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& Terra Viva Update
Terra Viva Organics
Garden Clean Up
to Grow Japanese Red Maple Trees from Seed
Of Pressure Treated Wood
Cold Weather Soup Recipe
published at Suite101.com
As winter approaches,
it's tempting just to sit back and put your feet up and
not have to think about the garden until springtime. However,
just a bit of extra work at this time of the year can
save you a whole lot of hassle come planting time. Garden
clean-up, the last big chore for gardeners, is often overlooked,
especially if it's been a strenuous gardening year. But
by cleaning-up garden debris, composting the healthy material
and throwing away the rest, gardeners will benefit in
Welcome the winter frosts
- Removing garden debris
will keep pests under control. Many insects, like
the asparagus beetle, will overwinter in debris and
come out even earlier the following year. Slugs &
snails love to hide under leaves and will often lay
their eggs in these comfy areas. Older cabbage leaves,
for example, should be removed so that slugs don't
have easy access to the heart of the cabbage.
- Diseased plant material
laying around in the garden can be sources of infection
the following year. The Late Blight fungus that infects
tomatoes and potatoes has been shown to infect gardens
especially where volunteer plants sprout early in
- Your compost pile will
benefit from the healthy material you add into it.
If much of the garden material is still green, make
sure to mix-in some "brown" material such as tree
leaves (which are plentiful right now), dried grass,
straw, or shredded newspaper.
While frosts usually signal
the end of tender plant growth, for over wintering plants
like kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, parsnips and radicchio,
a good frost actually sweetens the taste! How does this
occur? These overwintering plants actually use sugar
as an antifreeze! By pumping more sugar into their cells,
and reducing the water content, the plants are able
to withstand colder temperatures. For home gardeners,
this mechanism is an added bonus. Not only do they survive
for longer periods, the taste of these vegetables improves
after a good frost.
So, when the garden shows
signs of that silvery hue, rejoice!
is the Contributing Editor - Vegetable Gardening
Most Japanese Maple seeds
ripen in the fall. Watch the tree and wait for the seeds
to turn brown. The seeds are ready to be harvested when
they are brown and can be easily removed from the tree.
The seeds are attached to a wing, it's best to break the
wing off before storing or planting the seeds.
Japanese Maple seeds have
a very hard outer coating as do many ornamental plants.
Under natural conditions the seeds would have to be
on the ground for almost two years before they would
germinate. All that happens the first winter is the
moisture softens the hard outer shell, and the second
winter germination is beginning to take place. In order
for all of this to happen in the proper sequence so
the seedlings actually sprout at a time of the year
when freezing temperatures or hot summer sun doesn't
kill them, takes a tremendous amount of luck. You can
improve the odds by controlling some of these conditions,
and shorten the cycle.
Once you have picked the
seeds and removed the wing just place them in a paper
bag and store them in a cool dry place until you are
ready for them. You don't want to plant your seeds out
in the spring until the danger of frost has past, here
in the north May 15th is a safe bet. If May 15th is
your target date you should count backwards on the calendar
100 days. That will take you to about February 5th if
my math is correct.
On or about the 100th
day prior to your target planting date, take the seeds
and place them in a Styrofoam cup or other container
that will withstand some hot water. Draw warm to hot
water from your kitchen faucet and pour it over the
seeds. Most of the seeds will float, just leave them
in the water overnight as the water cools down. 24 hours
later most of the seeds will have settled to the bottom
of the cup, drain off the water. Place the seeds in
a plastic bag with a mixture of sand and peat or other
suitable mix. Even light potting soil will work. The
peat or soil should be moist, but not soaking wet. Poke
some holes in the bag so there is some air circulation,
and place the bag in your refrigerator for a period
of 100 days.
After 100 days you can
plant the seeds outside. If you have timed it correctly,
you should be at or close to your target planting date.
To plant the seeds just sow them on top of a bed of
well drained topsoil or sterilized potting soil, and
cover with approximately 3/8" of soil. Water them thoroughly,
but allow the soil to dry out completely before watering
If you water them frequently,
not only do you stand a chance of the seeds rotting
from being too wet, but you will also keep them cool,
which will slow down the germination process. Once they
start to germinate provide about 50% shade to keep the
sun from burning them. Snow fence suspended about 30"
above the bed will provide about 50% shade.
Japanese Maples will tolerate
some shade so it isn't too important to transplant them
too quickly. Depending on how close together they are,
you might be able to leave them in the same bed for
one or two growing seasons. Don't transplant until they
are completely dormant.
Michael J. McGroarty is
the author of the popular gardening newsletter, "Mike
McGroarty's Gardening Newsletter", and the webmaster
stop by and sign up for his newsletter, it's free.
Now is the time many
gardeners construct, repair or replace raised beds to
get a jump on spring planting. It also gives us a great
opportunity to prepare the soil inside for next year's
growing season. But did you know that the lumber you choose
can actually hurt you?
Pressure treated wood
is created by forcing chemical preservatives into the
wood cells. These preservatives- creosote, pentachlorophenol
and chromated copper arsenate salts - help make the
wood resistant to decay by curbing fungus and insect
Although this is very
appealing for raised bed construction, these chemicals
leach into the soil and eventually into the plants.
There is an ongoing argument
that a certain level of chromium must be in the soil
before a plant can absorb these toxins. This would work
the same way calcium and magnesium need each other in
proper balance for a plant to absorb certain nutrients.
But keep in mind, although these chemicals remain in
the top few inches of soil, that is the area where our
plants absorb most of their nutrients.
Pressure treated wood
often takes on a greenish tint due to the copper residue.
Lumber that is treated should be marked, but ask your
dealer to be sure of what you are buying.
Also stay away from old
railroad ties and utility poles that are often covered
in creosote. If you want to dispose of these items,
take them to a hazardous waste disposal site. This practice
also applies to any pressure treated lumber. Burning
it releases toxins into the air, which, could make you
sick or worse if inhaled.
Building structures such
as walkways or piers around ponds with pressure treated
lumber can be a hazard for fish. Copper residue will
kill fish. It is wiser to use a naturally resistant
wood like cedar to make your raised beds and windowboxes.
You can also use stone, brick or cement block, but these
can add lime, so check your ph often. So enjoy the benefits
of raised beds and save the pressure treated wood for
Cindy Kerschner teaches
composting for Penn State and the DEP through the Master
Gardeners program. For more tips, sign up for her newsletters
at [email protected] or visit
her at Garden With Grammy