- Author: Karen Metz
I have long been a fan of Hot Poker, Kniphofia uvaria. I love their tall, dramatic structural presence in the garden. They are low maintenance, as well, which is a huge plus.
Because of their height, three to six feet tall, they are generally planted towards the back of the garden bed. Recently, some new hybrids are coming in at about 2 feet which allows a little more flexibility. Hybridization has also increased the color choices beyond the standard orangey-red. Now you can choose from yellow, or salmon, or peach colors.
Hot Pokers require sun and well-drained soil. They are hardy from USDA Zones 5-9. The experts disagree about their water needs; some stating regular water and others saying they are drought tolerant. I've grown mine with a mini-sprinkler 10 minutes three times a week. And they made it through the drought years. They attract hummingbirds and are deer resistant. They can be propagated by division or seed.
I was surprised to see their names pop up recently on a list of plants that did better with dead-heading (cutting off fading blossoms to spur further flowering). Somehow that had never occurred to me. Okay, I could do that. Next, I saw them on a list of plants that were good for cut flowers. What? So, I went out and cut some and put them in a vase. Up close, I could appreciate the delicate beauty of each tubular flower and watch as the bloom spike opened from the bottom up over a few days. Enchanting!
- Author: Launa Herrmann
(2) Cornell University offered a cursory overview of pathogens affecting tomatoes with photographs entitled “Tomato Disease Identification Key By Affected Plant Part: Stem and Whole Plant Symptoms.”
(4) Purdue University provides access to an article in PDF format, “Tomato Disease Management in Greenhouses,” addressing common diseases of greenhouse tomatoes, the importance of using a cloth ground covering between rows for easy sanitation, greenhouse ventilation with photographs of these issues.
- Author: Michelle Davis
I am a frequent flier at UC Davis. My husband and I have walked our dogs the entire length of the arboretum once or twice weekly for over twenty years. It wasn't until about 5 years ago, on a break from a UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) pet appointment, that we discovered the Toxic Plant Garden. It is on the north side of the anatomy building very close to the VMTH. The garden has over 60 plants known to be poisonous to pets and livestock and some to people, as well.
The original garden was designed by Murray Fowler DVM (1928 - 2014), a name some may recognize as the former Sacramento Zoo veterinarian. He was also the first to author a zoological medicine text used to train zoo animal medicine. He designed the Toxic Plant Garden in 1970 in a different location near the VMTH, and he and some of his students maintained it. In 2006, Dr. John Pasco relocated the garden to its present location. Mick Mount, Clinical Toxicologist worked together with Dr. Fowler (who was retired by this time) to select the plants from a long list to plant in the new garden. A walk through the current garden can be eye-opening. Plants you never thought would be toxic ARE to our pets and livestock (lemon verbena, aloe!)
While the plants are identified in the garden, a list of them can be found at this address: https://ccah.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/sites/g/files/dgvnsk4586/files/local_resources/pdfs/toxic_plants_common%20name_Auug2011.pdf
It is not the complete list of every toxic plant you can buy. There is no such list that I am aware of. I check numerous sites before I bring a plant home and still have unwittingly planted something that I later find out is potentially poisonous. I will have found it on one list and not on another. Fortunately, my husband and I adopt older dogs now, who seem to have the sense or have gained the wisdom before we got them, to not eat everything in sight.
Some sites I have used to check for plant toxicity are ASPCA, HSUS, Cornell University, and the Sunset Western Garden Book which has an icon to identify a poisonous plant. Of course, if there is any concern, after ingestion, contact your veterinarian immediately or the Poison Pet Helpline at (800) 213-6680 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. Each of the phone hotlines has a fee attached.
- Author: Michelle Davis
You're on JEOPARDY! It's the final question, and you've bet all your winnings. Quick!
Here's your final JEOPARDY! answer.
“This spice is common to Ethiopian, Thai, Spanish, Indian, Mexican, and Greek cuisine.”
Do-de-do-duh DO. DO. DUH. Time is up.
Did you get it right?
You did, if you said, “What is Coriander/Cilantro?”
All of these diverse cultures use coriander/cilantro in their cooking. North Americans alone make the distinction between the seed and the plant. Other parts of the world call the plant and the seed coriander. For North Americans, coriander is the seed or fruit of cilantro. This fruit is actually two seeds in a crispy jacket. The seeds are considered to be the spice. Cilantro – the leaves and stems - fall in the herb category. Every part of the plant is edible. Cilantro, Coriandrum sativum, is related to parsley, and both are related to carrots.
Have you ever stood in front of the fresh herbs at the grocery store trying to figure out which bunch of green leaves is the flat leaf parsley and which is the cilantro? Without tasting a leaf or smashing your nose into the bunch for a good sniff, it's pretty difficult. Look closely at the leaves. If the leaves are pointy on the ends, it's parsley. If the leaves are rounded, it's cilantro.
Of course, you could always pop a leaf in your mouth and make the distinction. Or could you? Up to 14% of people possess the olfactory (smell) receptor gene OR6A2 that causes them to taste cilantro the same as soap. The culprit is aldehydes - found in cilantro and also in soap. I, fortunately, do not possess this gene. I love the taste of coriander, a little peppery and a little citrusy.
The history of Coriander goes far into the past. Coriander seeds dating back 8000 years were found in the hills near the Dead Sea in 1983. King Tut's tomb contained coriander seeds for the afterlife. Hippocrates used it for medicine. During the Middle Ages, it was used together with wine as an aphrodisiac. Today the herb/spice is grown worldwide as an annual and used to flavor food of all types.
I have tried planting the herb outdoors in the spring, but our summer heat caused it to bolt almost as soon as it was tall enough to start harvesting some of the leaves. The trick is to plant it in a container and place it in a sunny window indoors. Use packaged seed. The bottled coriander seed has been dried. Pick the exterior plant leaves when the plant reaches about 8 inches and leave the inner part of the plant for future growth and harvesting. You can also leave some of the plant to produce coriander seeds as desired.
Or you can go to the market, stare at the bunches of herbs, search for the rounded leaf edges, take the bunch home, and then add some to your exotic culinary masterpieces. Did you pick the right bunch?
- Author: Lowell Cooper
There was a fascinating article in the New York Times on June 9th on corporate control of seeds for mass agribusiness production. The bottom line for the writer, Dan Barber, is the importance of developing more emphasis on seed diversity than uniformity, organic farming versus corporate production. The argument is familiar. Actually, it has similarities to the IPM movement, which looks to train growers to think about how to approach pest management – with thought and health of person and ecology in mind. Personalize. Think little.
The challenge is coming to terms with the scale of the seed challenge. I myself am not a farmer and I buy food at the local grocery store because it is relatively cheap and whenever there is an ‘organic' label I can expect to pay more for the product. When I grow veggies in my home garden, the scale is quite small. I am not solving the world's hunger and what is available at the local farmers' market is a useful addition to what I can grow. Unfortunately, I don't have a very rich taste range, so the argument that corporate seeds spoil the taste just doesn't grab me. I definitely think that diversity is a good idea in that it supports individual aesthetics and uniqueness and often the literal beauty of the veggie is noticeable. Also, it is a good lifestyle and there is something wonderful about being close to the earth that way.
My roses get bugs and fungi of one sort or another. The argument for IPM is easy to construct from an environmental vantage point, and even with IPM there is the acceptance that at times the bugs require a heavy hammer. So be it.
I think that the drift of the Barber point of view is that seeds manufacture is a very big business that won't go away easily, if at all. And from the point of view of feeding millions of hungry people, it isn't all bad. There needs to be a place for small growers who love the idea of personalizing our food. And what can be wrong with that? It is probably desertion of my usual liberal politics, but I have to say there must be room for all kinds of farming. And the darker implication of Barber's observations is that corporate seed production – and the entire legal apparatus and commercial apparatus surrounding and supporting it – pushes out the individualized – read ‘organic'- grower. That seems very too bad and unnecessary. Maybe it is inevitable. I would say that rather than taking on big agribusiness frontally, why not focus on the kind of growth that fits the scale we as individuals live in.