Saturday, September 27, 2014

One Last Look

Oh what a beautiful morning!  It's that time to carve some time out of your schedule and go take one last look before its gone...



Cranberry Viburnum



Irish Bells

Clara Curtiss Daisies
Purple Runner Beans

Our Hummingbird

Castor Bean
Love Lies Bleeding

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

October Programs: Wild Ginseng, Preserving Herbs and Beginning Beekeeping

by Carol Kagan, Penn State Master Gardener

All programs are held at the Franklin County Ag Heritage Center, 185 Franklin Farm Lane, Chambersburg. More about each listing below

Wednesday, Oct 8 at 7 PM - Wild Ginseng Program – Free & open to the public. Call 717-263-9226 for more information.

Saturday, Oct 18 from 9 am – Noon – Herbs 103: Harvesting, Preserving and Overwintering. Cost $10. Call 717-263-9226  to register.

Thursday, October 23 at 7 PM - Would You Like to be a Beekeeper? Free & open to public. No registration required. For information contact Randy King at 717-328-9256.

Wild Ginseng Program: American ginseng is a native North American herbaceous plant which has unique chemical properties that make it economically useful. It has a rich history of being collected, cultivated and traded for centuries in Pennsylvania and surrounding areas. Cumberland Woodland Owners’ Association meeting welcomes featured speaker Dr. Eric Burkhart, Plant Science Program Director at Shaver's Creek Environmental Center, discussing wild ginseng.

Because of its rarity, wild ginseng is a very valuable commodity with dried roots routinely selling for $500+/pint. Because ginseng has been widely collected over the last 200 years it is regulated both internationally and in each US state.
Herbs 103: Harvesting, Preserving and Overwintering: This Master Gardener workshop will provide information on various ways to preserve herbs including drying and freezing. Cost: $10. Call 717-263-9226 to register. We now accept credit cards to make phone registration easier.
Would You Like to be a Beekeeper? Have you ever wondered what is involved in being a beekeeper and working with honeybees?  If so, plan to attend this informational meeting The Franklin County Beekeepers Association is sponsoring this introductory meeting for the general public.  In particular, it is for those who may be interested in starting their own hives and learning a little bit more about what is involved.
The meeting will include a brief introduction to the honey bee, beekeeping information resources and time requirements for managing hives. A brief overview of tools, equipment, start-up costs, and ordering bee packages will be presented.  Free & open to public. No registration required. For information contact Randy King at 328-9256.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

When the Frost is on the Pumpkin

By Carol Kagan, Penn State Master Gardener, Franklin County
Three on a hay bale (C.Kagan)
School’s back in session and the “back to school” items have been pushed to the rear shelves. Halloween, harvest time, Thanksgiving and, yes, Christmas and all the other mid-winter holidays have taken over.
Heels over head in the pumpkin bin (C.Kagan)
If you grew pumpkins this year and they survived any groundhogs (the nemesis in the 4-H Achievement Garden this year), squash bugs, squash vine borer, cucumber beetles, or aphids, you have the makings for not only Jack-O-Lanterns but pumpkin seed snacks and pumpkin flavored foods.

Harvesting Pumpkins

Although a light frost is not damaging to pumpkins, they should be harvested before a hard freeze. To see if a pumpkin is ready to harvest check the stems. The stems should be dry and the skin should not break when pressed by a thumbnail.
Don't carry pumpkins by the stem (WikiCommons)

To harvest, cut the fruit from the vine with pruners or loppers. Leave a long section of the stem attached. Avoid breaking the skin and bruising fruit when handling. Penn State Master Gardener Emelie Swackhamer, Lehigh County, also cautions not to pick the pumpkin up by the stem as it can snap and a falling pumpkin can get broken or even hurt your foot. Until you are ready to use them, pumpkins will store for two to three months with temperatures above freezing and below 65° F.


Swackhamer posted tips online for picking the best pumpkins for carving. In choosing a pumpkin look for one without rotten spots or scrapes, with a green stem (handle) firmly attached, and that sits solidly on the ground. Lighter orange pumpkins tend to be easier to carve because their walls are thinner, but they also may not keep as long. Darker orange pumpkins tend to have thicker walls and are often harder to carve, but they often last longer because their rind is harder.

Cut out a lid (Christine S)

Use one of the serrated pumpkin-carving knives instead of a sharp kitchen knife. Younger children should always be supervised but more importantly, this is an ideal activity for the family – parents and children. Cut a circle around the stem at the top and remove it. This is the lid. If you plan to use a candle and put the lid back on, be sure to remove most of the pulp and cut notches in three or four places around the edge of the lid.

Scoop out the "stringy stuff" (WikiCommons)
Scoop out the seeds* and stringy stuff, scraping the sides. This is easily accomplished with a metal spoon. Now carefully carve designs through the walls of the pumpkin, cutting from the outside. Use a glow stick to light your pumpkin so you will not have to worry about fire.
The West Virginia Extension Service suggests, after carving, dipping the pumpkin in a large container of bleach and water (use a 1 tsp: 1 gal. mix). Bleach will kill bacteria and help your pumpkin stay fresh longer. Once completely dry, (drain upside down), add 2 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to a quart of water. Brush this solution onto your pumpkin to keep it looking fresh for weeks. Another suggestion is to cover the carved areas and inside with petroleum jelly to keep if from drying out.
Pie is one way to eat pumpkins (WikiCommons)

Pumpkin Eating

Pumpkins are an especially hardy crop, dark orange in color and loaded with both alpha and beta carotene. These micro-nutrients are the phytochemicals, or “plant chemicals,” needed to form vitamin A. An essential component in our daily diet, vitamin A promotes the formation of a strong immune system, healthy skin and clear vision.

Pumpkins come in many varieties and are cultivated and used for a multitude of reasons. One example is the “pie” pumpkin, specifically developed for baking and/or cooking purposes. Ideally, pie pumpkins should exhibit a deep orange color. After halving, remove the seeds* and stringy stuff then cook this pumpkin, either in the oven for 30 -60 minutes at 350°, or microwave on high for 15 minutes. Now you can peel the pumpkin and cut or puree it for use in soup, muffins, pudding or pies.

*Pumpkin Seed Snacks Preheat the oven to 250°F.

It’s icky but fun to pick through the stringy stuff and pull out the seeds to make snacks. Discard any broken seeds and clean off all the stringy stuff. Follow the recipe below for 2 cups of seeds.

1 Qt. water
2 Tbsp. salt* (may be omitted)
2 C. pumpkin seeds, cleaned and dried
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil or melted, unsalted butter
Bring the water (and salt) to a boil. Add the seeds and boil for 10 minutes. Drain the seeds, spread on kitchen towel or paper towel and pat dry.
Put the seeds in a bowl and toss with oil or melted butter. Stir in salt or any other herb or seasoning desired. Try onion or garlic salt before roasting. Like spicy food? Try a Cajun or Mexican mix of dried spices.

Spread evenly on a large cookie sheet or roasting pan. Place pan in the preheated oven and roast for 30-40 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. Remove and cool the seeds. Shell and eat them or pack them in plastic bags and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Cool the seeds, then shell and eat or pack in air-tight containers or zip closure bags and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Visit these links for more information:
PSU LehighMaster Gardeners: Picking a Great Jack O Lantern  by Emelie Swackhamer: Horticulture Educator, Lehigh & Northampton Co. Cooperative Extension



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fall in Our Gardens & Beyond

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

Here's a sampling of plants and more found in MG gardens at home and in the demonstration gardens. Also check out photos from our Fall into Gardening Day.
A Red Spotted Purple on Impatiens (N.Miller)
 Hermit Sphinx Moth: Caterpillars feed on bee balm (Monarda), mints (Mentha), sage (Salvia) and bugleweed (Lycopis). The caterpillars go underground to pupate.

When they emerge as moths, they have a wing span of about 2 1/2 x 3 inches. The moths like deep-throated flowers such as honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), petunia (Petunia spp.) and catalpa (Catalpa spp.). After dark, moths, as well as bats, take over the pollinating night shift.

Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed (J.Kauffman)
Monarch Chrysalis (J.Kauffman)
Monarch at Memorial Park (N.Miller)
Sunflower (B.Petrucci)
Lots of Sunflowers (B.Petrucci)
Fields and fields of sunflowers off Springview Road in Chambersburg.
Sunflowers at Sunset (M.Bowman)
Black Swallowtail Caterpillars (C.Kagan)
Black Swallowtail Butterfly
Wooly Bear Caterpillar
Here's a wooly bear caterpillar.  I am often asked what kind of butterfly they become. These caterpillars become a moth – Isabella Tiger Moth (Pyrrharctia isabella).

Isabella Tiger Moth (S.Bayard)
Legend cites these caterpillars as forecasters of winter weather. The wider the stripe the milder the winter, so goes the folklore. Several years ago local Master Gardeners photographed their caterpillars. Visit the Franklin County Master Gardener blog to see what happened. Has this been proven by scientific fact? See Check out the Michigan State University  page to find out.
Caterpillar (C.Kagan)/ Moth (B.Moul)

What's in your yard or garden?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fall into Gardening: A Day at the Demonstration Gardens

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

Saturday, September 6th, the Penn State Master Gardeners, Franklin County, hosted the Fall into Gardening event. The weather gods held the rain off until 2 pm, the end of the event, but the price was heat and humidity. Nevertheless, lots of visitors came and discovered the demonstration gardens as they transition into autumn.
Sedum in the Drought-Tolerant Garden (C. Kagan)
The day included a self-guided tour of the demonstration gardens, with docents available to provide more information about the gardens and answer questions. Laurie Collins and her team freshened up the Pollinator Garden and greeted many visitors.

Laurie Collins (L) with visitors in the Pollinator Garden (C. Kagan)
More pollinator plants and pollinators below.

Barbara Petrucci answered questions and talked about herbs with visitors.
Barb Petrucci (L) showing off pineapple sage (C. Kagan)
Corn, tomatoes & more in the Victory Garden (C. Kagan)
Visitors were allowed to stroll through the Victory Garden along the brick path. Ruth Young, Linda Horst and Maria Giles were the main docents for this area.

Denise Lucas identified lots of the plants in the Perennial Garden for visitors eager to know what is blooming this time of year. More perennial plant photos below.

Denise Lucas (R) with visitors in the Perennial Garden (C. Kagan)

Linda Secrist gave a bulb planting demonstration at the pergola in the Native Plant while Cindy Fair helped visitors identify various plants such as the northern oat grass.
Northern Oat Grass in the Native Garden
The plant sale did a brisk business and many of the collectible daylilies were purchased. Billy Morningstar sold some of the garden d├ęcor items MG's made earlier this year.
Local Boy Scout, Avery, helped at the Welcome Table, giving out tour maps and scavenger hunt items for the kids. Cathy Campbell also had a pollinator activity and some giveaways for the kids as well.
Visitors could glean information from many of the exhibits in the Clubhouse. The 4-H Garden Club shared some of their Round-Up exhibits along with the pollinator display and herb garden renovation exhibit.

At the end of the day most Master Gardeners felt that they had introduced the gardens to a lot of new visitors and were able to both show off their hard work in the gardens and share their gardening knowledge.

More plants from the Pollinator Garden:

Caterpillar on a dill plant (C. Kagan)
Bee on cosmos (C. Kagan)
More bees - well, it is a pollinator garden!

More plants from the Perennial Garden:

Autumn Clematis, Phlox, Black-eyed Susan and some interesting seed pods (C. Kagan)
Beautiful bright orange flowers (C. Kagan)
A cleome (C. Kagan)
Beautiful seed head of Purple Coneflower (C. Kagan)
It's beautiful, n'est-ce pas?