February 24, 2015 Kim’s Weekly Garden Newsletter © Kim Willis
|Dogwood blooming at Gettysburg. |
Aren’t you ready for spring? This cold weather is really getting crazy. The wind today makes it feel much worse than yesterday when it was actually colder. Looking ahead at long range weather forecasts I see that there is supposed to be a return to normal late winter weather by the weekend. Let’s just hope it continues after that. Really long range forecasts are calling for April to be warmer than normal and I think we deserve that.
I put in an article about growing forsythia this week because it’s blooming really says spring to me. But last spring the only place the forsythia bloomed here was down along the bottom of the plants where the limbs were covered with snow most of the winter. We have had even more bitter cold weather this winter so I am wondering how much forsythia I’ll even see. I’m glad I have pictures.
It’s hard to believe that this winter is going down in the books for being the second warmest winter on record if you average the whole US into the picture. Just the Northeast corner of the country is getting this brutal cold although it got cold really far south this past week. Why us? I guess it could be worse; Boston has cold and deep snow.
I can hardly keep the wild birds fed. They were going through the sunflower seed in the feeder in the backyard so fast last week that I bought a second feeder for out there because I saw one on sale. I wanted to make fewer trips out to the feeders. Now there were two feeders in the same place but do you think that saved me from going out in the cold so often? Nope, it just allowed more birds to get to the feeders and they emptied at the same time.
Thinking about start seeds inside? Some tips.
If you are like me you are getting the urge to plant something. Many of us start seeds inside about this time of year but remember you don’t want to start your seeds too soon, because they will get lanky, stunted from small pots and may not transplant well when the warm weather finally arrives. Wait another month or so, (April), before starting things like tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, unless you have a heated greenhouse and space for larger pots. It’s probably better to wait on fast maturing annuals like marigolds too.
It’s the right time to start some slower growing perennial flowers or early blooming annuals like violas, pansies, sweet peas, lavender, hollyhocks, coleus, petunias, dahlias from seed, coreopsis, seed geraniums, verbena, Echinacea, dianthus, and so on if you have the right conditions. Any annual that takes more than 10 weeks to start blooming or any perennials that aren’t fussy about transplanting are candidates for an early start.
You can also pot up stored summer bulbs, like calla’s, dahlia’s, canna, and tuberous begonias (if those haven’t been started already.) If you stored these in pots of soil and have them in a room above 50 degrees they may just need a bit of water to get growing.
Before you try to start seeds or get bulbs growing make sure you have a warm place for them to grow. Inside the house will work better than an unheated greenhouse right now. Once you have the seeds germinated or bulbs putting up shoots you’ll need a bright, moderately warm place (55-75 degrees F.) for most of them to grow. Southern windowsills may allow enough light- but with the weather we are having spots next to windows may be too cold. You may need a grow light fixture to provide light away from windows. These need to be about 18 inches above the tops of seedlings.
On the other hand, if you keep your house above 75 degrees all the time it may too warm for a few plants, like sweet peas to do well. Make sure you know the cultural requirements of the plants you are starting from seed and whether you can provide the right conditions at this time of year. If you have a greenhouse or even a room where you can control the temperature and light conditions you may be ready to start almost anything. For most plants a day temperature of about 75 degrees F. and a night temperature of 55 degrees F. would work well.
Unheated greenhouses are risky because of the wide swing in temperatures that can happen early in spring. A cooler period at night (55 degrees) can be helpful in keeping plants short and stocky but swings from 85 degrees or more in the daytime sun and below 40 degrees at night will quickly kill many seedlings. By the middle of April in zone 5 we are usually warm enough so that unheated greenhouse or spaces can be used for starting most plants.
Unheated greenhouses or even cold frames can be used to start lettuce, peas, violas and pansies as soon as nighttime temps in the structures stay above freezing. You’ll need to make certain that these are well ventilated on sunny days so the temps don’t get too high inside. Other plants may be started in these when night temps inside them stay above 45 degrees.
To avoid fungal diseases, use soil-less potting mix to start seeds, not garden soil or compost. There’s been new research published that says fluoride in city water can harm plants. Water your seedlings with distilled water, rain water or melted snow, or well water that hasn’t passed through a water softener, which may add salts. The water should be barely warm to your touch. Let the soil surface dry slightly between watering. Make sure the containers that seedlings are in drain quickly.
|Velcro® Brand Peel Away™ Pots used for starting sage.|
Don’t give too much fertilizer to seedlings and started bulbs. You want plants to grow slowly inside anyway. Remember plants can make most of their own food from sunlight. Some planting mixes have slow release fertilizer added to them; these don’t require any fertilization unless the plants are in them longer than 3 months. If the potting mix doesn’t have fertilizer or you are starting bulbs in containers from last year you can add a small amount of fertilizer to the water for the plants. Dilute it to about half the recommended rate and feed every other watering. If the plants have deep green coloring and seem to be growing well you may not even need fertilization.
It’s hard to wait when you have the itch to garden but waiting until the time is best to start the plants you want to grow results in healthier plants. Our weather and the conditions in the place where we have space to start plants should dictate when to plant seeds, not the calendar.
Red pepper can help you lose weight
A study done at Purdue University and published in Physiology & Behavior in 2011, found that just a half teaspoon of red pepper flakes sprinkled over your food can aid dieters by curbing their appetite, making them feel full faster and may make them actually burn calories faster and more efficiently. Now a new study, presented by Dr. Baskaran Thyagarajan, University of Wyoming at the Biophysical Society's 59th Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Md. in February, 2015 confirms that capsaicin, an ingredient in red pepper aides weight loss.
The researchers in the first study used dried, ground cayenne red pepper that you find in any grocery. The research found that people who weren’t used to spicy foods got better results. The pepper reduced cravings for sweet and salty foods. Dieters who used red pepper flakes on their meals lost more weight than a control group. The researchers noted that consuming the red pepper in capsule form did not work; it’s the taste in the mouth that works to curb appetite.
In the more recent study laboratory trials on mice eating a high fat diet found that capsaicin caused brown fat cells, those that burn energy instead of storing it, to work better and prevented the mice from becoming obese. Dr. Thyagarajan is working to develop a slow release capsaicin product that will keep dieters burning fat for longer periods.
And red grapes burn fat too
Another study done by Oregon State University (The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 2015) found that consuming red grapes, red wine or red grape juice also helped your body burn fat. This time the helpful ingredient is ellagic acid, which boosts fat burning in the liver and lowers circulating blood sugars. Fat in the liver is especially dangerous and can cause diabetes and other problems. People who have fatty livers usually also have abdominal fat and general obesity.
Researchers used an extract of Muscadine grapes in their study, but said that any dark red or purple grapes would work. They suggest a cup and a half of whole dark grapes a day, or a small glass of unsweetened dark grape juice or red wine daily to help regulate blood sugar and keep your body burning fat efficiently.
Pretty but edible- make your plants do double duty
Want to have your garden and eat it too? If you are a gardener without a lot of space you may want to consider plants that can do double duty. These are plants that are attractive to look at but are also useful in the kitchen. If you have no room for a vegetable garden, consider incorporating some vegetables and herbs into your flower beds.
A lovely border to flower beds can be made by leaf lettuces, mixed in a variety of colors or woven into a pattern of red and green varieties. Compact, globe shaped bush basil also makes an excellent border. Good varieties include ‘Minette’ and ‘Pistou’. Many types of tall basil have wonderfully colored leaves and delightful scents. These can be added to borders or even grown in containers. Try ‘Red Rubin’ with deep purple red leaves and strong basil flavor.
Both basil and lettuce are annual plants. For a perennial border that does double duty, consider using one of the many varieties of thyme. Lemon thyme with variegated leaves is especially pretty and goes well with chicken and fish dishes.
|Oregano Zorba Red.|
Oregano varieties with larger and more colorful flowers are now on the market and are another excellent plant for perennial beds. It also is loved by bees and makes an excellent plant in a pollinator garden. Fernleaf dill will lend its feathery leaves for an airy accent in the border or in your favorite pickle recipe. Dill is also used in a variety of sauces and salads. ‘Redbor’ kale survives frost and has beautiful curly leaves of deep maroon, excellent in the garden or as a garnish, salad, or cooked.
Rosemary is a delightful plant for mixed flowerbeds, especially in sandy soil. It has narrow evergreen leaves on a plant that eventually forms a small shrub if brought inside to winter and returned outside after frost danger has passed. In the summer the plants have tiny blue or white blooms that are attractive to bees. And rosemary is excellent sprinkled on bread before baking, or on chicken or fish dishes.
Swiss Chard is an excellent source of vitamins A and C and tasty cooked or raw. It can also be quite ornamental. The clumps of dark green, wrinkled leaves are carried on long stalks that can be a number of vibrant colors in the variety ‘Bright Lights’ or deep ruby red in the variety known as ‘Rhubarb’.
Speaking of rhubarb, this plant can be quite ornamental. The clumps of large leaves are impressive in the back of the border but the plant also blooms with long stalks of fluffy white flowers in summer. You can harvest leaf stalks of the plant for pie and still have an impressive garden plant.
|Rhubarb in bloom.|
Another large border plant that’s pretty and edible is okra. Placed in the back of the bed the tall stalks will produce large hibiscus–like flowers of pale yellow that will turn into seed pods to be used in your favorite recipes. ‘Little Lucy’ is a striking smaller okra variety with red veined foliage, deep red stems, maroon and yellow flowers and it still produces tasty okra pods.
Chives give you neat clumps of narrow foliage and pretty purple globe flowers in spring. They taste excellent minced into scrambled eggs and salads too. Nasturtiums have colorful flowers with a spicy taste, leaves and flowers are excellent for salads. They come in bush and trailing varieties, and can be used in containers.
Many of the ornamental pepper plants have fruit that is too hot for most gardeners taste. But ‘Sweet Pickle’ has clusters of long tapered fruit in colors of red, yellow, purple and orange on the same plant and its sweet enough for pickles or salads. If you like a medium hot pepper ‘Marbles’ will give you small round fruit in the same range of colors. Peppers make colorful container plants too.
For a unique hanging basket why not try a pepper plant? ‘Mohawk’ has sweet, small bell peppers that turn orange when ripe or that can be picked green and a beautiful shape for baskets. In mixed containers the small peppers mentioned above work great combined with leaf lettuce and basil.
For a vertical accent try some pole beans. ‘Scarlet Runner’ beans have scarlet flowers, ‘Sunset Runner’ has salmon pink flowers, ‘Painted Lady’ has red and white blooms. All of these climbing beans will produce flowers for a long time if the beans are kept picked off and eaten as snap beans while they are young and tender. Purple Hyacinth Beans are also very ornamental but the beans shouldn’t be eaten as they are poisonous.
‘Tumbling Tom’ is a cherry tomato that will grow well in a hanging basket. There is a red and a yellow variety. Several other cherry tomatoes also do well in baskets or containers. A patch of sun and a basket of cherry tomatoes will keep you munching from mid-summer to frost.
Strawberries will also grow in containers and hanging baskets. Choose everbearing varieties for flowers and fruit all summer. Strawberries grown in hanging baskets won’t survive the winter but some may survive in large, thick walled containers. Strawberries can also be used to border flower beds, but be aware that they will spread through the bed if allowed.
|Borage is another ornamental herb.|
For large containers there are several very attractive dwarf blueberries now on the market. These dwarf blueberries also make good additions to the landscape, even in mixed perennial borders. The attractive foliage can provide beautiful fall color and stays green all winter, and you can pick lots of small blueberries off the plants in summer.
An eggplant ‘Fairy Tale’ is a dwarf plant with lovely lavender flowers and long slender fruit of rosy purple streaked with white. “Twinkle’ is similar in color and size but the fruit is round. ‘Red Giant’ Mustard with deep red foliage and delicious mild flavor survives frost and is an excellent addition to pots of pansies in spring or mums in the fall.
Cilantro and moss leaved parsley can be tucked into containers of flowers. Strawberry spinach, chenopodium capitatum, is a relatively new plant on the North American market. It has triangular leaves that are eaten like spinach when young and attractive ruby red berries later in the summer that have a nutty taste. A beet grown for its tasty tender leaves instead of roots, ‘MacGregor’s Favorite’, is also known for its long, shiny purple leaves that are stunning as accents in containers.
Don’t spray pesticides or use systemic pesticides on plants that are going to be eaten or even on nearby plants. Some ornamental varieties of herbs and vegetables don’t have the same flavor as the same herb or vegetable in a plainer version so choose carefully.
Forsythia is one of those rare plants that are most often referred to by the Latin name, (forsythia,). The golden flowers of forsythia signify that spring is here. This cheerful shrub is native to Europe and Eastern Asia but hardy and easy to grow. Forsythia is used in foundation plantings, as specimen plants, in perennial borders and as hedges. The smaller varieties blend well in larger perennial beds. Forsythia blooms are edible and are sometimes used in spring salads.
As spring arrives a line of gold moves from south to north. The yellow, four petal forsythia flowers open before the plant leafs out in the spring. Forsythia has narrow, dark green leaves with a lighter underside, and a serrated edge. There are also variegated and golden leaved varieties.
Here are some varieties of forsythia that gardeners may want to try. ‘Lynwood Gold’ and ‘Spectabilis’ are two of the oldest varieties of forsythia. Both are large shrubs, up to 6 foot tall, with arching stems of golden flowers. ‘Karl Sax’ has large, deep golden flowers with a bushier, more horizontal growth habit. ‘Northern Sun’ is a variety developed in Canada whose buds are hardy to zone 4 or less.
For smaller, more compact forsythias try ‘Golden Peep’, which grows to about 3’ and has a rounded growth habit, or ‘Goldilocks’ only about 30 inches high with blooms that cover the stems totally. ‘Gold Tide’ has light lemon yellow flowers and is a groundcover about 2 feet high. Another dwarf variety is ‘Citrus Swizzle’, which is not only small, 1 foot high by 3 feet wide, but has leaves edged in yellow as well as golden flowers. ‘Golden Times’ is a true gem. It has golden yellow flowers on a moderately sized plant, but it also has leaves that open in shades of red and pink which mature to purple and in fall change to a glowing purple-pink.
Forsythia is purchased as a plant. It transplants best in the spring but can also be planted in the fall. Forsythia will grow in any garden soil from zone 4-8 as long as it is well drained. In zone 4 forsythia buds are sometimes killed by winter cold, but the plant will not be harmed. For the best flowers, forsythia should be planted in full sun, but it will tolerate part shade. Deer love forsythia, and if the branch ends are nibbled in the winter you will not have flowers. You may want to protect your plants with netting or fencing.
|Forsythia in all its glory.|
Forsythia seldom needs to be fertilized and only needs to be watered during periods of extreme drought. In most areas forsythia is a robust grower and spreads rapidly. Forsythia looks best when allowed to develop its natural, gently arching shape, but can be pruned into a hedge.
If pruning is needed, prune forsythia immediately after flowering. Thin out some of the older growth and trim the plant back to the size you prefer. If the plant is overgrown and you need to drastically reduce the size, you can prune it at any time quite severely and the plant will recover. However, you will lose much of the flowers for the next year. Keeping forsythia sheared as a hedge will also remove some of next year’s flowers. Most varieties set flower buds far down the stems so some flowers may remain even when the plant is sheared.
Forsythia roots easily from cuttings taken in early spring just after flowering. Branches brought into the house as floral arrangements sometimes even root in the water. Forsythia can also be propagated by burying a lower branch in soil and weighing it down, leaving the tip of the branch exposed. After a few months the plant should have developed roots along the buried portion, and can be severed from the parent plant and transplanted.
Some gardeners consider forsythia old fashioned and too large to grow in small gardens. Don’t be a garden snob, there are many smaller varieties of forsythia for smaller gardens and spring isn’t here until they bloom.
Twenty–five days to spring!
“He who has a garden and a library wants for nothing” ― Cicero
This was sent to me by the Garden Media Group in hopes that I would pass it along, so here it is.
Bee the Solution
Bees are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat.
European honey bees may be the best known and widely managed pollinators, but there are hundreds of native bees that can help the challenged honey bees.
Honey bees make honey. Mason bees make food.
Gentle, solitary mason bees are the super pollinators. Their only job is to pollinate vegetables, fruits, nuts and flowers – not make honey.
More importantly, easy-to-raise mason bees are vastly more effective at pollinating than honey bees. You need 25,000 honey bees to pollinate 100 fruit trees. The same work can be done by only 400 mason bees.
Working together, mason bees and honey bees can secure that we all have enough food to eat.
To protect our food supply and ensure that farmers have abundant pollinators for their crops in the future, we must increase the population of all native bees.
Crown Bees is on a mission to expand the use of native bees by building a network of “Bee Boosters” that raises, harvests and shares millions of gentle bees in backyards, communities and farms across North America. Crown Bees, http://crownbees.com/
Our goal is to take the pressure off honey bees, increase awareness of gentle, rarely-stinging native bees and diversify the bees that pollinate our food.
Most of us understand the value of creating gardens and habitats to support pollinators. But that is only the first step.
We invite you to join our Bee Booster network to raise, harvest and share these gentle bees. Here’s what you can do:
1. Put up a Crown Bee house for mason bees to build a nest and lay eggs. It’s as easy as hanging a bird feeder. No special suit or expensive equipment is required, as with honey beekeeping.
2. Donate Crown Bee houses to community gardens, public parks, zoos, botanical gardens, and local farmers to increase native pollinators. These gentle bees rarely sting, making them perfect for backyards and public spaces.
3. Share links on social media about mason bees and how they ensure food security. Use #BeeBoosters #MasonBees @CrownBees
4. Donate to our campaign. In order to get our network buzzing, we will launch a crowfunding campaign on Indiegogo Wed., March 18 to fund the redesign of Bee with Me, a social network that connects and maps Bee Boosters across the country. Our goal is to raise $100,000 by Friday, May 1.
With your help, we can dramatically increase the number of mason bees beyond our own backyards.
Pay It Forward
We need more mason bees to supplement the troubled honey bees.
Not all of us are willing or able to raise mason bees, but everyone who eats has a responsibility to help protect our food supply.
What makes Crown Bees the most effective solution? We aren’t just providing houses for mason bees. We are building a sustainable network of Bee Boosters who raise, harvest and share mason bees.
It’s easy to do and takes only a few hours of care each year. Just hang a Crown Bee house, like you would a bird feeder. At the end of the season, harvest the sleeping mason bee cocoons and share the bounty. You can save them for next spring, give them to a friend or send them to Crown Bees. We will rehome your bees with other gardeners and farmers who need them.
Together, we can expand the number of native bees vital for protecting our food supply.
Events, classes and other offerings
Please let me know if there is any event or class that you would like to share with other gardeners. These events are primarily in Michigan but if you are a reader from outside of Michigan and want to post an event I’ll be glad to do it.
Master Gardeners if you belong to an association that approves your hours please check with that association before assuming a class or work day will count as credit.
Do you have plants or seeds you would like to swap or share? Post them here by emailing me. Kimwillis151@gmail.com
Gardening and All That Jazz – Innovation and Sustainability For Your Garden, Saturday, April 25, 2015 – 7 am – 4:15 pm, Oakland Schools Conference Center 2111 Pontiac Lake Road, Waterford
Sessions include: Will Allen – Growing Power and the Good Food Revolution: A visual story of how Growing Power came to be and of Will Allen’s personal journey, the lives he has touched, and a grassroots movement that is changing the way our nation eats., Will Allen – How To Put “Growing Power” in Your Backyard: How to make your own compost bin, outdoor and indoor worm bins and raised beds. Matthew Benson – Growing Beautiful Food: Cultivating the Incredible, Edible Garden - Kerry Ann Mendez – Gardening Simplified for Changing Lifestyle: Exceptional Plants and Design Solutions for Aging and Time-pressed Gardeners
MSU Tollgate Maple Tapping and Pancake Celebration March 15, 2015-10 a.m. - 12 p.m. or 1 - 3 p.m. 28115 Meadowbrook Rd, Novi, MI,
Celebrate the Maple Tapping Season with Pancakes at MSU Tollgate! With a full-on pancake breakfast or lunch!
Identify and tap a maple tree, tour the sugar shack with ongoing evaporation, take a wagon ride, taste maple syrup, and tackle historical tools! Prior to the 2-hour program, enjoy a pancake celebration in the historic, 19th-century barn. Pancakes, coffee, cocoa, and of course, real maple syrup will be provided!
Eat your fill of yummy food and grab a cup of coffee 9 - 10 a.m. before your 2-hour program. Enjoy entertainment in the 19th century barn while you eat and relax.
Need to sleep in? Join us at 12 p.m. for a pancake lunch before heading out to the sugar bush at 1 p.m.
Cost is $12.00 per person. If cancellations are needed, please do so before March 11, 2015, to avoid cancellation fee of $5 per person registered.
The last day to register online is March 11, 2015.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or call Mandy Jacobs at 248-347-0269 ext. 238.
Grand Rapids Smart Gardening Conference March 7, 2015- 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m., Monroe Meeting Rooms DeVos Place, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Classes include: “Smart Design of the Living Landscape-Putting back the Layers”, Rick Darke, “Tapping the Smart Gardener’s Work Force—Predators, Parasitoids and Pollinators!”, Elly Maxwell, Entomologist, Dow Gardens, Vegetable Potpourri for the Smart Gardener”, Rebecca Krans, “Grow More with Less-a Smart Approach to Gardening!”, Vincent Simeone Horticulturist, Author, Lecturer, Oyster Bay, New York.
Cost: Early Bird Registration by Feb. 13 - $59 Late Registration - $70 Must pre-register. Enrollment deadline is Friday, Feb. 27, 2015 or until full. More info and online registration http://events.anr.msu.edu/event.cfm?folder=smartgardening2015 or Contact: email@example.com, 616-632-7865
28th ANNUAL MICHIGAN WILDFLOWER CONFERENCE- Sunday March 8 and Monday March 9, 2015- Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center , MSU campus, East Lansing MI.
Landscape Design: Where Art and Nature Meet. For full agenda please see http://wildflowersmich.org/
Pre- registration at http://wildflowersmich.org/assets/docs/15_reg_form.pdf
$65 for one day, $120 for both until 2/25/2015, after that $75 and $140. WAM membership required, add $15. Laura Liebler, Registrar Phone: 734.662.2206
Conifer Propagation Seminar at Hidden Lake Gardens, March 7, 2015 – 9am – 4pm, 6214 Monroe Road (M-50),Tipton, MI
Join us as we share what we know about some of the rare plants of the Harper Collection of Dwarf and Rare Conifers. Now condensed into one day!
Learn the art and science of making more conifers (cone-bearing plants). Staff and volunteers will share their extensive knowledge and experience on the nuances of propagation. Seminar includes:
Hands-on grafting of 6 different plants*
Cuttings of at least 16 plants*
Tour of Harper Collection or propagation facility
* Species will likely include Thuja, Juniperus, Pinus, Picea, and Abies. Extensive care instructions provided.
Designed for the beginning propagator, this seminar will share techniques even experienced propagators will appreciate. Advance registration is required, but experience is not.
Cost: $100 per person early registration ($90 per person for Friends of HLG) $125 per person after Feb 21. Registration is limited and will close on March 1st. Registration is required. Hidden Lake Gardens - www.HiddenLakeGardens.msu.edu (517) 431-2060
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. Please state that you want to have the item published in my weekly notes. 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.
Once again the opinions in this newsletter are mine and I do not represent any organization or business. I do not make any income from this newsletter. 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 local people and horticulture. It’s a hobby, basically. I hope you enjoy it. If at any time you don’t wish to receive these emails just let me know. If you know anyone who would like to receive these emails have them send their email address to me. KimWillis151@gmail.com