Happy New Year every one! Kathy and I are excited for the third year of Plant Wisdom Garden Center. Last year, in spite of many challenges(late freezes, rain, ice, and heat), we saw a lot of familiar faces, friends, and newcomers. We are so happy to be here again and hoping for our best year yet! We have some fun and interesting classes planned, exciting new plants, and the same outstanding hardy plants you’ve come to expect from Plant Wisdom.
Doing these is a great way to accomplish some of your New Year Resolutions. Just half an hour gardening can burn up to 300 calories. Mycobacterium vaccae, that’s a bacteria and it’s in your soil. A walk through your yard, and it will be on your shoes. This bacteria was found about 10 years ago and used to boost the immune system of cancer patients. As a side effect, the oncologists found that the mood of the treated patients improved drastically. Not to mention all the tasty herbs, fruits, and vegetables your garden can give you!
So get out there and dig in the garden, your body and mind will thank you!
- Alex Wisdom
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.
Time to plant...
--By Kathy Plant
March is a great time to plant leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, mustard, kohlrabi, and lettuce. Beets, carrots and sweet peas also can be sown now.
I love fresh asparagus and it’s so easy to grow. It’s not difficult to plant a patch that returns year after year with minimal maintenance, and a big garden isn’t necessary; they fit nicely into the back of a sunny border or corner of the yard. After harvesting spears for a month or two, I let the tops grow. They are tall, beautiful, fern-like and last all summer.
It’s still just a little early for most flowers, although there are several that are frost hardy, like pansies, dianthus, Dusty Miller, snapdragons and petunias. I like to plant up a couple of containers that can be moved into the garage on those frosty nights.
Time to Harvest...
I planted several different leafy greens last fall and have been harvesting those delicious, vitamin-packed leaves again for several weeks. Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cabbage, among others, can over-winter here in central Oklahoma. They start growing again as the days get longer. Once the large heads of broccoli are harvested, the plant continues to produce smaller side shoots, which, along with the tender young leaves are delicious in stir-fries.
Longer day length and warmer temperatures can make the cool weather crops bolt, causing bitterness or textural changes. Planting transplants can give us a head start on harvesting these healthy, flavorful vegetables.
Come by Plant Wisdom to see our selection of vegetable seeds and transplants, flowers, and shrubs. We would love to help you plan your garden this year!
Kathy and Alex have combined experience of over 25 years, and offer their expertise here.