Sunday, July 24, 2022

Kohlrabi Krazy!

Love eating fresh, raw kohlrabi… in past years, to get enough of this crispy veggie when in season, I had to purchase from farmers’ markets or grocery stores.
  Although I have more than 40 years’ experience growing flowers, shrubs, veggies and herbs, kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea) has rarely been a successful crop in my home garden.

Cabbage white butterflies are extremely prolific in this area of Wisconsin, and they LOVE to lay eggs on leaves of anything in Brassica genus.  I utilize organic gardening practices so I prefer not to use powders or any insecticides, especially on food crops!  So, by July of each summer past, my fleshy thick kohlrabi leaves were consumed by those not-so-nice cabbage white butterfly larvae.

When I determined I could provide a non-chemical barrier to keep the cabbage whites off my plants, I knew it was worth a try.   My husband designed and constructed a 12” x 24” x 15” tall cage using hardware cloth (a stiff metal mesh that rarely rusts).   The sections of this mesh are 1/2” wide, so cabbage whites cannot fly through to get to the young plants… SUCCESS!   Pictures show that the “U” shape works well and allows enough space for developing foliage of each plant.   One 12” x 24” x 15” cage can hold SIX kohlrabi seedlings.  NOTE: You could build a larger cage for your plants if you wish, but keep in mind, these units must be stored with your garden supplies each year and do take up some space.

The cultivar I chose for this season is called ‘Winner’ and it is appropriately named! Excellent taste and texture… can be eaten in salads or slaws

 It can grow to 18 ozs. per fruit, but I harvested most when they were the size of a tennis ball.  One plant remains in the garden (all alone in its cage) and I will be patient while it matures further.  One of the claims for ‘Winner’ is that it is resistant to splitting so I feel confident waiting a bit longer to harvest my final kohlrabi of the summer  season. 

Although I understand this form of intervention would not be practical for cauliflower, cabbage or broccoli (due to overall size of these plants), it surely worked well for THIS GARDENER, who is just a bit kohlrabi krazy!

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

Friday, July 8, 2022

A Summer Wardrobe for your Plants!


Early July is the perfect time to wear your new summer apparel… shorts, capris, sandals… whatever you enjoy most.
  For those of us who live in Northern States, July usually provides enough warm weather so that each of us can savor those sunny days.  Even Fairbanks, Alaska (where I lived in the early 70’s) has several summer days in the 80’s… along with about 22 hours of daylight around Summer Solstice.   Just as humans enjoy our summer wardrobe, plants can benefit from a summer wardrobe as well:

Some annuals and perennials will benefit from “top dressing”

which involves mixing TWO CUPS  compost or organic matter with a teaspoon of organic, granular fertilizer.  For small plants, place one cup of this mixture around the base of each plant and water in; the water should percolate through root zone of the plant and will carry nutrients and moisture to each plant’s roots.   

NOTE:  Remember MORE is not BETTER.  Many plants take a time out during hottest months; give a gentle nudge with top dressing—do not push plants with excessive fertilizer in July!

Plants like zucchini or pumpkins will benefit from a light covering of straw mulch across complete root zone.  Pumpkins will develop vines and creep over the straw, rooting occasionally along the way.  Straw also conserves moisture and reduces weeds in your pumpkin patch. You can place this straw covering at the time you plant seeds, but can also spread straw after plants have emerged.

Stone mulch is not my favorite, since stones absorb heat from the sun and reflect it back at bottom branches of plants.  I would never suggest using stones under any evergreen trees… it is a form of plant abuse in my opinion!  Colored or white stones CAN BE USED around plants like tall sedum (or ‘Postman’s Pride’ stonecrop, shown here.) Sedum and succulents can handle some reflective heat, so light-colored stones should be fine surrounding those plants.

Hostas are versatile plants and can be mulched with shredded hardwood if you wish.  HOWEVER, IF YOUR HOSTAS MANIFEST SIGNS OF SLUG DAMAGE, THEN SHREDDED HARDWOOD ISN’T THE BEST CHOICE.  Instead, surround each hosta plant with sharp edged stones, like volcanic rock, to discourage those slimy little slugs.  (I have even heard some gardeners utilize polymeric sand for this purpose, though I have not tried this method myself.) Of course, there are chemicals you can apply as a deterrent but sometimes gentler methods work well.  You can try placing several empty tuna cans filled with beer, which attracts slugs to go for a “swim.”

During these lazy and crazy days of summer when you’re putting on your favorite clothing, remember your plants will thrive during summer days if you provide them with a comfy summer wardrobe!

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

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Let’s GO and Let’s GROW!

May, the month gardeners eagerly anticipate…
  May is filled with hopefulness for a long growing season and gardening success!  Gardeners often have devised a Personal Planting Plan for each section of their landscape, siting sun lovers in areas that will receive more than six hours of sunshine per day, while shade lovers will thrive in areas where shadows prevail.

Garden centers and nurseries should be well stocked with your favorites as well as newer cultivars and specialty plants, so let’s GO!   The transition month of May in Wisconsin usually provides enough sunny, warm days so we can enjoy the process of outdoor shopping, selecting the perfect specimens for those garden spaces and containers. 

Garden design can be done well by both professionals and novice gardeners.   Following basic principles of “the right plant in the right place” will ensure success.  Considering how tall and wide each plant will grow in a single season is key to correct placement in a garden space. Garden design isn’t based only on overall appearance; functionality of a plant in its space is also crucial.  (If you purchase a lovely flowering shrub but it completely hangs over the walkway, it will become annoying quickly when you are tripping over the branches— result: you may not appreciate its true beauty!)  If you place the shrub far enough from the walkway, you might add an attractive groundcover along the edge; groundcovers are available for both sun and shade.

May is also about acclimation… plants that were wintered over indoors must adjust gradually to their new outdoor spaces.   Some gardeners may use a greenhouse or garage for this purpose; it is an important step to allow plants to become accustomed to cool nights and sunny days.  Just as humans can easily become sunburned on sunny early spring days, those plants need to acclimate gradually as well.  A few years ago my husband and I (mostly my husband!) built a sun room in one section of our garage; we included three south-facing windows to set potted plants in MAY and OCTOBER.  This works well for those transition months and the plants adjust nicely.

If you are ready to watch plants GROW, then let’s GO… to your favorite plant provider!             

TIP: My Design Instructor suggested making a list of plants you intend to purchase, along with appropriate quantities.  Sometimes when you visit your favorite greenhouse/garden center, the choices can be overwhelming so a list will help you focus on your Personal Planting Plan. (The list should serve as a guideline only—you are encouraged to purchase a few impulsive specimens for extra pop in your space!)  Let’s GROW!

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

Thursday, March 31, 2022

425 (for twenty-five minutes)


This month brought us the “official” start of Spring, but in Southeastern Wisconsin, many of us are still AWAITING arrival of spring weather.  Although there were a few “teaser” days hovering around 60 degrees this month, the final day of March brought us fresh snow and more frigid temps… a slight reality check for those of us eager to see our daffodils in full bloom.  One article I read recently spoke of a “backwards Spring,” which appears to be an accurate description of recent weather conditions.  Of course, psychologically gardeners everywhere anxiously await those first spring blooms to appear… we likely will have to wait a bit longer for enough warmth to encourage a blast of color from all our bulbs!

Gardeners have been planning for our flower and veg gardens for 2022.  Although we won’t be harvesting our own fresh veggies for some time, most produce departments have numerous varieties of veggies and fruits throughout winter/spring.  Recently I tried oven-roasted veggies for the first time— so amazing AND so easy! This side dish is perfect for springtime days that are colder than we might wish!

Only a few items needed:  an assortment of raw veggies, cut to one-inch thickness, plus olive oil and sea salt. You will need a broiler pan or metal cookie sheet with a one-inch lip (to keep oil from dripping onto oven floor) and an oven preheated to 425 degrees.

For optimal carmelization of veggie surfaces, I prefer to skip parchment paper or silicone mats for this recipe.  A few examples of veggies that will roast successfully:  carrots, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage cut one-inch thick, parsnips or any root veggies.   Drizzle or brush olive oil onto top and bottom surfaces of all cut veggies and place pan into hot oven; sprinkle sea salt last. Twenty-five minutes later, veggies are ready to serve!  

Since this method of preparing vegetables uses dry heat only, you might be preserving some nutrients—you definitely will be preserving and enhancing the flavors and textures!  

(These veggies are ideal for those following a plant-forward or vegetarian meal plan, but can be a great side dish for meat entrees also.) 


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

Monday, February 21, 2022

Whole Foods for the Whole Body

Writing about edible plants and culinary herbs has been a source of pleasure for me since FEB 2012.
  My very first blog entry included a photo of dried cayenne peppers from our home garden along with an article about culinary uses and health benefits of cayenne peppers, which contain capsaicin.  Ten years of blogging about flowers, butterflies and beetles, and lots of edible plants has been a challenge and a joy!  A variety of topics (along with my personal photos with each entry) kept this horticulturist occupied for a full decade.  

Today I’d like to share my thoughts on whole foods (a term which is often subject to interpretation…it is NOT the same as vegan.)

A whole food menu is often plant-based or plant-forward; however, meat, fish and eggs are also part of a whole food menu.  Whole foods have been minimally processed, or not processed at all.   

Some people may migrate to the frozen food section when in a rush to buy a meat or fish entrée, already prepared and swimming in a high sodium/high fat bath.  If you could purchase that frozen fish unseasoned and unprocessed (simply fish + water for freezing), it would be considered a whole food; if it is already battered and deep fried so you can reheat in your home oven, it no longer qualifies as a whole food.

Garden produce you grow at home is an example of whole food.  (I’ve included a few photos of garden produce—whole foods—from our 2021 veggie garden.)  The foods you grow may also be considered “organic” or not— depending on the methods, soil, fertilizers and insect deterrents you might utilize.  

If you choose to grow veggies, fruits, berries, legumes, beans, seeds or nuts, these are all examples of whole foods.  If you’re striving for a plant-forward menu, about 50% of your plate should include these items.  You may add spices or herbs as you wish, but you are beginning the process with a whole food.

Springtime crops (coming soon!) like spinach, lettuce, chard, radishes and green onions can be included in soups or salads. If you make a soup or salad using whole foods, you are incorporating  nutrients from each individual ingredient you choose.  I’m quite certain when you’re making a pot of soup for you and your family, you don’t add the plethora of preservatives you would find in a commercially processed can of soup.  

Keep food simple, keep it whole!

Finally, when making selections at your grocery store, consider purchasing extra virgin olive oil which is PRESSED rather than PROCESSED.  It is as close to its natural state as possible and is incredibly versatile for sautéeing and making marinades for all of your whole food selections.  Make choices that are WHOLE FOODS when possible… your WHOLE BODY will thank you for it! 

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

Monday, January 17, 2022

Indoor - Outdoor Plants


Today many products are marketed as “indoor-outdoor.”  Indoor-outdoor carpeting, slippers, thermometers, plant stands… the list is long.  Why not add a few plants to this category? 

Numerous houseplants will thrive outdoors in summer months; be careful if you notice them getting damaged by insects (not all houseplants are candidates for outdoor living in summertime in Wisconsin.)  Of course, your houseplants must go through acclimation (a gradual adjustment from indoor living to outdoor living.)  I consider JUNE 1 – SEPT 1  a sensible timeline for moving plants outdoors for their summer vacay.  All your houseplants should be placed in a shady location initially; then they can graduate to a part-sun location if appropriate. 

NOTE: Even if your houseplants thrived in a sunny window while living indoors, a southern or western sun exposure outdoors might be TOO INTENSE.  Consider their foliage is not accustomed to HARSH RAIN, WIND nor DIRECT/FULL SUN; some protection for your houseplants is appropriate. Monitor your plants often to be sure each specimen is in a happy place outdoors.

My favorite plant that thrives outdoors each summer JUNE 1 – SEPT 1  is a 10-year-old tropical hibiscus.  It handles dappled shade and produces multiple flowers every summer.  This plant hates cool nights, so I always bring it back indoors before nights drop below 50 degrees. Even though September DAYS are warm enough to support a tropical hibiscus, if it gets cold at night, it will likely defoliate completely and won’t be a pleasant sight during winter!  Bring it in by SEPT 1st, and you should enjoy deep green foliage throughout fall/winter/spring.

Outdoor plants often will thrive INDOORS, given the correct environment.  By mid-September, my annual geraniums (genus Pelargonium) have been transplanted to pots and placed under a grow-light assembly.  Although some horticulturists recommend pinching off blooms during off season, I disagree.  Let them flower and flourish all winter long; then transplant to outdoor containers next June.  

(Don’t soak roots; geraniums prefer dryer soil so water just twice/month.)

Additional outdoor plants that can thrive indoors are herbs like rosemary and oregano in pots. My variegated ivy plant (Hedera helix ‘Mint Kolibri’) thrives indoors and out (in a shady location.)  A favorite rosette-shaped succulent is in the genus Echeveria; it handles a sunny window indoors, but outdoors this plant thrives in partial sun only.

Even an unlikely specimen can thrive indoors and out: Carex buchananii ‘Red Rooster’ is an ornamental grassy plant that is actually a sedge.  The specimen shown in photo has been “wintered over” for three years. By late May, I can take it back outdoors for another summer vacation!  It has tripled in size so I might have to divide this perennial before replanting.  (This plant is a perennial if you reside in USDA zone 6 – 9, but sadly, it won’t survive our WI winters!)

When you’re searching for “just the right plants” for your 2022 garden, consider those varieties which might be able to join you indoors during fall and winter.  It is such a pleasure to witness a few plants blooming and thriving in your home on a blustery, snowy day!

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

Friday, July 9, 2021

Clematis & Climbers!

Grace your special garden with a climbing, flowering vine (hugging a trellis) and you will be blessed with blooms AND blooms AND more blooms!   Whether you choose a sweet pea vine or a clematis cultivar, vining plants require a fairly small footprint.  With vertical gardening on the rise, clematis and climbers need consideration to determine if they will work in your garden environment.  My favorite climber is Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’ shown here in living color!

Despite our recent droughty conditions in Southern Wisconsin during May and June, this clematis planted in 2009 survived and thrived with little care.  Some watering was required, but not every day.  Although it needs full sun conditions (six hours or more daily), the root zone area needs protection and some shade.  I used shredded hardwood mulch to cover the entire root zone, and also planted two specimens directly south of the plant to create a “shade pocket” to keep roots happy and cool throughout summer months.  (One is a peony and the other is a broadleaf evergreen, ‘Emerald Gaiety.’ This combination provided sufficient shade to keep ‘Etoile Violette’ cool and comfortable in spring/summer.)

Take care when choosing a place to site any clematis, since this vine can live fifty years or more; provide loose, organic soil and fertilize once per year.  Wind desiccation can be detrimental to thin clematis vines, so wrapping entire vine loosely in burlap can help during winter months.  (Some years, I pruned all the way to the ground— that is another option.) If older vines are left intact on the trellis, the new growth vines seem to climb over them and latch on.  As foliage fills in, the older, brown vines are no longer visible. Although I reside in a USDA Zone 5 area, apparently this clematis is hardy to Zone 3 and 4 as well.

BONUS: This spring, a mating pair of house wren chose our clematis to build their nest. We could hear chicks chirping often; dense foliage provided protection for the young. When this vine sheds its leaves in fall, we should be able to see a tiny nest clinging to vines; nest isn’t visible just yet— too many blooms obstructing view!

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