Monday, June 13, 2011

Oh! This and That

A sunny day in central Wisconsin and my camera and I do not know how to act. We have barely caught the beauty of this Siberian iris 'Caesar's Brother'.

Weigelia 'Carnaval' starts out with a red bud, and blooms white fading to pink and eventually maturing to red.

Having this blog has been an interesting journey. I occasionally get out and sell my perennial plants and shrubs I have propagated directly to gardeners. I am always amazed at the differing concerns they have and how a little of the right experience can go a long way. Knowledge is power and I hope all of you who read this blog can find some small bits of information that might make your lives better or minimally easier.

I'd like to share some little tidbits of information that I have come across that while not all are duh! moments; they are things people are trying to find out.

Yes, "Virginia" you can eat Red Bor kale. In my experience, tender young leaves are wonderful, but there is a middling phase that lasts a lot of the summer where the taste is a bit strong and bitter. Then after we have had frost the taste mellows and improves dramatically. There is, I am sure, a chemical basis for this. I do not pretend to know it, but I'm sure the bio-chemists out there can elucidate me and give me my duh! moment of the morning.

I was in Menard's (a local Wisconsin-originating box store) looking for fertilizer, 10-10-10. Yes, I wanted phosphorus. Root crops and flowers need phosphorus. New plantlings do, too, and I grow them to sell. No, I do not put it on my lawn. Yes, I know most yards have excess phosphates in the soil here. But, it might be of interest to you that I do not have large accumulation of phosphate in my soil.

My son, the junior environmental scientist, took a sample into his lab section in environmental science class and actually tested my soil. Zero on the phosphorus. I really wanted to see how much lead there might be as my garden was the middens for the early settlers' homestead here. (They didn't have the testing supplies for that test on hand. Drat!)

Anyway, the 'helpful' garden center person asked what I was looking for.

I replied, "10-10-10." He looked at me balefully, like I was speaking in code. "You know, garden fertilizer."

"I can't sell you that," he said, "it's illegal."

Yup. I'm a dangerous gardener!

"I don't want it for my lawn (you ignoramus, I was thinking) I want it for my potatoes, root crops, you know."

"I can't sell you 10-10-10. All we sell is lawn and garden fertilizer and that can't have phosphorus," he schooled me smugly.

Crap. I hate that. You see, in Wisconsin if it is labeled "lawn" the law does day no phosphorus. The trouble is veggie gardeners do need to come up with ways to get phosphorus to their plants. If you are organic and have this wonderful composting operation going, praise heaven. I garden on a scale and with no real land of my own, that to develop enough compost with good phosphorus levels, well... It truly boggles my small mind.

For you of the organic persuasion, the best source of phosphorus is of course bone meal. This probably goes sort of counter to the tenants of those of you that are also strictly vegan. I worry about prions, those things that cause mad cow disease and from my reading don't seem to ever go "away".

Other good sources of phosphorus are cantaloupe rind, cotton seed hulls, bat guano, cucumber skins, incinerator ash, paint processing waste, sardine scraps, oyster shells.shrimp waste, raw get the idea. A lot of those things are either hard to come by or seem a bit worse than the phosphorus I so innocently want to purchase. (There are places that do sell "garden fertilizer" (Lowe's, Home Depot, Farm & Fleet), I didn't want to make another stop.

Other tidbits:

Annual cuttings: Yes, flower gardeners, you can make cuttings of those pricey annuals for your own use in your gardens. The root best with some sort of bottom heat and rooting hormone.

Plants for rock face walls: The list is long. Anything that grows on those "green roofs", sedums, sempervivrens, ajugas, ground creeping junipers, achillea, dianthus, euphorbia, geums, rugosa roses, carpet roses, calamintha, nepetas, lavender, oregano, veronicas, geraniums (particularly the drapey-viney ones like 'Orion' and "Rozanne'). One of the secrets is to plant in a pocket of good soil, even if you have to funnel it into the crevice, and water well the first year. If you have sever drought, it will look better if you do water, but everything will probably survive even if you do not.

Plants for a drainage field: Okay. Big, bold, letters! NO SHRUBS OR TREES! It is your drainage field, people. Don't mess with it. My rule of thumb, in the late fall, you should be able to put your lawn mower on a very high setting and just mow the darn thing off. If you are thinking of planting something you can't do that to, don't plant it there! I have done beautiful cutting gardens for people, on their drainage field, but you don't want a veggie garden there, nor do you want to disc it over.

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