Monday, May 31, 2010

Getting Ready to Fledge

Amazing how fast the little critters grow!

UPDATE: June 1, 2010 10:25 AM - They're gone.  A lone, unhatched egg in an empty nest, visited occasionally by Mom or Dad ...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's June! Get Ready for Fall!

Get ready for fall?  The fast pace of springtime in the garden has just slowed down a bit. Maybe you have even found a few moments to sit and enjoy the rewards of your hard labor and I’m telling you to get ready for fall.  Lest you think I sniffed one too many viburnum carlesii let me explain...I am talking about the pinching of late summer and fall blooming perennials to control height and/or bloom time.

Almost every gardener has heard of pinching back fall-blooming garden mums (chrysanthemum) until July 4th.  But did you know the same basic concept works for other late summer and fall bloomers as well.  Some of the more common perennials that can be pinched back include achillea millefolium (common yarrow), aconitum napellus (monkshood), andenophora liliifolia (lilyleaf ladybells), alcea rosea (hollyhock), aster, boltonia, Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower), eupatorium (joe-pye weed), helenium (sneezeweed), helianthus (willow-leaved sunflower), heliopsis, hibiscus moscheutos (rose mallow), lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower), lychnis (rose campion), monarda didyma (beebalm), pervskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage), phlox paniculata (garden phlox), rudbeckia (blackeyed susan), sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, tanacetum parthenium (feverfew), veronicastrum virginicum (culver’s root).  There are many more late-blooming perennials that benefit from shearing.

June is the best time for cutting these perennials back. Shearing off one half to two thirds of the growth will result in a bushier plant, with reduced height and often more flowers, although smaller in size. Pinching back is useful to reduce the need for staking (as seen in the picture on the left) and usually will result in delay of bloom by one or two weeks.  Layering, or shearing back only some of the plants, will result in staggered blooms.  Pinching too late in the season can cause some of the fall bloomers to flower so late that the frost gets the blooms before they have a chance to open. To be safe, pinch no later than July 4th. 

But before you head out with your pruning shears, know your perennial.  I highly recommend two garden books that need to be in every perennial gardener's library:  The Well Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust and The Perennial Care Manual by Nancy J. Ondra.

Plant Sale Pictures

Anne F. sends these pictures from Friday. Enjoy! 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Master Gardener Plant Sale 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010 3:00 - 5:00 PM
181 Franklin Farm Lane
Chambersburg, PA  17202

Picture from

The annual Franklin County Master Gardener Plant Sale is only a week away. There will be many reasonably priced perennial divisions from Master Gardener home gardens and the Demonstration Gardens here at the Extension Office.

Come learn which plants are native. Which ones are good for attracting pollinators, hummingbirds, or butterflies to your yard.

Learn about landscaping for wildlife.

What plants work well in a Rain Garden?

Tour our Demonstration Gardens: Pollinator, Perennial, Rain Garden, Herbs, Victory Garden, and Wildlife area.

And, of course, tomatoes.  New this year, in addition to the heirlooms, newly trialed hybrids, red, yellow, and striped slicers - plum/paste, cherry and grape varieties, are ones being trialed for container gardening. 

The container garden trials will include, in addition to tomatoes, peppers (sweet, mildly hot, and hot hot), and eggplants - white, aubergine, black, and green.  Cucurbits - cucumbers, squash, and zucchini are also on the list.

Another new category this year - Historic Vegetables - Pre-1850 varieties of brassicas (cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower), hot peppers, eggplants, and again, tomatoes.  These are the same varieties grown for the Four Square Garden at Renfrew, and the demonstration garden at the John Brown House in Chambersburg.

This is the premier fund raising event for our program. Come out and support the Master Gardeners of Penn State Cooperative Extension, Franklin County.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bluebird Update

4 eggs have hatched!  Did anybody notice when?  Helpless little things.

UPDATE May 20, 2010:  Pennsylvania Game Commission issued another press release.
In late April, the female bluebird laid five eggs, of which four hatched beginning May 13. It is expected that the fifth may not hatch, as it is not uncommon for one egg from a clutch to turn out to be infertile or fail to hatch. Depending on conditions, the four chicks may fledge – leave the nest and fly on their own – by the end of May or early June.

For more information on bluebirds, visit the Game Commission’s website (, click on “Wildlife” in the menu bar in the banner, then choose “Bluebird” from the listing under the “Wild Birds and Birding” section.

Perennial Demonstration Garden

Peg B. sends these pictures and a hearty "Thank You" to her team for showing up on their scheduled work days to get the perennial demonstration garden ready to go for the season.  Several new plants installed, many divisions made for the plant sale, and the first of our demonstration gardens having the updated labeling system completed and installed.

Congratulations, Perennial People!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The History and Future of Forestry

The history and future of forestry in Pennsylvania will be the topic of the second South Mountain Speakers Series on Monday, May 10, at the Penn State Mont Alto campus, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary John Quigley announced today.

Entitled “Selling Conservation from the 1890s to the 21st Century,” the free public event will start at 6 p.m. with forestry students providing tours of the campus arboretum. Those who wish to participate on the tour should go to the General Studies Building at 1 Campus Drive, Mont Alto.

“This topic is certainly timely so close to Arbor Day, and in light of the many challenges now facing our forests from climate change, natural gas extraction and invasive pests,” Quigley said. “This series is designed to look at the past to see if any lessons learned can apply to our modern day environmental challenges.”

In existence since 1903, the Mont Alto Arboretum contains a wide variety of tree species. For the event, the Penn State Mont Alto Library also will have a display of items from the early days of the school, including some old hand tied-fishing flies made by Mont Alto students and images from the Mira Lloyd Dock Glass Lantern Slide Collection of the Caledonia area taken in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Refreshments will also be available.

The lecture by Dr. Peter Linehan, associate professor of Forestry at Mont Alto, will begin at 7 p.m. at the General Studies Building. Linehan will show how the Pennsylvania Forestry Association mobilized and educated the public and influenced state lawmakers to revolutionize the management of forests in Pennsylvania.

“Nestled among the trees on the edge of the Michaux State Forest, Penn State Mont Alto has educated America’s foresters for over a century,” Linehan said. “It was one of the first forestry schools in the nation. The goal at that time was to crusade for a change from the barren hills caused by forest fires and charcoal production.”

After the lecture, a panel including Linehan; Nels Johnson, director of Conservation Programs for The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania; and Dr. James Grace, DCNR executive deputy secretary; will discuss contemporary forestry issues and respond to questions from the audience.

This event is the second in the seven-part South Mountain Speakers Series envisioned as a revival of the talks given by Joseph Rothrock in the late 19th century as part of his work to preserve and restore Pennsylvania’s forests and natural landscape. Rothrock, a Pennsylvania native, was a pioneer in forest management in the United States and is often referred to as the state’s “Father of Forestry.”

This event is sponsored by Penn State Mont Alto and the South Mountain Partnership. The South Mountain Partnership is a unified group of private citizens, businesses, not-for-profit organizations and government representatives in Adams, Cumberland, Franklin and York counties, working together to protect and enhance the landscape. South Mountain is at the northern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The South Mountain Partnership was sparked by DCNR’s Conservation Landscape Initiative—an effort to engage communities, local partners, state agencies and funding opportunities to conserve the high-quality natural and cultural resources while enhancing the region’s economic viability.

The next event is the series will be “The Appalachian Trail: Walking From the Past to the Future,” in the afternoon on July 10. Participants will be able to walk with guides going north or south on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, ending at the Pine Grove Furnace State Park and the Appalachian Trail Museum; learn while walking about the trail’s natural and cultural history; celebrate at the halfway point of the trail with a multi-media exhibit that gives insight into the present and future of the trail; and top it all off with an ice cream cone while possibly witnessing hikers who are attempting the half-gallon ice cream challenge. This event is sponsored by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, DCNR and the Appalachian Trial Museum.

Communities in the 400,000-acre South Mountain region have thrived off fertile limestone agricultural lands, the timber that fed iron furnaces, plentiful game and wildlife, and abundant pure spring water that is captured by the mountains’ permeable soils and released into the valleys. A rich cultural heritage exists in communities like Gettysburg, Chambersburg and Carlisle, and many smaller communities.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Falcon Cam Update

The nesting pair of Peregrine Falcons in the DEP building in Harrisburg have hatched their eggs.  There were 5 eggs at one point.  I think I can now count three hatched chicks.  [UPDATE Tuesday 5/4/2010 5:30 PM - confirmed - two eggs unhatched].  At the time of this writing (5/3/2010 at 6:00 PM), Mom or Dad was feeding them.  Watch here.

Bluebird cam here.  There were 5 eggs in the nest, last I saw.  None have yet hatched.

People, Plants, and Partnerships

eXtension announces the launch of a new Master Gardener Blog at the national level. If you recall, I introduced you to the National eXtension program last Fall. From their press release:

With over 94,000 volunteers contributing more than $100 million in service nationwide, the EMG program is hoping to take its volunteer program to a new level by increasing the social interaction of its participants.  
Beginning Monday, May 3, EMG coordinators and guest contributors from various states will take turns sharing a weekly blog post on a topic geared toward the national EMG community. Master Gardeners will be encouraged to discuss items appearing in blog posts by submitting comments using the blog’s commenting features.

Monica David, Illinois EMG coordinator and Consumer Horticulture National Committee chair, said, “ I hope the EMG Blog will be a place where Master Gardeners are encouraged to ‘talk shop.’” David also noted that the blog can be a place for EMGs to interact around blog post topics that may highlight many Master Gardener activities including:
• Project ideas, successes, and learning points
• Educational opportunities and curricula
• Contributions to the public good (value and benefit)
• National updates and events
That "94,000 volunteers and more than $100 million in service" statistic can't be emphasized enough - please cite it widely when you talk about the Master Gardener Program.

I added a link to the blog in the “Other Blogs” section to the right. Check it out.