Week 33 (11/17/05)
It’s one week from Thanksgiving!
[Just curious – Have you ever seen a toad sitting on a toad stool?]
*WHETHER IT’S THE WEATHER – Finally, we get the change in temperatures I’ve been looking for! Temporary cold weather has moved in, and will definitely help in encouraging plants to shut down for season, helps to finish off lingering annuals (annual weeds as well), kills the tops to summer bulbs, helps to get the rest of those leaves dropping, and helps to lower soil temperatures, so we can get on with our final winter mulching, as well as slows down the turf so we can stop mowing soon and feed the lawn one last time! Trust me; this cool weather is a good thing! Do not panic; it won’t kill the roses and other woody shrubs. It’s all a part of the fall cool down period.
*NOVEMBER 17 IS THE GREAT AMERICAN SMOKE OUT! Today, smokers are encouraged to stop smoking for one day. I am not a smoker, but understand that is easier said than done. If you try, Good Deal! "YOU CAN DO IT!"
[Just curious – If dogs and cats had no fur, would we still pet them?]
*WHATS BUGGIN YOU? – Nuttin’, honey! This time of the year, I always have several folks ask me about using the Wooly worm as an indicator for how bad the winter will be. And I hate to burst the bubble, but if you look at the life cycle of the Wooly worm, you’ll see what influences the colors and widths of their wooly bands.
Oh yes, the all-time favorite and most common predictor of the winter to come is the Wooly Worm, also known as Wooly Bear, Fuzzy Bear, Black-ended Bear, Banded Woolly Bear (approved name by the Entomological Society of America), and the Hedgehog Caterpillar. The scientific name for Wooly Worms is Pyrrhactia Isabella, and they are the larval stage of the Isabella Tiger Moth, and orange – yellow moth with a wing span of about 2 inches. (The genus Pyrrhactia has many species; some are solid black, without any bands and others have bands varying in sizes.)
Wooly Worms are most noticed in the fall, as they travel about, especially crossing the streets, looking for that perfect place to curl up and spend the winter, which is usually under bark, a rock, a log, etc. Their heavy coats, along with producing natural organic antifreeze, help them over winter. They can actually survive -90 degree temperatures!
In the spring, they warm back up, begin to feed for a while, and then form a cocoon, pupate and emerge as the Isabella Tiger Moth. Fertilized female moths then lay eggs on a variety of plants including birch, elm, maples, asters, sunflowers, spinach, cabbage, grass, plantain, etc., where the eggs hatch, the small caterpillars begin to feed on their host plants (which makes them herbivores), and the process starts all over again. There are usually 2-3 generations each year, and it’s the last generation that over winters as the Wooly Worm.
Wooly worms have very tiny eyes, and a limited range of sight. They also have 13 segments to the body, and 3 sets of legs (one each one the first 3 body segments). And they actually go through up to 6 larval stages before entering their pupal stage. That means molting 6 times before reaching the stage that you see in the fall, during which the color and size of its bands on the 13 body segments may change. And it’s those 13 bands that folklore uses to help predict the winter.
Now, according to folklore, the amount of black on the Woolly Worm in the autumn varies proportionately with the severity of the upcoming winter. The longer the black bands, the longer, colder, snowier and more severe the winter will be. The wider the middle brown band, the milder the winter will be. And the position of the bands indicates which part of winter will be the coldest. If the head is dark, the winter starts out severe. If the tail is dark, the end will be cold. And, being the Woolly Worm has 13 body segments; folklore says each one (beginning at the head) corresponds with the 13 weeks of winter. So reading each band could actually forecast each week of the winter.
Other signs from the Woolly Worm include thicker coats meaning colder winters, and if they seem to be traveling south, they are trying to escape the cold conditions of the north. On the other hand, if they are traveling north, that indicates a milder winter. (I still don’t understand why they enjoy crossing the roads so much!)
But, through the years, research has shown us that the Wooly Worm’s coloring is actually based on how long the caterpillar has been feeding, its age, and of course, the species. The better the growing season, the bigger it will grow, and this results in a narrower red-orange band in its middle. So, the width of the banding is actually an indicator of the current or past season’s growth, rather than an indicator of the severity of the upcoming winter. And, these caterpillars may molt as many as 6 times before reaching adult size and the colors will change with each molt, actually becoming less black and more reddish.
So, now you know the rest of the story. Nevertheless, I still think using folklore signs to help predict the winter weather is a lot of fun and in many cases, turn out to be exactly on the mark!
[Just curious – Is it possible to be totally partial?]
*QUESTIONMARK & THE MYSTERIANS – Here are a few gardening questions from this weeks emailed news bag:
"Can leaves be used for winter mulching of my perennials and roses?" -Yes, finely ground leaves can! And that’s the key, finely ground leaves. They don’t pack down like full sized leaves will. Although we like to wait to final mulch until the soil temperatures dip below 40 degrees, if you’re headed out of town or just don’t like working in the colder weather, feel free to final mulch in the next week or so. We’ll talk about winterizing those roses further down in this newsletter!
"Hey ED, removing the tops of established tall grasses can be very labor intense, and tough using chain saws and other equipment. What I do is wait until late winter, when there is 3-4 inches of snow on the ground, and then burn them. It’s a very quick and almost smokeless 30 second burn, and they come back each year better than the last."
-Good suggestion! We use string trimmers with the circular metal blade. That cuts through like butter. But your burn method is a good one, as you have protected the grass crowns with the snow cover, and the burn is quick and only removing the dead grass blades. Thanks for the tip!
"I get confused on how to prune my everbearing raspberries. Can you explain the process to me?" -Pruning brambles can be a bit confusing as they are each pruned differently. And the everbearing raspberries can be pruned 2 different ways! What I would like you to do is go to OHIOLINE.OSU.EDU, click on Yard and Garden, click on Fruits, then go to Raspberries and Blackberries. Great info with great pictures that you can print out and save forever!
"During the last 2 weeks of October, my yard and one of my neighbor’s was covered in spider webs, and I’m talking a blanket of spider webs. What kind were they, why my yard, and what should I do? We have a lawn service." - That’s a good thing! (The spider webs) They’re the good guys going after the flying bugs in your lawn. Maybe you had crane flies that they took care of for you! It’s hard to say what kind they were, but if you’ll go to OHIOLINE.OSU.EDU, click on YARD AND GARDEN, then insects, then ‘Spiders in and around the home’.
"ED, you mentioned something is a recent newsletter which has me amending my maintenance guides. I used to emphasize watering that space between the back of foundation plantings and the house foundation. And although in my new plantings I make sure plants are installed out and away from overhangs and eaves, that soil is still dry between the plants and the foundation. So thanks for the reminder!" -Susan Fox
*TAKE THE WORRY OUT OF CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR – Don’t let Christmas get you upset and frustrated. Since 1977, America's Best has been a family holiday tradition with our fresh wreaths and greens, live and cut Christmas trees, custom decorations, and of course, our America's Best grown holiday poinsettias. And, if you’re not sure what to buy your favorite gardener this year, why not buy America’s Best Gift Card? Available in any amount.
[Just curious – If people say "Don’t bug me", do bugs say "Don’t people me"?]
*IT’S JUST A BIT TOO EARLY, BUT HERE’S THE SCOOP ON WINTERIZING THOSE ROSES! - As the gardening season comes to an end, it will eventually be time to tuck away those climbing, hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora roses for the winter. Why wait so long to do this? A.) We want the temperatures to be consistently colder so the roses are definitely shutting down for the winter and B.) We prefer the ground to be close to freezing or less than 40 degrees if possible. So, it may be late December before the time is really ‘right’ for putting those roses to bed! (See ‘note’ below for earlier winterizing of roses) By the way, if it’s been a dry fall, make sure you water your roses as needed. Now here are some general steps to follow for putting roses to bed for the winter:
1.) Its okay to cut your hybrid tea, floribunda, and grandiflora roses back "a bit" if needed (down to anywhere from 18-36 inches or so in height), but only to make them easier to work with or to prevent long branches from whipping in the winter winds. We’ll do the major pruning next spring, usually around early to mid April. Climbing roses will not be pruned at this time, unless some of the canes have become excessively long and may be damaged in winter winds. You may also consider tying the canes together to prevent whipping. Again, any regular pruning / hard pruning needed will be done next spring.
2.) Rake out all debris and fallen leaves from around the base of the plant. Spray the rose canes and surrounding soil surface with a lime sulfur spray. If too cold for a liquid spray, use a dustible fungicide. As added protection for the rose canes, especially the climbers, feel free to spray the canes with an anti-transpirant such as or WiltPruf to help seal moisture into the canes during the winter.
3.) Put the roses to bed by mound mulching each plant about 12 inches of so, up from the ground, with the center of the rose in the center of the mound. Rose collars are very helpful in making this process a bit easier. Several mulches can be used, including finely ground leaves, compost, pine needles, or one of the many bark mulches. Pinebark (pinefines) is highly recommended. Mounding mulch helps to protect the rose graft and the lower 8-12 inches of the rose canes from possible winter damage. If you have a rose bed containing multiple roses, it may be easier to consider using a fencing material around the bed, and then fill the entire fenced in area with your mulch. [We do not recommend using rose cones.] For added protection, climbing roses may be mound mulched, sprayed with Wilt Stop, as well as wrapped with burlap. In some cases, the entire canes can be laid on the ground and mulched over for the winter.
4.) For landscape or shrub roses, Knockout roses included, follow the above mentioned clean up around each rose (no pruning unless there are long whipping branches), and then treat with the fungicide. With our ‘normal’ winters, they shouldn’t require the mound mulching, but if you’d like to add the winter ‘mound mulching’ protection, they won’t complain (especially if your roses are in a very exposed or harsh winter climate). But again, it is not necessary. A good soil surface mulching will be just fine, again, after the soil has reached or dropped below 40 degrees.
Note: Occasionally, there will times where it is not possible or feasible to wait until the very end of the season to winterize your roses. If this is the case, we simply suggest you wait as long as you can (to let them shut down) before giving your roses their final cleanup and winter mulching.
[Just curious – Does condensed milk come from smaller cows?]
*A CURE FOR THOSE EXTRA GOURDS - Halloween has come and gone, but there’s a good chance your local garden store or produce supplier still has a nice selection of assorted gourds, and probably on sale! They’re the perfect decorations for the Thanksgiving holiday. But did you know you can cure those gourds, and have them for decorations for years to come? That’s right! Curing gourds really is a fairly simple process. Well, actually it’s a simple 2 step process that will take anywhere from 1-6 months.
Choose your gourds making sure they’re solid and with no nicks or soft spots. Clean them well with soap and water, dry them, and then clean one last time with rubbing alcohol. Place the cleaned gourds in an open box, single layer and not touching, and place that box in a dark, well ventilated area. Check them every 2-3 days for decay and pitch any gourds that begin to soften. This is step one, which is the surface curing, and usually takes about 1-2 weeks.
Next, is the internal drying, which will take anywhere from 4 weeks to several months. Keeping the gourds in the same box and spacing, place them in a dark, well ventilated area that is warm. Warmth discourages decay. Keep checking the gourds for molding, and if mold appears, simply clean it off with rubbing alcohol. Periodically turn the gourds to promote even curing.
You’ll know your gourds are ready when they become light in weight, and the seeds rattle inside. Then, they’re ready to be waxed, shellacked, or even painted, and be used as decorations for years to come.
[Just curious – Can an ambidextrous person make an off hand remark?]
*FROM THE GARDEN TO THE KITCHEN / HEY RITA WHATS COOKIN? –
Yardboy, you know my motto: Love Starts in the Kitchen ! And Thanksgiving is the best time of all to share food at our table with family and friends. I’m sharing a recipe today which puts a twist on an old favorite. Now I have to admit, Yardboy, this kind of turkey won’t be at my table – I have to stick with the traditional bird with bread stuffing, etc., which is A-OK with me and my family. But for those of our readers looking for something a bit different than the norm, try this version. Now if you’re the chef for Thanksgiving Dinner, Yardboy, don’t go taste-testing the glaze too much or else you’ll be "glazed" as well!
I’ll be off next week, so I do hope all of our readers have the best Thanksgiving Day ever. Yardboy, one of my blessings for which I’m really grateful is the opportunity to be a part of this newsletter, sharing recipes, every week. I also wanted to tell our readers to be sure and stop at Macy’s Kenwood this Saturday to visit me from 11-2. I’ll be cooking up holiday favorites and will be available to answer food and entertaining questions. And perhaps share a story or two about you, Yardboy! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
[We’re also thankful that Rita takes the time to be a part of our newsletter! Now, as for the stories about me, well, I’d like to hear that myself!]
NEW TWISTS ON OLD FAVORITES: BOURBON AND MUSTARD GLAZED TURKEY BREAST
1 breast, 6-7 pounds rinsed and dried well
3/4 cup ea. Bourbon, Dijon mustard and brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, minced, or 1 teaspoon dry
2 tablespoons chopped chives or finely minced green onion
1 stick butter, softened and cut in half
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup good quality chicken broth or white wine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. . Mix minced herbs and half of butter together. Rub inside of breast with mixture. Rub outside of breast with rest of butter. Season with salt and pepper. Stir together bourbon, mustard and brown sugar. With your fingers, separate turkey skin from breast meat, taking care not to tear skin. Pour about half the glaze under the skin onto the breast meat. Set aside rest of glaze.
Place in roasting pan and pour broth around bottom. Roast about 20 minutes a pound, brushing with remaining glaze after about 1 hour in oven. Continue to brush with glaze and pan juices from time to time. Internal temperature will read 165 when done, and this will take up to 2-1/2 hours or so. Remove meat from pan and tent with foil. Skim fat from pan juices and pour some of the remaining bourbon mixture in pan. Go to taste here. Cook and scrape up brown bits for a few minutes until flavors intensify and juices are reduced. Adjust taste for more bourbon, Dijon or brown sugar. Carve turkey and serve with reduced pan juices.
Read Rita! For those of you needing stocking stuffers for the holidays, think of my 4 books which are available at local bookstores, Susan’s Natural World, Jungle Jims and Natorp’s (the herb book only):
-The Official Snack Guide for Beleaguered Sports Parents
-Sports Nutrition for Idiots (recipes developed by Rita)
-Culinary Herbs That Heal Body and Soul
-Gifts Without Ribbons
-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 / Part time Witchdoctor and maker of strange potions [firstname.lastname@example.org attn: Rita]
*IT’S A FRASER FIR FOR THE FIRST LADY! – An 18 ½ foot Fraser fir from North Carolina will be the official White House Christmas tree for the 2005 season. It will be presented to the First Lady Laura Bush on Nov. 28 by Earl, Betsy and Buddy Deal of Smokey Holler Tree Farm in Laurel Springs, N.C. The tree will stand in the Blue Room, and 2 other live trees will be decorated for the Oval Office and the Bush family’s private residence.
[What’s the only sign of intelligent life in Ann Arbor? -Columbus 187 Miles]
Okay, that’s all for this week. Next week is Thanksgiving week, so get your turkeys in a row. Now, do yourself a favor and have the best weekend of your life.