Tag Archive | Wisconsin

Milkweed for Monarchs

by OCMGA Master Gardener Holly Boettcher

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Monarch Butterflies are probably the most recognized and beloved butterflies in North America. Did you know that Monarch Butterflies cannot survive without milkweed plants? That is because their caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed and no other plant will do.   Monarchs have lost a significant amount of that critical host plant because of shifting land management practices, use of herbicides, and because of loss of habitat in both the United States and Mexico. Here are some simple steps that you can implement if you would like to take action.

Plant Native Milkweed!

Monarch caterpillar

Planting milkweed is one way that you can help not only the Monarch but other pollinators too! If you Google where to buy native milkweed seeds you will find numerous places to order and many are free. You can also purchase plants from an area garden center or our local chapter of Wild Ones during their spring native plant sale. You might contact a local landowner to find out if they are willing to allow you to dig up plants from their property. The plants will do best if you transplant them early in the season and be sure to dig deep to get as much aof their root system as possible.

Be sure to plant milkweed plants that are native to our area.   Look for Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, or Butterfly Milkweed. Avoid planting Tropical Milkweed because the wrong species of this plant has been found to increase odds of the Monarch becoming infected with a crippling parasite. This is most often occurring in warmer environments such as Texas and the Gulf Coast States but is worth a mention in case you are a visitor from the south reading this article! Beginning in the early spring, throughout the summer, and into the late fall, you can search for the Monarch anywhere you see milkweed plants in abundance.

Provide Nectar Plants

Monarch butterflies enjoying Joe Pye Weed

Monarchs also need nectar plants and will sip from many different flowers to nourish themselves throughout the season. Why not plant native perennials that bloom at various times from their arrival, breeding season, and until they migrate in the fall.

Some common plants that will provide nectar are: Columbine, Blue Sage, Spiderwort, Goldenrod, Penstemon, Little Bluestem, Wild Anemone, Pale Purple Coneflower, Joe Pye Weed, Poppy Mallow, Culvers Root, and Blood Root to name a few.

Enjoy

I recently learned that the Monarch Butterfly communicates with both colors and scents. And there are numerous opportunities to observe them when you consider the 4 stages of their life cycle which includes four generations: the egg, the caterpillar (larvae) the chrysalis or pupa, and the beautifully developed butterfly.

Take the time to look for them, preferably with your children or grandchildren. The giggles you share while watching a Monarch sip from a nectar plant, or while sitting under the summer sun watching a Monarch Caterpillar munch the leaf of a milkweed plant is a memory to be savored for a lifetime.

Holly is a regular contributor to Appleton Monthly magazine

 

 

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All-Purpose Fertilizer for Vegetables

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Nice, rich compost

Every year, we get the same questions in a variety of formats:  why won’t my vegetables grow? What should I do to grow more tomatoes? Do I need different types of fertilizer for my different vegetables? The answer to all of these questions is the best fertilizer for your soil and vegetables: compost! Compost is the all-purpose answer to everything, and if you have enough of it you won’t need much of anything else. Though different crops have different needs, they will be able to serve themselves from the smorgasbord provided by healthy soil with plenty of compost in it. Once you start adding specific fertilizers, you start having to pay attention to each individual diet.

Salad greens, for example, want lots of nitrogen to promote the fast growth of leafy tissue. Peppers, on the other hand, are more eager for the potassium that promotes flower and fruit development. Although they too need nitrogen, they’d make great big green leafy bushes with nary a pepper in sight if you gave them a lettuce-appropriate dose.

And major nutrients like nitrogen and potassium are just the beginning. There are dozens of micronutrients, such as boron, calcium, and copper, that plants must have — in different amounts — to thrive.

In practice, it can be hard to create soil so fertile that no amendment is necessary, especially when growing vegetables in a small space. But before you break out the fertilizer cookbook and start concocting special meals for all the crops you want to grow, make sure the soil is well drained and well aerated, and that the pH is between 6 and 7 (the best range for most vegetables). Ensuring these conditions exist may be all you need to do. If the soil is bad or the pH out of whack, it won’t matter what you put on the table, the vegetables won’t be able to eat.

by Vicki Schilleman, OCMGA Master Gardener

In My Backyard: The Sauk County Gardener

One thing you’ll learn about gardeners: we love to share our knowledge and our experiences with other gardeners. Here is a reprint of an article from a fellow gardener in Sauk County that appeared in our State newsletter The Volunteer Vibe.

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Phyllis Both, Sauk County UW-Extension Horticulture Educator

When I was a child many, many, many years ago I loved watching insects.  I would catch and study them under a microscope.  We had a neighborhood with a lot of kids.  We used our imaginations and made up old fashioned games.  My forte was bugs.  I’d catch them, put them in jars and charge a penny to view them.  It was so much fun for a little kid! Now days my interest is a little more extensive and I attend any entomology presentation I can.

Reedsburg-Pioneer-Village-Museum-SignWhen my Master Gardeners adopted a neglected historical site called the Reedsburg Area Pioneer Log Village we each adopted a cabin to beautify. We planted old-fashioned flowers and cared for the cabins to help attract more visitors and school children.  Black-eyed Susan’s, hollyhocks, daisies, and numerous hardy native plants were planted in the very poor soil the pioneers had to deal with.

These improvements helped but it was still not a village. Two victory gardens were planted.  It’s amazing how many people don’t know why the victory garden were planted during WWI and WWII.  It is a great teaching tool.  We loved the gardens but it was still not enough.  We started wondering what the pioneer doctors would have used since a drugstore or apothecary was not available.  An herb garden was built and medicinal herbs were planted.  This garden is another great teaching tool for both kids and adults.

What was still missing?  A prairie!  A natural habitat for bees, butterflies and wildlife was just what the village needed.  After a few summers went by, bluebird houses went up, bat houses went up, and native bee houses went up.

Still something was missing.  My love of the insect world must have pointed me in the right direction.  We decided to create a butterfly trail and add bee hives.  They work well together.  Fortunately three of my Master Gardeners were bee keepers and volunteered to get us started.

Top-bar_brood_comb_from_a_warre_hiveWe built three hives and ordered three colonies with three queens all from California. Our California girls were doing a great job this past summer but only in two of the hives. One of the hives was a bit lazy.  We still got fifty-one pounds of honey from the two productive hives.  We were amazed when the poor producing hive re-queened itself with a Wisconsin lady.  All three hives are buzzing with activity this spring.

I have learned so much about the wonderful community of bees; their leaders, their workers, their gate keepers.  The hives are wonderful teaching and learning tools for out busloads of visitors who have a love of nature.

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

Expert’s Tip: Plants and Poultry

Scott Reuss, Marinette County UW-Extension Horticulture Educator

Poultry are generally not an integral part of a garden design process.  However, for many rural (and a seemingly increasing number of city) gardeners, poultry do take part in a symbiosis of systems that allow for distinctly improved home food production capacity.  Since National Poultry Day is celebrated on March 19, let’s review some of the roles that poultry can safely play in a plant management system.

First, let’s think recycling.  The classic reduce, reuse, recycle theme is lived out almost daily when you successfully integrate poultry and plants and the neat part is that it goes both directions.  Nearly all poultry species are very proficient at utilizing fruit and vegetable waste products that come either from your garden or your kitchen, or the ones that didn’t quite stay in great shape in storage.  These types of feeds not only provide basic nutrient and energy needs, but also provide the types of compounds often missing in formulated feeds.  Recycled plant material, along with insects and other living plant tissue the birds may be able to harvest, help allow the meat and eggs coming from those birds to have the flavor, color, and textural profiles which many people crave.

Plants get into the recycling act, too.  Poultry manure and litter make great fertilizer, providing all the nutrients that plants need – albeit not always in perfect proportions.  However, there is the chance for disease or parasite transfer when utilizing manure in the garden.  We need to remember some general precautions to minimize such risks and keep ourselves safe.  The key words are time and proximity.

Proximity is pretty easy to consider.  If you are applying manure to a garden area in which you are growing fruits or vegetables, you are increasing the risk of health issues.  That is pretty simple.  However, it does not mean that you cannot or should not do so.  This is where time comes into play.  Try to follow the 120 day rule, if possible.  After placing a manure product into or onto your garden soil, do not harvest fruits or vegetables from that area for 120 days.

Yes, the 120 day rule creates timing issues for us Wisconsinites, as well as the Yoopers I often assist.  Generally, we need to apply manure in the fall to truly minimize risk in next year’s crop. However, we may be able to sneak in early-spring applications in areas which grow full-season crops, especially if they are above-ground or off-the ground crops (sweet corn, trellised vegetables, etc…).  Another way to minimize risk is to compost these products first, which adds in extra time and also decreases nitrogen management issues due either to burn potential of the manure or of too much carbon loading occurring if you use a wood product based litter.

Most poultry can serve in-season or end-of-season roles in the garden, as well.  Ducks can help you manage certain types of plant pests (insects and slugs mostly) in non-edible garden areas. Geese can serve as weed managers, as they are very good grazers.  Guinea fowl are very good insect eaters and are even known to eat ticks, but expect that these noisy critters will create issues if you have any neighbors within earshot.

Chickens are certainly the most common and have both risks and rewards in-season.  Their scratching tendencies can help you at the end of the season, as you can turn your flock into your completed gardens and let them find insects, edible plant material, and do some shallow tillage for you that minimizes some weed issues.  However, you may often find yourself muttering, if not outright hollering and chasing them, about their exceptional ability to move mulch from around landscaped areas if they get out or figure out how to get past your fencing.  They can also cause issues for young plants, potted or containerized plants, and some other areas if they achieve accessing them.

We cannot delve into all aspects of managing poultry and plants together or separately.  A few other points, though.  For the plants, make sure you are thinking through nutrient needs, nutrient loading, and your rotations.  You can maximize the benefit of the manure by placing it into areas which are going to need the most nitrogen the next year (sweet corn, potatoes, crucifer crops) and you can also minimize risks by not placing it into areas which will be hosting shorter-season contamination vulnerable crops such as greens, root vegetables, or ground-touching vine crops.

If you are considering adding poultry, do some research first and don’t succumb to buying those really cute chicks you see at a local store some shopping Saturday.  First, make sure you can legally have poultry in your municipality – contact either general municipal office or zoning department, if you have one.  Most rural areas are fine, but many cities and villages either restrict species, numbers, or sex of poultry allowed; or do not allow them, at all.

Second, you have to have a livestock premise identification number to house poultry.  It is free and easy to obtain, by going to http://wiid.org and having your location information and species of animals being housed.  Other points to consider are to be honest with yourself about why you want poultry, as the answer to that question will affect what you get, and how you house them.  Get good management information and housing suggestions by visiting your UW-Extension office, or go online to either the appropriate UW-Extension links below, or another University’s site. Below are two to take a look at:

http://fyi.uwex.edu/poultry/ UW Poultry Specialist Ron Kean’s main page

http://richland.uwex.edu/agriculture/poultry-and-rabbits/   Richland County UW-Ext. web page

If I were to start into actual poultry management, this article would become WAY too long.  So, please do refer to the web pages above, or contact Ron Kean or Adam Hady through their web pages above, or agents like myself and we will help you get the information you need to start your poultry adventure.

Allergies of Autumn

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Beautiful stems of Goldenrod – mistakenly blamed for Fall allergies

Poor Goldenrod (state flower of Kentucky) — blamed for the itchy, watery eyes suffered by so many this time of year (including me!). It’s a shame that goldenrod is blamed for the sneezes and wheezes of autumn allergies, so I am, once again, writing an article in defense of this beautiful garden plant!

The reason, I’m sure, that so many people think of goldenrod as their autumn nemesis is because it produces those brilliant yellow flowers just when ragweed also blooms. But no one notices the culprit’s small homely pale green blooms. Goldenrod’s pollen is heavy and is moved about only by bees, whereas ragweed pollen is tiny and light and meant to be spread by the wind.

There are some 15 species of common ragweed, whose botanical name is Ambrosia (an ironic misnomer for sure). Ragweeds grow naturally from coast to coast, adapting to both country meadows and gritty city environments. The plant has fernlike leaves similar to those of wormwood (Artemisia), and is actually a tasty treat for pigs and cattle.

Ragweed is also an excellent soil preserver and conditioner, one of the group, sometimes called pioneer plants, that spring up rapidly after floods, fires, or bulldozers have ravaged the earth. So, a very useful plant for both the Earth, and for the pharmaceutical companies that collect lots of my dollars every fall as I struggle to breathe without crying!

Fall Blooming Asters

by Dr. Leonard Perry, Horticulture Professor, University of Vermont

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Aster amellus ‘Violet Queen’

There are many reasons to use fall-blooming asters in landscapes. There is much variety in this large group of hardy perennials, coming in various heights and showy flower colors. You’ll find selections in all shades of red, pink, purple, white, and even blue. They’re easy to grow, most are native, and they’re one of the main plants for bees, butterflies and other pollinators in the fall. They combine well with ornamental grasses, rudbeckia, and coneflowers. With so many to choose from, how does one begin? In addition to favorite colors, look for ones that best fit your growing conditions, desired habits, and disease resistance.

The starburst appearance of the flowers leads to the name “aster”, from the Greek word for star. Asters give their name to the large composite family—Asteraceae—that of sunflowers, dahlias, daisies, zinnias, and similar flowers. The asters all used to be grouped together into one “genus” (Aster), but thanks to recent botanical research they’ve been regrouped with names more suited to botanists than gardeners. So for instance, although the New England aster genus is now changed (Symphyotrichum), the species name has remained the same (novae-angliae).

Generally, most asters prefer moist, well-drained soil and full sun. There is a range of species, however, that can be grouped by their native environments and corresponding garden preferences. The first group prefers rich, moist soil in full sun. These include the species native to meadows, prairies and marshes such as the New York (S. novi-belgii), New England (S. novae-angliae), and flat-topped (D. umbellata) asters. They prefer steady moisture. Ones that prefer moist soil, but can tolerate dry sites, include the sky- blue (S. oolentangiense), heath (S. ericoides), calico (S. lateriflorum), aromatic (S. oblongifolium), and silky (S. sericeum) asters. Tatarian aster (A. tataricus) in this group, a Siberian native, is quite adaptable to various soils.

The second group of asters also prefer full sun, along with cool nights, and very well-drained soil. This is because they are native to seashores and mountains where soil drainage is excellent. They may be short-lived over only a few years,particularly if conditions aren’t just right. In this group you’ll find the European Michaelmas daisy native to Asia Minor (A. amellus)—a name often given to many asters as they bloom around this Christian  holiday of September 29. Others in this group are the Frikart’s (A. xfrikartii) aster, of garden origin, and East Indies (A. tongolensis) aster native to western China and India.

The third group of native aster species tolerate shade (under 4 hours direct sun per day), but bloom better in part shade (4-8 hours of direct sun). The blue wood aster (S. cordifolium), Drummond’s aster (S. drummondii), white wood aster (E. divaricata), and big leaf aster (A. macrophyllus) are in this group. Although they prefer moist soils rich in organic matter, they will tolerate some drought.

In perennial trials at the Chicago Botanic Gardens (www. chicagobotanic.org/downloads/ planteval_notes/no36_asters. pdf), 119 asters were evaluated over six years. They were rated based on flowering, health, habit, and hardiness. In this USDA zone 5 site (-10 to -20F average winter minimum), seven asters stood out with five-star ratings. These top asters included ‘Jin Dai’ tatarian aster, white wood aster and its cultivar (cultivated variety) ‘Eastern Star’, ‘Snow Flurry’ heath aster, calico aster and its cultivar ‘Lady in Black’, and ‘Raydon’s Favorite’ aromatic aster. For a rock garden or low wall, where cascading stems are desired, ‘Snow Flurry’ would be a good choice. For perennial gardens and naturalistic landscape masses, good choices would include asters with bushy habits—‘Jin Dai’, ‘Lady in Black’, or ‘Raydon’s Favorite’.

In addition, there were 19 asters that rated good, with four stars. These good asters included a couple of New England asters— the rosy pink ‘Harrington’s Pink’

and deep pink ‘Honeysong Pink’, and three New York asters—the light lavender ‘Blaubox’, lavender- blue ‘Climax’, and purple-pink ‘Rosenwichtel’. Most selections you may find of the asters are in the New York and New England species. Perhaps the reasons that more didn’t rate more highly relate to habit and potential problems. Aromatic asters tend to be less problem-prone, and good alternative choices.

New England asters can get to four to five feet tall and fall over under some conditions, particularly low light. Cutting them back in early summer by one third to one half will make them more bushy, with no need to stake.

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Aster ‘Purple Dome’

One of the more recent introductions of New England asters, and one of the most popular asters, ‘Purple Dome’ came from the Mt. Cuba Center and gardens in Delaware. It is violet-purple and low, only growing to about 16 inches high and about 2 feet wide. This makes it a good choice for fronts of borders, along walks, massed, or even containers. It bloomed over two months in Chicago, from early September to early November. ‘Vibrant Dome’ is a bright pink sport of this compact cultivar, not in these trials but popular and available.

‘Purple Dome’ is a good example of how resistance to diseases can vary by site. Often considered to have excellent resistance to powdery mildew, in the Chicago trials this cultivar was only rated as fair.

Asters may get rust or powdery mildew diseases on leaves. The former was seen more on the New York asters in the Chicago trials, while the latter disease was seen more on the New England asters. Giving good air circulation around plants, and disposing of leaves in the fall (not in the compost bin) will help lessen these. There are several sprays, organic and synthetic, that can be used for these too. A main destructive insect of asters may be the lacebug, a small grayish insect that appears in midsummer and sucks the plant juices from the undersides of leaves, primarily of the New York and related types. Leaves turn yellowish and eventually brown and fall off. Organic or synthetic insect sprays can be used for control. Read and follow all label directions for best control, and safety for you and the environment.

Deer and rabbits can be quite fond of asters, too. There are repellent sprays for these. Low fencing for rabbits, and deer netting for these may be needed if repellents don’t work. Several asters have been bred as alternatives to fall garden mums, including the lavender ‘Ariel’, violet ‘Celeste’, and the purple ‘Pixie Dark’. Results from the Chicago trials show these only live a year or two, so should be grown as annual flowers. Since the New York asters have problems, and are short-lived, they are not recommended either, even though commonly found.

Keeping asters healthy during the growing season—in part, growing them under the right conditions—will go a long way toward helping them survive the subsequent winter.