I just came back from the bird store where I got some black oil sunflower seeds for my wild birds when I thought why not grow my own for next year? My favorite sunflower up to now has been the Titan sunflower which is a striped seed and is not a black oil seed. Black oil seeds compared to striped sunflower seeds have a higher oil content and are meatier for birds. They are also easier for small birds to crack open. I already cut off the sunflower heads from sunflowers for birds so why not give them what is really good for them. One variety of black oil sunflower seed that I found is Peredovik Black Oil Sunflower Seed from Russia. In 2016 you can get it at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. You can also just plant the black oil seed you get in your birdseed. I read that the sunflowers grow from 3-6 feet tall. So this year I’m going to add them in with my other sunflowers that I grow for a treat for the wild birds.
Hmm, now I wonder if I can grow that real expensive finch seed, Nyger? I’ll have to look into that! It is super expensive but I don’t know if it will grow here. I’ll get back to you on that one..
2014 update: Try to grow some from your birdseed mix but if yours don’t grow from your birdseed, go to the site above to buy some that will germinate. This is the most current seed company to buy from.
The other Purslane, Portulaca oleracea, is considered a common weed in most of the U.S but did you know it is also edible? Look how different it looks from the cultivated types I just posted about. I want to write about both aspects of it as a food source and also as a weed. Purslane thrives in New Mexico where the dry climate is conducive to its needs. The plant looks like a succulent with its thick reddish, flesh colored stems and milky leaves. It has a long taproot and produces a yellow flower with many seeds.
closeup of purslane weed-photo from gardenguides.com
This purslane is edible (like the cultivated types from Europe) when young and can be used in salads or cooked like greens. It is more and more being discovered as a food source and is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and antioxidants. In fact it has more Omega-3 fatty acids than many fish. For those of you who are strict vegetarians and don’t want to eat fish, this might be a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids for you. For more information on health benefits, go here or here. So next time you pull it, you might try it in a salad or steamed. The stems, leaves and flowers are edible so maybe next time I see it flowering (before it seeds) I will pick them and put them in a salad. The plant just doesn’t look that appealing to me, but more and more people are eating it.
Now as a weed, it IS considered a nuisance here in NM. It does produce a deep taproot but I find if I just take my hoe and chop it off at the ground when it first germinates, or pull it before it seeds, I can control it. If you let it go to seed, it can be invasive. The older the plant, the harder it is to pull that taproot out and you will need a shovel to completely remove it. Make sure you pick up all stem pieces as it can reproduce itself from them as well. Don’t put in your compost because of this.
So is it a weed or a food source? Depends on who you talk to!
Now’s a great time to look at all those new seed catalogs we’ve been receiving. I’ve gotten a few new ones (for me) as well. I am now going over them and deciding which seeds I can’t live without! So many choices! I’m only adding a few new tomatoes as I par down the list from the past 2 years. That and I am not going to grow as many as last year because I need to rotate them to new areas. I’m planning on growing more flowers down in the main garden as well. For more information on all my favorite seed catalogs, go to my catalog page at the top of the blog (also on the right sidebar)
two new seed catalogs for me for 2011
I also got 2 new seed catalogs-One’s called ‘bbbseed’, which features heirloom vegetables and wildflower seeds. It’s veggie section is little but what interested me in the catalog is it comes out of the Denver area and seems to be a good resource for wildflowers for our areas. You can order a catalog at www.bbbseed.com. The other catalog is John Scheeper’s Kitchen Garden Seeds. It looks interesting with it’s larger veggie and flower section. You can order one from www.kichengardenseeds.
Here is a picture of the garden arbor in my entrance to the veggie garden. The ‘Rattlesnake’ beans, a pole variety that can grow 13 feet a season, are doing really well covering the arbor-just like I envisioned when I built it at the beginning of the season. An added bonus is they taste great. You only have to pick the beans before they get too big and tough. I ate some raw right out of the garden and they have a nutty sweet flavor that I like better than the ‘Contender’ bush beans that are just finishing up. Rattlesnake beans are a winner!
entrance right side
Also pictured to the right of the arbor are chartreuse colored ‘Golden Sunshine’ Scarlet Runner beans I got from Cook’s Garden growing on the fence. They come from England. I love their bright yellow green leaves against the other greens. I grow them just because they are so beautiful and I love that purple varigated color of the seeds when they are dried. They haven’t flowered yet as they are just climbing the fence but when they do, the bright red blossoms will look great against that yellow-green.
Behind the Scarlet runner beans, still on the right side of the entrance are my giant ‘Titan’ sunflowers that will be fantastic a little later when they get their huge flowers. They will grow up to 10 feet tall and have heads that can get up to 24 inches wide! I call all sunflowers the guardian angels of the garden. Did you know sunflower flower heads follow the sun all day long? Sun worshipers! Hence their name. They are so majestic! Behind them are various flowers that will be blooming soon to add color and attract beneficial insects.
entrance inside left
On the left side just inside the entrance, are asparagus fronds, calendula, ”Bright Lights’ chard, ‘Chianti’ sunflowers, multicolor ‘Japonica’ corn from Seedsavers Exchange and other flowers coming along. I got a late start in this section of the garden but it should look great later this month and I will take more pictures then.
This year I want a beautiful garden as well as a bountiful one. I planted tons of flowers in the entry way and along the entry fence. Inside the entry fence I planted Titan sunflowers again (I call these the ‘guardian angels’ of the garden) which will grow behind some scarlet runner beans (good hummingbird attractors) that will grow up the fence. Last year the Titan sunflowers got 10 feet tall and heads up to 18 inches across. Then in the entry arbor I planted rattlesnake beans (a green and purple streaked pole bean) that hopefully will grow all over the arbor giving me a very lush, green entryway (and tasty one too). Then after you walk through the arbor immediately on the left, I’m going to try amaranth-Loves-Lies-Bleeding and cockscomb-Flamingo Feather. I saw these on the Seed of Change garden tour last fall here in NM and they looked fantastic, so I thought I’d try some. I also planted sunflowers-Goldie and Chianti, Queen Anne’s Lace, Zinnias and Cosmos flowers. All this with the asparagus that I had planted last year in the entryway. I figure I have a few years till the asparagus kicks in-so I’ll plant pretty stuff around it till it does. I am also putting a glass water basin for the birds in this section of the garden. Last year it was a nice entry and I hope it will be even better this year with the arbor and the flowers. Hope to have some good pictures later in the season. Ah, fantasies of how it might be..
I’m going to have an edible flower garden section this year. I like to cook and want to incorporate these in my cooking. Following is the list of edible flowers that will be in it or are already on the property:
Lavender (in existing different area)
Lemon Gem Marigold
Alaska Tip Top Nasturtiums
Roses (in different existing area)
I just realize it looks like from the photos so far that I only grow giant pumpkins so I want to show you some titan sunflowers which got 10 feet tall last year. Really beautiful. Can’t wait to grow them again this year. The birds love them too. I call them the guardian angels of the garden.