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.
|They're here- it must be spring!|
What a gray and gloomy day. But I think we should be hope that it stays cloudy because that will help keep our weather from becoming severe later on today. Do you have a weather radio? Sirens can help those in a city that sets them off when a tornado warning is issued but in these days of heavily insulated homes and a multitude of devices inside the home spewing noise you may not hear them. People who live in rural areas may not be close enough to a siren to hear it.
Everyone should have a weather radio somewhere near your sleeping area. Weather radios sound an alarm when the weather service issues a tornado warning. Weather apps on your phone or computer are not as effective, especially if you turn them off to sleep. Weather radios can now be purchased that can be set to go off only for warnings you want to hear and in your area. This avoids being awakened for every flood, or other unwanted warning issued.
I planted lettuce and spinach last week. I have been able to do some bed cleaning and checking on plants. I was surprised to see that my old yellow “graduation” rose is covered in tiny buds right up to the tip of the branches- which are some 5-6 feet long. It had almost no winter kill even in an exposed place. However an old red rose next to it has a lot of die back. Some of my other landscape roses had moderate die back. My azaleas and holly look terrible- I hope they recover.
I spent some time trimming down a bamboo screen I have behind one small garden. I save all the stems which can be 6 feet or more long, and when I have time I strip off the side branches and leaves to make plant stakes. I had piled the stems up beside the vegetable garden but yesterday when I went out the wind had blown them all over the yard and down the street. What a mess.
Forsythia is blooming in many areas, though for some reason mine isn’t yet. I have lots of daffodils, some crocus and hyacinth in bloom. There are lots of pussy willows in bloom along the pond. The lilacs are showing green. I saw my first dandelions blooming. And the grass is growing too darned well.
I haven’t seen a hummingbird or oriole yet. My hummingbird feeders are out and I filled a dish feeder with grape jelly for the orioles. I have a pine warbler eating suet from a suet feeder, the first time I ever saw this. At first I thought it was a goldfinch in its drabber winter colors but the beak was different longer and pointed. It has an olive colored back and wings, yellow undersides and white bars on the wings. Warblers are more insect eaters than goldfinches and I suppose that is why it is feeding on suet. I have never saw goldfinches eat suet.
How nature copes
Nature is a marvelous thing, and the way our earth rebounds with life after the most horrendous calamities fall upon it is indeed wondrous. After fires, floods, drought, storms, and even nuclear accidents the earth renews herself and eventually life resumes in even the most glaring wounds to her surface.
Scientists have studied the areas around two of the most severe radioactive events in known history, the accident at Chernobyl and the accident in Japan two years ago. In Fukushima, Japan, where radiation was released two years ago, there was at first a very obvious decline in wildlife, especially songbirds. There were some obvious reproductive problems and genetic mutations in animals and plants right after the event. But some insects such as grasshoppers and dragonflies seemed to be only minimally affected. And now wildlife is beginning to return to the area.
At the Chernobyl site in Russia where the radioactive event occurred in 1986, things look quite well for wildlife. Grass, flowers and trees are growing normally and wildlife may be doing better there, in an area without humans, than in other places in Russia. Belarussian and Ukrainian researchers found lots of damage to animal and plant life in the first few years after the accident but as time went by animals and plants adapted to higher levels of radiation- and of course radiation levels dropped- and now little evidence of damage canbe seen.
|Abandoned rail station near Chernobyl 2013. commons.wikimedia|
Dr Ismael Galván, of the Spanish National Research Council, studied 16 species of songbirds at the Chernobyl site. He found that most had developed the ability to cope with high background levels of radiation by increasing their antioxidant levels, which prevents free radicals caused by exposure to radiation from causing damage. Interestingly enough birds with feather colors of red and brown had a harder time maintaining body condition than those of darker colored birds. The theory is that antioxidants are also used to form pheomelanin, which makes the pigment red-brown colors in birds.
Most birds in the study area had body conditions as good as, if not better than birds outside of the radiation zone. And as researchers study other types of wildlife in the area they are finding a burgeoning population of healthy animals who no longer have to worry about human interference with their activities. (At least outside of the researchers capturing them, drawing blood and otherwise handling them.)
After a disaster life generally returns to even the most stricken areas. It may not be the life that was there before. As people and nature change the earth, the type of plants and animals in an area may also change. Some species may vanish but others will appear. But nature heals itself. Global warming, for example, may change the species of plants and animals in your area. I suppose it might remove people from the planet, though I rather doubt it. But life will persist, count on it.
Seeds of Hope- a book review
Jane Goodall, of chimpanzee fame, has written a book about plants- Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants. The first part of the book is quite a wonderful story of her childhood experiences with plants, about daring plant explorers of earlier times and wonderful awe inspiring facts about plants. The second part of the book fades into a less than interesting rant about GM modified foods and modern farming practices. While I agree with some of what she talks about she presents nothing new in this part and lots of old, discredited science as well.
The book is not without controversy, there were many charges of plagiarism when the book was first published and it had to be withdrawn and republished with 50 some pages of foot notes. Goodall is 80 years old and passionate about saving the environment and I suppose some lee-way can be given for her less than scientific or accurate “facts” and her carefully picking only studies and opinions that support her views. To be fair, Goodall is not an expert on plants. But I also found that she had some inaccurate historical dates, misinformation about farming practices and other little errors that to me indicate too much reverence of the author for the editors to do a good editorial review of the book.
Still, I would recommend reading the book, if just for the first half of the book, which is quite enjoyable. It’s still a bit expensive; especially print editions, so you may want to wait a few months when the price will probably come down. It’s available on Amazon and through many bookstores.
Why you should grow your own greens- to prevent diarrhea
|Grow your own salad and avoid diarrhea.|
If there is one item of food that most people should grow in their own yard or even on the balcony, it’s the greens that they like to consume raw, whether that is lettuce, spinach, chard, arugula, or any other green. A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that of the 179 million cases of acute diarrhea reported each year; most were caused by consuming greens contaminated with several forms of food borne pathogens, including Norovirus, E.coli, salmonella and other noxious organisms. Other fresh vegetables and fruits are also responsible, but greens hold the most risk. (Of course once someone gets a diarrheal disease he or she can spread it to other people too.)
In the US only 2% of fresh greens you purchase in a store are actually inspected. Of that 2% that is inspected, 40 % fails inspection. That indicates that there are a lot of greens on the market that could make you sick. Many of the greens people buy in groceries come from foreign countries. Even if grown in the US there are many places where greens can pick up organisms that will send you flying for the toilet, from the fields to the packer, to the grocery store. While most people only experience temporary unpleasantness, some people can actually die from diarrhea caused by these illnesses.
Properly washing greens can prevent most cases of food caused diarrhea. And you must wash organic produce as well as conventionally grown produce! In fact organic produce is often grown using manure, which can increase your chances of getting sick. The only thing organic produce protects you from is pesticide residue. Experts disagree on washing greens that are packaged and labeled “washed.” Some say they are pretty safe and some say wash them yourself.
Wash greens by first submerging them in a clean pan of cold water. Don’t use your sink unless you scrub it with hot soap and water first. Sinks can have as many “germs” on them as your toilet. After submerging the greens for a few minutes rinse each leaf with cold, clean, running water. Pay special attention to crinkled and rough leaves. If you dry the leaves use clean paper towels to pat them or spin them dry in a clean salad spinner.
Buying local greens is good for the environment but doesn’t make them much safer than greens purchased from a store. (Shipping greens long distance, when they are basically just green, chilled water in leaf form, is environmentally irresponsible.) However the fewer times greens are handled and the less time they are stored the safer they are. It just takes one person at the farmers market handling greens with dirty hands to make you sick though.
It’s far better to grow your own salad greens and eat greens seasonally. Salad greens can be grown in containers quite easily. They are easy to grow and will grow in all but the hottest or coldest weather. It doesn’t take much space to grow greens and most don’t need full sunlight. You will not, of course, use manure on your plants, and you will keep animals out of the greens patch. And you will still wash the greens, even if they are grown at home. Greens may taste good, but they really aren’t necessary for your health, if your diet is otherwise balanced.
I would strongly recommend you pass on salads in restaurants. On a cruise ship- forget about it. Even if the greens were properly washed there are so many ways for them to be contaminated later. And eating garnishes could make you really sorry. Getting diarrhea is not a pleasant way to lose weight.
Direct seeding of annual flowers
If you are a frugal gardener who wants masses of annual flowers for color or for cutting, you’ll be happy to know that many annuals can be directly seeded in your Michigan garden and will bloom and provide color for you through much of the summer. With a little care a small packet of seeds can produce dozens, if not hundreds of flowers for you.
|Zinnias make great cut flowers and are easy to grow from seed.|
Most flowers need to be started after the danger of frost is passed. Some can be started a little earlier if the soil is warm. In Michigan, in the area around Detroit, the last expected frost date is mid-May. In the northern suburbs it’s the end of May.
Flowers that bloom well when directly seeded in the garden are marigolds, zinnias, calendula, cosmos, tithonia, sweet alyssum, morning glories, moon flowers, annual asters, nasturtiums, sunflowers, statice, bachelors buttons, strawflowers, annual baby’s breath, amaranth, larkspur, four o’clocks, and stock. Pansies and violas can be seeded in the garden but generally won’t bloom until cooler weather in the fall.
Some common annuals that people plant in their yards and containers every year such as geraniums, impatiens, begonias and petunias take a long time to bloom and should be started indoors early.
Sweet William and hollyhocks are bi-annuals that can be seeded in the garden. They will make a rosette of leaves the first year and bloom the second year.
Getting the soil ready
Most annuals need full sun. Prepare the soil in a sunny place by tilling it and removing grass roots and rocks, or use the lasagna method of gardening. In this method you scalp any vegetation in the planned flower bed with your mower, add a thick layer of newspaper on top of the soil and then a 6-8 inch layer of potting soil or compost on top of that.
Annuals are heavy feeders and need fertilization to keep flowering all summer. Before planting work a slow release fertilizer into the soil according to the label directions. Even though a soil test may indicate good soil fertility, annuals are greedy and will probably exhaust some nutrients.
|Great use of annuals at the Garden at Suncrest, Lapeer, MI.|
Read your seed package for how far apart to space plants in the row and how far apart rows should be. If plants come up too thickly you’ll need to thin them. The thinned plants can be planted somewhere else if you are careful. Don’t crowd seedlings. When they are small the bed may not look full but if they get large and are crowded they are more likely to suffer from disease and not bloom well.
Some seeds like morning glory and moonflower are hard to get to germinate because they have hard seed coats. Soak a few paper towels in warm water and put a layer in a shallow pan. Arrange the seeds so they aren’t touching each other on the toweling. Cover with another damp towel and cover the pan with clear plastic.
Place the pan in a warm place but not in direct sun. In just a few days the seeds should have swollen and began to germinate. You can then plant them in the garden. If they stick to the paper towel pull off a piece of it with each seed, rather than pull them out of the towel. Plant them with the piece of towel, but make sure it’s completely covered with soil. It will dissolve quickly in the soil.
Lightly cover the newly planted seeds with soil and water the seeded area gently. If the weather is dry water the seeded area every few days. Be careful to use something on the hose that makes a fine spray so the seeds don’t get washed around.
Annuals are great for color in the garden and for getting your children interested in gardening. They are wonderful for keeping the house full of flowers. Why not plant some annuals from seed this spring?
Some Quick Thrifty Garden tips
I was glancing through a garden supply catalog and noticed several rather expensive items that could easily be made or sourced from a dollar or thrift store to save you money. They sell red plastic reservoirs (about $8. each) to place around plants like tomatoes so that they can be slowly watered at the roots and avoid getting water on the leaves. You can drill some holes in the bottom of an old Bundt pan, (look for them in thrift stores and garage sales), paint them red if you like and slip them over plants when they are young. I suggest using a piece of plastic pipe to fill the reservoir when the plants get large and bushy.
Why spend a lot on melon or pumpkin cradles? These are lattice like pieces of plastic that keep them off the ground as the fruits mature. Slip lattice bottomed plastic flats under fruits on the ground or use the plastic paper plate holders sold in picnic supplies. These usually come in packages of 6 for a very small price. Turn them upside down under fruits.
|Bottle tree. lovemyjunk-jeannie on pinterest|
A bottle “tree” decoration sells for $30 with 12 bottles. You could easily fashion your own with pieces of reinforcement wire sold in hardware stores and recycled bottles. Cut each wire at a different length, bind or twist them together at the base, bend the top end out a bit and insert a bottle. If you can’t find pretty colored bottles paint them some plain ones.
A lot of people have broken branches around the yard this spring. Choose the straightest ones, strip off side branches and let them dry in a sunny place for plant supports. You can cut them in various lengths. You can also tie them together with wire or twine to make trellises you’d have to pay a lot for in stores.
Stay safe today – keep an eye on the sky.
“He who has a garden and a library wants for nothing” ― Cicero
Winter Freeze Injury
This article is from Ohio State Extension http://buckeyegardening.com/ While the article references Ohio it’s still relevant to Michigan gardens, which also have a lot of freeze damage.
This winter has delivered more than a few punches to the landscape. BYGLers have reported multiple instances of winter injury to flowering and evergreen landscape plants as a result of the winter wallop. While it is not unusual to see some freeze damage after an Ohio winter, this year the extent and severity was notable.
For early flowerers, timing was everything. Damage was reported on blossoms of magnolia, redbud, forsythia, and hyacinth. This occurred sporadically around the state and severity of damage seemed to depend upon where plants were in their blooming phase when the freeze hit and their location in the state. Flower buds that were still tight may pull through.
Winter burn was also noticed on many evergreen plants across the state from Cincinnati to Northern Ohio. This winter burn occurs when water is lost from the living tissue faster than the roots can replenish it. When the ground is frozen, the roots are unable to transfer water into the leaf or needle tissues exposed to biting winds and the winter sun. This results in leaf and needle desiccation that appears as bleaching, yellowing or browning, and leaf drop. Damaged plants observed with winter burn include: white pine, arborvitae, rhododendron, boxwood, ivy, weeping cherry, and magnolia. Turfgrass was also affected by the freeze with BYGL writers reporting patches of brown grass the size of dinner plates throughout lawns in Ohio. A video on turf winter burn can be viewed on the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation’s YouTube site .
These freeze injuries can often be confused with salt injury from treating icy roads. In general, if the browning plant is near a sidewalk or roadway where salt or brine could be splashed, sprayed, or become airborne drift, chances are the damage is the result of a chemical burn caused by salt or a combination of salt and freeze. Salt damage may appear as yellowing or browning and is likely to be one-sided (the side facing the road). Freeze injury will appear as yellowing, bleaching, browning, or crisping up as well. Winter burning may, but not always, appear more uniformly across the exposed plant, or on the windward side. Segments of plants below the snow line may bloom due to the insulating effects of the snow on the buried limbs. If a plant is not near a roadway, winter freeze damage is likely the culprit of early spring browning. Also consider the native range of the plant in question. Some varieties planted in Ohio may be in the northernmost reach of their range and be more susceptible to winter injury.
Here is a list of the species with winter damage found in Ohio by at our BYGL writers this week in one or more counties: magnolia, redbud, white pine, arborvitae, boxwood, ivy, Foster’s Holly, Japanese umbrella pine, rhododendron, forsythia, Canaan & Fraser Fir, yews, weeping cherry, viburnum, spruce, and turf.
For More Information:
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 at email@example.com
New - Heirloom Tomato & Herb Sale Sat, May 10, 12am – Sun, May 11, 12am, Heritage Place, Southgate, MI, United States
Master Gardeners of West Wayne Co. are having a heirloom plant sale and plant exchange at the News Herald parking lot. Call 313-719-1181 for more info.
New- Landscaping with Herbs for Large & Small Spaces Wednesday, May 14, 2014 , Noon-2:30pm, Big Beaver United Methodist Church, 3753 John R Road, Troy, MI, United States
Use herbs as part of your landscape. Light lunch included. $7. Troy Garden Club Register: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tulip Time Festival Sat, May 3, 12am Through May 10- Holland, MI, United States info- 616-396-4221
Take a road trip to Holland Mi. for a delightful Dutch holiday, thousands of tulips, fireworks, great food and more.
9th Annual Plant Sale May 10 – 11, 2014- 10-4pm, Taylor Conservatory, 22314 Northline Road, Taylor, MI, United States - Silent auction Sun, 10am-2pm
This event features unusual varieties of perennials, native & butterfly plants/vines & more. For more information contact www.taylorconservatory.org.
14th Annual Lake Orion Flower & Art Fair Friday May 9th, 11-8 and Saturday, May 10th from 9-6 In downtown Lake Orion at the intersection of Flint and Broadway Streets.
Stroll the streets and visit vendors selling all kinds of garden products and plants and also beautiful art.
Habitat for Humanity Plant Sale, Friday, May 9, 2014, 2:00 p.m. 8:30p.m and Saturday May 10, 2014, 8:00 a.m. 6:30 p.m - Oakland County Habitat for Humanity Headquarters at 150 Osmun Street, Pontiac, MI.
There will be lots of interesting and colorful plants for sale and you will be benefiting a good cause if you decide to buy some.
Seven Ponds Nature Fest and Native plant sale, Saturday, May 3, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Seven Ponds Nature Center, 3854 Crawford Road Dryden, MI (810) 796-3200
Landscaping for Birds -11:00 am
Do you love birds and want to attract more to your yard? This program will be a great introduction into all the different elements needed for birds to feel at home. You will not only create a sanctuary for the birds, but also for yourself.
Native plants in an Urban Landscape- 1:00 pm
Do you live in a town or village, and would you like to start incorporating native plants into your landscape? Not sure where to begin? This program is for you. Ruth Vrbensky of Oakland Wildflower Farms, will teach you which plants will work and which ones won’t, which like sun or shade, which like wet or dry, and how easy it is to garden with nature.
There will be other activities for all ages, take a walk to look at frogs, learn about pond critters, do spring crafts and build birdhouses. There is a wide variety of native plants for sale and a bake sale too. There may be fees for some activities.
It’s All About Plants, May 3, 2014, 8 am – 4:15 pm. Plant and Soil Science Building, 1066 Bogue Street, MSU, East Lansing, MI
MSU Horticulture Gardens presnts this day long garden event with four top garden speakers/experts, Art Cameron, Hardy Perennials and Graceful Grasses, George Papadelis, New and Underused Annuals, Tim wood, The Hunt for New and Improved Flowering Shrubs and Steve Keto, Growing Native plants. Approved for 5 MG credits.
Your registration fee includes lunch and parking plus hand outs. $79.00 until April 21, $89 after April 21. Email www.hrt.msu.edu/sp-register or call Jennifer Sweet 1-517-355-5191 ext. 1339
MSU Horticulture Gardens Public Plant Sale May 17th , 7 am-2 pm. MSU Horticulture Garden, East Lansing, MI.
Your chance to get some of the newest and oddest plants as well as old favorites. This sale is very popular, arrive early.
Hidden Lake Gardens Plant Sale Sat, May 10,10am-2pm- 6214 W Monroe Rd, Tipton, MI
Lots of plants from natives to conifers for sale. 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