Gardens of the Cross Timbers: The giant Lambsquarter

Becky Emerson Carlberg
Contributing writer
Henryetta getting ready for the 2021 fair.

What to do. The scarecrow frame has been standing at the end of the hall for nearly two years. Henryetta well-represented the Multi-County Master Gardeners in the 2019 Pottawatomie County Free Fair. That year’s theme: An American Flair at the Pottawatomie County Free Fair. Grasping pin wheels in each hand, wearing her best western garb, the scarecrow won second place. Her ribbon matched her red hair.

Fast forward to 2021. This year’s theme: Blue Ribbons, Buckles & Boots. If you google Blue Ribbons, Buckles and Boots, the first entry is the Pabst Blue Ribbon Belt Buckle! Seems that the recycled and enameled belt buckles are out of stock. Darn. Pabst Brewing Company was founded in 1844. Headquartered in San Antonio, the company contracts out the brewing of over two dozen beers. Suppose it would be in bad taste to put a blue-ribbon festooned vest on the scarecrow, plop the feet inside a pair of old cowboy boots, add a few empty Pabst beer cans to a belt with huge belt buckle, fasten around the ‘waist’ and call it a day! Yup, redneck tacky.

The Pottawatomie County Free Fair Fairbook is updated and accessible at freefair.org. Click on Fairbook, then scroll down to either 4-H FFA Plant Science for students or 2021 Plant Science for general folks….. or any category that interests you. Perhaps you’ve been madly canning the best of your summer produce, baked the tastiest cookies ever or took amazing photographs of a sunset, thunderhead or your kitty.

My thing is native plants. The Plant Science Open Division is divided into two sections: Agronomy—forage bundles; grains and seeds, blocks of hay, etc. and Horticulture—fruits, veggies or nuts; cut flowers, potted plants; decorated melons and scarecrows. Each section is numbered with applicable criteria for judging. Examples: G1.ten ears yellow corn. G47. Five Jonathan apples. G85. two crookneck yellow squash. G 90. five large tomatoes. G102. eighteen walnuts in Ziploc bag. G115. five Lantana stems. G124. one large Zinnia stem. G142. one stem red miniature roses. G165. one potted plant not to exceed 4 feet in height in pot no larger than 15 inches in diameter with drip pan. G188. One scarecrow not to exceed 6 feet tall, 48 inches wide and 48 inches deep open to non-profits and so on. Just follow the directions.

Register your entries Wednesday afternoon (Sept. 8) from 3 to 6 p.m. in the huge Otto Krausse Arena in the Heart of Oklahoma Expo complex. Don’t worry. Volunteers, tables and directions will be there to guide you. Entries are judged Thursday morning (Sept. 9). You should pick up your entries and ribbons Sunday morning (Sept. 12) between 8 and 11 a.m.

Any questions about plants? Contact Carla Smith at Pottawatomie County OSU Extension 405-273-7683. Carla is the Horticulture/4-H Educator and supervisor for the 4-H, FFA and Open Division in Plant Science.

All this info, and I have yet to come up with a brilliant idea of how to transform the former Multi-County Master Gardener scarecrow into a scarecrow decked out in buttons and bows….no… buckles and boots. Scarecrows are a non-profit group thing. I know there are lots of you out there chomping at the bit to make a scarecrow for your organization. They’re fun to create. What better time than now!

If scarecrows aren’t your thing, decorate a melon! Inventory your garden. My yellow pear cherry heirloom tomatoes have proven themselves to be top notch mini-toms. (Plant Science—Open Division. Horticulture Fruits and vegetables. G92. Tomatoes, cherry or grape. 1½ inches or less in diameter, 5 (uniform tomatoes).

Yellow Pear Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes

The slightly sweet but mild yellow tomatoes are great for popping into the mouth as a refreshing treat while watering the fool out of the plants each morning! Cherry tomatoes have traveled to Midwest City, Tulsa, Shawnee and Wister! The late August weather is now playing havoc with the plants. Vines are dying and tomato numbers are dropping. Will there be tomatoes for the fair?

The green beans were eaten by spider mites before I could harvest another batch, the collard greens have disappeared, the figs spent the summer recovering from last February’s blast, but the world’s largest Lambsquarter plant is growing in the beet EarthBox.

Lambsquarter (Chenopodium species) ‘wild spinach’ or ‘goosefoot’, is actually a cultivated nutritious edible green. Prepare young leaves as you would its spinach cousin. The odd name Lambsquarter comes from the first European autumn harvest in August known as Lammas Quarter. The day falls between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox. At this time lambs were sacrificed and apparently lambsquarter plants were hitting their prime.

The genus name of Lambsquarter—Chenopodium—comes from Greek for goosefoot because the leaf looks like the foot of a goose. The Lambsquarter species C. berlandieri has been grown in Mexico and South America over 7,000 years as a food plant. Archaeological research uncovered North American Native American cashes of Lambsquarter seeds dating back 5,000 years. Close relative Chenopodium quinoa has become a rather famous seed from the Andes Mountains but now cultivated worldwide in select regions.

The Lambsquarter

My 10-foot tall Lambsquarter is the only plant left standing in the EarthBox. I never knew it to be allelopathic, producing biochemicals that either benefit or, in this case, eliminate the beets. Early beets grew into fine specimens when the Lambsquarter was small, but as it grew taller and stronger, the rest of the beet crop simply gave up. Salvia, lantana, black walnut, rice, sorghum, peas and redcedar also have allelopathic properties.

Robust Lambsquarter plants produce huge numbers of tiny seeds, up to 75,000 per plant. Mourning dove, bobwhite quail, goldfinch, junco, thirteen species of sparrow, the kangaroo rat and pocket gophers eat the small seeds. Lambsquarter is a host plant for several pollinators, including two butterfly species.

So, if the tomatoes tank, one Lambsquarter stem in a clean quart jar will be entered. Plant Science—Open Division. Cut Flowers. G126. Other flowering annual, 1 stem. It’s all in the Fairbook.

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.