Thursday, January 31, 2013

Big Plans at PAR Davies!

Below is a bed layout for our spring and summer crops. This is just suggested placement keeping in mind crop rotation and companion planting as best I could. Email me with any changes, suggestions, etc. Just about anything can be changed, except the tomatoes have to stay where they are. To give the tomatoes ventilation, I've planted a low crop next to a row of tomatoes. Tomatoes will be approximately 10 plants per bed with a single row and one at each end. I've left some blank spaces for last minute additions, changes, etc. The idea is to try to plant more than one crop per bed to help deter disease and insects.


Seed packet organization:  small photo album - remove the
hard cover or the album won't close!

Unusual Plants: I was at the seed swap this weekend and got some Asian bean seeds (up to 3 ft. long beans) and Scarlet Runner bean (see links below). Even if you didn't eat these beans, they are really cool to look at. The youtube segment on the runner bean will tell you waaay more than you ever wanted to know about runner beans. I thought we could do one tepee of each bean, unless someone has a better idea.

Kay is starting an Italian Tree Tomato for us. It is supposed to get up to 15 ft. tall!! That would be taller than 2 tomato cages stacked! So we will have some interesting specimens to be sure.


With the summer crops I am especially concerned about the cucurbits, since last summer the cucumber beetle did a number on our cukes. We are planning on using insect row covers for the squash, but I don't know what to do about the cukes (and cantaloupe if we decide to try again), as those darned bugs will probably be back. I'm not sure if a periodic spray of Neem would prevent the cucumber beetles….does anyone know? I've also been reading about Kaolin Clay (Surround WP is the brand name). Has anyone heard of this? It says 'organic' but in one place cautioned to use something to cover nose/mouth and leave the area after spraying. Anyone got a gas mask? It is supposed to be just clay, but you wouldn't want to get it in your lungs. The 'Surround' also repels japanese beetles, which we had an infestation of last year. I think trying a row cover on unruly cukes or cantaloupe would be near impossible, especially if they are climbing on a fence. Help! Thoughts on this anyone???? 

FYI…..Below is a link about row covers--for cold protection and for insect protection. Scroll down to the video 'Row Covers for Protecting Plants' and watch some good information on how to use the insect row covers. This is what we will need to do with the squash. I am wondering if we will need wire supports or if it will be light enough to 'float.' Our winter cover is Agribon AG-50, and we will use the Agribon AG-15 for the insect cover.

If you are interested in getting the Agribon row cover for your home garden, the link below is so far the least expensive site I could find….I guess 'cause it's the factory. I hate it that a lot of the types go from 50' to 500' lengths with no in between.

Hope you have a nice week.
Til later,

"In gardens beauty is a by-product. The main business is sex and death."  --Sam Llewelyn

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Scarce Bees

“If bees disappeared off the face of the earth, man would have four years left to live.”  Albert Einstein

Dark Honey Bee (photo by Ron Hemberger via

My family has a long tradition of beekeeping. My uncle and maternal granddaddy kept bees. Knowing his beekeeping days will end someday, my uncle asked me to take it up. I wish I could, but time and space are limited and town codes say no.

The last few years some folks in town have bemoaned their lack of squash, beans, and other plants which require insects, mostly honeybees, to do their pollination. Some plants do not need bees, such as strawberries, tomatoes, and corn which are wind and gravity pollinated, though bees do help as they are attracted to the blooms.

It is estimated a third of our food would not exist in the absence of bees. Folks, that’s serious.

Bees are dying off in alarming numbers. The cause is still being debated. It is called Colony Collapse Disorder. A recent study in the UK claims to have found insecticides to be the culprit. Other studies have found other causes. The real question is to whether or not we humans are causing their demise. 

We are blessed with many honeybees in the Victory Garden. I believe the reasons to be the flowers, mainly sunflowers, we plant and we are ideally situated in a clover meadow.

Some folks in our fair town, including me in my own backyard, rarely see honeybees. I have many flowers such as zinnias, roses, lantanas, and rudbeckias, but I seldom see a honeybee. My Minnesota Midget cantaloupes and pole beans had sporadic production this year. I believe that is due to insufficient pollination.

Besides the general die-off, honeybees are scarce for other reasons:

1.    Our monoculture Bermuda grass yards for homes and parks have replaced clover meadows which provided much of their nectar and pollen.
2.    We indiscriminately spray insecticides which kill both good and bad insects.
3.    There are fewer beekeepers and therefore fewer hives, just as there are fewer gardens.
4.    Our draconian town codes with wide open space requirements for bee hives allow only people with large estates to have hives. That alone makes it unfair. It seems the town fathers believe they must protect us from ourselves. It matters not that the reality is we have clover meadows swarming with bees with adults and children and pets romping through them. Thus their prohibition must be based on some upscale community view rather than a real and present danger.

Bees have a normal range of two miles from their hive. With no legal hives I am aware of in our town, we are dependent on bees from more than two miles away. That alone limits our honeybee population severely.  I wish the town fathers will see their folly. In the interim some churches with large lots could install a couple of hives as a community service.  Local beekeepers would install and maintain the hives in exchange for the honey.


 Perhaps  the town will install a few hives in a remote corner of Johnson Park and the new Hinton Park, and fence it off to keep children and pets away.  I have asked, but have been told it will not happen.

Ain’t God good!

Carl Wayne leads the Collierville Victory Garden. He is available to speak to groups at no charge. Contact him about visiting or volunteering for the Collierville Victory Garden or about speaking engagements at 485.6910 or Or contact your local extension service 752-1207.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

January Harvest

The PAR-Davies crew harvested 38 pounds of produce yesterday and delivered it to the womens' shelter.  Here are some gorgeous beets (and one parsnip!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Warm, Cold, Warm...

Flowering Quince 1/21/13
The weather needs to decide what to do.  If we're confused, what about the poor plants?  I took this photo on my street yesterday.  Sunday I saw daffodils buds, but didn't have my camera.

It's not just your imagination - see this article that was linked to our Facebook page last week.

What is blooming (too) early for you?  Leave a comment or post a picture on our Facebook page.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Gardening - More Than Food and Flowers

“Nothing is more memorable than a smell.  One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town.  Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years.  Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once.  A complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth.  ~Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses


We say we garden simply to provide food for our families and flowers to decorate our living spaces. Yet there are more senses we seek to satisfy and conjure up memories of former days and events.

Scents, once fixed in our minds, never go away, and remain as fresh as the day we first learned them. And along with those scents we remember when and where we first became aware of them.

I smelled my first cornfield on Uncle Charlie’s farm in the White Oak Creek bottom. The corn was tasselling and the leaves were rustling in the wind. Both that sweet scent and the sound of that sea of rustling leaves are seared in my mind. My memories were vivid as my own sweetcorn tasseled in early May this year.

Momma loved flowers. The rich scent of her petunias and gardenias will always be with me, as will the acrid scent of her marigolds. Each is unique and firmly fixed in my mind.
A scent of any of those takes me back to those places and times.

Honeysuckle blooms can scent a wide area. One cannot smell their aroma and not remember riding along country roads with the windows down. Travelling those same roads we loved the petrichor smell of wet dusty roads. It’s almost the same smell of a rain dampened door screen.

In the last few years I have learned the rich sweet smell of Winter Daphne in midwinter just when I need a reminder to start planning for warm weather. She blooms when the air is dense and brightens my whole backyard. Some say she has the sweetest scent of any flower. I agree, though gardenia is a close second. But they are distinctly different in my mind.

Basil is a herb which graces my garden and an occasional Italian dish. She has the added benefit of repelling unwanted bugs in my garden.

I expect each of us has most if not all of these same wonderful memories deeply etched in our minds, and many more.

Aint God good!
Carl Wayne Hardeman

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Winter Door Decorations

(Note:  had a nasty stomach bug over the weekend, so no post on Monday.  Back now!)

One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is the decorations.  I love the lights, the ribbons and bows, the ornaments and, especially, the wreaths.  So I always get a little depressed when all that is taken down and we're left with nothing after a surfeit of color and sparkle.

In the past I've had spring wreaths and I've had autumn wreaths, but never a winter wreath.  But I had a burst of energy last week, trolled the internet for images, and pinned my favorites to a Pinterest board I created.

After going back and forth and back and forth, I finally chose this one:


I now have great respect for the people who do these things.  Do they have a magic store where one can find every single item they need? (I should have remembered this from sourcing supplies for the Tiffany Workshop, when I hit every craft/dollar store in Memphis!)  Anyway, I went to Michael's in East Memphis and they had almost everything.  But the spray snow was not be had anywhere at any price, at least in the timeframe I was willing to commit.

Here's my finished wreath.  I have a glass door, so it's hard to get a great photo.  One of the birds came off the other day when it rained so hard, but not to worry - I have plenty of wire!

Yes, that's a reflection of the houses across from me...

Not tooooo bad?  I'm already looking at spring wreaths.  I figure if I give myself a little more time....

Friday, January 11, 2013

Continuing Resolutions

Another sketch of the day (this hasn't been exactly daily, but hey)

Just a short note:  remember my post regarding resolutions and cleaning out my kitchen pantry?  Well, I was right, one thing led to another and I'm on a tear.  I took advantage of the past few rainy days to do a top to bottom cleaning (and cleaning out) of my house!  You wouldn't believe the, ahem, "crap" that went to the trash.  It's hard to believe that all that stuff used to to be good - what happened?

Today I'm tackling my desk.  This is where I will really pay for my procrastination.  Have pity.

I'm also going to do a quick project that I'll share with you on Monday.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

January Plants of the Month

Wouldn't it be wonderful to look out your (kitchen, bedroom, den) window and see a splash of color in your landscape on a dreary winter day?  Don't you love driving down a street and suddenly there's the treat of a red berry-laden holly?  The UT Institute of Agriculture, of which Memphis Area Master Gardeners is a part, publishes a Plant of the Month every, well, month.  I thought it would be fun to go back into the archives and see what they've highlighted over the years.  What I especially like about this list is that these plants are chosen by the University of Tennessee horticulturists because they do well in our area.

Here they are, starting with 2012 and going back to 2003.  One selection show up twice as different cultivars; one selection appeared in two years.  Can you guess which one?  See the answer at the end of the post. Also at the end, the Plant of the Month for January, 2013.

If you want to know more about a particular one, just click on the name under the photo.  Most of these can be planted now, so get going and get your color fix started!

Bloodtwig Dogwood Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'

Winterberry Holly Ilex verticillata 'Red Sprite'

Lenten Rose Helleborus x hybridus

Which one was selected two times in 10 years?  Our good friend Winterberry Holly!

What is the Plant of the Month for January, 2013???

Small Anise Tree Illicium parviflorum 'Florida Sunshine'

I'd love to see photos of any of these growing in your yard or neighborhood.  Send me an email with the subject "January POM" or post to the MAMG Facebook page using "January POM" and the approximate location in the comments.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Winter's Blow by Carl Wayne Hardeman

Winter's Blow 

The wind doth blow, the rain doth sweep, relieving dry and hot.
Campaign signs, laying down blown away, I like that quite a lot.

The storm doth show, with a mighty blow, Nature cleans her own front yard.
Yesterday's leaves, dead weak limbs, felled by winds so hard.

My garden says, that's OK, though I've lost leaves and shoots,
Onions and garlic, carrots and beets, are growing new long roots.

Me and Belle, no season has rest, we're planning next Springs' work,
Reading catalogues, ordering seeds, we need a new garden fork.

While we plan, recliner laid back, Mimi thinks we're both asleep.
But I doth plan, and Belle doth dream, of squirrels chased up a tree.

Aromas waft, from Mimi's kitchen, a rich stew is getting hot,
Turnips stewing, sweet taters baking, natural beef in the pot.

A gardeners work, is mostly done, until Winter ends at last,
But Mimi has, only brief respite, twixt cleanup and next repast.

Bare ground is bad, so I doth grow, collards and kale alike,
My garden grows, hardy winter crops, no break in the cycle of life.

So I praise Him, who made it all, though winds cut like a knife.
Since after all, that's His way, of renewal by bringing new life.

     -- Carl Wayne Hardeman