Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A microcosm of microbes underfoot

Friday, April 10th, 2015

As we celebrate the International Year of Soils, we have to discuss the fact that soil is not just the mineral and organic matter (and air and soil) that we see.  Soil, well at least good soil, is a live and well, filled with all kinds of fauna.  There’s a huge microcosm of life underfoot, namely fungi and bacteria that have evolved over millions of years to live symbiotically with plants.  These microorganisms are necessary to sustain life on the planet- without them organic matter wouldn’t decompose to feed plants.

Rhizobia nodules on a legume root.

One specific set of bacteria live symbiotically with legumes by forming nodules on the legume’s roots.  These Rhizobia benefit from the plant, but also fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into ammonia that the plant can use.  Its a relationship that has developed over millions of years.  It can be a beneficial one for gardeners who want to add nutrients to the soil.

Read more about these bacteria in an article from blog contributor John Porter.

 

 

Contributor John Porter is an agriculture extension agent with West Virginia University Extension in Charleston, WV.  He writes a local weekly garden column called “The Garden Guru.”  You can find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Wordless Wednesday – Year of Soils

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Terri James, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

ALmost Wordless Wednesday: The Earth Laughs…

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

“The Earth Laughs in Flowers.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Below are just a few of the favorite blooms from gardeners across the country…  The return of spring and nearing arrival of the growing season is cause for much rejoice and laughter.

Flower13

Climbing Pink Camellia courtesy of Judith Fuselier-Phillips

H.F. Young Clematis courtesy of Cheryl Day Lansdale

Peach Meringue Brugmansia courtesy of Jake Ouellete

Purple Iris courtesy of Judith Fuselier-Phillips

Amethyst Epiphyllum courtesy of Jake Ouellette

 

Magnolia courtesy of Angela Blue

Gerbera Daisy courtesy of Dorene Lee Harvey

Blood Lily Courtesy of Jan McMahon

Columbine courtesy of Sheila Gilliam-Landreth

Amaryllis courtesy of Eileen Hayzlett

 

Amaryllis courtesy of Cheryl Day Lansdale

Blooming Nectarine Tree courtesy of Terri Upchurch

Clematis courtesy of Briana Belden

Crocus courtesy of Lois Versaw

Dr. Ruppel Clematis courtesy of Jake Ouelette

 

 *The above images were shared with this blogger by members of the Facebook community

“The Self-Sustaining Seed Swappers”.

 

 

ALmost Wordless Wednesday: Spring!

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

This ALmost Wordless Wednesday brings us only two days away from spring!  A time of rebirth and reawakenings, and a time when all that planning and dreaming can start to take real form in the garden.

"No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow." ~ Proverb

“No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.” ~ Proverb

 

 

One of the very first blooms of the season, the Crocus traditionally symbolizes cheerfulness and gladness, and brings both early to the garden; heralding the arrival of the growing season and of spring.

 

National Seed Swap Day, January 31st, 2015

Friday, February 6th, 2015

In recognition of this year’s National Seed Swap Day, January 31st, 2015, let’s consider the time-honored tradition of sharing seeds at such events because a Seed Swap has vast benefits for gardeners everywhere. Our nation’s third President, Thomas Jefferson, has long been known for his glorious gardens at Monticello with over three hundred varieties of more than ninety different plants. Jefferson sought plants and treasured seeds from all over the world and always shared his bounty and his seeds with his friends but thousands of those varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers have been lost in recent times to the growth, popularity and commercial availability of hybrid seeds.

                                                                                  Saving Seeds, an Ancient Tradition

seed swap poster L. Versaw

A recent Seed Swap Event co-hosted by ‘Community Crops’ and ‘Open Harvest’ in Lincoln, Nebraska drew more than 75 people. (Photo courtesy Lois Versaw)

Fortunately, long before organized seed exchanges were held, individuals across time and around the globe would harvest, save, and share their seeds. In some cultures, seeds were valued as if they were money, bartered with, traded, and collected. Seeds would be passed down from generation to generation, from one gardener to another. What gardener does not have at least one variety of produce or one favorite flower that he or she grows every year, having been grown by their own grandparent decades ago? Many historic varieties have been preserved in this fashion and are still grown today because someone, at some time, decided to save and share those seeds.

 Our Founding Fathers Shared Seeds…

Today, the average home gardener can share their neighbor’s great uncle’s award-winning tomato seed and have the opportunity to purchase (or share!) the very same variety of beautiful black Hollyhock that Thomas Jefferson grew at Monticello. Today the home gardener can either choose to spend a small fortune amassing seeds or plants commercially purchased each year for that season’s garden, or with a little planning, patience and effort; can save the previous season’s seeds for planting the next year. The first seed swap days allowed local gardeners to trade their abundance of a particular seed for other kinds that other gardeners had in their own possession. Seed swaps have begun to sprout up all over the country and enable gardeners of all ages and experience-levels to meet, share seeds (and sometimes plants), advice and ideas, stories, and fellowship.

 Why Save Seeds?

Seeds to swap L. Versaw

Just a few of the variety of seeds that were available to swap and share at a recent Seed Swap Event co-hosted by ‘Community Crops’ and ‘Open Harvest’ in Lincoln, Nebraska (Photo courtesy Lois Versaw)

Today most organized seed swaps include seeds native to the area/zone, edibles (fruit and vegetable,) herbs, exotics, annuals, perennials and woody trees and shrubs. Seeds saved and shared are often open-pollinated and heirloom variety, which produce offspring identical to the parent plant (seed.) Seeds saved from a hybrid plant may show traits like its parents, but hybrid varieties do not always promise offspring like the parent as the hybrid is a genetic mingling of two different parent plants and may grow offspring differing in taste, color and growth habit. Bulbs and cuttings may also be shared. Gardeners are encouraged to bring their surplus, highly flavored and/or high-yielding/good-producing seeds to share and exchange with others.

 Going Green…

In an age when “Going Green!” is all the rage, seed swaps are gaining popularity for good reason. Seed swapping continues to promote biodiversity, cultural history, and, in essence, recycling. Gardeners rid themselves of excess seeds without wasting and leave the event(s) able to try many new varieties inexpensively and resourcefully. Jefferson wrote that, “the greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture,” and every year the National Seed Swap Day embodies both Jefferson’s legacy of seed sharing and his promotion of gardening throughout the Country. Thinking of hosting your own seed swap event?  Find more information here: www.southernexposure.com/how-to-host-a-seed-swap-ezp-146.html

Submitted by Lois Versaw (Extension Master Gardener Intern at University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

You can search our site for more blogs on seeds by clicking the tag “Seed Saving” below.

Bad Weather didn't keep folks away

Bad weather did not keep gardeners away from a Seed Swap Event co-hosted by ‘Community Crops’ and ‘Open Harvest’ on National Seed Swap Day. (Photo courtesy Lois Versaw)

 

Wordless Wednesday: National Seed Swap Day January 31st!

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Last Saturday was National Seed Swap Day! Did you attend a Seed Swap event? Lois Versaw shares her Seed Swap Day last Saturday! To learn more about seed saving check out this blog.

 

National Seed Swap Day L Versaw

Seed Swap Event co-hosted by ‘Community Crops’ and ‘Open Harvest’ in Lincoln, Nebraska recognizing National Seed Swap Day. (Photo courtesy Lois Versaw)

 

Making seed bombs L.Versaw

Attendees enjoyed a activity making seed bombs from water, paper, and, in this case, wildflower seeds, with teacher Eastlyn Wright . (Photo courtesy Lois Versaw)

 

Sumitted by Lois Versaw (EMG in training, Lincoln, NE) Thank you for sharing this exciting day, Lois! Looks like it was FUN!

ALmost Wordless Wednesday: Cyclamen for the Holidays

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Just as poinsettias are a staple for holiday decorating, cyclamen are also a popular floral gift during the holidays. While we may be more familiar with them as a potted plant, they’re also a beautiful and hardy outdoor plant. For more information on growing cyclamen try Clemson University’s informational PDF.

 

Holiday Cyclamen (photo by Connie Schultz)

Holiday Cyclamen (photo by Connie Schultz)

 

Cyclamen blooming outdoors (Photo by Connie Schultz)

Cyclamen blooming outdoors (Photo by Connie Schultz)

 

Beautifully patterned Cyclamen leaves (Photo by Connie Schultz)

Beautifully patterned Cyclamen leaves (Photo by Connie Schultz)

 

Cyclamen persicum tuber (Photo by  Millie Davenport, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension)

Cyclamen persicum tuber showing new growth. (Photo by Millie Davenport, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension)

Submitted by Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (’95 Cornell Extension) now volunteering in Johnston County, NC

Almost Wordless Wednesday: World Soil Day, December 5th, 2014

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

On December 20, 2013, the 68th UN General Assembly recognized December 5th, 2014 as World Soil Day and 2015 as the International Year of Soils.  This official recognition emphasizes the importance of soils beyond the soil science community.

The Global Soil Partnership will promote the year long emphasis on International Year of Soils 2015. Their goal is to “make IYS 2015 a memorable year for demonstrating that soils are essential to food security, hunger eradication, climate change adaptation, poverty reduction, sustainable development” and carbon sequestration. Enjoy this official Year of Soils video.

Submitted by Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (Cornell Extension’95) now volunteering in Johnston County, NC

2014 CenUSA Bioenergy Project

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Fond du Lac Community Master Gardeners contribute to CenUSA biochar research and teach kids about growing food, too. 

Welcome back for more of our ongoing coverage of how University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners have been helping to support biochar research as part of the CenUSA Bioenergy project. For our last blog post, Extension Master Gardener Meleah Maynard talked with volunteers at Minnesota’s three CenUSA biochar test sites in the Twin Cities metro area: at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus and in Andover at the Extension County and Regional Center, about their experiences working on the project.

This time, you’ll hear what Extension Master Gardener volunteers working on the Fond du Lac tribal community demonstration garden at the Brookston Community Center in Cloquet had to say when Meleah visited last month. To learn more about things like what biochar is and how the test sites were chosen and planted, check out past blog posts written by Extension Master Gardener Lynne Hagen, the project manager for the biochar demonstration gardens in Minnesota. Read on to find out how things are going at the Fond du Lac biochar demonstration garden.

A Community Garden

October 2014

While the Fond du Lac demonstration garden shares the same layout, plants and mission as the three other Minnesota sites, it is different. Instead of being on a campus or other site with ties to the University, it is tucked next to a community center where it can easily be viewed by people of all ages anytime.

Better still, because of its location, children who visit the community center have been able to learn about gardening from Master Gardener volunteers, and find out more about where food comes from in the process. The kids also like eating the vegetables once they’ve been harvested and weighed. Master Gardeners make sure the kids eat only from the control plot that contains no biochar since the soil amendment is still being tested.

Dawn Newman, a Master Gardener and the Fond du Lac site mentor, says the biochar research project has been a positive way to foster a connection between the community and the University. Currently the American Indian Community Vitality Educator for Extension, Newman is an enrolled Ho-Chunk member from Wisconsin and has worked with the Fond du Lac community for years in various roles.

“It takes a long time to build relationships in Indian Country,” she says. “Historically, research has been done on Native Americans without their knowledge and not with true partnership in mind. This project is giving the community a chance to do real research as well as helping to foster healthier eating habits.” Julie Weisenhorn, an associate extension professor in horticulture and Master Gardener who has helped coordinate efforts at the site, agrees.

“Using gardening as a mean of collaboration is a great, fun way to bring the Fond du Lac community and the University together on a project,” she says. “We’ve talked a lot about how to meet community needs while also meeting the needs of Extension education because having a real partnership is so critical.”

Digging In

Newman is one of six Master Gardeners on the Fond du Lac reservation. She started the group four years ago after approaching Weisenhorn, then state program director, with the idea of starting their own community-based group rather than joining the county group. “I explained that we are a sovereign nation so we should be recognized as our own ‘county’,” Newman recalls. Weisenhorn had been looking for the opportunity to pilot a community-based Master Gardener group, so she jumped at the chance to work with Newman on this new way to organize volunteers. Newman and the other five women who wanted to become Master Gardeners took the core course together. Once they completed their volunteer hours, they jumped into projects centered around the Fond du Lac Reservation with Brookston Community Center, one of three centers operated by the Band, being the main volunteer site.

Weisenhorn asked the new Fond du Lac volunteers to become the fourth Minnesota biochar site. Once a sunny site in front of the Center was chosen, the biochar demonstration garden was prepared and planted in 2013, the second year of the research project. At first, the plants seemed to be doing well—or at least as well as expected in the sandy soil the site had to offer. “Plants were small, but the garden looked beautiful,” Master Gardener Danielle Diver remembers. One thing that was obvious, she says, was that the test plot with the most biochar added seemed to be retaining water better than the other two plots.

Soon, though, the deer moved in and started eating the plants to the point where they needed to put up a fence. But as soon as posts started going in, they hit something hard about a foot below the soil. “It was a cement slab,” Newman recalls, “and we found out we were growing a garden where a house used to be.” So Bryan Bosto, the director of the Brookston Community Center, along with Weisenhorn, Newman, Diver and other volunteers, decided to replant in a different location the following spring.

Getting Kids Involved

Planting Day June 10, 2014

Planting Day June 10, 2014

With help from Weisenhorn, who drove up this spring with all the needed plants and supplies to start again, the group tilled and planted a new demonstration garden, this time next to the Center’s playground.

Though the move put them further behind other sites in terms of data collection, the garden was now much more visible to the kids, many of whom were already participating in the Junior Master Gardener program that Newman and the others had started a couple of years earlier. “It’s a great location for a garden, really quite beautiful,” Weisenhorn says. “I’m so proud of these gardeners and their determination to see this project through.”

Diver, who is also the garden program coordinator at the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School, enjoys working with the kids in the garden. “They help us weed and water, especially early in the season,” she says. “You think they’re not really paying attention when you talk about the plants, but then they’ll ask a question that lets you know they were listening.”

Inspired by the children’s interest in the ripening vegetables in the demonstration garden, Diver and the other Master Gardeners added Food of the Week to their Junior Master Gardener lineup. Each week, kids work together with the Master Gardeners to prepare a dish using fresh vegetables.

Salsa was a big hit recently, even with those who said they don’t like tomatoes. “The impact we’re having doesn’t always show immediately, but when you see the kids in January and they say, ‘Hey, when is Garden Club (the kids’ name for the Junior Master Gardener program) going to start up again?’ you know they’re missing it and they clearly enjoy it,” Diver says.

Gathering Data

October 2014

October 2014

This will be the first full season of data collection at the Fond du Lac demonstration gardens and as with the other three Minnesota sites, there have been some challenges learning how to measure growth and track observations. But overall, the Fond du Lac Master Gardeners are feeling good about their work on the project and are looking forward to participating again next year.

“Seeing how the plants and soil have responded to biochar has been exciting and it’s nice to see that there is an amendment that might work,” says Nikki Crowe, a Master Gardener who also coordinates the Thirteen Moons Program,

October 2014

October 2014

which helps strengthen connections between Fond du Lac Band members and the surrounding community with Ojibwe culture and natural resources.

While the kids aren’t involved in the data collection process at the garden, they have helped out with planting and harvesting, and they’re also asked for their opinions on how things are doing in each of the three test plots. “We like to have them make their own observations on which plot is doing better or which vegetables they think look healthier or larger, and they really like that,” says Master Gardener Shannon Judd, who is also the environmental education and outreach coordinator for the Fond du Lac reservation.

Like Crowe, Judd is enjoying working on the project because it’s been interesting and exciting to be involved with a research endeavor of this magnitude from the start. In July, Judd and Newman, along with 30 other University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners involved in the research at other sites, attended the annual CenUSA conference held at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The meeting’s focus was on the Extension objective of the grant, and Weisenhorn was glad they were able to attend. “The CenUSA attendees recognized the volunteers at the meeting and applauded their important contribution to the project,” she recalls.

Judd is hopeful that the research results will make a meaningful difference for home gardeners, including those facing tough soil conditions like they have on the reservation. “Seeing all of the things that biochar may be useful for has been really motivating,” she says. “Anything that can be done to help people grow food more easily, especially around here, would be great.”

Note: CenUSA Bioenergy is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30411 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Wordless Wednesday: Use Nature to Decorate for FAll

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

This fall think out of the box for any of your fall decorations – look in your backyard to find some inspiration.

 

ornamental grasses

Ornamental grass seed heads can be added to containers for a neutral filler

pine cones

Find pine cones and wire them into your fall decorations – you can even paint them to match your color scheme

color

Use the colors of nature to find a color scheme

structure

Did you do a little pruning this fall? Use the trimming from that to add structure to your designs

Terri James, Extension Horticulturist
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension