Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Reader's Garden Questions

Today I have several questions from readers, but first I wanted to share a picture of one of my peonies that are in bloom. I have four varieties, but this one is always the fullest and has such a delicate color.

My lemon balm and the lovage is already 4 feet tall and growing. It's not even summer yet! What should I do?

Harvest it, and either use it, give it away, dry the leaves or compost it. Both of those plants can easily be cut back by half and be perfectly fine afterwards. You might even have to do this 2 or 3 more times if they continue to grow that well. On OFL we have articles with tips and recipes for lovage and lemon balm.

In the 1980's My wife and young son and I built a wilderness cabin in Idaho. One of our new friends and neighbors was an elderly Indian in his eighties. This new neighbor brought us a large coffee can of what he called dried "wedge peas" that he said was a staple of his folks and the early pioneers. This pea was unique because it created an artificial butter when it was boiled. Hence it was sometimes called the "butter pea". The dried pea was ordinary pea size but formed a distinct triangle or wedge shape. Our Indian friend said that we should use the bulk of the coffee can of peas as seeds as they had become an obsolete edible. I have been unsuccessful in my research to find information on this unique and marvelous legume.

Do you have any knowledge of this or leads that I can follow to find out more about this pioneer food? ~David R.

I did some looking and found a pea variety with the proper name Lathyrus sativus. You can see some information here:

IF this is the pea, it does have some toxic qualities if not prepared properly, so be careful if you do grow it. There is a picture here:

While sometimes plants fall out of favor for economic or other reasons, there are other instances where it's later found to not be as useful as once thought. IF this is the pea you are looking for, it may be the toxic element that made it fall to the wayside. Maybe this will help you with your research a little bit even if it's not the correct variety of pea.

Is there a reason not to just plant the tomato plants on the top as in a container and let them cascade over the sides of the bucket rather then planting them from the bottom of the bucket? ~Sandie

Not at all! The reason people are so into the upside down method is that it is space saving and some of them plant herbs or other plants in the top of the container. As long as you drill holes in the bottom of the bucket for drainage you can plant in the bucket right side up.


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