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Wal-Mart is Not Your Garden’s Friend: Iris in May?


Horticultural Warning: For those that may be interested in buying bulbs at Wal-mart…

While in the Plover, WI Wal-mart on Monday with my Mom, we happened to stroll down the aisle where they had bulbs/tubers/rhizomes — glads, canna, iris, etc. Among the selection of about 10 iris varieties were 2 Dutch Iris — “Miss Saigon” and “Eye of the Tiger”.

20170506_142747Miss Saigon

My first reaction at seeing any iris – Dutch, Siberian, Bearded, or otherwise – is that this is NOT the time of year to plant iris. You plant them in the late summer/early autumn.

Dutch Iris do not grow in Wisconsin — they are for the southern states. Further research on my part shows that “Miss Saigon” is for Zones 8-11 and “Eye of the Tiger” for Zones 6-9. Wisconsin is mostly Zone 3 and 4 with a bit of 5 in the southeastern part. (NOTE: Plover is a 4.) Just like the short day onions I wrote about previously, Wal-Mart just throws whatever on the shelves because most gardeners that shop at Wal-Mart do not have enough knowledge to know that they are being taken. Just because you are getting a good deal at the checkout counter does not mean that you are getting what you think you are getting. And Wal-Mart is NOT the only offender — I have seen the same in years past at Sam’s Club, ShopKo, KMart, Menards, Home Depot, and other big box chains are notorious for selling things that they -say- grow in your area, but a quick variety search online shows how much they have lied to you. By buying products that are not for your area, you have just wasted your money on what will be an expensive annual, plus you will likely tell everyone you know that you have a “black thumb” when it comes to gardening.

Miss Saigon 2Eye of the Tiger

If you want something reliable that will truly grow well, spend the extra few cents/dollars and go to a reputable horticultural seller. If you need advise on where to go, send me a message and I can send you info.

Please feel free to share this post with your friends.

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2017. 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.

 

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Is Your Argonaut Green?


I just picked an Argonaut squash about 24″ long weight about 10 + lbs. but was dark green in surface color. Ran all the photo’s I could find of those that I had planted.

Does this variety remain green and then change to Orange when it becomes ripe or ready to pick -today is 10/27/2016-L.I.,N.Y.

(See Carrolle’s question here )

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Hi Carrolle,

Thank you for the email regarding your Argonaut Butternut Squash.  Sounds
like you have grown a typical Argonaut!  It never ceases to amazing me as to
how large the fruits can get.

Image result for argonaut squash
Argonaut is a little bit different from other butternuts in that it starts
out green and turns to gold (other butternuts start out buff and turn tan).
It will turn when it is ripe — usually about 125-140 days after planting or
transplanting is when you will see it start to color up.

If your growing season is not long enough to allow the fruit to mature, it
may be possible to use it green.  The closer it is to ripening, the easier
it will be to use.  Many people use green squash and pumpkins as a
substitute in zucchini and apple dishes or in dishes that call for marrow or
courgette squashes.  The only thing would be that you need to use the squash
up fast because unripe squashes don’t have a long shelf life.

 

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2016. 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 Spinach through the Winter in Wisconsin


“There is a fellow around here who plants bulk spinach in his garden each fall and then harvests it in early spring. I’ve only heard about this guy; I’ve never actually met him, so I can’t ask any questions. Do you know whether it actually is possible to plant spinach in the fall? If so, which variety would you suggest? We have a 20 foot X 20 foot plot we plan to plant out. I usually plant it with winter rye to prevent erosion, but this alternative sounded really nice.

John Mueller”

 

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Hi John,

Thank you for the post regarding spinach.  Yes, it is possible to grow spinach in Wisconsin during the winter, but you have to have a few tricks to get around old man winter.

I’m not sure if you and I are thinking of the same farmer, but there is one down by Paoli or Monroe that does this as a business and sells spinach through the winter at the Madison Farmer’s Market.  I want to say the lady’s name is Judy Hagman or Hageman or something similar, because she spoke to our organic horticulture class when I was in graduate school.
winter-spinach
The way that spinach can be grown here is by using a high tunnel, which is a form of hoop house.  If you are not familiar with them, they are pretty much like a poly-plastic greenhouse.  The heating inside comes from the sun and there usually is no mechanical equipment like fans and heaters involved.  Depending on the parameters of a farmer’s operation, they may be stationary or moveable.  They can be used to extend a growing season (planting corn or tomatoes in April inside) or to use over the winter.

Spinach planted in the autumn can be harvested with repeated cuttings through the winter and into the spring. Autumn planting date is critical to winter harvests.  Through the short cold days of winter spinach continues to grow, but at a much, much reduced rate.  This growth reduction takes effect around mid-November around here.  Autumn crops must grow vegetatively before this time to carry the crop through the winter.  Usually a good time to plant to get crop to the proper stage of growth is in September.

If you are interested in having your own high tunnel, I recommend first checking out a book called “The Four Season Harvest” by Eliot Coleman.  You can get it from your local library or you can purchase it online or in person at Barnes and Noble (because they usually have at least one on the shelf when I’m looking for new books in that area. Coleman is from Maine and he is VERY knowledgeable about how to grow just about everything in high tunnels — and even has one attached onto his house.  Definitely a good read.

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

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2016. 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.

Buy Big or Buy Small: Does Pot Size and Quantity Matter with Tomatoes?


“My friend and I don’t agree with how we buy our plants. My friend buys all her tomatoes and peppers in little packs of 3, 4, or 6. They look so skinny and sickly. I always buy mine in single pots because they are bigger and better and blooming. She tells me I am nuts to spend so much money on the same thing as her. I know my plants will grow better. What do you think? I plan to show her your response, so make it good!

Janelle”

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Dear Janelle,

Thanks for your questions. Sorry to burst your bubble, but bigger isn’t always better.

Commercial greenhouses sell single potted tomatoes, peppers, etc. to:

1. Appeal to the customer’s eyes by having them think that big plant with flowers will produce fruit soon.

2. Appeal to the customer’s brain by making them think that the plant will be healthier and better because the single potted plants are always darker green and have such a sturdy stem.

3. Appeal to the customer’s wallet because things that are more expensive are better quality.

Tomato Transplants

The sad thing is, all of these things are untrue when it comes to plants.  There are so many reason why that:

1.  Days to Maturity:  If you have ever looked at a packet of tomato seeds or the plant stake that is included in a pot when you buy the tomato plant at the greenhouse, you will see that it has “– days after transplant”. With tomatoes and other plants that require a boost indoors before being planted outside, the days to maturity is based on the days after transplanting. It doesn’t matter if your plant if 4 inches tall with 6 leaves or 12 inches tall with 16 leaves: it will still take the same amount of days after transplanting to have fruits.

2.  Transplant shock: Transplant shock occurs to every plant when it is taken from one place and put in another. It doesn’t matter if you have a large root mass or a small one — all movement is shocking to the plant. The larger the plant is, the more shock it will have and the longer it will take to recover from the shock because it is an older plant. (For those in the northern states, most greenhouses start single potted vegetables 4-8 weeks earlier than those in multipacks).  So while your large tomato plant is recovering from the rude awakening of being put into your garden, your friend’s little tomatoes will quickly recover and soon be as large (if not larger) than yours and yours will still be recovering and not growing.  In general, the best size plant for transplanting is one that is 4-8″ tall. Any larger than that and you are setting yourself up for a lot of shock.

3. Flowers don’t mean fruit: Just because a tomato is flowering when you buy it doesn’t mean those flowers will have fruit. Flowering is often a sign that a plant is in shock. It’s like the plant is saying, “oh no, things are not right in my current environment, I need to flower and produce fruit because I may soon die.”  Flowering tomato or pepper plants in a greenhouse indicate that your plant has been growing for a long time (probably since February or earlier) and is more than ready to be producing fruit. However, the little pot that it is growing in is a much smaller amount of soil than the plant requires to make fruit. The flowers will usually drop without producing fruit or the fruits that are produced will be small and of low quality. Also, if you plant your transplants soon after purchasing them and leave the flowers on, they will produce fruits, but the plant will focus on producing those fruits only rather than growing larger and making more fruits. It is always best to pinch off all buds and blooms on vegetable plants when they are transplanted into the soil.

4.  Extra Green Color: When you go to the greenhouse, you notice that the larger plants are always much darker green. This is because the greenhouse overfertilizes the single pots to increase their size and make them as dark green as possible. When you get the plant home and don’t continue to overfertilize it, it will go into ‘starvation’ mode and not grow. If you think continuing to overfertilize the plant will help it, you are wrong. Overfertilizing will prevent flower/fruit development. (And if you are wondering how the plants at the greenhouse flowered while being overfertilized, it is due to shock. Same thing won’t happen when the plant is in your garden with plenty of root space, light, and water.)

5. Expense: The truth is, seeds are cheap. Insanely cheap. On average, an open pollinated or heirloom variety will cost about $0.001-0.005/per seed (that’s right, tenths of a cent).  Hybrids usually cost $0.005-0.05/per seed.  While there is an addition cost of fertilizer, water, etc., it doesn’t come close to adding up to the premium price of the single potted plants. And, as a person that used to work in the greenhouse industry, the greenhouse owner is chuckling over the people that buy ‘premium’ plants all the way to the bank.

So, Janelle, unfortunately for you, your friend has it right.

Don’t believe me? Research done by the Samuel Roberts Foundation, Iowa State, and UC Cooperative Extension backs me up on this.

I hope this information helps you out and that you make a wiser decision in the future. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

 

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2016. 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 Kill the Asian Lady Beetles?


A lot of people have told me lately that they are ‘saving’ the ‘ladybugs’ in their house to ‘help the farmers’. I am sorry, but are you nuts???

Like wine? Clean food and air? The roof over your head? Then read on!

Melissa Watkins's photo.

FYI folks: These are not traditional lady bugs, but a species known as Harmonia axyridis (Asian Lady Beetle, Harlequin Ladybug, Multicolored Lady Beetle, among others) that was introduced by the USDA and chemical companies into the Midwest in the 1990s. Reportedly, Asian Lady Beetles have heavily fed on soybean aphids (yet another happy little pest introduction from the USDA chemical companies), supposedly saving farmers vast sums of money. However, most farmers I have talked to never see them and neither do their crop scouts. But guess what they do see? Lots of aphids!  What do they do?   Spray just as heavily as before.

Er, ok, so where are the little Asian Lady Beetles if they are not in the field?

If you grow grapes, cherries, or any type of berry, you already have the answer…

images 2imagesIMGA0401

(Photos used with permission of the Universities of Illinois, Minnesota, and California Extensions, respectively)

To read more on this issue, check out Influence of Berry Injury on Infestations of the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle in Wine Grapes over at the Plant Management Network site.

So now you are saying, well, Mertie, that’s great and all, but why should I kill them in my house?

1. They get into food, leave their waste products on your plates, and stain fabric. Eat one and you will never let another live.  As a person that has the misfortune of having them live in the home during the winter, I can tell you that we have at least a couple episodes happen each winter. Most recently I ate one in a grilled cheese. I had four sandwiches to make, and in that small window of prep time, one snuck in. YUCK!

2. They bite and many people have allergic reactions.  It’s like getting a mosquito bite if not allergic, but much worse if you are (a Facebook friend from MN recently had anaphylaxic shock from a bite).

3. Over years, they become a fire hazard. How? Check the insulation in your home. Believe it or not, their dead little carcasses (because most that come in die in your home) are very flammable. Chalk this up to life experience on the time my Grandpa swept them up by the 5 gallon pails and put them out on the burning pile…

4. The bacteria that lives on their dead carcasses is harmful to humans.  The substances cadaverine and putrescine are produced during the decomposition of Asian Lady Beetles and transported throughout the home via ductwork..  A 2005 study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Human Health found a fourfold increase in cadaverine and putrescine in homes in Iowa with high levels of dead Asian Lady Beetles (in excess of 100 bugs per cubic meter of the home; it is estimated that many homes in rural areas of Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota far exceed 100 bugs per cubic meter).  This would put the levels well above recommended levels within a home

Feel like saving those bugs now?

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What roses to plant?


“What is the difference between, grandiflora, floribunda &hybrid tea roses? The areas that I have for roses, one area has sunlight from sunrise until around noon& the other area has sun form 2:00 until sunset, the roses I was looking at were, Rock&Roll,Twilight Zone, Sunshine Dream, Ketchup&Mustard,Angel Face,Champlain,Oso Happy Candy Oh, Double Knock Out, Smart& Sassy,Double Delight, Paradise Found, Red Drift, Home Run, Rainbow’s End, Ruby Ruby & Smoke Rings of these what would be best for Zone 5 with the amount of sunlight I discribed? Or maybe you have some other suggestion,I have places for 6 to 7 roses & also I’m looking for roses with not a lot of maintenance. Thank you,

John Zahn

Celina, Ohio”

 

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Hi John,

Thank you for the email regarding roses.  First, let’s start with the different types:

–Grandiflora:  Grandifloras (Latin for “large-flowered”) were the class of roses created in the mid-20th century to designate back-crosses between hybrid teas and floribundas that fit neither category – specifically, the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ rose, which was introduced in 1954. Grandiflora shrubs are typically larger than either hybrid teas or floribundas, and feature hybrid tea-style flowers borne in small clusters of three to five, similar to a floribunda. Grandifloras maintained some popularity from about the 1950s to the 1980s but today they are much less popular than either the hybrid teas or the floribundas. Examples: ‘Queen Elizabeth’, ‘Comanche,’ ‘Montezuma’.
–Floribunda: Rose breeders quickly saw the value in crossing polyanthas with hybrid teas, to create roses that bloomed with the polyantha profusion, but with hybrid tea floral beauty and colour range. In 1909, the first polyantha/hybrid tea cross, ‘Gruss an Aachen,’ was created, with characteristics midway between both parent classes. As the larger, more shapely flowers and hybrid-tea like growth habit separated these new roses from polyanthas and hybrid teas alike, a new class was created and named floribunda, Latin for “many-flowering.” Typical floribundas feature stiff shrubs, smaller and bushier than the average hybrid tea but less dense and sprawling than the average polyantha. The flowers are often smaller than hybrid teas but are carried in large sprays, giving a better floral effect
in the garden. Floribundas are found in all hybrid tea colours and with the classic hybrid tea-shaped blossom, sometimes differing from hybrid teas only in their cluster-flowering habit. Today they are still used in large bedding schemes in public parks and similar spaces. Examples: ‘Anne Harkness’, ‘Dainty Maid’, ‘Iceberg’, ‘Tuscan Sun’.
–Hybrid Tea:  the favorite rose for much of the history of modern roses, hybrid teas were initially created by hybridising Hybrid Perpetuals with Tea roses in the late 19th century. ‘La France’, created in 1867, is universally acknowledged as the first indication of a new class of roses. Hybrid teas exhibit traits midway between both parents: hardier than the teas but less hardy than the hybrid perpetuals, and more ever-blooming than the hybrid perpetuals but less so than the teas. The flowers are well-formed with large, high-centered buds, and each flowering stem typically terminates in a single shapely bloom. The shrubs tend to be stiffly upright and sparsely foliaged, which today is often seen as a liability because it makes them more difficult to place in the garden or landscape. Hybrid teas became the single most popular garden rose of the 20th century; today, their reputation as high maintenance plants has led to a decline in popularity. The hybrid tea remains the standard rose of the floral industry, however, and is still favored in formal situations. Examples: ‘Peace’ (yellow), ‘Garden Party’ (white), ‘Mister Lincoln’ (red) and ‘Double Delight’ (bi-color cream and red).

Roses do like to have full sun, so neither of the locations you have is ideal.  However, the better of the two would be the one that has afternoon sun.

Of the rose you have picked, the Knock Out series of roses is probably one of the easiest and most forgiving type of roses on the market.  Other than that, the others you have listed would all do equally well.  No matter which type you go with, you are going to want to make sure that you have a good spraying cycle set up — roses that are in shade tend to have more disease problems.

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

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2016. 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.

5 Garden Resolutions from National Garden Bureau’s


Reprinted with permission of the National Garden Bureau:

 

A new year traditionally brings about resolutions right? Be they for losing weight, being more organized or simply an overall “being better” wish, resolutions are good goals to have. Gardeners are no exception to wishing for the better: better gardens, better planning, better harvests, better record-keeping, etc.

Following are five resolutions that we wish every gardener, no matter their level of expertise, will embrace in the new year:

1. I will embrace nature and garden for the birds, the bees and the butterflies (and the bats too!). One of the most enjoyable benefits of having a garden is being able to enjoy the beautiful creatures who visit it. So plan your flowers and vegetables with that in mind then sit back and enjoy the show! Remember, planting a pollinator-friendly garden is good for the pollinators, good for the earth, good for your veggie garden and good for you!
You can help replenish the population of pollinators by planting a pollinator-friendly garden. Choose appropriate plants for your local area then click here to register your garden.

Help us reach 1 million new pollinator gardens!

2.  I will not blame myself for gardening failures. Oftentimes, Mother Nature is not our friend when it comes to gardening. Or life gets in the way. We do not want you to despair! Simply try again and learn from experience. Your garden, and your gardening friends, are both extremely forgiving.
3. I will not be afraid to ask questions. How else can you learn? Take advantage of the experience of your neighbor, your aunt, the garden center employee or the local extension agent. If they are like typical garden fanatics, they will appreciate your interest and be flattered that you want to learn from them. And learn you will! Click here for a long list of website and blogs that you can use as resources.
4. I will share my passion. We have all seen the studies that show many of today’s gardeners got their start by learning from someone else, usually a parent or grandparent. Can you be that mentor? Will you be the reason your son or daughter serves homegrown vegetables to your grandchildren? Can you be the reason your neighbor plants window boxes for the first time?
5. I will try something new. This is kind of a no-brainer, right? Have you ever met a gardener who didn’t want the newest of the new, for bragging rights if nothing else? But what about really new…like a new growing style or completely new crop of vegetables. Cruise around our NGB member’s websites (a selection of some are below) and we guarantee you’ll find something irresistible that’s out of your usual comfort zone. Look to the AAS Winners for trialed and tested varieties or try a few of the new varieties from our member below!
Johnny's Selected Seed
Territorial Seed Company
Burpee
Select Seeds 2016 new variety
Brett & Becky's 2016 Bulbs
Park Seed
Bonnie Plants Organic Fertlizer
Looking for all the best in Gardening Products?

Check out What’s New at our Updated 2016 NGB Member Garden Products List HERE