Welcome again to the Singing Gardener page. As always, you are my guests of honour and I really do appreciate having readers stroll along with me on the Grainews garden path throughout the various seasons. Lots to write about, as always, including a new tomato for both the fresh market and the amateur gardener — plus, dealing with moss on the lawn.
SPRING IS INCHING EVER SO CLOSER
… and how gardeners and farmers long for it. What could be worse for yours truly or any columnist than to write something, but have no readers? Perish that thought! My “thinking cap” is on so let’s see what flows from the world of words using our 26-letter alphabet A to Z.
Speaking of flowing, let me ask: Are you looking for water? There are always underground streams flowing somewhere, but more than often it can be tricky to know just the right spot to sink a sand point or well. When all else fails, I, Ted, say seek out the talent of a water dowser. I don’t usually give a hint in advance, but I’ll share just such story in my March 4 Grainews column.
Back in 2009 Tomato Soup Echinacea was a new floral introduction. It’s the word “tomato” that caught my eye. Immediately I thought of things like growing this perennial; making a Tomato Soup Cake for dessert and lycopene for my prostate; the latter generously found in tomatoes.
… is brand new and boasts up to 40 per cent more lycopene content and antioxidants. The words “more lycopene content” attracted my attention since I’m aware of lycopene’s relevance to helping each man maintain a healthy prostate.
Years ago I wrote a song for prostate health, wellness and awareness that I call “O It Must Be the Tomatoes.” The lyrics relate an important message with a touch of humour directed toward men and the women who love them. It tells the importance of guys age 50 and over to get a regular DRE (digital rectal exam) and whatever else the doctor might order, such as a PSA blood test. Along with that goes a health-promoting diet that includes five or more weekly servings of cooked and raw tomatoes. Research has shown extra lycopene is released in “stewed tomatoes” especially when a touch of cold-pressed vegetable oil is added. Personally, I prefer almond, walnut, sunflower, or hemp seed oil. I get a lot of requests for my so-called “tomato song” and always sing it during my personal appearances.
Here’s one verse of the lyrics:
Now happy is the man, who can celebrate,
And say: Hey fellas — I’ve still got my prostate,
Oh tomatoes you sure are a friend,
For your lycopene thank you again.
Now back to Tasti-Lee hybrid tomato. Its development spanned a period of 10 years research, resulting in fruits with heirloom tomato taste, plus appetizing rich-red colour inside and out, along with high sugar content. In the garden, growth characteristics include reliable performing vines that are determinate with good fruit cover and a moderate level of heat resistance. Fruits are consistently flavourful and mature between early to mid-season, about 64 days after setting out transplants. The “toms” are extra firm when field ripened, weigh between 180 to 200 grams (six to seven ozs.) each and remain in good form up to six weeks at room temperature. Add to that good shipping and marketable qualities.
MOSS ON THE LAWN
I heard from Edna Mackenzie via email in mid-January 2013. She writes:
Dear Ted: I live in windy south Alberta — five miles south of Pincher Creek in the beautiful foothills of the Rockies. The weather can be unbelievably windy — usually Chinook conditions. At the moment +6 C. I read in your column concerning earthworm control with lime. We will try the lime on our lawn in the spring and hope we can get rid of the mounds and bumps. We have a problem with moss in the lawns — particularly on the north side of the fir trees. The moss seems to be slowly creeping farther out into the lawns, thinning and destroying the grass. I cannot find anything to kill moss. Can you help by giving me some helpful tips to stop the moss or the name of a moss herbicide? I look forward to your remedy(ies). Best wishes. Thank you.
— Edna Mackenzie
Ted replies: Unless you have to deal with it, gardeners may not think of moss as a weed. I won’t be offering any chemical formula other than to say there’s some suggestion that copper sulphate kills moss and turns it black in a couple weeks when applied as a diluted spray. However, I prefer the non-chemical approach on a lawn that is already compromised. What follows is a little headline to remember.
DISPOSE OF MOSS USING HOUSEHOLD DISH SOAP AND WATER
Before indoor plumbing, some of you might recall back in the days when laundry water and dishwater (also known as grey water) were recycled into the garden to help control pests. Well here’s an easy formula that can effectively stop green moss, as they say — in its tracks.
4 to 5 ozs. liquid dish soap (not detergent)
4 litres water
Slowly blend soap and water well without shaking in an empty four-litre milk jug or large container, then pour mixture into a watering can or hand-held sprayer. Drench the moss with this solution while holding the nozzle tip or spray can holes just a few inches above the moss. In about 24 hours or so the moss will start to turn rusty brown and dry up. Best time to do this is during the fourth quarter during the dark of the moon in any month. Example: April 3 through April 9, 2013 and May 2 through May 8, 2013. Afterward, use a wire-toothed lawn rake to gently rake out as much of the dead stuff as possible. Additional raking may be required.
Often moss is the result of conditions that lack direct sunlight and soil that’s too acidic, too wet and poorly drained. By core aerating the lawn during spring, you can help reduce soil compaction, improve drainage and strengthen grass roots development. Beneficial mowing practices are crucial. Cutting turf too low helps moss get established. Most turf grasses should be mowed at a height no shorter than 2-1/2 inches.
It’s usually safe to assume a lawn is lacking essential nutrients wherever moss is growing. Moss usually invades only a thin, unhealthy lawn. Grass grows best in a pH soil value between 6.5 and 7 so you might consider getting soil from the affected area tested. If too acidic (i.e. pH below 6) try spreading on some ground limestone available at garden centres and at some cattle feed supply outlets, to counteract acidic conditions. A good application of limestone or dry wood ashes will sweeten it up.
Where there’s too much shade trim back trees, shrub limbs and branches. This allows more sunshine to penetrate. In other words, remove sun blockers. Keep in mind that moss can recolonize unless underlying conditions that encourage its re-entry and development are eliminated.
Don’t know whether you’ve ever tried this. A hand sprinkling of common sand over the lawn including any bare patches is worthy of consideration each fall. Apply suitable lawn seed afterward. For high-shaded areas, purchase grass seed that grows well in shady or moist areas. Hopefully these suggestions will help someone rectify problems relative to unwanted moss. Any Grainews readers who’ve dealt with moss issues are welcome to share their experience.
THROUGH THE MIND OF A CHILD
A youngster stood outside waiting for his mother to finish her grocery shopping.
Shortly, along came a man wearing a white collar. “Young man,” he said, “can you tell me where to find the post office?”
“Sure,” the boy replied. “Keep walking straight down this street for one block to Saskatchewan Avenue and then turn right.”
“Thank you,” the man replied. “Oh, by the way, I’m a new pastor in town. Do you think you could come to church some Sunday and I’ll tell you how to get to heaven?”
The youngster replied with a smile, “How can you tell me the way to heaven, when you don’t even know the way to the post office?” †