I am so mad right now. My daylilies, Asiatic and oriental lilies are just starting to bloom. I walked out to the bed farthest from the house to get some pictures and found that last night the deer had eaten all the buds and flowers off the daylilies and some of the smaller Asiatic lilies. It’s time to kill some deer! They haven’t bothered those up by the house- yet. I took down my twinkling solar lights after the tulips were done; I guess maybe I need to put them back up.
It’s not like the deer don’t have anything to eat right now. Everything is lush from all the rain we’ve been having. My flowers were just dessert I guess. They left the buds on the tall trumpet lilies; I hope they don’t notice them. I thought lilies were supposed to be poisonous- I hope they were poisonous.
Well besides the lilies the beebalm and buddleia are beginning to bloom. My pot of rain lilies is blooming. Echinacea and helenium are blooming and the clematis are going strong. The roses are blooming still too. The groundcover sedums and hens and chicks are blooming. The fields are covered with ox eye daisies and by the large pond a wild sweet pea is blooming all over with deep pink flowers this year.
We got the first ripe tomato out of the garden yesterday, with more soon to follow. It’s an Early Girl from my cheater plant, the extra-large plant I buy every year to have early tomatoes. We will actually have tomatoes while the lettuce is still good this year. I usually have some by the 4th of July but we are a bit early this year. This one was cut in wedges, smeared in salad dressing and wrapped with bacon. (We seldom eat bread). It was deep red, juicy and delicious.
My mulberry tree has been full of birds and the birds here are going through 2 suet cakes a day at my feeders. All the babies are coming to the feeder and the parents feed them suet. The sunflower seeds are going fast too. It gets expensive feeding them this time of year but I enjoy seeing all the different kinds of birds that come for the food.
I had another animal problem today. My fault. We had a litter of baby kittens in the barn under the chicken nest boxes. A duck had decided to share the space with them and laid a pile of eggs under there too. The kittens were starting to explore and I thought I would put a little dry cat food under there for them to find. That was a bad move. I came out this morning to find the duck eggs had been raided and eaten by a coon. I quickly checked for the kittens and they were still there, unharmed it seems.
I think the coon smelled the cat food and went looking for it. I shouldn’t have put any near there. I’m not too upset over the duck eggs; they weren’t sitting tight on them yet. Mama cat decided not to take any chances however and moved her kittens up by the deck, in the tall daylilies there. (They can’t get under the deck.) Now I have kittens toddling across the deck that I have to worry about stepping on. One keeps trying to follow me. Gizzy was way too interested in them too. He gets along well with some cats but I’m worried he’ll be too rough on the baby kittens. They are toy sized. I’ll have to watch him carefully. Hopefully momma cat will move them along somewhere else soon.
Next week the 4th of July holiday falls on Tuesday and I won’t be putting out a newsletter. Look for one July 11th.
I personally don’t find mulberry fruit very appealing, it’s pretty bland. But the birds and a lot of different animals consider mulberries as candy. If you enjoy bird watching, plant a mulberry tree; just make sure it’s a good ways from your clothesline or where you park your car. And some people enjoy the fruit themselves.
The red mulberry Morus rubra is native to Eastern North America from Canada south to the gulf. It was once very common and widespread but is now listed as endangered in Canada, Connecticut and Massachusetts and threatened in Michigan and Vermont. If you like attracting butterflies the red mulberry is the host or larval plant for the Mourning Cloak butterfly.
The white mulberry Morus alba is native to China and was brought to North America in an attempt to start a silk industry because silk worms feed on the leaves. It has escaped cultivation and has naturalized in many places. Some areas consider it an invasive plant. There are, however cultivars of white mulberry such as ‘Pendula’ that are used as landscape plants.
Both mulberries are smaller trees growing to about 35-40 feet high at maturity. They prefer full sun conditions in good loamy soil but will grow in partial shade. Red mulberry is more tolerant of shade and often found in the wild in the partial shade of larger trees. In the wild both are often found along streams and on the edges of woodlands, white mulberry is more common in open sunny fields. White mulberry has been used for erosion control. Trees have rounded crowns, with abundant branching and branches close to the ground. Branching is alternate.
Both mulberries have oval leaves to lobed leaves, lobed leaves usually are on younger branches. Red mulberries leaves are rough feeling to the touch and dull green, while white mulberries are smoother and have a glossy surface. Red mulberries have a hairy back surface and a finely serrated edge. White mulberry leaves have deeper serrations on the edge and are larger than red mulberry leaves. The bark of red mulberry trees is flat scales of red brown, often young trees have a reddish sheen when wet. White mulberry bark has raised ridges with a yellow- tan inner bark showing between the ridges.
The flowers of both mulberries are inconspicuous long catkin like clusters of greenish white and are wind pollinated. Here’s the confusing part. Some references list both species as being dioecious, having male and female flowers on separate trees. Others list both species as having separate male and female flowers on the same tree. Some references state the trees can be either type of flowering. The pollen of mulberries is very allergenic so if you have allergies you may not want a tree nearby.
Personally I have never seen a mulberry without fruit, which would indicate it’s a male tree. All the mulberries I have known always have fruit in season, which means they were all female and I never saw the male, or they have both male and female flowers. I know my current tree has both sexes of flowers. It’s a white mulberry.
Anyway in both red and white mulberries the flowers turn into long blackberry like fruit in early summer. Despite its name most white mulberry trees fruit ripens to deep red or purple. Red mulberry fruit ripens to purple- black. A few white mulberry trees have white or pink fruit when ripe. The fruit is sweet and perfectly edible. Beware it can stain hands and things the berries land on, as can the poop from birds eating the berries.
Identification of mulberries can be tricky as the two species can hybridize although no one knows how common this is. There are other species of mulberry that are sometimes brought in as cultivated plants.
You can start mulberries from seed quite easily, although they need a period of cold stratification. Mulberry cuttings also root easily. Most gardeners will want to start with a small tree, which will grow rapidly and fruit in just a few years. Some nurseries sell mulberry trees, usually white mulberry cultivars.
Mulberries have few pests or diseases. They only need fertilization in the poorest soils and are moderately drought tolerant once established. While they will grow in partial shade fruiting is best in full sun.
Uses of mulberry
The fruits of mulberry have been used for centuries in jams and jellies and to make wine. They can be eaten fresh too. They can be turned into pies and cobblers. To collect the fruit people often put something under the tree like a sheet and then shake the tree. Birds adore the fruit and animals like squirrels, raccoons, opossums also like them. Box turtles will eat the fallen fruit.
Mulberry syrup was often used to hide the flavors of medicines. Mulberries were used in both Native American and Chinese medicine. Fruits were used to cure constipation and other digestive problems, for urinary tract problems, in the treatment of fatigue and weakness, and for blood sugar control among other things. Mulberry juice was used to treat baldness and graying hair.
The inner bark of red mulberries was separated into fibers that were woven into clothing by Native Americans. Shoots were woven into baskets. Mulberry wood makes good fence posts and the wood is used to smoke meat and give it a sweet pleasant taste.
The shoots, leaves and unripe fruit of mulberries is mildly toxic and may result in severe digestive upsets if eaten.
Talking about ticks
|Black legged or deer tick|
Ticks have been in the news a bit lately; it seems like tick populations are up in many states. There are also some rare tick borne diseases that are popping up more frequently. In a well maintained yard and garden gardeners aren’t very likely to experience ticks. However if you garden near woody, brushy areas or unmown fields, are clearing land or like to walk in wilder areas you may have a dreaded tick encounter.
There is at least one species of ticks in every US state. Ticks won’t however, be in every area of a state. While every tick doesn’t carry disease some tick bites can infect you with some very serious or deadly diseases. Lyme disease is the disease people hear about the most and probably the most common disease ticks carry. Lyme disease can have serious long term effects on people. But there are many more serious diseases ticks carry.
Most tick borne diseases have no cure, supportive care is needed to prevent complications. Tick diseases commonly begin with flu like symptoms and fever and progress to affect various organs. Encephalitis and arthritic pain are common in many of the diseases. Some cause anemia or cardiac problems. Rashes of various forms, including the famous bulls eye rash of Lyme disease, are associated with many tick borne diseases. Deaths can occur with many tick diseases.
Tick borne diseases can be hard to diagnose, especially if the sick person doesn’t know they were bitten by a tick. Because a lot of tick diseases require the tick to feed for a while on a human to transmit the disease, many people do know when they get a potentially bad tick bite. If you find a tick that is engorged, full of your blood, on you, it’s a good idea to keep the tick and have it identified. If you get any flu like symptoms or a rash shortly after the encounter notify your doctor you were bitten by a tick.
To save the tick for identification, which requires an experienced, trained person, put them in a jar of alcohol after removing them (see below) or freeze them in a plastic bag. Call your local health department or your County Extension office to find out where to take or send a tick for identification. Tell them if you were traveling when you acquired the tick and where. Identifying the tick and knowing the area the tick came from can help narrow down what diseases the tick may be carrying.
Here are some of the diseases ticks cause in the US and the species of ticks that transmit them. Not all species of ticks and or all of these diseases are found in every state. Some state will have several species of ticks. The brown dog tick is found in every state.
Anaplasmosis, blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) and western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus)
Babesiosis- blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis)
Borrelia mayonii blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis)
Borrelia miyamotoi- blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis)
Colorado tick fever -Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni).
Ehrlichiosis- lone star tick (Ambylomma americanum)
Heartland virus infection- lone star tick (Ambylomma americanum)
Lyme disease blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) and western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus). 30,000 cases a year.
Powassan disease blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) and the groundhog tick (Ixodes cookei).
Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis - Gulf Coast tick (Amblyomma maculatum).
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), and the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sangunineus).
STARI (Southern tick-associated rash illness) the lone star tick (Ambylomma americanum).
Tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF)
Tularemia- dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), the wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), and the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum).
364D rickettsiosis (Rickettsia phillipi, proposed) the Pacific Coast tick (Dermacentor occidentalis). This is a new disease that has been found in California.
The lone star tick, Amblyomma americanum also causes an unusual allergic reaction to red meat. After people have been bitten by this tick they may have a severe allergic reaction when they eat red meat.
Removing a tick
The CDC recommends removing ticks as soon as possible, the longer a tick stays on you the more likely it will transmit a disease. They also recommend that you do not use Vaseline, nail polish or similar products to smother them or use a lighter or fire on the tick. Smothering takes too long and fire is too dangerous.
Do not yank the tick out quickly, if you break it in two and leave the head imbedded it can cause an infection. Use a pair of tweezers and grab the ticks head as close to the skin as you can. Pull up with a slow steady movement. You can buy a special tick removal tool that looks like a little spoon with a notch in it. If you frequently have to remove ticks you may want one. After removing a tick clean the area with alcohol or soap and water.
If you do break off a tick head in your skin flush the area with alcohol and then use some antibiotic cream. Dispose of pulled ticks in a cup of alcohol, a jar with a tight lid or flush them down the toilet.
The tick life cycle and habits
Ticks have 4 life stages, egg, larvae, nymph and adult. Larval ticks are very small and only have 6 legs. Nymph ticks have 8 legs and look like small adult ticks. Adult ticks are the largest and are able to mate and produce eggs. Eggs are generally laid on the ground by female ticks in the thousands.
After hatching ticks require blood meals at every stage of life. Some ticks will feed on the same species of animal throughout their life stages; others require different species of animals at different stages. Ticks can feed on any warm blooded creature including birds and they also feed on reptiles and amphibians in some species, but they have their preferred species. Humans aren’t a preferred tick food but they readily accept us to feed on in the adult and in some species, nymph stages.
|Life stages of the Lone Star Tick|
Photo from the CDC
Ticks don’t jump like fleas and they don’t fly. What they do is climb up on grass or weeds and hold out their first pair of legs to grasp any animal passing by. They sense movement, animal body heat or breath, vibrations and other things depending on the tick species in order to find their preferred host species. When they haven’t eaten in a while ticks can be very small and hard to see, especially in the larval stage. They are the size of a period in this article.
When it finds a body to feed on ticks may attach quickly in some species, or they may crawl on the host looking for a good spot. They seem to like hairy spots with thin skin. It can take 10 minutes to 2 hours for a tick to firmly attach itself and begin feeding. The tick inserts a feeding tube into the victim’s skin and then produces a glue-like substance to keep it there. Some ticks also have barbs on the tube. The front of the tick head will seem to be buried in the skin when it’s attached. The salvia of the tick is injected into the wound and this has an anesthetic in it which keeps the host from feeling the tick feeding.
Ticks can feed for several hours or even days. As they fill with blood they get larger and easier to see. Some adult engorged ticks will be as big as a penny. When full they drop off, maybe lay some eggs, digest their meal and then look for another one. The longer a tick stays on you feeding the more likely you will be infected with a disease so it’s important to remove them as soon as possible.
Treating the yard and garden
A product that kills ticks is called an acaricide. There are several on the market. Read and follow the label directions carefully and only use them if you know ticks are on your property. Many of these products are harmful to birds and aquatic animals and can harm beneficial insects too. They should only be used near human habitation. A professional pest control company often uses high pressure sprayers that penetrate debris and weeds for better coverage.
Many people recommend getting guinea hens (a type of poultry) because they like to eat ticks. They do eat ticks but won’t get them all. Guineas roaming in brushy areas where ticks are found are also food for other animals. They are also very noisy and your neighbors may prefer the ticks. Chickens and ducks will also eat ticks when they find them, but be aware that ticks can also feed on birds too. Poultry alone is rarely sufficient to completely control ticks.
Opossums and ticks
You may have read on the internet that opossums help kill ticks. This is true to some extent. Opossums groom themselves like cats and eat ticks that attach to them; scientists estimate they may eat 5,000 ticks a week in heavily infested areas. They don’t hunt for ticks, but it may be a good idea to let them live around your property if they aren’t bothering anything else so they can act as a tick magnet.
But just like guinea hens don’t count on a possum population to totally control ticks. And there may be other reasons that discouraging possums would be wise. Horse owners know opossums can transmit diseases to horses so they often eliminate them from barns.
Keep deer and mice away
Feeding the deer is a good way to bring ticks on your property. Deer are excellent transporters of ticks. Anywhere deer congregate should be avoided and walking on narrow trails deer make through fields is also a good way to get ticks.
Mice are the hosts for some types of ticks in their early life stages. Clean up any areas that attract and hide mice and try to eliminate them from your home and yard. You can buy tubes filled with treated nesting material for mice. It doesn’t kill the mice but when they carry the nesting material away and sleep in it the ticks are killed. One such product is Damminix Tick Tubes.
Treat dogs/ pets with flea products that also repel and or kill ticks
Dogs can get many of the same diseases from ticks that people do. And dogs are the frequent way ticks are brought inside or to the yard after they have been exploring in the woods and fields. Check your dog after every field trip. If you live in tick infested areas use one of the many products that kill and repel ticks on your dogs from early spring through fall. If your dog gets sick after being fed on by ticks see a vet.
Other pets can get ticks too. Don’t use dog tick repellents on other animals like cats because many are toxic to other species. Check with a vet before applying tick products to any animal. Cats usually groom them off themselves. Pet tortoises have been known to pick up ticks. Rabbits also get them.
Horses on pasture often get ticks and can get several diseases from them. Some fly repellents also repel ticks. Remove ticks found on horses like you would for a human. Check with a vet if horses seem ill after being bitten by ticks.
Keeping ticks off you
Use a repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on your exposed skin. If you expect to run into ticks do not take risks with home and “organic” remedies. These products also protect you from mosquitoes and biting flies.
You can also treat clothing and things like camping gear, with a product containing 0.5% permethrin. Don’t use this on your skin. These products remain through several washings. You can also buy pre-treated clothing and some of those items will repel ticks for a long time. Permethrin must be applied to clothing 48 hours before it’s worn and allowed to dry. Using permethrin on shoes and other clothing reduces your chances of getting ticks by about 70% according to research.
Try to stay on mowed/cleared paths, in the middle of them preferably, and out of deep grass and brush. Around the home keep the lawn short and brush and weeds cleared away. Pick up any litter or rubbish that can hide mice and or ticks. Make a 3 feet barrier of wood chips or gravel between wooded or brushy areas and the lawn or garden.
Wear long pants, socks and shoes when working or walking in areas where ticks may be. Tuck pants into socks or boots. If you are bending down pulling weeds or other chores wear long sleeves with a wrist band.
When coming in from working or walking in tick prone areas immediately inspect all your skin surfaces, including body cracks and crevices and your scalp. Ticks tend to climb upward and like warm hairy places on the body best. Check your scalp. You may need to use a mirror. Strip and take a shower with hot water if you can. Inspect anything you carried inside like a jacket or backpack for ticks too. And check your dog if it’s been out there with you.
Throw your clothes in the washer and wash them with HOT water. If you have one of the machines that doesn’t let the water get very hot you’ll need to dry clothes on high heat for 60 minutes or more. If you can’t wash the clothing put it in the dryer for 60 minutes on high heat.
Remember most gardeners won’t have to worry about ticks in regularly tended gardens. And don’t panic if you do get a tick bite. Most people will not get a disease from the bite. But if ticks are common in your area it’s best to protect yourself and be on the look-out for them.
Keep kitchen and bath products out of the garden
It simply amazes me what gets passed around as garden tips. Every imaginable food, beverage, spice, and cleaning product seems to have found some miraculous use in the garden. Even human medicines are being side tracked to the garden. Most of these folk remedies are harmless but useless. Some however can harm plants or even people and pets. The remedies are often touted as organic or safe although some are neither.
Often these garden remedies are generated because someone has misread and/or misapplied some research published on a promising new product using something similar to a product found in the home. For example there are tips floating around now that cornmeal, the kind you bake with, can kill weeds. This came from studies using corn gluten meal, a different product made from corn you won’t find on grocery shelves. Some studies found that corn gluten meal will suppress the germination of some weed seeds. There is at least one commercial product on the market featuring corn gluten meal but the remedy has never really taken hold among professional growers or farmers because it isn’t that effective and there are many drawbacks to its use.
People reading the research came to the wrong conclusion that sprinkling cornmeal in the garden would suppress or even kill weeds. It doesn’t. What cornmeal does is mold and attract mice and other animals. There is currently some debate among researchers as to whether corn gluten meal is actually an effective weed suppressor anyway. It seems to be ineffective in some areas. The corn gluten meal has a high nitrogen content, which makes things grow well, but it may not be so great for the environment when excess nitrogen leaches into the water supply and forms nitrates. Here are some links that give both sides of the corn gluten debate.
Remember corn gluten meal is different from the cornmeal found in your kitchen. Don’t use cornmeal in the garden.
Let’s talk about some other household things used in the garden
Epsom salt- this is probably one of the most misused products in the garden ever. It is recommended freely and often as a remedy for killing bugs, weeds, fungus infections, plant diseases, as a fertilizer, to make fruit or vegetables taste different, to make flowers prettier and more abundant, to reduce transplant shock and to make the sun come out on a rainy day. It doesn’t do any of these things, despite all the testimonials. Every research study has found it useless. Epsom salt is simply magnesium and sulfur. The only thing it could do is correct a magnesium deficiency in the soil, which is rare in the home garden.
Epsom salt is not harmless either. If too much magnesium builds up in the soil it can alter how other nutrients in the soil can be used by plants. Other nutrient deficiencies may occur with its use. Some plants are sensitive to it being used on leaves and will suffer damage.
Vinegar is probably the second most recommended useless product for the garden. It’s purported use as a weed killer comes from some research using a very strong commercial concentration of vinegar, not the kind that comes from the grocery store. Mixing edible vinegar with baking soda, dish soap, Epsom salt, beer or other things doesn’t make it any more effective. Straight vinegar applied to the foliage of some plants may kill the foliage, but won’t kill the roots. Kitchen vinegar won’t harm some weeds. Vinegar won’t cure plant fungal infections like powdery mildew, fungal infections can’t be cured, only prevented.
Commercial strength vinegar if you can find it, is difficult and dangerous to work with, it can cause severe burns and eye damage. Any type of vinegar may harm plants you don’t want harmed if it splashes on them. And that means you can’t use vinegar to kill bugs on plants, not only will that not work but it will harm the plants.
Cinnamon is another useless home remedy. While cinnamon does have some anti-microbial properties sprinkling it on plants or the soil will not do anything. It won’t kill insects or cure fungal problems or keep deer away.
Coffee and coffee grounds are both fairly harmless but also pretty much useless as a remedy for anything. Coffee isn’t a balanced fertilizer although it may contribute some nitrogen. Coffee doesn’t kill insects. Coffee grounds add some organic matter to soil. They don’t even budge the soil pH (make it more acidic) in any significant way. The only thing pouring coffee on plants does is give them some water.
Sugar of any kind is not needed by plants, they make their own. It does not help plant growth. What it does is attract ants and other insects and animals.
Eggs and eggshells have very limited uses in the garden. Eggshells can be added to compost or the garden without harm. But they don’t release calcium very quickly, it takes years for shells to release calcium in any appreciable amount, therefore they won’t cure a calcium deficiency. Crushed egg shells also do not deter slugs. Videos have been made with slugs crawling right over them without harm. Whole eggs take years to decompose. They are a magnet for animals, like coons and opossums, which can damage your plants digging them up.
Using a spray of raw eggs on plants to deter deer and rabbit damage is only mildly effective and it smells terrible. Do not use a raw egg spray on edible plants, you may get salmonella or other food borne diseases.
Dish soap is full of chemicals. It should not be considered an organic product. Just check the label. Insecticidal soap sold for garden use is vastly different from dish soap, which is actually a detergent. Insecticidal soap is made with fatty acids which don’t harm plants. While dish soap is harmless to you, it harms plants by stripping them of the waxes and fats which protect plant leaves. Stripping the protective coating on plant leaves makes them more susceptible to diseases and insects. Detergents don’t kill all insects and the product must contact the insect for it to work. Eating leaves with a residue won’t kill insects. Dish soap doesn’t cure fungal infections or any other plant disease. Adding other things to dish soap doesn’t make it any better.
Dish soap sprayed on plant leaves may also react with sunlight to burn the leaves. Some plants are quite sensitive to even small amounts and may be severely damaged or killed. The only good use for dish soap in the garden is to put some in water and knock or pick insects off plants and throw them into it.
Baking soda is another useless remedy in the garden, regardless of what it’s mixed with. It doesn’t kill fungal diseases, or insects.
Beer has only minor benefit to gardens. Beer can be used to trap slugs but that’s the extent of its usefulness in the garden. It isn’t fertilizer; it doesn’t keep bugs, including mosquitoes, away. In fact it may attract mosquitoes and other insects. It isn’t a tonic for plants nor can it cure any plant disease.
Mouthwash, cheap, blue, or otherwise is mostly alcohol. It might kill insects if it contacted them but won’t kill them as a residue on plants. It doesn’t keep mosquitoes away. It doesn’t cure fungal disease. It can harm plants by stripping off protective oils and waxes from leaves and may burn the leaves when alcohol sprayed leaves are subjected to sunlight.
Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is produced by plants as a defense against insects. But crushing an aspirin and mixing it with something and spraying your plants doesn’t kill insects. It doesn’t cure plant diseases either. In humans it doesn’t cure anything either, it just eases pain and inflammation. Does it help plant pain? Who knows. But weed (marijuana) growers will tell you it will kill your plants if sprayed on them.
The miraculous effects some people have by applying some of the above folk remedies can be attributed to a placebo effect, or giving the plant more water in a mixed solution or just chance. And folk remedies aren’t cheaper if they do no good, they are wasted money.
Zinnias- Summer Sizzle From South of the Border
Are you growing zinnias in your garden? You may have seen zinnias growing in your mother or grandmothers garden. Zinnias fell out of favor for a while with home gardeners but they are back with a vengeance. The new and improved varieties are carefree and excellent for beginning gardeners and children.
Zinnias are excellent as bedding plants for masses of color, in the back of mixed borders for late summer color and for cutting flowers. Some of the newer, compact varieties look nice in containers and provide continuous color in hot spots. Zinnias make excellent cut flowers; the more you cut the more they bloom.
Zinnias are annual plants, meaning that they complete their life cycle in one year. Native to Mexico, zinnias are not frost hardy, but they will grow anywhere where they have a few frost-free months. Zinnia leaves are dark green, with a long pointed oval shape and feel rough to the touch.
Zinnia flowers come in every color and color combination imaginable except blue. The flowers range in size from 1 inch across to 6 inches across. Zinnias can have single daisy-like blooms or very double, full pom-pom shaped blooms. Some zinnia varieties also have flower petals shaped like narrow quills.
Zinnias are one of the easiest flowers to grow from seed. The seed can be sown in the garden after all danger of frost or started indoors for earlier flowers. If grown indoors don’t start the plants too early. Zinnias suffer a little from transplanting and small plants recover faster. Start the seeds indoors in a warm area about 3 weeks before your last frost. Zinnia seed will germinate in less than a week in the right conditions. Or plant zinnia seed outside after the last frost, when the soil is warm. Cover the seed lightly with fine soil or compost and keep moist. Thin seedlings or transplant your indoor seedlings to stand about 6 inches apart for small varieties and 8-10 inches apart for tall types.
Zinnia seedlings are often available in nurseries for sale. Ones that have started to bloom or have gotten tall and spindly in a small cell pack should be avoided. Zinnias bloom in 6-10 weeks from seed.
Zinnias require full sun. They thrive in hot areas as long as they get enough moisture. They like good rich soil and appreciate a slow release fertilizer in the spring when they are planted and a booster shot of fertilizer in mid to late simmer. Zinnias need to be watered if there is less than an inch of rain each week, or sooner if they appear to be wilting. They will reward you with hundreds of colorful flowers for just a little care.
If you are growing some of the older, heirloom varieties of zinnias, a little pinching back in early summer will make them bushier and produce side branches with more flowers. Many new varieties already have a good branching habit. You can cut zinnias without a worry for bouquets as this just encourages the plant to bloom more. Be careful to cut blooms though, not pull at the plant to remove flowers as this may damage the root system. Deadheading, removing the old flowers before they set seed will keep the blooms coming.
In late summer you may want to let some zinnias go to seed. The seeds are easy to collect and store for next year. Wait until they are fully dry on the plant then clean out the old petals and other junk and store at room temperature. Use clean dry jars for storage or heavy duty plastic bags. In mild areas zinnias often re-seed in the garden. You may not get exactly the same flowers as the zinnias this year but they will be colorful and who knows, you may discover something unique.
Zinnias worst problem in the garden used to be powdery mildew, which they are very prone to getting in humid areas. Modern varieties are very resistant to powdery mildew. Powdery mildew makes a white powder on the leaves, which then dry up and die. Plants usually keep trying to produce flowers but much of their energy is used replacing foliage and the dead foliage looks awful.
Water zinnias early in the day so the foliage dries before night, and try to water at the base of the plant. Make sure the plants are not too crowded. Remove all of the dead foliage after a frost and take it away from the garden. If you want to grow some of the beautiful older varieties of zinnias you will probably need to protect them with a flower fungicide, beginning in early summer.
For low masses of color in borders and beds try the ‘Magellan’ series, which is available as a mix or several individual colors. They have 4-5 inch double flowers on foot high plants. ‘Dreamland’ series are similar but shorter. ‘Aztec Sunset’ has 2 inch flowers of mahogany red and bronze on compact plants. ‘Profusion’ series of zinnia has single, daisy like flowers on compact plants.
“Zowie’ has 3-5 inch flowers on 3-4 foot stems. They begin magenta pink and yellow, but change to flame red and yellow as they age. ‘Big Red’ is big- a 3 foot or taller plant smothered in scarlet red 6 inch flowers. ‘Envy’ has unusual lime green 2 inch flowers on 3 foot plants. ‘Candy Stripe’ is an older variety with white double flowers, variegated with streaks of pink and red. ‘Oklahoma’ series has small 1-2 inch flowers, on 2 foot plants, excellent for cut flowers. ‘Giant Cactus’ is an old variety with large, 4-5 inch flowers that have narrow petals giving the blooms a fluffy look. ‘State Fair’ is one of the oldest varieties still on the market. It has large double flowers in assorted colors.
I’m growing zinnias this year- how about you?
How to make strawberry jam without added sugar
You can make strawberry jam that is without added sugar, but because the sugar in regular jam is what makes it thicken, you need to add a thickener called pectin to get the jam to “jell”. While this jam is without added sugar it does have some natural sugar from the fruit itself. And this strawberry jam has fewer calories than regular jam, but is not calorie free. Each tablespoon of jam will have less than 10 calories.
Jam made with artificial sweeteners needs to be frozen or refrigerated for storage. The long cooking required to can jam for shelf storage would make the sweetener taste bitter. This recipe calls for liquid artificial sweetener, available at most grocery stores. The pectin called for can also be found in grocery stores- they usually have a small canning section near the baking or seasoning products.
Strawberry jam made with artificial sweeteners isn’t the pretty red of jam made with sugar. To make it more appealing some people opt to add red food coloring, although you can leave it out without harming the recipe.
You’ll need 3 half pint containers with covers that can be frozen or refrigerated safely for this recipe. They don’t need to be sterilized but should be clean and dry. Freeze the jam if it will take you more than 2 weeks to use it and just thaw one container at a time. Keep thawed jam in the refrigerator.
1 quart of strawberries, washed with caps ( green top) removed.
3 teaspoons of liquid artificial sweetener- do not use powders.
1 package of powdered fruit pectin
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
red food coloring if desired
Crush the strawberries with a large spoon in a medium saucepan. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. When boiling begins, time cooking for 1 minute, stirring all the time, then turn off heat. Continue to stir until you notice mixture thickening, about 2 minutes. Pour into your containers and freeze or refrigerate.
Have a happy and safe 4th of July
“He who has a garden and a library wants for nothing” ― Cicero
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And So On….
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