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Singing Gardener: Happy Birthday Canada

Plus, home remedies and where to get marrow seeds

Hurrah for the red and white! Patriotism flows through the Singing Gardener’s veins and this year for Canada Day, Ted focuses on potted red and white petunias that reflect the colours of our national flag. Each time you see it proudly raised on high, think of red for freedom, white for beauty, maple leaf and endless sky.

Hi again readers. I, Ted, am thinking ahead one full year from now. That’s when we’ll be rolling out the red carpet, honouring our flag and celebrating, travelling and connecting with fellow Canadians in hundreds of celebratory ways from sea to sea to sea. This land of the great white north shall celebrate its 150th birthday in 2017. Meantime our 149th is fast approaching, so let’s also whoop it up this Canada Day on July 1, 2016.

Well I’ve still got my “git box” (guitar) tagging along with me during personal appearances. Many opportunities exist to sing my song for prostate health and wellness (or the tomato song as some folks call it) to the men folk in my audiences and the women who love them. Often, if it wasn’t for the ladies, some guys would never get a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test and a DRE (digital rectal exam) of their prostate by a family doctor or urologist. In 2015 it was estimated that 24,000 Canadian men would be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 4,100 would die from it. On average, 66 Canadian men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every day.

’Tis the season for poison ivy and poison oak and home treatment suggestions are provided. A source for marrow squash gets this page sprouting. Thanks to all Grainews gardeners for the smiles, emails, letters and phone calls.

Vegetable marrow squash

Seems that marrow seeds are as difficult to find as seeds in a seedless watermelon.

The following email arrived short and to the point. “I am Ruby Soderberg from Young, Sask. I am trying Latah tomatoes this year. My husband (Henry) wants me to try marrows. His mother used to grow them, but it is hard to find seeds.”

Notes from Ted: Hey gardeners, I know of a source. Vegetable marrow (Cucurbita pepo) is part of the squash family, producing white oblong (longer than broad) fruits about 30 cm (one foot) long. Marrow is really an old-fashioned veggie that generates historical respect as far back as 1824 when it was very popular in England.

Karyn Wright (address follows) sells marrow seeds and over 140 varieties of heirloom tomato seeds. She also has beans, other popular veggies, herbs, flowers and aromatic sweet peas. Vegetable marrow is most tender with a mellow, buttery flavour when harvested young from bushy, productive plants at only 10 cm (four inches) length. You can order seeds from Karyn at: Terra Edibles, Box 164, 535 Ashley Street, Foxboro, Ont. K0K 2B0, visit or phone 613-961-0654.

Poison ivy and poison oak – home remedies

Right off the bat, don’t dilly-dally (let time slip by) when you’ve come in contact with poison ivy or poison oak. The sooner you take action, the better. Consult your health-care provider or go to emergency in urgent cases.

A severe skin rash (known as Urushiol-induced contact dermatitis) can quickly turn red and very itchy. Scratching can spread it. It results from contact with a potent oil called urushiol contained in poison ivy and poison oak. Just a teeny smidgen of urushiol irritates the skin almost immediately with urge to scratch. The oil stays active on unwashed clothes and dead plants for up to five years. If you’ve come into contact with poison ivy or oak, immediately wash your skin and clothes in cold, soapy water. Use a drying soap, like Burt’s Bees Poison Ivy Soap or even Tide laundry soap but avoid your eyes area and always use coolish or cold water. Anything hot will irritate an existing rash. When your skin flushes, itching becomes more unbearable. Avoid spicy foods and remain in the shade. Drink cool, relaxing teas or water with a squirt of lemon juice without sugar.

Grindelia (Grindelia robusta) also known as Gum plant, Gum weed and Rosin plant is an attractive yellow flowering herb that can be grown in the home garden from seeds. Make a brew and apply topically as a healing wash and as a poultice. It soothes burns, blisters and rashes such as those caused by poison ivy and poison oak. The itching usually stops immediately and inflammation is reduced. When applied on the chest and/or back, it is thought by herbalists to have a calming effect on the heart, making it useful for those with asthma, bronchitis, nasal and other congestive conditions.

Although Grindelia is not yet well researched, it works for most people but if it doesn’t, try something else. Seeds are sold as Gum plant by Richters in Goodwood, Ont. L0C 1A0; phone 1-800-668-4372. Richters also sells a poison ivy rescue kit containing Jewelweed spray, salve and bar soap for $69.

Jewelweed (Impatiens biflora) A.K.A. Tough-me-not

Jewelweed juice is a natural antidote when applied onto skin that’s been exposed to poison ivy and stinging nettle. One of the odd things about this plant is its tendency to often grow wild in close vicinity to poison ivy. Is that nature’s way of letting us know it’s a remedy for treating poison ivy, so grows right next door to the very plant that doled out the rash? Historically, folks who recognized Jewelweed in the outdoors simply picked a juicy stem of the wild plant, crushed some in hand and applied it to the affected area. Believe it or not, I’ve spoken with occasional individuals who told me they are immune and never get poison ivy.

Here’s something new that has come to light and said to work even more effectively. Simmer an entire Jewelweed plant including roots over low heat with added water for 15 minutes or longer until the resulting brew turns orange colour from substances leached from the reddish roots. Strain it off and cool the liquid, then freeze in ice-cube trays. Apply when needed directly to skin contacted with poison ivy. This preparation also appears to act like anti-inflammatory cortisone to ease joint issues and other aches and pain. Such Jewelweed brew is only for external application.

If this gives you reason to want to grow your own Jewelweed (Impatiens biflora) a.k.a. touch-me-not, here’s where to order plants for purchase starting mid-June.

Go to

Prairie Originals,
27 Bunns Road,
Box 25, GRP 310, RR3,
Selkirk, Man. R1A 2A8
Phone: 1-866-296-0928

A book that I, Ted, recommend purchasing is Laura Reeves’ Guide to Useful Plants. It’s well indexed, with lots of coloured pictures, reasonably priced and contains everything and anything from plant uses and recipes to such exciting subjects as cattail and Labrador tea to oak acorns and mushrooms. There’s even a reference to Jewelweed on page 71. Those interested in getting a copy can visit, write or phone Laura at the following:

Go to

Prairie Shore Botanicals,
Box 65
Gardenton, Man.
R0A 0M0
Phone: 204-425-3520

Bentonite clay

This summer, if you’re walking along trails in bush country or picking wild saskatoons, cranberries or whatever, it might be a good idea to mix your own clay and water paste at home ahead of time. It can be enhanced with a few drops of tea tree oil and lavender essential oil to soothe and disinfect. Carry some along in an airtight jar so it doesn’t dry out. Bentonite or green clays are available at most health food and natural product outlets. There’s a report of a woods person mixing a combo of green clay, some salt, white vinegar (no proportions were given) and a few drops of peppermint essential oil. The mixture was applied to poison oak to help draw out irritating oils and soothe an itching, burning rash. Spread damp bentonite clay as is on rash as often as needed and let it dry, or apply to ease mosquito and black fly bites. Even plain, ordinary mud will do in a pinch.

At home an oat bath is ideal for a large rash that already has settled in. Mix up a big pot of soupy powdered or fine oatmeal flakes and water. Strain some into a tub of coolish water and put the remainder inside a sock. Remember that hot water can further irritate poison oak and ivy. Use the goopy sock like a sponge and let the oat goop ooze over skin. Another option is to make a cold paste of powdered oatmeal or slippery elm with water and smear it on. As either dries, it pulls out the oil that’s discharged into the moistened powder. Rash won’t spread and it gives good relief.

Closing thought

There’s nothing wrong with learning to golf or play Canada’s game, but remember you can’t eat a golf ball any more than a hockey puck is edible. That’s why we plant a garden.

There are many reasons to love lilies such as this Stargazer. Spectacular deep-pink to crimson-red blooms are dotted with prominent darker spots. Note the long, showy stamens. Flower tips are reflexed, meaning they curve back toward the stem. Lives of many gardeners have been made sweeter since meeting up with lilies.
There are many reasons to love lilies such as this Stargazer. Spectacular deep-pink to crimson-red blooms are dotted with prominent darker spots. Note the long, showy stamens. Flower tips are reflexed, meaning they curve back toward the stem. Lives of many gardeners have been made sweeter since meeting up with lilies. photo: Ted Meseyton

About the author


Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.



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