Blog

New events for the week of 9/2/13

Part of The Commons still in disrepair

Part of The Commons still in disrepair (by Whitney Miller)

Here are a few events we would like you to know about.

  • 9:30 tomorrow morning (Wednesday 9/4/13) the Herbal Renewal group will be touring the BGS site, including the visitor center.
  • The Art Center’s Art in the Garden grand opening reception  is this Friday at Building 50’s north Mercado from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. – the Botanic Garden will have a display so you’re encouraged to drop by, view the artwork and have a snack.
  • As I mentioned, you’re also welcome to join us at the Visitor Center Saturday morning at 9:30 to select tables and chairs.
  • Anyone willing to help with the advertising/marketing piece for our Revolutionary Gardens benefit is encouraged to come to the home of Karen Schmidt this Thursday at 5:30 p.m.  I’ll provide hot dogs, lemonade and homemade pie and we’ll pass out posters and contact information.  Folks will be asked to help by delivering a poster or two to a specified place, contacting a garden club or other group, or following up with a newspaper, radio or TV on a press release.  Anyone who could help would be greatly appreciated.

Serve – Sep ’13 Real Dirt

Contents

Learning About Grandma’s World
The Real Dirt is Doing Real Well

Learning About Grandma’s World

Sue Sensenbaugh-Padgett

Grandma's books pic by Sue S-P

My first gardening experience was the “chore” of weeding. Gardening meant sweat and dirt but it also meant spending time with Grandma. When Grandma passed away, I dug into gardening as a way to stay connected to her. In a search for more information on gardening, I scoured Grandma’s book shelves, but found the real treasure in her attic. What I found was a series of garden primers for beginners from 1937. I never imagined what I would learn from these books.

Instead of learning about gardening, I learned about society when Grandma was growing-up. This series was written by Cecile Hulse Matschat and consist of five slim volumes: How to Make a Garden, Planning the Home Grounds, Bulbs and House Plants, Annuals and Perennials, and Shrubs and Trees. The similarities are interesting but unremarkable. Advice such as “plan ahead for your purpose” and the “growth of the plants”, “test the soil” and “use the right plant in the right place” ring with the sound of Master Gardening classes. Plant anatomy and physiology remain unchanged as does the admonition to use pesticides according to the label.

The truly interesting aspects of the series came in the differences. For books directed at beginners, there was a high level of assumed plant knowledge. Fertilizers were very different. Today we would use the term organic or green for the humus based fertilizers but Matschat simply refers to the family compost pile. She does refer to the more expensive artificial powders that are “… of little long term use.” This points to the pre-WWII period, a time when artificial nitrogen was still expensive. Also the spray Matschat recommends contains lead. Purchasing seedling or even seed starting soils is referred to as an “…expensive indulgence available in a few areas.” The largest change is seen in the advice on planning a home grounds. The list of items needing space include coal wagons, grocery deliveries, compost area, garbage incinerator, and laundry area (outdoor washing and clothes lines). Even an area for chickens must be added. Today we don’t have coal and grocery deliveries and trash is sent to the landfill. But compost piles and chickens are reappearing. The changes aren’t linear but more of a cycle. In the end, I found so much in these books to help me form a deeper connection to Grandma.

The Real Dirt is Doing Real Well

Whitney Miller

We, at The Real Dirt, would like to thank all of our readers for your patience and understanding while we’ve been undergoing our changes. Although at times it has not been easy, the end result is exactly what we had envisioned: an interactive, fun, and fresh newsletter.

During our transition, we have been keeping a close eye on the statistics that are offered through this new platform, and boy are we excited! On average, we have almost triple the amount of people actually reading our newsletter than industry average for non-profit organizations. We also are more than quadrupling the average number of people who click on an article to read further. WOW! Having such great reader interaction with our newsletter keeps us excited for each publication, so keep it up!

We are also looking forward to growing our audience. Please feel free to forward our newsletters to your friends. At the bottom of each newsletter there is a button labeled “Forward to a Friend”. If you use that, then we know that you enjoyed the information enough to share it (it does not tell us to whom it was sent). New readers can sign up to receive our publications on their own by using the “Update Preferences” link at the bottom, and current readers can “Unsubscribe” if they wish. If you use Facebook, you can “like” each individual publication and comment on them. We would love to hear your feedback via Facebook!

Finally, we always welcome your comments, suggestions, and photos. We strive to use any reader-submitted photos in our publications, so you could be a “published photographer”!


Beautify – Sep ’13 Real Dirt

Contents

Hydrangea Macrophylla, "Peppermint Pattie"

Hydrangea Macrophylla, “Peppermint” Pattie”

Meeting Peter Hatch
Garden Photography

Meeting Peter Hatch

Sue Sensenbaugh-Padgett

A native of Michigan, Peter Hatch received an English degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and an A.A. in Landscape Gardening from Sandhills Community College South Pines, North Carolina.  From 1974 to 1977, he served as Horticulturist at Old Salem in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Hatch currently lives in Albemarle, Virginia, where he gardens, lectures, consults and writes about garden history. As the Director of Gardens and Grounds for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Hatch was responsible for maintenance, interpretation, and restoration of the 2,400-acre Monticello from 1977 to 2012.  During this time, he initiated a variety of tours and educational programs serving 35,000 visitors annually, including the Evening Conversations series honoring the legacy of Thomas Jefferson.

As a writer, Hatch authored and edited books about Jefferson’s gardens, including A Rich Spot of Earth that has received numerous awards and is currently in a third printing, and articles for numerous magazines.  He also lectures appearing in more than thirty-five states.  We are privileged to have him join us as a speaker at the Revolutionary Gardens Conference.

Garden Photography

Nancy Denison

Whether you are a Master Gardener or a photographer or even just a “smart” phone owner, taking photos can be an everyday occurrence.  When this MG travels, I am always looking for unique patterns in various structures, especially flowers and plants.  On a recent two week adventure to Maui, I was in botanical Heaven, discovering  several  arboretums and many new flowers and plants I had not seen before.  Bless my husband for stopping at The Garden of Eden- halfway between Kahului and Hana, Kahanu Garden, and Hana Maui Gardens, both near the Hana Airport,  Here are just a few photographs with my disclaimer that I did my best to track down botanical names and varieties but as I am not an expert, there may be unplanned errors.   Enjoy!

*If you would like to see other photo submissions from our readers, click here*

Eucalyptus "Deglupta"

Eucalyptus “Deglupta”

Eucalyptus "Deglupta"  Rainbow Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus “Deglupta” Rainbow Eucalyptus

Tillandsia Silversword

Tillandsia Silversword

Cordyline fruticosa, Ti

Cordyline fruticosa, Ti

Mednilla Magnifica

Mednilla Magnifica

Vriesca

Vriesca

Etlingera "Elatior"

Etlingera “Elatior”

Alpinia Purpurata, Red Ginger

Alpinia Purpurata, Red Ginger

Heliconia "Sexy Pink"

Heliconia “Sexy Pink”

Heliconia "Citicorum"

Heliconia “Citicorum”

Noregelia "Unknown"

Noregelia “Unknown”


Nourish – Sep ’13 Real Dirt

Contents

Putting By or Putting Up With Plenty
Food of the Month – Tomato

Submitted by Sonia Clem

Submitted by Sonia Clem

Putting By or Putting Up With Plenty

Sonia Clem

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”  – JRR Tolkien

Personally I value fresh peaches and pears above “hoarded gold,” and have discovered just how easy it is to “hoard” these — and all of spring, summer and fall’s bounty, to enjoy with others long after the garden and trees have gone bare.  My grandma “put by” potatoes, my old neighbor “put up” peaches. I simply can — and I love it. Oh, I freeze and dehydrate too, but canning … well that’s a combination of art and science.

The New Putting Food By, by Ruth Hertzberg, Beatrice Vaughan, and Janet Greene, defines the term “put by” as to “save something you don’t have to use now, against the time when you’ll need it.”   Well who can argue with that idea?  Most of us don’t care to eat a quart of fresh tomatoes and a half a grocery bag of green beans a day, so we give all our extra garden produce away.  That’s good too, until your neighbors stop answering the doorbell when they see you coming with another basket of beans.  Consider canning that “gold.”  It may surprise you to know you don’t have to have a whole day to do it.  You can just about can anything in an evening if you have all the ingredients and equipment on hand.  In fact, the more you do it, well … the more you’ll do it.  (Yogi Berra?)

Here are my top ten reasons to “put by” or “put up” your own food:

  1. You will always know what you are eating
  2. You will always have extra hostess and holiday gifts on hand
  3. You won’t have to buy condiments, pickles or jelly for at least a year
  4. When you don’t feel like making dinner, there is always something ready-to-eat in your pantry
  5. Your friends will be amazed at your culinary prowess and consider you mysterious
  6. You’ll never find cherry mustarda, pumpkin butter, juniper-maple cocktail onions, or pickled cherries in the grocery store
  7. You’ll always have just the right amount of chicken soup to take to a sick friend
  8. It’s good to have a secret stash of food in case the Russians or the relatives invade
  9. It’s a socially acceptable form of hoarding so long as you share
  10. You can laugh at the days to come and the snow piling up outside your door this winter as you eat stew and apple pie made with canned meats, veggies and apple filling you put up this fall.  No trips to the grocery store in a squall!

Essential (or at least helpful) reading:  The Joy of Pickling, by Linda Ziedrich; The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry; The Farmer’s Wife Canning and Preserving Cookbook by Lela Nargi; and Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving by Kevin West.

Food of the Month – Tomato

Michele Worden

Tomatoes by Whitney Miller

Tomatoes by Whitney Miller

Tomatoes are my favorite vine.  Nothing tastes so much like the essence of summer as a vine-ripened tomato.  My favorites are the heirlooms with complex flavors, acidic and fruity and sweet all at the same time.   Tomatoes come at the end of summer and their taste is bittersweet – the climax of Summer heralds of beginning of Fall.  They are a fascinating fruit….Read on if you would like a brief overview of this interesting fruit compiled from a variety of sources…

Latin Name:  Solanum lycopersicum

Botanical Family:     Solanaceae  (same as potatoes, eggplants)

Description:   The tomato is the edible fruit of the plant Solanum lycopersicum, commonly known as a tomato plant.  The fruit is often red but can come in a rainbow of colors, including white and black (dark purple).  While it is botanically a fruit, it is considered a vegetable for culinary purposes and legally for agricultural tariff purposes which has caused some confusion.

The tomato belongs to the nightshade family. The plant is a vine that typically grows to 3–10 ft in height but can reach 15 ft.  It has a weak stem that often sprawls over the ground and vines over other plants. It is a perennial in its native habitat, although often grown outdoors in temperate climates as an annual.

Tomato plants are dicots, and grow as a series of branching stems, with a terminal bud at the tip that does the actual growing.  Most tomato plants have compound leaves, and are called regular leaf (RL) plants, but some cultivars have simple leaves known as potato leaf (PL) style because of their resemblance to that particular relative.  The leaves are 4–10 in long, odd pinnate, with five to 9 leaflets on petioles.  Leaves and stems are hairy.  Flowers are yellow on an apical meristem and are self-fertilizing.

Tomato fruit is classified as a berry, a subset of fruit. As a true fruit, it develops from the ovary of the plant after fertilization, its flesh comprising the pericarp walls.

Origin:  Both the species, and its use as a food, originated in Mexico, and spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés may have been the first to transfer the small yellow tomato to Europe after he captured the Aztec city of Tenochtítlan, now Mexico City, in 1521, although Christopher Columbus, a Genoese working for the Spanish monarchy, may have taken them back to Spain as early as 1493.  In the Old World, tomatoes were called “golden apples”.

Tomato is a New World fruit, though it is hard to think of Italian cooking without tomato sauce.  It is considered a food that had a great influence on the world.  Today the tomato is cultivated around the world and found in most cuisines.

Cultivation (how and where grown):  China, the largest producer, accounts for about one quarter of the global output, followed by United States and India. For one variety, plum or processing tomatoes, California accounts for 90% of U.S. production and 35% of world production.

There are over four thousands cultivars of tomatoes.  Different varieties have been bred for different regional growing conditions.  They hybridise very easily.  In general, the tomato is a warm season crop that is grown outside after the danger of frost has past, as well as in greenhouses in temperate climates.  It can be planted outside when the soil temperature reaches 70◦F.  Tomatoes are heavy feeders and need a nutrient rich soil.

A tomato plant can be planted very deeply because the plant has the ability to form roots along its entire stem.  Tomatoes are sometimes planted deeply (1-2 ft laid on side) in a method called ‘trenching’.

Because tomatoes are vines, they need to be supported.  Supports can range from tomato cages, to A-frame trellises, to the string and pulley systems used in greenhouses.

Tomato plants can be determinate or indeterminate.  Determinate plants are bushy and produce all their tomatoes in one flush.  These are used often for commercial production.  Home gardeners often grow indeterminate varieties that will continue to produce all season.  Tomatoes are the number one garden plant for home vegetable gardens.

The poor taste and lack of sugar in modern garden and commercial tomato varieties resulted from breeding tomatoes to ripen uniformly red. This change occurred after discovery of a variety in the mid-20th century that ripened uniformly. This was widely cross-bred to produce red fruit without the typical green ring around the stem on uncross-bred varieties. Prior to general introduction of this trait, most tomatoes produced more sugar during ripening, and were sweeter and more flavorful.

Tomatoes will continue to ripen after they are picked.  In fact, most commercial varieties are picked green and ripened on the way to the super market.

Fun Facts:  Tomatoes were first grown as ornamental plants in flower gardens in Europe because they were believed to be poisonous.  In reality, the entire plant is toxic except for the fruit and the seeds.  The Italians called the first tomato pomodoro or “golden apple”.  In the Old World, some attributed aphrodisiac properties to the tomato and this is why the French called it “pomme d’amour” (love apple).  Today, more tomatoes are produced globally than any other fruit.

Nutrition:  Tomatoes are loaded with potassium, vitamins A, C and E.  An average tomato contains 30% of the daily requirements of vitamin C, 15% for vitamin A and 12% for vitamin E.  Vitamin C is known to reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease (including heart attack and stroke) and diabetes. It lowers the arterial tension and the cholesterol, being an antioxidant. Vitamin A is a major contributor to the health of the skin, hair, mucosae, genital organs and has a role in the low light vision.

Culinary Uses:  Tomatoes come in a small sweet form called ‘cherry tomatoes’, large round sizes for fresh eating and slicing like ‘beefsteak’, and elongated, meaty varieties for making sauce called ‘plum’.  Though it is botanically a berry, a subset of fruit, tomato is a vegetable for culinary purposes, because of its savory flavor.

The tomato is now grown and eaten around the world. It is used in diverse ways, including raw in salads, and processed into ketchup or tomato soup. Unripe green tomatoes can also be breaded and fried, used to make salsa, or pickled. Tomato juice is sold as a drink, and is used in cocktails such as the Bloody Mary.

Tomatoes are acidic, making them especially easy to preserve in home canning whole, in pieces, as tomato sauce or paste. The fruit is also preserved by drying, often in the sun, and sold either in bags or in jars with oil.

Tomatoes are used extensively in Mediterranean cuisine. They are a key ingredient in pizza, and are commonly used in pasta sauces. They are also used in gazpacho, a cold tomato soup (Spanish cuisine).

Medicinal Uses:  The fruit is rich in lycopene, a strong antioxidant, which is believed to have beneficial health effects.  Lycopene has been proven to prevent cancer of pancreas, lung and colon and cardiovascular disease. Men consuming 10 or more servings of tomatoes or derived products on a weekly basis have a 34% decreased risk of prostate cancer.

A recent British research showed that 5 tablespoons of tomato paste added daily to your diet improves your skin’s capacity to fight harmful UV radiation by 33%.  Lycopene has also been found to increase the absorption of beta-carotene, the plant precursor of vitamin A.

Favorite Varieties:  Cherry tomato ‘Sungold’ – it has amazing flavor.  We call it the candy tomato.  A friend’s daughter does not like tomatoes but she likes ‘Sungold’.  The heirloom ‘Green Zebra’ is very fun looking and good tasting and is a favorite for school gardens.  I am particularly fond of ‘Purple Calabash’ and the Brandywines.

Impact on Culture:  Tomatoes are everywhere in modern cuisines.  Without them we would not have spaghetti sauce, ketchup or pizza sauce.  The town of Buñol, in Valencia, Spain, annually celebrates La Tomatina, a festival centered on an enormous tomato fight. Several US cities have their own tomato fight with surplus tomatoes at the end of the summer, usually in concert with their tomato festival.

Tomatoes are a popular “nonlethal” throwing weapon in mass protests, and there was a common tradition of throwing rotten tomatoes at bad performers on a stage during the 19th century; today this is usually referenced as a metaphor. Embracing it for this protest connotation, the Dutch Socialist party adopted the tomato as their logo.

The US city of Reynoldsburg, Ohio calls itself “The Birthplace of the Tomato”, claiming the first commercial variety of tomato was bred there in the 19th century.  Reynoldsburg of course has a large Tomato Festival each August.  Several US states have adopted the tomato as a state fruit or vegetable.  New Jersey and Arkansas have declared it both the state fruit and vegetable and Ohio has the tomato as its state fruit.

A derivative of the tomato is ketchup, a signature American condiment and emblem of American culture throughout the world.

Appearance in Literature:  Tomatoes appear in title of fiction books and there are many books about their cultivation.  One of my favorite children’s books is I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato (Charlie and Lola)  by Lauren Child (Author, Illustrator)


Steward – Sep ’13 Real Dirt

Contents

Impatiens capensis (jewelweed)
JEWELWEED, the cure for POISON IVY
Keeping a Garden Journal

Impatiens capensis (jewelweed)

Matthew Bertrand

Impatiens capensis by wackybadge (Flickr)

In addition to its ethnobotanical value, as a native plant jewelweed also serves an important habitat role as a part of regional wetland communities. Jewelweed likes partial sun and moist, fertile soils. Its flowers feed a variety of pollinators, including ruby-throated hummingbirds, bumblebees, and syrphid flies. Whereas most people when considering a plant’s habitat value look primarily to its blooms, native plants like jewelweed shine in their capacity to sustain a variety of insect herbivores, insects that in turn feed birds and other wildlife. As many as 12 butterflies and moths have adapted to consume jewelweed’s foliage, which provide proteins that are critical to development of songbird nestlings. Click the links that follow to learn more about a few highlighted species: obtuse euchlaena, pink-legged tiger mothwhite-striped black, and toothed brown carpet. Jewelweeds seeds (the pods for which lend it another common name, “touch-me-not,” for their explosive tendencies) feed ground birds like grouse and quail. Easy to grow, jewelweed is a welcome presence in natural areas and in home gardens.

JEWELWEED, the cure for POISON IVY

Lillian Mahaney

Living in northern Michigan we all come across poison ivy at one time or another.  I am having more problems with ivy cropping up over the past few years, and I’m sure it is the warm temperatures.  I try to be very careful when removing the ivy…I wear long sleeves, double disposable gloves over my gardening gloves, etc.  Since the ivy is in some areas with fragile plants, I remove the ivy by hand and do not use anything like Roundup which I try not to use period.

As careful as I tried to be this year the doggone stuff got me!  I felt the burning under my sleeve and knew my sleeve slipped and allowed it to touch my skin.  I immediately went inside, washed the area with mild soap and water, and dabbed on a bit of isopropyl alcohol.  I could actually watch the blisters pop up, along with lots of red bumps.  It was like something from a grade B horror movie!

Then I remembered, Jewelweed. I have a jewelweed salve I got from a friend in lower Michigan who has an herbal product business.  I opened the jar and applied a light layer.  Within 10 minutes, the blisters shrank, the red bumps began disappearing and the burning stopped.  I was pretty much doing the Snoopy Dance and shouting Hallelujah watching all this happen.  Within an hour there was almost no sign that I had been in contact with the ivy.

The jewelweed salve is definitely something I will never, ever be without!

Keeping a Garden Journal

Cheryl Gross

“Notebook Collection by Dvortygirl (Flickr)

Boy, do I wish I had started a journal when I began work on my garden!  I could look back to remember when I planted a certain shrub or when a certain plant flowered.  Is it too late?  I think not.  It is never too late to do the right thing.   Fall is certainly a good time to set up the journal.  It is the time when gardeners have thoughts of the past growing season fresh in their minds.  Garden journals can contain any information you wish to include. If you are ready to give it a try, the following are some things to consider.

Garden journals can be purchased — think of a Baby Book with blanks to fill,  or created  — think of a shoe box, like a large recipe box with room for information and seed packets.   Think of a scrap book, a three ring binder.  A binder is my personal choice.  A binder accepts graph paper for lay-out maps and designs; paper for notes including plant lists; plastic sleeves for holding plant tags, seed packets, photos, and the like.The information you keep in your journal is your choice.  Decide what matters to you.  Hint:  don’t overwhelm yourself with details if that is not your style.  Consider:

   -Garden layout: It would be great to know where things were planted to know what seed is emerging in the vegetable garden or whether the perennial made it through the winter.  Depending upon plant markers can be tricky.  I remember the year the ink disappeared from the rows of 10 seedlings of 6 trees and shrubs.  Oh, yea, which one is the Spice Bush when all ‘sticks’ look the same?

   -Dating major projects, i.e. water feature installation, major tree trimming, hardscaping, fencing.  Note the contractor as well.

   -Plant index.  Name of plant, note the Latin and common name of each plant, date planted, where obtained.

   -Plant characteristics:  Size, color, flower size, bloom time, seed, germination to maturity timing for vegetables, and the like.

   -Photos of the plant through the season.  Think ‘before and after’ pictures;  photos of shrubs before and after pruning and photos of plants in winter to capture winter interest in the garden.

   -Rainfall and temperature statistics, including last frost in spring and first frost in fall,  storm and high wind notes.  Any significant weather events that may affect the garden.

   -Notes on soil tests and soil amendments/fertilizers.

   -Notes on weeds, insects, and insecticide use.

Some folks will want to be more detailed; others more sketchy.  Make it your own.  Track the information most useful to you.  In a couple of years, you will have a wealth of information to assist you developing your garden and to use when advising others.


Search

Michigan Garden Hotline
1-888-678-3464

9am to Noon, M-F Year round
Also 1pm-4pm in Spring/Summer

 

Log Your Hours