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It's a weed, or is it?

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog insta impatiens weed 4Jewelweed isn't a weed at all, depending on who you ask. Photos by Doug Oster

It is a season of weeds, fueled by a wet, warm start to summer. But they can be beautiful, like most things in nature.

"A weed is but an unloved flower," Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

During a recent speaking engagement in consort with my friend Bob Mulvihill from the National Aviary, when the topic of jewelweed came up, he flatly stated, "I don't consider it a weed at all." That's because it's a great pollinator plant, and upon close examination the flowers are pretty too.

Jewelweed grows wild though the forest which surrounds my house and through the garden too. I spend lots of time pulling it out, when young, it's easy to remove. But there are always plants I don't get to and that's when I'm reminded how spectacular jewelweed flowers are.

It's actually a type of impatiens (Impatiens capensis) and the bees love it.

Take a close look at the flowers around your garden, the common dayflower is a weed I never pull.

Everyone enjoys blue in the garden...right?

I love the sky blue flowers and the touch of yellow on the inside of the flower.

Not all weeds need to be obliterated. What's considered a weed and what isn't is all in our mind. You either like the plant or you don't.

"Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them," A.A. Milne.

blog common dayflower 625Blue is my favorite color and that's what the common dayflower does best.

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Learn permaculture from the best this August

Written by Doug Oster on .

Cherry-tomatoes-4Darrell Frey, who is the farmer at Three Sisters Farm in Mercer County, harvests cherry tomatoes hanging from the second level of the bioshelter. Post-Gazette photo by Larry Roberts

 

I've known Darrell Frey for over 15 years and have had the pleasure of doing many stories and photos at his Three Sisters Farm in Sandy Lake, Pa.

The farm is a model of sustainability and organic growing practices. If you're interesting in learning about his techniques, check out the Permaculture Design Course at Three Sisters Farm.

The event runs from August 3 - 15, 2015  with a reduced Fee. $900-$1200 (work trade discounts are available).
During this 12-day intensive course, enjoy great food from local farms and country living at Three Sisters Farm, a 30 year old demonstration of permaculture, and visit other local examples of permaculture in action.

Learn the design process and co-create a design to enhance Three Sister's Food Forest. Experience hands-on applications of permaculture and team learning while sharing your own expertise. Acquire practical skills that can be integrated into your life and inspiration to create a more sustainable world around you.
Instructors:  Darrell Frey , author of Bioshelter Market Garden: A Permaculture Farm. Guest instructors include Liz Lynch and Michelle Czolba.


Cost: $1200, includes fees, food andcamping accommodations. $200 deposit by July 15, 2015.
For more information contact:
Darrell Frey, Three SistersPermaculture Design
134 Obitz Road, Sandy Lake, Pa 16145

Or by email  

For more information click here.  
 

 

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Caladiums create luminescent magic in the shade

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog caladium 3Caladiums area quick fix to add color in the shade garden. Photos by Doug Oster

Summer's first light streams through the trees, causing the leaves of deep red caladiums to be become luminescent when viewed from behind.

My garden won't be in shape until sometime in July. It's one of the ironies of being a garden writer (and an avid fisherman). Sometimes the garden gets neglected for both reasons.

blog 35 caladium 6One quick fix in my shade garden to add instant color is planting caladiums, grown for their foliage. There are a plethora of beautiful varieties in a wide choice of colors.

I've fallen in love with most of them. I'll take the deep red colors and plant them in the center of a container with chartreuse sweet potato vine spilling over the edges. The white and green varieties will light up the shadiest of corners. They are fun to mix with each other and other plants which enjoy shade.

They are great for containers, but make a nice mass planting in the garden too. Seven caladiums transplanted into moist, fertile soil will put on a show under the trees in consort with other annuals.

When looking over the plants at the nursery, I like to buy the biggest pot I can afford, usually six or eight inches. The leaves are bigger and they seem to do better.

In a couple weeks, the plants will get marked down an many garden centers, that's a great time to give them a try.

Being cheap, I save lots of them from year to year. They are actually kind of tough to get started in my unheated greenhouse as they love warm temperatures.

Here's a primer for saving any tender tubers.

Caladiums love summer as much as their gardeners do, enjoy some time together and watch the sun dance across their leaves.

blog caladium 2Spend time this summer watching the light dance over caladium blooms.

Blog caladium 5Caladiums come in many colors.

 

 

 

 

 

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Attack of the cabbage worms! How to win the battle

Written by Doug Oster on .

cabbage worms eatingThese cabbage worms are feasting on this broccoli plant, but I know just what to do. Photo by Doug Oster

It only took a couple of days for the cabbage worms to decimate this broccoli plant. I walked out into the garden this morning to see the horror, but it's really my fault, I'll explain later. The pests will chew on anything from the cole crop family including cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards and everything in between.

At this point, I'm hand picking. It will put a huge dent in the population. Can you see the little worm in the lower part of the picture?

If you don't have the heart (or stomach) to crush them, just knock them into a jar of soapy water.

The easiest control for cabbage worms is to cover plants with a floating row cover the day they are planted. It's a spun bound, translucent fabric. The cover prevents the cabbage looper butterfly from laying its eggs on the plant. That ship though has sailed.

Most of my plants were covered the same day they were planted, but I forgot about a couple of those broccoli plants and now I'm paying the price.

There are two other organic controls which will stop the worms in their tracks.

BT stands for bacillus thuringiensis, the worms eat it and they are done for. It only effects the caterpillars, no other insects, it's safe for us and the rest of the environment.

Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew uses an active ingredient called spinosad. It's sprayed on the plant, just like the BT, the worms ingest it and will die. It's another safe, organic product.

Both are available at good garden centers.

This is also the time to start thinking about starting another crop of cole crops for fall harvest. Seeds sown now will produce by the end of the season. If you start from plants, find a nursery with new stock. You don't want to plant seedlings which have been sitting there since April.

The garden is always filled with challenges, but that's the fun of it...right?

 

 

 

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#SettingTheSEEN: Happy Father's Day!

Written by Natalie Bencivenga on .

Wow, can you believe it is the middle of June already? Time is flying by! But here's hoping you can take a moment to celebrate with the father figure in your life this weekend. Enjoy this week's Setting the SEEN and Happy Father's Day!

And until next time...we'll be seeing you!

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