Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Winter 2013 in the Demonstration Gardens

By Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

Wind gusts to 30 mph
Stopping by the office today, the last day of the year, I wandered among the Master Gardener Demonstration gardens checking out the winter scene there. I had my camera with me so I snapped pictures. It was cold and windy and, without gloves so I could work the camera, my hands were numb.
So here’s the 365th day of 2013 scoop.

In the Pollinator Garden the water fountain has been winterized and covered and garden clean-up deferred until spring thaw. Leaf litter is the winter home of hummingbird moths. Mason and leaf-cutter bees use hollow twigs to nest.

Dried Hydrangea flowers still standing
Clumps of dried grasses or hollow canes of hydrangea and brambles are nesting sites if allowed to stand through the winter.

Also found in the pollinator garden were garlic chive (L) and sedum (R) seed heads. Not only pollinator friendly but winter interest, too.

The Xeriscape Garden was prepped for winter but several plants stood out showing examples of winter interest.
It looks like neatness counts in the Perennial Garden as all the beds were quite tidy and mulched.
Still showing a bit of autumn color and interesting shape is the amsonia.
For the Herb Garden’s first winter, plants were pruned back and mulched for winter using shredded mulch, leaves and corn husks.
The culinary bed rosemary was swaddled in burlap to help it overwinter while in the biblical bed the rosemary is mulched and tucked in under the wooden trellis.
Rosemary with burlap (L) & sheltered with mulch and trellis (R)
Thyme is still green and doing well along the front edge and the Fragrance bed still has the gray hues of lavender showing.
Thyme is still green

Fragrance bed with gray lavenders
Perhaps the Native Garden has the most variety of winter interest with so many different kinds of plants - ivory colored dried goldenrod plumes, blue viburnum berries, red holly berries and the many shades of browns on the pin oak holding tight to its dried leaves.

There are also lots of dried grasses and seed heads, providing not only winter interest but maybe home and buffet for overwintering birds and insects.

 Pink Hairwan Muhly Grass - fine dry wisps sway in the wind
Yarrow (Top left), Goldenrod (Right) and I don't know (Bottom left)

A bit of company on the walk - All photos by Carol Kagan
Check out these links for information on winter interest plants and more.
Winter Interest and Information
Overwintering Rosemary
Herb Garden: Final Touches

For more information on the Master Gardener demonstration gardens, search in the upper left corner: Herb Garden, Pollinator Garden, Xeriscaping, Perennial Garden, Native Garden, Victory Garden

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fulton Farm Gets Organic Certification

by Carol Kagan, Franklin County Master Gardener

Good news!  From the Public Opinion newspaper

Wilson College's Fulton Farm has received federal organic certification, which could lead to expanded research opportunities with the USDA.
"Wilson College has received U.S. Department of Agriculture organic certification for produce and herbs grown on the college farm, a major step for the college and its sustainability program.

Wilson sought the certification, which recognizes natural growing practices already in use on the farm, to allow the college to pursue partnerships with the USDA, state agricultural and environmental agencies and other organizations, including research and funding opportunities."

Congratulations to Christine Mayer and everyone at Wilson who helped with this certification process.

See more about this in the Public Opinion article and on the Fulton Farm for Sustainable Living on Facebook.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Winter - Interesting and Useful Information

The weather is changing and winter is bearing down on us.
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

Overwintering Rosemary

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

Monday, November 18, 2013

Growing Great Goobers (Yankee Doodle Edition)

A few years back, I was intrigued by an entry by Dr. Jeff Gillman of the Garden Professors at their blog, discussing newer varieties of peanuts that made growing them in colder climates more feasible, so it was delightful to learn this spring, that the leaders of our season long Victory Garden team, MG’s Darl Hospelhorn and Linda Horst, decided to experiment with growing them here, just north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Dr. Gillman’s interest stemmed from his years enjoying boiled peanuts when living in Georgia, describing them this way:
One of the foods which I miss the most though — one that hasn’t found its way to Minnesota yet — is the boiled peanut.  For those of you who don’t know what a boiled peanut is, it’s a little piece of heaven that has been boiled in a tub of hot salt water for a long time so that, when you break open the peanut’s shell, now the texture of watery cardboard, the seeds inside are soft, warm and, you guessed it, salty.
Always wanting to try a new taste experience, especially one that comes from an equally new growing experience, made me eager to give it a go.  Here’s some information from our 2013 Victory Garden experience, with some lessons learned, and what we’ll try to do next year.

First off, Peanuts (Arachis hypogaea) are a tropical plant in the legume family, meaning they belong to the family of plants that have evolved a way, with help from a naturally occurring bacteria, to fix Nitrogen from the air, like the clover being researched for including in home lawns.

What we eat are the seeds of the plant, like beans and peas.  Peanuts, however, have a fascinatingly unusual growth characteristic; the plant flowers above the ground, but fruits and sets seeds below ground. 

After planting when soil temperatures reach about 65 degrees, the peas germinate in about 10 days, and after about 40 days, bright yellow flowers (that look a lot like small pea blossoms) bloom on the lower portion of the plant.

Peanut Flower.  Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The plant is self-fertile, meaning it pollinates itself, like peas and beans, (and tomatoes, for that matter) do, and the petals drop as the ovary forms.  Here’s the fascinating part.  According to the National Peanut Board,
This budding ovary is called a “peg.”  The peg enlarges and grows down and away from the plant forming a small stem which extends to the soil.  The peanut embryo is in the tip of the peg, which penetrates the soil. The embryo turns horizontal at that point and begins to mature taking the form of a peanut. The plant continues to grow and flower, eventually producing some 40 or more pods. From planting to harvesting, the growing cycle of a peanut takes 4 to 5 months, depending on the type and variety.
Botanists have a term for the above the ground flower, but below the ground fruit and seed set; it's a specialized form of Geocarpy called Hysterocarpy.

The Master Gardener Victory Garden folks planted about 100 seeds (two packets obtained from Park Seeds) of a variety called “Virginia Jumbo” after greatly loosening the soil.  Next year, we'll look for a source of the boiling varieties recommended by Dr. Gillman, bred for more northern climates, New Mexico Valencia A, and HW-136, and we'll start them in the greenhouse to get a few week's jump on the growing season.

Because of the “grow down and then horizontal” aspect of the peg, peanuts do best in soils that are more sandy than typical Franklin County clay, so keep that in mind if you want to try this at home.  This was in Mid May.

Here’s where we made an error, mulching our standard way with newspaper, covered with straw along the row to retain moisture and prevent weeds.  The straw part is fine, but the newspaper would have interfered with that pesky downward growth thing.

Luckily, Master Gardener Bill Dorman noticed, and having grown peanuts on his family farm (a looong time ago, he quipped) on the Eastern Shore, we were able to pull away the newspapers in time to prevent catastrophe.

Our germination rate was pretty low, getting at most about ½ of our planted seeds to sprout.  We’re not sure if this is typical, or we didn’t wait long enough for the soil to warm, or the very wet spring had something to do with it.

The recommendation is to plant about 2-3 inches deep (shallower in clay soils) using about 5 seeds per foot of row.  Each row should be about 20 inches apart (we only did one row.)

During the growing season, Clemson University’s Extension fact sheet for the home grower has this advice about care:

“Water is the most common limiting factor in peanut production. There are three important periods for maintaining adequate moisture with peanuts:
  • At planting to encourage germination.
  • From 50 to 100 days after planting as the pegs enter the soil and the pod begins to develop. Water is most critical at this time.
  • Pod filling about 100 days until harvest.
Avoid wetting the leaves when watering. Stop irrigating 10 days to two weeks before harvest."

We were pretty lucky this year with adequate rainfall during these important times.  Calcium is important to the plant, and our soil test at the beginning of the season showed plenty of calcium available, so no additional supplements were needed, and our pH range was also on target.  The recommended pH range is 5.8-6.2 for optimal growing conditions.

Here’s another mistake we made.  Boiling peanuts are harvested slightly immature, around 90-100 days after planting, depending on weather and growing conditions.  We didn’t know that, and were relying on the leaves to naturally yellow to signal harvest time.

Our last day for the Victory Garden was the end of September and the group decided to leave them in the ground to give them plenty of time to mature.  Our harvest then, is probably limited to fully mature ones that are best roasted and then eaten.  I’ll have to wait until next year to get an opportunity to experience the joys described by Dr. Gilliam above, remembering to treat them like “shelly” beans – bean varieties you grow for dry storage, but harvested early, which you then boil and eat in mid to late summer. 

A test for maturity for peanuts, again according to Clemson University, is
“...to scrape the middle or "saddle" of the outside of the pod with a knife. The peanuts can be harvested for roasting when 40 percent of the pods have a dark brown to black color in the scraped area. As peanuts mature, the hull color in this scraped-away saddle area changes from white to yellow, orange to brown, and then to black.”

Boiling peanuts are best harvested when the color is white to yellow.

We harvested the peanuts just this past week (November 13th), probably a little late, but that was the only time travel schedules and other duties permitted the team to get together and dig.

Normally, you’d dig the plants and leave them intact and allow a few weeks to dry in the field before gathering and pulling off the peanuts for further drying and then roasting, or freezing for later roasting.  The goal is to reduce their moisture content down to about 10% for maximum storage quality.  Since we didn’t have that option, and we forgot to check the instructions, and it was a bit too cold and blustery to be out in the elements digging, the ones we harvested were pulled off the stems and are now drying on newspaper in unheated garages.

They look pretty good, though.  At least to this Yankee.  And I’m sure we’ll do even better next year.

University of Maryland Master Gardener Erica Smith of the Grow it Eat it Blog is also a fan of the plant.  Read her blog posts here, and here.
The Master Gardener Victory Garden season-long workshop is a community gardening project where up to 25 folks who want to learn from Master Gardeners all about various methods to grow vegetables in home gardens, have the opportunity to learn hands on, how to plan, plant, maintain, and harvest vegetables from their own efforts.

The class meets weekly, starting in late April, and goes until end of harvest time in late September each year.  Look for information about the 2014 season in mid March, 2014.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

20th Anniversary and Awards Banquet

by Carol Kagan, Franklin County Master Gardener
Frederick Olmsted
(aka Kirk R. Brown)

Master Gardeners of Penn State, Franklin County, gathered Saturday, November 16 for a 20th Anniversary and Awards Banquet. Master Gardeners are community volunteers who support Penn State Cooperative Extension's educational programs in consumer horticulture after completing 30 hours of classroom training and 50 hours of apprentice work.

Present at the dinner were two members from the first Master Gardener class- Elmer Greey, Shippensburg, and Nancy Redington, Chambersburg.

Frederick Olmsted
(from Kirk R. Brown Website)
After dinner, Frederick Olmsted, portrayed by Kirk R. Brown, gave a presentation about his life and works. Olmsted is known for his design of Central Park in New York City, the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina, and the 1893 Chicago World's Fair as well as the Capitol Building in Washington.

Following the presentation, Greey and Redington presented new Master Gardener badges to some of the 2013 class. Badges with new volunteer hours listed were also given to current Master Gardeners who have worked 500 to 2,000 hours.

Below is the list of badges earned this year.

New Master Gardeners (Class of 2013): Carol Kagan, Judith White,  Paul Luka, Billy Morningstar, Maria Giles and Judith Scriptunas
500 hour badges: Angela Weathers, Bob Hyatt, Diane Fusting, Bill Stead, Jerry Lewis, Mary Donal, Dave Desjardins

1000 hours badges: Peg Bundy, Denise Lucas, Linda Horst, Bill Dornman, Laurie Collins, Darl Hospelhorn, Ray Eckhart

1500 hours: Barb Petrucci and Jane Krumpe
2000 hours: Nancy Miller

Monday, October 28, 2013

Report on Cornhusk Dolls & Wreath Workshop

by Carol Kagan, Franklin County Master Gardener

Cornhusk Dolls from Workshop (L) and Samples (R)
On Saturday, October 26, the Master Gardeners of Penn State, Franklin County held a Cornhusk Doll and Wreath Workshop and, while there were 15 attendees, none were children. 

Small cornhusk dolls (5" high) made by Carol Kagan
Master Gardener Charlie White led the cornhusk doll making. "Adults are just like children and a pleasure to work with," he chuckled, "plus they help clean up!"
Master Gardener Charlie White Making Cornhusk Dolls
Krissy Castillo with Her Doll

Krissy Castillo, Greencastle, attended after an invitation from her friend, Linda Keefer. They chose to start with making the dolls. Keefer said "small ones [dolls] could be used on Christmas trees" and others agreed that would be pretty. Keefer, also from Greencastle, took the Master Gardener Victory Garden workshop this year and noted she really enjoyed it.

Finished Sample Wreath

Master Gardener Barbara Boyer led the wreath-making with a brief demonstration of the very easy technique. Cornhusks were stripped and soaked then torn into strips. The strips were tied with a simple tassel loop around a metal wreath ring.

Coat Hanger Wreath Frame

Although there is a link below where the crimped wreath rings are available, any simple wire ring from a craft store would do. Why buy? If you still have a wire coat hanger, form it into a circle and use the hook as your hanger.

Master Gardener Barbara Boyer Led Wreath-Making

Boyer discussed and displayed a number of natural elements that could be used for embellishments including gum tree pods, dried cones, milkweed pods, and dried flower heads.

The availability of Indian corn purple-hued cornhusks added to the unique and different styles of both the wreaths and dolls. Some dolls had hair of dried cornsilk tucked under their bonnets and others had purple aprons and hats. There was a mix of purple and natural cornhusks on most wreaths. While some chose to use forks to shred the husks to a more fringed look, others left the husks wider and fuller.
A fringed look

Currently a Master Gardener trainee, Ruth Young from Blairs Mills, noted that she had a metal door and thought this wreath would "be light enough to hang on it." While Kathy Rodgers and Theresa Reichard, both from Waynesboro, like that it will "fit between the front door and storm door."
Kathy Rodgers (L) and Theresa Reichard work on their wreaths.
Working side-by-side, Erica Hildabridle and daughter Pam, Chambersburg, were making wreaths. Pam is studying to be an AG education major at Penn State (hmmm.. possible MG recruit?) and won't be putting her wreath on her door at college. She plans to give it to her mother.

Erica Hildabridle will put her wreath on the door until the Christmas season. She likes the natural look of the cornhusks making "changing the embellishments" for each season easy.
Cornhusk Flower Embellishment

Most wreaths were headed for the makers' front doors but Jane Weigle, a Master Gardener from Shippensburg, was making a gift. "My daughter just gave birth," she said. "She likes crafts and I thought I would make one for her since she doesn't have the time right now."
Barbara Boyer did a good job on her first workshop.
Boyer noted this was her first workshop and said, "It went well and I enjoyed it and everyone seemed to enjoy it, too." She was able to send home plenty of corn husks, originally gleaned from her brother's farm so expect to see plenty of cornhusk wreaths and dolls around the neighborhood.

Photos: Carol Kagan

For more Information:

Cornhusk Dolls
Craft Revival: Shaping Western North Carolina Past and Present- Cornhusk Crafts
Children's Discovery Museum: Making Cornhusk Dolls

Cornhusk Wreaths
Make and Takes: Cornhusk Wreaths (Using a green styrofoam form from a dollar store)
Martha Stewart: Cornhusk Wreaths (Very different with dyed husks)
Chickens in the Road: Cornhusk Wreath (different technique and very rustic look)

Crimped Wreath Rings
Maine Wreath Company (online)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Bees in Elevator B(ee) - Buffalo NY

By Carol Kagan, Franklin County Master Gardener

We went north to see the elk, scooted up to Niagara Falls and, in support of my October photo club assignment – SILOS – stopped at Silo City in Buffalo, NY.

It turns out this is a collection of grain elevators on Childs Street owned by Rick Smith of Rigidized Metals Corp. who dubbed the site "Silo City." A number of art festivals and events are held here.

Not really silos - but then there’s Elevator B(ee).
Elevator B
Silo City in Buffalo NY: Excerpts from Elevator B @ Hive City, by Queenseyes in Buffalo Rising

"[Rick Smith] came upon a massive bee colony lodged inside the boarded up window of one of the office buildings. In order to see the transferal of the bee colony from the office building to another site at Silo City, it was decided to bring professors and students from the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning's Ecological Practices Research Group together to participate in a competition. The [winning] team came up with the concept of building a giant metal hive using plates fabricated at Rigidized Metals.
The design would allow for the bees to be kept inside a wood and glass compartment (referred to as a 'Bee Cab') that would travel up and down a 22' vertical structure. The crank driven 'Bee Cab' would give the beekeeper access to the colony so that he/she could tend to the bees as needed. The bee colony would also be locked securely, away from danger and the natural elements, while the individual bees would be allowed to pass through small cut-outs in order to come and go as they please. Positioning of the sun would be crucial (sun shading).

Looking up into the 'Bee Cab'
Another incredible feature actually allows viewers to walk inside the structure to view the bees when the 'Bee Cab' is elevated to the middle or top. In essence, the project would become an outdoor learning lab."

Here’s a video with more information about this unique solution to preserving pollinators.

For more information check these links:

Buffalo Architecture and History: Silo City