First! Allow me to begin with an expression of appreciation. Somehow thank you doesn’t seem nearly adequate, but I say it anyway. Many, many thanks to my phenomenal family of readers. Hundreds of you entered my Singing Gardener draws. Congratulations to the winners and thank you to those who provided prizes. A lot of readers also went the extra mile to include a few remarks. I shall share one of them today and others in future. How profoundly I am touched by your goodwill, support and dedicated willingness to come my way via Grainews.
SPRING WEATHER POEM
Let me pass along one of my favourites. Year in and out, this leafing poem seems to be true.
If the oak is out before the ash, We will only get a splash; If the ash is out before the oak, We will surely get a soak.
FOG, DRIZZLE, MIST, RAIN
…and mostly mild temps. under grey, dreary skies. That sort of sums up the type of weather in my turf during the tail end of February and well into mid-March. Seems it was widespread too. Carol Hayduk of Calmar, Alta., shared the following:
“I read your interesting article on seeding with the moon and wonder if you have any faith in the saying: It will rain six months after the fog. Considering all the fog we had near Edmonton, August should be pretty soggy out here. Carol adds this wise thought for gardeners. “Make sure the garden’s not in a low spot.”
Six months down the road will be from the end of August and into September for those of us in southern Manitoba. If you had persistent fog in your area this spring, calculate from when it began until the fog ended and then advance six months later for your approximate rainy period. Remember, this is hand-me-down folklore and not scientific by any means, but is considered accurate within reason, nine times out of 10.
We’re getting toward that time of year when we’ll be dealing with issues such as getting rid of ants. Place small piles of cornmeal, either on the soil or in tiny containers that ants can easily access. They’ll eat some, take it home, but they can’t digest it. Cornmeal bungs them up and they’ll dehydrate. Don’t be in a rush. It takes at least a week before you’ll notice no more ant activity.
Here’s another gardener’s experience from an article I once wrote. I’ll call her Angela. She told me it really works and it’s important to use sticks of original Juicy Fruit gum. Angela cut the gum into very tiny pieces and that took time. She then placed gum bits on the surface of anthills, or wherever she saw them. “Nothing happened for the longest time. The gum just sat there,” she told me. Then one day, she had a delightful experience. “All of a sudden, all of the gum and ants were gone.” The lesson to be learned is you cannot rush it. Patience is required.
I, Ted, suggest for best results that gardeners do this during third and fourth quarters of the moon, while light is receding. Ah nature! Let’s work in rhythm with her. But of course as always, when pressed to deal with an immediate issue, use common sense. Will other brands and flavours of stick chewing gum work just as well? Who’s to know; except the person who tries it!
TWO FRUIT AND VEGETABLE WASHES
Food is our medicine. Even if there’s nothing visible clinging to homegrown produce, we know that bacteria, dirt and dust can still be present. When it comes to store-bought fruit and vegetables, just imagine how many pairs of hands have touched the produce before you take it home. Some fruit and veggies are often coated to prolong shelf life. Water alone may not be adequate to wash it away. Traces of pesticides may also linger. You don’t want to peel and scrape everything away because nutrients just under the skin are lost. It’s easy to make your own cleansing formula at home and the cost is affordable.
GRAPEFRUIT SEED EXTRACT PREAMBLE
The only reason I call it “sophisticated” is because grapefruit seed extract offers a multitude of uses. It is a broad spectrum antimicrobial, antibacterial and antifungal nutrient for exterior and internal use. It has been widely recommended for germ-killing capability and controls gastric discomfort and diarrhea. It should never be used full strength and must be diluted in juice or water when taken internally. Follow label directions carefully. As a throat gargle, mix about six drops in 150 ml of water and gargle as required. I get mine in a bottle with an eyedropper top at a combo health and bulk food store.
SOPHISTICATED PRODUCE CLEANSING FORMULA
Ten drops grapefruit seed extract, one tablespoon baking soda, one cup white vinegar, one cup water, one brand new spray bottle, well washed.
Be aware that baking soda and vinegar will foam briefly when mixed together, but does settle down. Mix it in a deep pitcher.
THRIFTY PRODUCE-CLEANSING FORMULA
One tablespoon lemon juice, one tablespoon white vinegar, one cup water, one brand new spray bottle, well washed. Use either of the above as is and spray over produce. Let sit five to 10 minutes and then rinse thoroughly in clear water to wash away residue.
Fragile items such as apricots, cherries, raspberries and strawberries should not be soaked or left to sit. Instead, first spray with one of the above homemade cleansing blends and then gently rinse the fruit in a colander with a flow of clear water. Do this just prior to serving.
KEEP CUTTING BOARD SURFACES CLEAN
When handling fresh veggies and fruit, maintaining clean countertops and chopping boards is absolutely essential. Is there such a thing as a non-toxic surface cleaner that is antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral?
Consider the following and decide for yourself. All you need is a squirt bottle filled with undiluted household three per cent hydrogen peroxide (H202) and another bottle filled with plain white vinegar; plus a clean cloth. First — spray your counter work area with H202; wipe it down; then spray with vinegar and wipe it down again. That’s all there is. Very simple!
Ah! Homemade rhubarb pie, upside-down rhubarb cake and stewed rhubarb with strawberries. Although it’s often called the pie plant and used mostly in desserts, in reality rhubarb is a vegetable. Rhubarb plants are heavy feeders and require good, rich soil with a side dressing of quality compost.
Only the stalks are eaten, as rhubarb leaves are poisonous to both humans and animals and can cause severe convulsions and coma. Depending on variety and age, some leaves may contain almost lethal amounts of insoluble calcium oxalate.
ENGLISH RHUBARB LEAF SPRAY
Simmer 1.3 kilos (three pounds) of rhubarb leaves in four litres water for 30 minutes. Cool, strain and add an equal amount of clear water to the concentrate. Stir in some soapsuds or a few drops of insecticidal soap. Pour some of the resulting brew in planting holes of rose bushes to prevent blackspot. Do the same thing when setting out brassica, cruciferous and cole crop transplants such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage and cauliflower, kale and turnips to prevent club root. Before direct seeding radishes and onions outdoors, wet the planting row with rhubarb leaf brew to reduce incidence of maggots. You can also mix dried, used tea leaves with carrot and radish seed to stop carrot rust fly and maggots.
A controlled mulch of dried oak leaves on soil surface around radish and turnip plants stops maggot activity and repels cutworm, grubs and slugs. Some gardeners feel that whole oak leaves have an inhibiting effect on growth of some vegetables and recommend fully shredding and composting them first before spreading on the garden.
This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener & Grow-it Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I hear some people say “money talks” and then they ask: Why is there so much month left at the end of the money? To those short of cash, may your finances overflow and the pockets of your jeans be a magnet for $100 bills. May signs of spring lead you more often to the garden and less often to the produce section at the grocery store. My email address is [email protected]