Picture Snob

Plants

September 15, 2011

Mexican primrose roots easily in water

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We have a lack of cut flowers so in desparation for a dinner table decoration I cut some Mexican primrose and noticed that the flowers even after a week or two the flowers kept developing and opening. A quick look in the vase showed me long tendrils of roots. I quickly changed the water which I hadn't done and today they looks happier than ever.

I think putting them in soil is going to be a difficult task, but I'm going to try and see if you can develop it into a house plant. A long chance but fun to experiment with these ideas.

At Mexican primrose

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September 12, 2011

Rainy day! Time to trim the house plants and feed them

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We are housebound out here in the east with rainy drippy and rather deary weather. I'm not able to do anything outside so I decided to trim the houseplant and try to start some cuttings. Pothos is one of the most common houseplants and is a native of East Asia. It has many varieties, leaves with white, yellow, or light green variegation. Pothos will climb easily or it's tendrils will hang down which every you prefer. It can grow quite tall and hardly every flowers because it's flowering depends on it's height.

I cut off three very long straggly vines and put the growing tips with about five nodes and the top leaves in water. The leaves almost immediately perked up and after about a week I expect to see roots form from one or more of the nodes. It's good to change the water every three or four days, but it is really easy to root cuttings in water. The tricky part comes in transferring them to soil. It's best to use potting soil and vermiculite to let the root have an easy time getting used to solids.

At Pothos plant

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September 9, 2011

Digging up the potatoes with the grandchildren

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There are some pleasures that gardening supplies that are going to be great memories for those involved. Today I dug up the potatoes that were planted in the spring with my grandchildren. I got them small trowels and gave them instructions about digging gently so they wouldn't hurt the potatoes. They dug and dug and uncovering the potatoes was like finding buried treasure.

Once they had uncovered the ones near the topsoil, I came in with the big shovel and dug a large shovelful and turned it over so they could pull out the big potatoes buried deeply. They were ecstatic and couldn't have been more pleased if we were digging up gold nuggets. After we got all the potatoes out, I let them wash them off with a hose and then we brought them in the house and they insisted on washing them again, trying to use hot water to get them really clean until I told them that was not necessary. In the end it was a job well done and they were very happy with themselves and the crop. A very fun afternoon for the family.

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September 6, 2011

Purple Fountain Grass makes a great landscape plant

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Purple Fountain Grass is a popular annual which is easy to grow and really attractive. It grows three to four feet high. It should be planted in fertile well drained soil in full sun after all danger of frost has passed. "Purple Fountain Grass" is a vigorous grower that will quickly fill in any bed or container. The foxtail like plumes will appear mid summer and last until first frost.

Many people have tried to grow it as a house plant by digging it up and repotting it with mixed success. I am going to try this later in September before the first killing frost. This is a drought-tolerant grass that forms neat clumps of purplish-maroon blades and has rose-red flower spikes summer through fall. It's perennial in warm climates. This item is shipped as a potted one gallon plant in its original soil and container. Hardy to USDA zone 8 and all higher zones.

At Purple Fountain Grass

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September 2, 2011

Saving herbs for year round use

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Herbs can be usually used fresh, dry, or fresh-frozen. The rule of thumb is to use twice as much of the fresh or frozen herb as the dried form as the dried from is concentrated. However, dried herbs if not put in sealed containers, soon loose their potency and develop a stale taste.

Harvesting and drying herbs is fairly easy. The volatile oils of the plant are stored mainly in the leaves and this gives the plant its aroma and taste. Air drying is the simplest method. You can hang them in a warm spot upside down after cutting off the root. Food dehydrators create a gentle flow of air which hastens the process.

The idea time of season to harvest most herbs is just when the flower buds are forming, but just before they open. The best time of day is in the morning when the dew has dried off the leaves and there is no moisture clinging to the plant. The volatile oils will be at their best this time of day.

To insure that the plant material is clean, hose them down the evening before you plan to harvest, gently spraying away any dirt which clings to the leaves.

As much as half of the growing leaves from one picking may be harvested from an annual plant. You can snip the stem at least 4 inches up from the ground, yet still above active growth. In time it will grow back and give you a second harvest before summer's end. In some cases, even a third. With perennial plants, no more than one-third should be taken

It's never to late to start herbs indoors where you can harvest all year long!

At Culinary Herbs


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August 29, 2011

Now is the time to keep it going--Fall planting

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Just because fall is near we don't have to give up the garden! Right now the bounty coming out of the garden may seem overwhelming. It's hard to figure out what to do with it--can it, freeze it, give it away? But with the first frosts the bounty will diminish and if you have new seeds germinated, the promise of the garden will continue.

If you're interested in growing fall and winter crops now is the time to get your plants started. August and early September is the best time to start beets, kale, Chinese cabbage, daikons, collards, rutabaga, turnips, and mustard greens. You can also continue to sow carrot, lettuce, cilantro, arugula, and radish successions. You might wait to sow spinach in mid-September, when cooler soil temperatures make germination easier, or you can shade your seeded rows to protect them from the sun. Bush snap beans can be started, but they may need to protect them from October frosts to get much of a harvest. It's too late for all but those in the Deep South or with extended frost-free falls to sow cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

At Siberian Kale

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August 22, 2011

Blackberries are ripe!!!!

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My neighbor has about two acres of Himalayan Blackberries gone wild. They become ripe in August and I did the very first picking this week, getting the lower fruit easily. I was able to pick a half gallon in a half an hour. A fully ripe blackberry is one of the most delicious of all the fruits--just so sweet and fragrant and melt in the mouth good. Those are the ones that just fall off the stem.

I brought the berries home and used an old recipe to make a cobbler. Delicious! But one has to give up all thought of health. The recipe starts with melting a cup of butter and pouring it into a 9 by 11 inch pan. Gently cook the berries with 3/4 cup sugar just until juicy. Mix 3/4 cup sugar, one tablespoon baking powder and one cut flour with 2/3 cup milk. Pour the berries into the pan and then pour the pancake like mixture of flour into the berries and bake for 30 minutes. Wow! Try it with some ice cream!

If you decide to plant some vines, be careful where you place them as they tend to escape and spread and can take over an area and they are very difficult to get rid of. But the fruit can't be beat.

At Blackberry Vine

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August 12, 2011

This Summertime salad just keeps on giving

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Now that the Sungold tomatoes are ripening and the cucumbers and beans are ready to be picked I can begin to make my favorite summertime green bean salad. The Sungold tomatoes are cherry type and are the sweetest of all the tomatoes. I usually plant a six pack of them to make sure I get enough for all the summertime salads.

The green bean salad I make is very simple. Steam the green beans for about 10 minutes and add them with whatever tomatoes are on hand. Slice cucumbers and a red onion, add olive oil and balsamic vinegar and salt to taste. It's sooooo simple. I always keep the leftover salad and the next day add more ingredients and serve it again. You can add broccoli and some sweet corn for variety. Potatoes can also be used for a potato salad without mayonnaise.

So enjoy the bounty of the garden in mid summer. These are the months we have been working for all year long.

At Sun Gold Tomato 20 Seeds - Golden Orange Cherry - Sweet

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August 11, 2011

Simple and quick--a great pickled cucumber recipe

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This recipe is so simple and it produces pickled cucumbers in a couple of days! I friend gave to me with a quart jar of the pickled cucumbers. So delicious.

Put 1/4 cup of white vinegar and one teaspoon of salt in a quart jar. Add one teaspoon dill or celery seed and one tablespoon of powerdered garlic and a few cut garlic cloves. Fill jar half full with water. Add as many cucumbers as will fill the jar and fill to the top with water. Let set in the fridge for two days and open and eat. No heating, no sealing--it couldn't be more simple and they are very fresh crisp and delicious. They don't keep as long as processed pickles, but then they won't last long once you taste them.

For more pickle ideas, this book might help:

At Pickles and Relishes

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July 27, 2011

Growing Chinese vegetables in your backyard

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Growing Chinese Vegetables in Your Own Backyard gives the interested gardener some plant-by-plant advice on planting, growing, and harvesting each vegetable. It includes more than 40 Chinese vegetables and herbs. We are all familiar with the snow pea but maybe not the Chinese pumpkin. For every plant, you will also find simple recipes and tips for culinary uses.

Many Chinese herbs and vegetables are very easy to grow in containers as well as in traditional beds. Container gardeners will find a section dedicated to plants that thrive in containers and specific advice on how to keep plants healthy, happy, and productive in their small gardens.

There is also a chapter on water gardens. Water chestnuts, taro, arrowhead, and Chinese lotus can be grown successfully in tubs as small as 25 gallons. Best of all, water gardens never need to be watered, mulched, or weeded. If you're interested in expanding your range of vegetables and love Chinese greens and exotic vegetables, this book will get you started with great advice and detailed instruction for both growing and cooking.

At Growing Chinese vegetables

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July 22, 2011

Mid summer planting for fall harvest


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After harvesting early-maturing vegetables such as salad greens, radishes, peas and spinach, gardeners can plant other crops in midsummer for fall harvest. Some root crops, greens and other vegetables can be successfully grown from late June, July or even August plantings. It's important to know the average first frost date in your area, in order to calculate when to plant these late vegetables so they'll mature before being killed by cold weather. Find the average first fall frost dates in your area.

Some vegetables will tolerate a fair amount of frost and keep growing even when temperatures are in the low forties. Others can't tolerate frost and stop growing in cool weather. Bush snap beans, for instance, mature in 45-65 days, but even a light frost (temperatures between 30º and 32ºF) will kill the plants. Kale, on the other hand, takes just as long to mature, but plants continue to grow when temperatures are cool, and can survive cold down to about 20ºF. So cool-season vegetables including kale and others in the cabbage family may be the best choice for mid-summer sowing, because an earlier-than-expected frost won't kill them before they're ready to eat.

Many of the cold-tolerant vegetables actually have better quality when grown in cool weather; it's said that the frost "sweetens" them. Carrots usually taste better after a frost and both broccoli and brussel sprouts withstand hard freezes.

At Organic Carrot seeds

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July 21, 2011

How to attract birds to your yard and garden

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Wildbirds.com has this advice about attracting birds to your yard for you to enjoy and identify:

Plants & Flowers that Will Attract Birds

Planting a few flowers around your yard will attract hummingbirds and butterflies this summer. Longer-term, planting fruit trees for food and evergreens for shelter will make your yard more attractive to the birds for years into the future.

Here are some plants that will attract birds:

Flowers
Aster
Bachelor Button
Black-eyed Susan
California Poppy
Chrysanthemum
Columbine
Marigold
Purple Coneflower
Sunflowers

Small Trees
Bayberry
Cedar (Juniper)
Cherry
Crab Apple
Dogwood
Eastern Hemlock
Hawthorn
Plumb
Japanese Maple
Serviceberry
Sumac

Shrubs and Vines
Blackberry
Boxwood
Elderberry
English Ivy
Grape
Holly
Honeysuckle
Juniper
Myrtle
Raspberry
Spicebush
Viburnum
Virginia Creeper
Witchhazel
Yew

Don't forget to provide safe places for birds to hide. Dense trees around the perimeter of your yard will attract birds. Make a diagram of your yard and plan how it will look in five years, ten years and beyond. A pile of brush in a corner of the yard will give smaller birds a place to hide from Hawks.

At Birding Basics

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July 20, 2011

Oriental lettuces liven salads and stir frys

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It's a good time now to replant lettuce and particularly the varieties of mustard greens that do well in hotter weather. You might try planting a short row every 15 days to have tasty salad all through the summer.

These same lettuce varieties can be used with other vegetables to add a spirited
tang in stir frys as well as salads. This packet of seeds contains Green Endive, Tango, Black Seeded Simpson, Oak Leaf, Arugula, Red Sails, Grand Rapids, Mizuna, and Red Salad Bowl. That's quite a collection of various tastes and textures.

At Gourmet Mesclun Blend

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July 19, 2011

Thinking ahead by planting Fava Beans

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Some Fava Beans can be planted in late summer to get an early spring harvest. Favas are broad beans that have a long and storied history in the Mediterranean where they were on the first cultivated plants. They can also be grown as a cover crop to prevent erosion and because they are legumes, they fix nitrogen in the soil.

If Windsors or Negreta favas are planted in the late summer, they will overwinter in areas where winter temperatures as they are very frost hardy. Windsor will take temperatures down to 12 degrees! They take about 240 days to mature and so they will be ripe in spring before most any other crop is ready. The plants stand 3 to 4 feet high and have large pods.

The beans can be eaten when young and tender or cooked when mature and pureed into a variety of tasty snacks and dips when mixed with garlic and spices. Now they have become common in this form in gourmet restaurants. Their versatility of uses as a cover crop, an early vegetable and a gourmet treat make them worth a try in your garden.

At Windsor Fava Beans

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