Dandelions: If you can’t beat them, eat them

Dandelions are broadleaf perennials that can grow in any soil and are most numerous in full sunlight. In the early spring, new sprouts will emerge from the taproot, which can be 2 to 3 feet deep in the soil. They grow yellow flowers that mature and turn into white fluffy seedheads.

I usually write lengthy descriptions about plants, like flower parts and leaf types, cross-pollination or plant evolution.  But not this time.  This time, I’m writing about people who either hate or love this simple weed, the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

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So I would guess that there are two types of people, those that hate dandelions and those that love them…  Maybe some of us change, as we get older.  From children who play with dandelion flowers and make wishes with their irresistibly entertaining seedy puffballs to serious lawncare adults hellbent on eradication.

So if you are part of the latter, what is the best method to control this botanical nightmare? I remember my father and how he controlled dandelions.  The best way to get rid of dandelions was to remove them by hand. The key is to get as much as possible, of the long taproot, since the plant can regenerate from its roots. He would use a narrow tool, such as a flat screwdriver.  Stab, cut, drop in the bucket. Repeat until tired.  Be prepared, this is going to take time, it’s like a management position that requires constant due diligence.

If you decide on this type of dandelion control the next step is promoting lawn health.  Don’t let bare spots remain uncovered for long, or you’re just inviting the invasion of opportunistic weeds. In the fall, fill in those bare spots by overseeding with perennial grass.  You can also top dress your lawn in the fall with compost to help improve the overall nutrient level.  Lastly, mow your lawn on a high setting.   Remember, a thick lawn is the best method for preventing dandelions and other broadleaf weeds in the lawn.

So if you can’t beat them, eat them.  Part of that bucket my father filled ended up on the kitchen table. He would take the leaves and wash them clean with water from a garden hose.  Thirty minutes later, they were on the dinner table as a salad prepared by my mother.  Dandelion greens taste like other salad greens like chicory or escarole. As a child, I never liked the taste.

Dandelions are high in vitamins A and C, and iron. The best time to harvest is early spring before the flowers appear because the leaves are tenderest and least bitter.  Just avoid harvesting near roads, since road salt, metals or other toxins may be present. Do not harvest where there is high traffic of animals such as deer.  Additionally, you obviously shouldn’t harvest from a lawn where herbicides have been applied.

Bon Appetite

 

Five Online Plant Companies Worth Checking Out

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One of the hardest decisions a gardener can make is where to buy their seeds, plants and gardening supplies. As you start looking for those annuals, perfect perennials, and choice veggies to fill your yard, consider shopping online. Here at The Plant King, we have compiled a list of our favorite garden seed catalogs and suppliers. These companies have perfected the art of shipping living, growing things, so they arrive perfectly healthy and are ready to thrive. Here is some information about our favorite online companies – where you can feel confident placing your order. Log onto their websites and request their paper catalogs today to have seeds in time for spring planting! Or order online directly and let the plants come to you.

These websites are packed with instructions and information from planting zones to plant care. And remember, online shopping may be the solution if you can’t find unique or special varieties at your local garden centers. Our biggest tip is to order early, especially if you are after something specific because once these companies sell out for the season, that’s all there is. And now on to our list of the best 2019 online garden seed catalogs!

Park Seed
Perhaps one of the most popular garden seed catalogs is Park Seed. They offer a great selection of both flower and vegetable seeds. Prices are affordable and the seed is always fresh. Shipping is fast, usually just a couple of days. Highly recommended. Additionally, they also offer some live plants.

Burpee Seeds
Nothing signals spring like the arrival of the annual Burpee Catalog in the mailbox. Burpee has always had one of the most colorful catalogs, and a wide selection of seeds. They are especially good at their vegetable selections, as many veggie gardeners already know. They continue to add new varieties each year. Their website excels at garden advice and how-to videos and articles about seed starting.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds
They have an extensive seed catalog, with lots of online tips and resources as well. Johnny Selected Seeds has a longstanding reputation as a quality Non-GMO company and it’s 100% employee-owned.

EdenBrothers
An online company that offers one of the largest seed and flower bulb assortments available. Their offerings for the home gardener include hundreds of heirloom varieties, rare and hard to find flower, vegetable, and herb seeds. They also have a large selection of flower bulbs for both spring and fall planting. A very helpful website that allows users to make selections according to flower color, plant height, plant life cycle, blooming and light requirements.

Burgess Seed
A company with over 106 years of experience. It is one of the largest producers and distributors of home gardening products and offers a wide range of quality gardening plants, trees, seeds, bulbs, and supplies at good prices. Check out their one-cent sales! This useful website has many helpful categories to aid buyers with their selections.

Hopping Good Times

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Common Hops, Humulus lupulus, is a species of flowering plant that belongs to the Cannabaceae or hemp family. It is a native to Europe and is cultivated in North America as well.  The sexes are separate or dioecious with the female plant’s strobili (pictured above) being of economic importance. The male staminate flowers do not have petals. Hops rely on wind-pollination of flowers. The plant is a herbaceous perennial climbing plant which sends up new shoots in early spring and dies back to a cold-hardy rhizome (underground stem) in autumn. You can find leaves with 1, 3, 5, and 7 lobes on the same plant. Plants can produce up to 20 years.

The female cone-shaped fruits from H. lupulus are used by breweries.  The fragrant flower cones, known as hops, impart a bitter flavor, and also have aromatic and preservative qualities. Hops are also used for various purposes in other beverages.

Hops plants grow best in the latitude range of 38°-51° (growing zones 5 – 8) in full sun with moderate amounts of rainfall and nutrient-rich soil with good drainage. Plants use the long summer days as a cue for when to flower around July or August. Plants can grow up to 30 feet tall and are typically suspended by free-standing poles or lattices will trellising twine.

Any hop rhizomes you buy will be female. Male hop plants are not cultivated.  Spring is the best time to plant hops.  First-year plants expend energy growing roots with only a few cones possible.  By the second year, you should see a marked increase in cones.

Chmelnice

A commercial hops yard using a trellis and pole system to suspend hops plants.

How To Propagate Hydrangeas From Cuttings

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It’s easier than you may think to root cuttings from your hydrangea bushes. The first step is to select a choice stem for cutting. A stem for hydrangea propagation should be at least six inches long, with no flower. The stem needs to be a new growth which is a lighter green than old growth. Once you have selected a stem to propagate, use pruning shears to cut the stem off just below a leaf node. A leaf node is where a set of leaves will be attached to the stem. The hydrangea cutting should contain at least one additional set of leaves above the selected leaf node.

Next, strip all but the topmost set of leaves from the cutting. The cutting should have only two leaves left. Cut the two remaining leaves in half crosswise. This will prevent excess water loss from the cutting and will quickly callus over.  Dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone which will increase the chances of successfully propagating hydrangeas. Put the cutting into damp potting soil. Use a pencil first to make a hole, then firmly press the soil around the stem. Cover the pot with a plastic bag, making sure that the bag does not touch the leaves of the hydrangea cutting.

Place your hydrangea cuttings in a sheltered location out of direct sunlight. Check your hydrangeas every few days to make sure the soil is still damp. In about four weeks, the cutting will be have grown new roots. Your hydrangea propagation will be complete. That is all you need to know about how to propagate new plants for friends and family.

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