Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Penn State Master Gardeners, Franklin County Recognition Dinner

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener
A mini-gourd with fresh flower arrangement

Enjoying one of the last mild autumn evenings, Penn State Master Gardeners, Franklin County and guests gathered for their annual recognition dinner and program at Chestnut Landing, Menno Haven.

As usual the Special Events Committee provided beautiful centerpieces for the tables and each attendee was able to take home miniature flower arrangements presented in small hollowed gourds.

George and Sue Weigel (L,Miller)
The evening included a delicious dinner and a program by George Weigel, Central PA Garden Writer, Horticulturist and (per his Website) Certified Gardening Nut. George brought copies of his new book, "Pennsylvania Getting Started Garden Guide," for sale and signing. And also a box full of hyacinth bean seed pods - some were taken to MG homes for next year and the remainder went home with Juanita Kauffman for the greenhouse and plant sale.

John McGinley, MC (L.Miller)
Photographer Larry Miller (Thanks, Larry) held back on the full photo shot of MC John McGinley who wore his signature khaki shorts at the request of the Committee but opted for white shirt and bow tie for a more formal look. After good-natured no-ante betting on if Bill Stead would come in shorts, Bill arrived with Cindy and was wearing long pants.

In introducing our speaker, John related the story of how he, then a features editor and colleague of George at the Patriot-News and a Certified Gardening Wacko himself, one day said to George, “You like to garden, right? How’d you like to write a weekly gardening column?”

George talks about winter problems (L. Miller)
For the evening talk George picked a timely theme about winter problems as we are coming into the first weekend of very cold and maybe frost/freeze in our area.

Donna Scherer (L.Miller)
After the presentation, Donna Scherer, Master Gardener Coordinator for Franklin County, gave a brief recap of the year's highlights. Listed in the 2014 Annual Report for Franklin County it is noted that there were 97 active Master Gardeners who logged 1,078 continuing education hours and 9,630 volunteer hours. It is estimated that those volunteer hours have a time value of $211,282. A number of spouses were recognized for their volunteer time contributions as well.

Nina Redding, District Extension Director, made brief remarks on the accomplishments of the Master Gardener. Donna then handed out both recognition certificates and the coveted MG hour badges with volunteer hours listed (500, 1000, etc.).

The 2014 Master Gardener class was recognized.
(L-R) Verna Rife, Darlene Sord, Donna Scherer, Ruth Young, Cathy Campbell,
Jessica Kauffman, Pat Glasgow, Ron Schlecht (L.Miller) Not present: Jane Birt, Krista Cowan, Trey Gelbach, Walter Wray

Master Gardeners who achieved the 100 hour volunteer mark did not get MG hour badges but were recognized with certificates.

Jane Birt  -  David Brashier  -  Cathy Campbell  - Patricia Glasgow  -  Colleen Johnson  -  Jessica Kauffman   -   Paul Luka   -   John McGinley  -  Diane Morgan  -  Billy Morningstar  -  Tom Newcomer  -    Cindy Scanzello   -    Ronald Schlecht   -    Judith Scriptunas    -   Ruth Young

Volunteers with 500 hours
(L-R) Barbara Boyer, Penny Buckus, Jerry Lewis, Carol Kagan, Juanita Kauffman,
Diane Keeney, Georgia Townsend (L. Miller) Not present: Cindy Fair
Diane Fusting and Cindy Stead achieved the 1000 hour status.

Both Linda Horst and Denise Lucas hit to 1500 hour mark.
Denise Lucas and Donna Scherer (L.Miller) Not present: Linda Horst
Still just a bit behind in the race for top hours was Barb Petrucci, snapping at Nancy Miller's heels with 2000 hours.
Barb Petrucci and Donna Scherer (L. Miller)
And Nancy Miller with this year's top number of 2500 hours.
Nancy Miller and Donna Scherer (L. Miller)
 The program ended 15 minutes early and everyone took the opportunity to catch up and socialize before slipping out into a much chillier evening than it was earlier.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

HERBS 103: Harvesting, Preserving & Overwintering Workshop Report

by Carol Kagan, Penn State Master Gardener, Franklin County

Although it was a crisp autumn start at this October 18 workshop, 17 attendees and 7 (yes, 7) Master Gardeners had a fun and informative (according to the evaluations) session.
At their seats attendees found peppermint cuttings that Jerry Lewis brought in.

Carol Kagan talked about air drying herbs and Trey Gelbach showed his dehydrator, putting in some herbs which he brought out near the end of the morning to demonstrate how quickly and thoroughly they dried. Barb Petrucci passed around samples of roses and other flowers she either air dried or dried with a desiccant. The difference in the colors and shapes were evident.

Barb, Jerry, Trey and Sue McMorris led the group over to the herb garden with baskets and shears where attendees were able to harvest a variety of herbs and flowers to take home. Popular take-aways were lavender and gomphrena.

Jean Schlecht and Maria Giles set out the refreshments and Maria put materials at each seat for a hands-on activity to prepare herbs to dry in the refrigerator.

When everyone returned from the gardens, refreshments were served and the hot mulled cider was popular. In addition there was cold cider, lemon-grass infused water, Apple Sage cake and Lavender Tea Biscuits (recipes below), as well as Trey's homemade dip of smoked jalapeno with homemade crostini and Sue's dill dip with chips.
Sue shared more methods of drying herbs including freezing and screen drying and reviewed the best way to preserve a variety of culinary herbs for later use.

Maria went over preserving herbs by drying in the refrigerator and had everyone folding up their thyme into neat little envelopes.

Trey, self-proclaimed "chili-head," showed off a variety of home-grown peppers, some of which were air dried and some smoked, passing these around along with some of the chili powders he made from them. Here he pulled some of the herbs from the dehydrator to show how fast they dried.

Carol reviewed the three methods to overwinter herbs: Protect outdoor perennials, bring plants inside, and create an indoor garden from seed, plant division or rooting cuttings. She also demonstrated pruning a winter savory (or perhaps a thyme plant, as there was a bit of pleasant dissent among the Master Gardeners as to which it was) and tips for rooting.

Along the way our students asked many good questions and among the seven Master Gardeners answers were found and sometimes explanations and cautions mentioned. Some of the participants attended all three of this year's Herb Series and received "Herb Enthusiast" certificates.

The session ended as Jerry shared some of his tips, especially about seed saving, and Jean Schlecht distributed the parsley and honey-melon sage she brought to share.

Honey melon sage (Salvia)
As per request, here are the two recipes for refreshments served at the workshop.

Lavender Tea Biscuits (Makes 6 doz. little 1” biscuits)
½ C. softened butter (1 stick)
½ C. sugar
1 egg
1 C. self-rising flour
1  ½ Tbsps. lavender buds
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Cream the butter, sugar and egg. Add flour and lavender buds and mix well. Wrap and roll the mixture into 1" tubes (about 4 or 5 tubes) and refrigerate for 1 hour. *
Spray a mini-muffin tin with non-stick spray. Spoon marble-size (small) pieces of dough into each cup. Gently press with a wooden pestle dipped into water or sugar or use the back of a small spoon.
Bake 10-12 minutes. Remove while warm.

* Alternately you can freeze the tubes of mixture to use later. Cut 1/4" or smaller slices from the tube and place on a parchment covered baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Apple Sage Cake (9”x13” pan)

3 large eggs, room temperature
1 ½ C. sugar
¾ C. vegetable oil
1/ ½ C. all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 C. Granny Smith apples, peeled and shredded (about 3 apples)
½ C. fresh sage leaves, minced fine
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Butter a 9”x13” baking pan and line it with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and oil. Add in flour, baking soda and salt. Mix until well combined. Stir in apples and sage and mix well.
Pour into baking pan, releasing the air bubbles. Bake approximately 30 minutes, until the cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let cool and serve as a cake or cut into small bites.

Tomato Day Tasting Results

Just so we'll know where to find this information in the future, here are the Tomato Day 2014 Taste Test Results.
Preparing for the taste test (Laurie Collins)
Here are the results from today's Tomato Tasting event.

Best Overall

1) Old Brooks 915
2) Chef's Choice 908
3) Striped German 905
4) Pink Bumble Bee 883
5) Pink Boar 855
6) Blush 848...

Best Flavor

1) Striped German 437 and Pink Bumble Bee 437 came in tie for first place
2) Old Brooks 429
3) Blush 419
4) Orange Russian 416
5) Chef's Choice 402
6) Pink Boar 394

Best Appearance

1) Chef's Choice 506
2) Old Brooks 486
3) Striped German 468
4) Pink Boar 460
5) Better Boy 458
6) Striped Roma 452

A big thank you to all the master gardeners who helped to make this event possible and a big thank you to all of the folks who came out in the rain to do the judging. Hope to see you again next year!

Monday, October 27, 2014

December Holiday Decor Workshops Will Fill Quickly

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

It is always disheartening to tell a caller that a workshop is full. Don't be that caller!!

Register now for these popular Franklin County Master Gardener workshops. Class size is limited so call now.  And ask to be added to the e-mailing or mailing list to get announcements of all our workshops and events for 2015.

Fresh Holiday Wreath Workshop

Thursday, December 4, 2014 – 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Learn how to make your own evergreen wreath, and take home your finished product. Cost is $15. To register, please call Penn State Extension Franklin County at 717-263-9226. Class size is limited.  Ag Heritage Building – 185 Franklin Farm Lane, Chambersburg, PA 17202.

An example - does not represent centerpieces made in the workshop.

Fresh Holiday Centerpiece Workshop

Saturday, December 6, 2014 – 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Make a fresh centerpiece for your holiday table. Cost is $25. To register, please call Penn State Extension Franklin County at 717-263-9226. Class size is limited. Ag Heritage Building – 185 Franklin Farm Lane, Chambersburg, PA 17202.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Yellow and Brown Needles Among the Green

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

Looking out my dining room window into the backyard I noticed that the Eastern white pine tree was getting brown areas from top to bottom. Oh, no. Another casualty of last winter?

Before I had a chance to scoot down to the Extension Office and look this up, the Garden Professor’s Blog topic caught my eye: “What’s Wrong with My Pine Tree? Nothing”

Inquiry: “My pine tree looks like it’s dying. It’s dropping all its needles!” Reply: “White pine trees often grab homeowners’ attention as they begin to drop their needles in the fall.”

You can go to their blog for more scientific information but here’s the basic scoop.

Usually the tree is an Eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) and this is normal needle shed. Since white pine needles usually last only two years, they turn a bright yellow as they die and begin to shed in the fall.
The Professors bottom-line: “If it’s fall and your pine is starting to drop interior needles, chances are it’s normal needlefall and nothing to worry about.”
Garden Professor

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Autumn Blogs Revisited

By Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

Working in the garden this crisp autumn morning, severely pruning back tomato plants in hopes of getting the last few Mortgage Lifters to ripen up – they are sooo big, I was reminded of a few Blog entries that might be revisited this time of year.

Paperwhites are the easiest bulbs for beginners
Trick Bulbs Now for Winter Treats has planting information for forcing bulbs to bloom for the holidays or to brighten winter days

Are these green tomatoes ready?
Frost, Freeze and Green Tomatoes includes how to tell if green tomatoes are ready and a recipe for green tomatoes

Check out colorful autumn blooms and jot down a few that you’ll want to try. Keep the list nearby as the catalogues start coming in – and don’t forget the spring plant sale – May 16, 2015.

Helianthus in the Perennial Garden
Fall Into Gardening shows what was blooming in the Demo Gardens in early September

Fall Blooms at Kathy Engle's House
Colorful Autumn Garden entries have four parts, posted by Kathy Engle they show beautiful fall blooms. Go to Part 4 and it has links to the others at the bottom.

Rosemary plants outdoors need special care in our zone 6B
Overwintering Rosemary might be good to check as you start preparing the garden for winter

Garlic is easy to grow but plant it now
Growing Great Garlic reminds us that autumn is the time to plant garlic for next summer's crop

A follow-up Penn State information page: It is planting time for garlic growers

Coral Embers Willow creates a flame of beauty in the winter landscape
Look for Winter Blogs Revisited soon or if you are planning or planting this fall for winter interest, check out the Winter Interest series now. It's a 12-part series focusing on a wide variety of plants.


Spider Webs Everywhere

I was surprised this week by the number and variety of spider webs I found everywhere - so decided I should take some pictures and then figure out how they get there.

There are lots of kinds of spiders and lots of kinds of webs they spin…but here are the basics.  The spider has several spinneret glands near its abdomen that the spider spins into a silky thread.  There are up to eight different kinds of silk the spider can produce - non-sticky silk that spiders use to get around on, sticky silk to capture prey, even fine silk to wrap prey up in.

Spiral orb web

The classic circular spider web (spiral orb web) we see has sticky silk to capture prey, and non-sticky silk to let the spider get around it.

Spiders are predators, and feared in the insect world like sharks or lions are feared in the sea or grasslands.  Some hunt or lay traps for prey, but many build webs to catch their prey.

Cobwebs or tangle webs

Other kinds of webs are the classic cobweb (something prey will just get tangled up in), a funnel web that the prey will fall into and get stuck in, and even communal webs made by many spiders all linked together.

Funnel webs

The stickiness of the silk decreases over time and with exposure.  A spider will often eat its web to ingest the protein and start over again, often in the same place.

Communal web - this one stretched over several feet

Its an interesting subject, but I'll let you do some more research if you wan to find out what happens once something gets stuck in the web…

Happy Halloween!!!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Coffee Revs Up Your Morning and Your Compost Pile

Stopping by the Master Gardener compost pile I noticed a large plastic bag which turned out to be full of coffee grounds. Why are these here? This prompted me to see what’s up with coffee grounds and compost.

Composting is the process where natural materials are broken down by microorganisms to form a nutrient rich, soil-like material call humus or compost. Compost uses two different materials:  Green matter, such as vegetable scraps, grass clippings and, yes, coffee grounds, and brown matter like dead leaves, straw, shredded paper and non-diseased plants. Composting is an easy way to reduce waste and create a valuable gardening supply.

Coffee grounds are the granules that are left after brewing coffee. These are considered green matter in the compost pile. Checking Penn State Extension sources as well as Extension Services in other states revealed that coffee grounds are a good addition to compost as part of the green matter. They can be added to vermicomposting or worm composting. This is a natural method using worms to help compost food and organic scraps. It can be done year-round, indoors and outdoors.

What’s in Coffee Grounds?

The Brooklyn Feed Website reports “Starbucks commissioned a study in 1995 to better understand the make-up of the organic matter we call coffee grounds.” See the chart for the information provided.
In addition to adding your daily grounds and filter you can get coffee grounds from Starbucks here in Chambersburg. They certainly have plenty and as part of Starbucks recycling/reuse mission they provide them free of charge. If they aren’t outside at the back of the store, wait your turn and ask a barista if any are available.
Applying coffee grinds directly to your garden: Coffee grounds can be applied directly as a top dressing/mulch to acid loving plants like blueberries, hydrangeas, and azaleas. Adding brown material such as leaves and dried grass to the mulch will help keep a balanced soil pH.

More information about composting for the home garden is available at:
Penn State: “Lasagna” Gardening – Composting in Layers
Penn State Extension: Starting Composting
Oregon State Extension: Coffee Grounds and Gardening