Author: Heather (page 2 of 24)

Suburban Weeds: Heber City

Weeds are funny things. By definition, they are “plants out of place”. But it is you – the gardener, the farmer, the recreationist, the observer – who decides whether it is “out of place” or not. One man’s weed is another’s wildflower. 

Sometimes enough people (land managers, weed scientists, etc.)  have decided that a certain plant poses enough of a problem that it gets extra designations such as “invasive” or “noxious”. If you want to learn more about the nitty-gritty of that, go check out my post on that by clicking here.

When I taught the weed identification and management lab at Utah State University I often told the students that they would be changed forever by taking the class. Only half-jokingly would I tell them that they wouldn’t be able to go anywhere again without seeing the weeds. I don’t know if that has actually happened with any of the students I taught, but I can say that it is 100% true of myself. Whether I’m hiking in the mountains or taking a walk around the neighborhood I notice the weeds. (I notice the other plants, too, but we’re just talking about weeds today.)

I’m not the only one who likes identifying plants though. There was a recent article in The Guardian about “rebel botanists” identifying the urban plants with chalk graffiti. Seeing the chalked names connects others with the plants that they might otherwise overlook.

And, really, that’s what this new “Suburban Weeds” project of mine is all about: connecting with this place I currently call home. As I’m out on walks around town I’ll take note of the weeds, sometimes photos, and then share those with you here. As I notice more weeds in the future, I’ll update those posts, but you can always refer back to this page for the links to the places I’ve been and the weeds I’ve seen.

Suburban Weeds: the Jump-Off

Thanks to Daniel Murphy of AwkwardBotany.com for the inspiration for this project.

My 2020 Garden

When we moved to Heber City last fall there were two things I was happy to see at the house we found to rent: a fenced back yard and a little vegetable garden spot. Now that we’ve been here for seven months and we’re getting into garden planting time, I’ve found some other things I like about it. And some other things that maybe I don’t like so much. The following is a list of the assets and liabilities, according to my gardening views and preferences, of this property.

Continue reading

– great galls –

I love when I know the exact word to describe something, whether that “something” is an emotion, a color, taste, or plant part. To help you feel more confident in the words of the botanical world, I’m starting this Botanical Alphabet series. It may or may not be published in exact alphabetical order.

gall: abnormal growth or mass of plant tissue; develops in response to wounds from insects, mites, bacterium, fungus, etc.

Goodness, gracious, great galls of fire. Or of pupating insects. Or bacterium. Whatever.

I think galls are so fascinating. They can be on stems, leaves, twigs, trunks, even on roots. Insect galls form as a defense response to an insect laying eggs inside the leaf or stem tissue. Generally, these galls themselves are harmless to the plants unless they occur in very large numbers on young plants. Galls caused by bacteria, fungus, or nematodes, however, are symptomatic of diseases that can severely reduce plant growth or even cause death.

I think that one of the more interesting galls I’ve come across is the pinecone willow gall (or willow pinecone gall) in the picture above. Like you might guess from the name, it’s a gall that occurs on willows and looks like a pinecone. These galls are caused by a midge named Rhabdophaga strobiloides. The female midge lays an egg in a terminal (tip) bud and the plant reacts to the chemicals secreted by the midge, and from the egg itself, by elongating, broadening and hardening the leaf bud tissue into the pinecone-like gall.

Have you seen any interesting galls lately?

– definitively dentate –

I love when I know the exact word to describe something, whether that “something” is an emotion, a color, taste, or plant part. To help you feel more confident in the words of the botanical world, I’m starting this Botanical Alphabet series. It may or may not be published in exact alphabetical order.

dentate: having outward (opposed to upward, as in serrate) pointing teeth along the margin (or edge) of a leaf

Botanists use a lot of jargon; specific words to describe everything about a plant. I can think of at least a handful of terms, and I’m sure there are more, that are used to describe the edges of leaves alone. Knowing these descriptors comes in handy, though, like when you’re trying to key out a plant. But when you start seeing these descriptors in the scientific names of plants?  Then you can feel like a total plant rock star by knowing something about the plant without ever having seen it! For instance, you’ll find derivatives of the word dentate in Acer grandidentatum (bigtooth maple), Euphorbia dentate (toothed spurge), and Artemesia tridentata (big sagebrush). And, as you might have guessed, they are all toothed!

Egg Heads: A Planting Craft

The original idea for this craft came from the Our Best Bites Savoring the Seasons cookbook. If you want to see a super cute example of these little planters, then you should check out the book.

I’ve mentioned before that this is not, and never will be, a food blog. Even though I’ve posted recipes before, it’s not something I do consistently or probably even very well, for that matter. I should take the time now to also point out that this is not, and never will be, a craft blog. Crafting is just not something that really comes naturally to me.

Even so, here I am, posting a little planting craft. I almost didn’t. They didn’t turn out quite like I envisioned; a little more “rustic” and a lot less cute. But then I figured, hey, maybe someone out there is looking for something new to do with their quarantine time and their egg shells.

I know eggs can sometimes be a little harder to come by these days, but if you’ve got some and you’re using them anyway, take a little extra time to just remove the top third of the shell. You can do this by either being an expert egg cracker, or you can use a sharp knife to get it started. I found that making a sort of drilling motion with the knife point worked best for me.

I have to admit, though, that the drilling a hole into an egg shell brought back some memories of my most embarrassing mortifying experience of elementary school. I’m sure they didn’t let us use knives to make the holes in our eggs, but my memory of that part is a little fuzzy. What I do know is that we, the fourth graders, were congregated in the grassy area near the playground and were each given an egg with which we were going to make a blown-Easter egg craft. We made two small holes in the egg – one on either pole – and were told to blow the contents out into a cup and then dispose of the contents in  the restrooms. Well, I successfully blew my egg-insides into a cup and was heading to ask permission to take it to the restroom to flush away, when I tripped. Now, I adored my fourth grade teacher and would have been terribly embarrassed had the egg splashed on her. But it didn’t. Instead, it went all over the front of Mrs. Fjelsted’s skirt. Mrs. Fjelsted, the scary teacher. I wanted to die of both shame and fear. Or be swallowed by the earth. Anything but face what I thought for sure would be her wrath. I’m not sure what I thought she’d do to me – eat me maybe? – but I just knew it would be terrible. In the end, I survived. I don’t think I even got in trouble; the fact that I had drawn unwanted attention toward myself was enough.

Luckily for you, you can do this egg craft without the supervision of any scary fourth grade teachers. Unless you are one yourself. Or invite one over; but under the current pandemic situation, I don’t think that’s advised.

Ok, back to your eggs. After you’ve removed the top bit of shell, wash out the inside to remove any remaining egg bits. Then, fill it most of the way to the top with potting mix, sprinkle some seeds (we did grass, cilantro, and basil) on top of that, and then add just a bit more potting mix to cover the seeds. Give it a drink, put it in a sunny spot, and watch it grow! Couldn’t be easier. A word to the wise, though: don’t use grass seed that is 10+ years old. The germination rate goes down real quick after a couple years, which is why our egg heads are so sparsely tufted.

There you have it – an eggcelent (sorry, not sorry) pandemic quarantine life (or anytime) craft.

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