Slugs and snails and puppy-dog tails. Well maybe not puppy-dog tails, but a good look at garden slugs and snails, and the edible snail delicacy called escargot. Most gardeners are all too familiar with slugs and snails in their gardens, along with the damage they wreak. Many a night we go out with a flashlight, searching for the nocturnal critters that eat the vegetation, sometimes right to the ground.
Ramps signal Spring has come to the Appalachians and they bring about many family gatherings and public festivals to eat and celebrate the first vegetable of the year. The ramp is a wild leek, smelling strongly of garlic, and people either love 'em or hate 'em.
Every gardener knows there are vagaries of weather following the first warm days in early spring, but not all gardeners know their names, or that they have names, and why. Old-timers in the Appalachians know there are several named "winters" following winter, and Blackberry Winter is perhaps the best known. There is also Dogwood Winter, Locust Winter, Whippoorwill Winter, Redbud Winter and even Linsey-Woolsey Britches Winter.
The shallot is a hardy member of the Allium family. Like all families, Alliums have as many differences as they do traits in common. Garlic can make you breathe fire, onions can make you cry, chives with sour cream can perk up a baked potato and the dainty, subtle shallot is prized for its mild, distinctive and nutty flavor.
The Red Twig Dogwood is one of my favorite deciduous shrubs in the yard because it provides interest in my garden all year long. It gives the bees (and me!) wonderful tiny white flowers nestling against the softly bright green leaves in mid summer; then in fall it produces small berries the birds love, and finally it moves into its finest season, winter.
With a name like Creole, one would naturally assume these garlics originated in Louisiana, but they really were cultivated in Spain and initially spread by the Conquistadors. Creole garlics were classified as silverskins although they don't resemble other silverskins in any way. Botanists assured us, however, that they were genetically silverskins… but it turns out not to be so.  They are in a class all their own, and gaining popularity with Creole (and other!) cooks.
Last fall I received a gift package containing 2 jars of beautiful claret colored homemade jelly, made from Beach Plums. I had never heard of them! The taste was outstanding and I wanted some for my own garden. Since I am just starting a small fruiting garden area and still selecting fruits to grow, I started researching all I could find out about beach plums.
A Jerusalem Artichoke is not from Jerusalem and it is not an artichoke. Instead, it is a type of perennial sunflower in the aster family with an edible tuber. They are native to eastern North America, from Maine west to North Dakota, and south to northern Florida and Texas.
The various species of juniper grow as shrubs and small trees throughout North America as well as the Middle East. The seed cones look like berries and most are edible. All of the species of juniper grow berries but some are considered just too bitter to eat. Many also have medicinal properties.
Plant nutrients include the three primary macronutrients (NPK, or nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) obtained from fertilizers, and the other three macronutrients (calcium, sulfur and magnesium) whose availability is often managed by manure applications, composting and liming. The third group is micronutrients, sometimes called trace elements, or trace minerals. Just because they are needed in lesser amounts than the two previous groups does not diminish their importance or value.
When I first started gardening, a visiting friend brought me a terracotta pot with small mounded blue-gray grass looking contents. He assured me they (it?) would not only survive, but thrive next summer. I really didn’t appreciate it for 2 more years until one spring day I walked out my front door and was mesmerized by a sweet-spicy clove scent gently wafting from the delicate pink blooms. I was hooked, and now always have some growing in my garden.
The trend today is very strong for growing your own, whether vegetables, fruits or nuts, and fruit bush and tree suppliers were sold out early this year. Now is a good time to do some planning and preparation for your future fruit garden (and remember to order early for next year). Planning involves many things: layout, soil, water, drainage, sunlight, wind direction, and of course, choosing what to plant. This article will cover some tips and suggestions.
It’s hard to pick up any health magazine today without seeing an article touting the many benefits of flax. Flaxseed is widely used as a nutritional additive to foods, as a fiber crop, and pressed for its oil. Flax (known as common flax) is grown in the home garden for its lovely blue flowers.
With so many people now growing a vegetable garden for the first time, the question often arises about using inoculants when planting peas and beans. What IS an inoculant, what does it really DO, and WHY should I consider using one?
Sorrel has been around for thousands of years, found both in edible dishes and herbal preparations, but generally under-used as a food in the United States. There are many kinds of sorrel; two are known as French sorrel although one is really common sorrel and they are distinctly different.
Until this gardening year I killed ALL weeds, without mercy. It was a never-ending and tedious job. No matter what weed cloth I used, no matter how thick the mulch I applied, I still had weeds... and I am against using chemicals. In my mind, NO weed had any redeeming qualities. I was wrong.
Close all the windows and lock all the doors… the zucchini are coming! The much-maligned zucchini is about to multiply in gardens everywhere and soon the same old zucchini jokes will start making the rounds again. We laugh every year but it’s the frenetic laugh of complicity, knowing we too may soon be bearing lumpy bags of extra zucchini.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you are probably aware of the disappearance of honeybees, due in large part to “Colony Collapse Disorder”. Scientists worldwide are working to pinpoint the cause, and find a cure. Now, an associate professor of biology at San Francisco State University is enlisting “citizen scientists” in a coast-to-coast study on the health of pollinating bees. You and your children can join in, make a real contribution, and have fun at the same time.
Almost any gardener who has driven along a coastal highway in the southeastern United States has caught a glimpse of the indigenous wild sea oats along the sand dunes. If you have walked along those beaches, you will have seen signs that picking sea oats (or any part thereof, including seeds) is against the law in several states, and carries a hefty fine.
There are a number of variations on the legend of the Four Thieves and how they survived the Black Plague. The common thread throughout the stories is an herbal mix that enabled these men to survive a pandemic that killed millions people in the mid 1300s. By all accounts, it was the worst pandemic in recorded history, but some, like the Four Thieves, survived and lived to tell the tale of how they did.
Black Walnuts produce a substance known as juglone which is toxic to many plants, and can cause allergic reactions in humans and horses. Juglone is excreted primarily in the roots, saturating the soil in a radius of 50-60 feet or more in a mature tree. The buds and nut hulls are also high in juglone.
Most nut trees are too large to grow more than one or perhaps two in a home fruit and nut garden. However, a few familiar (and some unfamiliar) nut trees are suitable, depending on your climate zone. Almonds, cashews, filberts (hazelnuts), pine nuts and pistachios are some of the well-known smaller nut trees.
At the first hint of spring in the Appalachian Mountains, folks start looking for “creasy greens”. They are the earliest of any of the wild greens, often poking through the snow, and although traditionally hunted by foragers they are now grown commercially. Creasy greens are usually cooked long, like kale, mustard or turnip greens but they are equally good raw in a fresh salad.
Yesterday, Friday March 20, 2009 was an historic day for all gardeners, but particularly for the vegetable and fruit gardeners. For the first time since Eleanor Roosevelt planted a Victory Garden at the White House in 1943, there will once again be a vegetable garden at the White House. A number of 5th-grade students joined First Lady Michelle Obama on Friday, March 20, 2009 to break ground on an 1100 square foot garden on the South Lawn at the White House.
Magnesium is at the core of the chlorophyll molecule, and an essential ingredient for healthy plants, and the animals (including humans) that eat those plants. All living organisms depend on magnesium in all types of cells, body tissues and organs for a variety of functions. Magnesium in human and animal bodies is important in regulating muscle and nerve functions, and half the magnesium in humans is found in our bones.
'Country life has its conveniences,' he would sometimes say. 'You sit on the verandah and you drink tea, while your ducks swim on the pond, there is a delicious smell everywhere, and . . . and the gooseberries are growing.' ~Anton Chekhov
To satisfy shipping and storage requirements, many fruits are picked much too green to ever ripen properly even after they are gassed to attain the ‘ripe fruit appearance’ necessary for our supermarket shelves. Some of the best tasting varieties are not even GROWN by commercial fruit growers, for the same storage and shipping concerns.
Most of the sweet, juicy, luscious berries of summer have gone to live in Memoryville, and the scant selections now available in our grocery stores pale in both quality and taste without even considering their ever-increasing, exorbitant cost. Now is the time for fall fruits, but it’s also the time for planning scrumptious additions to the backyard berry patch.
What cup of hot chocolate would be complete without yummy melting mini-marshmallows floating across its steaming surface? What campfire would be complete without roasting marshmallows and making s’mores? And what Valentine’s Day would be complete without fluffy pink homemade marshmallow hearts? How long have marshmallows been around for these traditions to evolve, and are they easy to make? Surprising answers follow.
With the increasing popularity of local foods, many of us are returning to the edible plants of our childhood memories. We may remember visiting Grandpa and going for a walk in the fields to pick wild blackberries in August, or visiting Grandma who had the most luscious strawberries in her garden. Even after many years, we still carry the memory of the aroma and sweet taste of that just-picked, perfectly ripe fruit.
Sulfur is necessary for all living cells, but humans and animals only get it from plants. In plants, sulfur is essential for nitrogen-fixing nodules on legumes, and necessary in the formation of chlorophyll. Plants use sulfur in the processes of producing proteins, amino acids, enzymes and vitamins. Sulfur also helps the plant’s resistance to disease, aids in growth, and in seed formation.
Potassium, the “K” of “NPK”, is an essential plant growth nutrient used for transpiration (movement of water vapor) and regulation of carbon dioxide levels by means of opening the stoma or pores in the cells. Plants take in atmospheric carbon dioxide for photosynthesis (converting sunlight into the energy necessary to make carbohydrates/sugars), and in the process, give off the oxygen we need.
Phosphorus, the “P” in NPK, is one of the essential nutrients for plant growth. It is a macronutrient, meaning it’s one of the major nutrients plants need, while secondary nutrients like calcium, magnesium and sulfur are needed in smaller amounts. All nutrients are necessary, to work together in balance for optimum plant health, growth, and production of flower, fruit, and seed. Phosphorus, much like potassium, plays an important role in photosynthesis, and energy movement within the plant tissues.
What gardener has not heard over and over, “NPK, NPK, NPK” or, “fertilize, fertilize, fertilize”? It’s true we need to address those things, but do we really understand ALL the ramifications, the How’s and Why’s? I didn’t fail chemistry in school because I never took a chemistry class. So, when I began gardening and reading about soil chemistry, it seemed so unintelligible that I could feel my eyes glazing over and my brain fogging. Finally I think I understand it a little better.
In the current best-selling Russian book series, “The Ringing Cedars of Russia” by Vladimir Megre, there is an often repeated tale of Siberian cedars of an advanced age “ringing”. This of course got my attention, both as a Reader and as a Gardener.
Calcium is essential for all living organisms including plants; most soils contain enough calcium but not in a form plants can use. What does that mean? Can we fix it? To understand calcium and its role in healthy plants, here's a look at some sources of calcium, and how calcium affects plants.