Archive | October 2017

Putting Your Garden to Bed

by OCMGA Master Gardener Holly Boettcher

garden-waste-1047259_960_720After a long summer of enjoying your garden, it is time to put it to bed for the winter. This task may not be as joyous as the excitement that you experienced in the spring, but believe me, if you properly tuck them in, your springtime gardening will be a much easier transition if you follow these easy tips.

Vegetable Garden

Carrots, potatoes, & beets can be left in the ground and then harvested in early winter. You may want to mark them with a stake so you can find them. Pull all plants such as tomatoes, peas, beans, and squash, and add them to the compost bin. Do the same with weeds. Take extra steps to eliminate disease by either burning or bagging anything suspicious and disposing of properly. By lightly turning over the soil, you will help to eliminate a lot of pests that would overwinter in your soil.

A Good Time for Soil Test

Why not take a soil sample to your nearby county extension office or coop? This is a great time to learn if your soil needs to be amended. As a last step, either add compost such as leaves or well-rotted manure, or consider a cover crop of winter rye which will add nutrients to your garden.

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This is the time of year to discontinue fertilizing your rose bushes. They no longer need to be fed in order to encourage blooming. It is time for them to go to sleep for the winter. Do prune back any damaged or dead canes. Mulch generously just above swollen area (sometimes referred to as the onion.) Protect your rose bushes from rabbits and voles by using a type of lightweight wire fencing which you can find at a garden center.

Perennials

After the first frost, your hosta plants will shrivel and be easy to clean up. Wear some waterproof garden gloves because they will feel a bit smarmy. And the stalks of day lilies should be removed although you can keep up with this during the summer too. Once the lily plants go dormant, they can be cut back to about 4 inches.

Trees

Don’t forget to wrap the trunks of young trees to protect them from rabbits and other nibblers.

Give Them a Drink

Be sure to water generously. My gramma always said it is good for the plants to go to bed with their feet wet!

55d70e9ac4dd4d4eb3843097d66bcaa0--winter-plants-winter-gardenNot Everyone is Ready for a Winter Nap           

My preference is to leave coneflowers, aster, goldenrod, and ornamental grasses over the winter so the goldfinches and other birds can feast on the seeds.   An added bonus is by not cutting back your grasses as well as shrubs such as hydrangea, you will smile as they peak through the glistening snow adding a splash of winter interest!

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Growing Pine Nuts

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Yummy pinyon nuts from P. edulis

Who else loves pine nuts on salads? We live in Wisconsin where we have tons of pine trees, so why not just harvest our own, right? Uh, no! Turns out that the most famous variety (pignoli) comes from the Italian stone pine, Pinus pinea, a handsome umbrella-shaped tree that is native to the Mediterranean.

Dr. Peter Del Tredici, the director of living collections at Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum, said the best bet for our cold weather climate is P. koraiensis. It is the source of those ubiquitous Chinese pine nuts, and it is a very tough character, able to withstand high winds and temperatures of 20 to 30 below. But before you go rushing out to plant a few, bear the following in mind.

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Cones from P. koraiensis

Nut-bearing pine trees tend to be slow growers, and though grafted plants might bring your wait for the first nuts down from 15 or 20 years to something more like five or six, it’s going to take a good long time before you see much of a crop. When it comes, the crop will be encased in extremely hard shells. The shells will be tightly clasped in the cones, and the cones themselves will be well fixed to the upper branches of the trees, from which you must wrench them at the appropriate time. (You can’t wait for them to fall of their own accord; by that time the blue jays and squirrels will have beaten you to the nuts.)

Has Dr. Del Tredici ever harvested nuts from the well-established specimens at the arboretum? No, he said: “The cones are unbelievably sticky, for starters — just to handle them is a commitment.”

Planting the trees is a commitment, too, of space as well as time. Though our pinyon-nut bearing Southwestern native. P. edulis, can take bush form, and some P. cembra cultivars are modest in size, P. pinea is a big tree, and P. koraiensis is huge. Dr. Del Tredici saw some in China that were more than 100 feet high.

The Fruits of Orchard

by OCMGA Master Gardener Lynne Finch

After moving into our house with fruit trees in the backyard, I envisioned gently dropping ripe fruit into a basket while my smiling children danced around. Seductive aromas would drift from my kitchen as I baked magnificent pies and canned and froze our bounty. That was the dream.

In our first walk-through of our orchard, we saw an apple tree with a five-inch diameter trunk only a few feet away from a young cherry tree. A few steps away stood a pear tree. Nearby grew a plum tree partnered with another apple tree.pear-453828_960_720

These five small trees stood like a wee forest in the equally small backyard behind the kitchen. Even to a new gardener like me, they looked a bit too cozy. The cherry and plum trees were young enough to be transplanted to the big spacious side yard. The other apple tree had to go to make way for our vegetable garden. This gave the pear and apple trees some breathing room.

The cherry and plum staged their annual contest for best springtime bloom with the plum always coming in second. Not only were the plums not tasty, but a nasty winter killed the tree. As for the traditional Christmas dessert, did you know there are no plums in plum pudding?

The cherry tree looked good year round, the bark a smooth purplish-brown. Cherry blossoms in spring ripened like little red ornaments during the summer. The squirrels scampered on the branches, hanging upside down eating until their faces dripped red with juice.

With the abundant fruit on the tree, I filled my basket and started pitting. Alas, for each pit there was at least one worm. Never did make a cherry pie. A few seasons later half the tree died, then the year with no blossoms or buds. Cannot lie about it; we cut down the cherry tree. Sitting in front of the fireplace, the kids would wave glowing branch tips while cherry aroma filled the room.

Now we were down to two fruit trees. The pear tree produced for several years. Each fall I lined up the canned jars in the basement. Then the tree split and lingered a bit, the last year standing forlornly with a few pears dangling on a single branch.

apple-tree-1593216_960_720The lone survivor is a full-size mature apple tree, greeting us each morning through our bedroom window. Each spring the blossoms tell a different story. Many blossoms, few blossoms, early ones, late ones, fast petal drop, slow petal drop.

The trunk is now nearly 20 inches in diameter with strong branches reaching out like fingers on giant hands. My kids climbed in and sat like birds in a nest. Now my grandkids settle in an even bigger nest. A visitor once commented on the great bones of our apple tree. Indeed, it is a magnificent sculpture that spreads itself out to shade our porch.

The apple tree and I continue to travel through the seasons together; blossom time, petal drop and the progression of windfalls that I faithfully pick up. The tree peeks in through the kitchen window as I mix its tart, sweet flavor in pies and applesauce. When all other trees stand bare, the apple tree hangs on to its leaves, determined to be the last one to give up and settle down for the winter ahead.