Amaranth

Here is plant that is ancient; the earliest archaeological record shows cultivation around 4000 BC. It is nutritious, with the highest protein content of all the grains--16 percent--plus large amounts of calcium, fiber, iron, potassium and vitamins A and C. It is drought tolerant, and grows well in every zone of the US. The entire plant is useful in the self sufficient homestead, this broad-leaf plant produces large quantities of edible, small grain which has unique nutritional and food qualities. The plant also has potential for use as an animal forage. The young tender leaves can be cooked as a vegetable and some varieties are important dye plants. With six-foot tall stalks and a brilliant display of feathery red or magenta plumes, amaranth is a show-stopper in the garden. 

A staple grain of the Aztec, Inca and other pre-Columbian peoples, amaranth was once as widely dispersed throughout the Americas as corn. In the ancient Inca language that is still spoken in the Andes it is called "kiwicha" (pronounced kee-wee-cha). Amaranth is one of the most beautiful crops on earth; with leaf color that varies from green through orange or red shades. The seed color will vary from light colored gold/tan (white) to dark reddish brown. Plant height ranges from 3½ feet to 6 feet tall depending upon genetics,moisture, nutrients and other factors. Amaranth seeds are scarcely bigger than poppy seeds. However, they occur in huge numbers, sometimes more than 10,000 to a plant. They are flavorful and when heated, they "pop  ' to produce a crunchy white product that tastes like nutty popcorn. Light and crisp, the grain is delicious as a snack, as a cold cereal with milk and honey, as a breading on chicken or fish, or in sweets with a whisper of honey. They can also be ground into flour and added to baked goods, not only is it higher in protein than other cereals, it has a balance of amino acids that makes it closest to nutritional perfection for the human diet. This combined with the ease with which it is digested, makes it a perfect food for children, invalids and the elderly.

Grain amaranth's growing season parallels that of corn. Amaranth is, first and foremost, a drought-tolerant crop but requires some moisture for germination and during its early stages of growth. Amaranth grows poorly on compacted soils and will provide a better yield if the usual soil amendments are added. Amaranth is a warm season crop. The best germination is attained when soil temperatures range from 65° to 75°F (18º to 23º C). Optimal growth occurs when the average soil temperature reaches an average day/night temperature of 70º F (21ºC). Amaranth does well in hot, high light conditions, producing edible foliage in summer conditions. Due to small seed size, shallow planting is required, so cover to one inch or less depth. Amaranths do best on sunny, raised beds. Plants should be thinned to 6 inches apart. While it is very drought tolerant the plants respond well to irrigation during hot summers. Harvest greens 5 to 6 weeks after sowing. As with most greens crops, the young succulent leaves are preferred for eating. Keep amaranth greens refrigerated. The grain must be harvested as the seed head matures. The main problem is that the seeds will start to drop before the entire mass is ready to harvest. In a small operation the easiest way to collect seeds is to go out everyday, after the morning dew has dried, and use an old pillow case to collect the seeds. Gently bend the seed heads over into the pillow case and shake or tap until the seeds that are ready have fallen off. The entire seed head can be harvested after the first killing frost since this will effectively end the growth of the plant. The seeds need to be dried, and I have found that spreading them out on a sheet in the sun is the best way, if you can keep the cat from taking a nap in the middle of your harvest. I use an electric fan to separate the chaff from the grain and store it the same as you would any seeds.

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Ever notice that the grass beneath your bird feeder doesn't grow very well? Is it the constant trampling of little birdies' feet that keep it in check? Or is it too much of something else that the birds leave behind that burns it? Neither. Researchers have found that sunflower seeds, specifically sunflower hulls,  release a toxin that keeps grass from growing lushly. It reduces grass competition with the seedling sunflower plants that might spring up. There's a big name for it (alleopathy) and it's fairly common in the plant world. Walnut trees and red fescue do the same thing.

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Hummingbirds

These tiny birds use a lot of energy — in fact, they need to eat about half their body weight each day. Their diet consists of both nectar and insects. For nectar, hummingbirds are especially attracted to red and orange flowers with tubular-shaped blooms. Some of their favorites include sages, such as pineapple, anise and scarlet sage.

They also like honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.), weigela (Weigela florida), penstemons, beebalm (Monarda didyma), cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa), Fuchsias and trumpet vine (Campsis radicans). Plant a group of flowers that blooms in succession throughout spring and summer.

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You can make a tumbling composter using a plastic garbage can with a sturdily attached lid. Just poke holes in the sides for aeration, and roll the can to mix the compost.

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Encourage little green thumbs:

*Keep gardening fun: Get kids involved at an early age.

*Let kids plant in a patch of prime garden space: Don't relegate them to a less desirable spot. Good results encourages enthusiasm!

*Garden together: Kids love to emulate adults and they'll learn by doing what you do and maybe your love of gardening will rub off.

*Give kids their own garden tools: Cut down long-handled tools to about child's nose level. There are children's hand tools or smaller adult hand tools that fit little hands.

*Read together about gardening: There are many children's books about how plants grow and teach them about the basics of indoor and outdoor gardening.

*Let them help decide what to plant: A little guidance from adults is advised to steer them to vegetables or flowers that give dependable results for beginners.

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Brandie

*There is hope if people will begin to awaken that spiritual part of themselves, that heartfelt knowledge that we are caretakers of this planet.*

 

 

 

 

 
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