Week 21 (8/11/05)
[The state flower of Kansas is the sunflower. The national flower of Russia is, yes, the sunflower!]
*WHETHER IT’S THE WEATHER – No doubt about it. The weather has remained hot and dry, and as we look around the landscape (yards and in the woods) many trees are now showing severe signs of drought stress, as well as lawns, shrubs, and you name it. All I can say is stick with your watering as best you can especially the larger trees and evergreens.
[Sunflowers are notable for turning to face the sun, a behavior called heliotropism. Immature sunflowers in the bud stage will track the sun from east to west, and then return to the eastward orientation during the night. When the blooming stage is reached, that ability to move is frozen, and for the most part, the sunflowers freeze facing the east, where they face and greet the morning sunrise.]
*HOW HOT WAS IT? – We had a couple responses to our "it was so hot" from last week’s newsletter. 1.) "It was so hot, I took my grandson out to prove I could fry and egg on the hood of the car. But it never worked. The egg hard boiled before I could get it to the car. Last winter on the coldest day, I put a pot of boiling water on the back porch to show him how fast hot water can freeze. It froze so fast that the ice was still hot three days later. -Ron Vandemint, maker of the best barbeque in the world! 2.) "It was so hot here; I saw a frog in the pond with a backpack filled with ice." -Doug Wilson, famous Uncle and boyhood idol of the ole Ron Wilson.
[Sunflowers - What is called the ‘flower’, is actually a ‘head’ of numerous flowers crowded together. The outer flowers are the ‘ray florets’ (yellow, maroon, orange, etc.) and are sterile. The flowers that fill the circular head inside the ray flowers are called ‘disc florets’. These are the flowers that mature into seeds. Sunflowers are ready for harvest when then back portion of the head turns brown.]
*WHATS BUGGIN YOU? – This week, besides moths flying in our back door at night every time we let the dog out, and the spider web in the corner of the door that barely catches on my ear, nothing is bugging me.
I am reminding folks that it’s this time of the year when social wasps (yellow jackets, bald faced hornets, paper wasps) become more aggressive in seeking sugary foods. They have been feeding on caterpillars, sawflies and flies. But now switch to finding foods with high sugar and yeast, and that’s where they become a nuisance with people. So be cautious from here on into the late summer.
[Sunflowers are very useful. Whole seeds are sold as snacks for human consumption, as well as for bird food. Sunflower oil is extracted from the seeds and used for cooking, as a carrier oil, and is used to produce biodiesel. The remaining cake is used for livestock feed. They also produce latex and are being considered as an alternative crop for producing hypoallergenic rubber. One last note: floating rafts of sunflowers were being used to clean up water contamination as a result of the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant. The roots of the sunflower plants removed 95% of the radioactivity in the water, by pulling contaminants out of the water.]
*QUESTIONMARK & THE MYSTERIANS – Here are a few gardening questions from this weeks emailed news bag:
"Each year, I plant ‘Blackie’ sweet potato vine in containers with other plants. This year they flowered! What happened? They look juts like lavender morning glories!" -Well, that’s a first for me, anyway. Never seen them flower, but do remember they are in the same genus as morning glories. And yes, those tubers you find in the pots from the sweet potato vines are edible.
"What’s the name of the rhizoming tall fescue, and where can I find it?" -Titan Limited. If you’re out of town, go to www.titanlimited.com for other sources.
"I am now seeing many spider webs on plants and shrubs. How do I eliminate them?"
-Don’t! Even though I think spiders are pretty creepy dudes and dudettes, they are the good guys and gals of the garden. They help to reduced bug populations in the garden, and right now, as bug populations soar, so do the spider populations. Hose them out and try to get them to move elsewhere, but I suggest leaving them alone. Yes, you can use a general garden insecticide if you wish, but I don’t recommend it, and you’ll probably never totally eliminate them. Spiders are everywhere.
"I’m moving from Lebanon to Kentucky next week. Can I move my iris now? Daylilies?" -Yes and yes! Now’s the right time for digging and dividing iris, so the timing is perfect. Daylilies are spring, late summer, or whenever you need to move them! Good luck!
"When can I cut my daylilies back? They look horrible." -Right now. Feel free to cut them back to the ground if really nasty and they’ll flush up new growth for the rest of the season. Cut them back, light feeding, water, and rejuvenate!
"What do I do with liatris after it finishes flowering?" -If you cut that off (back into regular foliage) it deadheads the plant and may even send up a few more ‘shorter’ flowers. Do it earlier (when flower is about 70% spent) for better chances of re-blooming. If you leave them alone, they do form neat seed heads.
"Is it too late to treat the lawn with a weed and feed?" -I wouldn’t. With the heat and drought, I wouldn’t be doing any weed control! But, with the seeding season coming up, I’d concentrate and getting the grass recovered from the summer and getting new grass growing, and then look at a weed killer to be applied in mid to late October if needed. That’s a great time to go after many weeds in the lawn.
"Is it too late to plant things like roses, azaleas, and spruce trees?" -Actually, many landscape crews are planting new plants every day. As long as you can water regularly, go ahead and plant. Don’t forget that fall is the best time to plant just about everything, but if it’s available now and you can water, go for it.
"Do you have a cure for pesky raccoons?" -Not really. If they get into the trash cans, pouring bleach on the cans has worked for me. And although I haven’t tried it, I have heard some folks soaking corncobs in vinegar, then placing those soaked cobs around the garden or where you don’t want the raccoons. You may want to try that!
[I just got lost in thought. It was unfamiliar territory.]
[Just curious – if you choked a ‘smurf’, what color does it turn?]
[I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.]
*FROM THE GARDEN TO THE KITCHEN – HEY RITA WHAT’S COOKIN? –
Yardboy, we eat pasta at least once a week and are now trying to eat more whole wheat pasta, which is much better for you, as your body burns the carbohydrates in whole wheat pasta much more slowly than in white flour pasta, so you don’t get a surge of carbs, allowing you to feel more satisfied eating less. And, of course, whole wheat pastas have it all over white flour pastas nutritionally, so try and incorporate some into your everyday meals. Here’s a delicious summer dish which requires no heat. And did you know that this pasta is named after the ladies of the night in Italy? It was a dish that could be thrown together quickly, anytime of the day, or night.
PASTA WITH UNCOOKED PUTTANESCA SAUCE
1 pound penne or bow tie pasta, boiled and kept warm
4 flat anchovies, chopped into almost a paste
3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes cut into ½" dice
1/3 to 1/2 cup Calamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
2-3 tablespoons rinsed and drained small capers
1 bunch parsley, chopped
3 teaspoons garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or less to taste
Salt to taste
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Romano cheese – a generous amount to sprinkle on top
Combine tomatoes, anchovies, olives, capers, parsley, garlic, hot pepper, salt and olive oil. Stir gently to combine. You can let this marinate for up to 1 hour. Toss with hot pasta. Serve at once.
Everybody’s mint is abundant right now, Yardboy. So this is a wonderful way to use it. This syrup freezes well. It will turn a light amber color, so if you want it to look more like mint, add a drop of green food coloring. Mint is great for digestion and is used in a lot of spa products for its lovely fragrance and uplifting qualities.
2 cups water
4-5 cups mint leaves, packed
2 cups sugar or more to taste
Place water and mint in saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until leaves give up their oils. Strain and measure liquid. For 1 to 1-1/2 cups liquid, add 1-1/2 cups sugar. Bring to a boil until sugar dissolves. Taste and add more sugar, if desired. Cool and use in teas, lemonades and drinks.
-Rita Nader Heikenfeld, CCP / Macy’s Regional Culinary Professional / Herbalist / Author / Local TV and Radio Cooking Expert / Adjunct Professor U.C. Clermont College / Community Press Papers [firstname.lastname@example.org attn: Rita]
[Laughing stock – cattle with a sense of humor.]
*YARDBOYS PLANTS TO PONDER – This week, let’s ponder a group of plants that are not hardy for our zone, but their bulbs and tubers can be stored over the winter in a cool dark area, then grown again the following season. These plants are known for their large elephant ear like leaves, and in today’s market, are available in a wide array of leaf sizes, veins, variegations, and colors or greens, dark greens, maroons and almost black. They’re the perfect addition to large containers or used as bogg plants in the water garden. Our plants to ponder this week is Colocasis esculenta, or commonly known as Taro, as well as Elephant ears. Now the two I have grown this year are ‘Imperial Taro’, which is being grown as a bogg plant on the edge of a container water garden, and ‘Black Taro’, which is now all of 4 feet tall with approximately 20 huge leaves, and is growing in a 14 inch pot (which is kept as moist as possible) on a deck. Wonderful foliage!
[Did you hear about the giant who threw up? It’s all over town.]
That’s it for this week.