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Tales from a Plant Addict

Fun (& a few serious) facts, tips and tricks for every gardener, new and old.
Fruits, Veggies & Herbs
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Seed Saving

One of the first "gardening lessons" I remember as a young girl was saving seed from marigolds. I remember my mom showing me how to pick the flowers that were dead and dried on the plant and put them in a brown lunch sack. I also remember that brown lunch sack sat in a cabinet in our basement, and if you wanted to plant marigolds in the spring, you took some of the dried flowers from th...

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Hardy Kiwifruit

My husband jokes with me about our yard being "one giant experiment". We have planted a lot of different plants over the years, both ornamental and edible. We have had a lot of spectacular successes and failures in each category. As time goes on we have found some new favorites in the edible category. One of those is a hardy kiwifruit, Actinidia kolomikta . I love kiwifruit so the promi...

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Homegrown Tomatoes

Any tomato lover can relate to the statement that nothing quite matches the taste of a homegrown tomato. The factors that contribute to that delicious flavor may surprise you—or at least make you appreciate great tasting tomatoes even more! Tomatoes will not ripen properly in daytime high temperatures above about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Researcher's evidence suggests that night temperatu...

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Eggplant

In my own limited experience, it seems like there is no middle ground in fondness for eggplant. People either seem to love it or hate it, with no in between. I don't remember ever eating it growing up. I recall my mom saying she didn't really like it, and it took a long time to prepare, so there was never any eggplant served in the Schultz house. My first taste of eggplant was about 13...

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Chile Peppers

Language is a funny thing. Mention chile peppers, and many people assume you are talking about some burning hot pepper that only a mouth made of steel can tolerate. Technically speaking, the term "chile" includes all the fruits we call peppers, even those that are not considered "hot", like bell and banana peppers. Apparently the confusion stems from Christopher Columbus, who assumed th...

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Zucchini

Picking the first zucchini is always pretty exciting, at least in our garden. But a few weeks into zucchini season, this excitement will wane a bit… ok maybe a lot. I've learned from a young age that more than one or two plants will produce far more zucchini than any family can reasonably consume. One of my early gardening memories was the summer before I entered the third grade. I stro...

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Seedless Watermelon

While you celebrate the birth of our great nation this 4 th of July weekend, you may ponder this eternal question while enjoying a delicious slice of watermelon -- if seedless watermelons have no seed, where do you get the seed to plant it? Japanese plant breeders developed the first seedless watermelons over fifty years ago. Understanding the process requires basic knowledge...

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Edible Container Gardens

Growing vegetables in containers is nothing new; there are entire books dedicated to this topic. I have a lot of experience in growing vegetables in traditional in-ground gardens or raised beds, and have grown a few different vegetables in various containers. Successfully growing vegetables in containers largely hinges on having sufficient amounts of soil to support the plants, and bein...

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Strawberries-- Fragaria spp.

Along with other early spring crops like broccoli, cabbage and lettuce, it is a great time of year to plant some strawberries in your home garden. They are an especially kid-friendly crop to grow at home. Once my niece and later my son found the strawberries in our garden, none have made it into the house. They all get consumed on site! The strawberry plant was considered valuable for i...

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Apricots

Apricots are native to Asia, and there is some debate on exactly where, since they were so extensively grown since ancient times, dating back to about 3000 years ago. Their Latin name, Prunus armeniaca is thought to have arisen from an incorrect assumption that apricots were from Armenia. The silk trade with China introduced Europeans to the apricot, and their popularity soared....

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Sage (Salvia)

The holidays would not be the same without sage. Many people use the herb sage, Salvia officinalis as a seasoning for poultry, a common dish on holiday tables. But there is a lot more to sage than the culinary herb. The name sage encompasses a large group of ornamental and medicinal plants in the mint family. There are three different genera all considered to be types of sages:...

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Winter Squash

Winter squash have been a dominating theme at home and at work the last two weeks as we presented programs on the versatility of this often misunderstood vegetable. Many people decorate their homes with squash and pumpkins this time of year to evoke the fall season. But many people do not realize that many of these attractive squash are tasty as well. In general, people have heard of co...

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Apple Cider

Despite the proliferation of all the "pumpkin spice" flavored foods this time of year, apple cider is another flavor that says fall is here. A common question I've received is: "What is the difference between apple cider and apple juice? Aren't they the same thing?" The answer is "It depends." I hated it when one of my favorite professors in grad school would answer questions with this...

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Seed Saving

One of the first "gardening lessons" I remember as a young girl was saving seed from marigolds. I remember my mom showing me how to pick the flowers that were dead and dried on the plant and put them in a brown lunch sack. I also remember that brown lunch sack sat in a cabinet in our basement, and if you wanted to plant marigolds in the spring, you took some of the dried flowers from th...

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Tomato and Tobacco Hornworms

I've been growing a couple of tomato plants in containers on my patio this year, and have been pretty pleased with the results. The plants look good, and I'm starting to get a few ripe cherry tomatoes here and there. Growing tomatoes in containers is not without its challenges. For example, tomato plants in containers use A LOT of water, and it can be difficult to keep up with watering,...

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Common Tomato Problems

It is a bit early in the season to be discussing tomato problems, but some of the common problems can be minimized or even eliminated if caught early. It helps to know what you might see in your garden this summer. Tomato problems can be divided into the broad categories of fungal, bacterial, viral, or cultural causes. Fungal Diseases: Very common during periods of wet...

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Strawberries-- Fragaria spp.

Few would argue that a sure sign of summer approaching is the first strawberries of the season. You may think "First strawberries? But aren't they in the store all the time?" That's where as modern people we forget that every fruit and vegetable at one time was only available fresh for a limited time each year. The strawberry we consume today is actually a hybrid of two wild types, one...

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Starting Seeds Indoors

By this time each winter I am chomping at the bit to get my hands dirty. The seed catalogs fill my mailbox, each one taunting me with another new and improved variety of vegetable or flower. Seeds are one way to plant unusual varieties of flowers and vegetables for generally less cost than purchasing plants. But using seeds does cost in terms of time invested in growing the transplants....

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Sprouts

This time of year, many of us are resolving to eat healthier. For one reason or another, many people will think of sprouts when people talk about "eating healthy". Sometimes this association is positive, sometimes negative, I think primarily because many people still think of them as unusual or exotic. Sprouts are really nothing new in the world of food. Growing sprouts of seeds as a fo...

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What is a clementine anyway?

Winter is the season for citrus. One of my favorites is the clementine—and my 19 month old son is developing a taste for them as well. At first, he would only throw them, referring to them as "balls". Once he realized they are for eating, he's been devouring them while making the sign for and saying "more". They are available for a relatively short time each year, so we are thoroughly enjoying...

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Yam or Sweet Potato?

There are certain foods we tend to associate with the Holidays, but we may call them by different names. For example, many of us will find sweet potatoes gracing our tables, while some families refer to them as yams. Which is it? What are you actually eating? While we sometimes use the name interchangeably, yams and sweet potatoes are two totally different plants. The yam includes vario...

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Think Spring! (It’s Not too Early)

Though the 2014 gardening season is winding down, it's not too early to think ahead to Spring. A little advance planning and work now will pay off in a few short months. Preparing your vegetable garden for winter can involve more than removing summer's spent plants. Planting a cover crop, also called "green manure" is a simple process that will reduce soil loss by erosion, reduce weeds,...

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Blueberries

Blueberries might seem like a topic more suited to the spring or summer, since that's when the tasty berries are in season. Their white flowers in the spring and blazing red fall color make an excellent addition to your landscape, whether you plan on harvesting their fruit or not. Blueberries are also a very appropriate topic with Thanksgiving right around the corner. According to the U...

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Rhubarb

There are certain fruits and vegetables that seem to elicit a very strong positive or negative response depending on the person. Rhubarb appears to me to be one of those vegetables. Any mention of rhubarb within earshot of my husband is answered with a resounding "YUCK!" As for me, no one in my immediate or extended family cared for rhubarb, so I grew up never eating it. When I actually had an...

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Apples & Johnny Appleseed

September always seems to include apples—whether it's in a back-to-school ad, autumn decorations, or the first apples to hit the local farmer's market. They're everywhere this time of year. Apples may seem commonplace and anything but exotic when choosing a fruit to eat. In fact, they are native to Kazakhstan, giving them Middle-Eastern or Asian heritage. Scientists have conclud...

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