Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Loading the Larder 2 - Onions, Winter Squash, and Sweet Potatoes

Onions, Garlic, and Glad

I brought the onions in from the garage last weekend, and cleaned them up today for winter storage.  White Glad picked just before the storm.

Onions from Barn

Here's how they looked before clean up.

Sweet Potatoes, Egyptian Walking, and Multiplier Onions

Butternut and one Spaghetti Squash
I planted the 2013 crop of garlic, Egyptian Walking and Multiplier Onions this weekend.

Larder loaded and a bunch of fall chores done.  Feeling good.

Loading the Larder 1 - Pickled Peppers

Colored Bell, Fish, Hinkel Hatz, Zavory, Black Pearl
 Red Habanero Peppers

I took advantage of the time the storm provided holed up at home to put up some peppers, and get some end of season chores done. 

Steve Bogash brought the bell peppers from the High Tunnel Colored Pepper Trials at Landisville to share with us late last week.  The green one is from my garden, picked just before the storm hit.

Here's the process.
Prepped Peppers Soaking in Salt Solution

Checking the Recipe (Cross Checked for Safety)


Additional Ingredients - Hardneck Garden Garlic
Garlic Peeled and Prepped

Non-Reactive Pan for Heating Vinegar/Salt Solution

Water Bath Cannner

Pickled Peppers in Pantry

Monday, October 29, 2012


Somehow this seems appropriate as Sandy bears down on us:

"I never see a great garden...but I think of the calamities that have visited it, unsuspected by the delighted visitor who supposes it must be nice to garden there.

It is not nice to garden anywhere.  Everywhere there are violent winds, startling once-per-five-centuries floods, unprecedented droughts, record-setting freezes, abusive and blasting heats never know before.  There is no place, no garden, where these terrible things do not drive gardeners mad...

So there is no point dreading the next summer storm that, as I predict, will flatten everything.  Nor is there any point dreading the winter, so soon to come, in which the temperatures will drop to ten below zero and the ground freezes forty inches deep and we all say there was never such a winter since the beginning of the world.  There have been such winters; there will be more.

Now the gardener is the one who has seen everything ruined so many times that (even as his pain increases with each loss) he comprehends - truly knows - that where there was a garden once, it can be again, or where there never was, there yet can be a garden so that all who see it say, "Well, you have favorable conditions here.  Everything grows for you."  Everything grows for everybody.  Everything dies for everybody, too.

There are no green thumbs or black thumbs.  There are only gardeners and non-gardeners.  gardeners are the ones who ruin after ruin get on with the high defiance of nature herself, creating, in the very face of her chaos and tornado, the bower of roses and the pride of irises.  It sounds very well to garden a "natural way."  You may see the natural way in any desert, any swamp, any leech-filled laurel hell.  Defiance, on the other hand, is what makes gardeners."

This from an essay called "On The Defiance of Gardeners" in The Essential Earthman, By Henry Mitchell (Indiana University Press, 2003).

My best wishes to all my gardener friends and gardens!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mini Tomato Day Results - Blush

The September 11th "Mini" Tomato Day had 24 participants rate the 30 tomato varieties grown across the street.  The hands down winner was "Blush", obtained from Seeds of Change.

Blush Tomato - Picture by Steve Bogash
Blush is a recent, open pollinated (OP), introduction by tomato breeder Fred Hempel of Baia Nicchia Farm in the San Francisco Bay area.

Closeup - Blush Tomato - Picture by Steve Bogash
Mr. Hempel recently announced an agreement with A.P. Whalen Seeds to market a Bumble Bee Series of Round Cherry Tomatoes (Pink and Purple), and a Tiger Series of Elongate Cherry Tomatoes (like Blush, Maglia Rosa, and Green Tiger). 

Cherry, Grape and Blush Tomatoes from Eckhart Garden
(Black Cherry, Sun Gold, Five Star Red Grape, Solid Gold Yellow Grape)
Baia Nicchia Farm has also joined forces with Frogsleap Farm to make seeds available through Artisan Seeds.  That Captain Lucky sure looks intriguing ...

August 22, 2012 Tomato Day Results here.

Update 10/28:  Baia Nicchia Farms links to this post and gives us more Blush breeding background, including the wisdom of eight year olds over PhD plant geneticists. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wooly Bear Caterpillars

Wooly Bear on Farmers Almanac - Photo Credit Catherine Boeckmann 
Wooly Bear caterpillars are the focus of one of the items in this week's news column.  Dr. Michael Raupp of the University of Maryland (also known as The Bug Guy) featured them in his October 14th, 2012 Bug of the Week column.  In order to get a picture to accompany the news column, I sent out an email to MG's to keep their eye out and send me pictures if ones were spotted.  Folks came through beautifully, with these pictures from three sources - Bob Haffly through MG trainee Judy Scriptunas, Laurie Collins, and Mike Kusko. 

Laurie Collins Picture 1 from Fannettsburg

The Farmers Almanac runs down the history of the Wooly Bear as another peerless prognosticator of winter weather.

Laurie Collins Picture 2 from Fannettsburg
Supposedly, the width of the orange stripe predicts the severity of the on-coming winter.  The wider the stripe, the milder the winter.

Laurie Collins Picture 3 from Fannettsburg
Fannetsburg is predicting a mild winter.

Bob Haffly - Judy Scriptunas from Amberson
Amberson is predicting a severe winter (except this is the wrong species)
Bob Haffly Judy Scriptunas - from Amberson
Another wrong species, but sure would be nice if the winter is that mild.

Bob Haffly Judy Scriptunas - Amberson
Seems to comport with the Fannetsburg forecast.

Mike Kusko - Chambersburg
The Chambersburg area says really mild, too.
Mike Kusko - Chambersburg
Like Groundhog Day, there are several festivals throughout the country, celebrating the Wooly Worm:  Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Ohio

Not to be a spoilsport or anything, but MGs are supposed to link to the science of it all, so here are Extension Fact Sheets on the subject from Michigan State University and the University of Illinois.

Turing Sunflower Update - Oh Dear

Back in August, I shared with you my love of sunflowers and linked to the Turing Sunflower Project.  I went ahead and registered with the program and committed to counting three heads.  August and September were very busy for me, given the unprecedented mosquito season we experienced this year, so I cut the heads from the stalks in late August and put them in the barn with the onions to dry for later counting.

What I stoopidly didn't count on, were critters.  When I went to the barn to retrieve the onions and start the sunflower seed counting this past weekend, here's what I found.

Oh well.  In this case, the best laid schemes went awry all right.  For the man, anyway.

You can follow the progress of the project here.

Mary's Monkshood

Monkshood - Aconitum
MG Mary Crooks sends pictures of her Monkshood in bloom.  Lots more on Monkshood here.

Monkshood - Aconitum
Update: 10/25/12 - Nancy Miller sends these pictures of her Monkshood in bloom, with a bonus picture of her white mums. 

Monkshood - Aconitum

Monkshood - Aconitum
Old Fashioned Mum

Favorite Annuals

Susan Harris of the Garden Rant wants to know about your favorite annuals.  Here are mine, with some links to pictures elsewhere.

Annual favorites in my gardens and containers include:

1. Ornamental Sweet Potato Vines
2. Ornamental Millets (Pennisetum - Jade Princess, Vertigo and Purple Majesty)  Some background here.
3. Castor Bean Plant  (introduced to me by Bill Dorman and  Wicked Plants)
4. Four O'clocks - Mirabilis jalapa
5. Red and Blue Salvias
6. Japanese Ornamental Corn
7. New this year - Salpiglossis
8. Will try next year - Harmony Strike series of New Guinea Impatiens
University of Georgia Annual Trials.  Penn State Extension Annual Trials. 2009. 2010.

 Kathy Engle's Garden.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What's Blooming - Fall 2012 Edition - Ornamental Grasses

Pink Muhly Grass Muhlenbergia capillaris
Last week, before being distracted by the spider, I took pictures of what was blooming in the Demonstration Gardens.

As Garden Professor Holly Scoggins of Virginia Tech noted recently, the ornamental grasses really shine this time of year.

Pink Muhly Grass Muhlenbergia capillaris
 First up, Muhly Grass, or Muhlenbergia capillaris in the Woodland Meadow Native Habitat Garden (AKA Wildlife Area Demonstration Garden).

According to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center  (There's a link on the sidebar to the right):  
The genus of this plant is named for Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg (1753-1815), also Heinrich Ludwig Muehlenberg, or Henry Muhlenberg, who was a German-educated Lutheran minister and the first president of Franklin College, now Franklin and Marshall College, Pennsylvania. He is most famous due to his work in the field of botany. An accomplished botanist, chemist, and minerologist, Henry is credited with classifying and naming 150 species of plants in his 1785 work Index Flora Lancastriensis. Muhlenbergs work and collaboration with European botanists led to great advances in the study of plants and earned him the distinction as Americas first outstanding botanist.
A rather appropriate selection for a Demonstration Garden in Franklin County, wouldn't you say?

Panicum virgatum 'Cheyenne Sky'

Another native, warm season grass, Panicum virgatum 'Cheyenne Sky' is featured in the Drought Tolerant Demonstration Garden.
Seed plumes often persist throughout winter, providing visual interest as well as food for birds. Species plants (Panicum virgatum) were an important component of the tallgrass prairie that once covered much of central North America.
The Drought Tolerant Garden is also home to another ornamental grass, whose common name piqued my professional interest, Mosquito Grass, or Bouteloua gracilisThis cultivar is named 'Blonde Ambition.'

Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition'
Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition'

Also called "Blue Grama Grass".

The 'mosquito' part comes from the seed heads, which are purported to resemble mosquito larvae.

Decide for yourself.

Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue'

Another specimen from the Drought Tolerant Garden is Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue'.

Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue'

Also known simply as "Blue Fescue".  This was chosen Perennial of the Month for November 1998 by Dr. Leonard Perry of the University of Vermont.

Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue'

Here are some older specimens from the Pollinator Friendly Garden.  The ones from the Drought Tolerant Garden above were just planted this spring. 

Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue'
Finally, two unlabeled grasses doing sentry duty for the Pollinator Friendly Garden

Feather reed Grass - Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'
I didn't have much luck identifying them, so if anyone out can help out, let us know. [Done. See update below -ed.]

Here are some individual shots.

Feather reed Grass - Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'

Feather reed Grass - Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'

Update: 9:10 pm 10/17/12 - Laurie Collins just emailed me with the ID - it's Feather Reed Grass Calamagrostis acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'.  I updated the pictures with the proper caption.  It was named perennial plant of the year in 2001 by the Perennial Plant Association, and perennial of the month in February 2002 by Dr. Leonard Perry of the University of Vermont.

‘Karl Foerster’ grows to about 18 inches wide and only about 2 to 3 feet tall, but when the flower stems are at their peak they stand nearly 5 feet tall, fluttering like butterflies in the breeze. It tolerates full sun to partial shade and any type of soil except a bog. ‘Karl Foerster’ is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9, but south of Zone 7 it’s not at its best. This cool-season grass remains evergreen (actually, ever-bronze) in mild winters and works well as a screen, as a specimen, and as a container plant with other perennials or annuals. It’s sufficiently cold-hardy to overwinter in a pot in most areas.
I really like working with such a knowledgeable group.  Cheers!

Sunday, October 14, 2012


The end of the growing season has arrived.  I was admiring my zinnias last week, cut a few to bring in, but that was before the frost arrived.
Zinnias before the frost

It only took one night!  Every zinnia is brown and crumbling now.  I went out this morning and pulled them out, but not before rescuing the seeds for next spring.

...And after the frost
Even though they froze, the seeds are still good and available to you to save for next year.  I just break the seed heads off, then lay them on an old cookie sheet covered with newspaper in the garage.  I leave them there for a week so they dry out well, then put them in a paper bag (NOT plastic), and hang them in the shed until spring.  Freezing doesn't hurt them, just make sure they are dry.

In the spring, just crumble the seeds from the seed heads and sow them wherever you want some color. (CAUTION: there is a very sharp needle in the center of the flower, be careful you don't stab yourself when you take the seeds off.  I hold the base and circle the flower with my thumb and forefinger, turn it slowly around and the seeds just fall off when they are dry.)  And if any of this is too tough for you, just call me and get some seeds from me - I usually have several grocery bags full...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fall Haircut

Sometimes I don't think I have  a lot of gardening sense.  It's fall, time to trim back and dispose of all the detritus of the year before the little critters make too much of a home in them for the winter.  So, I addressed my clematis, a Paul Farges (better known as Summer Snow).
Clematis 'paul farges'

It has been a resident of my estate for 10 years now, I faithfully cut it back each fall and it leaps forth in the spring, grows and blossoms vigorously, then we come to this time when I have to give it the annual haircut.
Sweeping up after the haircut

Off to the recycle center
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy how it looks, I enjoy sitting on the swing under its shade, I think the little white flowers are very attractive.  But there's just SO much of it.  I was cutting and pulling and piling and ripping and untangling for two hours.  So I'm done for another fall.  Some of the runners were over 40 feet long.  There had to be hundreds of them.

I'm not just complaining out loud, there is a point to all this.  For all you gardeners embarking on the joys of planting, think through how big your plants are going to be when they mature before you make that fateful decision to dig that hole and put them in.  I'm sure I will change my mind in the spring, but for now I'm not sure that this one is worth the work...  Here's what it looks like now:

What Paul looks like after the haircut