The Not So Common, Common Milkweed!

The Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) was a familiar sight in the Missouri Ozarks. Between mowing and spraying herbicide this beautiful plant has become more scarce.

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This particular milkweed can grow very large (up to 6 1/2 feet tall). The profuse flowers vary from pinkish to purplish in color. The coveted Monarch Butterfly caterpillars are the chief consumer of the leaves and stems. The caterpillars prefer the more tender newer smaller leaves.

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The Great Spangled Fritillary  adores this plant! Today I counted 20 butterflies on one plant!

Great Spangled Fritillary

It is an amazing spectacle to see how the Fritillaries covet this “common” plant!

Do yourself a favor and plant as many of these special plants to perpetuate the threatened Monarch Butterfly and enjoy a truly beautiful perennial plant!

Papa

 

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Tomatoes – Better Late!!!

It has been my experience, tomatoes planted late are far superior to early or standard planted. As the temperatures start to cool down, you get better flower set and consequently better fruit.

I prefer to cage my tomatoes for better foliage cover to reduce the chance of sun-scald. Heirloom tomatoes have superior taste and texture. However, the plants can exceed the size of the cage!! Next year I plan to grow the plants on 5 foot centers to allow for easier harvesting and increased air circulation.

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BTW, the plant to the left of Papa is a variety called Granny Cantrell. This beloved heirloom has quite a following. The plant to the right is Daniel’s, which produces very large pink red fruit and appears to be well suited for our Missouri Ozarks climate.

The above variety has the unusual name of “1884”. The plant was discovered after a flood in West Virginia in 1884. This beauty weighs in at 1 pound 10 ounces. BLT sandwiches are written all over it!!!!

Kellog’s Breakfast is the name of this bright yellow/orange sweet confection. Boasting a good balance of sweetness and acidity with few seeds make Kellog’s Breakfast a highly desirable choice.

The expanded list of tomatoes grown are:

  • 1884 – large pink/red beefsteak
  • Black Prince – small purple/red 2-3 oz
  • Black from Tula – medium red/purple, meaty/few seeds
  • Coyne – red Roma type, large 4-8 oz
  • Daniel’s – large pink/red beefsteak, many over a pound
  • German Johnson – medium pink/red beefsteak, one of the parents of Branywine
  • Granny Cantrell – medium/large pink/red beefsteak, plants are huge!
  • Hannah – medium/large, pink/red oxheart, meaty, few seeds
  • Hazelfield Farm – pink/red, medium beefsteak, well adapted to hot/humid
  • Kellog’s Breakfast – large yellow/orange beefsteak, sweet and meaty
  • Mary Robinson German Bicolor – large, red/yellow, beefsteak
  • Omar’s Lebanese – large pink/red, may exceed 3 pounds
  • Pineapple – large, yellow/red, very sweet and juicy
  • Pink Boar – pink with green streaks, small 3-4 oz
  • Rutgers – small, orange/red old fashioned for canning, juicing
  • San Marzano Lungo #2 – 3-4 0z Roma type for sauce and paste

It never ceases to amaze me, how traditional tomato eaters are about the color of their tomatoes. As one man said to me “If it ain’t red, I ain’t going to eat it”. However, when they try the different colored tomatoes, they often change their mind.

For the Ozarks, start your tomato seeds the second week of May and plant your seedlings the first of July. Your tomatoes will start coming in by late August through October. BTW, for you market gardeners, late tomatoes command a higher price by late September/October due to limited supply.

Plant late, I promise you, you will not be disappointed!

Papa

Knockout Colors of Heirloom Sweet Pea Blossoms

Check out the third cut of our Sweet Peas.

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Visits with local florists have been encouraging and enlightening. Apparently Sweet Peas have not been offered for decades in this area. Many younger designers did not know what they were.

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Grading in bundles.

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This process allows us to offer the very best of color and freshness. The fragrance fills the room.

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More sweet peas on the vine for floral arrangements.

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A simple arrangement from irregular and short stems. A tea cup and saucer provided the perfect “look”.

Aren’t they beautiful?

Papa

 

Sweet Peas Blooming! Dahlias Planted, Finally!

Sweet Peas are definitely worth the wait. I walked into the hoop house the other day and was overwhelmed by an incredible sweet fragrance. Whoa!

The range of colors, diversity and the heady fragrance, are quite a combination! This experience is quite a learning curve. The Elegance Mix and Spencer seedlings were started in cell trays using a compost enhanced potting mix. The seeds best germinated at 60° to 65° (F). The seedlings were placed 6 inches apart in a raised bed with plastic netting to allow the peas to climb to a potential height of 8 feet.

Next year I plan to direct seed some of the sweet peas for a comparison. I believe the plants and subsequent blooms will be stronger.

Next up are seedling dahlias. Started in cell trays with well nourished potting soil, cactus flowered and double flowered mixed colors should be a delightful opportunity for our local florists. The amazing fact is dahlias can grow in 120° (F) heat. Originally from Mexico, dahlias are a natural to grow in a hoop house. I am looking forward to a plentiful harvest.

We will keep you posted on our progress!

Papa

 

Of Cabbage and Calendula

Recently I harvested two varieties of heirloom cabbage.

Red Express cabbage is a compact red cabbage which harvests in 60 – 65 days. The compact nature allow for closer planting which is a plus. Red Express has great resistance to aphids and cabbage worms. The flavor is mildly sweet eaten raw and it is wonderful pickled.

Aubervilliers savoy cabbage produces mature cabbage in 80 days. This beautiful crinkled cabbage has a mild sweet cabbage flavor. The savoy leaves make this variety a good fit for garnishes, stuffed cabbage and coleslaw.

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Red Express cabbage and Aubervilliers cabbage.

 

 

Calendula Kablouna: Heirloom known for mildew resistance.

Originally, Calendula was called Pot Marigold and used as a cool season flowering plant. However, the Indian Prince series is known for flowering  June through October. It can be used as a bedding and potted plant. I enjoy them as cut flowers in smaller arrangements and bouquets.

Direct seeding to flower is 70 days. Grow with your cole crops [Cauliflower, Broccoli, Cabbage and Greens] . They make a beautiful border and look equally beautiful interplanted in the garden.

Orange petaled varieties are used as a saffron substitute, a “poor man’s saffron”. Please remember, do not use chemical sprays (insecticide) on the plants or flowers, as this will render them inedible.

Yes, Calendula is an edible flower.  Salads, soups and garnishes take on more interest and color when they are incorporated. The greens are edible as well but use sparingly as they can be bitter.

Calendula can been used as a beautiful yellow dye. When the blooms are dried the petals can also be added to potpourris.

Calendula has long been known to sooth the skin and can be used in lotions and oils. Calendula tinctures, ointments, and washes are often applied to the skin to help burns, bruises and cuts heal faster.

This versatile flower is deserving of your garden, don’t you think?

Papa

 

 

 

 

 

A Recipe for Healthy Soil for Your Potted Plants

A simple blend for all potted plants including transplants:

  • A bag of soilless potting mix 2 cu. ft.
    • Benefits: Reduces soil diseases,  balances moisture with good drainage, allows for proper exchange of nutrients
    • Milled Sphagnum peat moss: anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties

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  • Perlite : drainage

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  • Rotted pine bark: allows for drainage

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  • 1/2 cu. ft. weed-free compost: Balanced nutrients

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  • Horse manure, composted
  • Cow manure, composted
  • Poultry manure, composted
  • Mushroom compost
  • Mixture of dry grasses and straw composted
  • My “secret weapon” Kelp meal: cold water, dried and ground seaweed,  offering 60 known beneficial nutrients.Plants respond and withstand stress, heat, cold, insect pressure, disease and drought conditions.

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  • Mix thoroughly and wet until the mixture makes a loose ball in your hand.
  • I use a wheel barrow and tarp to mix my soil blend.
  • Store in the bags used to make the soil mix or use a covered container of your choice.

Enjoy this mix for all your potting needs. I do.

Papa

 

What’s Happening?

Introducing our newest family member – Oakley (who doesn’t like her picture taken!) She is quite the lady and has started learning the skills of country life.

 

We like our birds!!!! A small showing of our “regulars”.

 

Hoop house growing! The spinach and cabbage remain delicious!

 

Let’s not forget Miss Kitty, our tomato transplant supervisor. As quick as the transplants were re-potted, she would playfully paw them out of the pot. She is a very curious kitty!!

 

Papa presenting at the Wabash Valley  Master Gardener Spring Conference in Terre Haute, Indiana. The topic , “Starting a Seed Saving Garden”. This wonderful group of dedicated Master Gardeners is very active in their community. Kudos to all your community service projects!!

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Spring  flowers are cheerful! It is a delight seeing colors once again! Real “eye candy” for the soul.

 

Papa