Garden.True.North is about gardening in Zone 3,
sharing thoughts, ideas and tips for all northern gardeners.
sharing thoughts, ideas and tips for all northern gardeners.
Most spring bulbs need a 12-15 week chilling period. Try dwarf species or hybrids for the best results. I plant mine in potting soil in nursery pots and put them in the vegetable crisper of the beer refrigerator and covered with plastic to keep in the moisture. Avoid putting them with other fruits and vegetables that may emit a gas that will cause them to rot. Be sure to label with the date and species.
Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus) are the exception needing no chilling period. I keep those bulbs in the fridge unpotted.
Here are some bulbs that are especially suited to forcing:
Wisconsin law was changed as of December 31, 2017 to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp. According to an August 10, 2018 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article industrial hemp is a cousin to marijuana but includes only a trace of what makes people high. The same article stated that a 2015 federal law allows universities and state agricultural departs to work with farmers to research growing hemp. If you are potentially interested in this crop, now is the time to explore the possibilities.
The Wisconsin Department of Agricultural, Trade and Consumer Protection states that: The licensing application period for the 2019 growing season will be open from November 1 through December 31, 2018. Downloadable application forms and an online application option will be available here beginning November 1. If you sign up to receive updates (at right), you will receive an email letting you know when the materials are available.
Other sites that may help your research:
I saw a post on a different subject that challenged the writer to provide advice in 6 words. So I took up the cause and came up with ten garden advice tips.
This is embarrassing, I’m a failure at growing zucchini. This most prolific plant that is the subject of jokes and interesting stories. Like the report in the 2019 Old Farmer’s Almanac: “In Berlin, Germany, a 16-inch, 11-pound zucchini was mistaken for an unexploded World War II bomb.” And I’m sure you have heard the joke told in many ways but the punch line is always to lock your car so you don’t receive any unexpected gift zucchinis from generous neighbor gardeners.
Shown above: Female on left, male on right. First blossoms are usually male. The female flowers quickly develop a tiny fruit that can be fertilized manually with a small paint brush if the bees don't do their job. Male and female flowers can be eaten raw, fried or stuffed.
Summer squash (aka zucchini ) are often described as a no-fail plant. “With just a few plants you’ll have enough for friends, neighbors, and friend’s friends”, according to Grocery Gardening by Jean Ann Van Krevelen. She also advises to keep harvesting or plants will stop producing. Pick every day and pick when small when they are the most flavorful. It was the "small" part that caught my attention. The larger the size the less flavor for zucchinis. I want mine small, in fact much smaller than the ones in the markets (see female flower/fruit in above picture.)
Daniel Stone, author of The Food Explorer, describes David Fairchild’s exploration for new food plants for America at the turn of the last century (1900s). Fairchild first tasted zucchini in California. It originated somewhere in Central America and was developed as a food crop in Italy and France. Nature’s intent was for zucchini to be eaten small, before the blossom falls off; its name is Italian for ‘little squash’ according to Stone. According to Wikipedia, the fruit is typically harvested as a baby vegetable, approximately finger size, and is referred to as "baby marrows" in South Africa. That was the size I wanted to try.
Anyway, my plan was to grow a few plants in a tub this year to have a ready supply of perfectly sized (before the blossom dropped) fruits to sauté for an evening meal. I grew exactly two zucchinis and, yes, they were perfect. But then no more.
Where did I go wrong? Maybe they don’t like being constricted in a tub, maybe they need more than 6 hours of sun a day (the maximum in my woodland garden), maybe they had too much or too little water? Lot’s of questions, no answers.
Do I try again next year to have a supply of the perfect zucchini? I have more than six months to ponder whether to use space for this or a less finicky plant.
Hollyhocks are an old fashioned cottage garden plant that provide visual height to your garden. They are considered either biannual or a short-lived perennial. They need full sun and rich, moist soil. I have my growing in a spot that receives about 6 hours of sunlight a day. My plant has now been blooming for over 6 weeks and shows no signs of quitting. Leaving the flowers to seed will help ensure plants for future years as hollyhocks are self-seeders. Another option is to cut it back to the base after blooms have faded to have it come back for 2-3 years.
I'm hoping that mine will come back next year.
Aralia cordata 'Sun King', common name is Golden Japanese Spikenard, is bright chartreuse, stands about 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide plant. It brightens up any area it might be in, one could say it dominates, or putting it nicer it is a focal plant.
I added this to the front of my vegetable garden for all these reasons. My vegetables are fenced in and are the first things visitors see when entering our property. This showy plant keeps the area from looking too utilitarian. It is placed in a challenging area, since it is right next to a black-topped drive in a 3 foot by 10-foot bed. I needed a plant that would die completely back in the winter so it does not interfere with snow piles from the drive.
It produces clusters of star-shaped flowers in late summer that add to late flower bouquets. It does well for me in an area that gets about 6 hours of sun and is advertised as doing well in full sun to full shade. In other words, it is not picky except that it does not do well if allowed to dry out. I also have had no trouble with deer nibbling on this one.
The University of Arkansas Extension named it the plant of the week in September 2015, a link to their write-up is shown below. The University of Tennessee named it the plant of the month in May 2016. Since its introduction in 2000, it has received a lot of positive press.
The downside of this plant is that it suckers, although I have not had a problem with that yet after two years. The chartreuse color may overwhelm a garden of native plants; this would seem out-of-place. It is non-native, the common name gives you a clue on that, although there are native Spikenards.
This plant has does its job for the place I had to fill. I enjoy its brightness and low maintenance requirements. In the right place, I can recommend this as a plant to try.
For more information:
University of Arkansas Extension
Missouri Botanical Garden
University of Tennessee
This year one of my gardening goals was to get the potager (a fancy term for my vegetable garden) in better shape. This garden has slowly evolved from a flower patch around a flag pole to a fenced in garden with raised beds and wide paths. In this blog pictures will tell the story.
Before & After: left - June 2008; right - July 2018
Above: June 2016
Here's what I did to clean things up:
I'm finding the garden much easier to work in, actually a joy to maintain and I can now find my vegetables without wading through the weeds.
The pictures below tell the rest of the story, hover over the picture to see each step taken over the last decade.
I looked over the deck and below saw the sun highlight several white flower spikes in an area that is intentionally left wild. Nearby I had planted one Black cohosh nearly a dozen years ago. Could it have seeded this new clump?
Native? In all probability it came from the plant in the garden bed. Black cohosh is not native here although it is to Eastern North American and as close as Iowa. I doubt that those seeds would have traveled that far to land here.
Name? I found it confusing in trying to research this plant. It’s botanical name has been reclassified from Cimicifuga racemose to Actaea racemose. Some sources recognize this new classification, others do not. What’s an amateur to do when professionals disagree on the name?
Go with the common name? Not much help there either. This plant goes by: Black cohosh, bugbane, black snakeroot, fairy candles, rattleroot, bugwort, and richweed to name a few. Are you confused? I am.
Where to plant? What first attracted me to this plant is that it can be planted in part to full shade. I have it in a spot on the woodland edge under a cedar tree. It likes medium moisture and an organically rich soil. It is very slow to establish. I have not had deer or rabbits nibble on the plant, but then I didn’t even know about this new clump. There are some reports online that deer like to eat the flower spikes.
Black Cohosh or bugbane or whatever you want to call it can be started as a plant (that’s how I got started), from bare roots, or seeds. It can take 3-4 years for the plants to start flowering. What is confusing me right now is that the volunteer plants are blooming and the one I planted hasn't even sent out a flower shoot yet for the season.
The seeds are even more finicky requiring a warm moist period followed by a cold moist period to germinate. It may take 1-2 years for the seeds to germinate.
How to use? The plant can grow 4-6 feet tall with the flower spike and a 2 to 4-foot spread. It provides a nice vertical flower for up to 3 weeks in shady spots in mid-to-late summer. This is a very low maintenance plant once it has a nice place to live and minimum clean-up in the spring.
Black cohosh was used in the 1800’s to treat a number of conditions from snakebites, inflammation, child birth pain and menstrual symptoms. As for medicinal use, be forewarned that the entire plant is poisonous if used in large doses causing nausea, dizziness, and can also cause miscarriage. The bad odor from the blooms, described as spoiled meat, is said to repel bugs if rubbed on the skin. Not sure what might be worse, the bugs or the smell of rotten meat.
According to Jack Sanders (who wrote about it in his book, The Secrets of Wildflowers), Black cohosh was the main product of the first large successful business in America owned by a woman. Lydia E. Pinkham Medical Company, founded in 1875, sold Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound to treat female complaints. In addition to Black cohosh the medicine contained about 20% alcohol which may have contributed to it being a best seller when proper ladies did not drink liquor. The compound is still marketed today without the alcohol.
I like the plant, but prefer my alcohol without the extra poisonous compounds thank you very much.
Most gardens are coming into their peak season. Now is an excellent time to get your camera or smart phone and take some pictures. Why?
I’ve learned there are many uses for garden photographs. My reasons to take photos started with record keeping. Then I expanded my photo collection to use in garden programs. Now I also share on social media and get creative with cards and prints. Do you have pictures of your garden? Here are some reasons to consider regularly taking photos.
Clockwise from top left: Butterfly Weed, Bugleweed, Sneezeweed (photo credit: Photo by Sue Trull, Ottawa National Forest), Joe Pye Weed
As my series continues on plant names, this post concerns ones with “weed” in the name. I speak for all gardeners that we want to avoid weeds. However, there are four that I think you might want to allow into the garden bed. According to Webster’s dictionary a weed is defined as:
A plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth; especially one that tends to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants.
So here are some that are suitable for your garden that I recommend.
The 2018 season is closed, check back later for 2019 programs.