Friday, May 31, 2013

Oakland County offers mosquito reduction advice

Mosquitoes are in good supply this year, mostly due to the abundance of rain we've received. (Remember that's a good thing for the plants.)
Along with reducing mosquito habitat, there are a number of natural products that can help protect people from bites. I haven't tried any, but am looking into it.
Here's an organic bug repellent with rosemary oil, cinnamon leaf oil, lemongrass oil and geraniol:

Herbal Bug-X from North American Herb & Spice is a non-toxic spray that repels bugs using a mix of wild oregano oil, bay leaf oil, lavendar oil and oil of basil.

The Oakland County Health Division (OCHD) offers tips to help keep mosquito populations low to help reduce the risk of West Nile Virus (WNV) and other mosquito-borne diseases.
· Eliminate mosquito breeding sites around your home. Empty standing water from flower pots, pet bowls, clogged rain gutters, swimming pool covers, old tires, buckets, barrels, cans, and similar items where mosquitoes can lay eggs.
· Apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or other EPA-approved ingredient to exposed skin or clothing, always following the manufacturer's directions for use.
· Avoid shaded and wooded areas where mosquitoes may be present.
· Wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants, socks and shoes when outdoors.
· Limit outdoor activity between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
· Maintain window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
· Report a sick or dead bird, or mammal, at the State of Michigan Emerging Disease Issues webpage, Select West Nile Virus, then How to Report a Dead Bird or Mammal.
“It can take less than 10 days for mosquito eggs to develop into adult mosquitoes,” said Kathy Forzley, manager/health officer of OCHD.

West Nile Virus (WNV) is a virus spread to humans through the bite of a mosquito that is infected with WNV after biting a bird that carries the virus. Most people infected with WNV have either no symptoms or experience a mild illness such as fever, headache and body aches. However, in some individuals, mostly the elderly, a much more serious disease affecting the brain tissue can develop. For more information, visit the Oakland County Health Division.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Clarkston plant exchange is Saturday

The Clarkston Farm and Garden Club annual plant exchange is Saturday, June 1 beginning at 8:30 a.m. Gardeners can find a variety of plants at no cost while exchanging plants from their own gardens. Gardeners should pot and label their plants to trade and take to the Village Parking Lot at Main and Washington Street in Clarkston.
For more information, visit or call 248 620 2984.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Frost advisory puts a chill on planting this weekend

Temperatures will fall into the 30s late tonight, and with clear skies and high pressure, there’s a chance of frost in Southeast Michigan. The National Weather Service has issued a frost advisory for 2 to 8 a.m. Saturday. Vegetation sensitive to frost should be covered. It is predicted to be cold enough for possible frost again tomorrow night.

If you have plants or flowering trees that are frost sensitive and you didn't cover them, get outside in the morning before the sun shines on them and run the sprinkler or spray them, rinsing off the frost. The temperature forecast isn't too cold, so most plants should be fine.

National Weather Service

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Asparagus recipes for now and later

We've been picking asparagus for several weeks. I don't like to eat it every night, so I froze a bunch, by using the following easy baking preparation. Then let it cool to room temperature and freeze in bags. You can cook a bunch at dinner, and freeze the leftovers.

 Roll asparagus spears in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or grill it. You can use Sea Salt and cracked pepper and add Parmesan cheese or garlic salt too.

Asparagus, Ham and Swiss SpiralsFry spears in olive oil, then lay spears on a slice of ham and cheese, dollop with Dijon mustard and roll up with the asparagus in the middle. Make slices, 1-1/2 inches wide. Insert toothpicks to hold each spiral together. Dip in seasoned bread crumbs and fry. Drain on paper towel.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Gardeners: Dr. Wang says start out slow

In years past, I would work in the yard and garden until I could barely move. Then I couldn't do much of anything for a few days. Now I err on the side of not doing enough, out of respect for my body, which lets me know even more than ever, when I'm doing something it doesn't appreciate. 

Dr. David Wang, a specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine in McLean, VA. offers advice for protecting your back.
“Over 80% of people will have low back pain at some point during life, although most of them fortunately recover on their own,” explains Dr. Wang. “When it comes to gardening and back pain, your body may need a few weeks after the long winter to become accustomed again to the physical stresses of gardening, such as squatting, twisting, lifting and digging.”

Precautions you can take to limit back pain when gardening include:
  • Begin slowly, rather than trying to do too much in one session.  Split larger gardening projects into several shorter sessions while you build your stamina.
  • Think of it like other forms of physical activity, and always warm up before you begin with 10-20 repetitions of gentle exercises like standing hip circles, toe touches, back bends, and leg lifts. Again, gentle is the key! 
  • Pay attention to your body position when lifting heavy objects, such as planters and bags of fertilizer. Keep the item close to your body, and bend your knees (squat) so that you can keep your back as vertical as possible when you pick up the object, allowing you to lift with the leg muscles rather than straining the back muscles.
  • Be sure to take breaks and to change your position every 15 minutes or so, especially if you are kneeling, squatting or sitting in a bent or twisted position.
  • Invest in good, long-handled gardening tools, which will help minimize the amount of back bending that you need to do.
  • If back pain is a consistent problem, consider creating raised garden beds, which will also help to reduce the amount of bending that is needed.
When it comes to minimizing back pain when playing sports, much of the same advice holds true.
  • It is important to always warm up, avoid over-exerting muscles, use proper equipment and take breaks to give your body time to rest.
  • If your muscles are not very flexible, it is also important to stretch after activity, holding each stretch for 30 seconds, to gradually improve your flexibility and reduce your risk of injury.
  • Consider working with a physical therapist or highly-qualified and experienced personal trainer for several weeks before starting the sports season. This will allow you to properly prepare and condition your body for sports-specific activities.
Although most episodes of back pain get better on their own, there are certain situations where you should see a physician. These include pain that is progressively worsening or lasts longer than three weeks, back pain accompanied by problems with your balance or bladder/bowel function, or back pain accompanied by leg pain, numbness and/or weakness. If you do end up requiring medical care, it is important to realize that not all back pain is the same. “Several different factors may be contributing to your symptoms, including ligaments, tendons and mechanical alignment, and not just the discs, joints and nerves which are sometimes inappropriately blamed for back and leg pain,” states Wang. “As such, be sure to see a specialist who has knowledge about a wide range of diagnoses and treatments, both surgical and non-surgical, and who focuses on treating the whole person and not just the symptoms.”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

When life gives you rhubarb, make pie

Rhubarb is so easy. Just plant it and it comes back year after year. Here's our rhubarb patch, it's nearly three feet tall. Here are my favorite recipes, sent to me years ago by my mother and mother-in-law.

Cream cheese rhubarb pie

¼ cup corn starch
1 cup sugar
½ tsp salt
½ cup water
2-1/2 cups rhubarb, cut in ½ inch pieces
1 unbaked pie crust, regular or graham cracker
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
In a saucepan, combine first 3 ingredients, then the water and rhubarb. Bring to boil, stirring often until mixture thickens. Pour into pie shell and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Protect edges of crust with aluminum foil. Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Turn oven down to 325 degrees.
Meanwhile beat topping ingredients until smooth. Pour on top of pie. Bake for 35 minutes in 325 oven or until set. Chill and garnish with whipped cream, and sliced almonds or strawberries or blueberries, vanilla ice cream. I think vanilla ice cream the best.

Rhubarb Bars
3 cups rhubarb, chopped
1 ½ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ¼ cup water
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1 ½ cup rolled oats
1 ½ cup rolled flour
1 cup brown sugar
½ tsp. baking soda
1 cup butter
½ cup nuts
Combine rhubarb, sugar, vanilla, cornstarch and water. Cook on stove until thick, cool  slightly. Combine oats, flour, brown sugar, soda, butter and nuts. Mix until crumbly. Put ¾ of mixture into 15 1/3 x 10 ½  jelly roll pan. Spread rhubarb mixture on top. Cover with remaining crumbs. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

MSU offers Master Gardener Training

The MSU Extension-Oakland County periodically offers its Master Gardener Training Program. The next program is Aug. 22 to Nov. 14. This is a 13-week class, which meets 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays. Each class focuses on a different horticultural topic that will prepare students to fulfill a 40-hour community service commitment to earn Master Gardener Certification. Classes will be held at Oakland County Service Center Executive Office Conference Center, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road, Waterford Township. Seats will be offered on a first come-first served basis and usually fill up fast. The class fee is $300. Visit for details and registration.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ready-made cold frame

This easy-to-construct cold frame helps protect plants from frost and helps harden seedlings and transplants. Normally you should have the glass slanted at a south-facing angle so the most possible sunlight gets in and the rain and snow slides off.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Water early to limit frost damage

It is so cold. If you have plants or flowering trees that are frost sensitive and you didn't cover them, get outside before the sun shines on them and run the sprinkler or spray them, rinsing off the frost.

We planted broccoli and cabbage, which should be fine and our greens that have come up, will survive. The problem is the seeds that we've planted will not thrive in this weather. We've only planted peas, parsley, green onions and letttuce. The cold really slows or stops germination.

My daughters created cold frames out of blocks of cement and window glass panes. Normally we don't bother with cold frames, and just wait until after Memorial Day to put tomatoes and peppers out. But we thought we'd try planting tomato transplants early this year. We'll see if we get tomatoes early or not.

Honoring Mom in the garden on Mother's Day

Our two daughters were home to help us plant the garden this week. They are grown ups now, for the most part. It's really nice that they want to come back and help in the garden. When they were younger, they tried to avoid garden labor. Since they're planning to have a farm together, I'm glad they have developed the work ethic required.
On this Mother's Day, I think of my late Mom and her garden and how hard she worked to keep it healthy and productive. It nearly always paid off.
I am honored that my daughters are carrying on with the family heritage and I know their grandmother is honored as well.
Happy Mother's Day to her and to all Moms everywhere!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Goldner Walsh offers garden style entertainment

Goldner Walsh Garden & Home is planning a number of activities for adults and children. The garden center is at 559 Orchard Lake Road, Pontiac.

Seed Bombing for Kids! is 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 18 for children ages 5 and up to learn how seeds are spread in nature. They will make a handful of their very own seed bombs to take home and learn how to responsibly distribute them in an urban, suburban or country environment. It will include hiking through the grounds of Goldner Walsh. The fee is $15 per child.

Herbs 101: Growing, Cooking, Creating is 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, May 18. Join resident natural foods expert and farmer Grace Seeley in exploring how to grow, store, and use the most prolific and multifunctional herbs for the area. Samples of teas and culinary treats will be provided along with recipes, care and harvesting information. The cost is $30 per person. Two or more in your group reduces the cost to $25 each.

The annual Containers and Cocktails is 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 23. Join the Goldner Walsh Garden & Home designers for an inspirational night of beautiful blooms and tips and tricks to care for container gardens. Bring a planter, or buy one, then shop our greenhouses full of unique and colorful plants all while sipping sangria. Potting soil and refreshments will be provided. The cost is $20 per person.

Register for any of the classes by calling 248-332-6430.  For more information, visit

Monday, May 6, 2013

Oakland Tech hosts garden-center sale

Oakland Schools Technical Campus Southwest is hosting its 41st annual garden-center sale of annuals at the campus, 1000 Beck Road, Wixom. The garden center is open for walk-in sales, 8 to 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, May 6 to June 14. It is also open 9 a.m. to  noon Sunday, May 12 and Saturday and Sunday, May 18-19. Call 248-668-5634 or email for information.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Crazy weather challenges farmers and gardeners

The weather has certainly not been very conducive to planting and getting out in the garden. On a greater scale, farmers of the region are having unusual challenges this Spring. It was too cold to plant and then the rain wouldn't stop, so they could plant. Things are finally settling down and hopefully the fertile soil from all the rain, will help it be a bumper crop year.

Here's a story by Molly Tippen of the Macomb Daily.

Uncertain weather challenging local farmers

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Useful links, ready to click

There are several useful links on this blog in the right column. I mention this, because I just went to google the weather and then remembered I had it linked here. Also, the Farmer's Almanac and Oakland County MSU Extension websites have a wealth of information. Just look to the right for the Useful links list.