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!

frame 2

“The Wisconsin Gardener”

Are you aware that Wisconsin Public Television has a huge library of videos from the popular show “The Wisconsin Gardener”?  “The Wisconsin Gardener”, running on public television beginning in 1992, was hosted by Shelley Ryan until 2013.  One of the most popular niche television shows on public television, fans were deeply grieved when Shelley Ryan died of cancer. Videos of past programs are still relevant, and grouped into categories: Animals & Plants, Arts & Crafts, Containers, Cooking Recipes, Edible Landscape, Four Seasons, Garden Basics, Garden Design, Health & Wellness, Insects & Disease, Public Gardens, and Weeds & Invasives. The videos average 2 to 10 minutes, and each one has a printed transcript that you can access in case the video isn’t clear enough or loud enough for you, or in case you want the information to make your own fence, or plant your own container, or whatever the episode is about. Great way to get thoroughly researched university-based horticulture information, plus some fun ideas and glimpses of public gardens.

Access the videos at: where you can also find past radio broadcasts from Larry Meiller’s “Garden Talk” heard each Friday at 11 a.m. on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Note to OCMGA members: both “The Wisconsin Gardener” and “Garden Talk” are approved sources for Continuing Education credit.

Posted by Vicki

Earth Day 2015

Earth Day challenges us to consider various ways we might contribute mitigate our impact on the planet and its resources.

Each year, Wisconsin households still send 600 million pounds of “food waste” and compostable material to our landfills. Composting table scraps and yard waste can reduce the use of water and synthetic fertilizers. The microbial decomposition of biodegradable materials that have been piled, mixed and moistened will result in a humus-rich organic soil amendment containing nutrients that will foster plant growth. Compost moderates soil temperature, improves soil drainage, fertility, and structure, and can suppress weeds.


Compost bins are available for purchase for $45 at:

Outagamie County Recycling and Solid Waste Office
1419 Holland Road, Appleton

posted by Sue

Cute container idea

This is the old-fashioned 'rucksack' with the metal frame, which would provide support

This is the old-fashioned ‘rucksack’ with the metal frame, which would provide support

I was in Alaska a couple of summers ago and, at one of our cruise ports, there was a little shop that sold travel adventures. Outside the building were old canvas backpacks (rucksacks) that were being used as planters.  Totally cute! What made me think of it today was something I saw while I was out shopping. It was a “hanging herb kit” — basically a multi-pocket hanger made of heavy twill in which you’d put soil and herbs. Then you hang it against a tree or building or whatever. Finding an old multi-pocket backpack or travel bag at one of the thrift stores would accomplish the same thing that I saw in Alaska. These were planted with flowers, but herbs or even small vegetables could be planted in the pockets.

Here's the close-up version.

Here’s the close-up version.

Written and posted by Vicki

Caring for your Shrubs

Do you stay away from planting shrubs because, frankly, you don’t know how to care for them? When do you prune? Or do you just not prune at all rather than make a mistake? The old run-the-electric-clippers-across-the-top method seems to be quite popular, but I hate that “blooming” that occurs as a result. [Note: “blooming” is when you now have 5 or 6 little branches coming off the end of every one of those that you just cut]. I have this great pamphlet covering the care of deciduous shrubs that was put together by The Learning Store, the outlet for UWEX publications. These are University-based training publications with carefully researched information. The cost is ridiculously low (roughly 50¢ per pamphlet if you order one) or free if you want to just download a .pdf file to your computer. If you want to (and should) check out the site, just click HERE. There are publications on virtually anything you can think of related to horticulture.

Look at my horribly pruned spireas in the background -- before I cut them back severely.

Look at my horribly pruned spireas in the background — before I cut them back severely.

Written and posted by Vicki

Shhhh … Don’t Disturb the Soil – Why Consider “No-till” Gardening?

5669886048_c7e00660ee_bIt is finally “that” time of year:  in a bit more than a month we can all look forward to planting our gardens for the coming season.  How do you prep your garden / soil for the growing season?  In the Spring edition of our 2009 newsletter our UWEX advisor, Kevin Jarek, shared with the membership the importance of no-till gardening.  Many people (especially those with fancy cultivators) won’t subscribe to this style of gardening, but listen to what Kevin has to say and decide for yourself:

For decades gardeners have traditionally turned over the top layer of soil in an effort to get rid of weeds and make it easier to apply fertilizers and plant crops. Working the soil was often considered one of the most back-breaking tasks associated with gardening, especially true for those with clay-based soils. This “tillage” was often a means to speed up the decomposition of crop residue, weeds, and any other organic matter in preparation for the next season’s planting.

When converting from traditional or conventional tillage, it is probably easier to think about no-till as a process of construction rather than disruption. Any gardener would tell you they would love to have a soil which is dark, naturally crumbly, and they could effortlessly put their fingers through. The Golden Rule with no-till gardening is to avoid inverting the soil and tread lightly or not at all on your planting area. In no-till gardening, once the bed is established, the surface is never disturbed. A healthy soil structure is the result of a complex, symbiotic relationship that exists between the soil surface and all of the underlying micro- organisms. When we till or dig into this existing environment, we end up disrupting these naturally occurring processes. While tilling can have a positive effect on plant growth by creating a higher soil temperature, more aerated environment, and an area that initially results in accelerated plant growth – the consequences over the long term may outweigh the benefits.

Excessive conventional tillage to a soil over time could lead to a number of problems including erosion, compaction, and the loss of beneficial soil microorganisms. Constant tillage breaks down soil structure, making it more susceptible to wind and water erosion. Tillage at the same depth year after year will result in subsoil compaction referred to as a “hardpan” or “plowplan”. University of Wisconsin research has shown that this form of compaction can remain in place for a decade or more if nothing is done to correct it. This particular problem not only limits root depth because of restricted penetration, but the compaction also results in less air exchange from the rooting zone, limiting root health. Ecological theory states that a complex system is more stable than a less complex system. In this case, that means that there is less likelihood of severe or devastating pest outbreaks because of the numerous checks and balances that exist in a complex soil environment as opposed to a simple one. The constant presence of more slowly decaying organic matter has the largest positive impact on the population of naturally occurring biological control agents. Some of the soil microorganisms that increase the complexity include beneficial fungi that would naturally attack and control undesirable invaders like plant-eating nematodes. Some studies suggest that no -till gardens contain 50% to 500% more beneficial predators, regardless of the amount of pests present. The loss of bacteria, fungi, and earthworms also disrupts the plant nutrient cycle. A healthy, organic soil should contain 7-12 earthworms per square foot. The absence of these natural recyclers often results in more supplemental fertilizers being applied to maintain production. Another downside to conventional tillage is that there are approximately 5,000 weed seeds in a cubic foot of soil and this activity results in buried, dormant seed making its way to the surface placing it in an environment where it can now germinate successfully add- ing to a never ending problem. Conventional tillage also releases C02 into the atmosphere, whereas a rich, undisturbed organic layer would hold this carbon in place in undisturbed plant remains.

Amendments to the soil are still necessary when utilizing no-till. However, instead of working these items into the soil through accelerated means, – compost, peat, lime, manure, and other items are “top-dressed”. Soil microorganism activity and watering will eventually pull these materials through the topsoil and into the subsoil. The addition of this top-dress results in the need for less weeding. When materials are added in layers, this makes it easy for newly planted seedlings roots to work their way through the spongy underlying soil surface. In essence, this method mimics the process by which soil is formed under natural conditions.

Submitted by Kevin Jarek, Outagamie County UWEX Crop, Soils and Horticultural Agent

Posted by Vicki

Miniature Garden Inspiration!

I was so inspired by the Miniature Garden presentation at the Garden Conference last weekend I ran home and got to work!

I had two old fish bowls collecting dust in the garage that were just perfect. I went to a local greenhouse and picked up a few succulents, a small cactus and some air plants. I also needed Cactus Mix soil, some sheet moss (both were recommended at the conference) and used rocks and beach glass I’ve been collecting for years.

As I had learned at the conference layering rocks and the sheet moss under the soil helps with drainage and keeps the plants from being too wet. Cacti and succulents can manage without too much water so you don’t want them swimming! Air plants also just need a spritz or rinse once a week so they seem like good companions for my little cactus.

Here are my creations! I’ll keep you up to date on their status and if I’m able to keep them alive. I’ve already learned that cats really like to pull little air plants out of the soil!

Inspired by the conference and my recent trip to Arizona!

Inspired by the conference and my recent trip to Arizona!

Little Cactus and Air Plants

Little Cactus and Air Plants

Mini Succulent Garden

Mini Succulent Garden

Mini Garden

Mini Garden

Posted by Rachel