Mushrooms: Grow your own?

a04ae0d805d61dfc083f01cf06ba6aca--science-puns-food-humorMushrooms have no chlorophyll and do not use sunlight or the process of photosynthesis to make their own food. Most of these fleshy, spore-bearing fungi are saprophytes, which means they derive their food from dead or decaying matter, but some are parasites, which feed on living hosts.

Mushrooms appear outdoors naturally from spring to late autumn, but because some of the wild ones are highly poisonous, it is essential to learn from an expert before attempting to harvest them.

Fortunately, there are a few cultivated types, such as shiitake, that do not pose the danger of wild ones and that can be started indoors from kits sold in catalogs, at garden centers, and over the Internet.

059-cartoon-mushroom-jokeCommercial button mushrooms require complete darkness, but most of the gourmet mushrooms grown indoors need some indirect light, says Paul Stamets, author of Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms. Regarding how much light is enough, Mr. Stamets says, “If there’s sufficient light to read the instructions on a mushroom kit, there’s enough light to grow them.”

474a524eae6c55c22fc9dbea5198a69eThe growing medium of choice is wood or straw, which must be kept evenly moist. Air temperatures typically range between 50º and 80ºF. With a bit of luck, mushrooms from kits will appear in about two weeks.

Watching the process can be a lot of fun, and most kits will yield a small crop, but growing your own is not a way to save money on mushrooms. If you plan to eat them often, you’ll still be buying most of your supply.


Wet vs Dry Fertilizer

Dry fertilizers are easier (and quicker) to apply, especially when large areas are involved, and though they are slower to take effect, they last longer. In most gardens, wet fertilizers are used for foliar feeding, sprayed directly on plant leaves for immediate uptake. They produce rapid results, but their action is short-lived.

Dry fertilizers are usually mixed with soil before planting. Later in the season they are used as side dressing, spread in a narrow band about a foot away from growing plants and then scratched in.

Ideally, dry fertilizers break down slowly, providing a steady stream of nutrients with minimal danger of root burn, weak hypergrowth, and other problems caused by too much, too soon. In practice, however, this doesn’t always work out. Dry chemical formulations are highly soluble, and while they are more durable than liquids, they disperse rapidly in warm, wet weather. They can work well, but it is important to use minimum amounts, mix them well with the soil, and keep them away from plant roots.

Most organic amendments, on the other hand, are minimally processed. They must be broken down by weather and soil microbes before the nutrients they contain are available to plants. While there are exceptions, as a general rule these natural products pose none of the dangers of rapid breakdown, and unlike chemical fertilizers, they offer long-term soil-building benefits. But there’s no denying they’re slow to download; you have to plan well ahead.

Did Your Christmas Cactus Bloom?

Cactus_de_noël_revMany of us have Christmas Cactus plants that we’ve nurtured since they were small, or maybe inherited from a close friend or relative so there are sentiments when the plant blooms. What if it doesn’t bloom, though? Don’t immediately assume that there’s something wrong or get rid of the plant!

Dan Mahr from the University of Wisconsin-Madison has written an extensive and authoritative article on these seasonal bloomers that will help you understand the background of this beloved plant, as well as provide great information on its care. Did you know that these plants are, indeed, true cacti related to the giant saguaros in Arizona but they come from Brazil? Did you know that there are over 100 cultivars that have been developed with flowers ranging from deep red to pure white?

Sit back with a cup of tea and read up on this delightful seasonal bloomer!

Tips to Keep Your Canning Safe!

Remember the old stories about folks getting sick from eating someone’s canned green beans?  I found out that was E.Coli!  Nothing to mess around with. When you have a pile of rhubarb, tomatoes,  or other fruits and vegetables take care to preserve them correctly so you don’t endanger yourself or others and so that you don’t waste your harvest.
The following tips are from a lovely article by B. Ingram written in 2011. The article is from the UW Extension which is a great resource for articles on all kinds of topics to enhance your summer and your garden. Here’s a link to the article if you’d like to view it,, but here’s a summary.
First, start with a well tested recipe and there are plenty of resources to find these. You can visit The National Center for Home Food Preservation at or in Wisconsin the resource
Use recipes that are up to date and equipment that is in good working order.

If you are using a pressure canner there are resources for having them tested every year which is recommended by the Extension.

Make sure your jars and screw rings are in good shape and sterilize them before use. Discard any jars that are chipped and toss any rings with rust. Purchase new lids every year, don’t ever try to re-use the lids!

And the final tip from the article discourages using our creativity when it comes to canning!  I guess we can save the creativity for the garden where it doesn’t have such a direct effect on our food safety.
Thanks to Mary for bringing the article to our attention!
Posted by Rachel

Preserving some of the year's rhubarb! Chutney and sauce for later this year!

Preserving some of the year’s rhubarb! Chutney and sauce for later this year!



If you’re like me, you love the big, beautiful mop-headed peonies each Spring.  Maybe you even have a peony garden and lovingly research and plant specific cultivars.  Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case, though, as we share our plants each year.  Such is the case in my garden.  I have two lovely big Karl Rosenfeld peony bushes that give me gorgeous deep red blooms every year.  In another part of my garden, I have two Bartzella peony bushes that should bloom for the first time this year (fingers crossed) and give me big yellow flowers.  However, I also have a couple that were gifts so I don’t know much about them at all; one is too small to even bloom yet, but the other has bloomed for the first time and produced beautiful delicate pink blooms.  It was just a delight!  I did a little research online and found that there are dozens of peony cultivars with pink blooms and, while maybe it would be nice to know exactly what it is, I’ve decided to just enjoy the beauty instead.  Sometimes I think we get too caught up in the organization and identification of everything in the garden when, instead, simply enjoying the beauty and fragrance is the much smarter choice!

Fantasy Gardens, A Garden Within Your Garden

Fantasy Gardening: The Most Fun You Might Ever Have with a Wheelbarrow

Creating a magical and imaginative fantasy garden like that inspired by today’s popular fairy gardening trend may just be the most fun you have ever had with a wheelbarrow! Hold on to that rusty old wheelbarrow with the convenient no need to drill drainage holes and use it to create a garden within your garden that inspires a tale of make believe, humor and abandon. A setting begs for a story. For example, in the morning I usually head out for a garden walk to enjoy what’s newly blossomed and take account of the late night dinner menu enjoyed by the bunnies in Mrs. McNeubauer’s garden. As I pass by and check out my wheelbarrow garden, I sometimes pause to imagine what the topic of today’s conversation over the fence might be in this mythical seaside village. Also knowing the bunnies that share my garden with me, I wouldn’t be surprised if a furry beast pillaged this little village during the night! Sending its inhabitants off in fear for their lives! See? Find out for yourself that the fun never stops with a wheelbarrow garden and let your creative side do the work!

Written by Pam Neubauer, Posted by Rachel


Fantasy Garden Close up

Fantasy Garden Close up

There's a whole world in there!

There’s a whole world in there!

A Picture Perfect Garden Spot

A few years ago The Wisconsin Gardener on PBS featured the work of Jan Wos, the gifted horticulturist and then owner of Mayflower Greenhouse in Green Bay. As I watched the program I was awestruck by his knowledge of plants as well as the creative way he used the unconventional as planters like suitcases, old dressers, and an assortment of repurposed items as containers. On this particular segment I especially admired his use of picture frames as planters. Time for a visit to Mayflower! Though Jan has since passed away, you can still see his ideas and influence there today. I think gardeners delight in finding the unusual and innovative idea that will add to the beauty of his or her garden. It was picture frames for me! It was also a creative answer to bringing together my yard sale shopping and gardening interests! While at the greenhouse, my hubby studied the construction of the planter box and took some snapshots and we were out to do it ourselves. Since that time I have become the greatest admirer of hen and chicks for their versatility and easy care in picture frame plantings. Different groundcovers like ajuga are also favorites as well as moss roses which add lovely blossoms and color. Adding a touch of former home wall décor like a gold metal leaf, butterfly, or flower adds a touch of whimsy too. Every gardener can bring his or her own special touch to this artwork for a picture perfect garden spot! Plant Happy!

Written by Pam Neubauer

Posted by Rachel

A work of art!

A work of art!

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