“Wicked Plants” by Amy Stewart (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2009). Ms. Stewart has delivered another exciting page-turner in the area of horticultural reads. Following her successful foray into the worldwide cut flower business in “Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers” and her fabulous journey into the lives of earthworms in “The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms”, Ms. Stewart has produced a fascinating journey into the world of wicked plants. Her definition of “wicked” is as follows: plants that maim and kill; plants that addict; and plants that are badly behaved. As Ms. Stewart states, “So I looked for plants that had an interesting backstory. There had to be a victim – a body count. If a plant killed someone famous… I included it.” Her selection of plants, while familiar to gardeners, will surprise all but the most well-informed with their deadlines. The text is illustrated with detailed drawings and engravings that add to the tone of the book. A bibliography of poisonous plant resources and identification guides is included. Finally, the reader is directed to the author’s website for links to poisonous plant databases, photos of poisonous plants and much more. This book has earned my Highly Recommended designation.
Fiber Grow Pellet Greenhouse Kit – I found a great seed starting aid – the Fiber Grow Pellets offered by Planters’ Pride. The pellets start as highly compressed discs. You add water and each expands 10 times to a final dimension of 1″ diameter by 1-1/2″ high. The growing medium is a coir product contained in a biodegradable mesh bag. Coir fibers are found between the husk and the outer shell of a coconut and is a highly renewable resource. It absorbs more water than peat and retains moisture much longer. You insert 1 or 2 seeds in the opening in the top of the bag. The kit I used contained 50 discs in a tray with a plastic cover designed to create a mini-greenhouse. The seeds germinated very rapidly and allowed for very fast potting on. You simply pop the expanded pellet, seedling and all, into a larger pot. The roots are undisturbed and grow through the mesh bag. The pellets are easy to keep moist. Several size growing kits and replacement discs are available. Planters’ Pride invites you to visit www.saveourpeatbogs.com to learn why using a non-peat growing medium is so important to our environment.
SucraShield – A new sugar-based insecticide/miticide is available from Natural Forces. The USDA National Organic Program has approved this product for use in organic agriculture. The manufacturer states that SucraShield can be applied to fruits, vegetables, nuts, and mushrooms to control hundreds of problem pests, including aphids, mites, caterpillars, whiteflies, thrips, etc. Crops can be harvested and eaten the same day as application. The product is said to be “gentle on beneficial insects”. Check it out at www.naturalforcesllc.com.