An online, quarterly newsletter produced by the Horticulture Committee for GCA members. Featuring in-depth articles and handy tips for gardeners of all levels, The Real Dirt shares wisdom from one gardener to another.
Karen Schmahl has had Apple Blossom and Pink Amaryllis for 10-12 years and shares her secrets to get them to re-bloom every year:
Place them in a warm - but not hot - sunny spot. Mine are in the green house all year until they bloom and then they come into a southwest exposure garden room for the time they are blooming so we can enjoy them.
After they are finished blooming, cut off the spent flower stalks at their base and continue to water the bulbs in their pot from summer until fall in their sunny spot. This is called resting the plant, allowing photosynthesis to take place and nourish the bulb.
In September or October, cut all the leaves down to the base of the bulbs and then begin to feed and water them regularly. I feed once with Osmocote. (I use the green-edged bag for indoor and outdoor flowering plants with middle number of 14 which is the phosphorus number.)
I continue this all fall and winter until they send up new stalks of flowers in March and April. Then the cycle is repeated. Different types of Amaryllis bloom at different times.
Soil for Life
Soil is a living organism that provides essential benefits to all forms of life, including water regulation, nutrient cycling, filtering and buffering. At its root, soil sustains and supports life!
Ensuring that soil remains a vibrant living organism is crucial for sustaining life. Adding compost to soil improves the health of the ecosystem of soil, which has numerous benefits, including offering a way to reduce household waste:
Improving soil structure: Soil structure refers to the way inorganic particles, such as sand, silt, and clay combine with decayed organic particles, like humus and compost. Soil with a healthy structure is crumbly to the touch, allowing plenty of room for air, water and energy to move freely. Adding compost to soil also helps to neutralize pH and improve the cation exchange capacity (CEC), which increases soil’s ability to hold nutrients for plant use.
Increasing nutrient content: The soil food web is a community of organisms that live their lives in the soil, from micro-organisms like bacteria and fungi, to macro-organisms like earthworms and beetles. The organic matter found in compost introduces vital nutrients to soil, including macro-nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and micro-nutrients such as manganese, copper, iron and zinc.
Using less water: With the introduction of organic matter, heavy soils are better equipped to hold water and resist compaction – reducing erosion and runoff.
Warding off plant disease: Compost helps to control diseases and insects that might otherwise overrun a more sterile soil lacking natural checks against their spread. In addition, the macro- and microscopic critters that call the soil food web home also decompose organic compounds, such as manure, plant residue and pesticides, preventing them from entering water and becoming pollutants – meaning the addition of compost is beneficial for both your garden and the surrounding environment.
Please consider composting your food waste as a way to divert waste from the landfill, and as a way to improve the life of soil, which is the literal root of life. For tips on composting at home, visit https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home.
September 2018 Harvesting Seeds Seed harvesting provides an opportunity to preserve your beautiful garden flowers to replant next year or share with family or friends. Some gardeners enjoy developing their own seed strains by hybridizing their plants by seed saving.
Steps for harvesting and saving seeds:
When to Harvest Seeds: Once flowers begin to fade at the close of the season, most flower seeds are ripe for picking. Seed harvesting should be done on a dry sunny day. Once seed pods have changed from green to brown and can be easily split, you can begin collecting seeds. Some people collect seeds while deadheading their gardens.
How to Collect Flower Seeds: Always harvest seeds from your best-performing plants. Use clean sharp garden scissors to cut the pods or seed heads from the plant and place them into a paper collection bag. It’s important to use only paper bags, as seeds can spoil in plastic. Once you have collected your seeds, you can spread them out on a screen or a piece of newspaper and dry them at room temperature for a week.
How To Store Seeds: Brown paper bags or paper envelopes are ideal for storing dried seeds. Label all envelopes accordingly. Store seeds in a cool dark spot for winter. A temperature around 40 F is ideal. Do not crush or damage seeds, or allow seeds to freeze or overheat while in storage. Keep seeds dry at all times.
Hort Short February, 2018
Just a reminder that in spite of the winter weather, we can start working on our gardens.
The extra cold weather is a good reason to settle into a comfortable chair and to start looking through all the flower and vegetable catalogues. Every year there are many new cultivars and new vegetables that are supposed to grow better in our climate.
Or you might want to change the layout of your garden. There is plenty of time to sketch lots of ideas.
If you want to save money on your annuals and vegetables, you can buy seeds and set up grow lights in the basement. By the time we can safely plant, the small green plants will be easy to transplant.
If you are going to plant perennials (those hardy in our area) most of the seeds will need to be stratified. They need to be kept in a cold temperature for 6 weeks to 3 months (check the seed packet.) That can be done in the refrigerator or outside. If you are planting ‘natives’, one of the growers suggested scattering the seeds when we have about 4 inches of snow and it is about to snow again. That way the seeds will have the dampness and cold they need and the birds won’t see and eat them.
And don’t forget the planting beds. If they have been used for several years without any extra help, they, too, should be upgraded with more rich soil, preferably organic, so the birds and butterflies don’t get poisoned.
Why Plant Native Plants
Introducing native plants to your garden or land can bring many seasons of delight and discover. Their many merits include not only beauty, but also resilience and appeal to birds and pollinators. * The Circle of Life: Native Plants co-evolved with native insects and wildlife; they are deeply dependent on one another. Plants provide food and shelter to insects, birds, and other small animals, which in turn support larger predators. Native plants are building blocks, fundamental stepping stones of a healthy ecosystem. Keep the Circle complete - plant natives! * Ecosystem restoration: Tallgrass prairies are North America's most threatened major ecosystem, with about 99% plowed up or paged over since the 1830's. By planting native species you are restoring ecosystems and preserving countless species that might otherwise be lost forever. * Clean Air: Like forests, prairies and meadows sequester pollutants and carbon from the atmosphere. Even small plantings can help filter the air around your home, and large plantings can help to mitigate climate change. * Clean Water: Because of the deep rout system of most native plants,k they act both as a sponge and a filter. They help water soak down into the soil and filter out excess nutrients and pollutants, improving water quality. * Healthy Soil: The dance between native plants and animals created some of the fertile soil on Earth., making the American Midwest the "Breadbasket to the World". Native pants prevent soil erosion, create topsoil and build fertility. * Resource Conservation: Once established, native plants can save you time and money because they require little or no irrigation, fertilizer, pruning or mowing. Article copies from the Prairie Moon Nursery Catalog: Spring-Summer 2018.
Our wonderful April 4 presentation by Shelly Culea is just the beginning of the story! Last week I attended a River Hills Village meeting of the Committee on the Environment. The featured presenter was a gentleman who had just returned from an independent trip to Mexico’s Monarch Sanctuaries. He encouraged our village board to take the “Monarch Pledge” and to issue a proclamation raising awareness of the Monarch’s need for habitat. Beyond adopting the proclamation he hopes that River Hills will:
Launch public communication to encourage residents to plant monarch gardens
Communicate with local garden clubs ( That’s us!)
Work with Public Works Departments for revised mowing programs
Plant a monarch friendly demonstration garden near the village hall
Plant milkweed and native nectar plants on medians and public right of ways..possible grant money??
Expand migratory bird day/Arbor Day to include butterflies and pollinators.
Shelly has been working with officials in Port Washington who signed the pledge in February. She was amused that before her presentation their representatives saw milkweed as a noxious weed! Approximately $4,000,000 has been granted to 10 midwestern states to fund on-the-ground conservation projects. GTGC is on the cutting edge of a very exciting and necessary effort! Barb Anderson
Victory Garden Initiative
There are lots of reasons to divide the perennials in your garden: Keep them healthy, keep them beautiful, keep them in bounds and make more plants. While you can divide most perennials anytime, spring and fall are generally best as it's cooler and moister and will help plants recover from the shock. If you divide in summer, be sure to keep well watered afterwards.
How to divide: dig up the clump, trying to preserve as many of the tender roots as possible. Then wash away as much of the soil as possible to be able to see what you're doing. Pry or cut apart individual crowns being sure each grouping has leaves and roots. Replant promptly at the same depth as before and water in well.
Divide every 3 to 4 years: Bee Balm, Black eyed Susan, Day lily, Hosta, Peony, Phlox, Purple Cone Flower, Siberian Iris. Divide every 2 to 3 years: Aster, Blanket flower, Clustered Bellflowers, Coreopsis, Lambs ear, Yarrow. Don't Divide: Baptisia, Bleeding Heart, Butterfly weed, Christmas Rose, Lavender, Oriental poppy.
Dividing Bearded Iris: this is a little different, they should be divided in summer after they bloom. Dig the rhizome and clean off the dirt. If practical, just separate clumps and replant further apart. If the clump has too many rhizomes, break them apart gently and then replant. You can trim the foliage to three inches so they look neater and treat with a fungicide to prevent mold or disease.
This article was taken in part from Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
Image by Clara S at Gardening Know How
My back yard has a history of being over run with bunnies. So tame are these wild cottontails that they don't move more than a few feet away when approached. Discovering the best methods to protect my tender shoots from these voracious visitors has been my focus and now I credit wire mesh reinforcing a picket fence around the back of my yard for supporting a garden that displays no discernable nibble damage. This solution won’t be feasible for the spreading lawns of non city dwellers, so you will need to select plants bunnies avoid consuming. Nursery catalogs list plants rabbits usually don’t eat and coincidentally many of these plants are also good for drought tolerence. Rabbits turn their noses up at the strong flavors frequently associated with plants from dry parts, whether Mediterranean herbs or xeric landscaping selections. They also pass up many plants with leathery or fibrous foliage like manzanita or yucca. Plants with spines or prickly leaves (anchusa, echium, eryngium), those that ooze sap (euphorbia, glaucium) and things that are toxic to most life forms (monkshood, hellebores, lily-of-the-valley) are also mostly left alone. However, vegetable gardens need to be fenced. A 3-foot high fence of 2- to 3-inch woven wire mesh is generally sufficient. Rabbits can dig under fences, but don't usually bother to do so. If this is a problem, burying several inches of the fencing at the base should prevent burrowing. Beyond the vegetable garden, the obvious and easy solution to rabbit damage is to pick things they don't like from the following lists. Shrubs: "Allegheny" viburnum, big sage, blue mist spirea, boulder raspberry, broom, butterfly bush, creeping Oregon grape, curlleaf mountain mahogany, daphne, gambel oak, golden currant, honeysuckle, juniper, lavender, lilac, rabbitbrush, Russian sage, santolina, sea buckthorn, smoke tree and sumac. Flowers: achillea, agastache, amsonia, anthemis, aquilegia, artemisia, brunnera, centranthus, coreopsis, desert four o'clock, Digitalis obscura, echinops, gaillardia, gaura, geranium, goldenrod, Helianthus maximiliani, heuchera, hymenoxys, kniphofia, linum, marrubium, nepeta, ornamental onions, ornamental oreganos, penstemon, prairie zinnia, ratibida, stachys, thyme, teucrium, Veronica pectinata and zizophora.