It’s that time of year when I always feel like I’m rushing. There’s all the new annuals to plant, the vegetable garden to get in, the houseplants to be moved outside, the garden beds to be weeded and edged and so much more. For a month or so I feel like I’m always behind. My husband does housework this time of year; he has to if he wants something done.
The weather we are having warm, overcast days followed by good rains is perfect for planting. I managed to get most of my seedlings for the cutting garden planted, with a few things left to go. I’ve got some annuals planted in containers, still two flats to go. My sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, cukes, celery, and the rest of the potatoes are planted. I have one bed to get prepared yet for melons and cabbage, some onion sets to plant here and there and a popcorn and pumpkin patch to get done. The romaine lettuce is almost ready to harvest.
Slowly some houseplants are getting moved outside. My water garden has some new plants and is starting to look better. I still need to get the solar fountain in it.
Its purple plant days, with Dames rocket, alliums, wild geraniums and early iris in bloom. The tulips are almost gone but the shrub roses are beginning to bloom. Common Lilacs are dropping all their flowers now but the Korean lilacs have yet to bloom. Lilies of the valley are blooming and flowering dogwood. The Mayapples are blooming.
I have one bud on my 2 year old, 3 feet high magnolia, its deep pink. I thought it was supposed to be white but I’ll take it. This is the first year I have grown hardy gloxinia (Incarvillea). I planted some in the ground and kept one in a pot. The potted one is beautiful right now in flower. I really like these plants, the flowers are larger than I thought they would be. I’m hoping the plants really are hardy.
I am still missing bees here. There are no bees floating in the hummingbird feeders. No bees on the autumn olive and dames rocket flowers or on the comfrey which is beginning to bloom. And that’s really starting to bother me.
I solved a mystery last night. The grape jelly in my oriole feeder was disappearing at a rapid pace. I set a trail camera on it last night and caught a big female raccoon standing on her hind legs on the rail of the handicap ramp, where she was able to scarf down the jelly and also munch on sunflower seeds from the other feeder. I have to decide where to move the feeder now to stop this.
Moving houseplants outside
It’s that time of year when many gardeners in zones 5-6 are thinking about putting the houseplants outside for the summer. Those of you in higher zones should consider it if you haven’t done so already. Most houseplants enjoy a vacation outside and it makes things easier for us gardeners at a busy time of the year, at least once we get them moved outside and situated. If the danger of frost has passed in your area consider moving houseplants outside.
Many houseplants that appreciate all the light you can give them inside will quickly sun burn if you move them directly outside to full sunlight. Some plants can be killed if you don’t move them to the correct location outside. All plants need a period of adjustment to outside light levels and wind. Move them outside to a covered porch, under trees or some other shaded, sheltered area for a few days. Then you can move them to brighter places according to their needs.
I’ve had plants sunburn before and it’s not nice to look at. I like to look for a stretch of weather coming that’s going to be cloudy, even rainy, and mild to put the plants outside. Even so most don’t go into full sunlight right away.
Decide where you’ll place your plants before you start moving them, both in the acclimation period and after. If you have gorgeous houseplants in expensive containers you might want to consider if theft could be a problem. Think about what could damage them too, playing kids, pets, wildlife, spouses with mowers, and so on. And you may need to decide how to move them; do you need a hand truck or a strong guy or gal to help? Make sure it’s easy to get water to them in dry spells.
The only plants I put in full sun after adjustment are my citrus and pomegranate trees, the over wintered geraniums, mini roses and rosemary. Sometimes a few spider plants go in sun too, they are hard to kill. My hibiscus, jasmine and brugs go on the deck where they get morning and late afternoon sun but some shade in the middle of the day.
The Norfolk pines, jades, kalanchoes, streptocarpus, rex begonias and most succulents go in light, dappled shade. Other houseplants like peace lily, stepmothers tongue, pothos, and philodendron go in full shade. Spider plants can go inn full shade as well as partial shade or sun. If a plant was in low light in the house, and doing well, it needs shade. If the plant was in a sunny window and doing well it probably needs partial or dappled shade outside with a few exceptions.
You may be able to put cacti in full sun after a few days adjustment but I have found that most succulents like holiday cacti, echeveria, burro’s tail, and so on like light shade or dappled shade better. You’ll be amazed how they grow in these conditions.
Water the plants well after you get them outside. (Watering before a move makes them heavier.) You may want to remove saucers under plants so you aren’t dumping them after every good rain. All plants outside in the weather MUST have good drainage. Keep a careful check on soil dryness in houseplants outside, especially those root-bound ones. They may get dry very quickly in hot windy weather or too wet in rainy weather if they have saucers that collect water.
Don’t re-pot plants just before a move outside. That makes it even harder for them to adjust to outside conditions. But after a month outside it’s probably fine to re-pot those that need it. And give them at least a couple weeks after re-potting before you move them back inside.
If you want houseplants to grow and/or flower while outside, fertilize them regularly with water soluble fertilizer. Things you don’t want to get bigger are best not fertilized.
Shelter from wind may be needed for plants whose stems snap easily. Tall plants that could blow over may need to be tied to a fence or post or put against a wall.
I like to try and mix my houseplants into other flower beds or containers. I use some spider plants instead of “spikes” in containers. They also make good filler for bare areas in ground covers or large containers. My Norfolk pines are set in among ferns and their pots disappear. My streptocarpus bloom in sunken pots along a shady path. Every year I try to find some new way to blend the houseplants into the rest of the garden.
I haven’t found that houseplants suffer from insects or disease very often when moved outside. In fact some insects that bother houseplants, like spider mites, will disappear when plants are in more natural conditions. But do watch over the plants and try to catch any problems early.
If your houseplants are looking tired and straggly give them a vacation outside. You’ll probably be amazed at how lush and tropical they look by fall.
Poison Ivy Primer
Oh the attention this plant gets when garden season arrives. After a bad reaction to contact with poison ivy people may be very wary about getting near it again. Because poison ivy can be a master of disguise people can be unsure which plant caused their anguish and even contact it again without knowing it.
The two species of poison ivy in the US are Toxicodendron radicans, usually a vine or ground cover, and Toxicodendron rydbergii, the non- vining more upright form. The two species of poison oak are Toxicodendron pubescens Atlantic poison oak and Toxicodendron diversilobum, Pacific poison oak. These species are closely related and share the same irritating substance- urushiol. Even experienced naturalists can have trouble telling the species apart. Thankfully some general identification tips apply to all the species and help distinguish them from other plants.
|Poison ivy vine on tree|
Poison ivy is probably more common than poison oak, especially in the north and east. It can form a vine, a low spreading groundcover type plant or a small bush. In the southeast poison oak generally forms small bushes and on the west coast poison oak is either shrub-like or a vine. These plants can grow in open sunny areas or partly shaded woodland edge conditions.
Both poison oak and poison ivy have “leaves of 3”, which are actually 3 leaflets forming one leaf. Poison oak leaflets do look like oak leaves, with distinctly lobed leaflets, while the look of poison ivy leaflets varies quite a bit. Generally however poison ivy leaflets have more of a mitten shape, with one small lobe or “thumb”. Or they have no distinguishable lobes at all and are just oval in shape. Poison oak has fine hairs on both sides of the leaflet, poison ivy leaves are smooth. The leaflets can have margins which are smooth or toothed. Leaflets may look shiny, especially when young. They are the same color, top and bottom. Young leaves have a reddish tinge and leaves turn red in the fall. Leaflets are 2-6 inches long.
The leaflet at the top or end of the cluster has a longer stem than the other two. The leaves attach to the stem in an alternate pattern. Stems are smooth and do not have thorns. Usually stems are green or slightly reddish. When poison ivy vines climb trees or posts and become older they turn dark brown and look hairy and twisted, much like a rope.
The flowers of poison ivy and oak are produced on stalks coming from the area where the leaf joins the stem. The tiny greenish white flowers are in clusters but not very noticeable. They turn into white waxy berries in poison ivy and a tan berry in poison oak. Berries are lightly grooved. Birds love the berries, but humans should never handle or consume therm.
|Poison oak fall color|
The plants most often confused with poison ivy and oak are brambles, Virginia creeper and young Box Elder trees. Brambles include raspberries, blackberries, and dewberries. Brambles have 3-7 leaflets but the leaflets are rougher, have toothed edges, and are lighter colored on the underside. Brambles have thorny stems, which poison oak and ivy never do. Brambles have larger white flowers which turn into red or black colored berries.
Virginia Creeper has 5 leaflets to a leaf, not three. It is a vine that sprawls on the ground or climbs on trees and other objects. It too can be reddish in spring and turns brilliant red in the fall. It has purple black berries rather than white or tan. Some people get an allergic rash when they handle Virginia Creeper but the rash isn’t as bad as the rash from poison ivy/oak and is caused by a different chemical.
Young Box Elder trees also have 3 leaflets to some leaves, 5 leaflets on others. Leaflets can be a bronzy red when young, but fall leaves are generally yellow. Box Elder is a member of the maple family and grows upright like a tree. The leaves attach to the stem opposite each other, in pairs. Stems are greenish blue and have a white waxy coating when young. Older stems start to get bark and look like tree branches or trunks. Box Elder produces winged seeds, the familiar “helicopters” of the maple family.
(Poison sumac (T. vernix), is related to poison oak and ivy but the leaflets are quite different. There are 5-7, smooth velvety leaflets to a leaf. Stems are reddish and grayish berries hang in long clusters. It grows only on swampy ground as a bush or small tree. Unless you are standing in a swamp you probably aren’t in contact with poison sumac.)
That awful rash
Interestingly only about 75% of people will get a rash when exposed to urushiol for the first time. Urushiol is the oily toxic chemical found in poison ivy/oak and it’s in all parts of the plant at all stages, even when the plant is dormant. The rash which consists of raised red weepy painful blisters doesn’t start immediately; it begins some 4- 48 hours after contact. That can complicate looking for the plant; because when a person starts getting the rash they may not remember everywhere they handled plants.
Doctors and botanists believe that almost everyone will eventually develop a reaction to poison ivy/oak if they are exposed often enough. So people who do not get a rash the first time they know they contacted poison ivy/oak shouldn’t continue to handle the plants.
The rash from poison ivy cannot spread from person to person, although if a person still has urushiol oil on their skin or clothing that could cause a reaction in someone who is in contact with the oil. Pets and livestock can have the oil on their fur and spread it to people and tools or other items can also spread the oil unless they are thoroughly cleaned. People may come inside before the rash develops and handle door knobs, cabinet handles, and so on and spread the oil. Someone can pick up clothing or shoes that have the oil on them and get a rash.
What to do if you think you touched poison ivy
If you wash quickly and thoroughly in the right way you can avoid a painful rash. Even if you think you aren’t susceptible I’d make washing a priority after knowing or suspecting you handled poison ivy/oak. Even if the rash is starting to develop a good washing may limit your reaction. Until you can wash keep your hands away from your face and “private” parts.
The oil of poison ivy/oak can be washed off if you use a lot of warm, not hot water and soap. Wash any part of your body that may have had contact with urushiol oil from the plants vigorously with any soap, dish soap may help remove oil. Scrub with a soapy washcloth. Don’t use oily cleaning products and don’t use hot water, which opens skin pores.
Before you get to washing yourself, get your clothes and shoes off. Put the clothes in the washer with hot water and soap and wash off the outside of the washer with the same. If shoes can’t be washed, wipe them with a soapy rag including the soles. Wipe off anything you touched coming inside, and anything in your car if you drove home after contact. Clean any tools you were using including handles. Now get to washing yourself.
If you can’t get to soap and water right away alcohol based hand cleaner or wipes can help. But do wash with soap and water as soon as possible. A good wash will stop almost all rashes from forming.
If you get the rash
If you didn’t realize you contacted poison ivy/oak and you develop that nasty rash there are products that can help. Most people can handle the rash with calamine lotion, oatmeal poultices and over the counter poison ivy meds until it heals but some people with severe reactions may need to see a doctor. There are prescription meds that can help. The rash should be gone in about a week, if not see a doctor.
There are herbalists who recommend a poultice of mashed jewelweed, (Impatiens capensis), for poison ivy rash. Scientifically it was found that a poultice of whole, fresh jewelweed helped a little. But jewelweed tinctures, teas, bottled potions and creams didn’t help at all. No jewelweed or other herbal products taken by mouth help. No other herbal products have been found to help when applied to skin. If you have no other options you could use fresh mashed jewelweed if you know where to get it. But jewelweed and poison ivy/oak often grow near each other and you could contact more poison- so be careful. Many other remedies are much more effective and easier to use than jewelweed.
Destroying poison ivy
Although it’s a native plant, it’s not one you want in the garden, near play areas, paths and other occupied areas. You can suit up with gloves and other protective clothing and pull smaller plants, but large plants and vines may need to be killed with herbicides. Strong concentrations of glyphosate will work, read the label to see if poison ivy/oak is listed for control. Other weed killers can also be used if they list poison ivy/oak on the label. These products cannot touch plants you want to keep. You may want to paint the products on.
For vines growing on trees you’ll need to cut through the vine and put the weed killer on the end of the piece closest to the roots. Even after poison ivy/oak has been killed the plant may still have enough oil to cause you grief. Dormant plants also have the oil, so there’s no safe season to handle the plants.
Goats are sometimes used to eat the plants in large areas. Be careful handling the goats as they get the oil on them. Goats also eat everything else in the area. No homemade “natural” weed killing concoction has ever been shown to be effective in killing poison ivy/oak. Vinegar does not kill the roots.
Do not burn dead plants and vines or use flame throwers on them. The smoke from burning plants can damage your lungs and will cause a rash on any body surface the smoke touches. You won’t want to use a weed whacker or mower on the plants either. They’ll throw tiny pieces of the plant everywhere and it’s hard to clean the oil off the equipment.
Dispose of pulled plants by burying them deeply or double bagging them in black plastic bags and sending them to the landfill. It’s not a good idea to compost poison ivy/oak. If you used tools to cut or dig poison ivy/oak they must be cleaned with hot water and soap before being put away. The oil can linger on tools for months.
Never ever eat any part of a poison ivy/oak plant, including berries. Don’t believe people who tell you to consume the plant to build immunity to it or cure other diseases. You can seriously and very painfully damage your esophagus and stomach this way. That’s another good reason not to sample plants and berries you can’t identify. Goats can eat the plants and birds eat the berries, but people can’t.
Remember soap and water is your best defense against getting a poison ivy/oak rash. Use them quickly and abundantly after contact with the plant.
Orange petunia controversy – FDA recall
Last week I wrote about petunias and this week talk about orange petunias has been spiking on social media. People are talking about the FDA recall of several genetically modified or engineered petunia varieties. The petunias identified so far are these: ‘African Sunset’, ‘Trilogy Mango’, ‘Trilogy Deep Purple’, ‘Trilogy Red’, ‘Trilogy ’76 Mix-Liberty Mix’, ‘Fortunia Early Orange’, ‘Hells Bells Improved’, ‘Petunia Salmon Ray’ and ‘Sweetunia Orange Flash’.
It’s important to note that these GE petunias are not harmful to people, animals or the environment. They are only being recalled because the producers did not get the permits needed to sell these GE plants. All GE/GM plants must have FDA approval before sale. The FDA says that people that have the plants do not need to do anything but they are asking producers in the US to remove them from sale.
|Petunia African Sunset|
Petunia ‘African Sunset’ was an AAS bedding plant winning selection in 2014. Many universities have trialed some of these varieties in their annual flower trials. Thousands and thousands of these petunia varieties have been planted across the US and in other countries and no harm has come from any of them. The seeds for most of these now banned varieties have been sold by a number of well-known seed companies, both retail and wholesale, for a few years. Many gardeners may have purchased them and grown their own plants. This may throw a kink in the claims of some seed companies that there are no GM seeds in their inventory.
The genes in the orange petunias come from corn and in the purple varieties I believe from reading some research papers, the genes may have come from delphiniums. However the genes in the other colors may have been inserted for other reasons. The ‘Trilogy’ series is different because of its very compact, mounded shape. These are plants already in cultivation and pose no risk to people, pollinators and other animals. Most petunias are treated as annuals, allowed to die each year from cold. And there are no native plants that petunias will cross with in the US. so gene transfer cannot occur.
There is a suggestion that more GE varieties will be found and I may be going out on a limb here but I suspect it won’t be just petunias that are found to be out there as unannounced GE/GM varieties. The genetic modification of ornamental plants has been going on since the late 1990’s. Some modifications are for color, others for things like cold hardiness, disease resistance, shape and other traits. People have been modifying plants for thousands of years; we just have different tools to use now.
Personally I’m not afraid of these petunias and I can’t imagine how they could harm wildlife as the hysterical are now claiming. How can an orange color gene from corn harm a bee for example? And to prove it I went out to a greenhouse that shall remain unnamed and purchased a 6 pack of well grown ‘African Orange’ petunias. I now need to find some other plants to go with them, orange can be hard to color coordinate, and plant them somewhere prominent so people can admire them. Then I’ll inform them they are GM plants.
While I remain a little suspicious of inserting animal genes into plants or vice versa, I think there’s nothing wrong about inserting genes from one safe ornamental plant into another. That’s especially true if the plant is unlikely to share its genes with a native relative. I think sites that are fear mongering that orange petunias will harm wildlife need to provide some proof that this is so, that it’s even possible.
We need to be careful about genetic modification of food crops, but let’s face it, at least 90 % of US citizens are probably eating some GM foods and don’t realize it. And it isn’t harming them. It may have been prudent for the FDA to hold the sale of these petunias until the genetic modification was examined but since they were being sold for years, maybe a fine on those who bypassed FDA rules would be more appropriate than destroying the plants and taking them off the market.
Here’s the FDA link
Lime use in the garden
Do you automatically add lime to your garden each year? If you do you could be harming your soil and plants. Lime should only be added to soil when a soil test indicates you need it. Lime reduces soil acidity, and makes soil more alkaline. It can also help correct a calcium deficiency. But lime is not fertilizer, and won’t help plants grow unless the soil pH (a measure of soil acidity) is too low or calcium is significantly low.
Soil pH is measured on a scale of 0-14, with 7 being neutral and numbers below 7 indicating acidic soil, numbers above 7 equal alkaline soil. Most vegetable plants like a soil that’s neutral or slightly acidic, a pH value of 6.5 -7. Perennial flowers vary as to their needs in soil pH. The soil pH determines how much of other elements in the soil plants can take up. Neutral and slightly acidic soil support a wide range of plants and most plants will adjust to minor soil pH fluctuations. Some plants require more specific soil pH to do their best. For more about soil pH read my article on it in the page listed on the right of the blog titled Soil, Compost, Potting Medium and Fertilizers http://gardeninggrannysgardenpages.blogspot.com/p/soil-and-fertilizer.html
In some areas of the country the soil is acidic but if lime has been added for many years it probably isn’t needed anymore. Soil that is too alkaline can affect plant growth negatively, which is what will happen if you keep adding lime when the soil doesn’t need it. You may have gotten away with adding lime to the garden for many years but eventually you may change the soil pH to where you begin to harm plant health.
So how do you know if your soil needs lime? Get a soil test done. Contact your county Extension office and ask how your state Extension handles soil tests. Usually a soil test done when you begin to garden a new area will be all that’s needed for many years. If you have never had a soil test done consider getting one done this year. It’s really better to get the test done very early in the season, because if the soil does need amending it can take a while before amendments like lime work. Your soil test results should indicate what and how much of a soil amendment you need to add to correct an imbalance.
Most things gardeners do to soil, like adding compost and fertilizer don’t significantly alter the soil so a soil test isn’t needed every year for home gardeners. But if your garden experiences unexplained problems another soil test may be indicated. If you needed a lot of amendments you may want to redo the test the next year to see if you corrected the problem.
Lime is an unnecessary expense and time is wasted applying it if the soil doesn’t need it. You can make your soil too alkaline for good plant growth if you apply too much lime too often. So don’t add lime to the garden unless a soil test indicates you need it.
Lemon Buttermilk Pie
Local fruit may still be scarce in your area but here’s a pie you can still make. I have been doing some cooking with buttermilk recently, since I bought some to make buttermilk pancakes and needed to use up buttermilk. This is a great use of buttermilk and a yummy dessert.
1 ½ cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 extra egg yolks
1 tablespoon flour
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 unbaked pie crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put all the ingredients except the pie crust in a food processor or mixing bowl and mix until well blended.
Pour the mixture into the pie crust.
Bake until the filling has set, but will still jiggle when moved, about 50 minutes.
Cool before eating. This pie can be eaten chilled also. Refrigerate left over pie.
Hope your purple flowers are lighting up the garden too
“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
LAPEER AREA HORTICULTURE SOCIETY on our 35th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, JUNE 19th at 6 P.M., SUNCREST DISPLAY GARDENS, behind the Lapeer County Medical Care facility, 1455 Suncrest Drive, Lapeer, Mi.
All Past, Present, and Prospective members are invited to attend this special event. This will be a special time to meet old friends and share some of our memories of the activities of this group.
Guests are welcome.
Displays will be set up showing past activities, as well as old newsletters of the group. Refreshments provided.
For more information contact:
Dave Klaffer at 810-656-7770 or 664-8912
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
If you would like to pass along a notice about an educational event or a volunteer opportunity please send me an email before Tuesday of each week and I will print it. Also if you have a comment or opinion you’d like to share, send it to me or you can comment directly on the blog. Please state that you want to have the item published in my weekly note if you email me. You must give your full name and what you say must be polite and not attack any individual. I am very open to ideas and opinions that don’t match mine but I do reserve the right to publish what I want. Contact me at KimWillis151@gmail.com
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