Archive | September 2017

Bringing Plants Indoors

by Diana Alfuth, horticulture educator for Pierce & St. Croix County UW-Extension

IMGP9966It may seem like summer only started yesterday, but in northern Wisconsin, the time to watch for first frost is right around the corner. Whether you gave your houseplants a summer vacation outdoors, or have some nice container plantings you’d like to enjoy indoors for a while, keep your eye on the weather and bring the plants in before they experience chilling or frost injury.

Before you bring them in, clean off any dead or dying foliage. Look under the leaves and on top of the soil for any insects, pupae or other critters that may be hunkered down in the container. Even small frogs have been known to hitchhike indoors, and go hopping across the floor! Quarantine plants for a few days. Wasps or other insects emerge in the warmth of the house, and pests such as aphids, can spread to other houseplants.

Even though you put the plants in front of bright, sunny windows, shorter days and weaker sun will cause all houseplants to slow down growth for the winter. Therefore, don’t fertilize (which may encourage spindly growth) until late February, when a plant’s activity increases, and water only when the top half-inch of soil gets dry. You can expect some leaf drop as the plants adjust to the lower light conditions. Pinch plants back when growth picks up again in late winter to encourage bushy, robust plants, ready to enjoy inside or outside next summer!

Advertisements

Dividing Hostas

by OCMGA Master Gardener Holly Boettcher

HostaThe million-dollar question for serious gardeners is whether it is better to divide your hosta plants in late fall or the early spring. At our vineyard, we have massive perennial gardens which are home to hundreds of hostas. When you see me staring off into space while relaxing in one of the many sitting areas on our property, what I am really doing, is contemplating which hosta need to be divided, and where the gardens will expand into the next season.

From past experience, I have learned it is easier to “wrestle” the plant in early spring, when those tender buds are swelling through the warm spring earth. If I divide at this time, I don’t feel as though I am committing an act of violence against them. BUT, early in the spring, it is difficult to remember what that hosta looked like. You see, I am one of those gardeners who obsess over planting hostas so their colors, variegations, and shapes, will both contrast and compliment those around them.

For that reason, I am with the divide in the fall group! Yes, you will most certainly damage some leaves, and it may seem as though the plant suffered a setback, but in the next season they will “spring back” to put you in awe of the project which you completed.

Here is what you will need to get started:

  • A wheelbarrow, shovel, cutting tool, some organic matter, and water. Start out by assessing which plants need to be divided, then decide where you will plant them. Keep in mind that hosta leaves will scorch in full sun, so be sure to select an area that gets only a few hours of morning sun.
  • Next, dig around and below the hosta being careful not to damage too much of the root system. Lift the entire plant out of the ground and don’t be shy about asking for help if it is too heavy. With a garden hose, rinse as much of the soil from the root system.
  • Now is the time to get tuff. You can take your shovel or cutting tool, and slice all the way through the roots, and divide the plant into one or more sections. If the roots are not too tangled, it is best to pull the sections apart by working with your hands.
  • Next, add the organic matter or compost in the hole and replant one of the sections where you just dug it up. Place the other sections in your wheelbarrow and take to the area you will plant. Dig holes at least twice the size of your root system. Again, add organic matter or compost to the hole, and fill in around the plant.
  • Be sure to water all generously and regularly.Hosta33Another tip when planting is to either plant a “specimen” or in groups of 3 or 5 for an attractive look. If you have room, consider adding some companion plants such as Astilbe, Baptisia, Bleeding heart, Dianthus, or Pulmonaria (lungwort.)Above all, be patient. The hosta may not look very attractive at this time, but after it has had a long winters nap it will emerge in the spring looking as beautiful as ever!

Plant Peonies in Fall for Spring Beauty

by OCMGA Master Gardener Tammy Borden

DSC_0235Peonies are harbingers of spring. Their vast array of colors, shapes, and sizes are among the many reasons they are treasured by gardeners. Add the incredible fragrance of many varieties and you’ve won me over.

Fall is the ideal time to plant or transplant peonies. According to Nate Bremer, owner and grower at Solaris Farms in Reedsville, WI, peonies make almost all of their root growth in the fall of year, even after frosts and leaves have fallen off the trees.

“The plants themselves may look dead above the ground,” said Nate, “but the roots are busy growing and expanding their territory.” He says that planting in the fall allows the new plantings to grow roots for the coming year. If peonies are planted in the spring, they must depend upon roots that were grown the previous year to support them through the summer season, which often causes them to use up their stores of energy and ultimately weakens them.

08e35a

Peony ‘Roselette’

Nate should know. His business specializes in peonies. I personally visited his garden center of field-raised stock in spring of last year and was wowed by an early blooming variety called ‘Roselette.’ Its crisp, coral-pink, bowl-shaped blooms were 7” across and caught my eye from 75 yards away. I had to have one. Imagine my disappointment when Nate told me I couldn’t pick it up for another six months! For an instant gratification gardener, it was almost more than I could bare. But I patiently waited until October when I could finally claim my purchase. And I was rewarded this spring with some of the most amazing blooms I’d ever seen, pictured here.

“Peonies may look like they are doing very little during the hot days of summer, but they are busy storing food for the next year,” said Nate. “In autumn many of them produce leaves of gold, orange and red, adding to their value as a three season plant.”

Be sure to cut down herbaceous peonies and remove the stems and foliage in fall. Peonies are susceptible to a fungal disease called botrytis. You may have seen this on your plants. It shows up as black areas on stems and leaves during damp or wet weather. Removing the plant material helps minimize this disease the following growing season.

Nate also shared how nurseries that sell containerized peonies usually plant them in their pots during the fall season or during late winter weather and the peonies do their rooting then. When the containerized peonies are purchased and planted during the spring season the plants have completed their rooting for the year and are susceptible to many problems like drought, soggy soils, disease and heat.

If you’ve considered transplanting peonies, fall is the ideal time for that as well. Rather than transplanting a large clump, Nate recommends dividing larger clumps into 3-5 eyes. Larger clumps generally do not transplant as well. In either event, do it now and don’t be temped to wait until spring. Chances are you will be disappointed.

Thanks to Nate Bremer for sharing his expertise. For information on his unique garden center, which also specializes in Lilium and Day Lilies, visit his website at www.solarisfarms.com. Many more growing tips on peonies can be found there as well.

 

Late Season Blooms to Feed Migrating Monarchs

by OCMGA Master Gardener Rob Zimmer

27224448473_e43172180f_bThere are many great reasons to keep your gardens blooming well into fall, besides the obvious goal of wanting to have a beautiful and colorful garden as long as possible without back-breaking work. Knowing that your efforts to keep the color coming through October is helping to save threatened monarch butterflies is inspiration enough.

While many gardeners will begin to clean up the garden in September, even cutting down annual plants such as cosmos, zinnias and others that have not even begun to fully blossom, the season can be extended even longer, often past first frost. It is possible to have blooming flowers often into December, depending on the weather.

Allowing your garden to continue to bloom as long as possible is a great way to help out monarch butterflies on their long journey south.

monarch-butterflies-on-a-flowerMonarchs from our area, as well as those from further north, are passing through during fall and need our help to continue to fuel up for the long journey to Mexico. By providing a combination of late blooming annuals and perennials, we can help sustain the monarch population by giving them the energy boost they need to continue to wing south.

Planting late blooming annuals such as zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, heliotrope, lantana, salvias, as well as bulbs such as dahlias give monarchs the choices they need in abundant nectar plants to help them on their journey. Incorporating late-season perennials such as meadow blazing star, Joe-pye weed, goldenrod, boneset, false sunflowers and others in the garden provides an even greater variety of nectar sources.

Herbs, especially the many variety of flowering sages and mints, also attract migrating monarchs.

To be even more effective, planting these nectar sources in large masses or drifts serves as a beacon to monarch butterflies passing through our area.

If every gardener in our area dedicated space in the garden to planting late-season flowers, a virtual corridor of food sources would be available to migrating butterflies throughout the state throughout the fall season.

Kraut – good to eat and good for you!

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

green-cabbage

No fat, low in calories, full of vitamins – what’s not to love?!

Everyone has a favorite vegetable, right? Mine has to be cabbage; I’m crazy about it in any form, but I’m particularly fond of sauerkraut — on everything. I’ve always had dreams of the big crocks sitting in the basement, slowly fermenting this luscious treat — but I don’t have crocks nor do I grow cabbage! Doomed to buy ordinary canned kraut at the supermarket, I was pretty thrilled to find an article by Karen Atkins of propergardens.com in which she relates the story of her friend Susan who makes homemade sauerkraut. Not only that, she shared recipes and tips on how to make your own.

Interesting tidbit: 1 cup of sauerkraut has only 27 calories and 6 grams of carbohydrates, yet provides 4 grams of fiber and 34 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C.

Susan’s recipe calls for 24 heads of cabbage and a crock she describes as hip-high. That seemed like a little more work (and a lot more sauerkraut) than I wanted to attempt. A Google search for home made sauerkraut will give you 479,000 results, from which you can cull one that meets your needs. I found mine in one called “How to Make Homemade Sauerkraut in a Mason Jar”. This one calls for 1 head of cabbage — something a little more manageable for a novice.

3420197240_f5b0d5f5be_z

Makes me drool just to look at the picture!

I’m pretty excited to be trying something new, and it makes me ponder once again how much our grandparents knew that didn’t necessarily pass down through the generations. As we all became more “citified” than our country cousins, getting things from the supermarket almost guaranteed that canning and preserving could have been lost over the generations. Thank you to those who learned it, teach it, and make sure that these valuable skills are not lost.

Through the University of Wisconsin-Extension, Master Preservers have rescued all of this knowledge and share their knowledge online, along with instructions for preserving foods safely. For more information, go to https://foodsafety.wisc.edu/preservation.html.

Additional tips for enjoying homemade sauerkraut:

  • Take a little bit out of the crock (or whatever container you’re using) every day and enjoy the changing taste of your sauerkraut as it develops
  • At room temperature, it adds crunch to your sandwiches
  • Add ribbons of sliced salami and caraway seeds for a pretty winter salad
  • Serve it warm with potatoes and fresh-cooked kielbasa (or bratwurst, for those of us living in Wisconsin)
  • Chop it finely in a 1:1 ratio with Thousand Island dressing as a dip. Serve with arugula and shaved pastrami-wrapped pretzel rods.

 

 

Lucy’s Corner (volume 2)

by OCMGA Master Gardener Lucy Valitchka

In June 2016, we posted a blog from our veggie expert Lucy Valitchka with helpful tips for growing a successful garden. The tips were arranged by month and covered the summer period of June into early August. Now, we’re pleased to be able to present a fall edition to help you put your garden to bed.

darzoves-67558444Autumn in the garden has its own special needs and is as important a time as the busy springtime. For those who planted their garden later, like this writer, there will still be vegetables or fruits to harvest. Here are some guidelines that might be helpful to all. These ideas came from experience, garden columns, Wisconsin Garden Journal Calendar and other sources.

September

  • If not done already, be sure to remove any flowers from melons, squash, pumpkins as they will not reach maturity before frost.
  • Remove flowers from tomatoes after September 1st.
  • Week 4 of September pinch out the growing points at the top of Brussels sprouts stems so bottom sprouts will reach maturity.
  • When onion tops fall over and brown, they are ready to harvest. Dig them and let dry in the sun for a day. Then store on newspaper for a couple weeks in a dry place. After that, remove dried tops and store in mesh bags in a cool, dark, dry place. I hang our onion bags on hooks in our fruit cellar.
  • Herbs should be ready to harvest. I spray the herbs with water to remove any dust, then let dry on layers of newspaper on our basement table. I put a marker by each pile of herbs, so I know the variety. When herbs are completely dry I remove stems and place herbs in small labeled jars.
  • Gather any vegetables or fruits early or late in the day, provided plants aren’t wet.
  • Refrigerate or process as soon as possible. Quality of vegetable or fruits is highest at picking time.
  • Harvest pears when still light green. Separate fruit from branch with slight twisting motion.

October

  • Gather squash, pumpkins and gourds when ripe and before damaged by frost. Leave a 2-inch stem on vegetable for better storage.
  • Harvest late vegetables or fruits. This is a time for apple harvest for us and cider processing at a mill near Elkhart Lake.
  • Rake up apple leaves and fallen fruit to control disease and insect problems next year.
  • Remove all weeds from garden before they go to seed.
  • Grapes should be ready for jelly or maybe a delicious grape pie!
  • Late tomatoes make great salsa.
  • Frosts can come at the end of September or early October. Watch the weather and be sure to harvest all tender crops like beans, tomatoes, peppers etc. before you lose them to frost.
  • Crops such as kale, spinach and Brussels sprouts will actually taste better because of a light frost.
  • Plant garlic in rich, well-drained soil 5 inches apart and 1 to 2 inches deep. Select larger cloves for large bulbs. Break bulbs apart into individual cloves. The end of the clove that was broken from the bulb should be planted down. Cover with 4 to 6 inches of straw mulch.
  • Remove all used plants from garden.
  • Compost plants free of disease potential. Do not compost vine crops and old raspberry canes. That would allow disease and insect pest “carryover” next spring.
  • Burn or dispose of diseased plants.
  • Cut asparagus plants to ground after hard frost and dispose of plants.
  • Sanitize tomato cages. I spray them with hose and then Clorox Clean-Up.
  • We gather fall leaves on lawn with a mulcher mower and deposit on our garden after all plants are out of the garden. Then the leaves are plowed under in the fall to help improve the soil texture. Some people prefer the no till method so mulched leaves could just be left on top of the soil to decompose during the winter.
  • If you have raised beds, apply above techniques accordingly

November

  • Mulch asparagus bed with chopped leaves or straw to protect crowns from frost.
  • Mulch parsnips with a foot of straw or marsh hay for winter protection. Mark rows with stakes.
  • Make sure tools are cleaned and oiled for winter storage.
  • Protect the trunks of young fruit trees against animal damage with wire or plastic rodent guards.
  • Plastic guards may also protect young plants from sun scald.
  • Sit back and take a well deserved rest from garden chores!

 

“If it is true that one of the greatest pleasures of gardening lies in looking forward, then the planning of next year’s beds and borders must be one of the most agreeable occupations in the gardener’s calendar. This should make October and November particularly pleasant months, for then we may begin to clear our borders, to cut down those sodden and untidy stalks, to dig up and increase our plants, and to move them to other positions where they will show up to greater effect. People who are not gardeners always say that the bare beds of winter are uninteresting; gardeners know better, and take even a certain pleasure in the neatness of the newly dug, bare, brown earth.”

—Vita Sackville-West

Fall Container Gardening

by former OCMGA Master Gardener Jess Wickland

Fall-Containers_100450460_webI remember climbing the steps of my grandma’s house when I was little, examining the containers on her front porch. In summer, she had the typical spike, red geraniums and vinca vine. Once fall rolled around, the declining summer annuals were replaced with splashes of maroon or yellow mums, or sometimes some purple asters. I love my grandma dearly, but sometimes you have to break away from the mold and explore other options. (sidenote: this year she planted begonias — livin’ on the wild side!)

I have seen a lot of creative container ideas each year, some better than the last. One particular display I was very impressed with used pumpkins and squash in the larger containers, planted between flowers, and they were set on hay bales to give it that autumn feel. Some people like to use corn stalks to decorate their front doors; why not use that as a back drop and carefully place some containers around them? It’ll still let you have the vertical appeal of the corn stalks, but adds a little extra color. Some people even prefer to use different colored pots for fall decorations. There are greens, blues or blacks for summer arrangements, but as the autumn colors peak on the trees, the maroon, copper or even terra cotta pots come out to hold the vibrant fall arrangements.

What plants can be used in these arrangements in the fall? Some may prefer to use the stand-by: mums or asters. Mums now come in a rainbow of colors, and asters are a few shades of pink, purple or lavender. However, if you want to have plants that are bolder and don’t resemble my grandma’s fall containers, there is quite a selection to choose from at garden centers these days. My favorite plant for fall containers is the temperennial rudbeckias. Their blooms are much larger and showier than the perennial ‘Goldsturm’ we are accustomed to seeing, and are now being hybridized to be available in maroon, with green centers, or with bicolored petals. Ornamental peppers are making their way to the top of many homeowners’ lists, too. Most have small fruit that start out green and change to red or yellow as the nights get cooler. However, a newer variety has purple peppers on it if you prefer the darker colors or want to create a container with asters or kale. Speaking of kale, it’s a wonderful addition to the fall landscape. Many times, if we have a milder fall, kale can be seen “blooming” until Christmas. The colors become more pronounced as the temperatures get colder. There are a lot of different types of kale — some are more upright, while others are shorter and resemble small cabbage heads instead.

If corn stalks aren’t your cup of tea, but you still want a vertical accent for your fall arrangements, consider using ornamental grasses. CabagecontainerThere are quite a few varieties that will do well in this climate and can be planted into the perennial gardens (Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ or Miscanthus purpurescens are just a couple of examples); however, there are some shorter grasses that still pack a punch, such as Toffee Twist. If perennials are what you prefer to use, fall blooming Sedum may be the way to go. One favorite of mine is called Sedum sieboldii, or October Daphne. It’s foliage is a small rosette of blue succulent leaves, and the flowers are round pink balls that open in late September or October. You can use this one to trail over the edges of pots.

Of course, there are the tried-and-true uprights like ‘Autumn Joy’ or ‘Autumn Fire’, if vertical height is what you need. Another great perennial for fall container gardens are coral bells (Heuchera). With so many colors on the market, you’re sure to find the size and shade you’re looking for. Breaking free of the mold is something that a gardener needs to do from time to time. Why not start a trend and try to incorporate gourds, squash or pumpkins in with your fall blooming plants. Try something new — you may be pleasantly surprised!