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
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
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.
– 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
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.
– 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.
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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– Material, foil or plastic set up to flap in the
breeze like either a sail or pennant, can be an effective
Windsock – Try
your hand at making your own miniature version of
an Airport’s Windsock to frighten the birds and animals
– 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.
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.
– 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.
– 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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
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.
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.
the soil around roses thus encouraging healthier root
Cheatgrass brome replaces
plants that are host to beet leafhoppers, thereby
benefiting beets, beans, and tomatoes.
Hosts to beneficial
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/