Tag Archive | UW Extension Outagamie County

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

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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.

 

 

 

Don’t get rid of those leaves!

NeaveFall2The weather has been beautiful — the weather has been rainy and cold.  Welcome to Spring in Wisconsin! On those days that are beautiful, have you been cleaning out your gardens, lawns, and under your trees?  All of those wonderfully dried leaves are just waiting to be turned into nutritious compost for your gardens. Compost provides the perfect amount of food for every plant — including essential nutrients not found in commercial fertilizers. Raking compost into your turf improves the structure of the soil under your lawn. If you think that plants need chemicals to survive, just look around you!  The woods, plains, and wildflowers sustain themselves without any man-made materials.

It all starts with shredding those leaves! Whole leaves take quite a while to break down on their own, and tend to mat together.  Whole leaves just sit there cold in compost piles.  Not only don’t they help — they can actually prevent the composting process.  Shred them up, though, and you create the perfect compost makings. Remember, though, that shredding decreases the volume by a factor of ten. In other words, 10 bags of whole leaves can be shredded down to the point where they can all fit in one bag.

imagesThere are a multitude of publications that help you with the dynamics of what to use for composting, how to compost, what to add, what not to add, etc.  You can use commercially manufactured compost bins, fenced-in piles, garbage cans studded with drainage holes, or simple black garbage bags — all of these solutions and more work to create quality compost as long as you’re using the right ingredients! My favorite book is Mike McGrath’s Book of Compost, which is written in plain English in a light and humorous style. There’s even a chapter on vermiculture (composting using worms). [Note: for more information on vermiculture, see our previous post here.] Another resource is a pamphlet produced by the UW-Extension Master Composter program, which can be downloaded and printed here.

Dark, nutrient-rich compost

Dark, nutrient-rich compost

Don’t be afraid to start composting — it’s easier than it looks and you can start small. You don’t have to make enough compost for all of your gardens — just set a goal to make enough for your container plants, or for one container! Your lawn and gardens will thank you for the nutrition, and you’ll save the money you would have spent on expensive fertilizers.

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/

Storing Apples

Apple harvest, Autumn

Apple harvest, Autumn

The Outagamie County Master Gardener Association is proud and lucky to be affiliated with the University of Wisconsin Extension and the educational resources of The Learning Store. From one of the publications at The Learning Store (“Growing Apples in Wisconsin”) comes information on storing your precious fruit after harvest.

I remember being a child and going into the basement (or “cellar” as we called it then) to get fresh apples, each of which had been individually wrapped in newspaper in the fall to keep the skins from touching one another during storage. Not sure if the generations of today would even understand the concept of gathering and storing apples for the winter, but this publication offers the following advice:

“Fall- or winter-ripening applies, which ripen in September and October, will store well for 1-5 months. If you plan to store the apples, harvest them before the peak of maturity while they are still firm. Discard or use any blemished, diseased, or damaged fruit. Store only the best fruit. Overripe or bruised apples will not only store poorly, but the ethylene gas they produce will shorten the life of sound fruit.

Cool apples promptly and keep them constantly cold. For short-term storage, refrigerate at temperatures below 40ºF. For longer storage, temperatures of 32º-34ºF and high humidity are required. Don’t allow fruit to freeze. Keeping fruit in plastic bags with small holes in the bags will help avoid water loss and shriveling. Check the fruit occasionally and remove soft or damaged fruit.”

The 24-page booklet covers information about growing apples such as site selection, planting, weed management, pruning, insect pests, and diseases, as well as much more information. The publication can be purchased as a pamphlet for $4.00 from The Learning Store, or you can simply download the entire publication as a .pdf file to your computer by clicking here. Take advantage of university-based research and education by utilizing the many publications available through The Learning Store by following this link: http://learningstore.uwex.edu/.

Written by Vicki

Conservation Field Days

1000 5th and 6th graders attended the 3-day event.

1000 5th and 6th graders attended the 3-day event.

Over 300 5th & 6th graders attended each day of the 51st Conservation Field Days.  That is 1,000 kids during the 3 days of the event which was held on September 22nd through September 24 at Koehnke’s Farm out past the Outagamie County Airport. There were also 5 Master Gardeners who volunteered as Tour Guides for the first year of this Sanctioned Project for us.

Animal skins at the wildlife station

Animal skins at the wildlife station

There were 9 course stations and 9 tour groups.  Teachers and parents also went along with each group to help. The 9 learning stations were Water, Quarry, Conservation Jeopardy, Gardens & Compost, Recycling, Forest Management, Pond & Wildlife, Food Production, and Soils. Everyone seemed to be having fun learning.  Each station was taught by 2 volunteers from County, State & Federal groups including UW Cooperative Extension Service, WI Department of Natural Resources, USDA Natural Resource Conservation, and Goodwill Community Gardens. Each course station included some interactive things which helped to keep all those kids involved and interested.

Pond/Wildlife Station

Pond/Wildlife Station

Outagamie County Master Gardeners were listed in the thank yous along with those other groups. The event is sponsored and organized by Outagamie County Land Conservation Department based right next door to our County Extension. Each day ran from 9:30am to 2:30pm, and was very fun and educational for all.  The weather was beautiful. All of us volunteers were provided a delicious and much appreciated meal for the lunch break and then back to guiding, teaching, etc.

OCMGA Volunteers Jill Botvinik and Sue Mings

OCMGA Volunteers Jill Botvinik and Sue Mings

TV Channel 5 was there on Tuesday and did a broadcast on their 5pm news program that day. I will admit that I went home, sat down on the couch and promptly fell asleep. Fresh air in the country, walking outside in the beautiful fall weather, helping kids learn, and a free lunch! I plan to be there next September.  Hope to see you too!

Written by Jill Botvinik

Posted by Vicki

Experiences with Growing Onions

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Rich Fischer with his bountiful crop of onions this year!

OCMGA has a diverse group of gardeners, many of whom are vegetable gardeners. I am very passionate about growing vegetables and this blog update shares my experiences with growing onions. I have been growing onions for many years. Initially I was planting onion sets. Sets work, but the resulting fruit is usually on the small side.  Then I had an awakening. I was fortunate to hear Richard Zontag, president of Jung seed Company, speak at the very first OCMGA Garden Expectations conference many years ago. Mr. Zontag told me that onion plants perform much better than sets. Since then I have been using onion plants with better results. I order the plants from Jung’s catalog in January and they arrive about mid-May just in time for planting. They come in a bundle of 60 or more plants.

This year just for fun I tried something different. I ordered a packet of Red Zepplin onion seeds from Jung’s and started them indoors late-March along with my tomatoes and peppers. The little bitty onion sprouts looked so small and wispy like hair. I did not give them much hope, but planted them in the garden mid-May anyway. OMG! Was I ever surprised at harvest time. These little bitty hairs grew into the best looking onions I have ever seen.   Maybe it is a one-off fluke. But I was so impressed with the results that I thought I’d share my experiment with my fellow gardeners who might want to try starting onions from seed for their vegetable garden.

Next year I am going start Copra onions from seed hoping to get a similar excellent result.

Written by Rich Fischer

Posted by Vicki