Monthly Archives: August 2012

Tomatoes, Dingleberry Deer, and the Goose Poop

Do you ever get annoyed right after you eat a nice, ripe, homegrown tomato at those little pieces of tomato skin that get caught in your teeth, or even against the roof of your mouth?  Sure, the tomatoes are worth it, but those little pieces of skin can drive me up the wall for hours afterwards, especially after eating a bunch of cherry tomatoes.

This post is about how I learned to get rid of those little tomato bits.

It all started a few weeks ago when I posted about a new type of bag that you could put on your fruit to protect them from insects, animals, or whatever.  You can see that post here.

Anyway, since that time the deer have come again and again to my garden, and they have targeted all of my almost but not quite ripe tomatoes.  Unless you’ve experienced it, it’s impossible to imagine the frustration of going out one evening and seeing a bunch of tomatoes just starting to change color, and then the next morning going out to see them again – and they’re all gone.

Fortunately for me, the tomatoes that I put bags around were saved from deer.

The tomatoes above were protected by bags — overall they worked well

The funny thing was, about a quarter of the bags that I used for bagging those tomatoes went missing.  I figured that was no big deal though.  The tomatoes probably just aborted for some reason, the bags fell, and the wind blew them into the neighbor’s yard – not my problem anymore!

And then I saw this huge piece of goose poop out on the lawn not too far from the garden.  Now don’t get me wrong, goose poop is no big deal – usually I don’t notice it at all– but this was such a big pile that I couldn’t avert my eyes.  After a week or so of having this pile of poop sitting in my yard I had had enough.  Even though it had rained, this pile just wasn’t disappearing.

So I went over to investigate.


Goose poop, or the leavings of an evil deer?

As you may have already guessed, it was a bag that I had protected one of those tomatoes with.  I could tell from the red flecks inside that it had held a beautiful red tomato.  Some dingleberry deer plucked that bagged tomato off the plant and sucked out the yummy guts of the tomato while leaving the nasty skin behind.

And that’s how I learned to get rid of the skin from my tomatoes.

For those participating in the discussion tomorrow

For those people participating in the discussion on Google + tomorrow I just wanted to let you know that I will be inviting you to participate in a "hangout" a few minutes before the discussion is scheduled to begin.  You will need to be on Google + to see and join this hangout.  If for some reason you don’t see it, go to hangouts on the left side of the screen.  Once you get to the hangouts screen you’ll see hangouts to join and this one should be there!  If you haven’t used hangouts before, you need to try one between now and when we start so that you can be sure your computer is set up properly.</d

The coolest plant from Costco

Since we have an almost 18-year-old with perpetual FDD (food deficit disorder), we do a lot of Costco shopping. I always take a walk down the bagged bulb aisle to see what interesting things I might try at home. This year I bought a bag of Tigridia grandiflora, aka peacock flower. Wow! What a lucky choice for me!

These iris family members have been flowering continuously since sometime in July. They do tend to be a bit floppy. I’ll probably add a plant support to keep it out of the pathway.

As far as I can tell from the sketchy information (for this species anyway), Tigridia species are native to central and south America. No record of any invasiveness, and for me it’s been completely pest free.

Anyone else enjoying these summer bloomers?

Update on Google +

For all of you getting ready to participate with us on Google + on Thursday I need to get you into our circle, so if you could either search for me on Google + and friend me, or, alternatively, e-mail me (gillm003@umn.edu) and let me know you want to participate, that will be necessary for your participation.

We are planning to record this session and make it available on you-tube (assuming I can figure out all the technology).

I have been told by a few people that my scheduling stinks because many of you work.  I hear you loud and clear!  Next time we’ll try to do this in the eveni

So, what’s your point?

My recent post on Seattle Public Utilities proposed restriction on the use of non-native plants for landscaping drew the ire of Taryn Evans of the Florida Native Plant Society.  Taryn was critical not only of what I had to say but how I said it.  She felt that my post was ‘clumsy’ and lacked a clear focus.  In my defense, part of the perceived lack of clarity may stem from a lack of context.  I alluded to several previous blog posts (including the references to using goats and schoolchildren to control invasives) but didn’t include the links – which are now listed at the end this post.  

In terms of my other points, let me state my views as succinctly as possible.

I support promoting the increased use of natives in landscapes as part of an overall effort to increase landscape diversity and stability.  Part of this is based on the notion that a diverse landscape –including natives –  is buffered against various environmental and biological perturbations.  But I also support natives because they provide a linkage to our native environment or sense of place.  This second argument, by the way, is adopted by the California Native Plant Society http://www.cnps.org/cnps/about/ but is dismissed by Tallamy who states that his argument for native plants “moves beyond debatable values and ethics and into the world of scientific fact.”

I do not support legal restrictions that mandate the use of native plants in landscapes

Here are my concerns:

- The “scientific facts” regarding natives are not universally accepted by ecologists and are subject to debate as well. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v474/n7350/full/474153a.html#/ref8  A species’ need for water/nutrients/pesticides is a function of the environment in which the species evolved and not necessarily a native/non-native question.  Invasiveness is an undoubtedly an issue, but exotic does not mean invasive.  Some will argue that we can hedge our bets and prevent future invasions by planting only natives.  And that is a justifiable position – I don’t agree with it – but I accept it as a rational argument.  The dilemma with banning all exotics is that we throw the baby out with the bathwater and risk eliminating many useful plants.

- Natives can make great landscape plants in the right place but in many cases they are poor choices, especially in the built environment.  Consider some of Tallamy’s recommendations from “Bringing Nature Home”:

Cottonwood.  Cottonwoods are banned by many tree ordinances for their mess (cottony seeds and sticky buds) and are weak-wooded.

Maples.  Maples are great landscape trees but we need to consider the fact that they are already overplanted in many communities.  If we look at street trees and other public trees, maples make 50% or more of the tree population in some cities and towns.  Does planting more make sense in these situations?

Ashes. Maybe if you live west of the Rockies, otherwise they’re a non-starter.

Lindens.  Lindens have great form, growth rate and color.  Unfortunately they are candy to Japanese beetles.

Elms. A handful of Dutch elm disease tolerant cultivars of American elm are available but the vast majority of trees available are Eurasian hybrids.

- Plants, especially trees and shrubs, evolve slowly.  If we accept current climate predictions, trees planted today may experience very different climates in their lifetimes than those under which they evolved.  The widespread outbreak of pine beetle (a native pest) in the Mountain West that is destroying millions of acres of pines could be an early indicator that changes in climate are already increasing stress levels and reducing the fitness of native trees.

Taryn was also critical of the tone of my post.  For me and my co-bloggers this space is the editorial page of our lives.  The blog is an opportunity to let our hair down a bit, vent on pet peeves, and sometimes shoot from the hip and play agent provocateur.  No one likes to be criticized but it comes with holding our ideas up to public scrutiny and I accept that.  I should note, however, that as the native debate moves from advocacy and education to codes and regulation, native advocates need to brace for increased criticisms and have their logical and scientific ducks in a row – which is the take-home  theme of my post.  Let’s face it, my critique was mild.  As seen in the repsones to my post, some are quick to politicize or label the native case as disingenuous.   Others would go further still and have labeled nativists as reactionaries and xenophobes (See http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/646.pdf  or wade through David Theodoropoulos’s “Invasion Biology: Critique of a Pseudoscience).  Obviously this is taking the argument to a ridiculous extent.  I’m all for a fair debate where we can question statements and ideas but not motivations.

Earlier posts:

Are natives the answer?

Controlling invasives with schoolchildren

Controlling invasives with goats

Get Ready for Something New

Over the past week the garden professors have been playing with something new, and we think it’s time to try it live with all of you.

Hopefully some of you are aware of Google and Google +.  On Google + there is a feature called “Hangouts” which lets you interact directly with up to ten people at once using camera and microphone.  More than that can participate by watching the discussion (though I’m still working that out on my computer — it should be ready by the time we go live.)

Next Thursday August 30 at 11:20 Eastern, 10:20 Central, 9:20 Mountain, and 8:20 Pacific time we’re going to start a hangout on Google + and invite all of you to join.  Then we’re going to start a live discussion.

The topic of the discussion is related to, but not exactly the same as, Bert’s somewhat controversial post from last week — “Should the government be able to require you to plant natives on your own land.”

As a side note, if you want to read how the Florida Native Plant Society responded to that post please read this.  Wow!  Even though the topic we’ll be discussing doesn’t deal with Bert’s post directly, hopefully someone (or a few people) from the FNPS will join us.  I’ll drop a comment onto their blog to make sure they at least know about the opportunity.

We are open to tangents in the discussion.  We want this to be open ended, fun, and informative.

So what do you need to do if you want to participate?  For right now the thing to do would be to get a google + account.  Just go here.  Also, if you don’t have a camera or microphone hooked up to your computer — now would be a good time to do that.  We’d also appreciate it if you’d comment on this post to let us know that you are planning on participating (or want to participate but can’t make it).  Please keep in mind that if we don’t have much participation we probably won’t try this again — at least not for awhile.

We’ll provide more instructions and information on the blog as we get closer to next Thursday.  We’re looking forward to this and hope that many of you can join us.

A Rose is a…Tomato?

Linda’s blue orchid (ick!) post may have led to this one subliminally.

I seem to have a thing for oddly-colored vegetables (see my orange cucumber post). When I saw this new tomato in the 2012 Johnny’s Seeds catalog, I had to have it.

‘Indigo Rose’ was bred by Dr. Jim Myers of Oregon State University. Jim wrote the book (literally) on Organic Plant Breeding – using traditional breeding methods to breed varieties of vegetables that perform well for organic farmers.  With ‘Indigo Rose’, his goal was to  increase the anthocyanin content in the skin for increased anti-oxidant properties. Hence the very cool color.  The inside is regular tomato-color, though. Darn.


Pardon my Late Blight.

Johnny’s calls it a "cocktail-sized tomato" – bigger than a cherry, but much smaller than a slicer. Not a good term or use of tomatoes, in my opinion, as it would displace too much of the actual cocktail when placed in the glass.
(insert rimshot)

It has terrific fruit set with trusses of five to eight tomatoes each. 


Please ignore the weed in the photo.

The young fruit is very, very dark purple with a green underbelly (not sure what the technical term is – I know tomato descriptions often include shoulders, so why not an underbelly?).  Red and purple when ripe.   I’m just now getting some ripe enough to eat – the flavor is fine, but nothing really different than your basic cherry tomato. Maybe they need another week or so on the vine.  Interestingly, the hens have shown zero interest thus far. This is a good thing.


Kind of looks like a bad bruise.

Anyone else out there try these this season?
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Blue orchids?

I was at a big box home improvement store yesterday, and after doing my legitimate business I felt myself drawn to the garden center.  I smirked at the “drought tolerant cactus gardens” that had died from lack of water and the ever-popular GMO ”cactus strawflower” (GMO = glue modified organism as illustrated in my January 13, 2010 post).  Then I spotted my prey du jour: a blue orchid!

A disclaimer on the tag warns that new blooms will be white:

Oh, and the source of the magic?  Check out the needle track and its gooey exudate:

Just say no to dye!

A Speaker’s Bureau???

I just got back from the ISA meeting (that’s the International Society for Arboriculture) in Portland. 2000+ attendees, great talks, and lots of networking. One of the ideas that came up in late night discussions (always the best time for ideas!) was using this blog as a clearinghouse for speakers. So here’s the plan:

Our speaker’s bureau will be limited to those individuals who present current, relevant, science-based information in their presentations.  I’ll create a new category for the blog called “Speaker’s Bureau” and each person who provides information will get an individual posting there.

We hope that groups who are planning meetings or conferences would use this list to select speakers who can provide high-quality content of interest to gardeners and professionals (arborists, landscape architects, landscape managers, restoration ecologists, etc.)

If you’re interested in being included for this resource, let me know. I’ll discuss the particulars with my GP colleagues and we’ll get this up and running!