Friday, March 25, 2016

Garden Roller-Coaster and Internet Education: The Countdown To April

I start this on Tuesday.  We've had three mornings of below-freezing weather.  All the fruit trees and bushes were already in bloom except for a couple of young cherry trees. 

The first morning, I went out and sprayed the trees down with water.  But I had trouble with the hose kinking and freezing.  By the time I was done, no more water would come out of the hose nozzle, and it had backed up on me a couple of times and gotten me wet.  The next morning was less cold and I didn't go out, except to see if the grass was frozen and crunchy underfoot, and it wasn't.  And the third morning was worse than the first, so I knew the hose wasn't going to work.  I didn't feel well, my shoulder was acting up, and so I just rolled my eyes and stayed in the house.  "Oh, well", I thought. 

But, it looks like several things have made it through.  The Jonquils are still blooming madly.  I can see the oldest peach tree out my kitchen window, and its flowers are still there and look ok.  This morning it was in the mid-fifties.  Another cold morning predicted for Friday morning, but so far Mesonet does not show that it will be lower than 32.  We are not out of the woods yet.  One year, we had a solid week of below-freezing weather, all night and all day, IN APRIL.  And by that time all the tiny fruit, which was hanging on the trees like little pendants, froze solid, then turned soft and fell off when they thawed out.  Suffice it to say there was no fruit that summer. 

When I do get fruit, I do not let any of it go to waste because I may not get anything for the next two or three years.  Small windfalls become jam or jelly.  Large windfalls become juice.  And bad spots go in the compost. 

Porter, Oklahoma, which is just on the other side of Tulsa from us, is "The Peach Capital of Oklahoma", and they have a big peach festival in the middle of July.  HERE is Livesay Orchards' website.   Hubs used to drive his mother there, some summers, and she'd buy a couple of bushels of peaches to put up.  You could buy them already picked and that's what she did.  They cost a little more that way but it was better than risking falling off the ladder.  Plus it was a lot quicker, just grab the goods, pay for it, and go.  No having to be taken out to where the trees were, and so on.  She always wanted those raggedy cling peaches because she thought the flavor was better.  Me, I want Red Haven.  Easy to peel, none of that prying out the pit, and I think the flavor is every bit as good as any other variety.  But that was Hubs' Mom for you.  She was "set in her ways" and far be it from me, her youngest daughter-in-law, to try to tell her any different.  She didn't seem to have a very high opinion of me, mostly because I went and married her youngest son (whatta lotta nerve!!) and she would put up with no truck from me.

The folks at Livesay's go to great lengths to ensure that they'll have a peach crop every year.  They set up big fans and smudge pots for those times when there are late freezes.  Some years they pay people to hover over the orchard in helicopters in order to stir up the air enough to keep the frost from affecting the crop.  It's always on the news when they do that. 

People say if it rains while it's below freezing, or if the wind is blowing, your crop won't be affected.  But usually when there's frost, it's as quiet as a tomb out there.

I just tell myself, if God wants me to have fruit to put up, He'll let me have it.  Otherwise, so be it.  Welcome to Oklahoma, aka Bi-Polarland.

Today, it's as windy as the bejeezers and we've got a Red Flag fire warning on us. 
I clipped this kerchief on the clothesline just to give you some idea of the wind.  It'll be twirled over the line in a knot in no time at all. 

This is the first day of hardening off for the peppers, and they're in the cold frame with the shower doors over them.  Otherwise the wind would beat them to death.

The tomato plants have been coming out every day.  You might say "This ain't their first rodeo".  Heh.  But they will get tired of "waving around" after awhile and I'll have to take them in before the day's over.  They have developed good sturdy "trunks". 

Under this shower door are some of the Wintersown things.  The wind's blown my new little rhubarb plants around so much, one of the leaves was broken off, so I heaped up some wood chips around them.  It's a cloudy day today, but if the sun was out bright and there was no wind, everything would die under those shower doors.  There's a lot of babysitting this time of year.  The wind was too much for my little Nasturtiums, so I've already had to bring them in, give them a good watering, and put them back under the lights. 

The Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus) aka Carolina Allspice, has bloomed.  I bought it last spring at Tractor Supply.  Now I'm reading that it will sucker and take over so the herb garden is probably not a good place to keep it.  It's there now because it was small and I wanted to watch it.  I barricaded it with some hardware cloth because I was afraid the rats and rabbits would eat it down to the ground, but I guess I didn't need to.  What I didn't barricade was the little apple trees I grew from seed, so the rabbits topped those off, instead.  *Sigh*.  There are about four survivors out of the eight, that are leafing out.  We apparently have finally been able to close up all the places where the rabbits were coming in because, daily, they hang out along the outside of the fence, apparently hoping for an opening to magically appear. 

HERE is what Dave's Plant Files have to say about Calycanthus.  The scent of the flowers is familiar to me but I can't put my finger on it at the moment.  I want to say similar to the smell of Hedge Apples, but no, not that.  Kind of turpentine-ish...  Gosh, I wish Paula or Carole were here, I bet among the three of us, one of us could hit the nail on the head as to where I've smelled that smell before. 

While I was researching something else, I saw a YouTube where this man was making "plant juice" for fertilizer, that's HERE.  He says to look for what is a prolific weed or plant that is growing on your land, because it's thriving on your land because it's able to make enzymes and hormones that is missing in the soil.  Well, my first thought was (say it WITH me...), BINDWEED.  And so I began doing searches on the Internet to see whether it has any beneficial stuff in it and OMG, they're using Bindweed leaves to cure cancerHERE is something about that.  But WebMD says "Greater Bindweed" (it doesn't give the botanical name so I don't know if we're talking about the same thing here) (and frankly, I don't think it's all that "great".  Heh.)  is a strong laxative and can interact with a lot of drugs so just so you know, I'm not recommending it for internal use.  But to say the least, I was surprised to learn that Bindweed was beneficial in ANY WAY. 

There is a YouTube that comes up right after the first "plant juice" video is finished, where a man is also making "plant juice" for fertilizer, but he's using Kudzu vine because that's what grows madly where he lives.  Just as my Grammy used to say, "Every cloud has a silver lining".  Heh.  It does remind me that I heard, or read, somewhere that when you have a problem in the garden, there is almost always the "cure" in close proximity.  We just don't recognize it as such because we are not trained to do so.

This is now Thursday.  Our grandson, JC (not the one with the twins, that's JR) called late last night and woke us up, saying there was fire out here.  I got up and called Joe, as it looked like they were still up over there.  He said he thought there might be fire across the highway, but the wind was out of the northwest, so it would be blown away from us rather than toward us.  So I then went back to bed and was able to sleep the rest of the night.  This morning we got up and found out the fire had been at Bar-Dew (an area between Bartlesville and Dewey), in which case it might have come in our direction and that's why there was so much smoke in the air out here.  But in order to get here it would have to burn a lot of densly populated areas before it got to us.  Not saying that couldn't happen, just that there would be a lot more effort towards putting the fire out than there is when it's just burning fields. 

It's cool-ish today, with only a high of 59º expected and tomorrow morning we are still expecting that low of 30º.  Then another freezing opportunity on Monday morning. 

Today I was viewing a You-Tube on Weeds And What They Tell You, and at the end the man said to Google "Dynamic Accumulators".  Well, I did (actually I used "Bing"), and that opened up enough sources to keep me busy for the rest of the day. 

From Permies: A nice list of Dynamic Accumulators and the minerals they accumulate.
From Seaberry / Sea Buckthorn: The Silver Lining Of Weeds.
From Practical Plants: Know The Spot, But Not The Plant?
From Crow's Daughter's Herbal Wisdom blog: Dandelion Root Nourishing Herbal Vinegar
From Learning Herbs:  Recipe for Dandelion Fritters.
From The Survival Gardener: Lots of cool things to look at.  Scroll down and check out the video of how to make a Smilax omelet.
From Eat The Weeds: How to identify Smilax aka Green Briar.
From University of Florida: a PDF on Identifying the various varieties of Smilax, including Sarsaparilla.
The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette deBairacli Levy can be found for sale on Amazon, and it has been reviewed favorably.  I tried to find a free e-book, as it's an old book and probably available somewhere for free, and found a link, but it took me to a display of women's crotches.  All I will say about that is that SOME women just have NO pride.  No link provided.  You're on your own with this one.
From YouTube: Eat The Weeds' video list.  If you can't eradicate them off your land, eat 'em.  And I did not know that the flowers and young pods from Redbud trees are edible. Hmmmm.

With all my garden seedlings/plants outside most of the time now, my mind has turned to the warmer season crops.  I have Long Island Cheese pumpkin seed waiting to germinate in a damp coffee filter, and last night I soaked and then set to germinating some Burpless Muncher (aka WI5207) cucumber seed. 
I wasn't expecting the seed to germinate very well because some of them didn't feel filled out, and the ones I direct-seeded last summer didn't come up at all.  But there were only three seed that didn't germinate, and overnight, no less.

It is so hard for me to waste a germinated seed.  Don't ask me why, because I do not know!  So I planted these, two to a newspaper cup, topped each off with a tablespoon of worm castings, and watered well.  Ended up with 24 cups.  This is 'way more than I'm going to need but maybe I can find homes for them. 

I will forever be grateful to Paula for sharing with me the method of germinating seeds in damp coffee filters because often I've direct-seeded something and have had it not come up.  Our yard and garden is routinely worked over by the birds, and I like that because they bring in free fertilizer and often they "plant" an interesting seed.  I enjoyed the red cockscomb they brought me last year.  But they will also eat the seed that's been planted.  Sometimes seed doesn't come up because it turned cold right after sowing and that tends to interrupt germinating and stall the seed out.  Maybe after that, the soil became too dry right at the crucial moment and the seed died.  Or maybe I forgot I planted them there and stepped on them or dug into them to plant something else.  That's more likely to happen with seeds that take a long time to germinate.  Germination in a coffee filter lets me see how my stored seeds are faring.  Are they getting too old?  If I direct-sow them and they don't come up, I don't know which of all the possible conditions have come into play, and I might be wasting my time and other resources, planting seeds that are no longer viable.

Burpless Muncher is the ONLY cucumber I will grow as it satisfies EVERY requirement I have of cucumbers.  When young, the cucumbers make wonderful sweet pickles.

They can be used for garlic dills or cut into chunks for Bread and Butter pickles at medium size.  I don't make these dills anymore because I don't care for dills and Hubs prefers ANY purchased dill pickles to the ones I make.  Canning and pickling is a lot of work.  It's his mother's recipe.  Go figure.  This is an old picture, taken in 2013.  Unfortunately, all these dill pickles ended up being dumped out because Hubs would not eat them.  Where are Andy Taylor and Opie when you need them?  See the story about Aunt Bea's pickles HERE.  But anyway.

Once they have grown to the point where the skin begins to turn white and/or yellow, they can be peeled and used for relish.

Or refrigerated till they're cold, peeled and sliced into long spears and dipped into Ranch dressing while you're sitting on the patio at the end of a long, hot day.  They are never bitter.  EVER.

Cucumbers contain a natural diuretic, as do watermelon.  In fact, one year I juiced cucumbers and froze the liquid, and when thawed, the juice tasted like watermelon.  I think it's probably also one of the "vegetable juices" included in that fruit-flavored V8. 

Burpless Muncher will produce cucumbers whether the flowers have been pollinated or not. 

If you want to save seed, which I do, you have to leave a cucumber on the vine FOREVER.  Sometimes, even though the cucumber is huge and looks like it should contain plenty of viable seeds, I'll open the cucumber up and the seeds will be little thin papery-looking things.  This tells me that the flowers weren't pollinated.  If you have concerns about this, you could choose a flower that will become the cucumber you will save seed from.  Tag it by tying a piece of brightly colored yarn loosely on the stem, right below the flower.  And then pollinate that flower, using an artist's paintbrush, first into a male flower, and then into the female.  Hubs does not pick anything from the garden unless I'm with him.  On the rare times that he has, invariably he has missed the fact that there is a red piece of yarn on the stem, or, as with okra, that there is a clothespin.  *Sigh*. 

Male and female flowers are easy to tell apart.  Just remember that the flower that's fancy inside is the female. 
This is the female.

This is the male.  Usually you will see lots of these at first and no female.  This is nature's way.  The pollinators won't start coming to the squash blossoms for awhile, so there is no point in wasting a female blossom.

This is what the female flower looks like from another angle.  Female flowers ALWAYS are sitting on a tiny version of the fruit they will produce.  If the flower doesn't get pollinated, the flower AND the little fruit will drop off the stem soon after the flower fades.  This one has been pollinated, and the flower is getting ready to drop off and leave the fruit on the stem.

This is the same for cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and squash.  Other things, too, but not everything.  Tomato flowers, for instance, are self-fertile.  Which means, each flower has both male and female parts.  So they all look alike.  All they really need is a little air movement to get things going.  On days when there is no wind, I will just go out there and shake the tomato cage a little.

I mentioned okra a few paragraphs ago, and I have a favorite variety of that, too.  It's Cowhorn okra.  It stays tender even when the pods are larger than normal, which means you can get bigger yields from less plants.  I do clip a clothespin on the stem of two or three pods, so I will know not to pick it.  It takes what seems like forever for Cowhorn okra pods to make seed, and the pod needs to dry out while still on the plant. 

You'll know when the seed is ready because the pod will lose its green color and begin to crack.  If you leave it on the plant after it's done that, at some point the pod will fall apart and it'll fling its seed all on the ground.  Maybe the flung seed would winter over and come up the following year.  Not sure because I've never allowed them to do that.  Mature okra seed look like round black beads.  If they're still white, they just shrivel up.

The okra seedlings are still doing ok, but they really are needing to be set out and it's not quite warm enough for that.  I haven't grown okra since 2013 and I want to give seed to Kylie.  I did a germination test to make sure they were still good.  Every one of those little boogers germinated and I just couldn't throw them in the trash.

Hubs and I stopped at Evans' Nursery yesterday morning on our way home from The Fitness Center.  I did buy a 4cf bag of Vermiculite.  My seedling mix is equal parts Vermiculite, peat, and home-made compost, but I'm thinking about reducing the peat by about half next year.

They had worm castings cheaper than what I paid for them at WMT.  Also they had coir.  They had Dixondale Candy Onion plants for $2.50 a bundle and I was pleased to see that they looked pretty good.  Because by this time in the spring, Lowe's and Atwoods have been selling these plants for about a month, which is 'way too early, and any they have left have been laying around so long that they're At Death's Door.  I raised my onions from seed Wintersown in January.  But if I'm ever unable to do that, now I know where to buy my onion plants.  They had kelp meal. 

I've been reading a lot about Azomite (an acronym for "A to Z Of Minerals Including Trace Elements") and Mycorrhizal innoculants.  Amazon has Azomite, 20# for $22.95 and free shipping, but not Mycorrhizae. Kelp4Less sells it for $88 a pound.  Ouch!  Maybe this is the "gold" that they said was in "them thar hills".  Heh.  I think, from what I saw on YouTube, that I could start with just a few ounces of Mycorrhizae and use it to make more or maybe even make my own from other things.  There are lots of YouTube videos that show how to do that HERE.  I asked at the nursery about both products.  They didn't know what Azomite is and they thought Mycorrhizal inoculant is rooting compound.  Not sure but I don't think it is.  The nursery still made higher marks than Lowe's and Atwoods.  I may not try to do all these things at once, anyway.  Baby steps, you know....

This is now Friday morning and I will try to publish this post today.  It is a little after 4am and Mesonet says the temperature was at 27º when they updated at 3:53am.  Not looking good.  And another freezing morning expected on Monday morning.  It's almost like there's No End In Sight of these freezes about every three or four days, with wind, Red Flag warnings and chances of rain in between.  The garden soil seems to be retaining moisture pretty well, but it would be nice to actually get some of that rain Mesonet forecasts. 

Hubs helped me bring in all the pepper plants that I had in the cold frame last night before we went to bed.  Normally I just put the shower doors all the way across for the night, but if it's going to frost, I will not risk letting the pepper plants get that cold.  Of course we wheeled in the carts of tomato plants, as we do every evening, because I don't want the wind coming up in the night and blowing them around.  Soon, though, I'll be leaving them out all night.  They have to get used to that in order to adapt well into the garden.  Today we'll take everything out again after it warms up some.  And then we'll have it all to do over again on Sunday night.  This is what I call The RockWhisperer Exercise Plan.  Heh.

It is during these times that I think of our pioneer ancestors and I marvel at how they managed to survive.  Large families huddled in a dugout, or a small cabin, totally dependent on the coming crops for their very lives, no heat except for a fireplace and a cookstove.  But they made it through.  They are what I'm made of, and the fact that I'm even HERE is proof of their strength and persistence against all odds.  And the same for many of you, reading here.  Now, if our garden doesn't do well, we can buy what others have grown.  So it seems childish to worry about what, if anything, I will get from the fruit trees and bushes.  It seems like "borrowing trouble" to worry about what kind of garden year I will have.  So I won't.  Whatever will be, will be.

Rock on.  Hugs xoxoxo

1 comment:

  1. I hope you get some rain, hope the winds let up and the fires end. We had some chilly weather last weekend, but that was probably our last. We had a little rain last evening, with more expected over the next few days. We need it.

    Once spring really gets to your place, I hope you will have a great veggie garden and reap a bountiful harvest.

    Happy Easter ~ FlowerLady


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