Once again, it’s Singing Gardener time. So pour yourself a cup of regular or green tea with Grainews in hand and imagine that I’m sitting across the table from you.
WELL HOWDY FOLKS, HOWDY
Those were opening words I often used while travelling with a country music band during live stage performances as its MC. From a way back then, I’ve carried forward that same friendly greeting when welcoming folks to my live gardening appearances. The familiar greeting of “howdy” is an abbreviation of “how do ye, or how do you do.” I guess I’ll never lose that homespun country spirit that is so well endowed within me. Nor would I want to!
I need no imagination to recall my younger years. I think back to when I regularly listened to country music radio right here in Portage la Prairie from CJGX in Yorkton at 940 on the AM dial. I think the station only had 1,000 watts power at that time, but seems to me its coverage area was vast throughout much of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Those good ol’ classic country, folk and western tunes are stored away in the heart of my memory bank.
Thanks to a reader from Alberta who wrote to me in September:
I live near Gibbons, Alta. which is about 30 km north of Edmonton. Is the portulaca that you are referring to in your Grainews article Sept. 10/12 also known as “Purslane?” I inadvertently brought some into my garden via some cabbage plants from a local greenhouse. Not knowing what it was (and kind of pretty) I let some mature and of course go to seed! After doing some research, I realized that it is a rather bad weed that can produce 100,000 seeds per plant and even if pulled out in the blossom stage will still produce seed because the plant has a huge moisture reserve. One can let the plant lay in the sun at 30 C and it will not wilt! To combat the problem, I go into my garden and pick the plants at both the two- and four-leaf stage and completely remove them from the garden. In order to get them at this early stage it helps to look for them in both the morning and evening light. A bit obsessive compulsion but this seems to have gotten them under control although not totally eliminated at this point. Some health enthusiasts use this as a salad green! I know of at least two other people who have been infested with this plant. I wonder if its ability to reproduce outweighs the health benefits! Should have mentioned that one will see a flush of them about one week after a good rain. I’m still picking the odd one now that the garden is cleaned out. I enjoy your column. Some very helpful tips! JH
Note from Ted: Its botanical name is Portulaca oleracea (Latin). Some common names include garden purslane, common wild purslane, duckweed, fat weed and little hogweed. Scientists throughout the world have dug up soil and counted weed seed numbers of about a dozen different weed species including garden purslane, Canada thistle and dandelion. They concluded a good estimate to be about 100 million weed seeds per hectare of agricultural land, although numbers varied among various countries. The average number of seeds per wild purslane plant is amazingly high at over 50,000. Seed survival in undisturbed soil can be between 30 to 40 years. Growing conditions of course play a hand. An old expression stating one year of seeding means seven years of weeding appears to still hold true.
Are there any deer in your neighbourhood? It’s really annoying when garden plants become fodder for many four-legged creatures. Perhaps you have some deer-proof ideas or a trick or two for keeping them away from your garden. If yes — let’s hear what works for you and what doesn’t.
Some folks still tell me that hanging bars of Irish Spring soap around the outside perimeter of their garden provides a reasonable measure of deterrence. On another front, you wouldn’t think so because of thorns, but it seems deer are surprisingly fond of roses and have been known to nibble at them from top to ground level, but for whatever reason they leave Rugosa roses alone.
Then I discovered that planting scented geraniums in front of rose bushes creates an odour and taste environment that deer and rabbits don’t like. Consider leaving your geraniums outdoors in the ground all winter. Certainly you’ll lose them to winterkill but their scent remains pungent enough to resist invasion by deer even when they’re frozen, withered or blackened. Dig out the dead geraniums each spring and replace them with new geranium transplants.
A product called Plant Saver All-Natural Deer Repellent is available from West Coast Seeds in Delta, B.C. It’s both tested and recommended to repel deer, rabbits, mice, elk and moose from garden plants without any smell or unpleasant odour. A single application lasts up to six months and it doesn’t wash away in the rain.
Or, there’s Plantskydd deer repellent considered to be among the most cost-effective and environmentally safe products available for home gardens, landscapers and woodlot owners. It has a lingering odour as does the following. Those who like to whip up a homemade formula can blend a mixture of hot Tabasco sauce with some “eggs gone bad” after their “best before date” and sour milk. It becomes very strong, smelly and unpleasant to the nostrils. Dilute it down with some water. Instead of a clothespin on the nose, wear a large neckerchief across the face to help minimize the smell. Sprinkle thinly over plants, flower beds and shrubs, especially those on the outside perimeter of the garden. Whew! I can almost smell it already but it really works. Even deer show respect.
I know some folks, myself included, who avoid using food products containing MSG. For those allergic to it, or who wish to make mock monosodium glutamate, here are a couple recipes.
No. 1: Grate two tablespoons of fresh lemon peel that’s first been well scrubbed and grate two tablespoons of fresh ginger root. Dry at room temperature or in a very low oven until almost brittle. Add two teaspoons (or less) of coarse sea salt. Place ingredients in a seed grinder or clean coffee grinder and churn until quite fine, or use a mortar and pestle.
No. 2: Grate two tablespoons of fresh horseradish root and dry it overnight or longer until moisture is totally gone. Pulverize dried horseradish with mortar and pestle or place in a seed or coffee grinder with two tablespoons of dried mushrooms and two teaspoons of whole mustard seeds. Whiz until powdery then mix in two teaspoons of fine sea salt at the end. Store either of the above in a well-capped spice jar or an empty washed and dried vitamin bottle. Use just pinches. A little goes a long way.
HERE’S AN UNUSUAL BIT OF NEWS
… that may interest the sports minded and help prevent concussions. I first became aware of it this past summer. Some of you may have heard it on the radio. Almost sounds too easy, but a scientist says wearing a band of some sort such as a turtleneck sweater around your neck can help retain more blood in the brain and reduce severity from being hurt in contact sports. Sounds weird and strange for sure, but he says it works. It’s a new idea that may be worthy of implementing to reduce the impact of concussions.