Archive | August 2017

Fall Lawn Fertilization

by Lisa Johnson, horticulture educator for Dane County UW-Extension

Man_applying_fertilizerFall is the most important time to fertilize your lawn. If you only do it once a year, do it now! Research, based on the growth cycle of turfgrass, shows that Labor Day is the best time to fertilize. Memorial Day is the second-best. Fertilizer is most effective when the highest amounts of root and shoot biomass are present to absorb and use it. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are the macronutrients that lawns need most. Test your soil before applying fertilizer blends so you know whether fertilizer is needed and what type to buy.

Apply no more than 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per feeding, and a maximum of 4 pounds per year. Nitrogen is usually the limiting factor in turf growth, because it doesn’t accumulate in soils as phosphorus and potassium do. Lawn maintenance fertilizers with 25 to 50 percent of the nitrogen content in a slow-release, or water-insoluble form are best. They release nitrogen slowly rather than all at once, minimizing nitrogen loss due to leaching. Leaving grass clippings on the lawn and applying 1/4 of compost reduces nitrogen fertilizer needs, too.

There is a statewide ban on phosphorus in turf fertilizers, with an exception for some organic products in some counties of Wisconsin. Phosphorus, which helps build strong roots, may be recommended in soil tests if you are starting a new lawn from seed or maintaining a lawn in low-phosphorus soils. If testing recommends application, bring your soil test results to the store in order to purchase turf fertilizers containing phosphorus. In south-central and southeastern Wisconsin, we often have high to excessive amounts of phosphorus in our soils (especially in urban soils), so more is not recommended. However, this isn’t the case statewide.

Potassium helps turf increase its disease and drought resistance and prepare for winter dormancy. Potassium is present in higher amounts in winterizer turf fertilizers, but this doesn’t mean you can only apply it in fall. In many areas of Wisconsin, we have high potassium levels in soils, so it may not be needed.

 

 

Advertisements

The Weeds of Life – Life Lessons from the Garden

by OCMGA Master Gardener Tammy Borden

C.L.-Fornari-garden-saying-905x1024I hate weeds, which means I have a lot to hate about my lawn and my gardens. But I have vowed to keep fighting despite what seems like a losing battle. Let’s face it – it’s tough keeping weeds out of our garden. It requires lots of getting down on your hands and knees, working the soil, pulling, digging, and at times using some form of concoction to finally get rid of them. It’s hard work. I swear there can be times when I’m strolling through my gardens and I may see a small weed, and I think to myself, “Oh, I’ll get that tomorrow.” Well, tomorrow comes, and behold, it had grown into something resembling a weed from the Little Shop of Horrors. I’m amazed at how quickly weeds can take over. There are other times, especially in early spring, when I go to pull a weed and catch myself, realizing I was just about to pull out that expensive perennial I had planted the fall before. I can honestly say I have carefully tended a plant that I thought was a flower, only to realize in July that I had been carefully watering and nurturing a clump of wild goldenrod.

b9188b3d54ec0c0e2a56717ea4f980e6There are weeds in life too. And like in the garden, it requires a lot of hard work getting them out. They start out unassuming and sometimes unrecognizable from the good things in our lives. Weeds can be like that. Sometimes weeds in our lives start out small and subtle… like a habit, that left unattended, can grow into a full blown uncontrollable addiction. Or a grudge against someone that, unchecked, can grow into an obsession of hatred. When I was in middle school I was bullied and made fun of by a classmate. She spread nasty rumors about me. She would meet me after school to beat me up. In gym class she would tease me and tell me how ugly I was. Slowly my self image, my value, worth and dignity faded away. I carried those wounds with me for years. My grudge against her was a weed that had eventually grown into hatred that almost destroyed me, and the roots went deep. But the day came when I had to face my weed of hatred towards her and forgive … even though she didn’t ask for it. Even though she didn’t try to make up for what she did. The unforgiveness and hatred that I held onto was hurting me more than the pains I experienced at the time. I wish I had known as a school girl about the principles of weeding: get them when they’re small, and get the whole root. If you’ve ever tried to pull a dandelion you know that it has a really deep tap root. And if you just chop off the leaves and those yellow flowers, your lawn will look pretty nice for a few days. But eventually that weed will come back bigger and stronger than ever. In our lives if we just clean up the outward appearance so that it looks good from the outside, but don’t get the root, the weeds of life will overtake us and only get stronger and more difficult to get rid of.

There’s another principle to remove weeds. Have you ever tried pulling weeds during a dry spell? Now compare that to pulling weeds after a good dousing rain. There’s a big difference, isn’t there? When the earth is nourished and softened, it’s easier to pull weeds. But I have known some people who have allowed pain, heartache and trials to harden their hearts like cement. As a result, the weeds of life that have grown through the cracks have a stronghold that won’t let go. I long for them to allow their hearts to be open, to risk having the gentle rain of love penetrate their soul to soften the grip. Our weeds in life need to be treated the same as weeds in a garden. Admittedly, I’ve toiled and worked to remove the deeply rooted weeds of my life, and yes, a lot of time was spent on my knees. And it’s a continual process. Weeds keep trying to spring up and rob the joy of life. But as with my garden, I won’t give up the battle. I’ll continue to learn to identify them and get them when they’re small, and continue to enjoy the journey

The Simple Daisy

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

IMG_3039

From my garden: Shasta daisies snuggled next to Bee Balm

Other than the dandelion, what is the first flower you remember as a child? Is it a daisy? When we draw flowers, don’t we draw a simple daisy? When imagining a summer field of flowers, isn’t it the daisy we imagine?

Daisies have been around forever and are so often underestimated or overlooked when planning a garden. And yet, you can never have too many low-maintenance blooms! Deer-tolerant and disease-resistant, Shasta daisies should have a home in every garden!

Although we may think of daisies as the simply flower with the white petals, there are many, many cultivars that provide different colors for your garden plans. ‘Banana Cream’ Shasta daisy is easy care, even in the heat of summer. But that’s not the only benefit of this beautiful, long-blooming perennial.

IMG_3037

From my garden: the yellow blooms of ‘Banana Cream’ Shasta daisy among the purple flowers of catmint

Its large 4- to 5-inch flowers are stunning in midsummer. Semidouble, they open pale lemon-yellow — a unique hue for Shasta daisy. In a few days, blooms slowly fade to creamy white. Plants are covered in flowers ranging from shades of pastel yellow and cream.

No matter which stage blooms are in, though, their golden yellow centers are a big draw for butterflies. Snip stems back to a leaf function lower on the plant, so it’s not so noticeable, for long-lasting cut flowers. Two or three weeks later, you should get a slight rebloom, though flowers will be fewer and smaller.

A compact grower that spreads to form neat clumps, ‘Banana Cream’ doesn’t splay open in the middle, like some other Shasta daisies. It has a densely branched habit, for lots of flowers — even on side shoots — and branches are thicker, too, so sturdy stems don’t flop in the rain. Plus, ‘Banana Cream’ won’t give you the same disease problems as older cultivars susceptible to stem rot, leaf spot, or verticillium wilt — it’s green foliage stays good-looking throughout the season.

This Shasta daisy likes a spot in full sun, although it will tolerate some afternoon shade in areas with very hot summers. Because it’s compact, ‘Banana Cream’ works well in containers or at the front to middle of a border. Once established, it doesn’t mind dry soil, but wet soil in winter can kill plants, so be sure to choose a well-drained site. Every two or three years, divide a crowding cluster in early spring to keep plants blooming vigorously.

Expert’s Tip: Wild Parsnip — What is it and why should we be concerned about it?

by Ken Schroeder, Portage County UW-Extension Agriculture Agent

Wild Parsnip, Pastinaca sativa, is an invasive member of the carrot family that continues to spread into unmanaged areas throughout Wisconsin. It likes to grow in sunny, grassy areas along roadsides, railroads, and field borders but is not limited to these conditions. Primary means of spread is by seed that can be moved long distances while mowing roadsides after the plant has set seed.

What’s the concern?  The biggest concern isn’t the fact that it is invasive and rapidly spreading but that it will cause burns and blistering of the skin if you come in contact with plant sap in the presence of sunlight. This is known as phytophotodermatitis. Blisters and rashes appear 24 to 48 hours after exposure. Blisters do not spread like poison ivy but are uncomfortable and may leave scars lasting for several months to two years.

Pastinaca_sativa_'wild_parsnip'_2007-06-02_(plant)How do we identify wild parsnip?  The plant is a monocarpic (the plant dies after blooming) perennial and has two growth stages. The first year it produces a non-flowering leafy rosette of pinnately compound leaves with 5 to 15 leaflets.  It looks a lot like celery at this stage.  In the second to third year, it produces a flowering stem four to five feet tall. Stems are grooved, hollow, and have alternately arranged compound leaves with 2 – 5 pairs of opposite, sharply toothed leaflets and petioles that wrap around the stems. Flowers are flat-topped clusters (umbels) of yellow flowers 2 – 6” wide blooming in late spring to mid-summer in Wisconsin. Seed begins to form mid to late July changing from yellow-green to tan as they mature.  Along with the seeds maturing the stems and leaves begin to senesce, turning tan to brown in color.

How do we manage wild parsnip?  Early detection when populations are small allow for pulling or digging.  Be sure to wear gloves, long sleeves, long pants, and safety glasses or face shields to avoid skin contact with the sap.  One can simply cut the taproot with a shovel or spade 1 – 2” below the soil surface.  With larger populations mowing is an option if done after emergence of flower heads, but before seeds enlarge.  Additionally, several chemical options exist.  Be sure to read and follow label directions when using chemicals.  For more detailed management options see the UW-Extension wild parsnip management publication A3924-15 at the Learning Store website https://learningstore.uwex.edu/ .

What can I do as a Master Gardener to help?

  • Know how to identify wild parsnip and report locations at the Wisconsin First Detectors Network website http://fyi.uwex.edu/wifdn/get-involved/report-invasive-species/.  Several options are listed including a downloadable smartphone app.
  • Educate others about the existence and danger of wild parsnip.
  • Carry a sharp shovel or spade with you and when you see only one or a few plants consider cutting off the stems below the soil surface.  As long as they haven’t gone to seed the plants can then be left to die.  Check back the next year to see if additional plants emerge and cut those too.  CAUTION do not do this on private property without getting permission from the property owner.

Additional invasive species information

  • The University of Wisconsin Weed Science website http://fyi.uwex.edu/weedsci/ is a great resource for weed id and management info and has several short YouTube videos to help with identification.

The Wisconsin DNR invasive species website http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Invasives/ has a wealth of information on not only terrestrial invasive species but aquatic and wetland invasives as well.

Plant-derived Pesticides

The organic arsenal does include a number of pesticides, but organic gardeners, knowing that “natural” is not the same thing as “harmless”, use these only as helpers of last resort. Although they are comparatively benign, all can hurt non-target organisms like bird, fish, and beneficial insects. Some, including ryania, are very strong poisons to mammals as well; while if rotenone gets into your system, it may help trigger the development of Parkinson’s disease.

Always wear protective clothing when applying pesticides. Read the label carefully to be sure the pesticide you’re using is approved for the pest (and the plant) on which you intend to use it. Follow dosage directions; this is definitely one place where more is not better.

95-121

Corn earworm damage

Neem, from the neem tree, Azadirachta indica. Multiple actions: repels pests, destroys their appetites, kills them by disrupting their growth. Also has some fungicidal properties. Useful against a wide range of pests including flea beetles, whiteflies, corn earworms, cabbage loopers, and root-knot nematodes.

Pyrethrum, from flowers of Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium and C. coccineum. Instant knockdown, which is very gratifying. But it doesn’t always last; if the dosage is improper or the insect has resistance, the victim gets up and staggers away as soon as you turn your back. If you use the proper amount, however, and manage to get it to land on the target, pyrethrum is useful against almost any invertebrate that may be plaguing you. (Be very careful about using pyrethrum or ins derivatives on cats; small amounts rid them of fleas, but if you overdo it, you will also be rid of Fluffy)

Rotenone, from several species of legumes in the genus Lonchocarpus. Use it and watch the beetles die. Mexican bean beetles, potato beetles, cucumber beetles — even the adults of these hard-to-kill scourges are not immune. Neither, unfortunately, are fish, birds, small mammals, or much of anything else. Rotenone degrades rapidly, but it’s very strong stuff while it lasts.

ICW_larvae

Imported cabbage worm and the damage it can cause

Ryania, from a shrub called Ryania speciosa, and like rotenone, short lived but no joke. Use on the caterpillars of codling moths and cabbageworms, and the larvae of Japanese beetles, bean beetles, and potato bugs.

Sabadilla, from the South American plant Schoenocaulon officinale. Use only when all else fails, on things like thrips, squash bugs, and tarnished plant bugs. Sabadilla is extremely toxic to bees; be sure to apply it only after they have gone home for the night.

Peperonyl butoxide (PBO) may or may not be plant derived; it can come from sesame oil but is also chemically synthesized. It is an insecticide in its own right, but it is most commonly used as a synergist, combined with other pesticides (especially pyrethrum). It destroys an insect’s ability to fight off the pesticide, making the product more effective, and at lower doses, than it would otherwise be. But PBO is not on everyone’s organic-acceptable list, and may cause health problems, so you may prefer to avoid it.

 

The Story of Black-eyed Sue

By Anne Garde & Alan Okagaki,  National Public Radio – 1986

black-eyed-susan-1344895368GENI rose early, at four o-clock, the morning glory still iris away. I was worried. Anemone of mine, Johnny Jump Up, was looking for me, and I’d heard he was carrying a pistil, a 357 magnolia. Iironed a periwinkle blouse, got dressed, and took a sprig of a dusty Miller’s beer. Johnny Jump Up was one of several rhizomes who’d gone to seed in Forsythia, Montana. He was convicted of graft in 1984, arrested again in ’85 for digging up coreopsis. Johnny then drifted on the wind up to my neighborhood, the corner of Hollyhock & Vine. He was a petal pusher in a phloxhouse nearby.

I knew he was trouble when he rode-a-dendron to my house and said, “Hey, little Black-Eyed Susan, wanna come over to my place and take a look at my vetches?” I didn’t want to tell him in all the cosmos, there was no one for me but Sweet William, so I said no, I was taking care of a pet dogwood that had a litter of poppies, which was weird cause she was just spade. Johnny had no sense of humus. He stamped his foot with impatiens.

“You’ll rue the day you turned me down,” he snapped. Then he spit a wad of salvia into the petunia on my portulaca and stalked away. “Forget me not, Sue, cause I’ll be zinnia.”

Ever since then, he’d cultivated a relationship with Lily of the Valley, a self-sowing biennial. One day, I aster what she seed in him. “Mum’s the word on this” she said, “He’s got a trillium dollars in the bank.”

“A trillium?” I snorted. “He’s lime to you. Besides, what about love?”

“Alyssum,” Lily said. “You bleeding hearts are all alike. Kid, you can go for a guy who’ll azalea with affection, orchid you can be like me and try to marigold”.

“Now begonia.”

I was in my kitchen, mullein over these past events. It was thyme to quit dilly-dahliaing. The calendula read August 3rd, and Johnny had sworn to propagate vengeance before the snowdrop. I hopped into my autolobelia and drove over to Daisy’s for help. Daisy was a pretty little transplant from Florida, who had wilted in the humidity there, but was now rooted in the well-drained soil of Bloom County.

Daisy mostly took care of her baby’s breath, but lately she had branched out and was columbining work with home life. “We’re all sick today, I think it’s gaillardia. Even the cat has got harebells. If we could take a knapweed be o.k.” Daisy’s face was blight yellow. She would not be of any help.

I beetled feet over to Sweet William’s garden plot. “Will, am I gladiolus to see you.” “Black Eyed Sue, I’ve been praying mantis see you. Let’s lilac in the snow on the mountain before it all melts down the geranium. Let’s ride a sage to Tansynia. It’s only a chamomile away.”

“Don’t be fritillary, honeysuckle,” I said, clinging to him. “Look, here comes the clematis of the story.” Oh, oh. Johnny had hired Pete Moss, a bearded iris-man to do me in. He was wearing a blue nectar and larkspurs. He had a larva men with him. The pests! They began to charge. In all the confuchsia, I said to Will, “Stem still and give me some ground cover.” I ran down the primrose path in my lady slippers, right towards Pete. “Don’t gimme any flax, bud, or I’ll slug ya. You’ll look dandelion in the alley. “Don’t gimme any flax, bud,” Pete quoted me verbena. It nettled me. I clovered him with a 2X4.

“Sound the timpansy,” we sang “We won.” Pete moaned, “Curses, foliaged again. I noticed Johnny Jump Up planted on the border. I’ve sunk pretty loam, Sue, but now I’m be turning over a new leaf.”

“Bouquet,” I said. And he did. Will & I lived pearly everlasting.

 

Wet vs Dry Fertilizer

Dry fertilizers are easier (and quicker) to apply, especially when large areas are involved, and though they are slower to take effect, they last longer. In most gardens, wet fertilizers are used for foliar feeding, sprayed directly on plant leaves for immediate uptake. They produce rapid results, but their action is short-lived.

Dry fertilizers are usually mixed with soil before planting. Later in the season they are used as side dressing, spread in a narrow band about a foot away from growing plants and then scratched in.

Ideally, dry fertilizers break down slowly, providing a steady stream of nutrients with minimal danger of root burn, weak hypergrowth, and other problems caused by too much, too soon. In practice, however, this doesn’t always work out. Dry chemical formulations are highly soluble, and while they are more durable than liquids, they disperse rapidly in warm, wet weather. They can work well, but it is important to use minimum amounts, mix them well with the soil, and keep them away from plant roots.

Most organic amendments, on the other hand, are minimally processed. They must be broken down by weather and soil microbes before the nutrients they contain are available to plants. While there are exceptions, as a general rule these natural products pose none of the dangers of rapid breakdown, and unlike chemical fertilizers, they offer long-term soil-building benefits. But there’s no denying they’re slow to download; you have to plan well ahead.