July 25, 2012
Queen Anne’s lace or wild carrot (Daucus carota) is native to parts of Europe and Asia and is naturalized in North America and Australia. It is a biennial in the family Apiaceae. Domestic carrots are cultivars bred from its subspecies D. carota ssp. sativus. Being a biennial, it grows a leafy mound of green fern-like foliage the first season and then produces flowers the second year. Flowers are produced from June through August. The tiny white flowers are borne in flat to slightly rounded clusters called umbels. Before they’re fully open, the flowers may have a pink to reddish caste. In some umbels, there is a single dark red flower in the center. This is said to be a droplet of blood where Queen Anne pricked her finger while making the lace. The function of the red flower is thought to be an attractant for insects.
The root of the wild carrot is edible when it is young but becomes woody and unpalatable as it matures. As early as 2000 years ago the crushed seeds were used as a contraceptive. Research has somewhat supported this; in studies with mice wild carrot was found to disrupt the egg implantation process. It is not recommended here to use wild carrot for this purpose!
Wild carrot has a poisonous look-alike plant, poison or water hemlock, so it should never be consumed unless it is absolutely certain that it has been identified correctly. The leaves of Queen Anne’s lace can cause irritation known as phytophotodermatitis. When the sap from the leaves gets on the skin and it is then exposed to sunlight, a rash may develop. This plant is considered a noxious weed by the USDA because of this and because it is a pest in pastures, displacing desirable native plants.
Queen Anne’s lace is also a beneficial plant because it can help attract insect parasites and predators of pest insects to the garden. Beneficial wasps, ant lions and green lacewings either feed on the nectar or pollen of the flowers or are attracted to aphids on the flowers.
Many animals use the wild carrot plant as a source of food or shelter. Some that use it as a food source include the eastern black swallowtail butterfly, honeybee, green stinkbug, differential grasshopper, golden northern bumblebee and green lacewing. Many animals use it for shelter including the eastern black swallowtail, aphids, dog ticks, Chinese mantid, American goldfinch, black and yellow argiope, eastern bluebird, green stinkbug, eastern mole, differential grasshopper, northern mockingbird, common grackle, green lacewing and chiggers. Other plants commonly found growing with wild carrot include goldenrod, milkweed, pokeweed, smooth crabgrass, red clover, English plantain, devil’s beggar-tick, spotted Joe-pye weed, lamb’s quarters, common ragweed, jimsonweed, black-eyed Susan, Kentucky bluegrass, wild strawberry, and common mullein.
July 18, 2012
With the dog days upon us, getting adequate water to our gardens can be a concern. Water is essential to all life. Plants use it to transport nutrients and to maintain turgor – the cellular pressure that keeps soft tissue from wilting. Plants absorb water (containing soluble nutrients) through their roots and ultimately release it into the atmosphere as vapor through small pores (stomata) on the undersides of leaves in a process called transpiration. Although invisible, the cumulative volume of water transpired by Earth’s plants is prodigious, producing 10% of the atmosphere’s water vapor. One large oak tree can transpire 40,000 gallons per year. Drought stress occurs as transpiration continues and soil moisture is exhausted.
Wilting muskmelon plant
Photo: Erika Saaku, Iowa State
Transpiration rates increase with:
- High temperatures
- Low humidity
- More soil moisture
- Larger, thinner leaves
Hydrangea or squash leaves wilt on hot, dry, windy days because the transpiration rate of these large-leafed plants is faster than the plant’s ability to take up available moisture from the soil.
At the other end, if a plant’s root system is compromised or undeveloped, extra care must be taken to ensure survival. The process of digging and transplanting exposes roots to the air, damaging or destroying delicate root hairs. Recovery can be difficult with the additional stress of hot weather. Provide shade and plenty of moisture to allow these essential single-cell structures to regenerate. In some cases, cutting back some of the leaf mass to reduce water requirements is advisable. Old-fashioned advice for transplanting instructs: “water once a day for a week, once a week for a month and once a month for a year.” A very inexact guide to be sure, but a good reminder that transplants have high water demands at first and need to be weaned gradually over time.
Container-grown plants often have root systems a fraction of the size of an equivalent plant growing in the ground. Regular watering is a must, particularly when containers are made of porous clay or fiber. Potting mixes are commercially available that contain polymer crystals which can dramatically increase the water-holding capacity of potting soils in containers.
Measuring irrigation output
“Deep and Infrequent”
This mantra of watering advice emphasizes the need to train turf grass and landscape plants to develop deep root systems in search for water. Shallow, frequent watering encourages the growth of roots close to the soil surface, making the plant vulnerable to drought stress. Shrubs and trees with weak, superficial root systems are also more likely to topple over in a windstorm.
Root growth of turf ceases at soil temperatures of about 70°, so lawns should be encouraged to develop deep root systems during the cool weather of spring and fall. Summer watering of lawns is triage; keeping the patient stable until temperatures drop. Overwatering results in excessive growth and increased risk of fungal disease, while wasting water and fertilizers that can potentially contaminate waterways.
Mulch conserves soil moisture as it suppresses weeds and dresses up the garden. Organic mulches mimic the natural duff on the forest floor, creating a hospitable environment for microbes, fungi, insects and worms as they perform their function of decomposing organic matter and releasing nutrients.
Managing water in the garden is a skill that gets honed over time, as the gardener develops sharper instincts for plant requirements. Water is also a surprisingly efficient and environmentally sound way of ridding plants of some insect pests such as aphids and spider mites – simply knock them off with a forceful spray from the hose. Regular flooding will discourage ground-dwelling bees and wasps (yellow jackets) from nesting in inconvenient areas.
Water makes the garden more pleasurable for people and animals alike. Bird baths, gurgling fountains, lawn sprinklers for children or ponds with fish and frogs create a richer environment and a cool oasis of refreshment on a hot summer’s day.
Children swinging in sprinkler, 1964
Photo: Museum of History & Industry, Seattle
July 17, 2012
Posted by uconnladybug under Gardening Leave a Comment
Two years ago Leslie Alexander, state coordinator of the UConn Master Gardener Program and I visited Susan Pronovost at Brass City Harvest in Waterbury. Susan, a Certified UConn Master Gardener, is executive Director of BCH, an urban agriculture program which has grown to encompass many community garden plots, an urban farm in the city’s Fulton Park, food kitchens and several Farmer’s Markets. At the time a greenhouse was nearing completion in the Crownbrook neighborhood, sharing the site with community garden beds and a children’s garden.
Now a second Brass City Harvest site is almost ready for occupancy in the city’s South End. Built on a reclaimed brownfield, there is a modern greenhouse, a hoop house and raised garden beds for community gardeners. This facility will contain a kitchen and bathroom in order to serve as a year round growing space, classroom and community meeting site. Local residents will be invited to cooking demonstrations, then receive groceries to prepare at home. Multi-generational family activities are planned.
New Brass City Harvest Greenhouse
Demonstration Kitchen Under Construction
As in the Crownbrook greenhouse there are two 400 gallon fish tanks where trout and sunfish will be raised. These tanks also support rafts of hydroponically grown lettuces.
Fish Tanks Waiting Residents
The fish will be sold at Waterbury Farmer’s Markets in addition to supplementing soup kitchen offerings. Local restaurants are interested in adding BCH-grown vegetables and fish to their farm-to-table offerings.
Brass City Harvest recently signed an agreement to open a year-round Farmer’s Marketa at 19 Field Street, in the center of Waterbury. Planned to open in early November, this market will feature CT Grown produce, fish, baked goods and more. Prepared entrees will be available allowing downtown workers to shop the Farmer’s Market after work and take a quick, healthy dinner home. BCH is also been selected by the Wholesome Wave Foundation to become part of the Double Value Farmer’s Market Coupon Program for 2012. This enables those using EBT, WIC and Senior Nutrition Farmer’s Market Coupons to double the face value, up to $12 per visit per person or household.
Susan is assisted at BCH by Rick Povilaitis, a Clinical Social Worker who brings services to the homeless, including a number of military veterans. Rick is able to provide them with nutritious meals, housing and useful work through the Reaching Home Campaign.
Volunteers from UConn Waterbury, Naugatuck Valley Community College, and other community organizations enable Susan and Rick to accomplish all this. In April, 2012, the situation looked dire when a fire at an abandoned factory across narrow Mill Street threatened the newly erected hoop house and greenhouse as well as neighbors’ homes. Fortunately, no one was harmed and work on the greenhouse continued as Susan, Rick and several of the veterans tended street side beautification projects in addition to their other projects.
UConn Master Gardeners and others are encouraged to assist with the ongoing, and growing, projects of Brass City Harvest. For more information contact:
Brass City Harvest
73 Hill Street
Waterbury, CT 06703
Or find BCH on Facebook or brasscityharvestwtby.org.
New Haven County Coordinator, UConn Master Gardener Program
July 16, 2012
After a long, busy day at work, I like to find an hour or two most evenings to work out in the garden. It is cooler then and sometimes a soft breeze can be had. I do have a bit of hand watering to do with 32 thirsty container plantings but then I can plunk myself down in the aromatic herb garden or amidst the vegetables or in one of several perennial/shrub beds and pull up weeds. While it sounds crazy to most, this is relaxing horticultural therapy for me. It gives me time to let my mind wander and pleasure at seeing a weed-free garden bed, and also keeps me in touch with what is happening in the garden and in the yard.
Ideally, mulch of some kind would get put down after weeding but this does not always occur in a timely fashion. A few beds were mulched with a bark mulch but with the hot, dry weather, the surface of the mulch has become hydrophobic (water resistant) and one has to either keep the sprinkler on for a long time or ‘prime’ it by poking a few holes in the mulch around the base of the plants to let the water penetrate and not roll off. I am having this problem because of late plantings (some last weekend –great summer sale at local garden center!). So I have overgrown 6-pack plants in small holes in very hot and dry weather. The root zone needs to be soaked every day and the bark mulch is repelling water.
Back to weeding. I found 3 Large Cabbage White caterpillars in one of my ‘Gonzales’ mini-cabbages. They were promptly removed and squished. Two other caterpillars to look for on members of the cabbage family are the imported cabbage worm and cabbage looper. They all seem to like green cabbages better than red ones. Hopefully that goes for Brussels sprouts too as I planted “Rubine’ red ones this year.
Damage from cabbage moth larvae
Dill self-seeds itself throughout the garden. This is great when drying the leaves for culinary purposes but there is a limit as to how much dill weed one can use. Many dill plants are weeded out but not before I check to see if there any eggs or larvae of the black swallowtail butterfly – aka parsley worm. Plants with caterpillars on them are left alone.
Parsley worm on dill
Not one honeybee to be seen but in these later evening hours, bumble bees and other native pollinators are still active. They really like the leeks that made it through the winter and are in full bloom. Good reading on the decline of our native bumble bees and what to do about it can be found in Conserving Bumble Bees. Guidelines for Creating and Managing Habitat for America’s Declining Pollinators from the Xerces Society.
In the herb garden I get to munch on pineapple strawberries and bronze fennel leaves while weeding. A cocoa hull mulch will go on this weekend. Most years there is a leopard frog or two living in the thyme bed but this year only grasshoppers are jumping about. Garlic chive seedlings are prolific as that October snowstorm dashed seedheads to the ground before they were deadheaded. Two of the four tri-colored sage plants overwintered but curiously several branches of plain-colored sage emerged from each plant and are now blooming. I suppose I should cut them off but the bees are so enjoying the blossoms.
Last year all leaves were variegated – this year plenty of green!
Early evening also brings avian visitors to the yard. The bird baths and feeders get filled then and cardinals, goldfinches, chickadees, nuthatches and more line up for food as if knowing what they don’t eat now will probably be consumed by the squirrels in the morning. The past few days a couple of juvenile red-winged hawks have been chasing each other in the back woods and putting up quite the ruckus. A wren perches on the tomato stakes as if to check out my work. The spicy perfume of nicotiana permeates the area. Crickets softly chirp. Life is good!
A very bad picture of a very noisy young hawk!
(Uh oh – mosquitoes buzzing – time to go in!)
Soil –fully yours!