Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankful for CORN on Thanksgiving Day

Happy Thanksgiving!

Can a small ear of corn give so much pleasure to the palate?  In a word… YES!!  Corn has been a staple of our American diet for centuries, and although it is considered a carbohydrate, most people can indulge in an ear of buttered corn (or a bowl of corn) and find great pleasure in its simplicity and flavor.
In late summer, my husband and I were invited to pick our own sweet corn at a friend’s farm in Washington County (Wisconsin)—owned by The Heidtke’s (see photo).  This family-owned farm was established in 1846 and continues to grow corn and soy crops today.   
Besides corn and soy, the Heidtke’s also supply our garden center with truckloads of straw bales and dried corn stalks  every autumn for our harvest and hayride activities.  We can count on the Heidtke farm to provide enough straw for our straw bale maze, climbing mountain and, of course, the haywagon.
Wisconsin is blessed to have a plethora of corn fields throughout our state—each of them tended by a caring farmer.  This Thanksgiving Day, when giving thanks, count our Wisconsin family farmers among your blessings.   Be sure to pass a dish of CORN at your Thanksgiving table!


M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Small tomatoes with BIG flavor!


Mexico Midget Tomato…big flavor, small packaging

A single ‘Mexico Midget’ heirloom tomato plant is the perfect addition to your veggie garden… this summer it found a happy place in mine!  The plant is indeterminate and by July achieved a height of more than six feet (with support). 

Tiny, flavor-packed fruits began to appear in late July, and I was eager to taste them.  Fruits range from ½” – ¾”  and the “packaging” is a delicate, thin skin that melts in your mouth.  These tomatoes add color and pizzazz to your favorite salads and will provide a lovely garnish for your casseroles. My plant continued to yield hundreds of tomatoes throughout August and early September.  (I photographed a few in hand to show how tiny the fruits are at maturity.)

Solanum lycoperisicum ‘Mexico Midget’ will find a home in my veggie garden next summer too, since it was a great performer in 2013.   It maintained healthy leaf tissue throughout our wet-dry-hot-cold Wisconsin growing conditions (and I did NOT spray chemicals on my edibles—no fungus, nor blight developed.)   Fruits were plentiful and picturesque, and each little gem was flavorful without being too acidic.  Try ‘Mexico Midget’ in your veggie garden next year… stand back and watch it grow!

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Monday, August 26, 2013

Warty, Winged & Wonderful :)


Warty, winged and wonderful… grow your own gourds!

Plants have “personalities”—some seem calming, others are bold and beautiful.   But ornamental gourds offer characteristics ranging from FUN to FUNKY, and add a splash of color and whimsy to your autumn décor.

Although I’ve often grown gourds in our home garden, last year I purchased some winged gourds (genus Cucurbita) and saved the seeds for planting this summer.  In early June I planted a dozen seeds in our southern exposure garden.  Gourds are heavy feeders, so I sprinkled a bit of fertilizer over the seeded area.  Soon cotyledons emerged; then leaves formed, and vines developed soon after.      

Velvety, vivid yellow-orange blossoms appeared, which were attractive to pollinators, and soon tiny gourds formed.   By mid-August I harvested my first winged gourd, but it was still a bit soft around the edges, so I allowed remaining gourds to develop fully and form firm outer shells.  (Since I enjoy decorating with gourds through late November, allowing outer shells to mature is preferable. Gourds with soft shells can shrivel and rot prematurely… be patient!)

Gourds and pumpkins (a type of gourd) share the same genus, Cucurbita.  Their growing habits are similar also, but the pumpkins I have grown in the past took longer to reach maturity.  This summer, the winged gourds were ready to pick in less than 90 days.  There are additional gourds developing which should be mature by mid-September—then the vines will be added to our compost bins, while the winged gourds will be enjoyed indoors for the next few months. 

NOTE:  Gourds and pumpkins will be available soon 
at Lammscapes!  in Jackson. Come visit to find some FUN and FUNKY gourds for your autumn décor.   Save the seeds in a dark, dry place and try your hand at growing gourds next season!

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer Herbs for Summer Drinks!


Summer Herbs… enhance and flavor your drinks!

In late July herbs are plentiful in many home gardens… those culinary herbs find their way into lots of casseroles and salads, but have you added them to your summer drinks?   Lots of possibilities await you… give your herbs a dip into an icy concoction and notice the subtle flavors the herbs impart to your favorite drink.

This afternoon I experimented with lavender blossoms (Lavendula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ is blooming nicely in my garden—smells good—tastes great!)   Lavender lemonade should be made ahead so it can be fully chilled before serving:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lavender Lemonade

Two cups water + one-third cup white sugar (bring to a boil; remove from heat).
Add   8 – 10 sprigs of freshly picked lavender buds (no foliage please).
Cover and allow to sit one hour; this will extract flavors from lavender buds.   Remove sprigs of lavender with small strainer.   Add this lovely liquid into one quart of your favorite lemonade.   Add ice and fresh lemon slices; chill.

Variation:  Add the lavender liquid to one quart lemon iced tea.  Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Be creative—think SWEET—think SAVORY.    Limeade with Mojito mint… lemonade enhanced with lemon basil.  Try it… you’ll LIKE it!!

SATURDAY  (AUG 3, 2013) visit LAMMSCAPES!  for our “Sweets & Treats” garden tea party.   We’ll show you how to find refreshing goodness in your garden— please join us for tea!    LAMMSCAPES!   2708 Sherman Road, Jackson WI  53037

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

In Honor of Mother's Day!


Plan to Play in Your Garden!

With Mothers’ Day approaching, make a plan to play in your garden with the young children in your life on a sunny day this spring.  The simplest equation can lead to happy moments and lasting memories:  moms/grandmas/aunts + kids + garden soil + seeds and sunshine = FUN!   As an added bonus, you should enjoy pretty flowers or fresh veggies in months ahead.

Gardening with children is filled with “teachable moments” and also encourages patience as they wait for sprouts to emerge and buds to form.  Even after the fruit or flower forms, they can observe the changes as each comes to fruition.

If you have a small child, grandchild, young niece or nephew, I encourage you to devote a small portion of your garden to those children and allow them “artistic license” when planting… (straight rows are not required!)

I’d like to share my recipe for FUN IN THE SUN, in honor of Mothers’ Day:

Ingredients

1 or 2 small children

One small plot of rich, loose soil** (use ribbon or yarn to mark off their garden)
  **can use large container if garden space is unavailable

Little garden tools, hand trowels, shovels

Kid-sized garden gloves (see photo)

Seeds or small plants (or both!)

Small watering can with water

Lots of love

Directions:   Plant, play, giggle, get dirty, enjoy the moment, enjoy the day!

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"Yes! You Can" - Pruning the Canopy of a Tree


"Yes, you can!"
Pruning Trees & Shrubs
Part II - Pruning the Canopy
1.    Now we will do the detail work in the canopy of the tree.  Use a good ladder!  This magnolia has some dead stubs left over from poor previous pruning.  Cut off the stubs, again flush with the trunk at an angle.

 

2.    The last step is to thin the canopy.  We want to create a canopy that is uniform and open, to allow good air circulation for the leaves.  Find any overcrowded areas where there are many branches emerging close together, and choose some of the smaller ones to remove. Use your previous experience: look for crossing or rubbing branches, and also those which are growing towards the inside of the tree.  We want to encourage branches which are growing outward and upward, and not towards the center of the tree where they are likely to run into other branches.  However, don’t get too prune-happy with flowering species such as this magnolia (or crabapples, for instance) because the little branches carry the flower buds.   Here, we have before and after pictures of some thinning cuts, eliminating some minor growth to let larger branches grow strong!
 

        Before thinning                                                                 After thinning
 
 

                                                                                                                         After Thinning
        Before thinning

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
3.    Here we are!  Bottoms up, your shrub or small tree will be

       ~ clean around the bottom - you pruned off the suckers!

            ~ spreading open in the middle - you pruned out crossing/rubbing stems!

                ~ open in the canopy - you pruned out minor branches in crowded areas!

 

The best part of pruning is admiring your renovated tree or shrub!

 

We pruned this unkempt magnolia...  
 
 
 
 

            Into this lovely magnolia!

                       

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
And look at your nicely pruned Japanese tree lilac!  Remember the lilac tree we started this pruning tutorial with?
 
 

Beautiful & ready to bloom this season!

"YES, you can!" Pruning Tips for Suckers & Rubbing Branches


 

"Yes, you can!"

Prune your trees and shrubs
Part I - Removing suckers & rubbing branches

In this tutorial, we are restoring two multi-stem shrubs, a magnolia and a Japanese tree lilac, that have gone unpruned for several years.  These general pruning techniques are applicable for any of your trees or larger, tree-like shrubs.  We like to do pruning in early spring before tree leaves obscure our view of branch structure, but this type of pruning may be done any time of year.


 1.   Start at the bottom.  Look for suckers, which are small shoots growing from the base alongside the trunk.  Suckers need to be removed before they get big enough to start diverting energy from the growth of the main trunk.  Cut them off with a sharp pruners or saw. 



 

 
2.   Now the we can clearly see the base of the magnolia, sucker-free.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
3.   Now we can examine the structure of the larger stems as they grow from the ground and start to branch.  We want these stems to be healthy and uniformly spaced so they can form a nice crown to the tree.  Look especially for large stems that are crossing or rubbing, like the two on the left.  This creates wounds which are good entry points for insects and disease. 

 

 

4.    Decide which stems to retain at the bottom by looking at how they progress further up the tree.  Often, a branch crossing or rubbing near the bottom is also causing similar problems further up.  Imagine the gap you will leave in the canopy when you cut out your ‘culprit’ branch, but don’t be afraid if there is a space for now - the ‘culprit’ will only cause worse problems in the future!  Here, we cut off the smaller of the rubbing stems.


 










5.    Now that we addressed crossing branches at the bottom of the tree, we continue to look for similar problems further into the crown.  Here is an area with multiple small crossing branches.  We removed two of these, opening the area up so the remaining branches can grow healthily!  Be sure to cut these branches off flush with the trunk so the wound can heal over well - no stubs left over on the main trunk.
 

6.    We have now established a nice structure to the bottom of the tree - no crossing or rubbing branches, and the remaining stems are more uniformly spaced and have room to grow.

 
Check out Part II of this pruning tutorial next:  Pruning the canopy of the tree
 
 
           

                       

 

 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sweet Sounds of Springtime!




Although springtime has arrived (on the calendar) in Southeast Wisconsin, many of us still have a considerable amount of snow in our yards… but there is HOPE! While outdoors this past week, I listened for those sweet sounds of springtime and was pleased to hear many of our migratory birds have returned to this area. 

Although our American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is the official State Bird of Wisconsin, many other birds also have made appearances during March.  Who can resist stopping to listen to the definitive warble of a sandhill crane, as it rides the wind currents to return from its winter getaway.  The trill of a redwing blackbird is a welcome sound this time of year, along with that loud-and-clear mating call of the male cardinal.  A variety of feathered friends gather on our feeders, twittering and chirping to one another, enjoying the few rays of sunshine that pierced the clouds, and snitching a seed or two before moving on.

Neighborhood children also provide some welcome sounds of springtime, as they bring out their bicycles for the first time, and giggle with each other as they share silly secrets.   Our longer days will keep grownups outdoors a bit longer too, which means the crackle of backyard campfires, and the sweet sounds of conversations with friends and neighbors.  

As we observe additional bird species arriving from the south, soon we’ll be cleaning out our hummingbird feeders and setting out oranges and grape jam for the orioles.  Enjoy the sweet sounds of springtime… while they last!

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Must eliminate Garlic Mustard!


"LIVING THE GOOD LIFE IN SHADE"

The Garlic Mustard and Buckthorn Battle continues...
                                                                          (part 2)

 
So how does a homeowner truly rid themselves of Garlic Mustard and Buckthorn?    

The simple and direct answer:    BY REMAINING DILIGENT.

 
Let’s focus on controlling Garlic Mustard.  It is beneficial to know it is a biennial plant.   This means that the first year the plant has leaves only and when the plant returns the second year it has leaves and flowers, and so produces seeds.  From the various articles & research, when dispersed, these seeds may lay dormant in the soil for 7 years or longer.    Thus, our goal is to prioritize getting rid of the second year plants first, BEFORE THEY SET SEED AFTER FLOWERING. 

 
There are two primary methods of removal.     

Using an herbicide with Glysophate, (such as KillzAll and is available in our garden center) or hand pulling the plant.  I have used both methods in our backyard woodland area.   If you don’t mind using an herbicide, the Killzall is easy for large areas infested with Garlic Mustard.    The disadvantage of using this product is that it kills all plants it comes in contact with…thus some of the native plants in our yard were also killed.  The natives may be living among the garlic mustard, whether you see them or not.

 

Hand pulling is better for the environment, but is certainly more time consuming.     I am obsessed with pulling garlic mustard and have hired the neighborhood teenager to help me CONQUER AND DESTROY each year.  In these areas I see native plants now thriving.

 

Please share how you are controlling this annoying plant, and admit if you are as consumed with eradicating it as I am! 

Stay tuned…. Next blog will cover how I’m controlling Buckthorn in our wooded backyard.

 
LoriAnne Haischer
Landscape Designer and Horticulturist
LAMMSCAPES!

Friday, March 15, 2013

"The Unmistakeable Charm of a Melting Snow Bank"

Spring is on the way!

Surely, those of us who reside in Wisconsin can appreciate the charm and peculiar beauty of a melting snow bank in March… it signals the onset of spring!   Melting March snow also improves the water table of our soil and provides moisture for turf grass roots just below the soil surface.  Sadly, much of our melting snow finds its way into the storm sewers, especially if we experience a sudden warming trend.  A gradual thaw is more desirable, which enables most melted snow to seep into the soil slowly and percolate through to soil pore spaces below.

Since we experienced a severe drought last summer, many plantings were already stressed and water starved when winter arrived.  We will continue to witness stressed plantings—trees, shrubs, turf—as we proceed into spring and summer.

As snow continues to melt exposing patches of turf, we may observe the ravages of winter snow-load, as well as fungal diseases like snow mold.   Melting snow banks might also reveal damage caused by “visitors” like deer, rabbits, voles, moles, and other critters which wreak havoc with our landscape.

When all snow banks in your yard have melted, it will be time to determine action required to bring your lawn back to its lush and lovely appearance.  Following are a few tips I’ve learned in turf classes and seminars:

Avoid walking on soggy, saturated turfgrass; compaction is never a good thing and causes damage to soil structure below.

Don’t use a heavy rolling device to “even out” lumpy turf; Kentucky blue grass and other desirables HATE compaction!  Weeds don’t mind compacted soil… rolling your turf grass allows weeds to thrive AND deters grass from thriving/spreading.

If renovation is required (starting over), take this opportunity to sculpt the area properly, recreating swales where appropriate.  Bring in only SCREENED TOPSOIL to spread over planting area. Use a quality blended seed mixture (not just one species); spread area with covering of straw to prevent erosion, and WATER!

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Shady Characters!


LIVING THE GOOD LIFE IN SHADE

The Garlic Mustard and Buckthorn Battle

 Since our home is located at the edge of the woods and we have a view of the woodland area from our family room window, it is my obsession to keep the area free of garlic mustard and buckthorn.  As a landscape designer and horticulturist at LAMMSCAPES!

it is my goal to keep the woodland edge as natural as possible, though I am not a purist with using native plantings.

Several future blogs will touch upon living in a naturally wooded and shaded yard.

 
We have lived in our home for thirteen years, and I began the battle with garlic mustard about eleven years ago.   All be-it naïve at the time we moved in, the “native” plant with the “pretty white spring flowers” seemed delightful.   Unfortunately, as I found out quickly, this plant became prolific and invasive.  See the photos below.

 

                                    Garlic Mustard
The buckthorn must not have been too bad when we moved in, because the kids could run freely in the woods, building their forts and getting around easily.   

Several years after living in our home, the kids became teenagers and chose organized sports over “playing in the woods”.   Suddenly, it seemed, the buckthorn became so thick it was difficult to get a few feet in to the woodland area. 

 

See photo below help to you ID buckthorn in your yard.

 

              

 

Stay tuned for future blogs topics on how to keep up with the never ending battle of keeping these two invasive plants at bay!

 

LoriAnne Haischer

LAMMSCAPES!  Horticulturist & Landscape Designer

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mommies & Babies :)


Mommies and Babies

Plant Biology class (or a middle school science teacher) likely introduced us to the concept of sexual reproduction between plants.  I know it’s difficult to believe that in middle school we are exposed to what some might consider “plant pornography,” but our scientific community understands there are males and females within plant species.  Often fruit trees require a male cultivar and separate female cultivar to encourage fertilization, enabling development of fertilized blossoms into fruits.  (i.e., Apricot ‘Sungold’ requires Apricot ‘Moongold’ as its mating pair, resulting in an abundant crop of lovely, delicious stone fruits.)

The mommies and babies for today’s blog post are not actually fruits, but are more like clones of the mother plant.  Some plants, like German Ivy shown here, are prolific at generating new leaves. Taking cuttings from the parent plant and rooting those cuttings in water for a few weeks will produce a new baby plant—a smaller version of its mother.  (The mother plant shown here was initially the same size as the small plant shown on my photo; the mother plant is a few years old, and I’ve done numerous cuttings, creating several new baby plants.)

Another mommy and baby are shown here… my “mother” Amaryllis bulb over the past few years has provided a few baby bulbs, which develop near the base of the mother bulb.  When the juvenile bulb has fully developed and separates from the primary bulb, it can be carefully severed and planted in its own pot. (NOTE: in its first year, abundant foliage should emerge from bulb— but no blossoms—it is still in its juvenile phase. The foliage creates sugars, which feed and nurture the baby bulb.  By the second year, it should be capable of producing its first bloom.)

Learning about the reproductive capabilities of various plant species provides us with a deeper understanding of our plant world… since gardeners and horticulturists are caregivers for much of our plant world, it becomes critical to gain knowledge and respect for our wondrous variety of plants.

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Winter is the time to PLAN your perennial garden - then you're ready to PLANT in Spring!


Drought-tolerant perennials for YOUR space!

A successful plant-driven garden design requires planning before planting, and winter is the perfect time of year to consider which plants might succeed if Southeast Wisconsin is stricken with another drought like the summer of 2012.   Some perennials thrive in hot, dry conditions while others struggle, but survive.

Advance planning may help to avoid costly mistakes when selecting plants for your garden space, and plant knowledge is key to your success… which perennials can handle drought and still remain attractive throughout the growing season?  My “short list” appears below… perennials which add color and charm to your garden, even when rainfall and irrigation are limited.  NOTE: New plantings need additional water to become well established and fully drought tolerant.
Yarrow
(genus Achillea) commonly available in shades of yellow and some pastels

Tickseed (genus Coreopsis) a daisy-like yellow flower on tall, slender stems

Coneflower (genus Echinacea) now available in several pastel and bold colors

Catmint (genus Nepeta) an aggressive plant with a striking aroma; cultivar ‘Walker’s Low’ is utilized in landscape designs and provides silvery blue foliage

Lavender (genus Lavandula) several cultivars available, each with its own charm, but all offer the intensely scented foliage and flowers we know and love!

Stonecrop/sedum (genus Sedum) nearly 400 species of flowering ground covers and tall flowering varieties available 

Russian Sage (genus Perovskia) silvery grey foliage with bluish purple blossoms

Peony (genus Paeonia) several cultivars and colors available; can handle drought conditions and may bloom earlier when moisture is lacking, but plant can survive

I suggest you Google® on the genus names provided above to help you become acquainted with each drought lover listed. When it’s time to buy, choose wisely!

M. Lynn Schmid,   Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture