Marianne Binetti brought back some gardening ideas from Sicily to share with her readers. I’ve not been to Sicily, but I have been to Capri, and some of the gardening tips and ideas Marianne brought back from Sicily are familiar from my visit to Capri. Southern Italy is a land drenched with sun and flowers. Our hotel was up on the hillside on the mainland in Sorrento. Our view was down the slope, and all the way down the hill was tree after tree full of bright yellow lemons. We didn’t fail to get a bottle of limoncello to bring home with us from the Isle of Capri. Loved that limoncello. But back to the gardening ideas from Sicily.
Villas in Sicily grow almost instant shade by using the foliage of robust vines, such as wisteria, over pergolas made from wood, stone or even metal pipe. . .Wisteria not only drips with fragrant clusters of flowers in spring and offers sun-blocking foliage in summer, but this vine has the good sense to lose its leaves during the winter months allowing much needed sunlight into the home.
Great idea for a yard that hasn’t any mature trees. You’ll have some nearly instant shade, well, not quite instant, but you’ll get shade a lot sooner than if you waited for a tree to grow large enough. We were fortunate to be able to take a trip to Italy a few years ago and fell in love with the country. Sometimes we get so wrapped up with practicality in the US that we lose sight of the beautiful and inspiring. Flowers are a part of daily life in Italy, and a table setting without at least a little flower arrangement is like spaghetti without the meatballs. Not necessary, but so much better with than without. I’m going to let you read Marianne’s other two ideas by clicking here or on the link below. I like her closing lines, because it echoes what I’ve said above.
Visiting Sicily showed us there is no excuse not to make the world a more beautiful place by growing plants. Lack of water and money in this country did not mean a lack of gardens or passion for living.
There’s something to be said about slowing down, seeing, smelling and taking in the beauty of the world around us. Somehow when we slow down, we put ourselves in a mindset to be open to experiencing things that we miss when we hurry about our daily business. Maybe we should dedicate at least a small portion of our day to slowing down to observe the beauty of our world. Perhaps we could incorporate one of those gardening ideas from Sicily into our little space in this universe.
This is a must read article. I’ve never seen so many interesting facts and bits about bees in such a short article. Why would you want to know about bees? The answer is relatively simple, yet important for the survival of the species–not just bees, but humanity. If you’ve been aware at all of what is happening to the bee population, you know that bee colonies are dying at an alarming rate. Bees gone, plants not pollinated, no fruits or vegetables, no food supply, famine, human population decline or extinction. Perhaps too dramatic a picture, but then again, too important an idea to ignore. If study the bits about bees, perhaps we can reverse the trend of a declining bee population. Here is one of the interesting facts Mark Cullen includes in his article.
Bees are much needed in the world of agriculture and horticulture as primary pollinators. Their fur, which covers most of their body, has an electrostatic charge, like you get when you rub a balloon against your hair. This charge causes pollen to be attracted to their whole body while attending flowers, covering them head to toe in the stuff.
Have you seen images of bees all covered in pollen? Now you know why. Thank that electrostatic charge that nature provides to overdo the amount of pollen needed to guarantee that plants get fertilized. Mark writes that there is a new book out about bees that is also a must read for anyone with an interest in bees, their future and our future, inasmuch as they are linked together. You can find a link to it at the end of the article, and the image of the book cover at the beginning of the article is also a link to the book. I could curate any of several interesting facts that Mark includes in his article, including useful trivia and facts, swarming, honey and sex–really? Sex? Yup. Bees have a sex life, though it is a little out of the ordinary. Here’s something to consider the next time you get out that jar of honey to sweeten your tea.
It is instructive to note that one worker bee produces about one teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. Think about that when you next sit down for breakfast and scoop the life’s work of several bees onto your toast or into your tea.
These creatures are enormously important, and the bits about bees you can learn just in Mark’s article will fascinate you. You can read his article by clicking here or on the link below, and if his article intrigues you, you can pick up Jack Mingo’s Bees Make the Best Pets by clicking the link here or the book cover above.
If you’re asking yourself the question, “Should I keep old vegetable seeds,” the answer is that it depends. There are several variables to consider if you have left over seeds from this year’s garden that you are considering whether to save for next year’s garden. Maureen Gilmer writes a good article about the topic. Essentially it is worth saving seed if it is likely to sprout when it is planted, and several factors weigh in on that possibility. She tells a story about date seeds that were found in the 1960s and had been well preserved, and when planted, produced a palm tree that had been extinct for 1800 years. Should I keep old vegetable seeds, preserve them in ideal conditions so that in 1800 years some civilization can produce extinct plants? I don’t think that is what you’re interested in doing. But if you have left over seeds from this year’s garden, Maureen shares some interesting thoughts.
Starting with the year it’s formed in the parent plant, a seed’s term of viability is governed largely by its genetics. This factor is the chief weakness of seed banks, because even under ideal storage conditions, some seed just isn’t genetically programmed to retain viability for very long. The only way to ensure these plants are available for the future is to keep them in continuous cultivation so there’s always a seed crop for next year. This was the original goal of the heirloom vegetable craze that keeps obscure varieties from dying out, and perhaps one day it will become the salvation of a changing climate.
So, if you have heirloom plants, to assure reproduction in future years, save some seeds from plants one year to the next rather than saving seeds from plants several years back. Maureen notes that a seed’s viability is also influenced heavily by the environment in which it is stored. The date seeds she referred to were stored in a sealed container away from humidity and light for a few thousand years. When saving seed, we need to see to providing the best environmental conditions for storage. Read Maureen’s article to learn how seed packets are labeled and how to use those labels to help you keep track of the seeds’ viability. She provides the reader with a list of how long seeds of various plants usually remain viable, and she suggests saving seeds as follows.
The best container for seed storage is a clear plastic box with a tight-fitting lid. Choose one sized for storing under your bed where it’s cool, dark and dry. Clip or print this seed viability list to keep in your seed box as a guide. It helps you know when stored seed is nearing the end of its viability period. Then put it all away until spring, when you’ll appreciate this reminder of how old is too old to replant for success.
You’ll find the answer to the question “Should I keep old vegetable seeds” when you read Maureen’s article, which you can find by clicking here or on the link below. The list Maureen provides in her article is very helpful in determining about how long seeds for various plants remain viable. She also reminds the reader that with each passing year, less and less of the saved seeds will sprout and produce plants. If you’re into heirloom plants, save the seeds from one of the hardiest of your plants, and you’ll be assured of a successful reproduction the following year, assuming you’ve saved the seeds correctly.
Photo by Internet Archive Book Images
Don’t jump to conclusions that your garden in the Gulf Coast cold spell has been lost. Bill Finch takes a positive view of the recent cold spell and writes about how not all is lost as a result of the freezing weather. He cautions the reader that even though this is the second time in the last two years that cold weather has invaded the Gulf Coast not to fear that Gulf Coast gardeners will have to change their gardening habits in anticipation of continuing cold winters. Bill encourages gardeners that the situation is temporary and that you can still garden in Gulf Coast cold.
More than the usual number of Gulf Coast residents will be suffering this winter from a serious relapse of PFSD, or Post Freeze Stress Disorder. As a result they’ll be tempted to make spur-of-the-moment and irrational decisions that could affect their enjoyment of their yards and gardens for years. The actual damage done by the freeze will be minor by comparison. . .a few days of exceptional cold doesn’t change the fact that we live in a nearly subtropical climate.
Bill writes about what you should and should not do as a result of the recent cold spell in the Gulf Coast states. The primary message is not to get too bent out of shape. There are things that you can do to protect your plants when temperatures get below freezing. I like what he says about eating frozen satsumas. He says that if they freeze, they’re still okay to eat. He reminds the reader that there exists such a thing as frozen orange juice! Here’s a practical suggestion about protecting your broccoli plants.
The temperatures this weekend tell us little or nothing about how cold the rest of the winter will be. It may be that we’ve already experienced this winter’s coldest temperatures. So I threw a sheet over my broccoli, it’s doing fine, and I’ve got a better than average chance of enjoying fresh broccoli and cauliflower in December. I may plant more. Most lettuce, arugula, mustards, turnips, parsley and cilantro should finish the winter out nicely too, as long as you drape a sheet over them when it gets into the mid- to lower 20s.
If you have a banana tree that suffered some damage, consult Bill’s article, which you can read by clicking here or on the link below, for what to do. Then if your lime tree died, Bill has a comment for you. So don’t give up your garden in the Gulf Coast cold–adapt, and wait for next year’s (or next week’s) better weather.
Photo by chidorian