Des Moines Garden 11/23/06 – Chickens Give Thanks

After my front yard garden was literally cleaned out (see post “Divide and Conquer 10/8/06”), I sowed Tyfon seeds, which Rose Marie had sent me, as a winter cover crop. I confess that I did not keep up with the watering, and we were in a drought. Some seeds sprouted and the first set (cotyledon) of leaves lightly peppered the bare ground.

Although it got quite chilly in November, the weather warmed on Thanksgiving Day—it was sunny and in the mid 60s. Ton and David (who live two houses south of me, and own Chocolaterie Stam—the best chocolate this side of Amsterdam) had been working non-stop at the local store as well opening a new franchise in Ames, IA. Their six chickens had not free ranged for well over a month (Truth be told, a few times when I was feeding them, they got loose and I had to corral them back into their coop, but they had no grazing time), so David let them out to get some exercise and find some goodies, which indeed they did. The chickens made tracks to my front yard, where they had their own very trendy Thanksgiving feast—micro greens (the young tyfon). They had a great time, and I couldn’t begrudge them their holiday meal as I get to enjoy their fresh eggs every day.

As my Thanksgiving guests arrived, they were greeted by this sight—well-fed chickens having a group dust bath.

In case you want to know who’s who, from left to right: Marjolein (an Auracana), Princess Buttercup (the White Frizzle rooster who had been named by the daughter of the family who gave him—fully grown—to Ton & David. It’s very hard to tell the sex of 2-day old chicks and the name stuck), Shaniqua (a Black Australope, partially hidden by Princess Butterrcup and the two Rhode Island Reds—Ruby and Jezebel), and rounding out the group are Cordelia and Ophelia (Silver Wyandots).

Chickens enjoy a dust bath

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Des Moines Garden – The Big Dig

It takes a lot of work to clear a mature garden.

Des Moines Garden - the Big Dig

Keane – Garden help

Des Moines Garden – The Beginning

We are starting here a sequence of posts about the Des Moines garden project. Cathy Wilkinson Barash will update these posts later.  I am posting the pictures now.

Des Moines Garden Pre Dig

This shows the front yard in full growth.

Keane – Garden help.

Eggs & The Vernal Equinox

Cathy Wilkinson Barash, our friend in Des Moines, tells me that eggs will stand upright on their base for several hours around the vernal equinox. Urban myth, pagan rite, or perhaps like Cathy you’ve been astounding friends for years with this feat. She says it only works at the arrival of spring. I’ll be taking pictures of my attempt and we shall see if mine are lopsided or upright.

As you can see from the photo below it worked!

balanced egg
Eggs are the age old symbol of spring and I remember a wonderful Easter egg hunt when the children were small. All the colored eggs had been placed in clumps of wild violets and other spring flowers making such a pretty effect. Several families enjoyed a picnic and it was idyllic until two of the children went chasing down a muddy bank into a slough and had to be fished out. I was the chagrined mother of one of the miscreants.

Growing Saffron Crocus

Question from Ocala, FL. I would like to grow my own Saffron. Will it grow here?

Answer: I’m not precisely sure how Saffron crocus will perform in your area. These bulbs are dry and dormant in summer, flower in fall when rains begin and then send up new leaves through the fall and winter months and move into dormancy in late spring as the foliage dies back. Growing in a container that is placed out of the rain in summer will ensure the best results. Here in Oregon we are wet in winter but dry in summer which is what is needed. When first planted bulbs send up one to three flowers on successive days.
Mix a good bulb food into your soil mix. Give them a container about 10″ deep, bulbs sometimes have a tendency to migrate lower and lower so for that reason you might want to shake them out in July, divide and replant every couple of years.
I think you can grow the saffron on a small scale, your major obstacle is avoiding too much summer wet so place containers in a dry well lit area perhaps under eaves.

Garden Mulch

Question from Newport News, VA. What are good mulches for the vegetable garden?

Answer: I use a variety of materials and all have merit. Melons do well with black plastic mulch. Tomatoes here in Oregon are showing good results from red plastic mulch. This year I will plant peppers with a newspaper mulch to suppress weeds, about three sheets seems sufficient and it just breaks down into the soil. Straw makes a good mulch, but can be weedy so you might seek out rotted oat or wheat straw. Plastic is kind of a hassle at a cleanup time but it is reliable. Shredded leaves are excellent. You will conserve water with mulches but need to adjust irrigation, running leaky pipe under the mulch is probably the easiest. Match your mulch to the plants requirements, don’t use acidic pine needles with lime loving cucumbers, or heat retaining plastic with cool crops such as broccoli or cabbage. If your garden is in a breezy location fix the mulch in place so it doesn’t blow around and make a mess. If slugs and snails are an issue in your area don’t create a safe haven under the mulch. Keep an eye out for them, trap and cleanup and consider using a safe product like sluggo.

Citrus scale

I’ve been spending the day answering gardening questions and thought some of these are worth sharing.

Question from Marblehead, MA: I have rust colored insects attacking my Meyer lemon tree plants. The leaves are sticky and blackening. Can you please recommend a treatment?

Answer: Citrus plants are susceptible to scale, which is the problem with your lemon tree. I have two approaches, both which are effective and non-toxic. The first is to wipe off the scale from leaves and branches with a piece of gauze soaked in rubbing alcohol. Depending on the size of the plant this may or may not be practical. Neem oil does an excellent job in treating scale. A small amount of oil is combined with water and applied from a spray bottle. We offer for sale and recommend Dyna-Gro Pure Neem Oil.