Tag Archive | Outagamie County

Expert’s Tip: New Invasive Species Jumping Worms

Lisa Johnson, Dane Co. UW-Extension Horticulture Educator

 

worms1

These invasive worms jump when handled.

As you are doing yard clean-up this fall, there is yet another new invasive pest to look for, identified in Dane County in October of 2013. Jumping worms (Amynthas spp.) are of Southeast Asian origin and they can be very damaging to soil structure in gardens as well as forest environments. No earthworms are native to Wisconsin—they were all killed off during the Ice Age. We do have 20 European species in the state, however. Earthworms all have negative effects on the forest duff or litter layer, which acts as a protective cover and helps forest floors to retain moisture, insulate tree roots, provide nutrients, prevent erosion, etc. When that litter is eaten by earthworms, the protective cover is removed, exposing the soil and causing erosion, compaction and increased runoff. This disturbance favors the spread of invasive plants such as garlic mustard and buckthorn. Researchers have also documented the negative effects of earthworms on forest regeneration and ground nesting bird populations.

The jumping worm is especially destructive since it lives right in the duff layer rather than lower in the soil profile. Jumping worms tend to outcompete European earthworms to become the only species in forest environments. They consume the layer of leaves and other organic matter on top of the soil faster than other earthworm species. They have been found in Dane, Sheboygan, Jefferson, Waukesha, Milwaukee and Racine counties, and signs of the worms (though no adults) have been noted in 8 other counties. Jumping worms have also been found in some states in the Eastern U.S. We don’t know how long they have been here in Wisconsin, but introduction through contaminated soils or plants is suspected. Since they can spread very quickly, it is important to slow the spread. Best management practices are being developed by the DNR and municipalities. Don’t share plant divisions from your garden or soil if you know you have jumping worms.

Jumping worms are parthenogenetic, producing eggs without the need for a mate, so just one worm can start a new population. Their eggs survive as microscopic cocoons over winter, with all the adults dying in fall. You won’t see the young worms until late June each year, but you will see the ‘soil signature’ from their feeding during the previous season. Jumping worms feed on soil organic matter, leaf litter and mulch and create very grainy-looking and hard little pellets when they excrete. The excretions resemble coffee grounds, and have poor structure for plants to grow in. Also, the worms’ feeding removes the organic matter that plants, fungi and bacteria need for nutrients. Adult jumping worms are 3 to 5 inches long but can grow to up to 7 inches in length. Jumping worms resemble regular earthworms but there are some important differences. Unlike European earthworms, they don’t produce slime and are more gray or brown in color than pink. Their clitellum, the band of lighter-colored tissue near the head, is smooth, not raised like other earthworms and whitish, not pink. It also goes all the way around the body, not just partway, like the European worms. The body is more rigid as well. Jumping worms get their name from their behavior—when handled, they thrash violently, may jump into the air or even shed their tails. They move in a serpentine fashion like snakes, as well.  Check out this video to observe them moving.  After hatching in late June, each worm begins reproducing; their life cycle lasts 60 days, so we can have two generations easily each year. Unfortunately, other than killing any worms you find by placing them in a closed plastic bag in the sun, there are no products labeled to kill them, since soil drenches would also kill beneficial soil organisms. Some products are being tested, but I haven’t heard about any results as of yet.

To report a sighting of jumping worms, email Invasive.Species@wi.gov . For more information and to see photos, visit http://dnr.wi.gov/ and search for the keyword ‘jumping worm’. There is also a great article in Wisconsin Natural Resources that you may want to check out . 

Editor’s note: these worms have also been identified in Outagamie County.

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UW-Extension System

Like the other Master Gardener groups in other states, in Wisconsin our organization is supported by the publicly funded University Extension system. While our group is made up entirely of volunteers, without the underpaid and overworked employees of the UWEX system, we would struggle to accomplish all we do for our community. A nod, then, to the UWEX system and all it does is the basis for today’s post.

When the land-grant college system was set up, back in 1862, one of the things it was set up to do was to make sure farmers had access to the latest research. In 1887 the colleges were awarded funds for agricultural experiment stations, to broaden the knowledge base. And in 1914, Congress authorized the creation of the Cooperative Extension Service, an educational outreach effort jointly run by the land-grant colleges, the experiment stations, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Almost immediately, state and local governments also got into the act.

Now, over a century later, this publicly funded information machine has offices in every county in every state. And every office has an expert available to answer — at no charge — any question about growing things that you might care to ask. (The extension service offers information on many other subjects as well — including food and water safety, nutrition, and natural resources).

The service is unexcelled at pinpoint diagnosis: testing your soil, putting a name on the disease that’s killing your apple tree, suggesting the varieties of turf grass that will do well in your particular yard. The only fly in this all-purpose ointment is the fact that these offices are PUBLICLY FUNDED and, therefore, funded within the state budget. As a result, at least in Wisconsin, we’re seeing a severe reduction in the funding and, by extension, the staffing of our local UWEX office, and considerably more pressure on the remaining staff members to take on more responsibility. For those of us that live in Wisconsin, it’s important to contact the county board and state representatives to make sure they understand the importance of maintaining a well-staffed and viable UWEX office.

For gardeners in Outagamie County in Wisconsin, you can reach out to the UWEX office at any time to get answers to your gardening questions. For more information, visit the website here.

 

 

 

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.

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 Natural History of Ferns (book review)

this article originally appeared in the Summer 2006 edition of the Outagamie County Master Gardener Association newsletter

Book Review by Karen DesJarlais

A Natural History of Ferns By Robbin C. Moran

imagesI just finished reading this book and I know what you’re thinking. Too many rainy days, must have had trouble sleeping. But you’re wrong; this book is riveting as plant books go. I think you’ll gain new respect for ferns if you didn’t appreciate the wonders of a spore reproducing plant that dates back 340 million years.

The book’s 33 chapters (any one of which could be a stand alone) is organized under six major headings: Life Cycle, Classification, Fern Fossils, Adaptations, Geography, and Ferns and People. You’ll be glad to know that the glossary is clear and will cause you to be a real page turner if you want to enhance your knowledge of ferns or be botanically correct.

Here is the author’s crystallized version of how enriching fern study can be. “Learning the meanings of names of ferns opens a little window that looks out onto pteridology, the study of ferns. Through it you can glimpse people who developed the science, the voyages that brought back to Europe many previously unknown and marvelous species and the ancient cultures and what they believed about plants.

The book has the best explanation I’ve seen of the advantage of using the Latin binomial for plant reference and ex- plains how the process of naming works. To name a “new” plant with a new Latin name, you need to comply with five requirements prescribed by the International Code of Binomial nomenclature. The code evolved over the years and every six years, an International Botanical Congress revises it.

You don’t need to have a PhD in botany or membership in a scientific society to name a new species. Anyone can do it as long as they present evidence that the plant differs from any previously discovered and as long as they follow the rules. Between 1991 and 1995, about 620 new kinds of ferns were described worldwide, mostly in the tropics.

You’ll enjoy the chapter “At the Movies” as it relates to a movie “A New Leaf” released in 1971. The plot centers on the naming of a new fern.

We shouldn’t be surprised that ferns could be invasive. One such purple loosestrife like species is the salvinia mo- lesta. It’s capable of doubling its population in size in just two days. This weedy one clogged irrigation ditches, blocked drainage canals and jammed water pumps. In some places, it harbored the human blood of parasite schis- tosomiasis causing entire villages in the Asian tropics to be abandoned. The story of finding the natural predator for this species is like a CSI.

In contrast, the most economically beneficial ad smallest fern in the world is the Azolla. In North America, it grows in the Mississippi River floodplain of northeastern Arkansas. In Southeast Asia, especially China and Vietnam, it’s a rich nitrogen fertilizer for rice paddies. Nitrogen is release as it decomposes. Because of Azolla, the rice grain is richer in protein than if fertilized with chemical fertilizer. You’ll enjoy the cultural and economic discussion surrounding this tiny fern.

Pteridomania is the most engaging chapter under the “Ferns and People” section as well.

If you enjoyed botany at any point in your life, you’ll love this book. If you didn’t, you’ll find the author’s conversational styles slyly teaches you a lot. Yes, there are pictures; several pages of colored plates and lots of enlightening drawings, many of them done by the author.

I have a whole new respect for the Osmunda claytoniana (interrupted fern) that I just got from Wild Ones. It has a longer fossil record than any other fern, extending back 200 million years.

I found my hardcover of A Natural History of Ferns at the Menasha Public Library. It’s still raining (the ferns love it) and my eyes are getting a little heavy but I know it’s not the book!

Tomatoes – the Legend of Louie

by Tammy Borden

maxresdefaultI confess, I’m not much of a vegetable gardener. I much prefer the delicate beauty of flowers and using them to design a stunning landscape. For some reason, a pepper plant swaying in the breeze doesn’t bring me the same delight as that of the tender blossom of a bleeding heart or daffodil.

But then there is the tomato… Yes, I know, to the true botanists out there it’s not technically a vegetable, but a fruit. Although, in 1887, the U.S. Supreme Court did apparently rule that it was indeed a vegetable. So legally, it seems, the tomato is not a fruit. Ah, but I digress.

For me, it’s not the most attractive of garden plants, so that’s not why I cherish it so much. And it’s not so much that I even like the taste of tomatoes. I would much prefer a freshly pulled carrot after wiping the dirt off on my sleeve, or those sweet sugar snap peas plucked right from the vine. Yes, my love of the tomato runs deeper than my taste buds. My love of the tomato is because of love itself.

His name was Louie… a larger than life character. I remember visiting his house in early spring and walking through the narrow pathways formed in his garage that hadn’t seen a car in years. Every possible space was filled with flats of seedlings. There were many kinds of plants that he intended to later sell out of the back of his rusty Volkswagen van at a nearby parking lot. The crudely written price signs drawn with a grease pencil on a sheet of notebook paper were his only marketing tool.

But his plants were legendary, and his pride and joy were his tomatoes: Early Girl, Jet Star, Beefsteak, Giant Pinks, and the list went on. He could tell you the unique characteristics of each variety – its flavor, color, shape, texture and size. I remembered his own small plot of land where he grew tomatoes that looked like something out of the Little Shop of Horrors. They were immense, with plants reaching the eaves of his house and tomatoes the size of musk melons.

Louie was my father-in-law, and I had the privilege of knowing him for more than 15 years before he went to that big tomato patch in the sky where there is no disease or blight – a comforting thought as I reflect on his battle with cancer and emphysema that eventually took his life. But his passion for the lowly tomato did not go unnoticed, and I have since taken on the challenge of continuing the tradition. Now, I am the one hauling flats of seedlings to share with friends and co-workers. Now I am the one saving seeds from his mystery Heirloom tomato – the one he always called “Giant Pink.”

The tomato… When I pluck that first one from the vine I get an immense sense of satisfaction and nostalgia as I think of Louie. That’s why gardening is so much more than a laborious task of weeding and pest control to me. Gardening for me is about relationships. Yes, much of my time in the garden is spent alone. But even in solitude I’m reminded of relationships – I can look at a plant and tell you who gave me a cutting of it, who I was with when I got it, who helped me plant it… As I look at the birds and butterflies I enjoy my relationship with nature and the one who created it all. And the lowly tomato – I can’t look at one without being reminded of my relationship with Louie, whom some may have considered a lowly old man himself, but whose wisdom and beauty brought unbelievable flavor to my life. Those are the things that make gardening so meaningful and enjoyable for me. Those are the things of life.

Louie’s Top Ten Tips for Tomatoes

1. Don’t over water seedlings – let them dry out a little

2. Dry leaves – wet roots… always water seedlings from the bottom

3. Keep seedlings out of brisk winds

4. Use a 15-30-15 fertilizer

5. Plant the seedlings deep!

6. Use lots of compost

7. Sun! Sun! Sun!

8. They grow best in soil between 6-7 ph

9. Once planted, keep consistently moist

10. A little salt and pepper on a slice of Giant Pink – nothing better!

National Honor

As Master Gardeners, we work as volunteers to make our community a better place and pride ourselves on being educators. One of our members has taken this to a new level when, in November of 2015, he was one of six teachers in the country honored with the 2015 Outstanding Agricultural Education Teacher Award from the National Association of Agricultural Educators.

Paul and Fonda Larson are members of the Outagamie County Master Gardener Association (OCMGA) and are involved in community projects and, as this news article shows, Paul is also passionate about education of our young people.

As we think about how many of the “old ways” are dying out like basic farming, canning and preserving, beekeeping, and seed saving, it’s wonderful to know that there are people like Paul devoted to teaching our young people the skills that kept our grandparents alive.

Read more about Paul and his work with young people in the news article here: http://www.postcrescent.com/story/news/education/2016/01/17/freedom-ag-teacher-gets-national-award/78635278/