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Monday, October 29, 2012

Ozarks Gardens, Not So Bad After All


Sometimes it’s good to visit other kinds of gardening to make you appreciate your own. Our soil in the southern Ozarks is rocky, with lots of clay and yet we manage to grow pretty good gardens. Farther north in Missouri, and farther south in Arkansas, there’s actual soil to be found, more fertile, less rocky. But not all gardeners have the luxury of either kind of soil for their crops.

Last week I was in southern Arizona, Tucson to be exact, for a garden writers conference. Each year our conferences are held in different parts of the U.S. or Canada, exposing our membership to a wide variety of growing conditions and plants. Tucson was an area many of the 400 people who attended the conference, had never been before.
Pretty to look at, impossible to touch.
Imagine if you will, soil that looks like a hard, gray, gravel road. Any gravel road, anywhere in our area, looks pretty much like Tucson soil. Now imagine that the hard, gray, gravel is the only soil and you have to dig it with a pick to loosen it enough to make some sort of hole for your plant. Now imagine getting only 9 or 10 inches of rain in a year, and in a place where the summer daytime temperatures regularly reach 120 degrees.

It apparently is possible to grow some food crops there. Native Americans grew squash, beans and corn, as well as tiny hot peppers and some wild herbs. Since it doesn’t freeze in the lower areas, winter crops of lettuce and even some tomatoes can be grown. But what does best of all, are cactus. Hundreds, maybe thousands of kinds of cactus grow everywhere. They grow out of the rocks up into the mountains, they grow out of the cracks in the pavement along the road. They’re the only plants in the landscapes of yards and businesses. Grass is virtually non-existent.
Note the soil around the prairie dog.
Cactus are interesting to look at. Some produce beautiful flowers, some even produce edible fruit. But if you have 400 people, loaded onto 5 buses, and walking around in the gardens, what you soon learn is to watch where you walk. With that many people, at every turn in a garden, you are getting poked, stuck and prickled with cactus thorns!

In our Ozarks gardens, you can safely reach out and feel the plants you grow. Tomatoes and peppers and herbs don’t attack you every time you look away. But in a desert garden, you have to watch for rattle snakes, cactus with long thorns, cactus with thorns that look like paper, some that look like fuzzy puppies, all which will do painful damage to your skin.

While it is interesting to visit other kinds of gardens, this one in particular, made me especially grateful for our soil, our climate and most of all, for the wide variety of plants we can grow here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Preventing Insect Pests for Next Season

Ozarks Gardening
Jim Long; 10/10/12

Bugs Coming Inside for Winter

I’ve not been prying into persimmon seed to see if there are spoons, forks or knives yet, to determine the kind of winter we’ll have, but if the invasion of bugs into homes is any indication, we may have considerably more cold this winter. Of course it wouldn’t do any good for me to open persimmons and pry open the seed as there’s no over-all agreement whether a spoon means a winter of plenty, or that it means you’ll be digging out of snow. Or that a knife means a sharp, cutting winter, or one with plenty, like spreading butter on bread.

Flies have been hanging onto the screens ever since the few nights of near-freezing temperatures, darting in at every opportunity. The Korean ladybugs have been finding their way inside and crawling behind baseboards to hibernate. I even saw a television story this week about scorpions making their way into houses, although I’ve not seen any evidence of that.

The local television photos of the scorpions made them look like they were the size of a person’s hand, when in actuality our local scorpions are closer to the size of a garden spider. In Thailand where I visited some time back, people collect their native, giant hand-sized scorpions and deep-fry them for snacks. I’m not ready to do that, but if you do have garden pests invading the house, the spider sticky-traps do a pretty good job of catching all kinds of unwanted bugs.

As far as the garden is concerned, October is a perfect time to clean up old dead plants and burn or dispose of them. Clean-up is especially important for tomato plants. Any of the tomato diseases you may have had to fight with this season, are likely still present in the dead tomato plants. They should be removed from the growing area and either burned or put in the trash and not left in the garden.

Now’s a good time, as well, to till the garden soil. Turning it over exposes grubs and insect pests’ eggs, allowing birds to eat the insects. Another tilling in mid-winter is a good idea, too, turning the soil over again to expose things like grasshopper eggs so they will freeze and not hatch so many next year.

Cover crops such as winter barley and annual vetch can still be planted. Buckwheat, which is a good nitrogen-fixing crop, does better if it’s planted earlier and has a good foothold before cold weather hits. Such kinds of cover crops are usually left until early spring then turned under to allow the material to decompose and add nutrients to the soil. That early tilling also accomplishes turning up insect eggs and exposing them to cold weather and birds.

Visit my garden adventures blog, too. http://jimlongsgarden.blogspot.com

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Book Contest

In a recent survey of readers on my gardening blog (http://jimlongsgarden.blogspot.com, followers told me you like contests. I receive lots of books in the mail to review, so I'm going to pass them along to followers here. This contest is for folks who follow my regular gardening blog
If you're not a follower, sign up today (see the button on the right that says, "Join this Blog"? Click it and you'll be entered in the contest as soon as you leave a comment). You must be a follower, and you must leave a comment in the comments section to enter the contest. Details for leaving a comment are also on the right side of the page of that blog. Again, the contest is open to everyone who shows up as a follower on the right side of the blog page of jimlongsgarden.blogspot.com In a recent survey of readers here, you told me you like contests. I receive lots of books in the mail to review, so I'm going to pass them along to followers here. This contest is for folks who follow that blog. 

NOTE: The contest will run until Oct. 17. I will announce the winner of the books shortly after that.
If you're not a follower, sign up today (see the button on the right that says, "Join this Blog"? Click it and you'll be entered in the contest as soon as you leave a comment). You must be a follower, and you must leave a comment in the comments section to enter the contest. Details for leaving a comment are also on the right side of the page of my regular garden blog. Again, the contest is open to everyone who shows up as a follower on the right side of that blog page, and who leaves a comment about today's post. The contest will run for a week and the winner will be chosen at random from the number of comments posted. I will announce the winner in about a week, here, and that person will have to contact me by email to give me their address so I can send the prizes. (If you aren't aware, I have no way of contacting those who are listed as followers, there is no email address or other information posted anywhere that I or anyone else has access to). Here are the books that will go to the lucky winner:


248 pages, this is a wonderful gardening guide.
The Non-Stop Garden, a Step-by-Step Guide to Smart Plant Choices and Four-Season Designs, is a comprehensive guide to year around color using perennials, shrubs and blooming plants. I've known Stephanie Cohen for many years and she's a columnist for Fine Gardening magazine. Co-author Jennifer Benner is a former editor of Fine Gardening and an experienced nursery designer. Both of these folks know plants and design very well. $14.95, available from most bookstores and on-line.
224 pages of great landscape ideas.
Stone Landscaping guides you step by step through creating stone pathways, walls, patios and other projects made of stone. The photographs are from Rosalind Creasy (author of Edible Landscaping) so you know it's beautifully illustrated. This is a wonderful guide to creating a stunning landscape using stone and creative design ideas. $19.95, from Better Homes & Gardens, and available at bookstores nationwide.
Home Remedies That Work, $6.95.
And last but not least, the winner of this contest also receives a copy of my newest book, My Favorite Home Remedies That Work. You'll find many of my own home remedies formulas as well as lots more from trusted sources and research. It's 40 pages of valuable, useful information for saving money and healthy living with natural remedies. My book is available from my website, as well as from herb shops nationwide.

So become a follower, Join my garden blog, and leave a contest and you will be entered to win these 3 books!