Archive for the ‘Home & Garden’ Category

Planting Asparagus

by on Sunday, January 18, 2015 3:44 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

In the early spring the home garden offers few pleasures greater than the cutting of the luscious early spears of an established asparagus planting. It was because of its habit of producing early shoots that the ancient Greeks named the plant asparagos, meaning to swell.

Until modern times asparagus was a medicinal plant. The early and abundant supply of green spears restored men who must have struggled through the long winter upon a poorly balanced diet. But like many other medicinal plants asparagus later became a garden favorite, and its popularity is still increasing.

Asparagus Planting

It is possible to grow fine asparagus plants from seed if care is taken to see that the seedbed is properly drained and well pulverized and that the seedlings are trans-planted without too much injury to the root system. But an established planting reaches the cutting stage much sooner if one-year-old roots of the best disease-resistant varieties are used.

To establish a planting of asparagus it is best to select a site to one side of the garden. This site should be free from shade; the soil should be rich, deep and well drained. The location should be so arranged that the permanence of the planting will not interfere with the cultivation of the rest of the garden.

In the spring as early as the ground can be worked, a trench 12 inches deep and about ten inches wide should be dug along the line where the first row is to stand. In the bottom of this trench place a three-inch layer of mature compost humus. If well-rotted manure is plentiful, this may be added. This layer should then be well dug into the bottom of the trench. The second row should be made not closer than four feet from the first.

One-year-old crowns should then be placed in position about 18 inches apart and ten inches below the level of the garden. The crowns should be covered with a two-inch layer of sifted compost humus and well watered. During the summer the trench should be slowly filled with a mixture of fine topsoil and composted material. Cultivation will tend to fill the trench, but it is advisable not to do the filling too rapidly or the growing plants are likely to be stifled.

Whatever care you take in the setting our will be well repaid to you later. Careful siting is important. The careful, deep preparation of the area is of great value because the powerful fleshy roots of the asparagus plant often thrust their way five to six feet downward and spread out almost an equal distance in their search for the heavy supply of plant nutrients needed for the production of the large spears. Because of this, the plants require more garden space than their feathery brush would seem to indicate, and because of the great depth to which the roots develop, you will find it wise to see that an ample supply of rich organic matter is deeply placed before setting out the crowns.

After the planting is established it will thrive with little care for many years. But as with all vegetables, asparagus should be kept free from weeds and the damaging influence of trees, and should receive each season a liberal supply of added organic material. This supply can be arranged in two ways.

In the spring the rows should be ridged. Ordinarily this is done by drawing up to the row a good quantity of the topsoil between the rows by using a hoe. If you use compost in mead of topsoil to form these ridges, this will serve two purposes—bleaching the shoots by excluding sunlight, and adding valuable plant nutrients to the soil.

After the cutting season, it is good practice to sow a cover crop of cowpeas, soybeans, etc. These should be planted between the rows of asparagus. A cover crop of this type discourages the growth of weeds and when dug under adds greatly to the organic content of the soil.

But the organic material added during ridging is the most important. This ridge should be several inches high; if shallow, the shoots will tend to open before assuming sufficient length. Even if you decide to grow “green asparagus,” that is, unbleached asparagus, you will find it necessary to form shallow ridges to overcome the tendency of the crown to get too close to the surface. This slow upward movement is caused by the formation each year of new storage roots on the uppermost side of the crown.

Asparagus Harvesting

If a good growth is made the first year, it is possible to cut the shoots lightly the following spring, but it is generally better to encourage plant growth and to delay cutting for another season. Spears should be cut when about six inches high. Some gardeners cut them two inches below the ground level, others at the surface.

In cutting, place the knife blade close to the spear, run it downward the desired depth, and then turn it enough to cut cleanly through the spear but no more. Careless jabbing during cutting time can cause very serious injury to a planting of asparagus.

As winter approaches, the rows of asparagus should be lightly mulched with straw or similar material to prevent frost from penetrating too severely into the crowns. The brush should not be removed or burned but should remain as a part of the mulch. This mulch should be removed in the spring and the ground lightly cultivated.

Asparagus Pests and Diseases

The asparagus beetle is considered a serious menace; it is very difficult to get rid of and does much damage. But most of the serious damage done by this beetle occurs when it is allowed to overwinter in the adult stage by finding concealment in fallen sticks, trash, leaves, and the like. In this case it emerges in the early spring to feed upon the young asparagus shoots. Garden cleanliness and fall cultivation will prevent the insects from overwintering. An old method for controlling asparagus beetles was to turn chickens, ducks or guinea hens loose in the asparagus planting. These birds invariably do an efficient job of wiping out the beetles and their larvae.

Asparagus rust is a plant disease affecting asparagus. Small reddish pustules appear first on the main stalks. These pustules, when they burst, release a fine rust-colored cloud of spores. Sometimes an entire planting is rapidly infected and dies. But the degree to which asparagus rust does damage is very largely dependent upon local conditions. The spores require dampness for germination. Areas subject to heavy dews and damp mists are poor locations for asparagus.

Asparagus Varieties

Mary Washington is a reliable, rust-resistant variety and a favorite of many gardeners. Roberts Strain is also rust-resistant and is a heavy producer. Paradise is an early variety and very productive.

Planting Apricot

by on Wednesday, January 14, 2015 14:06 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

With an individual and superior flavor, ripening a week or two earlier than peaches, apricots deserve space in every orchard. They are as easy to grow as peaches and, requiring the same temperature, frequently outlive them. Deep, fertile, well-drained soil of fine texture is best for apricots. Loam to clay loam soils are preferable to sandy soils which tend to warm early. Shallow hardpan should be avoided, and wet subsoil can kill the apricot tree.

As the apricot belongs to the Plum family, it is a simple matter to graft plum, peach or apricot scions on the same stock. If early, middle and late-ripening varieties are used, one can have fruit from the same tree all season long—an ideal arrangement for gardeners with limited land.

The stocks on which apricots are budded affect their adaptability. Those whose host tree is a myrobalan plum stand heavy soils better; those on seedling peach and apricot stocks are best for hungry overporous land.

One drawback to apricot culture is that the flower buds, which open very early, risk being injured by late spring frosts. To overcome this, select a cool and not overly sunny spot, planting in a northern or western exposure to delay the opening of the buds. Avoid full shade. Where possible, an eastern aspect should be avoided because the morning sun does not allow frostbitten buds to recover gradually, as they can when the sunlight does not strike them immediately.

Try to plant apricots at some distance from the vegetable garden and strawberry patch. Tomatoes, potatoes, Persian melons, and strawberries all harbor verticillium wilt, which causes blackheart in apricot trees.

Apricot trees should be planted in early spring before the buds begin to swell. In California they are planted between the middle of January and the first of March. Throughout the rest of the country they should be planted as soon as the soil can be prepared.

Two-year-old, six-foot whips are good for planting. The average apricot tree covers a circle 25 to 30 feet in diameter when fully grown; this means that apricots should be set at least this distance apart, and eventually they will need this space available to them on all sides. But shorter-lived brambles and bush fruits may be planted closer to them until they need their full room.

One self-pollinating apricot tree will yield 200 to 250 pounds of fruit in a good year. If fruit is to be dried, five pounds of fresh fruit will yield one pound dried. The best types are:

Perfection and Goldrich are excellent large-fruited cultivars. Alfred and Curtis, which are resistant to most diseases, can be grown in northern regions where spring frosts are not too severe.

Blenheim is the leading California cultivar. Moorpark is an old English, home-garden variety. Scout is not self-pollinating.

Early Golden has large fruits, almost as big as peaches, and is an old-time reliable sort.

Kok-pshar, Manchu and Zard are three recent introductions from central and northern China. These extra-hardy cultivars are suited to climates where winter temperatures dip as low as -40°F (-40°C).

Several varieties suited to the Great Plains region have been developed by the South Dakota Experimental Station.

Young fruits should be thinned rigorously; otherwise, lean years may alternate with fruiting years. Important: When they are half-grown, snip out one of every two fruits that touch.

Multi-variety trees—apricot, peach and plum on one tree—are recommended for the garden that is limited in area.

Apricots, both dried and fresh, contain large quantities of vitamin A (7,500 units in three fresh fruits; 13,700 units in 100 grams dried fruit) and moderate quantities of the B vitamins, as well as some iron and calcium.

Apricot Insect Control

Branch and twig borers may be frustrating to many apricot growers. These brown or black beetles are about 1/2 in. long and are cylindrical. They can be found burrowing into fruit buds or limb jointures causing the branches to die and the trees to become weakened.

Prune off infected twigs from smaller fruit trees and remove all pruning from the vicinity of the tree as soon as possible. If infested wood is held for fuel, dipping it for a moment in stove oil will kill the larvae under the bark. Maintain as much vigor as possible in the orchard to eliminate these pests. This is accomplished by a sound system of mulching and tree feeding to encourage the vitality of the tree.

Cankerworms or measuring worms are wingless crawling insects which lay their eggs in the spring and fall in the limbs of trees. These slender, dark green worms chew on the edges of the leaves while they attack the apricot trees. Since these worms do not have wings in their egg-laying adult stage, they must crawl up the trunks of the trees to deposit the eggs of the next brood. By placing a band of sticky material like Tangle foota or an inverted funnel of window screen around the trunk, the moths will be prevented from climbing the tree.

The small greenish insect covered with a powder like substance that can be seen crawling up the twigs of apricot, plum and prune trees is the mealy plum aphid. Should it strike, the foliage will become curled from loss of vital plant juices, the tree will become weak and stunted, and the fruit will split. Fruit is often spoiled by being covered by the sooty mold that is excreted.

Aphids can destroy trees that are unhealthy and weak. Best control for the organic gardener is to revitalize his tree by the use of organic fertilizers.

The brownish snout beetle feeds in curved excavations and lays its eggs in the plum curculio. It also devours leaves and petals until the fruit appears.

Planting Brussels Sprouts

by on Friday, January 2, 2015 22:14 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

This vegetable has been grown near Brussels, Belgium, since the fourteenth century, hence its name. It is a minor crop in America even though its popularity has in-creased during the past 30 to 40 years.

It is an erect single-stalked plant, developing buds or small heads (sprouts) in the axils of the leaves. These heads or sprouts when fully developed are 1-2 in. in dia. and resemble miniature heads of cabbage. They are mild in flavor, rich in vitamins as well as calcium andiron.

Brussels Sprouts Varieties

The better types for the home gardener are: ‘Long Island Improved’, ‘Catskill’ and ‘Jade.’ ‘Half Dwarf’ is a standard variety in Calif.

Brussels Sprouts Culture

The general cultural requirements for brussels sprouts are about the same as for Cabbage and cauliflower. The plant will stand considerable freezing and can be harvested in the fall until severe freezes occur. The best quality sprouts are obtained in the fall with the sunny days and light frost at night. Brussels sprouts are grown as a fall crop.

The plants are spaced 24-30 in. apart in the row and 30-36 in. between rows. Seed planted in the outdoor seedbed in late May should produce strong transplants for their permanent place in the garden by late July. Soil preparation and fertilization is the same as for Cauliflower and Cabbage except that this crop is not as sensitive to high soil acidity as Cauliflower. Too much nitrogen and hot weather tend to produce sprouts that are loose, open, not compact and of poor quality.

Brussels Sprouts Buckleya

The sprouts begin forming first in the axils of the lower leaves, approximately 2-3 months after transplanting. In harvesting, the first picking should not be delayed after the lower leaves begin to turn yellow. In picking, the lower leaf below the sprout is broken off and the sprout is removed by breaking it away from the stalk. As the lower leaves and sprouts are removed the plant continues to push out new leaves at the top and in the axil of each leaf a bud or sprout is formed. In this manner sprouts may be harvested for a period of 6-8weeks.

Brussels Sprouts Storage

The sprouts will keep well in storage at 32° F. and a high relative humidity of 9o-95% for a period of 4 to 6 weeks. The whole plant is removed from the garden just prior to severe freezes and placed in the storage pit or storage cellar.

Brussels Sprouts Disease and Insects

Most of the pests of Cabbage and Cauliflower also attack brussels sprouts and the control measures are the same.

Planting Yuccas

by on Monday, December 29, 2014 21:08 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

Yucca is usually thought of as a desert or semidesert plant, confined to dry areas of the South and the southwestern desert, but several yuccas are surprisingly hardy in the cool, moist regions of the North.

Yuccas are very handsome plants. Nearly all of the 40-odd species have stiff, swordlike silver green leaves, growing in a clump at ground level. From this clump arises a single leafless stalk bearing a magnificent spike of highly fragrant, waxy flowers.

Yuccas blend handsomely in borders, contrast beautifully with the shapes of both evergreen and deciduous shrubs, and can be planted to stand as majestic sentinels on either side of an entrance gate or door. They also serve well lining a driveway, fence or terrace wall, or as a dramatic living sculpture against low, craggy rocks. Finally, yuccas can be grown in tubs and moved around for special effects.

Yuccas Planting and Culture

All yuccas require a sunny and fairly dry location with a light, sandy or gritty well-drained soil. Digging a deep hole and filling it with a sand-humus mixture will take care of this. Apply compost, bone meal and dried manure to the plants once each year. Watering should rarely, if ever, be necessary. Drought produces a lovely foliage and stem patina on desert-type plants. Yuccas generally flower only in alternate years, but the flowers last four to six weeks.

Yuccas are easy to propagate. They can be increased by seed, rhizome or stem cuttings, or by digging offsets from the side of an established plant.

In nature, the yucca is pollinated by a small white moth, the pronuba. This night-flying insect deposits her eggs in the seed vessel of a blooming yucca, and then fertilizes the plant with pollen from another yucca. When the pronuba grubs hatch out, they find a goodly supply of seeds to eat, but leave plenty to produce more yuccas. Scientists call the yucca-pronuba relationship a perfect example of symbiosis, the mutual interdependence of two things in nature.

Yuccas Types

Two species have trunks. The Joshua tree (Y. brevifolia) grows up to 40 feet high, its branches twisting into grotesque shapes. The Spanish bayonet (Y. aloifolia) is about 20 feet tall, and has very sharp-pointed, long leaves and spectacular white or purple-tinged flowers. Neither of these will stand wet winters, and they grow only in the South.

Blooming yucca then fertilizes the plant with pollen from another yucca. When the pronuba grubs hatch out, they find a goodly supply of seeds to eat, but leave plenty to produce more yuccas. Scientists call the yucca-pronuba relationship a perfect example of symbiosis, the mutual interdependence of two things in nature.

Our-Lord’s-candle (Y. Whipplei) has short basal leaves but sends up great creamy spikes, bearing many blooms. It will not stand frost or wet soil.

Northern gardeners who have never grown the hardy yuccas are missing plants that add great beauty and accent to gardens. One of the best yuccas for northern gardens is the Adam needle (Y. filamentosa), sometimes calm needle palm. It is a deep-rooted, tough-fiberish and some plant that has no trouble in New England winters. Its flower may rise 12 feet or higher. Y. flaccida is a similar species.

Other yuccas for the North are soapweed, and Y. data, both good as far north as southern Minnesota, good drainage and shelter against harsh wind are provided. Y. gloriosa is reportedly able to withstand city smog.

Planting Peas

by on Tuesday, December 23, 2014 18:56 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

Peas are high in food value and rich in vitamins A, the B group and C. It is of very ancient origin being grown and used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Garden Pea is very sensitive to heat and thrives only in cool weather. In the South it is grown during the fall and winter and in the North in the spring. In the North late plantings for maturity in the fall are seldom satisfactory. In hot weather growth is retarded, insects and diseases are a problem, pollination is poor resulting in pods with few, if any, seeds.

Pea Varieties

The many listed varieties of peas are classified as dwarf or tall, smooth or wrinkle seeded, and edible podded. Recommended dwarf sorts are ‘Alaska’ (smooth-seeded), ‘Little Marvel’, ‘Laxtonian’ and ‘Progress’. Tall varieties are ‘Treezonia’ and ‘Alderman’. ‘Wanda’, 24-30 in. plant, is the most resistant variety to heat. Edible podded peas of excellent quality are ‘Mammoth Melting Sugar’, 50-60 in. plant, and ‘Dwarf Gray Sugar’, 26-32 in. plant.

Pea Soils and Fertilizers

Peas can be grown in a variety of soil types. For very early planting a sandy or silt loam is preferred, but for a later planting a well-drained clay loam is ideal because of its cooler temperature. The soil reaction for acidity should test from 6.0 to 6.5 pH.

If manure is used it must be well rotted or else worked into the soil in the previous fall. The Pea is a legume and, consequently, absorbs nitrogen from the air. This is of relatively little importance with the quick-maturing dwarf varieties. If manure has been used, broadcast15-20 lbs. per 100 sq. ft. of a 5-to-5 commercial fertilizer and thoroughly mix into the soil. If no manure was used, increase the fertilizer application by 10 lbs. In some cases, it may be advisable to side dress in bands 2 in. from row with nitrate of soda, 2-3 lbs. per 100 ft. of row, at the time of pod set. For peas the soil should be thoroughly prepared and fertilized to provide a fine friable seedbed.

Planting Peas

Peas should be planted as early as the soil can be properly prepared and, therefore, are usually one of the first crops planted in the home garden. While the smooth-seeded sorts such as ‘Alaska’ will stand lower temperatures than the wrinkled sorts, both must be planted early to obtain a good succession for harvest, e.g. ‘Alaska’ matures in 55-60 days, ‘Little Marvel’ and ‘Laxtonian’ in 60-63, ‘Freezonia’ 63-65, ‘Wanda’ 70-72 and ‘Alderman’ 74-76. This procedure is preferred to several succession plantings of 1 variety.

Dwarf sorts are planted 24-30 in. apart between rows and 2-in. spacing will provide a good stand of plants in the row. Seed should not be planted deeper than 1 or 2 in. For tall varieties it is a common practice to space the rows 30-36 in. apart and the seeds are planted in double rows. Make 2 parallel drills 6 in. apart and 4 in. deep. Sow the seed and cover the seed with 2 in. of soil. Gradually fill the drill as the plants come up. The object of this double row is to provide space between the drills for the brush or wire trellis needed to support these tall varieties. It also makes more efficient use of space in the garden. The same planting procedure should be used for single row culture.

Supports should be placed at planting time and may consist of (1) brush, 4-5 ft. high after the stems have been pushed into the soil for a distance of 12-18 in. The brush should be well-branched and close enough together to provide a ready hold for the pea-vine tendrils. (2) Chicken wire, 4-5 ft. high, stretched as tight as possible between posts placed at 8-10 ft. intervals. The advantage of chicken wire is that after cleaning it can be rolled up and stored for the next year. Brush is not so easy to obtain and dispose of at the end of the season.

Pea Cultivation

Peas require sufficient shallow cultivation to control weeds. Where brush or wire trellis is used hand weeding is necessary in the row. Commercial growers use the selective herbicide, Premerge, as a pre- and post-emergence chemical to control weeds. This is not recommended for use by the home gardeners.

Pea Harvesting

The pods are hand-picked when the seeds are beginning to fill out the pods. Quality in peas is associated with tenderness and high sugar content. During maturity of the seed the sugar content decreases rapidly with an increase in starch. Fully matured pods will contain peas that are tough and flat in flavor. Peas that are harvested at peak quality and then exposed for 4-5 hours to high temperatures, 75° F. plus, will also lose their sweetness and tender texture.

Pea Insects

Pea aphid, a rather large green plant louse, sucks the juice first from the growing tip but eventually from the entire plant. It can be controlled by dusting with malathion, Diazinonor dimethoate. Do not feed treated foliage to cattle. Pea weevil is brownish with white, black and gray markings. Adults feed on blossoms and larvae burrow into green seed which are most troublesome in western states. Control by parathion spray using 8% emulsion concentrate or 2% emulsion concentrate 1 pt. per 100 gal. Use parathion with caution. Do not apply later than 10 days before harvest.

Pea Diseases

Powdery mildew, a fungus, most serious during hot, humid weather, forms a dense white or grayish coating on the leaves. Dusting with sulfur-lime gives fair control. Root rots caused by several different fungi which live over in the soil are frequently serious in reducing the stand of plants. The basic control lies in crop rotation, planting in well-drained and aerated soils and possibly treating the seed prior to planting with Spergon or Arasan. Wilt is another fungus disease common to peas and is soil borne. Infected plants show a downward curling of the leaves, a wilted appearance resulting in stunted growth. Control is same as for root rot.

Pigeon Raising

by on Monday, December 8, 2014 1:41 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

Pigeons and squabs can be profitably raised on the small homestead. Although they require good housing, they can be raised anywhere in the United States and almost anywhere in the world.

Pigeon Breeds

You should begin breeding with not less than four pairs of mated breeders. (Pigeons mate for life and are sold in pairs.) Buy good stock from a registered breeder. You might be able to find a breeder in your area by checking at a local feed and grain store.

The following breeds are recommended for beginners. They are good producers and raise large, broad-breasted squabs: White King, White Carneaux, Giant Homers, and Giant Runt.

Pigeon Housing

Twenty-five pairs of breeding pigeons may be kept in a pen and loft. The loft must be dry and draft-free. Pigeons need sunshine, and a flying pen is usually constructed in the front of the loft, extending up to the roof, so the pigeons can fly and sun themselves. A pen 6 by 10 by 7 feet high is sufficient. The loft and pen must be mouse and rat proof. Use fine wire mesh.

The loft floor should be smooth so it can be easily scraped. Put two inches of fine gravel on the floor. Open-front lofts can be built in warmer climates, but lofts with opening windows for summer ventilation should be provided in cooler climates.

Never give the pigeons nesting material. It is useless and messes up the floor. Cheap nesting bowls, made of pulp and available at a feed store, will keep eggs and squabs together. After a few months’ use they may be discarded and replaced with new ones.

Each breeding pair will need two nests—one for the current squabs and another for the start of a second nest when the first squabs about two weeks old. Orange crates stacked on top of each other with plywood between serve well as nest boxes and are cheap to place.

Pigeons are very clean and love to wash; a large pan filled with three inches of water should be placed in their flying pen on mornings. After several hours, remove pan, empty, and wash. Pigeons kept in a loft and allowed to bathe regularly don’t attract pests. Keep the floor clean and nesting boxes of manure at least every month.

Pigeon Feeding

If you can’t raise your grains for feeding, buy whole, unmixed. These are cheaper than commercial feed. Use whole yellow corn, wheat, red sorghum, peas, or vetch. Never feed table scraps, and feed lettuce or greens occasionally. Pigeons need grit in their diet to help them crack grains. Keep small boxes of red pigeon grit available in the pen. They need a constant source of fresh, clean water. Make sure they cannot get their feet into the water supply, or they will bathe in it.

Pigeon Care

Pigeons mate at six months, females lays two eggs. The male helps with the nesting, sitting on nest from early morning to late afternoon, the female sits during the rest of the day. This pattern may help in sexing pairs, also tends to be more aggressive, larger and a coarser appearance.

During incubation, a substance “pigeon milk” forms in the crops. This is fed to the young for the first five days after they emerge. After their first day, they are able to digest grain which is fed from the crops of the parents. Since the best characteristic of this tree is that its ears comparatively heavy in its early years, you won’t have to wait forever to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Planting Banana Trees

by on Wednesday, December 3, 2014 23:55 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

This is one of the most popular and important tropical fruits. Long-keeping and easily shipped, it is tasty, very digestible and rich in several major minerals and some vitamins.

Banana plants are rapid-growing herbs 5 to 25 feet tall. Their stalks or trunks are succulent, being actually composed of compressed layers of leaf sheaths. After bearing once, the stalks die back to the plant’s true stem, which is an underground rhizome. New suckers on which further fruit is borne are constantly rising from a healthy, productive rhizome. On a plant that is growing well, a sucker bears within 12 to 18 months after its emergence from the soil, but the length of time required to develop fruit may vary with soil and climate.

A hole 30 by 36 inches and 18 inches deep should be prepared for planting either rhizomes or suckers. Dwarf Cavendish may be planted eight to ten feet apart; others should stand no closer than 12 to 15 feet. Plant the sucker or rhizome a foot deep, and fill the hole with a mixture of topsoil and compost or rotted manure.

While the plant is young, remove all but one sucker, which should be allowed to bear its fruit and be cut back before another sucker is permitted to grow. Older plants may be allowed to develop one new sucker every three months. A plant will grow and bear well for four to six years, after which it should be dugout, the soil enriched and new suckers or rhizome pieces planted. After its first fruit has ripened, the plant may be allowed to grow three to five suckers at a time, depending upon its vigor. All others should be cut out.

Bananas are gross feeders. Because of their heavy growth they need plenty of fertilizer and a large amount of moisture. They do best where the rainfall averages 60 to 100 inches per year. In areas where it is less than that, they will need frequent watering.

Heavy rich mulch should be maintained under the plants at all times. This may be rotted manure, compost or a mixture of manure and leaves or grass.

Because they contain no viable seeds, bananas must be propagated by separating the suckers from the parent plants or by making cuttings of the rhizomes. Suckers two to eight months old are used and are moved in March or April.

Seven- to ten-pound cuttings of the rhizomes are removed, each with two buds, by cutting with a spade or mattock. Rhizome cut-tings can be replanted immediately or held for a few days, exposed to the air, then planted.

Bananas require about 100 days maturing after the young flower buds appear. Bananas which are cut seven to 14 days before ripening may be hung in a cool shady place to develop their flavor and sugar. Their nutritional value will be the same as that of tree-ripened fruit.

After bunches are cut down from the plant, the ends of the stalk are trimmed and the bananas are held at room temper, until thoroughly ripe. Stalks of the plants are cut back and chopped into small pieces.

Proper Table Setting

by on Tuesday, December 2, 2014 23:35 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

China, glass, cutlery (flatware) and overall linens together make up the overall look of any setting. On to that framework can be added candles and their holders plus the table decorations, which are the icing on the cake. These are obviously areas where you can add personal touches that may be quite different from anyone else’s, and not even very different each time you entertain. But with imagination and flair, you can be creative with all the elements that go into laying a table. Your existing tableware will have the greatest influence on the table settings you create. You will probably instinctively choose designs that suit the style of your home, whether it is elegantly modem, traditional or has a more relaxed country look. Given this starting point, however, there is no reason why your table has to look the same each time you set it. Of course, you may have a favourite look, and you may always want to re-create it. But there will be occasions, such as Christmas, Easter or at special celebrations, when you wish to make your table look more special than usual. The other main reasons for wanting to adapt the look of your table settings are that, as time goes by, fashions in home style change and personal tastes develop. You may want to reflect these changes in your table settings.


The art of successful table setting is to be clever with the crockery, so mix, match, adapt and adorn your dinner service to suit the mood and the occasion. The effective way to mix pieces from different sets is to link them by colour. So by collecting all white or all cream, for example, you can create a wonderful overall effect from pieces that were not necessarily designed to match. Another way is to collect two different but harmonious colours, black and white for example.

Under plates, too, provide a lot of scope. Buy brass to lend sparkle at Christmas or other celebrations, or coloured glass to add a new look on any occasion. Alternatively, you could put clear glass plates on top of those from the main set, with something decorative between, such as leaves, fabric or flowers that will show through and can be changed to suit the mood.

Whatever style of cutlery (flatware)you choose, a collection that complements the overall setting will enhance the look of the table.

Highlight the gold rim of elegant porcelain soup cups by contrasting it with brass. Even if your dinner service is plain, it will look richer if set on metal. Add a gold tassel and wrap party favours in gold organza for very special occasions.

Cutlery (flatware)

Knives, forks and spoons can have a wonderful sculptural quality to them, which may be used in many ways in a table setting. The formal and obvious way is to lay them, in accordance with etiquette, soldier-like on either side of each plate. But try adorning the cutlery, tying it in pairs or threes with ribbon, raffia or string. You could also tie in a place card, or tuck in a flower, leaf or, if you wish, a chandelier crystal, a tassel or a shell for extra decoration.


Glass is so beautiful that it needs little decoration, but it is lovely to make something special of, say, a pre-dinner cocktail. Frosting the rim with egg white and caster (superfine) sugar is a traditional idea, and one that always delights. Tassels, ribbons, cords and beads can be tied decoratively around the stems of glasses, or golden wire wound around them in graceful imitation of Italian wine bottles.

It is not difficult to be innovative with linens. Napkins can very easily be equipped with unusual ‘rings’, embroidered or embellished with beads. Nor do table cloths necessarily have to have been purpose-made. Any suitable length of fabric — bedspreads, saris, sheeting or curtain lining — will do. When a fabric is not too expensive, you can embellish it with stamps, stencils or fabric paint; choose to appliqué or embroider it, or stitch on less obvious trimmings, such as buttons and shells, pebbles and even twigs.


Create a table decoration that is as simple as a few seasonal flowers in a vase or as elaborate as a formal arrangement. But the real creativity comes when you add your own flair, perhaps transcending the obvious. Wrap vases in almost anything from brown paper to string to give myriad new looks. Place flowers in vases, ready-tied to give them natural-looking support; if the container is glass, the securing string will add to the decoration. Gild flowers, foliage and berries, and add fruits or vegetables to a floral arrangement. Stand flowers with straight, sturdy stalks, on plates or in shallow bowls, tied to keep them in an upright position.

Fruits and vegetables make wonderful organic table arrangements. As well as the more obvious grapes, pears, figs and pomegranates, use pumpkins and marrows (squashes),perhaps decoratively carved and internally lit with a night-light. Gilding fruits and vegetables, or tying them up with string or raffia, adds the extra touch to make them different.

A witty reference to silver chain decanter labels can be made with a necklace. There is something sensuous about this one, made of chandelier crystals and feathers.

Evocative of American Indian dress, a leather thong bound round and round natural linen, then trimmed with a few game feathers, looks fabulous.

Cow Raising

by on Saturday, November 15, 2014 5:09 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

With feed costs as high as they are today, keeping a cow may not save you much, if any, hard cash. But, if you like cows, are willing to spend a few hours each day feeding, watering and milking one and processing its fresh milk, then the animal will indeed reward you, with plenty of dairy products.

Proper housing is of key importance, but generally an existing outbuilding can be converted to a suitable cow barn.

Unless the cow is to be kept in a stanchion, the minimum floor area for a stable is 200 or more square feet. In northern areas, the cow stable should be wind-tight; all winter ventilation should be under control. An economical job can be done, when necessary, by nailing unslated roofing paper over the sides. A cow can stand more cold than generally realized.

The cow may be confined by some stanchion or allowed the freedom of a stall. The box stall is recommended.  Some cows can keep warmer by moving occasionally on very cold nights. Milk production has been found to increase about 10 percent when cows are kept in a stall as opposed to a stanchion.

A calf pen is required. This preferably can be a duplicate of the cow stall

Buying a Cow

A cow that is four or five years old and has had her second or third calf is generally a good choice. She will be young enough to have years of production ahead of her, and old to have shown her milk-producing. There is no reason to pay the high asked-for heavy milk producers. For a cow, the criteria should be gentleness, ease of milking and general good health.

A family milk cow will generally yield about 12 quarts daily for from eight to 12 months, consuming about 18 pounds of hay daily. Jerseys and Guernseys are most often chosen for family cows because they are smaller and do not require as much feed or give as much milk as some of the larger breeds, such as Holstein or Brown Swiss. A Jersey heifer is fit to breed from 15 to 17 months; Guernseys from 17 to 18 months; and the heavier breeds at up to 25 months. After freshening, a cow will reach maximum production during the amend month. She will then decline in production at the rate of 6 to 7 percent a month. A cow that freshens in the fall or early winter usually yield an average of 10 percent more milk and fat than one that freshens in spring or summer.

Ideally, the cow should have about two acres of pasture for summer grazing: Permanent pastures of bluegrass or mixtures of grassdrop in production in the summer and may have to be supplemented to provide a uniform feed supply. The vegetable garden can furnished with a bit of the animal’s summer feed. Cows will eat pea vines, sweet corn stalks, cabbage leaves, and sweet potato vines.

The family cow’s winter feed consists of hay and a mixture of concentrates. Alfalfa, soybean, alsike clover, or early-cut grass hay are satisfactory. A Jersey or Guernsey cow will need at least ten pounds of hay a day, and a pound of grain for each two to four pounds of milk she produces.

A mixture of ground corn and wheat bran is a good concentrate to feed with hay. Some soybean oil meal or linseed oil meal may be added to the diet of hay and grain for extra protein.

Provide a block of trace mineralized salt in a sheltered box for the cow, or add loose salt to her concentrate mix at the rate of one pound to every 100 pounds of feed.

Give the cow water at least twice daily in winter and more often in summer.

Planting Hyacinth

by on Friday, November 7, 2014 14:34 under Home & Garden.

Read full story

The fragrant and colorful Hyacinth, important early spring flower, often arrives before the daffodils are under way.

Hyacinths have several shades of purple, blue, yellow, and salmon, and there are single and double-flowered forms.

Many gardeners are under the impression that hyacinths must be planted in formal beds, are equally attractive when planted throughout perennial beds, along fence or by a stone wall. They can be in a single line or massed in groups. You may even wish them for indoor flowers during the months.

Hyacinths prefer light, sandy soils which warm quickly in the spring. They root deeply; the soil should be and fertilized at least eight inches. Thoroughly incorporate a generous amount of compost, very well-rotted manure meal or dried sludge.

The bulbs should be planted four to six deep and six to eight inches apart. Plant the bulbs at a uniform depth so that they bloom at the same time. This actually depends on soil conditions.

After blooming is over, let the foliage growing until it turns yellow and of its own accord. Good leaf growth for the development of the bulbs next spring’s performance. Begin as soon as the hyacinths stop blooming, and by the time their foliage becomes unsightly the annuals will take their place. The leaves of the hyacinth may be bunched together and tied loosely to allow more room between the bulbs for planting annuals.

Hyacinths tend to “run out” and have to be replaced more often than other spring bulbs, but they will bloom several years if fertilized each season and divided and reset every two to three years as foliage withers.

For blue and purple shades try planting Ostara, King of the Blues or Grand Maitre. For pinks and reds try Pink Pearl, Marconi, Amsterdam, or Princess Irene. Among the desirable white varieties are Edelweiss and Innocence. Orange Boven or Salmonetta is a soft salmon orange.