Archive | January 2014

Where to buy Organic Celery Seed?


“I have a customer who is looking for organic celery seed. Is that something you offer through your website?

Jenny”

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Hi Jenny,

Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, at this time, we do not offer celery seed through Mertie Mae Botanics.  We are just starting, so this year we only have heirloom, organic tomato seed. You can view what we have to offer at our website:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/MertieMaes

Sorry I couldn’t be of more help. However, I do recommend Seed Savers Exchange, Baker Creek, and High Mowing Seed companies for obtaining organic celery seed.

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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.

Echinacea


The seed catalogs have been piling up here, and as always, one of my favorites are the Echinacea. As things have been slow (and my only other activity is shoveling), I thought it would be a great time to write up a little bit about Echinacea so you become a lover of them too!

  

Commonly known as the coneflower, Echinacea purpurea is a native to Central and Eastern North America.  It is a member of the Asteraceae family, having both ray and disc flowers working together to make a composite ‘flower’.
(To learn more about composite flowers, please see Disc and Ray: Delving into Composite Flowers.)
The name comes from the Greek word “echino,” meaning spiky or prickly, because of the flowerhead’s center disc flowers. All of the flowers are perfect, meaning that they have both male and female parts. Pollination occurs  with the aid of butterflies and bees.

In addition to its native landscape and prairie appeal, the herbal and medicinal use of Echinacea has been documented through the years. Herbalists use the roots and herbs of Echinacea to treat  various infections and maladies. It offers a general boost to the immune system, and has antidepressant properties. A different species than the typical garden coneflower, Echinacea angustifolia, was used by Native Americans to soothe sore throats, headaches or coughs (symptoms of the common cold). They discovered the plant as a medicinal after observing that elk sought out the plant and ate it when wounded or sick. In the mid-19th century Echinacea was used as a pain reliever and increased in use as an herbal medicine through the 1930s in America and Europe. The plant Echinacea purpurea contains the chemical compounds cichoric acid and caftaric acid. These phenols are common to many other plants. Other phenols include echinacoside (found in Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea pallida roots). Other plant components that contribute to health effects include alkylamides and polysaccharides.

You’ll find wild native-growing Echinacea in sunny, dry open woodlands and prairies. The plant prefers loamy, well-drained soil, but it is little affected by soil pH. Cultivated Echinacea offer reliable performance as a perennial plant under a wide variety of conditions. Echinacea can be propagated from seed or vegetatively using various techniques, such as division, basal cuttings or root cuttings.

Today, more gardeners are seeking out perennial plants as long-term investments that offer good value of aesthetic beauty at an effective cost.  To supply this new demand for perennials, Echinacea has been one of the plants seeing a significant growth in breeding activity. Breeding trials have resulted in bringing free-flowering plants to market that overwinter successfully in cooler zones. Historically, Echinacea with bolder color hues (red, yellow, orange) have been grown from tissue culture liners. This propagation can lack good winter hardiness and may not bulk up in size in subsequent seasons. However, recent breeding has developed seed-grown varieties selected specifically for their bold coloring and trialed for overwintering success to USDA Zone 4.

Echinacea is attractive to birds, bees and butterflies making it a great choice for a pollinator-friendly garden. It is generally deer resistant. Because of their root structure, the plants are drought tolerant and can withstand heat and wind. Used in garden borders or backgrounds, Echinacea adds color and texture for a wildflower or prairie-style garden. For best visual impact, plant in masses. Deadhead florets to encourage further blooms. Echinacea flowers through the summer (June through August). Its seed heads can be left to dry on the plant to feed wild birds through the fall and winter. Echinacea plants will reseed in the fall, with new flowers growing the following season. Hardiness zones vary by variety, with a range from USDA Zone 4-9.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recognizes nine distinct species of Echinacea:

  • Echinacea angustifolia – Narrow-leaf Coneflower
  • Echinacea atrorubens – Topeka Purple Coneflower
  • Echinacea laevigata – Smooth Coneflower
  • Echinacea pallida – Pale Purple Coneflower
  • Echinacea paradoxa – Yellow Coneflower
  • Echinacea purpurea – Purple Coneflower
  • Echinacea sanguinea – Sanguine Purple Coneflower
  • Echinacea simulata – Wavyleaf Purple Coneflower
  • Echinacea tennesseensis – Tennessee Coneflower

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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.

Recipe of the Week: Savory Oatmeal and Soft-Cooked Egg


For my mother, who eats more oatmeal than anyone I know.

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1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Nonstick cooking spray
1 large egg
2 tablespoons shredded sharp cheddar
1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallion greens

1. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add oats and pinch of salt; stir, reduce heat, and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a small nonstick pan over medium. Coat lightly with cooking spray. Add egg and cook until white is set and yolk is still runny, about 3 minutes. Season egg to taste with salt and pepper. Serve oatmeal in a bowl topped with cheese, egg, and scallion greens.

Pumpkins for Dry, Short Seasons


“Last year we planted ‘Neon Orange’ and ‘Long Face’ pumpkins because we Have a short season here and it is very dry. We had good luck with the Neon and no luck with the Long Face. Do you also know of a pumpkin that would be Jack-o-lantern size but would grow in a dry climate and a short season. We use a drip system and watered about 600 gallons per day for a 1/2 Acre.

Thanks,

Bret Wade
Wade Acres
Simla, CO.
http://www.wadeacres.com

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02050253

Hi Bret,

Thank you for the email regarding pumpkins.  Hmmm, that’s a tough one.   The only one that would be large enough in size and have a chance of doing well in that type of an environment would be Autumn Gold.  It is a good size pumpkin, short day  compared to other varieties (90), and no matter how  dry the summer is, has a good crop.

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.

Growing Tomatoes on the Porch


“I have an enclosed porch that I would like to try to grow some tomatoes but I’m not sure what variety. What type should I look for that will grow in greenhouse type conditions? What are the different types of pollination? I noticed some in the catalogue say open pollination.  Thank you for your time
Salley”

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Hi Salley,

Thank you for the email regarding tomatoes that would do well on your enclosed porch.  Depending on the set-up you have, different varieties will work well for different conditions.

If the roof of your porch has skylights or is glass/clear, then any tomato variety would be fine.  The only thing is that you would need to make sure that the container size corresponds to the size of plant that will grow for
a particular variety.

If the roof does not have light coming through, then you are going to want to go with a shorter day tomato.  During the summer, the rays from the sun are more overhead and would not be able to get in to your plants through the roof.  By having a shorter day variety, you can have the plants growing more in the spring or more in the fall so the sun is lower in the sky and the rays of sunshine will be able to reach the plants.  Some varieties that would work well are Glacier, Siberian, and Sub-Arctic Plenty.

As for pollination, open pollination means that the plant is not a hybrid and seeds saved from the tomato fruits would come back true to type if planted the following year.  A hybrid is a cross between two different parent types and has seeds that would not come back true if they were saved from the fruits.

To pollinate the plants, you need to make sure that they are moved a bit/vibrated during the day.  Tomato flowers are called perfect flowers because they have both male and female parts in the same flower.  By making
the flowers move, the pollen is moved around within the flower and pollination occurs.  Moving the plants can be done in one of three ways:
1.  If you have windows that open in your enclosed porch and the whether outside is nice, open them up and allow the breeze to come in.  Out in the garden, tomatoes are pollinated by the breezes moving the branches.  Let
nature do the work for you!
2.  If you have a vibrating back or hand massager, you can hold it up to the stem and branches of the plants when they are in bloom.  Make sure you don’t dig the massager into the plant because you do not want to damage the stem. Holding it lightly on the stem or branch will be enough.
3.  You can also give the pots of the a gentle shake.  When doing this, the intention is to have the leaves/branches move a little and not to make the plant feel like it is going through an earthquake.

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.

Bloom-Be-Gone? Getting Your New Amaryllis Bulb to Bloom


“Amaryllis Christmas Gift.  The bulb sprouted multiple leaves but no flower bud. All other bulbs planted simultaneiously and cared for the same produced beautiful flowers. Is this normal? Thank you. Carol.”

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Amaryllis (Hippeastrum sp.) are a very beautiful and easy-to-grow flower to have in your house during the Christmas season.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that these are brand new bulbs that you have planted.  If not, the information will be valid for an older bulb that you have had.

The most likely condition is that the bulb is too immature to bloom yet. The way growers know it is time to sell a bulb to a customer is when the bulb has reached a particular size. This varies between varieties. However, if the grower has been taking very good care of the bulbs, it is possible that one here or there got a little bigger than normal and was sized out/sold too soon.

The other possibility (especially if this is one that you have had for some time now) is that it has had some type of stress occur and needs to rest for a year. I am not saying you did anything wrong to it — it’s just something that happens even when we take good care of our plants. For whatever reason, it may not have gotten enough light or fertilizer, and therefore opted to not have a bloom this year in order to save the reserves for itself.

No matter which option, the solution is the same. Continue to allow the bulb to grow, as what you do to it in the next few weeks will determine if it will bloom again.  (The same can be done for your other bulbs that did flower.  The only difference is that you will need to cut the old flowers from the stem after flowering, and when the stem starts to sag, cut it back to the top of the bulb. )

Continue to water and fertilize as normal until summer (at least 5-6 months) and allow the leaves to fully develop and grow. When the leaves begin to yellow, which normally occurs in the early fall, cut the leaves back to about 2 inches from the top of the bulb and remove the bulb from the soil. Clean the bulb and place it in a cool (40-50 deg. F), dark place such as the crisper of your refrigerator for a minimum of 6 weeks. Caution: Do not store amaryllis bulbs in a refrigerator that contains apples, this will sterilize the bulbs and prevent it from ever blooming again. Store the bulbs for a minimum of 6 weeks.   After 6 weeks you may remove bulbs whenever you would like to plant them. Plant bulbs 8 weeks before you would like them to bloom.

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.

Are Onions the Cure-All for the Flu? Or an Evil Poison? The Horticulturist Weighs In…


This morning my husband sent me a message on Facebook about an article he found regarding onions:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=677200638996780&set=a.132484886801694.34454.126587470724769&type=1

As a person that has had more microbiology, mycology, plant pathology, and cytology classes than the average person, this article reeked from the get-go! As I read how the author of this post frequently interchanged “virus” and “bacteria”, the rhetoric that had been pounded into me by my profs made me twitch.

I then read through the comments and just about flipped in my scientific glory. For every person that said, “this is messed up”, there seemed to be 10 that said, “ooooh, I need to go put an onion in my room”.

Seriously?

I quickly texted my husband a garbled rant of a response quickly detailing the obvious points. He is not from a science background, but even he had somewhat smelled a rat and forwarded it on to me for further verification.

So, of course, I had to share it on my personal Facebook wall with the epitaph: Lies! LIES! LIES! And why do I say that?  Well, let your good old friend, the bored-cuz-it’s-winter horticulturist tell you why:

1. The use of the words “flu virus” and “bacteria” as interchangeable phrases. BIG difference between the two! Anybody that knows anything (like a doctor) would know the difference!

A virus is an inert capsule of protein that contains genetic material. A virus cannot reproduce on its own and must infect a living cell to grow.  Once a virus has infected a living host cell, it begins to direct the function of the ribosomes, enzymes, and other host cellular organelles to begin to perform the functions necessary to produce viral particles. Once many viral progeny (singlular: virion) are produced, it rips open the host cell and each virion will infect a new host cell.

Bacteria are independent, 1-celled organisms that live on their own.  They can multiply and reproduce via a division processes called binary fission, budding, intracellular offspring development, and baeocytes.

2. This “doctor” made history. Really, he would have had to make groundbreaking, scientific history because a virus cannot be seen with a typical microscope that he would have had in his office in 1919 — they are just way too small! The first time a virus was seen was in 1931 with an electron microscope (not an instrument found in a common doctor’s office).

3. Onions will not kill germs in the room and make it fresh and clean. That just doesn’t jive with how germs work. Viral, fungal, and bacterial germs work by coming in you coming in contact with the infected person. If you touch them or get their spit/mucus/other body fluids on you, and you touch your infected area to your eyes, nose, or mouth, then you get sick. Or you can breath in the plasmatized secretions from a cough, sneeze, or vomit. Onions don’t filter air or somehow suck it in. Germs can’t flap their little imaginary wings and go to the onion. While the cut surface of an onion can kill what directly falls on it, it just has no way to filter the room. This is an old wive’s tale that started compliments of “Chambers’ Journal” in 1900. Did I mention that by 1900, Chambers’ Journal was known for serialized fiction. FICTION! Well, that explains a lot…

4. Wearing garlic or onions is not going to keep you healthy and prevent illness. Eating it will. However, if you do decided to wear it, you will likely remain healthy because no one will come near you!

5. An onion will turn black overnight if left next to a sick person? The only way that would happen is if you wear your shoes in your home or you have indoor pets. Call this “a sign that your house needs a REALLY good cleaning” because it is full of Aspergillus niger, a fungus that can cause aspergillosis (a serious lung disease) and otomycosis (fungal ear infection). Aspergillus niger tends to grow on onions because it takes the onion’s sulfuric compounds and breaks them down with alpha-galactosidase (a type of enzyme). Most bacteria and fungi cannot do that. And no, as stated before, an onion will not act like a sponge to absorb all the Aspergillus niger from your room. What gets there does so by randomly landing on the onion.  You need to leave your shoes at the door and not be a slob and clean your house. Keep in mind that Aspergillus niger is commonly found in floor, carpet and mattress dust; upholstered-furniture dust; pet dander; humidifier water; shoes; unlaundered clothes that have been worn outside; bird droppings; and potted plant soil.

Interesting note: Aspergillus niger is often used as a ‘challenge organism’ for cleaning validation studies performed within sterile manufacturing facilities.

6. Mayo. Ha! Do a little searching on Google and you will find that Mike Mullins, the brother of Ed that gave the tour and owner of Mullins Food Products, had to make a public statement in 2008 after a person named “Zola Gorgon” (real name: Sarah McCann, who made her name ‘cute’ so it was like Gorgonzola cheese) wrote a story on her blog, “Dinner with Zola” about her tour of their facility. McCann made her lack of memory and scientific understanding obvious with the way she botched the info she learned on the tour:

Mike Mullin’s Statement:
“There is some truth to the story, but the two examples from the plant tour look to have been combined and confused…. Quite a few food poisonings have been traced back to onion contaminations, and we throw out chopped onions after 10 days even though we cook any onions we use in our facility. The stories were used as examples for “old wives tales” for various foods.”  (Quote courtesy of Mullins Food Products.)

Fear of food poisoning from onions occurs at 10 DAYS AFTER CUTTING IT? Ya think?  I know from my own fridge that if a cut onion gets behind something and lost, after 7 days it is mushy, so this statement says A LOT!!! (Note to self: never buy food from Mullins Food Products.)  The horticulturists’s rule of thumb: use it in 3 days or compost it!

If that’s not enough, Kimberly Reddin of the National Onion Association, issued this statement:

NATIONAL ONION ASSOCIATION
822 7th
Street, Suite 510
Greeley, Colorado 80631
970-353-5895
FAX 970-353-5897
Dear Concerned Consumer,
An article circulating on the Internet claims cut onions and potatoes are responsible for more food poisoning than spoiled mayonnaise. Sarah McCann wrote the article under thepen name Zola Gorgon. The article was posted in March, 2008 at McCann’s website http://www.dinnerwithzola.com after she toured Mullins Food Products facility.
There is not any scientific basis that cut onions are a magnet for bacteria. According to the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, juice released from cut onion is known to kill or inhibit the growth of several types of microorganisms, including somecapable of causing human illnesses.
When cut, onions release compounds that do not promote pathogen growth. This is the same compound that causes our eyes to produce tears. When handled properly, cut onions can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 7 days.
The claim about onions in the article by McCann has caused a great deal of concern.  Please pass the word along to your family and friends that onions can be enjoyed when handled properly.
Thanks again,
Kimberly Reddin
Director of Public and Industry Relations
National Onion Association”
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(i.e.: “Hey, Zola Gorgon/Sarah McCann, you are an idiot!”)

Also, while mayo isn’t necessarily the bad guy (because it is an acidic food), leaving any food out to get warm when it is supposed to be cool is going to allow a ton of Staphylococcus species to grow. Same for things that should be hot that are allow to sit for hours at room temperature.

Staphylococcus aureus (or Staph aureus) is a type of bacteria commonly found on the skin and hair as well as in the noses and throats of people and animals. How does it get into the food? Well, as you are lovingly preparing it, or when kitty or doggy hops up on the table to sniff it, or when you are serving yourself at the party, or when other people do the same, flakes of skin, dandruff from the head, or just breathing on it it will transfer the Staphylococcus to the food.

Staphylococcus can cause food poisoning when a food handler contaminates food and then the food is not properly refrigerated. Other sources of food contamination include the equipment and surfaces on which food is prepared. These bacteria multiply quickly at room temperature to produce a toxin that causes illness. Staphylococcus is killed by cooking and pasteurization.

And if you are like my mother, you will say that you don’t have it because you are clean. 25% of healthy people have it as part of their ‘ambiance’ and the number jumps to 80% if you are compromised by any disease or condition.

Next time you are at a pot luck, keep that one in mind…

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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.