Category Archives: Home & Garden

Planting Artichokes

Native to the Mediterranean region, the globe artichoke is finding increasing popularity among gardeners in the damp mild coastal regions of this country. Generally three to five feet tall, this coarse, herbaceous perennial has large, lobed leaves to three feet long and good-sized heads that take on a violet shade as they ripen. The base of the scales of the unripe flower head, along with the bottom part of the artichoke, is eaten either cooked or raw.

Artichokes are best planted as started seedlings in trenches eight inches deep, lined with one inch of compost or rotted manure. While it does best in rich sandy loam, the artichoke will grow on any kind of soil, so long as it is trenched, pulverized and well manured. Plant roots five to six inches below the surface, cover with soil and tamp firmly. When plants are six inches tall, mulch heavily to preserve moisture. Cut away all but six of the suckers that develop at the base when plant reaches eight inches and transplant the suckers to make a new row. Plant these singly two feet apart, in rows at least four feet apart, or in groups of three in triangles, at least four feet apart in the row. Protect the young suckers with hot caps, evergreen boughs or some other protecting material. Cut plants back to the ground in fall. In cool areas, protect through the winter with an inverted bushel basket with leaves.

During dry weather furnish artichokes with copious amounts of manure water or compost tea. Deep, thorough watering is best, followed by a liberal mulching of half-rotted manure between the rows.

Crops are produced in spring in warmer areas; in summer farther north. Halfway through the growing season, apply a small handful of fertilizer around the base of each plant, and repeat after harvest. When harvesting, cut with one inch of stem. The preferred method of preparing artichokes is to harvest a head while still green and unopened, when it is about the size of an orange. Heads are placed in a pot of cold water, salted and cooked for 45 minutes after the water has begun to boil. Individual leaves are then picked off and eaten one by one, starting at the outside. The thickened bottom portion of the leaf is dipped in melted butter or basil vinaigrette and its fleshy part stripped between the teeth. When all the leaves have been eaten and the hairy “choke” at the heart removed, the meaty and delicious artichoke heart—the best part of the plant—reveals itself.

The variety most commonly grown in this country is large Green Globe, which normally buds in its second year.

Although it bears a slight resemblance in taste, the globe artichoke is completely unrelated to the Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthustuberosus), a North American sunflower.

Bird Watching

The interest in watching birds and attracting them to the garden has grown enormously in recent years. Their beauty, song and active behavior make birds the most conspicuous form of wildlife that lives in close proximity to man. Their exuberant presence can transform the garden from a collection of plants into a lively community of interrelated life forms. They satisfy a human need for close contact with the wild things that share the planet with us. Organic gardeners value birds highly in their role as efficient predators of insects. A varied population of resident birds will help to control insect pests. Bird and insect populations tend to balance each other out, and birds will disappear from gardens that are doused with pesticides and herbicides at every appearance of aphid and dandelion. The slate gray berries of the juniper will satisfy the appetites of some birds which might otherwise turn to the garden for food. Organic gardeners are accustomed to thinking of pests in terms of balanced control rather than overkill, and they have taken an important first step in making their gardens attractive to birds by refusing to use these poisons. The birds will increase its number and variety if a few other requirements are met.

Birds have three basic needs for survival-food, water and cover. A well-stocked feeder can increase the garden’s bird population dramatically in winter, and a birdbath can be a busy center of activity during the heat of summer. These two amenities in combination with plantings attractive to birds as nesting site, shelter and sources of food will help to insure a year-round population of birds in the garden.

Planting for Birds

In the wild, more species of birds will be found in the brushy area where woods and fields meet than will be found in the interior of either the woods or fields themselves. Ecologists call this phenomenon “edge effect,” and when it can be duplicated on the home grounds, a greater variety of birds will be encouraged to take up residence there. One way to accomplish this is by surrounding the lawn with a thick border of fruiting trees and shrubs. The wider and more varied in content the border is, the better, but even a narrow boundary hedge can make a garden more appealing to some birds. A gradation of heights in the planting will make it more aesthetically pleasing and more attractive to more species of birds. Some birds, robins among them, forage on the lawn; others like catbirds and mocking-birds prefer to nest in dense shrubbery; and still others such as orioles spend most of their time in tall trees. The outer edges of the planting might be framed by tall shade trees, grading down to small fruiting trees and tall shrubs faced in turn by lower shrubs around the center of the lawn, which should be kept as open as possible so the birds can be seen. Evergreens should be included in the border because of their value as year-round cover. Mass them where a permanent screen is wanted, or where they can serve as a windbreak for the garden and house. This kind of mass border when lawn planting will provide birds with an abundance of nesting sites, a variety of habitats, ample shelter, and food in the form of insects, seeds and fruit. It can be installed over a period of years as the budget permits, and will amuse its owner with little work once established.

Bird gardens are of necessity low-maintenance gardens because birds prefer things tone as natural as possible. Converting large areas of lawn into islands and borders of shrubbery cuts down on the monotonous chore of grass mowing. The shrubs and trees in the bird garden might be pruned occasionally to induce formation of forks and crotches that can support nests, but they should be allowed to grow together, thicket fashion, to some extent. Close dipping of fruiting shrubs should be avoided because it reduces berry production. Use the pruning as pea stakes in the vegetable garden, or to make a brush pile in some out-of-the-way corner. Brush piles are attractive to ground-dwelling birds as resting and feeding areas. Bramble fruits can be planted around them to form dense thickets which are the preferred nesting sites of several species. Leaves which fall in the shrub borders should not be raked up. Leaf litter harbors many insects and is a rich foraging area for birds, and it will slowly decay into leaf mold, which is the only fertilizer the shrubbery will need. Many common weeds will furnish valuable seeds for birds. The common annuals lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium) and pigweed (Amaranthus) produce highly nutritious seeds favored by many species. The plants can be cut in fall, tied in shocks and placed near feeders or among shrubs so birds have access to the seeds in winter. The purple black berries of pokeweed are eaten by 28 species of birds. This plant can make a showy addition to the shrub border. Gardeners may rebel at allowing such pests as ragweed and poison ivy to get established in the garden, but both are excellent bird food plants. Garden flowers are most closely associated with hummingbirds, but many will provide food for other birds if allowed to ripen their seeds. The colorful small-seeded sunflowers, cosmos, China asters, marigolds, and zinnias are especially good.

Even though a planting devoted to birds should be kept as casual and wild as possible, it should be as carefully planned as any other major landscaping project. There are limits to the amount of actual jungle that can be tolerated, especially on small suburban properties where there are usually finicky neighbors to contend with. Make a scale drawing of the area to be planted, and lay out the planting on paper before anything is put in the ground. While it is true that a great variety of plant material means a great variety of birds, don’t overdo it by planting one each of two dozen different shrubs at random around the garden. Try to group at least three shrubs of each species together, and repeat the groups at various places in the border. This will insure good cross-pollination and fruit set, and will make the border more pleasing to the eye by giving it a pattern. Choose plants that fruit at different times so food is available most of the year. A limited list of proven bird attractors follows.

If there are no natural sources of water in the vicinity, a well-placed birdbath will add treatly to the attractiveness of the garden for birds. Almost any wide, shallow container with rough interior surface, gradually sloping sides, and a maximum depth of three inches will do. Place the birdbath out in the open away from shrubbery which might hide lurking cats. A waterlogged bird is a clumsy flier and makes easy prey. Where cats are a problem, a pedestal-type bath is best. Otherwise, a naturalistic bath can be made by scraping a depression in the ground and lining it with concrete. The gleam and sound of dripping water will attract more birds. A hose can be suspended from overhead tree branches and turned on just enough to provide a slow, steady drip, or a bucket with a pinhole in the bottom can be hung over the bath. Make the hole very small initially; it can always be enlarged if desired. The bucket can be camouflaged with bark, and it should be covered to prevent debris and birds from falling in. During warm weather, a popular bath may need a daily refilling and a weekly scrubbing with a stiff brush to remove algae. It can be interesting to watch the elaborate preening ritual birds go through after bathing. Keep them in view while they do this by placing a few dead branches near the bath for them to perch on.

Attracted by the garden insects, eastern bluebirds will nest in the hollows of nearby trees or in homemade birdhouses nailed to fence posts.

Great migrations of birds to and from their breeding grounds take place in spring and fall. The well-planted bird garden can be a welcome resting and feeding place for tired migrants during these seasons, and the sedentary gardener busy with his own seasonal routines can sense the wonder of this continent-spanning flow of life as he watches them come and go. Many northern birds looking for a good place to spend the winter appear in fall. These winter visitors together with the resident birds can make the garden a lively place all season if food is provided to keep them around. Feeder-watching can be one of the greatest pleasures of dreary winter days, and it is a good way of becoming familiar with birds. The lure of a reliable food source overcomes their instinctive wariness and brings them out in the open where they can be easily seen. The birds may become dependent on the feeder once natural food sources are used up, so if you start feeding, don’t stop until winter is over. Any of the commercial wild bird feed mixes or fine cracked corn and sunflower seed will satisfy the seed eaters. Suet and peanut butter will attract additional species.

Root Pruning

Root pruning is practiced to encourage the development of fibrous roots which are the plants’ suppliers of food and water. Plants that are being readied for transplanting or that need invigorating, and trees whose roots are over-taking gardens, lawns and paths are often root pruned.

When fruit trees consistently fail to set fruit, though all other conditions are favorable, the grower may resort to root pruning. In the fall a trench about two feet deep and six feet from the trunk is dug around the tree. The trench exposes the big anchor roots for cutting. If no big roots are found, there is very likely a wild taproot that must be located and cut. Any ornamental tree that has spread its roots out into areas where they are not wanted can be treated in the same way. A metal or cement barrier set in the trench will prevent subsequent spread.

When planning to move a deciduous shrub, it’s a good idea to prune its roots by forcing a sharp spade into the soil during the summer. In response to the pruning, the plant will develop more roots and so become easier to take up fall. Sometimes judicious root pruning force a recalcitrant flowering shrub into a system of root pruning and sometimes used to keep tub plants small.

In the nursery, trees and shrubs are lifted several times or planted wide apart, roots pruned regularly until they are sold. These methods force trees and shrubs to mass of fibrous roots rather than a few wide-spreading ones that would make it difficult to move and establish successful nurseries, special machines are used to roots under as well as around the plant.

Planting Clematis

The many clematis species and hybrids are not as popular in America as they are in Great Britain and parts of Europe, yet if the plants shown at our great spring flower shows are a criterion, they certainly are not to be neglected here. About 230 species are widely distributed throughout the temperate regions of the world. One hundred species and hybrid varieties are being commercially grown in America and probably nearly twice that number are offered in Europe. One English nurseryman alone lists 130.

Clematis is native chiefly in the northern temperate regions of the world. Three of the American species are excellent garden plants and from Europe are likewise important, but in the following list it will be noted that to species and botanical varieties which are natives of Asia also make good ornamentals. It is the large-flowered hybrids which seem to capture the public fancy, and it is these which are forced for display purposes in the shows. There are of course herbaceous species as well as woody species.

Although the first man-made hybrid was probably made in 1830, it was not until about 1858 that the first large-flowered hybrid of C. lanziginosa originated (C. x jackmanii), and this started many an enthusiastic hybridizer in his efforts to obtain large-flowering varieties. Although a century has elapsed since growers first became interested in the hybrids, we do have fairly accurate records of where and when these originated. These vines are frequently not the easiest to grow properly. They need an alkaline or limestone soil, some shade, and frequently they respond well if in some way the lower parts of the stems are protected from breakage and mechanical injury. It is at this point that disease frequently enters the plants, and when injury does occur, disease enters and is often quickly followed by destruction of the plant.

The leaf stalks act as tendrils in clinging to supports. Clematis flowers have no true petals. It is the large, brilliant-colored sepals which are so interesting. Actually, some of those species and varieties with medium-sized to small flowers make the best general ornamentals. Clematis paniculata, C. montana rubens, C. texensis are all in this class, as is the variety ‘Huldine’ with 4 whitish sepals and an over-all dia. of about 4 in. A poorly grown plant of ‘Nellie Moser’ may have flowers only 4 in. across, whereas, one that is well grown would have flowers twice that size. Clematis climb by attaching their leaf stalks about the means of support. They have opposite, usually compound, leaves, with either solitary flowers or flowers in clusters.

Clematis Propagation

The behavior of seed is variable. It may be stored dry in airtight containers in a cool place for up to a year and then processed. If in doubt concerning its behavior, stratify for 3 months at 40° F., then sow. Softwood cuttings usually root well, best taken from young shoots in the greenhouse in Jan. or Feb. Sometimes the large-flowered hybrids are grafted or layered, but own rooted plan always preferable to others.

How to Make a Greenhouse

Traditionally defined as any glass building or adjoining structure which contains plants, today’s greenhouse comes in a variety of sizes, shapes and compositions.

There are several advantages that all-year gardening greenhouses afford. Summer and fall crops yields can be stretched one season longer often through the otherwise deadly winter season. Gardeners also use their greenhouses to gain a head start on springtime planting.

Frosts, blizzards, heat waves, and other weather can be virtually ignored behind the greenhouse windows and walls. Tending fresh fruits, vegetables and ornamental flowers throughout the year is considered by many doctors to be a tranquilizer for daily stress and work tension.

Greenhouses today fall into several general attached (units adjoining the house, window box, basement, patio, or sun-porch greenhouses) or freestanding (full-sized units separate from the house, either above or partially below grade).

Attached Greenhouse

The gardener seeking to minimize construction and maintenance, and possibly even capture some heat for the house, may find that an attached greenhouse is more suitable than a freestanding be most effective, a south wall of the house could be chosen for this type of greenhouse. The spot should not be heavily shaded by trees or other buildings, but it should be protected from strong winds that could chill the greenhouse and possibly weaken it structurally. Greenhouse designers and builders agree that the most efficient use of space and solar heat gain can be obtained by making the length of an attached house about twice as great as its width.

Supplemental heating can be minimized—or eliminated entirely—by taking advantage of some features that are being incorporated into new solar and energy-efficient houses, namely, the use of multiple-layer glazing; nighttime insulating shutters, curtains and shades; and the addition of thermal mass, such as concrete, stone, or brick floors and house walls and rock-filled containers to store solar heat during the night and on cloudy days.

A truly efficient attached greenhouse can actually provide heat for the house in winter. Vents near the floor allow cool house air to enter the greenhouse, where it is warmed and then circulated back into the house by means of another vent near the ceiling of the greenhouse. Since warm air naturally rises, no fan is necessary in many instances to move this air. Such venting not only helps to warm the house, but it also permits good air glow throughout the greenhouse, raises the humidity of the house and distributes plant-loving carbon dioxide from the house to the greenhouse. Of course, vents to the house should be closed during the summer months, and vents from the greenhouse to the outdoors should be opened during this time so that neither the house nor the greenhouse gets overheated.

Although space in the attached greenhouse id limited by the upright building wall, every inch can be put to work by the use of plant benches, ground beds, eave shelves, ledges, and hanging baskets. Straight sides accommodate eave shelves better too, and they provide better ventilation and temperature control. The straight-sided houses are somewhat more expensive, however, because there is more glass area. On the other hand, slanting sides capture more sunshine.

Window Greenhouse

This variety is one of several “mini-greenhouses” designed to produce healthy flowers and herbs at a low cost. Window greenhouses are also used for starting seed in winter and spring before transplanting into the outdoor garden.

Almost any window opening into the house can be use for these small conservatories attached to a windowsill and framing. For gardeners planning to use the window greenhouse year-round, a southeast-facing window is recommended. This direction will obtain ample sunlight even in winter. Small heating units which fit into the window extension, or heating cables, may be used to keep the greenhouse sufficiently warm and insulating shutters or shades can be pulled over the glass at night.

Basement Greenhouse

From the outside a basement greenhouse looks like a sloping cold frame built against the foundation. Inside, it is an alcove in the cellar wall, and a concrete floor raised above the basement floor. Like the foundation, it is built of concrete blocks.

The floor should be at least 3.5 feet above the basement floor because of the sharp angle for the midwinter sun. The foundation wall in front should be about two inches higher than the greenhouse floor to prevent water from running out on the cellar floor to prevent water from running out on the cellar floor.

A shelf placed beneath the glass at one end is used for sun-loving plants and can be duplicated at the other end. The greenhouse should face south, southeast or southwest. With only one hot air vent in the basement, the temperature should stay between 55 and 60 °F (12.78 and 15.56 °C).

Freestanding Greenhouse

To many people, the freestanding greenhouses offer distinct advantages. Most of these greenhouses can catch sunlight from every direction, and they are more adaptable for ground beds. The more energy-efficient free-standing greenhouses have north walls built into a hillside.

The pit-type house, except for sever sub-zero (F.) weather, is sun heated. The only additional heat needed under conditions of extreme cold is usually a 200-watt electric light bulb or a small electric heater. Temperatures in the pit-type house make daily watering unnecessary. Usually only the south side is glassed in, and this is set at a 45-degree angle to admit the most sunshine. Ordinary hotbed sashes can be used.

To add warmth to the pit house, the ends and unglazed side should be double walled with about 31/2 inches of insulating material between. Doors and ventilators should also be insulated. After sunset, the glassed areas should be covered with padding or another insulated covering. When pads are used to cover the sashes, tarpaulins are rolled down over them to keep them dry. Wet padding makes poor insulation.

The Dutch door is best for the pit house because the upper half can be opened for ventilation during the winter. The door should be at the east end of the house to be better protected from prevailing cold westerly winds. A ventilating window can be placed at the west end. This is most important in the pit green-house. It should be open during the warmest hours of every day. Some pit houses use sky-light openings on the top of the unglazed side for ventilation.

Greenhouse Location

Choosing the best greenhouse site is an important step requiring several considerations. Convenience, accessibility, yard space, and general land conditions are variables to consider. Attached greenhouses enable the gardener to enter the greenhouse quickly and easily through adjoining, enclosed entrances. They best suit gardeners with little yard space, but with sunlit base—windows and sills suitable for a house “box,” or enclosed porches.

Contrary to popular belief, the precise direction in which a greenhouse faces is not a crucial consideration. Some plants in attached greenhouses grow best in a southern, southeastern or exposure, in that order. Western provides ample sunlight but lack the shade needed in summer.

Greenhouse Construction Materials

Once the style and location of your future greenhouse selected, construction materials need to be chosen. Gardeners can select from plastic, fiberglass and glass materials.

Above Ground Greenhouses

These greenhouses are made with panels that can be put together with a driver, wrench and hammer. All the parts are furnished, cut to fit in place. The glass is cut to size and is not putty glazed. It goes into glass grooves in the sash and is held weather tight with a special caulking rope.

While the prices for the materials for a prefabricated greenhouse are higher than parts such as glazing bars, sills, eaves, ridge and fittings of a conventional-type greenhouse, the time they save in labor greatly offsets difference.

Greenhouses with polyethylene film or plastic instead of glass are becoming popular for reasons of economy. They are light, so require less rigid supports, but they can rip in heavy winds and the constant exposure to strong sunlight causes them to deteriorate in a short as six months. Thin flexible films are best used as inner glazing only under thicker plastics or glass.

Fiberglass is another popular alternative in greenhouse construction. It is sturdy and transparent material, especially when coated with Tedlar. Fiberglass also makes a good heat insulator, retaining up to 70.8 times more hat than polyethylene film and some plastics. Fiberglass houses provide natural shade, even during intense sun exposure. Fiberglass has its shortcomings as well, however. It is highly flammable and often wears down reducing light transmission and increasing dust and don’t break as easily.

Rigid acrylics come closest to resembling glass, but they are easier to work with because they are five times lighter than glass and don’t break easily.

Glass has a tendency to turn brittle and crack, and while it is good-looking and clean, it is a difficult material for do-it-yourselfers to work with.

Greenhouse Foundation

The walls below the sills of the greenhouse are the hardest part to build. Masonry walls are best because they are more permanent than those of wood. They also offer some thermal mass for heat retention. Poured concrete, brick, cut stone or cinder blocks may be used. Cinder blocks provide the easiest means of building a wall. For appearance’s sake, the outside can be coated with stucco and painted. The attractiveness of a greenhouse depends a great deal upon its walls, for this is the largest solid area.

If you live in the northern United States, the walls of a prefabricated greenhouse should extend below the freezing line. This would be about 21/2 feet in most areas but may be less in the southern states and more in the far North. The footings below the ground can be of poured concrete and gravel. A conventional-type greenhouse is built with steel posts set on footings and encased in piers that extend below grade. The side walls need only go down to solid ground, a few inches below the grade.

After the greenhouse has been selected, located and constructed, the continual task of greenhouse management begins. Managing the greenhouse can be divided into two categories: controlling of the greenhouse climate and handling of the plants.

Greenhouse Heating and Cooling

In areas that seldom get colder than 20°F (— 6.67°C), more traditional greenhouses may need only an electric heater. The heater is inexpensive and can come equipped with an automatic thermostat to turn on the heating element and fan.

For colder environments, gas or hot-water heating systems arc necessary in traditional greenhouses. A no-vent gas unit for heating is highly recommended by many gardeners, since it creates no noxious fumes and costs a few hundred dollars. Coal or wood-burning furnaces can also be used to heat greenhouses.

Some suggestions for conserving fuel include keeping the greenhouse as airtight as possible; using two outside doors and having one serve as a storm door; using mulch to insulate and retain heat; installing heavy-gauge aluminum foil between the heat source and the outside wall to reflect and retain heat; and planting a windbreak of trees and shrubs nearby to retain heat and protect against wind turbulence.

The most important companion to any greenhouse heating system is ventilation. With-out fans to circulate air, the greenhouse temperature can vary from 45°F (7.22°C) on the ground, to over 90°F (32.22°C) nearby in winter. Mount the fan so that it is away from the heat source. This way, warmer air will mix with cool air and pick up moisture in the process. Proper air circulation is an important safeguard against plant infections, since it reduces fungus and mildew buildup.

Shade must be provided during summer months in the greenhouse, in order to grow plants which cannot be set outside. Bamboo or slatted matting may be spread over the glass or whitewashed.

Excessive humidity invites plant diseases and decreased fruit and flower production. Insufficient humidity in the greenhouse hastens development of flowers and fruit at the expense of leaf growth. To increase humidity, the gardener can install mist systems, plastic sheets or glass panes over seed flats or benches.

Handling of Greenhouse Plants

In caring for your plants, try to simulate all conditions favorable to the plants growth and development needs. If this demands a period of rest in the garden, a period should be allowed in the greenhouse. Sun, shade and soil requirements outdoors should be duplicated as much as possible in the greenhouse.

Soil

Concocting the proper soil mixtures is another important requirement for the successful greenhouse gardener. Good soil is an investment in the well-being of greenhouse crops, and it should be well fertilized and cultivated for that reason. Rich topsoil with living organisms, dead organic matter is best for hardy plant growth. Medium-texture soils, rather than fine or coarse compositions, are best for holding moisture, air and soil nutrients. Adding organic matter to sandy soils improves water and mineral retention, as well as helping loosen clay soils.

For most greenhouses, a loam soil is recommended, because of its good drainage and aeration. Greenhouse soils today are often mixes, high in organic matter content. A good mix for bench or potted plants is two parts topsoil, one part sphagnum peat moss and one part sand. Your soil mixture should always be kept fairly moist, in order to sustain the living organisms inside.

Many fertilizers and additives offer vital nutrition to organic matter in greenhouse soils. Poultry and rabbit manures are packed with nitrogen, phosphorus and humus. Both are applied at the rate of eight to ten pounds per 100 square feet of bench planting space. Sheep, cow and horse manures are organic fertilizers which add humus and make good soil conditioners.

Bone meal is a slow-releasing plant fertilizer. The steamed variety breaks down quicker for plant nutrition than raw bone meal.

Lime and wood ashes help neutralize highly acidic soils. Sawdust and wood chips complement successful potted plant propagation. The chips repel snails and provide good drainage.

Peat moss, which puts humus into the soil and holds nutrients particularly well, makes a fine soil conditioner, rather than a fertilizer. Moisten peat thoroughly before mixing into the soil. (Dry peat often resists water absorption.)

Gypsum conditions and alkalizes green-house soils. It also offers calcium to plants and indirectly to gardeners who harvest and eat them.

Vermiculite and perlite lighten dense soil and help start plant cuttings or seed. Fertilizers and plant nutrients are added after roots are established in either medium.

The salt concentration and pH level of soils must be watched carefully in the greenhouse, the state agricultural extension service will check field soil for high salt or pH levels, which can damage plant roots, cause wilting, or slow plant cutting or seedling growth. Loosening the soul and thorough watering help dissolve high concentrations.

Watering

Greenhouse gardens should be watered in the mornings of sunny days. Water should be supplied sparingly to minimize the dangers of fungus. Watering should be thorough. Watering should be withheld, if possible, in cloudy weather, since these conditions make evaporation slow and fungus spores cannot be destroyed as well as they can by hot sun rays.

Here are still more tips on proper watering in the greenhouse:

  1. Try to avoid ice-cold water. Room temperature water is preferred by most greenhouse plants.
  2. Water can run freely over the bench or tub, but be sure that roots are not left soaking.
  3. Keep soil loose for good drainage. Organic matter and sandy loam make the soil healthy and properly drained.
  4. Water plants less in winter, especially those that go into dormancy during cool weather. Their need for water decreases at these times.
  5. Avoid water softened with a commercial water softener. This water contains chemicals harmful to plants. Flushing salty or hard water usually prevents salt buildup.

Insect and Disease Control

In handling plant life in the greenhouse, special care and attention must be given to prevention of pest and disease infestation. Insects and diseases which commonly plague greenhouse crops are easy to control through the use of good-quality, clean seed and plants, in addition to the maintenance of an overall sanitary growing environment. Insects, bacteria, viruses, and fungi which thrive in “hothouse climates” can be battled by following these simple sanitation tips:

  1. Remove diseased and dead plants; keep them far from the greenhouse.
  2. Prevent wild weed growth near the greenhouse. Such growth attracts insects and promotes disease.
  3. Keep the greenhouse neat and free of plant clutter.
  4. Be certain that new plants introduced into the greenhouse don’t harbor new germs and pests.
  5. Start seed, roots and cuttings in soilless mediums. Sterile perlite, vermiculite and peat moss are commended for controlling seedling and cutting diseases.
  6. Provide proper greenhouse ventilation.
  7. Finally, avoid soaking foliage when watering. Also avoid over watering or over fertilizing greenhouse plants.

The organic greenhouse gardener can turn to several safe insect controls, dusts and sprays for disease outbreaks, especially those in the beginning stages. Commercially available controls include sabadilla, rotenone, pyrethrum, and nicotine sulfate. Many gardeners develop their own recipes for homemade pest or disease control.

Not all greenhouse or garden insects are enemies to the propagation of healthy plants, however. Ladybugs, praying mantis, lacewings, spiders, and horse hair snakes are among the many winged or crawling “comrades” in the garden who eat harmful insects.

Cool Greenhouse

In cool temperature and organic soil, bulbs such as tulips, Dutch Iris, Lilies, Daffodils, Hyacinths, Ranunculus, and Anemones are easy to grow and give fine blooms. Lettuce, radishes, Swiss chard, kale, and scallions do very well as do carrots, cauliflower, peas, red and green cabbage, and beets, if you have the extra space they require. Many herbs thrive in the cool greenhouse. A few pots or boxes of rue, sage, mint, marjoram, parsley, chives, and the like will provide garnishes for winter meals.

Farm Greenhouse

While it costs almost twice as much to bring the home greenhouse up to moderate or warm temperatures in comparison with a cool house, many exciting plants can be grown that make it worthwhile. Orchids are among them. With a collection of 75 plants of different varieties, it is nice to have something in bloom every part of the year. Cymbidiums will keep as long as three months. Insects are not a serious problem. Orchids can be grown in greenhouse where it is possible to maintain even temperature and keep the atmosphere fresh and healthy.

Other flowers and plants that do well in moderate to warm greenhouse include amaryllis, azaleas, begonias, ferns and tropical foliage plants, bougainvillea, cactus and gardenias. Tomatoes, cucumbers and melons can also be grown in the warm greenhouse where temperatures are at least 60°F at night.

Beekeeping

Most people who know little about bees assume that hives have to be kept in the country where there is plenty of open space and much vegetation. While such settings are ideal, bees can be kept in much less likely places as well. Suburban backyards are usually fine (provided local laws permit and neighbors don’t mind), and even some protected small-city rooftops can be suitable for a few beehives.

If you’re interested in learning more about the how-to’s of beekeeping, here’s a short course, but it is suggested that you follow up the subject by pursuing some outside sources.

Cultures as well as many books on the subject offer beginners sound information and advice. There are on-campus and correspondence courses at most state universities, and meeting of local and state beekeepers are good places for beginners to learn some tips. Don’t neglect to visit—and learn from—experienced beekeepers in your own community.

To get started you’ll need some basic equipment, namely, a hive consisting of one or more standard (deep) boxes or supers and possibly one or more shallow supers. Each super holds ten frames, and inside each frame a thin sheet of beeswax, called foundation, on which bees build their comb. You’ll also want to buy a bottom board on which the hive stands and an inner and outer cover. Smokers to calm the bees, a hive tool to pry open the hives and separate the frames, gloves, and a hat to complete the basic equipment.

Other equipment includes bee escapes, which permit bees to exit, but not reenter supers of honey where they are not wanted; a queen excluder, which prevents queens but not worker bees from going from one super to another; a wiring board, used to embed wire in sheets of foundation to give them support; feeders that are used to feed bees honey or syrup when their own supplies run out; an extractor to remove honey from the combs; and a capping knife to slice the top layer of beeswax from the comb and release the honey.

Of course, you’ll also need bees. You can get yours by catching a swarm of wild bees or by buying packaged bees through bee supply houses. For the beginner, packaged bees are easier and safer to handle. They usually come in a three, four, five, or six-pound package that will, in a short time, grow into a bursting, energetic 85,000 bee colony. Packages arrive with a queen inside in her own apartment, and since you must transfer them at once, you need to have ready a large, empty hive in advance. Bees should be ordered in late winter so that they will arrive in early spring and have time to get established before the major honey flow begins in late June or early July.

Although there are many races of bees, the three most popular among American bee-keepers are Italian, Caucasian and Carniola bees. Italian bees are generally recommended for the beginner because they are relatively easy to work and produce good amounts of honey. They don’t produce a great amount of propolis, which can glue up the inside of hives, and seem to withstand cold well. Italians are also relatively resistant to European foulbrood, an infectious disease of bees.

You must decide on whether you want to make section (comb) honey, or extracted honey. If you choose the latter, you will need an extractor and a few additional items of equipment. Extracted honey has many advantages over comb honey. It is easier to store; easier to use in cooking; there is no wax when you eat it; and you reuse the combs in which the bees store honey as only the caps are cutoff and the honey is expelled by the centrifugal force of the extractor.

Guide to Beekeeping

Here is a method of beekeeping that is especially suitable for the small diversified enterprise that may well include gardening, fruit growing, poultry, or any other line of endeavor now practiced by millions of homeowners on relatively small holdings.

The secret is to make two standard full-depth hive bodies the home of the bees the year around. Package bees are first hived in a single full-depth body; as soon as they fill it, the second is added. Two full-depth bodies give the bees abundant room, allow them to store honey enough for their own use so that feeding should never be necessary and help prevent swarming (when a queen leaves the hive with a band of workers to start a new colony). All the complicated manipulation described in some methods is done away with. The beginner may open his hives and study his bees if he wishes, or they will do very well with no more attention than is advised in the description of seasonal operation.

Bees should be checked at midday when it is warm and the sun is bright. At this time there is good flight to and from the colony, most bees are foraging and the beekeeper will find it easier to inspect the colonies.

Light-colored, smooth-finished materials should be worn when inspecting the colonies. Rough materials irritate bees, causing them to sting more readily. The face and ankles most attract bees. A good veil and boots will protect the beekeeper against stings in these areas.

The procedure of seasonal operation, be-ginning in the spring of the year, for established colonies in two full-depth bodies, is as follows:

When settled warm weather arrives, the hives are opened to be sure that each colony has a laying queen, plenty of honey to use and is otherwise in normal condition. If an occasional colony seems short of food, honey is borrowed; that is, combs exchanged with one that has abundance. Bees should never, never be fed honey from a hive in which disease is even suspected, and many beekeepers prefer to feed sugar syrup to obviate against inter-colony spread of diseases.

If a colony has died, as one will once in awhile, the dead bees are brushed from the combs and the whole hive scraped and cleaned. These combs are then given to an extra strong colony, not only to protect the combs from wax moths, but to give the strong colony more room. The exception here is a colony that has been infected by American foulbrood (AFB), a dreaded killer, or another infectious disease. Such combs and frames are best burned and the inside of the hive bodies well scorched with a blowtorch before reusing.

Normal colonies in two full-depth hive bodies will need more room at about the second month of settled warm weather or at the start of some major bloom.

The standard beehive consists of several boxes or supers, each with ten frames on which the workers build their combs. The brood is hatched in the large bottom super while the smaller upper ones are used for storing honey. As the season progresses, more storage supers are added.

States this will be at the outset of clover bloom. For the purpose of easier handling it is best to use shallow supers for this extra room, although more full-depth bodies may be used if you are capable of heavy lifting. When filled with honey the shallow super weighs about 45 to 50 pounds, the full-depth body about 80 pounds.

The rule followed in giving extra room is to add one or more supers at any time that the colony shows signs of being crowded. The term “boiling over with bees” aptly describes a crowded colony, and extra room should be given before this stage becomes acute. If there any question of when extra room is needed, it is better to give it a week early than a week late. At least one of the major causes of swarming is a crowded condition within the hive, and by giving abundant room, swarming is reduced to a minimum. The occasional swarm that does develop may be hived if convenient, but if it does get away, don’t be too concerned.

As fall approaches, the honey gathered (that in the honey supers only—don’t take any from the bottom one or two brood chambers) should be removed and the hives gradually reduced to two full-depth bodies. It is important to remember that in this method honey is never removed from the two lower bodies. The success of the whole thing revolves around having a strong colony of bees in a large self-sustaining hive.

Location of Hives

Hives should be located on hive stands four to eight inches high in a protected area. Thus, bottom boards will not be in contact with the ground when it is damp, and grass growing in the area will not shade the hives. Weeds must be kept low in the vicinity of the hives.

Bees must always have fresh water; they use it to dilute food, feed larvae and cool the hives when too warm. If there is no fresh water source, like a pond, stream or spring, within a two-mile radius of the hives, you will have to supply water for your bees.

In all sections of the country, hives should be located out of prevailing winds. In the North they will usually need some extra protection for winter. If you are located in a section having severe winters, first, determine that the hive has abundant stores. Second, reduce the entrance to prevent mice from entering and to help keep out the cold. Finally, give added protection by first wrapping the hive in a mineral wool blanket and then capping that with tarred building paper.

In the desert areas of the western states it is too warm to place colonies directly in the sunlight. The beekeeper in these areas must construct a shaded area for the hives. It must be remembered that often colonies cannot obtain enough nectar and pollen in deserts and heavily wooded areas of the country to sustain themselves through the year. Mountainous areas do not have large foraging areas, but in certain cases one colony might survive.

Requeening

Some commercial and hobby beekeepers practice annual requeening and others only requeen hives which have failing queens.

Swarming is less of a problem when there is a young queen present in the colony. She produces more of the secretions that maintain social order and has a strong colony that can withstand disease. A young queen also lays more eggs and lays them earlier in the spring and later in the fall. The best time to requeen is in August. September is a satisfactory month, but at this time not all colonies will readily accept a new queen. The common method frequenting is to first find and kill the old queen. Second, place a queen cage with a young queen in the brood nest. In a day or two the young queen will be released by the bees. This method is not recommended for beginners and those not familiar with bee behavior.

The preferred method of requeening is to introduce a young queen into a nucleus colony in mid-July. The nucleus colony should contain one frame of brood and two or three frames of bees. Under these conditions the new queen is almost always accepted. The queen in the old colony can be found and killed around August 1.

Next, the old queen’s brood nest is covered with a single sheet of newspaper. The nucleus colony is placed on top of the sheet. Over this honey supers are placed. If there are too many bees in the supers, shake them out or place a second sheet of newspaper between the nucleus and honey supers. Colony odors will be the same and the young queen will be accepted by the time the sheet is chewed away.

The beekeeper must wait a week or two before placing a queen excluder in the colony. At this time the young queen may be success-fully driven into the lower brood chamber.

How to Build a Rooftop Garden

There are many reasons one can decide on building a rooftop garden, among them; location, ornamental purposes and for the use of social gatherings. For the person in areas that do not allow for gardens around the home because of limited or no space, rooftop gardens provide the perfect solution. They can be traced back to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and became popular in modern use with the rapid and extensive growth of high-rise buildings.

The best way to determine if your rooftop makes the perfect place for a garden is to study it at intervals throughout the day to ascertain how much sun and shade the area receives at any given time, be sure to document your findings on paper to make sure that you can revisit them when necessary.

Making Preparations for your Garden

When planning your garden, think of a theme that best suits you since you will have to buy the necessary containers to house your plants, clay based ceramic pots are a favorite. Some Terra cotta pots (which are also unglazed), are chosen because they are porous hence assist with proper drainage for plants that require this. Terra cotta pots can also help with achieving a Tuscan look; if unavailable try other containers or pots that are glazed with Mediterranean colors. For those who prefer a more contemporary feel, black and white is a suitable match.

Besides pots, window boxes, 6 to 7 inch masonry beds (built-in), 18-24 inch masonry retaining walls, terrace boxes (mainly made of cedar or redwood) starting at 18 inches deep and 4 to 5 feet wide can be used. Planters or tubs; including barrels, wooden cubes and structures made from concrete and fibre glass (for a more modern look) can also be used.

The next step is to decide on which flowers or plants you will grow. Based on the results of your observation you should have an idea of what you can or cannot grow based on the plants’ need for sunlight or shade, you can also start to plan what goes where. Do research on the flora chosen or get advice from persons at your local garden center. During this stage you can also decide whether to start from planting seeds or skip to bedding plants for a faster result.

Before you start planting, try arranging your containers on the roof to see how well your pattern suits your style or taste. Experiment with them to ensure that your final arrangement adds the level of interest and sophistication you want. The best look comes from placing them at different heights to create somewhat of a layered look. Natural materials like bricks (especially if in a color that compliments your garden) can be used for elevation.

Planting Stage

Once the planning and purchasing of everything needed is over, start planting. Be sure to use the necessary fertilizers and pest control methods, both can be store-bought or homemade, organic or chemical based. Many potting mixes can be used to ensure that soil is rich and balanced for each plant or greenery chosen. Be sure to find out how each operates in the different seasons and water as needed.

Planting Jerusalem Artichokes

The Jerusalem artichoke, a large, potato-shaped tuber, is characterized by its sweet nut-like flavor. Contrary to popular notion, it neither tastes nor looks like the green or globe artichoke, and is not even related to it botanically.

Jerusalem is actually a corruption of the Italian girasol, meaning “turning to the sun,” and this artichoke is really a prolific member of the Sunflower family.

Jerusalem Artichoke Culture

Jerusalem artichokes grow in almost any type of soil that gets a little sun-shine, including sandy soil. They are free from disease, highly productive and completely frost-hardy, but spread very rapidly, and unless cultivated with some care, will become trouble-some as weeds. For this reason, it is best to give them an out-of-the-way planting a reasonable distance from other vegetables or flowers. To check spreading, dig roots in late fall or early spring and thoroughly remove them.

Planting artichoke tubers is very much like planting potatoes, and is done from cut pieces each having a seed or “eye.” Unlike potatoes, this frost proof vegetable can be set out in the fall as well as early spring. A good location may be along the garden edge where the six-to eight-foot-tall artichokes won’t overshadow other plants. They are also useful where their screening effect and large, colorful blooms will improve the landscape. (Some grow to heights of a modest 12 feet or so!)

In two rows, plant one medium piece per hill, a foot apart, in two or three-foot rows. In beds, set tubers four by four feet apart. As indicated, plants multiply quickly and soon choke out any venturesome weeds. Mulching is a good idea in row plantings, and compost applications maintain desirable fertility—although soil and climate extremes won’t stop this persistent plant.

With the arrival of spring, tubers left in the ground should be dug either for eating or replanting. If an increased supply is wanted, some may simply be left to multiply.

Native to the Americas, Jerusalem artichoke is cultivated for its fleshy tubers which are fine, nutritious and low-starch substitutes for potatoes.

A 25-foot row will supply the average family for one year.

Jerusalem Artichoke Nutritional Value

The artichoke is 100 percent starchless. It stores its carbohydrates in the form of insulin rather than starch and its sugar as laevulose the way most healthful fruits and honey do. It has practically no caloric value. Because of these facts, medical authorities strongly recommend it as a substitute for other carbohydrates on the diabetic’s menu, and in the diet of all who should or must restrict their starch and caloric intake.

The Jerusalem artichoke offers a good source of some minerals and vitamins (particularly potassium and thiamine)—a result of its being a plant-world union of tuber roots and luxuriant sunflower growth.

Table Flower Decorations

A garland is a lovely way to decorate a table indoors or out — for a special occasion such as a wedding or christening reception, a birthday, or any other celebration. You can make the garland to loop across the front of the table, to encircle the rim, or to drape on all four sides of a free-standing table. Long, leafy stems work extremely well for this type of decoration. With its pliable stem and mass of bright green leaves; this forms a natural garland, and makes an attractive instant decoration, even without the addition of flowers.

Smilax is usually sold to order in bundles of 5 stems. Keep the stem ends in water until just before you assemble the garland, and the foliage should stay fresh for several days. Mimosa, gypsophila and spray chrysanthemums all make a good accompaniment for a bright, summery look.

GARLAND TIPS

Floral and foliage garlands are very simple to make and as they are almost invariably composed of short-stemmed plant materials, they can utilize clippings from larger designs. Side shoots of delphinium cut from stems arranged in a pedestal design; individual spray-chrysanthemum flowers that formed too dense a cluster; florets and leaflets that would come below the water level in a vase— you can form them all into posies and hind them on to a garland using silver wire.

Garlands can be composed on a central core. According to the weight of the plant materials, this may vary from tightly coiled paper ribbon, thin string, twine or wire, to thick rope or even a roll made of wire-mesh netting filled with off cuts of absorbent stem-holding foam. This latter core has the advantage of providing fresh flowers in a garland with a source of moisture.

It will save time just before the event if you make up the posies in advance. Choose materials that will contrast well with the bright foliage of the garland. Cut the flower stems short, using 5 or 6 pieces of gypsophila, 2 small snippings of mimosa, and either 1 or 2 spray chrysanthemums, according to their size. Gather the stems together and bind them with silver wire.

You can space the posies as close together or as wide apart on the garland as you wish, so make up as many as you will need. As a general rule, the smaller the table, the smaller the gap should be between the flowers. Once you have assembled the posies, place them in a shallow howl of water before attaching them to the garland.

Measure the length, of garland needed for the side drapes and mark the centre. With the stems of the first posy towards the end of one of the lengths of foliage, hind the posy to the main stem with silver wire. Bind on more posies in the same way, reversing the direction of the stems when you reach the centre of the draped garland. Repeat the decoration with the remaining lengths of garland, but without reversing the direction of the flowers of the side trails.

Pin the garland to the cloth, adjusting the fall of the drape so that it is equal on all sides, and pin on the side trails. Check that the garland hangs well. Sometimes the weight of the posies will cause it to twist, with the flowers facing inwards. If this happens, pin the garland to the cloth at intervals. Pin lengths of ribbon to the corners, and tie more lengths into bows and attach to the centres of the drapes.

A garland of dried flowers, wired on topper ribbon and finished off with an extravagant bow, makes a beautiful table decoration. The garland will retain its crisp and colourful appearance throughout the day, and can be carefully packed away and used another time.

Duck Raising

Ducks are very easy to handle, taking less time and work than other fowl. Also, their housing needs no insulation and requires less heat than chicken housing.

One of the big dividends of duck raising is the manure. It is twice as rich in nitrogen, and contains approximately six times the phosphorus and the same amount of potash as average farm manure.

Breeds

There are egg breeds, meat breeds and ornamental breeds of ducks, and the breed you grow depends on what you expect from your birds. For eggs, the Khaki Campbells and Indian Runners are both good though neither breed produces a good bird, Khaki Campbells have averaged 365 eggs per year, per bird as opposed 260, per year for many chickens.

There are three primary meat breeds. Pekin is the bird raised commercially in the United States for meat production. This is a good quality bird. The birds reach market within eight weeks, and they are white feathered, a big advantage in the marketplace. However ducks are poor sitters and very nervous. Flocks have to be handled with care.

Aburys are popular in England for meat portions and, like the Pekins, mature in eight weeks. Although they are not as nervous, the Abury is less popular because it has feathers.

Muscovies, another meat breed, takes longer to mature, approximately ten weeks, but is larger than the Pekin and tends to be fatter. In addition, Muscovies, though only layers, are good sitters.

Ornamental breeds include Cayugas, tall Mandarins and Blue Swedish.

Starting

It is best to start with day-old ducklings rather than try to incubate fertile eggs. Put the day-old ducklings immediately under the brooder set at 90°F (2.22°C). Reduce the temperature five degrees (F.) a week until they are let out. After a few days, ventilation is vital. Ventilate enough to keep dampness down, but avoid drafts.

A 10-by-12-foot brooder house will accommodate 200 to 300 ducklings, or a temporary pen may be built in a laying house.

During their first two weeks, the ducks should get starter pellets or a starter mash thoroughly wetted; only mix as much mash as the birds will eat, extra mash will sour and the ducklings will not eat it. After two weeks, switch to growing pellets or growing mash with about a 15 percent protein content. You can use the same mixture you’re feeding your chickens. At eight weeks, switch to fattening pellets.

Ample fresh, clean water is a necessity. Running water in shallow, narrow troughs will allow the baby ducks to submerge their bills and eyes without getting their bodies wet.

Ducklings need a constant supply of fine grit. Feed separately from the mash.

If ducks are to be raised entirely in confinement, they will need three square feet per bird by the time they are six weeks old. They will also require deep litter. Straw makes good bedding material. If ranged in warm weather they can be let out after the first three weeks. Ducklings are much hardier than baby chicks. Cool temperatures make them feather out faster and eat better for smooth, plump flesh, but it’s a good idea to harden off the ducklings by admitting increasing amounts of cool air for a week prior to ranging.

On range, tall weeds or trees, or frames covered with boards and building paper, are sufficient protection from the sun and rain.

Move mash hoppers and water fountains frequently to avoid bare spots.

On small farms try to locate duck yards on gently sloping land with light sandy soil. Manure should be scraped up regularly, or a couple of inches of gravel laid down to make the yards self-cleaning when it rains. A yard 50 by 75 feet will hold 100 ducklings.

A pond or brook will reduce the amount of water hauled to your flock. The ducks don’t need a particularly large or deep pond, just one big enough to clean themselves. It should be shallow and flowing. Some farmers dam a stream and periodically flush out the resulting pond to remove manure. A settling basin is an excellent way to catch the sludge after flushing, which can then be used on your garden. Some farmers provide shallow splash pans of water which they clean frequently. This is particularly necessary during breeding season, when moisture is essential for proper hatching of the eggs.

Breeding Ducks

For a steady supply of ducks throughout the year, a breeding flock is a necessity. Select ducks for breeding carefully. Ducks should come from early hatches, have good weight, conformation and feathering. Allow approximately one drake to six ducks.

Separate your breeders from the rest of the flock, and check for general health and vitality. Ducks need about five square feet of housing space per bird, outdoor exercise in all but the worst winter weather, and swimming water to keep in top condition.

Duck eggs are incubated four weeks before they hatch (Muscovy eggs take five weeks). They require a lot more moisture than hens’ eggs and must be turned three or four times a day. Since ducks lay at night, gather eggs in the morning for best results in the mechanical breeder. Wash carefully. Have eggs at room temperature before incubating. Candle eggs at seven or eight days, and discard those with dead embryos or infertile eggs. Living embryos have the appearance of a spider floating inside the eggs.

When hatched, put the baby ducklings in the brooder as soon as they are dry and fluffy. See that ample food and water are available.

Diseases

Ducks raised in relative and in small numbers suffer little diseases. Muscovies appear to be more resilient than Pekins or Runners. If you have a flock has been suspected to have disease, don’t wait to call a vet.

Slaughtering

Properly grown Pekins weigh between five and six pounds at nine to eleven weeks. After twelve weeks or so, they won’t grow larger without out considerable extra feeding, and the meat is tough and stringy. Muscovies should not be slaughtered after 17 weeks of age for the same reason.

Dry-picking birds is best, although many commercial concerns dip the ducks in boiling water or in wax which, when cooled, peels off quite easily bringing feathers with it. If dry-picked, the birds hold their flavor better. Duck down can also be a valuable by-product for homestead. It should be treated in the same way as goose down.

Duck eggs sometimes find a good market, and duck is a popular entree in many restaurants.