Tag Archive | Master Gardener

Updating Grandma’s Flowers for your Garden

by SCMGA (Stafford County Master Gardener Association)

Want to plant some of grandma’s favorite flowers but a modern-day version?  Then you are going to be excited about the new varieties that are coming soon to your local retailer!

One of the many trends found at the horticulture industry’s California Spring Trials this year was shaking up old-time flower varieties and making them new and improved for our gardens.  California Spring Trials is a yearly event where growers, breeders, and suppliers showcase their newest and existing products at various locations throughout California. These are just a few of the many beautiful new varieties we saw this year:

Fuchsia

A beautiful hanging basket favorite has been bred to produce more flowers that last longer, plus, it’s a more compact size – perfect for smaller spaces.  You can’t  go wrong with the tear-drop shape of the multi-color flowers bursting into bloom….breathtaking!

Phlox

Grandma and pollinators loved the old-fashioned garden phlox and now you can have pollinator-friendly plants that really POP in your garden. The new ‘Popstar’ Phlox is a dwarf strong-branching variety with eye-catching, unique, star-shaped flowers. Lots of flower POP for the whole season!

Snapdragons

Snapdragons are no longer the flower in the background of the garden. Twinny Snapdragons are the first double flower form snapdragon with a compact habit. Great for cut flowers and pollinators.  Snapdragon Twinny Peach™ F1 is an All-America Selection Winner.

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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

Saving Seeds, Saving Memories

By Master Gardener Tammy Borden

My first experience with saving seeds began with a beautiful hyacinth bean vine that I planted from seed during my classes to become a Master Gardener. I can still recall our entire class lined up with Styrofoam cups and starting mix while Larry and Kay Herried rationed out the seeds, eager to be an agent in allowing life to come into existence. Even the seeds looked intriguing with their matte black surface and white edging.

Within days, they sprouted and it wasn’t long before they overtook a small trellis. The seedpods eventually appeared following the delicate flowers, and it was easy to simply collect the encased seeds and store them until spring. When spring finally came, it brought so much gratification to know I was a part of continuing the cycle of life as the seeds from one plant soon became sev- eral dozen more that I could share with family and friends.

Saving seeds, in general, is not too difficult, and it can save you a lot of money. Here are a few basics that need to be followed for most varieties, whether they’re a vegetable or flower.

STEP ONE

In general, select seeds from heirloom variety flowers and vegetables. As a rule of thumb, do not waste your time trying to save seeds from hybrid plants or exotic species. The offspring will most likely look nothing like the parent plant, be weak, or may not sprout at all. My mother told me how she painfully came to realize this rule when she saved seeds from a hybrid cucumber… the following spring she planted the seeds; they sprouted, grew vigorously and had promising blossoms. But when the fruit began to set, every single tiny cucumber shriveled and fell off the vine, leaving her to resort to roadside stands and tasteless produce aisles.

STEP TWO

Once you’ve selected the plants you would like to save seeds from, allow the flower or fruit to mature on the vine so the seeds can fully develop. Choose from the healthiest and finest produce or flower heads. For most peppers, allow them to go beyond the green stage until they’re red. For cucumbers, allow them to get over ripe and turn yellow on the vine. For flowers, herbs and vegetables that set seed (lettuce, radish, etc.), let them get to that unsightly brown stage or allow them to set seed pods.

STEP THREE

Harvest the seeds. For fruits and vegetables, like melons, it caseed-saving.jpgn be as easy as slicing them open and scooping out the seeds. For flowers, like zinnias, pull the seeds from the center cone that forms. For others like nicotania (flowering tobacco), hold the seed pod inside an envelope and burst it so the thousands of miniscule seeds fall inside. After harvesting the seed, allow them to fully dry out of direct sunlight on a paper plate.

STEP FOUR

Fermenting… Huh? Fermenting is not required for most seeds. However, if you want to save seeds from that mystery tomato that your uncle’s been growing for years, you’ll need to read this part! Tomatoes require an extra step that will bring back memories of growing cultures in Petri dishes in your high school biology class. Tomato seeds are enclosed in a gel-like substance containing growth inhibitors that needs to be removed through a fermentation process. Remove the seeds and place them in a glass dish. Add a small amount of wa- ter to help separate the seeds from the pulp. Then set the bowl of tomato seeds and pulp in a warm spot and allow 2-4 days for the fermentation to take place. As with most fermentation processes, don’t be alarmed if the slimy mixture develops an odor. Wait for a layer of mold to form on top of your seeds & pulp, and for the seeds to fall to the bottom. Finally, remove the mold and rinse the seeds well in a strainer, removing any remaining pulp. Spread the seeds onto a paper plate or glass dish to dry.

STEP FIVE

Storage should take place in a cool, dry, dark place where temperatures remain fairly stable. Glass jars work well, as do paper envelopes. Make sure that seeds being kept in sealed containers are completely dry so that moisture doesn’t cause molding. Clearly label your containers with the variety name and date.

STEP SIX

Some seeds require cold stratification to germinate. Most hardy perennials fall into this category. Baptisia and milkweed are two examples. Cold stratification simulates a winter freezing period and can easily be accomplished by placing these seeds in the freezer for a couple months. Research on-line or use a good reference book to determine if your seed needs this cold treatment.

Saving seeds is fun and easy. There are many seeds that may require a slightly different method for harvesting, so I suggest searching on-line for your particular variety. Or you can purchase a book to help you sort through it. “Seed to Seed” by Suzanne Ashworth, available through Seed Savers Exchange, is one suggestion. Happy harvesting!

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

Composting with Worms

by Patrick Meyer

worm-compostThe process of worm compost is interestingly different from the regular composting procedure. Worm composting or vermiculture is an easy, affordable, and low-maintenance way of creating compost. It has a lot of advantages. Definitely it requires less work, just let the worms eat up all your scraps and in two months you’ll have rich compost at your disposal. The worms used in composting are the brown-nose worms or redworms. They work best in containers and on moistened bedding. Those night crawlers or large, soil-burrowing worms are not good for composting purposes. Just stick with the redworms and things will work out well. All you need to do is add food waste to the container and soon enough the worms will eat them up and convert compost together with the bedding. Before placing your redworms inside containers, place a nice layer of paper to serve as bedding for the worms. Any kind of paper will do, but it has been observed that the worms will consume newspapers, cardboards, paper towels and other coarse papers faster. The worms will eat this layer of bedding together with the scraps of food to convert them in compost. You can also add a bit of soil on top of the paper and a few pieces of leaves. If your redworm container is located outside the house, try considering adding livestock manure on it. Redworms love them.

Fruits, grain, or vegetables are great for worm composting. The redworms can even eat egg shells, coffee grounds, and even tea bags. Avoid giving them meat, fish, oil, and other animal products. Like the traditional composting, these materials only attract pests to the composting bin and also produce bad smell. The proportion of worms to food scraps will be based on how much scrap you like to be composted in a week. For example, if you want one pound of food scrap to be composted a week, all you need is also a pound of redworms. You don’t need to add redworms into the container unless you want to increase the amount of food scraps you intend to compost in a weekly basis.

For containers, keep it well ventilated to let the air in and let the excess moisture out. You can use plastic bins, and even wooden boxes for worm composting. The time to harvest would be when the container is full. Scoop out the undigested food scraps as well as the worms which are usually on the top few inches of the material. The remaining material inside the container is your compost. To remove the remaining worms from compost, you can spread the compost under the sunlight.

Storing Your Tools and Supplies for Winter

clean_toolMake sure to properly care for your tools for winter so that they’ll be in good shape in the spring. Clean hand tools, shovels, rakes, and hoes before putting them in storage; it’s easier to do the job now than wait until spring when the rust and hardened soil are harder to remove.

  1. Wash or wipe off excess soil; use a narrow putty knife to remove hardened soil. Or soak soil-encrusted tools in water and scrub with a wire brush.
  2. Remove rust with a coarse grade of steel wool or medium-grit sand paper. Add a few drops of oil to each side of the tool surface, and use a small cloth to spread it over the metal. This will help protect the surface against rust.
  3. 2003536302Sharpen the soil-cutting edges of shovels, hoes, and trowels to make digging easier.
  4. Check the handles for splinters and rough spots. Use sandpaper on rough, wooden-handled tools; coat with linseed oil.
  5. Make sure the handles are tightly fastened to the shovel, hoe, or rake. You may need to replace or reinstall missing pins, screws, and nails.

PesticideStorageAs you’re working to properly store your tools for winter, take a moment to locate, organize, and safely store fertilizers and pesticides.

  1. Always leave pesticides in their original containers. It is illegal — and unwise — to transfer them to a different container.
  2. Pesticides should be stored in a locked area, away from pets and children.
  3. Store granular formulations in cool, dry locations.
  4. Liquids should be kept out of direct sunlight and freezing temperatures. Freezing and UV can diminish the effectiveness of some products.

Finally, you should store your lawn mower properly so it, too, will be ready to go in the spring.

  1. Empty the gas tank, or fill it with a gas preservative. The gas can be emptied by running the motor until it eventually runs out of gas. If you’re adding a gas preservative, run the motor for a few minutes to mix the preservative and gas together.
  2. Disengage the spark plug wire for safety.
  3. Drain and replace the oil. This should be done at least once a year; check your owner’s manual for specific instructions.
  4. Clean off any dirt and matted grass.
  5. Sharpen the blades or make a note to do so first thing in the spring before mowing season begins.
  6. Buy replacement belts, spark plugs, and air filter as needed and store them until spring.

By caring for your tools and supplies properly each year, you’ll save a lot of money and will be ready to “hit the ground running” each spring.

Written by Vicki

So, why don’t they die?

After posting the article about how to protect your conifers this winter, I started thinking: with the really cold weather that we get, why don’t more things just die in the winter? Had to do some research on this one:

WinterSnowTrees“Sometimes they do die, but that mostly happens when people push their luck and try to grow something that isn’t hardy in their area, or when winter becomes extraordinarily cold for an extended period or shows up too early. But under normal circumstances, plants don’t just sit there wishing they could go inside — they acclimate in stages.

As summer days grow shorter, plants begin “freezing acclimation” by producing hormones that slow growth and induce dormancy. By the first hard frost, they are ready for freezing temperatures, and for beginning the second stage of their preparation.

The year’s first below-freezing temperatures freeze the water found between plant cells. Since there is now more liquid water inside the cell than outside, osmotic pressure draws some of the water out of the cell, where falling temperatures cause it to freeze as well. Inside the cells, the concentration of cell parts increases as more water is drawn out. The more concentrated the cell parts, the lower their freezing point. So down to a particular temperature, different for each species, the cells themselves won’t freeze, and the plant will survive. Below that temperature, the plant will suffer dieback, starting in its branch tips because they are thinner and more exposed to the cold. But branches are expendable. The soil and any snow cover insulate the roots somewhat; if the roots survive so will the plant.” In other words, as the water is removed from the plant cells, their very concentration makes freezing much more difficult.

Thank you to the NY Times column “Garden Q&A” for the assistance with this question.

Written by Vicki