Archive for the ‘Home & Garden’ Category

Planting Lemon Trees

by on Thursday, February 26, 2015 2:47 under Home & Garden.

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Lemons (Citrus limonia) are the most popular acid citrus for cooling drinks and cookery. Although the tree is less attractive than most other citrus species, the value of the fruit goes far to alleviating this deficiency.

Lemon varieties are fewer in number than for most popular citrus fruits and among the tree a lemon there is little difference in fruit characteristics.

`Eureka’ is of typical “lemon” shape—elliptical, with a nipple at the blossom end and amore or less necked stem end. The tree is the smallest of the Lemon varieties, more open, spreading, and with nearly thornless shoots. In Calif. ‘Eureka’ is preferred in the cool coastal districts because more of its fruit ripen in the late spring and early summer.

‘Lisbon’ is the variety preferred in the Calif. lemon districts having higher summer temperatures, again because under these conditions a higher percentage of the fruit ripens at a favorable time. The tree is substantially larger, more upright, denser and more vigorous than other Lemon varieties, and with thorny shoots.

‘Villafrartea’ is a variety quite similar to ‘Eureka’ in fruit, but more like ‘Lisbon’ in tree characters. In Calif. this variety tends to produce a higher percentage of its fruit in the fall and winter, an undesirable characteristic which has limited its use. However, it is the best adapted of the true lemons to the warm, humid Southeast.

‘Meyer’ (Meyer Lemon) is an anomalous kind, possibly a hybrid bearing acid fruits of lemon character. The fruit is nearly round, with a short nipple. It has a light orange color rather than yellow, with very juicy light orange-yellow flesh rather than the pale greenish-yellow of the true lemons. The tree is dwarf, and much more cold-resistant than the true lemons, which makes it a garden favorite.

‘Ponderosa’ (American Wonder) is mentioned primarily for its very large fruit; both tree and fruit have ornamental value, but the fruit is of poor quality for food use.

In regions where lemons are not well adapted the Rough Lemon and the Calamondin (C. mitis) are sometimes used as substitutes, as both yield fruit with acid, plentiful juice. Rough Lemon, as its name implies, bears a roughish orange-yellow fruit of small orange size. Calamondin fruit is quite small, round and yellow; this species is sometimes used as an ornamental garden plant.

‘Millsweet’ and ‘Dorshapo’ are 2 sweet lemons (low acid); both are believed by some to be hybrid sorts, although their fruits are quite lemonish in appearance. ‘Millsweet’ is nearly round in shape, while ‘Dorshar’ resembles ‘Eureka’ in fruit. They are generally considered to be novelty fruits, but may have value for those who object to the highly acid citrus.

The true lemons are less cold-hardy oranges, but slightly hardier than limes. Some tree damage will occur when temperatures drop below 24° or 25° F., and defoliation at somewhat higher temperatures. They are also slightly tenderer than are orange fruits. The ‘Meyer’, on the other hand, is fully as hardy as is the Orange will be recognized that protection against will be more difficult for lemons.

Lemons are propagated by the same methods as given for Oranges. Rootstocks commonly used are the same as for Orange, except that Lemon tends to overgrow Sour Orange stocks, and to be relatively weak on them. Sweet Orange, Citrange and Trifoliate are possibly a little better.

Size differences among Lemon varieties and kinds result in a variety of recommended planting distances, which also can be varied byte training given. The vigorous true lemons, as ‘Lisbon’ and ‘Villafranca’, make large trees on good rootstocks if allowed to grow freely.

Trela require 24 to 30 ft. spacing; with heavy pruning they may be kept somewhat smaller. ‘Eureka’ is often kept low by heavy pruning, and can be maintained easily at 18 to 20 ft. spacing. ‘Meyer’, being semi-dwarf naturally, needs about 8 to 12 ft. spacing. Rough Lemon and the sweet lemons would need the same spacing as for ‘Lisbon'; the Calamondin is often kept small by treating it as a small ornamental shrub; its natural tendency is to make a rather tall but narrow, cylindrical tree. The effects of closer planting and shaping are the same as described for Orange; also by using dwarfing trifoliate stock, space requirements may be materially reduced.

Lemons are pruned more heavily than any other citrus species; rather than a requirement this is probably dictated by the need to keep trees small for the continual harvest. Nevertheless, it is true that lemons fruit much better than other citrus under such heavy pruning, which may therefore be used to control tree size. Lemons tend to throw strong, upright water-sprouts which, if not removed, soon make an impenetrable thicket of the center of the tree, and tend to shade out the productive portions of the tree. Some of these water sprouts may be converted to fruiting wood by pulling them to the outside of the tree, in a nearly horizontal attitude, but generally they are removed. ‘Eureka’ can be kept quite low and spreading; ‘Lisbon’ and ‘Villafranca’ somewhat more upright. ‘Meyer’ needs practically no pruning except the removal of interfering branches. Cultural needs and practices are otherwise very similar to those for the Orange.

Commercial lemons arc harvested according to size, without regard to color development. Green fruit may be ripened artificially with ethylene or be stored, where it develops its full color. The gardener can profit by this experience, for it is not necessary to await color development to use the fruit; when it is of typical size and is juicy it is ready for use. However, for appearance most fruit will probably be picked as it reaches full yellow color; large fruits on vigorous trees may actually be past their prime by that time. Lemons should be clipped from the tree, and when properly handled they have a very long storage life, although this is less important to the gardener considering the overbearing habit of the species. For storage the fruit should be washed, well cured, and held at refrigerator temperatures. Under close commercial control lemons are sometimes stored for 6 months or more. The skin becomes thinner and may even appear and feel dry but the fruit retains its juicy condition.

The ‘Meyer’ does not have as long a storage life, but holds its fruit on the tree over a rather extended period. Like the true lemons they may be used from the time they are juicy to the end of their on-tree life. Rough Lemon and Calamondin will be used from the tree.

The pests and diseases of the lemons are the same as for Orange. Lemons are more susceptible to scab and other fungus diseases than most citrus in the warm, humid Southeast. Under adverse conditions lemons also tend to defoliate rather readily; the tree is, therefore, often less attractive than are other citrus.

Duck Raising

by on Monday, February 23, 2015 13:56 under Home & Garden.

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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.

Planting Cabbage

by on Thursday, February 19, 2015 0:44 under Home & Garden.

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Cabbage is by far the most important member of the genus Brassica that is grown as a vegetable. It has been known from earliest antiquity and was probably in general use as early as 2000 to 2500 B.C. Several types were cultivated at the time of Pliny. At the present time Cabbage is found wild on the sea coasts of western and southern Europe.

Cabbage thrives best in a relatively cool, moist climate. In the southern region it is grown largely during the winter and early spring, while in the northern states it is grown as either a late spring or fall crop.

Cabbage Varieties

There are literally hundreds of varieties of Cabbage which vary in size, shape, maturity, color and resistance to various diseases. Some are used for boiling, coleslaw and salads while others, the larger-headed sorts, are grown basically for sauerkraut and pickling. It is suggested that the home gardener check several good seed catalogues and then select the variety that best meets his needs.

Good (yellows resistant) green and early varieties are: ‘Jersey Wakefield’ (a conical head), ‘Golden Acre’, ‘Stonehead’, and ‘Copenhagen’. Green and late: Danish Ballhead types such as ‘Penn State Ballhead’, or ‘Wisconsin Hollander’. Red types are ‘Red Acre’, or ‘Red Danish’ and Savoy types, and ‘Chieftain’.

Cabbage Soils and Fertilizers

Most garden soils will produce a good crop of Cabbage if the soil is properly prepared and fertilized. Generally early Cabbage is grown on the lighter sandy-loam soils, while late Cabbage is grown on heavier soils that are more retentive of moisture. Perhaps more important than soil texture, is its supply of moisture and its fertility.

Cabbage is a heavy feeder, especially of nitrogen and potash. If animal manure is available, liberal applications prior to plowing or spading will be beneficial. In addition to manure, 30-40 lbs. of a 5-8-7 or similar ratio of a commercial fertilizer should be applied prior to planting, followed by several side dressings of nitrate of soda, it lbs. per too ft. of row, during the first 5 weeks after the plants have been set into the garden.

Growing Cabbage Plants

For early Cabbage sow the seed in good potting soil in flats or other suitable containers a month or 6 weeks earlier than the plants are to be set out. Sow the seed in drills in. deep and 2 in. apart. When the seedlings reach a size of 2-3 in. in height, transplant into boxes with spacing of 1-11 in. Maintain uniform soil moisture and a temperature of 60 to 70° F. until a week or two before field planting when the temperature should be reduced to 50-55°F. The method of raising plants for the late crop is exactly the same except that the flats or boxes are kept out-of-doors rather than under glass in the home or in hotbeds.

Cabbage Planting

Cabbage plants that are well hardened can beset out in the garden even though the temperature may drop down below freezing for several days. Spacing will depend largely on the variety. ‘Jersey Wakefield’, ‘Golden Acre’, and ‘Copenhagen’ may be set 15 in. in the row, while the larger-headed Ballhead types should be given a hit more space, say 15-18 in. apart.

Cabbage Cultivation

Cabbage roots are wide spread and relatively shallow. Sufficient cultivation should be given to keep down the weeds and to maintain shallow soil mulch when the plants are small. Hand hoeing or hand weeding may be necessary after the plants reach full size if weeds are a problem.

Cabbage Harvesting

The heads are usable anytime after they have properly formed. If left too long after maturity the heads will split. In cutting use a large knife and cut just above the large outer leaves.

Cabbage Storage

Late Cabbage may be stored in outdoor pits for periods of 4-8 weeks. The plants are pulled, roots and all, and placed in the pit, heads down, and then covered with hay or straw and a layer of soil.

Cabbage Insect Pests

Several greenish leaf-eating caterpillars attack Cabbage and related plants. They include the cabbage worm and cabbage looper. To control, use Bacillus thuringensis regularly at 7-10 day intervals. Begin in May when first butterflies are seen after planting in the South, or use Sevin for good results. After the edible part of plant appears (heads) use Sevin, a 4% malathiondust 1 oz. per 50 ft. of row.

Cabbage aphid may be a serious pest. These soft-bodied, green or black insects may be controlled with a malathion dust or anicotine dust.

Root maggots can be serious for all crops in the Mustard Family. Control of the maggot is in applying each cupful to each plant when set out in the garden of a diazinon suspension in the transplant water, using 5 oz. 50% wettable powder in suspension.

Black and red Harlequin bugs occur in the southern states. Adults and nymphs suck the plant sap and are very hard to kill. Hand pick or, if serious, use Carbaryl (Sevin) dust.

Cabbage Diseases

Black rot caused by a bacterium that lives over in the seed produces a black ring in the stem and veins of the leaves. Blackleg is a disease caused by a fungus parasite that invades the seed and lives over in the soil. Its worst damage is to young plants in the seed bed. Both of these diseases may be kept under control by treating the seed with hot water (Cabbage for 25 min. other crucifers for 18 min. at 1220 F.), by using sterilized soil in the seed bed and by crop rotation in the garden.

Cabbage yellows caused by a fungus which shows up by the lifeless yellowish-green color of the plants, 2-4 weeks after transplanting, followed by a stunted, malformed growth. This disease is soil-borne and the only control lies in crop rotation and in using yellow-resistant varieties.

Club root is produced by an invasion of a slime mold on the roots. The roots of affected plants show a thickened, malformed appearance. This is a soil parasite which thrives in an acid soil. Soil pH should test 6.8-7 and transplants should come from soil that has been treated with Vapam, 1 pint per 50 sq. ft., or apply Terrachlor 75% wettable powder, 5 lbs. per 100 gal. of water, using pint of this per plant.

Cabbage and the other crucifers are subject to other insects and diseases which generally are of minor importance. In addition certain physiological disorders are common, whiptail in Cauliflower and tip burns of Cabbage, in both cases indicated by poor and malformed leaf blades. They are caused by an acid soil and an unbalanced ratio of potash to phosphorus. Browning or brown rot is caused by a deficiency of boron. This is most prominent in Cauliflower. The symptoms are a change in color of the foliage, thickening and brittleness of the leaves and a browning of the “curd” in the case of Cauliflower. Control is in applying 8 oz. per 1000 sq. ft. of borax mixed in the commercial fertilizer or as a foliar spray.

Two more or less distinct species are grown, Pe-tsai (Brassica pekinensis)and Pak-Choi (B. chinensis). The Pe-tsairesembles Cos Lettuce but produces a much larger head which is elongated and compact. The Pak-Choi type resembles Swiss Chard with long, dark green leaves. This kind does not form a solid head.

Planting Dates

by on Wednesday, February 18, 2015 12:37 under Home & Garden.

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Cultivation of the Date Palm (Phoenixdactylifera) has been practiced since prehistoric times and seems to carry an aura of mystery and romance, probably abetted by the unfamiliar desert locale of all major date-producing areas. Where it is grown extensively, the Date is often a primary food. In the United States it is an exotic plant whose requirements restrict its growth for fruit production to very limited areas of the low deserts of southeastern Calif. and parts of Ariz.

The Date is a true subtropical plant, grown nowhere in the tropics. Dates have a requirement for heat and freedom from rain and high humidity during most of the fruit development period. The trees will withstand temperature down to 20° F. without injury. Below 20° F. the fronds may be badly injured or killed, but the terminal growing point is seldom killed at temperatures as low as 8° to 10° F. However, where normally grown, such low temperatures are due to intense radiation frosts and are of very short duration; the bud is protected by the insulation of the enveloping leaf-bases. Continuous cold below 20° F. would be expected to be fatal. Rain and even high humidity could result in cracking and checking of the fruit at almost all stages of development and is the prime reason that dates are not adapted to the South and southeastern states. If fruit is not wanted, male or female palms may be grown far outside the range for fruit production – in the southeastern states wherever oranges are grown, and at latitudes to nearly 40° N. in inland valleys of the Pacific Coast.

To mature fruit, average growing temperatures for the period a month before bloom to fruit ripening must be at least 70° F. for the very earliest maturing varieties to 90° F. for late varieties. Extremely high daytime temperatures are not essential, but do prevail in the desert regions where such average temperatures are attained.

Palms are easily grown from seed, which should be planted an inch deep in a good seedbed. Fruit of seedlings will be much poorer than from varieties, and as Date Palms are dioecious, about half of such seedlings will be male.

Propagation of palm varieties is by 4-5 year-old offshoots—lateral growth that develop on the base of young palms. Those near the ground will be with roots, those above ground without. Rooted offshoots are cut from the mother palm and planted immediately in the location desired, in a site prepared well in advance by digging a hole about 3 ft. across and 1 ft. to 18 in. deep, filled with well firmed topsoil, which should be fertile and settled at planting. Unrooted off-shoots may be planted under shade; many will fail to root. Offshoots have their leaves cut back to 3-4 ft. long and tied together. They are usually protected by wrapping with paper or old palm fronds, especially during the first winter, when they are tenderer to low temperatures. Newly planted offshoots should be watered frequently, or mulched, so that the soil near the surface does not dry out.

Natural pollination of dates is seldom sufficient to yield good crops, even when a high proportion of male palms are present. Pollination is by hand. Male inflorescences are taken when they are just emerging from the spathe. Two or three strands of male flowers are inserted in an inverted position into the emerging female inflorescence, which has just been cutback about one-third, and sometimes has had the inner whorl or two of female flowering strands removed (thinning). The bunch is tied at the distal end to retain the male strands, but the tie will need to be loosened periodically as the fruit grows. Alternatively, the male flowers may be allowed to shed their pollen on paper; it is collected and small balls of cotton dipped into it. Two of these balls are inserted into the female inflorescence, as described above.

At flowering the female inflorescence is relatively short and upright. It soon grows in length rather remarkably, and the weight of the developing fruit bends it over. For best results the inflorescence is brought through the leaf bases as it grows, until it hangs in an inverted position below the leaves; often the bunch stem is tied to a leaf base to prevent the weight of the fruit from breaking it. The distal bunch tie is then removed.

About midseason or a little later an inverted cone of kraft or similar paper is often tied around the bunch, with the wide end open to assist air circulation. This tends to protect the ripening dates from birds and rain.

Palms are planted at distances of 25-30 ft., the former being used for a few of the smaller kinds such as ‘Khadrawy’. They are not sensitive to soil conditions, and do well in heavy-to-sandy soils of moderate depth. They are tolerant of brackish water and soils with relatively high salt content, but do better in fertile soils and good water. They require little nitrogen fertilization; observations on their requirement for other fertilizer elements and micro-nutrients are lacking.

Date palms use large amounts of water, especially in the areas where they are commonly grown. The high transpiration rate may be an adaptive feature to hold plant tissue temperatures down, for the temperature of the body of the palm is usually about the same as that of the soil below the depth heated in the daytime.

Drought conditions will stop growth and are detrimental to fruit development.

Pruning of date palms consists of cutting off old fronds which are beginning to die, as indicated by browning of the leaf pinna toward the tip of the frond. It is usually done in late summer. Normally 80 to 100 mature leaves are maintained in the crown, which are enough to mature 8 to 12 bunches of dates and still ensure return bloom the following year. The sharp thorns at the base of the leaves are usually removed, primarily to assist in the pollination and harvesting procedures. Besides the thinning of the fruit clusters described, bunches in excess of 8-12 are removed when or soon after they appear, as the palm can set more fruit than it can mature properly, and excess fruit production in 1 year will drastically reduce that in the next.

Dates of commerce are all fully mature; a few varieties, such as ‘Barbee’ which lose astringency early, can be used at earlier stages. Such use effectively reduces the heat requirement and extends the area where they can be grown for garden use. When they reach the full khalal (pre-ripe) stage, as indicated by the fruit turning pink, yellow, or red, they may be harvested, allowed to soften naturally and then used. When full ripe, the tamar stage, the fruits are light to dark brown and begin to wrinkle. Not all fruit on a bunch ripens at the same time; for best quality multiple pickings are therefore necessary. If some fruit is in the late khalal or rutab (soft-tip) stage it may be ripened off the tree by holding the fruit, well spread out, at temperatures from 80° to 95° F., the higher temperatures being used for the less mature fruit. Ripe or ripened fruit may be held for long periods in cold storage; for several months at 30° to 32° F., and up to a year at 0° F. Curing temperatures for immature fruit should not be extended beyond the time necessary, for high temperatures accelerate the inversion of sucrose, so that the dates may be-come syrupy, and sugar crystallization takes place later, but not if held at 0° F.

Each producing area of the world has varieties particularly suited to it. Those found best in the United States are listed below. Date varieties are divided into three classes: dry dates, semidry, and soft. The latter are usually considered to be the best quality; semidry varieties are commonest in commerce because they are best adapted to handling and packaging.

‘Deglet Noor’, a semidry type is the leading variety in the United States, and is the one most often found in the market. It is relatively late maturing (for the warmest areas) and the palm is vigorous and large. ‘Zahidi’ is another semidry variety of good quality.

‘Thoory’, a dry date, is seldom found in this country; although favorites in the Near East, the dry dates have not become popular in the United States.

‘Halawy’, ‘Barhee’, ‘Khadrawy’, ‘Medjhooll’ and ‘Saidy’ are soft dates, which differ in size, shape and mature color, but all are of excellent quality. ‘Barhee’ is an early-maturing variety. The soft dates tend to pack and stick together in commercial handling, and are more subject to fruit rots, so although of higher quality than the semidry types are generally limited to specialty and local markets. These kinds have their sugar primarily as glucose and fructose, whereas the sugar of the dry types is mostly sucrose. The semidry types are intermediate and the proportion of the 2 types of sugars is affected materially by the time of harvest and the handling given after harvest. For the highest percentage sucrose they should be harvested as soon as ripe and stored as soon as possible.

Growing date palms for their fruits is an exacting art; as the palms become older the many manipulations become more difficult because of the height of the crown. Khadrawy is a variety which grows somewhat more slowly. There is, of course, no way to hold palms low.

Mealy bugs and scale insects infest the leaves and suckers and are controlled by the usual sprays of insecticide in the cooler weather and in the growing season.

Heart rot turns the heart of the palm black and the buds and new growth are curled and stunted. Avoid planting suckers from infected plants. Use of fungicides is impractical.

Stenciling Equipment

by on Sunday, February 8, 2015 9:25 under Home & Garden.

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Materials

A variety of materials can he used for stencilling, from special stencilling paints and sticks to acrylics and latex. Each has its own properties and will create different effects.

Acrylic stencil paint: acrylic stencil paint is quick-drying, reducing the possibility of the paint running and seeping behind the stencil. Acrylic stencil paints are available in a wide range of colours, and can be mixed for more subtle shades.

Acrylic varnish: this is useful for sealing finished projects.

Emulsion (latex) paint: ordinary household vinyl emulsion can also be used for stencilling. It is best to avoid the cheaper varieties, as these contain a lot of water and will seep through the stencil.

Fabric paint: this is used in the same way as acrylic stencil paint, and comes in an equally wide range of colours. Set with an iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions, it will withstand washing and everyday use. As with ordinary stencil paint, do not overload the brush with colour, as it will seep into the fabric. Always back the fabric you are stencilling with scrap paper or newspaper to prevent the paint from marking the work surface. Gold leaf and gold size: these can be used to great effect. The actual design is stencilled with gold size. The size is then left to become tacky, and the gold leaf is rubbed over the design.

Metallic creams: these are available in many different metallic finishes, from gold to copper, bronze and silver. Apply as highlights on a painted base, or use for the entire design. Creams can be applied with cloths or your fingertip.

Oil-based stencil sticks and creams: the sticks can be used in the same ways a wax crayon, while the creams can be applied with a brush or your fingertip. With either one, there is no danger of overloading the colour, and they won’t run. The disadvantage is their long drying time (overnight in some cases); also, the colours can become muddy when mixed. Sticks and creams are also available for fabrics.

Equipment

Stencilling does not require a great deal of special equipment; many of the items used are commonly found in most households. A few tools, however, will make the job easier.

Brushes: it is worth investing in a set of good stencil brushes. The ends of the brushes should be flat and the bristles firm, to let you control the application of paint. A medium-size brush (4 cm/11/2 in diameter) is a useful, all-purpose size, but you may want to buy one size smaller and one size larger as well. You will need a selection of household paintbrushes for applying large areas of background colour, and small artist’s paintbrushes for adding fine details. Craft knife: use for cutting out stencils from cardboard.

Cutting mat: this provides a firm surface to cut into and will help prevent the craft knife from slipping. Masking tape: as the stencil may need to be repositioned, it is advisable to hold it in place with masking tape, which can be removed fairly easily from most surfaces.

Paint-mixing container: this may be necessary for mixing paints and washes. Pencils: keep a selection of soft and hard artist’s pencils to transfer the stencil design on to cardboard. Use an ordinary pencil to mark on your object the positions of the stencils before applying.

Stencil card (cardboard): the material used to make the stencil is a matter of preference. Speciality stencil card is available waxed from specialist art stores, which means that it will last longer, but ordinary cardboard or heavy paper can also be used. It is worth purchasing a sheet of clear acetate if you wish to keep your stencil design, to reuse time and again.

Tape measure and rulers: some patterns may require accuracy. Measuring and planning the positions of your stencils before you begin will aid the result.

Tracing paper: use to trace and transfer your stencil design on to stencil card

Planting Ginseng

by on Saturday, January 31, 2015 19:05 under Home & Garden.

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A fleshy-rooted herbaceous plant native to this country, ginseng was at one time of frequent occurrence in shady, well-drained sites in hardwood forests from Maine to Minnesota and southward to the Carolinas and Georgia.

Mature ginseng plants are between ten and 20 inches high, with five-fingered leaves and small yellow green flowers that develop over a three-year maturation cycle.

Although most claims of the medicinal properties of ginseng roots are not widely accepted in this country, the herb has become a popular item in health food stores today, and is commonly consumed in teas and as a food flavoring.

Ginseng takes its name from the Chinese word, sclzinseng, meaning man shaped. This refers to the form ginseng roots often assume. Ancient Chinese medicine regarded ginseng as tonic, stimulant and carminative.

First cultivated in America in the eighteenth century, the herb was valued as a commodity sought by Indians and Americans like. Today, the wild ginseng trade has inclined, but domestic cultivation has inert and many by-products are commonly fox gourmet shops and health food stores thin out the country.

One serious problem in cultivating ginseng is the length of time it takes to grow a marketable root. The seed may take from 18 to 24 months to germinate, even longer for the plant to mature. Gardeners who start with immature plants must often wait four to six years.

Another consideration is the quality soil required to successfully cultivate ginseng. The soil must be fairly light and well fertilized with woods earth, rotted leaves or fine bone meal, with the bone meal applied at a rate of one pound to each square yard. It is planted in spring as early as the soil can be worked to advantage. It is placed six in. apart each way in the permanent beds or by six inches in seedbeds, and the seeds are transplanted to stand six to eight in. apart when two years old. The roots of ginseng plants, especially in woodland, are some damaged by mice. Protection from rodents may be necessary. The beds should all times be kept free from weeds and the surface of the soil slightly stirred whenever it shows signs of caking. In winter it should be applied when freezing weather begins and removed early in spring.

The root should be collected only when it will be plumpest after drying. The roots are plunged into hot water, and steamed. This makes them appear semitransparent, enhancing their value for exportation.

Most people consider the Chinese claim of ginseng’s medicinal value to be mythology. In the United States, the herb is still cultivated mainly for export to China. Russians, however, are trying to verify Chinese through research and promotion of their herb, which they possesses medicinal qualities similar to ginseng, particularly as a relaxant.

Planting Asparagus

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.