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  50 & Better
Gardening Forever
By Patsy Bell Hobson
July 2006

    Where liberty dwells, there is my country. -  Benjamin Franklin

Get A Grip, Love The Glove

I have a pair of Bionic Gloves that had been granted the Ease-Of-Use Commendation by the Arthritis Foundation. The gloves are designed by an orthopedic hand surgeon, Dr. Jim Kleinert. I put the gloves on and went out do a few garden chores. The gloves felt so good on my hands, I literally forgot to take them off when I came indoors. Bionic Gloves sells gloves for equestrians, golfers, and dress/driving gloves. True be told, my Bionic garden gloves have found their way into the golf bag on several occasions.

The gloves are pricey, but they do make my hands feel better while gripping pruners and holding watering cans. With extra padding where the hand needs it most, hand fatigue is virtually non-existent. These gloves are just one more tool that will keep me gardening, and golfing forever. Learn more at

Cheap Tricks in the Garden

Vinegar is an inexpensive and environmentally safe weedkiller. I use this organic weed control for spot spraying. Use vinegar in gardens, along sidewalks and brick or stone patios. A small watering can filled with vinegar and water can target stray grass or dandelions in sidewalk cracks or the driveway.

Hand spray or carefully direct your vinegar filled watering can over unwanted vegetation. Vinegar works best on young plants but can control bigger weeds and grass. Bigger weeds require repeated applications. Use any inexpensive grocery store variety of vinegar to kill the weeds. The USDA study is reported at their website   

Repeated spraying with diluted kitchen soap (a teaspoon of dish soap in a pint spray bottle of water) has helped control the insects on my tomato plants.  Try it on one plant to see if it does more harm than good for your plants. Read University Of Colorado fact sheet number 5.547 at

Tomatoes By The Bucket
Bragging Rights Contained

When I was telling Jules that the average American eats 19 pounds of tomatoes each year, he was unimpressed. We will eat more than that in a couple of weeks this summer just from the containers on the deck.  My container grown tomatoes have responded well to plenty of water and diluted fertilizer. Go light on the fertilizer. Excess nitrogen fertilizer will grow beautiful, vigorous tomato vines but very little fruit.

I started the heirloom tomatoes from seed, transplanted them, hardened then off. I removed all the suckers. Then staked some plants and caged the others. I have faithfully watered and fertilized my tomatoes in five gallon buckets and containers.

Then I heard Jules bragging to the neighbor about his tomatoes weighing about a pound each. Evidently you can claim bragging rights for a record tomato harvest, just by living in the same house with a Master Gardener.   

The native South American tomato went to Europe with the Spanish conquistadors who discovered it in Mexico at the end of the 15th century. The tomato was not really eaten until 18th century because people thought it might be toxic since some plants in the Nightshade family truly are poisonous. The tomato had to travel to Europe before its acceptance as a food became widespread in North America in the 19th century.  That also seems to be about the time people started bragging about their home grown tomatoes (or their wives tomatoes.)
Thomas Jefferson was the first President to grow tomatoes in North America.  Jefferson was a pioneer grower of tomatoes in 1809, He planted tomatoes yearly, usually near the midpoint of the garden. Jefferson's daughter, Martha, and daughters, Virginia and Septimia, left numerous recipes that involved tomatoes, including gumbo soups, cayenne-spiced tomato soup, green tomato pickles, tomato preserves, and tomato omelettes. In an 1824 speech before the Albemarle Agricultural Society, Jefferson's son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph discussed the transformation of Virginia farming due to the introduction of new crops. He mentioned how tomatoes were virtually unknown ten years earlier, but by 1824 everyone was eating them because they believed they kept one's blood pure in the heat of summer.

Jefferson grew a tomato variety described as �Spanish tomato� probably typical of the heavily-loved, ribbed, and flattened tomatoes generally grown in the early 19th century. Today, the Monticello heirloom collection includes Costoluto Genovese, an Italian variety with a shape that resembles a patty-pan squash, and Purple Calabash, which has a deep, dark, almost black skin.
If you are looking for a great summer read, I suggest the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. If you have never read these documents in their entirety or voluntarily, read these great American classics because you have the right and the freedom to do so.

The sanctity of July 4, our independence day, is imbedded in most American hearts. The day that the Second Continental Congress approved, but did not sign the document mostly written by Thomas Jefferson. It was on that day that the news of the Louisiana Purchase arrived in Washington, Henry David Thoreau arrived at Walden Pond and President Abraham Lincoln learned of the Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  His last words were Is it the fourth? He died a few hours before John Adams, whose last words are alleged to have been: Thomas Jefferson still survives.

Read the Declaration of Independence, then say a prayer for all those who continue to fight for freedom. God Bless America this Independence Day.

Patsy Bell Hobson is a free lance writer, speaker and Master Gardener. You  may contact her at

Gardening Forever
Patsy Bell Hobson
March 2006

Springtime is the land awakening. 
The March winds are the morning yawn.  -  Lewis Grizzard

Top O' The Mornining and Bottom of the Barrel Jokes

    An Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman were discussing the word's greatest invention. The Englishman said, I think the heart transplant was the greatest invention ever, because I had a dodgy heart, and it'd be curtains for me if it wasn't for heart transplants. The Scotsman said, I think liver transplants are the best, as I'm partial to a bit of whiskey, and it'd be curtains for me if I hadn't replaced my liver. The Irishman then said, I think blinds were the greatest invention ever, otherwise it'd be curtains for all of us.

    And while I am sharing half baked  jokes:
    An old man lived alone in Ireland. His only son was in prison, and he didn't know anyone who would spade up his potato garden.
    The old man wrote to his son about it, and received this reply, For HEAVENS SAKE, Dad, don't dig in that garden, that's where I buried the GUNS
    At 4 a.m. the next morning, a dozen British soldiers showed up and dug up the entire garden, but didn't find any guns.
    Confused, the man wrote to his son telling him what happened and asking him what to do next.
    His son's reply was: Just plant your potatoes, dad.

St. Patrick�cks Day Barrel of Fun

    Weather permitting, I 'll plant potatoes on St Patricks day.
    I am going to grow potatoes in a barrel this year. Why? Just to try something different and I hope it will be easier on my old back than hoeing and digging up potatoes. Here is my plan.
    First, start with an old barrel, a plastic tub, worn out trash can - any giant container you can keep out of the land fill for one more year. I'm going to use an old leaky wooden whiskey barrel that once served as a rain barrel. Thats my choice because that is what I have on hand. Starting new, I would choose a lighter 55 gallon plastic drum or barrel. If you are using a recycled barrel, make sure it is clean and free of chemicals.
    Next, make sure the barrel has drainage holes, then add a couple inches of stones or clay pot shards to help with drainage. Cover with about ten to twelve inches of compost. Put the seed potatoes on top, spacing the potatoes six inches apart. Add about three more inches of good compost to cover the potatoes. As the potatoes sprout and grow in the barrel, add more compost, taking care the very top two leaves and stem remain uncovered.  When the stems are six inches tall, add another three inches of compost. Continue to add layers of compost each time the stems reach about 6 inches above the top of the compost.
    I'll report back on this project. By midsummer, after the little yellow potato flowers bloom, I should be able to rob the barrel of a few small new potatoes. Later, I'll tip the barrel over and harvest the final enormous crop without digging.
    That will be my personal St Patricks day tribute. Kansas Citians always love to celebrate St. Patricks Day, though few will have dirt under their fingernails. Most people know the legend about St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland. There are different versions of the legend, but most include the saint standing on a hill, using a wooden staff to drive the serpents into the sea, banishing them forever from the shores of Ireland. 
    It is true there are no snakes in Ireland. Since Ireland is an island that had been separated from the continent since the ice age, it is likely that there never were snakes in Ireland. Serpent symbols were common in many religions. Driving the snakes from Ireland was probably symbolic for his bringing Christianity to Ireland and driving out pagan religions.

House Hunting For The Birds

    March is the time to set up nesting boxes for bluebirds and raise purple martin houses. This winter, I have been blessed with overwintering bluebirds. They dont eat seed at the bird feeders, but they do stop by occasionally. Bluebirds that winter in Kansas and Missouri move to where food is available, consuming foods such as rose hips and cedar, poison ivy and sumac berries. Believe it or not, they can also find dormant insects and, on warm winter days, even active insects.
    If you want to attract bluebirds, incorporate dogwoods, sumacs, cedars, hawthorns into the landscape. These trees and shrubs provide natural winter foods. I keep water for the birds out all winter.
    Plans for bluebird houses are at the Missouri Department of Conservation.
    Kansas  State University has plans to make several blue bird houses and a nest site monitoring chart.   

Feed Daffodils Before They Bloom

    The best time to apply fertilizer to spring-flowering bulbs is when foliage emerges in the spring, not when they are flowering. Roots are most active when the foliage emerges from the soil. Bulb roots actually begin to die at flowering, so fertilizing during bloom is a waste of fertilizer. An all-purpose fertilizer application when the plant begins to poke through the ground will provide nutrients for the bulbs to produce flowers next year. If your soil has plenty of phosphorus and potassium, and it probably does, fertilize with blood meal. This natural fertilizer promotes green leafy growth and is a fast acting source of nitrogen.
    The best way to find out what the soil needs are is with a soil test. Chances are the lawn and the garden have different nutrient requirements. Do not use weed and feed combinations developed for the lawn, in your garden.
    Deadhead the daffodils if you want, but leave the foliage until it dies back naturally. Energy from the foliage is transferred to the bulb, creating next years blooms. Leaving the foliage is the best investment you can make for next springs blooms.

My Point Exactly

    Jules, the love of my life, always likes to prove his point. That�s what he was trying to do when he called me into his home office. Pointing at the computer screen, he showed me a study which indicated men use about 15,000 words a day, whereas women use 30,000 words a day. So proud, a big smile on his face, he thought he had proved his point that women talk more than men.
    I told Jules the reason that women use twice as many words as men is because they have to repeat everything they say.
    A look of disbelief came over his face as Jules said, "What!?"

Patsy Bell Hobson is a freelance writer, speaker and a Master Gardener in Liberty, MO. Send e-mail to

50 & Better Magazine
February, 2005   
Gardening Forever

Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful and most noble employment of man.
~ George Washington ~

Eat Cherry Pie, By George   
    A cold gray Midwestern February is a good enough reason to eat pie, or cherry anything. This month, I�ll be eating cherry pie in honor of Presidents Day. Our beloved first president, George Washington, did not chop down a cherry tree. He did not have wooden teeth. He did not throw a silver dollar across the Potomac River.
    Although better known for his military and presidential achievements, Washington was a leader in new agricultural practices. He was one of the first farmers to make use of an extended 7-year crop rotation system to preserve his fields, recognize the need to replenish soil rather than move and clear new lands and resolved to make America a "granary" to the world by emphasizing the production of wheat and other grains rather than tobacco.
    Much is written about Thomas Jeffersons agricultural contributions, but it was Washington who made a lasting contribution to the farming industry by introducing the mule to America. The father of our country was one of the pioneers of modern American agriculture. George Washington was a politician even a gardener could love.

Secret Valentines

    When we were courting, my first husband gave me flowers all the time. He always brought me flowers. It is one of the reasons I fell in love with Jules. He doesnt bring me flowers anymore. Thank heavens. After we were married, instead of buying flowers, he bought me three acres. Now I grow my own flowers.
    These days, if my husband bought Valentines Day roses, I might reply - in a most loving way, of course - Are you nuts? We cant afford roses in winter!  Joint bank accounts and the frugal habits of a gardener will win out over seasonally inflated prices every time. Jules is my first and only husband and lifetime valentine.
    Young women sometimes sit around waiting for flowers to be delivered to them. It takes a while to figure out that we get much more when we give. When we get a little older and wiser we know that sending secret valentines and friendship cards is as heartwarming as finding one in your own mailbox. Drop a valentine in the mail to someone who might not get one.  Warm up a frosty February day with a random act of kindness.

Landscaping for the Birds

    Bird watching and landscaping go hand in hand. More than 1million Missourians feed birds in their backyards. As you page through those garden catalogs, think about the back yard birds. Cardinals will be the first to notice your new bird feeders.
     Cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, all finches, and grosbeaks prefer black-oil sunflower seed.
    Black-oil sunflower has a higher percentage of meat and is a source of rich nutritional protein. The soft outer shell makes it easy for smaller birds like chickadees and nuthatches to eat.
If raccoons, opossums, deer, or rodents are a problem, put out only as much seed as can be eaten by nightfall. Stop offering mixed seed on platform feeders or on the ground  if the feeder is overrun with blackbirds, pigeons, or house sparrows. Feed only black-oil sunflower seed in tube or hopper feeders until the problem species move on.
    Attract more birds by furnishing water year-round. The bluebird, Missouri's State Bird, may be enticed to feeding stations during the winter if water is available.
    Colorful native windflowers produce nutritious seeds or fruit for birds year round. Birds also appreciate fruiting native trees and shrubs like flowering dogwood, roughleaf dogwood, sumacs and serviceberry. These are the spring flowering native trees that can stand up to our harsh winters and dry summers. Birds love them and the trees are beautiful. Now that is a landscape plan.

Fat Checker

    When a sweet Southern voice called me on the phone and said she was from Southern Living Magazine, I did a little dance right then and there. Good thing I was alone. I am not that good of a dancer.
    Anyway, she said she was the fat checker. And that got my attention. If there are people who get paid to taste wine, test mattresses and drive sports cars, then there must also be people who are the chocolate police and the fat checkers. I knew they would find me eventually. But I stalled for time.
    Fat checker? I asked.
    No, Mam, she replied. I am a fact checker. It could have been her charming southern accent that threw me, but it was probably my own guilty conscience.
    Oh! You are the Fact Checker! Hallelujah, Hallelujah, I usually have my facts straight on any recipe or story that I submit in writing. It comes from years of proof reading. But mostly it comes from not wanting to have proof of my ignorance in writing. And not wanting the fat checker to come around here during cherry pie season.
    I may be a much too practical and penny pinching gardener to enjoy roses this month. However, a secret valentine can make a soul glow. And, just so you know, she can never, never have too much cherry pie.

50 & Better
March 2005
Gardening Forever

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. -   Margaret Atwood

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Bluebirds are good neighbors for gardeners. Bird watchers and gardeners should put bluebird houses out, the Missouri state bird is house hunting now. Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) are a gardeners best friends.

Bluebirds are insect eating gourmets. Bluebirds spot grasshoppers and crickets from a perch and pounce on the insects, pinning them to the ground with their bills. They also like to eat beetles, caterpillars, and spiders. Find out more about the Bluebird of Happiness at

Bluebirds are cavity nesters, using old woodpecker nesting sites in hollow trees or holes on fence posts. Because they lack the ability to chisel out one of their own, man-made nest boxes can be substituted to compensate for the short supply of these natural cavities.

Find house plans for other local bird favorites such as wrens, American robins, American kestrels, and purple martins on the Kansas Bird Houses web site:

During the nesting season, the bluebirds diet consists mostly of ground insects. Later, during fall and winter they eat berries when necessary. Their beaks simply are not designed for cracking open seeds and are why they are rarely seen at feeders.

Some of the earliest records of bluebird conservation came from the journals of Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and writer born in 1817. Thoreaus writings mention eastern bluebirds returning to their boxes, suggesting that people were already providing nest boxes in the early 1800's, possibly even in the 1700's.

More Blues

I plant Bachelor Buttons every year. Bachelor Buttons (Centaurea cyanus) are a member of the aster family. The flower is the ideal boutonniere because it fits perfectly in a lapel buttonhole and can last when out of water.

Easily grown from seed, butterflies and bees are attracted to these hardy sun-loving flowers. To keep the blooms going all summer, deadhead as the blooms fade. Centaurea is also known as cornflower because the plant grows wild in the grain fields of southern Europe.

When Napoleon forced Queen Louise of Prussia from Berlin, she hid her children in a cornfield and kept them entertained and quiet by weaving wreaths of cornflowers. One of her children, Wilheim, later became the emperor of Germany. Remembering his mother's bravery, he made the cornflower a national emblem of unity.

It's is an edible bloom with a mild sweet spicy taste, and can be used to garnish salads and desserts. It also makes a lovely everlasting, or dried flower. Though most often found in shades of blue, you will also find pinks, purples, whites and even an occasional black bachelor button.

Bachelor Buttons seed is easy to find in most garden center flower seed displays. Renee's Garden Seeds, has a brilliant blue cornflower named Blue Boy that is a cottage garden standout. I had great success with Blue Boy in my container gardens last year. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds,, has the rare heirloom Black Boy bachelor button with lovely, nearly black flowers.

Compost Your Identity

My newest garden tool is in the office. It is a crosscut paper shredder, which turns paper into confetti. Most documents that the ever practical Jules runs through the shredder, is for our protection - to protect us from trash raiding identity thieves. I, on the other hand, see most everything delivered to our mailbox, as shredder bait. Most mail makes great mulch or compost.

If you have a paper shredder, you have a ready source for mulch and a great addition to your compost pile. Compost is the natural breakdown of organic matter into soil. My better half and bookkeeper, Jules, just asks that I wait until he has filed the taxes before beginning to shred documents. So, this month, I am accumulating paper. Natural breakdowns are best left until after April 15.  Then compost happens.

50 & Better
April 2005
Gardening Forever

I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose, I would always greet it in a garden.
- Ruth Stout

Buzz Time
Feed Ruby-throated Hummingbirds Now

    April is also the time to put out your hummingbird feeders. If you start feeding the hummers when they arrive, there is less chance of them moving on. You will have Ruby-throated hummingbirds at you feeders until September or October.
    Make your own nectar refills for the feeder using this simple recipe: four parts water to one part sugar. Most hummingbird feeders are red, there is no need to add red food coloring to the nectar. Be sure to clean the feeder very well to reduce the growth of bacteria. Change the nectar weekly, or more often if it becomes cloudy.
    Weighing in at one eighth of an ounce and flying up to sixty miles and hour, the ruby-throated hummingbird is the only hummingbird that nests in this area. I grow a trumpet creeper in the corner of the yard just for the hummingbirds. 
    Trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) is thought to have coevolved with the hummingbird and depends upon ruby-throats to pollinate its flowers. The hummingbird's long, probe-like bill is especially adept at extracting nectar from the long tubular structure of this common, orange flower. Trumpet creeper plants frequently visited by hummingbirds set more seeds.  Even though the trumpet creeper vine makes enough seeds and little plants to be a nuisance in the lawn and garden, the pleasure of watching those iridescent hummers is worth the bother.
    Ruby-throats also eat insects and small spiders, especially when feeding young during the nesting season. Hummingbirds find most insects and spiders in blossoms.  These tiny birds can also catch insects in flight. Birds are good insect control. Cobras are good weed control.

A Cobra In The Garden

    I�ve found a tool that is close to being a universal garden tool. It�s blade is a steel fingernail� that becomes an extension of your hand. The Cobra Head Precision Weeder and Cultivator scalps, edges, digs, furrows, plants, cultivates, and transplants easily. I think it is the best weeding tool I have used, especially around small plants in close spaces. Look for it on the web at I grab this tool when I have a few minutes to garden and dont have time to load up the wheelbarrow for a big gardening project. The steel cobra head shape makes for precision weeding around shallow rooted plant, the herb garden and near miniature roses.

Gift Plants
The Care and Feeding of Miniature Roses

    Ive been researching mini roses since I received a little rose as a gift. Though the tiny bloomers look delicate and difficult to grow, miniature roses are surprisingly hardy perennials. These little gems can thrive in rich potting mixes on sunny decks and balconies. They make delightful house plants.
    Start a tabletop rose garden indoors or out. Or, plant a well-spaced border of bright minis in the perennial flower garden. Select a site with good air circulation to discourage diseases, such as Black Spot and rust. Keep roses from other mildew-prone plants, such as bee balm, zinnia, or lilac. Roses need plenty of water, about one inch a week. Always be sure to keep water off the foliage.
    Color choices are similar to the larger varieties. Care for miniature roses like any garden rose. In proportion to their size, they should be treated like their full-sized relatives.  If the roses high maintenance reputation has discouraged you in the past, consider starting with miniatures. Newer varieties are more disease resistant.
    Mini roses given as gifts or purchased at the florist will usually gradually decrease or cease blooming because of lack of indoor light exposure. Introducing these little ones to the outdoors will restore the abundant blooms. Most people loose their indoor miniature roses due to over watering.
    If you have been enjoying a potted miniature rose indoors, remember to harden off the plant or, slowly introduce your rose to the outdoors to avoid shock. Over the course of a week, gradually expose your plant to longer and longer periods outdoors.

    Mix in peat moss, or some composted organic matter to the soil removed from the planting hole. Dig the hole large enough to spread out the roots. Add a hand full of bone meal to the hole.
    Miniature roses are suitable for container gardening or can be planted in pots and sunk into garden borders. Their portability makes them easy to protect from sudden weather changes. Make sure containers have good drainage.
    Most miniatures are container-grown plants. Consider repotting to the next larger size pot to encourage root growth and insure adequate watering during the growing season if your rose will remain in a container.
    To plant in the ground, plant the rose slightly deeper than it was potted. The crown or bud union should be about 1 inch under the soil. Firm the soil around the rose.  Water. Add more soil if needed.
    Remove flowers as they fade and prune plants back to the uppermost five-leaflet leaf. At the same time, remove any yellowing leaves or dead branches.

50 & Better
June 2005
Gardening Forever

You don't have a garden just for yourself. You have it to share.
- Augusta Carter

To Market, To Market

Nobody reads a garden column in June. Gardeners are out gardening. So, for those of you who don�t garden but like to eat, this column is for you. If you are not blessed with a neighbor who grows too much and likes to share, then consider visiting the Farmers Markets.

In June, look for apricots, basil, beets, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, fennel, cut flowers, greens, leeks, lettuce, onions, parsley, peaches, peppers, potatoes, raspberries, rhubarb, shallots, snap beans, spinach, summer squash, strawberries, and turnips.

By snap beans, I mean what most folks  refer to as green beans. Snap beans, string beans, or green beans are not always green. Look for white, purple, and yellow varieties at the market. Try the flat Italian type, the petite French variety, or, Chinese long beans. There are string beans and stringless, yellow wax, lima, butter beans and fresh green soybeans.

The traditional fresh green beans you find at the market are more flavorful than the weeks old �fresh� green beans found in some stores. To check for freshness, snap a bean. It should break crisply and not bend.  Fresh green beans are available for a longer season than most produce because more than one crop can be planted in a growing season.

If you are lucky enough to find fresh beans that are not the usual grocery store type green bean, snap them up. Variety is one of the advantages of local Farmers Markets.

French Cuisine - Rabbit Food

Since the rabbits in my neighborhood have developed a taste for haricots vert, I'll be looking for them at the farmers� market.  Haricots vert [ah-ree-koh VEHR] is French for green bean.  If you are not brave enough to try the pronunciation in public, just ask the farmer for those little French green beans. These tiny tender green beans are great served cold and lightly marinated.

I always steam more than I think Jules can eat for dinner in the hope that there will be leftovers. It rarely happens. Jules and the rabbits have this in common. They will eat every haricot vert in site. I planned to grow a bumper crop of the skinny French green beans, but evidently word got out among the wildlife population. Rabbits eat what I grow and Jules eats what I buy at the market. There is always a haricots vert shortage at my house.

Big Market Cover-Up

The farmers� markets with covered structures in Merriam, Parkville and Overland Park are a blessing during sudden summer cloudbursts, but don�t let hot or rainy weather keep you from the markets. A delicate rainbow of golden, red and black raspberries are only at the market for a few short weeks, rain or shine.

In Lee�s Summit, at the Farmers Market, the very friendly Cathy Kohl sells buffalo steaks and burgers from the back of her shiny red truck while her husband sells the same product at the Kansas City market. You can visit Peter and Cathy at KC Buffalo Company's Cottonwood Ranch in Belton, or buy the same low fat, nutrient rich meats at the Farmers Market. Cathy greets everyone like and old friend. Give buffalo a try. I bet you do become a regular and an old friend.

Robbins Hail brings her organic produce from Bear Creek Farms in Osceola, Missouri to the Farmers Community Market at Brookside. In June, before the big July tomato explosion, it salad time, tender salad greens, cucumbers, radishes, green onions. I can never have enough salad when it is this tender and fresh. Everything, jams, breads, flowers, are always at the peek of flavor at the Farmers Community Market at Brookside.

You can always count on variety at the Kansas City market Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday. This is your opportunity to find the unusual vegetables that you may have tasted only in Thai or Vietnamese restaurants. Find market fresh local Oriental vegetables like long beans, cucumbers and bitter melon. There is always a bit of a fair or festival atmosphere at the City Market. I always include breakfast or lunch in a trip to City Market. Its also a great place to meet friends and bring vacationing guests.

The great thing about the Farmers Markets is that all the food and products are locally grown, homemade or hand crafted. Its fun to see the huge variety of berries and fruits available only this time of the year. Set the alarm clock early to avoid the crowds and get the pick of the crop on this summer morning quest for the sweetest corn and peaches.

Liberty, Blue Springs and Independence all have great seasonal markets bursting with whatever is ripe and ready to eat. Locally produced food is good for you and good for the economy. Ask at local restaurants if their food is grown locally. Start requesting locally produced food when you eat out.

If you are looking for locally produced food in restaurants, some of my favorite restaurants that prepare locally grown food from Food Circle farmers are Bluebird Bistro, City Tavern, Eden Alley, 40 Sardines, Grand Street Cafe, Ivys Restaurant, Lidias Kansas City, Rozzelle Court, Shields Manor Bistro and Webster House. Food Circles, has more restaurants listed.

Its not too late to plant your own tomatoes, if you can still find plants. According to the National Garden Writers Association, up to 90 percent of home gardeners grow tomatoes. Heirloom vegetables are among the most popular choices for home gardeners, but for those who lack the time or, are looking for variety, area Farmers Markets are your best bet.

Deer Advice

I surrendered to the rabbits who are eating my garden, haricots vert by haricots vert. However, 50 & Better reader Forrest Swall is doing a very effective job of keeping the deer OUT of his garden. After ten years of battle - Deer vs. Swall Garden - Forrest discovered a very effective deer repellent.

Here is Forrest Swalls Deer Repellent: One large teaspoon of cayenne pepper mixed in two quarts of water. Filter (I use my wife's discarded  pantie hose). Use an inexpensive two quart plastic  spray bottle from ACE Hardware.

Forrest has been thinking of selling his product at the Farmers Market or possibly e-Bay, but he was generous enough to share it with us.

Now I mix, filter and bottle up to ten 2-quart  bottles at a time. This makes an every day spray a
very doable chore. And I know that if I didn't get out there this afternoon, after the rain, there would be deer damage by morning, said Forrest.

The secret of his success is daily application. This truly is an effective way to keep you flowers and enjoy the wildlife as well. The small spray bottles are easy on the hands and back. Thanks for sharing, Forrest.

Research backs up what we instinctively know: the most common reason for home-grown vegetables is eating them fresh (70%). Affirming that gardeners are generous people, 56% of all gardeners share their garden bounty with friends. Thus explaining the giant zucchini that mysteriously appear in the staff lounges and break rooms across America each summer.

Random collection of monthly columns written from 2001 to 2006


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