Today, April 22, is Earth Day. The Earth is an amazing planet; some of it has smack-you-in-the-face beauty and in other places it can be more subtle. Like a lot of Oklahoma. Here, we have to slow down, look at the details. Except for our sunsets, of course! They can blow you away some evenings. And sunrises, too. But it’s easy to dismiss the prairie we live in, to think of it as boring. But these oceans of native grasses that sequester carbon in soil contain their own beauty. (Prairies sequester more carbon below ground than forests can above ground, according to soil scientists at the USDA.) Think of our many wildflowers. Think of the many blooming shrubs and trees that offer delicious berries, cherries and pecans, for all the prairie’s residents. Prairies are a vital part of sustaining our pollinators and the entire, interwoven, ecosystem that keeps life going on this beautiful planet.
There are numerous resources on native plants for our area if you are interested in putting a little bit of the prairie in your yard. The National Wildlife Federation is developing a tool that lists native plants by zip code along with terrific resources on gardening for wildlife. The Oklahoma Native Plant Society is another source for invaluable, local information, both on their website and at meetings. The Nature Conservancy in Oklahoma offers education on Oklahoma’s native plants and animals. Or come by and visit with us. We carry a good selection of native perennials, shrubs and trees. And we love to talk about plants!
Showing those photographs may be a retail cardinal sin, but our business plan is to improve everyone's skill set. Our plants went through that cold snap just like yours did. Even with a green house, a 200,000 btu heater, and blower fans, we couldn't keep up with the cold. A lot was composted, but every photo above is of a plant that should bounce back.
After all the dead and damaged portions have been removed, put the pot in a bright and warm area and lightly feed them. They will really need the resources the fertilizer and sun provide to make new leaves.
After that you should have have a sad looking plant that will grow back bushy and happy!
This applies to outdoor plants too, but wait to do the trimming until mid February and wait to fertilize until the plant is actively growing.
If the plant is dead, this gives you a chance to try something new! Keep in mind that these frost swings may be the new normal. Last year we had a couple days of 0 degrees and one -3! These are arctic temperatures, and they are lasting for hours at a time. We didn't carry Indian Hawthorne in 2017 because of those cold snaps and we probably won't again this year. Watch what doesn't come out of dormancy this spring, these will tell us how we need to adapt going forward.
Pumpkins, a cousin of cucumbers, watermelons, luffas, and zucchini are edible and quite tasty! In technical botanic speak, pumpkins fill the “What am I going to eat in December!?” niche. Most were bred to have tough skin to supply calories and nutrients well into the winter.
Per Cup of roasted pumpkin: Calories 49, Protein 2 g, Carbohydrate 12 g, Dietary Fiber 3 g, Calcium 37 mg, Iron 1.4 mg, Magnesium 22 mg, Potassium 564 mg, Zinc 1 mg, Selenium .50 mg, Vitamin C 12 mg, Niacin 1 mg, Folate 21 mg, Vitamin A 2650 IU, Vitamin E 3 mg.
One of our best sellers is this…
The Musque De Province; we call it a Fairy Tale Pumpkin. It originated in Provence, where it is still eaten today. It has a mild flavor that can be used in any recipe that calls for pumpkin. It is often eaten as a street food in France; roasted whole, sliced along the ribs, and seasoned with different spice mixtures... yes, you can use pumpkin spice. It is then served wrapped in parchment paper.
The most commonly eaten is this weirdo!
The Blue Hubbard has a small seed chamber, thus most of the volume is meat. Its mass to volume ratio makes it perfect for mass produced canned pumpkin. You can use anywhere pumpkin or winter squash is called for.
My favorite is this guy.
The Speckled Hound. This is a true winter squash and should last for months! It is the perfect size and shape for easy roasting, just toss it in an oven on a cookie sheet until the skin is soft. The best part is the pale orange meat is dryer than most which makes it especially sweet! Perfect for desserts and breads!
My last to mention is this unassuming guy.
Sometimes called tiger stripe or the Styrian Pumpkin. The meat is nothing special, however it's pretty and a different coloration than most, so it definitely has its use. But this Austrian squash has a secret if you cut it open…
Its seeds are completely hulless. Most pumpkins seeds look like the image on the left vs the right. Roasting them is a breeze!
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin or winter squash, at least one cup of cleaned seeds
The amount of oil and spices will vary with the volume of seeds collected.
½ tablespoon of oil per cup of seeds.
.5 t of salt per cup of seeds
1. Preheat oven to 300
2. Hollow out Tiger Stripe Pumpkin (or any pumpkin or winter squash)
3. The seeds will be attached to some membrane, so rinse in a colander and lightly scrub with cloth towels (seeds will stick to paper). It is not necessary to completely clean the seeds. Excess membrane is edible and will dry.
3B. (If using a non tiger stripe squash, skip drying. Bring some salted water to a boil and dump seeds in to pot. Cook for 5-7 minutes. Drain, and let dry on a cookie sheet.)
4. Toss seeds with your favorite oil(coconut, olive, melted butter…) and salt. Use other seasonings as desired. ½ t Worcestershire sauce is nice...Pumpkin Pie spice… the sky is the limit, but leave sugar out until after roasted.
5. Spread on a foil lined cookie sheet and roast for 10 to 15 minutes.(15-20 for hulled pumpkin seeds) Some will pop when they are done.
6. Remove from oven(add sugar or herbs at this point and toss, if necessary), lift foil off of pan and place on cooling rack.
Scarf down right away, store in airtight container, make brittle, add to soups or bread, or use them in pesto.
One of our hibiscus got an infestation of aphids. A lot of plants might have them will all of the temperature and humidity swings, and enough rain in August to kill the drought only for a couple counties to slip back into the drought. All of those extremes can stress plants and open them up to pests. Those of you with milk weeds are probably seeing lots of yellow guys on your plants right now.
Unfortunately, I started treating it before I took pictures.
Aphids usually attack the growth tips where the plant puts most of it's sugars and is most easily punctured. On the buds (and thumb) above, they are the white and brown specs. Like other soft bodied pests (spider mites, etc), they are actually pretty easy to git rid of. You just have to torture your plants! The best treatment for aphids is....
It may take a couple treatments, but it will work but with no pesticides! If the infestation is really bad, and on multiple plants, following up the spraying with Neem Oil, diatomaceous earth, or insecticidal soap is advised. Doing so will kill off these guys..
Simply using the high pressure spray won't hurt the Aphid Lions. The will get knocked off, but climb back up and morph into Lady Beetles! Where as any of the insecticides will kill them too.
Well, the Fourth is over. Time to clean up the firework debris and enjoy some garden time while is still enjoyable outside. Here are a few to-dos to make everything easier.
Cut back spring annuals
A lot of the pretty mixed pots and hanging baskets from spring may be starting to look a little thread bare. Root space is getting tight and there was that one week we forgot to water that one pot. Now is a great time to cut back those spring annuals. Cut out any dead stems and give the leggy stems a good whack. Give the rest a little cut to make it all look symmetrical. Apply a small does of Colorstar Fertilizer, water, and enjoy a lovely beverage on your porch!
Clean/Dust your porch light
While your there, clean your porch lights and other outdoor lighting. We have a month before august hits and renders outdoor living impossible. Spending a few minutes cleaning your lighting will make your outdoor living area more welcoming during the last few cool nights of summer. Not only will lighting highlight your plants in the evening so we can enjoy them, but a well kept yard and adequate lighting are the two most effective things that can be done to prevent crime in our neighborhoods!
Adjust your sprinkler system and watering habits
The past few weeks we have seen some good rain, but that won’t last. It’s a great time to check your sprinkler system, drip hoses, timers and such for proper watering. Place a cake pan in your yard and time your sprinkler to run as long as it takes to fill that up to one inch. That’s how long your system needs to run PER WEEK! We recommend twice a week, so half inch per run. Garden beds need about that much, but once a week is usually enough! Specimen plantings that are not well suited to Oklahoma weather need to be dealt with as needed. Potted plants most likely need to be watered once a day. No matter what it is, morning is the best time to water. Wet plants during warm nights are begging to be attacked by bugs, fungi, and viruses!
Redressing your beds and pots with a thin layer of compost will help retain moisture throughout the day, and replace organic material the plant has utilized during the spring.
Pinch bag worms
Pinch bag worms on evergreens before the infestation gets out of control. Also, spray web worms in trees with a high pressure spray. Once the webs are torn open, the birds will feast! It is very satisfying!
Don't worry about your tomatoes
It has been relatively cool, so tomatoes should still be producing. But as temps climb over the mid 90’s, tomato pollen stops being viable. This can be helped by shaking the plant early in the morning, before it gets too hot. At a certain point, you will have flowers, but not fruit. Don’t worry, keep the plant healthy with compost and water. Once temperatures drop, production will return.
The cold winds are dying down and it's great time to get back out in the garden and do some of the less glamorous tasks while it's still nice outside! So when May hits everything is ready for color installs and all the other fun stuff we look forward to!
Sow Annual and Herb Seeds
Now is the time to get your summer herb and annuals started. Celosia, Moon Flower, Sun Flowers, Zinnias, and Basil, Cilantro(Coriander), and Parsley. Just follow the directions on packets.
If you have older seed and don't know if they are viable, here's a way to check.
1. Moisten a paper towel and lay out flat.
2. Place 5, or so, seeds on the towel with some space between and fold up so the seeds are wrapped up tightly. Place towel package in a zip top bag.
3. Place the bag in warm, but not sunny spot. Leave alone for the number of days to germination listed on the packet or on this chart.
4. Once that time is up, open the bag and package and inspect the seeds. If most of the are plumped or even sprouting, the seeds are safe to plant. If only a couple are sprouting after a couple weeks, don't expect much out of those seeds.
Plant Fruit and Vegetable Plants
So this year has been odd, it's been warm(one day over 90!), and as I right this, at least, one more night in the 40's. The soil temps have been in the 60's: 2 inch temps, 4 inch temps. So it *should* be safe to plant most veggies. Just remember, two years ago we had a frost on May 5th! In any event, by the end of the week we will be bringing in the more cold sensitive plants. There are just a few more days to think about your gardens.
Apples, Pears, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Chiles, Cucumbers, Melons, Herbs, etc
Yes, it's super exciting, but it pays off. Just a couple hours on a Saturday morning will continue to pay dividends all season! The trick is a scuffle or colinear hoe. These are sharp and the blade is oriented parallel to the ground. Just slide or "scuffle" the hoe around the bed and the weeds are cut off at the ground. Yes, some do come back! If you have a decent hoe(over $25), the task will be easy to do once a week. After a while, the weeds will burn through their energy stores and die. If you never till your bed(NEVER TILL YOUR SOIL), you won't activate dormant seed in the soil and you won't have weeds! Follow this advice, and weeding will only end up on your to-do list twice a year!
Fertilize or Compost Your Plants
This is the easy one. Add a does of good slow release fertilizer like Color Star, Nutra Star, or Espoma to all of your potted plants. All their nutrients were used up last year or leached out of the pot over the Winter. Feed them now, when new growth starts, they're hungry!
Add a good couple inches of compost to your garden beds. It is denser, and will block light to seeds and retain moisture better than any wood waste mulch. It also leaches into your soil adding nutrients and organic matter, and helps to break down the clay.
Finally, go explore the local botanical gardens and garden centers. There is always something to look at and get ideas from.
Myriad Gardens 301 W Reno
Will Rogers Park 3400 NW 36th
The OKC Zoo 2101 NE 50th St
The Botanic Garden at OSU 3300 W. 6th, Stillwater
I’m not a big plan ahead person. I’m working on that. Owning a business has really made me stretch my organizational and planning skills. But I’m still not one to plan out the week’s menu and have each ingredient on hand. I’ve learned to have a pantry well-stocked with basic ingredients – flour, sugar, pastas, chicken in the freezer, that kind of thing. I also have dried herbs and spices on hand. But fresh ingredients are trickier. Life gets busy. Peppers get wrinkly, carrots a little too flexible. Invariably, I go to the crisper and the lettuce is not crispy. It’s been in there a few days too long, looking limp and not very appetizing. One of my favorite things about having a small garden is being able to walk out my kitchen door and grab a handful of ingredients, simple things like lettuce or kale or spinach, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, herbs – and voilà, salad!
Having fresh vegetables right outside the door can be as uncomplicated as carrots or peppers in a Smart Pot® or salad greens in an old washtub. Raised beds are so easy to construct, super easy to maintain, and can significantly reduce a family’s grocery bill from spring until late fall. And really, traditional, in-ground gardening can be pretty low-maintenance, too. We’re so excited to be offering organic vegetable transplants from Julia Laughlin of Prairie Earth Gardens this spring. We will still have lots of healthy vegetable and herb transplants from Prairie Wind Nursery and Red Dirt Plants.
If, unlike me, you are a planner, it’s a great time to organize a planting schedule of your favorite vegetables and fruits. Here’s a Garden Planning Guide from OSU Cooperative Extension Service. Here’s another easy to understand planting guide from Robert Stell of Sunrise Acres, long-time, local farmer and vendor at the OSU Farmers Market. And, if your gardening plans are more spur of the moment, just drop by the store and we’ll help you pick out a few things to grow.
These are just a few of the conifers we have, and I hope I have given you an idea for a different kind of arrangement. In containers or in beds, hollies and conifers can create a garden unlike anyone else on your block. So think out side of the annual, perennial, hedge, and succulent boxes and come check out our selection. Below is a link to the web page of the nursery from which we get most of our conifers and evergreens. It has lots of great information as well as pictures of the full grown plants and ideas for arrangements.
Plant nerd since grade school.
It's hot, and there was 81% humidity this morning. Plants that usually do well in Oklahoma's Springs and Summers might not be looking too hot right now. It's hard enough to keep them watered, much less feed with out burning, or pruned with out ruining them. But fear not! It is not as difficult as it may seem! Here's a little primer on how to keep the annuals you worked so hard for in Spring looking good until October/November when you're ready to start planting Pansies and Cabbages.
There are two things that need to be done: remove some of the plant and feed. Removing biomass does two things: 1. eliminates much of the sickly/dead growth and 2.lessens the load of water and nutrients that the roots need to deliver. Feeding also does two things: 1. replaces nutrients the plant has used or lost due to leaching and 2. supplies nutrients for the plant to use in replacing bio mass that has been removed.
Just grab a handful of stems, like you are making a pony tail of plants. Then, take some pruners or scissors, place at a 45 degree angle to the plant pony tail, and start chopping. Edward Scissor Hand Style. No need to be careful (EXCEPT FOR YOUR FINGERS), the point is to remove stem not shape. If you cut at different levels, you will have a natural shape. Go for a shag, not a bowl cut.
This is most necessary in mixed or combo pots where there are many plants competing for resources. But it also becomes necessary in baskets or pots with one plant and with upright or bushy annuals because they can get leggy too. They are a little more work because trimming them willy nilly can make them look hacked to pieces. All it takes is to look for a joint (or node) on a stem where there are leaves emerging.
So, the trimmed plants should look better after trimming, but it will won't look great. At this point, they will need food. So, throw on a handful of compost and a small dose of slow release fertilizer like Colorstar, or organic, like Flower-tone. Then, set a timer on a soaker hose, go on vacation, and when you get back you will have the gorgeous planters you remember from May!
Ah, Summer. The heat index was 105 degrees yesterday, today looks like it will rain enough to make tomorrow miserable, and the weekend doesn't look much better. This means, for those of us that WANT to get out in the gardens, our plants may not be looking all that great. Geraniums are yellowing, petunias are petunia-ing, and Periwinkles are... well, they are probably fine.
But there is a class of plants that is, just now, beginning to look their best! Of course these are the plants that were here before any of us were; native plants! Natives will thrive in any condition Oklahoma can throw at us because they have spent countless ages adapting to our, eh hem, interesting weather patterns. The best part is that most of them start blooming when our spring perennials and annuals are starting to fade.
These are just a few of the natives that are available. Slash Pine, Kentucky Coffee Tree, and Catalpas, Blue Grama Grass, Indian Steel Grass, even a Sugar Maple! So, if your yard or garden usually look a little drab this time of year and you want some color or texture to tide you over until Pansy and Mum time, think about some native plants. The are easy, sustainable, and better than organic because they rarely need ANYTHING applied to them to grow well. In fact, fertilizers and compost can harm or disfigure natives like Rudbeckia, grasses and Cone Flower either by encouraging too much growth so that they flop over or just burn the leaves! They will need regular, deep waterings in their first year, but soon they will need nothing except the occasional pruning or deadheading to keep them looking tidy.
In Victorian England, keeping plants was becoming quite a hobby. The English garden was quite the staple in the countryside, but in London, things were different. There were few gardens and the pollution was so bad few plants could grow and thrive. Couple that with the British Empire having colonies EVERYWHERE, it became quite vogue for Londoners to keep tropicals as house plants. Unfortunately, the air was so bad inside as well, most plants still died. This eventually led to the invention of the Wardian Case. Basically a small enclosed greenhouse. These allowed begonias and orchids to become the popular house plants of the time.
There was also another plant that was popular at the time. Aspidistra elatior, or Cast Iron Plant. Not only did it thrive in the polluted air, it also does well in low light conditions!
In modern times, they still have plenty of uses in our landscapes. As I type this, a customer is asking about plants that grow in deep shade. This is one of the best! They love it dark. If there is a place in your home where plants stretch and die, I highly recommend cast iron plant, indoors or out!
There are a few varieties, and not all are cold hardy here. So make sure and check your tag!
They are pretty adaptable to wet or dry soils and can take a half a day of sun (4-6 hours).
While most plants put their reproductive organs right out on top, so the various pollinators can find them, Cast Iron plants put their flowers the one place bugs always are, the ground! They get pollinated as slugs and beetles crawl over them. Neat, huh?
Following up last week's post about commonly asked questions (last week's was, "Which plants make the best hanging baskets?"), today I will discuss another common question.
-- How long does it bloom? --
Usually the answer is concise, 4-6 weeks, 2-4 weeks, one day(stupid hibiscus), or every ten years. However, with most annuals and some perennials, deadheading will keep the blooms going for longer periods. As a corollary to the question, "How much work do they require to keep them blooming?" Some times, "it depends" is the best answer we have. Or there is this little guy...
One of my favorite plants, Celosia. The one above is Celosia argentea.
I'd also like to mention some other common names they have had. Cock's Comb is a good one. Really, top notch work guys! Others include Plume Flower, Plumed Amaranth, and Flame Flower. The name Celosia is Greek, meaning burning, since the plumes look a bit like flames. My favorite is their original name. Being from East Africa, their Swahili name is Mfungu.
These are this weeks Plant of the Week. So all weekend, Celosias are 25% off! Mention Mfungu, and get 40% off!
-- Alex Wisdom
This is probably the most asked question we receive. This week's post will answer that and tie in with our sale that we are having for Mother's Day weekend! If you pick one of these three, for your self or your momma, you will have a beautiful, low maintenance plant all summer!
I am going to start off by saying that I am leaving off the Portulacas. Purslane, and Rose Moss(Moss Rose) are fantastic plants. They are succulent, which means they have a way of storing water. They bloom like crazy, they are easy as it gets. Come on by and grab some! However, tt would go against our mission statement if I didn't provided something more inspired. Which brings me to the only three plants I plant every year!
By common name, Blue Daze, Million Bells, and Trailing Periwinkle.
I hope this gives you some ideas for your home, or your Mothers. Remember, May 8th! We are having a Mother's Day Sale the 6th, 7th, and 8th, and all hanging baskets are $13.95!
So, the last storm fizzled when it hit OKC, so we decided to bring in a bunch of new plants for today's storm!
In spite of storm threats, we are bringing in some nice plants! Zinnias, Dragon Wing Begonias, Yellow Ice Plant, and many others! When the weather clears, come by and beautify your yard!
Don't forget, Mother's Day in early this year. It is on the 8th! We have plenty of nice plants and decorations for all of our mothers! We will also be receiving plenty of plants and pottery next week. So you have plenty to choose from! We will also help put together a mixed planter, so gifts can have that personal touch!
So, come by and check out all the fun products we have! We also have gift certificates, so your loved ones can check us out themselves!
We'll be making messes and accessorizing all year!
Ok, plant nerds, time to start practicing your Sweet Honey Brown style news interview monologues. NOAA, NWS, and the mesonet are predicting some nasty weather. 90 mph winds, tornados, and "giant" hail. however, there are also a lot of "ifs", and "possibles" in their forecasts. So, we'll have to wait and see.
It would still be a good idea to bring you pots under cover, say your last words to anything planted in the ground, and have your insurance agent on hold!
As you can see, we are all hunkered down for the evening, and we will be closing early. We hope you all stay safe, watch the weather, get out your weather man/storm chaser drinking game of choice, and, of course, "stay weather aware".
Kathy and Alex have combined experience of over 25 years, and offer their expertise here.