Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daylily Madness #8 - Reblooming

There are daylilies advertised as "re blooming." This seldom happens in Zone 5 or colder because our growing season is too short. This year has been an exception.

The early spring, wet summer and extended mild fall have been ideal for daylilies. As a result, they have bloomed at their peak performance, including re blooming.

There's a difference between the advertised descriptions (1) Continuous bloom (2) Re bloom (3) Late bloomer (4) Repeater/recurrent/extended.

Stella de-Oro, although listed as a re bloomer is more of a continuous bloomer. It does take a rest after the first heavy bloom before setting more flowers. They are typically the last flowering daylilies of the fall.

A true rebloomer has a normal bloom time and then simply sits without flowers until September when it may (note I said "may") set more flowers. Usually the ideal conditions don't happen. If the spring is late and/or early cold weather in the fall - the process doesn't happen.

A repeater/recurrent/extended is generally just a long sporadic bloom time and not so much a re bloomer.

A late bloomer is typically finished sometime in August. Of the four categories, I tend to pick this category because they seldom fail to bloom late in the season and they are at their peak performance.

I don't buy plants because I want or expect re blooming. The odds are against it here - this is my first year to have re blooming daylilies. And, even in an ideal year only a few of my re bloomers performed. Breeders and retailers will not guarantee re blooming in Zone 5. But, the price of a daylily is seldom increased simply because it has re blooming capabilities.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mum About Asters

Images: Light lavendar is a native Illinois aster, purple and bright pink are hybrid asters, and the gold is an annual mum.

For autumn color in the garden, you can’t beat the Aster family. The stiff stemmed plant with daisy like flowers blooms from August through October.

Wildflowers, Bush Aster (Aster dumosus), Calico Aster (Aster lateriflorus) and Frost Aster (Aster pilosus) have white to pale lavender rays surrounding a pale yellow disk. The Calico and Frost are Illinois native flowers. These asters are the parents of many beautiful hybrids.

The aster spreads easily but is seldom considered invasive. The seeds are distributed by the wind. Some hybrids spread by rhizomes. To increase the area where the wildflowers bloom, gather dried seed heads and simply toss in an area where you want flowers.

Mature plants attract many kinds of beneficial insects, including bees, wasps, flies, moths and butterflies. Because asters are one of the last blooming flowers before frost, they are a valuable source of pre-winter nourishment for many insects.

Asters prefer light shade and moist conditions. Growth is best in moist rich organic soil but will do well in clay because it retains moisture. The hybrids are more tolerant of full sun and dry conditions. You are probably seeing asters in places you’ve never seen them before due to our very moist spring and summer.

Asters are from 1-3 foot in height. The hybrid varieties are typically more bushy and shorter. Asters may be pinched back a couple of times during the summer months to keep them from becoming “leggy.” Do not pinch after they set flower buds.

Native wildflower asters have no scent although many hybrids are aromatic. Color has also been bred into hybrid asters. Purples and magenta are but two of the very colorful varieties. Size and form differences are also a result of hybridization.

Perennial mums are also from the aster family. These are the mums you see in nurseries in the spring although they typically bloom in the fall. The mums found in stores in the fall should be considered an annual.

Annual mums are particularly useful for fall decoration: In pots, used with pumpkins and gourds, placed with corn stalks, and even in the house. Do not allow the soil to become dry.

If you desire the perennial variety, make sure to ask at the nursery if they are hardy to our zone 5. Even then, they may need to be planted in a protected area and you can expect to lose some if we have a particularly severe winter. A protected area could be under the outer edge of an evergreen bush, a foundation plant, or on the south side of a building, fence or trellis.

Asters cut well and stay nice in a vase for weeks.

Whether you have native or hybrids asters, the autumn colors will enhance your garden. Add plant fall blooming asters to your spring “to do” list!

Pestilence of the Moment - Act II

Image of Asian Lady Beetles from University of Kentucky.

Back in July 16, 2009, I talked about the Pestilence of the Moment - Japanese Beetles. Today, we have another Pestilence of the Moment, the Asian Lady Beetles Harmonia axyridis.

Yesterday, there were a few beetles in my house. Today, an invasion to the point I couldn't open windows and doors and had to use my hand vac before walking in certain parts of the house. UGGG!!! It begins!!!

We live in an old yellow home and it's impossible to close every gap where a little insect might crawl through. We have tried (mostly for energy loss reasons) and we are still failing. I have never seen them this bad and all at once.

We are surrounded by soybean fields this year and almost overnight the beans have turned from green to brown/gold. The aphids and scale insects that eat the green leaves of soybeans are the food of choice for these beetles. One beetle can consume hundreds a day. Right before the first frost, they seek winter shelter.

These are not our native lady bugs, they are from Asian and the first field populations in the United States were found in Louisiana in 1988. They now are found as far north as Canada.

Should you care, the ones with the most spots are usually female and the ones with few or no spots are male. There are multiple generations per year and they can live up to three years. They do not reproduce in your home nor do they eat anything in the home.

They have few natural enemies because of the foul odor they emit when disturbed. This stinky stuff can stain material and wallpaper.

They are in homes because they are seeking winter protection. They tend to like surfaces that are in the sun on sunny afternoons. If your house is white, gray or yellow, they think it's a mountain and are attracted as if it was their native ranges. Although they want to stay in one place all winter and hibernate, they can be fooled into thinking it's spring and wander into the home.

Some people may have allergic reactions such as eye itching to asthma attacks where there are large infestations. They can bite but cause no serious damage.

Here is the advice given if you have an infestation:
  1. Learn to tolerate.

  2. Do not touch eyes after touching beetles.

  3. Vacuum them up. (They often stink if you use a broom)

  4. Seal all entry points.

  5. Aerosol insecticides foggers in the home are not effective.

  6. Apply insecticides to building exteriors in the fall, which helps prevent pest entry. This barrier is best done by a professional because it is a barrier. Obviously, this must be done prior to the first beetle entering.

  7. The current marketed Lady bug "houses" and traps seldom work.
The Asian Lady Beetles are considered beneficial insects. They eat plant damaging insects to the point insecticide use has decreased on some farm operations (such as pecan orchards). The USDA also predicts the natural enemies of these insects will eventually catch up to them and the balance of nature will again even out.

Should you want to try to vacuum them AND return them outside: Put the foot of nylon hose over the end of your vacuum hose and attach with a rubber band. Let the foot portion go inside the hose forming a "cup". As you sweep, they will collect in the hose and then simply detach and shake outside.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Fall

Image: This picture was taken of a spider web, in the woods, as the sun was setting behind. The sun reflected off the spider in the middle and all the wings from the gnats' caught in the web. I thought it looked a lot like an illustration of the celestial planets. You may want to enlarge the picture to get the "effect."

The first day of Fall 2009 for the Northern Hemisphere (United States, Canada and most of Europe) begins on September 22, 2009 at 4:18 pm Central Standard Time.

Fall is also known as autumn - and lasts from the autumnal equinox (September 22, 2009) to the winter solstice (December 21, 2009).

The two instants when the Sun is directly overhead at the Equator are the equinoxes.

On the equinox, the sun rises directly in the east and sets directly in the west. This is true for both the fall and spring equinoxes. On two days of the year you can find the exact cardinal directions of East and West by using the sun. The ancients did this when they set up their calendars at Stonehenge and the Mayan pyramid, among others.

The autumnal equinox for the northern hemisphere is the vernal equinox for the southern hemisphere. Another way to say this is that when fall begins for the northern hemisphere, spring begins for the southern hemisphere.

Calendars of almost every nation and holidays of most every religion are based on the equinoxes and have been since thousands of years BC. Astrology, navigation systems and much of the reading of horoscopes are based on equinoxes.

Libra is the archaic name used by navigators and astrologers. The equinoxes where these equinoxes are located no longer correspond with the actual constellations once ascribed to them.
We can probably go through life never giving the equinoxes a thought but our plants (and most insects and wildlife) are going through converting to winter by this process. It is complicated and not fully understood on many levels.

We do know it's why our plants are going through the process of shedding leaves, annual plants dieing, insects finding winter havens, some birds flying south, and other birds and animals storing food. This is happening even though we have experienced no cold temperatures or otherwise "fall" days.

For those of us who enjoy the changing seasons, it's a time to enjoy another beautiful season of bright colors and the mysteries of our planet - even the Galaxy. Sit on the porch, take a drive, and soak up the autumnal process we are blessed to experience. Only too soon we will wake up to a day like they are experiencing in Colorado today - SNOW!

Monday, September 21, 2009

When the Frost is on the Punkin

We can expect frost on those old punkins come autumn in the Midwest. It’s a sure sign gardeners need to get a few things accomplished before the cold winds of winter arrive.

I don’t advocate stripping yards and gardens of every piece of summer foliage and debris. It may look “magazine perfect” but it’s not environmentally perfect.

A good layer of leaves bunched in and around perennials, bushes and trees is excellent biodegradable mulch. The wind does the work and not your back. This leaf cover will insulate as well as any packaged mulch, decompose faster, and take less effort and money.

The only things I remove in the fall are any diseased plants and foliage and garden waste. Do not compost diseased material. Leaving seed heads, rose hips, and nuts (rake into a pile if you must for mowing) feeds wildlife through midwinter.

Letting hollyhock, rudbeckia, four o’clock, and many others self seed will insure another crop. Some plants such as comfrey, morning glory, bindweed, native thistle and the like are invasive and should be pulled or deadheaded.

Early fall is also the perfect time to plant trees, bushes and many perennials. Do this at least a month before the ground freezes hard. Water about one inch a week (if you don’t have sufficient rains) until you have to put the hoses away. Because they are no longer setting leaves, flowers and fruit, the plants can put all their energy into making a good root system.

Clean all feeders and vacant bird houses with a 10% bleach solution to remove bacteria, fungus and mites. While the weather is good, buy your birdseed in bulk and store in large plastic containers with lids.

Empty your outdoor flower pots. If the flora was not diseased, put the used potting soil in the composter or directly on the garden. Wash posts with a 10% bleach solution, turn upside down or store inside.

Take cuttings of those expensive annuals such as coleus, begonias, and impatiens. In late December, again take cuttings from this plant and by spring you will have several plants ready for potting.

Plant spring flowering bulbs.

Loosely tying many-branched arborvitae trunks with panty hose will keep them from bending and breaking during heavy snow and ice storms.

Although neighborhood “peer pressure” often requires perfectly manicured lawns, it is not the best garden practice. Cut your lawn grass on a higher setting in the fall. This will help trap leaves and clippings insulating the roots. Cutting on a higher setting all year will encourage deep root growth, require less fertilizer/water and be healthier.

“They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here-
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birs and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock-
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.”

(1) “When the Frost Is on the Punkin” by James Whitcomb Riley from “Joyful Poems for Children” (1892) Illustration and poem

Why Garden?

If you do everything in your yard to impress others, you are in for a sad revelation.

"Others" don't necessarily have the same vision you may have.

As an example: I lived in a very old grand Victorian home and much of the landscaping was equally as old. One prize was a rare Weigela bush at the corner of the house. When I sold the home, I spent much time explaining the history and significance of the heirloom things in the yard. Less than a month after the sale, the entire yard was bulldozed.

I was horrified at the disregard for the historical significance of the landscape. And then, I realized it was no longer my vision, my domain nor my labor and money.

The point of this article: Gardening should be done to bring joy to you and others as may happen but not to impress. I've seen this time and again when a gardener sells his/her home and the next residents either don't have the same taste or labor and financial resources.

Once in awhile, buyers are sold on a home partially because they love the gardens and landscaping. That's a plus for you both. Other times, a really dramatic and fully landscaped yard may turn off the average buyer.

Most of us have watched too many HGTV or DIY shows on landscaping. We assume they know everything we should or should not have/do. Remember, they don't live in your home!

I'm not of the school that thinks our homes and yards should be "vanilla" because some future home buyer doesn't want our taste. No wallpaper, no bright colors, no personal evidence real families live here, no yard ornaments, no this, no that because you want to appeal to every type of home buyer someplace in the future. That's no way to live life.

That fire pit you spent mega bucks building, the English garden that takes up your entire front yard, the blue picket fence that accents your shutters, the statue of an armless and nude "David" by the pool, the wildflower plot, and all are YOUR taste and YOUR decisions. These decisions should be made with you and your family's enjoyment in mind.

Here are some items that may affect the sale and asking price of your home. According to the buyer, it may be a plus or it may be a negative:

Pools: Both in-ground and above-ground pools - landscaping - the mechanics (filtering, piping, etc.) and the upkeep.

Water features: Fish ponds, reflecting pools, fountains, bird baths, water falls.
Wildflower areas: The location, the condition, weeds v. flowers, grasses, easily burned off.
Trees: Condition, size, shade v. sun, amount of mess from leaves, fruits, nuts, berries and sap.
Bushes: Security issues, shade v. sun, size, amount of maintenance required, pests.
Quantity: Labor & upkeep, cost to maintain, visual desire.
Hard scapes: Upkeep, visual desire, fit lifestyle (putting green, circular driveway, jungle gym, playhouse, climbing mountain, outdoor kitchen, etc.)
Out buildings: Condition, use, situated correctly, size and building materials.
Plants: Cause allergies, in the way of children's activities, high maintenance, age and condition and in relation to the home design.
Lawn grass: Too much or too little for the next person's lifestyle. Must be hand mowed. The greenspace issue.
And last but not least - cute stuff: Plastic stuff, hanging stuff, candles, statues, furniture, antiques, signs, feeders/houses, stones, paths, curtains, arbors, trellises, and mementos of trips.

It's much like having your home or yard on a tour. You are very proud of what you have done and you are sure others will see the benefit and appreciate your hard work and taste. I am able to appreciate an other's tastes and hard work, even if it's not my own. I enjoy that they are able to express themselves in their personal spaces and it brings them satisfaction. It doesn't necessarily mean I would pay my money to buy their space.

Keep in mind, you may have to do some modifications prior to selling your home or you may have to adjust the asking price, but today - your landscape should reflect who you are and what you enjoy. Yes, even that old bath tub filled with soil and planted with flowers. Or, the covey of pink plastic flamingos. Life is too short to leave out your own garden passion.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Laying in for Winter

Images: Walnut on the ground, dogwood white berries, bittersweet vine yellow berries, red crab apples, Catalpa seed pods, and orange Mountain Ash berries

There are many animals and birds that stay active throughout the winter in our area.

There are times when I look out my windows in the dead of winter and wonder how anything can find adequate shelter, food and water.

There are many decorative perennials, bushes and trees that can add sustenance to their diet and shelter. When shopping for additions to your landscape, consider some of the following:

Squirrels: Primarily vegetarians, living on seeds, nuts, fruits, fungi, lichens, buds, mushrooms, roots, pine cones, leaves, twigs, bark and other things as they may find laying around. They live in cavities in large trees during cold winter months to keep them warm. One use for their tail is to keep them warm in winter. (Beware: Starlings' favorite winter food is cracked corn.)

Cardinals: Aphids, beetles, cutworms, corn, oats, and weed seeds (Feeders for sunflower seeds.)

Red Bellied Woodpecker: Weed seeds, insects, berries (Feeders for seeds & suet.)

Downy Woodpecker: Aphids, insect eggs, spiders, acorns, sap, and berries. (Feeders for suet, cornbread, and peanut butter.)

Sparrows: beetles, flies, ants, weed seeds, grain, and fruit. (Feeders for seeds and bread.)

Blue Jays: Beetles, spiders, insects, acorns, blueberries, and currants. (Feeders for seeds, suet and peanuts.)

Finches: Mostly seeds, but they also eat fruit, beetles, birch and maple buds. (Feeders for seeds.)

Doves: Weed seeds on the ground (will clean seeds from under feeders.)

Black-capped Chickadee: Caterpillars, insects eggs, beetles, ants, aphids, fruit and seeds. (Feeders for suet, sunflower seeds, and peanut butter.)

Having your feeders in place and filled in September, will allow birds to find and get used to the location. You must keep food in the feeders all the time if you want them to remember. Squirrels will remember.

When selecting a feeder - here are some general guides:

Suet feeders attract: woodpeckers, chickadees, wrens, nuthatches, cardinals, doves, goldfinches
Peanut butter suet attracts: woodpeckers, juncos, goldfinches, jays, cardinals, bluebirds
House feeders w/ sunflower seeds: cardinals. finches, grosbeaks, sparrows, chickadees
Peanut feeders attract: woodpeckers, and chickadees
Tube feeder w/thistle (niger seed) or black sunflower seed: woodpeckers, finches, sparrows
Tray feeder with fruit will attract: woodpeckers, starlings, bluebirds, cardinals, jays
Platform feeders with sunflower seed attract: cardinals, doves, woodpeckers, finches, chickadees, sparrows, goldfinches, grosbeaks, jays
Feeders and the food that drops on the ground are also used by squirrels, raccoons, opossums, rats, and those interested in a bird for dinner - cats and hawks.
You may choose to provide fresh water all winter. This will require a heated source and there are several varieties available.
Feeding deer, foxes, and other wild animals near your home is risky business unless you have thought it out and know the ramifications. Feeding wild animals in the winter will train them to feed on your summer flowers, trees, bushes, dog & cat food, and garbage. Horror stories abound.
While enjoying these beautiful autumn days, it's hard to believe winter will soon be here. Never fear, our seasons are reliable. A few feeders in your yard and you'll be able to enjoy the antics of our winter animals and birds all winter. In addition, you will provide them with some added comforts.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Monet or Warhol Next Spring

On April 2nd, I gushed about my spring flowering bulbs in the article "Two Lips Are Lovely." Today is not an actual gush but more a preparatory gush. Never had a preparatory gush? Well, hang on to your bulb catalog and let's fly!

Before all the foliage in your beautiful gardens die back, take the time to note where you want to plant spring flowering bulbs. A little spray of latex paint on top of your mulch or soil will mark the spot until it's time to plant.

Spring flowering bulbs can be planted under deciduous trees and bushes (if the digging doesn't hit roots.)

You may want to plant where the dieing foliage doesn't show as much: Where other plants will fill in around them (hostas for example), towards the back of the border, or in a wooded area.

Many catalogs have pictures of naturalized spring bulbs. Naturalized can mean different things. It may mean you plant a bulb and it reproduces developing into a colony of flowers. It may mean the flowers will look like they came up of their own accord and were not specifically planted by the gardener. It may mean they come up in wooded or other wildflower areas. It may mean they dig their bulbs after bloom and replant new in the fall.

The problem with naturalized looking spring bulbs, you must wait until the leaves die back of their own accord. If you've planted them in lawn grass, that grass will be way past needing mowed before they die back. Crocus tend to die back fast and may work in this instance - others, such as the larger plants, die back over a longer period. Cutting the foliage back or tied into those cute little bundles will not allow the nutrients into the bulbs to provide next year's flowers. The leaves need light until they have finished this process.

Spring flowering bulbs look best if planted in groups and not in straight lines. That's an opinion of course.

The bloom time of spring flowering bulbs can be extended for several months by choosing based on bloom time. Some bloom so early, they often come up in the snow. Others, are just winding down as other late spring plants start their show.

There are many heights, many uses, many forms, some fragrant, all can be used in vases and MANY MANY colors.

Here are some things to ponder:

Most spring flower bulbs are perennials in our area. Although, some are considered short-lived (2-5 years). Hyacinth and tulips are considered short-lived. That's why you need to keep planting every fall if you want to continue an array every spring.

Although we've discussed naturalized beds, there are other themes you may want to consider:

1. Color:  All one color palate, different shades of one color, all pastel, all bright, two colors or three, patriotic, an artist's garden like Monet and etc.

2. Size or form: All fringed, doubles, tall, short, branched, parrots, and etc.

3. Flowers: A variety of kinds, one kind, different bloom periods, hybrid, heirlooms and etc.

4. The "Wave": Planted in curved lines (waves), one color or type blooms and about the time it quits, another wave of another color or type is in bloom. If the waves are deep enough, the effect can be stunning.

5. Cost: The best way to figure cost is divide the number of bulbs by the cost per bag. Figure if the plant is short-lived or long. Does it multiply (make new bulbs)? What is the cost for the enjoyment each bulb will bring to you? This like trying to put a cost on love.

I figure the cost per bulb but I also compare the cost vs. annuals. Some call this rationalization, I prefer to call it smart shopping. If a one year plant costs $5 and I can get 50 years from a $5 bag of 5 daffodils - call me smart. Or call me rationalizing smart - whatever. 

6. Cost vs. quality: Cheaper bulbs are typically smaller. This doesn't mean bad. It means they may be smaller flowers until they grow larger over several years. It may mean they have a few duds. It may mean they have a few that are miss color coded. For most of us it simply means a bargain.

As you can afford, try some really large beautiful and perhaps unusual bulbs. I can't guarantee it won't get you hooked but there is a reason they are more expensive.

I've also enjoyed heirloom bulbs. They have a history that appeals to me and my old farmhouse yard. A good site is They have heirloom bulbs, the history, where they are harvested (that means not stolen from protected sites), and a newsletter with boat loads of interesting stuff for the heirloom enthusiast.

7. Planting: Plant the exact depth the directions tell, pointed end up, do not use bone meal if you have dogs, do not pack soil hard over them, mulch, water in if it's been dry, and do all this at least a month prior to the first hard freeze.

If you have voles or moles, one solution is to plant bulbs in a chicken wire cage. Just make sure the soil is loose enough to go into the cage so there is no air pocket.

I also mark where I plant bulbs or I am forever digging them up in summer when I'm finding a place for new plants.

If you are a garden enthusiast, I guarantee the work put in planting bulbs in the fall will fade from memory when all those bulbs become flowers next spring. The first tulip to bloom in my garden brings with it the winter-buried feeling that my hopes of a better tomorrow just became possible.

The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day He created spring.” Bern Williams

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Made in the Shade

Images: Purple & pink hybrid asters, Red Twig Dogwood (with white berries) Bush, Variegated Hosta, orange Toad Lily, and Japanese Forest Grass.

Autumn is a time when shade areas can be bare or mostly weed infested.

In the spring, it seems difficult to remember to landscape with fall flowers and foliage in mind.

Some of the great color and texture effects in the fall are berries. The Red Twig Dogwood thrives in the shade, has white flowers in the spring and white berries in the fall and winter seasons.

Although I'll write more on this another time, asters are a bright and durable fall blooming plant. They gently spread and many do well in adverse conditions such as shade and clay soil.

Everyone understands the value of hostas in a shade garden but too often they are pushed to simply fill in where grass won't grow instead of using as a landscape element.

There are few ornamental grasses that do well in shade. I mentioned earlier I was trying Japanese Forest Grass. It is doing pretty good this summer although not gaining in size. Blue Dune grass is thriving everywhere but beware it is highly invasive.

Sometimes it's a good idea to prune out some of the shade canopies to allow a more diverse understory planting. Non native trees and bushes sometimes shade native plants and eventually the native plants die.

Toad Lilies finish their blooming about now but their black seed heads are beautiful and add texture to the garden. They are one of the few lilies where it's best to leave seed heads because they will gently self seed. I've never found them to be invasive and they are easy to pull if they pop up in inappropriate spots.

Honeysuckle bushes bloom until frost and entice hummingbirds. They may be planted in full sun to partial shade. Rose of Sharon bushes are blooming right now. Other hydrangea still have large flower heads gently turning colors. Both do well in partial shade.

The mums you see at nurseries and big box stores right now should be considered an annual. Southern grown, they will not survive our winter. Perennial mums need to be planted in the spring to allow time for proper root growth. Since they are typically rated for Zone 5, they have a better survival rate if they are planted in a protected spot.

Buy annual mums before their flower buds have opened if you want flowers through the fall months. I know - it's tempting to buy a fully blooming plant right now and that's fine if you wish the entire show right now. These annual mums may be planted or potted for shade as well as sun.

Fall is a time to sit and ponder how beautiful your gardens have been all summer. It's also a good time to take note of what might look good in that shade area next fall.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

This White Stuff Isn't Snow

The oval leaf is from my honeysuckle bush and the pointed leaf from an aster plant. Both have Powdery Mildew (fungus Erysiphe cirhoracearum or Sphaerotheca fulginea).

Soybeans in this northern area of Illinois are also becoming infected with White Mold (Sclerotinia). This is rare for this area and could have negative crop loss potential.

The connection for both of these problems is the cool nights, poor air circulation, heavy dew instead of rainfall, and the time of the year.

Since those farmers experiencing White Mold know more about it than I, I'll concentrate on the Powdery Mildew on garden and yard plants.

I currently have it on some bee balm, phlox, lilac, aster, daisy forms, sedium, squash and honeysuckle. Not all of any one variety has Powdery Mildew. I don't spray for it but fungicides are available (always follow manufacturer's directions.)

In Illinois, Powdery Mildew overwinters in garden and yard refuse. It is often imported from southern grown nursery plants, especially vine crops. Since it is never killed in the south, it may blow north on the wind.

Powdery Mildew is attracted to vine crops and over 300 other strains of plants. Planting northern nursery grown plants, Powdery Mildew resistant varieties, having plenty of air circulation around plants, rotating vegetable crops and cleaning up all infected garden waste every fall (do not compost) will help the problem.

If you enjoy Heirloom plants or have an English style cottage garden, it will be difficult to control or eliminate Powdery Mildew. Since I have both, this mildew will be expected in my gardens.

Powdery Mildew seldom kills a plant although it can cause vines to dry and in severe cases cause fruit problems. My garden gets mildew late enough in the fall it seldom causes anything negative besides funky looking leaves.

If you are sensitive to air born allergens, wear a mask when cleaning up Powdery Mildew infected garden refuse and don't breath the smoke from burning plants. Wash all fruit in a light bleach solution (rinse thoroughly) if leaves and plants are infected with mildew, blight or other fungal diseases.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Labor Day in All It's Glory

Images: Flag waiving in the spring. Sunset over summer crops and trees. Winter around the old apple tree. Sun setting on the autumn crops.

"My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing: Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From ev'ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!
My native country thee
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love: I love they rocks and rills,
They woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture thrills
Like that above.
Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet freedom's song: Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break
The sound prolong.
Our fathers' God, to thee,
Author of liberty,
To thee we sing: Long may our land be bright
With freedom's holy light;
Protect us by thy light,
Great God, our King!"
"My Country, 'Tis of Thee" 1831 - Samuel F. Smith

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Pa amb tomaquet

Image of a particularly beautiful cloudy sky that has absolutely nothing to do with pa amb tomaquet.

If you are searching for something new to do with the big juicy red tomatoes, here's the recipe for you. I found it while "leafing through" the pages of the food BLOG written by Adam Roberts.

This recipe is so very simple and so amazingly perfect. It is a staple in Catalonia, Barcelona. Why it isn't a staple in this area, where we have the most perfect tomatoes, I don't know! Maybe after today?

First, call the Bishop Hill Colony Bakery (309-927-3042) (or your favorite) and ask what day they will have baguettes. BHCB's baguettes are fresh and smell of yeast. If you're serving this as your main course, the baguette will serve three or two or one. If you are serving as a part of something else it may serve up to 6 but I'd have plenty on hand - it's just that good.

Slice the baguette down the length. Toast the cut side in a toaster oven or your broiler until golden and crisp (on the cut side only.) I suppose you could accomplish this on the grill - I've not tried.

Rub the freshly toasted bread with a garlic clove. Obviously, you don't want to skimp so use enough to impart the garlic on the toasted side of each piece.

Slice fresh ripe tomatoes in half and rub the cut halves on the bread until it glistens red. It will be pulp, juice and seeds.

Drizzle on some good quality olive oil, sprinkle with salt (I use Kosher) and serve while still warm.

I thought it went well with Leonard Kreusch Rheinhessen Kabinett but you probably have a better grip on wine than I. One could argue a big glass of cold milk would be perfect.

The addition of this recipe is perfect for a September evening, still warm from the autumn sun, sitting in the screened porch with people you enjoy, a glass of wine and pa amb tomaquet. Life is good for the gardener!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ze Plan Ze Plan

Need a plan for Christmas shopping or site seeing, tree maintenance, learn more about Illinois poisonous plants, or how to make a bonsai? Look no further, the Henry-Stark County 4-H group and your local extension are sponsoring several fall and winter experiences.

The Chicago trip is a nice service the 4-H group is sponsoring. You are able to let someone else do the driving and visit with a friend on the bus. I've done Chicago bus trips several times and it is so nice after shopping or sight seeing, to relax on the way home and not worry about weather or traffic. The cost is generally much less than the cost of gas and parking.

The Teleconference Series is always worth the small fee. Presenters are experts from the University of Illinois and they usually make time for Q&A. No need to dress up, you can bring snacks or a soda, pen & paper and enjoy the slides and instruction. Take advantage of these opportunities hosted so close to us. 

Advance registration is needed because they have to set up the equipment for teleconferencing ahead of time. It's best to call in your reservation.

The Henry County Soil Water Conservation District is holding it's Fall Tree Sale. Order deadline is 09-21-09. Call 309-937-5263, ext. 3 for details. They offer small and large container grown trees, container grown hedging plants, container grown evergreens & fruit trees, ground covers, and perennials. They also have various Nature Field Guides & soil testing kits. NAGs is offering fall bulbs.