Transplanting Rhubarb in the Autumn

“I want to transplant some of my rhubarb in South Dakota.  How do I transport the roots (it is 12 hr drive)?  If I can not get them in the ground before it freezes how can I keep the roots safe and get them ready for spring?  How long do I have to get them in the ground – before the ground freezes?




rhubarbHi Lynn,

Thank you for the email regarding your rhubarb.  We are getting into the time of year when it is not best to move the plants — long or short distance.

What you want to make sure of before the plants are moved is that they are completely dormant but before the ground freezes.  Once dormant, dig up the roots.  If you are moving them a long distance, they can be put into a brown paper bag with moist sphagnum moss.  This bag is then incased in a plastic bag so you won’t get your car wet.

When you are ready to plant, make sure to put a little sphagnum moss in the hole.  The acidity is okay because it will help the rhubarb to have a nice red color and it will maintain the moisture during the dry times in autumn.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Why I ‘Often’ Say Not-so-Nice Things About Master Gardeners…

“You seem to have a real problem with master gardeners. What is your ******* problem? Are you jealous that you are not one? Master gardeners are experts and instead of being a ******** about gardening you should actually learn something about gardening. You know **** and you give poor advice. I’m sick of you ******* about us. You are one of those ******** that once planted a plant and now think you know every ******* thing about gardening and you probably have to copy your blog articles off of someone elses blog and put them up as yours because you are so ******* dumb. All the comments you have up are the good ones because you probably delete all the ones that ***** at you because you are a ******* *******.  You are making fun all the time of people that actually know how to garden and you give master gardeners a bad name. I wish someone would regulate blogs so stupid ********** losers like you could not write dumb*** articles or copy other peoples articles. Why don’t  you stop being so ****** up and go become a master gardener so you are not so full of ****!



Dear Lynn,

Thank you for your comment. Your comment is proof that all comments posted on my blog are published, although yours has been edited for this post because of your use of colorful language. I made the edits equally colorful.  However, your original post on my “Post a Question” page has been left in its entirety because I do not have the ability to edit posts to my page.  My readers that enjoy the rancor of a sailor’s tongue can head over to view it in all of its explicative glory.

So, why do I sometimes say things about Master Gardeners that may indicate that not all are experts?


Real World Justification

I totally agree with other bloggers and forum posters that “Master Gardener” is a misnomer and I have said that attending classes (where attendance usually isn’t even required), completing a take-home open book test, and then performing 40 volunteer hours does not make anyone a “master” at anything.  As one of my friends, who is a Master Gardener, said of her training, “there were people in my class who’d never put a plant in the ground in their lives, and after “training” and certification, still hadn’t. One man didn’t even know that potatoes grow under the ground.”

“Master” in the name leads to problems like:

- People that know nothing about gardening think it is the same has having a Master’s Degree or being a Master Carpenter. These are titles that represents actual mastery of a subject through hard work, non-open book tests, and more than just showing up and standing around for volunteer work.

- Apparently, it can go to people’s heads (as seen in my experience).  “Some Master Gardeners take that title seriously and are quite vain about it.”  “They are quite pompous for the limited amount they know.”

- It makes people insipid:  “They use the title of ‘Master Gardener’ as evidence of knowledge of all outdoor things with all-inclusive expertise. Plus they tend to be really really boring because when you start to talk about plants they can’t say anything because they have gotten lost by your knowledge.”

- The name is often mistakenly assumed to indicate a higher level of knowledge and training than actual horticulturists with years of university training.

- Many complaints that America’s Master Gardener, Jerry Baker, is a known quack who’s made millions off that self-proclaimed title while giving advice that often kill or stunt plants. It died because you aren’t a master like him.  Ever wonder which program on PBS’s Create channel gets the worst reviews and has the highest number of complaints from non-Master Gardener garden groups and viewers? Jerry Baker’s show.


My Justification

When I was in my teens, I worked at research facility that had trial gardens. The folks I worked with all had experience with farm crops (having been raised on the farm), except for one.  The lady in charge of the gardens was a Master Gardener, and boy, did she know it all. She made sure that everyone else knew that she knew it all too (even in areas like horses, homemaking, mechanics, and more).  Even though she had gone through the classes and was her county’s biggest, best gardener (named so by the local Master Gardeners association), she still didn’t realize that you don’t plant your cole crops 4″ apart. According to her, all the package directions for the seeds were wrong, and it was the soil’s fault that her cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. heads were golf ball size or smaller. That rotten sandy soil. Really? Then why was a researcher a few plots over growing huge cole crops with the same water and fertilizer regime?

In college, I worked on campus in my department and one of the favorite major advisors for the department was a huge Master Gardener. She had landscaped an area near one of the entrances to the building. Oooohhh, aaaahhh. NOT! Apparently she had never heard of this funny little thing called ZONES! Just because it grows as a perennial in Florida where you saw it on your last family trip does not mean it will grow here.  Even at the best of times, the area was an eyesore and finally the university told her they would be doing all future landscaping in the area because it made the campus look bad.  She also wore Wal-Mart bags on her feet and nitrile gloves on her hands because she was scared of deadly soil organisms.

After getting out of grad school, I started working at Unnamed Major Home Gardener Seed Catalog and spoke with Master Gardeners daily. How did I know that they were? Well, first of all, when they called into our customer service department and got an answer they didn’t want to hear, they made sure that the operator knew they were a Master Gardener.  Of course, said Master Gardener always wanted to talk to the horticulturist. The slips that were passed along to me for call backs always noted that I should be prepared because the customer was a Master Gardener.  They would talk to me and I would set them straight. If they didn’t like what I said, they often would tell me that I was an idiot and that I didn’t know what I was talking about and that they were a Master Gardener. I would apologize for their dissatisfaction for my response and provide them with some university extension websites from their state that they could find the information on (that repeated the exact same thing I had just told them).  This usually calmed them down, but a few would threaten to talk to my boss and get me fired. I remained at my job for years after, and when I finally left the company, it was because I wanted to leave because I was starting my own business.

This past spring, my Mom was alerted to a plant sale for the Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, Master Gardener’s Association. Tons of roses, heirloom plants and more. We went, and while there were a lot of plants, most were common plants you could find at any greenhouse (even Wal-Mart) with a huge price on them. There was also a table where Master Gardeners had brought plants from their back yards. About half of them were misidentified and some were invasive species.  My Mom purchased a ‘Scabiosa’. She has wanted one for years, and since this person had had it in their back yard growing, it must be okay for the zone. It looked healthy too. Just one little problem. “Mom, that is a hardy geranium. It looks like a Geranium macrorrhizum.” Mom planted it in the garden and when it bloomed, it looked like this:

Geranium macrorhiza


That, my friends, is a Bigroot Geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum).

And last, but not least, I still enter back home at the fair.  For years, I have been thinking I will just stop entering flowers and houseplants because the entry list becomes more convoluted each year — like it was written by someone that knows nothing about flowers and houseplants. When I was a kid, we had these two older ladies that were the superintendents and they were rock stars! The entries came in by 11 a.m. and they had things ready to go for judging 2 hours later. 1000s of entries. Over the years, these ladies retired and were replaced by local Master Gardeners. First, it was too hard to get the entries ready for judging in 2 hours. They had to be entered the day before. Then the Master Gardeners could not figure out if the entry list should read stems or blooms for various flowers. And then this year the change was made that you cannot have any pot over a couple gallons in size because they are so big.  As each change was made, the number of entries dropped significantly.  Now the entries are down to a couple hundred, and it is still just so difficult for the Master Gardener lady that is the superintendent.  This year she was baffled by petunias and daylilies. She didn’t know that petunias can have more than one bloom per stem or that daylilies are open for only one day. Petunias! Daylilies! These are common, beginning gardening plants!  And yet, she is one of the top Master Gardener in the county.  Need I say more?


The long and short of it is that I hold a Master’s Degree in Horticulture, I operate my own horticulture business, I have numerous published journal articles and am a contributor to a gardening book, I am a certified horticulturist, and I have almost 35 years of gardening experience. Despite ALL of that, I would never go so far as to call myself a Master or an Expert or anything else that would remotely suggest that “I have arrived” when it comes to gardening. Any person that TRULY has a breadth and depth of their field knows that no matter how trained they are, there is always something to be learned. I learn more about gardening every day through my own hands-on experience here at my farm and through the experiences of other gardeners that I help out with consultation and advice.


But It’s Not All Bad…

While I know many gardeners that are Master Gardeners with enough knowledge to fit on the head of a pin, there are a number of Master Gardeners that don’t have to flash their credentials to the world. These are the ones that truly embody what the Master Gardener program is supposed to be about, but helping through outreach programs and 4-H, using their talents to judge at county fairs and horticultural shows, working at a horticulturally-related job, or expanding their knowledge by getting involved with companies like Seed Savers Exchange. These non-flashy Master Gardeners know a lot about gardening and have yards that show their knowledge, and they don’t have to get up on a soap box and say, “look at me” to make themselves feel better because of their inadequacy in the garden or a lack of plant knowledge. When I gripe about Master Gardeners, my issues are not directed towards those that are using the program in the way it was meant to be rather than using it as a social status. Unfortunately, when one attends an event where a Master Gardener(s) is(are) present, it is too often the flashy, ‘expert’, attention-hungry Master Gardeners that show up. And by their actions, they show how little they know and give the organization as a whole a bad name.

Maybe a more appropriate name for the program would be “Horticultural Volunteers” or “Horticultural Research Volunteers”. I wonder how many ‘experts’ like yourself would still be interested in being in the program?


Remember, Lynn, the loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room.





© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Tomato and Pepper Blossom Drop

“All of my tomato and pepper seeds I ordered Baker Creek grew fine. Only no fruit. Tomatos would bloom, flowers would fall off. Peppers would bloom, flowers would fall off. Next year I’ll buy my plants from Home Depot. Thanks for recommending a crappy company.



Hi Michael,

Thank you for the email regarding your peppers and tomatoes.  It’s sounds like the plants were not the problem, but the environment that they were grown in, as your plants suffer from blossom drop.

Blossom drop is a common tomato and pepper growing problem that can be extremely frustrating to the home gardener. Otherwise healthy looking tomato and pepper plants set flower blossoms, only to have them dry up and fall off the plant before a fruit is formed.

Blossom drop can be attributed to several causes, most often related to either temperature and / or stress.
–Temperature Too High or Too Low
–Lack of Pollination
–Nitrogen – Too Much or Too Little
–Humidity Too High or Low Humidity.
–Lack of water
–Stress from insect damage or disease
–Too Heavy Fruit Set

The best way to combat the problem is to grow varieties suited to your climate.  Often times, hybrids are able to grow anywhere but still need ‘optimum’ conditions.  Gardeners that experience this problem often decide to grow heirloom varieties that are native to their region along with the hybrids so they are always assured of having a crop from one or the other or both.

The most frequent cause of tomato and pepper blossom drop is temperature:
–High daytime temperatures (above 85 F / 29 C)
–High Nighttime Temperatures (Below 70 / 21 C)
–Low Nighttime Temperatures (Below 55 / 13 C)

Tomatoes and peppers grow best if daytime temperatures range between 70 F / 21 C and 85 F / 29 C. While tomatoand pepper plants can tolerate more extreme temperatures for short periods, several days or nights with temps outside the ideal range will cause the plant to abort fruit set and focus on survival. According to the University of Wisconsin, temperatures over 104 F / 40 C for only four hours can cause the flowers to abort immediately.

Gardeners in cooler climates should not rush to get their tomatoes and pepper planted in the spring. Wait until nighttime temperatures are reliably above 55 F /13 C or protect them with a cover at night. You won’t gain any advantage by setting them out too early. Choose early maturing tomato and pepper varieties for spring growing in cooler climates. (Early Girl, Legend, Matina, Oregon Spring, Polar Baby, Silvery Fir Tree Tomatoes; Chablis, Jupiter, King Arthur, Mini Belle Blend, North Star, Banana Bill, Boris, Gypsy, Chichimeca, Early Jalapeno, and Stoked Peppers)

Select heat a heat-tolerant (“heat set”) tomato and pepper varieties for areas with long periods of hot or humid weather. High nighttime temps are even worse than high daytime temperatures because the tomato or pepper plant never gets to rest. (Florasette, Heat Wave, Solar Set, Sunchaser, Sunmaster, Sunpride, Surfire Tomatoes; Chinese Giant, Canary Belle, Mini Bell Chocolate, Mini Bell Yellow, Napolean Sweet, Atris, Felicity, Pimiento L, Balada, Burning Bush, Caribbean Red, Habaneros, Fish, Fatali, Minero, Orange Thai, Serrano Chili, and Zavory Peppers)

Tomatoes and Peppers need some help to pollinate. Either insects, wind or hand shaking of the flowers is necessary to carry the pollen from the anthers to the stigma. During weather extremes, there are often no insect pollinators in the garden.
It sometimes help attract more bees if you plant nectar rich flowers in your vegetable garden.

Don’t automatically feed your tomato and pepper plants every week. Make sure your soil is healthy, with adequate organic matter. Apply a balanced fertilizer at planting and again when fruit forms. Too much nitrogen encourages the plant to grow more foliage, not more fruit.

The ideal humidity range is between 40 – 70%. If humidity is either too high or too low, it interferes with the release of pollen and with the pollen’s ability to stick to the stigma. So pollination will not occur.  If humidity is too low, hose the foliage during the day. This will both cool the plant and raise the humidity. This is not recommended in areas with high humidity or when fungus diseases are present. Gardeners in high humidity areas should look for tomato varieties that aren’t bothered by humidity. (Eva Purple Ball, Flora-Dade, Grosse Lisse, Jubilee, Moneymaker, Sun Gold, Taxi, Yellow Pear Toamtoes, any pepper variety)

Water deeply, once a week, during dry weather. Tomatoes have very deep roots, sometimes going down into the soil up to 5 feet. Peppers can go to 2 feet deep.  Shallow watering will stress and weaken the plants.

Keep your plants healthy. Use good cultural practices and treat for disease as soon as symptoms appear.

Nothing will guarantee fruit set. Things like temperature and humidity are out of the gardener’s control. Sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for conditions to correct themselves. If the weather seems fine and other gardeners in your area are not having fruit set problems, you should consider the cultural causes of tomato and pepper blossom drop. Choosing a suitable variety and keeping your plants healthy will give you an edge.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Early Blight on King Arthur Peppers

“Mertie,   Could You please look at the photos and tell Me what this is and what I can do to fix it or save some of them I have about 800 Plants not all of them are as bad as others. Please hurry with a answer.

Thanks Duane”

DSC04246 DSC04250 DSC04249 DSC04248________________________________________________________________________________

Hi Duane,

Thank you for the email and photos regarding the problems you have been having with your peppers.  Based on the photos, it looks like you have a pretty severe infestation of early blight.

Early blight(Alternaria solani) is a fungal pathogen that most commonly affects tomato and potato but it will also attack eggplant, pepper, horse nettle, black nightshade, wild cabbage, cucumber, petunia, and zinnia.  It produces a wide range of symptoms at all growth stages which include damping-off, collar rot, stem cankers, leaf blight, and fruit/tuber rot.

Seedlings grown from infested seeds damp off within 48 hours after emergence because large lesions develop at the ground line on stems of transplants or seedlings. Collar rot occurs when the young stem becomes girdled with dark lesions at the soil level.

For plants that grow to full size and/or are producing fruit/tubers, the infection occurs by inoculant in the soil that is splashed onto the leaf or stem by precipitation events.  The infected leaf has circular lesions of about 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) in diameter. Dark, concentric circles (circles with a common center) are found within these lesions. Infection usually begins on the lower, older leaves and progresses up the plant. Infected leaves eventually wilt, die, and fall off. Early blight lesions show a generally dry “bulls-eye” angular pattern that do not usually spread very far and rarely affect petiole tissue, as the progress of the fungus is stopped by the veins of the leaf.

An infected stem has small, dark, slightly sunken areas that enlarge to form circular or elongated spots with lighter-colored centers. Concentric markings, similar to those on leaves, often develop on stem lesions.

Infestation during the flowering stage of tomato causes the blossoms to drop. The fruit stems are spotted with lesions that lead to loss of the young fruits.

An infested pepper fruit will have dark, leathery sunken spots, usually at the point of the stem attachment or towards the bud scar. These spots may enlarge to involve the entire upper portion of the fruit, often showing concentric markings like those on leaves. Affected areas may be covered with velvety black masses of spores. Fruits can also be infected during the green or ripe stage through growth cracks and other wounds. Infected fruits often drop before reaching maturity.

Conditions that favor development:

1.    Infested plants nearby (tomatoes, potatoes, etc.)

2.    Unhealthy plants

3.    Plenty of weeds

4.    Over crowded plants that cause the poor flow of air among the plants

5.    Too much moisture during cool and warm weather

Prevention and control

1.    Proper selection of seeds for sowing/planting. Make sure that these are disease-free and not taken from plants that were previously infested by the early blight disease. (We make sure our seed is disease free)

2.    Plow under all the crop residues after harvest to physically remove the spore source from the topsoil.

3.    Practice crop rotation.  Fields/gardens should not be planted with tomato, potato, pepper, or eggplant for at least 2 cropping seasons so that these hosts are not present for the spores to thrive on.

4.    Remove weeds as these may serve as the alternate hosts.

5.    Practice the recommended plant spacing to promote good air circulation.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Recipe of the Week: Blackberry Cobbler

Blackberry Cobbler
serves 8 

1 stick butter, salted
1 c. self rising flour
1 c. sugar
1. c. buttermilk
1 1/2–2 c. blackberries (or other fruit)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In an 8×8 inch baking dish, add butter and place in the oven until melted and slightly bubbling, not browned.
2. Meanwhile, sift the flour and sugar together. Whisk in the buttermilk. Batter should be pourable. If too thick, add 1 teaspoon of buttermilk at a time.
3. Once the butter is melted, remove from the oven, and immediately pour in batter. Edges will begin to cook. Generously add the fruit. Return to oven, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until crust is golden.
4. Serve warm with ice cream.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Growing Bull’s Eye Rose in a Large Container

“Is a Bull’s Eye Rose suitable for a large container?



Hi Jill,

Thank you for your question regarding the Bull’s Eye Rose.  Container gardening is a great method for growing roses, as it brings the beauty and fragrance of roses into outdoor living spaces and right up to eye level. Potted roses can be grown in any sunny location: on a deck, terrace, patio or roof garden. It is a good option for anyone with limited garden space, poor soil or drainage problems, or apartment-bound gardeners. Bull's Eye Rose

Unfortunately, Bull’s Eye Rose is not a good choice for growing in a container.  Roses that work well in containers need to be 4 feet tall or under, as the height of the pot plus the height of the rose should not exceed a gardener’s height because one still needs to be able to easily care for and spray the rose. Bull’s Eye comes in at around 4-5 feet. When you add that to the height of the pot that would be needed (around 30-36 in tall), you have a rose that would be about 7-8 feet tall. It’s just not a feasible plan.

I hope this information helps you out. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!

Calculating Your Yield from A Packet of Dry Bean Seed

“i’ve planted some dry beans.  we have been storing some in our preparedness suppiles.  however, my garden is just an average size, and i question whether or not i have enough planted to make it worth while. how do you calculate your yield from a packet of seed?



Hi Lynn,

Thank you for the email regarding dry beans.  In general, a packet (1 or 2 ounces, depending on the variety) will plant about a 20 foot row.  From there, that gets a little bit more tricky, as each variety kind of has it’s own range for yields.  In general, pole beans will have more pods than bush beans because there is more biomass available for pods to grow on.  In terms of the soil you have, heavier soils with more clay will have a little bit less yield than a sandy soil because there is more of a risk of various bean diseases and root rots.
dry beans
In general, based on my own gardening experience, I yield about 1/2 to 3/4 of a brown paper shopping bag off of a packet of bush beans and about 3/4 to a full bag off of pole beans.  The lower end of the range is from when I was living in an area with very heavy, black clay soil, and the upper range from when I was living at our current home with sandy loam soil.  Once the beans are thrashed, I usually have about 1 to 1 1/2 plastic ice cream pails (5-quart type) from the bush and 1 1/3 to 2 full plastic ice cream pails from the pole beans.  Again, it varies depending on the variety, with the larger beans producing more pails of beans.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have particular varieties that you are interested in, let me know.  I keep garden journals off of my gardening yields for fun and can easily look up particular varieties to see how they perform.  Also, if you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.