Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Planting By the Moon and Other Lore

Follow the Moon's Rules and the Results are Astounding~

Planting by the Moon
There is nothing quite like gardening to satisfy to the soul, elevate the spirit, and keep the children occupied while getting fresh air and sunshine. Since mankind has lived by agricultural means for thousands of years, our connection to the Earth is deeply rooted as is our connection to the Sun and Moon. I have planted by the stages of the Moon for decades and always with success. It must be noted that the placement of the Planets according to the Zodiac is not the same in astronomy as in astrology. I use the astrological placement of the Moon by sign to plant.
For planting the most fertile signs are the three water signs: Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. Good second choices are Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn.
Accordingly, plant underground crops when the Moon is dark. These crops like to sleep below and will enjoy the darkness. They include all vegetables that produce below ground crops… carrots, potatoes, turnips, beets and so forth.
Plant the above ground crops in the light of the full moon. The heavenly force of the Moon will pull the seed from the ground so it may see the moonlight.

The Weed Test
Along that line of thought, there is a test the gardener may use when deciding to weed, plant, or transplant. Go to the garden and find a weed who has been cleverly hiding, attempting to disguise itself as a flower. Pull the weed and drop it on the walkway and wait a few minutes to see how quickly it begins to wilt. On a good day to pot or transplant, the weed will remain unwilted for up to twenty minutes, sometimes even hours. On a bad day, the weed will wilt almost instantly. The day it instantly wilts, do nothing in the garden but weed and the weeds will not return. On the days the weed does not wilt, you are free to transplant, trim to stimulate growth, repot, or plant seedlings… each endeavor will be met with success!

The Waiting Game
Another rule to remember when planting a new perennial, bush or tree is:
The first year they sleep.
The second they creep.
The third they leap.
Water on a monthly schedule even in winter and the reward is a healthy baby that will grow into a lovely adult. With a little food in the form of well rotted cattle manure, proper nourishment is assured.

It is very important to assess the sun light in your garden. Look at the light as it progresses during the day to decide the placement of plants.
Sometimes flowers that call for ‘full sunlight’ are ill prepared for the heat that often accompanies the sun. If wilt occurs several days in a row on a well watered flower, she may be begging for less light. Perhaps move to a bed under the dappled shade of a Mimosa, which allows for filtered light.
Remember that deep shade is very dark. Plants which like deep shade will thrive in a bed surrounding a Mulberry, or Oak. Remember the Black Walnut tree produces a toxin which kills most plants, yet Sweet Woodruff flourishes at it’s feet. The ever faithful Caladium and the exotic Hosta are both extreme shade lovers. In fact there is a Blue Mammoth Hosta whose blue color intensifies as the shade deepens.

Perennials and Annuals
Most gardens are a combination of 70% perennials and 30% annuals. Since perennials return each year, it is easy to maintain them and simply fill the bare spaces in the garden with the riotous color of annuals. Most annuals are sun loving and provide lasting color for the entire season. Each year new and interesting hybrids arrive on the garden scene yet still the heirloom varieties remain… perhaps mix them up a bit.
This is the year of the Hibiscus with “Rosa del Rio” a gorgeous addition to any garden setting. Originally from South America, hardy and drought tolerant, they provide gorgeous glowing flowers all season. The one below is from an heirloom seed, the name of which is long lost. *Rosa may be ordered from 'Annie's Annuals'.

The darling Gazania, originally from South Africa and whose dusty silver foliage resembles a dandelion, offers glorious color combinations and requires little water. It is said to be a treat for the desert tortoise.

Cheerful Purslane is an ever-blooming plant that adores a container and will provide a low maintenance spot of color until frost. It is so adorable as the tiny flowers follow the sun, turning their heads as it travels the garden.

The lovely Petunia has sacrificed scent for form but the deep purple still retains a heady aroma that will fill the garden. Petunias are prone to ’sudden death’ for no apparent reason so do not be surprised if yesterday’s robust plant falls ill and dies… however they are well worth the risk.

The lacy-stemmed Cosmos includes a multitude of colors while remaining a wonderful cut flower and self-seeder. They are hardy and incredibly easy to grow.

The darling marigold, an ancient staple from bygone eras, is a companion plant to vegetables with a spicy scent which discourages shield bugs. It’s medicinal purposes are lost, yet it remains an important addition to the garden. It has arrived lately in stunning colors, even sporting an enlarged blossom resembling a Mum. Those below are from my seeds collected for over 30 years.

If you have a dry and harsh spot plant Portulaca, who loves it hot and enjoy the joyful exuberance of blossoms as they pour forth in wild abandon during the most stressful conditions the garden may offer. Originally from Brazil, it is called ’rose moss in South America and the southern states of America have had a love affair with it for over a century.

The Vinca or common Periwinkle has begun to bloom in full glory. Once considered mystical and magical, a tool of Sorcerers, it has the most attractive deep shiny foliage which is resistant to lime or calcium build up. The plant remains compact while producing a host of flowers in white or clear pink all season.


If buying annuals at a nursery or mass outlet, check for root growth, especially if the plant is blooming profusely. Gently pull the plant from the container and see if it has any root growth at all. If the roots are sparse, spindly, and thread-like put it back and do not buy it. It has been over fertilized and rushed to market and will likely die. Also check for pests to assure you do not introduce them to your garden. Snails arrived in my garden through infected shrubs.

From water ponds to flowers, from vegetables to orchards, the possibilities for the garden are endless. Part of the joy of gardening is watching the evolution over many years…. and each year will provide a delightful surprise in an unexpected form. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Thoughts on Turning Sixty...a repost

Photo from last month...

I turned sixty seven March of 2014...

Turning sixty is most certainly a milestone in any life. In recognizing my age I am also able to recollect the events I have been able to witness and I am truly grateful for the opportunities I have had.

If I were not sixty, I would have missed:
The time when mothers were at home while fathers went to work. Childhood would not have included an extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins all gathering on Sunday to recount the week's events. Back then, neighborhoods were safe and watchful; people were polite and generous with a sense of purpose which involved caring for the young and the old with equal diligence. The term 'latch key' did not exist.
Pleasures were as simple as a walk in the park, fishing for crawdads, ice skating on a frozen pond, dancing in a community pavilion at the beach, occasionally going to the drive-in theater or having simple Sunday night dinners on with TV trays while the whole family watched Disney. I would have missed 'cruising' when gasoline was a quarter a gallon and everybody could go out on Saturday night knowing they would not be shot.

I would have missed:
The times of turbulence of the 1970's. I was in college at that singular time and it was incredibly exciting to be involved in the push to end the war, give women equal rights, and bring politicians to accountability. I burned my bra in a crowd of 300, lit candles when the National Guard gunned down innocent students at Kent State, gathered with thousands to protest Vietnam, heard Martin Luther King's speech live, sat up late at night over marijuana and strong coffee discussing strategies and writing intellectual and emotional essays to address the ills of our society. Entire intercity neighborhoods included old timers and hippie/students who put twinkle lights in the back yard and had cook outs while girls hand embroidered jeans, men hand tooled leather, and children danced about. Blue jeans became the universal uniform, sex was death free and rain wasn't acid. It was an outrageous and hopeful time full of unimagined collective energy. I am glad I was a young adult and not a child then... I would have missed it.

I am glad I didn't miss:
The 'Back to Earth' movement even if we didn't know it was a movement. The cities became so angry by 1975. Watergate, the assassinations of men of peace, the winding down of equal rights, the drugs which made their appearance were dangers that could not be escaped so we simply left. Many of us returned to our roots; to the places where our grandparents raised a family amid the simple pleasures of our own youth. The gift of a small town where the doors are never locked at night, where the car keys need not be removed, where you can call the pharmacist at home to meet you if the children became ill during the night... all this was too important to miss. I'm glad I didn't.

I am so happy I was able to experience:
Farm life before the disasters of the 1980's and closure of the family farm as a treasured institution. Family farming was over by the time John Cougar Mellencamp wrote the poignant song "The Auctioneer" and Willie Nelson began his battle to save them. Family farms were still on every section of land in 1975 so we became part of a close knit community of neighbors. I was able to go to quilting bees with little old ladies who had quilted together for forty years. My stitches are in their quilts and even though the ladies are all gone now, the quilts have been lovingly passed on. They took me under their wing and I learned short cuts to canning, how to milk a cow, plant a garden and the joy of fresh eggs. We attend family and community berry picking parties followed by homemade pies, guitar music, tall tales and ageless laughter. I was able to push back time a little and give my children an antique life style that has all but disappeared. I am happy I didn't miss it.

I am glad I was included:
In Native American cultures before casinos made their way there. In the 1990's the magic of the culture still existed. The elders were still living and tribal spirituality was an everyday way of life. The open generosity of Native Americans was to be envied. It included the belief that the measure of a person was not what you could amass personally, but rather what you could give to others. To admire a possession belonging to a Native American was for them to bestow it upon you. Condemnation was not in their vocabulary and laughter ran freely. I learned that Pow-Wow's were not a benefit where the promoters made money, but rather an event where they gave all that they could to each person attending asking only for collective prayers for the honoree. I would arrive at a camp with smoke drifting to the sky in the darkness above tepees, the drum beat as background music of another time, and my heart would leap. It called to me in an unimagined way and I felt at home there. To have been called to the grandstand to be honored and gifted by the Head Lady Dancer before a crowd of 5,000 Native Americans was truly one of the highlights of my life. The welcoming, the polite introductions, the respect and old fashioned manners reminded me of my childhood in its sense of propriety. It is gone now with the advent of drugs and the passing of the elders. I'm glad I didn't miss it.

I'm glad I joined:
The new age of cyberspace with MySpace in 2006. My last child was leaving home so in my moments of empty nest sadness, I found new friends. I met wonderful people from far reaching places and we shared thoughts, joys and successes. We discussed philosophy, religion, gardening and my women's group was supportive in a way I needed... with wisdom only dear friends provide. On MySpace we sent birthday cards, gifts, and even collective prayers for one another. We exchanged seeds and my garden contains living memories of friends I will forever cherish. MySpace is gone now... I'm so glad I didn't miss it.

I must say I have experienced a multitude of exciting and memorable events that I might have missed had I been born in another time...I'm happy to be sixty!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Plants and Politics

This is an excerpt from a 2009 article on seeds... I feel it is timely with the current Congressional debate about birth control. (Control is the key word here.)

When the great pyramids were opened, archaeologists discovered caches of seeds among other artifacts. Upon planting some of these seeds, stored for thousands of years, germinated primarily because of the dry and warm temperature conditions within the pyramids where they were stored. There is also an amazing report of lupine (Lupinus articicus) seeds over 10,000 years old sprouting as well. Discovered in the Yukon of Alaska they were found deep within the burrows of ancient lemmings buried in permafrost silt dating to the Pleistocene epoch. The tenacity of Nature’s plan is always inspiring.

However many of our heirloom varieties of seeds have been lost over time, and sometimes purposefully. From ancient times through the Greco/Roman days there existed many plant species that effectively acted as natural birth control. Although always a subject of religious discussion, birth control had been left in the hands of women and their midwives until medieval times when authority over it was suddenly was transferred to the church and male doctors of the day. Within decades of the 1869 Edict of Pope Pius IX outlawing birth control for Catholics, most of the species of these plants had become extinct. In effect, one set of seeds had been replaced by another.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Oklahoma Tomato… Destined to Obscurity?

A typical harvest here in 1996.

For almost a decade now tomato harvests have been lackluster to say the least. I can remember when a tomato plant tossed anywhere in the garden would flourish, producing an over abundance of fruit all summer. There were no requirements or procedures to ‘baby’ fussy plants… they were tough and hardy. Planted in several three week successions, one could expect tomatoes from June until October and first frost. And as Autumn arrived, the last green tomatoes were collected for relish or wrapped in newspaper and allowed to slowly ripen for an extension of the season.

Originating in South America, tomatoes were prized by the Aztecs as early as 700 AD. They were brought to Europe from the Americas by Conquistadors in the early 1600’s but were considered poison by the wealthy. Unfortunately, the flatware and plates of that time were made of lead based pewter and the acidic tomato caused the lead to leach from their dinnerware to the fruit. When it was eaten, the victims died of lead poisoning… a very unpleasant way to go. Peasants had no such finery in their kitchens and ate from wooden plates with wooden spoons. Thus the tomato was relegated as a food of the lower classes where it was widely accepted as a staple. Not until the 1800’s did the upper classes begin to embrace the tomato. By the time of the Civil War, the tomato was at last accepted throughout the south as a garden and dietary staple.

Americans eat over 12 million tons of tomatoes each year, making it one of the most popular items on our menu. Throughout the United States, tomato harvests have been declining for several years now. Last summer the Farmer’s Market in Oklahoma City said due to the erratic weather their suppliers in Texas had very few to ship. And elsewhere yields have been down, with many home gardens producing only several dozen instead of the bushels that were collected in the past.

There are factors which need to be considered but the current list of illnesses the tomato plant may have seems a bit ridiculous. It includes leaf roll, blossom end rot, sunscald cracks, and cat face ad others. Various sites call for a laundry list of exhaustive remedies… all for a plant that was at one time so hardy it originated in Mexico!

The weather may truly be a factor according to new guidelines for growing tomatoes. It is reported that tomato plants like daytime temperatures between 70 and 85 degrees. Accordingly, our summer temperatures are entirely too hot for the hybrid tomatoes that have been recently introduced. In hybridizing the tomato for growers in cooler climates, they have genetically altered the original requirements of the plant... previously tomatoes liked it hot and dry.

For our climate, perhaps purchase some heirloom seeds and begin the plants on a sunny window sill three to four weeks before planning to plant them outside. And maybe, just maybe the old tomato seeds will remember their genetic make up and produce as they did in the past. There is nothing more tasteful to the palate than a warm, freshly picked, sun-ripened tomato. I miss them!
Heirloom seeds may be purchased online at: www.heirloomseeds.com/tomatoes.htm Good Luck!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Children and the Garden~

Andrew is at the front of the stair step of children... and was this age when he watched his onion every day.

With temperatures cold enough to chill one to the bone, it is difficult to imagine that spring is just around the corner. However if in doubt, check the potato bin for it is impossible to slow the internal clock that is telling them to sprout for spring. Even though it is still barren, the garden is hearing the same call as the spuds and action is occurring underground. Quite suddenly when one can not bear it a moment longer, spring will arrive with a whisper of tender green... winter never lasts forever, it simply seems so.

To occupy ones thoughts this month perhaps plan a place in the garden which includes vegetables for children. With poor eating habits a national concern, encouraging a love of fresh food begins with toddlers and habits that are established in childhood will last a lifetime. Besides providing sunshine and exercise, a garden inspires by giving children the joy of accomplishment as they plant, pick and eat what they have grown. The trusty radish is perhaps the most rewarding for first time child-gardeners because of its rapid maturity. Often called ‘quick grows’ they easily germinate within three to five days and are ready for harvest by three weeks!

Since children enjoy ‘grazing’ while playing outside plan to include some English peas. Among the oldest cultivated plants, peas found in a cave in Burma have been carbon dated back 9750 years indicating they have been used by mankind for quite some time. Rich in vitamins, they arrive at the garden party early and not only withstand cooler temperatures, they require them. With their cute little pod which resembles a ’carrying case’ and sweet little lines of baby peas, their appeal to youngsters is universal.

Carrots are good as well and provide a multitude of antioxidants and minerals. The old adage about eating carrots to improve vision is true as they are a rich in vitamin A, which is necessary for good eyesight. Besides possessing an attractive lacy top until harvest, tender baby carrots have a sweet delightful flavor that includes a crunch!

Onions are a wonderful cool weather crop as well and watching sets come alive and grow is exciting. They have been a global sensation for over 5,000 years and have been consumed by all cultures. Onions have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and lower cholesterol. They may be boiled, with the strained water used to effectively reduce fever. The list of medicinal uses is endless, making them a very important addition to the diet.

When our last son was about three, he was patiently watching a large one grow. Each day he asked to pull it and each day we responded with ‘not yet‘. One evening we carefully dug it and tamped in a nine inch, three pound onion we had purchased at the Farmer‘s Market. The next morning we told him ‘now’. The entire family was ‘in’ on the joke and gathered to watch as he tugged and struggled. He finally managed to pull our imposter, falling backwards in the process. He was delighted with his ‘big ol‘ onion‘!

Nothing is more satisfying than watching a child’s joy with the discovery that food not only comes from the grocery store... it may actually be grown!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Spiders On the Move... Tweaked!

A Black Widow the size of a thimble

A Huge Fiddleback spotted on a Lampshade Yesterday!

Most spiders live one season, however some species live long lives and spend the winter in a semi-hibernation. The Fiddlebacks have hidden in the rafters, behind the books, under the bed, and in other out of the way places and are now beginning to emerge as spring is approaching. Over the Winter they have grown and shed last years 'shell' leaving behind the empty casing... the empty casing is a sign that a more mature one is lurking somewhere nearby. The gentle Tarantula has an extremely long life expectancy and will easily live up to 20 years in captivity. The record has been set by a female who resides in LA and although her age was unknown at the time of her capture, she is now fifty years old.

Spiders are a most interesting invertebrate in both appearance and habit. All are predators which make them valuable to the gardener as they will eat flies, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, locusts, cockroaches, and aphids. The habits differ among species with some making intricate webs to trap their prey while some lie in wait on flowers and some simply travel about on the ground.

Orb Weaver web from last Summer

Spiders are found in every corner of the planet, making them one of the most common invertebrates and they alone have eight legs. True spiders (thin-waisted arachnids) evolved about 400 million years ago, and were among the first species to live on land. There are many references to the spider in popular culture, folklore and symbolism. The spider symbolizes patience for its hunting with web traps, and mischief and malice for its poison and the slow death they cause their prey. (Who could forget the pitiful death sequence in the movie ‘The Fly’?)

Though not all spiders spin gossamer webs, spiders have been attributed by numerous cultures with the origin of basket-weaving, knot work, weaving, spinning, and net making. Lovely pottery artifacts featuring spiders may be found in all ancient cultures, so respect for them is universal.

Any talk of spiders includes the two most dangerous in North America and they must be addressed. All spiders have venom however the Black Widow and Brown Recluse(Fiddleback)are very dangerous species whose bite may have disastrous affects on humans. The Brown Recluse likes living in quiet corners of the house while the Black Widow resides outdoors. A member of the Tangleweb family, the Black Widow makes an untidy web as the name implies and will aggressively guard her egg sac. Both have thin legs and a fragile skeletal structure, making them easy to squish... do not hesitate to kill them.

A favorite spider which comes to mind is the darling fuzzy black jumper.
One summer we had a black fuzzy with emerald green fangs who took up residence in the kitchen. Every morning as the household awoke and greeted her, she would would lift her 'arm' and wave... a marvelous trick by any standard.

John-Michael and a friend!

There is an entire psychological phobia named after fear of spiders called Arachnophobia. So popular is this fear that comic book creator Stan Lee embraced it, introducing an irresistible spider hero in 1962. Spiderman instantly became an all time favorite!


Monday, February 6, 2012

Naturalizing Daffodils

Naturalized Daffodils in a Woodland Setting~

Over the past few weeks sunny skies and balmy temperatures lulled us into believing our winter would be mild. Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil, the psychic ground hog, ’saw’ his shadow last Thursday and his prediction was correct… six more weeks of winter. He had barely nestled into his lair for another nap before our neighbors in Colorado were blasted with a snowfall that broke state records. And although we received some welcome rain, most of the weekend was miserable with a jacket-penetrating, biting North wind and it seems our winter is just beginning.

Last week several daring Black Currant bushes were fooled into believing it was spring and although they appeared with sparse blooms, their sweet scent wafted throughout the garden. The bright yellow, scarlet centered little flowers were dancing along the branches before the wind promptly rained on their parade and stopped their foolish haste.

While cleaning the porch I found a forgotten bag of 50 high quality Daffodil bulbs hiding behind a chair; I had purchased them last fall for half price. Besides the obvious questions ‘what was I thinking and how did I lose them?’, their discovery was a delightful surprise and they will need to be planted the next nice day.

The Daffodils and my 'yard shoes'.

Daffodils are among the first to arrive in the garden to usher in the joy of spring. They have so few requirements that they may be successfully grown by anyone… even novice gardeners and children will be enthralled by their ease. There are early, mid, and late blooming varieties and planting some of each will allow for a continuous show all spring.

Daffodil bulbs multiply underground and over time may become truly spectacular if left undisturbed. One bulb eventually becomes ten or more so besides being economical, they should to be planted with enough room to spread. For this reason they are perfect candidates for a process called ’naturalizing’. Naturalizing allows the bulbs to evolve over time in a particular setting and it is preferably one which is not the usual garden. The site may be at the edge of a field or orchard, on a hill, or any random unexpected place a spot of spring beauty will be appreciated. Planted in swirling drifts, floating as a sea of early color, Daffodils are truly show-stopping.

The area chosen for naturalizing bulbs needs good drainage but since Daffodils bloom before early leaves appear, sun is not a factor and they may be planted under trees. Plant six inches deep and allow for their expansion. Following blooming the foliage must be left for six weeks to store energy for blooms the next year and then it may be mowed. Even though it’s late, I’ll ‘naturalize’ my bulbs and wait for my surprise… be it this year or next, it will be worth the wait.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Peter and the Wolf... a Parable About Prejudice

Peter on his way to the dance~

Once upon a time in small rural town, a young boy named Peter lived a quiet life. He was kind and outgoing, with a sense of compassion beyond his years. He was from a large family that encouraged cooperation rather than competition and for this reason, he and his siblings were schooled at home. Since Peter was basically a social creature once he learned to dial, he used the telephone to make new friends. One of his friends was a young girl who had childhood diabetes and often when she was housebound with her illness she and Peter would talk on the phone for hours. They talked about everything children discuss...pets, walks, friends, her school, and plans for summer.

One winter day she breathlessly called to announce there was an upcoming middle school dance and she was allowed to invite a date. Would he go with her? Ah, the frenzy of excitement for neither of these children had ever imagined such a thrilling occasion. They practiced dancing... she with her Mother and Peter with his. She shopped and shopped for her dress; Peter's Mother bought him new pants, a shirt, and a string tie. Peter even ironed his socks before the grand event and as a final touch doffed his grandfather‘s suede hat. Peter’s older brother drove him to town where he was to meet the girl at the dance.

The school board had enacted a rule that any person not attending the school had to be listed on a 'sign up sheet' three days before the dance to be able to attend. The frail girl had carefully studied the rules and had signed Peter’s name on the sheet a full week before the dance. Peter’s mother even sent a copy his birth certificate to avert any problems about his identity. When Peter arrived, nervously carrying her wrist corsage, he could see the girl waiting, smiling and waving to him from within the magic of the tented and transformed gym.

An evil and wicked man was Master of the school. He received full support for his sinful ways from evil and wicked people who admired him for his many moral flaws... flaws they too possessed. As Peter approached, he stood to loom over and look down upon the child... he had been waiting. The wicked man glanced behind him to see the frail girl joyfully smiling and felt a flush of pleasure over what he was about to do.

He picked up the check-in sheet then took a sharpie from his padded pocket. He ran a gnarled finger down the page and drew a thick black mark through Peter’s name, obliterating it. He looked at the child through eyes that narrowed with hate and said, 'I don’t see your name on the list Peter'. Then he smiled and hissed, 'I guess she forgot to sign you up... you can’t come to the dance'. He felt immensely satisfied afterwards and knew how proud his friends would be at Church next Sunday when he ‘shared‘ what he had done.

The frail girl stood in shock as she realized what had happened. She uttered a long inconsolable wail before beginning to weep, falling into the arms of her friends. Peter’s brother took him gently and guided him outside since young Peter was unable to see through his tears.

The children's loss was immediate and young Peter and the girl had been forever changed. And even when the girl’s sweet Mother took them on a ‘pizza date‘ as consolation, they were both sad and silent. Shortly thereafter the frail girl and her mother moved from town, never to return.

Peter grew to manhood... kind, outgoing, and compassionate but he never forgot the wicked man or the people who admire moral flaws.

The dark evil spread and the blessing of rain rarely found its way to the town. Then the water became poisonous, turning to arsenic. The barren fields produced blinding dirt devils and decent people began to move away.

The wicked man prospered by continuing on his path and to this day he and his friends live by the rule of hatred and judgement. They truly believe they are Righteous and will inherit the Earth...
So they have sown so shall they reap. It is the Word.

The End~