Tag Archive | Gardening


by Sharon Morrisey, Consumer Horticulture Agent in Milwaukee County

p1010092Get a head start on next year’s vegetable garden by making seed tapes during the cold, wintry months. Start by selecting carrots, radishes, lettuce, spinach, Chinese cabbage, turnips, and mustard that you want to sow directly into the garden. Ordering these in January avoids the possibility that they have sold out.

Use two-ply toilet tissue or thin paper towels to make narrow strips to glue the seeds to. Space seeds according to the sowing instructions on the seed packet. White school glue or a paste made of flour and water will hold the seeds in place. Place a second layer of paper on top, or fold the strip in half lengthwise so you can cover the seeds while the glue is still wet. Roll or fold the tapes into bundles for storage until spring. Of course, it is critical to label the bundles immediately to avoid unpleasant surprises once planted and growing in the garden.

Next spring, create a wide furrow at the proper planting depth for each crop, place the seed tape in it, and cover with soil. Water gently and keep watered until germination occurs. The whole objective is to be able to avoid the nasty job of thinning seedlings. Not only is thinning seedlings laborious, it disturbs the ones left behind, sometimes causing irreparable damage.



Learn about Herbs: Bountiful Borage

The holidays are behind us, the garden catalogs are arriving, and it’s time to start thinking about planting! It seems like gardeners tend to fall into one of two categories: vegetable gardeners (who don’t mind also having beautiful flowers), or flower gardeners who tuck in a few veggies and/or herbs here and there. To encourage everyone to add some edibles to their garden spaces (no matter how small), I thought we’d learn about herbs.

Borage_(Borago_officinalis)The little blue flowers of borage (borago officinalis) are favorite edible garnishes, adding color to everything from salad to cake. The taste is very delicate so you can use lots, assuming you have the patience to pick them. And borage leaves are delicious, tasting mostly of cucumber with a hint of lettuce sweetness. But the fine white hairs that give them their silvery glow are not so pleasant on the palate. To get around the problem, cooks either use very young leaves in salads, or employ larger ones as removable seasonings — stepping them in white wine punches is classic.

You can also add them to cooked dishes such as chicken soup, since heat destroys the prickly quality. And borage leaves are very tasty prepared like spinach or other tender greens. That sounds like a way to use up your whole windfall: creamed borage all around! Unfortunately, borage deserves its reputation as a natural laxative, so it can’t really be used as a solo vegetable. A handful of leaves mixed with other greens is the largest amount that is wise.

Borage_Plant_-_geograph.org.uk_-_217039This is one of the most persistent self-sowers known to gardening so you’ll want to control it. The upper sections of full-grown borage plants, sparse of leaf and rich with flowers, make very pretty fillers for country-style bouquets.

The Learning Garden “Lasagna Garden”

by OCMGA Master Gardeners Barb Dorzweiler and Janet Carlson

True to the name “The Learning Garden”, my team and I learned how to build a lasagna garden in the summer of 2014. We had never built a lasagna garden before, but we were definitely interested and we were up for the challenge. Far from being an expert, but knowing how to find information, I researched a little on the subject before we set out. I referenced the UW Extension publication, A4021 “Making and Using Compost in the Garden.” Yes, there is a science to this. I also referenced another helpful article, “How To Create a Lasagna Garden” by R. J. Ruppenthal originally published in the May/June issue of Urban Farm. First of all, a lasagna garden is a no-till method of building a garden by adding layers of organic materials that will cook down over time not unlike what happens in your compost bins. It can also be referred to as “sheet composting”. We had a designated plot in The Learning Garden and our first step was to dig up two inches of the topsoil on our plot to set it aside for the topmost layer so we could plant right away. The plan was to alternate layers of “green” and “brown” organic materials. Brown materials are rich in carbon and include dry leaves, shredded newspaper, straw, and even shredded toilet paper rolls. Green materials are rich in nitrogen and include green leaves, green grass clippings, coffee grounds, eggshells, fruit and vegetable scraps. Our building happened over two different dates in May in part to give the bed time to cook and because the spring weather was not as warm as we hoped. On May 2nd, we started the bed with a brown layer: straw, compost from the UW-Ext bins and newspaper. The second layer was a green layer of vegetable waste and coffee grounds. The third layer was brown with sawdust and shredded dry leaves. We covered this with a black landscape cloth and left it to warm up for a couple weeks. On May 19th, we added a layer of newspaper and watered it immediately with the garden hose to keep it in place and make it easier to work with. Then again more layers of brown and green materials: dry leaves, grass clipping, coffee grounds (free from Starbucks), and newspaper. Then we added back the topsoil as the topmost layer to use as the planting medium. The lasagna bed was now about 10-12 inches high. Our initial planting was one tomato plant and two rows of lettuce. We labeled our rows with cut venetian blind labels. In later weeks, another tomato plant was added along with carrots, radishes. As expected, the lasagna garden cooked down and lost some of it height. This told us the organic materials were being composted into a fertile, fluffy soil. With the heavy rains this summer, some of the material was washed away, but the mulching around the garden beds helped hold its borders. We were able to harvest bountiful lettuce, tomatoes and the other vegetables. We had concerns that the lack of green grass clippings would slow down the decomposition, but the “green” materials (kitchen scraps and coffee grounds) we used were sufficient so this wasn’t an issue. As we cleaned up for the fall, this wonderfully fertile, loose soil can be spread and used over the adjacent garden plots or added to for another lasagna garden. It’s definitely a sustainable way to keep your organic material out of the landfill and improve your soil at the same time. I definitely recommend this process. On to next year’s plans; what will the next team do? It was a fun and learning experience for us!

Reprinted from the OCMGA member newsletter from the winter of 2014


The Learning Garden “Asian Garden” and “Herb Garden”

Asian Garden by OCMGA Master Gardeners Anne Anderson and Tom Wentzel

Tom and I did the square garden with Asian veggies. What I learn from the square garden is how much you can plant in one square. It’s amazing if one is limited on space how square gardening would be beneficial. The only problem was after the garden started to grow I was not sure what were weeds or the growing vegetable. Asian vegetables to me, looked like weeds or maybe they were! LOL!!! What I would do different is if there is more than one square with the same veggie, I would not have put them next to each other. Lastly, I should have brought my cats to clean up since watching them chase the mice would have been so entertaining!

Herb Garden by OCMGA Master Gardeners Mary Learman, Sue Mings, and Maureen Flanagan-Johnson

We continued the original theme by planting the more common herbs used in Greece, France, Italy and England. Since most herbs do not like wet feet, it took a little while before we saw any real growth. Then they did not stop. We framed each of the four plots with marigolds and made a Marigold Henge in the center. A couple of notes for next year will be to not to over-plant, plus to harvest more often. It actually needed little upkeep apart from the occasional pruning. But with schedules and the vagaries of the weather, they were not harvested often enough. One unexpected problem turned out to be that the voles had built a metropolis under the herb garden and it collapsed in several places. They also ate some of the roots. Ninja tactics will be employed next year.

Reprinted from the OCMGA member newsletter from the winter of 2014

Daylilies are not Ordinary!!


‘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:


‘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.


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-


‘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.





The Fruits of Orchard

by OCMGA Master Gardener Lynne Finch

After moving into our house with fruit trees in the backyard, I envisioned gently dropping ripe fruit into a basket while my smiling children danced around. Seductive aromas would drift from my kitchen as I baked magnificent pies and canned and froze our bounty. That was the dream.

In our first walk-through of our orchard, we saw an apple tree with a five-inch diameter trunk only a few feet away from a young cherry tree. A few steps away stood a pear tree. Nearby grew a plum tree partnered with another apple tree.pear-453828_960_720

These five small trees stood like a wee forest in the equally small backyard behind the kitchen. Even to a new gardener like me, they looked a bit too cozy. The cherry and plum trees were young enough to be transplanted to the big spacious side yard. The other apple tree had to go to make way for our vegetable garden. This gave the pear and apple trees some breathing room.

The cherry and plum staged their annual contest for best springtime bloom with the plum always coming in second. Not only were the plums not tasty, but a nasty winter killed the tree. As for the traditional Christmas dessert, did you know there are no plums in plum pudding?

The cherry tree looked good year round, the bark a smooth purplish-brown. Cherry blossoms in spring ripened like little red ornaments during the summer. The squirrels scampered on the branches, hanging upside down eating until their faces dripped red with juice.

With the abundant fruit on the tree, I filled my basket and started pitting. Alas, for each pit there was at least one worm. Never did make a cherry pie. A few seasons later half the tree died, then the year with no blossoms or buds. Cannot lie about it; we cut down the cherry tree. Sitting in front of the fireplace, the kids would wave glowing branch tips while cherry aroma filled the room.

Now we were down to two fruit trees. The pear tree produced for several years. Each fall I lined up the canned jars in the basement. Then the tree split and lingered a bit, the last year standing forlornly with a few pears dangling on a single branch.

apple-tree-1593216_960_720The lone survivor is a full-size mature apple tree, greeting us each morning through our bedroom window. Each spring the blossoms tell a different story. Many blossoms, few blossoms, early ones, late ones, fast petal drop, slow petal drop.

The trunk is now nearly 20 inches in diameter with strong branches reaching out like fingers on giant hands. My kids climbed in and sat like birds in a nest. Now my grandkids settle in an even bigger nest. A visitor once commented on the great bones of our apple tree. Indeed, it is a magnificent sculpture that spreads itself out to shade our porch.

The apple tree and I continue to travel through the seasons together; blossom time, petal drop and the progression of windfalls that I faithfully pick up. The tree peeks in through the kitchen window as I mix its tart, sweet flavor in pies and applesauce. When all other trees stand bare, the apple tree hangs on to its leaves, determined to be the last one to give up and settle down for the winter ahead.

Dividing Hostas

by OCMGA Master Gardener Holly Boettcher

HostaThe million-dollar question for serious gardeners is whether it is better to divide your hosta plants in late fall or the early spring. At our vineyard, we have massive perennial gardens which are home to hundreds of hostas. When you see me staring off into space while relaxing in one of the many sitting areas on our property, what I am really doing, is contemplating which hosta need to be divided, and where the gardens will expand into the next season.

From past experience, I have learned it is easier to “wrestle” the plant in early spring, when those tender buds are swelling through the warm spring earth. If I divide at this time, I don’t feel as though I am committing an act of violence against them. BUT, early in the spring, it is difficult to remember what that hosta looked like. You see, I am one of those gardeners who obsess over planting hostas so their colors, variegations, and shapes, will both contrast and compliment those around them.

For that reason, I am with the divide in the fall group! Yes, you will most certainly damage some leaves, and it may seem as though the plant suffered a setback, but in the next season they will “spring back” to put you in awe of the project which you completed.

Here is what you will need to get started:

  • A wheelbarrow, shovel, cutting tool, some organic matter, and water. Start out by assessing which plants need to be divided, then decide where you will plant them. Keep in mind that hosta leaves will scorch in full sun, so be sure to select an area that gets only a few hours of morning sun.
  • Next, dig around and below the hosta being careful not to damage too much of the root system. Lift the entire plant out of the ground and don’t be shy about asking for help if it is too heavy. With a garden hose, rinse as much of the soil from the root system.
  • Now is the time to get tuff. You can take your shovel or cutting tool, and slice all the way through the roots, and divide the plant into one or more sections. If the roots are not too tangled, it is best to pull the sections apart by working with your hands.
  • Next, add the organic matter or compost in the hole and replant one of the sections where you just dug it up. Place the other sections in your wheelbarrow and take to the area you will plant. Dig holes at least twice the size of your root system. Again, add organic matter or compost to the hole, and fill in around the plant.
  • Be sure to water all generously and regularly.Hosta33Another tip when planting is to either plant a “specimen” or in groups of 3 or 5 for an attractive look. If you have room, consider adding some companion plants such as Astilbe, Baptisia, Bleeding heart, Dianthus, or Pulmonaria (lungwort.)Above all, be patient. The hosta may not look very attractive at this time, but after it has had a long winters nap it will emerge in the spring looking as beautiful as ever!