Friday, October 25, 2013

End of Season Delights

The Toad Lily is blooming up a storm on the north side of the house (front) in deep shade! I will be planting many more of these delicate but hearty delights. The arrangement is on my kitchen windowsill above to show it off but it prefers shade, not direct sun.
A closer view of the blooms with the arrangement on my counter. The blossoms are just slightly larger than a thumbnail and bloom along the entire stem which in the garden setting is 10-12". I hope you give the Toad Lily a try.

The last blooms before frost. Can you believe how beautiful the roses are still? I wish you could smell them. David Austin roses have the most lovely fragrance and these are my favorites. They were just tight buds when the frost was predicted and this picture is two days later.

Everything has been harvested from the garden and preserved. I still have to put compost and mulch on the vegetable beds and I have to wrap and mulch the saplings and young trees. Maybe water trees if we don't get more moisture regularly during this Autumn.

And finally, the biggest delight of all, our female guinea had keets, six total, five survived.

She laid her eggs in the pasture among tall weeds. While Mark was mowing, he noticed her nest so gave her wide berth. Buddy however found the nest and would occasionally bring an egg to the front lawn. As you may recall, we retrieved one egg before he ate it and the keet is now in the Dot House with the chickens thinking she is a chicken!
But six managed to hatch and they were discovered by Mark the other day as the guinea momma was bringing them to the Guinea Shack. She stepped right in and Mark had to help the baby keets over the threshold since they were so tiny. The five survivors are growing like crazy and seem sturdy.  As I've said before, female guineas are not known to be the most diligent mothers so we are delighted with five additions to our guinea population.

The pictures above show that several adults stay on to watch over the keets and as I was trying to take pictures, they continuously moved to keep the keets hidden. I took alot of pictures to get these few.
We now have five adults and five keets. The guineas are wild in that they find their own food which is primarily the seeds, grasses, bugs, frogs and snakes around the house in the non-winter seasons. They have reduced our bug count drastically! We feed them grain during the winter. They come into their Guinea Shack each night to roost which is safer and warmer than in trees where they can freeze to death. However, since they roam free, every once in awhile during the winter we will lose a guinea to the wild hungry critters that risk coming closer to the ranch and find the guineas have strayed away from the buildings making it easier to hunt them.

One of the best food delights of autumn is Kolaches, the sweetbread fruit pastry that we of Czech heritage adored as children and still do today. I always think of my Mom and Grandma Hattie when I bake Kolaches because I am using their recipe. Sorry to do this but here is a picture of the treats with homemade 'traditional' poppy seed and prune fillings with my modern twist---addictive. I also use apricot, cherry, blueberry fillings at times. I'm not so crazy for the cream cheese or farmers cheese fillings which are also traditional.

I hope you are enjoying your Autumn with whatever delights it brings for you,Delores

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Learning as a Master Gardener

If you love to garden, on any scale, you might consider the Master Gardener program in your state. This has been a wonderful experience for me including meeting new people with the same interests and learning more about sustainable horticulture practices.

When I first moved to Nebraska, I found it somewhat difficult to merge into the community. After taking time to settle our home I began looking for opportunities within the community where I could devote time. A friend from Indiana had just completed the Master Gardener program and shared her experience with me. It was intriguing especially since I was just learning how to garden in zone 5 after moving here from southern California and wanted to have sizable vegetable and flower gardens. I researched the Nebraska Master Gardener program and found a training session near my home. That was three years ago.

Initially I was overwhelmed with all the information during the 40 hour spring training and it felt like I knew nothing about gardening. Soon everything settled and I realized I had alot yet to learn but also resources to which I could draw from UNL and their NebGuides as well as my own gardening experience.

Our program is headed by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic young woman, Elizabeth Killinger, MS Extension Educator. She made the classes fun and brought in excellent speakers on each topic from UNL or other Extension Educators. I made great friends each year and we often find ourselves volunteering for the same projects which is another motivation to be involved.

The planters as they are planted for the State fair.
A nice rainy day, perfect for planting.

The State Fair planters that Master Gardeners
plant, deadhead and weed until the SF opens.
These planters are moved all around the fair

The MG program certification requires 40 hours of initial training and 40 hours of volunteer work the first year. That volunteer time can include such activities as planting and maintaining demonstration gardens, collecting data on research projects, helping with county and state fair activities (my fave), speaking to community groups, leading garden tours, collecting plant samples, answering phone questions (scary, but I've done it), and teaching youth programs. There is something for everyone. After the first year, in order to maintain certification, 10 hours of training and 20 hours of volunteer work are required each year. It's not a huge commitment but a satisfactory one for a gardener who wants to continue learning and to make new friends.

I love to help at the county fairs
in the 4-H horticulture division where
kids bring in the produce and flowers
they have planted and raised.
Each year I volunteer at two to three county fairs and when I don't have visitors during that time, the State Fair in Grand Island, NE. I've helped plant the flower beds at the fairgrounds, deadhead and water the planters at the fairgrounds and weed the beds and lawns just before the fair starts.
Helping plant the 'American flag' flower bed
I've also volunteered to answer the helpline at the Extension office while the Educator was on maternity leave. That was the most scary but I did it to push myself to learn more and get comfortable answering peoples gardening questions. I don't know it all but I know where to go to get the answers and that is helpful and gave me more confidence as a volunteer educator. All this has helped me with my own garden too. In fact, I use my garden as my laboratory to try out things I've learned.

The Master Gardeners worked in this area
near the gazebo and 4-H building to pull
weeds and spiff it up before the fair started.
When you see a public garden or planters you may not think about who tends them but oftentimes it is a Master Gardener or several.

This time of year the gardener is still busy.

Fall Gardening

Produce preservation: It is lovely to eat the fresh fruit and vegetables directly from the garden but the abundance is there for preserving for the winter. I find great satisfaction in using my home grown products through the winter. They bring that fresh garden flavor to those dishes. I can and freeze the produce from my garden.

Cleanup: Although our gardens may still be producing, many plants have expired. The cleanup of flower and garden beds is critical for a healthier growing environment. Many pests hide and survive in the debris left in the garden after a growing season especially where you had trouble like powdery mildew on impatiens or wilt on tomatoes.
An addition of compost to the beds before winter can be a helpful step in increased production next spring. This is where the black-gold comes from that makes our soil so richly productive. It can be do-it-yourself or you can purchase it complete at your local trash company who may compost.It's worth calling to check out.  That is where we get most of ours and it only costs $25 per pickup load so it is economical.

This is what many tools look like after
a busy summer
Fall is also a good time to clean the garden tools and put them away. It is recommended to clean them in a mixture of 3 parts water to 2 parts bleach. This mixture will help with any bacteria or residue from disease from plants. Dry well and if the handle is showing signs of drying out, then rub in linseed oil. For loppers etc. you can use WD40 and then wipe clean. Place them in their storage place where
they will be ready for spring.

Free Mulch: If you rake the leaves in your yard, consider using them as mulch on your garden and flower beds. Leaves are one of natures greatest mulches and it provides nutrients as it breaks down.

Prepare Plants for overwintering:  Some plants don't need much help to survive the winter although mulch is always a good practice. In the coldest climates, roses may need additional protection.

If you have delicate plants, tropical plants or houseplants that spent the summer outdoors, it's time to look at them carefully and determine whether they need to be repotted, look for bugs and pests and treat before bringing them indoors and select an ideal spot for them in your home or garage to spend the winter. If you are unclear whether a plant can stay in the ground during the winter or is more tender, call your local Extension Office.

Time to plant garlic: You can either save the best and biggest
garlic heads and divide into individual cloves which you will plant now, or order garlic from a reputable nursery asap because they go fast.

In a prepared sunny spot in your garden, plant each individual clove two or so inches deep about six inches apart in the row, with about twelve inches between rows.

The first year I planted garlic, I panicked when I saw the green tips come up in late fall but the plants are hardy so they will survive just fine with beautiful garlic next year.

Remember your trees: Be sure to check on all your trees. The smaller and younger among them should have bark protection on them to ensure that hungry critters don't feed on the bark during the winter and to protect from wind and/or sun burn. Also make sure they have enough water before they go into dormancy this winter so they have enough moisture to pull through. It's always good practice to mulch your trees to the drip line with three to four inches of mulch but be sure to keep it away from the trunk. Mulch piled next to the bark can create deterioration and make the tree susceptible to insects and disease.

Enjoy the fall and the garden chores of putting your garden to bed for the winter. Remember once that is done, you can relax and enjoy the winter including dreaming about next years garden!