What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Here is another reason I don’t particularly like dumping chemicals on a lawn just to kill those “evil” dandelions. Chemicals have their place, but they are often used indiscriminately.

In this example, a liquid herbicide containing the compound “2,4-d” was applied in the general area of these grapevines. It was a warm day, the chemical evaporated and drifted over to the grapes. Here was the result:

2,4-d damaged grapes

This was the second time in two years that these grapevines were damaged by the same compound. The first time it was a granular “weed and feed” that was applied. The results were much the same.

2,4-d kills weeds by disrupting the hormone balance within a plant. It is this disruption that causes the severe twisting and curling you see in the photo. Unfortunately, the chemical will kill any broadleaf plant, this includes grapes (which are particularly sensitive). Other plants nearby were also affected including some spinach.

With a mild exposure, most plants will out grow the damage. However, it has been around 3 weeks since the grapes were exposed and they haven’t really “bounced back yet”.

I’m afraid that some of these vines may have gotten a higher dose than they are able to handle. The fact that they have been damaged twice in the past three seasons, I’m sure has some bearing on their slow recovery.



Blossoming in our garden right now is Verbascum, a member of the Mullein family of plants. We grew these from seed last year:


The plants shown above are just over 30″ tall.

They prefer hot dry areas, so I planted them in a spot (where the irrigation doesn’t reach) near the asphalt driveway.

This is the first year of blossoming for these perennials…I forgot I had planted them! What a pleasant surprise.


No Argument Here

There was quite a rhubarb out in the garden this morning.

No, it wasn’t a loud and boisterous argument that we had… it was a couple of huge rhubarb plants in need of harvest.

Rhubarb Harvest

The easiest (and healthiest for the plant) way to harvest rhubarb is to just grab a stalk near the bottom of the plant and give it a sideways pull. They come right off with a satisfying “snap”.

Only the stalks (technically, a “petiole”) can be eaten. The leaves are poisonous so they make their contribution by going into the compost.

Bushel of Rhubarb

When I delivered this bushel of rhubarb, I took an informal poll asking how each person was going to prepare their share of the rhubarb.
Rhubarb pie was the most common response, followed by rhubarb sauce, rhubarb wine was mentioned as a distant third.

One lady mentioned that as a child in Germany, her mother would pick a tender stalk of rhubarb for her, dip it in sugar and serve it fresh as a sweet candy-like treat. I’m going to try that tomorrow, it sounds delicious…kind of sweet and sour and crunchy.

This time of the year (during harvest time) rhubarb will send up seed stalks. If you want to keep your harvest going, break off those seed stalks as soon as you see them. This way, you should be able to harvest stalks from a mature rhubarb plant (three years or older) for several weeks.

Now, we have had the other kind of “rhubarb” in the garden from time to time but that’s a whole ‘nother story!


The Portable Greenhouse Comes Down

We planned on doing a lot of planting Thursday, but it was so hot. It was 90F in the shade at the garden site. It wasn’t us that we were concerned about, it was the plants, we didn’t want them exposed to the extreme temperature and the drying wind. That would have put them under too much stress. (with the cool Holiday weekend weather upon us, this all seems like a distant memory)

Instead we went inside the portable plastic greenhouse where the temperature was over 110F (with all the doors open) and began dismantling it. Even with five of us, it took all afternoon in the blazing sun. This greenhouse measures 21’x21′ and is 14 feet tall at the ridge, so it is a fairly good sized structure. We did a lot of climbing up and down ladders to take down the roof.

When you take it all apart you end up with a big pile of parts that all look the same but are different sizes.

The last time we did this we used a “Sharpie” pen to mark the pieces, the so-called permanent ink barely lasted one season before being bleached out in the sun.

This time I used a “paint pen” to label everything. This differs from a “Magic Marker” or “Sharpie” in that it uses a special thick ink formula so that the letters look like they have been painted on. The pen I used was an “Allflex Tag Pen”. These pens are used by livestock farmers to mark numbers on their animal’s ear tags. Those tags need to be able to hold up under some pretty severe conditions.

Five years ago I labled some metal plant markers with this pen and they still look almost like new.

Next year the greenhouse should be easy to piece back together…that is, if I can remember what all those cryptic markings mean!


Russell Lupine

I’ve tried for years to grow Lupine from seed and have never had any success. This year I cheated and bought 50 Russell Lupine roots from the nursery. Of course this is not really cheating, I only say that because I enjoy the challenge of propagating my own plants. Not everyone has access to the kind of facilities I have… so that’s why there are nurseries and garden centers.

Anyway, here is what a lupine root looks like:

Russel Lupine with Allium

Back in March we had a kind of warm spell. We took advantage of the weather to plant the lupine roots. Twenty-five of the larger roots went in in front of some very tall (14′) climbing roses:

Lupine roots in trench

We simply dug a trench and were careful to spread out the roots before we covered them up.

Meanwhile, I took the remaining roots and planted them into 6′ plastic pots and placed them into our semi-heated portable greenhouse. I just let them “simmer” in there, keeping them watered of course, until the end of April.

During their stay in the portable greenhouse they developed a wonderful rootball:

Lupine rootball

I planted them as I would any other potted plant.
Now, a month later…the results:

Lupine with Allium

The lupine are the tall skinny flowers, the ball of star-like flowers is an Allium. This was a mixed batch of Lupine. There are different shades of pinks and blues in this bed.

After all these years of wanting Lupine I finally got them…and it was so easy! 😉


Newsweek: The Tip Sheet

A fine article appeared in the May 21,2007 issue of Newsweek entitled “Saving Your Seed Money”.

Author Linda Stern crammed in a bunch of money saving gardening tips into a one page article, such as: starting out with smaller plants; and, dividing and trading perennials.

She also sites information provided by the National Gardening Association: American gardeners spent $34 billion on their yards last year. That’s an average of $401 per family.

Saving Green

(photo: Noah Webb for Newsweek)

To read the entire article click here.

I’ll bet you are one of the 3 out of four Americans who like to garden!


Fig Harvest

Remember back in April when I talked about the two potted fig trees in the greenhouse?

Well, here is most of the harvest from those trees. I say most because I ate a few fresh off the tree. This first harvest is called the “breba crop”. It is produced on old stems grown by the trees last year.

Fig harvest
The variety is “Kadota” and is rated “fair” for eating fresh. It is rated “excellent” for drying. I’m lucky to have gotten any figs this time of year because Kadota rarely produces a breba crop.

I put the pile you see here into the dehydrator and dried them. They are now in a “Zip-Loc” bag on my desk. I have not tried them yet.

These trees will produce fruit again later on in the fall. Those fruits are known as the “main crop” and are produced on the new summer growth.

Before you even ask I’ll have to say; no, there is not here enough to make a batch of home-made “fig newtons”. Watch out this fall though, I’m planning on a bumper main crop!


Little Blue Heirloom Flower

We have a wonderful little blue flower that has been blossoming for almost a week now, its our Forget-Me Nots (or as the late Frank Sinatra pronounced it… “forgeta-me-nots”).

This variety is called Bobo Blue:

Bobo Blue

Here is what Johnny’s Selected Seeds has to say about it in their catalog:

An heirloom perennial found in many old-fashioned gardens. This forget-me-not is a perfect addtion to any perennial bed or border garden. It is an early bloomer and an instant hit due to its vivid blue color.

I couldn’t have said it better myself!


Planting Onions

Earlier this week, we planted our main onion crop.

We sowed the seed in the greenhouse back in January into flat trays. From this method you get what is known as “Onion transplants”, which are simply onion seedlings.

In this part of the country, onions can only be grown by transplants or “sets”. Onion sets are small, dried onion bulbs that are planted directly into the garden bed. Sets are readily found in garden centers.

Normally, we like to grow our own transplants because we can get the varieties we want.

This year we planted two beds of “White Spear” which is a green onion used for “veggie trays”.

Two beds of “Copra” were also planted. These are a yellow onion used for cooking. They are quite strong freshly sliced, but turn very sweet and flavorful when cooked. They also store exceptionally well.

For slicing onions on burgers and sandwhiches we planted a red onion called “Mars”. In years past we liked to grow “Burgermaster”, but seeds of this variety have become scarce.

Transplants are sold in all garden centers either in small trays or in semi-dry bundles of a couple of dozen or so. Here’s what ours look like:

Onion transplants

We usually dig shallow furrows using a “V” shaped hoe and line up the transplants at a spacing of 3/4″ to 1″ for our green onions and 1-1/2″ to 2″ apart for our regular onions.

The distance between rows in our beds is quite close…just far enough apart to comfortably get a hoe in between. You really can use whatever distance you like. I have seen rows as far apart as 24″ or more, because the gardener was using a rear-tine rototiller to cultivate between the rows.

Tuck your transplants into the furrow about to the depth they were originally growing, (where the white bottom begins to turn green). Firm the soil around them and give them a drink of water. They will begin growing right away.

Newly planted onion transplants

  • Keep in mind that onions cannot compete against weeds at all.
  • Onions need adequate water…no drought
  • They need lots of leaves on top if they are to grow large bulbs, so fertilize with a high nitrogen fertilize early on in the season

In this photo you can see some of our onion beds. The large, full-grown onions in the forground are our winter onions. These are able to survive the winter so you can harvest a crop of green onions early in the spring.

Beds of onions

Later on in our kitchen, we’ll be shedding tears of joy and gladness for our onion crop.


Low Nutrition Broccoli

I just learned today that one of the varieties of Broccoli we grow in our garden, “Marathon”, has 35% less calcium and magnesium per serving than other Broccoli hybrids.

I liked growing Marathon because it seemed to be easier to grow than other varieties.

Ease of growing is a good criterion for selecting a variety to grow, but it does not trump nutrition in my book.