Tag Archive | Wisconsin

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.

Mystery Bean in a Tricolor Bean Mix


“Last year I got a tricolor bean mix. It had an extra bean in it. It was yellow with purple ‘striping’. It was a very good and productive bean. I could not find it in the catalog I bought the mix from and have not had any luck finding it in other catalogs. I wonder if this is a good accident waiting to be proven or what?

Rattlesnake Bean

Connie Gengler”

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Hi Connie,

Looks like you have good old heirloom bean named Rattlesnake.

However, I have to admit, I am rather surprised that a seed company would include this in their bean mix — well, unless they are a regional company that doesn’t ship everywhere.  Rattlesnake beans are traditionally grown in the Southeast because they thrive in the hot, humid conditions of summer.  I’ve tried to grow them here in Wisconsin, and they usually don’t do too great.  Just curious where you live, and where the company you bought them from is located (because I wonder if they really know what they are doing! )  😉

If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. 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.

Pawing Around: Growing PawPaws in Wisconsin


“Can paw paw trees survive in Wisconsin?  Tell me all that you can.  We are thinking about getting one for our yard.

Thanks,

Tomas”

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Hi Tomas,

Thank you for the email regarding Pawpaws.  Before I go any further, I don’t
want to give you false hope.  The possibility of growing a pawpaw in
Wisconsin isn’t great.  Pawpaws are zoned 5-9 and only southeastern Wisconsin
falls into the beginnings of that range.  The main concern with growing them
is that the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -25°F —
even with the northern cultivars.

In terms of other information…

This perennial tree or shrub grows from 9 to 15 feet tall in northern
regions and up to 35 feet in southern regions.. The drooping, pear-shaped
leaves are alternate, from 10 to 30 cm long, with smooth margins and pointed
tips. The leaves are coated with fine whitish hairs on the upper surface
with rusty-colored hairs on the under-side. Leaves are aromatic, with a
smell reminiscent of bell pepper. Inconspicuous but interesting flowers (4
to 5cm in diameter) with 3 sepals, are green upon opening and turn to dark
purple or maroon in color. From 1 to 4 flowers grow in the leaf axils before
leafing, usually in April or May. The six velvety petals (2cm-2.5cm long)
are stiff and curl slightly backwards. Yellowish green to brown,
cylindrical, mango-shaped fruits are 7-16 cm long and grow solitarily or 2
to 4 together. The large fruits (5 to 16 ounces) ripen between August and
October. Fruits have a thin skin, which contain a yellow custard-like pulp
that is said to taste like papaya. Some varieties contain a whitish-green
pulp that is less flavorful. Fruits contain several flat 2cm long seeds. The
deciduous leaves turn bright yellow before dropping in the fall.

Pawpaw grows over much of Eastern North America from Ontario and Michigan
south to Florida and Texas.  Adapted Pawpaws grow in humid climates and are
more frost tolerant. They grow in the shade in open woods usually in wet,
fertile bottomlands, but can grow in upland areas on rich soils. Pawpaws
occur as understory trees in oak-hickory forest in the mid-south where they
are found in clusters or thickets.

The appearance of this tree gives a tropical flavor to temperate gardens and
provides edible landscaping. Pawpaws can serve as a screen or can be grown
in a container as a specimen tree. Both trees and shrubs have a conical
pyramid-like shape when grown in sun, and a more open structure if grown in
shade. They can be planted in the shade of tall, open trees or in partial
shade, although they fruit best in sun. If planting in open sun, provide a
shading structure to allow filtered sun for the first few years. The plants
prefer moist, slightly acidic soils and require regular watering, but are
adaptable to many conditions. They do not perform well in poorly drained
soils and need protection from the wind. At least two plants are needed for
cross-pollination.

Grafted trees use a basic pawpaw rootstock with the desired cultivar shoot.
If you decide to go with seedlings instead, they need to be transplanted in
the spring. Larger plants do not transplant well. The roots are widely
spreading and brittle, so use care when transferring from containers. Water
the transplants frequently during the growing season.

Both grafted plants and seedling plants spread quickly by suckers to form a
“pawpaw patch.” Remove suckers as they form if a tree form is desired.
Sucker formation slows as the tree develops. Other than control of suckers
the plants do not require pruning. The plants are disease and pest resistant
and they are not browsed by deer.

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!, 2012. 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.

Flemish Beauty Pear Problems


“We ordered the special of two compatible pear trees and only
received one, the dwarf Flemish Beauty, last year.  We planted it and it
seemed to flourish, the winter was a hard one however.  I did use a tube on
the trunk for insulation.  The snow drifting was very bad and the lower two
branches were broken off at the trunk after the thaw.  However, it leafed
out and then the leaves all drooped and turned black and I noticed a
softening on the trunk just below the leafing branches.  I found some
surviving leafed stubs under the insulating tube, but they are only 1 -2
feet off the ground.  Is the whole tree a loss?  I planted the new dwarf
Clapp’s Favorite that we ordered this year before the other one started
going bad and it seems to be doing fine.  What should I do? Thanks, Sally”

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Flemish-Beauty-Pear.jpg

Hi Sally,

Thank you for the email regarding your pear trees.  When observing black
leaves on pear trees, it is important to rule our fire blight. The symptoms
do not appear to be those of fire blight, so we will rule it out first. That
is good. Fire blight is a bacterial disease which is difficult to manage.

A common problem observed in trees in Wisconsin each spring is blackening of
leaves of pear, cottonwood, and many other trees. This can be due to slight
frost damage or by wind damage. The frost damage may have occurred on a
night in which temperatures at location of most thermometers registered
temperatures above freezing; the frost may have been localized to small
pockets.

Young leaves in the spring are often very tender and subject to damage from
the winds which develop during the spring when temperatures begin to warm.
Temperatures can rise to very pleasant to rather warm mid-day temperatures
in spring and then be followed by cool nights or gusty thunderstorms.  When
combined with spring winds, the tender leaves can have rapid desiccation
because they have not developed enough yet to have the proper protection and
sturdiness that a summer leaf would have. The leaf margin is the most likely
injured part of the leaf. This desiccation can occur even if the soil has
adequate moisture because the wind can draw water from the leaves faster
than the tree can move it from the soil into the leaves. Newly transplanted
trees, with limited root systems, and those which have just begun rapid
growth after a couple of years establishment following transplanting may be
the most likely to show the symptoms. However, under the right conditions
this spring wind desiccation injury can occur in larger trees as well.

The soft trunk is normal, as long as it is not soft like a sponge or cotton.
Thin branches and rather new trunks have not developed enough xylem (the
‘wood’ in a tree, formed of cells that conduct water) to give it the
hardness that would be found in an older tree.

As long as the tree appears to be otherwise healthy, there should be little
to worry about or your new tree. Pamper it a little by making sure that it
has water and fertilizer.  Wisconsin’s climate can provide some harsh
environmental conditions which cause cosmetic defects in many of our
landscape and garden plants.  With the unique weather we have been having,
this has been a common problem for those with fruit trees.

 

 

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2011. 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 Pawpaws in Wisconsin


Can paw paw trees survive in Wisconsin? Tell me all that you can. We are thinking about getting one for our yard.

Tom

____________________________________________________________

Hi Tom,

Thank you for the question regarding Pawpaws (Asimina triloba (L.) Dunal ).  Before I go any further, I don’t want to give you false hope.  The possibility of growing a pawpaw in Wisconsin isn’t great.  Pawpaws are zoned 5-9 and only southeastern Wisconsin falls into the beginnings of that range.  The main concern with growing them is that the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -25°F — even with the northern cultivars.

In terms of other information…

This perennial tree or shrub grows from 9 to 15 feet tall in northern regions and up to 35 feet in southern regions.. The drooping, pear-shaped leaves are alternate, from 10 to 30 cm long, with smooth margins and pointed tips. The leaves are coated with fine whitish hairs on the upper surface with rusty-colored hairs on the under-side. Leaves are aromatic, with a smell reminiscent of bell pepper. Inconspicuous but interesting flowers (4 to 5cm in diameter) with 3 sepals, are green upon opening and turn to dark purple or maroon in color. From 1 to 4 flowers grow in the leaf axils before leafing, usually in April or May. The six velvety petals (2cm-2.5cm long) are stiff and curl slightly backwards. Yellowish green to brown, cylindrical, mango-shaped fruits are 7-16 cm long and grow solitarily or 2 to 4 together. The large fruits (5 to 16 ounces) ripen between August and October. Fruits have a thin skin, which contain a yellow custard-like pulp that is said to taste like papaya. Some varieties contain a whitish-green pulp that is less flavorful. Fruits contain several flat 2cm long seeds. The deciduous leaves turn bright yellow before dropping in the fall.

Pawpaw grows over much of Eastern North America from Ontario and Michigan south to Florida and Texas.  Adapted Pawpaws grow in humid climates and are more frost tolerant. They grow in the shade in open woods usually in wet, fertile bottomlands, but can grow in upland areas on rich soils. Pawpaws occur as understory trees in oak-hickory forest in the mid-south where they are found in clusters or thickets.

The appearance of this tree gives a tropical flavor to temperate gardens and provides edible landscaping. Pawpaws can serve as a screen or can be grown in a container as a specimen tree. Both trees and shrubs have a conical pyramid-like shape when grown in sun, and a more open structure if grown in shade. They can be planted in the shade of tall, open trees or in partial shade, although they fruit best in sun. If planting in open sun, provide a shading structure to allow filtered sun for the first few years. The plants prefer moist, slightly acidic soils and require regular watering, but are adaptable to many conditions. They do not perform well in poorly drained soils and need protection from the wind. At least two plants are needed for cross-pollination.

Grafted trees use a basic pawpaw rootstock with the desired cultivar shoot. If you decide to go with seedlings instead, they need to be transplanted in the spring. Larger plants do not transplant well. The roots are widely spreading and brittle, so use care when transferring from containers. Water the transplants frequently during the growing season.

Both grafted plants and seedling plants spread quickly by suckers to form a “pawpaw patch.” Remove suckers as they form if a tree form is desired. Sucker formation slows as the tree develops. Other than control of suckers the plants do not require pruning. The plants are disease and pest resistant and they are not browsed by deer.

 

 

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2011. 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.