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December 05, 2020

Saturday Gardening and Puttering Thread, December 5, 2020 [KT]

eaglefir.jpg

Hi, everybody! Isn't the shot above amazing?

I thought I'd send in this snap I got of a Bald Eagle. The eagle was perched at the top of a fir tree, and I cropped this image from that shot. Lizabth


Thanks!

I love it, Lizabth. I think others will, too!

Today, we have some American Farm History and a Vegetable Profile with some recipes. And some special composting directions to help you grow some great veggies (or other plants).

It's still catalog season. You may be able to get some gift ideas. If you're not out in the Great Outdoors like Lizabth, take a little time to dream.

American Farm History

Why is there a statue honoring the boll weevil in Enterprise, Alabama?


bollweevilstat.jpg

"I cannot think of another insect that's displaced so many people, changed the economy of rural America, and was so environmentally injurious that everybody clearly rallied around and said we have to get rid of it," says Dominic Reisig, a professor of entomology at North Carolina State University.

The havoc the boll weevil wrought on the Southern economy was so disruptive that some scholars argue it was one of the factors that spurred the Great Migration--the movement of 6 million African-Americans from the South to urban areas in the North. As the weevil destroyed cotton farms, many farmworkers moved elsewhere for employment, including urban centers.

So why would any town want to honor such a pest with an expensive statue, let alone call it a herald of prosperity? To understand that requires jumping back over 100 years in history, to when the insect first invaded American farmland.

What happened in Enterprise:

H.M. Sessions, a man who lived in town and acted as a seed broker to farmers in need, saw the devastation and knew he needed to act.

Farmers could switch to other crops that wouldn't support the boll weevil, but cotton generated the highest profits and grew on marginal land--"sandy, well-drained land that not a lot of crops can tolerate," Reisig explains. One of the few crops that could tolerate those conditions: peanuts. After visiting North Carolina and Virginia, where he saw peanuts being grown, Sessions came back with peanut seeds and sold them to area farmer C. W. Baston.

"In 1916, Mr. Baston planted his entire crop in peanuts. That year, he earned $8,000 from his new crop, and paid off his prior years of debt and still had money left over," Bradley says.

Since peanuts replaced cotton in Enterprise, the boll weevil has been brought under control in many places through the use of pheromone traps.

Heard of Pima cotton? Cotton was grown by the Pima Indians in the olden days, then cultivation was dropped. Six seeds remained, and the strain was revived. But that is not the strain we call "Pima cotton" today. It came from a USDA station near the Pima reservation. Unrelated. Interesting.

Around here, Acala (upland) cotton is grown. Here's a comparison of Pima and Upland cotton. It's against the law to grow other kinds of cotton locally, say, in gardens.

Cotton for Gardeners

There is a related species, black cotton. The leaves are dark. The cotton is white. Quality of the cotton is probably not as high as that of Pima cotton. The opening flowers are the most attractive thing about the plant, I think.

blackcottn.jpg

Putterers might be able to use the dried pods and cotton for crafts, something like the ones below, made with regular white cotton (burrs as ears) and dried okra pods as hats. The genomes of five species of cotton have recently been sequenced. Cotton is big business.

okraelvess.jpg

One of several cotton pests that is still with us is the Red Cotton Bug. Also known as the Cotton Stainer or Okra Bug. Nymph seen here on Okra. This bug also attacks Hibiscus. I've never seen one.

Red-cotton-bu.jpg


Cotton is related to okra. They are in the Mallow family, along with hibiscus, marshmallow, etc. They are less closely related to the plants that give us cocoa and kola nuts, as well as to linden trees.

Vegetable Profile - Okra

That black cotton above kind of reminds me of the red varieties of okra, like Burgundy. If that little fuzz on the pods bothers you, rub it off just before you wash the pods. And wear gloves and long sleeves when harvesting okra.

burgundy ok.jpg

I'm a little surprised that this variety does well in Vermont. Some varieties of okra are day length sensitive. Check before choosing if you live in the North. You can start Okra indoors if you live in a short-season climate.

Try picking this variety smaller than shown above, pan-frying whole, "aggressively", until crisp and dressing with roasted tomatoes and garlic.

Usually this kind of dish is a celebration of a single vegetable.

Tired of potato chips? How about some Crispy Oven Baked Okra Chips? Plain dehydrated okra rounds and Cajun-seasoned dehydrated okra snack.

If you don't want to eat okra, you can plant it for the flowers in the garden, then use it for decoration in the house. Below, a variety of pod forms. All edible when picked young, woody when allowed to mature.

And pods dolled up.

dokra.jpg

santao.jpg

Seed Catalogs

Several people mentioned catalogs last week. We can add a few details as people comment on their favorite veggies or other plants from the catalogs.

Lizzy likes Hudson Valley Seed, for the seed packet art. Which is very interesting.

They have a Goth Garden seed packet this year. Hmmmm. It includes Dracula Celosia.

dracuu.jpg

Sal likes the Whole Seed Catalog "just for fun reading materiel. I may actually buy from them for 2021."

I am not familiar with this one. Though I am familiar with Baker Creek, which puts it out. They have a LOT of fascinating stuff. Anybody have a favorite from them?

Sal also notes Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for the Southeast. They're based in Virginia, specialize in heritage plants. They sell some cotton for gardeners. Including a light brown variety.

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange has a nice "All About Okra" page. It includes history, cultivation tips and recipes. There's one for Pickled Okra. Ever thought about making "coffee" from roasted okra seeds? They say it tastes just like caffeine-free coffee. Maybe that impression has sometimes been affected by necessity - interruptions in supply of coffee, etc.

Okra has beautiful flowers. You can see the resemblance to Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon and Hollyhocks.

okraflowesoexp.jpg

They also sell 21 kinds of okra and a book about okra.

Twilley's may sell 51 kinds of pumpkins, but Southern Exposure sells 66 varieties of greens! Garden huckleberries. And some flowers. Eight kinds of marigolds. They seem to like French marigolds best.

You might recall that I said last week that 'Dainty Marietta' (Crosman Seed Co.) was hard to find. This is 'Naughty Marietta'.

Old fashioned marigold. Golden-yellow single flowers with splashes of mahogany. 10-in. plants. (Similar to "Dainty Marietta," but somehow "Naughty Marietta" gets more attention...)

nauty.png

Tashkent:

[Found outside an old Muslim school in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in 1992. A favorite of flower seed collector Bob Bell. Introduced 1999 by SESE.] 78 days. 24-30 in. tall plants with a sweet marigold fragrance. Lacks the common astringent odor of other marigolds. The plants are so fragrant they sweeten the air on a hot summer day. Bears numerous 1 1/2 -2 in. single petalled flowers that have yellow centers and velvet mahogany petals, with a fine orange border. Petals change from mahogany-red to orange-red as they mature. One of our favorites.

marigold-tashkent.jpg

Ronster remembers Gurneys. I remember them as having a slightly tabloid vibe in the past. They seem a little more corporate now. They have started offering a few interspecies stone fruit trees. Some of them still seem like a bit of a gamble to me, depending on your climate. This is the Honey Pearls Nectacot:

nectacott.jpg

Flyover got a catalog from the socialists at Fedco. They are less annoying than some socialists. Catalog is aimed at market growers and shipping costs are high for small orders. You may be tempted to by large packets of seeds.

One advantage of the Fedco catalog is that they give you good information on how long it takes to get its varieties to maturity. They are in New Englands, in a short-season area.

I have been tempted by the Rose de Berne tomato. The "Brandywine of continental Europe". I have grown some 'Cosmonaut Volkov' tomatoes from their seed that were so good they made your eyes roll back in your head. Didn't last all season in our heat, though.

cosmonaut vol.jpg

Pat* recommends Territorial Seed Company. It is very informative, especially if you live in the PNW.

Here's something different: A little hardy kiwi that doesn't need a pollinator, on a vine that isn't too rampant. Doesn't say if it attracts cats. Prolific is its name.

Special Tutorial on Making Compost

How to Make (Lots of) Compost: the Very Basic Version
-by The Famous Pat* and Pat*'s Hubby

This recipe is meant for larger properties, it's not for just dealing with kitchen waste. We recommend having the following items available:

Grass
Leaves
Water
Wire cages
Pitchfork
A good amount of room
Patience

First, find spots where you can put two different series of wire cages, one for leaves and one for compost. The compost cages should be located where you can get water to them if you live in dry country. Our cages are 3 feet tall, 4 to 5 feet across or so, made from fence wire (holes are 2 inches by 4 inches), wired into a circle. Some stuff will fall out the sides - just pick it up and throw it back in later.

We started in the fall, by collecting compostable leaves - leaves that don't have waxy coatings, that are generally smaller, or easy to shred. In our experience, maple, linden, sweet gum, apple, and crabapple work well. Oak (waxy coating) and sycamore (just won't shred) do not work. You may have to experiment to find out what leaves on your property will work best. If you have a shredder, shred the leaves before putting them into the leaf cages - they'll take up less room and break down faster.

Pile the leaves into the leaf cages. Wait for the grass to grow.

When you mow the grass, collect the excess clippings, either with a bagger, or using a sweeper after mowing (we use a Brinley model for that, and for gathering some of the leaves). Throw some saved leaves at the bottom of your first compost cage, then some grass. Alternate. Mix things up with the pitchfork - and don't let the grass clump up, mix it in while it's freshly cut if you possibly can. You can also throw in fruit and veggie waste from the kitchen and garden, crushed eggshells, and paper coffee filters with grounds. We avoid meat scraps, sticks, weeds, fibrous plant stems or rinds, and any plant material that has had a disease or pest problem. Continue adding material until a cage is full.

The pile will need some water in order to turn into compost. You don't want the pile to be dry, or no breakdown will happen. But you don't want it sopping wet, either. If you are in an area with regular rainfall, just try it and see what happens. If you are in arid country, like the southwest or the intermountain West (where we live), you'll need to help it out. We use mini-sprayers attached to drip irrigation tubing to dampen the pile - they're wired onto the top of each compost cage, and they run whenever the garden drippers run.

Once cage 1 is full, use the pitchfork to turn the material from cage 1 into cage 2. Start filling cage 1 again.

Winter-Ry.jpg

Winter Rye (Baker Creek), not lawn grass as above.

When cage 1 is full once again, cage 2 is turned over into cage 3 - and cage 1 is turned over into cage 2 - and cage 1 starts filling again. Continue this process with as many cages as you like. The turning process is how we aerate our compost. As we get closer to finished compost, I try to break up any clumps as I go. I have a pair of garden gloves that I wear just for working with compost, so I can do the breaking-up by hand.

Our yard has a series of 4 compost cages. It takes 2 years or more for the starting material to become good compost. We're using our compost to turn a chunk of paddock (originally made of just clay and sand) into a good corn-growing bed. I dump the final, fully composted material into the expanding corn bed, and Husband tills it in, each spring.

One lesson I learned the hard way: you may get plants growing in the compost. One year we had a huge number of tomato plants growing out of the top of a cage. I let them grow, though Husband told me not to. But I regretted not listening to him! When I tried to turn the compost later, the roots were everywhere, and made the work much harder than it needed to be. So if plants grow in the compost, either transplant them, or pull them out! (Pull weeds out ASAP - don't let weed seeds get in the compost.)

rosedebern.jpg

Rose de Berne, grown with compost
(not in a compost cage)

If you don't have a lot of room - or if you don't have a lot of need for compost for soil improvement - you could create just one leaf cage and one compost cage. Fill the leaf cage half full. If you mix grass and leaves in the compost cage, until the compost cage is full, the leaf cage should be empty. You can then turn the compost from one cage to the other - I'd say about twice a year, in spring and fall - until you have compost that looks like soil. *****

Thanks, Pat* and Hubby! We are impressed!

If you would like to send information and/or photos for the Saturday Gardening Thread, the address is:

ktinthegarden
at that g mail dot com place

Include your nic unless you want to remain a lurker.

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posted by Open Blogger at 01:09 PM

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