Friday, August 23, 2013

To Thrive or Not to Thrive

That is the question!  Growing plants either commercially or decoratively is always at the mercy of the weather.  Here’s where you say, “DUH!” 

We know if we don’t get rain, things don’t grow and many die.  If we get too much rain or at the wrong times, things can rot and many die.  Throw in crazy winds, hail and other calamities and we’re talking serious plant failures.

I’ve found for every odd weather event, there’s a plant out there loving the conditions.  And, another performing poorly.  It’s not just the Midwest, although we are the bread basket of the world.  Every area that has crops and residential yards is held in the “mother nature” grasp of weather related issues.

The plentiful early spring rains brought us out of drought and many plants responded by a return to growth and health.  Although many farm fields had some flooding related loss, the crops are perhaps the most beautiful I’ve seen in years.  This is in spite of the moisture related insect population explosion.

Plants that tend to have mildew suffered spring damage but most have improved with the dry weather of summer/fall.

Daylilies suffered last summer more than they showed and even though the early rains improved their conditions, they have not performed up to potential this year.  Not as many scapes or buds and most haven’t rebloomed. 

Japanese Beetle populations “seem” to be down this year and it’s been attributed to the massive rains smothering the larva.  We can only hope.

Green beans are having a banner year while tomatoes are slow to turn ripe due to the lack of hot days and nights.  My cabbages look like huge ruffled flying saucers while my pepper plants have just started to produce.

Some Hostas are drying up because of the lack of moisture especially if they get any direct sun.  They enjoyed the early spring rains but demand moisture though out the summer to be perfect.

Some plants will perform well if they have just the early spring rains:  Hydrangea, honeysuckle, maple trees, horseradish, spirea bushes, ornamental grasses, yucca, Blackeyed Susan, to name a few.

Weather related tolerance is why we recommend a variety of plants for your gardens.  Something will always be happy even when something else pouts.  Having a series of plants blooming from early spring to frost insures your yards will be full and beautiful.

As far as gardening, sometimes you have to deep water to have continued produce.  Sometimes you simply have to deal with late production. 

I do want to mention one good alternative if your garden isn’t producing what you need:  Beagle Creek Farm (find them on facebook and at ) is organically grown produce from Sarah Hahn.  Order on a Sunday on facebook and pick up either at the farm or in downtown Galva on Tuesdays.  I’ve had the most fun with some of their heirloom vegetables including some wonderful beets. 

Pickled Beets
This recipe for “pickled beets” has been passed down over the generations in my Shenk family:

Cut tops and root ends off clean beets.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Simmer until tender.  Cool enough to handle and slip off skins/discard skins.  Slice beets.

Pour out cooking water and add enough white vinegar and sugar in the same pan to cover the beets..  Use more if you are cooking lots of beets.  Add 1/2 teaspoon each cloves and salt and 1 teaspoon dill weed.  (Add more if you are cooking quantities.)  Add sliced beets, bring to a boil and let simmer on low for 10 minutes.  Cool (do not drain) and refrigerate over night to blend flavors.  My family always added to the cooled mixture several peeled whole hard cooked eggs.  Every time you get in the refrigerator, swish mixture around to allow the flavors to touch it all.

I use these pickled beets as a side dish or they add zip to potato and pasta salads.

Enjoy the bounty of what’s producing this year; next year it may be a whole new weather and growing experience.



Thursday, August 8, 2013

It's Time for Some Things I Love

I love 4-H kids.  After judging at the Stark County Fair it’s nice to have affirmation there are many wonderful, productive and good kids in this USA. (Besides our grandchildren.)

I love wrens.  They sing an intricate beautiful song all day long and allow human’s to listen.

I love old barns.  No other structures show their history, our work ethic and roots better.

I love flowers that self seed in places no sane gardener would attempt to plant.

I love clouds.  Fluffy to frightening, I reach for my camera and at least once shout: “LOOK – that one looks like a dog or duck or sea of lava.”

I love the changing seasons.  I surmise every person living in a four-season area must be a little ADA. 

I love the smell of soil.  A wet handful of good Midwest soil has it’s own lovely fragrance.

I love farm crops.  Nothing beats the neat rows of ever changing beauty for stunning.

I love bees.  They are so focused on their duties and go about them with some wonderful innate driving force we humans can only envy.

I love dogs on a summer day.  They can nap throughout the hottest day conserving energy to save their owners from terrible invaders most of the night.

I love cats in the summer.  They can out-nap any animal all day only to wake to assist the dog at night.  Rewarding their owners with pieces of dead “things” and expecting praise.

I love cows.  Admittedly they are of the more unintelligent of breeds but their soft eyes, gentle moos and sweet calves just make me feel content.

I love small towns.  If you’ve never driven through Ulah and thought “what on earth started this town and what is a “Ulah”, then you’ve not become really rural.

I love directions based on landmarks no longer standing.  “You turn at the old Anderson place and drive three miles South to where the old Nickel Plate railroad spur went into the Peterson’s elevator and down about three roads to the old Olsen rental.”

I love dinner on the grounds.  Church ladies competing for the best dish of the day suits me fine.

I love kids on bicycles.  Kids laughing and crazy with no thoughts of responsibility, terrors or skinned knees.

I love a pick-up game of basketball.  Be it on a driveway, park, school lot or street, its kids competing for fun.

I love a charity fundraiser.  Admittedly, many are for reasons I don’t love, but the charity of rural American is outstanding – sometimes more. 

I love potlucks and wiener roasts with friends and their families.  At each age, we have our predetermined function:  Running like banshees, doing the actual work, or sitting back and being wise.

I love kids playing “make believe”.  Imagination is a beautiful thing; often filled with more wisdom than they’re credited.

I love wildflowers on the roadsides.  This is the perfect time of the year to see yellow coneflowers, bee balm, and other beautiful sites.  See the next “love”.

I love Sunday drives.  A drive to nowhere is no pressure, full of surprises, and re energizes the soul.

I love fresh ripe tomatoes from the garden; still warm and fragrant. 

I love sunrise, sunset and the stars in the sky.  When we get too big for our britches, a little time contemplating the beauty of these can bring you back to your senses.

I love a full moon.  I know it’s suspected to bring out the worst in people but I love being able to see everything outside even thought it must be midnight.

I love the sound of happy toads and frogs.  OK, I’m “assuming” they’re happy because they’re singing. 

I love spell check.  Well, mostly except when it makes words I would never use.  I was taught in the years where they started phonics, stopped phonics and then resumed, I am spelling “challenged”. 

I love a note from someone just to say “Hi”. 

And to keep this a little bit gardening:  I love daylilies.  Playing it perfect for a day and then relinquishing it to the next bud.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Foxy Lady

Digitalis aka Foxglove aka Beardtongue.

Foxglove is a beautiful perennial for full sun to partial shade.  It's dramatic flowers, hanging down like little bells, are on a 36 inch stalk.  Often seen in the woodlands (Foxglove Beardtongue aka Penstemon digitalis) is an easy to grow from seed wildflower.

I've tried to grow the hybrid versions for years and absolutely not one has ever lived.  Sane people would give up.  In the spring, in the filled perfect commercial green house, in the gotta have that beautiful plant frenzy - apparently I give in to eternal optimism or loss of memory (which ever it seems I bring home another digitalis plant.)

They are hardy to Zone 4 so they don't freeze out.  I've suspected they may fall victim to the toxicity from walnut trees.  They might not have had enough moisture over the past couple of years.  Who knows.  And, apparently who cares because I brought home two more this spring.  Call me crazy - well really I rather you didn't but it borders I admit.

This year I brought home the hybrid Digitalis purpurea  "Foxy Hybrid".  Since I've done a lot (I mean A LOT) of weeding, trimming, pruning, and cutting out, I planted these in a semi shaded area in the big south bed.  And proceeded to forget them.

As I was deadheading my daylilies in that portion of the garden,  there before my very eyes was a blooming digitalis - wooohoooo!

They are a favorite of hummingbirds.  They need to self seed to stay productive.   

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Not a Casual Pastime

True Confessions:  I really can't grasp how planes fly (I've had it explained but it seems so impossible), electricity works (I know I worked for a gas & electric utility) and how to keep bees.  OK, I've bared my imperfect and unintelligent soul and I'm coming up for a breath of air.

I was in the Master Gardener class with a bee keeper, the Bush Farms website has information about bee keeping and I've read BUT STILL the amount of thought, knowledge and luck that's needed to successfully keep bees is like a foreign language.

Bees have been studied and examined and still there's a mystery surrounding them that is mystic and beautiful and a lot unknown.

I understand how nature can wreak havoc on grain and livestock farmers but (perhaps because I was raised on a farm) it has a certain logic.  If "this" happens - you do "this" etc.  With bee keeping it's full of the probably and maybe and we hope and sometimes.

I try to make my little corner of the world hospitable to bees and other pollinators.  A succession of flowering plants that they need and want.  Lack of pesticide use.  Shade and water.  But my efforts have little to do with the art of bee keeping as an occupation.

So here's to you bee keepers of this world - a toast to perseverance and beating the odds.