Apricots

A ripe apricot , sweet and juicy is probably one of the most pleasurable rewards from the fruit garden. They are believed to have originated in the mountainous regions of north central and north western China where  it has been cultivated for 4000 years. Apricots are high in vitamin A and vitamin C. A standard tree grows about 20 feet tall, spreading in a vase shape to a diameter of 25 to 30 feet; dwarf varieties grow about 8 feet tall, spreading to 10 feet. Apricots have glorious pink flowers that open so early in the spring that they are sometimes nipped by frost. They are followed in late summer by 1 1/2- to 2-inch fruit with orange, very sweet flesh. Apricots grow in Zones 4-8. If you live in a northern area you should find a variety that has been developed to withstand frigid winters. Two of the best varieties adaptable to many zones are Moorpark and Early Golden. Others that may be good for cold winter zones are Hardy Iowa, Manchu, Moongold and Sungold. By planting the tree behind a protective hedge of evergreen or on a northern slope, where they will not blossom so early that they will be caught by frost.  Also a north-facing slope will allow cold air to flow away. If a dwarf variety is grown, the tree can be planted in a tub or over size container, then moved indoors when winter winds arrive. I am trying a variety called Super Hardy Chinese (its official name) It is a dwarf and is supposed to produce fruit even in Canada. Most apricot trees will bear fruit if planted alone. Moongold and Sungold, however, should be planted together, for cross-pollination is required if they are to bear fruit. All tend to have a larger crop if you plant two varieties. Apricot trees may survive and bear for 35 years or more. A full-grown standard tree yields about 3 to 4 bushels of fruit yearly; a dwarf yields about 3 bushels. Apricots grow best in soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. They need a well drained soil, while they are fairly tolerant of alkaline conditions, apricots are very sensitive to high salt levels in the soil. For fruit within three or four years, buy one-year-old trees 3 to 5 feet tall. Plant standard-sized trees 30 feet apart, dwarf trees 10 to 15 feet apart, as early in the spring as the ground can be worked. Cut off all but the three best-placed branches. They should be 6 to 12 inches apart, face in different directions and form angles greater than 45 degrees with the trunk. Keep in mind that wide angle growth means stronger, weight resistant branches. In the future, pruning should be restricted to removing deadwood and overcrowded branches. As a rule, the rambunctious apricot will set much more fruit than its branches can support. To prevent limbs from breaking and to reap better fruit, pick off stunted and diseased young fruit about six weeks after blossoming. When apricot trees begin to bear fruit, it is important that they carry only as much fruit as they can support: if they are overproductive, all of their energy will go into fruit production instead of flower-bud formation and food storage for the following year's fruit. So thin again later allowing one fruit for every six to eight inches of stem. The tree is drought resistant (especially on apricot stock) but requires supplementary watering to reach its full yield potential. To judge whether an apricot tree is receiving sufficient fertilizer, check the appearance of the foliage. If the leaf color in summer is pale or yellow-green, feed each tree with a good slow release organic fertilizer early the second spring after planting. Scatter it on the ground beneath the branches. Apricots tend to be remarkably disease and insect resistant. Fruit is subject to cracking in wet or humid weather. Apricots should be hand-picked when they reach the golden-yellow color and firm softness of maturity. The fruit are most tasty when allowed to ripen on the tree; when ripe they are plump, fairly firm and a uniform golden-yellow color. Each fruit contains a single, large smooth compressed stone. Contained within the stone is a kernel. Kernels of some varieties are edible while others are bitter. Eat apricots fresh, stew or can. Apricots are wonderful dried, in jams, nectars and as leather. Apricots can be halved or sliced then frozen in syrup made from 2 cups sugar to 5 cups water; add 2 ounces ascorbic acid for each 2 1/2 cups syrup. Plunge the whole apricots into boiling water first for about thirty seconds, and peel, pit and halve or slice them. Apricots can also be made into wine and brandy.

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Organic weed killer - Into a 32 oz hand sprayer, combine one ounce gin, one ounce liquid soap and one ounce vinegar. Spray just the weeds

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If your garden space is limited, don't think you can't grow tomatoes. Here's how to grow them in hanging baskets:

1.Line a wire basket with sphagnum moss that's been soaked in water. Always wear gloves when handling sphagnum moss.

2. Amend sterilized potting soil with a slow-release fertilizer.

3. Fill the bottom of the moss-lined basket with a 1 inch layer of amended potting soil.

4. Choose a small-fruiting variety of tomato such as Sweet One-Hundred'.

5. Set the plant in the wire basket, and fill in around the root ball with soil

6. Water the plant and cover the surface of the soil with more moss to help keep the soil moist.

Tomatoes grown in hanging baskets may need water every day in warm weather. Make sure you hang them in an area where watering won't be a problem.

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Praying Mantids

They are 6 to 7.5cm long and usually green and have very long front legs. They have extremely strong mandibles and have been known to bite humans. When they are full grown they have wings. These are beneficial insects we need to help keep our gardens pest free. They are one of the most interesting insects to watch. Get close to one and you will see their head twist and stare at you. Watching them catch an insect is most fascinating. They sit motionless until some unsuspecting insect crosses their path. Bang they're done for! They are found worldwide and there are many different species. Females lay their eggs in clumps with a frothy white coating that turns into a brown hard case. They overwinter as eggs attached to bush limbs and tree twigs. They hatch in late spring. By mid summer they are full grown and eating their weight in gold! Increasing bushes or hedges near your garden is a good way to keep them there. They mate in late summer and usually it is the female who survives this test as she will try and most of the time succeed to kill the male. One thing is that ants will eat the eggs and the babies are a good diet for some birds and snakes. If you see these eggs then get EXCITED! Praying mantids will eat almost any insect in your garden and this also includes other beneficials (except ladybugs). They have a voracious appetite and they have been reported eating small frogs, snakes and lizards when they run out of other insects to eat. Their preferred diet is mostly insects, eggs and mites.

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Herbs

(Common) Privet tolerant of most soils and positions. Sow seeds in autumn outdoors; put cuttings of young shoots in a cold frame in summer, or  hardwood cuttings in a shady position outdoors in autumn. Plant and prune to shape in autumn. Also called wild privet.

(Common) Toadflax best grown in the wild herb garden, or in a confirmed space, or in mown grass to restrain the invasive stolons. Sow in spring or early autumn, either where plants are to flower or in trays of compost for transplanting; established roots may be divided in autumn or spring. Plant 2 feet apart in full sun. Plants self seed liberally, so dead head after flowering to restrain seeding. Also called yellow toadflax, and butter and eggs.

Flax sow in late spring or early summer in dry, well drained soil in sun. Also called flaxseed or linseed.

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Stevia Rebaudiana is a small perennial shrub which belongs to the Chrysanthemum family. This plant is the only known species that has the ability to sweeten. Stevia in its natural herb form is 10 to 15 times sweeter than granulated sugar. Here are some wonderful benefits of using

~It's diabetic safe

~It's calorie free

~It does not adversely affect blood sugar

~It is non toxic

~Inhibits the formation of cavities and plaque

~It can be used for cooking

It's best to start with plants because it is difficult to grow from seed. Young Stevia plants are sensitive to low temperatures, so don't plant it out until danger of frost is gone and soil temperature is in the 50's or 60's. They should be planted 18 inches apart. They grow to about 30 inches tall and 18 inches wide. It likes a rich soil and its feeder roots are near the soil surface, so adding a mulch of compost is a good idea. Stevia roots are sensitive to excessive moisture, so be sure the soil drains easily. It is a perennial, but the plant is sensitive to frost, so don't leave it outside through the fall and winter months if your area gets frosts.

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Brandie

“A garden is a friend you can visit any time

 
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