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Follow Up on Air & Soil Temperature Experiments

You may recall from a previous post that we have installed a hoop house/cold frame in The Learning Garden.  As part of this project we are following the air and soil temperatures.  Those temperatures are summarized in the graph below.  We compare the soil temperature inside the hoop house (orange) to a similar bed without a hoop house (green).  The hoop house does consistently increase the soil temperature by about 5 degrees.  The fluctuations are largely due to the amount of sunlight on the particular day that the readings were taken.  The high temperatures during the day are also dependent on the amount of sunlight.  On bright sunny days the high temperatures approach 80 degrees.  Venting keeps the heat from building up to excessive levels.  The low air temperatures probably are similar to the outside air temperature.  The hoop house if just too small to hold heat through the night.  On April 7 radish and lettuce seeds had germinated.

Hoop House

The other temperature study that is going on is black vs clear plastic mulch laid directly on the ground.  It is very clear that clear plastic, the green line, heats the soil faster.  The temperature difference is 10 degrees.  The soil temperature is similar to the hoop house temperature.  It was a bit of a surprise that black plastic did not affect soil temperature compared to no covering.  Although the sun does heat the plastic, that heat is not transferred to the soil.  We will be continuing this study through the summer.

Plastic Mulch

Written by Tom Wentzel

Posted by Rachel

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Soil Temperature Experiment

The Learning Garden Soil Temperature Experiment

On March 21st  a number of Outagamie County Master Gardeners installed a hoop house on one of the raised beds in a space we call The Learning Garden. Hoop houses and cold frames are intended to create a warmer micro environment. To track the benefit there is a thermometer inside the hoop house that records the high and low temperatures over a 24 hour period. The 3 days following the installation the air temperature ranged from 23 to 77 degrees. Soil temperature had increased from 37 to 57 degrees. The soil in the other raised bed, which is not covered, increased from 36 to 41 degrees. These sunny days were followed by a cold cloud weather pattern. Soil temperature in the uncovered bed dropped to 30 degrees while inside the hoop house the temperature had dropped to 39 degrees. Air temperatures were 34 and 46 degrees. After one week, it does look like the hoop house is increasing soil temperature faster than without. Not surprisingly, sunny days show the biggest benefit.

On the 24th and second experiment was started on the large bed. 4’ X 4’ sheets of black and clear plastic were laid directly on the soil. Soil temperature under each of these sheets is being measured and compared to an uncovered section. The weather on the days after the sheets were laid down was cold and cloudy. The soil temperature actually dropped to the low 30’s. A couple days of sun increased the soil under the clear plastic to increase to 54 degrees while the uncovered and black sections remained a 32 degrees. Black plastic does not allow light to penetrate. The plastic is warmed, but that heat is not being transferred to the soil. Clear plastic allows the light to penetrate and warm the soil. The plastic then traps the heat. We will be continuing this experiment trough the growing season. For more information see this very good article from Penn State. There are related articles in the bibliography, including one on tomatoes and red mulch, that are interesting. http://extension.psu.edu/plants/plasticulture/technologies/plastic-mulches

Written by Tom W. Posted by Rachel

Soil Temperature Experiment in the Learning Garden

Soil Temperature Experiment in the Learning Garden

Expert’s Tip: Wild Parsnip — What is it and why should we be concerned about it?

by Ken Schroeder, Portage County UW-Extension Agriculture Agent

Wild Parsnip, Pastinaca sativa, is an invasive member of the carrot family that continues to spread into unmanaged areas throughout Wisconsin. It likes to grow in sunny, grassy areas along roadsides, railroads, and field borders but is not limited to these conditions. Primary means of spread is by seed that can be moved long distances while mowing roadsides after the plant has set seed.

What’s the concern?  The biggest concern isn’t the fact that it is invasive and rapidly spreading but that it will cause burns and blistering of the skin if you come in contact with plant sap in the presence of sunlight. This is known as phytophotodermatitis. Blisters and rashes appear 24 to 48 hours after exposure. Blisters do not spread like poison ivy but are uncomfortable and may leave scars lasting for several months to two years.

Pastinaca_sativa_'wild_parsnip'_2007-06-02_(plant)How do we identify wild parsnip?  The plant is a monocarpic (the plant dies after blooming) perennial and has two growth stages. The first year it produces a non-flowering leafy rosette of pinnately compound leaves with 5 to 15 leaflets.  It looks a lot like celery at this stage.  In the second to third year, it produces a flowering stem four to five feet tall. Stems are grooved, hollow, and have alternately arranged compound leaves with 2 – 5 pairs of opposite, sharply toothed leaflets and petioles that wrap around the stems. Flowers are flat-topped clusters (umbels) of yellow flowers 2 – 6” wide blooming in late spring to mid-summer in Wisconsin. Seed begins to form mid to late July changing from yellow-green to tan as they mature.  Along with the seeds maturing the stems and leaves begin to senesce, turning tan to brown in color.

How do we manage wild parsnip?  Early detection when populations are small allow for pulling or digging.  Be sure to wear gloves, long sleeves, long pants, and safety glasses or face shields to avoid skin contact with the sap.  One can simply cut the taproot with a shovel or spade 1 – 2” below the soil surface.  With larger populations mowing is an option if done after emergence of flower heads, but before seeds enlarge.  Additionally, several chemical options exist.  Be sure to read and follow label directions when using chemicals.  For more detailed management options see the UW-Extension wild parsnip management publication A3924-15 at the Learning Store website https://learningstore.uwex.edu/ .

What can I do as a Master Gardener to help?

  • Know how to identify wild parsnip and report locations at the Wisconsin First Detectors Network website http://fyi.uwex.edu/wifdn/get-involved/report-invasive-species/.  Several options are listed including a downloadable smartphone app.
  • Educate others about the existence and danger of wild parsnip.
  • Carry a sharp shovel or spade with you and when you see only one or a few plants consider cutting off the stems below the soil surface.  As long as they haven’t gone to seed the plants can then be left to die.  Check back the next year to see if additional plants emerge and cut those too.  CAUTION do not do this on private property without getting permission from the property owner.

Additional invasive species information

  • The University of Wisconsin Weed Science website http://fyi.uwex.edu/weedsci/ is a great resource for weed id and management info and has several short YouTube videos to help with identification.

The Wisconsin DNR invasive species website http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Invasives/ has a wealth of information on not only terrestrial invasive species but aquatic and wetland invasives as well.

I Love, Love, Love Lavender!

With visions of Heathcliff on the moors gathering fragrant bunches of heather and lavender, I’m swept up every time I use one of my lavender-scented soaps or walk through my garden and brush against the fragrant blooms of my lavender plants. I didn’t always have success growing the lavender, though. For a while, I had one as a houseplant until I overwatered it and sadly had to add it to the compost pile. Then, I had a couple in my garden that lived but didn’t thrive until I finally decided to do some research on why I was failing so often with this beloved plant.

Enter ‘The Lavender Lover’s Handbook’, a badly needed and now heavily well-worn gift from my daughter-in-law who knew of my love for the plant. This book, by Sarah Berringer Bader, has been a primary reason for the turn-around of my plants from surviving to thriving.

First of all, though, let’s talk about why you should include lavender in your garden:

  • it’s absolutely beautiful with foliage that ranges from various shades of green through gray-green to silver. The flowers come in shades of blue, purple, pink, and white so versatility is huge!
  • the fragrance is incredible and, when dried, the flowers last long into the winter
  • grown in the right spot, very little to no care is needed. As long as the spot has full sun, good drainage, and plenty of room to spread out, you can focus on plants that require your attention. Lavender will take care of itself, thank you very much!
  • lavender attracts a range of pollinators — the good ones that not only pollinate your garden but also eat the pests you don’t want! Watch carefully on a sunny day and you’ll find bumblebees, honeybees, butterflies, ladybugs, and praying mantises drawn to this delightful plant.

There are many, many lavender plants from which to choose so you’ll want to do your homework to make sure you’re ordering or buying a plant that will thrive in your growing zone. Because lavender is exceptionally drought tolerant, it’s a great addition any area of your garden where watering is a problem. Consider combining it with other drought-tolerant plants like Achillea millefolium (yarrow), Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower), Gallardia grandiflora (blanket flower), and Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan). The purple / yellow combination of these plants will make a beautiful garden area.

Lavender and roses love growing together as well (see prior blog post here) and makes less work for you! While roses attract aphids, lavender attracts aphid-eating ladybugs. Roses do want more water than lavender, however, so you’ll want to mulch the roses to retain water. The flowers from both lavender and roses can be gathered and dried, but here’s where my skills leave me — utilizing the flowers for teas, soaps, baking, sachets, and crafts. However, with both purple and white lavender in my garden along with some beautiful yellow roses, I’m planning on learning these skills!

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

Appleton Farm Market

by Master Gardener Jill Botvinik

Join us at the Farm Market!

Master Gardeners Eamonn Lenaghan and Jill Botvinik at the OCMGA booth

Master Gardeners Eamonn Lenaghan and Jill Botvinik at the OCMGA booth

Not only do we provide service to the community, but this is a fun opportunity for Outagamie County Master Gardeners to get to know their fellow MGs better. Outagamie County Master Gardeners have been staffing a booth at the Appleton Farm Market for many years. Providing this service to the community has been a tradition in almost every state by Master Gardener groups. This year the OCMGA is continuing the tradition starting June 25 and then on the second and fourth Saturday of each month through September and possibly October.

appleton-farmers-market-logoThe Appleton Farm Market Coordinator has again generously given us space for free in Houdini Plaza with other program type booths. The Saturday Downtown Appleton Farm Market is the third largest outdoor farm market in Wisconsin after Madison and Milwaukee. The Farm Market will open on June 18 and continue each Saturday through October with over 150 vendors.

The three reasons most people stop at our booth are:

  • Looking for help with horticultural problems
  • Interested in learning about Master Gardeners and their activities
  • Want to share their experiences with fellow gardeners

Volunteers at the 2015 booth have come up with a number of great ideas to increase traffic and draw in the public. These ideas range from having freebies like seed packs or fruit to dressing up the booth with plants to having a monthly theme. Ideas are always welcome.

In 2015 we staffed our booth once per month and in 2016 we are going back to twice per month. We had a wonderful group of volunteers in 2015 who I hope will return in 2016. Some were veterans and many were from the class of 2015. We will also be recruiting from this year’s class. One of the keys to success will be recruiting plenty of volunteers to be part of our team. This is a very fun and rewarding way to provide service to the community and earn service hours.