Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (’95 Cornell Extension) now volunteering in Johnston County, NC
Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (’95 Cornell Extension) now volunteering in Johnston County, NC
Several years ago I was smitten by living wreaths. They were so beautiful and versatile….and different! Excited by the possibilities, I tried growing all kinds of things in wreaths I made from a metal form used for Christmas wreaths and an old nylon stocking filled with potting soil that I wired into the metal form. I tried ivy first because it would curl around the form nicely and make it look fuller. That worked well so next I tried growing a wreath from seed using lobelia. I have to say the lobelia one filled out beautifully and when it bloomed it was very pretty! But most of the time I used one inch seedlings.I learned to choose plants that had small leaves and would not get too large or outgrow the wreath form too quickly. Also because the wreaths were narrow, the plant roots needed to be small and not bothered by cramped conditions.
Succulents are one of the most popular choices to use in wreaths. Their roots like cramped spaces and they don’t mind getting a little dry either. Other popular plants to try are mosses, groundcovers, and tillandsia.
I also learned that it’s hard to keep a wreath evenly round. Plants like to grow their own way which isn’t always even.
It’s messy to water a wreath when it’s hanging up and even harder to water evenly because the water runs down and out so quickly. This leaves the plants not watered thoroughly or the ones on the top drier than the ones on the bottom. The best practice is to water a wreath lying down in a plant saucer, letting it soak a little because uneven watering also leads to uneven growth.I hope this holiday season you’ll be inspired to try this too. I’ve included a picture here to illustrate the project but since I don’t have any pictures of my old experiments, I made a Pinterest Board with other interesting wreaths to try. I tried to pick a wide variety of plant types to inspire you to try lots of ideas and few new ones for me to try too!
Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (’95 Cornell) now volunteering in Johnston County NC
November 15th is America Recycles Day and, since we’re approaching Thanksgiving, I thought it could be good to focus on waste during a time of feasting. I was surprised at what I learned about food waste in America. The land of plenty is abundantly wasteful! The infographics below show what we can do to help reduce our own food waste or keep it out of the landfill by composting it. Please take the EPA challenge to reduce waste food and enjoy a bountiful Thanksgiving table.
Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (’95 Cornell Extension) volunteering now in Johnston County
Food Day is a nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable, and sustainably produced food. It builds all year long and culminates on October 24. This year the focus is on children’s diets. Hence this infographic…..
In honor of Food Day on Oct. 24th this week, Wordless Wednesday is about how NC Food Corps helps build better nutrition through school gardens. Master Gardeners are a vital part of this effort!
While the rest of the nation finishes harvesting summer vegetables, Arizona’s Low Desert region enters its third planting season of the year, following spring (February-April) and summer (May-September). October in the metro-Phoenix area returns to moderate temperatures after triple-digits during the summer.
Pam Perry, curator of the University of Arizona Maricopa County Cooperative Extension Demonstration Vegetable Garden and President, Arizona Herb Association, said:
“I’m looking forward to the promised double digit weather. Not quite time to plant my cilantro, but other fall planted herbs can be seeded for sure. Soil prep and compost enhance any good garden soil for seasonally planted herbs. Most herbs do not require much fertilizer if you keep adding in the compost. Happy planting, happy harvesting!”
September vegetable gardening began with seed-sowing, including Snap Beans, Beets, Cabbage, Carrots, Kale, Lettuce (Head & Leaf), Leeks, Mustard, Green Onions, Peas, Radishes, Spinach, Turnips. It also includes transplants of Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, and Cauliflower. Fall soil prep comprises restoring nutrients exhausted by spring and summer crops by applying a light layer of compost or fertilizer.
Due to the Low Desert fall temperature ranges (from 50 nightly to 90 daytime degrees), sugars are produced in corn and carrots to make them sweet and crisp. The first frost dates in the Phoenix area, ranging from late November to mid-December, can improve the taste of parsnips & Jerusalem artichokes.
University of Arizona Maricopa County Cooperative Extension Master Gardener
Maricopa County Master Gardeners
The term permaculture seems to be bubbling up everywhere these days. An uptick in interest is being seen in Utah, where new things sometimes seem to take awhile to take hold. Utah State University’s Extension Sustainability recently brought in restoration and permaculture specialist Joel Glanzberg of the Regenesis Group for a workshop to help kickstart a campus permaculture garden.
Permaculture was started in the 1970s by Australian biologist Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. It is essentially an applied design method or system that uses an ecological systems and patterns approach to solving environmental problems. The idea is to “design human settlements while preserving and extending natural systems.” (Mollison, 1988, Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual).
David Holmgren offers a more updated definition of permaculture. “A more current definition of permaculture, which reflects the expansion of focus implicit in Permaculture One, is ‘Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs. People, their buildings and the ways in which they organise themselves are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture vision of permanent or sustainable agriculture has evolved to one of permanent or sustainable culture.”
Permaculture principles can be applied to a wide variety of situations and scales using a variety of techniques.These techniques, simulating patterns found in nature, can be used to create self-sustaining gardens, farms, and communities. Some of these patterns include the spiral, using “keyholes” to increase the amount of edge in a garden, and creating “guilds” of plants, animals, and/or people, all of which fulfill different but complimentary roles in the system.
A wealth of information is available online. For more information and in depth discussion of Permaculture Principles and practices please see the following resources.
Susan Buffler: Cache County Extension Master Gardeners (Utah)
disclaimer: Extension Master Gardeners does not endorse any of these sites. They are for reference purposes only.
As we prepare to celebrate National Food Day, we can take a look at how food plants can form part of our identity and our culture. Travel around this country, and you see that different regions have taken native foods and native plants and built an identity around them over decades and centuries. Travel to Vermont and the northeast, and the sugar maple tree is revered, as is the maple syrup produced in the area. Travel to the southwest corner of the country, and chili peppers reign supreme. We build an identity around what we grow, what grows around us, and what we eat.
In West Virginia, and Appalachia in general, springtime brings about foragers flocking to the hills looking for tasty choice edibles. What most of them are looking for is an odiferous but delicious member of the family Alliaceae – the ramp (Allium tricoccum). Ramps are wild leeks that grow along mountain streams and have been prized by mountain folks for centuries. The plant is indigenous to much of the eastern United States, and are so widespread that the city of Chicago was named for an American Indian term used to describe the smelly treat. Ramps were prized by early settlers and local folks because it was one of the first green things they could eat in the spring. After a winter heavy with preserved meats, stored grains, and maybe some potatoes, the green ramp was considered a “spring tonic” (not related to Granny Clampett’s spring tonic in a jug from the Beverly Hillbillies). A spring tonic was meant to “thin the blood,” which was basically an infusion of vitamins and minerals that help break lethargy brought on by nutritional deficiencies.
The name “ramp” itself has a long and awkward history, according to Earl Core, a noted West Virginia native plant icon. As he wrote in a newspaper piece called ‘Cult of the Ramp Eaters’ in 1973, “The name ramps (usually plural) is one of the many dialectical variants of the English word ramson, a common name of the European bear leek (A. ursinum), a broad-leaved species of garlic much cultivated and eaten in salads, a plant related to our American species. The Anglo-Saxon ancestor of ramson was hramsa, and ramson was the Old English plural, the –n being retained as in oxen, children, etc.”
Today the ramp is celebrated in festivals throughout Appalachia. Perhaps the most noted festival is the “Feast of the Ramson” held each year in the sleepy town of Richwood, WV and sponsored by the National Ramp Association. In addition, many small festivals and local ramp dinners, called “ramp feeds” are held throughout the state. The ramp is moving up in the culinary world, however, as it can now be found on menus in high-end restaurants in major cities. Kirkwood Winery in West Virginia even produces a ramp wine.
While most ramps are wild-harvested, it is entirely possible to grow them in the right conditions. Home growing can be a source of pride for those who see it as a cultural icon. Given the increased popularity of the pungent plant, growing for sale at farmers markets and restaurants is not a bad idea, either.
Ramps need to be planted in an area that mimics their habitat, which is moist, cool woodland land with shade. Ramps tend to prefer areas of hardwood canopy, so if you are planting them in the woods, try to locate them near hardwoods. If you are planting them in areas outside of a forest, a mulch of hardwood leaves gives the best results. Locations that are moist in spring, especially ephemeral streams, are ideal. While a pH of around 5.5 has been shown to be optimal for growth, ramps also prefer to have soils higher in calcium.
Ramps can be started either by wild-harvested transplant or by seed. When digging ramps for transplanting, care should be taken to get a healthy clump with intact roots. It is also important to leave some ramps behind for future populations in the area. Ramps can also be grown from seed that are harvested from their white flowers later in the season. Seeds sown in early fall will germinate much faster, since the seed needs both a period of warmth and a period of cold to break dormancy. If they are not sown until late fall or spring, the seeds may not germinate until the second spring.
For more info on growing ramps, check out Cultivation of Ramps from NC State University and Cultivating Ramps: Wild Leeks of Appalachia from ‘Trends from New Crops and New Uses.’ For more lore, history, growing, harvesting, and cooking info (with recipes) check out Ramps: ‘A Spring Tonic’ from my friend and colleague Hannah Fincham from West Virginia University Extension.
What local wild and native foods do you identify with? Are there any local food festivals celebrating native foods that you enjoy?
WSU Master Gardeners in Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties in Washington undertook two native plant projects.
One was to renovate a native plant garden next to the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum in Ilwaco, on the Long Beach Peninsula where the Columbia River meeting the Pacific Ocean. (If you check the Lewis & Clark Expedition journals you will find that this is where they camped in November 1805 before crossing the Columbia to winter at Fort Clatsop, in Oregon.)
The other project was to design plant identification cards for Lake Sylvia State Park in Montesano, which is nestled in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains.
The Discovery Garden Project
The garden in Ilwaco was an overgrown native garden full of weeds. A multi-year plan to redesign the garden was developed. Besides restoration and adding new features to the garden, the plan includes quarterly public presentations given in the Museum’s meeting room.
Presentations & Work
After the presentations the attendees move to the garden to practice the skills just presented. The public has attended the workshops with enthusiasm and increasing participation. After the August session a couple of people remarked on how much everything had grown since they pruned the trees & shrubs in February! The presentation topics included Pruning, Weed Suppression & Mulching, Native Plants & Water-wise Gardening, Winterizing the Garden and Landscape.
Native Plant Identification Activity at the Museum Garden
Part of the Native plant workshop was to identify the name of the numbered native plants in the garden. One person asked how long the numbers would remain next to the plants because he wanted to bring someone so that both of them would try to identify all of the plants! *This will become a museum activity. The plants will be numbered and the museum gift shop will post the answer key so people can check how many plants they correctly identified. Both the museum and the garden benefit from the increase in people using the area.
More about the discovery garden (click photos to enlarge)….
Lake Sylvia Project
Master Gardeners developed a plant identification card for the native trees and shrubs at Lake Sylvia State Park in Montesano. The most common trees and shrubs in the park were identified and the work began on photographing or finding photos of the trees, their bark, cones or flowers, leaves, and other identifying features. Included on the card are the scientific name and common name as well as the pictures. The conifers are on one side and the broadleaf & shrubs are on the other. Once the cards (8 ½ “ x 11”) were printed and laminated, they were taken to the park’s information area to be used. Other future possible photo sheets include ferns, spring wild flowers, berries, mosses & lichens. Here in the rainy northwest, we have lots of them!
The Native Plant Identification Cards
Click photos to enlarge…
Both of these projects are great for public education, increasing the public’s awareness of master gardeners, and can be replicated by other groups. Have fun trying these activities.
-Mary-Jean Grimes, Master Gardener Grays Harbor-Pacific Counties, Washington State