Tag Archive | planting

Trees and Shrubs

by Sharon Morrisey, horticulture agent in Milwaukee County

Tu-BShevat-tree-planting-by-Canopy-Photos-jpgFall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs. Warm soil encourages root growth and the cool air reduces the demand for water. It is said that the planting is the most important 10 minutes of a tree’s life. Years of scientific study have produced improved techniques, so follow these instructions closely.

  1. Find the root flare first. It’s that place at the base of the trunk where it widens before going into the soil.
  2. Remove soil from the top of the root ball, if necessary, until the flare can be seen.
  3. Measure the depth of the root ball after finding the flare.
  4. Dig the hole no deeper than this, trying not to disturb the dirt at the bottom, so the tree will not settle later and become too deep. Make the hole two to four times wider than the ball and gently sloping.
  5. Cut off the container, if there is one. Cut away the wire basket if it’s a balled-and-burlapped plant.
  6. Gently roll it into the hole without holding it by the trunk. Now, cut away as much burlap as possible without letting the root ball fall apart.
  7. Fill the hole halfway with the same soil that came out of the hole. Do not amend that soil. Otherwise, the roots will stay in that soil, growing around and around, instead of moving out into the surrounding soil.
  8. Do not stomp on the soil. Instead, fill the hole with water and allow it to settle before continuing to fill the hole.
  9. Water again.
  10. Form a rim of soil around the outside edge of the hole to hold the water.
  11. Cover the rim and root ball with 2 inches of shredded bark or wood chips. Do not allow the mulch to touch the trunk or the bark will rot and kill the tree.
  12. On slopes or windy sites, use one or two stakes pounded into the undisturbed soil beyond the root ball. Loosely secure the tree trunk to the stakes using webbing with grommets made especially for this purpose. Do not use wire or rubber hose, since these will damage the bark. The tree should be able to sway back and forth because this actually strengthens the trunk.

 

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Rhubarb Season is here

by OCMGA Master Gardener Tom Wentzel

UntitledThis is my first rhubarb harvest this year. There was one more, but I ate it. We all have bunches of recipes for using rhubarb so I won’t go there.

Chinese records from 2700 BC record its medicinal use. Marco Polo documented its use, but I’m not sure if he introduced it to Europe. A while ago, I visited Old World Wisconsin. In one of the Germany heritage houses there was a string of, what I thought, were chicken bones. It was dried rhubarb! Many of the historical uses that I have read seem to be medicinal, rather that culinary.

My first picking didn’t have that lip puckering sourness of later season harvests. The sourness is due to the pH (acidity) which is in the range of 3.1 – 3.2. For reference, fresh lemon juice has a pH of about 2. Adding sugar doesn’t “neutralize” the acidity, it simply covers it up.

Rhubarb leaves have a reputation as being toxic. This is due to the relatively high concentration of oxalic acid. Oxalic acid’s primary effects can be stomach irritation and kidney problems. Ten pounds of leaves would be required to deliver a lethal dose. Kitchen pot cleaners such as Bar Keepers Friend and ZUD use oxalic acid as the primary active ingredient.

Uses for Rhubarb leaves:

  • Use them as a mulch.
  • They can be composted in limited quantities.
  • GREAT for leaf castings
  • I have seen recipes for rhubarb leaf concoctions as insecticides and repellents. These have been anecdotal, their effectiveness has not been verified.

I will break my promise not to talk recipes. Here’s mine: Peel, then eat.

Plant now for a long Tulip season

Tulip lovers stretch the season by planting lots of different species and cultivars. Though each only blooms for a short time, the tulip parade can last two full months if you plan it carefully.

Tulipa fosteriana 'Purissima'

Tulipa fosteriana ‘Purissima’

Early: The first tulips are low to the ground, including the wide-leafed Kaufmannianas, sometimes called water-lily tulips because of the shape of the flowers, and Gregii’s, known for their mottled leaves. Soon after them come Emperor, aka Fosteriana, tulips, the earliest of the long-stemmed types; Single Early, which is usually slightly taller than Emporor; and Double Early, ditto.

Mid Season: Once the days lengthen and weather warms up, you’ll get Triumphs, first of the truly long-stemmed florist’s types, which come in a wider range of colors than the early birds. Also Peony-flowered tulips, known for their lush doubleness; and Giant Darwin, the florist’s tulip on steroids.

Viridiflora tulipan (Viridiflora tulip)

Viridiflora tulipan (Viridiflora tulip)

Late: This is the season for Darwin tulips, also known as Single Late, the classic tall-stemmed cups of color that first come to mind when you hear the word tulip. It’s also the time for exotica: huge Parrot tulips, with their twisted and ruffled petals; urn-shaped Lily-flowered tulips; Viridifloras, with flames of green rising up the outside of the brightly colored flowers; and Fringed tulips, sometimes listed as Tulipa crispa, their petal edges frilled with narrow teeth that glow when the light shines through.

Species: There are dozens of species tulips available, primarily through mail order. Smaller and more delicate than garden tulips, they are mostly mid-season bloomers, with a few earlies, such as the tiny white T. biflora, and a few members of the late show, such as the bright red T. wilsoniana (T. montana). The available array keeps growing, so it is best to buy from a purveyor who is clear about blooming time in the catalog.

Lucy’s Corner

 

Middle_Eastern_Kimchi_Vegetables_(8629557191)Our friend and Master Gardener Lucy Valitchka has been successfully growing vegetables longer than many of our members have been gardening. Each year, we ask Lucy to teach our new class the section on Vegetables, and she also graciously supplies an article for our Summer Newsletter. Because that information is too valuable to keep to ourselves, we’re reprinting it here.

“During the growing season gardeners know that timing of jobs in the garden impact the final produce harvested. That is the reason behind these calendar jobs listed in each newsletter. Maybe some people remember it easily, but I need a reminder just to make sure the job gets done in time. For new readers of this column, I try to include a calendar of garden tips for each month. This is taken from Madison Area Master Gardener’s Association garden journal no longer published.

June Week 1

  • Control anthracnose and other disease problems by staking plants, maintaining optimal plant spacing and using mulches.
  • Tie tall crops, such as tomatoes, or cage them, to support as they grow.
  • Before setting out tomato cages, disinfect them with a 10% bleach solution or spray cages with rubbing alcohol. (I do that before I store them for the winter.)
  • Start seedlings of brussels sprouts to transplant in mid July.
  • Plant peppers, eggplants, sweet potatoes and late potatoes.

June Week 2

  • Plant successive crops of beans, beets, carrots, kohlrabi, corn, turnips, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
  • As soil warms apply a mulch after deep watering or heavy rain.
  • Control leaf blight on tomatoes by disposing of diseased foliage or plants immediately or planting disease-resistant varieties.
  • Control cabbage worm and cabbage looper on cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.

June Week 4

  • Thin vegetables for proper spacing.
  • Plant rutabagas, late cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.
  • Mulch tomatoes and water them, if necessary.
  • Stop harvesting asparagus. Weed asparagus bed carefully after harvesting to avoid damage to roots.

July

  • Renew mulch if it starts to decompose.
  • Make daily inspections for pests, and treat, if necessary.
  • Control garden weeds to prevent them going to seed.
  • Harvest onions, garlic, and early potatoes when tops begin to shrivel.2593250285_343710da83_b

July Week 1

  • Plant lettuce and spinach for fall crop. Pre-germinate seeds on moist towel, or plant deeper than spring planting. Mulch thinly.
  • Watch for squash vine borer. Remove floating row covers from cucumbers and melons as soon as they begin to bloom so that they can be pollinated. Use a reflective mulch such as aluminum foil to repel squash vine borers.
  • Plant collards, kale, bunching onions and cucumbers for fall harvest.

July Week 2

  • Plant beets, Chinese cabbage, rutabagas and turnips for fall harvest.
  • Fertilize asparagus beds. Mulch with straw.
  • Keep tomatoes mulched and watered to prevent blossom end rot.

July Week 3

  • Transplant broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower seedlings for fall crop.
  • Plant chard for fall crop.

July Week 4

  • Plant fall crop of peas. Keep plants picked to maintain productivity.

August

  • Sow cover crops in garden areas not in use.
  • Pick herbs just before blossoms open for best flavor.
  • Inspect corn regularly. Corn pests become abundant in mid-August.

August Week 1

  • Keep eggplant and peppers picked so younger fruit develops.
  • Plant late crops of radishes, lettuce, spinach and beets.

5835401559_94b5856885_oSome parting wisdom taken from an article about Gardening in Grandfather’s Time by Jerry Minnich in the 2012 Wisconsin Garden Journal: Connections Through Time “Sometimes it’s true: The more things change, the more they stay the same. And despite all the new wrinkles in gardening, our greatgreatgrandchildren will probably be planting potatoes just as we do, hill by hill, row by row, eyes always up. Through the generations, gardeners will always be connected.” Jerry Minnich is the author of several gardening books, including The Wisconsin Garden Guide, published in 2010. “

Exotic Alliums

by Master Gardener Tammy Borden

The vase sat on my desk holding a few hosta leaves and only a single flower. But as coworkers passed by, each one couldn’’t help but comment. ““What is that? I’’ve never seen one of those before. It’’s gorgeous,”” one person exclaimed. Another stopped in their tracks. ““Is that a flower? It’’s huge! It looks like something from outer space!””

The single flower stood out on its own and didn’’t need an entire bouquet to make a statement. Why? The flower head measured nearly a foot wide and resembled a floral fireworks display.

It was an Allium. Not just any Allium, but a Christophii Star of Persia. As oohs and ahs continued, I heard someone say, ““Oh, I could never grow something that exotic. I can’’t grow anything.”” I asked if they had tulips or daffodils in their yard and they said, ““Yes, that’’s about the only thing I can grow because I don’’t have to do anything with those. They just come up every year on their own.”” ““Well then,”” I said. ““You have the qualifications for growing Alliums.”” When I began explaining that a package of five bulbs that produced the beautiful stems of starlike florets were purchased for under $10 from a local home improvement store and planted last fall, they found it hard to believe.

Not only are they beautiful in a bouquet, but they make a bold statement in the garden. When in full bloom, Alliums are always the first flowers to get noticed by guests who visit. Even after they have bloomed and their color fades, the dried flower heads still add interest and texture. It is nearly fall, yet I still have the dried heads of several varieties of Allium dotted throughout my landscape, even though some bloomed as early as May.

Like tulips, the strap-like foliage of Alliums pushes through the cold earth early in spring. Unlike tulips, however, deer and other critters will shy away! Most are hardy to zone 3 or 4, but check individual varieties to be sure. When planting Alliums in your garden, try to position them behind low growing plants or garden sculptures because the foliage fades quickly once the flowers bloom. Once the foliage has turned completely brown you can remove it, but allow green foliage to remain so it can provide nutrients for next year’’s bloom.

When planting Allium, follow the same routine you would with other spring flowering bulbs. In fall, select a site that will receive full to part sun. Dig your hole three times the dimension of the bulb. Note: bulbs can vary from as small as an acorn to as large as a baseball. The package should also give an indication of planting depth. Add some organic matter to the hole, and if you choose, you may also add some bulb fertilizer. Like other bulbs, Alliums don’’t like wet feet, so provide good drainage. Plant the bulb pointy side up, cover with dirt, water, and wait until spring!

Most Alliums will tower to three feet or more, so they add beautiful vertical interest to your garden. Plant in groups of 3 or more. With the larger varieties, a group of only three bulbs properly placed can stop traffic. The flower heads are actually made up of hundreds of tiny star-like flowers that when clustered together, form a stunning display. They are considered an ornamental onion, related to garlic and chives. There are nearly 400 hundred varieties of Allium to choose from, each with different flower forms, color, size and bloom time. Here are the top five favorites from my garden, which are readily available:

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Star of Persia

Allium christophii ‘‘Star of Persia’’

The huge wispy volleyball-sized flower heads stand atop 2’’ stems. Silvery purple flowers. Blooms in mid to late May.

Allium sphaerocephalon ‘‘Drumstick’’ Intensely deep purple 11⁄2”” compact flowers atop thin, sturdy 30”” stems. Blooms late June to early July. Inexpensive and makes a great display. Beautiful in bouquets.

Allium aflatunense ‘‘Purple Sensation’’

Deep rosy purple blooms the size of a softball. Sturdy 30-36”” stems. This is among the only Alliums I recommend dead-heading because of its tendency to reseed itself, producing hundreds of seedlings next spring that generally do not develop into viable plants. One of the earliest to bloom.

Allium ‘‘Globemaster’’

Large, densely packed florets form a silvery purple flower head 8-10”” across. Many consider this the best of all Alliums for its impressive display. Stands 30-36”” tall. Highly sought after and a little more expensive than those noted above, but worth a spot in your garden.

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Mount Everest

Allium ‘‘Mount Everest’’

White 4”” flowers top 3-4’’ stems and bloom in late May and early June. The white blooms contrast beautifully with other purple varieties.

Rotate those Crops!

Garden-Crop-Rotation-1Do you often wonder if it’s really necessary to rotate your vegetable crops, or is it ok to continually plant the same things in the same spots? Rotation is useful for two reasons: it helps prevent the buildup of pests and diseases specific to particular plants or plant families, and it maximizes the use of soil nutrients.

Although there are some equal-opportunity scourges — slugs come to mind — that will attach everything in the garden, they are in the minority. Many of the nastiest mosaics, for example, attack legumes (peas and beans) but have no interest in nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants). Similarly, earworms are a real problem in corn but couldn’t care less about lettuce. By moving their favorite targets around, you make it harder for these bad characters to establish themselves.

While you’re foiling the pests, you’re also managing the soil. Corn and squash require a lot of nitrogen; peas and beans make nitrogen (or, more accurately, fix the nitrogen from the air into a form that roots can use). By alternating one with the other, you can reduce the amount of supplemental fertilizer you’ll have to add.

Unfortunately, corn will always be a lot taller than beets, so where space is at a premium and crops must be closely planted, it will always be wise to put the tall crops to the north of short ones so they don’t cause shade problems. One more reason people who have large gardens in full sun have an advantage over those who don’t!