Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Seasonal Surprises!

The word “seasonal” usually refers to some aspect of summer, fall, winter or spring.

In this context I’m referring to the GROWING SEASON—that time of year gardeners eagerly anticipate in springtime, and usually finish in October here in Wisconsin.  Let me share a few seasonal surprises encountered in GROWING SEASON 2019:

Surprise #1:  During summer I learned a destructive caterpillar infestation can destroy foliage on an American cranberry bush (Viburnum trilobum) and a redtwig dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Isanti’) in just a few day!  I never encountered this grey and yellow caterpillar before this summer; it is evil and apparently is attacking deciduous shrubs (mainly the Viburnum genus) throughout southern Wisconsin.

Surprise #2:   Since I am fortunate to have a plethora of pollinators visiting my garden, the zucchini harvest is usually abundant.  My preference is harvesting zucchini when fruits are 4” – 8” in length.  Gardeners know that sometimes a large zucchini is lurking beneath the foliage—well camouflaged— but I never realized one fruit could grow to fourteen pounds… surprise!

Surprise #3:   A friend shared some seeds with me for an annual producing yellow and orange blooms; she did not know its name.  I grew these seeds in a full sun location and learned they are sulphur cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus.) They grew four feet tall and flowered all summer, attracting various pollinators the entire time.  As seeds formed, I collected them for next year; sulphur cosmos was a sweet surprise!


Surprise #4:  
Japanese beetles are a
plague to gardeners in recent years.  Five years ago, there were NONE in my garden.  Last year I dispatched over 600 (using the soapy water method) and this season, more than 1,100 (a nasty surprise!)  These beetles lay their eggs in lush turf grass in SEPT/OCT.  Three years later, the eggs hatch as adult beetles with a voracious appetite for all the delicacies awaiting them in the garden.  They love raspberries, corn, green beans and 300 species of assorted trees, shrubs and flowers.  This growing season I found some beetles tangled in the corn silk in our small corn patch.  Sometimes the corn silk was eaten away—the surprise: When corn silk is destroyed during development, the kernels of corn WILL NOT FORM!   

Surprise #5:  Waking up this morning to an inch of fresh SNOW on the grass!  October 29 is the earliest snowfall I have witnessed in my lifetime… although it provides a bit of nitrogen for turf grass and other plants, it is not a pleasant surprise.

Planning and hoping for an interesting and fruitful GROWING SEASON in 2020…

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