Week 6 (4/28/05)
The month of April has come and gone. Just like that, we turn the corner and head into May and warmer temperatures – maybe. You never know what Mother Nature has in mind, so garden wisely.
Friday April 29 is National Arbor Day! Hopefully, you and your family will help to celebrate this day by planting a tree or trees, which in turn will help improve our environment.
[Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.]
*WEATHER IT’S THE WEATHER – Nice little curve ball sent by Mother Nature over the week! We were around 28 three nights in a row here at the main garden center. Fortunately, doesn’t look like it got as cold as was predicted, and so far I’m seeing little to no freeze damages to plants.
It does look like the winter of 2005 will go in the books as one of the coldest in recorded history. Didn’t seem that way to me, but I guess it was. Then again, ask our butterfly bushes, which are only coming back from roots rather than the remaining low branches!
[By the time you can make ends meet, they move the ends.]
*WHAT’S BUGGIN YOU? – Same old same old this week, with the eastern tent caterpillars, pine sawflies.
temperatures had no effect on the insect populations. Yes, he admits they were a little cold, but not killed. Only Joe would be happy to report that.
[Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don’t have any film.]
*QUESTIONMARK & THE MYSTERIANS – Here are a few gardening questions from this weeks emailed news bag:
"This question is for Rita. My husband loved the hot pepper vinegar I made and asked for garlic vinegar. I peeled fresh garlic and added the vinegar, and today, the garlic is turning blue! How can I prevent this?" -Don’t worry; it’s a harmless reaction between the garlic and the vinegar. I’ve even had garlic turn blue without an acid being introduced to the garlic. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there’s no way to prevent it.
"What can you tell me about catmint (nepeta)?" -I can tell you we’re using it more and more in the landscape. Not only for the early summer flowers (which will flower again after a good shearing), but for the wonderful foliage, lack of insect and disease problems, tough in the sun, and best of all, very deer resistant! Border, massing, specimen (18-30inches tall)
"Should my butterfly bushes be sprouting by now?" -Ours are just barely showing growth right at the ground level. All of the stems are dead. Looks like butterfly bush may have taken a hard hit this past winter. But, they usually come back from the roots. Be patient.
"I have one holly bush that has never gotten berries. How can I tell if it’s a male or female?" -Great question, as it’s the female holly that has the berries, but needs a male holly for pollination and they need to be within a bee’s flying distance. The only way to tell is to look at their flowers, and bring back a few terms we learned in our botany classes in high school. All Holly flowers have four (sometimes 5) white petals. The male flower has four prominent stamens each having a stalk that supports an anther. The anthers have the sticky pollen on them. But here’s the ‘tell tale’ of the male flowers - look in the center of the flower. The ovary is very small or not there, and the center looks hollow.
Now, look at the female holly flower. Four white petals and they even have the four stamens like the male flowers, although they don’t produce pollen. But, look at the center of the female flower. You’ll find a prominent pistil made up of a stigma, style, and a very large green ovary. Males have no green ovary in the center of the flower and females have a large green ovary in the center of the flower. It’s as simple as that!
"I have wild onions popping up in my landscape beds. I keep pulling them, but they keep coming back. What should I do?" -Only pull them if you’re going to eat them; yes, they’re very edible. But by pulling, you’ll leave enough roots and bulbs below for them to re-grow. If you physically remove them, dig them out, roots and all, and replace the soil with new soil. Make sure you get everything when you dig them out. The other option is to spray with concentrated Roundup, but make sure you bruise the foliage first by hitting it or swiping it, to help remove the waxy coating on the outside of the foliage. And yes, it will take repeated applications of Roundup, to kill the onion clump totally.
Wild onions are highly edible; just make sure they have not been sprayed with a non edible herbicide. Hey, 2 for a dollar at the grocers - free in your backyard. That’s a great deal!
[If it weren’t for stress, I’d have no energy at all.]
*IF IT’S GROWIN’ YOU NEED TO KEEP MOWIN’ – This time of the year can get a little frustrating, as the grass is growing at twice its normal rate! Please, mow as the grass needs to be mowed, not when you have time to mow it. In some cases, it may be twice in the same week. This won’t last long, but stick with it while it does. Mowing tips:
-Mow as the lawn needs to be mowed, not when you can mow.
-Mow at a higher level, rather than too short.
-Never remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade each time you mow.
-Throw the grass clippings back into the existing turf (they return valuable nutrients back to the lawn, they’re 85% water and decompose quickly, they do not contribute to thatch, it’s easier on you and time saving, and you help reduce yard waste sent to the landfills).
-Change directions each time you mow.
-Clean the underside of the mower deck after each mowing.
-Sharpen your mower blades on a regular basis.
[Middle age is when broadness of the mind and narrowness of the waist change places.]
[If you look like your passport picture, well, you probably need the trip.]
*DEADHEADING NOT RECOMMENDED ANYMORE FOR DAFFODILS – As the years go by, gardening practices change. New ideas and new methods are introduced and we all learn new ways to garden. This past week, Mr. Bill Lee, daffodil expert extraordinaire, and gardening friend, passed along this new information. "As for deadheading daffodils, modern thinking has stopped recommending it. For the few that actually develop seed pods, there is little weakening of the bulbs. And we are seeing the real danger in deadheading daffodils as the potential to spread a virus from one clump to another. You can easily transfer it with your fingers or clippers, which will result in the ‘dwindles’." Now, Mr. Bill still promotes leaving those daffodil leaves alone as long as you can (at least 6 weeks after flowering) before cutting them off, and he definitely does not recommend braiding or rubber banding the foliage. Thanks for the new info, Mr. Bill!
["I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in food". –Rita]
*FROM THE GARDEN TO THE KITCHEN – HEY RITA, WHAT’S COOKIN? –Growing up, we ate soup often, mostly toward the end of the week, when Mom would accumulate enough bits and pieces of leftover veggies and meat to make a pot of soup. Nothing was wasted in our house, The recipe I’m sharing today makes good use of the small amount of dried basil and oregano I have from last year’s harvest. Of course, you can always use fresh herbs here, just triple the amount.
TUSCAN PEASANT SOUP
If you like, toss in a handful of ditallini, orzo or other small pasta after you cook the chicken.
1 pound Italian sausage
2 to 2-1/2 cups onion, chopped
2-3 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into small cubes
1 can each, 15 oz ea. drained: cannelloni, red and butter beans
3 cans chicken broth
1 can, 14.5 oz, diced tomatoes
1 can, 10-14 oz, diced tomatoes with jalapenos or chilies
1 teaspoon ea: basil and oregano, dry or more to taste
5 cups escarole or other greens coarsely cut up
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan or Romano cheese – generous amount for tossing into soup and sprinkling on top
Cook sausage, onion, garlic and chicken together until chicken is just opaque. Add everything but greens and cheese. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook until chicken is done, about 10-15 minutes. Add greens and stir until wilted. Stir in a handful of cheese. Serve at once, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Serves 8-12.
-Tips from Rita's, with oregano being the herb of the year, lots of folks are growing it. Try the spicy oregano and eliminate the pepper in the soup. Did you know that oregano has 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples? So be sure and include oregano as a flavoring as much as you can,
- 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]
[Junk is something you’ve kept for years, and throw away 3 weeks before you need it.]
[Learn from the mistakes of others. Trust me, you can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.]