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Friday, January 29, 2016

Why I'm a No Show for the Kale, Cabbage, Cauliflower and Broccoli Club

Kale is a popular vegetable these days. Everywhere you go, people are clucking about how good it is for you. I see it in salads in restaurants and who doesn't like a little kale mixed in with their smoothies?

Cabbage and broccoli? Close cousins of kale, they are quite good for you, too. Oh and don't forget one of the best of the family, cauliflower. I do love cauliflower.

They are all cole crops, as some old-timers refer to them.  No, not cool crops, though they do grow best in cool weather, but cole crops. And they are good for you.

But have you ever grown them in your vegetable garden?

I have. At least, I've attempted to grow cabbage and broccoli.  And let me tell you, they are a magnet for cabbageworms, those little green caterpillars that eat anything "cole" in your garden.

I don't care how good of a gardener you are, if you plant kale, cabbage, cauliflower, or broccoli, soon enough, lovely little white cabbage butterflies show up.

At first you think how sweet it is to see lovely little white butterflies flitting from cabbage to broccoli, from broccoli to kale, and then swooping over to the cauliflower.  But then those white butterflies lay eggs around the base of the cole crops and those tiny little eggs hatch into little green worms and then before you can say the gardener's cuss word, frass, those little green worms are eating your cole crops.

It happens every year.  By the way, those white butterflies weren't always here in North America flitting about our cole crops. They are actually from Europe and somehow found there way over to this side of the pond in the mid 1800s.

Growing cole crops hasn't been the same since then.

So what should you do to get rid of the little green worms, the cabbageworms?

Well, back in the day, my dad used to dust a little something-something on the plants to kill the cabbageworms.  But even doing that, I remember we still had to soak the broccoli in salt water and skim off the cabbageworms as they floated up to the surface.  Then we'd still pick ever so carefully through the cooked broccoli, just in case one of those cabbageworms actually ended up being boiled to death and showed up on our dinner plate. And there was always one unlucky worm and one unlucky kid.

Sounds delicious, doesn't it?

If you insist on growing cole crops, you can cover them with row covers to keep the white cabbage butterflies from finding them and laying eggs at the base of the plants. I don't find row covers to be particularly attractive but if you are intent on growing cole crops, row covers are a good option.

You can also watch the cole crops for the first signs of cabbageworms and then hand pick them off  and feed them to the birds.  I guarantee, though, you'll never find them all.

Or you can do what I do and that is don't show up for the Kale, Cabbage, Cauliflower, and Broccoli Club.

That's right. I don't grow kale, cabbage, cauliflower, or broccoli in my garden because I don't want to mess with the cabbageworms.  Does that make me a coward? Perhaps, though the worms don't scare me. I think it just shows I'm a smart gardener who has decided to get her protein from something other then cooked cabbageworms.

Though, if it adds a little extra protein in my smoothie? Maybe I will try to grow some kale. I'll need some row covers...

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Another week closer to spring

Camellia 'April Remembered'
Hang in there, Camellia!

You just got through another week of winter which means you are a week closer to spring.  It was a cold week, but I'm feeling pretty good about your chances of surviving it.

Your leaves look green and your buds actually look a little plumper than a few weeks ago.  We did get some snow and it got pretty cold there for awhile, but you still look good.

Hang in there, Camellia!

I'm hopeful and I will continue to believe in you and your chances of blooming. I've never faltered in my belief in you.

I have no other choice, having brought you to this cold climate.  But I did so only after doing some homework and then choosing you, the hardiest of the hardy, from all the others.

Hang in there, Camellia.

You are my hope for spring.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Traveling along through life at the speed of the garden

Camellia in the snow, shivering.
Dear Reader,

I'm traveling along through life at the speed of the garden.

And when it is winter, the garden moves along kind of slow.  Everything is more or less frozen in place and not much looks different from one day to the next, at least as far as the trees and other plants, like camellias are concerned.

I guess if you watched intently, you might notice the compost bin is slowly sinking as way down in the unfrozen parts, micro-organisms and other creatures we barely notice are chomping through the leaf litter and stems and old flowers, making compost.

I'm sort of doing the same.  If you watch intently, you might notice that in the unfrozen parts of my brain, I'm thinking about gardening, making plans for spring.

The plants in the garden seem frozen in whatever state they were in when it finally got cold.  But we know some of them are maybe growing some tiny roots, or at least they were growing some tiny roots until the ground froze, making themselves stronger. That's what we gardeners do in the wintertime. We grow tiny roots of knowledge, ideas, and ambition so we'll be stronger in the spring, when it's time to plant again.

So, yes, I'm traveling along through life at the speed of the garden, which in the winter is decidedly much slower than spring.

I can report, in the midst of all of this excitement and ruminating, that tomorrow I am celebrating my seventh anniversary of joining the Society of Gardeners Aged Fifty and Over. Go ahead and click to see what the fuss is all about.

I've enjoyed thoroughly my years in the Society, so far, and plan to spend many, many more years as an active member, planting, growing, and otherwise working toward the nirvana of Crazy Gardening Lady.

It's a goal.

In other news, as I travel along at the speed of the garden, I learned the other day that Nature Hills, "America's Largest Online Nursery" has included May Dreams Gardens on their list of Top 10 Blogs for 2016. I'm honored to be included and touched by the words they wrote about my blog, particularly about it being run by an eccentric gardening geek.

Finally, validation.  Eccentric gardening geek. I have arrived. I may never reach the nirvana of Crazy Gardening Lady, but I'll always have Eccentric Gardening Geek. And I liked the part about my blog posts reading like a story. Thank you, Nature Hills, for including May Dreams Gardens on your list.

Well, that's about all the news for now, as I travel along at the speed of the garden. I'm enjoying this speed of winter, even when it snows. And I get almost giddy when I realize that in two months, I'll be planting peas in the vegetable garden once again.

Stay warm, little camellias out in the garden. Stay warm Dear Readers and Friends.

And remember. As long as you are traveling along through life at the speed of the garden, you are probably traveling at a good speed.

With a shared love of gardening,

Carol



Friday, January 15, 2016

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - January 2016

Helleborus × ballardiae ‘HGC Cinnamon Snow'
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for January 2016.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6a garden in central Indiana, the question of whether we would get through the whole winter with no snow or ice has been answered, rather emphatically.

Mother Nature recently slapped us with cold and punched us with some snow and now it appears winter is here and will be here for days on end.

But like a bully who eases up for just a bit to catch his breath, Mother Nature did provide a bit of a warm up today, sending temps back above freezing.  Tomorrow, though, the temps are forecasted to drop again and thus begins the roller coaster called winter.

I dashed outside in the fading light of day and took a picture of what I think is Helleborus × ballardiae ‘HGC Cinnamon Snow', one of the Christmas's roses.  I do like the hints of pink.  I also found one snowdrop, the bud tightly closed, and took a quick look at the Camellias. I won't know until spring if they were harmed by this cold spell or the future cold spells sure to come.

We gardeners are never without flowers, are we? And where we have true winter, most of us keep indoor flowering plants, too.

Indoors, my Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majalis, is blooming.
Convallaria majalis
I first purchased pre-chilled pips for Lily of the Valley a few years ago, and have treated myself to a dozen of them every year since. The pips are quick to grow and provide a nice reminder of spring with every sniff.

The Kalanchoe is also blooming.
Kalanchoe
It grows a bit wild in the sunroom with long, light-seeking stems and no longer resembles the little tuft of leaves and blooms it was when I first got it, part of a foliage arrangement from my mother's funeral four years ago.  I've half neglected it and yet it blooms.

Another plant that blooms in my sunroom every single day, year round, is the Crown of Thorns, Euphorbia milii.
Euphorbia milii
I think the pink variety is the most commonly sold, but a few years ago, I found and purchased one with pale yellow blooms.
Euphorbia milii
I planted them in the same pot and there they happily grow.  If you would like to grow a houseplant that will thrive even when neglected and always has some flowers on it, try Crown of Thorns.  Just remember, it does have a lot thorns, so it isn't quite as huggable as some other plants.

And that's what I have blooming on Garden Blogger's Bloom Day on this cold January day.

Guess what? If you've been joining in for bloom day since the beginning way back in February 2007, you now have an astonishing nine years of bloom day records online.  Yes, I had to count those years several times backwards and forwards to convince myself this meme has been going on for nine years.  '07, '08, '09, '10, '11, '12, '13, '14, '15.

Thank you to each and every blogger who has joined in whether from the very beginning or just last month.  You all make bloom day fun and something I look forward to each month.

Yes, I'm going to continue for the tenth year, starting in February.

Until then, what blooms do you have in January? Are they all indoors? Or do you have blooms outdoors to show us? Indoors or outdoors, we'd love to see them.

It's easy to join in.  Just post on your blog about what's blooming in your garden and then come here and leave a comment to tell us what you have, and put a link to your post on the Mr. Linky widget so we know where to find you.

As always... We can have blooms nearly every month of the year. ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Friday, January 08, 2016

I love seed catalogs

I love seed catalogs.

I love how they all work the same way.

Vegetables are usually presented first and arranged in alphabetical order.  Arugula, then beets, then cabbage, all the way to squash, tomatoes, and watermelon.  Then come the flower seeds. Ageratums, marigolds and always at the end, the zinnias.  I know the order of the alphabet, I know the order the seeds will be listed.

I can navigate easily from one section to the next by turning the pages.  Right to left. And if I want to go back, left to right. No need to know how a particular seed company's website works. No need to know where to click to get from beets to cabbage. No going back to the main page of the website to get to the next vegetable.

Just turn those seed catalog pages.  I can bookmark the varieties I want, too, by dog-earing a page or putting a big sticky note on it. Or I can circle the item and the page number.

I never need an internet connection, wireless or wired, to look at the seed catalogs. I just need the seed catalogs. The pages are always there waiting for me to just look at them.

I used to read seed catalogs with my Dad, marking the varieties I thought looked interesting and then going through the selections with him, one at a time.  Which kind of peas should we get? 'Green Arrow' of course. And we'll need some 'Big Boy' tomato seeds, too.

He let me fill out the order form once we figured out what we wanted and then he'd write a check to go with it and off we'd send it on a cold January day. When the box of seeds arrived, I'd pull out those packets, always a little bit surprised that they were usually in plain packets, not like the ones in the stores with pictures on them.

No matter. I'd shake the packages. Each variety had its own sound.  Pea seeds in a box sounded different from radishes in an envelope, and some seeds, like tomatoes, made hardly a swish.

I still have the last box of seeds we ordered together, the ones he didn't get to plant and I didn't have the heart to plant, that spring when he passed away.

Someday I might go through that last box and write down all the varieties we ordered that year and then order those same varieties for my own garden.  Some of those varieties might not be available now, some 29 years later, and I'll admit finding them through online searches might be easier than going through seed catalogs.

But I still love the seed catalogs.

My garden starts each spring in the seed catalogs, and with a big stack of them next to me now, it's time to start in on this year's garden.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Winter Interest on the Warm Side of the Windows

Last year's lily of the valley blooms
Winter interest? You mean winter interest outside in the garden where it is now cold?

I like to admire the "winter interest" in the garden while standing on the warm side of the windows. Though, when I look outside now at the garden, mostly what I see is "fall laziness".

That's right, fall laziness.  I didn't do as much fall clean up as I usually do so there are plenty of perennials still standing, many of them likely slinging their seeds all over the garden as you read this.

Then those seeds will germinate this spring and I'll be full of lament. But I won't worry about it now.

Right now, I'll focus on my own favorite points of winter interest, all on that warm side of the window.

My pre-chilled lily of the valley pips are up and growing and I should have blooms to sniff by the weekend. Then I can close my eyes and remember how lovely spring can be.

I have hyacinth bulbs "on vase" and they should be blooming in about a month or so, maybe less.  I have enough that if they all bloom at once, I'll get a winter interest headache from the over powering scent. It's a good headache to have.

Seed catalogs offer hours and hours of winter interest. I don't get as many seed catalogs as I used to but I get enough to keep me happy for most of the winter. Plus, I have a small collection of old seed catalogs if today's catalogs aren't enough winter interest.  And if all that isn't enough, I browse seed sites online.

There is also plenty of winter interest in gardening books.

Old gardening books, especially, are rabbit holes. I can open up an old gardening book and get lost in its pages for hours. I might read about something new-to-me and then end up online doing frantic searches for more information, following one trail and then another, entering what seems like deserted passageways, which expand into yet more twists and turns.  I always learn something and am adept at backing out of dead ends.

What other winter interest is there around here?  If forced Lily of the Valley, Hyacinths, seed catalogs and books aren't enough, I could just put on my coat and go out to the garden.

Kidding. It's cold out there. I think I'll just stay inside and read a book or two, or browse through seed catalogs.  And wait for the forced blooms.

That should keep me busy. At least until spring.