Archive | September 2017

Watch out for Frost

Sad to say, but summer is over and it’s time to start thinking about extending your harvest by watching those overnight temperatures. Do you know when to expect those cold temperatures or do you wait to hear it from your friendly TV weatherman? Knowing an approximation of your growing season helps when you plant in the spring and when you’re trying to get the very last of your harvest in the fall.

Take a look at the Frost Chart for the United States as provided by The Farmer’s Almanac:

https://www.almanac.com/content/frost-chart-united-states

Note: it’s alphabetic by state, not by city.

Another useful article comes from Botanical Interests as it provides information on which plants need more TLC when the frost moves in, and which ones are a bit more hardy for the later hard frosts.

www.botanicalinterests.com/articles/view/26/Frost-Tolerance-of-Vegetables

You’ll only be able to extend the season for a short amount of time before Mother Nature decides that it’s time for our gardens to rest, but getting just one more tomato or another handful of peas is worth the time and effort!

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The Best Laid Plans – Life Lessons from the Garden

by OCMGA Master Gardener Tammy Borden

I don’t know about you, but for me, the growing season in spring begins with a lot of ambition, enthusiasm and good intention. Similarly to a New Year’s resolution, I resolve to tend my gardens with the utmost care to make this year, the year when I’ll host that garden tour or send those prize winning photos to Better Homes & Gardens for publication. Pretty soon my notebook is filled with sketches of grandiose garden plans showing where I’ll transplant that Lamb’s Ear that’s overtaking my front bed, how I’ll construct and place that arbor with a climbing trumpet vine, add that shade garden, and fill each nook and cranny with colorful blooms. Ah… the hope of spring.

Now, September is here. The Lamb’s Ear is bigger than ever. The arbor still sits in my garage, cleverly displayed as a pile of wood. The new shade garden consists of a dozen hostas still sitting in their pots behind the house. But hey, those nooks and crannies are filled, albeit filled with weeds. No prize winning photos will be featured on the cover of next month’s gardening magazine. As I looked out across my yard, I contemplated what went wrong. I fondly recalled those glorious plans, wondering to myself, “Where is that notebook, anyway?”

I began to reason with myself, reciting in my head the excuses: a busy summer, the weather, those darn squirrels, the price of mulch, that sore shoulder, and the list goes on. I walked across the path, noticing the thistles that sprang up along the stepping stones. “Some master gardener you are,” I said to myself with condemning tones. I knelt down to pluck a weed. Just as I was about to go in for the kill, I noticed an insect. It wasn’t one of those scary bugs. It was a fly of some sort, one I’d never seen before, brilliantly colored in iridescent green, purple, pink and yellow. It stopped me in my tracks. The sun shone bright, making it look like a magnificent jewel resting among the thorns. It was so stunning that it distracted me from the weeds and I suddenly felt contented. As I stood up, I thought to myself, “I didn’t expect to find some thing so beautiful hidden among what seemed to be such a mess.”

There are other times I’ve made grandiose plans in my life – more important in the scheme of things than a well-manicured yard. I recall when I was younger and planning an education, a career, a marriage, a family … a life. Very few of them ever turned out the way I planned. I saw my thwarted plans as failures. Even more so, I saw myself as a failure. I wanted to be in control of every aspect of life, and when things didn’t turn out the way I wanted, I felt devastated, like a victim of circumstance. Soon, excuses began piling up, and I began blaming many family and friends for the reason my life was so miserable and unfulfilled. Life became a pity party, filled with damaged egos and emotions, and more importantly, damaged relationships.

Through the years, though, I’ve had many wise and wonderful people speak into my life – people whose stories are filled with tragedy and heartbreak more devastating than my own. Life had not been kind to them. Their plans were dashed by job loss, broken marriages, a stray son or daughter, an illness, financial struggles, and death of loved ones. Life and their plans seemed out of control. Yet, they shared their story with a profound sense of purpose and hope, and I longed to know their secret.

Their secret: control. Oh, not the pursuit of it, but the pursuit of letting it go and allowing life to unfold. It didn’t mean they didn’t plan. It didn’t mean they were irresponsible. It just meant they trusted in their heart that they would do what they reasonably could, yet understand that they couldn’t control every aspect of life. So, when life got difficult, their circumstances were no less painful, but they had learned to look for those magnificent jewels resting among the thorns. They searched for those jewels, and they distracted them from the weeds of life. And yes, no matter how out of control life felt, they found something beautiful hidden among what seemed to be such a mess.

It’s a paradox, but when we acknowledge how powerless we really are to control our lives, it’s then that we’re most empowered to live our lives to the fullest and seek out the beauty. Many plans are noble. Many are also unattainable. So, I’m determined to enjoy the beauty I discover along the way and not spend too much time mourning what could have been.

 

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!

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.

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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.

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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.