What plants/ flowers are best to include in a vegetable garden to repel large pests, like deer and rabbits, and small ones like beetles, gnats, rollypollies, etc.?
Many plants have natural substances in their roots, flowers, and leaves that can alternately repel (anti-feedants) and/or attract insects depending on your needs. In some situations they can also help enhance the growth rate and flavor of other varieties. Experience shows us that using companion planting throughout the landscape is an important part of integrated pest management. In essence companion planting helps bring a balanced eco-system to your landscape, allowing nature to do its job. Nature integrates a diversity of plants, insects, animals and other organisms into every ecosystem so there is no waste. The death of one organism can create food for another, meaning symbiotic relationships all around. Companion planting offers a holistic concept due to the many intricate levels in which it works with the ecology.
By using companion planting, many gardeners find that they can discourage harmful pests without losing the beneficial allies. There are many varieties of herbs, flowers and vegetables that can be used for companion plants. Be open to experimenting and find what works for you. Some possibilities include using certain plants as a border, backdrop or inter-planting in your flower or vegetable beds where you have specific needs. Use plants that are native to your area so the insects you want to attract already know what to look for. Plants with open cup shaped flowers are the most popular with beneficial insects.
Deborah Lee, LLCC instructor and owner of Four Winds Farm suggests www.ghorganics.com for the most comprehensive plant guide to companion planting. Dr. Lee consults this chart when planning her garden every spring. She lists all the vegetables and herbs desired. Then she sits down with the companion list and begins to sketch what to plant where. Some items go the same places the next year while some will rotate. Dr. Lee shares that mint is one great plant to have throughout the garden, but it must be contained or it will spread and take over the whole garden.
Repelling deer often requires a tall fence. For rabbits, she “collars” plants with coffee cups (bottom removed) so they do not eat the entire plant. She then cuts the cups away as the plant matures. She also uses moveable fencing around young plants in some areas, and other areas are fenced year-round.
Every garden and every year is different, so experimenting offers the best way to gain new insight for our own individual gardens.
When is the right time to harvest rhubarb, and what are some dishes besides pie that you can make using it?
The University of Illinois Extension suggests not harvesting rhubarb during the first year of planting. Newly set plants need all their foliage to build a strong root system. Stalks may be harvested for 1 or 2 weeks during the second year and for 8 to 10 weeks (a full harvest season) during the third and subsequent years. The harvest season runs from mid-March to mid-June. The stalks may be harvested at one time or selectively over a 4- to 8-week period. Harvest in the fall only when the plants are to be discarded the next season. To harvest, pull the leafstalks from the plant and trim off the leaf blades. The leaf blades contain large amounts of oxalic acid and should not be eaten. To keep the plants healthy, vigorous and producing well, remove only about one-third of the leaves from a plant at any one time.
If seed stalks and flowers develop during the spring and summer, cut them from the base of the plant as soon as they appear and discard them. Vegetatively propagated, named varieties usually have been selected to produce fewer seed stalks than cheaper, seed-produced plants. The petioles (leafstalks) are of the highest quality (maximum color, flavor and tenderness) in early spring. They should be crisp and fairly thick. Yield and quality are highest if petioles that have just reached full size are harvested before any coarse fiber can develop.
1 rhubarb stalk, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (red wine or raspberry vinegar would work well too)
2 teaspoons grainy Dijon mustard (or to taste)
1/4 cup canola or mild olive oil
In a small saucepan, simmer the rhubarb with 1/4 – 1/2 cup water for 5 minutes, or until very soft. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Put the rhubarb into a blender with the honey, vinegar and mustard. Pulse until smooth. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil. Makes about a cup.
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 ½ cups diced rhubarb
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease two 12 cup muffin pans or line with paper cups.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the brown sugar, oil, egg, vanilla and buttermilk with an electric mixer until smooth. Pour in the dry ingredients and mix by hand just until blended. Stir in the rhubarb and walnuts. Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, filling almost to the top. In a small bowl, stir together the melted butter, white sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of this mixture on top of each muffin.
Bake in the preheated oven until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly pressed, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pans for at least 10 minutes before removing.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value-Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute.
Cooking or food questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.