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The Learning Garden “Seed Tapes”

by OCMGA Master Gardeners Becky Hengel and Linda Adams

We started out by planning various beets and their companion vegetables and/or herbs. Another goal was to do successive plantings. Next, we made seed tapes from newspaper strips and alternately planted a lettuce/ radish and a type of beet, spacing the beets 6” apart, with some nasturtiums and marigolds for eye candy. The rationale was to pick the lettuce and let the beets get larger. The seed tapes were time consuming but easy to furrow a line and cover the tape. Overall, the seed tapes are not worth the trouble. The arugula got too big, some seeds fell off the tape and some did not germinate leaving gaps. The first beets were good but few. The corn lettuce was mild and interesting. The cylinder beets never got too big and the gourmet beets also were small or did not mature. What went wrong? As you remember the winter was brutally cold and long. Linda, not having lived in Wisconsin for 40 years decided that she would put something already growing immediately in the garden and as soon as possible. She planted four tiny marigolds and four small Brussel sprouts. They looked nice while nothing else was coming up, BUT took over and instead of going straight up, laid down and covered the second plantings. Ugh!! Well, it’s a learning garden. The cherry bell radishes were particularly good. We also had many friendly tomato plants emerge from previous years which also shaded the garden. So many plants, so little space; but it was fun!

Reprinted from the OCMGA member newsletter from the winter of 2014

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Forcing Bulbs for Winter Color

by OCMGA Master Gardener Tammy Borden

Who says gardening has to wait until spring? By forcing bulbs you are convincing a 5af4ee4d3b54cd5096b5ab4cfa505ee1--indoor-flowering-plants-indoor-flowersspring bulb that it has slept through the winter months and are encouraging it to bloom early. It’s wonderful to have bright blooms and sweet scents during the grey and drab days of winter.

Forcing bulbs is not too difficult. It just takes time, patience, and a little advance planning. It may be a little late to start forcing some types of bulbs for this winter, but some bulbs are ready to go and need no advance planning! Here are some easy steps to getting your own beautiful indoor blooms.

Step #1 – Select Your Bulbs

Many bulbs require pre-chilling in order to grow indoors (35-40ºF is recommended – like in your refrigerator!). The catch here is that many ripening vegetables and fruits, especially apples, release ethylene gas, which can kill or damage the flowers, so if you store produce in your refrigerator, try a partially heated garage instead or use bulbs that do not require pre-chilling. Here are some suggestions for bulbs that work well for indoor forcing:

  • Amaryllis (requires no chilling)
  • Hyacinth (12-16 weeks of chilling)
  • Tulip and daffodil (12-16 weeks of chilling)
  • Crocus and grape hyacinth (12-14 weeks of chilling)
  • Paperwhite narcissus (Requires no chilling)
  • Autumn crocus or Colchicum autumnale (Requires no chilling)
  • Dutch Iris or Iris reticulata (Requires no chilling, but should be fed every 2 weeks)
  • Bluebells or Scilla (Requires no chilling)

Step #2 – Prepare Your Bulbs

There are several methods for growing bulbs indoors. Here are the most common:3d91d4169f8171f5f69d4648f30c4da9--amaryllis-bulbs-tulip-bulbs-in-a-vase

Pebbles & Water: Simply take a clear glass bowl, fill it with gravel or decorative stone. Firm the base of the pre-chilled bulbs into the pebbles until they stand firmly on their own. Next, fill water up to the base of the bulbs, but not high enough that it touches them (about 1/8 away). Keep it in a cool, dark location for a few weeks until they’re ready to bloom to help maintain strong stems and encourage root growth.

Water Forcing: There is an hourglass-shaped vase you can buy called a ‘Hyacinth Glass’. Simply fill the container with water, up to the tapered neck, set the pre-chilled bulb on the widened mouth of the container and it’s ready to grow. Again, do not let the bulb touch the water. Place bulbs in a dark, cool place for a few weeks before blooming.

Potting in Soil: Shallow pots are usually used for forcing, but you can use most anytp6kchcx1mts4wbeafa0 container, if it has holes for drainage. Fill the pot about 3/4 full with a peat based potting mix. Squeeze in as many bulbs as you can fit. You can use all one type or mix and match, but choose bulbs with a similar bloom time. Plant the bulbs flat side down and cover with potting mix. Leave the shoot tips poking out slightly above the soil line. Water until it comes out of the drainage holes. Next, chill the pot and all for the recommended time (above). You can do this by burying it in the ground outside, placing it in your garage, or in a refrigerator. When you bring the pot indoors, keep it in cooler temperatures for a few weeks until it’s ready to bloom.

Step #3 – After the Bloom

Unfortunately, forcing takes a lot out of a bulb so it may not bloom again for many seasons. Still, bulbs can be planted outside when the weather permits just as with any perennial. Do not remove the foliage until it has turned yellow. The bulbs should never be forced a second time, always start with new bulbs.

Have some fun this winter and give forcing a try!

You might also enjoy our previous blog posts on Forcing Amaryllis and Forcing Hyacinth

 

Natural Fabric Dye

Do you sometimes lament the lost “arts” – those talents from bygone days mastered by our ancestors before modernity made things easy? I’m reading a book called Corsets and Codpieces: A History of Outrageous Fashion, from Roman Times to the Modern Era, and it contains information about the use of plants to dye fabrics. For those of you who might want to resuscitate this lost art, I offer the following:

Wool_skein_coloured_with_natural_dyes_indigo,_lac,_madder_and_tesu_by_Himalayan_Weavers_in_Mussoorie“A mastery over the art of dying meant that up until and beyond the High Middle Ages English men and women were clothed in colours of almost every hue… One ancient work for dyestuffs is ‘ruaman’; the word ‘ruam’ meaning red, a colour obtained from the madder plant, indicating that most dyes were sourced from plants, roots and vegetables. Yet no fibres, thread or fabric would keep its depth of colour if not ‘fixed’. This was done with a ‘mordant’, a French word meaning ‘to bite’, which helped the dyes penetrate the fibres instead of simply lying on the top and being easily washed off. In order to fix and ‘brighten’ colours the favourites were burnt seaweed or kelp and lastly urine, which was readily available and collected by women in the mornings and left to grow stale to increase its strength and potency.

Natural_dyes_(2636803607)Colours themselves were taken from the roots, leaves, flowers or bark of plants with different parts of the same plant often yielding different hues… Yellow, with a mordant of alum, could be obtained from the barks of birch, ash and crab-apple trees. Wood and leaves of the poplar, the young roots of bracken, bramble and broom, onion skins, nettles, moss and marigold were just as effective in creating yellow, as were heather, dogwood and common dock leaves… A plant called weld yielded a light, clear yellow, as did meadowsweet sorrel, gorse blossoms and mare’s tail.

blue was commonly produced by fermenting woad leaves. Blackthorn, privet and elderberries could also be used, while bilberries and the roots of the yellow iris if fixed with iron also produced blue. Mud boiled in an iron pot would produce a very colourfast dull, black dye, the mixture able to produce a glossy black if oak chips or twigs were added. Brown could be obtained by using birch, bog-bean, briar and bramble roots. Dulse, otherwise known as seaweed, also produced various shades of brown, as did hops, larch needles, speedwell and lichens mixed with iron in a dye-pot. If green was required then foxgloves, flowering rush, the crumpled buds and leaf fronds of bracken, horsetail, nettles and privet berries would work. If a really dark green was desired then mixing weld with sheep dung gave a good depth of colour not to mention smell. Pinks and reds were derived from madder roots and a dyer could produce a whole spectrum of shades from coral to rust by skillfully raising the temperature of the dye vat by a few degrees. Blackthorn in a mordant of alum produced orange. Lady’s bedstraw and cudbear lichen mixed with ammonia [from properly aged urine] was the means of getting crimson.

And so it goes on to describe getting the royal shade of purple from whelk mucus, honey, salt and water. All things being equal, I think that some of the “old arts” might be better left lost to history!

 

The Learning Garden “Asian Garden” and “Herb Garden”

Asian Garden by OCMGA Master Gardeners Anne Anderson and Tom Wentzel

Tom and I did the square garden with Asian veggies. What I learn from the square garden is how much you can plant in one square. It’s amazing if one is limited on space how square gardening would be beneficial. The only problem was after the garden started to grow I was not sure what were weeds or the growing vegetable. Asian vegetables to me, looked like weeds or maybe they were! LOL!!! What I would do different is if there is more than one square with the same veggie, I would not have put them next to each other. Lastly, I should have brought my cats to clean up since watching them chase the mice would have been so entertaining!

Herb Garden by OCMGA Master Gardeners Mary Learman, Sue Mings, and Maureen Flanagan-Johnson

We continued the original theme by planting the more common herbs used in Greece, France, Italy and England. Since most herbs do not like wet feet, it took a little while before we saw any real growth. Then they did not stop. We framed each of the four plots with marigolds and made a Marigold Henge in the center. A couple of notes for next year will be to not to over-plant, plus to harvest more often. It actually needed little upkeep apart from the occasional pruning. But with schedules and the vagaries of the weather, they were not harvested often enough. One unexpected problem turned out to be that the voles had built a metropolis under the herb garden and it collapsed in several places. They also ate some of the roots. Ninja tactics will be employed next year.

Reprinted from the OCMGA member newsletter from the winter of 2014

Happy Indoor Bloomers

What triggers bloom in houseplants? Plants bloom if they get good care — the right light, temperature, water, food, and growing medium — but the details depend on the particular species. If you can get one African violet to bloom, you’ll be successful with any of them. But if you treat your kalanchoe the same way, it will probably never flower.

The goal is to provide an environment that’s as close as possible to conditions in the plant’s native home. Some plants, for instance, have learned to face adversity — periods of cold or dry — by going dormant for a while. For many, going through this dormant period is required to trigger blooming. In the wild, plants recognize when to go dormant by being sensitive to shorter days, lower temperatures, or reduced rainfall.

In a house, dormancy is induced naturally by shorter days, or by your withholding water or putting the plant in a cooler spot. Growth slows, and the plant needs less fertilizer and water. When days lengthen and become warmer, or you resume more generous watering, you complete the cycle and flowering begins.

Other plants come from environments where light, temperature, and rainfall are about the same all year. Those plants can grow and flower anytime, so they rarely need a dormant period to induce flowering. Since they are always growing, the amount of light, fertilizer, and water you give them throughout the year remain constant. The amounts depend on the species.

PelargonZonal Geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum)

Most geraniums are easy keepers, but the zonal ones are the best survivors. They have round leaves, usually with concentric stripes of colors around the edges. And if they are given a combination of cool temperatures and strong sunlight, they will repeatedly produce large flower clusters. The most important tool for nurturing them is a pair of shears; geraniums tend to become gangly even when conditions are perfect, and they can get extremely gangly if light is scarce. Frequent cutting back will keep them bushy and healthy.

African Violet (Saintpaulia)

800px-SaintpauliaMy Mom’s favorite, today’s African violets are the most popular of all flowering houseplants. They trace their heritage to several species collected in East Africa in the late 19th century, but their appearance today derives from years of intensive hybridization among only a few of the species. The original blue and purple African violets are still happily blooming, but most have yielded the spotlight to new color tones. Modern violets also appear in white (the touchiest sort to grow), all shades of pink, burgundy, and even crimson. Generally, African violets need abundant filtered light. In summer, however, move plants away from any direct sun to where they will receive less intense, indirect light only. Violets like the same comfort level you do: average room temperatures or a little warmer in the day and a few degrees cooler at night. Keep the humidity high around your plants by placing them on a humidity tray, but never allow them to sit in water or the plant will die from fungal rot. Whenever the top half-inch of soil feels dry to the touch, add enough water to make it evenly moist. There are many, many websites dedicated to the care and nurturing of African violets.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

Hasn’t everyone tried to grow a big, beautiful, flowering Peace Lily received as a gift? 3108042900_f3b4cb17cc_zThe Peace Lily tops the list of plants that provides beautiful foliage and flowers AND is easy to grow. The plant thrives indoors and blooms reliably with minimal attention. White flowers with a stiff yellow center (similar to those of a calla lily) appear nearly continuously amid the large, dark green, oval leaves. The plant needs low to medium light (never direct sun) and average indoor conditions. Its tropical foliage looks best, however, if you raise the humidity around it by setting it on a humidity tray. Moisten the soil evenly when the top inch feels dry to the touch; reduce watering when room temperatures fall below 70ºF, and never expose a plant to conditions below 55ºF.

Why should you let Mother Nature dictate when you can enjoy gardening? There are hundreds of lovely houseplants that need care and love, and are currently sitting at your local nursery or garden center waiting for you!

The Learning Garden “Veggies”

by OCMGA Master Gardeners Peg Ebben and Lynn Coffeen

We worked together in a traditional garden plot approximately 8×10 ft and wanted to focus on growing veggies we had not grown before. We decided on several heirloom varieties. Our trail of Gold Marie pole beans did well as did the Cour Di Bue ox heart cabbage which was very tender. The Sweet Dumpling winter squash was very tasty. We also liked the round (pool ball) zucchini. But the squash would have fit our space better if we had grown them on trellises. Our choice of two heirloom tomatoes produced well, but grew too large and took over a large amount of our space. Our patio tomato did well (but produced less) and was a better size choice for the space we had. One of the best things we tried was the Lincoln leeks. They needed to be started indoors, but were relatively easy to grow and were delicious! Our over-all perspective was don’t be afraid to try new things, as most did very well, were great tasting and we were able to save seeds from some of the heirloom varieties. One important lesson we learned was to be more conscious of the space you have. Pick varieties that fit your space and or utilize more trellising. In all it was a very positive learning experience!

Reprinted from the OCMGA member newsletter from the winter of 2014

Daylilies are not Ordinary!!

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‘Peach Pie’ from my garden this past summer

Surely no one has missed seeing the ubiquitous Stella D’Oro daylilies that adorn every bank, shopping mall, and school in suburbia. As a result, there is a tendency to scorn daylilies when pulling together your garden — but that would be a huge mistake! [Note: even Stellas deserve your respect for their continuing bloom throughout summer.] There are thousands of varieties of daylilies and they rank among the easiest perennials to grow. With the myriad of colors, your garden can be a rainbow of color from early spring into the fall.

For my own purposes, I classify daylilies as ‘spiders’, ‘ruffles’, or ‘bells’. Stellas fall into the ‘bell’ category with their classically shaped flowers. I have a whole bed of lilies that would fall into the ‘spider’ category in shades of mauve, peach, lemon yellow, and orange. The ‘Peach Pie’ shown in the photo above would fall into the ‘ruffles’ category and I can’t wait for it to flower every year. The petals are so delicate and the flowers so beautiful!

I’m on the lookout for something equally striking and have discovered some unique varieties that I hope you’ll also enjoy:

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‘Star Bright’ from Water Mill Gardens

‘Star Bright’ is definitely a ‘spider’ daylily, and how lovely are those curling, curved back petals?! This one has 8-inch blooms: apricot flowers with violet and red eye zone and pale green throat. I was pretty excited to learn that it’s cold-hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9 (I’m at 5). This one blooms early to mid-season, is 32 to 40 inches tall, and 24 to 36 inches wide. I would definitely find a spot for this beauty in my garden!

I’m a sucker for the pale pastels: peach, cream, and pale yellow. With that in mind, then, is it any wonder that I have my eye on a ‘ruffles’ cultivar that would look beautiful tucked next to some fuchsia bee balm. ‘Marque Moon’ has creamy white flowers with yellow throat and edges in the summer. On a sunny day, the petals glisten.

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Marque Moon

Some daylilies have a glitter quality on their petals. When the sparkles are white, it’s referred to as ‘diamond dusted’. With yellow-flowered cultivars, it’s more gold-colored so those are said to be ‘gold dusted’. The glitter and the sweet fragrance beg for a spot near the front of your garden. This one blooms mid- to late season, and is 20 to 24 inches tall, 18 to 24 inches wide. Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9.

As hosta lovers will tell you, the variations in foliage can sometimes make all the difference in a garden. With that in mind, then, look at the variegated foliate on the ‘Golden Zebra’ daylily. The wider-than-

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‘Golden Zebra’ by Monrovia

usual leaves are long and arching, and the variegation is stable, so it won’t revert back to all-green leaves. They start the season green with creamy white margins that turn yellow later on.

This one is compact (15 to 24 inches tall and wide), which makes it perfect for the front of a border, where it will bloom midseason.

This winter, as you gaze at the catalogs that start arriving around Christmas, and you can’t wait to get your planning started, I hope you’ll consider a spot in your garden for one of the many daylily cultivars that will add beauty (and almost no work) to your landscape.