This article originally appeared in our Fall 2015 newsletter by OCMGA Master Gardener Lucy Valitchka. The information is just as relevant today as it was then.
This edition of our newsletter brings us to the end of the harvest season and preparations for fall. Hopefully all our readers had a successful season. It would be fun and helpful to hear from anyone who had great success with some vege- tables or fruit as well as frustrations encountered in growing certain crops. I didn’t get our garden planted until the first week of June, but surprisingly it has pro- duced very well so far. The tomatoes look good at this writing with few signs of disease so far! The squash borer has not made an appearance in the zucchini, so guess what we are sharing with others?
On the other hand, the weeds have had a ball carpeting the rows between vegeta- bles. If I had one full week to concentrate on weeding maybe that issue would be solved. In the Volunteer Vibe, which I received August 19th, Diana Alfuth, Pierce Co. UW-Extension Horticulture Educator, gave some excellent suggestions about dealing with weeds. I know the soil should be mulched, so the seeds don’t have light to grow. It also helps to not till the soil more than necessary because it brings up dormant weed seeds. I have the mulch, but need something called time to get the job done. I have learned that at this time of year a gardener is almost like a juggler. Weed, mulch, harvest, preserve. What do I do first? I’m a big believer in harvesting and canning as soon as possible. That means the canning gets done before the weeding. My hat is off to all of you who have battled the weeds and won!
Here are guidelines for the vegetable/herb garden in late fall taken from the Madison Area Master Gardener’s Association garden journal which is no longer published. The tips are still valuable.
Remove newly set tomato blossoms and new growth because fruit won’t have time to mature.
Sow annual ryegrass or oats for winter cover and place green manure in beds that won’t be planted until late spring.
Remove all weeds from garden before they go to seed
Remove the growing points at the top of Brussels sprout stems so bottom sprouts will reach maturity.
Dig and pot parsley, chives, and tender herbs for transfer indoors to sunny window.
Harvest carrots, beets, and turnips before first frost kills foliage.
Gather squash, pumpkins, and gourds when ripe and before damaged by frost. Leave 2-inch stem on vegetable for better storage.
Clear garden beds immediately after harvest. Destroy any diseased plants by burning, composting in a hot pile, or sealing in containers for disposal.
Prepare vegetable garden soil for early spring planting. Remove old stalks to prevent insect and disease problems next year. Spread manure, incorporate into soil and mulch with straw.
Rejuvenate rhubarb by dividing into quarters and replanting.
Mulch brussel sprouts to prolong harvest.
Water plants well for more cold tolerance.
Plant garlic in rich, well-drained soil five inches apart and one to two 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 five to six inches of straw mulch.
Plant Jerusalem artichokes. (Note; I have never planted these. Has anyone tried them?)
Mulch carrots, parsnips, and leeks with a foot of straw or marsh hay for winter digging. Mark rows with tall stakes.
Mulch asparagus bed with chopped leaves or straw to protect crowns from frost.
Drain gas from tiller.
Harvest the last of the hardy vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale. These will continue to produce until a hard frost below 25 degrees F.
Every year I say I’m going to plant garlic in my garden, and every year (so far) I have forgotten to do it. Because it needs to be planted in the Fall and overwintered here, it’s not something that I readily think about when putting my garden to bed. This year, though, I’m going to remember! (Famous last words)
Garlic is one of the oldest cultivated crops. It was fed to the builders of the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt in the belief that it gave them strength. Garlic may repel vampires but it attracts leeches. Experiments show leeches take 14.9 seconds to attach themselves to a hand covered with garlic, but 44.9 seconds to such blood from a clean one. In view of this, it may be wise to know that a recommended way to get the smell of garlic out of your hands is to rub them with salt and lemon juice and rinse; to banish garlic breath, chew on fresh parsley or a coffee bean.
The average American eats over 3 pounds of garlic a year and the habit is clearly an old one. The city of Chicago is named after garlic: “chicagaoua” was the Indian word for wild garlic.
The word ‘garlic’ occurs twenty-one times in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and only four times in the entire works of Shakespeare.
The longest continuous string of garlic contained 1,600 garlic bulbs and was almost 120 feet long.
When I moved to the country and a home surrounded by beautiful, mature trees, I was thrilled at the prospect of filling each corner and pathway with beautiful woodland perennials. I thought I found my paradise for growing what had become my obsession — hostas. What could be better for growing this tough, shade-loving perennial than towering trees that provided high, filtered shade? So, with shovel in hand, I began digging. In some areas, the soil was a beautiful, rich loam. But, to my surprise, I had difficulty slicing through the ground with my spade in some locations. While the soil was still beautiful, there was a mass of fibrous roots. Despite my concern, I decided to plant my beautiful established hostas that I brought from my previous home.
Within two years they shrank to one-third their size in the new location. The competition from the tree roots was too much for my beloved hosta to endure. Through the years I became accustomed to this battle in certain areas of my yard and have made adjustments with some success. Here are a few tips that will hopefully help if you battle a similar problem.
Cobalt blue containers make a beautiful counterpoint to the hosta leaves
I have a new fondness for hostas in containers. I am especially fond of cobalt blue containers, which contrast beautifully with the many shades of hosta leaves. I am overjoyed at the results. If you choose to plant hostas in containers, make sure you give
them enough room, keep them well-watered, and after they have died back in the fall, bring them into your garage. I had some hostas double in size in one season using this method. I love placing them out in the garden among other perennials. The added height and color of the containers adds interest and a great focal point.
Where I’m determined to plant hostas in the ground in competitive root situations, I have resorted to planting them in two gallon (or more) black plastic pots and burying them right in the ground. I left several in the ground over winter and they came up beautifully this spring. Obviously, this can eventually limit the size of your plant, so bury as large of a pot as you can and plan to lift it out every few years to divide. There are large pliable mesh containers used in the nursery trade that are coated with copper hydroxide on the inside. The chemical regulates and deters roots growth of the nursery stock planted inside the pot. When hostas are planted in containers that are turned inside-out (so the coating is on the outside), exterior roots from surrounding plants and trees are deterred from penetrating the mesh. Some online forums rave about this method and I hope to trial it this year.
Planting the Right Tree
If you plan on planting a tree with the hopes of beautiful perennials beneath its shady canopy, keep the following good and bad in mind.
The Good: Top picks for friendly tree roots
• Oak – White, Pin, Burr, and other varieties
• Ash – although the threat of the Emerald Ash Borer makes this a futile choice
• Japanese Maple
• Shagbark Hickory
• Japanese Chestnut
• European Larch
• Japanese Tree Lilac
• Pagoda Dogwood
• Honey Locust
The Bad: Trees with invasive tree roots • Box Elder
• Maple – Silver, Norway, and Red
• River Birch
• Hackberry • Spruce
If You Can’t Beat ’em, Join ’em
In some locations in my yard, I have become resigned to the fact that I cannot grow hostas. I have dug them out and relocated them to a friendlier location. Rather than abandon the perennial bed completely, I have found some plants that seem to coexist with those pesky roots. While these varieties don’t thrive, they do well enough to warrant their placement:
• Japanese Painted Fern
• Lady in Red Fern
• Lamium (ground cover)
• Sweet Woodruff (ground cover) • Perennial Geranium
Give some of these techniques and recommendations a try. I’m still battling in some areas, but I’m determined to win!
By OCMGA Master Gardener Steve Schultz (article originally appeared in our Fall 2015 newsletter
“The fattest and most scrumptious of all flowers, a rare fusion of fluff and majesty,” wrote garden writer Henry Mitchell. Of course, he was speaking about my obsession, the peony! I’ve lost count of the different peonies in my garden, but my guess would be that I have about 25 the last time I looked. And yes, I found a ragged Coral Charm peony at Lowe’s last week that cried for me to take it home. Now I have to find that open area to plant it. That could be a bit difficult.
As we come to the fall of the year, there are often questions about seasonal care. The care really depends on the type of peony you have.
If you have the type of peonies that your great grandmother grew, it is probably an herbaceous peony. In short, it dies completely to the ground each winter. After the first killing frost, you can clean up these peonies with your clippers. I leave about three inches showing so I know where they are in the garden. I have also left the dead foliage until spring and all seems fine. The only time you really want to get rid of the foliage is when you have any kinds of mildew during the summer. Then it’s important to dispose of the foliage to prevent the spread of the mildew. Do not compost or you will simply perpetuate the problem!
Steve’s Bartzella peony
Do you have intersectional peonies such as Bartzella? These are a cross with herbaceous and tree peonies. The care is identical to that of the herbaceous peonies. Simply remove the dead foliage and in spring you will see all new growth coming out of the ground.
Tree peonies have an entirely different kind of care. Do not cut them to the ground in the fall! Their leaves, buds and flowers come off the woody stems. I wait until spring to remove any stems that seem dead. This will be obvious because they will have no leaves and will look dried out. I also put chicken wire frames and mulch around my tree peonies right before the first snowfall or below zero temps. I think that the rabbits would love a mid-winter snack and I’m not go- ing to oblige them!
Taking care of your peonies this fall will prepare them for a nice nap this winter so you can rejoice in their beauty this spring!
At my house, golden barberry snuggled up next to a purple barberry
It’s a look that can easily be overdone, but plants with golden foliage do make striking accents when paired with contrasts like purple smokebush, sand cherry, or the black-green needles of deeply colored evergreens. In theory, they’re also wonderful for lighting up dark corners, but in practice they usually need full sun to keep their sunny color. Planted in shade they tend to fade toward bright green.
With that caveat in mind, go forth and shop! For year-round effect, there are evergreens. From arborvitae through spruces to yews, most of them come in evergold as well. The genera Chamaecyparis and Juniperus are particularly rich in gold-foliage cultivars, with offerings from several different species and a large assortment of sizes, shapes, and degrees of hardiness.
Among deciduous shrubs, you can choose from golden alder (Alnus incana ‘Aureus’), golden elder (Sambucus canadensis ‘Aurea’), golden Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Aurea’), golden mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aureus’), and yes, you are seeing a pattern. If it says ‘Aureus’ or ‘Aurea,’ something about that plant is going to be yellow.
There is also a golden ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Dart’s Gold’), golden privet (Ligustrum x vicaryi), several spireas including the pink-flowered ‘Gold Mound,’ and if you want to go all out, yellow-berry cranberrybush (Viburnum opulus ‘Xanthocarpum’), which has golden twigs and berries as well as golden leaves.
Until the late 18th century, the French generally believed that potatoes caused leprosy. The vegetables became more popular thanks to Marie Antoinette’s habit of wearing potato blossoms in her hair.
The potato, (Solanum tuberosum), is an annual plant in the nightshade family (Solanaceae), grown for its starchy edible tubers. The potato is native to the Peruvian-Bolivian Andes and is one of the world’s main food crops.
All potato types are high in carbohydrates and contain a moderate amount of calories as well as healthy amounts of fiber, vitamins and minerals. The kind of potatoes that may be the healthiest are those with darker-colored flesh, such as the Purple Viking,Yukon Gold and Ruby Crescent.
In October, 1995, the potato became the first vegetable to be grown in space. This was part of a NASA and University of Wisconsin project to find ways to feed astronauts or space colonies. [Note: if you’ve not read ‘The Martian’ by Andy Weir, or watched the movie made from the book, you should.]
Around the world, 727,000 tons of potatoes are harvested every day.
According to an old folk remedy, carrying potatoes in your pocket can cure or prevent rheumatism. It can also cure problems for film directors: in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, dried potato flakes were used to look like snowflakes.
When walking through professional designed botanical gardens, you almost always see at least one and sometimes multiple rock gardens. They’re so beautiful and you might want to incorporate one of your own. “First, you should be aware that rock garden plants demand perfect drainage,” says Lawrence B. Thomas, of the North American Rock Garden Society. (His own rock garden is on an eleventh-floor terrace.) “To achieve good drainage, you should incorporate copious amounts of chicken grit or perlite into your soil.”
Once the soil is ready, and assuming you have good sun, some easily grown species suggested by Mr. Thomas are Androsace sarmentosa, which has clusters of pink spring flowers on short stems; American bluets, also called Quaker ladies (Houstonia caerulea), which sow their own graceful pale blue-flowered progeny in unexpected places; Draba rigida, a mustard family member that forms tight mats and bears brilliant yellow flowers in early spring; and Saxifraga cotyledon, which forms tight mats of small silver-edged leaves.
Other compact, easily grown favorites include creeping baby’s breath (Gypsophila
Beautiful little bellflowers
repens), whose multitudes of dainty pink flowers last for many weeks through late spring; candytuft (Iberis sempervirens), which has mounds of white spring flowers; the Carpathian bellflower (Campanula carpatica), whose violet-blue blooms last through much of the summer; and the yellow flax (Linum capitatum), which freely bears its bright sunny flowers in late spring.