Shade garden expert to speak about hellebores & garden companions

hellebore-0915On Monday, October 5, 7:00 pm, the Great Lakes Chapter of the Hardy Plant Society presents “Hellebores & Garden Companions” by Gene Bush. A nationally-known shade garden speaker from Southern Indiana, Bush owned Munchkin Nursery & Gardens for 20-plus years, specializing in rare and unusual shade plants. His writing and photographs have appeared in Fine Gardening and The American Gardener.

Hellebores are among the most valuable perennials for the shade garden. They have reliably evergreen foliage and bloom in late winter and very early spring, providing color for up to three months. They also are animal-resistant. Few perennials can lay claim to all those features. This presentation seeks to dispel some of the myths surrounding hellebores and addresses growing them with excellent companions that bloom during the same period.

Reservations are required and are due September 28. Tickets are $10. For more information, visit For reservation questions, email Connie Manley.

What’s the difference between a pressure canner, pressure cooker, electric canner?

MSU Extension:

Canning has been making a comeback in popularity the last few years. One just has to look at the aisles in the stores and see all of the different gadgets related to food preservation. But when do some of these gadgets become more than something the consumer needs to have? I was in a major kitchen store recently and saw a name brand pressure canner sitting on the shelf next to an electric canning device. As an Extension Educator, many questions have been asked in classes I teach, via e-mail, and over the phone about pressure canners and other cooking appliances.

Let’s begin with some simple facts. There is a difference between a pressure canner used for canning and a pressure cooker used to cook roasts and chicken dinners on the stove top. Often the two are talked about in the same conversation, and I want to be clear, they are not the same. A pressure canner is designed to can low acid foods (vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and wild game) they are designed to hold canning jars (upright) and process at a temperature higher than a water bath canner. A pressure cooker or pressure saucepan may not maintain adequate pressure; they heat and cool too quickly, which may not destroy microorganisms that can cause foodborne illness in home canned food. A pressure canner has either a dial or weighted gauge, and may hold multiple jars of canned food depending on its size. Pressure cookers are smaller and they may or may not have a way to regulate the pressure. The pressure cookers do not come with pressure gauges, and they cannot be safely used to process home canned foods.

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Boundless tomato harvests contain infinite possibilities

The Salt at

It’s that time of year when some gardeners and tomato-coveting shoppers face a vexing question: What on earth am I going to do with all these tomatoes I grew (or bought)?

A select few up to their elbows in tomatoes may have an additional quandary: How am I going to prepare different kinds of tomatoes to honor their unique qualities?

Chef Jamie Simpson of the Culinary Vegetable Institute faced a particularly challenging version of this last week: 100 pounds of 60 different kinds of tomatoes to transform into a seven-course dinner. Fortunately, it’s Simpson’s job to come up with creative solutions to such problems of abundance. And as Simpson deftly reminded us, the possibility of the tomato is pretty much infinite.

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Identifying and treating blossom end rot

MSU Extension:

Blossom end rot is a physiological problem usually associated with tomatoes. Many gardeners have seen it, but may not know why it happened. Michigan State University Extension horticulture educators and Master Gardener hotlines receive a number of calls as gardeners begin circling their gardens looking for ripe produce.

Tomatoes, being the biggest garden diva, are alarmed and shocked at many situations that other less neurotic vegetables ignore. Tiny doses of herbicide, blowing sand and lack of water will produce damage to tomatoes while other vegetables tough it out. But other plants, if stressed enough, can also experience blossom end rot. These are peppers, eggplant, summer squashes and melons.

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Students grow more than just plants in school gardens

NPR’s The Salt:

School is still out for the summer, but at Eastern Senior High School in Washington, D.C., students are hard at work — outdoors.

In a garden filled with flowers and beds bursting with vegetables and herbs, nearly a dozen teenagers are harvesting vegetables for the weekend’s farmers market.

Roshawn Little is going into her junior year at Eastern, and has been working in this garden for three years now. “I didn’t really like bugs or dirt,” Little says, thinking back to when she got started. “Well, I still don’t really like bugs, but I like the dirt,” she laughs. She gathers a handful of greens, yanks from the stem and pulls up a baseball-sized beet.

During the summer, Little gets paid to work Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. with City Blossoms, a nonprofit that brings community gardens to schools, community centers and other places where kids gather in urban areas.

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