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Archive for July, 2011

Gardening group at the Monroe YMCA

I am wondering what kind of outreach programs or activities other Master Gardeners are involved in.  I would like to share a modest, small project I am involved with at the Monroe YMCA.  Betsy Bradley approached me about maintaining a small vegetable plot with one of the children’s day care groups.  Apparently someone started a native plants bed and vegetable garden last year, but then moved out of town.  I checked with Jennie to see if I could receive credit for this type of outreach and she agreed.  We did not plant until the third week of June, but the children planted zucchini, cucumbers, and zinnia from seed and also planted peppers, tomatoes, and basil plants.  We have had a lesson on companion planting and planted some alyssum with the tomatoes.  There is a rain gauge to remind the children to water the plants.  So far, everything is growing.  We hope to make pizzas with the tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and basil.

YMCA young gardener and his tomato plant

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Color Combo Tool

Here’s a tip on color combinations.  I use photos as a tool for containers or planting areas.  You can of course do a “like” or “Contrasting” combination.  I take photos all the time in my garden.  I save copies and crop some of the plants.  It’s best to add the name of the plant as soon as possible.  I know I forget what they are sometimes.  I then go through the cropped photos and put them together in a collage.  Some plants may be able to be divided, others are annuals that I’ll purchase again next year or save. Of course it’s important to know the Sun/Shade requirement.  All but one of these plants can take sun or partial shade.  The one that needs full shade is the Rex Begonia.  I probably will plant that into a separate container so I can make sure it’s shaded.  Also that allows me to bring that in the house come Fall.  Water consideration also are important.

The best part is that it’s a “Free” way to experiment.  No up front costs.  You can use photos from gardens you visited, botanical gardens or even internet photos.  Then print it out and take it with you to the nursery.  No need to buy extras you won’t need.  Hope this helps you in your planning.

Do you have a favorite planning method?

      

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When one is spending a long holiday weekend spreading a mulch pile big enough to be seen on Google Earth (no exaggeration!), one has time to ponder stuff. All summer I’ve been looking at some gross looking stuff on the mulch pile and in my beds. I’d been throwing it whole into a brush pile in our woods, but I couldn’t keep up with it. I did some research and – lo and behold! – it is slime mold. Probably most of you are very familiar with it, but I’m a newbie at this gardening thing and it was new to me. Here’s what I learned: slime molds aren’t really molds at all. Molds are fungi. Fungi are included in the Plant Kingdom. Slime molds are included in the Kingdom Protista. When did we get a new taxonomy kingdom? Last I knew (Biology II, 1974) there were only two. Kingdom Protista is the “not animal, not plant, kinda weird, everything else” kingdom, and includes single-celled life forms such as protozoa, amoebas, and other organisms, including slime molds. The cool thing is slime molds can move! Slime molds such as Physarum polycephalum are actually just one enormous cell with millions of nuclei. This giant cell has locomotion, but you’d need time-lapse photography to see it. Slime molds are most prevalent during wet seasons (like this spring), and feed on bacteria and fungal spores found in mulch and turf. They start out looking like something the cat yakked up, kind of clear and slimy, but over a short time they solidify, becoming yellow, pink, or some other weird color. Over time they turn tan or brownish as they dry out. They’re not harmful, but if their looks bother you, just scoop them up whole and pitch them out of your garden. You can’t really get rid of them, though, so why bother? I found these organisms really intriguing when I read about them. If you want to read more, here’s a cool article I found and used for this blog: http://herbarium.usu.edu/fungi/FunFacts/slimemold.htm .

As I was finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on the mulch, I remembered an inservice education I had last year at the hospital where I work, about Composter’s Lung. (Well, actually it was billed Hot Tub Lung, because that sounded more exciting, but it’s pretty much the same thing. When I saw the organisms involved, with my new MG knowledge fresh in my mind, I said, “those are compost organisms!” The pulmonologist said, “yes, it is also called Composter’s Lung, if that’s how the person actually got the illness. But I digress.) Composter’s Lung is actually a hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a severe reaction caused by an intense exposure to small particles of biologic material. Organisms in compost and mulch that can cause illness include thermophilic actinomycetes, including Aspergillus species. A person breathes the in the offending organism which causes an allergic response, similar to hay fever or asthma. Repeat exposures cause the hypersensitivity response, which is often confused for other lung illnesses, and occasionally can be quite serious. People who tend to have allergies or sensitivities are most likely to be affected. It takes pretty large exposures, often over extended periods of time, to affect people. The incidence of illness is extremely low, considering how many people spread mulch and compost, so this isn’t something I’d lose sleep worrying about. However, it might not be a bad idea to use a mask if you’re working with mulch, compost, or damp or moldy  straw. If you’re interested in reading more, there are all kinds of articles available on the internet. Here’s the one I used for this blog: http://www.emlab.com/s/sampling/env-report-01-2006.html . Photo credit –  No. 14 from Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry Slide Set. 1976. J.P. Martin, et al., eds. SSSA, Madison, WI

Rats, I spent all my time writing about gross stuff and forgot to take a few quick photos of how nice my beds look, what with all the new mulch and all. Tomorrow….

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Topsy Turvey

After long discussion, my husband convinced me to have him add two of these in his vegetable garden.  Much to my surprise they are doing quite well.

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