Archive: Aug 2017

Fall Planting Tips

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Planting isn’t just a spring activity. If you’re wondering what you can plant in the fall, the answer is almost anything. Here are six plant types to put in the ground during the fall.

Spring may be special, but fall is fine for planting. Turfgrass, spring-blooming bulbs, cool-season vegetables, perennials, trees, and shrubs can all be effectively planted in the fall.

Fall has distinct planting benefits. Autumn’s cooler air temperatures are easier on both plants and gardeners. The soil is still warm, allowing roots to grow until the ground freezes. In spring, plants don’t grow until the soil warms up.

Fall has more good days for planting than spring does, when rain and other unpredictable weather can make working the soil impossible. And there’s a lot more free time for gardening in autumn than in always-frantic spring.

Plus, the late season is usually bargain time at garden centers that are trying to sell the last of their inventory before winter.

Fall showers are generally plentiful, but it’s easy to deeply water plants if it doesn’t rain at least an inch per week.

Pests and disease problems fade away in the fall. You don’t need fertilizer, either. Fertilizer promotes new, tender growth that can be nipped by winter weather; stop fertilizing by late summer.

The window for fall planting ends about six weeks before your area gets hit with a hard frost, usually September or October.

Use this list for fall planting inspiration.

Spring Bulbs

spring-bulb

All spring-blooming bulbs need a period of cold dormancy to bloom. Plant bulbs in fall to ensure a beautiful spring display. If deer or other critters frequent your yard, plant bulbs they don’t like to nibble, such as daffodil, crown imperial, grape hyacinth, Siberian squill, allium, fritillaria, English bluebell, dog’s-tooth violet, glory-of-the-snow, winter aconite, or snowdrop.

Pansies

pansies

Fall is the best time to plant pansies because the still-warm soil temperatures give their roots time to establish. By planting in fall, you’ll get two seasons of enjoyment out of these cool-season favorites. Remove spent flowers so the plant doesn’t use its energy to set seeds, and keep the soil moist. After the soil freezes, mulch plants to prevent alternate freezing and thawing cycles that can heave plants out of the ground.

Cool-Season Vegetables

cool-season-veggies

Many vegetables thrive in cool weather, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, and Swiss chard.

Many fall-harvested crops should be planted in early August to give them enough time to mature. Always consult the seed packet to see how many days it takes until maturity, and count backward from your frost date to allow enough time.

Lettuce, spinach, and other greens with a short maturity time can be planted later in the season. Extend the growing season by planting them under floating row covers or cold frames that will shield plants from frost but still allow light, air, and water to penetrate.

Many root crops taste sweeter when they’re harvested after frost.

Turfgrass

turfgrass

Fall is the best time to establish new turfgrass and do most lawn chores. If you live in the North, cool-season grasses such as bluegrass, fescue, and ryegrass should be fertilized in early September and again in late October or early November to give a boost for earlier spring green-up. In the South, avoid fertilizing dormant warm-season grasses unless they have been over seeded with winter ryegrass.

Trees and Shrubs

trees

Fall is an ideal time to plant trees and shrubs. The weather is cool but the soil is still warm enough for root development. Before digging, always check with your local utility companies to locate any underground lines. Always plant trees and shrubs at their natural soil lines. Keep newly planted trees or shrubs well watered until the ground freezes so they get a good start before going into full dormancy during winter.

Perennials

perennials

It’s fine to plant perennials in the fall, especially specimens with large root balls.

Fall is a good time to divide and replant hostas.

Peonies should always be planted or transplanted in the fall. Avoid planting them too deep — no more than 2 inches above the bud on the root — or they won’t bloom.

Late summer and early fall are good times to plant and transplant irises.

Chrysanthemums come into full glory by late summer and early fall, but it’s not the ideal time to plant them. Garden mums do best when planted in spring so they get fully established before winter. Sadly, the big, beautiful pots of florist mums you can buy already in bloom at a garden center won’t survive the winter if you plant them now.

Any fall-planted perennials should be carefully watered until the ground freezes to keep their roots healthy and strong. Don’t overwater, but make sure the plants get at least 1 inch of water one time per week.

 

 

 

 

 

Health Benefits of Cucumbers

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Cucumbers belong to the same plant family as squash, pumpkin, and watermelon (the Cucurbitaceae family). Like watermelon, cucumbers are made up of mostly (95 percent) water, which means eating them on a hot summer day can help you stay hydrated.

However, there’s reason to eat cucumbers all year long. With vitamin K, B vitamins, copper, potassium, vitamin C, and manganese, cucumbers can help you to avoid nutrient deficiencies that are widespread among those eating a typical American diet.

Plus, cucumbers contain unique polyphenols and other compounds that may help reduce your risk of chronic diseases and much, much more.

9 Reasons to Eat Cucumbers

1. Protect Your Brain

Cucumbers contain an anti-inflammatory flavonol called fisetin that appears to play an important role in brain health. In addition to improving your memory and protecting your nerve cells from age-related decline,  fisetin has been found to prevent progressive memory and learning impairments in mice with Alzheimer’s disease.

2. Reduce Your Risk of Cancer

Cucumbers contain polyphenols called lignans (pinoresinol, lariciresinol, and secoisolariciresinol), which may help to lower your risk of breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate cancers. They also contain phytonutrients called cucurbitacins, which also have anti-cancer properties. According to the George Mateljan Foundation:

“Scientists have already determined that several different signaling pathways (for example, the JAK-STAT and MAPK pathways) required for cancer cell development and survival can be blocked by activity of cucurbitacins.”

3. Fight Inflammation

Cucumbers may help to “cool” the inflammatory response in your body, and animal studies suggest that cucumber extract helps reduce unwanted inflammation, in part by inhibiting the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes (including cyclo-oxygenase 2, or COX-2).

4. Antioxidant Properties

Cucumbers contain numerous antioxidants, including the well-known vitamin C and beta-carotene. They also contain antioxidant flavonoids, such as quercetin, apigenin, luteolin, and kaempferol,  which provide additional benefits.

For instance, quercetin is an antioxidant that many believe prevents histamine release—making quercetin-rich foods “natural antihistamines.” Kaempferol, meanwhile, may help fight cancer and lower your risk of chronic diseases including heart disease.

5. Freshen Your Breath

Placing a cucumber slice on the roof of your mouth may help to rid your mouth of odor-causing bacteria. According to the principles of Ayurveda, eating cucumbers may also help to release excess heat in your stomach, which is said to be a primary cause of bad breath.

6. Manage Stress

Cucumbers contain multiple B vitamins, including vitamin B1, vitamin B5, and vitamin B7 (biotin). B vitamins are known to help ease feelings of anxiety and buffer some of the damaging effects of stress.

7. Support Your Digestive Health

Cucumbers are rich in two of the most basic elements needed for healthy digestion: water and fiber. Adding cucumbers to your juice or salad can help you meet the ideal of amount of fiber your body needs — 50 grams per 1,000 calories consumed. If you struggle with acid reflux, you should know that drinking water can help suppress acute symptoms of acid reflux by temporarily raising stomach pH; it’s possible that water-rich cucumbers may have a similar effect.

Cucumber skins contain insoluble fiber, which helps add bulk to your stool. This helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination.

8. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Cucumbers are very low in calories, yet they make a filling snack (one cup of sliced cucumber contains just 16 calories). The soluble fiber in cucumbers dissolves into a gel-like texture in your gut, helping to slow down your digestion. This helps you to feel full longer and is one reason why fiber-rich foods may help with weight control.

9. Support Heart Health

Cucumbers contain potassium, which is associated with lower blood pressure levels. A proper balance of potassium both inside and outside your cells is crucial for your body to function properly.

As an electrolyte, potassium is a positive charged ion that must maintain a certain concentration (about 30 times higher inside than outside your cells) in order to carry out its functions, which includes interacting with sodium to help control nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and heart function.

Cucumbers Make a Great Base for Vegetable Juice

There are many ways to enjoy cucumbers, such as fermented or raw in vinegar-based salads. If you’re looking for something different, cucumbers make an ideal base for your vegetable juice due to their mild flavor and high water content. In fact, a simple juice of cucumber and celery is ideal for those new to juicing.

From there you can work your way up to red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, spinach, and escarole, along with parsley and cilantro. Juicing is actually an ideal way to consume cucumbers.

When you drink fresh-made green juice, it is almost like receiving an intravenous infusion of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes because they go straight into your system without having to be broken down. When your body has an abundance of the nutrients it needs, and your pH is optimally balanced, you will feel energized and your immune system will get a boost.

Organic Cucumbers Are Worth It

If you’re wondering whether you should choose organic cucumbers over conventionally grown varieties, I’d suggest organic. Cucumbers were ranked the 12th most contaminated food and the second in cancer risk due to their pesticide content, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Further, cucumbers are often waxed after harvest to withstand the long journey to market unscarred and to protect against the many hands that touch it. While the wax is supposed to be food-grade and safe, there are different types used:

The natural waxes are far preferable to the petroleum-based waxes, which may contain solvent residues or wood rosins. Produce coated with wax is not labeled as such, but organic produce will not contain petroleum-based wax coatings (although it may contain carnauba wax or insect shellac).

The other potential issue is that wax seals in pesticide residues and debris, making them even more difficult to remove with just water. To reach the contaminants buried beneath the surface of your vegetables and fruits, you need a cleanser that also removes the wax, which is what my fruit and vegetable wash does. You could also peel the cucumber, but that is one of the most nutrient-dense parts of the cucumber (the other is the seeds), so it’s better to consume it if you can.

 

What Else Are Cucumbers Good For?

Flavonoids and tannins in cucumbers have been found to have both free-radical scavenging and pain-relieving effects, while it has a number of traditional folk uses as well. As written in the Journal of Young Pharmacists: Traditionally, this plant is used for headaches; the seeds are cooling and diuretic, the fruit juice of this plant is used as a nutritive and as a demulcent in anti-acne lotions.”

As the fourth-most widely cultivated “vegetable” in the world (cucumbers are technically a fruit), cucumbers are widely available, but seek to get them from a local farmer’s market if you can. Even better, cucumbers are very easy to grow, even if you only have access to a patio. They thrive in containers (provide they have somewhere to climb on) and produce ample produce from a small number of plants, so you could try your hand at growing them yourself.

Cleaning Tip – Washing Vegetables

Aviation Day

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The National Aviation Day (August 19) is a United States national observation that celebrates the development of aviation.

The holiday was established in 1939 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who issued a presidential proclamation which designated the anniversary of Orville Wright’s birthday to be National Aviation Day (Mr. Wright, born in 1871, was still alive when the proclamation was first issued, and would live another nine years). The proclamation was codified (USC 36:I:A:1:118), and it allows the sitting US President to proclaim August 19 as National Aviation Day each year, if desired. Their proclamation may direct all federal buildings and installations to fly the US flag on that day, and may encourage citizens to observe the day with activities that promote interest in aviation.

Cleaning Tip – Vacuum Cleaners

Clumps of dust or other debris can clog a vacuum cleaners’ hose. One way to dislodge dirt is with a broom or mop handle inserted into the hose, working carefully to prevent puncturing the hose cover. If you vacuum has a paper bag change it as soon as you notice a suction drop, even if the bag doesn’t seem full. If you have a canister vacuum, empty the canister. Also make sure all filters are clean.

 

Late Summer Gardening

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10 Late-Summer Gardening Tips

For avid gardeners, there’s no better way to enjoy the beauty and bounty of a summer garden than puttering around the yard attending to essential gardening tasks. These 10 late-summer gardening tips can help extend the summer season and ensure that your garden looks great year round.

1. Water, water everywhere 

Water evaporates quickly in the dog days of summer, especially during mid-day. Water lawns and flowers beds early in the morning to give the vital moisture time to reach thirsty roots.

2. Grateful deadheads

Extend the life of late-summer blooming perennials by deadheading flowers as soon as they fade. Instead of expending their energy into seeds, they’ll continue to send out buds as long as the weather permits.

3. Mow lawns strategically

Raise the cutting height on your lawnmower. Longer blades of grass help keep the roots cooler on hot summer days. Cut grass in the cool of the evening to give the lawn time to recover.

4. Keep weeds at bay

It’s much easier to control weeds by pulling them out as soon as they appear than by tugging at them later after they’ve establish a strong root system.

5. Divide and conquer

Late summer is a good time to divide plants like peonies, day lilies and iris once the flowers have stopped blooming. Divided plants are less likely to succumb to pests and diseases as well.

6. Sharpen your pruning skills

A little time spent making a few artful cuts to shape a rose bush, shrub or tree can reward you with more flowers and thicker foliage. Attack suckers that spring from the base of a plant with a vengeance to prevent them from stunting the plant’s growth.

7. Convert clippings into mulch

Give young plants a bit of tender loving care with a mulch made of grass clippings from your lawn. Just make sure that the clippings are free of weeds and seeds.

8. Start composting

An alternative use for lawn clippings is to start a compost heap. Layer the clippings with soil and leftover vegetative waste from your kitchen. After a few months of decomposition, the matter will be transformed into nutrient-rich compost.

9. Stay on top of pest patrol

Keep on the lookout for damaging aphids. The tiny pests are easy enough to spray off with a hose if you catch them while their populations are small.

10. Shop for seeds

What better way to laze away a summer afternoon than by perusing seed brochures to get inspiration for next spring’s blooms? Order seeds now so that you’ll have time to plant them before the first frost hits.

You’ve no doubt earned your share of summer relaxation, so be sure to take time to sit back, breathe and take in the beautiful effects of your hard work. Just remember that investing a little time in pruning, planting and planning now can pay off later with a fall harvest and spring color.

Helpful Hint: Liquid fabric softener builds up in clothes over time and can cause all-cotton clothing like fleece or kids’ sleepwear to become more flammable. If you want to use a fabric softener with your all-cotton clothes, use a dryer sheet if their labels say it’s ok.