Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Through Our Garden Gates

We hope you've marked your calendar for this Saturday! It's supposed to be sunny with a high in the low 80's - a perfect day to tour five gorgeous gardens! Click here for complete tour information.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Fun with Wordle

Have you heard of Wordle?  You can use it to make a word cloud of just about anything.  I did one for the Garden Musings blog:

Totally cool, right?  I really like the color scheme, it's called "organic carrot."

Check it out at

Friday, May 25, 2012

Another PAR Experiment - Bwa ha ha ha!

Our inspiration
We grow lots of tomatoes at PAR Davies, because the Food Bank recipients love, love, love them.  Since we are a production garden, we're always looking for ways to increase our output.  Our fearless leader had this book in her stash and we decided to devote some space to try this method.  It's supposed to result in tomato plants over 20 feet tall!!

Our fearless leader
First we dug a hole roughly 2 feet in diameter and about 15 inches deep.  We filled this hole with 1/3 organic compost and 2/3 bagged garden soil.  We amended this with a little cotton seed meal and we also added an anti-fungal agent:

Here's what the tomatoes looked like when we started:

There are two tomato plants in this bucket
You remove all of the stems from the tomato, except for the top two.  Then you plant it at the same depth as the plant, not burying part of the stem as in conventional planting.

Our experimental tomato
According to the theory, every place that we removed a stem will produce a sucker that we will train over to the side of the cage that we will put around the plant.  Each of these suckers will grow up the side of the cage and produce fruit just like a standalone plant.  The book's author claimed to have grown one plant over 30 feet tall.  I don't think we expect such a monster (how would we even harvest the fruit?)

This is pretty exciting stuff, yes?  Has anyone else ever used this method for mega production of tomatoes?  We'd love to hear your results.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

PAR Davies: Experimental Wonderland

As soon as you enter PAR Davies, you realize that this garden is just a little different.

Perhaps it’s the big red bench made out of an old bed,
  or the old gutters that have been repurposed to grow vegetables and herbs,
     or the red ladders that are being used as trellises.

Maybe it's some of the unusual plants, including an “Ayurvedic” garden recently started in a corner of the garden. 

Ayurveda is a 5000 year old Indian system of medicine which believes that diet is largely responsible for good health.

The plant below is Withania somnifera, also commonly known as ashwagandha, Indian ginseng, or winter cherry.  It is a member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family.  According to Ayurveda, ashwagandha is considered to be a rasayana herb, a term that means "rejuvenation.” Those who practice Ayurveda believe the roots of the plant have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-stress, antioxidant, mind-boosting, immune-enhancing, and rejuvenating properties.  Whew!

(Here’s our disclaimer…this blog is NOT intended to give medical advice!)

Although some of the experiments are fun and educational, most of the experiments are to determine how Memphis Area Master Gardeners can best provide fresh, wholesome produce for the food pantries we help supply.

This year, volunteers are growing various types of tomatoes and tracking which varieties produce earliest and best.  Results will be provided to the University of Tennessee Extension service and will be used to improve choices of what to grow year after year.

Which tomato variety do you think will produce best?
  • ·       Beefsteak
  • ·       Better Boy
  • ·       BHN 602
  • ·       Florida 91
  • ·       Jet Star
  •      Rutgers
  •      Mountain Glory
  • ·       Sanibel

Monday, May 21, 2012

Master Gardener Events

Did you make it to the Garden Jumble Saturday?  What did you score?  If you didn't have a chance to get by there, well, there's always next year, or...

There's our next event:  Through Our Garden Gates

On Saturday, June 2, five gardens will be open for touring.  Four are MG personal gardens and the fifth is the Plant A Row for the Hungry (PAR) garden at Davies Plantation.  Go to the Memphis Area Master Gardener website for more information.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Blueness of it All

I just have to share these wonderful flower photos with you.  In addition to gardening, I needlepoint and this is one of the needlepoint blogs I follow.  In addition to needlepointing, Laura is also a gardener and a talented photographer.  I think you'll love the blueness of it all.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Letter from Dianne

(Note:  Dianne is our intrepid raised-bed gardening experimenter.  You can see what's gone before by searching "Dianne's Journey" in the search box on the right.)

I'm doing fine Suzanne, thanks.

I will tell you what's going on in the garden.  I have pulled up the kale, collards and spinach. The spinach was a failure, and I think it was due to the variety. In the fall I will try a different kind. The kale and collards did well and were delicious. I had them sowed really too thick, and was constantly thinning. This was the result of sowing twice after nothing emerged in 3 weeks. 

Chard top left, lettuce top right
The rest of the spring crops--lettuce, chard, onions and snow peas are still doing well. We are eating and sharing everything.

Only a few onions left

Early Girl tomatoes
The Early Girl tomato I planted on St. Patrick's Day is huge and has 19 tomatoes, some tennis ball size. 

I have also planted 4 more tomatoes--'World's Largest Tomato,' 'Celebrity,' 'Black Cherry' and 'Beefsteak.' All have lots of blossoms and some have tomatoes. I have also planted 2 varieties of okra, zucchini, basil (as a companion to the tomatoes), 4 varieties of peppers and an eggplant. A friend has bamboo in her yard and she let me cut some to make a tepee for pole beans.

Someone gave me a big bag of 'Dixie Speckled Butter Peas,' enough for a field of them!! In searching for information on these, I discovered a recipe that looked really good (link below). I knew I didn't have room enough to plant many of these, and since they had such good reviews for being tasty, decided to plant a few….if just for this salad.

I don't know how long the lettuce will last--buttercrunch and several different kinds of leaf lettuce. I will just keep cutting it until it gets bitter. I am starting some seedling cukes to take the place of the snow peas when the hot weather gets them.

In about 2 weeks the pole beans should hopefully be climbing and the okra, squash and butter peas should be more visible for a photo.

I hope to see you at Through Our Garden Gates at PAR on June 2. It's going to be good.


Friday, May 11, 2012

A Prayer in Spring

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil. 
Robert Frost
Have a great weekend - see you at the Hosta Sale!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

PAR Update 5/8/12

The Plant a Row for the Hungry Garden volunteers are reaching out to those less fortunate in our community. 

Collierville Victory Garden has already donated 1,202 lbs in 2012!

Currently the garden has one row each of leaf cabbage, Korean turnips, and purple top turnips to harvest this week.

CVG has planted most of the summer garden including:
  • ·      Basil
  • ·      Eggplant
  • ·      Cantalopes
  • ·      Cucumbers
  • ·      Peppers
  • ·      Purplehull peas
  • ·      Squash
  • ·      Tomatoes

Sweet Texas onions, sweet corn and garlic should be harvested within two weeks.

Last week Janet and Debra conducted a tour of the garden for a group from the VA hospital.  Call 901-752-1207 to get information about arranging for your own tour of any of the PAR gardens.

CVG’s zinnia cut flower bed has sprouted and has a few tiny flowers.

PAR – Davies has also donated 438 lbs of fresh produce to the YWCA and to the Memphis Food Bank including greens, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage and spinach.

Cool weather crops are being pulled up and put in the compost bin, and hot weather plants are going in the ground.

PAR – Davies is experimenting with some new garden conventions.  For example, red potatoes are being grown in hay!  According to G.A. the secret is to keep the adding hay on top of the plants and keeping the hay moist.  The potatoes will be green and bitter if exposed to light.
Potatoes in straw

Stay tuned for some more gardening innovations by the PAR – Davies Guy!

PAR – Shelby Farms

The gardens have been released to the volunteers and gardening has begun. 

So far, PAR – Shelby Farms has tomatoes, squash and cucumber planted.  Don, Al and their team also have planted some seed.

All the hills and furrows are in and we just need to plant and get rid of the nut grass.

--- Sharon Lusk

Monday, May 7, 2012

Gardens for a Beautiful America, 1895-1935

Gate at Casa de Mariposa - actually painted a bright blue-green

When you have more than a few minutes this week, browse through the "lantern slides" of photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston at the Library of Congress website.
Ms Johnston, trained as a fine artist, had 1,130 of her garden photographs transferred to glass, which she then hand-tinted.  She used these slides to give lectures to garden clubs, museums, and horticultural societies from 1915 through the 1930's.
250 of the photographs have been collected into a book, "Gardens for a Beautiful America, 1895-1935" (Acanthus Press, $79).

Friday, May 4, 2012

Be Still

The past few weeks have been chock full of activity: end of school, visits from friends and relatives, travel for business and pleasure, work and volunteer obligations - the list is endless. This weekend, take a moment and go sit in your garden. That's right, just sit. Don't think, don't fret about garden tasks undone, don't replant that corner in your mind. Just be still.

Claude Monet - Woman Sitting in a Garden, 1876

Blessing in the Chaos 

To all that is chaotic
in you,
let there come silence.

Let there be
a calming
of the clamoring,
a stilling
of the voices that
have laid their claim
on you,
that have made their
home in you,

that go with you
even to the
holy places
but will not
let you rest,
will not let you
hear your life
with wholeness
or feel the grace
that fashioned you.

Let what distracts you
Let what divides you
Let there come an end
to what diminishes
and demeans,
and let depart
all that keeps you
in its cage.

Let there be
an opening
into the quiet
that lies beneath
the chaos,
where you find
the peace
you did not think
and see what shimmers
within the storm.
  --- John O'Donohue

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

PAR Davies update 5-1-12

Bob pulling broccoli plants for the compost bin
Yesterday at PAR Davies we harvested 292 pounds of broccoli, cabbage, collard greens and turnip greens for the food bank!  Yay!

We also weeded a little bit (getting ready for the big tour on June 2!)  And here's what we did to the potatoes:

Straw mounded around potato plants
The potato plants are 18-24 inches tall now.  The traditional method is to mound soil up around the plant for the potatoes to grow.  Instead, we mounded straw all around the plants, leaving only the tops showing.  The plant gets less light there, which gives the potatoes the clue to grow.  The potatoes will grow into the straw!  Easier to harvest and less work than mounding all that soil.

All in all, a great day.

The bounty

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Serviceberry Tree

Selby Horton in search of serviceberries to make a pie

If you were fortunate enough to tour Anne Frogge’s Garden, featured in the Memphis Area Master Gardener’s “2011 Through Our Garden Gates Tour,” you may have tasted the unforgettable sweet pungent fruit of the Serviceberry Tree (Amelanchier arborea). Almost a year after the tour, Ann received a call from a tour guest who wanted to know the name of the tree that bore “the delicious berry.” In late May or early June, this addition to your edible landscape will provide nutritious fruit, high in antioxidants, and great for making tasty pies and jellies.

A perfect fit in the urban yard, the Serviceberry will grow to 25 feet in full sun to partial shade.  In the wild it is often found on bluffs, rocky slopes, and stream beds so be sure to plant it in a well-drained area. It works well planted with evergreen shrubs for borders and screens and helps to naturalize water features. The serviceberry offers rewards in each season. For 5-7 days in early March, it will be covered with 2 to 4 inch drooping clusters of showy 5 petal white flowers. In late spring, the Serviceberry, also called Juneberry, bears a red, blueberry size, fruit which ripens to a deep purple. In summer, the oblong, finely serrated 1-3" leaves are medium to dark green.  In autumn, leaf color may range from yellow, to orange, to rich maroon. The smooth gray bark with vertical brownish red fissures provides winter interest.

Below is a recipe for SERVICEBERRY PIE. Michael Dirr says the serviceberry fruits are “better than highbush blueberries” and the serviceberry pie “ranks in the first order of desserts.”  Ann Frogge warns that in order to harvest the fruit, you must beat the birds to it. And this year it looks like the berries will ripen well before June. 

Serviceberry Pie 
2  pie crusts:  from your favorite recipe or 2 uncooked 9-inch prepared pie crusts
1/2 cup sugar---add more to taste
1/3 cup of corn starch or substitute flour
1/3 teaspoon nutmeg
4 cups fresh, deep purple serviceberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1. Place pie crusts into a lightly greased 9-inch pie pan; let them reach room temperature
2. Heat the oven to 375  degrees.
3. Combine the sugar, flour and nutmeg in a large bowl; stir in the berries.
4.  Spread the mixture into the pie crust -- sprinkle with lemon juice.  Place butter pieces on top.
5. Cut 1/2-inch strips from the second pie crust then weave the strips over the filling for a lattice crust.           Press the ends of the strips into the bottom crust edge then flute edges.     

6. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 1 hour.

Jan Castillo