Archive | April 2017

Authors in our Midst and at our Garden Conference – #2

Author Stacy Tornio

Stacy Tornio was my inspiration to become a Master Gardener. At the time, she was the editor of Birds & Blooms and a Master Gardener herself. Since then, she has branched out to pursue her goal of being a published author — and has been wildly successful. With 15 published books currently available on amazon, Stacy was the keynote speaker at our Garden Conference several years ago and a vendor this year.

Stacy’s most recent book, Plants You Can’t Killwas written with an eye toward inexperienced gardeners but there’s a wealth of information in the book for those of us who can’t figure out what we’re doing wrong! Loaded with beautiful photographs, it’s a book that should be in every gardener’s library.

From the amazon page:

“I kill everything I plant.”

Does this sound like you or someone you know? Give yourself a pat on the back because admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. And lucky for you, you can easily turn your brown thumb into a green one with the help of Plants You Can’t Kill.

Seriously—it doesn’t matter how many plants you’ve killed in gardens past. It’s time to put those experiences behind you and finally grow something in your empty and bare spots. This is the only gardening book you’ll ever need with more than 100 plant picks for every situation. You want veggies? We have ’em. You need to fill a big space? We have shrub ideas for you. You just want something pretty? We have plenty of that, as well.

The plants in Plants You Can’t Kill have been vetted by an amazing and famous panel of horticulture experts (this is just a fancy way of saying they went to college for gardening), so feel confident you’re not wasting money on yet another gardening book. These plants will actually survive your well-meaning, yet sometimes neglectful ways.

Ready for the most resilient, hardcore, badass list of plants known to gardeners? Find them and grow them with the help of Plants You Can’t Kill.

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

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Authors in our Midst and at our Garden Conference – #1

Master Gardener and author Tammy Borden

One of our Master Gardeners, Tammy Borden, is also a published author and accomplished singer. Tammy was the emcee at our recent Garden Conference, as well as the Chair of the committee that planned and executed the event. She’s a giving and spiritual human being. From the amazon page showcasing her book:

Every soul longs for purpose and new life. But when we’re in the midst of a cold, dark winter with no hope on the horizon, it can feel like life is futile and spring will never come.

Broken dreams, loss, addiction, betrayal, fears, guilt, and haunting reminders of our past can overwhelm our souls. We dream of a day when we can break free from the bondage and silence the toxic voices that play over and over in our minds, convincing us we’re failures and that things will never change.

So we search. We try more. Pray more. Read more. Thinking we just need to believe more. Yet the peace and joy we desperately seek continue to elude us, and it seems as though God does, too. We’re left feeling more alone and empty than before.

In A Perennial Life, Tammy Borden invites you to newly discover who you are and, more importantly, who God truly is so you can let go of past regrets and experience the abundant life you’re meant to live. Through heart-gripping true stories, playful humor, raw confessions, and transparent admissions of life’s deepest longings, she’ll help you embrace and redeem your own story — your seasons of life — so you can transform, grow, and unveil the significant purpose your heart longs for.

 

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

Straw Bale Gardening – take 2

Guest speaker Jim Beard shares information about Straw Bale Gardening

I’ve done posts before on Straw Bale Gardening (see June 9, 2016 here), but I thought a repeat was in order as we’re all thinking about getting our gardens going for 2017. For those who not yet tried it, this might be the perfect alternative to creating a big vegetable garden. At our Garden Conference on April 1, guest speaker Jim Beard (subject of October 15, 2015 post here) had a wonderful presentation about the benefits of trying straw bale gardening.

According to Jim, you plant from the top the first year, plant from the bottom (potatoes) the second year, add it as a wonderful addition to your compost pile in year 3. There’s a little work involved, of course, but all good gardening requires some work!

I’d be interested in your efforts — let me know if it’s successful for you!

 

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

Small Garden Design Tricks

On April 1, we hosted our annual Garden Conference with huge success. Our speakers were so engaging and provided so much information that I thought it would be fun to follow up with a couple of blog posts on the same topics.

This image from Vialii Garden Design show the effectiveness of a well-placed mirror in a garden to make it look larger.

Master Gardener David Calle talked about garden design principles, with lavish photographs of gardens from all over the world. One of his points dealt with providing a focal point at the back of your garden and another talked about providing a welcoming entrance. (Visit David’s blog at thegoodgarden.com to enjoy David’s design tips and stories of his trips.)

Both of these points reminded me of the woes from gardeners with small spaces. But, those of you with small garden spaces, be of good cheer! Fooling the eye seems to be a continuing goal of small-space gardeners, and a serpentine path might be just what you need, especially if it’s also slightly narrower at the far end of the garden. Another method of achieving a false perspective is to plant species with large leaves, like hostas or rhododendrons, close to the window or viewing point, and those with small leaves, like liriope or cut-leaf maples, toward the rear. This is a favorite devise in Japanese gardens. Artfully positioned mirrors also help to make gardens feel larger.

From smartdecorpainting.com, the arbor and painted image on the doors of this potting shed is an example of trompe l’oeil.

Trelliswork is an effective and practical way to add an illusion of space, especially when designed with the false perspective known as trompe l’oeil. The secret of trompe l’oeil trelliswork lies in diagonal lines that appear to radiate from an imaginary vanishing point — much like the perspective of railroad tracks. Because mirrors add brightness as well as the illusion of depth, nothing beats a mirror-trellis combination when it comes to improving a small, dark garden.

You can build a simple wall trellis yourself by using a horizontal and vertical grid, or attempt a more elaborate plaid of double slats, diagonal, or diamond pattered (don’t forget that you’ll have to paint whatever you build). If your talents do not lie in the area of construction, look for prefabricated panels at local garden centers or hardware stores, and in mail-order catalogs.

To weatherproof a mirror for outdoor use, with or without the trelliswork, glue it to marine-grade plywood and seal the edges with silicone caulking.

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

 

Garden Conference Success!!

Brian Hudelson, UW-Wisconsin Extension, brings his extensive knowledge of plant diseases

This past Saturday (April 1), our Master Gardener group (Outagamie County Master Gardener Association) hosted an annual Garden Conference. As always, the Conference was a huge success — even the weather cooperated by sending us a sunny day with temperatures near 60 degrees!

Guest speaker Jim Beard shares information about Straw Bale Gardening

Every year, we sell out our Conference as seats are filled by those eager for Spring, excited to hear from our guest speakers, and interested in visiting with our many vendors! This year was no exception as 200 people filled the room and enjoyed the discussions about Straw Bale Gardening, Plant Diseases, Garden Planning/Photography, Incorporating Edibles into your garden, and fun Garden Tips and Tricks.

Author Stacy Tornio talks about her new book “Plants You Can’t Kill” with OCMGA member Chris Frederickson

Gorgeous varieties of Hostas for sale

Every year, the number of vendors who join us

increases and the variety of products continues to astonish our attendees. This year, we had garden decorations, jewelry, organic herbal soaps, lotions, and scrubs, batik scarves, tree charms, stone-cast garden leaves, wood furniture, live plants, garden tools, and much, much more.

Join us next year!

The Conference is always held at the end of March or early April each year. Make a note to check our website (www.ocmga.net) next year for details!

 

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

Seed Starting

Seeds are amazing. These small packages contain everything needed to make a whole plant, and many also contain tiny sensors to tell them if the time is ripe for germination. Among those sensors is phytochrome, a pigment that is sensitive to certain wavelengths of red light.

Who cares? You will if you sow these seeds and cover them with soil. Seeds that need light, and often they are smaller seeds, will not germinate if they are buried too deeply. When a seed is struck by sunlight (or light from a regular incandescent bulb), the phytochrome changes. If the seed has warmth, moisture, and oxygen, the change in the phytochrome breaks the seed’s dormancy and allows germination. If the environment is not to the seed’s liking, the phytochrome slowly changes back and the seed waits for another blast of light when conditions are better.

Among seeds that need light to germinate are ageratum, California poppy, gaillardia, coleus, columbine, love-in-a-mist, snapdragon, Shasta daisy, strawflower, sweet alyssum, and sweet rocket. You can’t tell by looking, so following seed-package instructions is always a good idea.

Scarifying

Seeds vary in the texture and thickness of their seed coat, which affects how fast water can penetrate. The presence of water in turn allows germination.

Some plants, among them flowers like morning glory, lupine, and moonflowers, have rather thick seed coats. To get them going, suppliers often recommend that they be scarified — nicked, scraped, or chipped — to create tiny breaks in the seed coat. With these cracks, moisture can penetrate easily and the plant will spring to life more quickly.

What happens if there’s no human around to do this job? Nature has methods, but they take longer. Thick seed coats are eventually worn away by soil fungi, bacteria, the elements, or a trip through the digestive system of a bird or other animal.

Temperature

Good seed germination depends on more than adequate light and moisture. It’s also affected by soil temperature.

Different plants have different needs in the temperature department, but almost all of them will do okay at 70º to 75ºF.

Because cold tap water can lower the temperature considerably, use tepid. And don’t forget that temperatures warm enough to keep the soil in the 70s will probably make the air above the soil too warm for the seedlings when they do come up. The solution? Either supply bottom heat only, using a gardener’s heat mat or heating cable, or put the flats on top of the fridge until about half of the seeds have sprouted and then move them to the windowsill.

Seed Storage

Chances are good you will have leftover seeds when you’re done planting annuals. Not all of them are worth saving; asters and larkspurs, for instance have very short storage lives. But most will be perfectly usable next year if they are stored dry, cool, and dark.

Date each packet and reseal it with tape. Put the packets in a glass jar with a screw cap, or in a thick-plastic freezer-storage bag. Put the jar or bag in a cool place or in the freezer (away from the coils if it a self-defrosting model). When you’re ready to use the frozen seeds, remove the packets from the jar or bag and spread them out flat before letting them thaw, so they don’t get wet from condensation.

A few seeds will die, no matter how carefully they are stored, so plant saved seed a little more thickly to allow for the reduced germination rate.

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman