Well it had to happen; we had a good hard frost here last night, actually a freeze. I picked all the pretty dahlia flowers last night and I have a big bouquet of sun now. Bugs had gone to bed in them and they came crawling out as they warmed up. That’s the bad part of late fall bouquets.
I forced myself to walk past the begonias left in the pots on the deck last night. I had dug two more the night before and brought them in. I just do not have any more room inside. Actually, some things didn’t look too bad today despite the freeze, the impatiens are gone but the begonias are just a little damaged looking. The snapdragons on the porch looked fine. I know the temp here went down to 31 but I don’t know how long it was below freezing.
We are going to have several days of rain and cold weather and after that I will be better able to assess what is left in the garden. I still have to dig the dahlias and there are some other garden tasks left to do, like plant bulbs. I planted some snowdrops, a yellow fritillaria and some bulbs called Ipheion (spring starflower) ‘Starry Nights’ Saturday. I made a row of these just in front of the deck where they will show up well in spring.
I also planted two Itoh peonies, the yellow one called “Bartzella’. This is the third time I have planted this peony. The first two times I ordered them from companies I shall not name, and I got tiny root sections, last year the piece was almost cut in two besides being small. They didn’t grow. This year I ordered one Itoh peony from John Scheepers Bulbs and I actually got two in the package for the same price. And both of these were nice root clumps. Maybe they will grow this time.
I am also pleased with the bulbs I got from ColorBlends, which I still must plant. Their bulbs are always large and nice looking. And they included a pretty orange scarf as a bonus. I have 125 tulips to plant and 50 windflowers. That’s much fewer bulbs than I have planted the last few years, but the beds are getting full. ColorBlends sells the nicest tulip and daffodil bulbs I have ever seen. They sell in larger quantities and have a minimum order but if you need bulbs theirs are great.
The apples are ripening. I made a big pot of apple butter yesterday. It’s a day my husband waits for all year. Making apple butter in the crock pot is easy. You peel, core and chop enough apples to fill the pot. Add brown sugar, I use about 3 cups to my 6-quart crock pot, you can adjust that. Do not add water or juice, it isn’t necessary in the crock pot.
Let the apples cook until they turn to mush. As they begin to thicken stir in the spices you like. I use cinnamon and generally a bit of cloves. Some add nutmeg or allspice. Taste, being careful not to burn your tongue and adjust spices as needed.
The apple butter is done when it is so thick it sticks to the spoon when you turn it over. You may want to mix it a bit until it’s perfectly smooth. I let it cool just a bit and then pour it in a clean canning jar and store it in the refrigerator. You can also freeze it or can it.
I also made an apple cake. I use a spice cake mix, using apple juice instead of the water it calls for and applesauce in place of the oil. I add a cup of finely diced apple. Bake as directed. Then while it’s still warm spread a can of Dulce de leche over the cake. (Find that by the sweetened condensed milk in the store. It’s like caramel). Let it cool and add a cream cheese frosting. I use a package of softened cream cheese blended with 3 cups of powdered sugar, with just a touch of apple juice to make it soft enough to spread.
Harvesting and storing potatoes
If you haven’t harvested your potatoes yet it’s time to do so. They can stay in the ground until it freezes but as the ground gets colder it can change the flavor of the potatoes. Animals like voles will also eat them as other food gets scarce. So, choose a bright sunny day and dig them up. Don’t wash the potatoes you dig, spread them out in a dark warm place and let the soil dry on them and then brush it off. Do wash them before preparing them to eat.
Don’t leave potatoes in the sun after you dig them for more than a few hours. This may cause them to green and green potatoes are not good for you. If you cut potatoes when digging them set the cut ones aside and use them first, after washing them well. Potato skins will get tougher and thicker as they age in storage.
Potatoes like root cellar conditions for storage, cool temperatures around 45 degrees, dark, moderate humidity. Too cool conditions will cause the starch in potatoes to turn to sugar and make them taste a bit different. They are fine to eat, however. Light will cause potatoes to sprout and turn green. Sprouts can be knocked off and the potatoes are fine to eat unless they are green. Green potatoes should not be eaten. When potatoes turn green, they are high in solanine – a poison.
Never store potatoes near apples or they will soften and sprout. Don’t wash them before storage and remove any molded, cut or soft potatoes before storage. Periodically check potatoes for rotting – your nose will tell you before you see it. Remove rotting potatoes so they don’t cause others to rot. Potatoes in good storage conditions will last up to 6 months.
Salvaging green tomatoes to ripen inside
If you didn’t get a hard frost yet and you still have green tomatoes, you may want to consider bringing some inside to finish ripening. That is a way you can extend your enjoyment of fresh garden tomatoes after cold weather hits. Tomatoes are a fruit that will continue to ripen after picking if they have matured enough. These tomatoes won’t taste quite as good as the ones ripened on the vine, but they will be better than most you buy at the store.
Tomatoes will stop ripening outside after a hard frost and turn to mush after a freeze. When you know one of those events is near it’s time to salvage as many tomatoes as you can. Pick all tomatoes that have even the slightest sign of ripening. This may be indicated by a lightening in color and a slight softening. Even full sized, hard green tomatoes will often ripen inside. Pick those tomatoes.
Be careful handling the fruits as bruising may cause rotting instead of ripening. Don’t bring in insect damaged fruit or fruit with bottom rot or severe cracking. Bring the fruits inside to a warm place, never refrigerate them. Some people swear by lining the green tomatoes up on a sunny windowsill with a little space between each. Others wrap each tomato in a piece of tissue or newspaper and store in a dark place. Tomatoes will ripen either way.
I wrap the greenest tomatoes to store and set the ones closest to being ripe on the windowsill to finish ripening. Periodically I check the wrapped tomatoes for signs of ripening and move some to the windowsill. There have been times when I have had tomatoes all the way up to Christmas with this method.
Gardeners should inspect stored tomatoes at least once a week and remove any that are rotting. And of course, you could always eat the tomatoes green- as in fried green tomatoes or green tomato salsa or pie.
Growing hemp, the all-purpose plant
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the growing of hemp across much of the US, and this year many farmers displayed great interest in growing the crop, especially because the traditional crops they are growing are being hit hard by the trade war. Farmers need to register to grow the crop or to provide processing facilities and there’s some paperwork and rules to get familiar with. In Michigan there were 541 grower registrations this year. It’s estimated that over 32,000 acres of hemp were planted. Across the US over 500,000 acres of hemp were expected to be planted this year.
But after a long period of being illegal to grow in most states and government research on the plant prohibited, people are scrambling to find good advice on growing the crop. While it’s been grown for a long time in other countries, and even in some US states, most American growers face steep learning curves. US soils and weather are different across the country. And different uses of hemp require somewhat different growing approaches.
Hemp seed and plants can be difficult to get. Equipment that is used for other crops often must be modified for hemp production. Markets are still new and volatile. US universities and ag research stations are scrambling to get the information farmers need. But many state Extension offices are now offering some help for hemp growers, including Michigan State. (They still won’t help you grow marihuana, even if its legal in your state.)
Hemp and marihuana are basically the same plant, Cannabis sativa, but hemp won’t get you high. Hemp looks like marihuana and smells like it, but has little THC, the chemical compound that makes you feel good. To be legal it must contain less than .3 psychoactive THC. And state or federal AG officials do test the crops. Hemp does contain CBD, a chemical compound thought to be good for many medical uses. CBD oil is a hot commodity so many people who are growing hemp are doing it to produce CBD oil.
There are hundreds of varieties of cannabis on the market. They contain different levels of the chemicals CBD and THC. Finding the right variety for what you intend to use it for can be a challenge. But if you are interested in growing hemp, a plant that won’t get you high, you will be looking for low THC, high CBD plants. The species Cannabis sativa is the Cannabis species hemp type plants are from. There are two other species of cannabis, Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis that are sometimes used to produce marihuana varieties.
Hemp is an amazingly versatile plant and it’s also grown for uses other than CBD oil. It’s grown for fiber, fuel, food, and hemp seed oil. Cage birds love the seed and its part of expensive pet bird feeds. Hemp is a high protein feed and can replace soy in farm animal diets. The fiber is turned into paper, rope, clothing and other things. Hemp seed oil is used in paint, varnish, shampoos and soaps as well as making an excellent cooking oil. Hemp can make a bio-degradable plastic like material that shows great promise in reducing petroleum-based plastic.
Can gardeners grow hemp?
A gardener might want to grow some hemp. Herbalists can find many uses for hemp CBD, hemp seed and hemp seed oil. You might want to make your own cooking oil, rope, paper or textiles from the plant. You might want to provide seeds for pet birds. Some just want to see how it grows or use it for ornamental value. Growing hemp is not as exacting a task as growing good marihuana and it can be grown with little water and no pesticides outside. It grows in almost every planting zone.
There are still a few things to consider before gardeners decide to grow hemp. Most states are now allowing hemp to be grown commercially, but a few are not. The federal legal status doesn’t change the status in states. And each state decides the rules of growing so you must check your state laws before planting hemp. Some states may allow registered commercial growing but not homeowner crops.
If your state has legalized growing marihuana then you are probably good to grow, but do check the law first, including local laws. You should be able to grow the same number of hemp plants as marihuana plants for home use, maybe more. If marihuana is legal you won’t have to worry about testing the plants for their THC level. If marihuana is not legal growing hemp might get you arrested if the THC level is a little high or your crop may be destroyed. At least 3 states do not allow hemp or marihuana to be grown.
What you want to use your hemp for will determine how you will plant and cultivate it. Growing hemp for fiber or feed is fairly straight forward. You can plant seed directly in the ground after the last frost or start plants inside from seed about 6 weeks before the last frost is expected and transplant the plants to the garden. The seed you buy- if you can find it- must be certified as hemp seed. If hemp growing is now a farm crop in your state, you might try a farm service organization to find seed. Otherwise you’ll need to search online for a source.
Hemp should be planted in full sun. It’s not too fussy about soil, but the area should be well drained. A good, organic, rich soil will give you a bumper crop. Check the regulations for growing to see if you must enclose hemp or keep it from being seen by casual observers. You’ll probably want to keep it out of public sight because it looks like marihuana. You don’t want someone stealing it or destroying it. Although hemp generally has sturdy stems a spot where its somewhat protected from wind would be good.
Unlike marihuana, hemp doesn’t need a lot of fertilization. A good garden fertilizer worked into the soil at planting, something like 10-10-10, is generally enough. Hemp should be kept well-watered for a week or so after transplanting or germination but after that it won’t need watering unless it gets dry and hot. If it wilts it needs watering. Regular watering during dry spells may produce a larger crop, however.
Hemp grows fast and depending on the variety, can get 6 feet or more tall. It usually has a branching habit with thick sturdy stems. Hemp has a distinct smell, some think it smells like skunk, and I think it smells more at sundown and after watering.
Hemp doesn’t have a lot of disease and insect problems when it’s grown outside and is easy to grow organically. Deer and other animals may munch on it however, although some outdoor growers tell me deer damage isn’t common. Cats sometimes eat it, especially when its young. Since it’s a high value crop you may want to fence it even if it isn’t required.
If you are growing hemp for fiber you won’t worry about whether you have male or female plants, both are fine. To get hemp seed you will need some of both, but if you are limited to a set number of plants, you’ll want to reduce the number of male plants, since they don’t make seed. The bad news is you’ll have to wait until the plants start blooming to sex them. The plants do bloom for a long time so if you get rid of the males as soon as you spot them, you may have time to plant some additional hemp plants.
Sexing hemp plants is a bit tricky for beginners. Here’s a good site to learn how.
Hemp seed oil is different than CBD oil. Hemp seed oil is used for cooking, crafts, cosmetics and some herbal remedies. It is made by crushing hemp seed. This oil has very little CBD or THC and won’t get you high. Hemp seed oil is dark green and has a nutty aroma. The cakes of pressed seed left after oil is extracted are great as animal feed.
Hemp seed is quite nutritious having lots of good fatty acids, protein, and they contain high amounts of vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc. They can be eaten raw, roasted or boiled similar to chia and other seeds. They are part of many herbal remedies and have health promoting compounds other than CBD. They are considered helpful for relieving PMS and painful menstruation and in aiding digestion, among other things.
For fiber, hemp plants can be harvested about two months after transplanting or 10 weeks after germination outside. You can leave them until just before the first fall frost though. For fiber plants are just cut near the base and hung to dry in a warm dark place.
In the case of seed production, you’ll need to wait until seeds have developed on the plants and matured to brown, sometimes with dark stripes, stage. To collect seeds cut the seed heads off and remove the seeds by breaking them apart or shaking them over a screen. Spread seeds out to dry for a week or so in a warm dark place. The rest of the plant can be dried for fiber or fed to animals.
Growing hemp plants for CBD oil
The growing of plants for CBD oil is a little more complicated than growing hemp for other uses. First you need female plants, males do not make the buds that are needed to make the oil. So, you will need to purchase cloned female plants to plant. They’ll need to be certified or guaranteed to be hemp type plants. Finding these plants can be hard, the demand is great right now. (It would be a good business to get into – producing female hemp plant clones for sale to others.) Clones are simply plants grown from cuttings of female plants.
(There are some hemp varieties that do have both sexes in one flower, (monecious flowers) but the longer a female plant goes without pollination the bigger the bud clusters get. Most small hemp growers will want female clones to produce CBD and you’ll want to keep all males away from them.)
The clones would be transplanted into the garden around the summer solstice, in June. That’s the right time to encourage flowering as the day length slowly diminishes. The hemp plants should be well rooted and a couple months old when transplanted. They would be treated basically like hemp grown from seed for fiber after planting. Make sure to water them frequently for the first week or two after transplanting. You would not want to use any pesticides on the plants.
For CBD oil you’ll need to wait to harvest until you have nice fat buds on the plant. In most places you will be into September, maybe October before this happens. Growers check the trichomes- tiny hair-like structures covering the buds. When they go from clear to milky white it’s usually the right time to harvest. You may need a hand lens to see them well. The larger string-like pistils sticking out of the buds should go from white to tan.
While watching the buds for maturity you also need to watch the weather. Try to harvest during a warm dry spell. If a long period of wet, cool weather is known to be ahead and buds look close to ready you’ll want to harvest. You want to avoid molded buds at all cost- they can’t be used for CBD oil, and wet fall weather can cause molded buds.
When harvesting buds for CBD the branches with buds are generally cut from the plant and spread on screens in a warm dry place. Fans are often used to circulate air. The buds are trimmed of long “fan” leaves just like buds are trimmed for marihuana production. This is a time-consuming project.
A home grower won’t be able to know the CBD and THC content of hemp buds without testing. Sometimes stress or growing conditions or plants that aren’t what they were guaranteed to be will have levels of THC higher than .3 percent. (Commercial growers use testing machines or use labs to find out.) So, use your home-grown products carefully. And if the state conducts tests of your hemp buds prepare to destroy your crop if the THC content is too high.
There’s not enough room in this article to explain how to extract fiber or make CBD oil or other hemp products. You’ll need to look that information up. There’s some links below.
In short, hemp can be considered a very helpful and versatile plant. It used to be grown widely for its many products, until it became associated with ‘marihuana’ and the crazy drug prohibition of the last 6 decades or so. If you are an herbalist and hemp is legal to grow in your area you should have hemp in your garden. All gardeners might want to experiment with a patch of it.
An interesting footnote: a study of pollen in the air done in 2000 across the Midwest found that in August 36% of the pollen in the air was from cannabis. This was before legalized marihuana and hemp. It was from wild growing plants and secret pot growing patches. Wow- more than a third of the pollen count was cannabis!
Men who eat mushrooms 3 or more times a week can lower their risk of prostate cancer by at least 17%, according to research published last month in International Journal of Cancer, 2019; DOI: 10.1002/ijc.32591
The research was done on Japanese men and it found that even men who ate mostly meat and dairy lowered their risk of prostate cancer when they ate mushrooms frequently. The amount suggested was about 7 grams a day. So guys, add some mushrooms to that cheeseburger.
Tomatoes and sperm
Are you having issues with infertility? Research done at the University of Sheffield UK, has found that men who eat cooked tomatoes or take a supplement made from them called LactoLycopene, have stronger, better shaped and more mobile sperm.
Lycopene is found in ripe tomatoes and our bodies absorb it best from cooked tomatoes. There has been an overall decline in sperm quality in men in the last few decades, thought to be from environmental factors. If a man is trying to have children, he might want to include lots of cooked tomatoes in his diet or take the supplement mentioned above. Ketchup might count but a good spaghetti sauce or a bowl of tomato soup would be better.
“The trees are in their autumn beauty, The woodland paths are dry, Under the October twilight the water Mirrors a still sky.”
William Butler Yeats
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