Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Is "pot liquor" good for plants?

Vegetables for cooking in water

Q. I read at an organic gardening web site that vegetable water is really good for plants. Is that true?

A. This strikes me funny because vegetable water is often known as "pot liquor" or "pot likker." But I'll comment on that later.

Well, it appears the advisor is talking about water left over from boiling or steaming vegetables. If the water has cooled, it should be good. Don't pour hot water on your desirable plants. But why don't you use the vegetable water for yourself?

  • You can drink it when it has cooled enough;
  • You can mix it in your Bloody Veggie;
  • You can add it to smoothies;
  • You can use it as vegetable broth.

Where I come from, people who actually drink the vegetable water are considered desperate, and derisively called "pot lickers" or "pot likkers." But most everyone does it nowadays. Not just here.

If you have anything left after the smoothies and broths, give the rest to your plants. They should respond well.

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A large oak tree has to go.

Large oak tree - Photo by FOX from Pexels

Q. "There is a large oak tree growing in our yard. ...We want to add a room to our house. IMO the tree has to go. But my wife loves the tree."

A. This reminds me of a few discussions I had with a customer a long time ago. For the sake of anonymity, I'll call him Pete. Pete, a lawyer, spent his professional career in a large city. He hired me to maintain his retirement property.

Pete had several undesirable trees around his estate, mostly misshapen black cherries (Prunus serotina) and water oaks (Quercus nigra) in various stages of decline. Those not decrepit were growing in the wrong places. But Pete insisted they were "magnificent." "Magnificent weeds," I replied. But he wouldn't allow me to remove them.

Perhaps Pete suffered from what I call the Kilmer Complex (after Joyce Kilmer). These folks think they "shall never see a poem lovely as a tree." Trees are bigger than themselves, and perhaps older, so are impressive even if diseased or growing in inconvenient places. They have no problem, however, destroying smaller undesirables. It's a matter of perspective, and an odd one at that.

What is a weed but an undesirable plant, or a plant growing in an undesirable place? It doesn't matter, really, how great or small. If it can't be transplanted elsewhere, get rid of it.

I wrote all that to say I understand your predicament. Try reasoning gently with her using my argument. If she remains rooted in her opinion, there's not much you can do about it. I guess it depends on whether she wants the additional room more than the tree, or whether you desire her more than the additional room.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

What is eating my koi?

Photo by FOX from Pexels

Q. We recently installed a small garden pond in the back yard and stocked it with a few small koi. Now a couple of the koi are missing. A friend suggested that raccoons have been eating them. How can I tell if he is correct, and if so how can I keep the raccoons out of the pond?

A. Since the koi are missing, you might not have a raccoon problem, but a heron problem. Raccoons won't eat the whole fish. They'll leave some scraps behind. Herons, however, will gulp down the entire koi.

To prevent herons from doing more damage, buy a heron decoy to set in or near the pond. You might find one at a garden center that carries pond supplies, or online. Real herons will avoid your pond if they think another one is already feeding there. In the mean time, temporarily cover your pond with bird netting like you would drape over berry plants. It's not very attractive, but will prevent herons from eating all the koi until you obtain the decoy. Cover your pond soon because it doesn't take long for a hungry heron to eat all the koi.

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

English Daisy (Bellis perennis): The Flower of Innocence and Healing

English Daisy (Bellis perennis)
Bellis is a genus of annuals and perennials native to Great Britain, Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean region. Gardeners prefer Bellis perennis, also known as English Daisy, Lawn Daisy and Bruisewort.  The name Bellis perennis (pronounced BEL-liss per-EN-is) means "pretty perennial." It's aptly named.

As one name suggests, Lawn Daisy can pop up anywhere. Indeed it can, even in North America where it was introduced many years ago. Though that might seem like a bad thing to aficionados of the perfect lawn, Lawn Daisy (Bellis perennis) inspires poets to wax eloquent.

BRIGHT Flower! whose home is everywhere,
Bold in maternal Nature's care,
And all the long year through the heir
Of joy or sorrow;
Methinks that there abides in thee
Some concord with humanity,
Given to no other flower I see
The forest thorough!

-From one of William Wordsworth's poems To The Daisy

For many centuries, plants have come to symbolize various human emotions and characteristics. The study is called floriography or "the language of flowers." Snapdragon means deception. Ivy means fidelity. Violet means modesty. Rue means regret, and, incidentally, was known to be an abortifacient. Daisy means innocence. Bouquets could express feelings and messages without spoken words. Many have been worked into our expressions such as, "I rue the day...", "shrinking violet", "innocent as a daisy", "clinging vine."

You might remember Act IV from Shakespeare's Hamlet with Ophelia, King Claudius, Queen Gertrude and Laertes:

There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray,
love, remember: and there is pansies. that's for thoughts.

A document in madness, thoughts and remembrance fitted.

There's fennel for you, and columbines: there's rue
for you; and here's some for me: we may call it
herb-grace o' Sundays: O you must wear your rue with
a difference. There's a daisy: I would give you
some violets, but they withered all when my father
died: they say he made a good end,--

Using the language of flowers, Ophelia clearly expressed her thoughts.

Ophelia by Alexandre Cabanal
I won't summarize the plot. You can read Shakespeare's Hamlet yourself.

English Daisy (Bellis perennis) is also known for its medicinal properties, as the name Bruisewort indicates. It has been used effectively to alleviate pain, hasten healing of cuts, bruises and surgical wounds, and to prevent bacterial infection.

Bloom season ranges from late spring to mid fall.  Flower colors include shades of crimson to pink, and white.  Plant height varies from 6 inches to 12 inches.
English Daisy (Bellis perennis) is at home pretty much everywhere in USDA climate zones 4 through 8.  Slightly moist to well-drained loamy soil with pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.5 is recommended. Plant in full sun to partial shade. Take care not to over-water.
Before planting, take a soil sample to your local Cooperative Extension Service office.  For a small fee, they can run a lab test and tell you what your soil may need.

Prepare the planting bed by cultivating at least 12 inches deep, removing all traces of weeds. Composted manure and peat moss may be incorporated into the soil.  If you choose to use synthetic fertilizer, incorporate 10-10-10 fertilizer at a rate of no more 3 lbs. per 100 square feet into the top 8 inches of soil. Avoid synthetic fertilizers contacting any part of your plants.

Space English Daisy (Bellis perennis) 6 inches to 9 inches apart. Dig planting holes into the cultivated soil a little less deep than the depth of the growing container.  Water the plants in their pots.  Place the plants into the holes and back-fill, watering as you go. Press soil around the roots. Do not cover the top of the root mass with soil. The tops should be slightly exposed.  Water gently to avoid disturbance.

Add a top-dressing of mulch around the plants, not on top of them, about 2 inches deep.  The mulch helps retain soil moisture, so you can water less frequently.  It also helps suppress weeds.

English Daisy (Bellis perennis) is a charming perennial ideal for borders, container gardens, herb and medicinal plant collections, English gardens, poet and Shakespeare gardens. If you're a hopeless romantic, plant some in your lawn.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens sign

Greetings from Jacksonville, Florida, home of WAPE - "THE BIG APE" - radio station and the Jacksonville Zoo. When I was a kid, WAPE - "The Mighty 690", was, arguably, the most popular Top 40 AM station in Savannah, Georgia. Jacksonville was also the closest big city to my hometown, and we had relatives there. Our cousins were never shy to remind us that Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach and local scenery in Florida were superior in all respects to Savannah and Tybee. So our parents occasionally took my brother and me to see the cousins and other animals.

I remember my anticipation of excitement, adventure and dread more than any specific exhibit or events in Jacksonville, excepting Monkey Island. Monkey Island was just that - a hillock surrounded by a moat surrounded by a wall over which amusing visitors applauded simian antics. Feeding the monkeys was not forbidden back then. Some folks would bring grapes to pitch. I recall one ape in particular which, while the others were clamoring nearest clusters of visitors, would scamper alone off to the top of the hillock and wave his arms for attention. He got lots of laughs and collected most grapes.

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has grown up a lot since then, so I returned recently for the first time in about 50 years to see what was new. Almost everything was.

The Jacksonville Zoo endured hard times back in the '60s. Not wanting to close it, community leaders formed a committee to figure out a way to keep it open. The Jacksonville Zoological Society was formed and progress was made.

Today's Jacksonville Zoo is more like a botanical garden with animals. Situated on the Trout River, the park is divided into continental themes with appropriate beasts. There are The Plains of East Africa, Wild Florida, River Valley Aviary, Savanna Blooms Garden and Giraffe Overlook, Great Apes, South America and Range of The Jaguar, Gardens at Trout River Plaza, Save The Frogs and Australian Adventure, Asian Gardens and Komodo Exhibit.

Gardens at Trout River Plaza
Upon entering, you feel like you're going on safari, except you're strolling broad walks among beautifully landscaped gardens. Nevertheless, you can't wait to mosey around the next corner. Plant and animal species are well identified with signage, so visitors can appreciate what they're viewing.

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens isn't just for walking. For those who want to see the zoo the easy way or just enjoy the ride, the Zoo Train stops at the Main Camp Entrance and, strategically, the Kids' Shop. Since it's located on the Trout River, Jacksonville Zoo makes kayaks available for those who like to paddle about.

The carousel is one of my favorite rides at any park because you can master the most ferocious beasts, ride them fast and melt into ghee!
Zoos are better designed now than when I was growing up, partly for the animals' sakes, partly for the visitors'. Attractive landscaping is becoming a notable feature. I think, though, that The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is unique in its thoughtful combination of a botanical garden with the zoological park.

Following are a few more photographs of my visit:

The Rivers Of Color Garden.

Edible landscaping and raised bed displays.

A portion of the cacti and succulents collection.

Asian Garden scene

Variegated Japanese Yew (Podocarpus macrophyllus var. maki 'Argenteus')

Preening flamingos
Red frangipani (Plumeria spp.).

Elegant patterns of the West African green mamba (Dendroaspis viridis)

Lioness (Panthera leo krugeri) in the shade.

A handsome kudu

Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) resting confidently in its

North American Wood stork (Mycteria americana).

So, from here on Monkey Island, I implore you. Subscribe to my blog at, follow the GoGardenNow Facebook page, and buy something from