The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

July 27, 2012

MSU Garden Day Scheduled for August 3

Filed under: Events — bob @ 2:24 pm

A popular event  for gardeners is coming up soon. Garden Day 2012 happens August 3 on the campus of Michigan State University.

Organizers have planned a full day for plant lovers. You can choose from twelve very different workshops. These range from medicinal herbs to horticulture therapy; from organic gardening to dividing perennials and several other topics.

While you are there, you’ll get a chance to tour the flower trial gardens. There’s more than enough flowers for even the most experienced gardener to see.

This compact ornamental millet 'Jade Princess', caught my eye when I visited the trial gardens earlier this month.

This compact ornamental millet ‘Jade Princess’, caught my eye at the trial gardens when I visited earlier this month.

In the morning, keynote speaker Stephanie Cohen, the popular author known as the “Perennial Diva, will talk about herbaceous perennials.

Preparing herbs and using them in your kitchen is the topic for the afternoon keynote talk presented by Jessica Wright and Val Albright.

This is one event gardeners must have on their to-do list for the summer.


July 13, 2012

Watch Out for Cucumber Beetles

Filed under: Insects,Vegetables — bob @ 3:16 pm

Striped cucumber beetles are public enemy number one when it comes to growing cucumbers.

They are a very colorful and attractive looking beetle with their shiny yellow stripes but they can destroy your entire cucumber crop if you don’t take steps right away to control them.

I’ve already sprayed for them twice this season however, a new population of beetles is starting to show up again.

Cucumber beetles are chewing insects that make holes in the leaves, blossoms and fruit of the plant. They can eat so much of the plant that they can drastically reduce the number of cucumbers the vines are able to produce — and that is bad enough.  Worse yet, they spread diseases like bacterial wilt and mosaic virus which can outright kill the plants.

They attack zucchini, winter squash, acorn squash and other vine crops. So, to be on the safe side,  check all of your vine crops.

There is also a spotted cucumber beetle species that causes the same problems. They look like the striped variety but have spots instead.

Most garden insecticides do a good job killing these pests.


The University of Connecticut has a good discussion of cucumber beetles on this website.

Time to Plant Rutabaga and Parsnip for Fall Crop

Filed under: Vegetables — bob @ 2:15 pm

Mid to late July is the time to plant rutabaga and parsnip for a fall crop.

I spent part of the day sowing a 30 foot row of rutabagas and a 30 foot row of parsnips.  I took care planting them because the seeds of these two crops are very small. They can’t be planted very deep.  It’s hard sometimes,  to resist the urge to cover them with too much soil — a half of an inch of soil over them is all they need.

Parsnip seed upper left. Rutabaga seed lower right.

Since it has been so hot and dry here, I thought it would be a good idea to lightly water the soil after planting. This will help the seeds absorb enough water so they can  germinate. It  can take a couple of weeks or more for the seeds to germinate so, I’ll have to keep watering  until the seedlings become established or regular rains return.

When it comes to eating parsnips or rutabaga, I can take them or leave them. So, sixty feet is a lot of root crops to eat. I suppose I’ll develop a taste for them this fall. On the other hand, whatever I don’t eat, I’ll feed to the chickens. During the winter they always enjoy a treat from the garden.


Here’s a link to the University of West Virginia Extension and their bulletin on root crops.’s%20Guide%20WLG%20151.pdf

July 6, 2012

Using a Surfactant to Save Water in the Garden

Filed under: Water,Weather — bob @ 2:00 pm

Because of the heat wave and lack of rain, I’ve had to water the garden just to keep the plants alive.

To conserve water, I’ve been syringing the plants one at a time with a watering wand.  Syringing uses much less water than spraying the entire area with an oscillating or impulse garden sprinkler.  It also helps keep the weeds down in between the plants since the soil there is so dry.

Using a water wand to syringe garden plants.

The soil in my garden is so dry it has become hydrophobic. The water,  instead of soaking into the ground, beads up on the surface  like water on a newly-waxed car hood.  So when I try to syringe a plant, instead of going down into the soil where the plant can use it, the water just runs off into the garden path. This is a common problem in many soils when they get too dry.

When my soil gets in this condition, I use a surfactant to help the water move into the soil. I keep a box of biodegradable dishwasher detergent in the garden shed just for this purpose.  About a tablespoon or so of the detergent to a couple gallons of water does the trick in my soil.

I use about this much detergent in my watering can.

I use my watering can to apply the solution right under the plants. You can see the change it makes in the soil as the water sinks right in instead of running off. This saves even more water when I syringe the plants.

It takes some time, but a watering can lets me put the solution right where I want it to go.

The surfactant won’t last all season but so far, I have had to make only one application. A couple of good rains will solve this problem.


Here’s a link to a good publication on hydrophobic soils:

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