Categories => => Topic started by: on July 13, 2009, 12:58:27 PM

Title: All things green
Post by: on July 13, 2009, 12:58:27 PM
Countdown! (
7 March 2009, 11:36 am

Eleven weeks to go til Memorial Day.

The race is on for me at work. I received most of my seeds during the past few days. That’s always exciting… better than a birthday present even!

All my seeds are annual flowers and vegetables.  I ordered 99 different varieties of seeds!   I went through all of the seed packets that I received and highlighted information such as when to start the seeds and at what temperature. Many of the seeds can be started at around 6 weeks before the last frost. I use Memorial Day as my “Blast Off” date and count down my calendar marking each week.  So, this  week is 11 weeks before Memorial Day.  April 5th Sunday would be 7 weeks before and so on.

A few seeds like petunias, impatiens, and alpine strawberries are planted at 10-12 weeks before the planting out date  so I’ve done most of those already.

The  first 2 full weeks in April will be when the most seeds are started including marigold, phlox, tomatoes, verbena, ageratum and some zinnias.

Four weeks before the Holiday some zinnias and nasturtiums are planted.

Of course lots of veggies are planted outside, such as carrots, lettuce, beans, pumpkins, and squash. Some plants just don’t do well when started inside.

The cool weather seeds such as peas, beets, carrots, radishes, and spinach can be planted outside even before all chance of frost  is finished.  They can  tolerate some frost. And in fact, they like cooler temperatures to germinate and grow in.

Other seeds such as squash, pumpkin, corn, and cucumber like to have warm temperatures to germinate and grow in.  Those seeds we will plant  after Memorial day.

By the way, the Red Wing Blackbirds are back, the Turkey Vultures have returned and the Spring Peepers are peeping in my back yard!  Those are true signs  that spring is coming soon!

Bye for now,


Source: All things green (

Title: Bloom Another Day
Post by: on July 13, 2009, 12:58:27 PM
Bloom Another Day (
27 March 2009, 6:06 pm

We put up the 4th week of our spring Exhibit at the Gardens.  My volunteers look forward to doing it even though it is chaotic.  We have to take out the past weeks old faded bulb flowers and put in new fresh ones.  Seeing  the cheery  daffodils, beautiful tulips, elegant bleeding hearts and vibrant  hyacinths that one of the other horticulturists grows for the exhibit, is so refreshing at this time of year.  Especially on a gray darkish day like we sometimes have in March.  It really gets our hopes up for spring!

If you receive or buy a potted tulip or hyacinth or daffodil for Easter, you can save it and plant it outside to bloom another year.  The simplest way is to plant the whole pot in the ground after danger of frost is passed.  Another way is to care for the bulb foliage in the pot, giving it light fertilizer and partial sun.  Once the foliage has turned yellow , cut the leaves off and take the bulbs out of the soil and store in a mesh bag, hanging it in a dry place like the garage.  Tulip bulbs are especially prone to rooting  if they stay too moist all summer.

Then replant the bulbs in the fall. Bulbs that have been forced used up a lot of energy so they will not flower again the next year.  It may take 2 or 3 years of growing and storing energy from the sunshine before they have enough energy to bloom again.

A lot of tulips actually don’t come back well.  Species tulips and old varieties are more likely to come back again.  Hyacinths usually come back and bloom again and daffodils come back very well.  You can even get daffodils to naturalize very well.

Enjoy your beautiful flowers this Easter and then enjoy them for years to come!

Happy spring,


Source: All things green (

Title: Presidential Mishap in Rose Garden
Post by: on July 13, 2009, 12:58:27 PM
Presidential Mishap in Rose Garden (
1 April 2009, 6:39 am

The economy and auto maker bail-outs have dominated the news so much that some of the stories that would normally be reported don’t get much coverage.

We have heard so much in the past about the White House Rose Garden, but are you aware that other plants are grown in the Rose Garden as well?  The White House gardeners have almost unlimited resources when it comes to plants and other gardening related items.  Many exotic species can be found growing there.

Several days ago, one of the more unusual plants caused the President Obama to have a some-what embarrassing moment.  Apparently he had a minor altercation with one of the Giant Venus Fly-trap plants growing in the Rose Garden. He suffered some minor scratches but shook it off in a good natured manner.

You can read the entire account by clicking here.

The last time I visited the White House I managed to snap a photo of one of these remarkable plants:


I’ll try to keep up with other newsworthy Presidential plant related articles in the future and share them with you on this site.


Source: All things green (

Title: Easter Lily Care and Re-bloom
Post by: on July 13, 2009, 01:00:11 PM
Easter Lily Care and Re-bloom (
13 April 2009, 7:19 pm



I have found that there are two different groups of people when it comes to caring for an Easter lily after Easter.

One group of  simply let their Lily “run its  course” and then toss it away after it starts to fade. Most of these folks probably water the plant once or twice and then let it go.

On the other side of the equation is a group of people who would like to keep their Lily blooming as long as possible and maybe even save it for next year. Since you are reading this post, I’ll assume you belong to the second group and are interested in getting the most out of your Lily.

Easter Lilies like to be in a cool bright spot when they are inside a house. So, if you have a choice where to place it, choose the cooler spot away from any heating vents jut as long as it gets light from the window. Don’t worry too much about it though.

More important than location is watering. Since most Easter Lilies come with a pot wrapper, it is easy to kill a Lily with too much water.  The wrapper will trap water and not allow it to drain away, this will cause the roots to become water-logged and eventually die. This is the most common mistake people make in caring for their Lily. Be sure to dump out the excess water that drains into the wrapper after watering.


Cut off the blossoms as they fade. Once all the blossoms have come and gone, just care for it like a house plant. Feel the soil with your finger to get an idea how dry it is. The top of the soil should look and feel dry before watering again. 


I also like to pick up the pot and feel how much it weighs, a dry pot will feel quite a bit lighter than a wet or damp pot.

Sometime around Memorial Day, plant the Lily into a flower bed or other area with good soil and sunlight.

Sometimes the existing stalk will die back. When this happens, the Lily bulb will send up a new shoot and continue growing through the summer.

Then in the following year your Lily will surprise you with blossoms in July. They always surprise me because I usually forget that I planted them there until they bloom.

They don’t naturally bloom during Easter, we have to give them special conditions in a greenhouse to force them to do that. Forcing Easter Lilies is a complicated procedure. We force over 200 Lilies every year. It’s fun but also a challenge because Easter Sunday changes from year to year!

There’s no Federal law saying you have to save your Lily (at least not yet ( )  but it is easy to do and a lot of fun.


Source: All things green (

Title: Gardening Live Chat
Post by: on July 13, 2009, 01:00:11 PM
Gardening Live Chat (
2 May 2009, 6:05 pm

Our Monroe County Consumer Horticulture Educator, Jenny Stanger, will be hosting a Live Chat on Tuesday May 5th beginning at 11:30 am.

Jenny is your direct link to all of the horticulture resources at Michigan State University, so this will be a good chance to get your specific gardening questions answered right on the spot in real time.


Source: All things green (

Title: New Bees
Post by: on July 13, 2009, 01:00:11 PM
New Bees (
7 May 2009, 7:32 pm

Last week I received some replacement bees that I ordered back in January. I needed them for the hives that were lost earlier in the year.

You can purchase bees from various bee supply stores. They are not sold by the dozen or by the gross, instead you buy them by the pound, usually in 2 or 3 pound packages.  I bought the 3 pound size (about 12,000 bees).  It makes sense that the more individual bees you start out with, the quicker you can get your beehive up to optimum working strength for nectar collection and honey making.

The packaged bees are raised and then shipped from Florida. They make it to their new home in Michigan in less than a day by truck.

The shipping container is a wood frame box covered with window screening.


By prying open the top cover you can see that the container includes a can of sugar water for the bees to eat on their journey north.


A small screened cage that houses the honey bee queen is suspended inside the bee package as well. Keeping the queen in her own protective cage keeps her safe during the journey.



I had to take out the sugar water can so that the bees could be released through the opening.


Then the queen cage was removed.


The queen cage was hung between a couple of hive frames. The frames are what holds the honey combs in place inside the hive.


The fun part is when you shake the bees out of the container. I shook a few over the frames.


 The rest were poured out near the front entrance of the hive. They started up into the hive right away. The queen bee gives off a special scent that lets all of her worker bees know where she is at all times.


I added some sugar water in a plastic feeder and closed the whole thing up with an empty hive box.


Tomorrow I’ll check the new hives to make sure the queens are still alive . If so, then I’ll be pretty sure that the new hives have gotten off to a good start.


Source: All things green (

Title: Longer Lasting Lilac Blossoms
Post by: on July 13, 2009, 02:00:15 PM
Longer Lasting Lilac Blossoms (
16 May 2009, 8:31 pm

It seems that the Lilacs are producing many more blooms than normal this year. Apparently the long, cold winter didn’t bother them at all.

This means there are so many more blossoms to cut for inside the house. Inside you can enjoy a close-up look at the flowers and smell their wonderful scent!

We have three varieties of Lilacs on the property to choose from; white, dark purple and traditional Lilac color. Each one has a slightly different smell. Placing all three together in a vase like this gives you a really complex aroma to enjoy.


Now, Lilacs differ from many other cut flowers in that they  flower on woody branches. This changes how they are handled after cutting.

The more water a flower stem takes in, the fresher and longer lasting it stays. To accomplish this, gardeners have discovered a little trick for cut Lilacs.

Start by snipping the stem to its final length, one that fits the size of vase. Then take a pair of pliers and crush the cut end of the stem and place the stem immediately into the water. This helps water to move up into the stem where it is most needed.


Cut Lilacs are not the longest lasting cut flower by any means, but by using this simple trick, you can enjoy them for a bit longer.


Source: All things green (

Title: Poison Ivy
Post by: on July 13, 2009, 02:00:16 PM
Poison Ivy (
13 June 2009, 10:41 am

Judy and I have been spending many, many hours each day in our gardens. May and early June are particularly busy for us. We do have help however.

Every year we have to remind our helpers about Poison Ivy. Some learn very quickly how to identify it while others need a little more time.

If you are spending any time at all outdoors, chances are you may encounter this plant.

Poison Ivy is easy to spot once you know what to look for. The most noticeable characteristic is its three leaflets.

Notice on the plant shown below how the three leaflets look.


This is a Poison Ivy plant that has been cut back numerous times, it’s a little weak and the leaves are fairly small but still is recognizable. It almost looks like a small tree seedling.

On this next photo we see Poison Ivy in its climbing form growing up the side of a building. The three leaflets are clearly noticeable.  Also, notice how much larger they are.


Now in this case, the owner of the building wanted a decorative vine to climb up the brick wall. He went to the nursery and picked out a very nice vine and planted it. So far so good.

Unfortunately, as is often the case, a Poison Ivy plant has taken root right next to it and is over-growing the decorative vine.

If you look close, to the right of the photo,you can see a vine with only a single leaf growing habit, that is the vine the owner planted and it’s not competing very well against the Poison Ivy.

The owner insists that the Poison Ivy vine is the decorative vine he planted! Poison Ivy has the most beautiful red colored leaves  in the fall. No wonder he can’t believe it’s Poison Ivy.

There are other plants that have three leaflets, brambles such as wild raspberry are one example. Their leaves are fuzzy and the vines have thorns on them while Poison Ivy is smooth all over.

So, enjoy the outdoors but watch out for Poison Ivy and remember that old saying…”leaflets three, let it be”.


Source: All things green (

Title: Gardens of Eden Tour
Post by: on July 13, 2009, 02:00:16 PM
Gardens of Eden Tour (
23 June 2009, 9:06 pm

Perennial, ponds, passionflowers, Petoskey stones and more all in one tour. What more could you ask for? If you asked for bonsai, garden sculpture, roses and raised beds, then you would be getting closer to what you will find at the 2009 Gardens of Eden Garden Tour.

What’s more, you won’t have to travel 100’s of miles to another state to experience this wonderful tour because it happens right here in the Monroe area.

It’s coming up quick…this Saturday 11:00am ’til 5:00pm…rain or shine.

Your ten dollar ticket goes to help charities in the Monroe area.

Click here to find out the rest of the details.  I suggest clicking on the link even if you think you’re not going, the photos of the gardens on the tour are great and I’m sure visiting the gardens  in person will be very rewarding.


Source: All things green (

Title: Eremurus-Foxtail Lily
Post by: on July 13, 2009, 03:00:19 PM
Eremurus-Foxtail Lily (
3 July 2009, 11:00 pm

This time of the year it is always a treat to see the Eremurus blooming. Because we have them planted in an area under the walnut trees where not much else is growing, they seem to shoot up  out of nowhere.

( Lilies in bloom

As you may or may not know, it is nearly impossible to grow most plants under Black Walnut trees, but the Eremurus seems to live there just fine.

These plants are native to Tibet where the summers are hot and dry but have good fall and spring rainfall. This often describes the weather in this part of the country as well.  It’s no wonder that Foxtail Lilies do well here.

Our Eremurus are the yellow variety (bungei) and range from 3 to 4 feet tall.

From a distance, the hundreds of tiny flowers on the stalk merge together to give them their unique look.

( Flowers

It’s when you get closer that the individual flowers become apparent.


Foxtail Lilies are grown from tuberous roots that in themselves have a unique shape, they sort of remind me of star fish.

Fall is the time when the roots are planted, so you have some time to track some down and get them ordered.  We got ours from K. van Bourgondien and Sons  (

There is one thing I would recommend when planting your Foxtail Lily this fall, and that is to mulch them well. They are a little weak getting started the first fall.  However, after that, they thrive here in southern Michigan.

So, put Eremurus  on your fall ” must-buy list”.


Source: All things green (

Title: Potted Olive
Post by: on July 15, 2009, 02:26:23 PM
Potted Olive (
13 July 2009, 7:42 pm

One of my favorite potted plants is our Olive Tree.  We have two of these trees in pots and they seem to be quite happy living in their containers.

They don’t have big showy flowers or give off a sweet scent. What I like is their graceful form.


Source: All things green (

Title: All things green: Dakota Gold!
Post by: on July 28, 2009, 10:00:03 PM
Dakota Gold! (
28 July 2009, 9:20 pm

Thar’s gold in them thar hills!!

Not the precious metal type of gold, but the horticultural kind you can find in Helenium ‘Dakota Gold’.

Helenium is the genus name for a grouping of plants that includes Sneezeweed. Many of these species and varieties are tall, often growing over ...

Source: All things green (

Title: All things green: At the Fair
Post by: on August 13, 2009, 12:00:06 PM
At the Fair (
4 August 2009, 5:20 pm

I hope many of you are enjoying the Monroe County Fair. If not, you better get out there soon because fair week is about half over. My how time flies!

Which reminds me, Judy and I will be at the Monroe Evening News booth on Wednesday from 6:00pm to 9:00pm or so. We will be joining other bloggers fr...

Source: All things green (

Title: All things green: Bloggers and the Fair
Post by: on August 13, 2009, 12:00:06 PM
Bloggers and the Fair (
6 August 2009, 9:33 pm

If you didn’t make it out to fair yesterday (Wednesday), you’re too late!

The Monroe Evening News hosted a “Meet the Bloggers” evening in their County Fair booth.  It was a good chance for readers and bloggers to talk to each other face to face.

So, if you missed us, plan ...

Source: All things green (

Title: All things green: Balance of Nature in Your Garden
Post by: on August 15, 2009, 10:00:05 AM
Balance of Nature in Your Garden (
15 August 2009, 7:58 am

I came across this horn worm on our grapes this morning. There were over 2 dozen white objects attached to its body.


It had been parasitized by another insect, most likely some species of wasp.

These types of wasps repro...

Source: All things green (

Title: All things green: Planting Idea for Next Year
Post by: on September 14, 2009, 11:20:45 AM
Planting Idea for Next Year (
4 September 2009, 7:50 pm

Here’s a nice flower combination that was quite successful for us this year.

The purple flowers are  Gomphrena ‘Purple’.  The orange flowers are Zinnia ‘Profusion Orange’.


Both Orange Prof...

Source: All things green (

Title: All things green: Knobby Roots in the Garden
Post by: on September 24, 2009, 08:41:01 PM
Knobby Roots in the Garden (
24 September 2009, 8:03 pm

Now that we are at the end of the summer gardening season, at lot of us will begin pulling out  old and worn out plants and tossing them in the compost pile.

I found this root attached to a sweet potato plant:


Notice th...

Source: All things green (

Title: All things green: Dragonflies, Jewelry and Politics
Post by: on October 15, 2009, 02:56:22 PM
Dragonflies, Jewelry and Politics (
15 October 2009, 1:50 pm

A couple of weeks ago I had an early morning visitor to the garden. Actually I believe he stayed over night until I found him in the morning.

He reminded me that gardening can have many pleasent surprises.  Sometimes, things come  your way unexpectedly.

It was still pretty chilly out, the sun ...

Source: All things green (

Title: All things green: Halloween Trick
Post by: on October 29, 2009, 06:06:26 PM
Halloween Trick (
29 October 2009, 5:24 pm

Have you ever seen a flower with two colors on one blossom? Yes, of course you have.

Have you ever seen a flower with two colors on one blossom where the colors are divided exactly down the middle? Now that’s a little more rare.


Source: All things green (

Title: All things green: Fall Raspberry Care
Post by: on November 20, 2009, 11:12:47 AM
Fall Raspberry Care (
20 November 2009, 9:41 am

So far it has been a good November to be working outside.  This has given us a lot of time to catch up on fall gardening chores.

One of those fall chores is cutting back your “Fall Raspberries”.  By fall raspberries I mean varieties that have been specially selected to bear fruit from September until the first hard frost.

Years ago, raspberries were only available in the summer.  We still see summer raspberries offered for sale, but the labor involved has made them quite a bit more expensive to grow. They had to be pruned at just the right time and  were often trained to a wire system, much like grapes. The canes produced fruit only on the second year’s growth, then they died shortly afterward. So you had to get into the patch and cut out the old canes one at a time while leaving the new canes to grow for next year’s crop.

Which brings us to the topic of today’s discussion: cutting back your fall bearing raspberries.  All you need to do is simply, cut off the canes, pick them up and dispose of them. That’s all there is to it. No critical timing, no trying onto wires…see how much easier they are than the older summer raspberries. This method can, however reduce your total crop yield by 25% or more.

If you have just a small patch, you can use your hand pruners to do the job like I’m preparing to do here:


If your patch is too big to do by hand, a weed-whacker with a metal brush-cutting blade works great.

A patch of fall raspberries, if not cut back in the fall will revert to an ever-bearing habit of growth. That is to say, they will begin bearing fruit in the summer and continue again in the  fall.  Some gardeners prefer to pick raspberries earlier in the season rather than waiting to pick their crop in the fall.


Cut off the canes near ground level.

If you have a place to do it, burn the cut-offs, they can harbor disease which may infect next season’s growth.

One last thing, if you can’t get to them right now, they can be cut down any time during their dormant season…all the way up until March.


Source: All things green (

Title: All things green: Better Late Than Never
Post by: on November 30, 2009, 07:42:34 PM
Better Late Than Never (
30 November 2009, 5:53 pm

Here we are, it’s the last day of November and I just got our garlic in the ground a few days ago.

Regular readers  of this blog already know that fall is the time of year that you plant garlic.  Garlic can be planted in the spring, however you will end up with bulbs half the size of those planted in the fall.

I think there is still some time to get your garlic planted, I wouldn’t wait too much longer though.

If you have a helper in the garden, decide who is going to go out and find some garlic cloves to plant while the other stays behind and prepares the area to be planted.  If you are by yourself,well then, you’ll have to do both.

Check the garden centers for garlic cloves, if they are out, a farmer’s market stand may have some that can be used for planting. The garlic purchased in a grocery store produce department will most likely have been treated with a sprout inhibitor and will not be good for planting. Sprouting is what we want. I used my garlic that I saved from this years crop.

Your garlic spot must be free of all weeds and kept that way during the growing season because garlic does not compete well against weeds. If you are planning on amending your soil with compost or peat, now’s the time to do so.

Break apart the garlic bulbs into individual cloves just as you do in the kitchen, only this time you won’t be running them through the garlic press.

Plant the cloves into the soil about 2 inches deep and about 6 inches apart. Place the root end down. You can just push them down into the soil with your finger or dig a furrow like I did here.( garlic into a 2'' deep furrowCover them up with soil and let them  go until the soil freezes.  During this period, the cloves will grow roots.  Hopefully we will have a mild December which will allow our late planted garlic some time to develop those roots. No fertilizer is needed for now, we’ll apply that in the spring.( cloves ready to be coveredOnce the ground freezes, cover the bed with straw, compost or other type of mulch.  It’s much better for the garlic if the soil is kept at a consistently cold temperature (which the mulch will provide) than to be freezing and thawing over and over through the winter.

In the spring we will remove our mulch and add fertilizer, garlic is a crop that needs a lot of plant food.

We’ll revisit this project again at mulching time and fertilizing time.


Source: All things green (

Title: All things green: Desert Botanical Garden
Post by: on December 20, 2009, 12:20:20 PM
Desert Botanical Garden (
20 December 2009, 10:36 am

In southern Arizona, the cities of  Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale encircle an area of the Sonoran Desert known as Papago Park.  Within the Park , surrounded by red sandstone geological formations, is the Desert Botanical Garden.

I visited the Garden last week and was delighted by the setting of the 50 acre garden.  It’s collection includes over 20,000 plants, 139 of them being rare, endangered or threatened desert plant species from around the world.  For someone who was born and raised in the Great Lakes area, such as myself,  the desert landscape is quite a contrast.( red sandstone butte in the distanceOne of the things that caught my eye was the large number of different agave and aloe plants that were planted along the walkways. I did not have time to study all of the sometimes subtle characteristics of each specie.( and handrails make it east to get aroundSpeaking of walkways, all of the major walkways are paved and are easy to negotiate.  There’s also plenty of architectural features as well as artistic sculptures  to keep  non-botanists from getting their eyes glazed over from the desert landscape.( Structures and sculpture add visual interestThe arched structures have an assortment of desert plants that you can view close up, ranging from the relatively common Saguaro and Prickly Pear Cactus…( arched structures provide a feeling of enclosed space.…to the more exotic looking Creeping Devil Cactus…( look like they're about to come after you!…and Cristata Cactus:( shy Cristata Cactus huddle togetherYou can enter the Desert Botanical Garden ( for free if you are a member of The U of M Matthaei Botanical Gardens ( in Ann Arbor, otherwise adult entry fee was $15 per adult when I visited Arizona last week.


Source: All things green (

Title: All things green: Black Gold?
Post by: on January 20, 2010, 08:40:36 AM
Black Gold? (
16 January 2010, 10:09 am

Many years ago, when I was just a kid, I learned from my Dad that all things being equal, the darker color a soil appears, the more fertile it is.  I thought about that for awhile. In my young brain I thought, ‘well then why not color the soil using coal or something like that, after all isn’t coal just really old, compressed trees and plants’ ?  That idea was dismissed later by someone I knew as being  just an over-simplified childish idea.

As it turns out, 100’s of years ago in the Amazon River area, the people living there were actually using a similar technique to improve the soil.  They were burning wood in such a way to make charcoal. This charcoal was then added to the soil as a “fertilizer”.

The charcoal added some minerals, such as potash and the like. Its main function was to improved the soil texture and retain  plant nutrients to make them available for growing crops.

Archaeologists have discovered that the remains of these ancient gardens treated with charcoal are much more fertile that the surrounding areas, even after all of those centuries have passed. Plus, the carbon that was created from that process is still pretty much in tact.

Fast forward to the present day. Scientists have told us that carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels released into the atmosphere has built up to a point where it is affecting our weather and we need to do something about it.

A major problem with carbon dioxide is that it is a gas and as such is hard to keep from being released into the air. So scientists have developed a few schemes to deal with this gas, such as pumping it into underground caverns, or trying to chemically combine it with calcium to make calcium carbonate.

Another problem with carbon dioxide is that as CO2 it contains 2 oxygen molecules for every 1 carbon molecule, so it is not “pure carbon”.

Charcoal, on the other hand, is nearly 100% carbon, no oxygen. It is also a solid, so it will not escape into the air…ever. In the soil it will very,very slowly release carbon. It is not poisonous and as was pointed out earlier, it actually is a beneficial substance.

A tree is also a solid and holds carbon. The difference with a tree is that even though it absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and holds it in the form of wood, the tree will eventually die, decompose and re-release all of that carbon back into the atmosphere. It may take a couple of hundred years but it will happen.

Charcoal is made from burning wood or other plant material in the absence of oxygen. The ancient  South American  Indians produced their charcoal in specially designed pits.  Now days, we can use a more controlled process to produce our charcoal. By manipulating combustion temperatures, the charcoal produced can be converted into a more refined product called “biochar”.

Our modern biochar process produces other gases that can be siphoned off and used to fuel the charcoal making process itself plus still have enough surplus gases left over to produce  bio-fuel for powering electrical generators.

Where do we get the raw materials for biochar?  Some proponents of biochar propose that we harvest trees to use as the raw material. I saw an estimate somewhere that in order to remove the amount of CO2 we produce in a year, we would need to cut down around 4% of our trees annually. That is a huge amount of trees, we would need to form an entire new industry just to cut trees and re-plant them. That would certainly help with our unemployment situation.

Others in the biochar industry feel that farmers could be paid for their unused plant materials such as corn stalks or wheat stubble and use that as the material for biochar. The farmers would then need to purchase the processed biochar as a soil amendment to replenish the carbon in their soil lost during crop production.

Biochar seems to be as close to a “magic silver bullet” as anything out there for reducing carbon dioxide. If you add soil replenishment and new jobs, you get a three for one deal.

Maybe this is that “Green Industry” that Governor Grandholm has been looking for.


Source: All things green (

Title: All things green: Start of Seed Starting 2010
Post by: on January 28, 2010, 05:46:10 PM
Start of Seed Starting 2010 (
28 January 2010, 5:19 pm

The end of January signals the start of  seeding for the new year. Not everyone has to or wants to start their plants from seed but we do for a lot of different crops.

This week is a good time to seed onions to grow your own transplants. Do worry if you haven’t ordered onion seeds yet, seeding for onions can go on until mid February.

Onion transplants are pretty east to grow and don’t require any special supplies except sterilized planting mix.  Sterilized planting mix is an absolute must for starting seeds.  Baby seedlings are very susceptible to fungus diseases that can wipe out your whole young  crop overnight.  Planting mix,  sometimes called potting mix, can be found at any garden center and most hardware stores.

We usually use a greenhouse tray (or “flat”) to start seeds and can get 300-400 onion transplants or more out of a tray.  You can use any other container as long as it has holes in the bottom for drainage.

I simply scatter the onion seeds randomly over the soil surface and then cover them with about a 1/4 inch of the planting mix. They land on the soil mix at a distance of about 1/8 to 1/4 inch apart. I don’t worry at all about trying to get them into rows, it’s not necessary.  Here’s a guide as to how close they are sown:( ( seed compared to lines on notebook paper.Then I’ll gently water them in and place them in a warm spot to germinate (sprout).

Onion seedlings  start to appear after several days.  Move your planting container into a sunny spot if you haven’t already done so.

We start these so early in the season because it takes so long for then to reach a size which they can be transplanted into the garden.

Let your seedlings grow until spring, there’s no need to separate them or move them into bigger pots. They will grow in the container such that they resemble a “lawn” growing in the pot.

Fertilize them once a week with soluble plant fertilizer. Don’t let them dry out and don’t drown them either.

That’s about all there is to it.

You’ll be able to grow the varieties you like and not be at the mercy of someone else who decides which onions you have to grow.

My favorites are: Evergreen Hardy White, for green onions; Copra, for long term storing; Red Burgermaster, for burgers.


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Title: All things green: More on Seed Starting
Post by: on February 08, 2010, 01:42:50 PM
More on Seed Starting (
8 February 2010, 12:32 pm

More is involved in starting seeds than popping them into  potting mix and letting them go.  Some species of plants need to have  special requirements met before their seeds can germinate.

Take for example Canna seeds. Yes, I know that Cannas are normally planted as  bulbs (tubers) in the early summer. However some varieties of Canna are available in seed form. Thomson and Morgan ( offer their own hybrid variety as seeds.

Anyway, Canna seeds have an extremely hard seed coat that  makes it very difficult for the seed to absorb the moisture needed for sprouting in a timely manner.  Canna seeds are also known as “Indian Shot” because they resemble the BB’s used in shotgun shells.  As a matter of fact, because they are so hard and dense,  at one time they actually were used in shotguns when lead was in short supply.

In order to deal with these difficult seeds,  horticulturists have learned that if you “nick” or sand down a small part of the seed coat, water will penetrate the seed and stimulate germination. This “nicking” process is known as “scarification”.

I scarify seeds by rubbing them on sandpaper until a small spot on the seed coat is worn away and you can see the lighter color of the seed underneath.  Don’t get carried away though, if you sand too deep, you may damage the living embryo inside.

I haven’t found a  really good way to hold the seeds other than with my fingers.  Don’t be surprised if some of your fingernail is worn down in the process.( ( sandpaper to scarify seeds.Once your seeds have all been nicked soak them  in warm water for about 24 hours.  Keep the water warm for the entire soaking period.

These seeds then need to be planted into a potting mix immediately.  Once they have been treated by this process, they will not keep.

I suggest you start your Cannas soon. They will need a pretty good head start if you want them to bloom this coming season.

By the way, after this summer is over you can dig the tubers from these plants and save them for planting next year just like any other Canna.


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Title: All things green: Garden Lecture
Post by: on February 13, 2010, 03:20:43 PM
Garden Lecture (
13 February 2010, 3:18 pm

Tired of these gray days? Would a stroll through some old-fashioned gardens  perk you up?

You won’t be able to actually physically walk through  a garden but will be able to learn about them in a program presented by  Scott Kunst owner of Old House Gardens (  He  will be speaking at the Toledo Botanical Garden ( this coming Wednesday, February 17, 2010.

I met Scott back in 2001 while picking up an order of  antique Dahlias from his place of business in Ann Arbor.  I can tell you he is a very personable  guy who, over the past couple of decades,  has become an authority on the subject of historical bulbs and gardens.

The Dahlias I was picking up back then were ‘Bishop of Llandaff’.  The bright red flowers of these dahlias are nicely set off  with a beautiful bronze foliage. I have  saved and stored those dahlia tubers ever since. That is the subject of another post however.

( of Bishop of Llandaff Dahlia from Old House GardenThe subject of the Wednesday  talk is “Antique Gardens: American Home Landscapes 1800-1940″ .  Here’s the description from Scott’s website:

From the scanty pioneer gardens of the early 1800s through flamboyant Victorian carpet-bedding to the “old-fashioned” perennial borders of the early 20th century, “Antique Gardens” illuminates 140 years of American yards and gardens. In colorful, fast-paced slides, it shows how plants, outdoor furnishings, and the design of American yards changed dramatically through the years. It’s an eye-opening primer on the landscape relics that survive all around us and essential background for gardeners wanting to restore a historic landscape or to enliven any garden with a touch of the past.

The program begins at 10:30 am in the Crosby Conference Center at the Gardens located at 5403 Elmer Drive ( (south of Central Avenue).

This promises be a welcome gardening diversion from the long stretch of cold weather we have been having.


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Title: All things green: Squash Storage Experiment
Post by: on February 22, 2010, 10:16:29 AM
Squash Storage Experiment (
22 February 2010, 9:47 am

I never used to like squash.  We never had it when we were growing up. I don’t know what it was, but something happened in the last couple of decades that made me appreciate squash and now we eat it regularly.

Squash is a very nutritious food and is easy to prepare.  Most of the time I just cut one in half, take out the seeds and bake it in the oven until it is soft and tender.

What  I’m talking about here is winter squash as opposed to summer squash such as zucchini.

This past fall I started an informal experiment to see how the different varieties of winter  squash hold up under our storage conditions.   The place I keep our squash ranges in temperature from 40F to about 50F depending on the outside weather conditions.

I don’t do anything special to them.  I just put them into a crate and take one out when I want one.

I have in storage eight different varieties of squash, four crates in all.( row L-R: Spaghetti, Blue Hokkaido.  Middle row: Baby Hubbard, Butternut, Hybrid Acorn, Acorn.  Front row: Kabocha, ButtercupAfter going out the other day to get a squash to bake,  I thought “h-m-m-m-m  some people might be interested in the results up to this point”.

Now we are into the third week of February and I see that the Kabocha squash has deteriorated the most.  It has areas of deep spoilage.  These spots can be cut out and some of the squash can be used.

The Buttercup appeared to go down hill fairly quickly. Last month I noticed that most were starting to get a little rotten right in the “cup” of the but the rest of the squash was perfectly fine.

The Butternuts are getting shriveled and some have very soft spots.

The Acorns are firm but have some isolated bad spots that can be cut out, the rest of it is usable.

There are  some surface spots on the Spaghetti Squash but they are otherwise OK.

No spoilage is evident on the Hybrid Acorn.  I haven’t tried to eat one of these yet.

Neither the Baby Hubbard nor the Blue Hokkaido show much in the way of loss of quality.

One thing has to be done if you want to keep these for the winter;  pick unblemished squash.  Be sure they are not bruised, cut or have any other suspicious marks on them.  If they do have spots on them, eat those first before spoilage sets in.

For flavor, my favorite is Buttercup.  They are so flavorful that you think they already have butter and sweet spices mixed in.

So, there you go, lots of great food stored through winter with no canning or freezing.  Now if anyone has any recipes….


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Title: All things green: Finally Found in the Backyard
Post by: on February 26, 2010, 08:30:53 AM
Finally Found in the Backyard (
26 February 2010, 8:27 am

I attended the program Scott Kunst owner of Old House Gardens  ( last week at the Toledo Botanical Garden (  He sprinkled his informative talk with humor and personal anecdotes. It was well worth the time spent.

During one part of his talk on backyard garden architecture ,  Scott mentioned the fact that there was one original chicken coop left in the city of  Ann Arbor.  He showed a slide of  the structure that was located in  someone’s backyard  on the Old West Side (  Off-handed he mentioned that there was also one original outhouse left in Ann Arbor.   As soon as Scott  said that, I turned to Otto sitting next to me and related a story to him about an experience Judy and I had about 15 years ago.

At that time Judy was designing and maintaining gardens for folks in the area.  One of her clients had a house in the Old West Side neighborhood (  Harold was his name I think.

Harold was in the middle  of re-planting part of his backyard.   He asked Judy to move a lilac bush that was in an unusual spot in the yard.  She agreed and asked me to help with the heavy digging.  We carefully dug out a good sized root-ball and lifted the plant out to be moved.

While digging the last few shovelfuls of dirt out of the hole, I found a marble…then another and another until I had found five marbles.

What we were digging in was the location of a long-forgotten outhouse!  I surmise that when indoor plumbing was installed, the owners tore down their outhouse and planted that lilac over the pit.  This was a very common practice at that time.

I’m guessing the marbles we found decades later must have been lost by a boy who had the marbles in his pocket when he went to occupy the outhouse!  Did he know where he lost them? Probably not.

A boy’s marbles are a precious possession in any era, it was even  more so if  a thing like this happened, say, during the Great Depression. I’m sure he was devastated when the marbles never turned up

Maybe his sister decided to exact revenge on him for teasing her so much. We’ll never know for sure.

The “night soil” had long been turned into rich humus by soil organisms. The lilac roots had penetrated the old pit and the plant was fertilized for I don’t know how many decades before we arrived to move it.

I kept those marbles all this time and never really had a chance to show them to anyone until now.( (!! I can't believe he's holding them in his bare hand!!Those are the actual marbles dug up that afternoon.


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Title: All things green: Soil Conservation District Tree Sales
Post by: on March 01, 2010, 01:34:35 PM
Soil Conservation District Tree Sales (
1 March 2010, 12:03 pm

You know spring can’t be far behind when the area Soil Conservation Districts have their annual tree sale.  Here’s the line up in our area for this spring.

The Monroe District ( deadline for ordering is March 22;  Lenawee District ( March 19; Washtenaw District ( March 18;  Wayne County ( Mid May  ;  Lucas County Ohio ( April 2.

Other Districts in Michigan can be found here (

The Soil Conservation sales give the general public an opportunity to purchase tree and shrub seedlings that would otherwise be difficult for us to find.  Proceeds from these sales help fund various conservation and environmental educational programs.


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Title: Re: All things green
Post by: homebody on March 01, 2010, 02:21:50 PM
Soil Conservation District Tree Sales ([url][/url])
1 March 2010, 12:03 pm

You know spring can’t be far behind when the area Soil Conservation Districts have their annual tree sale.  Here’s the line up in our area for this spring.

The Monroe District ([url][/url]) deadline for ordering is March 22;  Lenawee District ([url][/url]): March 19; Washtenaw District ([url][/url]): March 18;  Wayne County ([url][/url]): Mid May  ;  Lucas County Ohio ([url][/url]): April 2.

Other Districts in Michigan can be found here ([url][/url]).

The Soil Conservation sales give the general public an opportunity to purchase tree and shrub seedlings that would otherwise be difficult for us to find.  Proceeds from these sales help fund various conservation and environmental educational programs.


Source: All things green ([url][/url])

Thanks for the reminder about this sale.  I missed it the last couple of years and was SOL.  I'm definitely going to order some seedlings this year!
Title: Re: All things green
Post by: BigRedDog on March 01, 2010, 03:35:04 PM
We've ordered from them in the past and most have turned out great...
Title: All things green: Become a Storm Spotter
Post by: on March 07, 2010, 11:54:29 AM
Become a Storm Spotter (
7 March 2010, 11:32 am

We’ve all seen or heard the warnings…they go something like this: “a funnel cloud has been spotted 3 miles south-west of Carlton,  people in the path of the storm should take cover immediately”


Have you ever wondered who these people are who spot these weather events and how they get reported so quickly? Well, they are a combination of emergency personnel and regular folks who have an interest in the weather and  volunteer their time to watch out for the rest of us.

Last week I took the opportunity to join about 100 others  in the weather spotter training that was held in Monroe.  The class was taught by representatives of the  Detroit office of the National Weather service.  This two hour session was a great introduction to evaluating severe weather and how to report it. I have been wanting to do this for years and finally got the chance to do it.

You by no means become a severe weather expert like Dr Forbes ( of the Weather Channel ( The class did inspired me to learn more about severe weather however.

In the meantime, I am certified as a storm spotter, all be it an un-experienced  one.

There are a number of classes scheduled in our area if you are interested in participating.  Admission is free.  Click here for the Spotter Training Schedule (


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Title: All things green: Agriculture and Natural Resources Week
Post by: on March 08, 2010, 09:26:27 AM
Agriculture and Natural Resources Week (
8 March 2010, 8:55 am

The 95th annual Agriculture and Natural Resources Week began Friday and runs though Saturday March 13 in East Lansing.


A wide variety of topics are being presented in a classroom setting including, herb gardening, small poultry flock management, horticulture therapy, general gardening and much more.

I remember attending back in the early 80’s when it was called “Farmer’s Week” so many  more areas of interest have  been added since those days.  If you have the time, I encourage you to attend.

There’s also a rabbit show, a wildflower conference, organic farming symposium, displays and more.  Most events are free of charge.


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Title: All things green: Starting Seeds at Home
Post by: on March 16, 2010, 09:42:32 AM
Starting Seeds at Home (
16 March 2010, 9:06 am

( (

This past Saturday Judy and I taught a two hour class at the University of Michigan (’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens  ( on the topic of starting seeds at home. We covered a lot of information during the class but two hours wasn’t nearly enough time considering the subject of seeds and seeding would be covered in one or two semesters if you were to attend an agricultural college.

Our participant’s experience covered a wide gamut from those who never attempted it to those with a fair amount of success.

About half of the class was interested in growing  flowers while the other half vegetables.  Although the primary discussion was about starting annual plants, we did touch on perennials briefly.

We spent the first hour in a classroom going over many of the basics.  During the second hour we moved into the greenhouse and actually sowed seeds and transplanted seedlings.  A couple of the participants weren’t really prepared to get their hands into the dirt but happily joined in anyway.

Since the class was such a success, we plan on holding it again next year.

If you are interested in starting your own plants from seed, follow along here at All Things Green for most of the information we presented in the class.

In the next post we’ll  get into some things to consider before you begin sowing your seeds.


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Title: All things green: Starting Seeds at Home II
Post by: on March 18, 2010, 02:08:24 PM
Starting Seeds at Home II (
18 March 2010, 1:59 pm

During the seed starting class, some participants confided in me that they had tried seed starting in the past but were frustrated by the lack of success.

My suggestion is to start out with the easier seeds in order to gain experience and confidence before moving on to the more exotic seeds.

Some easiest  vegetable seeds are the cabbage family, which in addition to cabbage, includes broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts.

Onions, head lettuce, tomatoes and peppers are also considered easy to start.

You can gain some valuable experience starting flowers such as alyssum, cosmos, marigold and zinnia. This may seem like a short list, but there are a wide variety of shapes colors and sizes of these varieties available now days.

( (

I would also venture to say that nearly all seed varieties  available from a hardware or department store would fall into the category of easy to start. This is because the seed companies also want you to have a good gardening experience, so they offer the seeds which are most likely to grow in the hands of a beginner.

Different varieties of seeds need to be started at different times so we’ll cover that in the next blog.


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Title: All things green: Starting Seeds at Home III
Post by: on March 20, 2010, 07:26:14 PM
Starting Seeds at Home III (
20 March 2010, 6:02 pm

“Timing is everything”.  We’ve all heard that from people ranging from comedians to investment advisers; it is also true when starting seeds at home.

If seeds are started too early, the seedlings you are trying to raise will out-grow their space before you have a chance to transplant them out into the garden.  On the other hand, if you start them too late, well, you might as well have saved yourself all of the trouble and sowed the seeds outside directly into the garden.

The timing revolves around the weather, specifically the last frost of spring, also known as the “frost free date”.

Climatologists and weathermen being the scientists they are,  have very specific dates dealing with specific spring temperatures.  For our purposes in the garden, we shoot for Mid May as our date.  There still is a fair chance of  some chilly temperatures at that date but not  too much of a chance of an actual freeze happening.

The other factor to consider in your timing is whether you are sowing what I like to call ‘warm season’ crops or ‘cool season’ plants.

Vegetable plants such as  onion, lettuce, and cabbage family (which includes cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts and others) are considered cool season plants and are tolerant of freezing temperatures to a certain extent.

Flowers such as pansy, snapdragon, alyssum, sweet peas and others are cool season plants as well.

Most other annuals can be considered warm season plants for our discussion here.

The cool season plants can be transplanted into the garden as early as four or five weeks before the frost date. The warm season plants will never survive in those cold conditions and need to be set out into the garden after the soil has warmed up and there is no chance for frost, usually late May.

Right now we are in the beginning of the main part of seed starting season. During the next week or two you need to get some of your seeds started. Tomatoes and peppers should  be started soon because they take so long to get to a size that can be transplanted into the garden.  Cabbage takes less time to get to transplanting size but remember, they can be set out much earlier.

Often seed packets give you suggestions on when to sow the contents.( ( seed companies include very detailed sowing instructions on their packets.Next time we’ll discuss soil mix and containers for your seeds.


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Title: All things green: Starting Seeds at Home IV
Post by: on March 22, 2010, 06:00:26 PM
Starting Seeds at Home IV (
22 March 2010, 5:37 pm

Gardeners can be quite resourceful when it comes to finding containers to use for starting their seeds.

If you have purchased plants from a greenhouse in the past, you are familiar with a black thermoformed plastic tray called the greenhouse “flat”.  These typically measure about 11″x21″ by 2-1/2″ deep .

The flat in turn has a black plastic liner or ”insert” placed into it. The inserts are commonly divided into sections ranging  from 24 to 72 “cells”.

This system of greenhouse flats works wonderfully for use in the greenhouse because all of the starting and growing containers are standardized and easy to handle.

Flats are also available for use at home, either at well stocked garden centers, on-line, or through gardening catalogs. They work just as well at home as in the greenhouse if all of your seeds require the same growing conditions.

Back in the old days, greenhouse people used to make their flats out of untreated wood. A typical size was 16″x24″x3″. This is still a good option for some gardeners.

If you only have a few seeds of each variety and they have widely different sowing and growing conditions, then a flat might not work for you. Several smaller containers must be used to accommodate the different seed requirements.

This is where you can use your imagination to find containers in which to start your seeds.  Most commonly you see folks using recycled milk cartons or jugs cut to size.  With today’s over-packaging of food products, we have a huge selection from which to choose. Previous generations didn’t have this wide variety of choices.

Look around in the trash and you can find yogurt cups, egg cartons, snack containers, frozen food packaging, fast food packaging and more; all of which has potential to be recycled for use in starting seeds.

Whatever you decide to use for your container, it absolutely must have drainage holes. Cut or punch out several holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain away.

You can use newspaper to make your own paper pots.  Cut the newspaper into 3-1/2″ wide strips and wrap them around a glass jar a couple of times. Tape the paper where it overlaps and fold the bottom of the paper to make the pot bottom.

Since I’m a “saver” type of guy, I like to save my plastic flats, liners and pots from season to season. Many people say they don’t like plastic pots because they don’t degrade in the land fill. I say that’s their best attribute, the plastic holds up well from year to year and can be re-used. Just don’t be in such a hurry to throw them away every year.( ( of last year's greenhouse flats waiting to be washed, disinfected and re-used.When re-using pots, make sure they are washed to get off all of last year’s soil. Then sterilize then by using a 10% bleach solution:1 part bleach to 9 parts water. If you don’t thoroughly clean them, you run the risk of transferring disease to your seedlings.

Common garden soil cannot be used to start seeds indoors no matter how good it grows crops outside. Soil dug from the garden is just too dense and will form a hard mass in the container making it extremely difficult for the plants to grow.

Seedlings need a soil that is able to hold water, yet can still drain away excess moisture. The roots also need a certain amount of air in order to grow properly. Some gardeners try to blend their own starting mixes but this is not recommended for beginners.

The soil that is used to fill your containers must be sterilized for the same reason you sterilize the pots: disease prevention.

To get all of the characteristics of a good seed starting soil, it is easiest to purchase a bag of packaged seed starting mix. These have already been sterilized by the manufacturer.  Be sure the mix is labeled as a seed starting blend and not a potting mix.  Potting mix is usually to coarse for starting all but the largest seeds.

In the next blog we’ll discuss filling your containers and sowing your seeds.


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Title: All things green: Starting Seeds at Home V
Post by: on March 24, 2010, 12:22:39 PM
Starting Seeds at Home V (
24 March 2010, 12:00 pm

There are two schools of thought on how to best fill containers for starting seeds.

One idea is to fill the flat with dry soil mix and then moisten it by watering it from the top with a sprinkling can; or you can set the flat into a pan of water and let it wick up into the mix.  Both ways are fine although watering from the top is often quicker if you need to get it moist in a hurry for some reason.  The overhead water also packs down the soil mix slightly making it somewhat denser.

The second idea is to moisten the soil mix before placing it into the pot.  This is done by adding water to the mix either directly into it’s original bag or by moistening only part of it in a bucket or tub.  It’s easy to over-do the watering and end up with a water-logged soil mix which then has to be allowed to drain before using.

If you are using starting mix that you have moistened ahead of time, scoop up some mix and place it into the flat or pot and level it off.  Then lightly bump the tray on the table top once or twice to settle in the mix.  Resist the urge to pack the soil into the container with your fingers, that will reduce the needed air space in the soil.  Remember, it’s  not like making sand castles!

Different seeds have different germination requirements.  Some need a cold period, some need to be soaked, some need to be treated with growth hormones, some even need to pass through the digestive tract of an animal! We won’t worry about any of those types of seeds in this discussion, for now we’ll stick to the most common requirements.

The most important thing you need to know is whether or not the seed requires light to germinate.  Generally speaking, the larger seeds can be covered while the very tiny seeds need to be sown on top of the mix.  Check the seed packet to be sure.

Seeds that need to be covered should be placed about 2 or 3 times their diameter below the soil.  While small surface sown seeds should  be lightly pressed into the top of the mix so the seed makes good contact with the soil.

You can choose to sow your seeds into rows in the container, in which case you will need to transplant them later. Or you can sow two or three seeds per cell in your flat (or pot).  Later you will save the strongest seedling and discard the others.

As a guide, sow large seeds about an inch apart; medium seeds about 1/2″ to 3/8″ apart; and tiny seeds about 1/4″ apart.

Since germinating seeds need high humidity,  cover your container with clear plastic of some sort.  Be sure to keep the plastic propped up off of the surface of the soil.  For greenhouse flats, clear plastic “domes” are available.

Put your newly planted container in a warm spot to hasten germination. Placing them on a seed starting heat mat is ideal. These electric mats usually come with a built in thermostat to keep your tray at the ideal temperature for germinating most garden seeds.( ( mats for seeds are readily available at garden centers.Some seeds will emerge from the soil within a day or two while others take longer.  After they are up, they need to be cared for, we’ll discuss how to do that and how to avoid potential problems in part six of our series.


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Title: All things green: Starting Seeds at Home VI
Post by: on March 29, 2010, 05:10:30 PM
Starting Seeds at Home VI (
29 March 2010, 5:01 pm

If  you have sown your seeds correctly and placed them in a warm area, they should germinate and emerge from the soil  within a few days.

Take your germinated seeds off of the heating mat and get them into some bright  light. Your heat mat can be now used to start the next batch of seeds.

Not all of us have access to a greenhouse or a sun room to grow our newly emerged seedlings.  A bright, sunny window with a southern exposure works almost as well.  The other alternative is to place the seedlings under florescent lights. Two 40 watt fluorescent tubes  will provide all the light your baby plants need.  Special “grow lights” or “full spectrum” are really not necessary just use an ordinary shop light.  The trick is to make sure the seedlings are about 2 inches from the lights, certainly not more than 3 inches.( ( an ordinary shop light for your growing seedlingsThe young plants need only about 15 to 16 hours of light a day.  They must have a dark period in order to grow properly.

Direct the air from a small fan onto your growing seedlings.  The movement caused by this small amount of air helps strengthen the young plants and helps prevent fungus from infecting them.

If you notice that your plants are getting “lanky”, top heavy, or lean toward the light, then you know they are not getting enough light, so make the necessary corrections to improve the lighting conditions.  Often they will get so top heavy that they will fall over.  If this happens, transplant them into another container at a deeper depth.  Many times you can salvage your seedlings in this manner.

Fluorescent tubes do give off some heat. This heat combined with the fan may tend to dry out the  potting mix a little so be sure to check on your seedlings a couple of  times a day…they are babies after all!

As your seedlings start to grow, keep an eye out for a problem called “damping off”.  It is disheartening to get to the point where the seeds are up and growing fine only to find one morning that the plants have fallen over and are starting to die.

Damping off is caused by a fungus that usually infects the seedlings’ stems right at the soil line.  You will notice that the stem of the seedling is shriveled. The plant cannot recover at this point. The most common cause is using potting containers that were not properly cleaned or using seeding mix that was not sterilized. Lack of air movement and soggy soil can also make the problem worse.

Fertilize your seedling every other watering or so with a diluted half-strength solution of soluble plant fertilizer. Use distilled or RO water for your seedlings. Chlorine from city water can damage them.  If you don’t have access to distilled water, leave a potful of tap water out overnight to let the chlorine “gas off”.  Placing the growing container in water and letting it soak up from the bottom will help keep your seedlings from being knocked over by a stream of water from the watering can.

Eventually your seedlings will need to be transplanted. We’ll discuss that and other things in the next post.


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Title: All things green: Still Time to Prune Grapevines
Post by: on March 30, 2010, 05:10:13 PM
Still Time to Prune Grapevines (
30 March 2010, 4:30 pm

Well above average temperatures are being predicted for the later part of this week.  This will tend to hasten bud opening in all plants including grapes.

Pruning grapes involves a lot of untangling, tugging and pulling to get the pruned canes out of the way. All of that pulling on the canes can scrape off  the buds you want to keep.   Right now the buds on our grape vines are still hard and fully dormant and and as such can handle that kind of treatment.

Later this week the high temperatures will stimulate the buds out of dormancy and they will begin to swell and become very fragile. This will be an unwanted complication to your grapevine pruning.  Many of the buds that you intend to keep can be easily broken off. The solution is to prune right now, before the buds swell.

I’m guessing probably 90% of the volume of a grape vine is cut off during pruning.  Even though the grapevines shown in the photos are being trained for a decorative use rather than maximum grape production, you can still compare the two photos to get an idea of how much was pruned from the vines.( ( is getting ready to prune the grape arbor in The Gaffield Children's Garden located at Matthaei Botanical Gardens.( ( grape  arbor after pruning. Most of last year's canes have been removed. This  arbor is being trained to form a "tunnel" for young visitors to crawl  through.Typically,  the “arms” growing off of the main trunk are the only ones left and contain the buds that will grow into this year’s canes. It is from this growth that the grapes will be produced.

Long time readers of this blog may remember some posts in the past about pruning grapes. Check out “Prune Your Grapes Now” ( and “Grapes are Pruned” (

There’s plenty of daylight after work this week  to get this job done. Plus you’ll  have it all taken care of before Michigan State’s basketball game on  Saturday and you won’t have to worry about it until next year!


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Title: All things green: Starting Seeds at Home VII
Post by: on April 02, 2010, 03:42:53 PM
Starting Seeds at Home VII (
2 April 2010, 3:33 pm

Once your seeds have germinated and have started to grow, you need to think about the next step in the process which is transplanting. Transplanting is the process of moving a plant from one location to another.  In this case we are moving the young seedling from its spot where it was sown in a [...]

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Title: All things green: Eastern Tent Caterpillars are Hatching
Post by: on April 03, 2010, 10:46:33 AM
Eastern Tent Caterpillars are Hatching (
3 April 2010, 10:41 am

Those nasty tents of caterpillars that you see up in the trees in early summer have already begun to appear.  The above average temperatures we have been experiencing has caused our local population of  Eastern Tent Caterpillars to hatch from their egg masses during the last couple of days.The egg were laid last fall by [...]

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Title: All things green: Starting Seeds at Home VIII
Post by: on April 07, 2010, 06:50:28 PM
Starting Seeds at Home VIII (
7 April 2010, 6:11 pm

Once you have transplanted your seedlings  into their final growing container, continue your fertilizer and watering schedule.  If you are growing them under lights, raise the fluorescent tubes as needed.Check to be sure the seedlings are not getting crowded; separate them if it looks like they are running out of room.  What looked like plenty [...]

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Title: All things green: Dog Tick Season
Post by: on April 13, 2010, 05:58:55 PM
Dog Tick Season (
13 April 2010, 5:02 pm

We found our first Dog Tick (sometimes called Wood Tick) of the season this past Saturday. The warm weather has brought them out early this year.On our property, this has been the only species of tick we have encountered. Fortunately the dog tick does not carry Lyme Disease.The experts at Michigan State University has this [...]

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Title: All things green: New Fruit Trees From the Roots Up
Post by: on April 23, 2010, 10:14:06 AM
New Fruit Trees From the Roots Up (
23 April 2010, 9:39 am

Many mail-order companies will be shipping out their fruit tree orders the next couple of weeks.  If you have been out and about I’m sure you have noticed fruit trees for sale in local garden centers as well.The fruit trees you will be receiving from catalog mail-order companies will be shipped bare root; which means [...]

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Title: All things green: How Deep to Plant Fruit Trees
Post by: on April 29, 2010, 03:40:21 PM
How Deep to Plant Fruit Trees (
29 April 2010, 3:21 pm

Some confusion seems to surround the notion of dwarf, semi-dwarf and full sized (standard) fruit trees.Virtually all fruit trees sold these days have started out their life as a normal bud or twig growing on a tree.  A nurseryman cut the bud or twig (now called a scion) from that tree and grafted it onto [...]

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Title: All things green: 30th Annual Plant Sale
Post by: on May 04, 2010, 09:32:52 PM
30th Annual Plant Sale (
4 May 2010, 8:16 pm

Still not decided what to do for Mother’s Day Weekend? Why not take Mom out to the big plant sale at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor.  This is a wonderful chance to see what’s new in the world of horticulture  and purchase some plants that may be very hard to find elsewhere. Members of the [...]

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Title: All things green: Critical Fruit Tree Spray Application
Post by: on May 10, 2010, 09:20:07 AM
Critical Fruit Tree Spray Application (
10 May 2010, 8:14 am

Every year I get comments from people saying that they can’t seem to grow good fruit.  I ask if they have done any spraying to control insects and diseases, some say “not really”, others say “a little” and others say “yes, quite a bit”. Digging deeper I find a common thread, they all missed the [...]

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Title: All things green: Chance of Spring Frost Nearly Over
Post by: on May 14, 2010, 12:57:06 PM
Chance of Spring Frost Nearly Over (
14 May 2010, 12:45 pm

We have arrived at the middle of May and that signals the  beginning of the main part of our gardening season here in Southeastern Michigan. According to records kept by the National Weather Service, the  chance of a late spring frost happening at this time of the year is  around 10% in the [...]

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Title: All things green: Chickens or Not?
Post by: on May 19, 2010, 04:44:37 PM
Chickens or Not? (
19 May 2010, 3:26 pm

I’ve debated on whether or not chickens should be included in discussions about gardening. Judy and I are into our 4th year of keeping  chickens and have a current flock of  88 including laying hens and young pullets as well as cockerels for meat. Back when I was an Agriculture Agent decades ago, the answer to [...]

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Title: All things green: Better Luck With Carrots
Post by: on May 26, 2010, 11:06:54 AM
Better Luck With Carrots (
26 May 2010, 10:20 am

One frequent complaint I hear from gardeners  is the bad luck they have with getting carrots to grow.  Often they mention that it hardly seems worth it since only a few seeds sprout and they end up with just a couple of carrots in the row. The problem can be traced back to improper planting; specifically [...]

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Title: All things green: Still Time for Planting
Post by: on June 01, 2010, 09:14:29 PM
Still Time for Planting (
1 June 2010, 8:54 pm

Did you spend a lot of productive time in your garden over the Memorial Day weekend, or did you go out to the lake?  I hope you got a chance to do both, that’s what we did. Memorial Day  is the target date for getting gardens planted here in southeastern Michigan.  I’m guessing that a vast [...]

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Title: All things green: Backyard Chicken Related Post
Post by: on June 02, 2010, 01:14:27 PM
Backyard Chicken Related Post (
2 June 2010, 11:54 am

I have posted an introduction to baby chick feed at our other website. There I discuss some of the types of feed commercially available for baby chicks. Bob

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Title: All things green: Insect Attack on Fruit Trees
Post by: on June 09, 2010, 10:24:39 AM
Insect Attack on Fruit Trees (
9 June 2010, 9:38 am

Back in May I wrote about the need for early sprays for your fruit trees and how critical those early sprays are. If you didn’t take my advice, you may have noticed some of the fruit on your trees have marks on them caused by insects. These developing fruits are the first casualties of the battle [...]

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Title: All things green: Wireworms
Post by: on June 14, 2010, 02:10:23 PM
Wireworms (
14 June 2010, 1:55 pm

I decided to expand our vegetable garden this year by converting some of the wild area behind the existing garden into usable garden space. While tilling and planting I found these subterranean dwelling insects known as “wireworms”. You can see by the photo how they got their name, they sort of look like a piece of copper [...]

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Title: Re: All things green: Better Luck With Carrots
Post by: SidecarFlip on June 14, 2010, 03:12:29 PM
Better Luck With Carrots ([url][/url])
26 May 2010, 10:20 am

One frequent complaint I hear from gardeners  is the bad luck they have with getting carrots to grow.  Often they mention that it hardly seems worth it since only a few seeds sprout and they end up with just a couple of carrots in the row. The problem can be traced back to improper planting; specifically [...]

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The trick, if you will, for planting carrots, is to plant them in well, deep tilled soil with leaf lettuce.  That way, the faster sprouting lettuce marks the row and the slower carrots develop below the surface rooting lettuce.  When the lettuce is done, pull it and the carrots continue to grow.

Lettuce seed and carrot seed is very fine so it's much easier to plant it using a large eyedropper to space the seed properly.

Lettuce as well as carrots can be bought in pre-spaced seed tapes as well that you can plant on top of each other.

Sow the seed in a shallow trench about 1/2" deep.  Make the trendh with your finger.  Cover the trench with fine crumbled soil and pat lightly.

Prior to germination frequent watering is a must.

(I should be writing the gardening blog....... ;D)
Title: All things green: Apple Codling Moth
Post by: on June 23, 2010, 01:40:56 PM
Apple Codling Moth (
23 June 2010, 12:26 pm

Growing good apples is a little tricky because of all of the pests that feed on them and cause damage to the fruit. We discussed the Curculio a couple of posts ago, this time we need to talk about another major pest on apples, the Codling Moth.  This is the proverbial “worm in the apple” that [...]

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Title: All things green: Lichens on Trees
Post by: on June 30, 2010, 03:28:35 PM
Lichens on Trees (
30 June 2010, 3:21 pm

A few days ago a gardener proclaimed to me that an expert had told her that Lichens are found only on trees that are no longer growing. I don’t know what expert might have told her that but I’m sure she misinterpreted whatever may have been said. The study of Lichens is a huge branch of [...]

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Title: All things green: Transplant Poppies Now
Post by: on July 08, 2010, 11:22:35 AM
Transplant Poppies Now (
8 July 2010, 9:27 am

Oriental Poppies, once established reliably bloom year after year, sometimes for decades. They don’t like to be disturbed or moved unlike some other perennials that need to be divided every couple of years or so. Those other perennials can be handled more easily for moving. There are times when plants need to be relocated for [...]

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Title: All things green: Keep Weeding
Post by: on July 14, 2010, 12:52:52 PM
Keep Weeding (
14 July 2010, 12:23 pm

Here we are, well into July and have progressed this far in the garden with all of our planting,  fertilizing, controlling pests and so on.  It takes a lot of work to keep up a garden and it’s easy to get distracted by other summer time activities… the pool, the lake, golf. Make sure you [...]

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Title: All things green: Wax Worms
Post by: on July 22, 2010, 04:38:34 PM
Wax Worms (
22 July 2010, 4:24 pm

Earlier this week I was asked to look over a bee hive that had not been attended to  since last fall.  For a number a reasons the owner was not able to care for the hive. Opening it up I found just a few bees and very little honey. There was however a serious infestation [...]

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Title: All things green: Cucumber Disease
Post by: on July 27, 2010, 10:22:42 PM
Cucumber Disease (
27 July 2010, 9:58 pm

While walking through a friend’s garden last week, I noticed a problem just getting started in her cucumber vines. The leaves were beginning to show signs of Downy Mildew, a fungal disease that often plagues cucumbers. If left untreated, the disease can defoliate an entire crop in just a few days. The developing fruit then [...]

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Title: All things green: Tomato Hornworms Are Back
Post by: on August 02, 2010, 07:06:33 PM
Tomato Hornworms Are Back (
2 August 2010, 6:42 pm

The week before last I saw the first few Tomato Hornworms in our garden. I was able to take care of them pretty quickly by picking off the first two or three. Today they came back with a vengeance.  I found Hornworms all over our tomatoes. Here’s the first batch I “harvested” from the plants: [...]

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Title: All things green: Tomato Blight
Post by: on August 09, 2010, 10:43:04 AM
Tomato Blight (
9 August 2010, 9:44 am

By now if you have tomatoes in your garden, I’m sure you have been seeing leaves that have started to turn yellow and develop spots.  These are symptoms of any one of three fungal diseases that infect tomato plants in our area; Early Blight, Late Blight and Septoria Leaf Spot.  They are often referred to [...]

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Title: All things green: Blackberry Jam
Post by: on August 16, 2010, 03:48:11 PM
Blackberry Jam (
16 August 2010, 3:43 pm

We”ll be finishing up the last of our wild blackberry jam this week… making it not eating it. Our blackberries have been producing quite well for a number  of weeks now. We only have a few plants but as long as we keep picking them, it seems like they keep on producing. In our little [...]

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Title: All things green: Parasitized Tomato Hornworm
Post by: on August 17, 2010, 01:20:18 PM
Parasitized Tomato Hornworm (
17 August 2010, 12:55 pm

There seems to be an abundance of Hornworms in the garden this year.  A couple of posts ago I discussed picking the pests off of the plants by hand as one way of controlling them. This morning while picking even more Hornworms off the tomatoes, I came across one that I though you should see. [...]

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Title: All things green: New Threat to Walnut Trees
Post by: on August 31, 2010, 09:18:24 AM
New Threat to Walnut Trees (
31 August 2010, 9:08 am

Another potential disease problem is over the horizon threatening our local trees.  This time it is the Black Walnuts that are at risk. A fungal infection called Thousand Cankers has been killing Black Walnut trees in the western part of the United States for several years.  It has been confined to nine states in the [...]

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Title: All things green: Start Planning For Frost
Post by: on September 09, 2010, 10:12:38 AM
Start Planning For Frost (
9 September 2010, 9:53 am

These cool nights are a reminder to me to start looking for my frost covering that I use in the garden each fall. You may think it is too early to start thinking about frost but keep in mind that in some locations away from the urban areas, frost is entirely possible. For example for [...]

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Title: All things green: Less Than Ideal Summer for Honeybees
Post by: on October 25, 2010, 01:48:51 PM
Less Than Ideal Summer for Honeybees (
22 September 2010, 10:07 am

After checking the honeybees this week, I was dismayed at how little honey they had made for themselves this summer. Looking at the number of honey combs that were filled, it became evident to me that probably only a third of the hives would yield enough honey for me to safely harvest. Honeybees collect flower [...]

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Title: All things green: You Can Divide Daylilies Now
Post by: on October 25, 2010, 01:48:51 PM
You Can Divide Daylilies Now (
28 September 2010, 11:23 am

Daylilies are one of the most versatile flowering plants available to gardeners. You can depend on them to produce an abundance of showy flowers and the foliage makes a good ground cover. They are not attacked by insects and are susceptible to only a couple of mild disease organisms that don’t seem to hurt the [...]

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Title: All things green: Bees in the Trees
Post by: on October 25, 2010, 01:48:51 PM
Bees in the Trees (
5 October 2010, 3:29 pm

A few days ago my sister Vickie stopped by to visit and feed the chickens a treat of dry bread. While we were talking she asked me, “why didn’t you tell me you had a bee’s nest near your driveway?” I answered that I didn’t know what she was talking about. It turned out that [...]

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Title: All things green: Plant Garlic in the Fall for Summer Harvest
Post by: on October 25, 2010, 01:49:59 PM
Plant Garlic in the Fall for Summer Harvest (
23 October 2010, 2:16 pm

In past years I have written about the subject of planting garlic.  I think it never hurts to remind experienced gardeners that they need to get that garlic in now. Also, there may be new readers that would like to try their hand at growing their own garlic. To get garlic like those shown in [...]

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Title: All things green: Forced Bulbs, A Cure For The Inevitable Late Winter Blahs
Post by: on November 26, 2010, 09:37:00 AM
Forced Bulbs, A Cure For The Inevitable Late Winter Blahs (
29 October 2010, 4:30 pm

Our autumn has been quite pleasant so far but before you know it we’ll be  into the winter season.  Christmas and New Year’s are always festive but by the time February rolls around, most of us begin to tire of  the seemingly endless gray days. By starting a fun project right now, you can head [...]

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Title: All things green: Time to Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs
Post by: on November 26, 2010, 09:37:00 AM
Time to Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs (
10 November 2010, 8:23 am

Even though things are slowing down to a crawl in the garden after the frost, fall can still be a very busy time of the year for the die-hard gardener. In addition to all of the garden and yard clean-up there’s still plenty of planting to do especially if you look forward to flowers in [...]

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Title: All things green: Cut Back Fall Raspberries
Post by: on November 30, 2010, 04:38:31 PM
Cut Back Fall Raspberries (
30 November 2010, 3:00 pm

One of the remaining jobs in my garden is taking care of this season’s old raspberry plants. Fortunately I have an ever-bearing variety planted. Older gardeners will remember when most of the raspberries grown would be ripe for picking in mainly in the summer. To stretch out the season growers would have to plant an [...]

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Title: All things green: Poinsettia Care
Post by: on December 19, 2010, 10:52:18 AM
Poinsettia Care (
19 December 2010, 10:42 am

Every year around Christmas time I get asked by at least two or three people, “what is the best way to keep my Poinsettia alive and looking well once I get it home? ” Poinsettias don’t really need a whole lot of special treatment but they do need just a little bit more care than [...]

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Title: Re: All things green: Poinsettia Care
Post by: BigRedDog on December 19, 2010, 11:11:14 AM
Poinsettia Care ([url][/url])
19 December 2010, 10:42 am

Every year around Christmas time I get asked by at least two or three people, “what is the best way to keep my Poinsettia alive and looking well once I get it home? ” Poinsettias don’t really need a whole lot of special treatment but they do need just a little bit more care than [...]

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I've heard for years that poinsettias can be poisonous to cats and dogs...

Not true although they can be irritating to cats...   but they're not real tasty so it's not real likely your cat will actually eat one anyway!!!

We've always had cats and frequently have a poinsettia and never had any problems...

Another one of those old wives' tales I guess 8* 8* 8* (
Title: All things green: Warm New Year’s Eve Welcomed By the Bees
Post by: on January 19, 2011, 03:20:36 PM
Warm New Year’s Eve Welcomed By the Bees (
4 January 2011, 8:47 am

Honeybees and their beekeepers all around our area were delighted by the 50F temperatures during the day on New Year’s Eve. During the winter honeybees are not dormant, various things happen inside the hive depending on what’s happening with the weather. Consuming honey is the primary activity of bees this time of the year. The [...]

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Title: All things green: Seed Catalog Time
Post by: on January 26, 2011, 12:52:52 PM
Seed Catalog Time (
26 January 2011, 12:25 pm

For most gardeners in our area not much is happening in the garden this time of year. January does bring a harvest of its own though in the form of garden catalogs. They really do seem to have a way of multiplying on their own, sort of like when zucchini gets out of control.  A [...]

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Title: All things green: Snow and the Garden
Post by: on February 10, 2011, 12:04:18 PM
Snow and the Garden (
10 February 2011, 11:51 am

“Think snow!” the skiers say. That’s something gardeners should say as well. When most people see snow the first thing they think of is how to get it off of the sidewalk and driveway.  For me and many other gardeners, shoveling snow is the second thing we think of. The first thought is how thankful [...]

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Title: All things green: Healthier Tomatoes
Post by: on February 18, 2011, 04:02:50 PM
Healthier Tomatoes (
18 February 2011, 2:01 pm

During the last few years tomatoes have been gaining ground as one of the healthiest foods that can be grown in the garden.  They contain lots of vitamin C,  have very few calories and are a rich source of lycopene. Lycopene,  a nutrient produced by tomatoes and other red colored vegetables,  has been found to [...]

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Title: All things green: Homemade Maple Syrup
Post by: on March 03, 2011, 02:52:44 PM
Homemade Maple Syrup (
3 March 2011, 2:34 pm

Yes it is possible to make maple syrup at home. You don’t need a horse drawn sled and a sugar shack out in the woods to make your own maple syrup. A few simple tools are all that is needed,  some of which you probably already have in your workshop or garage. I knew some [...]

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Title: All things green: March Is Pruning Time
Post by: on March 16, 2011, 11:32:56 AM
March Is Pruning Time (
16 March 2011, 10:31 am

The month of March is pruning time for most trees and shrubs. These woody plants have been dormant all winter. As the temperatures begin to warm up and the days get longer the plants begin to wake up. Pruning just before they break dormancy is best. There are some exceptions to pruning in March. Spring [...]

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Title: All things green: Build Your Own Greenhouse
Post by: on March 25, 2011, 11:12:33 AM
Build Your Own Greenhouse (
25 March 2011, 9:45 am

Every gardener at one time or another has thought about having a greenhouse to start seeds and grow plants. Someone with a large budget could have a greenhouse construction company build one, many of us don’t have those kinds of funds to use. A prefabricated kit is another way to go. Even these can be [...]

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Title: All things green: Test Soil pH Before Applying Lime
Post by: on April 01, 2011, 03:13:01 PM
Test Soil pH Before Applying Lime (
1 April 2011, 1:54 pm

Fall is the best time of year to add lime to your garden soil. This gives the lime plenty of time to react with the soil chemistry and do its job raising the pH of the soil.  The next best time to apply lime is right now, in early spring. There are several weeks to [...]

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