- From the antiviral studios of Univest at Lehigh Valley Public Media in Bethlehem, P.A.
It is time for another elderberry episode of chemical-free horticultural hijinks, You Bet Your Garden.
Our elderberry is about to become the new plant for you to grow.
I'm Mike McGrath, and on today's show, we'll discuss elderberries' power to fight the flu, and have a hopefully final word about whether or not there's cyanide in these berries.
Plus, your fabulous phone call questions, comments, tips, tricks, suggestions, and decidedly dramatic denunciations.
Well, we got a lot to get done today, so let's jump right in.
Give us a call at... Ted, welcome to You Bet Your Garden.
- Hi, Mike!
- Hi, Ted.
- Good to talk to you.
- Good to talk to you, too.
How you doing?
- I'm doing fine today.
We have a beautiful day here.
- And where is here?
- Live just outside of Farmland, Indiana, which is in east central Indiana.
- All right.
What can we do you for?
- Well, we had some problems last year in our garden with European squash boar, and that was a totally new experience for me, never had issues with them.
And I wanted to talk to you a little bit about what we could do to prevent and/or treat them in case we have an outbreak this year.
We've been trying to keep our garden pretty much chemical-free.
So if you would know of some things we could do on that aspect, that would be great.
- Oh, yeah!
No, I can't even imagine a chemical that would be very effective because, as you probably know, a moth flies into your garden, lays her eggs at the base of your squash vines, right where the vines come out of the soil, the eggs hatch and tiny little larvae come out and chew their way inside the hollow stem of the squash vine.
And they are hidden.
You can't see them.
And before you know it, the squash plant looks like it's either got too much water, or not enough water.
And if you tug at it gently, it'll just break off at the soil line.
Do you grow from seed, or do you start your plants indoors?
And probably with the zucchini and the melon plants, and that, we start those first and then put out in the garden.
So here's the deal.
Any squash you're growing that has a solid stem, you don't have to worry about.
They only attack hollow-stemmed squash, like pumpkins.
- So I advise you to start your seeds of all your squash just so you can get a plant that's about 6-8 inches tall.
And then, when you put it in the ground, you can do a number of different things.
You can wrap medical tape around the part where the soil meets the stem, and you want to go like three inches down, and three inches up.
Some people prefer aluminum foil.
Again, same thing.
And if you ever got a piece of aluminum foil caught in your teeth, you know that these little buggers are not going to enjoy that bite.
One interesting thing that has come up in the research is that it takes about a week, from the time the female moth lays her eggs to when the little caterpillars come out.
So if during that time you just get a sprayer of just plain water and hit that area where the vine enters the soil, you'll dislodge the eggs and ruin their day.
Some people will also wipe the vine gently with a damp cloth.
You don't need anything on the cloth, I mean, you're just removing those eggs.
And if you do that once a week, I mean, they don't have a chance.
- Sounds good.
Thank you very much.
- My pleasure.
You take care and have a good season, pal.
Michael, welcome to You Bet Your Garden.
- Hey, Mike, how are you?
- I am just Duckyyy!
Thank you, Michael.
How are you doing?
- I'm pretty good.
And where is Michael pretty good?
- Saint Louis, Missouri.
- So what you got for me?
- I actually I had a question about peony flowers.
So my wife really likes those flowers, but I don't know, like, I know there's a couple of different types of peonies, and where I'm thinking about planting it, it doesn't...
It's a very kind of shaded part of our house.
So I was wondering what advice you would have, where to start?
- Okay, is it shaded by the house or by trees?
- Kind of both.
It's on the north side, and then, there is a crab apple tree growing in that flower bed area.
- And how does the crab apple tree flower in the springtime?
Flowers really nicely in the springtime.
- Well, then I think it's worth a shot.
I can only think of two types of peonies, even though I grow them, I'm far from an expert in them.
You got the ones that you put in the ground and they break through in the spring, and bloom beautifully.
And then you've got what's called the tree peony, where the peonies have been grafted onto a rootstock.
And I don't understand it.
It frightens me.
So I presume we're talking about peonies planted in the ground.
- Um, I like both.
I know my wife likes some of the tree peonies, like, some of the woody ones.
I don't know if...
I don't know if all of them have to be... Do all of them have to be grafted?
- Oh, yeah, yeah.
I don't think that's a normal form, although I could be wrong.
- So, you know, if you say the apple tree blossoms beautifully, that area would seem to be okay.
A lot of people think about shade, and they're thinking about the summertime when the deciduous trees are in full bloom.
But in the late winter, early spring, a lot of light gets through those bare branches.
So again, the apple tree to me is a dead giveaway that it's all right.
Now in my experience, and again, I inherited a peony that has bloomed every year for 35 years.
And I don't know how long it was in the ground before that.
It is right at the edge of the road.
I have to generally put up a little bit of fencing or string to keep it off of the actual tarmac.
And it gets road salt, it gets all sorts of disrespect, and it blooms beautifully every year.
So I consider them a very tough plant.
If you're going to buy it online, you're going to want to go to online sources, and you're going to look for shade tolerance.
You might want to get in touch with the Missouri Extension Service and see if they have a list of peonies that tolerate shade.
I would not be surprised about that.
And if you're going to get them from a local nursery, as soon as they start opening up for the season, or if you know them, if they're a neighborhood garden center you frequent, give them a call and ask what they're going to have coming in.
And then, you can reverse-look-up those varieties and see if they're ones that you want.
That sounds like some good idea.
I also know we have the botanical garden here, so maybe I'll give them a call as well.
- If you wanted to go there... Well, you can go there just for the joy of it.
But I would go online and see if they have a page, or a click-through where you can ask them questions.
And also, look at the events and see if there's an upcoming event where the Q&A would be of great interest to you.
- Okay, I will do that.
- And then, for the ones I find out the variety, is there anything special about planting them?
Do I need to, like, do they like basic soil or acidic soil, or is it just put them in the ground and go for it?
- Well, the, what I'll call the natural peonies get, you know, buried in the ground a few inches deep, like spring bulbs.
But they really thrive.
They send down deep roots that, in my experience, they actually mitigate downward so that after a decade, you can't find that root ball anymore.
They're very hardy.
They don't need to be protected over winter.
And if you're going to go for the tree form, you want to make sure that no mulch or other material is touching the trunk of the tree.
You can see the root flare coming out of the bottom of the trunk.
And if there is a graft on the tree, you want to be careful not to harm that.
And that must be above the soil line.
- All right.
That's a lot of help.
- All right.
You take care, pal.
Sonny, welcome to You Bet Your Garden.
- Thank you.
- Well, thank you, Sonny.
How you doing?
- I'm doing pretty good, thanks, appreciate your taking my call.
- Oh, we appreciate your making it.
Where are you?
- I'm in Germansville, by New Tripoli.
- All right, what can we do you for, sir?
- Well, I have raised bed gardening.
That's what I've been doing for years.
And two years ago, I had put my tomatoes in, and I noticed the leaves were wilting in spots on them and identified it as Septoria leaf spot.
And so, I rotated the mixture and put them in different beds, and yet I still got it again.
And really, I don't know how to get rid of it.
Is it in the fungus, does it stay in the soil?
Just, I know it started at my tomatoes, they set, and I had tomatoes starting on there.
It doesn't really affect the tomato itself, but it really ruins the plant, in terms of leaves.
- The leaves just, you know, I have to pull them off.
- And you've got a plant that seems to be all tomatoes in the leaves.
- So I hate to say this, but Septoria leaf spot is a real challenge to conventional growers, organic growers, anybody else...
Most of us luckily have never seen it.
I've only seen it on a close friend's tomatoes.
And he's an excellent gardener.
The first thing they warn you is, if weather conditions are wet, humid and cool, the odds are against you.
Where the pathogen is, is...
There's some disagreement about that, but there is total agreement that the most important thing you can do to prevent it is to clean up under your tomato plants at the end of the season, or even during the season, if they're falling down, the leaves.
You want to have a very clean a forest floor, as they say, in orchards.
What are you feeding your plants?
- I just feed them an organic tomato food, plant food, and I just mix it in the soil.
- Okay, that sounds good.
Do you have any compost?
- No, I don't.
- How many tomato plants do you grow?
- I grew about eight total.
- I think it would be very cost-effective for you to get a couple of bags of real high-quality compost at your local independent garden center.
An organization called Coast of Maine has specialty compost that are excellent for tomatoes.
So cleaning up any debris underneath the tomatoes is important.
You know, the fact that you moved your tomatoes to a place that didn't have it before kind of worries me because, I mean, this is a disease of people who grow their tomatoes pretty much in the same spots.
And there wouldn't have been any tomato debris at your news spot, So... - Right.
- Your growing conditions, because of your microclimate and stuff, are probably conducive to this.
And once it gets established, it's really tough to get rid of.
Do you grow your own starch, or you buy them?
- I buy them.
You want to pick the healthiest ones, really inspect them well.
You would be surprised, every once in a while, you look at it tomato plant carefully, and it will already show signs of disease.
This was very clear in the late blight epidemic of like a decade ago.
Plants were introduced into the nursery trade that already had late blight, so none of us had a chance.
So examine, you know, you want to look for vigor.
You want to look for good color.
Plant, as you probably know already, plant them deeply so that the auxiliary roots can grow out of the buried stem, on top of the root ball, put a dozen crushed-up tomato... Tomato shells.
Ha ha ha!
"Honey, I tried to hard boil the tomatoes, "and it didn't work out well."
A dozen crushed-up eggshells right on top of the root ball.
Fill the soil in with the same soil you remove to plant, and then, cover the area around the plant with an inch or two of the compost.
- All right, man?
- All right, I'll do that.
That's what I'll do.
And we'll see how it goes.
- All right.
Thank you, Sonny.
Thank you so much for taking my call.
- My pleasure, sir.
- Yep, sure.
- All right, once again, it is time for the Question of the Week, which we are calling The Elderberry Saga... Slater, who listens to us on WPSU from State College, PA, can't get enough about Elderberries!
He writes, "I'm hoping you will go into even more detail "about Elderberries and tap into the enthusiastic cult "following that these fruits are gaining the way "you did with, say, persimmons, a few years ago."
Delicious orange juice is loaded with natural sugars, and it's delicious!
Did I say that already?
Slater isn't done yet...
The same can be said of the deer, Slater.
Finally, I get to talk.
I know I've been talking, but I've been talking what another guy was writing.
So I have been keen on revisiting this topic, because I have a long history with Elderberry.
Back in the '90s, the late but still great James Duke, PhD., who played the leading role in researching the potential medicinal value of plants at the USDA for 27 years, recommended I try a new product called Sambucol, which he considered to be an excellent antiviral.
Created by a female doctor of African origin in Israel, this was a refined product of ripe European black Elderberries, plus a little sugar so you didn't gag, and it showed great potential in fighting viruses like the flu and the common cold, aka rhinovirus.
Tested during a particularly nasty flu outbreak in Israel in 1993, Sambucol was able to relieve flu symptoms in just three days for 90% of those who took it.
Non-users suffered symptoms for a week!
Now in 1993, I had a five-year-old and a three-year-old.
My wife and I, and both kids started taking the recommended prevention dose as soon as summer was over.
The kids were okay with the flavor, but then they started asking for it when their classmates went down, once saying, "Dad, half the school or preschool is sick.
"You think we should double down?"
I still use the product, or a similar one every flu season.
The scientific name of the plant is Sambucus.
All or most of the natural medicinal products are made with European Black Elderberries, because that's what was used in all the research.
But as our friend Slater notes, there is also an Elderberry native to North America named Sambucus canadensis, either because it was first described in Canada, or it has something to do with yeast infections.
And, as he notes, there is a, wait for it, growing interest in this native plant.
I'm here all week.
Now about the cyanide precursors we focused on last time out, numerous universities in Missouri have been teaming up to research all aspects of the American Elderberry, hoping to make it a new cash crop in the state.
I have read as much of the research as my humble brain can absorb, and the idea of cyanide being most prominent in the seeds seems to be totally incorrect.
The most dangerous parts of the plant seem to be the unripe fruit stems and leaves, and researchers note that there's a heck of a lot more cyanide in apple seeds than in the worst parts of an Elderberry plant.
We'll provide a link to the most authoritative article I found about this in the journal Molecules.
But for now, just use ripe berries and cook them well.
Well, that sure was some interesting information about the berry of the hour, now, wasn't it?
Luckily for yous, the Question of the Week appears in print at the Gardens Alive website.
To read it over at your leisure or, of course, your leisure, just click the link for the Question of the Week at our website, which is still and will forever be... Gardens Alive supports the You Bet Your Garden Question of the Week, and you will always find the latest Question of the Week at the Gardens Alive website.
You Bet Your Garden is a half hour public television show, an hour-long public radio show and podcast all produced and delivered to you weekly from the Univest Studios at Lehigh Valley Public Media, in Bethlehem, P.A.
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You Bet Your Garden was created by Mike McGrath.
Mike McGrath was created when he failed the audition to play B.A.
Baracus on the original A-Team.
All those gold chains just pinned the boy to the floor.
My producer is threatening to eliminate my Elderberries if I don't get out of this studio.
We must be out of time.
But you can call us anytime at... Or send us your email, your tired, your poor, your wretched refuse of an email teeming towards our garden shore at...
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You guys are killing me!
I'm your host, Mike McGrath, and I'll be freeing my spring bulbs from a cover of occasionally frozen leaves... ...because I didn't do it when I told you to do it last fall.
And so, I'll do it now, and then, I'll see you again next week.