Mushrooms are very cool organisms. In my opinion. They grow in places we find quite undesirable (like manure). They also look alien.

Never did I know of a beautiful mushroom outside of Alice in Wonderland. Sometimes, over the last couple of decades since I have had houseplants, I discovered Leucocoprinus birnbaumii, also called lepiota lutea growing in the soil of some of my plants. The beautiful bright yellow fungi are small, and never last long. I shamelessly pilfered this photo from Wikipedia; I have none of my own for this shroom.

It doesn't harm the plants, but don't eat it. It's unknown whether it's poisonous. Jut enjoy its beauty. Oh, the common name is yellow houseplant mushroom. Here are a couple of links with more information about it:





My great aunt Mary had a garden. As kids, my younger sister and I played nearby, but tried to avoid trampling anything. Rhubarb, a very attractive plant with crimson stalks similar in shape to celery, grew there. If you've seen one, you know its green leaves are prehistorically large and broad, giving the plant an appearance similar to squash. Young stalks remind me of bright lights swiss chard, too.

I call it an old-fashioned vegetable. Why? Mostly older people seem to know of it. Grocery stores seldom carry it, and it's unheard of to many people I've met. But, serve it with strawberries in a pie, and they'll probably never forget it!!

Until it has become established with a good root system, harvesting should be spare. The first year nothing should be harvested. At all times, only the stalks can be eaten. The leaves contain a high amount of oxalic acid, which makes them toxic (slightly to extremely toxic, depending on the information source). Oxalic acid can contribute to the creation of kidney and/or bladder stones. So, just dispose of the leaves. Whether or not they are safe for the compost pile also depends on who one asks.

When something like this grows on your rhubarb:
it will probably become a seed-bearing stem. This should be removed so that the plant's energy can go into producing the stalks for harvest.

Another important thing I have learned. Fertilze, fertilize. It's a heavy feeder. My dad, who grew up in a semi-rural area outside of St. Louis with a neighbor grew the plant, told me, "If you want good rhubarb, put horse manure around the bottom of the plant." Thanks dad.

According to this web site, "rhubarb is as hardy as a weed." However, regular shallow cultivation to remove weeds is needed, as well as watching for Rhubarb curculio, an invasive beetle. The same web site has great detail about growing, harvesting, nutrition and use of rhubarb, as well as many other vegetables and some fruits. Check it out.


I can't help but notice birds in my garden. Besides the potential fertilizer they may leave behind, birds can transport seeds in that same "fertilizer", both desirable and weed seeds. They eat some insect pests as well, plus beneficial bugs. In the balance of a garden's miniature ecosystem, attempting to destroy an entire population of destructive insects may chase away (and poison) the good guys.

I have seen gold finches quite a bit in the community garden. The beatiful yellow birds with black detailing, among others, are eye-candy as surely as the flowers that attract them. A nice video of deer and several types of birds was filmed in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. To watch it, click here.

I know that furry critters can run away with bulbs one has planted. I've wondered if birds abscond with recently sown seeds, too. Crows and small birds show up in the garden community where I rent my plot. If they do, it hasn't affected germination as far as I can tell. I will have to keep my eyes open.
My sunflowers attract birds. I will gladly grow them each season I can to provide food. In fact, sunflowers are one of the top 10 flowers for birds, according to Birdwatcher's Digest, Mexican sunflowers included.

Supporting sunflowers against strong winds is a challenge I have yet to meet, but so far only one windstorm totaled mine. That was at the end of the season in 2006; frequent heavy rainfall all summer had already washed away a great deal of soil, no doubt contributing to my sunflowers' literal downfall.

Our local newspaper featured an article on bluebirds last Sunday. I have learned that their numbers have declined quite a bit.Sparrows, among others birds, have taken their place, so some people have chosen to learn how to attract and host blue birds. Some advice? Well, they naturally nest in open areas rather than wooded spaces. More advice? Check out this article:
All About Bluebirds

Maybe if we bring them back, happiness will come, too. Why do I say this? Because of the phrase "bluebird of happiness". It reminds me of "Mister blue bird's on my shoulder", a line from the celebratory song Zip-a-dee-doo-dah .

Top ten flowers for birds, according to Bird Watcher's Digest:

1. Purple coneflower
2. Zinnia
3. Sunflower
4. Black-eyed susan
5. Buddleia or butterly bush
6. Bee balm
7. Larkspur and delphinuim
8. Fuschia
9. Salvia
10. Coral bells
Details on these flowers can be found at the link:
Bird Watcher's Digest

Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania