Whether the snow is still blowing outside or your spring bulbs are already making their appearance, garden fever is in the air. One way to quench your need to get your hands dirty is to bring spring indoors by growing your own living decorations. Many gardeners are familiar with forcing cherry, forsythia blossoms & and spring bulbs but you can add to this by sprouting wheat kernels in containers for a beautiful centerpiece.
In France, sprouted wheat is a symbol of the abundance of the upcoming season. March 21st, the first day of spring, also coincides with Norooz, Iranian New Year. Part of the celebration requires that green sprouts, normally wheat, decorate the table setting. The wheat sprouts symbolize the re-birth of the nature as spring emerges in the northern hemisphere.
Growing your own wheat sprouts is not only decorative, but also highly nutritional. Wheatgrass is full of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. The juice is reported to have many health benefits due to the high concentration of chlorophyll, Vitamins B-12, B-6, K & C, and beta-carotene. One study from the University of Texas Medical Center found the extract of wheatgrass inhibited the cancer-causing effects of two mutagens.
Choose a container
Sprouting your own wheatgrass is extremely easy. Any type of container is suitable for sprouting wheatgrass. Pots that have drainage holes are the easiest to use for beginner sprouters but once you get a handle on how much water wheat sprouts require, you can sprout them in any container that is at least 3-4″ deep. I’ve found dollar stores to be a fantastic source of decorative containers that won’t break my pocketbook.
Select a growing medium
Once you’ve decided on a container, fill it to about 1″ below the top of the rim with pre-moistened soil, compost or potting mix. Make that sure whatever growing medium you use, it doesn’t contain any artificial fertilizers or chemicals. I like to make my own organic mix using peat and about 20% worm casts. The worm casts provide extra nutrition, allowing you to harvest the wheatgrass more than once.
Plant the seed
Wheat seed is the last ingredient. Purchase your wheat from a reputable source that sells food-grade organic seed that is meant for sprouting. Never use agricultural seed, especially any seed that is coated with fungicide. Wheat seeds are sometimes sold as wheat “kernels” or as “Hard Red Wheat”.
Sprinkle the top of your container with wheat seed. I like to leave a little bit of space between the seeds, so that they’re not touching and competing for food. Press the seed into the soil and then cover lightly with more potting mix or soil and water lightly. The soil in the container needs to be kept moist so I like to cover my containers with a clear plastic bag or clear plastic film.
In about 3-4 days, you will begin to see sprouts emerge. It’s now time to move the container to a sunny location. Sunshine not only allows the young sprouts to manufacture more chlorophyll, but it helps to keep them stocky and short. Wheatgrass grown in the dark or in poorly lit areas tends to be quite pale and lanky and in no time at all, the sprouts begin to fall over.
By about day 7-10, the sprouts are the perfect height to use as a centerpiece or to begin harvesting for juice. Wheatgrass grown using this method can be cut more than once for an extended harvest so if you are using it for juice, start a few containers on different days so that you have a continuous supply of the nutritious leaves.
For more information on sprouting wheatgrass, try these resources:
No matter how much people try to encourage the wildlife to visit and live in their gardens. There will always be occasions and/or parts of the garden where we do not welcome them. This being mainly when we are planting young seedlings or a crop of edible plants is getting close to harvest. So we have to strike a balance between encouraging the wildlife as well as being able to discourage them at other times or from certain particular places.
There are four ways of protecting your plants or crop from the ravages of birds and animals; these methods include scarers, covers and sprays. Here we will deal with the first of these ideas.
Most of these ideas though will only provide a temporary solution, because most times the birds or wildlife, while scared off at first will eventually stop being frightened and will return and ignore or bypass that method in future. So it is an idea to only use each idea for a short time, and then later switch to a different system of control.
Scarers usually rely on something to surprise the wildlife’s vision or hearing, to frighten them into leaving.
Bells – If you have some small cheap bells lying around or you can pick some up cheap, then string them along a length of twine over your plants.
Bottle Top – String a series of metal and or plastic bottle tops between stakes driven into the ground at the outside of the area to be protected. Make sure that they can move easily in the slightest breeze or at the gentlest touch. It also helps if some of them can rattle together to add a bit of noise. Tie one off every so often so that it cannot move, this will stop them all migrating to the lowest point of the length of string.
Drink Bottle Rattle – Partially fill some drink bottles with a fairly light product like rice or dried peas, put enough in to make it into a rattle. Then tie them along some twine tied over your young plants. If animals tap them or the breeze is blowing they will make a noise, to frighten the small critters away.
Drink Can/Bottles – Tie some cans or bottle along some twine so that they can bump together to make a noise if tapped or moved by a breeze, to frighten the small animals or birds.
Whirligigs – If you have one of those little whirligigs that have a blade that goes around in the breeze, why not set it up near your plants it will scare the birds away as long as the wind is blowing.
Hawkscarers – Unless you are fairly good at both art and woodcraft and can make one yourself, you will probably have to go out purchase one of the commercially made Hawkscarers and set it up following the directions in the pack, to frighten away the birds.
Kites – Here you can either go out and purchase a small cheap kids kite or look at making your own kites. To cover your kite, you can use anything from material through to old foil wrapping paper, kitchen foil or even plastic shopping bags. Even kites made to be only a few inches across, can be an effective scarer, if you hang them to blow in the breeze.
Ribbon – Rip or cut some scraps of brightly coloured or reflective material into small strips. Tie them to twine over the plants to be protected, leave enough dangling to flap around in the breeze, to scare the birds.
Scarecrow – Have a go at making a Scarecrow, it may or not be effective at scaring the birds, but it almost be guaranteed to become a piece of landscaping art and a talking point around the neighbourhood.
Silver Foil – Aluminium foil or used Foil wrapping paper, which is cut into strips to hang on twine through the area will scare the daylights out of any creature which moves it, or sees it moving in the breeze. Or, try wrapping polystyrene or ping-pong balls in the foil, and hang these through the area.
Water Hose/Sprinkler – Position a garden hose either up into a strong branch of a fruiting tree. Or tie it to a garden stake in the middle of your young plants. Leave a few feet loose above the top point at which you tie it off. When you notice birds descending on your plants. Turn the hose on as hard as you can. This will result in the end of the hose flapping around rather wildly gushing out a strong stream of water. This is usually enough to frighten anyone let alone the local wildlife. Repeat this a few times and the birds or wildlife will soon not bother coming back.
Wind Chimes – Why not try and hang your old wind chimes in the area that you want protected.
Wine Cask Bladder– Take the nozzle out and use like a box kite. Or blow them up like balloons.
Tinsel – Use some of your old tinsel, or buy some up cheap in the post Christmas sales. Allow plenty of loose material to permit the tinsel to move around in the breezes.
Sails/Pennants – Material, foil or plastic set up to flap in the breeze like either a sail or pennant, can be an effective scarer.
Windsock – Try your hand at making your own miniature version of an Airport’s Windsock to frighten the birds and animals
Clothesline/Airer – If you have the type of family that has clothes drying on a clothes line most days, then place your young plants in pots around the base of the clothes line or set up a movable clothes airer near your delicate plants filling the lines with clothes and linen which will flap around a bit will also be an effective bird and small animal scarer.
Mirror balls– Purchase at a discount price (cheap) store or make your own small mirror balls to hang in and around your plants. These mirror balls van be made from boxes or polystyrene balls, ping pong ball etc, and sticking anything shiny and reflective to them from small mirror tiles, foil, broken pieces of mirror or the like. Hang these where they will have the opportunity catch and reflect sunlight.
Plastic Snakes – If you have an old plastic snake at the bottom of the old toy box, why not try putting it in amongst your plants. While I have never tried this method myself, I have heard of others who swear by this scarer. Move it around every so often.
Toy Animals – What about the idea of strategically placing a realistic looking toy dog or cat near your young plants. The theory being that the birds or small animals will already have had experience with real cats and dogs so will avoid any area with them. (This is theoretical suggestion, which I haven’t seen tried but is based on the supposed success of the plastic snakes). So if anyone has the opportunity to try this one, let me know the results, please.
Ron Williams, Ipswich, Queensland, Australia email@example.com http://www.geocities.com/impatients63/ Ron Williams is a Freelance writer as well as being a Horticulturist and a Rehabilitation Therapy Aid at a Psychiatric Hospital in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. He writes ezines for wz.com. He runs his own Website called Bare Bones Gardening. He also owns a discussion group about Australian Gardening, called Austgardens at www.groups.yahoo.com
Definition: A weed is a corn-fed lanky boy from the Midwest. He grew like a weed. He is as tall as a weed. Beyond that, I fear that we will never agree. The subject is much too personal.
All plants have a relationship to other living organisms in the garden, field, roadside, or waterway. Whether a plant is undesirable because it is out of place, or it has bad habits, or is successful at defeating eradication, it still performs many useful functions, not the least of which is the preservation of nature’s delicate balanced ecosystem. Wherever man wishes to alter that balance to suit his own purpose, the judgment of desirability versus undesirability is the first step towards taking control of his property. It is the infinite number of such judgments which denies us the economy of using a single word like “weed” to describe plants that “everyone” doesn’t want. There are noxious plants, poisonous plants, toxic plants, invasive plants, and destructive plants. And, each of them benefits our lives in some way.
Some are valuable crops in themselves, yielding oils, potherbs, salad greens, condiments, drugs, and ornaments for man, forage crops for animals, seed food for birds and small creatures, and shelter for beneficial insects. Many are valuable soil conditioners whose vigorous roots penetrate deeply into the subsoil, transporting nutrients and minerals to the surface. They improve the soil structure through aeration and control of erosion. Their presence (or absence) serves as indicators of poor soil conditions. Many have a beneficial relationship with soil organisms which help the gardener, or with other plants, giving them increased vigor, taste, or greater resistance to insects and disease.
My intent is to persuade you to grow some of these plants on purpose, and to seek to control the spread of others you consider undesirable without resorting to a program of total annihilation.
Good Soil Improvers
Good Companion Plants
Nettle and Yarrow give greater aromatic quality to herbs
Jimson weed is helpful to Pumpkins.
Lamb’s quarter and Sow thistle help melons, squashes, and cucumbers.
Lupine helps corn and many other crops.
Small amounts of Yarrow and Valerian give vigor to vegetables.
Wild mustard is beneficial to grapevines and fruit trees.
Dandelions stimulate fruits and flowers to ripen quickly.
Stinging nettle makes neighboring plants more insect resistant. And the iron content of nettle helps plants withstand lice, slugs, and snails during wet weather. Mint and tomatoes are strengthened in their vicinity. Nettle deters fermentation, keeping fruit trees free of mold.
Redroot pigweed loosens soil for root crops such as carrot, radish, beet, and potatoes. It makes tomato, pepper, and eggplant more resistant to insect attack.
Lamb’s quarter gives vigor to zinnias, marigolds, peonies, and pansies.
Purslane conditions the soil around roses thus encouraging healthier root growth.
Cheatgrass brome replaces plants that are host to beet leafhoppers, thereby benefiting beets, beans, and tomatoes.
Hosts to beneficial insects
I have a list of 49 special plants for attracting beneficial lacewings, ladybugs, hover flies, parasitic mini-wasps, tachinid flies, spiders, minute pirate bugs, damsel bugs, and big eyed bugs – including fifteen species which are included in my list of invasive plants. That is almost one third of the list. Is there any wonder why your garden plants are attacked by insects? The average gardener spends about $30 per year on herbicides and insecticides, and the use of either one increases the absolute necessity to use the other.
I cultivate 38 of the beneficial plants on my list, large stands of them in some cases, including 14 of the 15 invasive plants. That in combination with my Army of Groundskeepers reduces my need for herbicides and insecticides to zero. Rather than eradication of plants which are out of place or invasive, it would be better to learn how to manage the better ones to your advantage.
Invasive plant management
Here is my formula for management of these plants; note that it is little different from managing all the rest of my growing collection.
Plants which spread by underground runners (Tansy, for example), I plant in single species beds which are surrounded by lawn. The lawnmower is my agent of control.
Plants which spread by above ground runners (Peppermint and Spearmint for example), I plant in nursery pots which are sunk halfway into the soil. The runners are easily seen, and therefore easily clipped once per year in late summer.
Plants which spread by vigorous self-sowing (Teasel for example), I deadhead persistently to insure that no seeds ripen after the flowers cease to be of value to my pollinators. In the case of Nicotiana, I simply grow these in pots in the parking lot surrounding my front door. Most seeds won’t germinate on concrete.
Plants which spread by bird droppings (European buckthorn for example), cannot be controlled. The seedlings must be clipped with the weed wacker once in June and again in August.
Plants which spread by wind-blown seeds (Chinese elm, Catalpa, and Maple for example), I pull out by hand from garden beds, and they don’t survive in the lawn.
Plants which spread by small mammals (Oak and Walnut trees for example), I pull out by hand from garden beds, and they don’t survive in the lawn.
Plants which spread by exploding seed pods (Euphorbia lathyris for example), I dead head before seed pods develop.
Plants which spread mysteriously despite constant pulling (Purslane for example), I continue to hand pull and will have to do this forever.
Now, is that so hard to do? If your Monarda gets out of hand, just dig up the plant; cut out a fourth of the root ball for replanting and compost the remainder. Invasive plants have become so through lack of management. It only takes a few minutes every week to take stock of problem areas, and a few more minutes to eliminate the problem in those situations where their spread cannot be prevented. Where prevention is easy, you will have no excuse.
So, what is a weed? Well, it is a lanky boy……………………growing rapidly
Tom Clothier manages a website at http://users.anet.com/~manytimes/