Tag Archive | Education

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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Garden Conference Success!!

Brian Hudelson, UW-Wisconsin Extension, brings his extensive knowledge of plant diseases

This past Saturday (April 1), our Master Gardener group (Outagamie County Master Gardener Association) hosted an annual Garden Conference. As always, the Conference was a huge success — even the weather cooperated by sending us a sunny day with temperatures near 60 degrees!

Guest speaker Jim Beard shares information about Straw Bale Gardening

Every year, we sell out our Conference as seats are filled by those eager for Spring, excited to hear from our guest speakers, and interested in visiting with our many vendors! This year was no exception as 200 people filled the room and enjoyed the discussions about Straw Bale Gardening, Plant Diseases, Garden Planning/Photography, Incorporating Edibles into your garden, and fun Garden Tips and Tricks.

Author Stacy Tornio talks about her new book “Plants You Can’t Kill” with OCMGA member Chris Frederickson

Gorgeous varieties of Hostas for sale

Every year, the number of vendors who join us

increases and the variety of products continues to astonish our attendees. This year, we had garden decorations, jewelry, organic herbal soaps, lotions, and scrubs, batik scarves, tree charms, stone-cast garden leaves, wood furniture, live plants, garden tools, and much, much more.

Join us next year!

The Conference is always held at the end of March or early April each year. Make a note to check our website (www.ocmga.net) next year for details!

 

by OCMGA Master Gardener Vicki Schilleman

Planning for next year

When growing season is done and the garden has been put to bed, it’s time to start planning for next year! I love tea and drink it the way many other people drink coffee. I have an area in my flower garden devoted to herbs, and I’m thinking about adding something new:  tea.

downloadTrue tea (white, black and green) comes from one plant species: Camellia sinensis, hardy in Zones 6 to 9. This plant isn’t finicky (slightly acidic soil, a sunny location and plenty of water will keep it happy), but it grows slowly from seed. It can take three years to get a harvest and cuttings are challenging, so purchasing a plant seems like the right approach. Like me, you may already have herbs in your garden, such as mint and lemongrass, that you can use for tisanes, or herbal teas.

When using herbs for tea, it’s important to research which part of the plant is used for making tea, such as the leaves of the mint plant, the buds and flowers of chamomile or the outer stalks of lemongrass. Freshly picked herbs can be brewed right away. You can also dry herbs to keep the cupboard stocked.

Herbal tea

imagesThis hot beverage is not actually tea (not being made from the Camellia sinensis plant, but from herbs), but is called tea and is wildly popular. Some of the possible plants to use:

  • Bee balm
  • Bergamot
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Raspberry
  • Rose Hip
  • Sage
  • Strawberry
  • Yarrow

Gently tear or crush herbal leaves, buds or roots to release essential oils and boost flavor, and you might consider a tea infuser or ball instead of a strainer for a simpler brewing process to avoid having a cup full of leaves.

Try Freezing your Herbs

Drying herbs is pretty commonplace and, for me, there’s nothing better than the fragrance of herbs drying in my basement. However, herbs that have been frozen taste fresher than dried herbs, but only for the first 4 months or so after freezing. After that, flavor declines rapidly, so freezing should be an addition to drying.

To freeze lemon verbena, lovage, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, and tarragon, use whole leaves (discard stems). To freeze dill, fennel, and thyme, use tender sprigs. Basil discolors when it is frozen, so if you want it to stay bright green, dip branches in boiling water, just for a second or two, then remove, discard stems, and gently dry the leaves.

Whatever you’re freezing should be completely dry. Spread it out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place it in the freezer. As soon as the herbs are frozen, usually in no more than an hour or two, pack them in heavy plastic freezer bags and put the bags in freezer-safe glass jars (canning jars) for storage.

Chives don’t freeze well; they don’t dry well, either. Use them fresh or substitute green onion tops.

Another popular method for freezing herbs involves chopping them and adding them to liquid (water or olive oil), freezing them in ice cube trays, and pulling out just what you need to add to soups, sauces, gravies, etc. There are many places on the web with instructions on how to freeze herbs in liquids.

Remember: freezing herbs won’t help you any if you forget to use them, something all too easy to do. As a reminder, post an inventory of frozen herbs where you will see it when you reach for the seasonings.

 

Next time:  Drying Herbs

Columbus School Plan for 2016

by Master Gardener Shirley Martin

 

We started classroom sessions in February on the morning of the 25th with the 5th grade. Our schedule is coordinated with the teachers from Columbus and Appleton Bilingual School.

-Planning the Garden using charts from last year.

We used old gardening catalogs for students in each grade to construct a new garden for the upcoming year by cutting out pictures and pasting them on new a new Garden Chart. Master Gardener volunteers came to each classroom that participated and gave a constructive critique of each chart thus helping the students to determine the final layout of the garden. We introduced the concepts of rotating the crops and companion planting.

During the months of March and April, we introduced sessions on:

-Proper care and management of the Garden:

Weeding, Watering, Stepping Paths

Beneficial insects, mulching, soil testing and amendments

Some of the future tasks will be to move two large cold frames this spring and use some sort of soil barrier to be installed across the backs of the garden beds that line the fence. I am thinking that composite lumber or an attractive corrugated metal cut to size would be nice.

We’re always looking for volunteers to help with the gardens!!

 

Putting Down Roots – Gardening Insights from Wisconsin’s Early Settlers (book review)

by Karen Des Jarlais

371-t1Ever wonder why we plant what we plant and who decided it? Putting Down Roots has some answers. British (called Yankees in this book) German, Norwegian, Irish, Danish, Polish, and Finnish are the Europeans which the author reviews.

You can actually see these recreations of the original gardens at Old World Wisconsin-the largest of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s living history museums. It’s in Waukesha County-576 acres in Eagle. These are historically accurate gardens which complement the settings of a dozen homes from the above ethnic backgrounds. These researched gardens, according to the author, are filled with vegetables, flowers herbs and fruits of varying colors, textures, flavors and fragrances.

Each nationality has its particulars expressed in this book. Common to all are the drawings of tools which are charming in their simplicity and practicality. If you are faced with a distance between your water source and your compost for example, the “garden engine” might solve your aching back, shoulder, or hose problems. It’s kind of like a wheel barrow with a pump. It’s in the Yankee section. We can also thank the Yankees for replacing the scythe and grass sickle with the lawn mower which paved the way for acceptance of the labor intensive lawns which we “enjoy” today.

The German section details much of the German industriousness which we witness as we hear news of the stable German economy. I want to look up “black salsify” or scorzonera to see if we can find it today. They pioneered gardening in rows and separated the kitchen garden from the flowers. They also gave us the wheelhoe, a form of cultivator.

Peruse the Polish section and you discover that rosemary and myrtle were important at weddings. Stovewood construction or incorporating whole logs with concrete is also from the Poles.

The Finns gave us an intricate root cellar idea.

You’ll very much enjoy the photos of the restored homes which have been moved to Old World Wisconsin. The orderliness of the gardens and the lush growth make me want to drift back in a time machine to the late 1800’s. The seed catalogs from that time period and the drawings they contain make this book worth a look for those alone. The appendix is a bunch of tables which highlight the plants each ethnic group planted to eat. Also informative is the section on plants for dyeing. It’s well indexed and there’s a great bibliography for each nationality so that you can learn more.

Here’s the biggest bonus—recipes for each group of settlers! I’m anxious to try the Irish “Boreen Brack” which is a kind of bread.

There’s lots to see and learn in this book. Your library has Putting Down Roots.

I hope you’ll dig it out!

Kentucky Bourbon Trails “Black Secret”

by Bev Kindschy

Last fall we moved our daughter to Louisville, Kentucky to finish up her college training in Radiation Therapy. This move was exciting, since it presented many new learning opportunities including the culture of Kentucky.  One of our first learning experiences was the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which is a program of nine Kentucky distillers that promote the bourbon industry.  Kentucky produces the majority of all bourbon made world-wide, because of the limestone water supply.  Since our family is a fan of wine and beer tastings, we decided to expand our taste buds and start bourbon tastings/tours on the trail.IMG_2189 orig1

On a walking tour of the historic Jim Beam distillery, I couldn’t help but notice that the buildings were all black. As I looked more closely I noticed the trees were extremely black and looked like they had their bark blow-torched.  I learned that it is because the trees and warehouses have been tainted by Baudoinia compniacensis, a unique whiskey fungus, found near distilleries.  This particular type of black fungus is common near distilleries because it uses ethanol as a source of energy for growth.  During the whiskey maturation process (expanding and contracting in and out of the barrels’ oak panels), at least 2% of whiskey escapes from the barrel as ethanol vapor. It is this airborne ethanol that stimulates fungal germination and provides some additional heat protective proteins to the organisms. Since ethanol is denser than air, when it meets the slightest bit of moisture (limestone water supply) you get whiskey fungus all over the place. At an eyeball distance it appears as a crusty coating. At a greater foot distance, it appears like ink staining.

 

One final point in case you plan to participate in a bourbon tasting, Makers Mark has the best bourbon balls at the end of their tour and you get to sample four types of bourbons!