Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Kim's Weekly Garden Newsletter July 30, 2013

July 30, 2013 - Kim’s Weekly Garden Newsletter
From Kim Willis

These weekly garden notes are written by Kim Willis, unless another author is noted, and the opinions expressed in these notes are her opinions and do not represent any other individual, group or organizations opinions.

Hi Gardeners

I had some nice rain over the last few days, about 9/10 of an inch.  It was needed but I am glad the sun is out today.  I love the cooler weather and I hope it lasts the rest of the summer.  Just the few days of rain, plus the week or two of weather too hot and humid to garden in gave the weeds around my place a big boost and I am working to catch up. 
The lily Silk Road.
We have had lots of new potatoes from the garden, sampling different types at each meal.  I love to put washed new potatoes in a microwave safe bowl with a pat of real butter and a tablespoon or so of margarine,( to lower the fat a little) and sprinkle on some garlic and onion powder.  Then I cover with plastic wrap and cook them for about 20 minutes.  They are so delicious. 

I am getting excited about my sweet corn.  The ears look great and we should be eating it by the end of the week.  Even though I planted early, mid and late varieties of corn and planted the early corn two weeks before the rest, it looks like it will all be getting ready at once.  We’ll be freezing it I guess.  I heard that there is a “new method” of freezing sweet corn, right in the husk.  If any of you have tried this and it works well let me know.

A man stopped by the other day and asked if we wanted some zucchini.  He was carrying around a big bunch on his truck seat, asking people if they wanted it.  I have to laugh whenever I see people doing this.  I don’t like zucchini and don’t grow it.  But so many people grow way too many plants,( which is always more than one).  It does make good bread and cakes but I guess people had to come up with some way to use all the excess.

I had a few raspberries from my new plants and they were very good.  Looking forward to a bigger harvest nest year. 

Cardinal Climber vine
The flowers are beautiful right now too.  I have a cardinal vine (see a link to an article below under more information) that has gone wild this summer; it is covering a great deal of fence and its very pretty.  It’s another example of common names that get plant species mixed up, I bought it labeled Cypress vine, which is actually a relative. 

The phlox and lilies are making the garden smell really good right now and everywhere I go I see beautiful hydrangeas and Rose of Sharon plants in bloom.  The beebalm seems to be having a spectacular year too and that is one flower the hummingbirds really seem to love.  I sit out in the evening and watch them fighting over it.

The $15,000 vegetable garden

I read an article in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press that made me mad and laugh at the same time.  The article in the Section titled House Envy was about a woman’s new “raised bed” vegetable garden in Grosse Pointe Farms.  I sure didn’t envy it.  This mediocre looking 18 x13 foot garden cost her $15,000 dollars to build!  Of course a landscaper built it for her.  The picture shows one big box, like a giant sandbox, and a weird arbor like structure at the entrance.  There was a single rail, maybe some wire fence around it.

The woman bragged that she saved thousands of dollars by using green wood incased in composite, whatever that is.  And now she could grow 5 kinds of tomatoes with all of this room! Plus lots of basil and other things.  Of course each tomato she gets from that garden will cost a hundred dollars at least, but what the heck- she went green!  I just wonder if the $15,000 includes a gardener’s salary, although she brags about family time in the garden too.

I just hope that people reading the article don’t think you have to be rich to afford a vegetable garden, especially a raised bed garden, which this really didn’t qualify as.  A really nice raised bed garden shouldn’t cost you more than a few hundred dollars.  It could be much less. If you’d like to read the article go here;

Food safety at the farmers market

When you buy produce at the farmers market make sure you wash it before eating it.  This is particularly true of produce you don’t peel or cook before eating.  Even if it is labeled organic it should be washed.  Think of how many people handle produce at the farmers market- where have their hands been?  It’s tempting to eat a few berries or a peach on the way home but it’s probably better to resist the urge. 

And in the summer heat eggs you buy at the farmers market should have been kept in a cooler.  While eggs don’t spoil right away they can develop unhealthy quantities of salmonella, especially because some sellers think people are more likely to buy their eggs if they are unwashed, in warm weather.  Even washed eggs can have salmonella inside them and that’s why we cook all eggs until they are not “runny.”

Farm markets are loaded with produce right now.  You’ll find tomatoes small and slicing, peppers, summer squash, early cabbage, new potatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, greens of many types, carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts,  green beans and even some early sweet corn.  Summer raspberries are pretty much done but blueberries and peaches are on the market.  You may even find some summer ripening apples, such as Lodi, on the market soon.  Melons and grapes are still not ripe locally.

By the way there’s a new Farmers Market on Wednesdays in Clifford, at the old grain elevator on the north side of town.

August is check your trees month

Asian Longhorn Beetle- US Forest Service photo
The USDA is asking everyone to get out and check the trees in your yard, along the roads, in parks and fields this August.  You’ll be looking for signs of the Asian Longhorn beetle but it’s a good time to look for other problems too.

The Asian Longhorn beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis, is not a new pest; it’s been in the US since an infestation was discovered in New York in 1998. It’s thought to have arrived in shipping pallets from Asia.  So far infestations have been found in 5 states over the years, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois and Ohio.  When it’s found the USDA goes all out to eradicate the pest.  But the fact that it continues to pop up from time to time is worrisome.  All states east of the Rockies are at risk with states close to infected states, such as Michigan, at increased risk.

Unlike the Emerald Ash Borer, the Asian Longhorn Beetle attacks many species of native and non-native deciduous trees including maples,(and box elders), ash, horse chestnut, willow, elm, birch, sycamore, hackberry, mimosa, poplar, katsura, mountain ash, apple, cherry, plums, pears, mulberry, Rose of Sharon, oaks, black locust and basswood.  In Asia Russian Olive is heavily attacked but no Russian Olive trees have yet been found to have the beetle in the US.   If the beetle were to get established it would wipe out most of our forest and landscape trees.

The Asian Longhorn beetle, (ALB), is a long, ¾ to 1 ¼ inch long beetle with long black and white banded antennae.  The antennae are curved and longer than the beetles body. The body (back) is black with irregular white spotting and has a glossy look. The neck is solid black. The legs have a blue look.  The beetles can fly but don’t like to and can be seen feeding on host trees from spring to a hard fall frost.

Many native wood borers look similar to ALB which can be a problem.  While these pests are damaging they do have natural controls.  The most common beetle look alike turned in to me when I was at Extension was the cottonwood borer, which has all black antennae and white areas on the neck.

The beetles prefer trees with more than a 4 inch diameter but have been found on smaller trees.  They leave scars on trees when they deposit eggs.  Like the Emerald borer ALB larvae feed in the trees cambium layer, disrupting food and water flow, eventually killing the tree. They live for about nine months inside the tree, and then emerge as adults. The hole they leave behind is dime sized and perfectly round, as if someone used a drill on the tree.

When inspecting trees look for raised, brown or yellow scarred areas on trunks and branches, the dime sized exit holes, piles of sawdust like material on the ground or in the crotches of branches and the adult beetles.  Trees infested will likely have dead branches, especially near the top, look unhealthy, and many will have sprouts appearing at the base of the tree. 

Michigan’s efforts to control the Emerald Ash borer were largely ineffectual because we decided not to cut down and destroy infected trees early in the game. Quarantines were slow in coming and not enforced well enough.  However all the states that have found ALB have rapidly destroyed trees and quarantined large areas around them.  This has already eliminated them in 3 state originally affected.   Canada also had ALB but they instituted a strict removal and quarantine policy that allowed them to declare the pest eradicated this year.

Like EAB, saving a tree involves expensive systemic insecticide injections and from my reading, it isn’t quite as effective with ALB.  Therefore prevention is the key.  And like EAB, this beetle is primarily transported to new areas by humans, usually in firewood.  Don’t transport firewood; buy firewood where you intend to have a fire.  Fire will destroy the larvae, but some wood always seems to be left unburned at campsites.

If you think you have spotted ALB in Michigan here is the person to contact, Robin R. Rosenbaum, Plant Industry Section Manager, Pesticide and Plant Pest Mgmt. Division Michigan Department of Agriculture, P. O. Box 30017, Lansing, MI 48909.  Phone 517-335-6542 or email rosenbaumr@michigan.go

If you capture a beetle you can put it in a jar with rubbing alcohol or freeze it and send it to MSU Diagnostic Center.  Call your local Extension office to see if they can help, but if they can’t or won’t, call  517-355-4536 or go to   http://www.pestid.msu.edu/   for more information.  Be advised they will probably charge you for the ID so it might be better to call  MDA first.

Fungicides and bees

We may need to start thinking differently about the way plant fungicides affect insects especially bees.  The traditional thinking is that fungicides kill fungi, and they don’t harm insects.  The use of insecticides on crops while bees are pollinating is often banned, but there is no restriction on using fungicides.  It’s true that fungicides don’t kill insects outright but new research suggests that being exposed to fungicides does impact bees and other pollinators.

When bees are exposed to the common fungicide chlorothalonil, ( Daconil)  they are three times more likely to have Nosema ceranae, a bee parasite linked to colony collapse disorder, according to Jeff Pettis, research leader of the USDA's Bee Research Laboratory.  It’s thought that fungicide exposure lowers the bee’s immune system and it also affects the brains of bees.  

Bees continue to live and function in the hive but not as well as the bees not exposed.  Some researchers report that bees exposed to fungicides often “get lost” or have other memory impairment. The miticide bee keepers use to control Varroa mites also affects bee health in many of the same ways. 

Some crops, such as tomatoes, are rarely pollinated by insects and it is probably safer to use fungicides on those crops. However, using any pesticides, including organic ones and homemade remedies always needs to be carefully thought out on the part of the gardener.  Nothing, even soap and water, is totally harmless, if it was why are you using it? 

Revolutionizing modern agriculture

Nitrogen is a nutrient all plants need and it is used up rapidly or lost from the soil so it is often supplied to plants by gardeners and farmers by using various types of fertilizers from manure to synthetic fertilizers.  However nitrogen is a major pollutant in our environment.  It converts to nitrates in the environment which are a major health issue in ground water and cause dead areas of surface water.  It converts to ammonia and oxides which pollute the atmosphere.

Some plants are able to supply their own needs for nitrogen by pulling nitrogen from the air.  This includes alfalfa, beans, peas and even the pesky Autumn Olive.  But most major crops require heavy nitrogen fertilization, especially corn, a major world crop.  What if we could eliminate nitrogen applications to crops in a simple, environmentally safe way?

A research professor, Professor Edward Cocking, Director of The University of Nottingham's Centre for Crop Nitrogen Fixation( in the UK) may have found a way to revolutionize agriculture and vastly reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizers.  The researchers at the facility found a naturally occurring bacteria on sugar cane, that when applied to seeds of any crop, will penetrate the seed and allow every cell the new plant makes to get nitrogen from the air.

The new product has been named N-Fix and is patented.  Research in closed facilities has been very successful in all major crop plants and field trials are beginning.  The process of extracting the bacteria and coating seeds is relatively cheap, environmentally safe and doesn’t affect food safety, flavor or quality of plants grown from coated seeds. This is not genetic engineering, genes of the plant are not changed, they just form a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship with bacteria.

This product sounds almost too good to be true, but if further trials work out this could be a major turning point in feeding the world while reducing pollution.  Current estimates are that the product could be on the market in 3 years.

Enjoy some new potatoes with butter this week.

Garden as though you will live forever. William Kent

More Information
Here’s a new article on Examiner you may enjoy reading

How to grow Cardinal Climber vine
If you would like to grow a vine that is pretty, easy to grow, and attracts hummingbirds and butterflies try the Cardinal Climber (Ipomoea sloteri.) This vine is a cross between two plants native to the southern part of North America and Central America, the Cypress Vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) and the Scarlet Morning glory (Ipomoea coccinea). It’s an annual vine but in some cases it will re-seed and return in the garden for many years, just like Morning Glories. Read more at :

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 23, 2013 - Kim’s Weekly Garden Newsletter
From Kim Willis

These weekly garden notes are written by Kim Willis, unless another author is noted, and the opinions expressed in these notes are her opinions and do not represent any other individual, group or organizations opinions.

Hi Gardeners
I’m back.  My father is home from the hospital and recovering nicely and I can now concentrate on writing and gardening again.  I hope you enjoy this edition of the newsletter.

I woke up this morning to a rousing thunderstorm but it didn’t leave behind much rain, only 2/10 of an inch.  I am hoping for more later today.  But it did bring the humidity back and that I don’t want.  Rainfall has been spotty in our area.  I saw the lawns in Caro last week were brown and crunchy, ours was still green.  Some people in the state got lots of rain, others very little.

The corn on July 10.
On July 10 we had a brief little storm roll through mid-afternoon with heavy rain and straight line wind.  It flattened my beautiful sweet corn, 5 feet tall and beginning to tassel.  It also blew over some hollyhocks and tall lilies but that wasn’t a big deal.  I spent 5 hours the next morning trying to straighten the corn with a bunch of stakes and string.  Field corn will sometimes right itself after being blown over but this corn was closely planted and I worried that lying in a pile in the heat and humidity would rot the plants.

My hard work did pay off – I managed to get a good deal of it back up and it is now 6-7 feet high and forming nice ears.  My husband says that if you count the time and effort spent on this corn each ear will cost us about $3 but that’s ok.  

The corn on July 21, standing again.
The heat and humidity plus my family problems kept me from doing much gardening for about 10 days and I found that it’s very hard to catch up this time of year. I have been weeding like crazy the last few days and my husband has been mowing.   My pumpkins went from vines about 3 feet long to vines over 20 feet long in just about 10 days. My tomatoes have grown so large this year that they out grew my heavy duty cages and I had to spend a couple hours tying them up to the fence behind them.  They are loaded with fruit but this awful humidity has caused the beginnings of septoria leaf spot on some of my plants and I am scrambling to keep on top of that too. 

In the garden color is everywhere.  Phlox, daylilies, Rose of Sharon, beebalm, lavender, and many other things are blooming.   My dahlias are blooming as well as zinnias and sunflowers.  Make sure to use some liquid fertilizer on your container plants to keep them blooming well, but don’t do it when the plants are wilted or when the temperature is over 90 degrees.

Color in the garden..
The fireflys are abundant this year.  Make sure you get outside one evening and see them flashing.  Mosquitoes are abundant too, so use repellant when you go out.  And I am happy to say that I have been seeing more frogs and even a few baby toads now.  And one big fat toad, the first I have seen this year, is living in our one remaining dog kennel with a dog.  For the last week it has been staying right around her food and water dishes, maybe catching flies. This is the inside portion of her kennel, in the barn.  It hides between the water dish and the wood rail at the bottom of the run.  She doesn’t touch it, of course, as toads make dogs sick.  And it doesn’t seem concerned about me filling the food and water either.  It can get outside if it wants, but I guess inside where its cooler is preferable.

Diseases and pests in the garden

A shout out to everyone- late blight has been found on a potato field in Allegan County, Michigan.  Conditions are very favorable for late blight and tomatoes get the same strain as potatoes.  You may want to start spraying your tomatoes with a fungicide.  There is no cure for late blight and your whole planting will die in just a few days if it arrives at your place.  No organic products work on late blight- none.  Homeowners should use a product that contains chlorothalonil ,( Daconil) and follow label directions exactly.  This will also control the other fungal diseases like early blight and septoria, which are having a field day in this weather.

Tomato hornworms are plentiful this year.  The best way to control these is to simply scout your plants early in the evening and morning and pick them off.  I also saw some of those pesky Japanese beetles on my dahlias in the last few days.  They have not been plentiful this year and I hope that isn’t going to change.  Check your plants for them- all kinds of plants- because getting an early start on control is important.

 powdery mildew is on the rise on many garden plants from squash to phlox.  Fungicides are your best bet at control.

My potatoes are loaded with the larvae of Colorado potato beetles.  The adult beetles are yellow with black stripes and an orangish head and are much like a lady beetle.  They lay orange eggs in clusters on the backs of leaves which hatch into fat red worm-like larvae with a dark head that get more yellowish as they grow.  They can become beetles in about 10 days in warm weather and several generations will occur each summer.  The last generation will pupate in the soil over winter to start the cycle again next year.

I am not going to spray as my potatoes are about ready to harvest.  I am picking them off, which isn’t fun.  Insecticides will work if you want to use them.

At the farm market

It’s a great year at the farm markets with abundant produce and a wide variety of produce is on the market.  Cherry and raspberry harvest is slowing down, but blueberries are on the market.  Some areas have peaches. Tomatoes small and slicing are becoming more abundant, you’ll also find peppers, summer squash, early cabbage, new potatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, greens of many types, carrots, green beans and even some early sweet corn. Melons, grapes, and apples are still not ripe locally.

Almanac stuff

I didn’t do any almanac stuff this month but just so you know, the full moon this month, which was yesterday, is called the Buck moon, because deer bucks start popping out their new antlers this month.  And farmers sometimes call it the Hay moon. It’s  National Blueberries, Eggplant, Lettuce, Mango, Melon, Nectarine and Garlic month as well as National Hotdog and Vanilla Ice Cream month.
This month’s flower is the sunflower and the birthstone is the ruby.  Good days to make jams and jellies are 23-24 and 26,27, 30-31  and for canning, 25-26-27.

Crop rotation

Farmers have practiced crop rotation since at least Biblical times.  Crop rotation is planting a different crop in a field each year. Around here the rotation includes wheat, corn and soybeans, and sometimes alfalfa and sugar beets are added to the rotation.  Farmers know crop rotation works; they can see the difference in a crop from year to year.  But lately some farmers have been betting on technology, new genetics and high nitrogen fertilizer to grow corn in the same spot for several years in a row, because corn prices have been high.  It’s called continuous corn cropping, CCC.

The newest research, however, shows that this is probably a bad tactic. We have known for some time that different types of plants use nutrients from the soil differently and that’s one basis for crop rotation, to prevent depletion of certain nutrients.  Crop rotation also prevents pest insect build ups to some extent. But research done in the UK and published in Nature's The ISME Journal has also showed that each type of crop changes the soil profile of microorganisms.  

Soil is a complex brew of many living organisms, which each have a job to do. Until recently it was very tedious to analyze soil for all the various organisms working in it.  A new method uses the RNA of things living in the soil to provide a snapshot of what is there quickly and reliably and across a wide range of living things from bacteria to fungi.  The research shows that wheat causes the least change in soil organisms from “virgin” soil and corn shifts the soil profile toward more protozoa and nematodes. Crops like beans and peas shift the soil profile to more fungal organisms.

While it seems like such a shift might benefit a crop grown there a second year, it doesn’t.  Soil needs a balanced mixture of all types of organisms to be healthy and for plants to be able to use the soil nutrients efficiently.   Each year one type of crop is planted in the same spot, the soil profile is shifted some more to favor some organisms over another.
Additional recent research at Pennsylvania State University found that farmers who were following CCC instead of crop rotation were as successful as those who did practice crop rotation only if the weather was perfect and that was only for an additional year or two.  Each year corn was planted in the same field the yield dropped, even if fertilizer and pesticide use was increased.  And if there was a weather problem corn planted in a rotation schedule always did better than CCC.  The old ways are the right ways.

This has some implications for home gardeners.  Many of you resist crop rotation because your garden is small or because you like things a certain way.  Some of you think that extra fertilizer and pesticides will do the trick just like the farmers.  But when you change the soil profile of microorganisms by planting the same plants in the same spot year after year, you will ultimately ruin the soil and then no plants will grow well in it.

Frogs in milk

Since we are on the subject of old ways here’s an interesting tidbit for you.  There is an old Russian folk remedy to keep milk from going sour so quickly and that is to put a frog in the milk.  Scientists have said for years that this is an old wives tale, but then, for some reason, they decided to do some research on the practice. A study published in the ACS' Journal of Proteome Research recently details what the researchers found.

Researchers tested Russian Brown frogs, a common species in Russia, and found that the frogs secreted 21 substances that had antibiotic or other medical properties through their skin.  It is believed that these substances protect the frogs from disease organisms found in wet, dirty environments.  The research found that some of the secretions killed Salmonella and Staphylococcus bacteria, (organisms that would cause milk to spoil) as well as prescription antibiotics did.  So maybe the peasants weren’t so dumb, but I’ll stick with pasteurization.


No one wants to get a tick on them but recent findings about these sneaky blood suckers are quite alarming.  Cases of Lyme disease, carried by ticks, are steadily rising as are cases of other tick caused diseases, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Powassan encephalitis.  This week researchers traced a new potentially deadly disease to tick bites, called Heartland virus or HRTV.   Lone Star ticks, a common species, carry the disease.  So far the disease has only been found in northwestern Missouri, but researchers speculate it will be found in other areas of the country.  Another newly emerged tick transmitted disease has recently been discovered in China.

Powassan encephalitis( a brain-nervous system disease) is becoming a problem in New York State and babesiosis  in Connecticut . ( It causes blood problems similar to malaria.)  There were 35,000 cases of Lyme disease in the US last year.  Most tick carried diseases can cause serious illness and even death.  Researchers are worried because the range of ticks and their populations are expanding and there seems to be an “uptick” in emerging diseases and variants of old diseases carried by ticks.

Five species of ticks are found in Michigan; Lone Star tick, Black Legged tick, , American Dog Tick, Brown Dog Tick and Woodchuck Tick, with the first 3 being common.  The highest tick populations are on the west side of Michigan but I identified several ticks each season in Lapeer County.  Michigan State University entomologist Howard Russell says that tick populations are expanding in Michigan.

How do you protect yourself from ticks and the diseases they carry? Discourage deer and other wildlife from being close to your home.  Raccoons, opossums, skunks, woodchucks, and mice, as well as deer can carry ticks into an area.   Keep an area of grass mowed short around the home and make wide, mowed paths through “wild” areas you travel through on your property.  Ticks wait on tall grass and weeds near trails and jump on animals, including you.  When you travel and intend to be in wilderness areas ask what types of ticks might be found there.

Wear insect repellant and long pants tucked into boots when walking in wild areas. Stay in the middle of trails.  Inspect yourself thoroughly for ticks as soon as you get inside.  Some diseases require a long feeding period to be transmitted, but some require only about 15 minutes so check for ticks frequently when you know there are ticks in the area.  Also check your pets and horses for ticks frequently.  Dogs can be treated with insecticides that repel or kill ticks along with fleas.

Ticks don’t attach themselves to you right away so some can be easily removed.  If they are attached grab it near the head with tweezers and pull slowly and steadily to get it out.  There are tick removal gadgets you can buy if you encounter the problem frequently.  You can get a tick identified if you take it to MSU Diagnostic Services in East Lansing.  Some Extension offices may help you do that.

Doctors are starting to think about tick carried diseases more frequently when presented with odd illnesses but if you have a fever and rash and know you have been bitten by a tick tell your doctor.   Also if you or anyone in your family has an unexplained neurological or blood illness ask to be tested for tick carried diseases.  It could save your life.

Get some weeding done in this cooler weather and don’t forget to visit the honey festival Saturday.
Garden as though you will live forever. William Kent

More Information
Dill in the dark.

Growing and Using Dill
By Kim Willis, first published on Examiner.com
Dill, (Anethum graveolens), is a pleasant, common herb that is quite easy for the average Michigan gardener to grow. A few plants can be tucked into the back of a flowerbed, where they will look pretty as well as give you dill flowers and seeds. Most people are familiar with the way dill smells and tastes, you only have to open a jar of dill pickles to get the spicy aroma. Dill is native to the Mediterranean region and has been used as a flavoring and as a medicinal plant for thousands of years.
Dill has a long use as a medicinal plant to calm gas and nervous stomachs. Seeds were given to children to chew on and dill tea or a few drops of dill oil were given to infants to soothe colic pains. Dill tea can be used for heartburn and chewing on dill seeds will freshen the breath.
One caution - pregnant women can safely eat dill pickles and dill flavored foods but should avoid dill in concentrated amounts such as teas and chewing on seeds. Dill was used to start menstruation in earlier times and may, according to some herbalists, bring on contractions.
Growing Dill
Dill is an annual plant; it completes its life cycle in a season and dies. However if you let some go to seed you will seldom have to plant it again after the first time, it will pop up everywhere the next season. Dill seeds are small, hard ovals with 3 ridges on them and the seeds smell distinctively like dill. Plant the seeds shallowly, after the danger of frost has passed and the soil is warm. Thin plants to about 8 inches apart. A gardener seldom needs more than 2 or 3 dill plants for home use.
Dill grows in almost any soil but prefers a sunny location. It is tolerant of dry conditions but should be watered if it wilts and will grow larger if watered moderately. It generally does not need fertilizer. Dill has few pests or diseases but does not compete well with weeds when young.
The dill plant generally consists of a single, hollow stalk with scattered feathery leaves along it. The plant can grow to 3 feet tall or more in a great spot. If you are unsure if you are growing dill you have only to crush a feathery leaf to smell - all parts of dill smell just like dill pickles!
In mid-summer dill plants begin producing flat umbrella shaped clusters of tiny yellow flowers. These flowers quickly turn into hard brown seeds. If you want to collect the seeds cut the drying heads before they are completely brown and store them in a warm, dry, dark place until the seeds easily shake out of the seed pods. If you wait too long to cut the drying flower clusters, the seeds may be scattered on the ground and lost.
Using Dill
Dill flowers are used in pickle making as are the seeds. Whole dill flowers are picked and added to jars of cucumbers or other vegetables before processing. Dill seeds are also used in pickles and to flavor other dishes. Dill leaves are sometimes used to flavor dishes such as fish also.
To obtain dill flavor soak the crushed seeds in vinegar or add to a small amount of boiling water and let steep. You can put them in a bag and bang them with a hammer to crush or run them in a food processor for a few seconds. Dry dill seed is sometimes ground like black pepper and added to spice mixes. Commercially oil is distilled from dill seeds and that is often used in flavorings.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Kim's weekly garden newsletter July 9, 2013

July 9, 2013 - Kim’s Weekly Garden Newsletter

These weekly garden notes are written by Kim Willis, unless another author is noted, and the opinions expressed in these notes are her opinions and do not represent any other individual, group or organizations opinions.

Hi Gardeners

Catalpa flowers
The only thing good about this weather is that I don’t have to water the garden.  I was watering last week; we didn’t get any good rain until yesterday.  Yesterday we got about an inch.  It feels like we got a lot more rain over the past week because it’s been so humid.  Now I just need to go around and check containers to see that they don’t have too much water in them.  Even though some containers technically have drainage, heavy rain can overwhelm the system, and container drainage holes often clog.  Plants die quickly in waterlogged soil.  Check your containers and either tilt them carefully to drain water off or punch some additional holes near the bottom.

The catalpa trees in my yard are snowing, throwing their blossoms down like popcorn on a theater floor.  They do look beautiful when they are blooming but they are messy trees.  People have been stopping to ask me what they are, and I offer them seedlings pulled up from my flower beds, I can almost always find one.  I warn them they are messy trees, not only the flowers fall and turn into a brown slimy mess on the lawn but little stems break off all the time in the wind.  The seed pods that form after the flowers split open turn into twisted sticks that rain down on the yard all fall and well into the next spring.

The pods look like bean pods, but the seeds inside are more like milkweed seeds, flat with a tuft of fluff that disperses them in the wind.  Viola! catalpas everywhere.  The trees are fast growing and sprout back from the roots if cut.    There is some southern charm to the big heart shaped leaves and the flowers are frothy, lacy beauties that smell good too.  Plant them away from the front lawn and you’ll probably like them.

Double flower on tomato.
Other things that are blooming now in my garden are the daylilies, gaillardia, rudbeckias, hollyhocks, lavender and beebalm.  I have large buds on the dinnerplate dahlias and the oriental lilies, early for both of them.   I have an old refrigerator painted green and filled with soil that I plant salad greens in by the back door.  Last year there was a tomato plant added and this year a volunteer plant has popped up and it grew very quickly.  It is flowering and the flowers are double, something I have never seen before on a tomato.  I am wondering if it will produce fruit and what kind.

Tomato spraying

Speaking of tomatoes, late blight has popped up on potatoes in Wisconsin and on tomatoes in a few southern states.  MSU has a yellow alert out for late blight, which means conditions are very good for late blight to pop up and that commercial potato and tomato farmers should begin spraying fungicides once a week.  As a gardener you may want to start using a fungicide on your tomatoes and potatoes.  A product containing daconil and labeled for home vegetable gardens is probably your best bet.  Follow the label directions precisely.  Organic fungicides and remedies are on the market and in articles, but for late blight no organic product has ever shown good protection.  They may help with some other tomato fungal diseases.

Other tomato fungal problems are going to start popping up now.  Many gardens already have early blight and septoria leaf spot.  Remove diseased leaves immediately and scout your plants daily.  Your best plan for a good tomato crop is preventative spraying with a good fungicide.  Since tomatoes produce new leaves continuously you can help the plant even if it is already infected.  Remove the infected leaves and the spray will help protect newly sprouted leaves.  However this will not work if the plant gets late blight- once it gets it its gone.

Side dress corn

If you haven’t done so already it’s time to sidedress ( add fertilizer) to your sweet corn.  Use a slow release granular garden fertilizer between the rows just before a rain or good watering. Use one with a high first number, ( the nitrogen)  such as 10-10-10 or higher.  Blood meal is used by some organic farmers although you can find good organic fertilizers on the market now.   Try to keep the fertilizer off the corn stems, about 2-3 inches from the stalks.  Spread the fertilizer at the rate recommended on the bag.

Corn is a heavy user of nitrogen and will start to yellow and slow down in growth if nitrogen is lacking. It uses the most nitrogen just before and during the tasseling( pollination) stages.   Heavy rains tend to deplete nitrogen so this year side dressing is important.  You want your corn to have deep green sturdy looking leaves and stems. 

At the Market

Farm markets should be offering green beans, early summer squash, early raspberries, and many types of herbs along with the items mentioned last week, salad greens, radishes, beets, green onions, peas, and cherries .  Strawberries are probably done.  You may find cherry and some other small tomatoes and young cukes.   New potatoes will start coming on the market soon.  Blueberries are probably 2 weeks away along with sweet corn and the main tomato harvest.

Why there are fewer Japanese beetles this year

Many people are remarking on the near absence of Japanese beetles this year but a report from Ohio State University says it mainly has to do with the drought last year.  When Japanese beetle eggs hatch into grubs in July and August they need moist soil to do well.  Drought last year means fewer nasty beetles this year.  But what will this year’s wet weather do for next year’s crop of beetles?

It’s good that there are fewer grubs in the lawn, you won’t need to apply grub control and that’s good news for bees.  Most grub control products now contain imidacloprid or another one of the pesticides called neonicotinoids.  Research continues to show that these products disrupt bee behavior, and kill bee larvae even in very miniscule amounts.  Most neonicotinoids are now banned in Europe for this and other reasons. 

I read something an MSU Turf specialist said – he wasn’t worried about bees being affected by neonicotinoids because bees only feed on flowering plants with nectar, which lawn grass doesn’t have.  How many lawns out there have clover, dandelions and many other types of flowering plants that bees like growing in them?  What about flower beds in lawns?, since neonicotinoids don’t harm plants, people aren’t always careful about where the pesticide lands.    If you must have a lawn please accept the fact that it may have bugs and grubs and don’t treat it with pesticides.  More lawn chemicals are used in the US than chemicals used on farm crops and they are a major contributor to water pollution and to harming beneficial insects and birds.

Cherries and birds

I posed this question on the Lapeer MG Facebook page and got some responses that confirm what I thought- there are fewer birds this year.  I have been picking lots of cherries, although they are small, and that is very unusual, the birds generally get them first.  And the mulberries are falling off the tree instead of being eaten.  Other people are saying the same thing.  And it seems it isn’t just in Michigan, the blueberry harvest in Florida was supposedly better than usual because there was little bird damage.

Now I like getting cherries, but I am a little concerned about the bird situation.  My feeders aren’t needing to be filled nearly as often as this time last year.  Even the grape jelly and hummingbird feeders are not emptying as fast.  I searched a bit on line and found birders talking about fewer birds, lots of people reporting dead birds too.  Some speculation is that the drought killed a lot of young birds last year and the cold, late spring hindered and killed a lot of birds flying north this spring.  Some think the birds are actually going farther north this year.  (Other scenarios include government experiments, aliens and all kinds of diseases.)

If you have noticed fewer birds this year or lots of dead birds shoot me a line.  I am going to do some more research, I do see that the Christmas bird count reported large decreases in many common birds.  For example there was a 23% decrease in American Goldfinches and I know I have seen much fewer of them and hardly need to fill my thistle feeder more than every other week.  Cedar waxwings were down 66%, Blue Jays 25%, even house sparrows were down 12%. 

There were fewer than 10 Bobwhites counted this year and no tree swallows or Eastern meadowlarks in Michigan.  I saw tree swallows early in the season though, and I thought they were going to nest in a bluebird box, but I haven’t seen them in some time, and my barn swallows were also here briefly and then haven’t been back.  I used to see several pairs of orioles at my feeder , now I think there is only one pair left in the area, it’s hard to tell them apart but the jelly isn’t being eaten very well.  Wrens however are in abundance here.

Moths and bats

Switching to other things that fly, some interesting research on moths has come out this month, from several places.  At night when you think your garden is sleeping a deadly war rages between bats and their favorite food, moths,( no a bat likes moths better than mosquitoes, more meat).  Bats use sonar radio waves-echolocation- to locate their prey and it seems that many species of moths have developed sonar jamming techniques; they emit high frequency sound waves to disrupt bat sonar. 

Several species of large, night flying moths have this ability.  And not only did they develop this as they evolved alongside bats, they also found other uses for their sounds.  These moths are some of the few insects that can hear, they have ears that detect high frequency noise, and they can use that noise and hearing to communicate with other moths.  Since a moths life really revolves around reproduction, most of the whispered conversation between moths has to do with seduction.  They whisper because bats can hear their sounds.  They only converse between each other when they are close to each other and then very softly.

One type of moth however found a new use for the hearing- talking adaptation.  The Asian Corn Borer moth mimics a bats hunting calls, which causes all the female moths in the vicinity to freeze to avoid bat detection.   That makes it easy for the male moth to mate them.

Research on moths was done at University of Tokyo, University of Strathclyde, and Florida Museum's McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity and reported in several publications.

The Michigan Lily

Michigan Lily

Some 10 years ago a Master Gardener gave me 3 bulbs of a native wildflower, Lilium canadense ssp. Michiganense.  They are commonly called Michigan lily and are found throughout the eastern states.  These plants are a bit tricky to grow in the garden, I have two plants left and after all these years no additional plants have popped up.  Some years they do well, sometimes they don’t even bloom.   They must be kept weeded and the stems are fragile and easily damaged when you are pulling weeds around them.   I feel lucky that I have kept two plants alive for such a long time.

Michigan lily is already listed as endangered in some states and may soon be listed here. The plants are delicate and slow to reproduce and Michigan’s overly abundant deer herd is rapidly removing them from many places. They are found in moist meadows, at the edges of woodlands and sometimes in roadside ditches. They prefer moist, rich soil and sunny to partly sunny conditions.  You rarely find large clumps of the Michigan lilies, they seem to exist in small groups of 2-3 plants or singly and the slightest environmental change can make them disappear.  They were never really common, and finding one in the wild now is a real challenge.

The Michigan lily has long narrow leaves that are whorled around a delicate stem and are concentrated near the base of the plant. Most Michigan lilies produce a single flower at the top of the plant on a long stretch of leafless stem. Plants sometimes branch at the tip to produce two or three flowers.

Michigan Lily
The Michigan lily flowers are orange on the outside, with a yellow and orange inside flecked with purple to brown spots. The flower petals are curved backward until they almost touch the outside base and they dangle facing downward with orange stamens clearly visible. The flowers are about 1½ to 3 inches in size and plants range from 24-40 inches tall.  The flowers are pollinated by hummingbirds and long tongued moths such as sphinx and hummingbird moths and larger butterflies such as the Spicebush Swallowtail and the Monarch.

Michigan lilies reproduce very slowly from seed, taking several years to bloom. The seedpods are small dark 3 sided capsules filled with flat seeds that have papery wings.  The seeds are wind dispersed.  ( I have yet to see a seed capsule in the garden.) The plants have a small scaled yellow bulb and they are said to produce rhizomes underground that eventually can  produce new bulblets and then new plants, although I have seen no evidence of that.

The Canada lily is much more yellow in color and the flower petals do not curve backward except for a bit at the tip. The Canada lily is a little larger and more robust plant but they too are endangered. Michigan lilies are also like the cultivated Turks cap lilies, but those have larger flowers and plants, the center of the flower generally has a green throat and the bulbs are white instead of the pale yellow of the Michigan lily.  The anthers of the Michigan Lily are a ½ inch or less in size and Turks cap lilies have anthers larger than ½ inch.   Michigan lilies are also mistaken for tiger lilies; those have a different leaf, bulbils in the leaf axils and are larger with petals that don’t curve backward as far as the Michiganese.

Keep an eye on the sky today- severe weather is possible, especially this evening.
Garden as though you will live forever. William Kent

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Garden update July 6, 2013

The grass is filling in where the wood chip pile used to be.

The corn, potatoes and tomatoes are growing like crazy.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Weekly Garden newsletter July 2, 2013

July 2, 2013 - Kim’s Weekly Garden Newsletter
From Kim Willis

These weekly garden notes are written by Kim Willis, unless another author is noted, and the opinions expressed in these notes are her opinions and do not represent any other individual, group or organizations opinions.

Hello Gardeners

Hollyhocks and ladybells
A gloomy day has turned pretty and I am anxious to get out there and do some weeding.  This week’s newsletter will be a little lighter than last weeks as I want to tidy up the garden and house in preparation for visitors over the holidays.  There’s a chance of rain over the next few days so I need to take advantage of the sun when I can.  

I had 2 1/4 inches of rain in about an hour last Thursday.  That was the only substantial rain we had in the last week but it was enough.  I know some of you had several more days of rain showers.  The rain has been very spotty across the region.  

The wheat is starting to ripen, the fields are turning golden.  Second cutting of hay has been made in many areas.  The catalpa and elderberries are in bloom, showy and tuberose milkweed, heliopsis, hosta, daylilies, dayflowers, evening primrose, hollyhocks, ladybells, and  larkspur are blooming as are many other garden plants.

Cabbage moths, those pretty white “butterflies” are out and about laying eggs on your cabbage and broccoli, you may want to scout for and remove the eggs or cover plants with netting.  Squash vine borers are also out.  Some people are seeing potato bugs and rose chafers ( more info below)  are doing their damage a little later this year.  I haven’t seen any Japanese beetles yet but I suspect they may be out soon.

West Nile Virus

At the beginning of July cases of WNV usually begin showing up in Michigan. A wild turkey tested positive for West Nile Virus in Gratiot County and several tests of mosquitoes in Saginaw County this month have confirmed that West Nile Virus is again present in Michigan.  In 2012 there were 201 human cases of WNV.  Gardeners are at particular risk because we spend more time outdoors and we often work in the evenings and early mornings in “weedy” areas.   Just one bite from an infected mosquito can result in a disease that could result in death or life changing illness.  People over 50 are more likely to have a severe form of West Nile Virus.  People die every year in Michigan from the virus.

West Nile Virus is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito.  The mosquito has to have fed on an infected bird before feeding on you.  Normally people do not get WNV from other animals, although handling birds that died from WNV carries a slight risk.  Getting a blood donation can also give you the disease, 38 cases of WNV in Michigan were found by screening blood donations in 2012.   WNV is a neurological disease, causing paralysis, seizures, and brain damage in severe cases, but many people just have flu like symptoms of fever, headache, aches and pains.  Recovering from the disease gives you immunity for some time to the disease.

Horses can get very sick or die from WNV but there is a vaccine for horses to prevent the disease.  Other animals get the disease but seldom get very sick from it.  Crows and other birds in the Corvid family such as Blue Jays are more likely to die from WNV than other common birds.  Some counties test dead birds for the disease.

There is no vaccine for humans and no cure for WNV so preventing mosquito bites is the best way to stay WNV free.  Always wear mosquito repellant when working outside, even in the sun.  There is some concern that new mosquito varieties ( to Michigan)  that are active in the daytime could increase the risk of people getting WNV.  Wearing light colored clothing, long sleeves, pants and socks also helps.  Keep water dumped out of trash, tires, flower pot saucers, and other things because mosquitoes can breed in small amounts of water.  Empty pet dishes and wading pools frequently.  Clean clogged gutters.  Treat  ponds and other standing water with a BT product, which is a natural biological product that does little harm to the environment while killing mosquito larvae.  Make sure windows and doors have good screens.

Living in the city actually puts you at more risk of contracting WNV.  85% of the WNV cases last year occurred in the Detroit and Grand Rapids area.  Oakland and Macomb counties also had high rates of WNV.  There were 15 deaths last year from the virus.  There are at least 3 other viruses with serious consequences that can be transmitted by mosquito bites.   Take West Nile Virus seriously and protect yourself from mosquito bites.

Farm market scams

You may have gotten a tomato or two from your garden, I know I have, but if you go to the farmers market and see a big display of large ripe tomatoes be very cautious with your purchase.   Some local producers using hoop houses may be marketing cherry tomatoes or even small amounts of larger tomatoes that they grew but most of the people who display large amounts of big ripe tomatoes this time of the year are buying them at the Eastern Market for resale.  As long as you know that it may be fine, but if you don’t want to buy tomatoes from Florida or Mexico it’s not fair to be told they are locally grown.  They won’t taste as good either, and are probably full of pesticides.

Talk to the person who you buy your produce from, ask questions like what variety is this and if they use a hoop house or green house to produce the tomatoes.  Ask when the crop was picked. You don’t want to penalize legitimate growers who were lucky enough to have an early crop, but be very skeptical of the seller who has the only large quantity of that type of common produce on sale.  If that seller also has other items that aren’t in season yet such as sweet corn, peaches, melons etc.  there’s a good chance he or she is reselling items purchased from the Eastern Market or other out of state produce wholesalers.  There is one vendor at the Lapeer Farmers market who is known for this and its very common at larger farmers markets.

Bee and beebalm
If you take the time to go to a farmers market, you probably want locally grown seasonal produce.  It helps to know what is ripe and available in your area at the time you are shopping.  Right now in Southeast Michigan through the thumb area these items should be at the farmers market from local growers; salad greens, radishes, beets, green onions, peas, cherries,( beginning) strawberries(almost done).  You may see a few locally grown cherry or early slicing tomatoes and small cucumbers.  In the far southern regions of Michigan raspberries are just beginning to ripen and some apricots are available.

What isn’t being grown locally and ripening now is sweet corn and melons.  These are popular 4th of July picnic items but you may as well buy them at the supermarket as at the farmers market because they probably came from the same places.

As far as organic produce goes, you have to trust the person selling the produce.  It probably won’t look as perfect as non- organic produce but that’s a hard distinction to make in some cases.  Getting to know the seller is your best bet. 

Best trees to attract birds

An article in Audubon Magazine this month says the best trees to plant for attracting birds are willows, oaks, plums and cherries.   Birds enjoy caterpillars, worms and bugs, especially when feeding youngsters and oaks and willows attract lots of those pests.  The fruit trees provide those items as well as a juicy dessert.  Any trees or shrubs that provide berries are also great for birds.  Of course you won’t be treating those trees for their pests or their value as bird feeders will be lost.

Canary seed flour

Speaking of feeding birds, researchers in Canada are developing a strain of canary seed that is turned into flour much like wheat. The new canary seed lacks the tiny hairs that keep conventional canary seed from being used as food for humans.  Canary seed is higher in protein than most other grains and best of all its gluten free.  The new canary seed can be grown and harvested with conventional farm machinery and used in place of wheat flour in most recipes.  Canary seed can be grown wherever wheat can be grown.

Rose chafer beetle

Rose Chafer beetles generally begin emerging about the time grapes flower.  This year they are a little later than usual, with populations just coming to peak about now.  If you live on sandy soil your garden may be particularly hard hit.  The name rose chafer is misleading.  While they are very attracted to rose flowers, they’ll eat the leaves and flowers on many kinds of plants.

Rose chafer beetles are tan, sometimes with a greenish cast, with reddish orange legs and short antennae.  They are about a 1/2 inch long when mature and are strong fliers.    In June they emerge from the soil where they have been pupating and begin feeding on everything in sight.  Plants are sometimes covered with the beetles.

Damage to plants is mainly cosmetic; the plants do recover when the beetles stop feeding and die, near the end of June.  But the loss of flowers and the sight of leaves with only the veins remaining make many gardeners ready to fight.  In June lots of chewed up leaves and flowers may mean a rose chafer invasion is taking place.

For those who grow grapes, rose chafers mean more than cosmetic damage.  Grapes are generally blooming at the time the rose chafer emerges and the hungry beetles love to eat grape flowers and buds, which means the loss of the grape crop.

The life cycle of the rose chafer begins when adult beetles lay eggs in sandy soil in June.  Tiny grubs soon hatch and burrow deeper into the soil.  Unlike the European chafer beetle grub the rose chafer grub does not damage turf grass roots.  It grows all summer, and then goes deep into the soil to rest for winter.  In the spring grubs move toward the surface, eat for a short time then turn into pupae for a couple of weeks, before emerging from the soil in June to start the cycle over.

Since female rose chafer beetles prefer to lay eggs in sandy soil, higher numbers of the beetles are found in gardens planted on sandy soil.  But the beetles can fly quite a distance to feed.

To control rose chafers gardeners can hand pick the beetles, dropping them into a container of soapy water.  Shaking a plant lightly will often dislodge dozens of the beetles.  On sturdy plants a hand vacuum can be used with the dirt cup full of beetles emptied into soapy water.  

Common garden insecticides such as Sevin and malathion will kill the beetles.  But insecticides will need to be re-applied after each heavy rain and every 10-14 days.  Systemic insecticides, like those found in rose care products, will work but the beetle has to take a bite of the plant before it is poisoned, so some damage continues to occur. 

Whenever using a pesticide, read and follow the label directions for mixing and applying the product exactly.  Make sure the plants you want to protect and the insects you want to kill are listed on the label.  Different insects or different plants can have different application and mixing instructions.
Plants could be covered with row cover material while the beetles are heavy.  It must be securely anchored to the ground so beetles don’t crawl under it.  Grapes though, need to have visits from pollinators to make fruit so a row cover won’t work.  Pesticides may also kill some pollinators but are the best option for grapes if beetle numbers are high.

Some early studies by the USDA have found that spraying the kaolin clay based product called Surround® on grape vines helped repel rose chafer beetles.   That product could also be sprayed on trees and shrubs being eaten by rose chafers but be aware that it gives sprayed plants a whitewashed appearance.

There is a lure scent that has been developed for rose chafers that can be used in Japanese beetle traps.  If you use a product like this put it far away from the plants you want to protect.  Otherwise it will draw more rose chafers to the area which may feed on plants before entering the trap.

One thing you do not want to do is to encourage your chickens or other birds to eat the beetles.  Rose chafer beetles contain a toxin that can sicken or kill birds and small animals. That’s why they are so abundant and damaging; they are not eaten by other wild things.

I hope everyone has a great 4th of July holiday.
Garden as though you will live forever. William Kent

More Information

This article by Kimberley Willis was originally published at Examiner.com

Evening Primrose

There are several species of evening primroses, (Oenothera), that are native to North America and they are often listed in wildflower books.  But in southeast Michigan the evening primrose tribe is most likely to be found in gardens  and so it will be listed here as a garden plant.  Most Michigan gardeners can grow the evening primroses; they are hardy to at least zone 4.  Domesticated evening primroses bloom over a long period and are very easy to grow.  They are often used as filler in perennial beds.

The name evening primrose is confusing, as common names can be, because Oenothera are not related to the true primrose family and many species stay open in the daytime as well.  Oenothera missouriensis is commonly called Sundrops or Missouri primrose.  It is a compact plant with 5 inch yellow flowers that stay open during the day.  The other evening primrose commonly found in Michigan gardens is the Showy evening primrose or Oenothera speciosa, which gets about 30 inches tall with pretty light pink flowers.

Two other varieties of evening primrose may turn up in gardens. The common evening primrose, Oenothera biennis, which is a rangy plant that can get up to 5 feet high in good conditions, has small yellow flowers that do open in the evening.   The prairie evening primrose, Oenothera albicaulis, has white flowers.

The cutleaf evening primrose, ( Oenothera laciniata), is a weed of nursery pots and sometimes in fields.  It forms a rosette of lobed, deeply cut leaves with a prominent white vein.  It blooms close to the ground with yellow or reddish small flowers and is not a suitable garden subject.

The leaves of most evening primrose are narrow and blade-like with a toothed edge.  Stems are reddish, with small hairs. Plants may branch near the top. Plants grow higher through the summer, putting out new clusters of flowers.

Evening primrose flowers open in clusters at the top of the plant.  Each flower has 4 petals and a slightly glossy look.  The showy evening primrose has darker pink veins on the light pink flowers. Flowers are lightly fragrant. The flower size ranges from 1-5 inches wide.

Care of evening primroses

Primroses thrive in dry sunny, places but will also grow in partial shade. They will grow even in poor soil, but it must be well drained.  Gardeners will generally buy plants but evening primroses can be started from seed. Seed actually germinates quite well outside, sow it in midsummer and it will bloom the second year. They are bi-annual or short lived perennials but will spread generously for you by seed.  Many gardeners get their evening primrose plants from other gardeners who need to thin them out after a few years.

Evening primrose
Evening primroses are easy garden plants; they don’t require fertilization in all but the poorest soils and have few pests and diseases.  Taken alone they don’t make much of a statement in the border; they should be planted in generous groups.  Showy evening primrose in particular makes quite a show when planted in large drifts. If they are in a spot they like evening primroses will bloom for much of the summer. 

Occasionally the prolific evening primroses will be found where they have escaped the garden, usually in dry, sunny meadows.  In Michigan wild primroses are generally the yellow common evening primrose.  They are sometimes included in wildflower seed mixes.

Herbal use

Native American women chewed the seeds of common evening primrose for menstrual pain, PMS symptoms and other “woman” problems. The seeds are sometimes ground for herbal remedies.  In recent years the extracted oil of evening primrose seeds is being studied for a whole slew of reasons, pain relief and heart health are a few, and it is used in cosmetics for its supposed anti-aging properties.