The artichoke is neither a fruit nor a vegetable. It is a flowering bud of a thistle-like plant. Artichoke is native to the Mediterranean area but most US production occurs near Castroville, California. It likes cooler temperatures which triggers the artichokes to produce meatier leaves and larger hearts (the fleshy edible center). The peak of artichoke production is from March through mid-May.
Artichokes can be grown in the High Plains Garden. It is best to start the seedlings indoors in early March and then transplant outside into fertile soil and in full sun around the end of May. Give it some room to grow, as each plant will eventually take up at least 4 square feet. Regular fertilization is helpful.
You don’t have to be a beer maker to enjoy growing your own hop vines. Hops are vining hardy perennials that arise from an underground root “rhizome.”
While most people grow hops to harvest the leaf-like “cones” for making beer, it is also an attractive easy to grow ornamental vine. The cones are actually the female flower of the plant and it resembles a small green pine cone. Hop plants tolerate a variety of soil conditions, but prefer sunny areas and a trellis or wall on which to grow.
Hops are dioecious, meaning they have separate male and female plants. The best way to start is to order female hop plants or rhizomes from any number of suppliers and plant companies. Most suppliers only sell female plants as only the female vines produce the iconic hop cones which are ornamental and also used for brewing. Male plants have no commercial value. Good variety selections include: “Redvine” and “Cascade.”
Impress your friends by using a fun word that horticulturists often use, “Viviparous.”
Viviparous plants produce seeds that germinate before they detach from the parent plant. Mangrove seedlings often germinate and grow under its own energy while attached to the parent tree. In citrus, the seed sometimes germinates in overripe fruit.
New this year, the catalog “Cooks Garden” is offering a viviparous perennial: an edible chive that has viviparous seed heads that look like Dr. Seuss invented them.
For kids suffering from cabin fever, consider spurring an interest in plants from your kitchen. Try starting seeds from fruits that are already in the kitchen such as citrus or avocado. You can simply place a green onion, or carrot in soil and watch it grow. Sweet potatoes make great vining houseplants. Just give these plants a bright spot after they have sprouted roots.
Basil is gaining in popularity with gardeners because there is no comparison between dried basil and fresh basil. Dried basil is almost flavorless in comparison. If you want great basil flavor, you have to grow it yourself. Besides traditional flavored basil, there are also basil varieties available with flavors of lemon, anise, cinnamon, and camphor scents. It also is available with tiny leaves, large “lettuce leaves” and shades of red and purple leaved basil.
You can grow basil in the winter in a sunny window. Start the seed in a clean pot with new potting soil and barely cover the seed. Eventually it will need a pot that is a minimum of 8″ across. You can also start seedlings in late March for transplanting into your outside garden.
Growing your own seeds into transplants are a great way to save money, but more importantly, it is a great way to grow more unique varieties that are not normally found in the garden centers. For instance you are lucky to find one or two early tomato varieties but many catalogs carry up to 20 different early tomatoes that would be well suited for the High Plains.
Check out this great link to see when you should be starting most everything in the way of home seeds and plants. By the way, for best results consider that we are in zone 4. Thanks to John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds.
What are those shrubs with the bright red twigs? These are red-twig dogwoods. The newer wood takes on a bright red cast each winter. Older stems turn grayish and need regular winter pruning. In late spring, red twig dogwoods provide white blooms followed by small white fruits in summer. The red twig dogwood provides great year-round interest for the Wyoming landscape!
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.