Sow There! Frost, lemons and lemon bar recipe 12-3-2015

Meyer lemons have a thin skin, which means you might need to work on more lemons to gather a good pile of zest for lemon bars. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

If you love lemons, now would be the time to get to know your neighbors and offer to lighten someone’s lemon load.

Winter citrus is a timely treat. Yet, the weather can suddenly turn cold and ruin everything still in the tree.

This usually happens when you’re out of town on a long weekend.

Forward-thinkers are picking boxes of the golden fruit now before they panic on a frosty night.

My neighbor Bob showed up on our doorstep with a beautiful box of Meyer lemons, which are perfect for making lemon squares. (More on dessert below).

The Bossman has a mandarin tree that has produced enough fruit to keep a shipful of sailors safe from scurvy.

Mandarins are great for smoothies. Just peel them and tuck into plastic zipped snack bags. Freeze them with other bags filled with frozen grapes, peeled and frozen kiwis and even fistfuls of frozen spinach and kale.

This week a Twitter friend named Andy invited me to his house where he and his wife grow concord grapes.

These have an unbelievably rich taste and can even be used for grape pie.

All this food is literally hanging around, but chances are very high that we’ll have an overnight freeze.

Concord grapes, like Meyer lemons, taste above and beyond other varieties of their fruit type.Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

FREEZE INFO

A UC Merced pamphlet gives tips for citrus and the cold.

Mandarins, as an example, could be fine after a brief chill of 24 degrees. However, several hours at 26 degrees, the fruit could be ruined.

What happens is the cells burst, and then the fruit dries out quickly. You may recall biting into a decorative lime, only to find it nearly juice-less.

The tree itself can also be damaged at very low temperatures. Younger trees are more vulnerable in temperatures in the mid 20s. If you have a young tree, watch the weather and cover the tree on those chilly nights.

If the tree is damaged, do not prune until spring. When the tree starts growing again, you’ll have a better picture of what parts are dead.

MIGHTY LEMON SQUARE

It wasn’t until I made lemon squares that I realized how much labor and love goes into those little slices of toe-curling yum.

The key to adding more zing is adding more lemon peel (zest), which means more time with a grater in your hand.

A few yeas ago my friend Kara offered this great tip: Use a vegetable peeler to carve off large chunks of peel at a time. Then use a small food processor to cut the zest into tiny bits.

If you’ll be making lemon square again, you can get extra zesty and freeze what you don’t need.

Also, its easy to burn the crust when baking lemon squares twice.

See the instructions below for the time-tested aluminum foil trick.

For crust:

1 cup all purpose flour

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (the same amount of regular sugar also does the trick)

1 stick butter, melted/not hot (or omega-rich butter alternative)

For filling:

2 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 Tbs all-purpose flour

6 Tbs juice from two lemons

2 tsps (or more) finely grated lemon zest

Directions:

Set oven to 325 degrees.

Spray an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with foil, so the foil overhangs all the sides. Then spray the foil with cooking spray.

Mix flour, salt, powdered sugar in a bowl, stir in butter to form dough (I put the butter in the microwave on defrost for about a minute to soften it).

When the mixture forms a dough, press into the bottom of the foil-covered pan. I used wax paper to flatten the dough. Another suggestions is to flatten with a measuring cup.

Double bake:

Bake the dough for 15 20 minutes, until pale brown.

In the meantime, whisk eggs, sugar, flour, lemon juice and zest in medium bowl.

When the dough is done, pour in the lemon mixture. Bake 20 minutes more.

While still warm sprinkle with a light dusting of powdered sugar, so the warmth helps the sugar stick. Some folks might use a flour sifter, for fancier application.

After cooling, you can tear away the foil and cut into small squares.

Mistakes:

If you make a mistake or the lemon bars are not exactly perfect, you need to eat those mistakes before anyone notices.

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Sow There! Frost and plants, big decisions 11-19-2015

Mendon’s Nursery in Paradise is well stocked with chrysanthemums, a great table centerpiece that can be tossed out after the season. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

What’s most important? What can you live without? Are some things no longer worth the bother?

These aren’t just questions we ponder after age 40. We ask these questions when we hear frost is on the way.

A cold night last week had me worried. It turned out to be a false frost alarm, but the scare was good training.

CARE FOR CONTAINERS

Plants can freeze in the ground. Yet, potted plants are even more vulnerable because the roots are not protected.

As we transition into cold weather, try to keep your container plants well watered. Heat becomes trapped in the moist soil during the day, and will be released overnight.

For cold-sensitive plants, cover with a tarp or old sheet before nightfall. By the time it gets dark, most of that heat from the soil will have escaped.

If you work close to where you live, take an afternoon break when frost is predicted and cover sensitive plants before the daylight is gone.

Knowing what’s cold-sensitive and what is not may require some research. Temperatures below freezing, 32 degrees, does not necessarily mean plants will be damaged. Most plants that grow in this area will not be damaged until the cold dips down to 20-25. The longer the cold lingers, the more damage is possible.

Check out this list from Louisiana State University:http://tinyurl.com/olwarsb

What you use as a cover is up to you. For small plants, a cardboard box or plastic tub might do the trick. You can also try sheets and blankets. Note that plastic that directly touches the leaves could burn the leaves.

On the rise

Just as hot air rises, cold air drops. If you have plants that might die in cold weather, move them to a location on an upward slope, or onto a porch. The coldest of air will drop to the lower zone.

Cool-season annuals at Mendon’s Nursery.Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record
LOVE AND LOSS

Several weeks ago my sister and I went on the Farm City bus tour, which included a stop at Mendon’s Nursery in Paradise. I took the opportunity to ask one of Mendon’s knowledgeable staff about portulaca. What was the best way to keep it alive during winter?

In case you aren’t familiar with portulaca, it also goes by the name of moss rose. The succulent does well in hot, hot places, including my metal wheelbarrow filled with poor soil. It flowers profusely in the middle of the hot, hot summer.

The Mendon’s guy was quick with his answer.

“It’ll die. It’s a heat-loving plant. Treat it like an annual.”

I loved that he was so succinct.

No judgement. Let it die.

I feel the same way about chrysanthemums.

Mums were on sale at Mendon’s that day and they are lovely. They come in a variety of fall fashion colors.

Now I have a chrysanthemum bouquet in the center of my kitchen table. More than two weeks have gone by and it shows no sign of fading.

After numerous attempts, I have never been able to make chrysanthemum bloom again. However, as a living bouquet it might thrive all winter.

You could make the same argument for orchids in bloom. When you give someone an orchid, the flowers will be stunning for months.

When the blooms fade, give the orchid plant to someone who knows how to care for orchids.

Poinsettias — exactly the same.

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Sow There! 12-31-15, When pepper Christmas tree gets gobbled, try a Valentine’s Day tree


Hyacinth bulb vases are ideal for forcing bulbs inside, because you can watch the roots grow into the water. However, this little fish bowl is a close second. Just add pebbles. Heather Hacking – Enterprise-Record
Heather Hacking-Enterprise-Record O’ Valentine’s Day tree. I don’t think you can really call it a “Christmas” tree if it gets placed in the tree stand Dec. 30.

This is a tough time for gardening. Every time I have a day off I think about putting more bulbs in the ground. Then I realize its uncomfortably cold outside.

On those long, dark Sundays, I found better things to do, like bake holiday cookies.

Even my cat doesn’t really want to go outside. She’ll take a little dash outdoors when absolutely necessary. The rest of the time we can find her curled into the new animal-print kitty bed with a 4-watt warming coil at the bottom.

If she could talk she’d be musing, “Living the dream, living the dream.”

To satisfy my garden itch, the kitchen table is now overrun by hyacinth bulb vases. I love checking them each day, often in awe that so many roots could grow from such a compact bulb unit.

While visiting my friend Perrin recently, I noticed she had little glass bowls filled with pebbles and hyacinth bulbs.

I cruised down to my favorite thrift store and found a cute little fish bowl. This is about the size you would use for a guppy won by tossing dimes at the county fair. I happened to have a bag of clean pebbles on hand, in the cupboard with other staples like flour and rice.

So far, there are four hyacinth bulbs in various stages of growth on the kitchen table.

If I do this right, I can continue to add water-filled vessels and have a bouquet of hyacinth flowers ready for Valentine’s Day.

That will be about the time we take down the Christmas tree.

NEW TREE FOR NEW YEAR

Yep, one of my Christmas presents from my handsome woodsman was a four-foot tree.

I know it was an impulse buy, because I doubt he would pay $26.95 for a silvertip tree on Christmas Eve. That was the price on the tag. I’m guessing he paid the guy five bucks.

It’s beautiful. I love it. I have an excuse to keep a tree in the middle of the living room for several weeks.

Both my mother and my stepmother keep fully decorated (fake) trees in their living rooms year-round.

Several weeks ago I bragged about our indoor pepper plant that made a perfect a Christmas tree. It looked great for about a week. Yet, my beau noticed some holes in the leaves.

I didn’t want to believe it was a big deal. Maybe the bugs ate the leaves when the plant was still outside.

However, more holes appeared and the leaves started to droop.

After another week we both agreed that the bugs had to go outside before something hatched and flew away with my ornaments.

I inspected the plant in the sunlight. There they were, the hungry larvae nibbling their way across the foliage, just as happened recently with the kale plants in the raised bed.

In this case, the larva were dark green, the exact same color as the pepper plants.

As the holiday got closer, I couldn’t wait to start giving my guy some gifts.

First there was the Snark guitar tuner, because he was going somewhere and needed to be well tuned. Then, I thought he would look good in that new pair of 501 jeans.

I gave him a few gifts each day, and one day he went to the stores to buy me a thing or two.

Waiting until the last minute, apparently, is a good bargain shopping strategy.

The Christmas tree was one of the final gifts. He couldn’t really wrap it, so he had it hidden in plain view in the yard.

Because the tree will be around until Valentine’s Day, I’m thinking I could even call it a Valentine’s Day tree.

My beau could start buying Valentine’s Day gifts now, and place the wrapped items under the tree.

I could even make Valentine’s Day ornaments out of thick red paper, like we did in fourth grade.

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Sow There! How to plant paperwhites and surprises in the yard 11-12-15

The jumbo paperwhite bulbs are Narcissus Ziva. The flowers are easy to grow indoors and will grow in a dish with rocks and water. Heather Hacking-Enterprise-Record

With all the factors that can botch human attempts to grow food, it’s impressive we ever moved past hunting and gathering.

My recent experience growing vegetables reminds me why I prefer growing flowers.

We elevated our planting area to keep plants away from gophers and moles. Just when the kale was looking tender and tasty, cabbageworms made those plants their edible home. Earwigs sneak in at night. When I’m at work, birds swoop down and nip at young sprouts.

After all of that, it’s so much easier to bring several dollars down to the farmers market. Farmers must have magic spells that help them food grow.

CURIOUS AND CURIOUSER

This week my boyfriend Dave called and said he spotted a white rabbit among our potted plants.

I guess I just didn’t believe him, or didn’t believe something cute and cuddly could be a problem.

Later he called and said the rabbit had climbed into the black fabric pot where some spinach managed to grow.

In broad daylight?

Where was our cat?

I asked for photos.

This was not a scrappy, tan-colored jack rabbit with gangly legs and ears. This fluffy white bunny must have escaped from a neighbor kid’s 4-H pen.

I think we all understand why the rabbit made a mad dash and headed to my yard. The critter could clearly smell that something green and edible was growing nearby.

Heather Hacking-Enterprise-Record There’s a new pet in town, this one a bunny that apparently likes my yard better than its own. The attraction may very well have something to do with young spinach plants .

Moving on up

The precise reason that I purchased black fabric pots is that they are lightweight and portable. The leafy vegetables in pots can be moved onto pedestals high enough to frustrate the white rabbit.

We had dinner with friends Robert and Marie this week. The couple moved to a new home recently. Marie was proud of her new yard, and quite willing to give me a tour via flashlight.

When you move to a new home its not a bad idea to go to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore every week. You’re bound to find something you need.

In the case of our friends, they picked up some older kitchen drawers and filled them with dirt.

The drawers were placed on top of boards that are balanced on two sawhorses.

Marie bought lettuce starts, now growing undisturbed by the myriad of perils that exist in my yard.

PLANTS UNDER CONTROL

Meanwhile, it’s a little bit easier to control the growing environment indoors.

Recently my mom and I split a big bag of Costco paperwhites, Narcissus Ziva. They’re billed as extra large, and I must say these bulbs are as big as daffodil bulbs. Many of them have attached bulblets.

Paperwhites are known for being grown indoors. You can use a shallow container filled with just a bit of soil, or fill shallow containers with pebbles and water. No drainage holes.

Last weekend I scored some white ceramic containers at the thrift store. These are for baking very small loaves of bread, and still had a sticker on the bottom from Michael’s.

Next, I hit the dollar store for several bags of small, clean stones.

Because of the large size of the bulbs, I could only fit three into each small container.

To grow paperwhites, place the stones about 1-2 inches deep in the dish, then add the bulbs, with the wide section touching the pebbles. Add more stones so the bulbs stay in place. Most people group the bulbs so they are almost touching.

Next, add water so it just barely covers the roots of the bulb. Too much water will rot the bulb. You’ll need to check the water level every few days, more often if your cat drinks from the containers.

After about three weeks, move the plant to a sunnier location. You may need to stake the flowers so they don’t flop over.

Note that when planted in water, the flowers are relying on the bulb for stored energy. Plan to toss the bulb after bloom.

 

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Sow There! How to shop early for Christmas 11-26-15

In a small house all you need is a small tree. In this case, a pepper tree will do. Heather Hacking-Enterprise-Record

Gotta love those forward-thinkers at the bigger-box stores. Like it or not, we can peruse Halloween costumes in August and buy Christmas wrap by the second week in September.

I think the grand plan is that we buy things in the middle of the summer and hide them from children. These gifts are so well hidden, the parents forget and buy more gifts in October and November. By the time the holiday comes around, people have too many gifts.

For those extra gifts, many charities have barrels around town and you can make other children happy with those things you bought in August. We’ve put together an online map with gift drop-off locations. Check “share the season”: http://tinyurl.com/sharetheseason

After years of resistance, those mass merchandisers have finally worked their way into my brain. Not only did I start holiday shopping early, I think I’m done. Thanks to the early reminders, I started buying holiday gifts when I was still wearing shorts and Croc sandals.

I thought ahead and made purchases on the Sierra Oro Farm Trail, at the downtown Chico Harvest Sidewalk Sale, and during my regular trips to the Chico farmers market. I’ll make one more dash for perishable gifts, but other than that I think I’m done.

Close friends will nod knowingly when I say I hate, hate, hate mainstream shopping. I lack patience, dislike overwhelming smells and pay very little attention to fashion. Sometimes I’ll have a panic attack while circling around the mall and looking for a parking place. It’s no fun to shop with me because I’ll growl if I see obstacles ahead, such as double-wide baby strollers.

I realize this makes me a poor consumer unit.

We’re Americans. Half the economy is tied to nonessential purchases. By the time we can spell the alphabet we also know how to ask Mom for something made by Mattel for children age 4-6.

The best way to convince me to shop is to throw a big can’t-miss community event (see examples above).

Chico’s Christmas preview really has it right. This isn’t shopping, its a big street party with shopping slipped in on the side. Christmas preview has bowls of chocolate, a tower of cupcakes, music on most street corners and ballerinas dancing in the windows. Somehow I don’t even mind when the double-wide strollers stop in the middle of the sidewalk.

OH PEPPER TREE …

With most of my presents ready to wrap, the rest of the holiday preparations are falling into place. As luck would have it, I never took down the white Christmas lights down from the living room.

Also, we had a cold snap a few weeks ago. Our jalapeno plant had grown fabulously large this summer in a black fabric pot. When it got really cold, I dragged the plant into the living room. The somewhat leaky fabric pot was placed inside a better-looking plastic pot. The pepper bush already has dozens of red jalapenos hanging from the branches, which are even better than actual ornaments. It took just a minute to unravel some of the white lights from the door frame and drape the string of lights around the pepper plant. The pepper plant was growing inside a tall metal tomato cage. That cage is great for hanging ornaments.

Many regulars at the Saturday farmers market remember Mike Morgenroth, who sold tomato seeds in yellow envelopes. Before he died, he taught me that several plants we grow in summer will survive the winter if brought indoors. Hot peppers, eggplant, basil and tomatoes are actually perennials, he said. In Chico we think they’re annuals because they die when it gets cold.

I know basil will grow indoors, and now it’s time for the hot pepper Christmas tree.

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Passion vines and butterflies, a delightful combination, 10-09-15

Agraulis vanillae, takes a little break on a zinnia flower.Heather Hacking—Enterprise-Record

My yard has been blessed with butterflies all summer.

There’s something special about these insects, as evidenced by their popularity in greeting cards, jewelry and tattoos.

Is it because they are so delicate? As if the mere wind could crumple their wings? Or perhaps because of the way they move — dancing softly, hesitant to land. Maybe because they are fleeting, a creature that flutters by but will likely not linger.

Early in the season I spotted one small, orange butterfly.

It’s been a dry summer and not much has bloomed in my yard.

Soon there were two of the insects, which is always more fun. I like to imagine they are in love or in some other insect way enjoying the wave of air in tandem.

As the summer months continued, more and more butterflies flitted by. They came in pairs and sets of three. Recently I counted a row of six. A group of butterflies, by the way, is called a kaleidoscope.

One Saturday afternoon photographer Dan Reidel and I had an assignment, but I needed to stop by my house.

As I retrieved something inside, he spotted the 10-foot-high sunflowers and went hunting for a photograph. The butterflies danced by his camera lens.

“I think I found the source,” he said a few minutes later.

A few tendrils of a passion vine had grown over to my side of the fence. On a few green strands we spotted at least 10 caterpillars.

This was mesmerizing. Orange critters with black, lash-like protrusions, some were already in their tan-colored cocoons. One had a milky-gray streak down its side, which I guessed was the start of its metamorphosis.

More time has passed, and the caterpillars have devoured the passion flower vine. When I peek through the slats of the neighbor’s fence, I see that most of the leaves are gone. Dozens and dozens of caterpillars hang from the nibbled vines.

The sad plant reminds me of the childhood book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

AN EXPERT VIEW

My new friend Don Miller teaches in the department of biology at Chico State University and was nice enough to share what he knows about the visitors to my yard.

I emailed him some photographs.

He had recently been to S&S Produce and noticed a passion vine stripped almost bare. A crazy collection of butterflies could be spotted nearby.

Don has also talked to Diane at KZFR radio, who has the same plant with a multitude of butterflies. A co-worker at my office has had the same experience with passion vine.

PERFECT PLANT PAIRING

Passion flower, Passaflora, is not a native plant. For that reason, it’s fairly remarkable that the butterflies and the plant have been able to find each other, Don said with awe.

The butterfly is the Agraulis vanillae, known to flit about the extreme southern parts of the United States, and into Mexico.

The insect expert said this particular butterfly is “married to” the passion vine, and is known to seek out just this plant.

A chemical compound in the plant is poisonous, but this particular butterfly is immune. When the caterpillar eats the poison, it becomes poisonous as well.

Other butterflies are known to habitate just one plant, including thepipevine swallowtail butterfly.

So why so many Agraulis vanillae butterflies this year? Don theorized that a mild winter allowed more to survive. That’s the same explanation for the summer infestation of grasshoppers north of town, in the area near Wookey Road.

As for “my” butterflies, Don said the party will continue as long as there is life in the passion vine and no hard frost.

I couldn’t help myself. I dropped the hose over the fence and watered my neighbor’s passion vine.

You can watch a cool video of this insect athttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y19uxzo0Tdo.

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Sow There! Forcing paperwhites and hyacinth bulbs 12-10-15


Paperwhite bulbs grow just dandy indoors in a bowl filled with pebbles and just a little waterHeather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

My Handsome Woodsman was out in yard this week, bright and early, raking golden maple leaves into soggy piles.

Why was he raking? Certainly not because he was following any sort of chore list.

Nope. The air was crisp. He wanted a little exercise. The cat was inside, bleating for wet food.

Why do people like gardening, raking leaves, mowing lawns, planting seeds?

For a lot of reasons.

If there was a Jung/Briggs Myers personality test for gardening, we could sit and ponder the various personality types.

The yard show-off. The contemplative cultivator. Hungry utilitarian.

Others might be lumped into the category of “watchers.”

We all love the really big shows — Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, the walkways of Disneyland , the George Peterson rose garden at Chico State.

However, I’m just as thrilled by the single bud that changes every time I take a new look.

For the past month we’ve had containers of paperwhites on the kitchen table.

These started out as big, fat bulbs – Narcissus ziva. For several days we watched as the bulbs sent out long tentacles that soon hid under the pebbles at the bottom of the containers. Next, green sprouts emerged from the bulbs.

The green grew and grew.

At one point I started marking the height on a piece of paper so I could note the progress the next day. Soon, I was marking the height in the morning and was impressed at the new measurement that night.

Around Thanksgiving, these babies were growing an inch or more each day.

This week the plants are flopped over. The flowers are nice and white, but rather small compared to the length of the greenery. I’m thinking this particular brand of paperwhites is intended for outdoors.

At the very least, I should have moved the plants to a sunnier location.

We tied the leaves together with a holiday ribbon. Yet, they grew more and flopped again.

Someone who liked to solve problems might build an elaborate paperwhite trellis. However, I’ve already moved on to hyacinth bulbs.

If I ever get a chance to teach third grade, I’ll have a bulb growing year-round.

What fun to watch the roots reach further into the water each day.

Later the foliage will emerge, followed by a powerfully fragrant bloom.

You can’t help but wonder how all of that plant infrastructure was crammed into that small bulb.

The Better Homes and Garden website, http://tinyurl.com/zj5gwvc, says to buy pre-chilled hyacinth bulbs, or put the bulbs in the refrigerator for five weeks. Keep bulbs away from fruit.

The bulbs themselves can be irritating to the skin or eyes, the Better Homes gardeners note, so wear gloves while handling

Next, you’ll need a hyacinth vase. This has a bowl at the top, which perfectly fits a hyacinth bulb. The neck of the vase narrows, then gets larger closer to the bottom.

After placing the bulb in the top chamber of the vase, change the water every once in a while and turn the vase so the plant does not lean toward the light.

If you’re a “watcher” you could enjoy the plant until it reaches the bloom stage and gift it to a friend who loves immediate garden gratification.

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Generational gap and the man bun Oct. 15, 2015


Baby Tuscan kale sprouts are performing just as expected. These were planted about three weeks ago.Heather Hacking—Enterprise-Record
Peter Dinklage, of Game of Thrones, sports a man bun during an award ceremony. Associated Press

Fall is the time to plant cool-season veggies. I plopped some seeds into my black fabric pots a few weeks ago and they are on their way.

Not one to miss an opportunity to brag, I snapped a series of pictures one morning on my way out the door.

While editing the photos I noticed a chestnut-colored critter with a million legs.

Yikes. Now I know what’s been nibbling my new sprouts.

Why didn’t I see those critters with my naked eye? Because I have middle-aged eyesight.

SLOW BUT SURE

This age things has been creeping up slowly.

If I look back I can pinpoint the first time I realized something wasn’t quite right.

We were at a video store. For younger readers, this is a store containing racks filled with videos. In the old days people actually read the back of a box and decided which movie to rent for the night.

One day, I couldn’t read the description on the back of the box. What the heck? When did they start making the type so small?

About this same time, our newspaper was redesigned. The type size was reduced ever-so-slightly. This was just enough to make me squint.

When readers called to complain that they needed to put on glasses to read the paper, I agreed the changes were an outrage.

The only advantage to poor up-close vision is that I have a tough time seeing my crow’s feet when I put on makeup.

THEN THERE WAS BUN

The other sign of aging is that the inner curmudgeon begins to emerge.

Up until now I have prided myself on being open-minded.

I don’t blink an eye when I see someone with green or purple hair. Go ahead, express yourself with Flock of Seagulls haircuts, parachute pants, tattoo sleeves, mutton chops, cheese heads and Flash Dance sweatshirts. Yet, I can’t help but giggle when I spot this man bun thing.

The first time I saw the doo was on my neighbor Scott. He pulled his long hair up while doing yard work.

Since then I’ve spotted the style more often, usually on someone carrying a man purse or wearing floppy culottes. Almost invariably, the man-bun is on the same head with a beard.

More recently the man-bun seems to have hit its stride. You can spot men in suits with their hair wrapped like grandma. Fashion mags have hot guys with a bump in the back.

Even though its now mainstream, it still makes me giggle.

I was at a restaurant this week and we spotted a friend who is a waiter. He didn’t have a man bun. He had a man headband. In fact, the headband pushed much of his hair forward like an exotic chicken. Other than the hair, he’s a quite handsome, bearded guy.

Next, a patron came in with a double man bun. His hair was so long he had a big tuft near the nape of his neck, and another that built out from there. In a way it looked like an ant’s body attached to his big head. He also sported the full-beard.

As we get older, maybe its easier to be jarred by generational differences.

When I first watched “Peaky Blinders,” the half-shaved-heads gave me pause. Yet, the show is based 100 years ago and across the globe.

The man bun is right here and right now, therefore more difficult to understand.

MILLIPEDES

In the meantime, there are more important things to worry about.

The chestnut critter I spotted among my sprouts was a millipede. I checked online and millipedes have four legs per body segment, vs. the two for centipedes. Centipedes are predators, while millipedes eat decaying matter, and apparently my plants.

If it is any consolation, millipedes don’t bite. Now that I know what’s nibbling my new sprouts, I may consider removing the mulch from these container. Millipedes love to feast on mulch and leaves. If they multiply too fast, they’ll also eat your plants.

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How to divide plants without being noticed, 9-17-15

When iris rhizomes get too crowded, the things that look like carrots on top of the soil will touch each other, or even overlap. Heather Hacking – Enterprise-Record

Am I a thief, or a garden hero, a protector of plants, a defender of the nurtured world?

Here’s my version of the story.

I lived in a little house for 18 years. The biggest room in my house was the little garden, where things blossomed and grew.

That little house needed a lot of repairs, and I moved into the little house directly next door.

Twenty feet separates the two front doors and I can see “my” old garden quite clearly.

Before I left, I took what seemed sane to transport. Yet, some of the plants seemed better off where they were planted.

Also, I was right next door. I could dig them up later.

A nice lady moved into my old house, but she didn’t live there for long.

She had a vast collection of plants in pots, which she tended like a watchful mother. However, she never took a hose to the rest of “my” yard.

This was not a pleasant experience.

I watched as some plants were tortured by hot sun and neglect.

The roses, thankfully, were within reach. Naturally, I watered those from my side of the fence.

Next, a very nice, cute young couple moved in.

They’ve been there nine months, and NOT ONCE, have I seen them turn on a hose.

One could argue they are the best, most conscientious of drought observers. You could argue that if the lilac dies, it wasn’t the right plant for this climate.

The lavender and sage will probably be fine. The roses, of course, I have continued to water from my side of the fence.

Then I did what I did.

I ventured over to “my” old yard and had a look around.

Was there anything I could salvage?

Months ago I had divided a clump of purple bearded iris, and plopped half a dozen plants along the dry edge of my new yard.

Nobody noticed the irises had been thinned.

I thought it would be the same with the succulents the former neighbor had left behind.

This week the young man knocked on the door to borrow a hacksaw.

“I used to have some succulents like this at the side of the house, but now they are gone,” he said while standing over the succulent plant I had transplanted from his yard.

I did not hesitate in my confession and apology.

“I just love plants and it was hard to see those things go without water.”

“But aren’t those the kind of plants that don’t need much water,” he asked.

He certainly had me there.

Did he want them back? Could I offer him a basil plant near the end of its life?

Could I bring him some kale later this fall?

He was absolutely, 100 percent cool about the entire thing, but I still felt like I giant dirt ball.

Now what about those roses, just on the other side of the fence?

This did not seem like the right time to bring up the subject.

HOW TO DIVIDE IRISES

You should divide irises every 3-5 years, otherwise they will stop blooming.

Look into the clump and you’ll see the rhizomes, which look a lot like dull-colored carrots on top of the soil.

Attached to the fleshy carrots are roots.

Using a shovel, gently loosen the soil and raise the dirt about six inches under the rhizomes.

You should be able to separate the individual rhizomes. If they are stuck together, cut them apart with a knife.

. If you break a few, no worries. If most of the rhizome is intact, the plant will grow.

Be gentle with the roots and carefully move the plant to its new location. Some people snip off all but a few inches of the leaves from the top.

If gifting to a friend, transport the irises in a box so the roots are not jostled.

As for the rhizomes in the original location, the rhizomes should be spaced so they do not touch each other.

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Bulb gardening is a practice of forward-thinking 8-2-15


Big, bright, beautiful bulbs, on sale at a big-box store near you.Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

If the temperatures did not hover in the high 90s most afternoon, you could easily guess it was already autumn. In my neighborhood there are large drifts of dry leaves blown to the edge of the street.

The squash plants are suffering after various injuries, including heat, drought and the onslaught of about 3 million tiny, gray insects. Almond harvest is in full swing and the rice fields are beginning to turn from green to amber.

Another sign of fall is the appearance of bulbs for sale at places we shop for eggs and milk.

THINK AHEAD

Gardeners are forward-thinkers. In the fall we think of spring-blooming bulbs. In winter we pour through seed catalogs. In spring we plant pumpkin seeds.

Other forward-thinkers include the merchandisers for Costco. Those big warehouse folks are apparently fixated on Halloween.

Right now, if I had the inclination, I could buy a five-foot long, hairy spider and throw it into someone’s swimming pool.

I could also stuff a black plastic bag with the scary plastic skeleton and toss it into the bed of my boss’ pickup truck.

Costco is also wagering that most boys age 2-10 want to be an Avenger for Halloween. If those spiffy get-ups are sold out soon, a fireman or storm trooper will do.

I don’t have kids, so I’ll trust Costco to know the secret yearnings of young people. They caught this gardener’s attention somewhere between the giant spider and the gal who gives the blender demonstrations.

A rack taller than me in high heels was filled with big bags of bulbs of most colors.

I needed to be reminded to buy and plant paperwhites.

In just 3-5 weeks, the package states, I can have a lovely bouquet growing on my kitchen table.

The illustrated instructions explain to place the paperwhite bulbs about halfway beneath the soil in a pot about 3-4 inches deep. You can also opt to place the bulbs in a dish filled with pebbles and water.

I’ll avoid this route because standing water is just one more excuse for the cat to jump up on the table.

According to the Costco written instructions, “Rementhe la terre en place pour couvir les bulbes et arroser abondamment.”

An article by C.L. Fornari, at gardenlady.comsuggests putting the bulbs in a tall, glass vase with the rocks and water at the bottom. This sounds fun because the stems will be supported on the sides, and the cat would have a more difficult time getting her tongue to the bottom of the vessel.

DOING DIGITALIS

While I’m looking forward, I remembered to plant Foxglove by seed.

I don’t remember until its too late.

The plant is “biennial,” and I’m not exactly sure what that means.

If you think of an annual — you think of plants we put into pots on the front porch. As soon as it gets cold, these plants die. Perennials are your permanent plants, which live for years and years.

Biennial means a plant that takes two years to grow from seed to flowers.

However, every time I’ve purchased a six-pack of small plants in the fall, they bloom in early summer.

But for the most part, I’ve bought foxglove from the nursery and then watched as the plants reseed themselves.

The plants need light to germinate. This means the plant can release seeds without our help, and the seeds can germinate without being buried by soil.

If you had plants this summer, you can put a paper bag over the top of the dried bloom and cut the stem. Pinch in the bag at the bottom to capture the seeds.

I moved last year, and there are no foxgloves plants to reseed themselves. Instead, I took two empty plastic six-pack containers and filled with some coarse potting soil. After watering lightly, the seeds from Renee’s Gardenseeds sprouted within a week.

Now the job is to keep them alive by not watering too much or forgetting to water.

Foxglove are a big favorite with the carpenter bees in my neighborhood. Those are the huge black bees, so large they seem like they should beep when they back up.

The bees climb all the way into the glove-shaped flowers on the tall flower spikes.

We will see if it takes two years for these foxglove seeds to grow and bloom.

The plants grow tall flower spikes, 4-8 feet tall. The spikes will flop over or bend if not protected from the wind. On the other hand, you don’t want to protect them so much that they need to lean out to catch enough sun.

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