Thursday, August 21, 2014

Are your plants ready for the Transition?

It’s TRANSITION TIME…  Summer into Fall!

Late August in Wisconsin... time to harvest and preserve those home-grown tomatoes… time for children to think about reuniting with school friends… time to transition those summer container gardens into the new fall season!

Some of the container gardens shown here could have a quick “wardrobe change” and would adapt to the new season nicely.  Annuals like deep-hued coleus and other foliage plants can be retained in the container; simply change out any flowers or herbs that seem tired or past their prime.    
(Scoop them out gently and add them to your home compost pile.)  

The next step is to add some autumn bling to your container; a clump of ornamental grasses works well.  Add a small mum or two in place of the annuals you removed.  If you have a plant stake or ornament with an autumn theme, add it to the mix.   When gourds are available, you can tuck in a few amidst your plants.  Tie up a bow made of burlap if you like, and place it near front of your container.  

Make it pretty—make it yours!  A little imagination and a bit of bling will keep your container plantings enjoyable for another month or two.  

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

Saturday, August 9, 2014

It's a BUG's Life - The Good, the Bad, the Ugly!

The GOOD… the BAD… the UGLY!

On this sunny, warm August day I am writing for Goodness in the Garden using the laptop in our camper, currently located at a campsite in scenic south central Wisconsin.  Surrounded by mature evergreens and deciduous trees… and INSECTS, it is fitting to pay homage to some of the insects that inhabit our environment.   While all insects serve a function in nature—except, perhaps, mosquitos—the insects featured in today’s blog are not often seen close up.   But whether studying people, animals or insects, we never know when we might encounter the GOOD… the BAD… or the UGLY!

I was fortunate to be able to photograph these insects, due to the keen eyes of our Lammscapes Landscape Technicians; these young ladies work at various job sites and encountered the unusual slug shown here.  Just last week they captured a living emerald ash borer from the bark of a tree they had diagnosed as a victim of EAB.  After all the EAB research and reports I did during my horticulture training, I was actually able to hold a living specimen in my hand (secured inside a plastic bag, see photo).  When researching EAB on line, photos are greatly magnified; it’s useful to understand the iridescent green borer’s true size.

The GOOD:  A popular pollinating insect in Southeastern Wisconsin is called a hummingbird moth, a sphinx moth or a hawk moth (genus Hemaris, family Lepidoptera).  This fast-mover hovers in our gardens, pollinating as it goes.  You might witness it on bee balm (Monarda) or tall garden phlox.  It is often mistaken for a tiny hummingbird, but is actually an insect with antennae and a proboscis.  (The specimen I found had died, but was fully intact for my photo.)

The BAD:  Emerald Ash Borer (alias “EAB) a known killer!  Agrilus planipennis is a destructive force in our Wisconsin landscapes, decimating millions of ash trees (genus Fraxinus) located in our State—one tree at a time! This evil insect is an undesirable import which came from Asia, and is unwelcome here. Despite chemical treatments and strict legislation regarding the removal/disposal of infected ash trees (debarking, incineration, etc.), it has not been eradicated. This insect is deserving of its BAD reputation!

The UGLY:  The leopard slug shown here (Limax maximus) is a pretty ugly insect in my opinion!  The specimen brought to me by our Landscape Technicians was 3” long, but can attain 4” in length. The photo I shot comes complete with slug AND its slime trail!  (For some interesting facts and photos, just google on “leopard slug”)   This insect might eat your landscape plants, but is also carnivorous!  It hunts smaller slugs when it gets really hungry…  pretty ugly!

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