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Scenes from the Garland Community Garden - May 22, 2017
BEAN PATCH with five different varieties of pole beans and POLLINATOR HEAVEN a bed beloved by pollinators of all shapes and sizes

The Garland Community Garden is becoming more lush and green by the day.  If you haven't stopped by for a while, now is definitely the time to stop and take a look.

Instead of bare poles in the Bean Patch, we now have green towers--many of which are blooming

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Large box bed in the winding garden at the Back of the Garden
Last week Charlie planted eleven heirloom tomato plants he grew from seed.  We checked on Sunday and they are thriving as is the Sunn Hemp, a cover crop that we planted in the other half of the bed

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North Garland High School Environmental Club Experimental Garden

This 125 square-foot garden is really thriving and has produced several salads.  It is a citizen science project being jointly undertaken by students of the North Garland High School Environmental Club and Loving Garland Green to ascertain just how much food one might expect to grow from a small (125 Square Foot) urban garden in Garland Texas.  Records of produce and value will be kept until the first week in November at the time of the sweet potato harvest.  Loving Garland Green will take over stewardship of the garden for June, July and August.

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Inventory of New Plants in Multicultural Garden Plot

At the Garland Community Garden we have a Multicultural Garden plot that was installed in October of 2014 in partnership with the Garland Multicultural Commission.  Donna Baird, a member of this commission as well as a Loving Garland Green member, is the official steward of this plot.  However, Donna has some health issues this spring that keep her out of the garden so she asked that I take care of the plot this season until she recovers.

This garden plot is on the way to becoming both attractive and interesting.  This week I installed a bunch of plants purchased at Rohdes—a local nursery here in Garland, Texas. With the rain and all I had time to paint a few rocks to identify the plants.

Russian Tarragon - Artemisia dracunculus


Although weaker in flavor than either French or Mexican Tarragon, the Russian Tarragon is the heartiest.  It grows to 39 inches tall, is drought tolerant and thrives in poor soil.  Russian Tarragon is so weak in flavor that many cooks disregard its value in the kitchen altogether.

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Rue - Ruta graveolens – native of Southern Europe
This herb is extremely drought tolerant. Medicinally, like many herbs, it has been touted to cure just about everything—even used as a witch repellant. Rue grows two to three feet tall with small yellow flowers

Rue is one of the oldest garden plants in Britain.  This hardy little evergreen thrives in poor rubbishy soils—even better than in rich soils.  Rue constituted a chief ingredient of the famous antidote to poison used by Mithridates.  In the middle ages Rue was thought to be a powerful defense against witchcraft and many believed that it provided second sight.  Early Roman painters consumed the herb because they believed it improved their eyesight.  Since the earliest of times Rue has been regarded as successful in warding off contagion and preventing attacks of fleas and other noxious insects. If bruised and applied, the leaves are said to ease the severe pain of sciatica. 

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Holy Basil - Ocimum tenuiflorum


This bushy shrub grows 18 inches high and is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent.  As the name suggests, Holy Basil has spiritual significance.  According to Hindu mythology, the plant is an incarnation of the Hindu Goddess of loyalty, Tulasi who offers divine protection.  Many Indian families keep a living Holy Basil plant in their homes and tend it carefully.  Accordingly there are many rituals associated with this plant and its care.  For example, one must bathe and be clean before watering or picking the leaves of this plant.  There are even handbooks available for download regarding proper care and respect for the Holy Basil plant.  http://www.stephen-knapp.com/tulasi_devi_handbook.htm

Holy basil’s oil is said to have antioxidant properties that help reduce the damaging effects of stress and aging on the body. 

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Four Tomato Plants – all grown from heirloom seed
Tomatoes originated from the Andes, in what is now called Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador - where they grew wild.  The Aztecs and Incas first cultivated tomatoes as early as 700 AD.  Thus they have an appropriate place in our Multicultural Garden, as they are not native to the USA. [On Sunday Charlie and I counted the tomato plants that we planted from the collection he grew from heirloom seed.  We have 42 tomato plants growing all over the garden. In addition to these there are at least 10 more that other members planted and several that came up as volunteers from last year.]

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Chinese Kale
Friends have been telling me for several years now that I should go to an Asian market to get seeds and plants for the garden.  About a month ago I did.  I bought several bunches of lemon grass for $2.98 that have rooted in water. [It takes about a month so don’t give up.  It’s worth it as most garden stores charge from $10 to $12.98 per plant.]  I also bought some Chinese Kale and some Chinese Basil seeds which have now germinated.

 

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Tansy

Many of the plants newly installed in the Multicultural Garden are identified with Rock signs--Garland Community Garden May 22, 2017

There are two varieties of Tansy:  Senecio Jacobacea L. and Tanacetum vulgare.  I think I purchased Senecio Jacobacea which also has the common name “ragwort.”  I will know for certain when the Tansy blooms as ragwort has a flower that has petals similar to daisy plants while common tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) has button flowers that look like little clusters of balls.

In either case, both of these species are classified in eight states as “noxious weeds.”  Thus I will monitor the Tansy closely and not allow it to go to seed. However, it is not on the list of noxious weeds for Texas. https://plants.usda.gov/java/noxious?rptType=State&statefips=48

Tansy has an interesting history.  Once upon a time no respectable garden in Britain and Europe would have been without a few Tansy plants.  It was used to make funeral wreaths and often corpses were wrapped in Tansy as it is an insect repellant.  The leaves of this plant are said to repeal fleas and ticks.  In fact, the man at Rohdes who helped me locate the tansy said that he wraps the leaves around his dog’s collar to prevent ticks.  One of the reasons I was interested in the plant is due to its reported ability to repel and even kill squash bugs—thus making it an ideal companion plant for members of the cucurbit family.

The Tansy and the Cinnabar Moth have eco paths that cross.  The Tansy is the host plant for the Cinnabar caterpillar.  As far as I know, the Tansy is the only host plant on which the Cinnabar Moth will lay its eggs. Many members of the Lepidoptera Order choose poisonous plants on which to lay their eggs.  The Monarch butterfly is another example.  Cinnabar Moths, not native to the USA, were introduced as biological control for ragwort in Oregon and the state of Washington.  These daytime moths did a good job of getting ragwort under control.

 

Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae) - Charlesjsharp - Own work, from Sharp Photography, sharpphotography

We won’t be touching any caterpillars found on the Tansy!

The caterpillar stage of the moth’s growth cycle is covered in tiny venomous spines which readily release toxins into human skin following dermal contact. Although the effects of envenomation are usually limited to an itchy and/or painful rash spreading from the site of contact, more serious symptoms such as atopic asthma, dermatitis, hemorrhage and potentially fatal renal failure have been attributed to direct contact with the caterpillar.

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Bitter Melon - Momorica charantia (also known as bitter gourd and bitter squash)
Bitter melon originated in India and was introduced into China in the 14th century.  It is widely used in Asian cuisine as well as in Hindu or Ayurveda medicine.  This squash-like vegetable has a number of purported uses including cancer prevention, treatment of diabetes, fever, HIV and AIDS, and infections. While it has shown some potential clinical activity in laboratory experiments, "further studies are required to recommend its use."  Most of us Heinz-57 Americans shy away from bitter.  It is just not in the vocabulary of our cuisine.  Thus the taste of a bitter melon dish is an adventure worthy to undertake.  I had some bitter melon soup a couple of years ago and it was indeed bitter.  

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Winged Bean (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus), also known as the Goa bean, and Dragon Bean

Wiki Commons

Winged bean is widely recognized by farmers and consumers in southern Asia for its variety of uses and disease resistance.    Winged bean is nutrient-rich, and all parts of the plant are edible. Leaves can be eaten like spinach, flowers can be used in salads, tubers can be eaten raw or cooked, seeds can be used in similar ways as the soybean.  The winged bean i has the potential to become a major multi-use food crop in the tropics of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

The seeds are about 35% protein and 18% fat. They require cooking for two to three hours to destroy the trypsin inhibitors and hemagglutinins that inhibit digestion.They can be eaten dried or roasted. Dried and ground seeds make flour, and can be brewed to make a coffee-like drink.  The nutrient-rich, tuberous roots have a nutty flavor. They are about 20% protein and its roots have more protein than many other root vegetables.  The leaves and flowers are also high in protein (10–15%).

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Cardoon
Cynara cadunculus

Cardoon belongs to the artichoke family.  However, unlike the artichoke, the fruit is not eaten.  The plant is harvested for its stems.  Once about 15 years ago when I was in Nice, France I ate some steamed cardoon stalks and they were delicious.  I hadn’t thought about them in years until I saw this plant when I was at Rohdes the other day.  If you would like a better understanding of what they are and how to prepare them, visit this link from Food and Style.  I will look for them and ask in the produce sections of specialty grocery stores.  They look like celery but taste more like artichoke hearts. Food and Style Recipe for Cardoon.  

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Pigeon Pea - Cajanus cajan

This perennial legume (not perennial in our zone) was domesticated in India 3,500 years ago.  It is consumed on a large scale mainly in south Asia and is a major source of protein for the population of that subcontinent.  The crop is cultivated on marginal land by resource-poor farmers, Last year we had it in the garden and it grew into small 7-feet tall bean treesThe seeds (peas) of this legume are similar in appearance and taste to the lentil.  Although not an important crop in the USA, the pigeon pea is critical to the survival of millions of people in the world who live and farm marginal land. Lifting Awareness on the Pigeon Pea—a Global perspective.  

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Lots more to see at the Garland Community Garden!  And we now have a little free library on the grounds. In addition to the 1,500 real ladybugs that Charlie and I released last week, our Bean Patch now has a permanent Ladybug resident.  But I don't think she will be eating too many aphids.

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