Thursday, January 29, 2015

Get Ready for Spring Gardening

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

The Master Garden March classes and workshop schedule has just been released. Call 717-263-9226 to register now. Classes are held at 181 Franklin Farm Road unless otherwise noted.

Hands-On Pruning Workshop: Sat., March 7, 9-11 am $10
This workshop is unique as Franklin County Master Gardener Elmer Greey presents this at his home in Shippensburg. He will discuss pruning techniques and considerations plus review equipment used for pruning. Participants will do hands-on pruning practice throughout his garden. This is also an opportunity to see some of his 700 different plants on his property. Bring bypass hand pruners, gloves and dress for the weather. Directions provided when registering.

Edible Landscape Classes ( $10 each )
The Edible Landscape classes are one of our most popular each year and fill quickly. Each one reviews site selection, plant and cultivar choices, planting techniques and maintenance. Soil tests available $9 cash or check
Sat., Feb. 28, 9-11 am  Grapes and Nuts $10

Sat., Mar. 14, 9-11 am Tree Fruit   $10

Sat., Mar. 21, 9-11 am Small Fruits and Brambles (Blueberries, raspberries & more)  $10

Starting a Vegetable Garden Class: Tues., March 17, 6:30-8:30 pm  $10
Learn about what to plant and where plus what varieties do best in our area. Soil tests available $9 cash or check

Pollinators: Secret Agents of Life Class: Sat., March 28, 9-noon  $10
Do you like foods such as chocolate, blueberries, apples, almonds?
Without pollinators these and many other food sources would disappear; which would adversely impact life as we know it.  Pollinators are in serious decline and need your help.  Join us as Master Gardener Laurie Collins helps raise awareness by guiding you through identifying pollinators in our area, why they are in decline and what individuals can do to help.  She will discuss easy basic design principles, plant selections and gardening practices for creating a successful pollinator garden.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Different Use for Garden Plants

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener
The Master Gardeners recently toured the local Roy-Pitz Brewing Company in Chambersburg, one of 108 craft breweries in Pennsylvania where they explored a different use for plants. Barley, malt, hops and other interesting ingredients –watermelon, pumpkin, blueberries- go into making a variety of craft beers.

Master Gardeners listen to Jessie Rotz talk about the brewing process.
Jessie Rotz, co-founder and president, led us through the building, built in the early 1900’s as a hosiery factory, and down into the basement brewery. This is 6,000 sq. ft. of classic brick and old pine timber which has been restored to its original look and texture.
Master Gardeners examine and smell some of the barley

Jessie walked us through the brewing process from barley selection to vats and on into bottling and marketing. 
Bottler in the brewery
What did we learn? (Continuing Education)

Liquid Art Logo
Chambersburg water supply is a perfect blank canvas for the Liquid Art of the brew masters. The water is similar to the water in Cologne, Germany, with a pH of 7. This is soft water which is used untreated and unfiltered.
Different hops- American, English or noble German hops- create a different taste for their specialty brews. Some brews combine as many as five different hops.
Seasonal brews use different ingredients such as pumpkin, blueberries and watermelon. Other flavorings are added to add caramel, chocolate, citrus or other tastes. Occasionally batches of brews are concocted such as Chambersburg Peach Sour made with Chambersburg peaches pressed by Hauser Estate Winery. One of the newest batches has been made with chocolate from Nathan Miller Chocolate, a Chambersburg business located in the brewery building.
Melon day when brewing the Lovitz Watermelon Lager
This is a local business started by local residents, Jessie Rotz and Ryan Richards, long time friends. They have marketing education and actually studied the art of beer brewing.
Many of the brew names refer to local area places and personages. See info pulled from their Website .

What is skunked beer? The off taste of beer referred to a “skunked” comes from exposure to sunlight not lack of refrigeration. Amber bottles are the best color to protect beer from light while clear and green are not so good.

There’s a lot of taste testing involved as this brewing process is very different from the big beer companies and batches are very individual. There was more taste testing early on before Jessie and Ryan were married, less taste testing now.

Different hops in diverse combinations, many varieties of barley creating special blends, different malts from around the world, yeast, great Chambersburg water, cold temps and hot water, steam and special ingredients added in the conditioning vessel, green beer, wort, carbonation -  this is artistic chemistry.

Some of the vats in the brewing process
Let’s just come back and do some taste testing. A suggestion for a horticulture/garden theme book club was tossed out for consideration.

Here’s some of the interesting local themed beers with information from their Website.

This dark brew was inspired by the historical Civil War burning of our hometown of Chambersburg, PA in July 1864. During the raid, Ludwig's Brewery, operated by George Ludwig, was burned to the ground by Confederate soldiers under Gen. McCausland's orders. In remembrance of this truly buzz-killing event, we created a German style Rauchbier, or dark smoked lager. This beer uses all its ingredients from Bamberg, Germany, which is where the style was born (coincidentally, the same area where Ludwig himself was born and taught to brew).
This beer was inspired by Chambersburg's 1818 "Old Jail" that is one of the few structures to have survived the burning of Chambersburg by Confederate Forces in 1864. The jail also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. [Check out the monkey with the stein.]


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Winter Care Tips for Indoors Plants

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

Rosemary in window-Turn 1/4 every few days to keep growth even (B.Petrucci)
It's January - midwinter here - and most plant puttering is done on and around those poor souls inside the house.

When my family, friends and neighbors ask me (the Master Gardener) about caring for their houseplants I try to answer without laughing.

Outside my door, plants thrive; however, my house is just hospice care for houseplants. I am just about to lose an aloe plant that has lasted since 2009. I'm really, really sure it needs to be repotted.
For the tender perennials I bring inside in winter, my rosemary particularly, my goal is to keep it alive until I can put it back outside.

From Master Gardeners I have learned a few key things, so here is my quick tip list followed by a number of great resource sites. It is important to check the needs of each plant since they can vary greatly.

1. Be sure the plant is potted in the right size container (with a drainage hole) and right potting soil.
If you are digging it up and dragging it in from the outdoors then potting it up, don't use garden soil. It's too heavy.

2- Water only as needed when the soil is dry.
Water from the top until water comes out the drainage hole (You do have a drainage hole, right?) into the saucer. About two hours later, drain any excess water from the saucer. Don't allow the roots to stand in water. If you don't see drainage but have watered well, check for a clog in the hole and clear it. Inconsistent watering is one of the primary reasons for plant loss.

3- Use room temperature water.
Leave tap water out overnight, uncapped or uncovered, to allow the chlorine and fluorine added to city water to dissipate. Although these probably don't harm plants, you want the water to be at room temperature anyway. Rainwater, snow melt and well water are ok. Don't use water run through water softeners.

4- Light should be appropriate for the plant.
Each plant is different - flowering plants need moderate light, some foliage plants do well in low-light areas but other need more. Rotate plants near windows to allow for even growth. Improper lighting is only secondary to poor watering practices for plant failure. See below about light level definitions.

5- Humidity indoors in the winter is low.
Use a water-tight tray with constantly moist sand or gravel in it under the plants. Do not put the pot IN the tray. Put the pot with saucer ON the tray. Misting leaves daily can help with low humidity but some plants such as orchids or gardenias need special care. Check sources for help on these.
Be expecially mindful of tender perennials that you have brought in from outdoors to overwinter in areas where you may still be running dehumidifiers, such as basements or lighted storage areas.

6- Temperature needs of different plants vary.
Be careful putting plants near windows for the light. These areas might be cold spots or hot spots, especially if they are sited near radiator or heat sources. Although some indoor plants will tolerate cooler rooms, most like temperatures 65° – 75°F.

7- Fertilizer once a month with water-soluable complete fertilizers.
For most plants winter is not a growth period so fertilize lightly. For tender perennials brought indoors, do not prune as this may stimulate growth. Typically, plants in our area use winter (shorter days, longer nights) to go dormant so anticipate slower growth and let the plant rest up. If you have indoor flowering houseplants, check the needs for each individual type. Some may need a healthier dose of fertilizer.

Indoor Light Definitions

Here is a good list of indoor light definitions I found that coincide with information gleaned from different Extension sources. I have not reformatted the information provided by Will Creed (

“The low/medium/high categories are somewhat vague and overlap considerably, so there is no rigid definition for them. Below is my [Will Creed] best effort to bring some clarity to these terms.

High light plants must have some direct sunlight for at least several hours per day and bright indirect light for the rest of the day. South and west facing windows are the best locations for these plants.

Medium light plants must have bright indirect light all day long and can often tolerate a couple of hours of direct sunlight. East and north facing windows are the favored locations for these plants.

Low light plants must be protected from direct sunlight at all times. They thrive in bright indirect light, but will often tolerate minimum light levels. These plants prefer locations close to a north window or away from an east, west, or south facing window where they are protected from the direct rays of the sun.”

Here's some links with more houseplant care tips:
Penn State Extension: Caring for Houseplants
Missouri Extension: Caring for Houseplants
West Virginia Extension: Caring for Houseplants
George Weigel: Houseplant Myths
Horticulture Help: Indoor Plants
Iowa State Extension: Take Care of Indoor Plants during Winter
Cornell Extension: Houseplants

Thursday, January 8, 2015

February Classes and Workshops- From Seeds to Gnomes to Nuts

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

One of our new workshops added this year invites the youngest participants to date. Preschoolers, ages 2 1/2 to 5 years old, have their own Winter Sowing Seeds for Preschoolers workshop.
Master Gardener and mom of three, Rebecca Keller, will help parents and children make miniature greenhouses from recycled plastic jugs. While the January 17 Winter Sowing workshop is geared to grown-ups, Rebecca wants to gets the littler ones involved in gardening. This is a Family Friendly Workshop: $10/1 adult& 1 child, $15/ family. Very limited enrollment. Register NOW!
One of the other new offerings is Decoding Seed Catalogs meant to help new gardeners, or those who want to expand beyond flowers or vegetables, identify the best plants for our South Central PA location. As George Weigel says, you can't plant what you want where you want. Well, not if you want it to grow and thrive, that is. $10
Selected Seed Catalogs Available at the Class
Join Master Gardeners Carol Kagan, Bill Dorman, Denise Lucas, Nancy Miller and others who will walk you through which selections are right for our area. Bring your own catalogs or use ours.
Following up on the Miniature 'Fairy' Garden class, Master Gardener Juanita Kaufmann will help participants put together their own tiny worlds to take home. A set of quality supplies is included in the workshop price but the expertise is worth much more! $10/$40 supplies Limited enrollment for this very popular workshop.

The Edible Landscaping classes will start off with Grapes and Nuts. Master Gardeners Linda Secrist and Mike Kusko will discuss soil prep, plant selection and more to help set up a tasty backyard landscape. The class is $10. Soil test kits will be available at the class. $9/cash or check only. Look for Tree Fruit and Small Fruit & Brambles in our March classes.
Leaves shade the green grapes until they ripen (P. Veilleux, East Bay Wilds)
To register, for more information or to be added to our mailing list, contact the office at 717-263-9226. All these classes and workshops will be held at the Ag Heritage Center, 185 Franklin Farm Rd. in Chambersburg.

Thoughts and Meditations on Gardening - 8

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener
Winter walk in the wildlife garden (Trey Gelbach)

Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year. For gardening begins in January with the dream. ~Josephine Nuese


It doesn't have to be a cozy chair across from the flickering fireplace. It can be

    cross-legged on the bed with catalogs spread out.
        leaning into the keyboard to look at a photo on a Website.
            putting post-it notes on catalog pages while riding in the car.
                dog-earing pages while sitting in the doctor's office.

It doesn't have to be over a graph-paper layout of the yard and gardens. It can be

  seeing a barren landscape with colors of the coming season.
      spotting a neighbor's plant and seeking a spot in your yard.
           imagining what will please your eye as you sit and relax.
Winter bench (Trey Gelbach)

Go. Dream.

Monday, December 29, 2014

January Workshops are Popular - Register Now!

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

This year as a Penn State Master Gardener I was on the Class and Workshop Committee. We have amazing programs lined up for 2015 almost all for just $10. To get on our e-mailing list send your address to Please feel free to share with your FaceBook and IRL friends, too.

Registrations are coming in for the January workshops and classes. All are held at the Ag Heritage Center, 181 Franklin Farm Rd, Chambersburg.  Register NOW and avoid the disappointment of a full class. Call 263-9226 to register.

This year "For the Birds" is adding an extra feature of a Make and Take bird feeder. This is a Family Friendly program and the cost if $10/1 adult & child or $15/family. Make sure to let them know when you register how many will attend so we have enough supplies.


Next up is "Winter Sowing," another Make and Take workshop. Astound your neighbors and friends when you start seeds in mid-winter and have an early harvest of tomatoes. This method of winter sowing eliminates the need for elaborate indoor set-ups and work. For only $10 you can create a seed starter to take home and the knowledge to make 20 more! This is not only a fun project but a good strategy for home gardeners.


The "Miniature 'Fairy' Gardens" class will teach the basics about these indoor or outdoor landscapes. Last year's class had a number of children interested in these fun projects. These gardens can by any world you want - from fairy gardens to "gnome homes," to Hobbit landscapes. Come and learn the basics and get a head start on the February Make and Take Workshop. This is very popular so register now.


Revisit Winter Blogs of Interest

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

Here are some links to past blogs that may be of interest, especially the one about de-icers. We are fast approaching a day when we will have to deal with ice - either at home or work.

Also be sure to check out our upcoming workshops and classes. January programs are taking registrations now. Call 263-9226.  E-mail and be added to our monthly notification of upcoming programs and events.

Check out these previous BLOGS for interesting and useful information. Most have additional links with even more information.

Winter Weather and Deicers
Salt Tolerant Gardens
Poinsettia Season
Poor Poinsettias

Landscaping for Fours Seasons of Interest

Plants for Winter Interest- Many plants in Iris Masters' yard showoff in the winter landscape (Crape myrtle, magnolia, oregon grape, birch trees, nandina, cypress, Japanese Andromeda).

Japanese Andromeda

The following blogs are part of a continuing series highlighting plants with winter interest. These are plants chosen by our Master Gardeners to provide color or interesting shapes during the winter season.

Winter Interest Pt. 1- Partridge Berry
Winter Interest Pt. 2- Snowdrops
Winter Interest Pt. 3-Stinking Hellebore
Winter Interest Pt. 4-Rattlesnake Plant
Winter Interest Pt. 5-Lavender
Winter Interest Pt. 6-Witch Hazel
Winter Interest Pt. 7-Paperbark Maple
Winter Interest Pt. 8-Teaberry
Winter Interest Pt. 9-Harry Lauder Walking Stick
Winter Interest Pt. 10-Coral Embers Willow
Coral Embers Willow in the Winter Landscape
Winter Interest Pt. 11-Corkscrew Willow
Winter Interest Pt. 12-River Birch
Ascot Rainbow’ Spurge - A Year-round Delight
Whimsical Winter Wonderland

Natural Materials Onaments Highlight Museum Holiday

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener
Looking out from the second floor landing to the Brandywine River.
A side trip from our Longwood Gardens visit to the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, PA was a wonderful holiday destination.

The art galleries are a delight with N.C.Wyeth's Old Kris setting the stage for a holiday visit.

Old Kris by N.C. Wyeth (Courtesy: Brandywine Museum)
My favorite part, however, were the CRITTERS, ornaments handmade from natural materials, their big fundraiser. Each year in March, the "glue-gun gang" of 120 volunteers begins crafting these delightful ornaments from natural materials. By the opening of A Brandywine Christmas, they will have made nearly 9,000 critters-both for display and for sale.

I see a late autumn workshop in the making for Master Gardeners.
Most of the best ornaments were gone by our late December visit but I got a cute one. Also thinking a 4-H Garden Club craft project, too.
Mouse nestled in a milkweed pod
Here are a few others that were on the trees.
Teasel Teddy with bean paws, seed eyes and strawflower, too.
Bleached lunaria petals with a strawflower center.
Another feature for the holidays was a train display, complete with a drive-in movie playing Despicable Me2 (movie screen was a computer tablet!).

Definitely worth the visit and a good combo with a Longwood Gardens visit anytime of the year.