Week 8 (5/18/2006)
‘God made rainy days, so gardeners could get the housework done.’
So, now that our houses are all spotless, what else can we do until the sun comes out? There is no better time to visit America’s Best Flowers and spend some time deciding what you want to plant this year. Every greenhouse is full of the colors you long for in your yards. Our marigold house is ablaze with the yellow, oranges and reds of summer. Impatiens baskets in shades of pinks and purples, as well as white, oranges and red, fill the roof of our big house. As you enter the petunia house, be ready to be amazed, not only by the color but the delicious fragrance of the blossoms. And don’t forget the greens. The use of variegated foliage is one of the most exciting ways to add dimension and depth to plantings. But hurry. It is our experience that as soon as the rain stops, gardeners will descend on us in a ‘feeding frenzy.’ Once this happens, the selection will be more limited, so beat the crowd. Come on out today.
‘New gardeners learn by trowel and error.’
Tip of the Week – Update Your Garden Tools
The tools available for gardeners today are a light year away from what your grandma used. For years we’ve heard Tim ‘The Toolman’ Taylor talk about using the correct tool for the job. If this is true for home repair, it is doubly true for gardening. On the first warm sunny Saturday of the spring (I promise this is coming), we take our winter-softened bodies out to the garden. From early in the morning, until our backs won’t bend again, we dig (with a rusty spade), rake (with a too-long rake), pull (with bare hands) and plant (with too small a trowel). And at the end of the day we wonder “Why does gardening have to make us so tired?”
America’s Best Flowers has the answer. It’s not the gardening. If we kneel on a good kneeling pad instead of bend; dig with sharp, shiny spades and shovels; rake with the proper length rake; pull with our hands protected by the proper gloves; and plant with hand tools designed to protect our hands, wrists and shoulders from injury; the end of the day will leave us with energy to spare. Energy we can use walking around the yard and enjoying the results of our work.
“What you need in gardening is a cast-iron back, with a hinge in it.”
“I will keep the weeds out of my beds this year.”
How many of us have made this resolution every year, but by July realize that they beat us again? While there is no alternative to some hand-weeding, there is help. Weeds, just like flowers, come in three basic types, perennial, biennial and annual. The perennial weeds, like dandelions and burdock, can be very difficult to control. Your best bet in established flower beds is to deeply dig the adult plants. This job can be much easier with properly designed and sharpened tools. Always wear good gardening gloves, and long-sleeved shirts, as well, if you are dealing with tall prickly weeds. When you dig, try to get as much of the root as possible. Then use Preen, a pre-emergent herbicide, to keep the previous years’ seeds from germinating. Biennial weeds, like garlic mustard, grow from seeds their first year, live through one winter and then grow into tall, blooming plants their second summer before dying. For control purposes, we treat them as annual weeds their first year and perennial weeds thereafter. Annual weeds, like crabgrass and purslane, come up every year from seed, go through their bloom cycle and then die with the winter’s cold. By applying Preen at regular intervals, you can gain some control over these weeds as well. Just be sure to read the label thoroughly and follow the directions.
Many of last year’s seeds have already germinated. Unfortunately the only safe way to remove these from around your prized plants is either by pulling or cutting them off with a good hand cultivator. Once you do this, though, you have created a perfect environment for another batch of seeds to germinate. An alternative to weekly weeding is to follow up with an immediate application of Preen. Try to weed thoroughly before putting the Preen in place and then leave the area alone. If you dig or disturb the soil after application, you have broken the barrier Preen creates to prevent germination of seeds.
Per the label, Preen can be applied on a regular basis. Right before each application, it’s a good idea to hand weed the beds again. If this approach is followed, you really can gain control of those pesky weeds.
“A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.” Doug Larson
“I read about this brand-new perennial in a magazine. Do you have it?” We get a lot of questions like this. Sometimes it’s a perennial, sometimes an annual, sometimes a tree. While we try hard to have the plants you want, we have learned over the years that brand-new does not always equal best. Our goal is to provide you with the best plants America has to offer – thus our name, America’s Best Flowers.
Plant breeding is a long, tedious and expensive process. Sometimes plants are brought to market early in an attempt to recover some of the expenses involved in this process. The consumer’s gardens then become the final test. Because we want our customers to be successful in their gardening, we choose to let others do this final testing. The best-tended plant will not be successful if it isn’t the right plant to begin with. So when you read about something that sounds too good to be true, consider that it might be. If it is still receiving rave reviews in a few years, you can count on finding it at America’s Best Flowers.
“I know it’s raining and the soil is wet, but my schedule only allows me to garden this weekend. Is that okay?” (I know I answered this last week, but since this is really important and for those of you who missed it please read on.) No, when soils are extremely wet it’s important to stay off. Gardening in excessively wet soils only results in compaction. Plants put into this environment will do poorly all year because this compaction allows no room around their roots for air. With the cold, wet weather we are expecting, your plants would not get a good start in their new home anyway. A better alternative for this weekend is visiting America’s Best Flowers. We have two acres of greenhouses for you to enjoy.
“Okay, so how do I know when it is dry enough to dig?” There is a relatively simple test any gardener can use to help them decide if the soil is too wet to work. With your trowel, scoop up a handful of soil. Place the soil in your hand and squeeze. If you get a firm ball of soil, it’s too wet. If the soil forms a loose ball that crumbles easily, it’s just right. I have heard this test called the ‘chocolate cake’ test. The soil in your hand should resemble moist cake crumbs. Later in the year, after a period of dry weather, you will get fine dry crumbs. When this happens, it is suggested that you water the area and wait a day before digging.
“How late are you open?”
This is our most frequently asked question. In May all five of our sites are open to serve you until 8 PM Monday through Saturday and until 6 PM on Sundays.
“Where are your five sites located?”
This is our second most frequently asked question. Our main location is located between Madison and Cottage Grove just south of Cottage Grove Road on Vilas Hope Road. We also have four parking lot greenhouses set up. One is by Sears Automotive in West Towne Mall; the second is in Monona at the Menard’s lot at the corner of Stoughton Road and Broadway; the third is located in the Menard’s lot at East Towne Mall; and the final one is on Main Street in Sun Prairie, at the Sun Prairie Rentals next to the Dairy Queen. We are open at the farm (Vilas Hope location) year round, with the other sites opening the last week of April and staying open until August.
If you have gardening questions you would like addressed in this newsletter, please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please put “Question for Newsletter” in the subject line. Otherwise it may not reach my desk.
“The best way to garden is to put on a wide-brimmed straw hat and some old soft clothes. And with a hoe in one hand and a cold drink in the other, tell somebody else where to dig.” Texas Bix Bender, Don’t Throw in the Trowel
BLUEBERRY BREAKFAST PUDDING
1 lg. egg
1/3 c brown sugar
1c skim milk
1t ground cinnamon
1t grated lemon rind (I prefer orange)
1t vanilla extract
6 slices whole wheat bread.
nonstick cooking spray
3c fresh or dry-pack frozen blueberries
1/2c low fat plain, vanilla, or lemon yogurt
With a fork, beat eggs and brown sugar together in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in milk, cinnamon, lemon rind, and vanilla. Tear bread into 1/2" pieces and stir into the mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly coat an 8x8 baking pan with the cooking spray. Stir the berries into mixture and spoon into the pan, uncovered, spreading the pudding evenly. Bake 40 minutes or until firm and golden. Serve warm, topping each portion with 2T yogurt, if desired. Serves 6
Total fat 2g
Protein 5 g
I like to serve this colorful breakfast pudding with fresh strawberries on the side and a slice of cantaloupe. YUM!
“When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.”
Plant of the Week
May is the month when German Iris earns its spot in your garden. Available in a rainbow of colors, irises are incredible in form and fragrance. Sun-loving irises perform well in hot, dry areas and require very little care.
They are happy in any soil except clay and faithfully brighten our yards every year around Memorial Day. When you plant iris, take care not to plant them any deeper than they are in the pot. If you are starting with bareroot rhizomes, plant them so the top of the rhizome is at ground level.
Every three or four years Iris can be divided. Do this about six weeks after they finish blooming. In this area that’s toward the end of July. It’s time to divide when you notice fewer blooms than in previous years. I will give detailed information in July about how to proceed.