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.
The first leaves of our common lilac have emerged. According to phenology in Wisconsin - this is a good time to plant beets, carrots, cole crops, lettuce and spinach. Wait to plant beans, cucumbers, and squash seeds until lilacs are in full bloom. I tested my soil temperature and it was consistently around 45 degrees in the garden. That's just above the minimum for those seeds to germinate. Let the gardening begin!
Check out this UW-Extension Horticulture article "Phenology".
Do you enjoy gardening or want to start gardening? Have you watched the TV show Escape to the Chateau? If you have, then you would recognize the term “potager garden”. Join us on how to Create a Potager Garden presented by Sue Reinardy, UW-Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, virtually on Zoom on Thursday, April 8, 2021 at 10 am to Noon as part of a celebration of National Library Week at the Sherman & Ruth Weiss Community Library. Attendees will have a chance to win a special Library T-shirt!
Potager is a French term for a kitchen garden. These gardens can include not only vegetables but herbs, fruit, berries and cutting flowers. During the presentation you will learn where to site your potager, what plants to include and how to maintain it through the growing season.
For the first 15 people who sign up, we will offer them a Take ‘N Make Kit of a Potager Starter Garden. The kit consists of a container, donated by Marketplace Foods, and seeds and a planting medium donated by Sue Reinardy.
You can register for the event by going to the following link – https://bit.ly/3rtyZq9 or by calling the library to register and to receive the link for the Zoom event. We suggest that if you don’t have the free Zoom app, download it before the program begins and go to the presentation at least 5 minutes before it starts. If you have any questions, please call the library at 715-634-2161 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Gardeners are getting their seed starting supplies put together and in early to mid-April will begin the process. I don't have the room or patience to start seeds indoors so I have embraced an outdoor seed starting method.
I originally became aware of this method reading about the Winter Sown method. But even that proved to be too much for me since I can never get around to putting my containers together until right about now, early March. Since those seeds sit around doing nothing until the temperature is about right - no need to rush into this method.
How does it work?
Websites to learn how:
Here is the line-up:
Spring started this week which gets gardeners excited like kids anticipating Christmas. Except it is still way too early to start gardening. Even starting seeds is at most about 6 weeks before planting and we usually can not plant until late May.
I’ve always thought the astrological seasons were off kilter; even meteorological seasons are too early for those in Zone 3. Yesterday we received about an inch of snow which is now melting on top of the foot of snowpack left from our winter that started before Thanksgiving (i.e. “fall”).
What can a gardener rely on to determine the proper planting time?
Late winter and early spring are the time to check out catalogs, place seed orders and start seeds. Learn more about several seed starting techniques from Sue Reinardy, UW-Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in an upcoming webinar. Sue has volunteered her time to create and deliver this webinar that will feature: deciphering catalog and seed package jargon, proper planting conditions and several techniques including the winter sown planted method that you can start now.
This webinar can be attended from any home computer or device with an internet connection, microphone and camera. Instructions to access the course will be provided a few days before the start of the class. Registration is required through WITC at courses.witc.edu Enter "Early Seed Starting" in the search box. The registration fee is $13.50, and for those 62+ it is $9.00 .
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.
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 know it doesn't look like much but the first leaf of the lilac indicates that it is time to plant beets, cole crops (broccoli, kale, cabbage, turnips, etc.), lettuce, and spinach. This is not just folklore but backed up phenology, the study of the timing of natural events. Lilacs are most commonly used for observation and to time gardening activity. I checked the soil temperature in my garden, it is 55-60 degrees. That is well in the range for these crops.
Here are some other indicators for planting:
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Handouts for this year's programs are on the