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All things green: Planting Idea for Next Year
« Reply #15 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...

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All things green: Knobby Roots in the Garden
« Reply #16 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...

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All things green: Dragonflies, Jewelry and Politics
« Reply #17 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 ...

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All things green: Halloween Trick
« Reply #18 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.

[img]http://i119.photobucket.com/albums/o132/rdlu/flowers/100_4...

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All things green: Fall Raspberry Care
« Reply #19 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:

Bob in the Raspberry Patch

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.

Cutting Raspberry Canes

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.

Bob

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All things green: Better Late Than Never
« Reply #20 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.Planting garlic into a 2'' deep furrowPlanting 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.Garlic cloves ready to be coveredGarlic 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.

Bob

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All things green: Desert Botanical Garden
« Reply #21 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.View from the Desert Botanical GardenA 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.Part of the desert plant collectionWalkways 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 in the Desert GardenArched 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…Plants under the Arched StructuresThe arched structures provide a feeling of enclosed space.…to the more exotic looking Creeping Devil Cactus…Creeping DevilThey look like they're about to come after you!…and Cristata Cactus:Cristata CactusThe 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.

Bob

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All things green: Black Gold?
« Reply #22 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.

Bob

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All things green: Start of Seed Starting 2010
« Reply #23 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:Onion 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.

Bob

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All things green: More on Seed Starting
« Reply #24 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.Using 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.

Bob

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All things green: Garden Lecture
« Reply #25 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.

Image 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.

Bob



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All things green: Squash Storage Experiment
« Reply #26 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.Back 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….

Bob

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All things green: Finally Found in the Backyard
« Reply #27 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 presented 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.E-e-e-w-e!! I can't believe he's holding them in his bare hand!!Those are the actual marbles dug up that afternoon.

Bob

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All things green: Soil Conservation District Tree Sales
« Reply #28 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.

Bob

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Re: All things green
« Reply #29 on: March 01, 2010, 02:21:50 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.

Bob

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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!
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