The grass is getting a bit crunchy around here. We had a brief rain last night of about 1/10 inch but it’s not really enough. The rainfall pattern around Michigan has been really odd this year, with some people getting too much rain and others not enough. I was 10 miles from home last Friday and it rained hard for an hour, but at my house nothing. Saturday on a 2 hour trip to our son’s house we drove in and out of heavy rain several times. But our house got only sprinkles.
I water what I can reach with a hose, but you know that watering never equals a good soaking rain. My pumpkin patch is out of reach of my hose so it’s looking especially dry and sad. A bullfrog has moved into my small water feature in the yard to join the 3 small leopard frogs that were there, his former home may have dried up. Those smaller frogs better watch out, though he may be there for them. Hopefully we have a good rain coming Thursday.
Despite the dry conditions I have crocosmia and my anemone coming into bloom. I have a mum blooming too. Phlox, black-eyed susans, coneflowers beebalm and roses are still in bloom. The cutting garden flowers are doing very well, attracting tons of butterflies and bees right now.
The petunias are starting to look straggly and need to be cut back. I debate on this every year, should I or shouldn’t I cut them back. I’ll miss a couple weeks of bloom and our frost free season won’t last that much longer but some of them aren’t that attractive now anyway. We’ll see.
I will be harvesting cabbage this week. Our sweet corn harvest is about done. We are getting lots of tomatoes, cukes and peppers right now and I made several quarts of pickles this week. The blackberry harvest is large this year, I will be freezing those this week for winter cobblers.
In the fields goldenrod is beginning to bloom. Here’s a reminder- goldenrod does not cause your seasonal allergies. Its pollen is heavy and doesn’t travel well on the wind. Ragweed is also blooming now, although most won’t notice its plain Jane flowers and it’s the cause of allergic symptoms for many people this time of year. Stinging nettle pollen is also allergenic and it’s shedding pollen now too. Goldenrod is very beneficial for pollinators and it’s a pretty plant so leave it alone please.
Reminder- the solar eclipse is next Monday, August 21st . Take time out of your day to go outside and observe, at least a partial eclipse will be visible throughout the US and being out there observing it is better than watching it on TV. Those of you in the path of totality or able to travel to the path will get a once in the lifetime experience (usually) and definitely should be out there. Remember you cannot look directly at the sun unless it’s totally eclipsed or you will damage your eyes. Camera lenses may also be damaged.
No garden should be without lavender. Lavender’s lovely purple flowers and crisp, clean aroma soothe the eye, delight the nose, and calm the spirit. Lavender thrives in hot, dry places where other plants droop and requires little care when established. The silver foliage of most lavenders blends well in the mixed border. If you have any sunny spots in your garden you must fill them with lavender.
The Latin name Lavandula means “to wash.” The Romans used lavender in their bath water and to wash clothing and linins. In the Middle ages washing ones body with anything was pretty much abandoned, but the use of lavender to scent perfumes and strew about rooms to cover up odors was continued. Even today the use of lavender in perfumes, soaps and other cosmetics continues to be popular. When asked to describe the scent of lavender most people use words like clean, fresh, or pine- like. The different species of Lavender also have a slight difference in smell. The scent of lavender is most heavy from the flowers but the leaves of lavender are also aromatic.
In the garden lavender is often used as an edging to walks and patios where brushing against it releases the heavenly scent. It is also good for sunny mixed borders.
There are several species of lavender from which most garden varieties were bred. The species also cross freely, producing many hybrids. The hardiest varieties are produced from English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia and include ‘Hidcote’- silver foliage, deep purple flowers, ‘Hidcote Pink’- a light pink flower, ‘Munstead’- blue flowers, very fragrant, ‘Provence’- larger leaves, extremely fragrant, ‘Twickel Purple’- rosy purple, ‘Grosso’- deep purple and heavy in perfume oils, ‘Blue Cushion’- blue flowers on a dwarf, rounded plant, ‘Goldberg’- leaves edged with gold and deep blue flowers. English lavender varieties vary in zone hardiness, but some are hardy to zone 5.
Spanish or French Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) has a strange looking tufted flower. It grows best in warm, dry areas. Most varieties of Spanish lavender are only reliably hardy to zone 8. The variety ‘Kew Red’ has fuchsia colored flowers. ‘Silver Anouk’ is the hardiest variety, possibly to zone 5 and has deep purple flowers and silver foliage.
Lavandula dentate has broader toothed foliage with a wooly look. It also goes by the common name of French lavender. It is only winter hardy to zone 8. The flowers look like compressed wands or tiny purple cattails. They have a slightly different scent than Lavandula angustifolia varieties.
Lavandula latifolia is also known as Portuguese lavender or broad leaved lavender. The leaves are coarse and have a high oil content. The flowers are pale purple and have a strong scent that is more medicinal than pleasant to my nose than English lavender. It’s hardy to zone 6.
Lavandin, or the name Lavandula. x intermedia, usually refers to crosses of lavender species. These vary widely in looks, smell and hardiness.
Most Lavender varieties have small, narrow leaves, of a gray green color. Some varieties have wider, toothed leaves and some have feathery, fern-like leaves. There are varieties of lavender that have variegated foliage.
The flowers of lavender arise on long stems and consist of whorls of tiny flowers. Flower colors range from deep purple to paler blues and shades of violet, pink and white. The flowers have many scent and nectar glands and are very attractive to bees and butterflies. If you want fragrance be aware that some varieties produce very little scent.
Lavender is usually propagated by cuttings or layering and gardeners will want to start with plants for most varieties. Determined gardeners can start lavender seed although the germination rate for seeds is low and slow. ‘Lady’ is the best lavender variety to try growing from seed as its germination rate is higher and it will bloom the first year from seed.
In zones 5 and lower you may need to experiment with different varieties of lavender as some do better in some sites than others. Check the zone requirements before purchase, not all lavenders are hardy to the same zone. In zone 5-6 lavender survives best when it is protected from winter winds, by fences, buildings or other plants. Do not cover lavender with mulch in winter however, as it tends to rot the plant.
Leave plenty of room around lavender plants to increase airflow in the summer. Lavender is native to the Mediterranean areas, and likes sunny, dry conditions. Wet winters and high summer humidity can cause problems for the plant.
Lavender prefers loose, well-drained soil. It does well in soils with low fertility; a soil on the “lean” side produces more flowers and a stronger fragrance. Fertilizing lavender is generally unnecessary.
Although lavender requires little water when established, new plants should receive regular watering. Lavender rarely suffers from disease and has no important insect pests.
Lavender can make a large shrubby bush in ideal conditions. It is semi-evergreen, with the leaves persisting through winter. It is hard to tell in the spring what parts were winter killed and pruning should be delayed until new leaves begin sprouting on the branches. Once you can tell what has survived you can make decisions on what needs to be pruned. Prune off dead wood and if you want to shape or shorten lavender, late spring is the time to do it. If your lavender plant has become very dense and woody you may wish to shear off about half of the plant to promote fresh growth. After about 5 years many lavender plants look very straggly and need to be replaced.
You can harvest lavender flowers at any stage, but flowers that are left on the plant should be removed when they have finished blooming. These are still very fragrant and can be used to scent potpourri.
Herbal and other uses of lavender
The dried flowers of lavender are placed in drawers and closets to repel insects and scent the material. The scent of lavender is said to repel flies. Lavender is used in aromatherapy, the scent is calming. The oil and dried herb are used in many cosmetic preparations, including soaps and perfumes. Lavender is used to make lemonade and flavor ice cream and sometimes used to flavor pastry and sweets.
Lavender essential oil is used as an abortifacient, antibiotic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative and emmenagogue. Externally it’s used for wounds, infections, insect stings, and burns. It’s a traditional remedy for headache, the oil is rubbed on the forehead. It’s taken internally for digestive problems and to induce menstruation.
Cautions: Lavender oil shouldn’t be rubbed on young boy’s skin. It has some hormonal actions and may cause breast enlargement. (Women rub away.) Pregnant women should be very careful using lavender as it may cause abortion. It’s recommended that lavender not be used for 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery because of its effect on the nervous system. Lavender taken internally can cause constipation.
Don’t be afraid to try lavender in your garden even if your conditions seem less than ideal. Lavender is tough and adapts to many sites. If you don’t succeed the first time try again. And lavender is just one of those plants a gardener needs to grow to call his or her self a gardener.
In the above article on lavender I mentioned some terms you may be unfamiliar with when I wrote about herbal uses of lavender. I try to explain or use simpler language when discussing medicinal uses of plants but it’s sometimes faster to use one term rather than a descriptive phrase. In this article I am going to give definitions of some of those terms so when you are reading this and other articles you’ll know what I mean.
Next week I’ll define some other herbal terms, such as tincture, which are used to process herbs into medicines.
Abortifacient, - to cause abortion, empty the uterus
Analgesic- pain reliever
Antioxidant- are substances found in foods that inhibit the formation of “free radicals” which are known to cause cancer and inflammation. Although they are assumed to be good for us, there is a lot of debate in the science community whether trying to get more of them from supplementation is actually helpful.
Antibiotic- kills/inhibits bacteria
Antihelmintic- kills intestinal worms
Antipyretic – prevent or ease fever
Antiseptic, - cleaning, bacterial destruction and pain relieving
Antispasmodic, eases cramping, generally referring to the bowels, uterus
Antiviral- kills viruses
Aperient- mild laxative
Aromatic- the smell alone causes medical action, clearing sinuses, chest congestion and so on- think of Vicks vapo-rub or smelling salts
Cathartic- strong laxative
Carminative – to relieve gas in the digestive system
Demulcent- coats and soothes, oily
Diaphoretic- promotes sweating by dilating blood vessels
Emetic- induces vomiting
Emmenagogue- helps start menstruation
Emollient- softens skin
Expectorant- cause the expelling of phlegm (snot, mucous)
Febrifuges- ease fever
Nervine- reduces nervousness and anxiety
Purgative- strong laxative
Rubefacient- something that increases blood flow/circulation
Styptic- stops bleeding
Tonic- a general term for something that makes one feel better, increases immunity, invigorates or stimulates.
Vermifuge- kills and expels worms.
Are you illegally trading or selling plants?
If you belong to any plant groups on social media or if you shop on line you have seen people offering to trade, sell or give plants, cuttings and seeds to other people. This seems like a wonderful way to get plants especially if you are getting them free or trading for some of your own plants. But if you do this are you breaking the law?
The answer is – you may be breaking the law, depending on what plant, plant part or seed you are sending or receiving, whether you are a licensed and inspected nursey or not, and how you package the plant or plant part for shipping. Now I know some of you are saying “ I don’t care about the law” or “they won’t care about me shipping this plant to my friend, it’s a gift.” If you don’t care about laws then you accept the fact you may be punished for breaking them. And somebody just may care about the little cutting you sent to a friend, depending on what it is.
There are reasons why we have rules about buying, selling, trading, giving away and transporting plants. The most important one is to prevent insects and diseases from entering an area that could seriously harm existing plants or humans and other animals. Some plants may have the potential to rapidly spread and become a pest. Some plants may be poisonous. And rules and regulations also help prevent fraud by sellers of plants.
Laws about buying and selling plants vary from state to state and country to country. Transferring plants from one country to another is much more complex than transferring plants within the same country and home gardeners and small nurseries should probably avoid importing (receiving) and exporting (sending) plants between countries. But every state in the US also has specific laws prohibiting certain plants being brought into the state, no matter how they get there.
|Water hyacinth, beautiful but not always legal.|
Every state requires people selling, trading and giving away plants and plant parts from perennial plants that could survive outside all year in that state to have a nursery license and plant inspections. There are generally some exemptions from licensing for annual plants, plants that can’t survive outside through the year and seeds. Most states don’t want to get into the business of regulating trades between two gardeners in the state, small plant swaps, and the occasional trade by mail, but they reserve the right to do so.
When I inquired about the rules for holding plant swaps in Michigan I was told they wouldn’t require an inspection and license if the sale was a one day event and no one brought plants that are prohibited in the state. (Caution, this is just one official’s interpretation of the law and what’s generally done.)
Sales of plants for charity may also get a pass, but the organizers should call and check with the state before having the sale. (I was given permission one time for a charity sale and denied without an inspection another time.) Things like bulbs and plants purchased or donated from a licensed nursery like mums or poinsettias probably won’t need inspection or a license/permit but check with your state.
If perennial plants are being sold for profit you need a nursery license, no matter how few plants or how often you do it. Even if you are selling annual plants or non-hardy plants on a regular basis you will probably need a regular business license.
There are certain plants that you can’t sell, trade, import or give away in every state. The list varies by the state. In this case it doesn’t matter whether you are giving the plant to a friend, trading on line, selling the plant or parts of the plant. If you get caught you’ll be facing a fine and possibly jail time. Any plant listed on the federal list of endangered species is also illegal to sell, trade or give away.
Even with generally accepted plants there may be restrictions as to where you can buy or get the plant from or send a plant to. You may have seen notations in plant catalogs saying they can’t ship certain plants to certain states. This is generally because the state the plant is being shipped from has a disease or insect pest another state does not want to spread into their state. Violating these restrictions is not ethical, and often gets you in more trouble than other violations.
To find out the laws on plant sales and trades and what plants are prohibited in your state you can go to this site;
You can plug your state name in a search bar and get your state’s list of prohibited plants and also the regulations in the state for buying, selling and trading plants. Here’s Michigan’s statement on plant material shipped into the state:
Any nursery stock shipped into Michigan must bear a statement or a tag or other device showing the names and addresses of the consignor or shipper, and the consignee or person to whom shipped, the general nature of the contents, as well as labels upon each variety as to the name and grade as approved by AmericanHort. Such stock shall be in live and vigorous condition and of the grade specified, together with a certificate of inspection of the proper official of the state, territory, or country from which it was brought or shipped. Any nursery stock sold or given away in this state shall bear an exact copy of the person's valid certificate of inspection.
For Federal regulations go here;
The legal way to mail/ship plants
Here’s a summary of the US postal service instructions on the legal way to use their services for shipping plants whether you are selling, trading or giving them away. Fed X and UPS have similar rules.
The package must be marked in legible manner, in a conspicuous place with the exact identification of the product- meaning in this case live plants or plant material. If you don’t do this and the postal service suspects you are sending plant material the package will be opened and you will be fined, or the contents destroyed. It’s my understanding that seeds don’t need to be labeled. However some seeds may be prohibited from entering the country or a state too.
The package must have valid, complete, addresses for both the sender and receiver.
If the package is sent Priority Mail Express™ service (domestic or international), Priority Mail® service, First-Class Package Service™, or an international letter package it should have a statement on it giving permission for the package to be opened and inspected, along with the live plant label. If this permission statement isn’t given and the postal service wants to inspect the package it will hold the package until it contacts the sender or until it gets a search warrant. That’s not real good for plant material.
If the package is sent by other forms of mail service the post office can open it without permission. Every post office has a list of prohibited plant species for that state or country. The post office looks at both federal and state restrictions. They’ll be inspecting for restricted plants and also for plants that have insects or look diseased. Not every post office has inspectors, the main postal hubs do and others can call for inspection if needed.
Not every package is inspected. Some sellers have their nursery license number or state inspection certificates attached to packages, which makes them less likely to be opened and inspected. Shipments from known large volume sellers with good records are less likely to be inspected. Shipments that were inspected by US customs service as they came into the country may not be inspected again. But any package CAN be inspected.
Post offices may have drug sniffing dogs come in too, and your package might be opened if the dog alerts on it. Packages coming from certain states going to certain locations may raise more suspicions, a package coming from Colorado to Joe’s Hydro-Grow Smoke Shop in Michigan for example. (I hope that’s not a real store.)
Each plant or bundle of plants or cuttings in the package needs to be labeled with the scientific name of the plant. They need to be packaged in such a way that they can be easily inspected without harming the plant. This makes inspection quicker and the person receiving the plant will be happier too. When plants can’t be identified or they appear to be diseased or have insects, or they are prohibited the sender is usually contacted and a determination of what will be done is made. Some things may be returned to the sender and the others destroyed.
For the whole set of rules go to this link;
In short you probably shouldn’t worry if you attend a plant swap or occasionally swap plants with friends through the mail, although you could still be breaking the law and face fines. However if you regularly send plants or cuttings through the mail or sell or trade from your home on a regular basis you should get a nursery license and educate yourself on prohibited plants in your state. Houseplants, annuals and seeds will cause you fewer problems but you should still consult your states list of prohibited plants and seeds. Also look up the list of prohibited plants in the state where the other party lives if it’s not the same and avoid sending or receiving those plants.
Maple leaf tar spot disease
Trees have been on the minds of many gardeners this year. It seems like our landscape trees are under assault from all directions. Some of you may have noticed maple trees are losing leaves early, and many of those leaves are marked with large black spots, which look like someone splashed paint or tar on them. The name for this condition, Maple Leaf Tar Spot disease, actually reflects that. But relax, the tree will not die from Maple Leaf Tar Spot disease.
|Maple leaf tar spot disease|
Maple Leaf Tar Spot is caused by at least two types of fungus in the genius Rhytisma. The fungus over winters on fallen maple leaves. In the spring during wet weather the fungus sheds spores into the wind, which then infect maple leaves as they open. The fungus has been on the leaves all summer, in midsummer yellow spots could have been seen on maple leaves with close inspection, but its late summer when the fungal disease really gets noticed. In late summer Maple Leaf Tar Spot Disease matures into large black spots. If leaves are heavily infected they usually turn yellow or brown and fall from the tree early.
Gardeners are usually quite alarmed when the leaves start falling early and they notice the spots. However the trees health is not greatly impacted at this point in time, even if it loses many leaves. Maple Leaf Tar Spot disease only affects maple trees, including box elder trees, which are actually in the maple family. It can affect any type of maple although some species are less susceptible than others.
There is nothing gardeners can do at this stage to stop the disease or leaves being shed. The fungus actually attacked the tree in early spring and any sprays applied now are useless. Next year fungicide sprays can be applied in early spring as the maple leaves emerge from the buds. It requires a through spraying from top to bottom and repeat sprayings every 10-14 days until leaves are mature size. Most homeowners don’t have the capability to do this for large trees, although you could protect smaller trees. Since Maple Leaf Tar Spot Disease is primarily a cosmetic problem spraying isn’t recommended, except for those in the business of selling trees, where looks count.
What homeowners can do is rake up any maple leaves from infected trees and remove them from under the tree. This will help prevent the fungus from over wintering under the tree and infecting leaves in the spring. But since the fungal spores are windborne if there are other maple trees close by your tree may still become infected.
The infected maple leaves can be composted, shredded and applied to lawns and gardens where there are no maples, or if your community allows it, burnt. There is no worry about the infected leaves being applied under other types of trees or other types of leaves being under maples. Leaves are valuable for the stored nutrients they contain and should be returned to the soil.
If your tree was heavily infected it can benefit from deep watering if you have a dry fall and after a hard freeze the trees can be fertilized. Root growth takes place for many weeks after trees shed their leaves and appear dormant. Apply about 3 pounds of a tree fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of root zone. The root zone is measured from the trunk to about three feet beyond the drip line of the tree, all around the tree. Fertilizers formulated as 18-6-12 or 12-4-4 or something similar is best. For maple trees look for a fertilizer that contains iron and manganese.
There are many ways to apply fertilizer. Read and follow the label directions for the fertilizer you purchase. Don’t get fertilizer on hard surfaces, where it might wash away and contaminate surface water. Don’t fertilize trees in the fall before they have shed their leaves and we have had a hard freeze.
Maple trees can get other diseases at the same time they have Maple Leaf Tar Spot disease and some of these could be more harmful to the tree. But if your tree looked good for most of the season and then suddenly developed black spots on the leaves and early leaf drop you can relax. Think of it as a bad case of acne for the tree. Your tree will be fine.
Several people have asked me for the freezer coleslaw recipe I posted in my blog last year so here it is again. We had this all winter at various times and it’s always good.
Do you need a way to preserve some of that cabbage growing in your garden? In my grandfather’s day the whole plant was pulled up and hung by the root in a root cellar. That actually will keep cabbage edible for a couple of months. However few of us have root cellars anymore and warm homes don’t always keep cabbage nicely. You can ferment the cabbage into sauerkraut but not everyone likes it, and it can be a trick to get conditions right to get a good batch. Cabbage doesn’t normally freeze well so when I tried this recipe I found in an old book I was pleasantly surprised to find it actually stayed crispy.
This recipe is not only crunchy out of the freezer but has a nice sweet-tart flavor that will complement many meals. It’s a great way to quickly and easily preserve some of that excess cabbage from the garden. The cabbage will turn translucent like sauerkraut but stays crisp and has a different flavor. Here’s the recipe.
1 medium cabbage, shredded, chopped or sliced
1 carrot, grated, chopped or julienned
1 green pepper, diced
1 sweet onion, diced
1 cup white vinegar
¼ cup water
1 ½ cups sugar (Do not use artificial sweeteners)
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon canning salt
Wash and prepare the cabbage and carrot as you like them for coleslaw. Dice the onion and pepper.
In a large bowl toss the cabbage and salt together. It seems like a little salt for a lot of cabbage but it will work. Let the cabbage sit 1 hour.
Put the vinegar, sugar, water, mustard and celery seed in a pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for 1 minute stirring. Let cool to room temperature.
After an hour pour any moisture formed off the cabbage. Squeeze the cabbage a bit to get out any excess moisture and drain off. Add the onions and pepper and mix well.
Pour the cooled syrup mix over the cabbage and mix well. Divide into freezer bags or containers in the portions that best suit your serving needs. The recipe will make about 4 pint sized containers.
Freeze the coleslaw. After 2 or 3 days you can try a batch. Defrost for 8 hours in the refrigerator before serving. Keep leftovers refrigerated.
Ah, those lazy, hazy days of summer, enjoy them while you can
“He who has a garden and a library wants for nothing” ― Cicero
© Kim Willis - no parts of this newsletter may be used without permission.
And So On….
Do you have plants or seeds you would like to swap or share? Post them here by emailing me. You can also ask me to post garden related events. Kimwillis151@gmail.com
Find Michigan garden events/classes here:
(This is the Lapeer County Gardeners facebook page)
An interesting Plant Id page you can join on Facebook
Here’s a seed/plant sharing group you can join on Facebook
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I write this because I love to share with other gardeners some of the things I come across in my research each week. It keeps me engaged with people and horticulture. It’s a hobby, basically. I hope you enjoy it. If you are on my mailing list and at any time you don’t wish to receive these emails just let me know. If you know anyone who would like to receive a notification by email when a new blog is published have them send their email address to me. KimWillis151@gmail.com