From July 2010

Mid-summer Blooming Perennials

Tequila Sunrise Coreopsis
Tequila Sunrise Coreopsis

Here are a few of the perennials that are blooming in my mid-summer garden, even though it has been neglected for several years. Thankfully, these plants are all hardy and require very little maintenance.

Tickseed or Coreopsis is a perennial that is drought tolerant and low maintenance.  It comes in an array of bright, sunny colors and looks nice planted alongside other summer blooming plants, but also adds color through the fall.

Creeping Bellflower
Campanula rapunculoides

Creeping Bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) , another perennial that has been growing in my yard for as long as the house has been in the family (more than 5 decades) and returns year after year.  Actually this Creeping Bellflower is considered an invasive weed by many, so if you’re going to allow this to grow in your garden, you’ll want to keep it contained since it spreads easily and can be hard to eradicate.

Salvia
Salvia Mainacht

Salvia is easy to grow in full sun and well drained soil.  May Night Salvia (Mainacht) requires very little care and is hardy to zone 3.

Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)
Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana)

Obedient Plant was probably named for it’s ability to keep its formed when shaped.  This type, Miss Manners, was bred so that it doesn’t spread like other varieties.  This plant hasn’t spread much at all in the five years since I planted it.  It has lovely white spikes and is pretty it cut flower bouquets.

Lavender Garden Phlox
Garden Phlox - Phlox paniculata Eva Cullum

Garden phlox is a favorite of mine – maybe because of the beautiful flower gardens that my grandmother kept and were full of sweet smelling phlox in shades of purple, pink and white.  It’s great for attracting hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies and smells heavenly.  It blooms best in full sun and likes rich, well drained soil.  Dead-head for longer blooming season and it should be divided every 2-3 years, preferably in the spring.

Garden Phlox Paniculata - David
Garden Phlox Paniculata - David

A beautiful white-blossomed garden phlox, this variety was named Best Perennial of the year in 2002.  Also likes full sun and rich, well drained soil, but is easy to maintain and hummingbirds love it.

Echinacea - Purple Coneflower
Echinacea - Purple Coneflower

Another easy to grow, low maintenance favorite of the butterflies, bees – and me!  These sturdy, tall flowers are reliable self-seeders and add height and color to the mid-summer garden.  The Purple Coneflower was named the Perennial Plant of the Year in 1998 for good reason.  Once it is established, it is very drought tolerant.  Leave the stems in the garden through the winter for birds to feed on.  Goldfinches love them.

Coreopsis lanceolata-Yellow Tickseed
Coreopsis lanceolata-Yellow Tickseed

Another bright sunny, easy to grow perennial, Yellow Tickseed Coreopsis is happiest in full sun and well drained soil, but really isn’t too fussy.  Birds love the seeds, or you can save them to start more plants next year.  Deadhead for longer blooming.

Don’t forget to cut a few of the colorful blossoms to create a bouquet for indoor enjoyment!

Healthy Strawberries and Tomatoes

Everbearing Strawberries are Pest Free
Everbearing Strawberries are Japanese Beetle Free

Despite a visit from the Japanese Beetles last week (which I removed promptly and drowned in soapy water), the Everbearing Strawberries are producing a fine, sweet crop of fruit.  I have not encountered any more of the voracious pests that can easily destroy a crop overnight.

There will be fresh strawberries for our Sunday morning waffle breakfast tomorrow, along with blueberries from northern Minnesota, a treat from a co-worker.  I added some of the blueberries to our morning oatmeal today, and I doubt that there are better tasting blueberries anywhere.

Unfortunately the tomatoes growing on the plant in the Topsy-Turvy upside down tomato hanger have not fared so well in their fight again blossom-end rot.  Most of the tiny little tomatoes develop black ends before they get larger than my thumb.  I’ve been keeping them evenly watered and it doesn’t seem to have helped much.  I may try adding Tums to the water, as I’ve read that the added calcium can help against BER.

The tomato plants in the raised bed garden are very healthy looking and have not had any BER at all.  I think the soil mixture that I used in the beds and in the upside down tomato hanger were from the same batch of compost, perlite, and peat, so they all got the same start.

Roma Tomatoes Grown in a Raised Bed Garden
Roma Tomatoes Grown in a Raised Bed Garden - No BER Problem Here

Above is a photo of the Roma tomatoes that are growing in the raised bed garden.

Below is  a photo of the Roma tomatoes that are growing in the upside down tomato hanger.

Roma Tomatoes Growing in Upside Down Tomato Hanger
Roma Tomatoes Growing in Upside Down Tomato Hanger Have BER

I’ll have to remember next year, that the Roma tomato plants seem to do better in the raised bed.  Seems the elongated tomatoes are more prone to BER.  Cherry tomatoes might be  a better choice for tomato planters.  Honestly though, in general I think the upside down tomato planter is a little too high maintenance for me.  Tomatoes do wonderfully in raised beds, and as long as I have the room for the gardens, I don’t really see an advantage to the tomato hangers, unless there is no room for a garden.  Even then, I would probably just plant them in pots.

Bringing The Garden Indoors

Painted Rose Box
Painted Rose Box

Gardening has been a hobby, a passion, and an outlet for stress in my life for many years.  The intense labor of digging, weeding, moving dirt and rocks, as well as harvesting the bounty and preserving it for later use leaves the body and soul feeling very satisfied.  It clears the head and tires the limbs.

I also enjoy capturing the natural beauty of a blooming rose at it’s peak of beauty.  When the gardens are growing and the weeds are (temporarily) defeated, passing the time with a paint brush and palette of colors, attempting to capture some of the wonder of nature also satisfies the soul.

It’s been too many years since I’ve sat down with a paint brush and canvas.  The activities of raising three teenagers single-handedly, while keeping up with the demands of a busy career left little time for personal enjoyment or hobbies.  But before I started dating my fiancé, the few moments I had to myself were sometimes spent with brush in hand, attempting to transfer some of scenic pictures imprinted in my mind to canvas.

This week, with brush in hand, I decided to attempt painting again.  As you can see, my skills are a little rusty, but I’ve enjoyed practicing various brush strokes and with a little practice, hope to be able to produce a respectable likeness of some of the beautiful gardens that I’ve enjoyed this summer.

For now, I’m sticking with Donna Dewberry’s One Stroke painting method, because it’s easy to learn and doesn’t require a lot of time or equipment to create a finished piece of artwork.  And if nothing else, the final products serve a practical purpose as they can still hold trinkets, or soil and water to nourish a plant or two.

Painted Flower Pot
Painted Flower Pot

Eleanor applies the base coat of paint to the pot so the pots all ready for painted designs.  This pot will be planted with summer flowering bulbs and be given to a friend of Eleanor’s.

Trip to Tangletown Gardens

Farm Fresh Produce Delivered Daily
Farm Fresh Produce & Eggs Available Daily

In the middle of the Tangletown neighborhood in south Minneapolis, you’ll find a garden oasis that tempts all of the senses.  Tangletown Gardens offers lush greenery of all types including succulents, perennials, annuals, heirloom, and water plants.  I strolled through the expansive outside area and found a massive display of lush, healthy hostas in both miniature and giant sizes.

Hostas Are Lush and Healthy
Large Variety of Hostas Are Lush and Healthy

You’ll find garden accessories including furniture, garden art, pots, wind chimes and pretty much anything you need to decorate your gardens.

Succulents and Patio Chairs
Statues, Succulents and Chairs

All of the plants were healthy and lush, even in the 90 degree temps.  The hydrangea below almost convinced me to take it home with me.

Endless Summer Hydrangea
Endless Summer Hydrangea

The water gardens in the back add to the sense that you’ve found a hidden garden oasis in the middle of the busy city.

Soothing Waterfall in the Water Garden
Soothing Waterfall in the Water Garden

Water lilies, water hyacinth, and water lettuce are just a few of the plants available for water gardens.  The water lilies were in bloom with beautiful yellow flowers.

Yes, my walk through the pathways was very refreshing, even in the hot summer afternoon heat.  The shop has plenty to see too.  I purchased several packets of flower seeds including Butterfly Bush, Delphinium, and Lobelia which I planted in the whisky barrel, after harvesting this year’s crop of red potatoes.

One of the coolest things about Tangletown Gardens is the fact that they sell organic produce that is grown on their farm in Plato, MN.  They have a program  called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) where you can purchase shares of seasonal produce throughout the summer months.  Shares are delivered from the farm to the Tangletown shop for customers to pickup weekly.

They also sell organic produce directly to consumers who don’t participate in the CSA program.

Farm Fresh Produce Available for Purchase
Farm Fresh Produce Available for Purchase

All of the produce is grown using sustainable farming methods, meaning no artificial herbicides or pesticides are applied.  Only natural methods for controlling pests and weeds, and natural fertilizers are used. I purchased some zuchini and summer squash, since I don’t have either growing in my garden this year.  I sliced it diagonally, drizzled it with olive oil, sprinkled it with freshly chopped basil and Old Bay seasoning and grilled it along with shrimp on skewers. It was mouth-wateringly delicious.

This was my first visit to Tangletown Gardens, but it definitely won’t be my last. It’s nice to know that the shop is open year round and has a wonderful supply of seasonal decorations during the holidays too.

BP Oil Geyser Capped; What About the Plastic Leak?

plastic island in the ocean
Plastic Garbage Patch

Hearing that BP finally has gained some control of the geyser that has been pouring millions of gallons of oil and other toxic chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico for almost 3 full months is very good news.  Whether this temporary cap will hold up under the pressure and not cause more leaking in the deep well or the ocean sub-floor is yet to be known.  Still, this is progress in a disaster that has very little success for far too long.

Watching the devastation that the oil leak has caused to wildlife, aquatic life, and beaches as well as the fishermen, tourism and people who’s livelihood is dependent on the gulf has been heart-wrenching.  Cleaning up the effects of the oil leak will without a doubt, take decades – if it’s ever even possible to fully clean it up – which I doubt.

The BP oil leak has been labelled the worst environmental disaster in US history.  But the fact is, there is an ongoing environmental disaster that potentially has as great an impact on the world’s oceans, and it appears that no one has done much to gain control over it yet.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a floating island of plastic debris that has been collecting in the Pacific Ocean.  It is estimated to be twice the size of Texas and stretches from the coast of California to Japan.  It contains bits and pieces of plastic trash that has either been dumped or floated into the ocean from streams and rivers.  The toxins poison sea life, birds, and mammals. Fish and birds get caught in the tangled plastic net and die.

Plastic (made from oil) does not break down naturally.  It’s durability means that it is not biodegradable and will likely last for hundreds of years.  Plastic contains chemicals such as artificial estrogen that leach into water, increasing risk of cancers and other diseases.

We can reduce our usage of plastics by using cloth bags, growing our own produce, or purchasing produce from local farmers markets, which reduces pollution and packaging.  Recycling plastics, cardboard, and metals and shopping at consignment shops also helps reduce waste.  Using organic lawn and garden products reduces the runoff of toxic chemicals into our waterways.

The world is one, large environmental system and we are all connected through that system.  The thought that a floating island twice the size of Texas exists because of our waste is very disturbing.  Imagine that island covered in a slimy layer of black oil, trapping sea birds, turtles, fish, and whales in a poisonous net, strangling the life out of them.

Let’s hope the cap on the oil geyser is a success.  Let’s also hope that we can figure out a way to put a cap on the toxic leak of plastic and chemical runoff flowing into our oceans too.

Keeping Japanese Beetles Away From Strawberries

How to rid strawberries of Japanese Beetles
Japanese Beetle on Strawberry Blossom

While strolling through my garden this evening, I encountered a colorful (very unwelcome) visitor on my strawberry plants.  Japanese Beetles love strawberries and eggplants (and most other vegetation) and will quickly destroy a plant in no time.   They are one of the most destructive garden pests.  Its best to deal with them as soon as they appear, since they attract each other with pheromones.

Since I only saw one, it was easy to deal with but from what I’ve read on some of the gardening sites, they can be very difficult to get rid of.

Some organic methods that are recommended are:

  • Flicking them into a dish of soapy water which will kill them.
  • Using traps to attract them (this is favored by some gardeners, but not recommended by others since it seemed to make the problem worse by attracting even more).
  • Applying Milky Spore (click here for product info) to your lawn and garden areas (one treatment can last for up to 15 years).
  • Picking them off and killing them.

Harvesting ripe fruit promptly helps too, since they are especially attracted to overripe fruit. I’ll be keeping an eye out for these pests and removing them as soon as they appear so they don’t take over my garden.

Five Benefits of Choosing Locally Grown Food

Strawberries and Grapes
Strawberries and Grapes

Beyond the satisfaction and enjoyment of growing fresh vegetables in a backyard garden, there are many reasons why everyone benefits from choosing locally grown produce to feed their families.  If you are unable to create your own garden, shopping at a local co-op or farmers market is a great alternative.

Some benefits of choosing locally grown food for your family include:

1) Quality – fresh produce simply cannot be beat for taste.

2) Nutritional value – vegetables and fruit lose their nutritional value very quickly. Buying locally reduces the time from field to table.

2) Better for the environment – transporting food across the country increases air pollution, and adds to our dependence on oil.

3) Saves money – it’s less expensive to purchase fresh produce from local farmers than from distant commercial growers.

4) Supports your local economy – keeps local farmers in business.

5) Less exposure to ecoli and other harmful bacteria that is often found on large commercial fields.

For more information or to find a  co-op or farmers markets close to your home, visit this site:

www.localharvest.org

Minneapolis Farmer’s Market Visit

Minneapolis Farmer's Market
Minneapolis Farmer's Market

What’s the next best thing to growing your own fresh vegetables and flowers?  Selecting them from a local market like the Minneapolis Farmers Market!  The festive, aromatic atmosphere is just part of what makes strolling through the covered buildings filled with rows of produce, flowers, and plants so much fun.  The market on Lyndale dates back to 1937.  There a currently 230 vendors  and 170 stalls at the Lyndale location.

Red, White, and Green Onions
Red, White, and Green Onions

The vast selection of different types of vegetables is amazing and most of them are grown locally.

Perennial Plants and Shrubs
Perennial Plants and Shrubs

Several vendors offer perennials, potted herbs, and shrubs.

Cone Flower (Echinacea)
Cone Flower (Echinacea)

A butterfly stopped for a visit on the cone flower.

Balloon Flower (Chinese Bellflower)
Balloon Flower (Chinese Bellflower)

A large selection of very healthy Balloon Flowers, a vibrant blue perennial that likes full sun and well drained soil.

Wide Variety of Plums, Peaches, Pears, Pineapples
Wide Variety of Plums, Peaches, Pears, Pineapples

Some produce that can’t be grown in Minnesota is brought in from southern states.

Beautiful Floral Bouquets
Beautiful Floral Bouquets

Many of the flowers are grown locally.

Locally Grown Gladiolas
Locally Grown Gladiolas

Many of the vendors are here 7 days a week all summer long.  Others are only at the market on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  The market wasn’t as busy today as it has been when I’ve visited before, but it’s always been a Saturday in the past.  It was easy to find parking and I even drove up to the stall to pick up the shrubs that I bought and there was parking available there too.

Potted Flowers
Potted Flowers

Many flower arrangements were available, both potted and bouquets.

Petersen Flowers Truck
Petersen Flowers Truck

My haul included these strawberries, 3 quarts for $5.

Strawberries Look and Smell Delicious
Strawberries Look and Smell Delicious

Seedless watermelon grown in Georgia, $3; pumpkin leaves ($1/bunch);  greens beans, $2/tray; 3 qts. strawberries, $5.

I bought the pumpkin leaves (Bangladeshi Spinach) from a woman who did not speak English, so the neighboring vendor translated for me and explained that they are delicious either boiled or fried with a little salt, pepper, and butter.

Pumpkin Leaves, Georgia Watermelon, Green Beans & Strawberries
Pumpkin Leaves, Georgia Watermelon, Green Beans & Strawberries

Gladiolas from Petersen Flowers, $3.

Vibrant Gladiolas
Vibrant Gladiolas

Blueberry Bush, $12; Raspberry Bush, $6.  I picked up these beauties from Tamblyn’s Nursery.

Blueberry and Raspberry Bushes
Blueberry and Raspberry Bushes

Fresh on the vine raspberries (they were delicious).

Ripe Raspberries
Ripe Raspberries

Not a bad haul for a total of $29.  The selection changes throughout the summer, as different produce matures so I’ll be stopping back at the market periodically to harvest more from the local farmers.  I’ll let you know how the pumpkins leaves taste.  I’m going to try a recipe from Vietnam:

Pumpkin Leaves Stir-Fry

1 bunch pumpkin leaves
2 T vegetable oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced

Strip and peel away the fibrous cover from stems and leaf veins. Remove hard ends, cut stems into 3-inches length, put aside. Use gloves or your hands to knead the leaves gently to remove the tiny hair from them. Wash them throroughly.
Heat 2 T oil in a large pan, add garlic, stir until fragrant, add pumpkin leaves. Sauteed until tender, season with salt, fish sauce, pepper.

Blossom End Rot on the Upside Down Tomato Plant

Blossom End Rot of Tomatoes
Blossom End Rot on Tomatoes

From a distance, the upside down tomato plant looks like it is thriving.  I’ve been watering every evening that it doesn’t rain.  However, we had above average rainfall in June, and July has been pretty wet so far too.  This evening when I was watering, I noticed that the cute little tomatoes on the upside down tomato plant all had black bottoms.  Although I’ve never seen blossom end rot on such small tomatoes, I’m pretty sure that’s what it is.

Upside Down Tomato Plant
Upside Down Tomato Hanger

Blossom end rot is usually caused by excessive moisture or inconsistent moisture content in the soil which causes a calcium deficiency.  It has been difficult to keep the plant evenly watered due to all the rain followed by hot, summer days.

Blossom End Rot of Upside Down Tomatoes
Blossom End Rot of Upside Down Tomatoes

Once the fruit is diseased, there’s nothing that can be done, other than to remove them from the plant, which I did.  I’ll have to keep a closer eye on the planter and make sure that it doesn’t dry out too much, or get waterlogged.  It is hanging in an area that gets full sun and plenty of air circulation so I don’t think that’s the problem.  I may try adding a layer of mulch to the inside of the planter to help retain moisture evenly.

Organic Heirloom Tomato Plant
Brandywine Organic Heirloom Tomato Plant Grown in a Raised Bed Garden

The tomato plants that are growing in the raised bed garden are very healthy and have shown no signs of blossom end rot.  It is much easier to keep the moisture content consistent  in the raised beds.

Growing Organic Tomatoes
Organic Tomatoes Grown in a Raised Garden Bed

These Brandywine Heirloom tomatoes look and smell delicious. Can’t wait until they’re ripe and ready for the table!

Gardening: Favorite Tools

The Good Thing - About Gardening Logo
The Good Thing - About Gardening

One of my favorite garden tools is not something that I would hang in the tool shed or garage.  It’s not something you wear or apply to the soil.  It’s a free photo editing tool that allows you to enhance, modify, and alter photos much like Photoshop – except that its FREE!

The Good Thing - Logo 3
The Good Thing - Logo 3

Using  PhotoScape you can sharpen and crop photos, add frames or filters to make them look like a watercolor or oil painting. You can even turn photos into a box.

My favorite way to record what’s happening in my gardens and when is to photograph them.  Using free tools to edit and enhance those photos can be almost as much fun as taking them.  To download a free copy of Photoscape, click here.