In a botanical sense, an herb is a plant that does not produce a woody stem and dies back to the ground each winter to a perennial root system. In the garden sense, herbs are plants that serve as a major source of seasonings in food preparation. In an even broader sense, herbs include plants that are also useful for scents in cosmetics or for medicinal purposes. Some of them are woody and outstep the definition of a herbaceous plant.
For American pioneers, herbs were the major source of seasonings for foods. They were also used for curing illnesses, storing with linens, strewing on floors, covering the bad taste of meats before refrigeration was devised, dyeing homespun fabrics, and as fragrances.
With the advent of the supermarket, growing herbs in the garden declined because a wide range of dried herbs became available in stores. Now, however, with an increase in the popularity of ethnic foods, combined with a realization that fresh herbs have more distinctive tastes than some dried herbs, more gardeners are growing at least a few herbs for fresh use, drying or freezing. Increasing interest in herbal medicine also has helped make herb growing more popular. In addition, some herbs are ornamental.
Most herbs are easy to grow, but you must select the proper location to grow them. Most herbs need a sunny location, and only a few, including angelica, woodruff and sweet cicely, are better grown in partial shade. The oils, which account for the herbs' flavor, are produced in the greatest quantity when plants receive six to eight hours of full sunlight each day. If you don't have a good, sunny location, many herbs will tolerate light shade, but their growth and quality will not be as good.
Herbs will grow in any good garden soil. The soil should not be extremely acid or alkaline; a soil nearly neutral is best for most herbs. A pH between 6.5 and 7.0 produces the best herbs.
Herbs grow best when soils have adequate organic matter. Most herbs do not require highly fertile soil. Highly fertile soils tend to produce excessive foliage that is poor in flavor.
In preparing average soils, incorporate 4 inches of peat moss or compost into the garden area to improve soil condition and help retain moisture.
When selecting a site for an herb garden, you must consider drainage. None of the important herbs grow in wet soils, but a few, such as mint, angelica and lovage, thrive in fairly moist soils.
If the only area available is poorly drained, you need to modify the area. Build raised beds or install underground drainage tiles to grow herbs successfully.
Once you select a site, cultivate the soil to a depth of 12 to 18 inches, then level it. If only a shallow layer of topsoil exists above hard subsoil, remove the topsoil temporarily. Break up the subsoil, adding organic matter. After improving the subsoil, put it back. Even though the topsoil may be better than the subsoil, the topsoil may also need additional organic matter.
Few insects or diseases attack herbs. In some localities, rusts infect mints. In hot, dry weather, spider mites damage some herbs.
Aphids attack anise, caraway, dill and fennel. Grasshoppers and certain caterpillars attack herbs when conditions are right. Control is usually not necessary until you notice a problem. If control is warranted and pesticides are used, make certain they are labeled for food crops if the herbs are to be used for culinary purposes.
You can grow many herbs from seeds. If possible, sow the seeds in pots or flats indoors in late winter. They need a sunny window and cool temperatures (60 degrees F) for best growth. Treat young plants for the garden just as you would treat young salvia or pepper plants.
Because some plants take longer than others to develop, start those with smaller seeds first, preferably in February. You may later transplant them into individual pots and plant them in the garden after danger of frost is past. The finer the seeds, the shallower you should sow them.
A few herbs do not transplant well. Sow them directly into the garden. Plant anise, coriander, dill and fennel directly in the garden and don't transplant them.
For direct seeding outdoors, plant in spring after all danger of frost is past and the soil is beginning to warm up. Make the soil into a fine, level seed bed. As a general rule, sow seeds at a depth of twice their diameter.
Some established herbs multiply asexually by cutting, division or layering.
Layering is suitable for many perennials with flexible branches. Division works well for tarragon, chives and mint. Lavender, lemon balm, scented geraniums, sage and rosemary can be propagated from cuttings.
You can take cuttings of herbs any time during late spring and summer from healthy, well-established plants. Cuttings taken in fall take longer to root. Healthy tip growth makes the best cuttings. Cuttings of vigorous soft shoots or old woody stems are less desirable.
Cut just below a node to form a cutting that is 3 to 5 inches long. Most herbs should root in two to four weeks. After rooting, overwinter them indoors in pots in a sunny window or in a coldframe. Plant them outdoors in a permanent location the following spring.
Division is useful for multiplying healthy, established plants that may be two to four years old. Division allows modest increase for plant like chives, mints and French tarragon. Divide herbs in early spring before growth begins. Dig up the old plant and cut or pull it apart into sections. Replant the sections and keep them moist until the new plants are established.
Layering is the simplest and most reliable method to increase perennial herbs such as thyme, lemon balm, winter savory, sage, bay and rosemary. The basic principle is to produce roots on a stem while it is still attached to the parent plant. After you root the stem, detach the new plant from the parent. Select a healthy branch that is growing close to the ground and that is flexible enough to bend down to the soil. While holding the branch close to the soil, bend the top 6 to 10 inches of the stem into a vertical position. It may be helpful to scrape the bark on the underside of the branch at the bend. Bury the bent, scraped portion 3 to 6 inches deep, and anchor it with a wire loop. Insert a small stake to hold the top upright. Water thoroughly.
You can layer anytime from spring to late summer. Allow the rooted shoot to remain in place until the following spring. Then cut it from the parent plant and plant it into the desired location.
Winter protectionMany herbs suffer winter damage in our climate, so some winter protection for perennial herbs is advisable. Many herbs have shallow roots that heave out during spring thawing and freezing of soil. A loose mulch spread over the roots about 4 inches deep can provide adequate protection. Evergreen boughs, straw or oak leaves are good materials for a mulch. Don't mulch until after the ground is frozen in early winter. Do not remove mulch until you see signs of new growth in the early spring. If the mulch compacts during the winter from heavy snows, fluff it up in early spring before growth begins.
Depending on the herb, harvest may include one or more plant parts. In most cases you harvest the leaves, but in some cases you pick flowers, seeds or roots. Handle blossoms just as you would handle leaves. Often, you harvest blossoms with the leaves and mix them together. Dried herbs lose quality in two to three years. Discard them if you haven't used them in that time.
To determine the best harvest time for each herb, you need some experience. However, a few general rules can lead you in the right direction for most herbs. Harvest the leaves when they contain the optimum amount of essential oils. These oils give herbs their special flavor or scent. Ideally you should cut herbs soon after the dew has evaporated from the leaves in the morning. Harvest on a dry day that has been preceded by at least two sunny days.
In most cases, cut stems for harvest when the flower buds are just beginning to open. Mints, however, have the most oil in the leaves when the spikes are in full bloom.
When gathering a large quantity of herbs, use an open-weave basket or containers that allow good air movement. Don't stuff herbs into plastic bags, which can heat up and cause rapid deterioration of herbs. Never cut more stems than you can conveniently dry at one time. You can cut back a perennial herb to about half its height and can cut down an annual to a few inches. You can also remove an annual completely near the end of the season.
Wash the plants in cool water immediately after gathering and spread them on towels. Pat them gently with a towel until dry. A dark, well-ventilated room where temperatures run between 70 and 90 degrees F is an excellent room for drying. Air conditioning is helpful, because it reduces humidity in the air. You can use frames covered with cheesecloth or other netting, or metal window screens with cheesecloth laid on top for drying. Prepare the frames or screens before you cut the plants.
For some herbs, you strip the leaves from the stems before drying. Herbs in this group include basil, dill, lemon balm, lovage, mint, sage, lemon verbena and tarragon. Spread these leaves in single layers for quickest drying.
Herbs with smaller leaves can be dried on the stems. These herbs include thyme, summer and winter savory, rosemary, oregano and marjoram. Strip the leaves after drying is complete.
Herb leaves should dry in three to four days under proper conditions. In humid weather, you may need to spread the herbs on a cookie sheet and dry them in an oven at about 125 degrees F for a few minutes before placing them in an airtight container.
Some herbs do not dry well at home. Instead, you can freeze them. Handle them as you would for drying. Then after washing, blanch them in boiling, unsalted water for 50 seconds, cool quickly in ice water and blot dry. Spread them in a single layer on paper or cookie sheets and place them in the freezer.
You can freeze dill, chives and basil without blanching. After the herbs are frozen, place them in airtight plastic containers or bags.
Angelica and lovage produce usable roots. Dig these roots in the late fall or early spring. Wash them thoroughly after digging. Then slice or split the large roots. Place the pieces in thin layers on screens and turn the slices several times a week. After they are partially dry, finish them in an oven at low heat before placing them in an airtight container for storage. It may take roots six to eight weeks to dry completely. When dry, the root piece should snap when you bend it.
You can grow and process seeds of dill, caraway, fennel and anise at home. When the plants begin to mature and yellow, cut the heads of the plants containing the seeds, leaving a short stem. Place them on a drying tray for five or six days. Then the seeds should fall fairly easily from the heads. Remove the chaff, and allow the seeds to continue to dry for another week. Stir them frequently. Store seeds in airtight jars after complete drying.
Source: University of Missouri Extension
The search for a magic cure for what ails you is alive and well in America. This search is as
old as mankind and seems to have been only slightly blunted by the rise of modern medicine and a better understanding of disease.
In the 16th century America became the new corner drug store for Europe. Tobacco and sassafras were the most important early medicinal plants. One went on to infamy and riches while the other ended up spawning a chain of drive-in restaurants.
Sassafras, Sassafras albidum, is a member of the laurel family and is native in much of the eastern woodlands, including all of Arkansas. In the northern part of its range it grows as small trees while in the South it may become 80 feet tall. However, we usually see it as a mid-size tree growing in thickets. The aromatic, slightly blue-green leaves are mitten shaped and can be up to six inches long, two-lobed or elliptical with no lobes. In the fall they change to shades of yellow, orange or red.
Yellow-green sassafras flowers appear in late April before the leaves appear. Plants are dioecious with individuals being either male or female. The plant is somewhat shy about fruiting, but when it does so the dark blue, pea-size berries are borne singly atop a bright red peduncle. From the profile, the fruit and peduncle looks like a miniature ice cream cone.
Sassafras is aromatic, giving off a fragrance somewhere between that of oranges and vanilla when crushed. The fragrance comes from safrole, which is at the highest concentration in the roots.
Until recent advances in medicine, healers always associated strong fragrances with curative powers. The aromatherapy movement uses the same principles practiced centuries ago by ancient
Egyptians and early American Indians. When European explorers first landed on the new continent, they were quick to adopt the native use of the plants they found.
About 1560 the French Huguenot settlement on the Saint Johns River in Florida first learned of sassafras from the tribes they encountered. When the Spanish captured the French settlement, they learned of sassafras from the few survivors. In 1571 the Spanish physician and botanist Nicolas Monardes published his book Joyfull Newes Out of the Newe Founde Worlde (from the English translation that appeared in 1577), and sassafras became the latest miracle cure.
The first shipment of sassafras went to England in 1602, and during much of the 17th century it was one of the principle New World exports. The Cherokees used the plant to cure everything from ague to venereal disease, including "overfatness." But by the 19th century Europeans had become disillusioned with the curative properties of sassafras, and it was largely abandoned. In 1963 scientists learned that a diet containing 1 percent of a rat’s weight in sassafras oil - an extremely high dose - caused cancer and the medical community officially blacklisted it.
But the southern rural culture continue to use sassafras as a flavoring. The oil is used in perfumery, root beer and candy such as licorice. In Cajan cooking any respectable file gumbo will have ground sassafras leaves for the flavoring and mucilaginous properties the ingredient imparts.
But the most common use is still sassafras tea, brewed from three-inch, kindling-size pieces of dried roots. The tea is prepared by steeping two or three of the sticks in a small quantity of water and then sweetening with sugar to taste. Perhaps the tea’s appeal and calming effect is more psychological than medicinal, but its popularity is not to be denied.
As a small landscape tree, sassafras is a welcome addition to any garden. It grows in full sun or light shade in most well drained sites. It is seldom found in nurseries because of the difficulty of transplanting. Bare root plants dug from the wild, even as small trees, almost always die. Container-grown trees offer the best likelihood of success but they are not commonly offered by nurserymen.
By: Gerald Klingaman, retired
Extension Horticulturist - Ornamentals
Extension News - September 28, 2001
This is a light, chilled desert that can
be made ahead of time.
Great after a summer evening BBQ.
Spread ice cream evenly over crust. Dip a large spoon in hot
water and run it over ice cream to smooth the top. Place pie
in freezer untill solid, 2 hours or up to three days.
Before serving, spray a border of whipped cream (about 1 cup)
around edge of pie. Mound strawberries in center.
Braised kale is a healthy and
tasty choice for a green side.
Recipe makes 4 servings.
Serving size 1 cup kale.
1. Strip the kale leaves from the tough stems. Discard the stems; coarsely chop
the leaves. Rinse well in a colander, leaving the water on the leaves.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring,
until it's golden and aromatic (3-4 minutes). Transfer the garlic to a dish and
3. Reheat the oil over medium heat, then add the kale and the broth. cover and
simmer until the kale is tender (3-4 minutes). Season with the salt and pepper.
Transfer to a serving platter and top with the garlic and Parmesan, if desired.
In this busy world we live in, sometimes what we think we see and know is but a caricature of reality. The lowly four o’clock, a common flower of our great-grandmother’s garden, is a plant that looks like your typical plant, but in reality is anything but typical.
Four o’clock is a tender perennial that grows from 18 to 30 inches tall with stout stems and an abundance of late summer flowers that open about four o’clock in the evening, after the heat of the day is past.
The flowers are not responding to an internal clock but to temperature. The flowers are responding to the patterns of a moth that avoids the heat of the day to make its daily rounds. Usually, the flowers close the following morning, but if the day is cool, they will stay open until the new flowers open.
Four o’clock flowers are trumpet-shaped, with the throat as much as 2 inches long and 1 inch wide with five lobes. Flowers are produced in shades of white, yellow and about every shade of pink imaginable. The striped flowers appear to be infected with a virus disease that creates the interesting patterns.
The flower is an enigma in that the four o’clock completely lacks petals. The showy portion of the flower is actually an outgrowth of the sepal, which in most plants is green and leaf-like. The small leafy structure from which the flower emerges is made of bracts formed from modified leaves. While the absence of petals is rare in the plant kingdom, it is a common characteristic of the family Nyctaginaceae to which four o’clock belongs.
Each flower that is pollinated produces a pea-size black "seed." But, again the seed is not really a seed but a fruit. A true seed is produced inside something -- for example, inside a pea pod or the capsule of a petunia. In this case, each flower produces one seed that is enclosed inside the ovary. So, in reality the "seed" is a "fruit."
Even the name of the plant is a misnomer. The name Mirabilis was given by Linnaeus in the middle 18th Century and shortened from the Latin word "Admirabilis" which gives us "admirable" and is a reference to the showy flowers. The name "jalapa" is due to botanical confusion. The fleshy roots of this plant were thought to be the source of "jalapa," a drug that was used in Central and South America as a laxative. In reality, the jalapa was from a member of the morning glory family.
Four o’clock is one of our oldest garden flowers and was originally shipped back to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors. It does well in sunny, warm sites throughout the state. It forms dahlia-like tubers that will usually live through the winter and permit the plant to come back from the roots. It will also reseed in an area but is not really broad spreading.
The flowers are fragrant and produce a subtle and delightful fragrance during the early evening hours when the wind is not blowing. Hummingbirds and lunar moths both seem to like to visit the flower for the abundance of nectar. The stems and roots can cause serious stomach upset if consumed and some people have experienced dermatitis from handling the tuberous roots.
By: Gerald Klingaman, retired
Extension Horticulturist - Ornamentals
Extension News - October 8, 1999
MAY GARDEN CHECKLIST
The following is a garden checklist:
County Extension Agent-
For more information on gardening, contact the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Baxter County Extension office at 425-2335.
A delicious cake like muffin, perfect when fresh fruit is ripe like right now.
Oven: 375 degrees F.
Bake: 25-30 minutes
Yields: 12 muffins
6 T. Butter (86 g)
3/4 c. Sugar (150 g)
2 Large Eggs
2 c. + 2 T. All Purpose Flour (243 g)
1 T. Baking powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 c. Milk (122 g)
2 tsp. Vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. Almond extract
2 c. Mixed Berries:
(fresh or frozen thawed and drained)
slice larger berries
1 T. Sugar
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
How to Grow Cilantro
Cilantro needs full sun or light shade in southern zones since it bolts quickly in hot weather. It grows best in a well-drained, moist soil. Cilantro plants should be spaced about 6 to 8 inches apart. To harvest fresh cilantro all season, make successive sowings every 2 to 3 weeks starting in late spring.
From the time of sowing seed, cilantro leaves can begin to be harvested in about 3 to 4 weeks. Cilantro seeds can be harvested in about 45 days.
Coriander / Cilantro Coriandrum sativum
Flowering Coriander for Aphid Control
In the Salinas Valley of California, aphids have been one of the worst pests in the lettuce fields. The USDA Cooperative Extension Service has been investigating organic methods for aphid control, and experimented with coriander plants and Alyssum plants; when intercropped with the lettuce and allowed to flower, they attract beneficial insects such as hoverflies, the larvae of which eat up to 150 aphids per day before they mature into flying adults.
The Herb Society of America www.herbsociety.org
Latin: Paeonia suffruticosa
Tree peonies form flowers as much as 8 inches across when they bloom in late April.As Americans, we tend to take an egocentric view of the world, often assuming that other places and cultures have little to offer. Because really old and rich civilizations such as China baffle and bewilder us, most Americans dismiss them as backwards, if they think of them at all. But, for gardeners we must embrace China for she has provided many of our most cherished garden flowers, including the stunningly beautiful tree peony.
Paeonia suffruticosa, the tree peony, is a deciduous woody shrub growing to 6 feet tall and wide. It has stout, sparsely branched stems and coarse, compound leaves with nine leaflets. The leaves are bright red when they emerge in early spring.
As the season advances, the flower buds begin to swell, reaching the size of a small apple before issuing forth in late April with a flower the size of a salad plate. Double forms are most common with the blossoms in delicate pastel shades of red, pink, white and yellow. The beauty of the flower is unsurpassed, making it easy to understand why the Chinese treasure tree peonies as Western culture does the rose.
Tree peonies have been mentioned in Chinese literature since the 4th century BC and have been an important garden plant since at least the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Chinese scholars look to this dynasty as a long, stable reign of rulers who promoted learning and the arts, including gardening.
This progressive age saw the elevation of women in Chinese culture, in large measure due to the efforts of Wu Zetian (625-705). Empress Wu was born into a noble family and, as a young girl became one of the ruler’s concubines. Through a series of deft maneuvers and palace intrigues, she had herself named Empress when her own son resigned the throne in 690, breaking with the long held Confucian teaching that only men could become rulers.
Empress Wu’s connection to the tree peony is probably pivotal in the development of the flower, for she is said to have banned it from her gardens and palaces because it failed to bloom as precociously as she felt it should. This banishment was the catalyst for breeders to develop the free-flowering forms that are found in gardens today. When European merchants and plant explorers introduced the plant to Europe, they simply purchased them from retail sources that had been growing and selling the plant for over 1,000 years.
Tree peonies can be grown in all parts of Arkansas but are less common in gardens than their herbaceous cousins. Their rarity in cultivation is because they’re difficult to propagate. The Chinese learned early on that they could be grafted onto the rootstock of an herbaceous peon, a straightforward but not necessarily easy grafting procedure. Many of the 350 named cultivars listed are old Chinese selections, simply given new names when they were introduced into Europe.
Tree peonies do best in a fertile, well drained garden soil. They will grow in full sun or light shade and are easy to grow if well sited. They should be watered during dry periods and fertilized with a topdressing of compost each spring. The flowers are susceptible to wind and weather during the time they are open, so afternoon shade and wind protection helps preserve the length of their all too short bloom display.
By: Gerald Klingaman, retired
Extension Horticulturist - Ornamentals
Extension News - April 1, 2005
This is an easy healthy dinner, you can put together in no time.
Serves 4; 3 ounces fish and 1/3 cup sauce per serving,
Total Fat: 5.5 g
Cholesterol: 57 mg.
Sodium: 329 mg
Carbohydrates: 3 gm.
Protein: 23 grams
Source: American Heart Association 2007
New Baxter County Master Gardeners Six Baxter County residents recently completed Master Gardener training offered by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service. The group participated in a 40-hour training program, and each volunteer will donate 40 hours back to the Cooperative Extension Service in the areas of horticulture and ornamental horticulture within the next year.
The group will meet monthly and work on community service projects throughout the coming year. New Master Gardeners are: (from left) Rick Gatewood, Toby Klassen, Emily Roberts, Mary White and Valerie VanZuiden. Not pictured: Ginger Turk.
In 2016 the Baxter County Master Gardeners logged 4,659 volunteer hours back to the community. For more information on the Master Gardener program, call 425-2335.
April Garden Checklist
For more information contact Mark D. Keaton
County Extension Agent
Extension office at 425-2335.
This recipe is similar to one my first mother in law made for passover. It is a rich cake and great for those who cannot tolerate wheat or gluten.
Preheat oven to 399 degrees F. Grease a ten inch round cake pan.
Melt the bittersweet chocolate in the microwave or top half of a
double boiler. Pour the chocolate into an electric mixer. Cut the butter
into pieces and beat the butter into the chocolate, one piece at a time.
Beat in the hot sugar water. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Place the pan onto a larger pan
and fill the pan with boiling water halfway up the sides of the cake pan.
Bake the cake in the water bath for 45 minutes. The center will still look
wet. Chill cake overnight in the pan. To unmold, dip the bottom of the
cake pan in hot water for ten seconds and invert onto a serving plate.
Many gardeners view shade as a challenging situation for growing plants. While some plants do not grow well in low light, numerous others thrive under these conditions. Just as moisture, temperature, and soil conditions may limit plant growth, the amount of shade present may determine which plants will grow successfully. The key is to discover which ones are adapted to the conditions in your yard or garden.
Landscapes change their degree of shade over time. As trees and shrubs mature, the landscape receives greater shade. What was once a sunny garden may evolve into a shady one. Analyze the degree of shade in your garden periodically to determine if changes in plant materials may be needed due to increased shade from a maturing landscape.
Several characteristics typify shade gardening. In addition to low light levels, plants growing in the shade must compete with shading trees for nutrients and water, and tolerate poor air circulation. The best way to cope with low light levels is to choose plants that do well in less light.
Light shade may be described as an area that is shaded but bright. It may be completely shaded for only several hours each day. The sun's rays may be blocked by a wall or building for several hours at midday, but the area is sunny the rest of the day. Light shade may also be found in areas that receive filtered or dappled sunlight for longer periods. Edges of shady gardens or areas under the canopy of solitary, lightly branched trees are typical of filtered sunlight. During the heat of summer, light shade at midday will provide a beneficial cooling effect. Flower and foliage color may be more brilliant when plants are shielded from intense midday sunlight.
Partial or medium shade is present when direct sun rays are blocked from an area for most of the day. Many established landscapes have large areas of partial shade, where sections of the yard are shaded by mature trees for much of the day but receive some direct sun early or late in the day. Bright, north-facing exposures may also be classified as medium shade.
Full shade lasts all day. Little or no direct sunlight reaches the ground at any time of the day. There may be reflected light from sunnier areas of the yard or off light-colored walls. Dense shade refers to full shade under thick tree canopies or in dense groves of trees. Areas under stairways, decks or covered patios on the north side of the house receive full shade.
Keep in mind that light patterns change with the seasons. An area that is in full sun in summer when the sun is high in the sky may have medium shade in spring and fall, when the sun is at a lower angle. Study your garden through the seasons to accurately determine what type of shade is present.
Available sunlight may be increased by selective pruning. Removal of lower limbs on large trees may increase light levels significantly. Large shade trees are a valuable resource that in most cases should be preserved. However, removal of diseased, unattractive, or poorly placed trees improves the beauty of your property and increases the light available for plant growth.
Take advantage of reflected light, if possible. White or light-colored surfaces reflect more light than dark-colored ones. Light-colored house siding or fences may increase available light to plants.
Plants growing in the shade often must also compete with roots of shading trees for nutrients and moisture. Shallow rooted trees such as maples and willows are particularly troublesome.
Adding organic matter to shade garden soils will help. Most woodland species are accustomed to growing in soils rich in leaf litter compost. Raking and removal of leaves each fall in the typical landscape disrupts this natural nutrient recycling process. If leaves are not removed, they can mat down and smother shade garden plants, but shredded leaves can be safely applied as a mulch. Another option is to compost the leaves first, and apply the compost in core aeration holes or in small pockets dug into the garden. Do not haul in several inches of compost-rich amendment to till into soil under shade trees. Some species, such as oaks, are extremely sensitive to changes in soil depth within their root zone. In addition, tillage will damage many of the tree's roots, starting a decline from which the tree may never recover. If the gardener is patient, earthworms will eventually incorporate surface-applied organic matter. Organic matter loosens heavy clay soils, improving drainage. In sandy soils, organic matter will increase the water-holding capacity. As organic matter breaks down, it also releases nutrients to the plants.
Roots competing for limited surface water may cause shade gardens to dry out more quickly than sunny sites during extended dry periods. Some shade-tolerant plants are adapted to low moisture situations, while others require moist shade. Provide water according to the plants' needs.
Branches or walls that cast shade also block air movement. Poor air circulation coupled with lower light levels means foliage of plants stays wet longer in the shade than in sunny areas. Most plant disease problems are worse under these conditions. Prevent disease problems by selecting disease-resistant varieties when available. Space plants farther apart in the shade to allow more air movement around each individual plant. Water with soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems to avoid wetting the foliage. Removal of lower tree limbs may funnel breezes underneath the tree canopy, thereby improving air circulation.
Bright, bold colors are less common in shade tolerant plants than in sun-loving ones. Flowers are usually produced less abundantly in the shade as well. For these reasons, shade gardens are often more subtle and restful than sunny ones. Plant textures, forms, and slight color differences become more important elements of the design.
Texture has many aspects. Large-leaved plants such as hostas have a coarse texture, while finely divided fern fronds create a fine texture. Strong contrasts in texture accentuate their differences. Use strong textural contrasts only where emphasis is needed.
Pyramidal or upright, columnar plant forms serve best as accents in the shade. Rounded, weeping, or spreading forms create a more spacious effect and can be used more liberally in the design.
Glossy leaves have more impact than dull or velvety ones. Variegated or yellow-green foliage is evident in the shade more than solid green or blue-green foliage. Light colors — white, cream, yellow and pastel pink — stand out in the shade. Deep reds, blues and purples may fade into the shade unless set off by a contrasting lighter color. To emphasize plantings in the shade, concentrate on plants with light-colored flowers or foliage.
Almost all food crops grow best in sunny locations. Not only do they need full sunlight for good growth, few tolerate root competition from trees.
Cool-season salad vegetables such as lettuce, spinach and radishes may benefit from light shading through the heat of the summer. Beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, peas, potatoes, rhubarb and turnips will grow in light shade but not produce as large a crop as plants growing in full sun.
Currants and gooseberries are fruits which tolerate medium shade and still produce a crop. Bramble fruits such as blackberries and raspberries grow in light shade, but yields will be reduced.
Source: Christoper J. Starbuck
Department of Horticulture
University of Missouri Extension
A quick and easy salad to take advantage of fresh produce.
In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the first five ingredients and shake well.
In a large salad bowl, toss the spinach, blue cheese, blueberries and pecans. Add
dressing and toss gently.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
Whether you've been babying seedlings along under grow lights or overwintering a few tender perennials you couldn't let go of last fall, it's time to start getting them outside. But you can't just chuck them out there as soon as the ground begins to thaw. Plants that have been indoors need to be acclimated to the fluctuating temperatures, wind and sunlight. In other words you need to harden them off.
It's a simple process of gradually increasing the amount of time they're outside, usually by taking flats or pots in and out of the house. As plants spend more time outside, stems get stronger and their leaves develop a thicker cuticle, the waxy covering on the surface of a leaf that prevents water loss. this helps them tolerate more varied weather conditions.
WHEN TO GET STARTED
First decide when you want to put your plants in the garden and back up a couple weeks from there to know when to start hardening off. Tender plants' planting date will be determined by your likely last frost date. If you don't know when your last frost date is check with your local county extension agency. Cool weather types such as pansies tolerate temperatures in the 40-degree F range so you can plant a month before your likely last frost date. House plants, tropicals and warm season vegetables, such as tomatoes, prefer days at 70 degrees F (or warmer) and nights in the 50's. Seedlings should have at least four to six sets of true leaves before going out.
WHERE TO PUT PLANTS
Start plants in a protected spot out of direct sunlight and strong wind for an hour or two in mid-afternoon to avoid shock. Examples include under a tree, next to a hedge and near the wall of the house or garage. Bring plants inside for the night. Each day increase the time spent outside by 35 to 40 minutes. If there are a few days of bad weather-driving rain or an unexpected cold snap- leave them inside. Once plants are used to being outdoors all days (and mild overnight weather is forecast), pull them into a protected spot out doors for the night, too.
Full sun plants will need time to get used to direct sunlight. Start them out in part to full shade on the north side of your house or under a tree. Every couple of days edge them into a bit more light until they are basking in full sun. once plants stay outdoors day or night for three or four days in a row, they're ready to go in the ground.
Excerpt from Garden Gate Magazine
Verbenas are long blooming annual or perennial flowers that possess the virtues of heat tolerance and an extremely long bloom season. Many perennial verbenas are relatively short lived, but their vigor and heavy flowering make up for this defect. They do well grown as annual flowering plants also, since they bloom quickly during the first season after planting.
Verbenas vary considerably in size. The ground skimming moss verbena and trailing verbena reach 1 foot or less in height and spread from 2 to 5 feet wide. Verbena rigida usually grows 1 to 1½ feet tall, while purpletop vervain and the native blue verbena can reach 4 to 5 feet tall, but only a foot or two in width.
Verbenas generally grow moderately to quickly, and unlike many perennials, bloom well the first season after planting. Some varieties, such as 'Homestead Purple', are extremely vigorous. If plants outgrow their assigned space, they tolerate trimming back well.
Verbenas are mainly grown for their remarkable length of bloom with most blooming from spring until close to frost if trimmed back once or twice in mid summer. Flower color ranges from white through pink, red, lavender, blue and purple.
Verbenas require a location that receives full sun throughout the day. They must have well-drained soil. They will not tolerate overcrowding with poor air circulation, shade or soil that stays overly moist. Most problems of verbenas occur in improper growing conditions.
Verbenas are best planted in the spring or summer. Pinch the tips of the branches at planting time to encourage dense branching and a fuller plant. Newly planted verbenas will need to be kept moist for the first few weeks until the roots have spread into the surrounding soil.
While established verbenas are drought tolerant, performance, bloom, and growth rate will be reduced if they are too dry for a long period. During their blooming period, give them a thorough watering once a week if they do not receive an inch of rain that week. Avoid overhead watering.
If bloom slows during the summer, trim the whole plant back by about one fourth of its height and spread, water thoroughly and fertilize lightly. The plant will return to bloom within 2 to 3 weeks.
A light application of a complete fertilizer such as 16-4-8 in mid- to late spring and again after trimming back will revitalize plants, but additional fertilization is not generally required. Plants growing in very sandy, poor soil may need more frequent fertilization.
In the fall you can trim back verbenas lightly to give a neater appearance to the garden, but do not cut severely until spring as new growth begins to appear. Overly severe fall pruning can reduce cold hardiness and plants may not survive a cold winter. Most verbenas are short-lived, so you should plan on replacing them after two or three years. However, some species can re-seed and naturalize in the garden.
Verbenas, especially the trailing and moss types, grow very well in containers. Fertilize container grown plants either with a controlled-release fertilizer, or with a liquid fertilizer once a month. Container grown plants should be watered more frequently, and not allowed to dry out. All verbena will attract numerous butterfly species, bumblebees, and hummingbirds.
Verbenas can suffer from a variety of problems, but most occur when they are grown in low light, poorly drained soil, or when the soil stays excessively moist from excessive watering. Poor air circulation from over crowded conditions can also lead to disease problems.
Verbenas are relatively pest free
Cultivars & Species
Purpletop vervain (Verbena bonariensis)
(Glandularia canadensis; formerly Verbena canadensis)
Trailing verbena is a native perennial throughout South Carolina. The plants have a low spreading form and will flower profusely all summer. Creeping stems often root into the soil or mulch. Plants are tolerant of heat and drought, although best growth will occur with plenty of water and fertilizer. Like most verbenas, they need excellent soil drainage. There are numerous cultivars available. Many are trailing verbenas are hybrids of G. canadensis with other species.
(Verbena rigida) This South American verbena forms spreading patches of brilliant purple. It is widely naturalized along roadsides throughout South Carolina. It spreads by long white rhizomes (underground stems) which spread out in all directions and form dense colonies. Because of this growth habit, it forms a very effective ground cover. Rigid Verbena is hardy and drought resistant.
(Glandularia pulchella; formerly Verbena tenuisecta)
Native to South America, but naturalized throughout the southern United States, moss verbena is so well adapted as to be commonly believed to be native. It is generally hardy in the lower parts of South Carolina, and often survives mild winters in the Upstate. Moss verbena has finely cut leaves and a very low growing habit, explaining its common name. Many of the cultivars are hybrids with other species.
(Glandularia x hybrida; formerly Verbena x hybrida)
Annual verbena is a relatively common garden bedding plant. Most varieties will decline once summer heat increases. Perennial type verbenas will perform better in South Carolina, and will bloom quickly the first season of planting.
Source: Clemson University Cooperative University
Latin: Gladiolus x hortulanusGladiolus are too common and mundane to be cool in the garden.
The omission of gladiolus from the garden is understandable because its blooms are fleeting - usually lasting for less than a week in any kind of pristine state - and its form is somewhat wanting.
Yet, surprisingly, the gladiolus is one of the most important summer "bulb" crops with some production in every state of the Union.
Gladiolus plants have been known since ancient times but it was not until the introduction of the African species into European gardens in the 18th and 19th centuries that hybridizers began to create the garden forms we know today. About 250 distinct species of gladiolus are described with about 15 species native in the Mediterranean region. Only the African species have been used in developing modern hybrids.
The most notable of the African collectors was James Bowie (1789-1869) who initially collected for Kew Gardens in England, but was let go when the plant collecting budget was halved in 1820. His dismissal may have also reflected the riotous life style he developed while afield in remote parts of the world. Unable to find a governmental sponsor, Bowie returned to South Africa as a private collector where he worked on a consignment basis.
The glad’s 15 minutes of fame came early in the 20th century when hybridizers such as Lemoine in France and Luther Burbank in California focused their attention on the plant. In 1910, the American Gladiolus Society was founded to promote the growing of glads and to standardize nomenclature.
But the gladiolus craze seems to have subsided by mid century, primarily because gladiolus is just not a tidy garden plant. Another contributing factor to the flower’s decline in popularity was psychological. Florists began using it as a cheap and readily available funeral flower, and only the most intrepid supporter will stay faithful to a flower associated with bereavement.
The gladiolus, a member of the iris family, does not produce a true bulb but instead reproduces by means of a corm. If cut in half, a corm is a solid starchy mass with no apparent internal structure such as you find in a true bulb. If the tunic is pulled away and the surface of the corm inspected a series of concentric rings will be found which correspond to the nodes of a typical plant.
Each year, the corm is consumed to accomplish the above ground growth of the plant with a new corm formed atop the old one as the plant begins to flower. In addition to the main corm a number of pea-sized cormels will be produced which will attain flowering size in two growing seasons.
The vegetable garden is probably the best place to grow gladiolus corms. By making multiple plantings from early to mid April until late July, cut blooms can be enjoyed all season long.
If you wish to use the plants in the flower border, plant the corms in clumps of a dozen or so in an area about the size of a dinner plate. A wire support, such as a tomato cage, will be required to keep the plants from toppling, but the spiky four foot tall inflorescence can add some nice vertical lines to the flower border. Single colors are best for this use.
Gladiolus can be left in the garden year round in most parts of the state, but hard winters which freeze the soil to the depth of the corm will kill them. Most people that grow gladiolus for cut flowers dig their plants each fall and store the corms in a dry, frost free area over winter.
By: Gerald Klingaman, retired
Extension Horticulturist - Ornamentals
Extension News - July 14, 2000
The following is a garden checklist that gardeners need to be considering for March:
For more information on any of the above points, contact the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension office at 425-2335.
Productive vegetable gardens are based on a strong foundation, and that foundation is the soil. Healthy soil consists of different non living mineral particles such as sand,
silt and clay, as well as organic matter and living organisms.
Healthy soils provide an environment conductive to root growth which leads to a healthy plant and fruit and and vegetable production.
First, start with a soil test in order to know what nutrients are needed as well as the pH and organic content of the soil. Refer to the Smart Gardening tip sheet “Don’t Guess - Soil Test!” for details on how to do a soil test. Once you have the results, you will know what amendments and in what proportion to add for best results in the vegetable garden. Only add the recommended amounts of fertilizer based on the soil test results. Over application of phosphorous and nitrogen fertilizers is a known contaminant of surface and ground water.
A collaboration with Organic matter is also a very important component of your soil as it is the “glue” holding all of the soil components together, providing space for oxygen and good drainage. Organic matter includes composted animal manure, chopped up leaves, grass clippings and cover crops. These are added to sandy soils in order to improve water-holding capacity, and added to clay soils to improve drainage. Site preparation If you are breaking ground for a new garden, eliminate grass or weeds that might be in the planned garden area first. One method is to remove the grass or sod by hand. This is most feasible when an instant result is needed. The sod chunks or grass removed can be added to a compost pile and re-entered to the garden system at a later time. However, this method will also require some organic matter be added to the soil below the old turf roots.
If you are breaking ground for a new garden, eliminate grass or weeds that might be in the planned garden area first. One method is to remove the grass or sod by hand. This is most feasible when an instant result is needed. The sod chunks or grass removed can be added to a compost pile and re-entered to the garden system at a later time. However, this method will also require some organic matter be added to the soil below the old turf roots. There are several methods that employ a “smothering” technique that will accomplish this task without using chemicals. Laying down a sheet of plastic and securing it with weights around the edges will effectively kill vegetation beneath except for the most stubborn of perennial weeds.
Another easy way to smother weeds is to place several sheets of newspaper down in the is to place several sheets of newspaper down in the area and layer compost or
other organic matter such as chopped up leaves, grass clippings or mulch over the top. This is commonly called "sheet composting." The organic layers on top will degrade while weeds below are dying out, resulting in a weed-free space. This may take a few months or can effectively start in the fall with spring planting in mind. Today's newsprint is made with vegetable-based ink so there are no worries about residues left behind.
No-till farming and gardening is a method in which the soil is left undisturbed except in the planting space for the seeds or plants. For years farmers have utilized the no-till method for crops, realizing the benefits of erosion control, soil moisture conservation, fewer weeds and building soil structure and health. Excessive tillage destroys the soil structure which is the foundation for healthy plant roots that interact with the living component of the soil.
Adding organic matter also enhances soil structure by encouraging microorganisms to act as a conduit for nutrients to enter plant roots. The no-till technique leaves crop residue on the soil surface which increases the organic matter content of the soil while enhancing the environment for the living component. Many gardeners are utilizing no-till vegetable gardening.
Planning a no-till smart vegetable garden requires a little bit of thought. It is imperative that you don’t walk on the soil in the planting areas as you work in the garden. This will only compact the soil. Therefore, you need to design your garden so that you have paths to walk on between the actual planting areas. The beds should be no more than 4 feet wide so that you can reach across the bed to weed or harvest while kneeling in the walkway. In addition, create beds that are shorter in length so that you are not tempted to cut across the bed to get to another one. A good size bed recommendation is around 4 feet wide by 8 feet long.
The sheet composting method mentioned above can be used to prepare the bed the first year. After that, organic Straw mulch used in walkways will reduce compaction and retard weed growth. matter such as compost should be added to these beds each season; organic matter breaks down over time and needs to be replenished. One to 2 inches of compost may be all a garden needs for the season. It may take a couple of seasons to build your no-till beds, but once they are established, adding additional organic matter is all that is necessary. Using an organic mulch such as straw or wood landscape mulch will help prevent weeds from growing and can serve double-duty as organic matter; it’s an important component in the no-till garden.
You may want to explore other popular types of no-till systems, including sheet composting, lasagna gardening, straw bale gardens and container gardening. If you choose a more conventional method of preparing the garden such as with a cultivator, you are encouraged to reduce tilling to a minimum. As mentioned before, tilling breaks down soil structure and disturbs the environment that is beneficial to living organisms, so the less tilling, the better. The practice of rotating crops in the garden is also a smart tip. This action helps reduce pests and pathogens that may be carried on the same crop from one year to the next. In addition, crops such as beans and other legumes “fix” nitrogen on their roots which will benefit the next plant that gets planted in that space the following season.
By: Pamela J. Bennett and Denise Johnson
Ohio State University Extension
Prep time: 2o minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
Source: The Sonoma Diet
Simmer budget-friendly beef stew meats to tender, fall apart perfection using your slow cooker. The trick is to tenderize the beef before cooking then let it stew slowly in the liquid using the gentle heat from your crock-pot. It’s hard to be patient when your home smells so delicious, but trust us, it’s worth the wait.
Serves: 4 | Serving Size: 2 cups
If you’re decorating for a St. Patrick’s Day party, you’ll want to include a potted shamrock plant or several shamrock houseplants. But party or not, the potted shamrock plant is an attractive indoor plant. So what is a shamrock plant? Keep reading to find out more about growing and caring for shamrock plants.
The potted shamrock plant (Oxalis regnellii) is a small specimen, often reaching no more than 6 inches. Leaves are in a range of shades and delicate flowers bloom off and on during fall, winter and spring. Leaves are clover shaped and some think the plant brings good luck. These leaves fold up at night and open when light returns. Also known as the lucky shamrock plant, growing Oxalis houseplant is simple and adds a touch of spring to the indoors during winter months.
Shamrock houseplants are members of the wood sorrel family of the genus Oxalis. Caring for shamrock plants is simple when you understand their periods of dormancy. Unlike most houseplants, the potted shamrock plant goes dormant in summer. When leaves die back, the potted shamrock plant needs a time of darkness to rest. Caring for shamrock plants during the period of dormancy includes limited watering and withholding of fertilizer. The dormant period when growing oxalis houseplant lasts anywhere from a few weeks to three months, depending on the cultivar and the conditions. New shoots appear when dormancy is broken. At this time, move shamrock houseplants to a sunny window or other area of bright light. Resume caring for shamrock plants to be rewarded with an abundance of the attractive foliage and blooms.
When shoots appear in autumn, begin watering the newly growing Oxalis houseplant. Soil should remain lightly moist during times of growth. Water two to three times a month, allowing soil to dry out between waterings. Fertilize after watering with a balanced houseplant food. Shamrock plants grow from tiny bulbs that may be planted in fall or early spring. Most often, shamrock plants are purchased when foliage is growing and sometimes when in flower. Many cultivars of oxalis exist, but exotic varieties provide the best indoor performance. However, don’t dig a wild wood sorrel from outdoors and expect it to grow as a houseplant. Now that you’ve learned what is a shamrock plant and how to care for a growing Oxalis houseplant, include one in your indoor collection for winter blooms and maybe good luck.
Source: Becca Badgett
Gardening Know How
Vegetable (Cool Season) - Cabbage Family
Brassica oleracea var. capitata Brassicaceae Family
This cool-season crop grows best when daytime temperatures are in the 60s F. Direct-seed or transplant spring crops for fresh use in summer. Plant fall crops for winter storage or sauerkraut.
How to plant:
Maintenance and care:
Sow seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before average last spring frost. Keep soil warm (about 75 F) until germination. Then keep plants around 60 F. Provide direct sun so plants don’t get leggy. When plants are 4 to 6 weeks old, transplants into garden 12 to 24 inches apart, in rows 18 to 34 inches apart. Use closer spacings for smaller, early varieties, wider spacings for larger, late-season varieties.Can be direct seeded as soon as you can work the soil. Will germinate at soil temps as low as 40 F. Plant ½ to ¾ inch deep, about 3 inches apart. Thin to final spacings.
Direct seed in summer for fall crop, or start transplants in late May and transplant in late June or early July.
Plants have shallow root systems. Avoid even shallow cultivation. Mulch to protect roots, reduce weed competition and conserve moisture.
Use floating row cover to protect crop from early pests.
When heads are mature, they are prone to splitting in response to any stress or a rain following a dry period. Avoid splitting by choosing varieties that resist splitting, spacing plants close together (8 to 12 inches for early varieties, 12 to 16 inches for later varieties), using shovel to sever roots on one side about 6 inches from the plant, or twisting plants after heads have firmed to break some of the roots.
To help reduce disease, do not plant cabbage or other cole crops in the same location more than once every three or four years.
Cabbage aphids - A hard stream of water can be used to remove aphids from plants. Wash off with water occasionally as needed early in the day. Check for evidence of natural enemies such as gray-brown or bloated parasitized aphids and the presence of alligator-like larvae of lady beetles and lacewings.Cabbage root maggot - White maggot larvae tunnel in and feed on roots of plants. Damage causes wilting early on, death of plants later on.
Cabbageworms - Handpick and destroy. Row covers may be useful on small plantings to help protect plants from early damage. Put in place at planting and remove before temperatures get too hot in midsummer.
Flea Beetles - Use row covers to help protect plants from early damage. Put in place at planting and remove before temperatures get too hot in midsummer. Control weeds.
Cutworms - Control weeds. Cardboard collars around each plant give good protection.
Clubroot - Locate new plants in part of garden different from previous year's location. If soil infested, add lime to raise soil pH to 7.2Purple blotch (Alternaria porri ) - Avoid wetting foliage if possible. Water early in the day so aboveground plant parts dry as quickly as possible. Avoid crowding plants, allowing air circulation. Eliminate weeds around plants and garden area to increase air circulation. Practice plant sanitation. When plants are not wet, remove and destroy affected plant parts. In autumn rake and destroy all fallen or diseased
leaves and fruit.
Browse cabbage varieties at our Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners website.Plant early, midseason and late varieties to spread out harvest. Early varieties tend not to store well. Late varieties tend to be better for storage or for making sauerkraut.
Some varieties are resistant to certain diseases and insects.
Varieties may vary in head size, shape (round, flat, conical) and colors (green, red or purple).
Savoy cabbage has wrinkled leaves, and is sometimes classed in a different group, Brassica oleracea var. sabuada. Savoy varieties are prized for their flavor as well as their good looks.
Varieties recommended for New York include:
Excerpt from Cornell University Growing Guide
FEBRUARY GARDEN CHECKLIST
For more information on any of the above points, contact the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension office at 425-2335.
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