Recipe of the Week: Blackberry Cobbler


Blackberry Cobbler
serves 8 

1 stick butter, salted
1 c. self rising flour
1 c. sugar
1. c. buttermilk
1 1/2–2 c. blackberries (or other fruit)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In an 8×8 inch baking dish, add butter and place in the oven until melted and slightly bubbling, not browned.
2. Meanwhile, sift the flour and sugar together. Whisk in the buttermilk. Batter should be pourable. If too thick, add 1 teaspoon of buttermilk at a time.
3. Once the butter is melted, remove from the oven, and immediately pour in batter. Edges will begin to cook. Generously add the fruit. Return to oven, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until crust is golden.
4. Serve warm with ice cream.

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Growing Bull’s Eye Rose in a Large Container


“Is a Bull’s Eye Rose suitable for a large container?

Jill”

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Hi Jill,

Thank you for your question regarding the Bull’s Eye Rose.  Container gardening is a great method for growing roses, as it brings the beauty and fragrance of roses into outdoor living spaces and right up to eye level. Potted roses can be grown in any sunny location: on a deck, terrace, patio or roof garden. It is a good option for anyone with limited garden space, poor soil or drainage problems, or apartment-bound gardeners. Bull's Eye Rose

Unfortunately, Bull’s Eye Rose is not a good choice for growing in a container.  Roses that work well in containers need to be 4 feet tall or under, as the height of the pot plus the height of the rose should not exceed a gardener’s height because one still needs to be able to easily care for and spray the rose. Bull’s Eye comes in at around 4-5 feet. When you add that to the height of the pot that would be needed (around 30-36 in tall), you have a rose that would be about 7-8 feet tall. It’s just not a feasible plan.

I hope this information helps you out. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!

Calculating Your Yield from A Packet of Dry Bean Seed


“i’ve planted some dry beans.  we have been storing some in our preparedness suppiles.  however, my garden is just an average size, and i question whether or not i have enough planted to make it worth while. how do you calculate your yield from a packet of seed?

lynn”

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Hi Lynn,

Thank you for the email regarding dry beans.  In general, a packet (1 or 2 ounces, depending on the variety) will plant about a 20 foot row.  From there, that gets a little bit more tricky, as each variety kind of has it’s own range for yields.  In general, pole beans will have more pods than bush beans because there is more biomass available for pods to grow on.  In terms of the soil you have, heavier soils with more clay will have a little bit less yield than a sandy soil because there is more of a risk of various bean diseases and root rots.
dry beans
In general, based on my own gardening experience, I yield about 1/2 to 3/4 of a brown paper shopping bag off of a packet of bush beans and about 3/4 to a full bag off of pole beans.  The lower end of the range is from when I was living in an area with very heavy, black clay soil, and the upper range from when I was living at our current home with sandy loam soil.  Once the beans are thrashed, I usually have about 1 to 1 1/2 plastic ice cream pails (5-quart type) from the bush and 1 1/3 to 2 full plastic ice cream pails from the pole beans.  Again, it varies depending on the variety, with the larger beans producing more pails of beans.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have particular varieties that you are interested in, let me know.  I keep garden journals off of my gardening yields for fun and can easily look up particular varieties to see how they perform.  Also, if you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

Tassel Color on Corn


“I planted one pack of Blue Dent corn early this summer and it has grown great thus far. One plant has a blue tassel and blue shucks on the ear. the rest of the plants have white tassels and look like normal sweet corn. Does it dry to blue or is something wrong with the plants?

Thanks,

Michael”

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Hi Michael,

Thank you for the email regarding your Blue Dent Corn.  First of all, it sounds like your corn is doing good, so don’t worry.

blue dent cornBlue Dent Corn is usually white with a hint of blue/purple tint to the white.  By this, I don’t mean that the color is blue or purple, but that the white has that hint to it.  Once the kernels mature and start to dry, you will see the blue/purple color enhance in the kernels.  The reason why this occurs is because the sugars that are in the kernel when it is young are white.  There is a little bit of starch in the kernels too, so that is why it has a blue/purple hue too.  As the kernel matures, the sugars are converted to starch, so the blue/purple color becomes more visible.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

 

Unsized Seed, Checking Hot Peppers, Grafted Tomatoes, and Pellet Ingredients: Obscure Gardening Info


“Hello Mertie,

I like your writing style and your dry humor. You seem to know a lot about seeds and plants, so I have a few questions for you.

1. What is unsized seeds? I’ve seen this in carrots, cole crops, and lettuce.

2. What is checking on a pepper?

3. Are grafted tomato plants worth the extra money and fuss?

4. What is the pellet on a seed made from? Is it safe for my organic garden?

Thank you for all your great articles,

Joe”

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Hi Joe,

Thanks for your questions and kind comments.  As for your questions:

1.  Unsized seed means that the seed has not been graded to a certain size. You often will see this with corn and other crops that are planted with equipment. When machinery was first brought about, your planter had a plate on it that required a certain size of seed. If your seed was to large, it would not go through the plate and would jam things up. If it was too small, the seed went through the plate too quickly and the seed spacing would be off.  For the smaller seeds like carrots, cole crops, and lettuce, it just means that some of the seed will be larger than others.  It doesn’t meant that some of the seeds (larger) will be better than others (smaller), so there are no worries with buying unsized seed.

Planting Plates

2. Checking on a pepper is often seen on the –good– varieties of hot jalapeno peppers.  Checking can also be refered to as corking or cracking on peppers by gardeners, but the seed industry calls it checking and will often put the term in seed/plant descriptions.

Jalapenos naturally produce checks/corks/cracks in their skin. The characteristic checking which may appear undesirable (to gardening novices) when harvesting is nothing more than the fruit working towards maturity. When choosing jalapenos to harvest, note that the more mature fruits will have some checks around the stems. These checks should not be a cause for alarm as they are part of the fruit’s natural maturing process and any jalapenos with checking remain safe to eat, as the browned tissue of the fruit are not perforations but discolored, dried cells on the skin of the fruit.Jalapeno

Checking in the jalapeno skin can also be used to judge the heat of the fruit. Each jalapeno becomes hotter the longer it is allowed to mature. When the fruit is fully ripe, it is the hottest that the variety can produce. So, the more mature the jalapeno is, the more checks it has and the hotter the pepper will be. Chefs sometimes use the checking to determine which peppers have the greatest chance to be hot.

However, don’t be fooled into thinking that all jalapenos have checks. New hybrids that are being out on the market are being created to “look pretty” for the uninformed gardener.  Gardeners that don’t know much want a perfect green fruit, but then don’t understand why it is not hot. Well… they kind of go hand in hand…  =)

 

3.  Grafted tomatoes. Ha! To be honest, for most home gardeners, I don’t recommend them unless you have done your research and know that you really need them in your garden.Grafted Tomatoes

Grafted tomatoes (along with peppers, eggplants, and melons) started in the hydroponic industry to a.) reduce the amount of soil borne diseases, b.) reduce the need for crop rotation, and c.) increase the health and production of heirloom varieties. Soil borne diseases run rampant in hydroponic setups. And I am sure you are wondering why, as there is no soil. Well, 99.9% of soil borne diseases are caused by the presence of water at the wrong times.  Think of things like tomato blights: having wet leaves at night causes the blight, not the soil that it comes from.  Having a super-soil-borne-disease-resistant root stock allows for lower incidence of disease and less spraying.  This ties directly into crop rotation, as having issues with a disease in a particular hydroponic greenhouse results in the crop causing the issues to be moved to successive greenhouses (or other sections of the same greenhouse) over the next few years. If you are a smaller operation, you have to have numerous other crops (at least 3) to cycle with the disease causing crop so the same crop won’t be in the same place for at least 3 years.  Most often commercial growers graft the heirloom varieties to make them more tolerant of ‘unusual’ conditions. Most heirlooms were developed in someone’s backyard, where they were used to a nice breeze, good sun, and the occasional rain shower. Putting an heirloom into a hydroponic greenhouse is a shell shock to the plant. There are numerous ways for it to become diseased and the environment is starkly different than what it was originally adapted to.  Grafting an heirloom scion onto a disease resistant rootstock allows the plant to be less susceptable to disease and have a growth habit similar to a hybrid tomato. Also, heirlooms are said (by the industry) to produce less fruits per plant compared to hybrids (guess they never looked at the ones in my garden). Grafting increases the amount of fruits produced.  The extra cost of the graft is covered by the premium price that heirloom produce brings in.

So how does that translate to a home gardener?  If you have had problems with soil borne diseases in the past in your garden and it is not large enough to have a 4 year crop rotation or you grow only a couple plants, you may want to consider grafted vegetables. They are more expensive ($8-9 or more per plant), so you need to balance the cost with your gain. However, if you are someone that can rotate your crops, do not have severe disease issues, or you grow more than 2-3 tomato/pepper/etc. plants, I don’t recommend it. It’s just not worth it.  I don’t grow them in my garden and would never.

Also, from my experience, many home gardeners have had issues initially with the graft drying out if the plant is not kept well watered. With non-tomato grafted plants, the plant is completely dead.  With tomatoes, the scion of the plant dies and the rootstock may begin to grow.  If you are not keeping a close eye on your plants, you likely won’t notice it until your plant produces fruits and the fruit is not the variety you bought.

4.  Seed pellets are made of clay with a colorant painted on the outside. They are generally considered safe for home organic gardens. If you are an organic farmer, they are allowed only if the company you are purchasing the seed from does not offer the seed raw (unpelleted).Seed Pellets

I hope this information helps you out. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!

Buy Big or Buy Small: Does Pot Size and Quantity Matter with Tomatoes


“My friend and I don’t agree with how we buy our plants. My friend buys all her tomatoes and peppers in little packs of 3, 4, or 6. They look so skinny and sickly. I always buy mine in single pots because they are bigger and better and blooming. She tells me I am nuts to spend so much money on the same thing as her. I know my plants will grow better. What do you think? I plan to show her your response, so make it good!

Janelle”

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Dear Janelle,

Thanks for your questions. Sorry to burst your bubble, but bigger isn’t always better.

Commercial greenhouses sell single potted tomatoes, peppers, etc. to:

1. Appeal to the customer’s eyes by having them think that big plant with flowers will produce fruit soon.

2. Appeal to the customer’s brain by making them think that the plant will be healthier and better because the single potted plants are always darker green and have such a sturdy stem.

3. Appeal to the customer’s wallet because things that are more expensive are better quality.

Tomato Transplants

The sad thing is, all of these things are untrue when it comes to plants.  There are so many reason why that:

1.  Days to Maturity:  If you have ever looked at a packet of tomato seeds or the plant stake that is included in a pot when you buy the tomato plant at the greenhouse, you will see that it has “– days after transplant”. With tomatoes and other plants that require a boost indoors before being planted outside, the days to maturity is based on the days after transplanting. It doesn’t matter if your plant if 4 inches tall with 6 leaves or 12 inches tall with 16 leaves: it will still take the same amount of days after transplanting to have fruits.

2.  Transplant shock: Transplant shock occurs to every plant when it is taken from one place and put in another. It doesn’t matter if you have a large root mass or a small one — all movement is shocking to the plant. The larger the plant is, the more shock it will have and the longer it will take to recover from the shock because it is an older plant. (For those in the northern states, most greenhouses start single potted vegetables 4-8 weeks earlier than those in multipacks).  So while your large tomato plant is recovering from the rude awakening of being put into your garden, your friend’s little tomatoes will quickly recover and soon be as large (if not larger) than yours and yours will still be recovering and not growing.  In general, the best size plant for transplanting is one that is 4-8″ tall. Any larger than that and you are setting yourself up for a lot of shock.

3. Flowers don’t mean fruit: Just because a tomato is flowering when you buy it doesn’t mean those flowers will have fruit. Flowering is often a sign that a plant is in shock. It’s like the plant is saying, “oh no, things are not right in my current environment, I need to flower and produce fruit because I may soon die.”  Flowering tomato or pepper plants in a greenhouse indicate that your plant has been growing for a long time (probably since February or earlier) and is more than ready to be producing fruit. However, the little pot that it is growing in is a much smaller amount of soil than the plant requires to make fruit. The flowers will usually drop without producing fruit or the fruits that are produced will be small and of low quality. Also, if you plant your transplants soon after purchasing them and leave the flowers on, they will produce fruits, but the plant will focus on producing those fruits only rather than growing larger and making more fruits. It is always best to pinch off all buds and blooms on vegetable plants when they are transplanted into the soil.

4.  Extra Green Color: When you go to the greenhouse, you notice that the larger plants are always much darker green. This is because the greenhouse overfertilizes the single pots to increase their size and make them as dark green as possible. When you get the plant home and don’t continue to overfertilize it, it will go into ‘starvation’ mode and not grow. If you think continuing to overfertilize the plant will help it, you are wrong. Overfertilizing will prevent flower/fruit development. (And if you are wondering how the plants at the greenhouse flowered while being overfertilized, it is due to shock. Same thing won’t happen when the plant is in your garden with plenty of root space, light, and water.)

5. Expense: The truth is, seeds are cheap. Insanely cheap. On average, an open pollinated or heirloom variety will cost about $0.001-0.005/per seed (that’s right, tenths of a cent).  Hybrids usually cost $0.005-0.05/per seed.  While there is an addition cost of fertilizer, water, etc., it doesn’t come close to adding up to the premium price of the single potted plants. And, as a person that used to work in the greenhouse industry, the greenhouse owner is chuckling over the people that buy ‘premium’ plants all the way to the bank.

So, Janelle, unfortunately for you, your friend has it right.

Don’t believe me? Research done by the Samuel Roberts Foundation, Iowa State, and UC Cooperative Extension backs me up on this.

I hope this information helps you out and that you make a wiser decision in the future. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

Invicta Gooseberry with Disease? Or Something Entirely Different?


“I saw your post the other day about the gentleman from Bloomer, WI that had issues with his Ben Sarek currants from Jung Seed, and I wanted to ask you about my bare root gooseberry that I received from them via the mail. It was supposed to be an Invicta gooseberry, but the leaves are not the traditional lobed leaf that you see on a gooseberry, and it has some disease. I called the company, and they said that sometimes the first set of leaves that come out are not true leaves, but the second set of leaves will be the true leaves that will look more like a gooseberry. It may also be how they grow here in Maine. I’ve grown other varieties of gooseberry and I’ve never had different types of leaves. And why would something grow different in Maine? That sounds fishy! Or am I wrong? I have since moved the “gooseberry” to a pot and away from the rest of my gooseberries so that it will not give them its disease. Please help!

Janice”

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Hi Janice,

Thank you for your post and for emailing me the photo. This story just makes me shake my head for a number of reasons:

1. True leaves on a woody plant versus non true leaves?!?!? I’m a seasoned old horticulturist that has a degree in botany too. If it is a plant that grows in garden, I know it inside and out. The only thing I can think of here is that the person you spoke to is confusing cotyledons with true leaves? Maybe? I don’t know… Or that when a bud breaks, like on a maple tree, there is a small modified leaf that covers the bud with the leaves and blossom inside and is kind of short near the base and quickly dies? But still, gooseberries do not have those.  Sorry, but I think the customer service person you spoke with didn’t have a clue as to what they were saying, but was trying to sound very educated and like they knew what they were talking about.

2. The leaves above are NOT a gooseberry (Invicta or otherwise) and the future leaves never will be either. This plant is a LILAC!!!

3.  As for the disease, it looks like Edema.  Edema is a problems that occurs under cool, wet conditions when the soil is warmer than the atmosphere. Edema happens when the roots take up more water than the plant loses through transpiration (water loss through pores on the leaf surface called stomata), thus resulting in accumulation of water in the intercellular spaces of the leaf tissue. The excess water accumulation causes the leaf cells to enlarge and expand to a point where they block the stomatal openings.  At some point, the cells become so large that they pop like an overinflated balloon. The remaining damaged cell tissue turns brown and crusty and multiple broken cells for spots like those seen in your photo.

 

If it were me, I would demand a correct replacement or my money back. If you haven’t already, send this picture in to them. Any horticulturist or plant buyer on staff SHOULD know the difference!

 

I hope this information helps you out. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.