Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How to collect wildflowers and woodland plants

Before you collect -

Knowing your wild plants - the kind of soil, degree of shade, amount of moisture, temperature, acidity, and the other conditions that will made it grow best. 


Where to collect - 

It's fun to collect the wildflowers for your garden or diversify the woodland species in your landscape, because no matter how long you've been at it, there are always interesting additions to for your collection. 
The essential thing is to gather plants in such a way that you neither infringe on the rights of others nor lessen the supply of many of the species already too scarce. 

Pretty Blue Cosmos Flowers, eh?

Familiarize yourself with state laws prohibiting the removal of rare wildflowers, ferns, and bushes. Common kinds of plants - those especially abundant in any given locality - can usually be collected in reasonable quantities with little harm (Birdseye, 1951 p. 22-23). 

When to Collect - 

Wildflowers may, with sufficient care, be transplanted at any time of year, even when the ground is frozen. Generally speaking, however, it is best to transplant plants during their dormant seasons. That is, after plants have passed their periods of active growth. 

Coniferous trees can be best moved immediately after their new foliage has matured - the end of August to September. This allows enough time for the formation of new rootlets before freezing weather sets in.    

Most deciduous trees should be transplanted during the later part of September or early October, when their leaves are beginning to change color. However, in very cold areas they may be handled in the very early spring before their buds have begun to swell. Bushes are best moved after the leaf fall, when they are fully dormant  (Birdseye, 1951 p. 24-25). 

 

These deciduous tree seedlings (Yellow Popular pictured left in the purple metal bucket, Red Maple pictured right in the large light blue metal bucket and below in the small green metal bucket) I collected two days ago this spring. As long as these receive sufficient water, sunlight and other species-specific requirements they'll live long into their fall dormant period when they will be transplanted. 


Yellow-Popular or Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera L.)
This is a commonly occurring tree throughout Virginia, reaching its largest size along deep moist soils along streams and in the lower mountain coves. Height of 60 to 100 feet with diameters of 3 to 4 feet. The tree has been excessively cut, but is reproducing rapidly and is one of the most abundant and valuable trees in second-growth forests. It can be planted as an ornamental or a shade tree. The greenish yellow tulip shaped flowers occur in early April (Virginia Department of Forestry p.60). I think the leaf looks like the face of a cat.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum L.)
It is used as a shade tree (although the sugar maple is better for this purpose) and occurs commonly across the state. The tree produces soft maple wood used  for furniture, woodenware, and also for fuel (Virginia Department of Forestry p.60). 

Collecting Equipment
Sure, many kinds of wildflowers can be collected without any more equipment than a stout stick and your hands, but a certain amount of paraphernalia will save you a lot of time and sore fingers.
  1. Most important of all, you will need a long, strong (so brute force can be used in prying plants from rocks), sharp (to cut through hard ground and small roots) trowel like this one.  
  2. A keen bladed pocket knife will come in handy, particularly for cutting the stakes with which you should protect the long blossom stalks of certain plants and the large fronds of some kinds of ferns. Case knifes like these are durable steal made in the USA
  3. In addition to these tools you'll want one or more baskets with stout handles, in which to carry your plants out of the woods. 
  4. Have a half gallon of water to moisten roots dug from dry ground. 
  5. A plentiful supply of bags and wrapping material are also very important. You ability to successfully carry out your collecting operations depends on these. Bags should be waterproof and various sizes. For wrapping earth balls too big for bags, you will want some large burlap sacks or strong old cloth and safety pins.     
How to Collect
  1. clear away ground litter that might obstruct your process. 
  2. make a circular cut 12 to 18 inches in diameter and about 8 inches deep around the plant - these diameter measurements of the cut depending on the size of your plant and the depth depending on the soil conditions. There will probably be several extraneous small roots and stems to be severed by your trowel. 
  3. Pry out the root ball and place it carefully in one of your moisture-tight bags. 
Remember that no two patches of soil are exactly alike, and that your new plant will be most at home in it's new location if it is surrounded there by some of the earth from which you took it. 

I collected plants to give as gifts in these colorful buckets to be transplanted in the fall. Each bucket came with a plastic liner and holes should be punched in the bucket and liner bottom with a hammer and nail. Placing a few rocks in the bottom of the plastic liner helps with plant drainage - you don't want to drown your plants with too much water. 


Bibliography 

Birdseye, C., & Birdseye, E. (1951). Collecting Wildflowers. Growing woodland plants. New York: Dover Publications.

Forest trees of Virginia. (1992). Charlottesville, Va. (Box 378, Charlottesville 22903): Dept. of Forestry.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Wild Ginger, Homemade Cookies, Vintage Oil Lanterns and Pastel Mini Buckets from the long weekend

At Red Hill General Store, we had a wonderful memorial day weekend! Here's a few photos of finds from Memorial Day weekend yard-sales, flea markets and nature finds. 
On a Sunday afternoon hike we found wild ginger!

Wild Ginger in Virginia's temperate deciduous forest. 

Homemade cookies by Kassie at her lemonade stand!

Old kerosene lanterns. We picked up a vintage kerosene lantern for camping this summer for $45. You can buy a brand new oil lantern here (From $9 - $21) or replace the wicks from your antique memorial day finds (click here for replacement oil lantern wicks).  

Love these darling pastel mini painted sold-color pails. You can find these plus more sizes, shapes and colors here.





Saturday, May 10, 2014

Spring Time Creative Container Gardening

It's Spring!


Time to plant all of your favorite garden vegetables and annual flowers.


 Even though we are getting past the danger of frost that can create a devastating blow to much of our garden, when these late frosts hit. Consider planting more tender plants in containers. When planting in containers you can create a small garden that can be easily transported to a safe location when there is a frost warning for your area. Container gardening can be fun for all gardeners and can help get those of us that have less space to cultivate our interest in gardening. Many people when thinking of container gardening think of expensive terracotta or ceramic pots, but I think it can be more fun to think of interesting and creative containers to plant vegetables and flowers in. I got these great galvanized buckets from Bucket Outlet that have turned in to great container garden pieces that look great along with other plants around my home. The only thing I had to do to these buckets was to drill a few holes in the bottom to give them proper drainage.

Here are a few pictures of some of my buckets that I used for containers.

Hens and Chicks (Laid on it's side, and drilled holes in sides)

Tomato Plants (Sitting outside my back door, I can't wait to have fresh tomatoes!)

Annual Container (I have two of these sitting on my front steps)

The buckets I used for these containers are these 6 quart galvanized buckets.
Just remember to drill holes to insure proper drainage with these buckets. 

Also be Creative, if you have any pictures you want to share of your bucket containers,




Monday, August 26, 2013

How to keep tomatoes from rotting

This summer has been wet. The tomato crop this season has not been good.
Most people we've talked to say their tomatoes look like -

our heirloom tomatoes last week. 
Hopefully future summer weather will return to normal. In the meantime, we just learned how we can best plant our tomatoes in anticipation for summer rain next year. 

Our friend messaged us how he achieved a successful tomato crop, "My tomato beds are done in hugelkultur. 2 feet deep, filled with hardwood logs, and pile the dirt back on top to be about 2 feet tall. The tomatoes have good drainage now. They're up off the ground so the breeze can keep the plants drier than they would be planted at ground level. Constant water supply and they don't have wet feet. I haven't had a problem with bottom rot or moisture splitting despite all the rain."

They are pretty cool. The photo below is from this place and they have more information on this genius garden bed. 





With less rotting garden tomatoes - the more fresh food we can harvest to preserve for the winter! Read this expert canning supply post about making Salsa from Red Hill's tomatoes, green peppers and hot peppers!





Friday, June 21, 2013

Preserving Apricots

Apricots are in season in much of the country right now. So how can you get these delicious little beauties ready for preserving?

Making Apricot Jam:

Make your own apricot jam.

You will need:
8 cups of apricots, diced
6 cups of sugar
1/4 cup of lemon juice
5 pint jars or 10 half pint jars

Directions:
Get out your water bath canner and sterilize your canning jars by boiling for 10 minutes.
Get out a stock pot, combine all your ingredients and bring to a boil over med-high heat. Stir occasionally until your sugar is dissolved.
Once the sugar is dissolved bring to a rolling boil and boil for 30 minutes being sure to stir frequently to avoid your mixture from sticking to the stock pot.
Remove pot from the heat and begin filling your jars. Your headspace will be 1/4". (a good canning funnel will help to fill your jars with minimal mess.)
Wipe the jar rims clean and put your canning lids and rings into place. Screw on the rings to finger tightness.
Process jars in water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Dried Apricots

Dried apricots make a great snack anytime.

How to Dry your own Apricots:
Using a food dehydrator:
Split each apricot and place them in a single layer onto your dehydrator's trays.
If your dehydrator has a thermostat set it to 135 degrees. Allow the apricots to dry until their skin is leathery. This will typically take about 12 hours.
Check your apricots, they should be pliable and leathery with no juice.
Store your apricots until they are needed.

What is your favorite method for preserving your apricots?




Thursday, June 13, 2013

Set your Sundial

The best time and day to set your sundial for most accurate reading for the summer is on June 15th at 12:00. The next date that you will be able to set your sundial for accurate reading will be September 1st at 12:00.

To Set your Sundial
  • Make sure the spot that your sundial is in is level and has full sun.
  • The shadow arm (gnomon) needs to be pointed toward celestial north if you are in the northern hemisphere. This is different than the magnetic north that a compass will show you. To find celestial north you will need to set your sundial at noon. Turn the sundial so the gnomon's shadow falls directly on the sundial's mark that shows where noon is.
  • This is known as SUN TIME.
For the most accurate sundial set it on one of the following days:
April 15, June 15, September 1, December 24.

Keep in mind that to your sundial noon is always going to be when the sun is highest in the sky.



Friday, June 7, 2013

Harvest the Rain

Rainy days remind me of the value of water. I took this photo today as I was walking, thinking about how I wish I could collect these drops of rain and save them for the dryer days of summer to water my plants. When the rain returns to earth, it brings with it the things of the air. The air is clean and sweet in the mountains, so it is not surprising that it makes the fruits of our labor sweeter, too.


Harvesting rainwater is a simple best management practice for gardeners that has the dual purpose of saving money and water resources. At Red Hill, they sit their buckets outside to capture the rain, then use it to water their flowers. Better yet, you can connect a rain barrel to your existing gutter system to store the free, fresh water to keep your gardens, flowers, and lawns fecund all summer long. Here is a lovely picture of Red Hill's dusty miller and geranium flowers glistening with rain today in Hillsville.


Want to learn more? Check out this fact sheet from the Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension on the sustainable benefits of harvesting rainwater to treat stormwater runoff.









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