The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

October 24, 2013

Some fall leaves are a health risk

Filed under: Shrubs,Trees,Weather — bob @ 8:01 pm

The fall color season is nearing its peak. It’s a beautiful time of the year to be outside watching the leaves turn a little bit each day.

Collecting those leaves is a lot of fun too whether you use them for decorating or for helping your kids make that time honored school project, a leaf collection.

Many people use leaves they’ve collected from fall color tours or from their own backyard to decorate their homes.

Once you collect leaves and bring them indoors, they’ll easily hold their vibrant colors until Thanksgiving.

Be careful though not to bring a health risk into your home.  Poison ivy could be lurking among your hand-collected decorating materials.

Poison ivy turns a brilliant red color in the fall. This poison ivy vine is just beginning to turn color.

Poison ivy vines are often found growing up tree trunks and even on sides of buildings. In the fall, it produces one of our most brilliantly colored leaves. It’s bright-red autumn leaves are very attractive and would make wonderful indoor decorations except for one thing — they are still poisonous!

Every year I hear of someone “catching poison ivy” in the late fall even though they claim they have never been anywhere near the stuff. Many times their poor dog or cat is blamed for coming into contact with poison ivy and bringing it in on their fur when, in fact, it is the owner’s leaf decorations that are to blame.

To avoid bringing in poison ivy, learn how to identify it. The old saying “leaflets three, let it be” holds true even in the fall. Before picking up an unidentified leaf, take a few seconds to look for nearby vines climbing up trees or walls.

Virginia creeper, on the other hand, looks similar to poison ivy but it has five leaflets instead of three. Virginia creeper is harmless.

Be wary if that bright red leaf is not something you can easily identify before you add it to your table’s centerpiece.


October 9, 2013

Growing winter wheat in your garden

Filed under: Grain — bob @ 10:31 am

I’ve had people ask me if it is possible to grow their own wheat.

Actually you can grow wheat in small, garden-sized areas using the gardening tools you already have. In Michigan we grow soft winter wheat. So, what does that mean?

Wheat is classified into six general types — or classes: Hard red spring wheat is the type we see most often in the grocery store, it is ground into flour used to make bread; hard red winter wheat is made into all-purpose flour; soft red winter wheat is used for cake and pastry flour; soft white wheat is used pretty much like soft red winter wheat; hard white wheat is also used for some types of breads and is closely related to hard red wheat; durum wheat is used for making pasta.

Even if you don’t want to grow wheat to make into flour, it is still useful to grow in the garden. It makes an excellent over-winter cover crop that helps to scavenge minerals from the soil. Then, when you till in the plants,  those minerals are made available for next year’s crops.

Winter wheat grows thick roots that, along with the tops, add organic material to to garden. It also will keep annual weeds from growing in the spring until you are ready to till an area.

Farmers plant around two million wheat kernels per acre.

Right now is the optimum time to plant winter wheat in our area. Mid to late-September is called “the Hessian Fly free date”.

Hessian Fly is a serious pest in wheat that can drastically reduce wheat yields, although it is not as serious a problem now as it was in years past.

Wheat is fairly simple to grow in a garden. First, till an area as you would for planting vegetables or flowers. Then spread wheat seed evenly over the area by hand or with a seed spreader. For a 10 x 10 foot area use about a quarter pound of seed or a little more to allow for losses from birds or uneven planting.

Lightly roto-till the area so that the seeds are covered by an inch of soil. Finally, press down the seeded area with a lawn roller to make sure the wheat seed has good contact with the soil.

It won’t be long before the seed germinates and you’ll have a nice green stand of growing wheat.

Your amber waves of grain won’t be ready for harvest until the middle of next summer.


Coyote deer repellent

Filed under: Vegetables — bob @ 10:26 am

In July I planted 30 broccoli plants for a late season harvest and they have been growing like crazy. That is, until one morning last week I went out to check them only to find they were attacked overnight.

It wasn’t rabbits because their feeding leaves behind clean-cut edges, like someone snipped them with a pruner. These were torn leaves with the damage mostly on the top growth — it was deer nibbling on the broccoli.

This patch is outside the fenced-in area of the main garden. Instead of putting up more fencing, I decided to try something different, coyote urine.

Torn leaves mean deer are in your garden

I have not used a deer repellent for several years because most of the older materials never seemed to work very well.

The package label said that it would take two to three weeks for the urine to work but, in this case, it worked immediately.  I treated that patch and the next morning those plants looked fine, while an area way on the other side of the garden sustained heavy feeding.

I’m now a believer in coyote urine and plan to keep some around to use in the future. By the way, the urine is not in its original liquid state, the manufacturer formulated it into a fine granular material that is easy to apply.

Now, I have to ask, when pronouncing coyote do you say: “ky-yoot” or ky-o-tee?


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