Monthly Archives: February 2012

Busy Bees and other Busy Bodies

Busy Bees and other Busy Bodies

We’ve had the good bugs. We’ve seen the bad bugs. Now let’s talk about the busy bugs. These are the working force bugs of the garden. Their jobs entail pollination, security, and master chef’s cooking up compost to feed the hungry veg.

The Pollinators

I guess the most common in domestic gardens would be bees. Pollination comes about when the pollen from the male anthers of a plant is transported to the female stigma of the plant. Unless you have loads of time and patience and a steady hand with a cotton swab, you’re going to want lots of bees to come and do this job for you.

The next more commonly known pollinator is the butterfly.I happen to be highly allergic to bee stings, so I live in fearful admiration of these little guys every year. I’m pretty careful about what and where I grab and wear my goat skin gloves even if I’m just moving things around. Until this year my husband has asked me not to plant things that would intentionally attract bees to the yard. Last summer he saw that I was careful, and that unless you inadvertently grab them or step on them, they just want to be left alone to do their business. So this year I am planting bee friendly plants, I have my epi-pen ready just in case. I’m sure it will all be just fine. Notice in this picture, the bee is completely covered in pollen, what a good job he is doing!

The next pollinator is the butterfly. There are a gazillion kinds of butterflies and they are always welcome in the garden. They are so pretty fluttering around. Unfortunately, they also come with baggage. Before they get to be the floating, fairy like creatures so dainty and beautiful, they start out as very hungry caterpillars. I take issue with Eric Carle though, the caterpillars in my garden never want one green leaf. The caterpillars in my garden want to eat…well, my garden! They get tossed into the neighbors yard (it’s fine, she doesn’t garden…sorry Gwen). After the transformation, they are welcome to return to the Gunz’ property.

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Throwback Thursday: Peony

Throwback Thursday: Peony

On Thursday we spotlight an heirloom variety. As the saying goes, what’s old is new. Throwback Thursday is meant to remind us of long lost friend or acquaint us with a lesser known oldie but goodie. I hope you enjoy Throwback Thursdays as much as I do. I’ll try to include as many varieties as possible along with pictures and links to where you can get your green thumbs on them.

Throwback Thursday spotlight on: Peony

Genus: Paeonia  Family: Paeoniaceae

A native to Asia, Southern Europe and Western North America

This herbaceous perennial is showy and delightful. It has an interesting mythology that captures our imaginations just as the cheerful flowers capture our attention. There is also a tree variety that has it’s own mythology and mystique.

The story goes that Paeon, a student of Asclepius, the greek god of medicine and healing, fell out of favor with his master. Asclepius was jealous of Paeon and wanted to kill him. Zeus intervened on behalf of Paeon, and turned him into a Peony to hide him from Asclepius.

Written accounts of the Peony are found as early as 581A.D. One myth has the feudal nation’s highest scholar dying rather than disobey the opposing commands of his Emperor and his parents. One year after the scholar’s death, a tree peony with enormous, blood-red flowers grew from his tomb. He would rather die than disobey his parents. Those were the days. = )

My favorite peony story is about Qing Long Wo Mo Chi, or Green Dragon Lying in an Ink Pool.  When a tree peony goddess saved a tiny, kind dragon from danger. She hid with it in an ink pool, saving his life but forever changing her flower color to nearly black.

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That’s a Bad Bug!

That’s a Bad Bug!

There are bad bugs. That’s right, you heard it here. There are bad bugs! These bugs are not simply misunderstood. These bugs cannot be rehabilitated. These bugs wet the bed, started fires, and would kill the neighbors animals if given the chance. They hit the trifecta of badness. Our only hope is to be able to recognize them and eliminate them before they wreak havoc on our precious gardens.

I’m going to give you the top ten offenders with some natural or otherwise eco-friendly ways to combat them. One of the most important things to remember is that it is a very bad idea to reach first for the broad spectrum insecticide from your local box store. If you do this, you risk killing or scaring off the plethora of beneficial insects that your gardens need. I’ve been pesticide free for five years now but I still have the urge to grab the Malathion at times. You just have to fight it. We can fight it together. So, here they are, the top ten offenders.

#10 Flea Beetles

These guys are small, but they do big damage. They are highly mobile and only about 1/10th of an inch long. On top of that, they feed at night, skeletonizing your vegetation then curl up to sleep in the dirt during the day. They also feed and live in large colonies so they can eat massive amounts of food in a relatively short period of time.

How to combat them: Start with floating row covers. If they can’t get to  your plants, they’ll move on to easier picnics. You can also sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth around the base of your plants as a deterrent. Companion plantings of Tansy, Garlic, Wormwood or Candytuft can help with these rascals as well. At the end of this article I give three “recipes” for home brewed insecticide, you could try these for flea beetles.

#9 Slugs and Snails

Slugs and snails are not insects but rather soft bodied mollusks. Whatever the nomenclature, they like to eat plants in the garden, they have to go. There are a few ways to rid yourself of these. The easiest, pick them off and toss them in a bucket of salt water (or relocate them to a more advantageous home for those that would rather). However, since these guys frolic late at night and in the wee hours of the morning, chances are this is going to be more of a challenge for those that like to do things like sleep at night. So, if you’re not going to change your sleep clock to defend your Delphiniums, there are a couple of other ways to discourage this pest. You can trap them using the bottom of a two liter bottle filled with beer. The slugs are attracted to the brew but they really aught not drink and slime. Barriers work pretty well. Some of the more successful barriers: diatomaceous earth, coffee grounds, well ground egg shells, ground nut shells (such as pecans or walnuts), and oat bran. If you use this method, you must be vigilant about reapplication of your barrier after heavy rain. A barrier is only as good as the person that applies it, you must take care.

#8 Japanese Beetle

 

These pack a double whammy. The adults feed on vegetation, the larva feed on roots. You can hand pick the adults but you’ll need to be hyper vigilant and many find they need some kind of biological aids. These aids include, but are not limited to: nematodes, companion plantings of tansy, marigolds (French Marigolds are better), and when all else fails, Pyrethrin or Neem.

 

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14 Things I Love, Happy Valentine’s Day

14 Things I Love, Happy Valentine’s Day

Today is all about the love! Since today, February 14th, is a day that people have come to associate with all things love, I thought it would be appropriate to give you my top 14 countdown to things I love. I love many things, knitting, card making, yarn, cooking, etc., etc. I’ll try to reign the love in for this blog and only talk about my gardening loves. Without further ado.

Top 14 things the Paisley Carrot loves:

#14 Napa, California

I happen to have been born in the most beautiful place on earth, in my humble opinion. This is a place where, let’s face it, if you plant it, it will grow. So this is where the roots of a garden addicted girl got started. And what a good place to start!

This brings me to my next love. Also from Napa by way of my grampa Wilson…

#13 Camellias

My first plant obsession. My grandparents house was flanked on three sides by gorgeous Camellia bushes. I lived with my grandparents for a few years when I was at an impressionable age. One day when I came home from school, I found the gardener hacking away at my beloved Camellias. I was mortified! My grampa Wilson intervened and from that time on, the only person allowed to touch the Camellias was me! I don’t think Manuel cared much one way or another, but I filled their house with Camellia blossoms for the three to four months they would bloom. Years later my grampa Wilson told my aunt that while I was there was the happiest the house ever was. Awww….

My planting obsession continued on in my teens and twenties and evolved to include…

#12 African Violets

A dear friend, Marguerite Hogg gave my my first african violet when I was a young (very young) bride living in El Dorado, AR. I loved everything about them, even that they are fussy and can be difficult and sometimes get what is the equivalent to “the vapors”. I loved my violets so much that I carried them on my lap for the fifteen hour trip from Arkansas to Lake Jackson, Texas when we moved, not trusting them with anyone else.

Come to find out, carrying plants on your lap across country is nothing new or extraordinary.

#11

Zepherine Droughin Roses

These antique roses were brought across the country by a homesteading wife in 1810! They are a mannerly climbing rose that heavily flowers year after year with the most intoxicating bourbon true rose scent. Add to that the canes are nearly thorn free, and you have the perfect rose for archways and trellised gates. You have no worries about the kiddos getting poked or skewered with these beauties by the playground. I plant a Zepherine Droughin at every house I live, and I give them to friends and relatives as gifts. If you haven’t met this gorgeous specimen yet, please do make her aquaintence. You won’t be sorry.

#10 The Antique Rose Emporium, Independence, Texas

You can get your Zepherine Droughin rose at the Antique Rose Emporium. My family has been going to the Antique Rose Emporium for the last 18 years. Every year we make a trip to see and take pictures in the Bluebonnets and we spend a day at the Antique Rose Emporium in Independence, TX. I do mean we spend the entire day here. There is a “Peter Rabbit” garden, a water garden, six or seven formal rose gardens, a yellow brick road maze, a restored prairie one room school house, a gazebo, a place for picnics, a dry goods store, a old time drug store and so much more, I must just stop! A rose lovers dream, a photographers paradise, it’s a place where you feel it is your own “Secret Garden” My daughter even wants to have her wedding there (many, many years from now).

Have I convinced you? Antique Rose Emporium, Independence, TX. It’s a good thing!

#9 What’s old is new. Heirloom tomatoes are my number nine thing to love.

I love that my great grandparents may have grown a tomato that looked and tasted like the one I’m growing now. I love that I can pass on the seeds from my garden to my kids and grand kids. I love that we can preserve a piece of the past and know that we are influencing the future. I love how they taste!

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Creepy, Crawly Friends

Creepy, Crawly Friends

I don’t like bugs. I really don’t. Insects that are found in the house are not harmoniously ushered out, but are instead smashed. However…in the garden, insects have become my friends.

As an organic gardener, I have come to rely on the army of natural insect predators that exist only to rid my garden of vegetation destroying pests. Okay, I’m sure that’s not the only reason they exist, but it’s what’s important to me. Allow me to introduce you to my friends.

My oldest and best friend is the Ladybird (or ladybug). She is probably also well known to  many. Her job is to munch the aphids, and she does this with relish (but no mustard). She’s a beneficial beauty and it helps that she’s also cute.

Next, almost as cute is the Green Lacewing.

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Paisley Plant of the Week: Lemon Cucumber

Paisley Plant of the Week: Lemon Cucumber

The Paisley Plant of the week is…(drum roll here) Lemon Cucumber.

Cucumber: Cucumis sativus

Variety: Lemon or True Lemon This is classified as an heirloom that was introduced in 1894

 I love to grow cucumbers. This year I have six different types going on the cucumber fences. My favorite cucumber is the Lemon (sometimes called True Lemon) Lemon cucumbers are the approximate size, shape, and color of a lemon, but their flavor is pure sweet cuke. The skins are very thin and tender so they need no peeling. These little guys make awesome pickles but are delicious straight from the garden.

Lemon Cucumber vine-Flint, TX July 2011

The vines are vigorous but quite manageable. The plants have good tolerance to most of the things that aim to sink them. I have on occasion fought powdery mildew with this variety. I have learned to water these guys only in the morning so they can be completely dry in the evenings. They like that.

Other than that, enjoy a bountiful harvest of Lemon Cucumbers. I’m giving a couple of recipes you might enjoy as well. Oooh so paisley!

Lemon Cucumber Flint, TX August 2011

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What’s in there? What’s not?

What’s in there? What’s not?

How does your garden grow? Compost, and lots of it. At our previous house, I used a metal trash can with a tightly fitting lid. I made holes in the bottom for drainage. I found I could roll the trashcan around the yard to aerate it. It worked really well but it didn’t make the move with me last summer so I had to start again at our new place.

I started with a four dollar clear plastic tub that I found at my local box store. I got the largest available box. I chose clear so the sun could heat up the mix, but I think black would also be a good choice. I put about a hundred holes in the bottom of the box with a nail. You need holes in the bottom so the water can drain from your compost. I have four kids for a total of six people in my house, it’s not difficult to have enough kitchen scraps to add to the compost. I must say that while I still compost in the bin, I have since started an open composting pile as well. I just needed more compost than the bin was able to produce.

So, what’s in it? Just about anything, but not everything. As a general rule you can add most kitchen waste to compost. I don’t put meat or meat products in my compost. We have foxes in our area, they already like my yard being ours is the first house they come to when they emerge from the small copse of trees at the edge of our property. I don’t encourage them if I can help it. However, I do add fish to my mix from time to time. I am pretty careful to wrap the fish in coffee grounds and newspaper when I add it.

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Fight the urge

Fight the urge

We have had an incredibly mild winter. This has annoyed me for many reasons. The first reason is that when we prepared to move last summer, my youngest son, Patrick was aggravated that he was going to have to leave the saltwater pool that he loved so dearly. I, in all my wisdom, comforted him with stories of the snow we would get to play in since we were moving to a much northerly climate that has had snow every year for the last 160 years. So, we’re here, and of course, not…one…flake! In actuality we have only had three days of barely freezing temperatures. Is my eight year old scowling at me? I think he is.

As for the garden. Because of this freakishly warm weather, I am now aching to be in the garden. C’mon it’s been sunny and seventy-two degrees for a week. So I am fighting the urge! I know I must fight it. For if I were to give in and plant something outside, those precious little seedlings would undoubtedly be clobbered by the long arm of the north. February and March will most likely now be unseasonably cold.

So this is how I put my cravings in check. Seed catalogs help. As I said before, seeds started arriving at my house about the middle of December. My middle son, Jonathan and I have been starting seedlings inside in preparation for this years garden. It helps to start some new seeds when I’m itching to get outside.

Getting the structures ready has been helpful as well. Jonathan and I have also been making trellis’ and cages for the melons and cucumbers we’ll have this year. I have a plan for pvc towers to grow melons on that we are installing this week. I’ll post pictures when we get them erected. I’ve also sharpened my tools and oiled the wood.

Finally, when I get really anxious about the wait, I work on my compost. I know that I’ll be needing plenty of that brown gold to feed my babies when spring actually does come calling. So, I water, and turn, and add horse poop to the compost pile. In the compost department, it has actually been beneficial to have had so many warm days. The lasagna compost beds have been settling down nicely.

See Patrick, you’ve gotten to play outside more than usual for January and mommy’s compost is cooking faster. Still scowling. Sigh. I guess I’ll start some new seeds. Have a paisley day.

Seeds! Glorious Seeds!

Seeds! Glorious Seeds!

The seeds are beginning to arrive.  The garden plan is drawn. This years plant selection has been chosen for some time now. Some seeds were saved from last year, others have been purchased and are now beginning to arrive.

I have been so excited it’s ridiculous. You know the kind of excited where you can’t sleep and you can’t sit still and all you can think about is (insert obsession here)? That’s how I’ve been about these seeds.

Why? For me, it’s all about the possibilities. When I knit or crochet one of my favorite things is picking the patterns. It’s the same with everything I do. Recipes are beautiful, lesson plans divine, don’t get me started on fabric!

The seeds are safe in their warm dry paper packets with the brightly colored illustrations of the mature plants they are meant to become. The possibilities boggle the mind. For me it’s not just the possibility of the seedlings or even the plants, it goes far beyond these. My thoughts go to the pickles I’ll put up, the salsa I’ll create, the tabasco sauce I’ll attempt to make again this year, the soap I’ll make with the lavender oil, the pesto I’ll give as Christmas presents, Rosemary pizza dough…and so on…and so on…ad infinitum. It’s all of this and so much more!