Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Crapemyrtle - Lagerstroemia indica

Lagerstroemia indica - courtesy of Vanderbilt University
 Adams County Master Gardener Carolyn Black wrote a very good article recently about Crepe or Crape Myrtles.  Here's an excerpt:
Crepe myrtles are native to the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Northern Australia and parts of Oceania. The common crepe myrtle from China and Korea was introduced circa 1790 to Charleston, South Carolina by the French botanist Andre Michaux. Two hundred years of cultivation has resulted in a huge number of cultivars of widely varying characteristics.

The lovely crepe myrtle even has Biblical notoriety in Isaiah 55: 13 - "Instead of the thorn bush will grow the pine tree; and instead of briers the myrtle will grow."

After blooming, crepe myrtles develop distinctive seed heads, then the leaves fall toward the end of autumn, leaving the colorful, exfoliating bark to showcase during the winter.
Click on the link to read the whole thing.  The website is a joint effort with Adams County, PA Master Gardeners, and Frederick County, MD Master Gardeners. You can click on the link to the right to check in with them regularly.  It's the last link in the sidebar under "Other Blogs".

Here's Virginia Tech's Fact Sheet that has the basics on Lagerstroemia, and a more detailed one on proper pruning techniques, with one section on preventing "Crape Murder."

Crepe Myrtle taken 9/18/11
I have a very old one at home that was on the property when we moved here in 1997 and there are two specimens in the wildlife area.  Jane and crew potted up some seedlings between raindrops yesterday, so there will be some for the plant sale next year.

UPDATE: 10/14/11 - Here's a picture taken on the Fall Garden Tour last month.  I think it's the one at my place but not completely sure.  I copied this from the Franklin County Master Gardener Facebook page where there is a new album up with 55 pictures from the Fall Garden Tour.  From any facebook page, search "Franklin County Master Gardeners PA" and you'll find us.  I believe these pictures were taken by MG Jerry Lewis.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Harvest 4-Health

Harvest 4-Health is a Penn State Extension initiative to bring together multiple disciplines within Extension on a focused effort at the local level to teach the newest generation about growing their own, fresh, nutritious food by planning, planting, maintaining, and harvesting produce from their own vegetable gardens. Here in Franklin County, PA, we teamed with an after school and summer program, KLAS (Kids Learning After School), and key administrative, grounds and teaching staff at the Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School in Chambersburg, PA.

KLAS is a year-round after school program for grades 1-6 (ages 6-12) consisting of 60 students usually broken into 3 groups of 20. School year runs mid September through mid May, with a summer term from mid June to the end of July.  The cycle starts over again in mid September.

These 60 students have been the recipients of hands-on learning about what it takes to create a garden bed and grow your own vegetables, as well as a weekly curriculum in basic botany, soil science, pest and disease management, and healthy cooking and eating.

We staked out a 40x40 area in early April, 2011, conducted a soil test and created six 5x10 raised beds (each group has two raised beds to manage) later in the month.

In early May, we filled the raised beds, planted seeds and plants ranging from 4-H strawberries, herbs, root crops, summer squash and cucumbers, potatoes, peppers and tomatoes. The vegetable plants were donated from Master Gardener starts, excess trial garden starts, and the historic gardening effort sponsored by Franklin County Master Gardeners and Renfrew Institute’s Four-Square Garden Project.

The local newspaper, the Chambersburg Public Opinion, covered planting day. An excerpt:
Students in the Kids Learning After School program at Stevens Elementary are receiving first-hand experience with planting a vegetable garden, literally from the ground up.

The extension office, 4-H, and a group of Master Gardeners came together to provide this part of the program. Gardeners built a series of six raised flower beds to go behind the elementary school.

Penn State calls the effort Harvest 4-Health and it's a means to teach children healthy eating habits.
On Wednesday, Master Gardener Bill Dorman helped students plant potatoes, parsley, cabbage, strawberries, tomatoes, cauliflower, zucchini and marigolds in the bed. He gave gardening tips along the way.

KLAS is an after-school program provided by Title I funds at Stevens. It features students from Stevens and Ben Chambers Elementary.
In June, we battled groundhogs, losing most of the radishes, beans, carrots, and parsley to their nibbling, which forced us to build a fence in July to reduce the impact of their predations.

We started harvesting squash and potatoes at the end of the month. Final harvest and garden clean up took place at the end of September.

The effort has been lead by Barbara Aldrich, 4-H Educator, ably assisted by 4-H Summer Assistant Jaclyn Upperman, 4-H volunteers Jesse Reichard and Patrick Hurd, Dairy Educator Logan Hurst , and Master Gardener volunteers Ray Eckhart, Bill Dorman, Karen Latsbaugh, George Fries, Darl Hospelhorn, and Anne Finucane. School administrators, including principal Richard J. Bonitz and Buildings and Grounds Supervisor, Jeff Roseberry have been very supportive, providing water access, mulch for pathways, etc. Dale Wolfson, Program Director for KLAS has provided logistical and $500 funding support, to go with another $500 funding from the Franklin County 4-H and Master Gardener programs. Tanya Nitterhouse, neighbor and benefactor has also contributed toward the effort.

Penn State Extension Educators of Franklin County Ray Eckhart (Pesticide and Master Gardener), Mary Ann Oyler (Health and Nutrition), George Hurd (Environment), Alex Surcica (Horticulture and Pollination), Jennifer Bratthauar (Agronomy and Soil Science) and Barbara Aldrich (4-H) are providing classroom education in addition to the hands-on learning which reinforces it.

This has been a total team effort on the part of Penn State Extension, Franklin County, its volunteers, the neighborhood community, the school, and the KLAS operation. We hope to be able to replicate its success elsewhere in 2012.

Wish us luck.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fall Garden Tour-Part 1 - Angela's Place

I've procrastinated long enough!  Here are some of the photos I took from the Garden Tour last week.  Unfortunately I was not able to see very many of the gardens due to time mis-management on my part.  Since I am ever watchful of pollinators, I noticed this Variegated Fritillary at the driveway of the very first garden on the tour.   Silly me did not have camera in hand.  A problem which was quickly remedied by a fast walk back to the car.  And so it began.  I am not as well versed as others in my postings here, but can provide some half decent photos at times.  So....if something needs to be corrected, or you have answers to my questionable identifications, I welcome your comments.

With the exception of this one photo, all others were taken at Angela Weather's.  
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
Good nectar plants for this butterfly are: Ironweed, Red Clover, Alafalfa, Joe Pye Weed, Asters, Coneflower.
Violets, Common Purslane, Mayapple and Plantain are some of the host plants for this butterfly.
It's genus name was taken fromt he Greek word euptoietos meaning "easily scared".

I believe this is a rose. 

Nasturtium.  Quite edible and has a pepperly flavor.

Double Morning Glories as seen in earlier blog posts.

A unique type of eggplant.

Fall Crocus


A lovely pink Hardy Begonia

Black Cohosh Cimicifuga racemosa


A lovely Cosmo

One of my favorite annuals....Cleome

Home, Home on The Range - Guineas Part 10

Free Ranging Guineas
It's been a week since the keets started free ranging and fulfilling their role as intended, gobbling up bugs and weed seeds.

Gobbling up Bugs and Weed Seeds
The rasp seems to have a set pattern.  Leave the coop, circle around it, swallow up some grit pebbles from the unpaved part of the driveway, vaccuum the lawn (defined as areas we mow vs. areas we don't), head back to the coop to roost/rest midday, drink some water, then start the process all over before settling back in the coop near sundown.

Roosting at Midday
Until Friday (9/23), we restricted the chickens from joining their cousins, remembering the birds lost to predators a few years back.

Hey. Just Because We Can't Fly As Well is No Reason to Discriminate
We relented, anthropomorphising the forlorn pacing of the chickens as they watched the guineas making their happy chirpy noises as they moved in unison in front of them.  So the chickens are on free range with the Guineas, joining the rasp at times, or just doing their own thing.

The guineas definitely act as a single unit, rarely splitting into separate foragers.

Birds of a Feather ....
The chickens, on the other hand, seem to act more individually, rather than as part of the greater flock.

Maybe It's a Guy Thing
There's a metaphor in there somewhere ...

Rattlesnake Fern

Rattlesnake Fern under the Tulip Poplar
This delicate little fella popped up (or we just noticed it) this week in several places, most noticably under the old, large tulip, or yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) in the front yard.  The leaf pattern and the spores on what looked to be a flower stem, suggested a fern of some kind.

I googled around a bit, using "yellow spores" and "fall" or "autumn" ferns in the searches without much luck.  I then tried the scientific key approach using this site.  Again, with no success.  Getting stubborn, I tried the brute force method, clicking on each of the links in the chart and just looking at the pictures.  Nothing.  However, in the process of looking at and rejecting the "Northern Adder's-tongue" fern during the brute force method, I noticed this phrase:
Northern adder's-tongue doesn't look much like a fern, as it has a single, oval sterile frond, and a single fertile frond that looks like a double row of beads on a stalk.
So, back to Google using "single fertile frond" as part of the criteria, and there it was: Botrychium virginianum, or Rattlesnake Fern, or Virginia Grape Fern. 
A Transplant to the Shade Garden

Apparently, most of the species in the genus Botrychium are rare or endangered, and this is the only one that is still quite common. Common or not, I love it, and moved one to the shade garden. I hope it takes.

Another Specimen Without a Fertile Frond

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spiders in the Mist

Spider Web
My partner caught this picture of a dew-y spider web as the fog lifted Wednesday morning, 9/21/11.  The web's shape indicates its spinner is one of the approximately 2500 species of spiders in the family Araneidae who create the characteristic circular web seen here.  From the Ohio State University Fact Sheet:
Orb weaver spiders construct the familiar circular, flat, elaborate web in which flying insects are trapped. Each species of orb weaver typically constructs a web with a distinctive design. Webs usually occur outdoors. These spiders have poor vision and locate their prey by feeling the vibration and tension of the threads in their web. They use silk to wrap the victim.

Many species of orb weaver spiders are large (approximately 1 inch), but others are quite small (approximately 0.1 inch). Some have oddly shaped abdomens (pointed spurs, conical tubercles, etc.). Some are very brightly colored. One common spider, known as the yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia), has silver hairs on the back of the cephalothorax and a large abdomen marked in black and bright yellow or orange. This spider is about 1 inch long and hangs head down in the center of the web, which is found in brambles, bushes, tall grasses, etc. in open sunny places.

Despite their formidable appearance, orb weaver spiders are not considered dangerous. Some species can bite if handled.
The University of Illinois adds, "The orb weaver produces an oil in its mouth and spreads this oil on the body, preventing it from sticking to its own web. They paralyze their prey with venom and then crush it with their pedipalps (a set of mouthparts.) Once the prey is crushed, the liquids in its body are consumed. Spiders mate by males spinning small webs that they place sperm in, and then transfer the webs to the female."

Previous encounters with these beneficial arthropods can be found here and here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Coming Out - Guineas Part 9

The keets made their way out of the coop and started their life, home on the free range, Sunday 9/18 during the garden tour.

It was a little difficult to round them up early to go back in the coop to roost, since I was headed to the after-tour party, and didn't trust that they'd just go back on their own.  Just a little new parent jitters to keep my charges safe, I suppose.

The folks taking the tour seemed to enjoy them. 

Joining the Chickens Inside the Fence

First Intrepid Hen (she was "Buck-Wheating")
Outside the Enclosure

Soon Others Joined Her
 Hope it's in time to reduce the number of overwintering stink bugs.

Interesting tidbit of trivia for you.  Someone (forgot who) asked me yesterday what the collective noun for a group of guinea fowl is.  I didn't know, but we did talk about one of the cool ones - a murder of crows. 

According to Wikpedia, the collective noun for a group of guinea fowl is a rasp.  Other fun ones, just from the birds: a parliament of owls, an ostentation of peacocks, a charm of goldfinches, a murmuration of starlings, and an Exaltation of Larks.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Buckeyes in Lion Country

No, not the Ohio State folks, the common butterfly, Junonia coenia, otherwise known as the Buckeye Butterfly.  MG Mary Crooks sends these pictures taken from the Penn State Extension Pollinator Garden showcasing several specimens.

Sedum 'Autumn Joy' is a terrific plant for the pollinator friendly garden.  The specimens in our Demonstration Gardens consistently have a large, diverse number of insects sipping their nectar.

UPDATE: 9/14/11 Mary informs me that the pictures were taken in her gardens, not at the Extension Office.  Sorry about that.  There are several plantings of Sedum 'Autumn Joy' in the Pollinator, Perennial, and Wildlife Area Demonstration Gardens.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Gass Garden - Sod Busting and Soil Prep

MG Bob Hyatt Busts the Sod
Ground was broken on Saturday, August 27th at the site of the future Patrick Gass Garden.  MG Bob Hyatt used his tractor to scrape off the top layer of turf to expose the soil below.

MG's Pitch in to Remove Sod
Ready for Soil Amendments
Ready for Soil Amendments
The results from the Penn State soil test that was done earlier in the year (following these directions), called for pH adjustments and the addition of Phosphate, plus some organic material to till in to overcome the compaction.

MG Cindy Stead Prepares to Spread Amendments
MG's Pose Wearing Proper PPE
It does this Pesticide Educator proud to see the MG volunteers using the proper personal protection equipment (PPE), in this case NIOSH certified dust masks, while working with the amendment compounds.  I bet they READ THE LABEL

Spreading the Amendments
MG Steve Gray Tills the Soil
More Tilling
Fall is the best time to prep a new bed for Spring planting.  Over the winter, the soil will freeze and thaw, moving any corrective amendments and organic material like compost throughout the first 6-8 inches of topsoil, making a nice healthy environment for all the soil organisms that are necessary for a successful garden.

The Franklin County Master Gardeners of Penn State Extension worked with Snavely's Garden Corner in Chambersburg for the amendments used in the garden preparation.