Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reader's Questions and Answers

Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. ~Henry James

Last week I went to the park with my daughter's class on the last day of school. We had cupcakes and played for an hour before it was time to return and say our goodbyes. Summer has arrived:) Today I have more garden questions and answers since I am in full garden mode!

I have had bearded irises for years and this is the first time I have noticed an odd growth on one of them, looks like a small thin green pumpkin...what is this and what do I do with it? ~Naida

Those are seed pods and you'll begin to notice after they stop growing they will turn brown and start to open at the top. Inside are the seeds of the iris. You can either just cut them off now with the faded flowers or leave a couple on and let them ripen. Try putting them into pots as soon as they are brown and shiny. Keep them outside and in the winter move them to a more protected area. They'll need warmth then cold to germinate properly. You can cover them with straw in the coldest part of the winter for protection.

My Iris get leaf spot every year. Do you have any ideas for them? I have sprayed them, but they seem to get it again. I have a batch by the house which don't get them,but other places on the property do? ~Ginny

I wonder if you don't need to move them from that soil. From what I've found you need to remove ALL foliage that is infected and burn it-- plus in mild climates you may need to actually destroy the plants that have it because it can continue to live in the soil. That would explain why some of yours have it and others don't. I would start by removing all of the foliage now--and burning it--don't leave even a little piece on the ground. Then see what happens next year and if they still have it I'd try moving to a different location.

My peonies sometimes get a white substance all over the leaves. Do you know what cause it and what I can do to prevent it? ~Jennifer

It's most likely powdery mildew, but peonies can also become infected by Botrytis. Either way, there are some things you can do to try and prevent it. Inspect your peonies on dry days and remove any leaves that look infected, browned etc. Remove blooms after they have faded. Keep the area around the peonies clean of ANY weeds, debris etc. Don't use heavy mulches and water from the soil level, not overhead. They also need good air circulation--don't plant other plants too closely to the peonies. In the fall cut the foliage down and be sure to remove all of it and clean the area.

Basil recipes galore for your summer harvest:


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

This Week's Garden Tidbits

In June, as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them. ~Aldo Leopold

Don't be confused, it really is Tuesday, and I'm late on the garden tips. We had a storm here and our power was out for much of the day yesterday so I saved the blog for today. We needed a good rain, just not the wind! Today's picture is one of my peonies that started blooming on Saturday. They are one of my favorite flowers and I've been taking a lot of pictures.

Deadhead your flowers! Make yourself a note and do it this week. I've been getting emails asking what to do with those flowers that have browned on the plants. Pinch them off with your fingers or clip them off with shears. Each plant is slightly different, but the seed head will form where the bloom was. If you don't clip off that dead bloom, energy will go into forming seeds instead of making more flowers. Snapdragons, petunias, sweet William, pansies, zinnias, calendula, bachelor buttons, geraniums and many more annuals need to deadheaded. Those in the soil, in window boxes and hanging baskets all need to have this done. There is a lot of growing season remaining.

A quick reminder on feeding and watering most herbs. Water only during drought conditions or when first transplanting. Don't mulch unless it's an herb that prefers moist conditions and the general rule is to not fertilize. Certainly if you do, use only organic fertilizer and go lightly.

This is the time of year to pinch back certain plants that are considered fall bloomers, so you'll be sure to have color later in the season. Some of these are mums, asters, and Autumn Joy sedum (we call these house leeks here in the Midwest). You don't want to pinch off the blooms or the small side stems too late, but June is a good time to do this. The plant will have lovely blooms in the autumn if you pinch back now.

Slugs are a big problem year round in the garden, but watch for them to be especially annoying during and after a rain. You can surround the bottom of your plants with crushed egg shells, coffee grounds, diatomaceous earth, or even gravel to deter these pests. If they are also getting into your potted plants you can wrap the base of the pot with copper. They won't crawl past this barrier. (Check out any Starbucks for free coffee grounds. I just picked up a bag the other day.)


Corn on the Cob

I am fortunate to live in a rural area. That means every summer I have access to mass quantities of delicious sweet corn picked from the stalk. There's a farmer down the street that has a money box and a huge wagon full of corn that his teenage kids continuously restock. But alas, the fields are eventually harvested and the fresh sweet corn is gone for yet another year. Sure, you can get corn on the cob in the grocery store or the freezer section, but it's just not the same.

Here are some tips for enjoying summer's corn bounty all year long:

Select cobs that have green tightly closed husks and dry, brown silk that is not brittle. Rows of kernels should be plump and in tight rows up to the tip. The kernels should be firm enough to resist slight pressure.

Blanching & Freezing
Remove the husks and stems and break off the undeveloped tips. Use a dry vegetable brush or your fingers to remove the silk from between the rows and rinse the ears in cold water. Set up a large pot of water and bring to a rolling boil. This is important. If you don't have a very large pot, only blanch a couple of ears at a time as the more corn you put in the longer it will take to get the water back to boiling. If it takes longer than a minute, there's too much corn in the pot. Also have a large bowl of ice and water sitting at the ready. Blanch the ears by dropping them into boiling water for:

7 minutes for small ears
9 minutes for medium ears
11 minutes for large ears

Remove the ears and plunge them into the ice water for the same amount of time you blanched them for. Drain the ears thoroughly. Wrap each ear in plastic wrap then place into zipper storage freezer bags. Be sure to mark your bag with the date they are good until, corn will freeze well for 10-12 months if wrapped properly. If you are able, a food sealer system is even better!

Remove corn from freezer and thaw in the refrigerator for several hours. If you don't have that kind of time, go ahead and pop it into boiling water for 5-6 minutes or in the microwave for 3-4 minutes.

Freezing Kernels - No Cobs
If you don't have a lot of freezer space to spare, you can freeze just the kernels. Follow the instructions above for blanching, cooling and draining the corn. Remove the kernels with a sharp knife.

whole kernels: simply cut the kernels off the cob and store in freezer bags.

cream corn: cut the tips of the kernels about 1/2" deep and scrape the cobs with the back of a knife to remove the juice and the heart of the kernel.

Take some of this summer's bounty with you!

~ Amanda

Check out this article (with recipes!) on OFL: Harvesting and Using Fresh Corn