21 November 2017

Progress on Tree and Shrub Cuttings

Cuttings taken from cold hardy perennials strike roots in weeks or months after being planted in potting soil, perlite or vermiculite and kept moist. Their containers need drain holes and the plants need a protective top until they strike roots and begin to grow.

Here are some examples from my garden shed which is minimally heated and lighted. The Plums are considered practically impossible to grow from cuttings but I had to try.
Forsythia, of course, is easily rooted to extend a green row with yellow spring flowers.
Fig cuttings are a 50/50 deal for me so I plant more than I need/want.
Lavender is also fairly easy to grow from cuttings. These will be replacement plants.

American Plum Tree cuttings taken three days ago
and planted in a plastic clamshell with a lid

Forsythia shrub cuttings taken in April
have foot-long roots in November

Three Brown Turkey Fig tree/shrub cuttings were taken a few weeks ago

On the left is a Lavender cutting and
on the right is a Salvia cutting.
Both were taken two months ago, struck roots and have moved to the light table in individual pots for growing on.


13 November 2017

Sand Plum is Chickasaw Plum, Sand Hill Plum, Mountain Cherry, Prunus angustifolia

Prunus angustifolia has many names but is delicious both for wildlife and human consumption.

Fall in the Ozarks

We drove over to Arkansas a few days ago to visit Pine Ridge Gardens and buy a few shrubs for our back acre where we have fruit and food for wildlife.

Native Sand Plums
Sand Plums are a great source of jelly making fruit if you can get any before wildlife takes them all.

Chickasaw plum plants grow 15 feet tall and wide in a twiggy form.
The bark is black and the stems are reddish.

MaryAnn King and Candy
Feb through May, small white flowers and little red plums appear. The flowers have five white petals with reddish or orange anthers. The plums are cherry-like and tend to be quite tart until they fully ripen later in the summer.

Chickasaw Plums thrive in low water, loose, sandy soil with sun to part-shade. The ones I planted two years ago have died without forming clumps because the area became too shady.
Native range Prunus angustifolia
In 1874 they were cultivated by Native Americans and early settlers to be used as a food source, cover for livestock, windbreaks, erosion control and wildlife food. If you want them for your kitchen, protect the plants from rabbits, deer, birds, squirrels, etc.

I asked MaryAnn King, owner of Pine Ridge, if she had any special planting suggestions and she responded, "They grow alongside the road so you know what to do."

Since I'd like to have many more than I could afford to purchase, I'm going to try my hand at propagating them by cuttings.

Pine Ridge Gardens native nursery

Pine Ridge Gardens has provided many of the native plants we have added to our backyard landscape in the past 15 years. King sells at her nursery (open houses continue this month) as well as selling at many festivals around the Tulsa area.

This is the ideal time to plant shrubs, trees, spring blooming bulbs, garlic, onions, perennial flower seeds, native plant seeds, etc.

04 November 2017

Leeks - order seeds or starts now

Leek seedlings
Lancelot Leeks are those beautiful, mild-onion-like vegetables that are easy to grow in our zone 7. And, they don't require the deep, fertile soil that beets and other root vegetables need. We live on a rocky hill and have had zero success with beets, turnips and other roots but leeks work just fine.

In years passed I've allowed one or two to go to seed and kept the same crop going for four or five years before the seed failed to return.

This year I've ordered one bunch of starts (30 seedlings $14) from Dixondale Farms. They won't be delivered until mid-February 2018 - at planting time. I ordered now because by then they will be hard to find.

Planting Leek Seedlings
Like all vegetables, Leeks need lots of organic matter in the soil. Since I'm emptying one of the compost bins right now, I'm putting buckets of compost into the bed where they'll be planted.

At planting time, an 8-inch deep trench is made and the leeks are planted at the bottom of the trench, 6-inches apart.  Rows can be as close as 5-inches apart.

Then, add enough soil to cover the white part, leaving the green part exposed, above soil level. Fertilize with some version of 10-10-10. Water thoroughly. Then, mulch the bed with loose straw or similar organic material.

When the stems are an inch thick, add more soil to the trench, eventually filling it to the same level as the surrounding soil. The underground part of the plant will be the head of your leek so you want it protected from sunlight that would make it turn green (just more stem).
Soil goes up to the green only

 - Check out this Getty Stewart resource for more pics and tips http://www.gettystewart.com/how-to-plant-leeks-in-the-garden/
 - Also this guide from Gavin Webber, Greening of Gavin

But if you want to plant leeks this winter, buy seeds now to start at home to make your own seedlings or order seedlings for winter delivery and planting.

Seedlings are 75 days to harvest. If you want to start yours from seed, add that length of time to the 75-days; most say 110 days to harvest from seed.

29 October 2017

A Few Winter Tips

Plant containers for cuttings
When taking cuttings of cold hardy perennials for rooting over the winter, you can use your bare bed space to keep them outside.

 Instead of putting the containers on top of the soil where you have to keep them watered, plant the containers in the ground. The soil will keep them warmer, rain and snow will keep them moist and they can easily be covered late winter for getting jump start on growth.

Clamshells for winter sowing
 I also use this method for planting seeds (in clear plastic clamshells) that need cold stratification to germinate.

  In these two are Agastache and Chinese Parasol tree. Over the next couple of weeks  they will have lots of company.

  If winter sowing seeds is new to you, here are a few sites
 - http://wintersown.org/
 - https://getbusygardening.com/winter-sowing-seeds/
 - https://www.facebook.com/groups/wintersown/
 - http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2012/11/winter-sowing-101-6/
 - https://www.thespruce.com/what-is-winter-sowing-1403095

  The basic idea is that perennials need and want cold, moist, stratification in order to germinate. Putting them directly onto the ground risks their being washed away by hard rains. The containers can be left on top of the ground but  you have to water them more.

My go-to seed germination chart is at http://tomclothier.hort.net/

DIY mini greenhouses
In order to protect my herbs a little longer, Jon wired together salvaged house windows that I use as mini-greenhouses out in the beds.

Under glass there is parsley, oregano, marjoram, sage, lovage and rosemary.

Since the glass is there, I stuck several Red Russian kale seeds in the ground. The seeds are up and were undisturbed by the freezes we had the past two nights.

Lots of plants were not damaged by the freeze including perennial herbs that can take a real beating and keep on producing delicious leaves as well as food for pollinators.

Our garden has lavender, lemon balm, oregano, mints, sage, thyme, rosemary, sage.

Of course, the basil turned black. I put in 20 or more basil plants this year from seed but didn't buy seed for next spring. I'm anticipating lots of volunteers from all those gone-to-seed giant basils out there.

20 October 2017

Pine Cones - How-to Treat for Crafting and Gardening

If you have pine cones on your property it is tempting to use them for 1) seasonal crafts and 2) to top newly planted fall crop beds (keep out neighborhood cats and dogs).

There is more than one method to kill the insects and mold living in pinecones but I have always used the oven rather than the chlorine bleach or vinegar methods.

Heating them in the oven for 30 minutes at 250-degrees F not only makes them better (debugged) household decorations, it causes them to dry out and expand to be a bit larger as the sap melts and the moisture evaporates. The melted sap adds a little sheen, too.
Single layer on cookie sheets in oven
Collect the number of pinecones you need for beds and/or crafts.
We filled a wheelbarrow in 10 - 15 minutes in our back yard, picking up the in-tact ones and leaving the broken and moldy ones.

We're collecting for newly planted beds at a local school plus tiny ones for holiday table decorations.

We constantly pull pine tree seedlings from our flower beds but if you want to grow trees from the pinecones you collect, there's a YouTube video for that. Read the comments section, too, where others give more tips on their methods.

You could also make these cute sprouted pine cone bonsai for your holiday table.
Put the bottom of a lime-Sulphur-treated pinecone in a cute container filled with soil and keep it moist.

If I had any crafty ability at all I'd make these cute people!

We have lots of pine cones if you want some.

16 October 2017

Water Primrose is Ludwigia peploides glabrescens

Spaniard Creek on the Arkansas River
During a visit to Spaniard Creek Park  yesterday we saw an aquatic plant that was attracting hundreds of fall pollinators including bees, wasps, butterflies, and skippers. The patches of flowers were covered and abuzz to the point that we all squatted down to watch.
It turns out that this source of insect pollen is none other than Creeping Water Primrose. The South American variety is Ludwigia hexapelata and the US native variety is Lusdwigia peploides glabrescens.

South American Water Primrose is so invasive in fact that in many states there are programs to eradicate it to prevent its clogging irrigation channels, rivers and lakes. In addition it is well known as mosquito breeding heaven. The native variety, L peploides is called aggressive rather than invasive.

Ludwigia peploides glabrescens
 Illinois Wildflowers says "This perennial plant is ¾–2½' long. It either floats on water or sprawls across the ground. The stems are light green to red (often the latter), glabrous to sparsely pubescent, and terete. Alternate leaves along these stems are 1¼–3" long and ½–1" across; they are elliptic, oblong-elliptic, oblanceolate, or oblong-oblanceolate in shape and smooth along their margins. The leaves are usually glossy green in appearance, although sometimes they develop patches of red or yellow. ... The blooming period occurs from late spring to early fall, lasting several months. The flowers are diurnal.
"The flowers are cross-pollinated primarily by bees, including honeybees, digger bees (Eucerine), and Halictid bees. Other visitors, such as flies and skippers, are less effective at cross-pollination. These insects obtain nectar and/or pollen from the flowers. Some insects feed destructively on Creeping Water Primrose. This includes the flea beetles, Altica litigata and Lysathia ludoviciana, and a leafhopper, Draeculacephala inscripta. The Mallard and possibly other ducks feed on the seed capsules. Because of the large dense colonies that this plant often forms, it provides good cover along shorelines for various insects, frogs, and other wetland wildlife."

We saw several box and snap turtles in and among the Water Primrose at Spaniard Creek Park.
If you haven't visited Spaniard Creek Park, this is a gorgeous time of year to walk along the water's edge as the trees enter their fall stage and drop acorns. There are very few campers now so walkers have plenty of room to roam and appreciate the beauty of Oklahoma fall.

06 October 2017

Layer Perennials to Make More Plants

Lots of perennials can be layered to make more plants. While some recommend doing it in the spring, I've had good luck starting the process in late summer and early fall, too.

Basically, what you'll do is select a lower branch of a healthy plant and put it on the soil. Once you know where on the branch the soil will intersect, you remove all the leaves from that area and scar it by scraping the outer bark near a leaf node.

That leaf node/scarred area is placed on the soil and gently pressed in. To keep the rooting site in contact with the soil put soil or newspaper on top then anchor it with a rock.

Simple layering
 You can also pin the branch's leaf node area to the soil after removing the leaves and slightly scarring it. Called simple layering.

Some recommend air layering by wrapping the stem but that method has never worked for me.

Tip layering
Plants to consider layering method include roses, Beautyberry, Blackberry, Snowball shrub, Pyracantha, Hibiscus, Holly, Laurel, Lavender, Creepers, Forsythia, Azaleas, and many houseplants.

You can also do tip layering. Dig a 3-inch hole and insert a shoot tip and cover it. The tip grows down then bends and comes back up.

Layering is easy and it's a kick to see all the new plants you'll have available next spring.

02 October 2017

Get Ready for Next Year This Fall

Five Star Hibiscus seed pod
I'm collecting seeds almost daily now. This week Jon grabbed the seed pods of the Chinese Parasol Tree. The Five Star Hibiscus has to be checked a couple of times a week so the seeds don't just drop to the ground.

Fall is such an exciting time of year. The migrating birds are returning, garlic is planted, daffodils are peeking out of the soil for a sunshine snack and I'm planning next year's gardens.

Chinese Parasol Tree seeds with pods
 In addition to collecting seeds and visualizing where I'll plant the seedlings next year, I'm deciding what to take clippings of to overwinter in the shed. I'm already digging lilies, dividing the bulbs and replanting them around the various beds.

Soon it will be time to divide the Hemerocalis - Day Lilies.

What will you be collecting to make next year's garden gorgeous?

22 September 2017

Oct 1 - 7 Monarch Watch at Hackberry Flat Center

Join the Wildlife Department Oct. 1-7 to tag monarchs and watch them roost.
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Sept. 22, 2017
Monarch NR

Monarch butterflies will be tagged at Hackberry Flat WMA during their fall migration. (Jena Donnell/ODWC)

Annual Monarch Watch at Hackberry Flat Center

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation will host a Monarch Butterfly Watch the first week in October at the Hackberry Flat Center near Frederick.
“We’ll be tagging monarchs in the mornings and watching them go to roost in a stand of soapberry trees in the evenings,” said Melynda Hickman, biologist for the Wildlife Department. The Monarch Butterfly Watch is a free event and registration is not required.

Morning Tagging:  October 1, 2, 3, and 7
After a brief discussion of butterfly basics, monarchs collected from the area will be tagged as a group. Meet at the Hackberry Flat Center by 9 a.m. for this hands-on activity. 

Evening Roost Watch:  October 1, 2, 3, and 6
An open air trailer will take visitors to a longtime monarch roost site within the management area. Meet at the Hackberry Flat Center by 6:30 p.m. Bring a collapsible chair and light jacket for your comfort; activity ends at 8 p.m. 

“Hackberry Flat has so much to offer,” Hickman said. “We’re excited to be able to share this experience with butterfly and wildlife enthusiasts from across the state.”
Both morning and evening activities will be held regardless of weather conditions, but morning tagging activities will be limited to the number of butterflies available at the roost site.
“So many things can affect their migration,” Hickman said. “Changes in wind speeds, wind direction, weather fronts and potential storms can all affect how many butterflies will be at Hackberry Flat during the event.”
Participants can contact Hickman one to two days before their planned arrival to check on the progress of the migration at Hackberry Flat WMA.
To get to Hackberry Flat Center, from the south side of Frederick, take U.S. 183 south for one mile, then go east on Airport Road for three miles. Follow the blacktop road south and continue six miles. Watch for signs to the Center.
Hackberry Flat Wildlife Management Area offers 7,120-acres of wildlife recreational opportunities. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, along with many conservation-minded partners, restored this legendary wetland, creating a vast mosaic of wetland habitats for prairie waterfowl, shorebirds and other wetland-dependent birds. Upland areas of native sunflowers and cultivated fields interspersed with mesquite have become one of the state’s premier dove-hunting destinations. Open for scheduled events, the Hackberry Flat Center offers interpretive guidance for wildlife enthusiasts, students and educators. For more information, log on to wildlifedepartment.com. Participants of these programs are exempt from needing a Wildlife Conservation Passport or valid hunting or fishing license while on Hackberry Flat WMA.
For more information about this event, or other programs held at Hackberry Flat Center, contact Hickman at melynda.hickman@odwc.ok.gov or by calling (450) 990-4977.

Monarchs Tagged at Hackberry Flat Found in Mexico
“Visitors and school groups tagged 476 monarchs as part of Hackberry Flat Center’s 2016 Monarch Watch,” Hickman said. “This March, three of those tags were found more than 1,200 miles away in the El Rosario Sanctuary in Michoacán, Mexico.”
“It’s amazing to know the butterflies we saw in southwestern Oklahoma made it all the way to Mexico,” Hickman said.  
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18 September 2017

Save Seeds Now for Next Year

Gardeners who save seed from their favorite flowers, herbs and vegetables from year to year are ensuring that their garden will please them. The seeds we choose to save are our favorite variety from the best plants, which means that they will be an improvement on the ones purchased.

Of course, money is saved by collecting your own seeds particularly if you usually purchase specialty seeds by mail order and add in the shipping costs.

Over years of saving only the best, the seeds available for the next season’s garden will produce top quality heirloom plants that are acclimated to your weather, water availability and climate, plus GMO-free.
 Save the seeds of plants with the qualities you prefer: Color, disease resistance, when they bear flowers or fruit, insect protection, size, length of storage in vase or basement, texture and yield.

Annuals are the easiest to save. Snip and save the seed heads of zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, petunias, columbine, dill, parsley, lettuce, kale, chard, leeks, etc.  If the seeds you originally purchased were of hybridized plants, the seeds you collect probably will revert back to one of the parents so it is more rewarding to use seeds from non-hybrid varieties.

If there is an annual growing in the garden now that you would like to have again next year because of its height, fruit size, insect resistance or yield, mark it with a tag of some kind so you remember not to cut it for a vase or cook with it.

Seeds that are gathered too early will not be mature enough to produce plants next year. If you are saving vegetable seed, the fruit has to be completely ripe in most cases though slightly immature seeds of beans, tomatoes, and leaf vegetables are often viable.

Fleshy fruit such as cucumber, squash, and pepper should be completely ripe. Tomatoes should be soft, cucumbers yellow and peppers red. On the other hand, once fruit has rotted, the seeds are deteriorated and useless. 

After the seeds are collected they have to be cleaned, sorted, dried and carefully stored.  For home gardeners this process can be done on a clear, dry day sitting outside or at the kitchen table.

Tomato seeds have their own requirements but it is worth the trouble if you have an especially good tomato that you want to grow again. Soak tomato seeds for a few days to ferment them. The good seeds will sink to the bottom of the container and the poor seeds will float to the top. Cucumber seeds can be treated the same way.

Seeds must be completely dry before storing.  After cleaning out the chaff, air-dry the seeds on newspaper for a week or two and change the paper once or twice a week. Large seeds of peas and beans can take 2 weeks to dry thoroughly.

Heat from a light bulb can be applied to the seeds but keep the temperature under 110 F.

Storing seed correctly will keep them alive and inhibit sprouting. Many gardeners keep their saved seed in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. If the seeds are completely dry, many types can be stored in a home freezer.

Store the thoroughly dry seeds in glass jars with tops or in envelopes stored in glass jars.  Mark each envelope or jar with the plant name before storing.

Baby food jars and others with a small rubber gasket are ideal because they keep out moisture that can damage the life of the seeds. Cans with tight lids work just as well as glass containers.

If saving seeds is new to you, start with something you love. Next year you will have your own heirloom plants to enjoy.