Thursday, June 28, 2012

At a Deadly Pace, It Came from Outer Space ...

...and this is how the message ran
A Triffid?
Is it a Triffid?

Just what is that thing?

Audrey II?
Cardoon Flower

None of the above. It’s a cardoon,  or Cynara cardunculus, and it comes from Southern Europe and Africa, and we grow it here as a part of our efforts with the John Brown House.

One We Started in late March in the Greenhouse - This was taken on June 26th

Back in 2008 and 2009, after having been contacted by the local Historic Society about establishing an historic kitchen garden at the John Brown house, Bob Kessler and I did the initial research before presenting to the Master Gardeners and asking if there was enough interest to proceed.  Obviously, there was, but during the beginning research phase, I came across references to growing Cardoon.  I had never heard of it before, but the name itself was intriguing enough for me, so Dr. Doris Goldman, curator of the Renfrew Historic 4-square garden, and professional consultant for our efforts with the John Brown House was happy to provide seed, and give us the opportunity to try to grow the vegetable.  It's a perennial plant, but for Zone 8 and above, so it's usually grown in our climate as an annual, not dissimilar to the way we grow tomatoes as annuals, even though botanically they're perennial. 

Cardoon Bloom - My Hand for Perspective

This was taken by Linda about a month ago

Another by Linda about two weeks ago
With the cardoon plant, the stalks are the part that is eaten. They are blanched (hidden from the sun via straw, or earth for several weeks) toward the end of the growing season, like what is done with celery, then harvested and used as a vegetable. Here's a recipe from 1868:

Cookery of the cardoon (Field & Garden Vegetables of America 1868) History
When a cardoon is to be cooked, its heart, and the solid, not piped, stalks of the leaves are to be cut into pieces, about six inches long, and boiled like any other vegetable, in pure water, not salt and water, till they are tender. They are then to be carefully deprived of the slime and strings which will be found to cover them; and having thus been thoroughly cleaned, are to be plunged in cold water, where they must remain till they are wanted for the table; they are then taken out and heated with white sauce, marrow, or any other of the adjuncts recommended in cookery books. The process just described is for the purpose of rendering them white, and depriving them of a bitterness which is peculiar to them; if neglected, the cardoons will be black, not white, as well as disagreeable.
- Fiering Burr Field and Garden Vegetables of America (Boston, 1868), p. 165
Hmmm...Perhaps that explains why it fell out of favor.

Flower Bud
In our climate, it almost never reaches the stage of flowering and producing seed, except on the rare occasions when the winter is mild enough, or the plant is protected enough, to maintain zone 8 conditions, and allow for second and subsequent year growth. The winter of 2011/12 was just such an occasion, and this is the result – a spectacular display.

We'll be able to save seeds from this fella, which should give us up to seven years of viable seed to use for our efforts at Renfrew and the John Brown House.

Mary's Garlic Harvest

Mary Crooks Garlic
Those of you who were there to view Mary's wonderful garden at Tuesday's monthly meeting saw that her garlic stand showed signs of getting ready to harvest.  Sure enough.  She dug them Wednesday and they look great.

Here are earlier blog posts on Growing Garlic, including one on braiding the softneck varieties, or bunching with the hardneck ones.  Last year's Allium harvest info here.

Starting the Curing Process
So how do you tell when it's time for harvest?  Here's the University of Minnesota on the subject:
Harvesting too early will result in small bulbs, and harvesting too late will result in cloves popping out of bulbs. Depending on variety and climate zone, garlic is normally harvested between late June and late July. One indication to start harvesting is when the lower leaves turn brown and when half or slightly more than half of the upper leaves remain green. Alternatively, you can pull a few bulbs and cut them in half; if the cloves fill the skins, then the bulbs are ready to harvest.

Mine still have a bit to go, but they're getting ready.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Meet Franklin Howard Henry Horace Hurd (Frank-4H)

Call me Frank!
The Polls are closed for the Name the Calf Contest.  27 votes were cast.  Winner by a large margin, with 8 votes representing 29% of the electorate is Franklin Howard Henry Horace Hurd (Frank-4H).  Two ties for second with 4 votes each: Oliver and Henri.  Whole list here:

Lola 1 (3%)
Red 3 (11%)
Ollie 1 (3%)
Henri 4 (14%)
Jersey Boy 0 (0%)
Oliver 4 (14%)
Cinnamon 3 (11%)
Grassy 0 (0%)
Chocolate 2 (7%)
Sweety Pie 1 (3%)
Raye 3 (11%)
Peanut Butter 1 (3%)
Mooey 1 (3%)
Bojangles 2 (7%)
Franklin Howard Henry Horace Hurd (Frank-4H) 8 (29%)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mushroom in a Maple

Mushroom in a Maple
While walking around the property this weekend, I noticed this in (what I think is) an ancient Sugar Maple in the front yard.

Since we moved here, nearly 15 years ago, I thought this tree was not long for this world, but it leafs out every year and offers a nice fall color display.

It's in a spot that even if it comes down, does not endanger the house, or any part of the property, so I've left it alone to watch what happens.

Thought this was kinda cool, so offer it here for your enjoyment.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What's In Bloom - Perennial Garden - June 2012

Perennial Demonstration Garden
More pictures of "What's in Bloom" taken by Jenn Wetzel - this time from the Perennial Demonstration Garden.  Pictures taken on June 15, 2012.
Perennial Demonstration Garden

Perennial Demonstration Garden



Yellow Loosestrife - Lysimachia vulgaris

Lillium - Oriental Hybrids

Lillium - Oriental Hybrids

Bear's Breeches - Acanthus

Jerry Lewis wrote about Bears Breeches earlier this month.

Acanthus, Lillium, and Delphinium

More Lilies

And More

Purple Coneflower - Echinacea purpurea

Double Knockout Roses

Yellow Evening Primrose - Oenothera

Pink Speedwell - Veronica spicata

Pink Speedwell - Veronica spicata

Day Lily - Stella D'oro - Hemerocallis
Perennial Sweet Pea - Lathyrus latifolius

Perennial Sweet Pea - Lathyrus latifolius

Foxtail Lily - Eremurus

Foxtail Lily - Eremurus with Bombus

Foxtail Lily - Eremurus

Campanula - Bellflower

Campanula - Bellflower

Perennial Demonstration Garden
Just lovely!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Smoketree - Cotinus coggygria

Smoketree - Cotinus coggygria
This tree was here on the property when we first moved here in 1997.  It was easily 20 feet tall when in the winter of 2008-2009, it came down in an ice storm.  The 8 inch trunk was split, requiring chainsaw clean up efforts, and an assumption on my part that we had lost the tree.  In the spring and summer of 2009, it sent out dozens of shoots, but no blooms.  I asked for advice about whether or not it was salvagable, and the consensus was basically, no - the tree was just gasping, and long term survival would be iffy at best.

Then in March, 2010, I attended Jane Krumpe's pruning class, and Jane suggested picking one or two of the shoots as new leaders, pruning the rest to the ground, and see what happens.

Smoketree - Cotinus coggygria
Here's the result, two years later.  Not sure about long term, but it's blooming again, showing off those wonderful, wispy blooms that give it its common name. 
Smoketree - Cotinus coggygria

Some information from Connecticut University:
  • actual flowers are small and yellow-green
  • flowering occurs in June
  • the flowers are held in 6" to 8" long and wide panicles
  • the showiness of the bloom results from plumy hairs on the sterile flowers
  • the panicles change colors as they age during the months of June, July, August and September
  • at their peak, the panicles are a "smokey" pink and can cover a plant 
Smoketree is native to areas in Southern Europe to central China, and has wood that is distinctively yellow, although it is too small to have any value as lumber.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Name The Calf

One of the Extension Open House efforts on Wednesday was a "Name the Calf" contest.  The suggested names are over to the right - vote for your favorite.  Poll will remain open until midnight Monday, June 25th. 

Anyone and everyone can vote.  Just check the box next to your selection, and click on the Vote button.  Your selection will be automatically recorded.

I misspelled "Peanut", but can't fix, since voting is already underway.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why I Became a Master Gardener - Part 3

"My friend said she was interested in becoming a Master Gardener, and I thought it was a joke using the words master and gardener together. Having been raised on a farm, gardening was second-nature to me. However, when I discovered that Master Gardeners actually have a Penn State Extension course of study through which much more information can be learned, I, too, was interested. Through that course of study, old wives' tales were dispelled, proper methods were discovered, and new techniques were learned. Additionally, I have made friends with others who share an interest in all types of gardening, and the hours spent volunteering are rewarding."
"I have been playing in the dirt for most of my life - with moderate success in raising flowers, vegetables, shrubs, trees, weeds, etc. I wanted to learn more about all things plant related, so decided to take the Master Gardener program. I am now on a lifelong learning process and realize how little I knew in the past. The classes were interesting and informative, and getting my hands in the dirt with fellow Master Gardeners, going to extended training classes, and the fellowship of new friends has added enhancement, excitement and enrichment to my life. I haven't learned all the paths of great gardening yet, but know where to look to find them."
 "I grew flowers for years before becoming a Master Gardener. My approach was to just wing it, use some common sense and learn what I could from others whose gardens I admired. After discovering there was such a program, I decided to take the classes and go for my Master Gardener certification so I could become a better gardener at home. Several years prior to this decision, I began taking photos of my flower beds in an effort to become a more organized gardener. I found I was easily distracted by the beautiful up close details of the plants and the creatures that lived there. My fondness for photography grew from this. I ended up doing my Master Gardener presentation on photography in the garden, all the while expressing my love of bees. Consequently I ended up taking on the task of getting the pollinator demonstration garden and program going for Franklin County Master Gardeners. I am now passionate about pollinators and creating a healthy habitat for them at the Extension Office Demonstration Gardens as well as at home.

As far as becoming a better gardener…..I still like to wing it, use much more common sense and learn what I can from other Master Gardeners whom I admire."
Part 1 from this series.
Part 2 from this series.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Swallowtail Butterfly on Clematis

Ted Lucas, Denise's husband, sends these pictures of what appears to be an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly (Pterourus glaucus) on a clematis blossom in the Lucas garden. Ted captured these pictures yesterday morning while spreading mulch. The morning was quite dewy, and the butterfly was using the petals to dry its wings, and perhaps get a sip of nectar. Enjoy!

The Lucas Garden, as well as the Miller Garden, will be featured in the upcoming Shade Class on July 7th.  Contact the Extension office to register.

Later this year, Laurie Collins and Kathy Engle will be teaching Butterfly Gardening, including the host plants needed to feed the caterpillars.  Some info from the link above, 
After mating, female tiger swallowtails lay eggs on leaves of host plants. Host plants are the plants that caterpillars will eat. Host plants of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails include Yellow Poplar, Black Willow, Black Cherry, American Hornbeam, Red Maple, Spicebush, American Elm, and Sassafras.

When caterpillars first hatch, their colors look a lot like bird poop. This helps camouflage them. As they get older, they turn green with a large head and bright eyespots. The eyespots aren't really eyes. They are probably there to scare away predators, or to make them attack the wrong part of the butterfly. A butterfly can lose part of a wing and still survive.
More information on Butterfly Gardening here and here.

Update June 21:  Check out earlier posts on butterflies, including Kathy Engle's wonderful "Garden with Wings" series from 2010.  Then there's these videos, with others showing off their fascination with Butterflies, and one  lucky fellow, too.

Victory Garden 2012 Log - June 18th

Steve Bogash, Penn State Extension Horticulture Educator
Steve Bogash, Penn State Extension Horticulture Educator was our instructor covering the topic of Managing Plant Diseases.  With the recent discovery of Late Blight in the county, this was a timely lesson. One way to discourage disease is to minimize moisture on leaves, since the pathogens need the water to grow.  This can be accomplished by using an irrigation system, or a soaker hose system, which has the added benefit of still being able to water if you go on vacation, by attaching a  timer. Weed control is also important. Another way to reduce the presence of diseases is by removing plants at the end of the season and destroying those that have been infected. Crop rotation can also help by not growing plants in the same family in the same spot the next year since they are all susceptible to the same diseases. Plants that are vigorous are also more likely to resist diseases.

Plant varieties can be more or less resistant to diseases. Many people like heirloom varieties, possibly because they are perceived to taste different, but they may be more susceptible than the hybrids which have been bred for many factors, including disease resistance.

Chemical control of diseases was introduced, including organic products. Some can encourage plant vigor as well as managing diseases.

Donated Harvesting Baskets
Harvesting baskets were offered as a gift by a 2011 alumnus of the Victory Garden to this year's class. We promptly put our names on them.  Thanks, Roxanne.

Harvesting Radishes

Harvesting Lettuce
Our activites included harvesting radishes and lettuce from the raised beds. The spinach had bolted so had to be pulled.

Weeding the Bush Beans
Weeding was also done, but the mulching has inhibited the growth of many weeds making that chore not much of a chore.

Tieing up the Tomato Vines
Our tomatoes were at a point where they needed to be tied to their stakes and the celery finally was able to be mulched.

The beans sprouted in the No Till area, where we started a three sisters garden.

Beans Sprouting in the 3 Sisters Garden

All in all it was a very good day with the sun not hot on our backs and the rain holding off. We look forward to more harvesting next week.