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How to Grow Fumitory

Written by Mindy on May 19th, 2017

Fumitory may be a plant that you have never heard of before now. It grows wild in gardens and corn fields in Europe. In the United States, it has naturalized itself in almost all states. When it comes to fumitory, it can be viewed as a weed due to its prolific reproduction through seed.

fumitoryHaving said that, fumitory is a beautiful annual plant that should be directly seeded into the ground during early spring. As long as the soil is well draining, fumitory will take hold in partial shade to full sun.

To begin the planting process, starts off with preparing the garden soil. An old flowerbed is the easiest by which to start planting. All you really need to do is to remove any unwanted plant materials, loosen up the soil, and smooth the area over. Next, pull out your ruler. Fumitory needs room to grow. The best approach is to mark off 10 segments in your garden where you want fumitory. Once that is done, plant your seeds two inches down in the marked locations and water.

Keep the soil evenly moist and in 20 to 30 days you will see little green dots of growth appear. This is your fumitory.

If you are starting with a space that has never been a garden, you will need to remove all unwanted plant material. To make sure that you have killed all unwanted plants and/or seed, consider covering with black plastic for about two weeks. After that time period has passed, continue with the planting process as described above.

Since fumitory can be invasive, you will need to harvest the spent flowers as soon as possible. Also, as you see additional fumitory seedlings breaking ground in the spring pluck them from the soil and either compost or plant elsewhere. Lastly, if you decide that you no longer want fumitory, do not turn the soil. If the soil is left undisturbed or reduced amounts of movement occur, the sun will kill the seeds that are on the soil’s surface. Mix or tilling the soil will bury the seeds, which will protect them from the sun.

Another interesting fact about fumitory is its ability to hide in other vegetation. What this means is that if you have several plants in your garden space close together, it can be hard to pick out the plant prior to it blooming. The reason for this is its wispy foliage, which gives root to one of its common names Earth Smoke.


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Propagating Elecampane

Written by Mindy on May 14th, 2017

While this little unheard herb can be propagated through division and root cuttings, it can also be easily started by seed. But before you run out to your local gardening center, make sure that your garden is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 through 8. This range allows this herb to be grown as a perennial.

elecampaneOnce you have your seed, pull out your gardening calendar and count back four to six weeks from your local frost free date. This is the date by which you will need to start your seeds indoors.

Prior to planting your seeds, you will need to clean and sterilize the container. This step should only be skipped if you are using peat pots. While the pots are drying take your seed starting planting medium and moisten it with water until it is evenly moist. Next, fill each one of your containers with this planting medium and gently tap the soil down. Add more soil if needed.

Elecampane seeds need sunlight to germinate. In doing so, you will simply sprinkle the seed on the soil surface and gently push down with your finger. Once all the seeds have been planted, mist the soil surface with water.

Place your planted pots on a sunny window. Continue to monitor the soil moisture and in 12 to 30 days you will begin to see evidence of seed germination. While elecampane seeds and seedlings do not like a wet soil, they do require one that is evenly moist.

If you planted seeds in individual pots, you can keep them there until you can plant them outside. On the other hand, if you simply sprinkled seed in a couple of pots, you will need to remove the seedlings and place them in their individual containers.

Continue to keep the seedlings in a sunny location until after your local frost free date. Once that date has arrived, you will need to harden off the seedlings prior to planting in the garden. This process is easy to do and only requires you to slowly expose the seedlings to the outdoor environment over a one to two week period.

When selecting the garden location for elecampane, make sure the soil is moist but well draining. Also, this plant can survive in partial shade to full sun. The one requirement that this plant demands is space. Elecampane should be planted with 24 inches between each plant. If you are going to plant this herb in rows, make sure that you space them 36 to 48 inches apart.


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How to Grow Rhubarb at Home

Written by Stephanie on May 4th, 2017

Rhubarb grows best where the ground freezes in the winter. .  Rhubarb requires an extended chilling period with temperatures below 40 degrees F to produce its stems.  It is a common place vegetable throughout the colder parts of the United States.  It may be grown as far south as zone seven, although that is unusual.

Rhubarb is a tart vegetable, so is mostly used in jams, jellies, and in pies.  It is often paired with strawberries in pies to mitigate rhubarb’s tartness.  Only the stems of the rhubarb plant are edible.  The leaves contain oxalic acid and are poisonous.

This plant is a true perennial, and can be used in the landscape to show off its big leaves and blocky stems.  As a perennial, it will spread in the garden, so grow it somewhere that can serve as a permanent home for it.  Rhubarb may live five to eight years and occasionally longer.

To plant rhubarb, first till the ground to a depth of twelve inches.  Place a three inch layer of compost over the tilled area.  Till again to mix the compost with the soil.  Dig a hole in the tilled area that is a foot deep.  Fill the hole with loose soil and place the crown in four inches deep.  The top of the crown should be level with the top of the soil.  Water the crown in and add soil as necessary to keep it even with the ground around it.

Rhubarb needs to be kept moist during the growing season.  Place a two inch layer of mulch around the plants to keep water in and heat out.  Fertilize every couple of weeks during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer such as a 10-10-10.

In the fall when the vegetation falls, cut it back to the crown.  After it freezes, mulch two to four inches over the crowns to protect them from the cold.

Every five to ten years, you will need to divide the rhubarb.  It is time to divide it when the stems are crowded and thin.  Divide when the rhubarb is dormant, in early spring or fall.  Carefully dig the rhubarb up to divide it.  Cut the root into two inch pieces taking care not to damage the root bud that produces the leaves.  You should then replant the best pieces and discard the rest.

The rhubarb plant has few problems.  Crown rot is the big one.  It is caused by poor drainage in the bed where the rhubarb is growing.  Dig out the effected plant and put it in the trash.  Do not compost it as you will spread the disease.  Do not replant rhubarb in areas where crown rot has been a problem.

Leaf spot can attack the plants, damaging the stems.  Cutting off the foliage in the fall and discarding it helps prevent leaf spot.

Finally, the rhubarb curculio sometimes attacks the plants.  These insects pierce the stem and suck the nutrients out of the plant.  Damaged plants may ooze sap and begin to decay.


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Tips for Growing Parsnips

Written by Stephanie on May 1st, 2017

Parsnips grow in zones two through nine.  However, parsnips are a winter vegetable.  Their flavor is not fully developed until they have been exposed to near freezing temperatures for two to four weeks.  This changes the starch into sugar and gives them a unique flavor.  If you live in an area that doesn’t have much of a winter, you may find that this starch transformation does not happen.

Because parsnips are root vegetables, it is important to prepare their bed carefully.  Till the soil down to a depth of twelve to fifteen inches.  Cover the soil with three inches of compost and till it in.  This not only loosens the dirt so the parsnips can grow in it easily, it also improves the drainage of the bed and fertilizes the parsnips.

Parsnips are picky about germination.  Only fresh seed germinates well at all.  You will need to buy seed each time you plant.  You can save the seed from a few plants you let bloom and set seed the previous summer, but packaged seeds left over from last year just won’t do.

The soil temperature must be at least 46 degrees F for parsnips to germinate, but they do far better when it is 50-54 degrees F.  Parsnips can take a full month to germinate, so don’t lose hope after a couple of weeks without any seedlings poking out of the ground.

Sow the parsnip seeds one to two inches apart.  Rows should be spaced sixteen inches apart.  The seeds should be planted one half an inch deep.  An easy way to know where you planted the row of parsnips is to plant something that grows fast, like radishes, between the parsnip seeds.  The radishes come up quickly to you can see the rows and know where to weed.  The radishes are ready to harvest about the time the parsnip seedlings appear.

When the parsnips appear, you will need to do some thinning to get good roots.  Start by removing every other plant when they are an inch or two high.  Every two weeks or so, repeat this until there is six to ten inches between the parsnip plants.

It is important to control weeds in your parsnip patch.  Parsnips do not compete well with weeds, so if you do not regularly remove the weeds, you will not get much of a crop.

Normally, vegetables require a lot of water to produce good plants.  In this case, however, it is important to water sparingly so that the parsnip roots grow long and strong by searching for water.  Only water one inch a week.

Parsnips are vulnerable to aphids, leaf miners, carrot rust flies, and parsnip canker.  Most varieties of parsnips are resistant to parsnip canker.  Swallow-tail butterflies also lay their eggs on parsnip plants and their caterpillars can be a problem.  Hand picking the caterpillars is usually sufficient to control them.

Parsnips mature in about sixteen weeks.  They should be left in the ground for a few frosts but removed before the ground freezes.


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Guide to Growing Rue

Written by Stephanie on April 28th, 2017

Rue (Ruta graveolens) was once a common herb.  It has fallen out of favor since many of the medicinal qualities it was believed to have were found to be inaccurate and even dangerous.  However, rue deserves to be grown for its foliage and flowers in a contemporary garden. The foliage is a bright blueish-green and fern like.  The flowers are sprays of small yellow blossoms with green centers. Rue is native to the Mediterranean and Southern Europe.

Rue has a strong smell that repels pests such as dogs, cats, and Japanese beetles.  It works well as a companion plant to more vulnerable plants, such as vegetable plants.  Rue is a semi-woody, perennial, herbaceous plant, so can be pruned into hedges or topiaries.  It is attractive to butterflies and deer do not like it, always a plus.  Finally, rue makes a very attractive cut flower when in bloom.

Care should be taken when handling rue.  Its sap is caustic and contains a substance called rutin.  Not only will it irritate the skin but can cause chemical burns. It also makes the area where the sap touched sensitive to the sun, so you are more likely to get sun burned there than is usual.

Rue grows to about two and a half feet high.  It is hardy in zones four to nine.  It prefers hot, dry, rocky soil in the full sun, although it will grow in more fertile soil.  Once established, it rarely needs attention or watering.

Rue is propagated by seed.  The small seeds need light to germinate.  They should be strewn on the surface of a tray of potting soil.  Press the seeds into the soil gently so there is good contact between the seed and soil.  Place in a warm, well lit area.  In one to four weeks, the rue seeds will sprout.  If you prefer to sow the seeds outside, they can be sown once the temperature reaches 68 degrees F and all danger of frost is past.

Rue should be mulched in the winter to protect it from the low temperatures.  As a perennial, rue will come back every year if protected from the elements in the winter.

Do not plant rue near basil, sage, or mint.  The rue will retard the growth of these plants.

To keep rue blooming, deadhead the flowers once they begin to fade.  If you want to allow rue to self-seed, leave the fading blooms on the plant.  They will turn into pods of seeds.  Once the pods are dry, harvest them and place them in a paper sack until the pods pop open and the seeds fall out.  These seeds can then be used next year to seed more rue plants.

It is illegal to use rue in food in the United States, but in Europe it is used as a flavoring agent in salads, sausages, cheeses and a few other foods.  The herb is very bitter so is used in very small quantities in these foods.


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