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

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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.

 

 

 

 

Sweet Bags & Sachets

Dutch_Friends_Lavender_SachetsSweet bags & sachets are a lovely way to perpetuate aromatic treasures from the garden. Place the scented sacks throughout the house — selecting fabrics, trims, and fragrances to complement each room. In the dining room, velvet and organza sweet bags exude the scents of lavender, rose, and rosemary — an antique bouquet reminiscent of an English high tea. In the bedroom, an ivory linen pouch filled with calendula and lemon verbena enhances the romantic ambiance. Or, perhaps, eucalyptus, lobelia, or peppermint to help promote free breathing. A sachet of lavender, tucked into a lingerie drawer, has long been a personal favorite.

Place sweet bags and sachets anywhere you would like to savor the preserved perfume Red_&_White_Buttoned_&_Ribboned_Cherry_Lavender_Sachetsof a garden.

Preparation

Choose a predominating fragrance or create distinctive mixtures for each room. Sew tiny bags using a combination of lovely fabrics and fun trims. (Note: if you don’t sew, as the fabric store to recommend a local seamstress). Or, alternatively, fill beautiful cut glass bowls to sit in the various rooms to hold the mixture.

  • 4-6 cups dries mixed botanicals, such as fruit, flowers, herbs, or spices, and fillers such as evergreen twigs and needles, small pine cones, and wood shavings.
  • 1 tablespoon fixative (orrisroot powder or cellulose)
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, or allspice (or a blend)
  • 5 to 10 drops of pleasing essential oils, such as bergamot, jasmine, tuberose, or ylang-ylang
  • Combine the ingredients in a covered glass jar. Shake well to blend and place in a cool, dark place to mellow for about 10 days before filling the sachets.

Forcing Bulbs for Christmas

Finding an extraordinary holiday centerpiece is so easy if you take the time to “force bulbs” such as the classic Amaryllis or Paperwhite. It takes approximately 4 to 6 weeks for them to go from bulb to bloom so a trip to a local nursery or garden center NOW is all it takes to locate the bulbs. A starter kit usually comes with a filler (special potting soil containing a medium with ample drainage, or glass beads.) and a container to plant them in. Or, you can save your bulbs from year to year as I do.

About them:

Amaryllis ‘Minerva’

Amaryllis – Show stopper trumpet-looking flowers on tall sturdy stems with bright green shiny leaves. Blooms come in colors of red, white, pink, or a combination such as pink and white.

Paperwhites – According to Greek mythology, Narcissus was smitten with the reflection of himself in a pool of water. He stared at his image until the gods turned him into a flower. Blooms of Paperwhites come in white or cream colors and they have a heavenly fragrance that permeates the room they adorn.

How to Grow Them:

Amaryllis – The filler will be very dry so take a few minutes to soak it before planting the bulb. Place the bulbs with the root side down into the filler and be sure to gently press the filler around the bulb to anchor it in place. Place the bulbs in a bright sunny room. A window sill is a good choice.

Paperwhites – They will do best in a shallow bowl, dish, or a bulb vase.

General Care:

Amaryllis – They will become top heavy, so as the plant grows tall it will require staking to keep the stem supporting the beautiful blooms from tipping.

Paperwhites – Take care not to let the bulbs dry out. Keep them watered. If they are not kept fully hydrated, they will not thrive.

Saving your bulbs from year to year:

After they are completely done blooming, cut off the stalks that the flowers bloomed on. Continue to care for the green leaves (the plant) until spring when they can be transplanted into the ground OR your container can be moved to a sunny location. Feed with an all-purpose fertilizer. Dig up in the fall, trim all of the foliage back to about ¼ inch from the bulb and allow to dry. Start the process over again.

Many a Christmas comes and goes and I wish I had remembered to mark my calendar to give myself the approximate 6 weeks to start these stunning plants.

Well, this year I am going to have an attractive centerpiece, and I hope you will too!

 

by OCMGA Master Gardener Holly Boettcher

Holly is a regular contributor to Appleton Monthly magazine.

Improve Your Soil by Raking Less

by Terry Ettinger

1024px-Listí_na_hrázi_rybníkaIf you dread the annual fall leaf-raking marathon, I have good news for you: Raking and collecting leaves every autumn is a tradition without scientific basis. Research has proven that mowing leaves into your lawn can improve its vigor, and observation shows that unraked leaves in planting beds don’t smother shade-tolerant perennials. Based upon research at several universities, the organic matter and nutrients from leaves mown into lawn areas has been proven to improve turf quality. At Michigan State, researchers set a rotary mower to cut at a height of 3 inches and then mowed an 18-inch-deep layer of leaves into test plots. That’s the equivalent of 450 pounds of leaves per 1,000 square feet. The tests resulted in improved soil and healthy lawns with few remnant leaves visible the following spring.

You can achieve similar results if you set your mower to cut at the same height as in the Michigan State study, and mow at least once a week during peak leaf fall when your lawn reaches a height of 4 inches. Leaves shred most efficiently when slightly damp, so mow after a light dew. If you follow these simple guidelines, you will never rake another leaf and improve the quality of your soil. Build planting beds with leaves. Under trees or in other shady spots where a lawn won’t grow, you can create planting beds from fallen leaves as a source of soil-building organic matter. Shredded leaves applied as mulch protect tree roots from heat and cold and retain soil moisture during dry spells. Some gardeners believe that excess leaves can harbor insects or disease, but I have experienced no such problems in my garden.

autumn-494390_960_720After we bought our property, I created planting beds where the leaves would naturally collect on our densely shaded and sparse front lawn. It’s been 15 years since I’ve raked a single leaf dropped by these trees. Instead, the leaves settle among the hellebores, epimediums, Japanese forest grass, hostas, and spring-flowering bulbs, where they decompose over time, just like on the forest floor. Easy, ecological, and fiscally responsible To treat leaves as trash is both environmentally foolish and financially ruinous. Currently, many municipalities encourage residents to rake leaves to the curb for collection, but before they are collected, heavy rains often wash the leaves into catch basins. There, they decompose and release phosphorus and nitrogen into streams and rivers that flow through the community. These excess nutrients contribute to algae blooms during the summer, which result in lower oxygen levels, making it difficult for fish and other aquatic species to survive.

Rake your leaves into the empty beds, and shred them with a lawn mower. Sprinkle the leaves with a 1- pound coffee can’s worth of 5-10-5 fertilizer per 100 square feet of garden. Turn the leaves, and water thoroughly to disperse the fertilizer, which speeds decay. Turn the leaves again in spring, and plant right through the remaining clumps, which will provide nutrients as they decompose.

Municipalities, both large and small, spend thousands, even millions, of dollars each year to collect, transport, and process autumn leaves, tying up resources that could be used elsewhere in our communities. If we all keep our leaves on our properties, we will improve our gardens, save money, and enhance the environment we all share. Your own source of free fertilizer A little effort can supply an organic source of nutrients for your plants. Here are two ways to use your leaves:

  1. Pile composting for mixed borders
  • Rake the leaves into loose piles or in wire bins about 4 feet square within your borders.
  • Mix in a few shovelfuls of soil, and add 20 to 30 gallons of water to aid decomposition.
  • Pull the piles or bins apart in the spring, and spread the decayed leaves throughout the border
  • Cover the decayed leaves with a 1-inch-deep layer of fresh mulch.

2. Sheet composting for annual beds

  • Rake your leaves into the empty beds, and shred them with a lawn mower.
  • Sprinkle the leaves with a 1-pound coffee can’s worth of 5-10-5 fertilizer per 100 square feet of garden.
  • Turn the leaves, and water thoroughly to disperse the fertilizer, which speeds decay.
  • Turn the leaves again in spring, and plant right through the remaining clumps, which will provide nutrients as they decompose.

Spring Bulbs

We’ve been blessed with some fairly warm weather for this late in the year, and I suddenly remembered that I haven’t put my bulbs into the ground yet! Project for tomorrow!

RX-DK-HTG04001_spring-bulbs_s4x3_lgFlowering bulbs are one of the brightest spots of spring when you live in the north and enjoy a long winter. Such a dazzling display arising from such homely beginnings is truly miraculous. A minimal amount of time, effort, and money in the fall is rewarded spring after spring with a spectacular tapestry of color, texture, and fragrance.

In addition to true bulbs (daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and lilies), this plant category includes corms (crocuses and gladioli), tubers (begonias, anemones, and cyclamens), tuberous roots (dahlias and foxtail lilies), and rhizomes (irises and trilliums). When selecting bulbs, choose those that are big, firm, and plump — generally the bigger the bulb the bigger the bloom. Avoid bulbs that are soft or have moldy spots.flower-bulbs-494399_960_720

When planting, choose a spot with rich, sandy, well-drained soil that is easily viewed from your window and plant bulbs in abundance, en masse, and in natural free-form drifts. Prepare the ground by digging a wide trench and working in compost or leaf mold. A good rule of thumb is to plant the bulbs three times as deep as they are high. Remember that anything too studied looks artificial – then throw caution to the wind and toss a handful of bulbs up in the air. Plant them, root-end-down, wherever they land. This landscaping method is a great stress-buster, and you will be pleased with the results of your no-design-is-the-best strategy.

87701Or, use a bulb planter to make 6- to 8-inch holes for large bulbs, and 2- to 4-inch holes for smaller bulb species. Space small bulbs 3 to 4 inches apart and large bulbs 5 to 6 inches apart. Topdress with any commercial bulb fertilizer.

With either method, cover bulbs with top soil and water them thoroughly. In cold zones, bulbs can be left in the ground. In warm and temperate zones (where temperatures remain above 20ºF/6ºC), chill the bulbs in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator (away from fruit) for 8 to 10 weeks before planting.

Select bulbs with different bloom times for a show of color from late winter through summer. Left undisturbed, the bulbs will colonize and produce profusely for years to come.

Early bloomers: Snowdrops (Galanthus), Winter Aconites (Eranthus hyemalis), and Crocuses. Crocus tommasinianus, in Easter-egg shades of pale lavender and deep purple, is usually the first to appear (and the corms are squirrel-resistant).

Mid-season: Daffodils and Jonquils (Narcissus), Siberian squill (Scilla), Grape Hyacinth (Muscari)

Late spring: Tulips, tulips, tulips! Colors range from brilliant red to deep maroon, from snowy white to bright yellow, and from beautiful shades of orange to variegated varieties in all colors. Shapes include the scalloped parrot, the pointed lily, and the artistic fringed tulip. Extend your tulip time by growing varieties bred for early, mid, and late blooming.

OCMGA Learning Garden #1

The Outagamie County Master Gardener Association is located on the grounds of the University of Wisconsin – Extension in Appleton. In 2013, we built a Learning Garden with the idea that we could experiment with different growing methods, provide hand’s-on learning for our Master Gardener classes, and hold educational classes for the public. Because this is one of our core projects, I’m hoping to have ongoing updates about our efforts.  Today, we’re going to reprint an article that appeared in our 2014 newsletter, written by OCMGA Master Gardener Mary Learman.

This was the second year for The Learning Garden. The purpose of the garden is to be able to demonstrate what can be done in a small space. There are four distinct plots, any of which could be used in a small urban landscape. Next year we’ll be adding a fruit tree espalier and grapes. Not only is this a space to teach others about gardening, it is also a space for us try something new.

IMG_1916The first lesson for us was how to manage a project like this. It is a fairly large space, 35’ x 26’. That is an intimidating amount of space to plan, plant and maintain. Last year, it was a struggle to keep on top of things. This year an adopt-a-bed program was initiated. The area was divided into five different areas, and a call went out for volunteers willing to take care of one plot. The response was gratifying. Teams were formed for each of the areas. Each team planned, planted and maintained a plot. We did cross check with each other to minimize duplication. Also a watering schedule was established. Twice each week, people were assigned to water the entire garden. No one person needed to be on “watering duty” more than twice through the season. One of the big learnings for us this year was that breaking things down into manageable segments is key to making the project a success.

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A big change that will make our life easier next year will be the installation of an irrigation system. We’ll have two rain barrels in place and soaker hoses that will have the option of using those barrels or city water. Another big change for next year will be using the garden as an educational tool. It will become a part of the level 1 training program. We’ll also be conducting public classes on the site.

For more information on one of our experiments (Soil Temperature Experiment), visit our previous blog post here.