Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Becoming a Master Gardener

Penn State Cooperative Extension is starting its recruitment drive for a new class of Master Gardeners early this year. This year’s set of classes will be taught via a remote video connection with Extension horticulture educators from throughout the state and the University. Franklin County Cooperative Extension is looking for 15 motivated people willing to become a part of our volunteer force to help in its land grant mission to bring research-based knowledge about consumer horticulture to the general public. In exchange for extensive training, Master Gardeners are asked to provide throughout the first program year, 50 hours of volunteer time, selected among the following activities: covering the phone hot-line during the growing season (April 15-October 15), teaching workshops, manning information booths, assisting in research, establishing and maintaining demonstration gardens, fulfilling speaker requests, and helping with funding-raising and publicity efforts, like our Plant Sale, Tomato Taste Day, and Fall Garden Tour that help keep the program sustainable. In subsequent years, 20 hours of volunteer time, and 8 hours of continuing education are required to maintain your Master Gardener status.

This year’s classes will be on Tuesdays here at the Extension Office from 1:00-4:00 p.m., starting on March 1, 2011 and continuing weekly for 13 weeks.   The fee is $100.00.

If you are interested in becoming a Penn State Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, we invite you to attend one of two information sessions that have been scheduled, either Tuesday, January 11th, or Tuesday, January 18th, both at 1:00 p.m.  Follow the links above for more information about us.   Penn State Cooperative Extension of Franklin County can be reached at 263-9226.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Strong Women Classes Forming

To register: Click on the picture, print out the form, fill it in, and send to Penn State Cooperative Extension, 181 Franklin Farm Lane, Chambersburg, PA  17202, or FAX to 263-9228

A new set of classes, just like the ones from the Fall are forming in Franklin County.  Originally developed by Dr. Miriam Nelson, a professor at Tufts University in Boston, the Strong Women Program provides twice a week sessions for a period of six weeks.  This research based program is designed to help increase strength, bone density, balance and energy.

Women from age thirty-five on can start to lose one-quarter to one-third pound of muscle each year—and gain that much or more in fat*.  At first,  the change isn’t especially noticeable, but over time the loss of 2 percent of strength per year results in muscle weakness and difficulty in moving.

Strong Women strength-training class at Belen Community Center in Valencia County, New Mexico

When this happens, women slow their activities, become weaker, gain more weight, and begin a devastating cycle of dieting and weight gain rebound, which leads to more muscle mass loss and a sedentary and dependent lifestyle. This doesn’t have to be your future.

The Tufts research indicated that after a year of strength training twice a week, women’s bodies were fifteen to twenty years more youthful.*  Women who participated in the program regained bone and muscle while losing fat. They became stronger, energized, and more active.

Who should attend?

Women 40 years of age and older who have been active or relatively sedentary for the past few years and are interested in improving their health, vitality, and well-being.

Classes—What to expect

  • A five minute warm-up
  • Eight to twelve strength-training exercises to promote proper body awareness, positioning, flexibility, and posture
  • Easy-to-Use Nutrition Information
  • A five-minute cool-down
For more information, contact:
Mary Ann Oyler
181 Franklin Farm Lane
Chambersburg, PA 17202
Classes take one hour, meet twice a week, and run for six weeks. The cost is $45.00 for the whole six week session (12 classes). Pre-registration is preferred but potential participants are welcome to attend the first session to determine if the class is a good fit for them.

Cooperative Extension is offering Strong Women classes at various locations throughout the county:

  1. New Guilford Brethren In Christ  1575 Mont Alto Road Fayetteville, PA 17222
Days: Mondays & Wednesdays
Dates: January 10—February 16
Time: 9:00 AM—10:00 AM 
2. Church of the Brethren 260 South 4th Street Chambersburg, PA 17201
Days: Tuesdays & Thursdays
Dates: January 11—February 17
Time: 10:00 AM—11:00 AM
3. First United Methodist Church 11 North Fayette Street Mercersburg, PA 17236
Days: Tuesdays & Thursdays
Dates: January 11—February 17
Time: 9:30 AM—10:30 AM
4. Memorial Lutheran Church 34 East Orange Street Shippensburg, PA 17257
Days: Tuesdays & Thursdays
Dates: January 11—February 17
Time: 9:00AM—10:00 AM
5. The Brethren Fellowship  339 Lincoln Way East Chambersburg, PA 17201
Days: Mondays & Wednesdays
Dates: January 10—February 16
Time: 5:45 PM—6:45 PM
6. First United Methodist Church 11 North Fayette Street Mercersburg, PA 17236
Days: Tuesdays & Thursdays
Dates: January 11—February 17
Time: 6:00 PM—7:00 PM
7. Evangelical Lutheran Church 130 North Washington Street Greencastle, PA 17225
Days: Tuesdays & Thursdays
Dates: February 22—March 31
Time: 9:30 AM—10:30 AM
8. Faith United Methodist Church 104 North Potomac Street Waynesboro, PA 17268
Days: Tuesday & Thursdays
Dates: January 11—February 17
Time: 9:00 AM– 10:00 AM
9. Upper Path Valley Presbyterian Church Intersection of Route 75 and 641 Spring Run, PA 17262
Days: Mondays & Wednesdays
Dates: March 7—April 13
Time: 9:00 AM– 10:00 AM 
You can click on the brochure picture at the beginning of this post, print it, and register by filling in the information and sending it in to Penn State Cooperative Extension at 181 Franklin Farm Lane, Chambersburg, PA 17202.

Make a commitment to grow stronger and trimmer, and feel better about yourself. StrongWomen is a safe, simple, and highly effective strength training program.

*Tufts University’s Human Nutrition Re-search Center on Aging (Nelson et al., 1994)

Monday, December 13, 2010

2011 Perennial Plant of the Year

Picture by H. Scoggins - from the Chanticleer Garden
Amsonia hubrichtii (am-SO-nee-ah hew-BRIK-tee-eye) has been named 2011 Perennial Plant of the Year. Common names for the plant include Arkansas Amsonia, Arkansas blue star, thread-leaf blue star, narrow leaf blue star, and Hubricht's blue star.

Amsonia is a North American native. The species was found in Arkansas in 1942 by Leslie Hubricht. The foliage is thin and strap—like, often reaching three inches in length. From late spring to early summer, two- to three-inch wide clusters of small, light blue, star shaped flowers appear above the ferny foliage. This amsonia forms a three-foot-by-three-foot mound.
Holly Scoggins blogged about it recently at the Garden Professors, highlighting its fabulous fall foliage.
Exhibits the best boofy habit of all perennials (somewhat like "floofy", but rounder). Native to southern/central U.S. and totally drought tolerant. The pale blue star-shaped flowers in late Spring are fairly underwhelming, especially given all the other stuff going on at the time. The fine, needle-like foliage adds a wonderful soft texture throughout the summer. As the days shorten and the nights cool down, it begins to glow...first a soft gold, and then adds bronze and apricot to the mix - basically a color twin of Sporobolis heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed, previously described in a GP post).
According to the flyer, it:
Prefers average, moist well-drained soil but tolerates less moisture. Once established, it can tolerate drier conditions. Light blue flowers in spring are followed by a marvelous display of foliage in summer. A golden-yellow fall color is second to none among herbaceous perennials. It is uniquely suited as a companion plant or as a feature. This perennial for the seasons is an asset in borders, native gardens, cottage gardens or open woodland areas. It is best when massed. Arkansas blue star is attractive when mixed with ornamental grasses and plants that have attractive seed heads.

Tree Tomato

Picture from Logee's Tropical Plants
 Angela did the research to come up with the scientific name for that New Zealand tropical "Tree Tomato" that I've been growing for about 15 years now, and that folks asked about at the Christmas Party.  It's a Cyphomandra crassicaulis and it does belong to the same family of plants as the tomato, Solanacea.  It's also not native to New Zealand, as I thought, but Peru.  Another common name for the fruit is tamarillo.

More information here and here.  

The taste of the fruit is said to be tomato-like.  I don't agree - it's more tropical, and not to my liking, for some reason I find hard to pinpoint.  I do use it as a garnish, though, and I like the large leaves and conversational aspects of growing it.  It does take a lot of water during the summer.

If others are interested, I'll save some seeds and try to propagate it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Last of the Summer Wine

A carefully nurtured (Striped German?  Orange Russian 117?  Lucky Cross ? – I grew three bicolored varieties this year, so I’m not sure which this is, but if I had to guess, it would be the Striped German) picked green in early November and allowed to ripen indoors.  Shared a few others for the Thanksgiving repast.  Not the same as vine-ripened, but still beats the grocery store ones by a long shot.  I will now rely on my pantry for tomato goodness through these bleak times until next year.

Final Fresh 2010 Salad - Saturday, Dec 4, 2010

Not cheating - see!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Spirit of a Gardener

My gardens are finally put to rest for the winter...a little delayed this fall because I just "had" to have a picket fence for my front gardens.  This was the year I was finally able to convince my husband that it was much needed, so I had to act quickly while the opportunity arose.  Well back to putting my garden to rest...I always get melancholy this time of year.  I'm never ready to stop gardening, so to keep my gardening spirit in tact  I had to start making a list of what I "needed" for next year.  While researching my gardening needs, I came across a delightful highlight written by Larry Rettig on a little-known writer and gardener, Karel Čapek.    Karel deserves our utmost respect for truly understanding a gardener's life.  Why if Čapek hadn't written The Gardener's Year  in 1929, I would believe he was describing me and probably many of my gardening friends as well.
Karel Čapek (CHOPek; 1890-1938) is one of the greatest writers the Czech Republic has ever produced.  A novelist, playwright, journalist, translator, and artist, he gained worldwide renown as author of the drama "RUR Rossum's Universal Robots."  In this science fiction play, the word "robot" is introduced and subsequently becomes part of the vocabulary of almost all languages in the world.  It is said to have been coined by his brother, Josef.

Born in Malé Svatoňovice, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary (now Czech Republic), Čapek is considered one of the founders of classical, European science fiction.  Although many of the themes in his diverse writings are quite serious--he explores ethical aspects and other issues related to mass production, atomic weapons, Nazism, and development of mechanical intelligent beings--Čapek had an oft-overlooked humorous side.  And he was a passionate gardener!

In a small, 120-page tome called The Gardener's Year (original Czech version: Prague, 1929; English version:  London, 1931, Modern Library paperback:  New York, 2002), Čapek partners his humorous side with his passion for gardening.  The result is a charming treatise, full of wit and hilarity, that plays on the the psychology of gardening and gardeners.  He pokes fun not only at other gardeners but, being one, at himself as well.  Here is a sampling of his tongue-in-cheek humor:

On How to Recognize a Real Gardener
" 'You must come to see me, he says, 'I will show you my garden.'  Then, when you go just to please him, you will find him with his rump sticking up somewhere among the perennials.  'I will come in a moment,' he shouts to you over his shoulder.  'Just wait till I have planted this rose.'  'Please don't worry,' you say kindly to him.  After a while he must have planted it, for he gets up, makes your hand dirty, and beaming with hospitality he says: 'Come and have a look; it's a small garden, but--Wait a moment,' and he bends over a bed to weed some tiny grass.  'Come along, I will show you Dianthus musalae, it will open your eyes.  Great Scott, I forgot to loosen it here!' he says, and begins to poke in the soil.  A quarter of an hour later he straightens up again.  'Ah,' he says, 'I wanted to show you that bell flower, Campanula wilsonae.  That is the best campanula which--Wait a moment, I must tie up this delphinium.'  After he has tied it up he remembers: 'Oh, I see, you have come to see that erodium.  A moment,' he murmurs, 'I must just transplant this aster, it hasn't enough room here.'  After that you go away on tiptoe, leaving his behind sticking up among the perennials..."

On Garden Hoses
"One would think that watering a little garden is quite a simple thing, especially if one has a hose.  It will soon be clear that until it has been tamed, a hose is an extraordinarily evasive and dangerous beast, for it contorts itself, it jumps, it wriggles, it makes puddles of water, and dives with delight into the mess it has made; then it goes for the man who is going to use it and coils itself round his legs, you must hold it down with your foot and then it rears and twists round your waist and neck, and while you are fighting with it as with a cobra, the monster turns up its brass mouth and projects a mighty stream of water through the windows on the curtains which have been recently hung...Three men are needed to tame it at first, and they all leave the place of battle splashed to the ears with mud and drenched with water."

On Unexpected Cold Spells
"If I knew that it would help, I would wrap my holly in my own coat, and draw my pants over the juniper; I would take off my own shirt for you, Azalea pontica; I would cover you with my hat, Alum Root, and for you Coreopsis, nothing is left but my socks:  be thankful for them."

On Starting Seedlings
"Well, have you sown your seeds yet?  Have you put your pots into lukewarm water and covered them with glass?  ...Very well then, now the great and feverish activity of every sower begins--that is, waiting...

The first day nothing comes up, and the watcher tosses in his bed at night, unable to await the morning.

The second day...a tuft of mold appears.  He rejoices that this is the first sign of life.

The third day something creeps up on a long white leg and grows like mad.  He exalts almost aloud that it is here already...

The fourth day, when the shoot has stretched to an impossible length, the watcher becomes anxious, for it might be a weed.  Soon it is evident that the fear was not unreasonable.  Always the first thing...which grows in a pot is a weed.

Obviously it must be some law of Nature."

On a Gardener's Eyes Being Bigger than his Garden Bed
"Besides germination, April is also the month for planting.  With enthusiasm, yes, with wild enthusiasm and impatience you order seedlings from the nurseries, for you cannot exist any longer without them; you promised all your friends who have gardens that you would come for cuttings; I tell you that you are never satisfied with what you already have.  And so, one day, some 170 seedlings meet in your house, and they must be planted immediately; and then you look round in your garden and find with overwhelming certainty that you have no space left for them!  ...'No, it's not possible here,' he murmurs in a low voice; 'here I have those damned chrysanthemums; phlox would smother it here...and near this achillea there is no room either--where shall I put it?  ...Ha, here is a bit of space; wait, my little seedling, in a moment I will make your bed.  So, there you are, and now grow in peace.'  Yes, but in two days the gardener will discover that he has planted it right on top of the scarlet shoots of an emerging evening primrose..."

On Accidental Mutilation
"...well, nobody knows how it happens, but it occurs strikingly often that when you step on a bed to pick up some dry twig, or to pull out a dandelion, you usually tread on a shoot of the lily or trollius; it crunches under your foot, and you sicken with horror and shame; and you take yourself for a monster...  Or with infinite care you loosen the soil in a bed, with the inevitable result that you chop with the hoe a germinating bulb, or neatly cut off with the spade the sprouts of the anemones; when, horrified, you start back, you crush...a primula in flower, or break the young plume of a delphinium.  The more anxiously you work, the more damage you make..."

On the Joy of Much-Anticipated Rain
"...Storms murmur on the horizon, wind saturated with moisture springs up, and here it is:  strings of rain hiss on the pavement, the earth almost breathes aloud, water gurgles, drums, pats, and rattles against the windows, tiptaps with a thousand fingers in the pots, runs in rivulets, and splashes in puddles, and one would like to scream with joy; one sticks one's head out of the window to cool it in the dew from heaven, one whistles, shouts, and would like to stand barefoot in the ...streams rushing down the streets.  Blessed rain, cooling delight of water.  Bathe my soul and wash my heart..."

On Storm Damage
"Next day the newspapers describe the catastrophic cloud-burst which has caused terrible damage to the new crops; but they do not say that is has caused heavy damage especially to the lilies, or that it has ruined the Papaver orientale.  We gardeners are always neglected."

On the Finality of Fall
"Nature is lying down to her winter sleep.  Leaf after leaf drops from my birches with a beautiful and sad motion; when they have flowered the plants withdraw again into the earth; after they have grown and blossomed they leave behind only a naked stalk or a moist stump, a crabbed brush or a withered stem; and the soil itself smells sadly of decay.  Why try to conceal the fact?  It is finished for this year.  Chrysanthemum, don't deceive yourself about the fullness of life; little white potentilla, don't confuse this last sunshine with the exuberant brilliance of March.  It is of no use to complain, children, the parade is over; lie down gently to your winter sleep."

On the Gardener in Winter
"So in December the garden is mostly found in a great number of garden catalogues.  The gardener himself hibernates under glass in a heated room, buried up to the neck, not in manure or brushwood, but in garden catalogues and circulars, books and pamphlets, in which he reads:

1.  That the most valuable, gratifying, and altogether indispensable plants are those which he has not got in his garden;

2.  That all that he has is 'rather delicate,' and is 'inclined to get frozen;' or that he planted side by side one plant 'which requires moisture,' and another 'which must be protected against damp;' that the one which he planted with special care in the open sunshine requires 'full shade,' and vice versa;

3.  That 370 or more kinds of plants exist which 'deserve better attention,' and 'ought not to be left out of any garden'... "Then the hibernating gardener ceases entirely to be interested in what he has got in his garden, being fully occupied with what he has not, which of course is far more; he throws himself eagerly upon catalogues, and ticks off what he must order, which, by Jove, must no longer be lacking in his garden.  In the first rush he marks off 490 perennials which he must order at all costs; after counting them he is a bit subdued, and with a bleeding heart he begins to cross off those which he will give up for this year.  The painful elimination must be gone through five times at least, until only about 120 'most beautiful, gratifying, indispensable' perennials remain, which--on the wings of an anticipated joy--he immediately orders.  'Send them at the beginning of March!'--Lord, if only it were March already!"

True to His Political Beliefs Until the End
Despite certain capture and detainment, Čapek refused to leave his beloved country when it became clear that Hitler would soon overtake it.  The Gestapo had already named him Czechoslovakia's "public enemy number 2."  On Christmas Day 1938, Karel Čapek died of double pneumonia, thus avoiding capture and confinement in a concentration camp, a fate that befell his brother Josef, a painter and writer.  Josef died in Bergen-Belsen in 1945.
 I will leave you with Karel's gardening prayer:
O Lord, grant that in some way it may rain every day, say from about midnight until three o'clock in the morning, but you see, it must be gentle and warm so that it can soak in; grant that at the same time it would not rain on campion, alyssum, helianthemum, lavender, and the others which you in your infinite wisdom know are drought-loving plants--I can write their names on a bit of paper if you like--and grant that the sun may shine the whole day long, but not everywhere...and not too much; that there may be plenty of dew and little wind, enough worms, no plant-lice and snails, no mildew, and that once a week, thin liquid manure and guano may fall from Heaven. Amen. -Karel Čapek, The Gardener's Year, 1929.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Colorful Autumn Garden Series, Part 4

Perennial chrysanthemums brighten any fall garden.

Fall has so much to offer us...much cooler temperatures, endless foliage colors, and rain.  Walking around my garden yesterday to take blog pictures took much longer than I thought it would, not because I could not find plants to photograph, but I just could not decide which plants photograph. (All the pictures in this blog were taken October 25, 2010.)

While most of my asters have finished blooming, Aster tataricus 'Jindai' is in full flower.  This tall aster has a stiff, upright habit and blooms well past October.  The 1" clusters of bright blue flowers with glowing yellow centers is a perfect partner for perennial chrysanthemums.

Itea 'Little Henry'
Double-duty shrubs are among my favorites.   ‘Little Henry’ Itea is a useful native plant that will not only reward you with lightly scented, pure white flowers in early summer; but just when you’re not expecting anything more from this little wonder, its green summer foliage changes to a brilliant multitude of burgundies and reds in the fall.

Another favorite is Fothergilla Blue Shadow.  Blue Shadow is adorned with honey-scented, bottlebrush flowers in early spring before it leafs out. But what sets this outstanding plant apart from the rest is its colorful dusty blue leaves. In the autumn the blue foliage transforms to shades of rich red, orange and yellow.

Penny Mac and Sambucus Black Lace
Ninebark and Black Lace Sambucus are two shrubs that provide year-round dark burgundy foliage.  Hydranges are known for their flower power, but many hydrangeas offer beautiful burgundy fall foliage as well.  Endless Summer, Penny Mac, and Oakleaf  are just three of the many hydrangeas that provide stunning fall color.  As an added bonus, Penny Mac and Endless Summer bloom right through the fall.

Fall seed heads on grasses are as varied as the grasses themselves.  One of my favorites is Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Moudry'.   While Moudry is an especially beautiful grass, the seed heads need to be cut back before winter to prevent reseeding.

Late blooming anemones do not easily give up and continue to flower, as do some of the roses.  Hyssops that were cut back late summer are still flowering.  And while the blooms on butterfly bushes have slowed down quite a bit, they continue to push out some new blooms. 

But the true stars of my late October gardens are
the peren- nial chrysan- themums  And do they know how to ham it up! Sheffields demand attention of anyone who passes by.  Shrugging off frost, these flowers will last well into November without blinking an eye.  I would never garden without  perennial chrysanthemums.

I hope my fall gardening series has encouraged you to discover the enjoyment of fall gardening. 

While we often search for plants that offer beauty, sometimes all we have to do is to take time to see the beauty.

Two books I highly recommend for seasonal gardening:
Time-Tested Plants by Pamela J. Harper and
Continuous Bloom by Pam Duthie 

Related blogs:
Colorful Fall Gardening, Part 1
Colorful Fall Gardening, Part 2
Colorful Fall Gardening, Part 3
Mums the Word

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vegetable Garden Survey

Steve Bogash, Regional Horticulture Educator and George Weigel, Garden Writer and Designer are gathering information from folks who started vegetable gardens in the in the last 3-5 years.  From Steve's email:

We'd like to know more about your experiences and the direction you are heading with your vegetable gardening. Whether you grow a few herbs in some containers or have created a large patch, we want to know how things have gone and where you are heading. 

Just click on this link: and complete a simple 15 question survey. 

The survey is completely anonymous and should take only a few minutes.

The survey will close on November 19, 2010.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mums the Word

Garden mums are ubiquitous in fall gardens. The beauty of their instant fall color is hard to beat. The mums for sale in fall nurseries have been coddled to set buds for September blooms and are putting an awful lot of energy into blooming, not growing roots.  These garden mums may carry the label of being "hardy", but planting these out in the garden  in the fall  usually does not allow sufficient  time for the plants to become established.   In our area with some winter days of below zero, freezing and thawing of the soil will heave the plant out of the ground and kill the roots.  While spring-planted garden mums have a much better chance of survival, you can increase the survival rate of fall-planted garden mums by planting as soon as possible, keeping the foliage on until spring, and mulching the plants heavily.   Of course you can always enjoy the beauty of garden mums and consider them annuals.

Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Sheffield Pink' in my garden
Did you know there are truly hardy perennial chrysanthemums?  They are later blooming than the garden mums and will extend your growing season well into October.  You will not find the perennial chrysanthemums for sale with the fall garden mums.  Nurseries generally place them with perennials.

The chrysanthemum world has not made it easy on us, as they have been busy classifying and reclassifying perennial mums.
Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Mary Stoker' in my garden
About seven years ago these hardy perennial mums were reclassified from Chrysanthemums.   After the reclassification you would find perennial mums listed  as Chrysanthemum rubellum, Chrysanthemum X rubellum and Chrysanthemum koreana.  Then four years ago they were reclassified again to Chrysanthemums.  Now I find them listed under all classifications.

Many perennial gardeners are familiar with the Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Clara Curtis' often found in local nurseries along with Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Sheffield Pink' .  The following perennials are not as easy to find locally, but are definitely worth looking into for your fall garden.

  •  Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Mary Stoker'
  •  Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Sheffield Yellow'
  •  Chrysanthemum rubellum 'Venus'  (Pink  and White Form)
  •  Chrysanthemum x 'Bolero'
  •  Chrysanthemum x 'Cambodian Queen'
Let your favorite nursery know you are interested in purchasing perennial chrysanthemums.  They may be able to include them in their perennial stock next year.

Colorful Autumn Garden (Part 3)

Autumn garden bouquet
On a recent early October afternoon under a clear blue sky, I had tea while on my swing in the garden. Nearby were fall asters in full bloom. In addition to enjoying the beauty of the asters, I watched as the bees and Monarch butterflies busily move from one blossom to another.  I would not want to miss these moments in my fall garden and neither should you.  Choosing the right plants will keep color in your garden well into late October. 

Asters and Eupatorium Chocolate
According to ancient Greek mythology, goddess Asterea looked at earth and could not find any stars, she cried. The aster, with flowers resembling blinking stars, grew out of the soil, wherever her tears fell. Perennial asters are late season bloomers that come in a wide range of colors: pink, white, blue, red and purple. It is impossible to imagine an autumn garden without asters. In fact, there are hundreds of aster varieties to satisfy any taste.  Pinch them back around mid-July and they will produce a profusion of 1- to 2-inch-wide, star-shaped flowers.

As the name implies, Eupatorium Chocolate (Chocolate Joe Pye Weed, Chocolate Snakeroot) is a mass of chocolate-purple leaves all summer with shiny deep purple stems and petioles, smothered in autumn with small white flowers. While Eupatorium Chocolate likes moist shade, it does fine in the sun if ample moisture is provided.  Pinching back around mid-July will keep the plant more compact, if desired.
Hardy Begonia and Wood Asters

Hardy begonias are still going strong and look great with Eupatorium Chocolate and asters.  The red veins of the begonia look like stained glass in the sunlight.  The great thing about the begonia is that it seeds freely.  I was excited when I found some white begonias.  Absolutely one of my favorites in the shade garden.

Stems on ‘Lady in Red’ hydrangea become more intense in the cooler temperatures.  Other hydrangeas such as Little Lamb, Limelight, and Tardiva are taking on a more blushed tint while Endless Summer is still putting out new flowers.
Fall Anemone
Hibiscus Diana blooms on tirelessly which, by the way,  is why she is not a prolific reseeder.   Agastache Blue Fortune and Phlox that had been cut back in late summer are flowering once again along with spirea Anthony Waterer.  Fall anemones are still vying for attention.  Even though the flowering has slowed down, butterfly bushes that have been deadheaded regularly are still in color.

Fall gardeners need to look beyond flowers for color.  Grasses are sending up beautiful seed heads of various shades and texture. Nothing is more beautiful than sun glistening on dew covered seed heads of grasses.  Clusters of Callicarpa’s (American Beautyberry) glossy pink-purple berries cling to the stems.  Callicarpa should be cut to the ground each spring as berries form on new wood.  Not to be outdone by brilliant red Chokeberry, the berries on cotoneaster and winterberry are turning brilliant red-orange as well.  

And soon ….but that will all have to wait for Colorful Fall Gardening, Part 4. 

Remember, fall bloomers can get very tall and leggy growing foliage all summer. Once they bloom, they are often top heavy and fall over. To ensure your fall display is as glorious has it should be, you will either need to stake your fall bloomers earlier in the season or do some periodic pruning to make the plants stockier and more self-supporting. Keep in mind that if you prune your plants, you will be delaying the bloom period by a week or more.

All photographs were taken October 3, 2010, and can be enlarged by clicking on the picture.

Two books I highly recommend for seasonal gardening:
Time-Tested Plants by Pamela J. Harper and
Continuous Bloom by Pam Duthie 

Related blogs:
Colorful Fall Gardening, Part 1
Colorful Fall Gardening, Part 2
Colorful Fall Gardening, Part 4 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dining with Diabetes

Penn State Cooperative Extension is offering a low-cost class, “Dining with Diabetes: A Program for Adults with Diabetes and their Families,” to teach those with type 2 diabetes and/or pre-diabetes how to manage their condition. The classes are offered in a social and interactive setting. Franklin County has a rapidly increasing incidence of diabetes, according to the 2008-2009 Community Health Needs Assessment conducted by Summit Health, and this program will help educate Franklin County residents at risk for or experiencing type 2 diabetes.

The low cost program includes: five classes, blood tests to measure the participant’s risk for diabetes complications, recipes, exercise DVD, educational materials, pedometers and stretch bands. Each class, taught by a Registered Dietitian, offers food demonstrations, mild physical activity and class discussion. Lab tests to measure hemoglobin A1C, and other measures of diabetic control will be done as part of the class. The fee includes all educational materials, lab tests and food taste tests. “We want participants to know their numbers to help them manage their diabetes, and also to learn in a fun and engaging class setting,” said Rayna Cooper, extension educator and Registered Dietitian, who manages the program in the region. The total cost for the 5 classes is $35 for an individual or $50 if the individual decides to bring a family member. An extra incentive to participate in the program in Franklin County is that those participants or families completing the final class will be given a gift card for $20 to use in a local grocery store.

The class location will be the Franklin County Ag Heritage Building in Chambersburg. The first four classes will be held on Tuesdays from 1:00 to 3:30 pm beginning on October 12, 2010, with a follow-up class on January 11, 2011. The instructor for the course will be Nancy Routch, RD, LDN. Nancy is a Registered Dietitian and a consultant for Penn State Cooperative Extension. Scholarships are available for those needing assistance with the course fee. For information on registering for the Franklin County program, contact Rayna Cooper at the Adams County Extension office at (717) 334-6271 or email The “Dining with Diabetes” program in Franklin County is made possible by a grant from Summit Endowment, with additional funding from the USDA and a grant from the PA Department of Health. Penn State also partners with Joslin Diabetes Center, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sowing a Cover Crop

Master Gardener Angela Weathers offers tips on putting your vegetable garden to bed by sowing a cover crop to improve your soil.

Whatever you do don’t leave your soil bare this winter or you’ll be missing out on a chance to recharge your soil and increase its fertility. This year why not try planting a cover crop or green manure? They are well suited to all gardens, big or small. Green manure and cover crops are often grown as an inexpensive method of improving the soil, they might be the hardest-working plants you’ll ever grow, and they cover the soil and protect it from erosion, and suppress weed germination. Dozens of plants have special talents and pull up nutrients and minerals from deep within the soil to improve the soil structure by increasing nitrogen production and soil microbial activity. They enhance the availability of nutrients locked up in the soil, and conserve water.

These crops can also break disease cycles and reduce populations of bacterial and fungal diseases; they also attract natural predators of pests by providing elements of their habitat. Most plants used for cover crops and green manure are either grasses such as rye, barley or wheat, or legumes like peas, beans and various types of clovers and vetches.

Be sure to plant your cover crop/green manure seed about four weeks before killing frosts.  That would mean planting in late September or early October.  Broadcast the seed and rake it in to protect it from the birds, and then keep moist until germination. You must kill these crops before they set seed in the spring and the top growth gets out of control. You can quickly kill them by cutting back with grass shears or with a weed whacker about a month before it’s time to plant your tomatoes and peppers, which would be April 15th in our area, and then incorporate it into the soil or use the cut foliage as mulch. A power mower does the job for larger areas.

The following three winter crops are best suited to our area:

Hairy Vetch

Hairy vetch gives a big payback in terms of soil improvement. It’s an annual winter legume that serves both as a cover crop, green manure and mulch.  It's extremely cold tolerant and contributes 80-250 lb/acre of nitrogen to the soil, 18 pounds of phosphorus, and 132 pound of potassium. Sow at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds/1,000 sq feet. The first year you may have to use a special inoculent with the seed. Legumes have developed a symbiotic relationship with a common, beneficial soil bacteria, Rhizobium, which allows them to fix nitrogen from the air, and make it available to the plant.  If you haven't planted a legume crop (peas, beans, clover e.g.) in a few years, then add the inoculant.  It contains a starting colony of the Rhizobium microorganisms which will remain active in the soil to benefit future crops.


Another type of winter cover crop to consider is cold hardy oats. When the temp dips to near 0ºF the plant drops down to the ground and dies; the dead leaves and stems will protect the surface all winter. They will form a nearly impenetrable mat that will drastically reduce light transmittance to weed seeds which reduces weed seed germination.

Winter Rye

Winter rye is an excellent cover crop because it rapidly produces a ground cover that holds soil in place against the forces of wind and water. It should be sown at about a 2 to 3 pound of seed for every 1000 square feet of area being sown. The rye will grow over the winter, and its fibrous roots will improve soil structure and provide organic matter when you turn it under before planting in the spring.

Regularly adding cover crops and other organic materials can raise your soil’s nutrient level and physical quality, thus reducing the need to add fertilizers. Use cover crops and green manures as part of your soil-building program.

Check with your local farm supply store for seed or order on line.  Peaceful Valley Farm, Territorial Seeds, Johnny's Selected Seeds, and Seven Springs Farm are possible sources.

Harvest Your Basil!

Welcome fellow Master Gardener Jerry Lewis with a guest post on harvesting his basil.

Purple Ruffled Basil
Photo - J. Lewis
There is still time to harvest your basil and make up lots of pesto for the winter. I have about 6 different kinds of basil, I just mix them all together. A couple pictures of basil plants here shows purple ruffled basil, a really nice garden plant even if you don’t use it for culinary purposes, genovese basil, with its large and shiny leaves, and a purple basil that has smaller leaves but is easy to cut and grows well.

Genovese Basil
Photo - J. Lewis

Purple Basil
Photo - J. Lewis
Harvesting just means cutting the basil off a couple stems below the flower head (you should cut it before it flowers - I have been gone too often this summer)

Picked and Rinsed
Photo - J. Lewis

As you cut the leaves, make sure you have a sharp scissors and try to cut the leaf with as little stem as possible.

Trimming Leaves
Photo - J. Lewis

Trimming Leaves

If you’re patient enough, make sure you get those tiny little leaves growing out of the stem, they are the tenderest and tastiest, but the hardest to get.

Don't Miss the Little Guys
Photo - J. Lewis

The stems go in the compost, or in the fireplace to scent your room, or in the outside fire pit to add some spice to your fire at night.

I use basil in everything - my tomato juice, my spaghetti sauce, my scrambled eggs, my roasted vegetables. I like the smell even more than the taste, so I just like to hang around wherever it is. When I brought in the latest harvest, the smell lingered throughout the house for half the day - cheaper than those scented candles... But what I like best is pesto - that’s pesto anything, and I’ll leave you to find the recipes you like best. My wife’s pesto recipe is simple and easy to make:

- 1 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

- 1/3 cup olive oil

- 1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts (or walnuts)

- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced

Freezer Ready
Photo - J. Lewis
Chop the basil leaves finely (we use a food processor), add the pine nuts, blend; add the cheese and olive oil and blend again, scrape down the sides of the container and the mixture forms a thick paste. The pesto keeps in the refrigerator for a week; it freezes for a few months.

Using Ice Cube Trays
Photo - J. Lewis
The latest innovation at our house is freezing the pesto in ice cube trays - just pack it in the trays and add a bit of water to each and freeze it. Then you have individual serving size pesto batches for whatever you need it for!

So go look up some pesto recipes and try them out, We’re making tomato basil soup today. But what ever you do, don’t forget to stop and smell the basil.

October Workshop - Haiku Horticulture

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The Master Gardeners of Franklin County invite you to attend an overview introduction to Japanese styles of horticulture with presentations on Japanese Landscaping and gardening in small places, and demonstrations of the art of Bonsai and the Moribana style of Ikebana flower arranging.

In the same way that a few simple rules and nature themes guide the endless possibilities in Japanese Haiku poetry, working with plants in the Japanese style, also offer a few simple and adaptable rules, with a corresponding endless set of possible results. This overview is useful for both the beginner and experienced gardener, and each of the presentations can be expanded to full, detailed workshops on their own, depending on the level of interest.

When: Saturday, October 23, 9:00AM – 11:00AM

Where: Ag Heritage Building, 181 Franklin Farm Lane, Chambersburg, PA 17202

Cost: $10.00

For more information and to register, call (717) 263-9226.  Or you can click on the brochure above, print it, then fill out the information and send it to the Extension Office.

October Workshops - Landscape Design and Plant Selection

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The Franklin County Master Gardeners offer our “Landscape Design and Plant Selection” series of classes starting on October 5th and running for 7 weeks, Tuesday (and one Wednesday) evenings from 7-9 PM at the Extension Office and Ag Heritage Building, 185 Franklin Farm Lane in Chambersburg.

“Landscape Design” participants will learn how to create their own personal landscape plan. The goal is for students to analyze their site and develop on paper a landscape design for the property, whether a new or existing home site. The series will end with a review of the participant’s design plan with an experienced Master Gardener. the individual classes and schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, October 5: Planning, whether a new property or old: basic tools & principles
Tuesday, October 12: An Artist’s View of the landscape: what your property will look like in ten years.
Tuesday, October 19: Choosing the Right Trees for your landscape
Wednesday, October 27: Using Deciduous and Evergreen Shrubs in the landscape
Saturday, October 30: (9-11 am): Garden Tour: see over 100 different trees and shrubs

Tuesday, November 2: Using Native Plants in your landscape; Avoid Invasive Plants
Tuesday, November 9: Soil and Plant Chemistry – how it affects everything you plant
Tuesday, November 16: Review Your Design with a Master Gardener
You can sign up individually for each class, or for the whole series. Classes cost $10.00 each, or $40.00 for all eight. For more information and to register, call (717) 263-9226. Or you can click on the brochure above, print it, then fill out the information and send it to the Extension Office.

UPDATE 10/8/10 - NOTEThe Garden Tour date has been changed from Saturday, November 6th to Saturday, October 30th.

October Workshops - Perennial Gardens

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Join Master Gardeners Sally Dallago and Nancy Miller on consecutive Saturday's in October to learn all about planning and selecting material for a perennial garden

The Saturday October 2 workshop is entitled “Planning and Designing a Perennial Bed” and will cover the basics of perennial gardening.

The Saturday October 9 workshop is entitled “Flowers for the Perennial Garden” and will help participants select the right colors and sizes of flowers for their perennial bed, as well as the correct locations for their choices.

The workshops will take place at the Master Gardener Clubhouse, 181 Franklin Farm Lane in Chambersburg. The workshops cost $10 each, or $15 for both, and are designed to provide basic gardening information and experiences for new gardeners or a refresher course for seasoned gardeners. These are hands on workshops, so be prepared to get your hands dirty.

For more information and to register, call (717) 263-9226.  Or you can click on the brochure above, print it, then fill out the information and send it to the Extension Office.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shelob's Cousin in the Peppers

Last year Laurie and Alex captured beautiful pictures of a Banded Garden Spider, Argiope trifasciata, hanging around the herb garden. This year, Autumn Philips, Steve's summer assistant, alerted us to one of that spider's cousins, a Yellow Garden Spider, or Argiope aurantia, protecting the peppers in the high tunnel.

These are some of the largest and showiest of the spiders commonly encountered in Pennsylvania. They are seen in gardens, tall weeds, and sunny areas with bushes and other supporting structures on which they build their large orb webs. Yellow garden spiders are found throughout most of the United States.

As Laurie noted in her email to me:

 "...if you look at the photo of the spider's underside, the head area looks like batman's face."
And so it does.

More pictures from Laurie's husband, Keith, and Alex follow.

Here are fact sheets on Pennsylvania Spiders from the PSU Entomology page.

Photo by Alex Surcica