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tomatoes
Methods of Storing Fruits and Vegetables
&Del Hemsath, Horticulture Chairman

Just about each gardener has developed their own methods for storage of vegetables and fruit in order to enjoy the produce for as long as possible. This article will cover some common garden produce and storage hints.

Cabbage – cut heads can be stored at 32 degrees, moist 95% humidity and last for 4 – 5 months. Another method is to pull the entire plants and hang by the roots in a dark, cool location. These will not last as long, but it is an alternative.

Carrots – top the carrots and store in a container, like a crock, with sand as the humidity controller and temperature control. One can bag the carrots and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 months. Control moisture by using a paper towel placed in the bag. If one has access to straw bales, one can leave the carrots in the soil, cover with the bales to prevent the soil from freezing and harvest when needed. Harvest can last all winter unless mice or other rodents find the carrots first.

Garlic – bulbs are stored dry, one can tie each bulb in a silk stocking to separate it from each other and remove each bulb when needed. Stocking is hung in a cool – dark location.

Onions – cool (32 – 38 degrees) and dry conditions allow a 6 – 7 month usage. One can use the nylon stocking trick also.

Potatoes – correct harvest techniques are critical to help storage the potato. Harvest potatoes 2 weeks after vines have dried from natural conditions or a light frost. Brush the soil off the potato but do not wash as the soil acts as a natural inhibitor to early sprouting. Stored potatoes should last 6 – 8 months. Medium cool conditions (40 – 50 degrees), and moist 90% humidity is best. Root cellars are the best but not many of us have those anymore. One can store in Styrofoam coolers lined with newspapers to control the humidity. Coolers can be left in the garage next to the house wall and checking them each month to monitor. Storage in refrigerator is also good, but fruits stored in the same place emit gas that will cause the potato to sprout.

Sweet Potatoes – one can leave in soil until there is a threat of soil freezing. Temperatures below 55 degrees can cause chilling injury. Ideally, roots are cured at 85 degrees and 90% humidity for 4 – 8 days. Long term storage at 55 – 60 degrees at 85 – 90% humidity.

Tomatoes – this is a very delicate fruit to make last in the fall. Mature green tomatoes, those which have turned a whitish-green color, can be pricked before a killing frost and stored in a cool (55 degrees) moist (90% humidity) location. When desired, ripen fruit at 70 degrees. Do not refrigerate green or partially green tomatoes as they will be ruined.  Another method is to pull the entire plant (good luck!) and hang by the roots in your garage or other cool location and allow the tomatoes to ripen on the vine.

Winter squash – store at 50 – 60 degrees at 60% humidity. Squash will keep for many months. Discard when turning soft.

Pears – pick pears before they ripen on the tree to prevent bird damage and insect damage. Wrap each pear in newspaper and place in a dark cool location, check every day for ripeness. Long term storage requires cool temperatures and humid conditions.

Good luck and enjoy the extended garden season.

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Blue False Indigo

THE COME BACK KID, Blue False Indigo

Charlotte Swanson, Wildflower & Native Plant Chairman

 

 

Blue false indigo, a wildflower that is a Nebraska native, has found a place in my garden for the past three years.  Its seed was given to me by the previous wildflower chairman and germinated even after spending ten years in an envelope.  It came of age this spring with a gorgeous spray of purplish blue blossoms.  The foliage which reflects its heritage in the pea family is attractive enough even without the blooms.  I must say that I was satisfied on all accounts with this wildflower and I forgave the three year wait for the blooms to show themselves.  A short time later in the season, I noticed that seemingly overnight this wildflower (officially known as 'baptisia australis') had been stripped of a lot of its foliage.  A mass invasion of a charcoal grey beetle of some sort had attacked the plant.  I don't like to use pesticides except as a last resort, but I was so angry with these invaders that I was ready to draw my big guns right then and there.  But I didn't have any weapons.  Oops!  Not wanting to make the 20 mile commute into town for just one item, I delayed my counter attack until the next day.  But it was too late, the beetles had their bellies full and were out of sight.  I didn't see them again all summer.  Who were those masked insects?  My poor baptisia was completely stripped of leaves, but her stems were still green.  I continued to water her and hope for the best (she doesn't drink a lot, but I was compelled to be as kind as possible).  Before the summer's end, I dubbed her the comeback kid.  Much to my surprise she completely restored her leaves and even was able to produce matte black seed pods that rattle like a baby's toy!  Thus, I raise my recommendation  of this baptisia as a wildflower for Nebraska gardens or fields.  She is a tough competitor, despite her pretty purple blue tresses and definitely worth the wait!  Anyone desiring her seeds is welcome to my stash!!

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Zinnias

GARDEN FAVORVITES REVIEWED%
Charlotte Swanson, Wildflower and Native Plant Chairman

 

Spring has come and gone--that intense period of plotting and planting has left its evidence in plain sight.  As I survey the results, I marvel that some of those seeds sown are now blooming at me at eye level and above!  For example, the mina lobata vine, intertwined with a morning glory vine on my weathered garden arch is now beyond my reach.  Though the morning glory would prefer full sun, it has settled for less but still splashes color my way when I do my early watering ritual.  The mina lobata's miniature blooms last all day, but their nicely sculpted leaves are the main prize.

An unexpected addition to my garden this year was the arrival of a 1927 Model T touring car.  Riddled by bullet holes and repainted by nature in shades of rust, its patina is as smooth as chocolate.  No longer equipped to move on its own power, it was hauled in by my classic car-loving husband who donated it as garden art. Begging to be filled with passengers, the topless antique was filled with dark sunflowers, red cannas, flowing brick orange petunias and a dash of bright green 'Angelina' sedum.  The engine block was turned upside down and sported the flower power of red and yellow gazanias.  Surrounded by the wildflower 'Bouncing Betty', the old '27 has sparked a few conversations this summer.  It also inspired my planting choices for a nearby whiskey barrel:  dark brown ornamental millet 'Purple Majesty', straw yellow petunias 'Prism Sunshine', a rust-hued sweet potato vine 'Sweet Georgia Bronze' and a small deep purple petunia rimmed in creme 'Cascadias Rim Magenta'.  I smile when I pass it, remembering my husband's penchant for surprises.

Another  'objet d'art' that my husband contributed to the garden a few years back--a rusty ole bike--now holds an attached basket of 'Hare's Tail' grass (Lagurus ovatus).  This cute little grass, 8-10 inches high, is a delightful annual--easy to start from seed indoors--and perks up whatever spot that it occupies.  A first timer to my garden this season, it is on the return list.

Another favorite among the donations that my husband has made to my garden is an old metal garden gate--also a matte rust hue--was the backdrop for a vining sweetpea 'Cupani's Original'.  It too is an antique--going back to Europe in 1699.  The brilliant color combination of deep purple and red is well suited for the aged gate.  Fragrant and fruitful, this delightful vine can be planted in mid-March and rewards the gardener with months of color, especially if its feet are kept shaded and reasonably moist.

I must mention a new comer to my garden whose foliage I greatly admire.  It is the 'Pretoria' canna.  Also nick-named "Bengal tiger" canna, its narrowly striped creme and green leaves unfurl into large ovals edged in a thin line of red.  I've yet to see the orange bloom due to the late start it got in my garden, but I'm not concerned as its foliage is so stellar that I can forgive the late bloom.

Last but not least, I mention with a smile several newcomers to a flower bed that I started for our brand new (and first) grandchild: Charlotte Grace.  I don't have to be pushed very far to buy roses in the first place, but when I discovered that David Austin had developed roses christened with the names 'Charlotte' and 'Grace' they had to be a mainstay in this bed celebrating my granddaughter.  And the story gets sweeter: I also found an oriental lily called 'Bonbini' that means welcome.  The 'Charlotte' rose is a soft yellow, the 'Grace' is soft apricot-pink.  The 'Bonbini' is both.  How I look forward to the day when Charlotte Grace can pick these flowers and know their story.

How wonderful it is to garden and celebrate life!

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Vegetable Garden with Pitch Fork
Heirloom Vegetables

Del Hemsath, Horticulture Chairman

 

Last growing season in 2012 was a major challenge for all Nebraskans because of water shortages and watering bans in some areas. It was also a test for most varieties of vegetables that could tolerated such growing conditions. I tried a couple of heirloom tomatoes and found out that they did not like the hot and dry weather. I had lots of foliage, but not much fruit, but the fruit I did get tasted wonderful and like a real tomato. I don’t think that I will give up on heirlooms, but I might do better selections of varieties. To get you going, I thought that I would acquaint you with some facts about heirlooms and perhaps you might give them a try if you have never ventured outside your comfort zone.

 

I have put together a little bit if information about vegetables that were grown during the 19th century. Much of the information comes from the internet and specifically, Thomas Jefferson gardens at Monticello outside Charlottesville, Virginia. Thomas Jefferson was influenced by Bernard McMahon, a Philadelphia nurseryman and author of “The American Gardener’s Calendar”. Dates for these vegetables to be grown by Thomas Jefferson are during his presidency and life during the late 1700’s into the mid 1800’s. Documentation is somewhat scattered and unorganized or lost, but it is believed that he had over 250 vegetable species that he either grew or had his slaves grow on the 5,000 acres of land he had under his control.

Heirloom Vegetables in general:           

1.  Often vegetables or seeds that fit into this group are those 50 years old or before the year 1951.  The reason for that is because the commercial seed industry began in the 1950’s as we entered the “Industrial Age”, and demand for seeds became an economic business, less people were on the farm, growth of nursery production, etc. The cross breeding and hybridizing to meet the demands of the production needs and desires and tastes of the general public has all but eliminated some of the true characters of the vegetables.

2.  Native American crops would fit into this general category and in some circles are considered the real Heirlooms.

3.  Crops that came from other countries like Europe, South America, Asia, etc. could be considered the only true Heritage crop since it would still have the original traits.

 

Examples of Heirloom Vegetables:

 

Beans – Kentucky Winder (vine type of bean), (1864), originally known as ‘Old Homestead’

Cabbage – (1840), ‘Early Wakefield’, ‘Early Jersey Wakefield’ (today).

Carrots – ‘Early Horn’ or ‘Early Scarlet Horn’

Corn – (1902) Gold Bantum      

Cucumber – (1872), ‘Improved Long green’, 10 – 12 inch cucumbers

Lettuce – (1835), ‘Paris White Cos’, Romaine

Melon – (1840), ‘Jenny Lind’ muskmelon

Radish – (1885), ‘French Breakfast’

Squash – (1798 seed brought to U.S.), ‘Hubbard’, ‘Blue Hubbard’. Warted Hubbard’

NOTE: 1842 – Mrs. Elizabeth Hubbard noted the taste, told her neighbor who was a nurseryman, and the grower named the squash after her.

Tomato – (1889), ‘Brandywine’

Some new varieties of vegetables for the coming 2013 year. (gathered from the internet)

'Cherokee Trail of Tears' Pole Bean
Simply the best bean there is. This bean was originally from the native North American Cherokee people.

In 1838 they were driven out of their homelands in the state of Georgia by the US government to make room for more European settlers , a forced march known as the 'Trail of Tears'. This bean is one of their heirlooms they managed to keep with them and has been passed on from generation to generation ever since.

We can see why the Cherokees valued it so much! It is incredibly prolific, cropping over a long season. We plant lots each year for our own use & feedback from all of you is always positive.

Neckargold’ Yellow Pole Bean NEW
This is a really, really good new bean for 2012.

We have been looking for ages for a good yellow climbing bean and finally we have found one.  Neckargold grows really tall and gives large numbers of long, glowing yellow beans.

Even the plants show up the color, with bright yellow stems. The yield of beans from this variety is excellent, and they stay stringless even up to 8 inches long.

It is later than our other beans, definitely mid season, but this is useful to extend your bean crop after the others start to trail off.

Semaroh NEW
This was a chance discovery in our pepper trials. The story behind this fine pepper is that in Czecheslovakia there was once a breeding program aiming to improve on the traditional chilli 'Palivec', and it actually generated a pair of new pepper varieties - one hot, the other sweet. This one, Semaroh, is the sweet one - early and productive, with lots of long sweet peppers with a goats-horn shape.

Heritage Seed Suppliers (Mail Order)

1.  Chilterns Seeds, Bortree Stile, Ulverston, Cumbria, LA12 7PB. (For more information telephone: 01229 581137, or e-mail: info@chilternseeds.co.uk). This company offers a selection of Oriental and uncommon vegetables, as well as many wild and ornamental plants.

2.  Chase Organics, Riverdene Business Park, Molesey Road, Hersham, Surrey, KT12 4RG. (Tel: 0845 130 1304.) The Organic Gardening Catalogue offers many traditional varieties and 19th century vegetables.

3.  Seeds-by-Size, 45 Crouchfield, Boxmoor, Hemel Hamstead, Hertfordshire. HP1 1PA. (Tel: 01442 251458.) This catalogue offers a wide range of open-pollinated and old vegetable varieties. Seeds can be purchased by weight. Hence the name!

4.  Thompson & Morgan are currently offering a Conservation (Heritage)  This collection consists of  6 packets of 10 tubers of the following varieties: Dunbar Rover, Highland Burgundy Red, Mr Little's Yetholm Gypsy, Salad Blue, Skerry Blue & Shetland Black. (Order Code: ZPP5210).  

Some good websites: Adobe Heritage Garden, Chilten Seeds (UK), Grow Organic Seeds of Change (USA).

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Deer and Dog

DEER AND DOGS
Alice Hemsath, Arboriculture Chairman

 

A month or so ago someone asked me about deer resistant plants and right off the top of my head I couldn’t answer her question.  So I decided to take this opportunity to do so.  From the information I’ve gleaned, deer are going to eat what deer are going to eat.  The best way to keep deer away is a tall electric fence; although I’ve heard some people have success with coyote urine.  There is a wealth of repellent products out there. An evergreen nursery out west had a novel way to keep deer away.  They fed them off site and found this method dramatically cut down on the damage they did to the trees and shrubs.  I don’t recommend this.

I’ve divided this list into plant types.  Annuals =  Ageratum, begonias, cleome, snapdragons, vinca, four o’clock, Baby’s breath, straw flower, lantana, phlox, salvia, marigolds, Sweet Alyssum, scented geraniums, Love-in-a-mist, verbena and zinnias.  Perennials =  Yarrow, Lily of the Valley, Bleeding heart, Iris, evening primrose, peonies, obedient plant, veronica, anemone, columbine, butterfly weed, Artemisia, Astilbe, Blackberry lily, Bergenia, Coreopsis, dianthus, Echinacea, Coral bells, lavender, Liatris, Bee Balm, Cat mint, Oriental poppy, Russian sage, Salvia, Lamb’s ear, Yucca.  I did not put Blanket flower on the list.  Deer may not eat it but the rabbits in our neighborhood definitely do! Grasses = (Deer rarely eat ornamental grasses).  Feather Reed grass, Blue Fescue grass, Maiden grass. Shrubs = Serviceberry, Butterfly bush, Box wood, Spirea, snowberry, barberry.     Trees = Blue spruce, Douglas fir, Birch, Eastern redcedar, Honeylocust, Ginkgo.

On to the matter with dogs. What mulch should I put in the yard that won’t hurt the dogs?  What plants are poisonous? Just this past week my brother called me asking me if he could ask me a stupid question.  First, I told him there were no stupid questions!  It appears Winston, their Scots terrier, eats everything in their yard.  From my Internet research dogs generally don’t eat plants!  We’ll start with the mulch.  Stone or rock mulch along fences works well.  If you want organic mulch, try cedar mulch.  Don’t use cocoa shell mulch as this has the same effect as chocolate. Now about the plants, don’t plant bulbs if your dog will dig up the bulbs.  If you put your houseplants outside in the summertime, be sure to put them up out of the reach of your dog. Here is my list of poisonous plants according to plant type.  Parts of this list are from the aspca.org website.

Annuals and vegetables = flowering tobacco, onions, rhubarb, lantana, lobelia, vinca, peony, coriander, parsley, corn, cucumbers, Gazania, spinach, tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini Perennials = Delphinium, foxglove, black-eyed Susan, iris, lily-of-the-valley, milkweeds, columbine Vines = grapes, ivy, morning glory, trumpet vine  Shrubs = azaleas, common boxwood, elderberry,  hydrangea, yews, buckthorn, honeysuckle, mock orange, privet, barberry,  juniper, arborvitae, black chokeberry, butterfly bush, yucca  Trees = buckeye, horse chestnut, juniper, Arborvitae, oaks (no acorns), cherry, crabapples, walnuts.

If I had pets I’d be sure to fence in my vegetable garden.  Another question I’ve been asked is how our garden is growing.  It’s been a long winter but the tulips and daffodils are finally getting ready to bloom.  And I can’t wait to get outside to plant and prune and fuss.  Enjoy your garden this spring!

 

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adhemsath@conpoint.com

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Emitter Head

Drip Irrigation Saves Time, Labor, and Water
Kris Thompson, Pollinator Chairman

Managing the watering needs of a home garden during a hot, dry summer can present a logistical challenge. That challenge is compounded when the garden requiring the irrigation is in a public park and maintained by volunteers who must travel to get to the garden. Installing an automated system to meet irrigation needs can save volunteer gardeners significant time, labor, and planning, as well as use water more efficiently.

This summer, members of the Plattsmouth Garden club installed a drip irrigation system into one of the gardens maintained by the club. The club used only in-house labor and learning from online tutorials to design and build the system. The result was the virtual elimination of watering chores, a significant reduction in weeding, and an estimated sixty-seven percent reduction in water use.

Background

In 2007, the Plattsmouth Garden Club undertook a project to establish a Veterans’ Memorial Garden at Garfield Park in Plattsmouth, Nebraska. The club designed and installed a densely-planted perennial and shrub garden around focal points of a historic granite boulder and flagpole. The planted areas cover approximately 450 square feet and were originally served by soaker hoses to meet the plants’ water needs.

Within a few years, the soaker hoses deteriorated and started to require frequent repair. After the soaker hoses failed, watering was then managed with an oscillating sprinkler. Using the sprinkler demanded frequent trips to the park to turn water on, turn water off, and re-position to water other zones. Overhead watering also left peripheral areas of the garden too dry while unnecessarily irrigating the gravel path and mulched areas, encouraging weed growth.

Drip irrigation was considered for the garden, due to drip irrigation’s advantages of efficient water use, targeted watering, and useful lifespan on the order of ten or more years. In 2012, the club obtained an estimate to have drip irrigation professionally installed into Veterans’ Memorial Garden, but the cost (approximately $1,500) was judged to be too high. Instead, in spring 2013 the club decided to install the drip system using in-house labor and study from online tutorials. The goals of the project were to provide for the garden’s water needs, reduce the time and effort required by the club to irrigate and maintain the garden, and reduce the water needed to irrigate the garden.

Installation

A proposed parts list and estimate were drawn up and a budget of $500 allocated for the job.  Members tested the water supply provided by the city of Plattsmouth to determine the water pressure and flow rate available to support the irrigation system. Based on the generous water flow rate available, members determined that the entire garden could be served by one circuit split into two main distribution lines, reducing the number of parts required. A spreadsheet was used to perform calculations to verify that the flow rates would support a split distribution system.

The main irrigation distribution lines were ½” polyethylene tubing connected with compression fittings. For most plants, pressure-compensating drip emitters that dispensed ½ gallon per hour (gph) were used. For shrubs and trees, two or more 1 gph emitters served each plant. In an area of groundcover and newly-planted perennials, a 14 gph microsprayer with a 6-12 foot diameter throw was used. Short runs of smaller 1/4" tubing were used where necessary to reach plants not near enough to the main lines. Emitters were also installed to the two sunken bowls that offer water for local birds and small wildlife, so that these could be refilled automatically.

 

A backflow preventer to protect the city water supply, 155 mesh stainless steel filter, and pressure regulator to reduce the system to 25 psi rounded out the basic system requirements. Finally, in order to minimize the human intervention required to keep the garden watered, the club installed a high-flow programmable timer.
The total time to complete the project was approximately 34 hours . Since the installation took place in late June/early July in an established and densely-planted garden, progress was significantly slower than would be possible in a new garden area. The completed system cost came in at about $360, approximately one-fourth of the cost estimate for an outside company to install the system.

Results

The new irrigation method successfully provided for the water needs of the garden while reducing the labor and water required. Instead of requiring an average of two hours a week during the season to travel to the garden and manually drag hoses and operate valves to run an overhead sprinkling system, watering operations were reduced to ten-minute checks of a stationary and automated system.

By applying water just where it was needed at the root zones of perennials, shrubs, and trees, garden health was maintained and improved. Distance and/or taller plants had prevented some of the areas from receiving adequate water through overhead irrigation, but now the targeted water application keeps the entirety of the lushly-planted landscape healthy. Another benefit of the targeted watering is that weed germination has been reduced in the mulched paths and borders of the garden, leading to less maintenance work for club volunteers.

The drip irrigation system is estimated to be using 67% less water than the sprinkler method used, saving the city an estimated 44,000 gallons per year. The flow rate of the drip system as configured is less than half that of a sprinkler, and by applying the water only where needed, the overall watering duration is reduced as well. Drip watering also means that visitors or gardeners may traverse the park while the system is running without being sprayed by water.

Summary

The Plattsmouth Garden Club’s investment in a drip irrigation system freed club volunteers from the season-long time and physical challenges of routine watering.  Other maintenance items such as excess weeding, replacing drought-stressed plants, and damage from dragging water hose were also mitigated, leaving members more time and energy for more constructive activity. Finally, the drip system used significantly less water than the sprinkler system.

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Red  Poinsettia
Horticulture in Winter
Del Hemsath, Horticulture Chairman


As the current season winds down to an almost stand-still in the garden, we green thumb people dream about the poinsettia, amaryllis and Christmas cactus that will actually give us some indoor natural color on a living plant (we are big dreamers).

Some folks are excellent at having these plants around the house and having them bloom at the correct time of the year. Listed below are some tips from a book I obtained in Utah while attending the RMR meeting entitled ”Joy in Your Garden” by Joy Bossi and Karen Bastow.

Poinsettia – these plants are native to Mexico and grow to astounding heights as compared to what we are accustomed to. Being an equatorial plant, might indicate what it does not like here in Nebraska – our cold temperatures, dry climate, and heated homes. So, breeders have modified the tall plant and through chemical treatments keep them small for a pot and have all the colors created to make even more sales. So, in order to keep your plant looking the best, here are a few tips: 1) never expose the plant to cool temperatures even from the store to your car. Keep the car warm until you get home and use paper bags or other wind protectors from the store to your car and from your car to your home. Once in your home, protect the plant from direct heated air. Plants like it warm and humidity of 50 percent or higher. Humidity this high is very hard to achieve with forced air heating so good luck on that one. One can use water over the air ducts to help, but realize that this part is going to be hard. Use a humidity gauge to see how you are doing, 2) remove the plastic foil that covers the pot. Most folks do not do this and this will shorten the life of the plant. If you want the sleeve to remain, poke some holes in the foil on the bottom to allow drainage of excess water into a saucer for the pot, and 3) keep the potting soil just moist. Enjoy! If you are trying to save the plant to put outside, place the plant near a window with good light and one can transplant outside and some folks have been very successful at keeping a plant for several years and even getting it to bloom again. It is best to leave it or place it in a bigger pot and put the whole container in the ground for easy removal and transfer to your home in the fall.

Amaryllis – these wonderful large flowered plants are one of my favorites for the holidays. Just follow the guidelines on the tag for best results. It is pretty easy. One can try to keep the plant year round if you want a challenge. We have tried to do this but the plant has rebelled and not bloomed again. But it was fun just observing the large vertical leaves and the comments from visitors.
Christmas Cactus – this is the best one in my opinion to grow and keep for many years. Blooming time should be around Christmas as the name implies, but ours blooms whenever it wants in the winter so that part is good. The key is not to move the plant once it is in the house. It likes the same location with the sun at the same angle all of the time. That perfect spot has indirect light from a window, cool night time temperatures, and no drafts. So the back bedroom is a good spot for most plants for the off season and moved out to show the folks during the winter as long as one keeps the same side of the plant toward the window. The plant is not a desert plant as the name mightimply, but rather a tropical plant in jungles where they grow on the upper branches of the trees with constant moisture and filtered sunlight. Keep your potting soil moist during the blooming season and left to dry just a little between watering during the resting period. It also prefers the roots to be pot bound, so don’t worry too much about re-potting the plant. If the plant does not bloom for an entire year or it wants to topple the pot, repot!

The rest of the winter, enjoy your seed catalogs and try some new varieties of vegetables or flowers in 2014.
Enjoy!

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Charlotte Swanson with Dalias
FLOWERS FURTHER AFIELD

Charlotte Swanson, Wildflower and Native Plants Chairman

While I enjoy spending time in my own garden, I do dream about visiting other gardens further afield. This year being one of those '"change of decade" birthdays, I was treated to one of my favorite flower dream destinations--Portland, Oregon--where one of my flower favorites flourish. For many years I have included dahlias in my garden, savoring their late season cheer and color. It just so happens that the Swan Island Dahlia Farm with its forty acres of dahlias is in full glory in late August, the very weekend of my birthday. So it came to pass--my husband and I participated in their festival this year. Standing among 40 acres of dahlias is close to being in the middle of an organic rainbow. In every direction the color is overwhelming, dazzling the senses. This family-owned farm is quite the wonder and success. Each year the festival is held on site in Canby, about 30 minutes from Portland. The storage barn is used to hold classes on growing and arranging dahlias by the family members who put in countless hours growing and harvesting the beauties that shine from the fields.

During the festival there are food vendors to feed the appetite for food but the display area for the arranged dahlias satisfy the visual appetite for beauty. Literally hundreds of arrangements of fresh-cut dahlias are posed to strike awe in the underground dahlia bunker. Carefully named and artfully positioned, these testaments to the diversity of the dahlia in both form and color provide a jam-packed eye candy store for the soul! End result? Loads of pictures and long lists of dahlias yet to try in the years to come. What's more, a deeper appreciation is developed for those who toil in the earth so that all I have to do is choose and plant in the spring.

Should your flower fantasy include dahlias--you might want to browse their website: www.dahlias.com for a future festival. We could compare our wish lists later!
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Maple Leaves
Forests of Nebraska
Del Hemsathe, Horticulture Chairman


I thought that I would share some information that comes from the Nebraska Forest Service Annual Report for 2012. I received the report too late for the first quarter news letter, but the information is still relevant.

“Nebraska experienced the worst fire year on record in 2012, burning nearly 500,000 acres (68,634 of which were forested), 65 structures, hundreds of miles of fence and costing at least $12 million. Tragically, we are losing the Pine Ridges’ iconic forests to repeated massive wildfires. Thirty years of inventory data tell a sobering story – nearly two-thirds of the Pine Ridge forests have been lost to fire, converted to degraded grassland.” These data probably would be small when compared to other western States that are primarily forested, but in Nebraska, we all realize the value of trees, not only for a forest, but for windbreaks around homes and in communities for energy savings, providing wildlife habitat, protecting fields from wind erosion and increasing our property values, in a State primarily known as a Prairie grassland State.

Wildfires, however, are not the only concern; here are other concerns facing our trees: 1) Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) which kills all North American species of ash. Nearest infestation is Kansa City, Kansas, 2) Thousand Canker Disease (TCD) which infests our Black Walnut and destroys the wood for furniture and other interior design work , 3) Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) attacks many species of trees, but maples  are especially susceptible, 4) Dutch Elm Disease which has just about eliminated the American Elm from the landscape,5) Pine Wilt which attacks Scotch Pine, 6) Diplodia Tip Blight affects pine trees in general and 7) Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) affecting native ponderosa and Scotch pine in the Wildcat Hills and Pine Ridge. Many of these problems are advancing from one area of Nebraska to another.

Add to the insect and disease problem is environmental stress of drought and heat. White pines suffered in 2012 as well as other pines and as many as 48,000 white and other pines will die this year (2013) if drought continues. Drought puts additional stress on trees and allows the disease and insects to infest the trees. Normally, extra watering of trees is not recommended after establishment, but for

those younger trees that are still developing a root system, additional water would help in survival during extreme drought conditions which covered 95% of Nebraska last year. Even after establishment, many trees reach their limit on environmental stress and will be affected.

Our forests in Nebraska are changing species as well, with eastern red cedar acreage increasing in acreage from 172,200 acres to 350,000 acres in the past 7 years. Red Cedar provides an opportunity for untapped energy resource of 5.5 million tons of wood in red cedar forests. Several facilities are using this renewable energy source and include the Lied Lodge in Nebraska City, Chadron State College in Chadron, the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis, and alfalfa dehydrators across Nebraska.

Combating this wide spectrum of insects, disease and weather is difficult but each person can contribute by becoming more knowledgeable of tree species diversity, having a plan for your local area, becoming involved in your community tree board, promoting the planting of trees and becoming more like “Johnny Appleseed” and plant a tree.

We live in an interesting State with many challenges, so … go plant a tree!

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Charlotte Grace

GARDEN FAVORITES REVIEWED
Charlotte Swanson, Wildflower and Native Plant Chairman

 

Spring has come and gone--that intense period of plotting and planting has left its evidence in plain sight.  As I survey the results, I marvel that some of those seeds sown are now blooming at me at eye level and above!  For example, the mina lobata vine, intertwined with a morning glory vine on my weathered garden arch is now beyond my reach.  Though the morning glory would prefer full sun, it has settled for less but still splashes color my way when I do my early watering ritual.  The mina lobata's miniature blooms last all day, but their
 Antique car filled with flowers
nicely sculpted leaves are the main prize. An unexpected addition to my garden this year was the arrival of a 1927 Model T touring car.  Riddled by bullet holes and repainted by nature in shades of rust, its patina is as smooth as chocolate.  No longer equipped to move on its own power, it was hauled in by my classic car-loving husband who donated it as garden art. Begging to be filled with passengers, the topless antique was filled with dark sunflowers, red cannas, flowing brick orange petunias and a dash of bright green 'Angelina' sedum.  The engine block was turned upside down and sported the flower power of red and yellow gazanias.  Surrounded by the wildflower 'Bouncing Betty', the old '27 has sparked a few conversations this summer.  It also inspired my planting choices for a nearby whiskey barrel:  dark brown ornamental millet 'Purple Majesty', straw yellow petunias 'Prism Sunshine', a rust-hued sweet potato vine 'Sweet Georgia Bronze' and a small deep purple petunia rimmed in creme 'Cascadias Rim Magenta'.  I smile when I pass it, remembering my husband's penchant for surprises.

old bicycle
Another  'objet d'art' that my husband contributed to the garden a few years back--a rusty ole bike--now holds an attached basket of 'Hare's Tail' grass (Lagurus ovatus).  This cute little grass, 8-10 inches high, is a delightful annual--easy to start from seed indoors--and perks up whatever spot that it occupies.  A first timer to my garden this season, it is on the return list.

Old Garden Gate

Another favorite among the donations that my husband has made to my garden is an old metal garden gate--also a matte rust hue--was the backdrop for a vining sweetpea 'Cupani's Original'.  It too is an antique--going back to Europe in 1699.  The brilliant color combination of deep purple and red is well suited for the aged gate.  Fragrant and fruitful, this delightful vine can be planted in mid-March and rewards the gardener with months of color, especially if its feet are kept shaded and reasonably moist.

I must mention a new comer to my garden whose foliage I greatly admire.  It is the 'Pretoria' canna.  Also nick-named "Bengal tiger" canna, its narrowly striped creme and

green leaves unfurl into large ovals edged in a thin line of red.  I've yet to see the orange bloom due to the late start it got in my garden, but I'm not concerned as its foliage is so stellar that I can forgive the late bloom.


Charlotte Grace

Last but not least, I mention with a smile several newcomers to a flower bed that I started for our brand new (and first) grandchild: Charlotte Grace.  I don't have to be pushed very far to buy roses in the first place, but when I discovered that David Austin had developed roses christened with the names 'Charlotte' and 'Grace' they had to be a mainstay in this bed celebrating my granddaughter.  And the story gets sweeter: I also found an oriental lily called 'Bonbini' that means welcome.  The 'Charlotte' rose is a soft yellow, the 'Grace' is soft apricot-pink.  The 'Bonbini' is both.

How I look forward to the day when Charlotte Grace can pick these flowers and know their story.

How wonderful it is to garden and celebrate life!

Spring Planting
Del Hemsath, Horticulture Chairman

The spring of 2013 has been a more normal spring than that of 2012. Crops in the garden have actually been able to survive with some natural rainfall and more normal temperatures. In my garden, there have been few insect problems, only a little disease problem and few weeds. So this has been a great year for growing those fresh veggies. Hopefully, your garden has been good to you as well. I would like to repeat a topic that was presented last year about planting a fall garden to extend the fresh produce from our garden. I did not hear from anyone that their attempt at fall gardens was successful or a failure, so I urge you to try one if you have not in the past.

 

First, evaluate the plants that can be planted for fall gardens. All of the cool season vegetables can be considered which includes snap beans, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, spinach, cabbage, carrots, leaf lettuce, head lettuce and even other crops like potatoes can be planted late and enjoyed as fresh.

 

Second, consider when to plant the seed or the transplant. One must consider the time of the first frost in the fall and how long it takes the crop to mature. Fall planted beans are sensitive to frost and thus, must be planted early enough to avoid the killing fall frost and still give a crop of beans. Other more hardy, cold tolerant crops like broccoli or cabbage can be planted the first of September and the colder temperatures can enhance the flavor of the crop.

 

Third, if wanting to do transplants, one will need to grow your own as garden centers don’t handle plants for fall gardens. They will sell you seeds for the next spring period, so one must plan ahead and buy seeds early to plant directly into the soil during the summer. Planting during the summer can be a challenge as the soil dries out very quickly or the young sprout will not be able to survive the hot temperatures. One can sprout the seeds before being planted thus to ensure that the seed has actually germinated.  Care must then be directed to the young sprout.

 

Fourth, one must consider the fertility of the soil from the use during the spring and early summer. A layer of compost, manure or chemical fertilizer might be required for best production. Mulching the plants after emergence will be a key to keep soil moist, cool and aid in growth of the plant.

 

Perhaps one does not want to do a full garden as one is tired of the past garden and wants to take it easy. One can plant perhaps only one crop like broccoli, which does very well in the fall and has a better flavor than the spring planted crop.

 

If this fall is an extended one, this could be a very garden productive year that all will remember. One might even consider some container gardening to reduce the amount of work one must do and still enjoy the fresh tasting veggies.

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