I Grew the Most Poisonous Plant in the World

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I like plants, especially unusual ones. This year I started a lot of ornamentals from seed, and one of them was the castor bean plant, which has been designated by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most poisonous plant in the world.

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The danger comes from the seeds, which contain a protein called ricin. It only takes about three seeds taken orally to kill a human adult. Of course, it’s also the source of castor oil which is used medicinally for many things.

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It might be a killer, but this plant is also highly interesting to look at. It’s sensitive to frost, so acts like an annual in this climate and grows extremely quickly, forming gigantic red and green leaves, small flowers and spiky seed clusters. I have one plant in the ground which will probably die back soon, but I also planted one in a pot so I could bring it inside and try to keep it alive over the winter. Should be interesting.

New Wood Chipper

I was joking around in a previous post about how hard it is to find cheap wood chips around here this year, and how I was pretty close to buying my own wood chipper and putting up an ad for tree services!

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Well it turns out that is exactly what has happened. Today I bought myself a used chipper and soon I will be pestering neighbors for their tree trimmings. Can’t wait!

Raised Beds Complete

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My trio of garden beds are finally complete, and just in time too. I now have an empty compost pile and the entire chicken pen floor has been dug out at least a foot deep.

I keep trying to get cheap wood chips from local tree companies for the pathways and chicken pen, but it seems everyone else has the same idea and I’ve had zero luck. The cheapest I can find them for sale is $20 a yard plus $100 delivery, which would make a single truckload cost around $400 and I’ll probably need two to last me the year. I’m pretty close to buying my own wood chipper and putting up an ad for tree pruning services!

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Everything I planted in the first bed is really taking off and if you scoop any of the material out it’s totally chock full of worms. I have one of my young does living over the unfinished beds while I work on them so she can fertilize. Once winter rolls around again I’ll probably try to install rabbit cages over every bed. Might as well get the manure where you want it without the shovel.

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I also potted up my baby tomatoes today. I had three out of the four varieties I planted germinate well, even the old Prudens Purple seeds from 2008! When I told the seed company about it, they said tomato and pepper seeds can last a decade or more if stored in cool, dry conditions. Wow!

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The lacinato kale is also feeling frisky and setting flowers. I’m looking forward to another boatload of seeds like last year, this will be my second variety. Kale is such a workhorse in the garden.

 

 

 

 

Seed Starting

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I think I can say that this is the first time in my life I’ve started my seeds on time, and properly. I now have a seedling heat mat, and was happy to find small greenhouse flats at the dollar store for a buck each. I made free plant markers out of plastic yogurt lids, and the seaweed snack trays I’ve been saving fit perfectly six to a flat. Let’s go!

 

First to sprout was the curly endive and broccoli in less that 24 hours, followed by the marigolds, okra and thyme at about 48 hours. I have my tomato and pepper seeds going, as well as some herbs that I’d like more of. I go through thyme so quickly and it grows so slowly!

The tomatoes I have started are Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Prudens Purple, Black Sea Man and Green Grape. A couple of the seed varieties are older so I may have to start more. The Prudens Purple are from 2008!

For peppers right now I have Jalapeno, Poblano, Sweet Banana (thought it was hot),  and New Mexico 6 Chili. Planning to also do Habaneros.

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I went seed shopping today and got a bunch of fun stuff. Seedy Sunday is next weekend but I just couldn’t help myself.

Starting from top left we have mixed Iceland poppies, mixed violas, variegated nasturtium, tarragon, edamame, rhubarb, borage (I know it’s a weed!), rainbow carrots, daikon radish, collard greens, castor bean, shallots, scallopini squash (pattypans), golden beets, crystal apple cucumber, lemon cucumber, brussels sprouts, celery and bergamot. Phew! Did you know that some people hide seeds behind other seeds at the seed store? They do!

 

I also picked up a flat of Winterbor kale since there were no seeds available and it’s a variety I wanted to try. It’s the curly green kind most often found at the store.

Last I grabbed some elephant garlic and a canna since I’ve never grown one and I find them lovely. It will need to be lifted in the fall and stored in a frost free area for the winter, but I canna see that being much of a problem!

Second Raised Bed Filled

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Things have been moving along well with the beds, the middle bed now has a deep layer of aged compost and manure, topped with some chicken coop flooring, and finished with topsoil/decomposed mulch from the existing garden. I hardly know where to start planting!

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While I was emptying the compost pile to fill this bed, I uncovered another rat’s nest. I knew they were hanging out in there. A couple more wheelbarrows in and a huge momma rat jumped out and ran off. We were too slow to get her. She’s still been too wily to step into a rat trap, but she sure doesn’t like the cayenne pepper I’ve spread around the perimeter of the coop where she used to dig in every night. I’m also putting it into the poultry feed itself.

 

February 29th Garden

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Peonies coming up

March has not yet hit, but the garden is already back in full force. Some things like the kale, calendula, and chamomile have been going strong all winter long.

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Cavolo Nero (aka black kale/Lacinato kale) getting ready to flower

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Self-seeded and transplanted red Russian kale from last year is starting to take off, this is a 5 gallon pot!

I wandered around today with Parsley the cat as my companion and took some pictures to share with you.  I think we’re going to have a prolific year!

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“I have decided to supervise this activity.”

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Digitalis or foxglove, started last year from seed. Should flower this year!

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Blue and pink delphiniums started super early

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Looks like I may get a few artichokes this year! Check out the self-seeded kale all around it…

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Princess Parsley surveying the raised beds

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Cheerful mini daffodils surrounded by sweet woodruff

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Some potted up Egyptian walking onions and self-seeded miner’s lettuce

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Potted up prickly pear cactus

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I love how thickly last year’s lupines are coming in

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And of course the arugula, one of my favorites. It’s already trying to bolt!

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Good thing I have all this baby arugula started. I could eat arugula all day.

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Young red mustard greens

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One of the little bee balms from last year now trying to engulf its pot. I think this is the red flowering one

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Moroccan tea mint doing excellently, as expected

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Hops are popping up

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This is a Persian cornflower I got late last year on sale. Can’t wait to see the blooms!

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My big pink tea rose in the front yard is looking good even after being blown down and staked back up last year

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The little hyssop under the nest box made it though too. This herb is too strong-tasting for me straight up but a few leaves chiffonaded into a salad are delicious

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The calendula plants that made it through the winter are pretty scraggly, but new babies are coming up all over the place now

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The wallflower is bravely bursting forth

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Valerian at the foot of the coop off to a good start

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Satisfied ruler of all she can see