Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fertilizer 101

As part of our volunteer work, Jefferson County Master Gardeners record brief radio spots on gardening. Here's one we did on Fertilizer 101 - a basic tutorial for those new to gardening:

Every plant requires nutrients to grow and thrive. Three of the primary nutrients – carbon, hydrogen and oxygen – come from air and water. Gardeners will need to provide the other three – nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium .

The three numbers on a bottle or bag of fertilizer stand for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. in that order. The numbers also indicate how much of each is provided by weight.

Nitrogen helps plants produce protein needed for new tissue. Give a plant too much nitrogen and it will produce great foliage but no fruit or flowers. Plants can take up only so much nitrogen, and the rest leaches into the soil and can reach ground water. Give a plant only as much nitrogen as it needs.

Phosphorus stimulates root growth, aids in setting buds and flowers and increases the overall vitality and seed size.

Potassium helps make plants strong and vigorous and more disease resistant.

The best way to choose a fertilizer is to do a soil test to see what nutrients are lacking in your yard or garden. Many gardeners use far more fertilizer than plants need, which creates a serious problem for the environment through runoff.

An all-purpose, balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 will provide the needed nutrients. If you need more of one nutrient and less of the other, you can choose a mix that fits your needs.

When you apply fertilizer, consider foliar feeding. Plants can absorb nutrients up to 20 times more efficiently through leaf surfaces than through their roots. You’ll get the best results applying the spray during critical growth stages such as immediately after transplanting, during bloom time and the period right after a plant sets fruit.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Blessed rain

It's raining! For the past two weeks, while my friends in Nederland, Port Arthur and Beaumont have been getting relief from the long period we've had without rain, it's been dancing all around us.

Yesterday, we got a decent rain. Now, it's raining good and hard and the dusty field next to us that our neighbors just cleared to make way for planting hay looks like a lake. Of course, it's just a thin layer of water waiting to soak in. Within a half hour, it'll be gone.

There's nothing like rain when you haven't seen it in a while. I love the smell of the air just before and after a rain. It provides delicious anticipation and blessed thanks. And I love sitting on our porch and watching the heavy drops fall from the leaves.

Today, I give thanks for life-giving rain.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer garden meals

It seems my recollections of shelling peas and my family’s recipe for cooking up a mess of purple hull peas was a hit (see comments below). I decided to write my column on it this week, with a slightly different approach. Look for it Sunday in The Enterprise.

Now I have a question for all of you. What is your all-time favorite home-cooked meal using fresh veggies/fruit from the home garden?

Here’s mine: Crowder peas, fried okra, corn on the cob, cornbread, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and onion (salted and marinated in vinegar and a touch of sugar), peach cobbler and iced tea.

1.Jane, would you be my wife? I love country cookin

Comment by jesse — June 14th, 2010 @ 11:36 am

2.Brings back memories.

Comment by PJ — June 15th, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

3.Jane, all those purple hull peas need is, some hot pepper seasoning .

Comment by john — June 15th, 2010 @ 9:09 pm

4. Jane….those delicious purple hulls only need some fresh pods of okra simmering on top—until they are deliciously slimy…… Might I suggest fresh tomatoes and cucumbers as condiments? Sure works for me!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Flowers in art

If you enjoy seeing art that uses flowers as inspiration, check out the exhibit "Blooms: Floral Art in the Stark Collections" at the Stark Museum of Art, 712 Green Avenue in Orange. The exhibit was supposed to close earlier this month, but has been extended through much of the summer. No specific closing date has been given. If you visited the exhibit already, you have a chance to see new works, since the museum has rotated out the images shown so far.

The exhibition also provides an educational area for families with interactive learning elements (matching game, reading area and flower drawing station). Admission is free. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more info call 409-886-2787 or visit www.starkmuseum.org.

Shown here is "Dahlias, Asters and Various Flowers" by Joseph Henry Sharp (1859-1953)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ladybug Vs spider

Ladybugs and Dill

I was excited to spot four or five ladybugs on my dill this morning. I'm not sure if that's good - because the ladybugs are feeding - or bad - because the ladybugs have something to feed on. Either way, I'm happy to see them. I have plenty of pests in my wild-leaning, limited pesticide gardens, so I'm surprised that I don't see the sweet bugs with red and black bodies more often.

Ladybugs eat aphids, those soft-bodied sucking insects that can wreak havoc on everything from ornamentals to herbs to even hardwood trees.
A single ladybug can devour 5,000 aphids during their adult life. That's efficient bug control!

Check out the cute video about a ladybug.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Purple Hull Peas

This past week, I sat down at the kitchen table to do something I haven't done in years. I shelled peas. I grew up with a grandmother who plowed with a mule and had corn, several kinds of pole beans and peas, turnips, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, greens, cucumbers, squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries and more.

I hated shelling peas and beans and snapping and destringing green beans, but I loved the time I spent with my grandmother and my aunts while doing so.

Peas and beans are satisfying vegetables to grow in a garden. Give pole beans a little support and they take off. Keep bush beans watered and they will reward you with vegetables that taste NOTHING like canned ones.

Here's how my family always cooked a "mess" of purple-hull peas: Shell, pick over and wash peas thoroughly. Cover with lightly salted water, bring to a light boil, turn the heat down to a slow simmer. Dice some smoked bacon finely (the amount depends on your personal taste and cholesterol levels) and saute in a pan until browned. Pour off most of the bacon grease and add diced onion to the pan. When the onions turn translucent, add them to the simmering peas. Pepper to taste. Don't overcook the beans. Keep the simmer slow and test to see when they are tender. Serve with buttered cornbread and fresh tomatoes from the garden.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Love Those Lizards!

We've always been blessed with an abundance of lizards at our house. I've posted before about how their favorite place used to be on the broad, tall leaves of the hardy amaryllises that once lined a bed beneath a bedroom wall. We eventually moved those plants to another bed, and the lizards followed.

When I took the Jefferson County Master Gardener short course last July, I intensified my efforts to build nice ornamental gardens at our house. I discovered how important planning is (I've always been haphazard, spotting a plant I loved and bringing it home from the nursery thinking I'd find a place for it, rather than planning a bed and buying the plants specifically for it). I also learned how many plants I've put in the wrong place.

While working on the gardens. I began noticing fewer lizards. This all began about the time a new stray cat decided our house was the perfect feeding station. Blue Bell is a master hunter, much to my dismay, and lizards are among her favorite targets. I can't tell you how many I've rescued from her sharp claws and teeth. Every week I see at least one lizard with an ultra-short tail. Hmmmm.
Here's a shot of one lizard that has escaped the black and white terrorist - so far.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Spider in the house

I'm not one of those people who scream and grab a broom when they see a spider. While I certainly don't want them crawling on me, when it comes to harmless spiders, I have a mostly live and let live policy. There are exception, of course. I kill poisonous spiders and any that are so big they intimidate me. I try to keep the house relatively spider-free, because they freak my grandson out. But a few little spiders, like this unknown spider that has been hanging around the kitchen for the past few days, are safe.

I'm not sure what kind of spider this is, but he's fascinating. He's tiny, moves quickly and can jump effortlessly. But what's most interesting are his eyes. They are two tiny orbs elevated above his face and they are constantly moving. They go in circles (rotating 360 degrees) as if he's scanning his surroundings at all times. He must be accustomed to seeing me by now, because he let me get close enough to take this photo of him hugging the side of our kitchen island/worktop bar.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lotus and Bamboo Festival in Port Arthur

It's Friday - Yeah! Treat yourself by taking in the 12th Annual Lotus and Bamboo Festival at Buu Mon Buddhist Temple,2701 Procter St in Port Arthur. The festival is 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. If you've never been, you'll discover a peaceful place with beautiful bamboo and lotus gardens.

The Texas Bamboo Society will be on hand to share information and sell plants, Artist Carole Meckes of Austin will bring her bamboo work and the temple will provide walking tours of the gardens and the temple. Assistant Abbot Bhante Kassapa will give a presentation of the preparation and enjoyment of tea, the Buu Mon Meditation Group will sponsor food and arts and crafts booths and will offer traditional Vietnamese cuisine. The festival is a great way to learn about the history of the gardens, Buu Mon Buddhist Temple and Buddhism in general.

Don't miss the performance of the and Dragon Dance Troupe at 4 p.m. on Sunday. For more info, visit http://www.buumon.org/ or call Bhante Kassapa at (409) 960-8369 or the temple office at (409) 982-9319.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June Birth Flower: the rose

Ah, June - the month for weddings. How fitting that the birth flower for June is the rose. Roses are considered by many to be the most perfect flower, with their delicate petals, sweet scent and long stems. What woman doesn't enjoy receiving a bouquet of roses?

The color of the rose has its own symbolism: white stands for purity, red connotes passion, yellow indicates platonic friendship and pink stands for grace or gratitude. Legend says Cleopatra lured Antony into a room filled with rose petals knee-deep. As for the Greek symbolism, here's a description of the rose's origin taken from http://www.rosemagazine.com/

"Flora, the deity of flowers, was walking through the forest and found the body of a beautiful nymph. Sorrowful at the sight of the lovely creature dead, she decided to give her new life by turning her into a flower whose beauty surpassed all others. She called on Aphrodite to give beauty, brilliance, joy and charm; Zephyrus, the west wind, to blow away the clouds so that Apollo, the Sun, could cast warm rays upon it, and Dionysius, the god of wine to give nectar and fragrance. When the new flower was complete, Chloris placed a crown of dewdrops over her and named her the Rose, Queen of Flowers. Aphrodite presented the Rose to her son Eros, the deity of Love. The white rose became the symbol of charm and innocence and the red rose the symbol of love and desire."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Old-fashioned daylilies

Gardening is a constant endeavor to find plants that are attractive, dependable and low-to-maintenance free. If ever a plant fit this description, it's the standard daylily (Hemerocallis) When we bought our now 100-plus-year-old house 28 years ago, it had a long line of established daylilies along the fence. They are the classic yellow-gold-dark brown varieties. They've been growing so long I think they have hybridized, since one of the gold blooms starting developing a brown throat.

While they don't bloom as long as new varieties, such as Stella De Oro, I am quite fond of these old lilies. The leaves look good year-round, and I look forward to the long scapes spiking toward the sky before bursting into bloom.

Daylilies are native to Asia, but American and British enthusiasts began hybridizing them in the 1930s. At that time, only three colors existed, yellow, orange, and fulvous red. Now, they come in numerous colors and combinations, single, double and ruffled. For more information, visit The American Hemerocallis Society at http://www.daylilies.org/

Even our 7-month-old Goldador, Barley, appears to approve.