatened them, but to no avail.ﾠ I finally realized that our late spring frosts are killing the buds.ﾠ I received a phone call from a gentleman (I shouldﾒve gotten his name, so if you are reading this, please contact me, because youﾒre a wealth of information) who called me about phlox and how to deal with that plant and we talked about hydrangeas and I told him my problem.ﾠ He told me he had the same problem so every year he builds protection for them with plywood and fencing and they bloom!ﾠ He said if he forgets to do that, they wouldnﾒt bloom.ﾠ Thank you so much because I will do that this winter and hope for blooms.
I received a catalog yesterday from the Kinsman Company, who specialize in all gardening ﾓthis and thatﾔ and they advertise a fleece protective coverﾠ against cold winds and moderate frost, but I think Iﾒll go with the more solid barrier this year.ﾠ The fleece could be great for patio plants in spring and they can be 71ﾔ tall ﾠand 47ﾔ wide for large plantings.ﾠ I will also be ordering labels from them this year, since Iﾒm tired of being asked what a plant is and replying, ﾓuh, I canﾒt rememberﾔ, very embarrassing!ﾠ There is a wonderful book for our area.ﾠ If you can, get a hold of Derek Fellﾒs ﾑEncyclopedia of Hardy Plantsﾒ.ﾠ He covers both annuals and perennial plant, as well as ﾠshrubs, trees and vegetables that do well here in our area.ﾠ I find it a wonderful reference book.ﾠ Watch out for the photos, though, theyﾒre irresistible and give me an inferiority complex.
A word about planting tulips. ﾠIf you plan to buy tulips, it would be good to get the late flowering varieties, especially in our colder areas.ﾠ Otherwise you are taking a chance of having those late spring frosts kill the buds.ﾠ Yes, itﾒs the same frosts that kill the buds on our fruit trees and last year, even killed my flame azalea!ﾠ A word about gladiolus:ﾠ if you donﾒt already know, we donﾒt have to lift them for storage over the winter.ﾠ Just heavily mulch them and they will be back for you every year. ﾠﾠI took a bouquet of them to my neighbor Rosie Fisher and her husband Bill asked, ﾓwho died?ﾔ Very disconcerting about glads!
Seriously, though, the season is winding down and the trees are doing their wonderful show as a backdrop to whatﾒs left in our gardens.ﾠ Horseradish and Brussel Sprouts like a frost and taste much better for it.ﾠ The frosts are our signal that summer is over and we need to get ready for winter.ﾠ After these last plantings, there will be pruning in winter and other chores, but pretty much weﾒre shut down and I think I will seriously take up knitting this winter, because itﾒs hard to come down after all the work and have no outdoor work to do.ﾠ Is knitting like weeding?ﾠ I guess Iﾒll find out. Hope we have a milder winter and letﾒs take this time to relax and enjoy the food we have stored to help get us through this season.ﾠ Any questions, please contact me at email@example.com or 304/799-7281
The Art of Great Gardening
At last I have found a carrot variety that I think is fantastic and grows very well in my soil here at the farm on Beaver Creek in Huntersville.ﾠ Itﾒs called ﾓYellow Sunﾔ and is a delicious carrot that is truly a golden yellow and very strange to harvest.ﾠ I kept thinking it would turn orange!ﾠ The roots are 6-7 inches long and it is well filled with a blunt tip.ﾠ I think itﾒs best cooked. ﾠI know that people have trouble getting good carrots in heavy clay soil.ﾠ The trick is to raise the row or bed of carrots and work in plenty of organic matter to keep the soil loose and give the carrot room to grow.ﾠ I doubt we can grow the long tapering type imperator carrots, but we donﾒt have to.ﾠ These carrots, for one, do very well.ﾠ Iﾒve also found that the variety ﾓHercules,ﾔ which is about the same length as the ﾓYellow Sunﾔ is also a good choice.ﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠﾠ
There are also a couple of turnip varieties that might be of interest.ﾠ They do very well for me and I love the taste of them.ﾠ ﾓScarlet Queenﾔ and ﾓHakurei.ﾔﾠ They have a very gentle taste for turnips and the stems of the ﾓScarlet Queen,ﾔ which are red, are delicious in salads or lightly steamed.ﾠ Both varieties are best when theyﾒre harvested around two inches and can be prepared together.
Iﾒll go over other vegetable varieties that work well for me in the early spring when we are ordering our seeds for the garden.ﾠ As you may know, I truly believe in experimenting with vegetables to find varieties that grow and taste best. ﾠThe ﾓYellow Sunﾔ carrot is a new variety and certainly worth the cost of a packet of seeds.ﾠ I tried a cutting celery a year ago, which grew so prolifically and, dried, gave us the celery flavor for soups and stews in the winter.ﾠ They are just the leafy herb with the celery flavor.ﾠ Trying these different varieties keeps you growing as a gardener, as well.
Well, Iﾒve been working in my perennial beds to get rid of monsters and mistakes and beings who take over as they choose.ﾠ Most are being dug out for better locations either around the pond, as some do great in boggy conditions, or outside the garden fence or wherever I think they might show themselves to advantage, but canﾒt take over the world!
We gardeners work hard in our flower beds to mix plants that will look good together.ﾠ ﾠWe work on height and color and imagine what will go well where.ﾠ When I drive along our roads and see the Joe Pye Weed, with its stately, beautiful, mauve colored flowers and the New York Ironweed with its deep purple and the bright Goldenrod, which is a true golden yellow, I always think of the absolute perfection of nature.ﾠ I mean you couldnﾒt design anything better than the complementary colors ﾖ purples, mauves and yellows together!
For beautiful fall colors in your flower beds, there are the following plants that can be planted this fall starting now:
ChrysanthemumﾗThey like to grow in full sun and are great for flower cuttings.ﾠ They can stay blooming until the first hard frost and range in so many colors, itﾒs hard to list them.
CyclamenﾗThese are tiny little beauties that flower at the beginning of autumn in pink or white rocket shaped flowers.ﾠ Their marbled leaves look great through winter and they can be grown in part shade or full sunlight.ﾠ They reach about six inches in height.
Fall AstersﾗThey range in colors from white, pink, blue and purple to red.ﾠ They like full sunlight and rich soil and if you pinch and prune them back they will stay compact instead of getting leggy.ﾠ They grow from one and a half feet to five feet in height.
Japanese AnemoneﾗThey can have poppy like flowers of white, burgundy or red.ﾠ They like to grow in part shade to full sunlight and make good cut flowers.ﾠ Itﾒs best to mulch them the first winter, otherwise they require no special care and are beautiful.
Ornamental Kale and CabbagesﾗThey have very beautiful foliage of blue, purple or green and are often planted with pansies to create a very colorful area of the garden.ﾠ They grow from 18 inches to two feet in height.ﾠ They sometimes can last through most of the winter until spring.
MiscanthusﾗThese are grasses that are very easy to grow and range in height from three to eight feet in part shade or full sunlight.ﾠ Their plumes are beautiful and are in colors of white, cream, pink, bronze, silver and purple depending on the variety you choose.ﾠ Their clumps are beautiful on embankments and hillsides and keep the soil from eroding.
PhloxﾗColors range from white, blue, red and pink to purple and make a great autumn plant.ﾠ They grow from two to four feet in height in part shade or full sun.ﾠ Phlox need good ventilation so donﾒt crowd them, they need plenty of air.ﾠ Some are wonderfully fragrant as well.
Winter PansyﾗThey flower throughout the autumn and winter and can reach a height of two feet and like to grow in full sunlight.ﾠ Their colors are beautiful and range in yellows, reds, purples and white.ﾠ Itﾒs always a joy to see them in winter hanging in when everything else is gone.ﾠ As an aside, they are persistent in the flower pots in Marlinton!
Scotch HeatherﾗTheir bell-shaped flowers can be white, violet, purple, red or bronze and the leaves may be green, apricot or russet. ﾠThey prefer to grow in full sunlight.ﾠ Some of the late blooming varieties are Goldsworth Crimson, Blazeaway, Alba Jae, Darkness and David Eason.
I wanted to mention that the Extension Office has some great articles you can obtain such as Organic Pest Control Guide, Tactics for Controlling Common Vegetable Pests and Organic Fertilizers.ﾠ Those were some of the great handouts we had at the last Organic Workshop here at Zendik Farm and I find they are invaluable as guides for growing organically.ﾠ Once again, I urge you to build your compost piles to be ready in the spring for your vegetable and flower gardens and for the fertility and tilth of your soil.ﾠ Compost will straighten out any soil from clay to sand and enable you to be able to grow anything you want and itﾒs completely safe!
As a reminder: donﾒt cut down your milkweed plants, the Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the plants and we all want those beautiful creatures to thrive.ﾠ As the gardening season winds down, there is always a bit of sadness for me even though I may be exhausted.ﾠ Gardening is a thrilling experience, a healing one and a gift to be able to participate in the growing cycles of flowers and vegetables, trees and shrubs.ﾠ I cherish the gift.
The Art of Great Gardening
Itﾒs been a strange and wonderful summer so far.ﾠ The July workshop here at the farm was wonderful.ﾠ I want to thank the people who turned out for it and made it a great experience.ﾠ Of course, John Jett is a superb teacher and will be here again for the October workshop along with Greg Hammons from our Extension Office who has been here for every workshop.ﾠ It is so good to have such support in our local office.ﾠ His interest and support is so appreciated by all of us. Itﾒs always meant a lot to me to have an Extension person to call on for advice.ﾠ As Iﾒve told people before, there was a time when Extension people wouldnﾒt talk to me because I was an organic grower!ﾠ Thankfully that has changed.
We also had volunteers from the WOOF organization here who took hold of our weedy, wet garden and cleaned it out.ﾠ WOOF is Worldwide Opportunities for Organic Farming. ﾠItﾒs an organization that is international so our volunteers were from Germany and Denmark.ﾠ WVVRM did an interview with them that aired on the Noon Hour Magazine a few Saturdays ago.ﾠ It may still be up on their website and you might want to check it out.ﾠ We listed our farm on their website and volunteers list themselves and it goes very voluntary as far as hours, housing, etc.ﾠ I like it so much that it is an organization formed by farmers and would-be farmers and is very loose so there is plenty of room for communication without a lot of regulations and paperwork, both of which I am very bad at!
I received the mid-summer newsletter from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (firstname.lastname@example.org) reminding us of continued summer plantings through July and August.ﾠ This month we can still plant carrots, cilantro, radish, beets, kale, spinach, Chinese cabbage and daikons, as well as lettuce.ﾠ Some of my best lettuce and spinach from the garden has been planted in August.ﾠ Southern Exposure has a great seed-saving event in September at Montecello in Virginia, which I hope to attend this year.ﾠ If anyone wants to go, maybe we can carpool over there.ﾠ They have events for children and there is a tour of Montecello.
There is also a free gardening newsletter online, plant-biology.com, which I find very informative.ﾠ Itﾒs the PBA Gardening Newsletter and is full of information, reminders, reading lists, gardening products, etc. One of their reminders was to collect the seed from foxgloves and plant them in pots to plant out in the spring.ﾠ I have a weakness for foxgloves and had never heard of that.ﾠ Probably many of you know it, but I didnﾒt and was grateful for the information.
Since this is August when itﾒs (normally) hot and awful and we struggle to keep everything watered and alive, I wanted to talk about some of the flowering perennial plants that can be planted this fall.ﾠ One of my favorites is the native Clethra Alnifolia.ﾠ Itﾒs known also as summersweet or sweet pepperbush.ﾠ If you love fragrance, youﾒll love this shrub.ﾠ And the butterflies love them.ﾠ Mine are surrounded by butterflies as soon as they bloom in mid to late summer and all the way through fall.ﾠ Their fragrance is heavenly and they are a no-care plant that likes partial shade and even boggy conditions.
My favorite hydrangea is the Hydrangea Tardiva.ﾠ It doesnﾒt have the round flower heads like so many other hydrangeas, itﾒs more of an oakleaf type hydrangea.ﾠ The blooms are large and gorgeous to me.ﾠ Delicate, but hardy and the white flowers turn a pale pink and when dried they look lovely. ﾠThey are very low maintenance, and flower from July and August in full or part sun.ﾠ They tolerate drought conditions and need no pruning.ﾠ The recommendation is, if you want even bigger blooms, to cut them back to the ground every year.ﾠ I donﾒt.ﾠ I leave them alone and they are spectacular.ﾠ They can grow up to 25ﾒ high and 10ﾒ wide so Iﾒm probably going to have to move some of mine eventually.ﾠ I bought my plants from Peaceful Mountain Nursery on Rt. 219 near Slaty Fork. ﾠﾠThey have done so well, I bought another one this year and then purchased a Peegee hydrangea from them that is blooming now!
My favorite rose for our area is the beautiful Rosa ﾑZephrine Drouhinﾒﾠ Itﾒs a climbing bourbon rose with hardly any thorns.ﾠ It tolerates light or dappled shade, has a spicy, rich, old fashioned rose scent and it can reach 15 to 20 feet high.ﾠ Iﾒve spoken of this rose before because in North Carolina I had a bare north-facing wall that was terribly ugly and the rose fixed that up!ﾠ I brought it with me when we moved here and it was able to take the Japanese beetle predation one or two years and finally went belly-up along with all my other climbing roses.ﾠ I have never experienced Japanese beetles before and I must say I do hate them!ﾠ I use Pyganic on them and it does knock them down, but with all the rain, you have to spray a lot.ﾠ I have given up on roses, but there are very beautiful shrubs like the ones Iﾒve mentioned that the beetles do leave alone
My perennial beds have gone wild this year.ﾠ Iﾒve been busy renovating them and will be moving a lot of plants out to other locations in late September, early October.ﾠ Also, I will be digging many out to give away and if anyone wants to volunteer and help then, let me know and you can have the plants in exchange and also a cup of coffee or tea!ﾠ Itﾒs fun, but hard work.ﾠ The perennials such as grasses, which grow in clumps need to be cut apart and can make endless amounts of beautiful ornamental grass plants.ﾠ I have many different kinds and keep on adding whenever I have the money.ﾠ By the way, these grasses are great for holding hillsides, can tolerate drought and need hardly any work.
Gilbert Wild and Son are having their big end of season sale.ﾠ They sell daylilies, peonies, lilies, hostas, iris and ornamental grasses at spectacularly low prices and Iﾒve always found their plants to be healthy and they grow very well.ﾠ Thought Iﾒd tell you about them to take advantage of their current sale.ﾠ Since this year is the year of beingﾠ broke, I was only able to purchase the two hydrangeas I spoke about and have to let all the wonderful sales go by!
Keep building your compost pile, youﾒll be rewarded with a healthy garden of vegetables and wonderful flowers, trees and shrubs.
If you have any questions you think I can help with, please let me know at email@example.com or phone 304-799-7281.ﾠ I will be glad to help any way I can.ﾠ Remember to sit back and enjoy your garden, itﾒs what all the work is about ﾖ good food and beauty for the eye and soul.
Learning from other gardeners enriches the growing experience
There is always so much to learn when you really get involved in something about which you are passionate.ﾠ Since I am certainly passionate about gardening, I am learning constantly from other gardeners and gardeners who write books.ﾠ I am also quite passionate about beautification projects and flower growing and my ex-passionate project of designing building structures go together in my mind.ﾠ When youﾒreﾠ putting in a garden or continuing one I feel itﾒs so important to take into consideration your structures and how to enhance them.ﾠ The buildings, the fences or rock walls, terraces or gates are so important to take into consideration.ﾠ There is a book called ﾓA Gentle Plea for Chaos,ﾔwhich might be very enjoyable for you.ﾠ It is written by Mirabel Osler, a British gardener-writer, who tells about how she and her husband went about rejuvenating an old farm they purchased.ﾠ Even if you donﾒt like gardening books or are sometimes intimated by them, as I am, this one is humorous, informative and user friendly.
I also find that belonging to The Hardy Plant Society and the American Horticultural Society is very rewarding.ﾠ The American Horticultural Society publishes a magazine which is very informative and beautiful. You will receive a magazine when you join.ﾠ They had been devoted to ornamentals, but since the advent of the financial crunch, and so many people now growing their own vegetables, they have included articles on vegetable growing, as well.ﾠ A radio program, which is also informative, as well as fun, is Mike McGrathﾒs ﾓYou Bet Your Gardenﾔ on satellite radio.ﾠ He was the editor of ﾓOrganic Gardeningﾔ magazine and is very knowledgeable on gardening without chemicals, a process to which he is devoted.
Well, you know how I go on about the inconsistency of rain and the importance of irrigation in our gardens.ﾠ I decided to go with another plan for our main garden from a design I saw in a Martha Stewart magazine.ﾠﾠ Her own garden plan was laid out in the magazine and seemed so logical and good that I decided to try it on our very large vegetable garden.ﾠ The problem is, because of getting the materials and re-designing everything, we are very late getting everything in and are in a bit of a panic.ﾠ I keep telling myself it will work out, but when I am relying on rain for the young starts and seeds I get a little nervous.ﾠ Itﾒs amazing how quickly the soil can dry out even after all our rain.ﾠ Remember, we were in a flood watch one week and in drought conditions the next.
Young plants and seeds really do need consistent water to do their best.ﾠ If we neglect that factor early on in the gardening season, our plants will never be as healthy as they can be during their lifetime until harvest.ﾠ So here I am this summer, fretting and fuming over not being able to get in the garden because of the rain, but then, not getting the rain we need to keep everything alive.ﾠ The new system should be in soon and I will be very relieved.ﾠ Of course, the weeds have gone crazy in the meantime making me to feel like I live in a temperate rain forest.
As a reminder:ﾠ most summer vegetables are, ﾓheavy feeders.ﾔﾠ They like lots of nutrients in the form of well-rotted manure, compost, phosphorous, extra forms of nitrogen and trace minerals found in kelp and formulations such as Azomite.ﾠ This is certainly true for corn, squash, cucumbers, beans and peppers and, of course, potatoes love rich, rich soil.ﾠ One of the exceptions to this rule is tomatoes,ﾠ Do not feed them too much nitrogen or you will get lots of top growth and very little fruit.ﾠ
When planting your tomatoes, use a teaspoon of Epsom Salts in the hole with the tomato.ﾠ This will provide your plants with magnesium and, most important of all, a source of calcium which is crucial.ﾠ I use crab meal which is very inexpensive. But there are other sources of calcium, as well.ﾠ As Iﾒve written before, I havenﾒt had blossom end rot on my tomatoes since I began using calcium.ﾠAs an aside, this is what is so wonderful about consulting with other farmers and gardeners.ﾠ An old tomato farmer told me about the importance of calcium, which he had discovered pretty much on his own.ﾠ His advice was, if I did nothing else, to provide calcium for the tomatoes.ﾠ Hopefully, we will not get hit with blight again.ﾠ If we donﾒt have a cold rainy, summer, we should be all right.ﾠ Liquid Copper Fungicide is effective on blight for conventional gardens or a product, Oxidate, works wonders and is approved for organic use.
I received my seeds in February from Robinﾒs Salvias in England and have been babying the plants all winter.ﾠ I finally got to plant them out in the perennial beds.ﾠ Robinﾒs has the largest selection of salvias in the world and helped me identify some that had come up in my garden from seeds I had gotten from the Hardy Plant Society Seed Exchange.ﾠ I had lost my label and there was this gorgeous blue flower that I couldnﾒt identify.ﾠ I finally realized, after I got over my surprise and delight at the incredible blue of the flower, that it was a salvia because of its square stem.ﾠ Thatﾒs a sure identifier for sage which is salvia, mint is in the same family.ﾠ He identified the flower for me and we now have an overseas gardener relationship.ﾠ Some of the seed packets said things like, ﾓHave Patience,ﾔﾓDonﾒt Give Up.ﾔ
ﾓLet Me Know If It Sprouts,ﾔ which made me laugh and Iﾒm afraid he was right on most of the ones that had a warning.ﾠ I especially wanted to sprout the Salvia Vitifolia, which he had warned was almost impossible.ﾠ I got them to sprout and finally got them in the soil and they practically melted when they hit the soil.ﾠ Oh, well, Iﾒll try again next year.
We will try to have the first Organic Workshop Saturday, June 12, if we donﾒt get rained out again. John Jett will be here at the farm for the first of three workshops that we will have through the summer on sustainable and organic gardening.ﾠ Hope to see many of you there and for further info, please call 304-799-7281.
Use winter weather to plan for spring plainting
Before we know it, in spite of the snow on the ground (ﾓpoor manﾒs fertilizerﾔ), weﾒll be out in our gardens.ﾠ The only thing we can do right now is go through the catalogs and wish for everything!ﾠ I take my vegetable varieties very seriously and choose each variety carefully.ﾠ I like to try new varieties every year alongside ones I know do well.ﾠ For example, this year Iﾒd like to try some very early ﾠtomato varieties.ﾠ The tomato, ﾑSiberia,ﾒ recommended to me by Junior Wilson, will germinate at 38ﾰ.ﾠ Thereﾒs another early variety Iﾒll try from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, ﾑGlacier,ﾒ which they say will keep going through the summer as well as cool weather.ﾠ Itﾒs a very cold tolerant variety and may even survive an early frost.
There are also crops like lima beans, which Iﾒve had very bad luck with, but will try a few pole lima bean varieties this year.ﾠ One is ﾑKing of the Gardenﾒ from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and the ﾑHopi Yellowﾒ, originally from Native Seeds/SEARCH and ﾑWorchester Indian Red Poleﾒ.ﾠ These packages of seeds are only a few dollars each and perhaps Iﾒll hit a great one that will join the varieties I know do well.
Iﾒve written about growing beans in with corn in a previous column.ﾠ I discovered that shade tolerant varieties of beans were grown in with the corn.ﾠ I tried a variety of one of these beans a few years ago.ﾠ They grew very well using the corn as poles, but the taste wasnﾒt too great.ﾠ This year Iﾒll try ﾑGenuine Cornfields,ﾒ again from Southern Seed Exchange.ﾠ The reason I want to try this again, is because of the nitrogen-fixing quality of the beans feeding the nitrogen-loving corn.ﾠ This variety of bean is the oldest bean crop cultivated by the Iroquois and may be pre-Columbian.ﾠ I figure even if I donﾒt like the taste, the nitrogen fixed in the soil to feed the corn will make it worthwhile.
I belonged to Native Seeds/SEARCH when I gardened in California and used to grow out seeds for them to keep the varieties going.ﾠ So many open-pollinated heirloom varieties brought here from Europe and Native American varieties of plants would be forever lost if these seed saver organizations didnﾒt exist.ﾠ For those of you new to gardening, open-pollinated means that you can save the seeds, replant them and they will come back true to their variety.ﾠ Itﾒs about all we had to work with at one time. ﾠﾠI always feel honored to be entrusted with a plant to grow out because it may go extinct in its native habitat.ﾠ I feel the same about getting seeds to grow for the same reason.
I go through my ornamental catalogs, at this time of year and mark everything I could possibly want, knowing I canﾒt afford it, but wanting to indulge myself.ﾠ Later I will cull the choices when I sober up, reducing the plants I picked out.ﾠ This, for me, is a certain kind of hellish pruning!
Some newer varieties out this year are absolutely fantastic looking.ﾠ There is a new variety of ﾠEchinacea, or coneflower, ﾑCoral Reefﾒ that is a true deep orange. ﾠﾠSince my other varieties of Echinacea grow like weeds in my garden, Iﾒd love to try this new one.ﾠ There is another new variety of Echinacea, ﾑMaui Sunshineﾒ, that has a very large golden yellow flower and an amber orange center.ﾠ These are some of the plants Iﾒm considering for this year.ﾠ I tend to pick out plants that are easy keepers and donﾒt need pampering to stay alive.ﾠ I do know fantastic gardeners who love to pamper and get something to bloom and thrive, which is difficult to grow.ﾠ I admire them very much for their patience and endless doting on their favorites.
As we look through the catalogs, watch for hints about planting.ﾠ Notice the hardiness planting zone.ﾠ Weﾒre Zone 5, but, depending where we are in the county, can grow some Zone 6 varieties,ﾠ if they are protected by something like a south facing wall.ﾠ Note whether the plant does well in drought or needs constant moisture and a more boggy environment.ﾠ Notice whatﾒs said about taste, size of the mature plant, spacing of the plants in a row and between rows, shade, sun or partial shade needs of the plant. ﾠﾠRead what is said about the plants because sometimes youﾒll want something, but on carefully reading, youﾒll find you donﾒt want it because it wonﾒt suit your needs.ﾠ Donﾒt go by the gorgeous photos or rave notices.
For your veggie seeds, potatoes, onions, etc., order them now.ﾠ Last year many seeds were gone by the end of February.ﾠ With the economy going belly up and the interest in safe food growing, many, many more people are gardening. ﾠﾠA reminder: any early spring blooming shrubs or vines, such as forsythia, should not be pruned in winter, youﾒll prune off your spring flowering buds and they wonﾒt produce any flowers.
I hope to be at the Farmers Market this year and meet many of you.ﾠ The gardens here in our county still amaze me and Iﾒm looking forward to meeting many of these wonderful gardening people Iﾒve only talked with on the phone.ﾠ There is also a very exciting Local Foods group happening here in Pocahontas County that youﾒll be hearing more about Iﾒm sure.
Well, hang in till we can get out onto the soil and try to remember, (which I never do), that by the end of August, weﾒre exhausted and wishing it was over.ﾠ I will be doing an apprenticeship program here at the farm teaching organic practices that will make small farms more sustainable for earning a living at farming.ﾠ We had the apprenticeship program in Texas, which many college students got credit for at their university.ﾠ
If youﾒre interested, please call me at 304-799-7281 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy the beauty of poinsettias and Christmas cacti
I met Louise Barnisky the other evening at an event at the Opera House.ﾠ She told me I had to come see her Christmas cactus which was blooming now.ﾠ She said some had already bloomed so be sure to come over quickly.ﾠ A few days later, my friend, Kaila, and I went to visit.ﾠ Her cactus was blooming and it was a gorgeous deep pink that Iﾒd never seen before.ﾠ
Louise said she has orange, white and lighter pink ones and had seen a purple one she intended to get.ﾠ Kaila has a Christmas cactus that has never bloomed so she was excited and asked Louise how to get hers to bloom.ﾠ Louise told Kaila that as soon as it gets warm in the spring to take the plant outside in its pot and leave it out through the summer, bring it back in the house in the fall and it would surely bloom for her next Christmas time.ﾠ Louise and I exchanged some seeds and talked about all of us gardeners doing a Plant Exchange at the Farmers Market next spring when many of us thin out our plants.ﾠ This is a project I thought would be a lot of fun for all of us to share our overflow with each other.
Louiseﾒs ﾓYou must come see my blooming Christmas cactus,ﾔ reminded me of one of my favorite books, ﾓSido:ﾠ My Motherﾒs House,ﾔ written by the French author, Collette. In the book, she tells about the time she tried to get her mother to come to Paris when she was to be given a very prestigious prize for French literature.ﾠ Her mother wrote and told her how proud she was of Collette, but she couldnﾒt possibly come because her century plant was about to bloom and she couldnﾒt miss it as the plant only bloomed once in a century, in this case, in itsﾒ 75th year and she would never get to see another bloom in her lifetime.ﾠ Colletteﾒs mother was an avid gardener and her daughterﾒs dearest memories of her mother had to do with her gardens; gardens that had given her and her brothers so much happiness while they were growing up.
I have never had any luck with poinsettias, they look at me and die! ﾠLouise, of course, showed me her lush, beautiful plants.ﾠ I need to pick her brain on how she tends them so they last.ﾠ I must admit I was overcome with awe and forgot to ask.ﾠ I will ask and pass it on.ﾠ I know poinsettias are in the euphorbia family of plants.ﾠ Our wild ﾓSnow on the Mountainﾔ wildflower here is in the same family and if youﾒll notice them next year, youﾒll see the resemblance.ﾠ The wildflowerﾒs form is a smaller, green and white version of the cultivar euphorbia pulchemima or poinsettia.ﾠ I have a fantastic six foot yellow euphorbia ﾑJessieﾒ from our own Barry Glickﾒs Sunshine Farm in Renick. It comes back faithfully every year and is a blooming fool.ﾠ I decided to learn some more about poinsettias after my visit with Louise.
Poinsettias were introduced and named after the American ambassador to Mexico in the 1820s.ﾠ He was the ambassador and an amateur botanist who liked to roam around the countryside looking for unusual plants.ﾠ He found a 10 foot poinsettia shrub and brought back a cutting to his South Carolina greenhouse and that was the beginning of its popularity.ﾠ It was named poinsettia in honor of Poinsett by a William Prescott who was asked to give the plant a different name than euphorbia pulchemima, which by the way, means very beautiful.ﾠ
In fact, an Act of Congress named December 12, Poinsettia Day, after Poinsett and the day of his death.
The Aztecs loved the plant for its beauty, to control fevers and as a red dye.ﾠ It was mentioned by a Spanish missionary in the 1700ﾒs.ﾠ Early in the 1900s the Ecke family of southern California grew them outdoors for use as landscape plants and a cut flower.ﾠ They then grew them in greenhouses and are the leading producer of poinsettias in the U.S.ﾠ In fact, they grow over 80% of the poinsettias in the U.S. today.ﾠ There are over 100 varieties of poinsettias available and 90% of the worldﾒs poinsettias are exported from the U.S.ﾠ The flowers come in red, white, pink and every variation of those colors and even a light green.ﾠ The colored red parts of the plant are not flowers, technically, but bracts, which are modified leaves.ﾠ The flowers are in the center of the bracts.
Winter has hit and it looks like we will have a white Christmas.ﾠ I was very happy to see the many little birds in the snow eating the seeds from the plants in my perennial gardens. As some of you know, I donﾒt cut those flower heads with seeds back in the fall, but leave them for the birds in winter.ﾠ This is the first chance I got to see so many of them getting seeds in the snow.ﾠ I havenﾒt seen snow like this since 1947 when a blizzard hit New York City when I was a young girl.ﾠ I know Iﾒm a wuss about snow.ﾠ California and Texas spoiled me and snow is now a bit scary.ﾠ Donﾒt like being trapped too much and am praying the electricity hangs in, but just in case, the kerosene lamps, candles and generator are ready to go.ﾠ On the other hand I also find the snow exciting, beautiful and the best mulch in the world for the gardens.
I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and reflected on this religious and spiritual time of the year. A very prosperous and Happy New Year for all of us.