Ear to the Ground: The Insider Dirt to Gardening in Upstate NY

Upstate Pairing: July-August 2016

by Megan Frank on July 12, 2016

Nestled in the heart of New York’s beautiful Finger Lakes Region, Ithaca Beer Company demonstrates its pride by brewing world-class craft beer inspired by its home. In addition to year-round favorites, you can also choose from seasonal selections on rotation.

Our recipe this month is paired with Hopkist, one of their summer offerings. It’s a delightful easy drinking and refreshing citrus IPA. With a mild alcohol-by-volume (ABV) of 4.75%, this IPA is wonderfully “sessionable” for the hot summer months. The combination of Honey Malt and Citra hops in both brewing and dry hopping, along with a healthy zip of citrus zest makes Hopkist the perfect summer brew.

Brewery tours are offered on weekends and by reservation, giving a behind-the-scenes look at the facilities.

Recipe-Pic-7-16

Arugula Pesto Pizza with Herbed Ricotta

Yield: 1 large pizza

1 ball pizza dough
1 batch arugula pesto (see below)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese, strained if watery
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon honey
pinch of salt
pinch of red pepper flakes
olive oil, for brushing
1 1/2 cups freshly shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup raw walnut halves, chopped
zest of 1 medium lemon
2 cups lightly packed arugula

  1. Preheat the oven to 500ºF. Place a pizza stone in the oven and allow the stone to heat for at least 15 to 20 minutes (if you can do 30, even better).
  2. Place the pizza dough on a lightly floured surface and allow to relax for about 10 minutes (but no longer than 30). Roll out and shape the dough and then transfer to a piece of parchment paper cut to about the size of your pizza stone that has been lightly dusted with cornmeal.
  3. Meanwhile, make the pesto recipe below. Set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, add the ricotta, basil, parsley, honey, salt and red pepper. Mix until combined. Set aside.
  5. Brush the pizza dough all over lightly with the olive oil. Scoop the pesto onto the dough and smear evenly all over, leaving a border around the edge. Sprinkle the mozzarella over the pesto, then drop the herbed ricotta in small scoops all over the top. Sprinkle with the walnuts.
  6. Transfer to the oven (put the parchment paper with the pizza directly on the pizza stone). Bake for about 10 to 14 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven, then sprinkle with the lemon zest and top with the fresh arugula. Slice and serve.

For the Pesto:
2 cups lightly packed arugula
1/2 cup lightly packed baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/3 cup olive oil

  1. Add the arugula, spinach, sunflower seeds, parmesan, garlic and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.
  2. With the food processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Process until smooth. If you want to thin out the pesto, add in additional olive oil a little at a time.

 

We recommend pairing this recipe with Ithaca Beer Company’s Hopkist.

As with all pizzas, feel free to adjust the amounts of the toppings to your own taste.

If you do not have a pizza stone (though highly recommend for homemade pizza), you can place the parchment with the pizza on a large baking sheet instead and then bake as directed.

 

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Outdoor Foot Rinse

by cathym on July 11, 2016

This summer, the gardening grime will stay outside—thanks to this handy idea I found online. The entire project took less than a half hour to build and set up. As a bonus, when placed in a sunny spot, the heated rocks feel like a hot stone foot massage.

footrinse

Completed foot rinse project

 

footrinsediagram

Construction diagram

 

Materials

Four 1×4 boards (like cedar) cut to 16 inches long

Eight 1½ inch nails or wood screws

Smooth river rocks or stones

Tools

Hammer or screwdriver

Power drill and bit (optional)

 

1. Attach boards together as shown in diagram with either nails or screws. If using screws, predrill holes to avoid splitting the wood. A helper is recommended to stabilize the boards.

2. Place frame near water supply with hose. Alternatively, use a watering can to rinse off.

3. Fill frame with smooth stones, at least 2½ inches deep, but not more than 3” deep. The foot rinse is now ready to use.

 

Cathy Monrad is the graphic designer and self-proclaimed garden
crafter for the Upstate Gardeners’ Journal.

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The Amazing Bat

by Megan Frank on July 10, 2016

by Liz Magnanti

With recent mosquito-borne illnesses making headlines, I have been getting a lot of questions about ways of controlling pests naturally without using harsh chemicals or pesticides. Attracting wildlife to your yard can help with insect issues. While birds will eat a lot of insects during the day, another winged creature, bats, will take care of insect issues at night. Because bats are out at the same time mosquitoes are, they can make a huge difference in controlling this pest. Just one bat alone can eat anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 insects each night. This is the equivalent of 20-50% of their own body weight! Certain species of bats can be attracted to your yard by providing a bat house. This provides space for bats to roost, and females to raise their young safely.

In New York we have 9 species of bats who call our state home. They are all insectivores, relying exclusively on insects for their diet. Three of these bats are classified as tree bats, who spend their days hanging from trees, camouflaged by their wings and tail membranes which they can wrap around themselves for warmth and protection. Tree bats tend to be solitary, and do not form large communal groups. They can be common, we just don’t see them due to their great camouflage. Many look like dead leaves hanging from trees during the day. The other six species of bats we have are cave bats, those who spend the winter in caves where they hibernate. Some of these cave bats, such as the Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus), Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus), and Tri-colored Bat (Perimyotis subflavus) are known for roosting in bat houses.

Bat houses come in many sizes and styles. In general, the more chambers the bat house has the better. The larger houses are able to provide more temperature fluctuation, which is best to accommodate a large nursery colony. Bats require a warm area to roost in. In our climate the bat house should be painted black or a dark color in order to absorb heat from the light. An outdoor, water-based, non-toxic latex paint is safe to use on the house. Bat houses can be mounted on poles or on the side of buildings and ideally by a water source. Houses can be mounted on trees. However, this usually does not provide them with the light they need to warm the house, and it leaves the house vulnerable to predators who may climb the tree to raid it. Houses mounted on poles and the side of buildings often become occupied more quickly than houses mounted on trees. Make sure the house is mounted at least 15 feet high, with the area underneath it clear, as bats need to be able to drop out of the bottom of the house for flight.

A bat house can be put up any time of the year. Bats will begin using them in early spring as they return to our area from their hibernation or migration sites. At any point in the year, however, bat houses may become occupied. Especially if a colony has been removed from a house, barn, or their roost has been destroyed in another way. Once a bat house has been put up, it requires little maintenance. It should be checked every year for evidence of wasps building a hive inside.

There are many myths about bats that have vilified them. The most common myths being all bats have rabies, they are blind, and they will fly into and get tangled in your hair. These just are not true. While bats, like all mammals, are susceptible to rabies, less than 1% of their population ever has it. Bats can see, almost as well as we can, but rely on their amazing sense of echolocation to navigate and find their prey at night. This also makes it possible for them to avoid running into structures, or getting too close to humans or predators in complete darkness.

Little Brown Bat confirmed with white-nose syndrome. Photo courtesy Flickr: Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).

Little Brown Bat confirmed with white-nose syndrome. Photo courtesy Flickr: Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS).

 

Recently, millions of bats have fallen victim to a disease called white-nose syndrome. White-nose syndrome causes hibernating bats to wake up more frequently during their hibernation, which burn off the fat reserves they need to survive the winter. Many end up dying as they leave their hibernation site too early in the winter in search of food. The disease is named for the white fungus that is visible on the face and wings of the affected bats. It is estimated that there has been an 80% decline in the population of bats since the introduction of this fungal disease to the Northeast. This disease, combined with habitat loss, has made it increasing difficult for bats to find a safe place to roost and raise young. Most bats only have one pup a year so these spots are critical for their survival.

Not only are bats fascinating creatures, they are amazing to watch! Set up your bat house this summer and soon you may be entertained nightly by these fuzzy, aerodynamic insect eaters.

Liz Magnanti is the manager of the Bird House on Monroe Avenue in Pittsford. She has a degree in wildlife conservation and has worked as a naturalist at various nature centers.

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The Park’s Memorial Walk starts out in  a gardenesque setting, then makes its way into beautiful woodlands.

The Park’s Memorial Walk starts out in a gardenesque setting, then makes its way into beautiful woodlands.

Radical Welcome
The 170-acre White Haven Memorial Park in Pittsford is a park for all people. Walkers and runners are welcome,
bicyclists and hikers are welcome, dogs are welcome. Birders can come do their early morning thing, including observing Eastern bluebirds in the Park’s dedicated nesting area. The entrance sign even says “Geocachers
welcome.” One need not have a loved one buried there to enjoy the beautiful natural assets of White Haven— including formidable horticultural assets. There are more than 150 different tree species in the developed areas alone, with dozens more species yet to be inventoried in the Park’s 70-plus acres of forest.

There is a wildflower meadow on the site of the green burial area (“built” wildflower meadows are high-maintenance, as anyone who’s tried one knows!). And the small staff grow more than 15,000 annuals in their own greenhouse each year for the grounds, then work diligently all summer to keep those annuals watered and protected as much
as possible from the Park’s abundant wildlife, who enjoy refuge there.

The Green Burial Wildflower Meadow  gets colorful in mid to late summer.

The Green Burial Wildflower Meadow gets colorful in mid to late summer.

A huge part of White Haven’s park-like appearance owes to the fact that there are no traditional above-grown tombstones; there are only flat bronze memorials throughout, with the exception of the natural stones and plaques on the Nature Trail that accompany the cremated remains of those who chose that option. The specimen trees and large expanses of lawn with open vistas makes White Haven feel very Olmstedian.

Andrea Vittum has been president of White Haven since 1993, and before that was vice president since 1985. “The first thing you’ll notice when you come here, along with the natural beauty, is that White Haven is called a Memorial Park, not a cemetery,” she says. “Then you’ll notice the fact that you won’t see the word ‘No’ on any of our signage.”

That wasn’t always the case. Back in 1995, Vittum organized a Vision Day for the staff, where employees at every level came together to brainstorm the mission for White Haven. There was a unanimous feeling that the Park should be profoundly more welcoming to the public. “It was a huge turning point for us,” Vittum says. “We all felt that this place was for the living as well as for the dead, and that we wanted people to have the opportunity to come here and develop happy memories…We knew that this transformation would make White Haven more of a comforting and healing place, valuable to everyone, as we all eventually have to contend with loss and grief.”

With that mission in mind, the Park put in new, welcoming signage, renovated the whole front of the main building to make it more welcoming and accessible, and began to pursue a wider range of uses and designations that would further engage the public. For instance, in 1993, White Haven became the first cemetery in the country to participate in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary program sponsored by Audubon International, and in 1998, they were the first cemetery to become fully accredited in all five areas of participation, which include setting up bird sanctuaries and implementation of Integrated Pest Management to greatly reduce pesticide use.

Tree Recognition
The most recent feather in the Park’s cap is Level 1 Arboretum Certification by the Arbnet Arboretum Accreditation Program, which puts the Park on the Morton Arboretum Register of Arboreta. Information on each species and the location of specimen trees is available in the Park’s office and White Haven is working towards having an online tree walk available to anyone with a smartphone. Having conducted a tree inventory that gathered that information was one of the requirements for Level 1 Arboretum Accreditation.

The Park’s tree inventory actually began back in 1989 as a project of interest to Vittum. “I was working on getting a tree map of the whole park because even then we had close to 100 species,” she says. She was going to do a booklet about 50 of the most magnificent trees and she hired a photographer who came several times a year to photograph each tree at its showiest season. “We had this incredible catalog of photos, but then in 1991 we had a horrific ice storm in which many of the specimen trees were badly disfigured. I lost my heart for the project at the time because so many of the trees no longer looked like they did in the photos— it was very sad.”

The oldest and largest tree at White Haven, a majestic red oak (Quercus rubra).

The oldest and largest tree at White Haven, a majestic red oak (Quercus rubra).

Fast-forward to several years ago, when Vittum was reading in a national cemetery magazine about a new phenomenon of cemeteries becoming arboreta. Enough time had passed such that the wounds (to tree and heart) of the ice storm had healed. She passed her 1991 data along to Assistant Vice President Nate Romagnola and Director of Horticulture Gary Burke, who set about creating a current inventory and database of the trees in the developed areas.

“Our database has been a helpful tool when someone comes in and wants to know what the tree near their loved one is,” Romagnola says. Part of the inventory process was affixing numbered labels to the trees, which both gives a reference point to help people find their loved ones in the Park and helps Park staff more readily locate burial sites.

Vittum, Romagnola, and Burke have big plans to further their outreach. “We want to bump up to Level 2 certification by having more educational opportunities and by refining the database and increasing its utility,” Romagnola says. “We would love, for example, to have college tree ID or arboriculture classes, Master Gardeners, and other groups use the Park for educational purposes.” Romagnola thinks that more cemeteries would pursue Arbnet Arboretum Accreditation if they knew about it. When there’s already a strong tree resource in place, “it can be just a matter of getting the paperwork done,” he says.

From left to right: Adam Romagnola, Nate Romagnola, Gary Burke, and Andrea Vittum.

From left to right: Adam Romagnola, Nate Romagnola, Gary Burke, and Andrea Vittum.

Making it All Grow
As head grower, Interment and Garden Foreman Adam Romagnola (Nate’s brother) oversees the production of almost 15,000 annuals in the Park’s greenhouse. “It’s a lot of fun, and it saves the organization money over buying in all those plants,” he says. At seed-buying time, Romagnola and Burke are looking for those plants with the biggest color impact, because the bold display beds are equal in importance to the tree collection in making the grounds appealing in summer. “We choose things that are colorful and straightforward to grow, like zinnias, marigolds, celosia, salvias, geraniums, dahlias, and cannas,” Romagnola says.

“The only annuals we buy in are begonias and ‘Victoria Blue’ salvia,” Burke says. He explains that ‘Victoria Blue’ proved too fussy a germinator, and begonias have to be started in greenhouses in January. The horticulture department decided it was more economical to wait until February to fire up the greenhouse, so they buy the begonias in.

Adam Romagnola oversees the production of more than 15,000 annuals a year in the Park’s greenhouse. 

Adam Romagnola oversees the production of more than 15,000 annuals a year in the Park’s greenhouse.

Adam Romagnola says, “We tweak things every year to become better growers and to find things that are going to work in the big display beds.” For instance, one year the crew planted ‘Benary’s Giant’ zinnias rather densely, and ended up with a powdery mildew problem. They learned to use cosmos instead, which has feathery foliage and allows for better air circulation.

One year the red salvia was hit with aphids. “We learned that we needed to mix something else in with that red salvia so that if or when it died out, we’d still have something red there,” Romagnola says. “Now we interplant it with red celosia, which fills in the space if necessary.”

As to perennials? Burke says, “There are some perennial beds that we maintain, but they are high maintenance for the amount of more muted color they offer, so we prefer annual beds with splashy colors.” Burke says they’d love to grow even more annuals for display, but the greenhouse space is maxed out, and includes growing extras for replacements for deer and other mishaps. “The deer run the show when the sun goes down here,” Adam Romagnola says. “Yet we enjoy the wildlife that live here, as do the visitors. You get to see the same big bucks coming back year after year, and sometimes new ones.”

The team uses regular applications of Liquid Fence to protect the annuals. “I’ve sprayed it so much, the smell doesn’t even bother me anymore,” Romagnola says. They also try to pick plants that deer won’t favor. He says that  while the deer won’t eat the geranium flowers, they will eat the geranium buds. “Even when you put the Liquid Fence on,” Burke says, “the deer will sometimes pull the plants up and spit them out—it can be discouraging.” The deer will also sometimes munch on or strew about fresh cut flowers that families put on gravesites. Newly planted trees get trunk protection via corrugated plastic tubes, to protect the tender cambium from rutting bucks.

What’s really amazing is that all of the horticulture/grounds crew are also doing interments, so when you ask them how many full-time equivalents they have on horticulture staff, it’s very hard to say, because the burial schedule is unpredictable. “We have the freezing days when you’re jackhammering the soil for burial, but other times you’re in the greenhouse or planting flowers—we enjoy the variety of the things we do,” Burke says.

More About Horticulture at White Haven

  • The larger display beds have automatic irrigation; the smaller ones are watered by hand from a 150-gallon tank. “We like to put the knowledgeable seasonal employees on watering because they know how important it is,” Romagnola says.
  • There are five mature ash trees in the developed collection that are being micro-injected to project the trees from Emerald Ash Borer.
  • The oldest and largest tree is a red oak (Quercus rubra) in the center of the developed Park. Gary Burke is partial to a large shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) and Andrea loves the large Nootka cypress (Cupressus nootkatensis). Other interesting specimens include Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus), Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), Japanese snowbell (Styrax japonicus), tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea), American fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), goldenchain tree (Laburnum anagyroides), paperbark maple (Acer griseum), and six different kinds of beech trees.
  • The soil on the property ranges from very sandy in the front portion to clayey and wet in the back acreage. The property was previously an airfield, and before that, a farm.
  • The staff maintains a giant compost pile in the back, using leaves and funeral flowers as its primary components.
  • The wildflower meadow is a struggle to perpetuate, but one very cool thing is that each family who buries a loved one in the green burial meadow receives wildflower seeds and is invited to sow them, resulting in lovely spots of color come August. The staff also plants plugs every year. Adam Romagnola says, “We spend a lot of time on it, but I’m hopeful the wildflower meadow will eventually be self-sustaining.”

Michelle Sutton (michellejudysutton.com) is a horticulturist, writer, and editor.

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What to do in the Garden in July-August (2016)

by Megan Frank on July 9, 2016

JULY
In the food garden
Continue to cut off curly garlic scapes to encourage larger bulbs. You may be able to harvest garlic in late July.

Remove spotted or yellow leaves from your tomatoes. This will slow down early blight and septoria leaf blight. If you suspect late blight, take leaf samples or pictures to your local Extension office.

Protect berries from the birds with bird netting. If some berries look moist or misshapen, check for the maggots of the two-spotted drosophila fruit fly. Destroy all the bad fruit. If a lot of fruit has been set, you can then use rowcover to keep the fruit flies out, but this will also prevent further pollination so wait until they are done flowering. Consult Cornell CE for spray recommendations. Also look out for the marmorated stink bug. The Cornell Insect Diagnostic Lab has good links for both pests at http://idl.entomology.cornell.edu/factsheets/

Keep your food plants weeded, watered, and mulched. Blueberry bushes are particularly sensitive to drought. A five-gallon bucket with holes, next to each bush, provides an easy way to water and measure how much water you’re applying (10 gallons each is good in drought situations, once or twice a week).

Keep tomato branches inside their cages, and guide melon and squash vines.

This is the last month to plant these veggies for a fall crop if you are in zone 5: snap beans, peas, cucumbers, carrots, kohlrabi, summer squash, early sweet corn, green onions. Zone 6 gardeners get a couple more weeks of growing season. Cover newly planted seeds with rowcover to keep them cooler and moist.

It’s time to renew or move the strawberry bed. Moving the plants allows a thorough weed removal, and then there’s still time to plant a succession crop (see above).

Keep the asparagus bed weeded. You shouldn’t be harvesting any longer. Look out for asparagus beetles; drop them in soapy water.

To maximize basil harvest and prevent blooming, cut plants back by one-third, rather than just plucking leaves. You can probably do this three times. You can overwinter a few basil plants in pots on a warm sunny windowsill (put parsley on your cooler windowsill).

Handpick Japanese beetles, Colorado potato beetles, etc. Look for the eggs on undersides of leaves. Use B.t on cabbage family plants. Remember B.t will also kill the caterpillars of desirable butterflies; instead, grow extra parsley, dill, or fennel, to have more black swallowtails. Leave common milkweed in rough areas for monarch caterpillars.

Don’t panic if you have few apples or crabapples this year. We should have a large fruit set next year. Thinning the fruit then may reduce the tendency to biennial bearing that might result.

Black knot is a fungus that affects some plums and cherries. If you haven’t planted plums yet, seriously consider the hybrid plums that appear to be totally resistant. Most of these are products of plant breeding in the upper Midwest, so they are hardy to zones 3 or 4.

Ornamentals
It’s finally okay to remove daffodil and tulip foliage – removing it prematurely has a negative effect on flowering. This is also a good time to move the bulbs, or you can dig them up and dry them off, for planting in September.

Early July is a good time to move Colchicums. The dormant foliage should still allow you to find them. Try growing plumbago, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, as a fall-flowering groundcover with the Colchicum. The foliage will help support the Colchicum flowers and keep them out of the mud.

A good rainy day chore is sorting seed packets. Also, if you forced bulbs this past winter, you can take them out of the pots and store them dry and cool for the summer (except for delicate ones like snowdrops).

Leggy annuals may need to be pruned back to encourage new growth and more flowering. Some annuals don’t take hot weather and may need to be replaced.

Unruly perennials such as spiderwort can be cut back by two-thirds, and then watered. They will send up fresh new foliage. Deadhead some other perennials, like catmint, and salvia either for continued bloom, and improved foliage.  For more details, consult the excellent book by Tracy DiSabato-Aust: “The Well-Tended Perennial Garden.”

Bearded irises can be divided and replanted now. Get this done before Labor Day, to allow sufficient time for rerooting. If you want to order more, do so right away. Late-planted bearded irises may heave out of the ground and die in the winter, but if they have enough time to root, they are very winter-hardy. A tip from the Southern Tier Iris Society: put a brick on late-planted rhizomes to prevent heaving.

Continue to go on garden tours at private gardens and arboreta. Take your camera and notebook, because you are sure to get ideas for your own garden.

Mark colors of phlox or daylilies in case you want to propagate them for friends or Plant Sales.

Watch your viburnums for viburnum leaf beetle adults, especially if they were defoliated by the larvae. Consider a pesticide treatment to save the shrubs. Do not cut back branches just because the leaves have been eaten or damaged. Scratch the bark with your fingernail. If it’s green underneath, the branch is alive. Dormant buds under the bark just need time to develop into sprouts and leaves. If the leaf defoliation isn’t too bad, an organic control method is to snip off the twigs that contain the VLB eggs. Although the egg-laying sites are most obvious in the fall, one actually has until April to trim the affected twigs. See the VLB factsheet for details.

This is the last month to fertilize woody plants, without encouraging tender late growth that may not harden off in time for winter. It’s also the last month to prune woody plants—except for dead or diseased wood.

Spring-planted woody plants need to be watered every week unless there is an inch of rain. Ten to 15 gallons per plant is recommended. If you haven’t protected them from deer yet, start planning how to do it.

AUGUST
In the food garden:
This is the last month to plant these veggies if you are in zone 5: broccoli or cauliflower transplants, leaf lettuce, spinach, and turnip. Protect them from the scorching sun with rowcover or milk crates.

The easiest way to expand the veggie garden is to sheet compost now with flattened cardboard boxes. Overlap the edges and then cover them up with whatever you have – grass clippings, woodchips, spoiled hay, or bags of leaves. By spring, most of the weeds will be dead. This is also a good way to prepare the ground for shrub borders, berry plantings, or flowerbeds. You can also use thick newspapers, but they take longer to apply.

Harvest garlic when the leaves are yellowing. Then you can weed the area and plant a late crop (see above). It’s best to rotate where you grow garlic, so pick a new spot with lots of sun and good drainage. Maybe, sheet compost the new spot now, until planting time in mid-October.

Keep up the weeding, watering, and mulching, as needed. Try not to get leaves wet as that might spread disease. Keep a close watch for tomato/potato late blight.

Keep harvesting beans, basil, okra, cucumbers, summer squash, eggplant, etc., in order for plants to keep producing. It’s okay to leave some peppers on the plant to ripen and turn color.

Fall-bearing raspberries should start producing by mid or late August. If you have the variety ‘Heritage’ and have had problems with early fall frosts destroying part of the crop, plant an earlier-bearing variety, such as ‘Polana.’

Enjoy blueberries until Labor Day if you have planted the late-bearing variety ‘Elliott.’ Maybe you’ll have room to add it next spring, if you’ve not planted any!

Ornamentals:
Nursery stock goes on sale and may be a good money saver if it has been well cared for. Be sure to water weekly after planting if rain is insufficient. Keep the watering up until the ground freezes, unless rain is adequate.

The second half of August is a good time to start to move and/or divide some of the hardier perennials. Try to be done by the end of September.

It’s time to order bulbs for fall planting, to get the best selection of varieties. Lots of spring-blooming bulbs are deer-resistant. Avoid tulips and crocuses, and enjoy carefree alliums, winter aconite, snowdrops, snowflake, Siberian squill, glory-of-the-snow, Puschkinia, Fritillaria, and Anemone blanda. Grape hyacinths send up fall foliage, but even when it’s browsed, it doesn’t seem to affect their vigor.

Repot your houseplants to get them established before they need to be brought back inside.

Keep the lawn mowed at a three-inch height for the strongest root development and drought resistance. But if a drought drags on, allow the lawn to go dormant. It will revive on its own when rains resume.

Late August and early September is the best time to renovate the lawn or to seed a new one.

This is the time to start protecting tree trunks from ‘buck rub’ damage.

— Pat Curran and the Tompkins County Master Gardeners

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Stump the Chump: July-August 2016

by Megan Frank on July 8, 2016

STC-JA2016

Hints:
I’m in the olive family,
My fragrances divine,
I bloom in June, also July,
As a street tree, I am fine.

Grandma loved my shrubby kin,
With tulips a great bouquet!
Too bad she moved away.

I’m native to the orient,
Like many a tree or shrub.
If you live in Rochester,
You oughta know me, bub.

 

The first person to answer correctly, genus and species please, will win an Upstate Gardeners’ Journal mug. Please call  585/301-7181 or email megan@upstategardenersjournal.com to guess. We will accept guesses starting July 18, 2016, in order to give everyone a fair chance. Good luck!

 

The answer to the March-April 2016 quadruple stumper: 1. Fagus grandifolia, 2. Cornus mas, 3. Forsythia suspensa, 4. Catulpa catulpa.

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Ear to the Ground: July-August 2016

by Megan Frank on July 8, 2016

This is my favorite time of year: garden fresh produce direct from my backyard! There’s nothing like a homegrown tomato picked fresh and eaten immediately – hopefully mine will be ready soon. Just yesterday the first of my cucumbers were ready to harvest, it felt like my birthday and Christmas rolled all into one. I can imagine others feel as giddy as I about their gardens, and would love to share their plot. My hope is to share garden pictures (sent by you) with our social media community. They don’t have to be anything unusual or out of this world—some of the best ideas are the simplest and can manifest into something you’ve never thought on your own. Let’s latch onto the trend (thank you, Kathy Kepler) and inspire each other through social media posts of our creations!

Please send your garden pictures to megan@upstategardenersjournal.com.

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Reprint: Trees as Tribute

by cathym on May 26, 2016

Although flowers often go hand in hand with funerals, trees offer a more lasting tribute. What would you rather have, a spray of roses for a week or an awesome oak for a century?

You’ll see trees in arboreta, parks, and other public spaces dedicated to people who have gone before us. Many animal lovers plant a tree as a memorial to a beloved pet. Trees can also mark an important milestone, such as a graduation, wedding, or birth.

My dad planted trees for each of his seven children. He liked variety, so by the time he got to his youngest, I was stuck with a silver maple. Heck, we lived next door to the Highland Park arboretum, so he wasn’t lacking for inspiration. At least my silver maple grew faster than any of the other trees in our yard — giving me something to brag about.

 Shagbark hickory is a slow grower that rewards the patient with centuries of majestic beauty.

Shagbark hickory is a slow grower that rewards the patient with centuries of majestic beauty.

Catalpa delights with white flowers in late spring and brown seedpodsin winter

Catalpa delights with white flowers in late spring and brown seedpodsin winter

I enjoy growing trees with special significance. The catalpa, above, is also known as cigar tree because of its slender brown seedpods. I found the volunteer seedling while visiting the University of Notre Dame, my dad’s alma mater. Groundskeepers eventually would have yanked out the interloper, so I brought it home with me. There’s something really satisfying about saving a doomed plant.

Then there are the two red oaks I discovered growing on my parents’ gravesite. The seedlings were so small I brought them back on the plane in coffee cups. Today they’re 8 feet tall and awaiting a permanent home. (I just need to find a special spot that won’t be disturbed for, oh, 200 years or so.)

Red oak has beautiful fall color and is a relatively fast grower.

Red oak has beautiful fall color and is a relatively fast grower.

Red oak trees are hardy to Zone 3 so Iowa’s cold winters haven’t been a problem for these Upstate transplants. I do have to cut the roots every other year so they don’t get rootbound. I also mulch the pots with leaves for winter insulation. Both of those extra steps will be unnecessary once the trees are planted for good.

By the way, my Rochester-born oaks march to their own drummer. They leaf out later in spring than their Midwestern relatives and take on fall color at their own pace, too. It makes them seem even more special to me.

There’s one other symbolic tree I’d like to tell you about: a black walnut seedling I found growing through the side of a raised bed. I dedicated the tree to a young man who’s experienced some teen growing pains. I’ve shown him pictures of the tree and pointed out that — just like him — it’s no quitter. I’m probably more interested in the tree’s symbolism than he will ever be. But it’s a convenient prop when he can use some encouragement.

Planted too deeply to sprout conventionally, this black walnut forced its way through a seam.

Planted too deeply to sprout conventionally, this black walnut forced its
way through a seam.

That resourceful seedling has an interesting backstory: I brought a nut back with me from the historic Arbor Day Lodge in Nebraska. The nut lingered in my truck bed for weeks — somehow escaping the attention of foraging squirrels — until I got around to wrapping it in chicken wire and burying it in a raised bed for the winter. I soon forgot about it.

Black walnuts can take two years to germinate, so an entire season of vegetable gardening went on above the sleeping walnut. It wasn’t until the second summer that a wiry stem started squeezing through a seam so tight it would give a microbe reason to pause. Talk about the will to live! How can you let a tree with that sort of moxie die? I couldn’t.

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Tenacity alone was reason enough to save the seedling, so it was liberated from its confinement while dormant.

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After feisty squirrels removed the top, the black walnut resprouted into a healthy seedling.

So this spring, when the seedling was dormant, I drilled a couple of holes around the stem to free it from its self-imposed prison. Although the stem was flattened, the roots were in good shape. That turned out to be important because soon after I replanted the tree, a squirrel separated said stem from said roots.

Not to worry; nature has provided black walnut seedlings with the means to resprout in such situations. This time I surrounded the sad-looking remnant with spiny chestnut burrs to discourage varmints if they got through the wire-mesh cage. Talk about killing with kindness: The burrs rested against the broken stem, trapping moisture and causing the replacement bud to become moldy and abort. Could this tree ever catch a break?

Yes, indeed. After moving the burrs back and going easy on the water, a brand new shoot arose like a phoenix from the roots. As you can see, it’s quickly developing into a tree—a special tree with a special significance.

Grow Your Own Tribute Tree
Would you like to grow a tree with special meaning? Search for seeds at the old family homestead, the park where you had your first picnic with your spouse, your alma mater, the hospital where your child or grandchild was born — the possibilities are endless. Many trees ripen seeds in fall, but there are some (such as elms, poplars, and soft maples) on a spring schedule. Oak is a great choice for a tribute tree because it symbolizes strength and can live for centuries. It’s also America’s National Tree. To see the author’s tips on sprouting oaks from acorns, visit www.lowes.com/lci-acorns.

Luke Miller is a native Rochesterian now living in Iowa. Visit his public Facebook page featuring tree photography and inspirational quotes at www.facebook.com/OldsmobileTrees. You can also access archives of his philosophical tree blog at www.lowes.com/reflections.

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Fabulous Native Ferns

by cathym on May 21, 2016

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Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum)

One of the joys of spring is watching ferns unfurl. The fronds start with small fuzzy arcs in the early spring, just poking their little heads above the crown of the plant and slowly growing upward and unfurling like the unwinding of a spring. When I see these fiddleheads, I know spring is really here.

Unfortunately ferns get very little attention as a garden perennial. In most books about perennials, they aren’t even mentioned. This is probably because they don’t have flowers or seeds and somehow people don’t think of them as perennials. They are in fact perennials, reliably returning each year to add beauty, texture and even color to our gardens.

Many people have the misconception that ferns are difficult to grow. This stems from the fact that they seem exotic, tropical, and not appropriate for our cooler climate. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The north east has numerous varieties of native ferns in its woods and meadows. If they grow successfully on their own, how hard can it be to grow a few in our gardens?

Like with any plant, you need to match the conditions in your garden to the requirements of the fern. They are perfect for a moist shady location, but that is not the only suitable habitat. Some can tolerate quite a bit of sun and others will handle dryer soil. All the ferns love leaf mold mulch, which is logical considering in nature they grow in the woods. The important thing is doing your homework before you purchase a fern and find out just what conditions they prefer.

One of the advantages of growing ferns is their almost year round interest. From the spring unfurling, through the summer’s lush textured foliage, to the beautiful caramel and amber colors of the fall, ferns add a depth to the garden that cannot be achieved with the more traditional blossoming perennials whose flowers come and go so quickly. The green provides a resting spot for the eyes as well as making the colors of the blooms around them stand out.

Ferns have been growing for more than 300 million years! In most depictions of dinosaurs there are ferns in the background. In fact, in prehistoric times, they were a dominant part of the vegetation. Today there are about 12,000 species of fern worldwide and more than 50 species native to the Northeast.

The following are some native ferns that will grow well in our area.  Adding native ferns is a good way to contribute to the sustainability of your landscape. The ferns mentioned below are generally available at nurseries and will grow well in our area. One of the most important features of ferns is deer don’t like them! That alone is reason to try a few.

Christmas fern (Polystichum  acrostichoides)

Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)

Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides): If you want to try just one fern, the Christmas fern has the most adaptable requirements. It prefers rich, moist soil but will also tolerate dry soil. Christmas fern likes shade but will take partial sun if the soil is moist enough. One of the things setting this fern apart is the fronds are evergreen so you have the deep green color all winter. Christmas fern is not invasive. The clump slowly gets larger, staying 12 to 24 in. tall.

Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris): This is a large fern, 24 to 72 inches tall and brings a stunning verticality to the landscape. Ostrich fern loves moist shade or part sun and will even tolerate occasional standing water. It’s ideal along a stream or near a pond. The fronds emerge from a central crown that looks like a dark brown, dead clump on the ground in the winter. This is the fern that has the tastiest fiddleheads and are as prized as asparagus in the spring. Ostrich fern can become invasive sending out new underground shoots so don’t put it somewhere it doesn’t have a little room to spread. If they do spread too much they are easy to dig up and share with a friend.

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Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina)

Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina): Lady fern is one of the most common ferns in wooded areas of western New York and also one of the easiest to grow. It prefers moist, loamy soil and shade to partial sun. Lady fern stays 16-36 inches tall and it has an attractive, lacy appearance. It forms a lovely amorphous clump that won’t take over your garden and adds a feathery texture.

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Cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea)

Cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea): This is a spectacular, rounded clump forming fern that gets 30 to 60 inches tall. Its fiddleheads are hairy and very decorative in spring. The spore fronds turn cinnamon colored when mature, hence its name. Unfortunately they don’t persist through the season but die back after releasing their spores, but they’re a show-stopper while they last. Cinnamon fern prefers moist to wet soil.

Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum): The maidenhair fern is one of our most beautiful native ferns, always lovely in a landscape. Its fronds unfold on wiry, delicate black stems. The green fronds form a double-sided swirl of leaves from the top of the stem. Maidenhair ferns grow 12 to 20 inches tall and prefer partial to full shade. They thrive in moist well-drained soil. This is not a fern that will grow in standing water. One of my favorite features of maidenhair fern is the deep burgundy color they turn in fall. Stunning!

Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis): This is one of the ferns that will do well in full sun if the conditions are moist. It will also do very well in shade with normal garden soil. Sensitive fern has a pale green color and a single stemmed triangular frond with segments more coarsely divided. The spore fronds persist and look like little round balls on a stick. For this reason they are often used in fall arrangements. Sensitive fern grows to a height of 12 – 36 inches tall, and spreads readily given the right conditions.

Interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana): The growth habit of this fern is striking. It forms an upright clump similar to an ostrich fern but the spores appear as dark sacks mid-way up the stem, hence the name. People always ask what it is when they see it in my garden. Interrupted fern grows 24 to 48 inches tall and can tolerate relatively dry shade to partial shady conditions.

If you have the appropriate spot, give one of our native ferns a try. They will reward you with beauty throughout the growing season and for years to come.

Lyn Chimera is a master gardener with Erie County Cornell Cooperative Extension.

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Mosaic Stepping Stones

by cathym on May 21, 2016

Materials

Stepping stone mold or old cake pan

Glass tiles, sea glass, marbles

Piece of paper a bit larger than mold

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

Paint brush

Stepping stone mix, found at craft stores,
or fast-drying concrete

Water

Old bucket

Trowel or paint stir stick

Rubber gloves (optional)

Tile and grout sealer

1-pattern

1. Place mold on paper and trace shape. Lay out mosaic materials in a pattern within traced shape. 

2. Using paintbrush, coat sides and bottom of mold with vegetable oil.

2. Using paintbrush, coat sides and bottom of mold with vegetable oil.

3. Per instructions on packaging, prepare stepping stone mix or fast-drying concrete with water, using trowel or paint stick to stir. Pour or scoop mixture into mold, gently tap on flat surface to release air bubbles. Smooth top with trowel, or with hands while wearing rubber gloves.

3. Per instructions on packaging, prepare stepping stone mix or fast-drying concrete with water, using trowel or paint stick to stir. Pour or scoop mixture into mold, gently tap on flat surface to release air bubbles. Smooth top with trowel, or with hands while wearing rubber gloves.

4. Carefully press glass objects into mixture until they sit flush with top of mixture.

4. Carefully press glass objects into mixture until they sit flush with top of mixture.

5. Let stepping stone cure for 24 to 48 hours before popping out of mold. After a few days, use paintbrush to coat with tile and grout sealer.

5. Let stepping stone cure for 24 to 48 hours before popping out of mold. After a few days, use paintbrush to coat with tile and grout sealer.

6. Place stepping stone in your garden.

6. Place stepping stone in your garden.

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