This is a good time of year to read garden books. Some of our favorites include “How Carrots Won the Trojan War– Curious (but True) Stories of Common Vegetables,” by Rebecca Rupp, “Don’t Throw It, Grow It!: 68 windowsill plants from kitchen scraps,” by Deborah Peterson; “Organic Gardener’s Companion: Growing Vegetables in the West,” By Jane Shellenberger and last but not least: “Any Size, Anywhere Edible Gardening,” by William Moss.
The ancient Druids believed mistletoe had miraculous healing powers. It was placed over doorways to ward-off evil and to bestow health, happiness, and luck. The custom of embraces and kisses at doorways co-evolved with the hanging of doorway mistletoe. Mistletoe has long been used as a medicinal herb but also has some very toxic components so always keep it out of reach of young children.
Mistletoe is also a parasitic plant that can damage forest evergreens. Mistletoe that grows in the Rocky Mountain forests has no need for chlorophyll as it is totally parasitic and has a yellowish cast. It is generally viewed as a pest on evergreens.
Get the most from you pineapple. Try recycling it into a houseplant. First, twist off the leafy top of the fruit and let it dry 1 week. Then, peel off the 4 bottom leaves. Place it in an 8-inch clay pot filled with 1⁄3rd sand and 2/3rds potting soil. Keep it slightly moist as overwatering causes rot and place it in a warm place with filtered light.Soon the plant will begin to grow anew. You may even see it produce another fruit which emerges from the top of the plant.
Gardeners are by nature, adept weather watchers. Some of us are better with pictures than with words. This is also true with weather predictions. Thanks to the National Center for Atmospheric Weather (NCAR), here is a link to a great web site that graphically shows you the next 48 hours of weather. It is helpful in allowing you to envision where the fronts are coming from and the severity of the future weather. See the link here.
Before it gets really cold, check the garage, storage shed and yard for a roundup of your tools, sprinklers and hoses.
• Scrape the dirt off the tools and rub vegetable oil on the handles and blades to prevent rust and wood cracks.
• Drain and store your sprinklers and hoses.
• If water is left in plastic sprinklers, ice may form and crack them if they are stored where it gets below freezing. Don’t forget to bring in water timers too!
• Check and clean out the gutters. This can prevent possible basement flooding.
• Sweep your chimney to prevent a chimney fire. If you are comfortable getting up on and being up on your roof you can purchase a chimney sweep tool and do this yourself.
• Rake up your leaves and compost them or use a blower/vac to suck them up which also grinds them into a fine mulch that you can apply to your growing beds. You can also mow your leaves into tiny pieces with an electric or gas powered mower which makes a great soil amendment for your lawn.
If you want to protect your garden follow these tips
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1) These crops need no extra covering or protection unless the temperature goes down to the low 20’s F.: any leafy or root crops such as lettuce, spinach, carrots, turnips. Also crops like peas, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower will survive light frosts and actually may become sweeter. Continue to harvest into the fall as long as possible.
2) These plants need protection: fruiting crops such as tomatoes, peppers or squash. Other crops susceptible to light frost include the beans, herb basil, and most annual ornamental plants. Perennials are usually fine in a light frost.
3) Frost usually (but not always) occurs on cloudless nights when high pressure moves in. When there is moisture in the air the first frost is less likely (but you never know!).
4) Use a blanket or plastic sheet to protect plants from a light frost but anchor the covering with a brick or rock to prevent it from blowing off.
Researchers at the University of Nebraska have been testing grapes in Scottsbluff for 10 years. They have identified the following varieties for having good yield and hardiness potential: Frontenac, Valiant, Leon Millot, Marechal Foch, Elvira and deChaunac.
While Scottsbluff is a bit milder than most of Wyoming’s cities it still may be good to consider these varieties for Wyoming’s High Plains.
Tomatillos are a cousin to tomatoes. Tomatillo fruit are treasured as an essential ingredient in making authentic green salsa. They produce fruit ranging from a large marble to golf ball size inside a papery husk. They grow best in full sun and in a warm spot and can be treated in a similar manner as tomatoes.
When ripe the husk turns tan and the fruit may or may not change color from green to pale yellow. For best storage leave the husks on until you are ready to use. They need to pollinate each other for best fruit set so always grow more than a few plants.
Hedges are living fences. They block wind, noise, neighbors and enclose space with a green wall. One unusual choice for a hedge is the common blue spruce.
A spruce hedge is both impenetrable and green year-round. The Cheyenne Botanic Gardens has a great example of a spruce hedge. We started with low cost, small blue spruce trees, which if left to their own, would grow into full-sized trees.They were planted in a straight line on 4′ centers.
By simply pruning the tips each June, we were able to trigger intense bushiness. Then as they approached the desired size and height, we began shaping the hedge with regular pruning (about once or twice each year in June and sometimes again later in the summer). Unlike many hedges, a spruce hedge totally impenetrable to people, dogs and the wind. It also a great wildlife habitat as it it always filled with many different birds who enjoy the protection that this hedge provides.
Fresh, cut flowers are readily available. For the best presentation, avoid distracting over-decorated vases. Don’t allow flower stems to cross above the vase’s rim. The heaviest flowers and leaves go at the lower positions. Put darker flowers in lower positions and lighter colors towards the top. Don’t make the vase top heavy. Often one flower in a small vase works better than a complicated bouquet.