Rhubarb

Often called "pieplant", rhubarb is technically a vegetable. It is one of our oldest garden plants, Marco Polo found it growing in China centuries ago. Rhubarb is rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber. Rhubarb grows best where freezing temperatures penetrate the ground. Specifically, rhubarb needs to be chilled at temperatures of 28 to 50 degrees for seven to nine weeks. Rhubarb is a popular garden vegetable in northern areas of the United States but unfortunately will not do well in hot, dry summers of the south. If it survives the heat it will not grow well will produce only thin leaf stalks which are spindly and lack color. Rhubarb will wilt very quickly on hot days (over 90° F). I have read of an unknown variety of rhubarb with large green stems that thrives in the Panhandle north of Amarillo. Rhubarb does best in full sun, but can tolerate a little shade. Once planted, rhubarb plants can remain productive up to15 years. It is best planted in an out of the way corner of your garden where the plants won't be disturbed by yearly tilling or cultivating. Rhubarb is rather tolerant of soil acidity but does best in slightly to moderately acid soil. It can tolerate soil pH as low as 5.0; however, it does best at a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Dig your soil to a depth of 10 inches and fill half way with well rotted manure or compost. You can purchase your roots from a nursery or take a division from someone with an established clump. Dig the plants in early spring, separating the plant into smaller sections. Make sure each section or division has at least three leaf buds and plenty of roots. If your break some of the longer roots getting it out of the ground, that's okay. Place the roots in your planting hole, being sure they are at the same depth they were growing in their previous location. Space plants four feet apart as these plants get huge. Cover with a mixture of top soil and compost and water well. You can start rhubarb from seed but it will take two years for the plants to grow to a harvestable size. Weeding and water are especially important during the growing season. As soon as the plants are 2 inches above the soil level add a thick mulch of straw or compost. Although rhubarbcan tolerate drought, give ample water and it will produce better. Most people remove the flower stalk to channel all the plants energy into making stems. I do remove it on a bed I have in the vegetable garden, but I have taken root divisions and planted them in my flower beds as edible landscaping. These are magnificent ornamentals that grow an impressive flower stalk. I let it flower and cut it back when it gets messy looking. The deer won't touch it and it makes a dramatic addition to the landscaping.

Plants grown from rootstalk can be moderately harvested after the first season. Grasp the stalks at the base of the plant, and gently pull from the root crown with a twisting motion. By the third season, your plants should be mature enough to stand a full harvest. But let your plant be your guide, it the stems are too narrow then don't pick them. Never pick more than one third of the plant. Do not use rhubarb leaves, they contain a poisonous substance called oxalic acid which can cause the tongue and throat to swell, preventing breathing. It is okay to throw them in the compost pile as the poison breaks down and will not harm you. You can make a tea from the leaves and it will kill mealy bugs on house plants Rhubarb is fairly resistant to disease although crown rot can be a problem due to over watering or placing a heavy mulch over the crown. They are susceptible to aphids, beetles, caterpillars and slugs. Keep on top of the weeds, clean up garden debris and use beer traps or copper strips for the slugs and they should not be a problem.

If you live in the south, don't despair, you can grow rhubarb as an annual by starting seeds and planting the seedlings out in early fall and harvesting from March through May. Plant seeds in nursery pots, transplant outside when the plants about 3-4" tall. Harvest stalks as they mature. You can use rhubarb to shine up burnt pans, and an infusion of the roots can be a fairly strong dye that can create a more golden hair color for persons whose hair is blond or light brown. Simmer 3 tbsp. of rhubarb root in 2 cups of water for 15 minutes, set aside overnight, and strain. Test on a few strands to determine the effect, then pour through the hair for a rinse. I'm a brunette so I can't vouch for this personally.

Rhubarb can be served as a sauce over ice cream, combined with fresh strawberries, or made into pies, tarts, puddings, breads, jam, jellies, and refreshing beverages It can be stored by caning, freezing or drying. You can cut it into slices and freeze it dry, or by making a light syrup with one cup sugar to four cups of water. You can dehydrate it by pouring boiling water and letting it sit for 3-4 minutes. Then drain and place in the dehydrater until crisp.

Honeyed Rhubarb Pie
 
Pastry for 2-crust pie
 
4 cups 1 1/2 inch pieces fresh rhubarb
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 tblsp flour
2 tblsp grated lemon peel
1/3 cuo honey
4 to 5 drops red food coloring
2 tblsp butter or margarine
 
Mix rhubarb, sugar, flour, salt and lemon peel. Blend in honey and foof coloring and let stand for several minutes. Spoon Rhubarb mixture into pie crust and dot with butter. Adjust top crust, flute edges and cut vents. For sparkling top, brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake in hot oven 400° for 50 - 60 minutes

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Beautiful Beads From Rose Petals

Pick 30 to 40 blooms on a dry day and cut the petals very fine. Place in a pot and barely cover with water. (If you want dark red beads use an iron pot). Heat gently for an hour, adding water as needed. The next day heat it again. Strain the pulp and roll into beads. Thread the beads onto a fine thread with a heated needle and dry for a day or two, moving the beads around so all sides can dry. When you wear the beads around your neck your body warmth will release a sweet rose scent.

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Try hanging fresh dryer sheets, the fabric softener sheets that you put in the dryer, around your garden to deter deer. You will have to replace them after several rains.

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Whiz a handful of hot peppers, some garlic and a quart of water in a blender and strain through cheese cloth. Use as a spray against leaf eating bugs. The smell will confuse the pests who identify their favorite foods by scent.

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Instead of deterring the birds how about trying to attract them to our gardens. By providing a few of the basic necessities that attract the right species we could get a lot of help with not only our bug problems, but weed and rodent problems too!

Thats right, I read about a study that showed that gardens that attract a healthy supply of birds have less weed seeds to deal with. Yes, sometimes I lose a tomato or two, they love to eat the flower seeds too, and I have even seen them stealing worms from under the compost. But I think this is a small price to pay. So apart from water and birdhouses what else can you do? Try planting a few junipers or hollies nearby. In addition to the berries, they provide nesting sites. Plants like black oil sunflower and Virginia creeper also bring in the birds. Suet boxes will attract the woodpeckers and chickadees. Old dead tree stumps and tall perches will attract some beneficial species. To make it easier for the birds to nest along the perimeter of your garden, provide nesting material like straw, bark, and pieces of string.

We put an owl house up last year for rodent control, I haven't any idea if one has moved in yet. It has to be really high and far away from the house to attract an owl. So it is difficult to tell if it is occupied. Next is a bat house, they are really big time bug eaters. I hope to get one this summer.

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Brandie

"A garden really lives only insofar as it is an expression of faith, the embodiment of a hope and a song of praise."

 

  

 
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