Akebia

Growing on a lattice pergola around the back of my house is a pretty little twisting vine called akebia. It is deciduous in my area, but the blue green summer foliage is quite attractive. These are vigorous, densely foliaged climbing plants that are natives of Japan, China, and Korea and are hardy to zone 4. Akebia climbs readily, but can also be used as a ground cover. The foliage is evergreen in mild climates. The flowers of these plants are followed by interesting, sausage-shaped, edible fruits. The  fruit has a delicate flavor and a soft juicy texture. They are suitable for growing over hedges, low trees, bushes, or stumps. A. quinata (Fiveleaf Akebia) is a large, vigorous climber that grows from 28 to 40 feet high. The palmate (like a hand) leaves of akebia alternate along the stem and are divided into five, or sometimes fewer, approximately equal parts called leaflets, whose small stems meet at a central juncture. In mid-spring, long clusters of fragrant, reddish-purple flowers are produced. The fragrance is very close to vanilla and wonderful. The dark purple fruits are 2 to 4 inches long; black seeds are embedded in white pulp. A. trifoliata (Threeleaf Akebia) is also a large vine growing up to 28 feet high. The leaves consist of three, shallowly lobed leaflets. The dark purple flowers are produced in mid-spring and are sweetly scented. The light violet fruits grow 3 to 5 inches long, usually in groups of three. Akebias will thrive in regular, well-drained soil, in sun or partial shade. They grow better in light rather than heavy soil. They need regular soil moisture to thrive. These vines need a mild spring to bear flowers and a long, hot summer to produce fruit. In mild climates, these vines may become a little over vigorous and will need to be pruned. Once in a while, excessively long shoots may be trimmed back and in late fall or early spring, they may be thinned a bit. Seeds, layering and cuttings are all methods of propagation. Seeds can be sown as soon as they are ripe in pots or shallow boxes filled with sandy soil, in a greenhouse or cold frame. Cuttings may be inserted in pots of sandy  soil in a closed frame for a few weeks until they form roots, or in sandy soil outdoors covered with a bell jar or hand light. Layers may be made by fastening the ends of shoots to the ground with wooden pegs until they form roots. The fruit is a 2-7" long light blue pod which turns purple and splits open when ripe in September or October. Inside is a core of edible white pulp which tastes somewhat like tapioca pudding with seeds. In order to obtain fruit it is necessary to plant two or more vines. Hand cross-pollination will likely result in heaviest fruit production (much fruit can be set as a result of a few minutes of hand-pollination). In addition to the fruits the soft young shoots are used in salads or pickled and the leaves are used as a tea substitute.

Fiveleaf akebia grows so quickly in warm climate regions (twenty to forty feet in a single growing season) that, if left unmanaged, it can kill off existing ground level vegetation, understory shrubs and trees, and even some canopy trees, by overtopping and smothering them. Once established, its dense growth prevents seed germination and seedling establishment of native plants.

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Are earwigs the cause of your young plants dying or vanishing overnight? Dampen newspaper, roll it into a tight cylinder, then place it near the scene of the crime. It should be full of earwigs the next morning when you unroll it. Burn it or bag it well. Continue doing this until the morning the newspaper is empty.

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GOURDS

Harvesting your gourds: Let gourds ripen on the vines until the stems are brown, but be aware that any frost will soften and ruin the fruits of some types of gourds. Always handle gourd carefully, because they bruise easily. Harvest by using a sharp knife to cut through the stems 2"-3" away from the gourd. Dry off any moisture. Gourds are dry when the seeds rattle around inside. Some, like sponge gourds may dry sufficiently on the vine; others you'll need to harvest and dry indoors. To educe the chances of spoilage, wipe gourds with a mild vinegar or bleach solution. Place hard-shelled types on a rack with good air circulation. Smaller gourds can dry in less than a month, but large types may take up to six months. Use a knife to scrape off any mold that appears. To prepare gourds for display, remove the thin outer shells with steel wool. If you want, you can wipe off the excess mold now and then; if a gourd shrivels, then toss it out, since that one really has spoiled; but if only molded, just have patience. It can take months for a good sized gourd to dry out. When they are very light (the seeds may rattle), let them soak for a while in warm water, and you'll find that the outer skin and mold will come off fairly easily with an ordinary kitchen scrubbing pad. Beneath that moldy exterior, you'll find a beautiful gourd!

After it's dry, it's ready for furniture polish or paint; it can be carved or wood burned; or anything you like. With just a little furniture polish, the gourd is an object of beauty.

To dry thin-shelled gourds, place them on trays in an airy place, or hang them in mesh bags. You can wax with a thin coat of floor wax, varnish, or shellac thin-shelled types, but don't cut or carve them until the protective coating is completely dry.

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Onion Maggots

Tiny white maggots measuring around 9mm. The adult is a fly that is about 9mm long, grayish colored with large wings. They lay their eggs around the base of onions and garlic in the spring after they emerge for overwintering pupae. Eggs hatch and the larva feed on the onions. The maggots can feed for up to 3 weeks before they become a soft brown pupae. They are found in cooler damper areas. Cool coastal climates are where they are prevalent. You can find these guys near dandelions and edge weeds around the garden. Plants turn yellow and the maggots hollow out the whole onion if given a chance. Large bulbs will rot. Destroy all affected plants.

Control

1) Sticky Traps

Yellow sticky traps will capture the flies in the spring. Tanglefoot is a good organic substance.

2) Plan Your Planting Times

When planting onions and garlic in cooler climates it would be best to either plant in February when the flies are not present or wait until after the spring hatch

of the flies. (mid-May)

3) Rotate Your Crops

Pupae overwinter in the ground where the affected plants are, so rotating will give you a head start on controlling these guys. Clean up all garden debris before you

close your garden for the winter.

4) Use Wood Ashes

Sprinkle wood ashes and cayenne pepper around the plants to discourage egg laying. Be very careful what ashes you use. Ashes from your wood stove or fireplace are the best choice. Be sure that wood has not been treated with chemicals and that nothing other than newspaper was also burned. Coated papers, cigarette butts, and other things tossed in the fire can contaminate your crops. Know where your ashes came from before you apply.

5) Build Raised Beds

These guys love poorly drained soil, it is a good idea to plant your onions in raised beds.

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Wild Edibles

Bergamots

Found in thickets, clearings, roadsides. Useful for tea. Steep the fresh or dried leaves and flowerheads in hot water for 10 minutes and sweeten to taste. Excellent

mixed with other teas.

Black Crowberry

Look in open peaty soil. Delicious fresh or cooked fruit. The flower of the berries improves after freezing. Add the fresh berries to pancakes, muffins, and the

like.

Blue Vervain

Grows in damp thickets, roadsides, wet meadows. Makes flour. Roasted and ground, the tiny seeds make a mildly bitter but palatable flour. Soaking the seeds in

several changes of cold water reduces the bitterness.

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Brandie

"Garden: One of a vast number of free outdoor restaurants operated by charity-minded amateurs in an effort to provide healthful, balanced meals for insects,

birds and animals."

 

 

 

 
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