Search Results for: learning garden

In My Backyard: The Sauk County Gardener

One thing you’ll learn about gardeners: we love to share our knowledge and our experiences with other gardeners. Here is a reprint of an article from a fellow gardener in Sauk County that appeared in our State newsletter The Volunteer Vibe.

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Phyllis Both, Sauk County UW-Extension Horticulture Educator

When I was a child many, many, many years ago I loved watching insects.  I would catch and study them under a microscope.  We had a neighborhood with a lot of kids.  We used our imaginations and made up old fashioned games.  My forte was bugs.  I’d catch them, put them in jars and charge a penny to view them.  It was so much fun for a little kid! Now days my interest is a little more extensive and I attend any entomology presentation I can.

Reedsburg-Pioneer-Village-Museum-SignWhen my Master Gardeners adopted a neglected historical site called the Reedsburg Area Pioneer Log Village we each adopted a cabin to beautify. We planted old-fashioned flowers and cared for the cabins to help attract more visitors and school children.  Black-eyed Susan’s, hollyhocks, daisies, and numerous hardy native plants were planted in the very poor soil the pioneers had to deal with.

These improvements helped but it was still not a village. Two victory gardens were planted.  It’s amazing how many people don’t know why the victory garden were planted during WWI and WWII.  It is a great teaching tool.  We loved the gardens but it was still not enough.  We started wondering what the pioneer doctors would have used since a drugstore or apothecary was not available.  An herb garden was built and medicinal herbs were planted.  This garden is another great teaching tool for both kids and adults.

What was still missing?  A prairie!  A natural habitat for bees, butterflies and wildlife was just what the village needed.  After a few summers went by, bluebird houses went up, bat houses went up, and native bee houses went up.

Still something was missing.  My love of the insect world must have pointed me in the right direction.  We decided to create a butterfly trail and add bee hives.  They work well together.  Fortunately three of my Master Gardeners were bee keepers and volunteered to get us started.

Top-bar_brood_comb_from_a_warre_hiveWe built three hives and ordered three colonies with three queens all from California. Our California girls were doing a great job this past summer but only in two of the hives. One of the hives was a bit lazy.  We still got fifty-one pounds of honey from the two productive hives.  We were amazed when the poor producing hive re-queened itself with a Wisconsin lady.  All three hives are buzzing with activity this spring.

I have learned so much about the wonderful community of bees; their leaders, their workers, their gate keepers.  The hives are wonderful teaching and learning tools for out busloads of visitors who have a love of nature.

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OCMGA 7th Annual Garden Walk – Garden #3

Each summer, the Outagamie County Master Gardener Association hosts a community garden walk to help raise money to further develop the Community gardens of Goodwill Grows, and to add food to the local food pantries. This year’s Garden Walk will be held on Saturday, June 20 when the public is invited to tour five select gardens in the Fox Cities. For more information about the times, cost, and addresses, please visit our Facebook page.

Each of the gardens represents a unique look at gardening style and design, and each of the five will be the subject of posts. Today, Columbus Elementary School Learning Garden:

“This is your opportunity to see how the values of gardening and growing are being bestowed upon our most precious resource: our children! Columbus Elementary School has a wonderful learning garden headed by Master Gardener Shirley Martin. She animates garden stories for first- through fourth-graders and delights them with the knowledge of where our food comes from. Look for the Peter Rabbit garden, the Three Sisters garden, as well as herbs, cold frames, and compost bins. This effort does everything to explain why we love to garden. This is a garden gem that serves a core Appleton neighborhood.”

Written by De Dalum / Posted by Vicki

Honey Bees

bee-hive1Honey bees are not native to the Americas; they were introduced from Europe in the early 1600’s for honey production. Honey bees are thought to have originated in Asia and expanded to North Africa and Europe. There are two species that are considered to be suitable for apiculture. In recent year there has been concern over “colony collapse” and the risk of not having enough pollinators for our agricultural industry. A hedge against this possibility is to encourage proliferation of native bees. The DNR has published a very good article on what an individual can do http://dnr.wi.gov/wnrmag/2009/06/bees.htm#2 . This year the Outagamie County Master Gardeners will be installing various types of bee houses on the grounds of the Outagamie County Agricultural Extension.

Tom Wentzel

OCMGA chair of The Learning Garden

A wise investment — use a rain barrel!

EarthMinded-Rain-BarrelEvery gardener shares one overwhelming desire each season:  please send rain! There’s nothing to compare to a thorough soaking from a spring shower during those hot summer months when every drop counts! That’s what makes a rain barrel so valuable.

Positioned beneath a downspout, a rain barrel collects the runoff from your roof during rainfall. Free of the chemicals added to city water, rainwater is beneficial for your lawn, flower beds, borders, vegetable gardens, and containers. You can use this supply to supplement your water needs, cutting down on your utility bill.

Rain barrels come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but 55 gallons is a common size for the average homeowner. You can make your own (using plans that are found online), or you’ll be able to find one at practically any garden center or garden supply company. If you live in a cold winter area with freezing temps, just drain your barrel in fall before storing it upside down in a garage or shed. And once a year, clean out its interior with a non-toxic solution, such as vinegar.

There are equations to calculate a precise amount of water that you can expect to collect based on your area’s annual rainfall and the size of your roof. But just 1/4 inch of rainfall onto a roof that’s 1200 square feet would more than fill two barrels.

Tips for getting the best out of your rain barrel:

  1. Cover an open top with a screened lid to keep the water clean. Covering the barrel prevents debris from falling in and protects your water supply from mosquito larvae. Note: if you can’t screen the top of your barrel, you can still discourage the growth of mosquitoes by using bacterial products designed to kill mosquito larva.
  2. If your barrel has a closed lid, you’ll need a downspout diverter which diverts rainwater into the barrel until it’s full. After that, it allows excess water to drain safely away from the foundation of your home.
  3. Elevating your rain barrel makes for a stronger water flow from it’s spigot. Plus, it puts the barrel at a more convenient height to fill watering cans and buckets, or to attach a hose.

Comment by Tom Wentzel, OCMGA chair of The Learning Garden:  “There are soaker hose systems that can be connected to rain barrels. Typical soaker hoses require about 20 PSI to function. These systems claim to function under no pressure. A system like this will be installed in The Learning Garden on the Outagamie County Agricultural Extension grounds when weather permits. Last year this system worked quite well.”

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