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Spring 2019

Issue 51

The Real Dirt

Dig In and Win: Bulb Challenge Winners Propagation Techniques Weeds Weeds Weeds The Real Dirt

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The Garden Club of America’s Quarterly Horticulture Publication

Spring 2019


A Note from the Editor Spring is such a joyously busy time in the garden. The early snowdrops offer hope, followed by the promise of a new season as the daffodils burst into bloom. All our plotting, planning, and winter dreaming is put into action. Trays of seedlings under grow lights, plenty of perennials waiting for division, selecting shrubs to propagate, and then of course there are always the countless chores. Each season I promise myself I will plan a little better, work a little smarter, and enjoy the garden a lot more while standing tall and not spend my days bent over a patch of weeds. Hopefully you will find a few ideas in this issue to help reduce your work load too, so you also can can spend more time propagating and appreciating the fruits of your labor. Speaking of joyous, it has been a joy to work with Katherine Shepperly, Horticulture Committee Chairman. We are all grateful for her inspirational leadership. As she prepares to start a new season in her life as President of the Garden Club of Morristown, Zone IV, we would like to share some of her wisdom: Spring is a time of renewal. As I reflect on the past two years as Horticulture Committee Chairman, I would like to thank Stacey Yarger, the committee for all their hard work and enthusiasm. It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve. I would also like with her Amaryllis Garden Club of Dayton, Zone X to thank you, the readers, who continue to subscribe and contribute to The Real Dirt. It brings me great joy to hear from you and how much you have enjoyed the new direction we have taken TRD. I would also like to thank you for your participation in so many of the Horticulture Committee initiatives. I encourage everyone to continue to learn, grow, share and show. If you are ever fortunate enough to be asked to serve on the Horticulture Committee, say, "Yes!" After all, isn’t horticulture the heart of the GCA? Katherine Shepperly, Horticulture Committee Chairman, Garden Club of Morristown, Zone IV I look forward to continuing to grow with you and seeing the results of our second propagation challenge: Seeds! Dig in and Win! Susan Schieffelin, The Real Dirt Editor, Greenwich Garden Club, Zone II

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Spring 2019 Spring 2019


In This Issue A Note from the Editor News Workshops: Seed Propagation Challenge My Favorite Thing: Allium! Show Stoppers Bulb Challenge: Dig in and Winners! Stop the Flop! 2018 SMHC Plant Staking Workshop Propagation: Forsythe Pots Air Layering Weeds: Weed 101 Weed Wrangle Weeds: If You Can’t Beat Them, Eat Them! Sage Advice Hort Cuts

page 2 page 4 page 4 page 5 page 6 page 7 page 10 page 11 page 13 page 14 page 16 page 18 page 20 page 21

If you have an article, idea, or photo, please submit to The Real Dirt. Simply click here or visit the Horticulture Committee’s landing page in the Members Area of the GCA website to fill out the submission form, or email us at: TRD@gcamerica.org Correction in The Real Dirt Winter Issue: page 18 should read Aristolochia gigantea is a nonnative and has more showy blossoms but is toxic to Swallowtail butterflies and a deathtrap to the larvae. On the Cover: Dig in and Winners: Forced Bulbs photo by Anita Holmes, GC of East Hampton, Zone III. Photos By: Molly Adams, GC of Lookout Mountain, Zone IX; Mimi Carrington, The GC of Morristown,

Zone IV; Suzanne Clary, Rye GC, Zone III; Arabella Dane, North Shore GC, Zone I; Chris Duncan, The Little GC of Rye, Zone III; Margie FitzSimons, The Grass River GC, Zone VIII; Anita Holmes, GC of East Hampton, Zone III; Trina Horine, Hortulus, Zone II; Cayce McAlister, GC of Nashville, Zone IX; MaryBruce Rae-Grant, Shaker Lakes GC, Zone X; Susan Schieffelin, Greenwich GC, Zone II; Nancy Schotters, GC of Denver, Zone XII; Leslie Schutt, The Little GC of Memphis, Zone IX; Meg Tapp, The GC of Houston, Zone IX The Real Dirt

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Spring 2019


NEWS: DIG IN AND WIN: SEEDS! Our New Propagation Challenge! Let’s keep growing together. You can be a winner in 3 easy steps: 1. Propagate a plant from seed. (It can be an annual, perennial, or vegetable). Use the GCA propagation card to keep track of date started, transplanted, and growing conditions over the next few months. 2. Photograph your “entry” at its height of perfection. Please note date of photo. 3. Send us your photo, along with the information from your propagation card, by September 15, 2019. To submit your entry simply click here or visit the Horticulture Committee’s landing page in the Members Area of the GCA website to fill out the submission form, or email us at: TRD@gcamerica.org

Workshops: Seed Propagation

The GC of Houston, Zone IX Prepping for Propagation

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Shaker Lakes GC, Zone X Ready for Spring!

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Hortulus, Zone II Sowing Seeds

Spring 2019


My Favorite Thing - Allium! By Chris Duncan, Chairman Zone III, The Little Garden Club of Rye I must confess that I am not a ‘Hort Girl,’ but I always look forward to early June when my flower garden looks its best. I love seeing my giant Allium ‘Globemaster’ spring up amongst my Paeonia ‘Festiva Maxima.’

Allium ‘Globemaster’

It brings me great joy, not only because the big showy balls of color make my garden POP, but also because they are my go-to bloom for easy flower arranging. Just three stems in a vase make the ultimate statement in the spring. Allow your Allium to dry in the garden then, spray paint them red, white and blue for the Fourth of July! You can also cut and dry indoors to use later for floral design and holiday decorating. Allium will give your garden just the right spark. Plant them in your garden; you will not be disappointed year after year. Drying and displaying Allium

Spring Arrangement

When in full bloom, water the Alliums the day before you plan to pick them. Cut them at the base of the stem. Place the flowers in a tall, narrow vase to keep them from falling over. Add 1 to 2 inches of water. Keep the vase in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight for up to 10 days allowing the flowers to dry out. Store until ready to use. You can also allow the blooms to dry naturally in the garden. Once brown, the flowers are ready for a coat of spray paint. To “move” your Allium to another spot in the yard simply use a bamboo skewer as a stake in the ground and slip the hollow stem over the skewer. Change color or location throughout the growing season to provide variety and keep color where you need it!

Dried Allium painted purple The Real Dirt

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Spring 2019


SHOW STOPPERS Congratulations to our GCA Horticulturists for ‘bringing home the bling’ at major flower shows!

Boston Flower Show

Begonia x erythrophylla ‘Helix' Bonnie Trowbridge, Little Compton Garden Club, Zone I

The Corning Medal Alice Thomas, The Garden Club of Houston, Zone IX

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Cymbidium cv.

Libby Moore, Little Compton Garden Club, Zone I

The Louise Agee Wrinkle Award Meredith Cooke, River Oaks Garden Club, Zone IX

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Primulina 'Patina' Jocelyn Sherman, Newport Garden Club, Zone II

The Novice Award, Lula Potter, Magnolia Garden Club, Zone IX

Spring 2019


DIG IN AND WINNERS! Congratulations to all the Clubs that entered

Grown by: Julie Sakellariadis, Anita Holmes, and Diane Dreher, Garden Club of East Hampton, Zone III

Best Club Entry:Garden Club of East Hampton, Zone III The Club that grows together, shows together!

Last fall GCA garden clubs across the country participated in the first ever Horticulture Committee nationwide propagation challenge. Bulb forcing workshops were held from October through December. After months of anticipation the results are in! Clubs sent in their photographs of their successes. This spring the Horticulture Committee met in Houston and had the pleasure of selecting the winners of our first GCA propagation challenge. While some were not so successful in their attempts, they were gracious enough to share The Real Dirt

their photos and thoughts on what might have gone wrong. No matter the condition of the blooms in the photos shared, even the empty pots, they are all winners because we learned from one another and enjoyed the camaraderie of digging in and growing together! Thank you to all who participated in bulb forcing workshops, shared photos of your successes and, more courageously, your mishaps. We are all growing and learning together! After all, isn’t that the point of being a member of a garden club?

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Spring 2019


Individual Entry Winners: Tied for First Place

Muscari Grown by Julie Sakellariadis, Garden Club of East Hampton, Zone III Julie shares with us that she forced almost 50 pots this year. She learned a lot and loved this c h a l l e n g e . We l o v e h e r re s u l t s a n d enthusiasm!

Jeanne Will, Garden Club of Morristown, Zone IV

The members of GC of East Hampton had so much fun that they have planned a program on bulbs this fall featuring Art Wolk, the author of Bulb Forcing for Beginners and the Seriously Smitten (AAB Book Publishing LLC 2012). It’s a safe bet to say these ladies are seriously smitten!

Jeanne tied for first place, Individual Entry, with her pot of Narcissus ‘February Gold’ and Crocus tommasinianus ‘Ruby Giant.’The club shares more of their growing experiences with us on page 9.

The Contenders….

Chestnut Hill GC
 Zone I

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Marsha Fred, The Portland GC Zone XII

Akron GC
 Zone X

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Late Bloomers GC Zone VIII

The Little GC of Memphis Zone IX

Spring 2019


The Empty Pot Award: What We Learned group failure. Chiefly, our warm, humid climate infuses our homes, whether apartments or houses, with warm humid air that is a far cry from the cool crisp air of a northern hemisphere spring where tulips thrive. Secondly, part of living in Florida is frequent houseguests, including grandchildren, who open refrigerators and explore drawers looking for interesting food.

A very special thank you to The Grass River Garden Club, Zone VIII: Margie FitzSimons, Hort Chair, and Barbara Whittaker, Bulb Project Chair, for sharing their story with us!

The Grass River GC had a workshop on November 27, divided up the bulbs to various groups of interested members with some delegated to try forcing in soil and others to try planting on pebbles using instructions for each method obtained online. Everyone was instructed to give their bulbs at least 12 weeks of winter in a dark refrigerator drawer with each group assigned to a different date to bring them out. When the bulbs were taken out of the refrigerators, some were rotten, even though everyone was cautioned to keep the bulbs away from apples and light. Fortunately, some were viable, planted using both methods and treated to light gradually as instructed. However, out of 50 bulbs, we had no survivors as of today. We have a variety of theories to explain our The Real Dirt

The Garden Club of Morristown, Zone IV, gather to share their results.

The ladies from the Garden Club of Morristown had this to share with us: “We laughed so hard at our terrible results which is why we are all widely grinning in the photo! It was fun for us though, and we learned a lot, and we now have a greater appreciation for the forced bulbs we see in shows like Philadelphia.” There are no failures when we give it our best effort! Editor’s Note: The Empty Pot Award is named after the delightful children’s book by Demi, which reminds us after a young boy's seeds do not grow - that our best is good enough.

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Spring 2019


Stop the Flop! By Nancy Schotters, Vice Chairman Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference 2019, Garden Club of Denver, Zone XII

Michael Strengari, Senior Horticulturist at Longwood Gardens conducting the Creative Care and Staking Perennials Workshop at the 2018 SMHC.

Star Staking Why do Some Plants Flop? 1. Soil - many great perennials prefer a lean soil. In rich soil they grow too large and soft. A lean soil can result in sturdier, more stout plants. 2. Breeding programs often select plants with large heavy flowers. 3. Not enough sun – plants get leggy. 4. Some plants naturally open up and lay down at flowering.

A useful method to support sections of the plant rather than in one mass. It looks very natural when properly done.

How to Stop the Flop: 1. Reduce fertility. Don’t fertilize or compost in areas that want lean soil. 2. Do not overwater. 3. Move plants to a sunnier location. 4. Effective staking.

Staking Materials: Stakes - bamboo canes, plastic/ metal stakes. Stakes can be stakes, cages or twigs.

Tying - jute, cotton string, twine, gauze, panty hose, staking tape.

Staking Techniques:

Pea Staking - This method uses twiggy brush to support plants. It can be used to make cage-like structures for a more free form look. Learn more about Pea Staking here. The Real Dirt

Hub and Spoke

A great method to support individual branches and not disrupt the plant’s growing habit.

Corset Staking Surrounding the plant with a number of stakes and tying around the stakes. This can look unnatural if not done carefully. Avoid cinching the plant too tightly. The Chelsea Chop is a pruning technique named for its timing to that of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and used to minimize the need for staking. Learn more here. – 10 –

Spring


Propagation Primer: Forsythe Pots By: Kate Michaels, The Virginia Beach Garden Club, Zone VII

In the month of June, The Virginia Beach Garden Club hosts its annual propagation workshop at Donna Eure’s lovely home in Bay Colony. Our members come together to share treasured plants from their gardens, and to enjoy a fun morning learning about and utilizing the Forsythe Method of propagation. Donna Eure and Susan Gentry are our club’s experts on this process, and their “tried and true” instructions of the Forsythe Pot method described below make it fun and easy! Everyone has the opportunity to fill their pots with a variety of plants, some of which are rare or hard to find in nurseries.   There is no better reward than to plant your cuttings in your own garden when they have taken root. Here are the simple steps of the Forsythe Method compiled by Donna and Susan. We hope you and your club will give it a try! FORSYTHE POT An easy way to make more plants! “Making” more plants can be tricky business. Traditional ways of taking soft wood cuttings, placing them in soil, with the hope that they will grow often results in a poor outcome. Learning about the Forsythe Pot will put a new spin on the entire process. Cuttings develop stronger roots with less chance of rot before reaching transplant size. The Forsythe Pot makes propagation fun and easy, but best of all, it works!   MATERIALS:  1    bulb pan –Kord Traditional Bulb Pan - 10”x5”  Go to greenhousemegastore.com   1    small unglazed terra cotta pot, 4” in diameter 2    basket style coffee filters 1    penny 1    pencil       Loctite Clear Silicone Waterproof Sealant – Aquarium safe       Bag of fresh, horticultural grade vermiculite       Clean clippers       Root stimulator – Rootone or Dip ’N Grow         Plant labels

    

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Spring


PREPARING A FORSYTHE POT At least three days before you plan to take cuttings, plug the hole in the terra cotta pot. Squeeze an ample amount of sealant on the exterior of the pot covering the hole. Push the penny into the sealant. It takes 24 hours for this to dry. The next day test the pot to see if it holds water. If it does not, repeat the process. Line the bottom of the bulb pan with 2 coffee filters, spreading them a bit to cover the holes so the vermiculite will not sift out.  Fill the bulb pan with vermiculite to about 1” below the rim. “Screw” the plugged terra cotta pot into the center of the vermiculite until it reaches the bottom of the bulb pan. DAMPEN the vermiculite... not too wet – just damp enough to clump. Fill the inner terra cotta pot with water AFTER you have finished placing your cuttings in the vermiculite. TAKING CUTTINGS  The best time to take softwood cuttings is from late May until the middle of June. Take a 5” softwood cutting from the top of a one to two foot specimen where the new growth occurs. (You may be able to take more than one cutting from each specimen that you want to propagate.) Make each cut about ½ inch below a leaf node making sure that there are no leaves below the vermiculite. (They will cause rot in moist conditions.) Remove all leaves except the top 2-3, cutting each remaining leaf in half. Using the pencil, make a hole in the vermiculite where you want to place the cutting.   Dip the cutting in a root developer, blowing off the excess, and place it in the hole. Press the moist vermiculite around the stem firmly. Label each plant as you place it in the pot. Fill the pot with cuttings, making certain that you leave room for growth. Fill the terra cotta pot with water and you are ready to grow. A PLACE TO GROW Place your pot outside in an area that you will see daily. This way, you will know when to refill the terracotta pot. Your Forsythe Pot will need to be in a bright area, but not direct sunlight.   You will know that the plants have rooted when they resist a gentle pull. Leave them in the pot until they are well established. Late fall is a great time to transplant the plants that were propagated in May/June, or they may be left in the Forsythe Pot until early spring. The weather is kinder and cooler for transplanting at these times of the year.

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Spring


Propagation Primer: Air Layering Host your own “Potato Party”!

By Molly Adams, Garden Club of Lookout Mountain, Zone IX I have always been interested in propagation but haven’t really “ventured out” much until I decided to try air layering. Air layering is a type of vegetative propagation. This means that the result is an exact replica of the original plant. The Garden Club of Lookout Mountain loves propagation workshops; in fact, they held one on air layering rhododendrons using the same techniques as pictured with the Camellias in this article. The stem is girdled, meaning a ring of bark about an inch long is removed from the stem. My cuts were made about 9 inches from the tip of the stem. All the living material is removed by scraping it away. All that is left is the white woody part of the stem. Dust some rooting hormone onto the exposed part of the stem. Wet some sphagnum moss and squeeze the water out of it. Wrap it around the stem and cover with plastic wrap and secure on the top and bottom. Then wrap with aluminum foil. The foil keeps out the light and helps hold moisture in. After a few months cut the branch under the tin foil and simply "unwrap" the "baked potatoes.” You can plant your newly rooted shrub in the garden, or pot up to plant at a later date.

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Spring


Weed Whispering101 A weed, quite simply, is a plant that is growing where we don’t want it to.

Convolvulaceae, bindweed, are saying the soil is compacted. Urtica dioica, stinging nettle, speaks of rich, acidic soil. Learn what your weeds are telling you here. Amending your soil can help minimize future weeds. A weed can be an exotic species or a native species that colonizes and persists in an ecosystem in which it did not previously exist. Invasive.org provides a list of invasive and exotic species with photos to help with identification. According to the USDA, noxious weeds are plants that are weedy or invasive, or have the potential to become weedy or invasive, in all or part of their U.S. range.

Taraxacum officinale, a bee’s friend, can be a gardener’s foe.

Whether or not a plant is a weed is often in the eye of the gardener. Taraxacum officinale, dandelion, in the lawn is an eyesore to some, a salad to others and a welcome site to bees in early spring when little else is blooming. Some consider wildflowers such as Eschscholzia californica to be a weed while others are delighted to host the California poppy in their garden. While many undesirable plants are labeled as common weeds, they almost always serve a purpose. Some are medicinal, some like Trifolium, clover, deposit nitrogen into soil that needs it. Weeds are excellent indicators of soil quality. Are patches of one kind of weed growing in your garden? They are trying to tell you something! Cichorium, chicory, and

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Weeds You’re back again…uninvited Smug, assured, confident Mingling with the elite Vying for attention…and getting way too much For all the wrong reasons You invade, creep, pop up, crowd, smother Wanting to be seen with the “in crowd” You run amok Spreading yourselves where you are unwanted You’re difficult, prolific, pernicious, Persistent, competitive, undesirable Your behavior so unacceptable Like an unwanted visitor You Force us “to make due.” Bella Pipas, Fort Orange Garden Club, Zone III

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Spring


Pull weeds before they go to seed after flowering – better yet remove them before they flower so you don’t miss the window before they go to seed. Some gardeners prefer to cut the weed to the ground and smother in mulch to avoid disturbing the soil.

Alliaria petiolata produces chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants and is a serious concern in U.S. forests across North America.

Know your weeds. Understanding how your weeds grow is key to managing them. Annual weeds spread by seed. They germinate, grow and die in a single year. Ephemerals complete several life cycles in a year.

Plant ground covers and dense plantings to shade/crowd out weeds and make germination more difficult. Asarum canadense, wild ginger, is a great ground cover for repelling Alliaria petiolata, garlic mustard. Patience because seeds can remain dormant for years in the soil. Dandelion seeds can last up to six years while some poppies germinate after remaining in the soil for almost 100 years! For further resources, check out the Federal Noxious Weeds List.

Biannual weeds germinate the first year, producing only leaves, and flower and set seed their second year. Perennial weeds, like garden perennials, set roots and seeds and live for years. All weeds are generally classified into two categories: ‘warm season’ for weeds that sprout in spring, flowering in summer and “cool season” for those that germinate in the fall and grow rapidly in the spring. Pull weeds as they emerge to save countless hours of work later. Tips and strategies to managing weeds: Prevent weeds from germinating. Burlap, newspaper or cardboard under a layer of mulch will help tremendously to cut down weeding hours. Be sure not to use cardboard used for produce at grocery stores as it may be hosting insects.

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Recipes for Removal Natural Weed Killer 1 gallon white vinegar 1 cup salt 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap *1 cup of lemon juice *Optional. Some gardeners also add lemon juice to increase the acidity of the mixture.

Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and treat weeds. For best results, apply when the sun is strongest. Boiling Water – Particularly stubborn weeds can be eliminated by pouring boiling water over the plant. Several applications may be necessary. – 15 –

Spring


WEED WRANGLE:

Rounding up weeds beyond your backyard By Cayce McAlister, Chairman Zone IX, Garden Club of Nashville, Zone IX

Robyn Carlton, Cayce McAlister, Fran Rittenberry

Weeds? We’ve got this!

Hull Award winner Robyn Carlton with students

Lookout Mountain Conservancy crew

Weeds, which I have just noticed, I pull with my left hand. Why? I guess it is subliminal, because there is nothing right about weeds. The USDA defines a weed as a plant (native or non-native) that is not valued in the place where it is growing. Weeds are any plant that poses a major threat to agriculture and/or natural ecosystems within the United States. The USDA further defines an invasive plant as a plant that is both non-native and able to establish on many sites, grows quickly, and spreads to the point of disrupting plant communities or ecosystems. Weeds are also known as invasive plants. They are found in water and on land. In fact, invasive plants can occur in just about every habitat type you can imagine: lakes and streams, cities, fields and farms, all of the native areas of the state. A weed can be an exotic species or a native species that colonizes and persists in an ecosystem in which it did not previously exist. To me, this gets a bit into the weeds, and that is why the GCA Partners for Plants (P4P) is the right choice when you want to educate your community. A P4P grant pays for the expense of a botanical expert that helps to plan a project and provide the knowledge and expertise for working in the habitat. The botanical expert will educate club members and other volunteers on correct horticultural and sustainable practices. Weed Wrangle® is dependent on the botanical expert and grateful for the help from the GCA P4P grant. If it were not for the botanical expert, Weed Wrangle® would not be a success.

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Spring


Getting It Done In A Day

Long Hunter State Park Volunteers

Warriors’ Path State Park Volunteers

AmeriCorps Volunteers

Weed Wrangle®, is a one-day, citywide, volunteer effort to help rescue our public parks and green spaces from invasive species. Supervised by the P4P funded botanical expert, Weed Wrangle® volunteers learn, practice, and begin a habit of maintaining an area free of invasive plants. We encourage replanting with natives in removal areas. By engaging our neighbors and challenging them to take action in their own spaces, we hope to create a movement that will have the greatest impact on the invasive plant population by educating, eradicating and replanting. • • • •

• • • •

Pick a public park or green space. Select a P4P botanic expert (we can help).  Use your networking skills to build enthusiasm in your community. Invasive weed pulls happen all the time.  Bring the parks to the table to organize a one day event to provide education, eradicating and replanting. Volunteers love working together with a common goal and accomplishing a task together.  You and your club serve as a facilitator.  Your P4P botanic expert is the educator.  Your parks get the volunteers and together you make it happen! Many clubs propagate their own plants to use to replant.

Weed Wrangle® started out in one city five years ago and has become "invasive" in fourteen states, spreading like a weed. We want you, and your club, to participate as we spread across the county and we want to help!

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Spring


Weeds: If You Can’t Beat Them, Eat Them! By Suzanne Clary, Rye Garden Club, Zone III Tama Matsuoka Wong, Meadows and More

The non-profit Jay Heritage Center (JHC) in R y e , N e w Yo r k h a s b e e n t e a c h i n g volunteers at their park, the Jay Estate, how to do this over the last 2 years with the help of Meadows and More founder and forager, Tama Matsuoka Wong, author of “Foraged Flavor” and “Scraps, Wilts and Weeds: Turning Wasted Food Into Plenty.”

Eat Your Weeds!

Two invasive species that they target in the spring are Alliaria petiolata, garlic mustard, and Artemisia vulgaris, mugwort. Every year at JHC, participants in “I Love My Park Day” are taught how to identify and harvest these plants in May and later enjoy them in the tasty recipes provided by Tama below.

Tama Matsuoka Wong teaches a student to harvest stinging nettle at the Jay Estate

We all know that our gardens, farms, and l a n d s c a p e s b e n e fi t e c o l o g i c a l l y b y controlling the spread of non-native and invasive plants. But it is easier said than done and can require ongoing attention, labor and resources.

A dedicated volunteer Garden Committee led by members of the Rye Garden Club and The Little Garden Club of Rye continue the work throughout the summer and fall removing stinging nettle, Japanese knotweed and chickweed from the National Historic Landmark property.

The end results are a healthier habitat for One way to make this practice more native wildlife at the park and a more productive and fun is to learn which weeds creative, nutrient rich diet for its stewards! are edible so that they can be culled and Learn more at www.jayheritagecenter.org cooked for the dinner table!

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Spring


EAT YOUR WEEDS! Mugwort Soup Tip: Best when young, less than 8 inches high and not woody. At this stage the flavor is reminiscent of white button mushrooms. This soup is what interns and firsttime foragers at Meadows and More make as their first attempt at cooking wild weeds. Everyone has had luck!

Garlic Mustard Pesto Tip: Clip the young tender green shoots (flowering is okay but make sure to cut before seeding as it is a pernicious seed producer) Serves: 4 
 Prep time: 5 min Ingredients: 1 cup lightly packed garlic mustard leaves and tips, loosely chopped
 1/4 cup pine nuts
 1 garlic clove
 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
 1/2 teaspoon salt
 1/2 teaspoon sugar
 2 squeezes lemon juice Directions In a blender, grind the garlic, pine nuts and parmesan. Add the garlic mustard. While blending, pour in a steady stream of the olive oil for 1 minute, or until smooth. Add salt, sugar, lemon juice and pulse until mixed. Tama has eradicated all the garlic mustard on her 28-acre property by foraging it every year and now is helping New Jersey Conservation, as well as property owners in Pennsylvania, control their garlic mustard. The Real Dirt

Serves: 6
 Prep time: 35 mins. Total time: 1 hour 5 mins. Ingredients: 1 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 medium onion or 3 small spring onions, thinly sliced (about 2 cups) 2 cloves garlic, minced 10 medium white mushrooms (about 7 ounces) sliced 1 large Yukon Gold or russet potato (about 14 ounces) peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces 6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth 1 cup heavy cream 4 ounces tender mugwort (about 8 cups) Tabasco Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and mushrooms; cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add potato and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer until potato is tender, about 20 minutes. Add cream and mugwort, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Puree soup in batches in a blender until smooth. Return soup to pot. Add Tabasco to taste; season with salt and pepper. Mugwort is surprisingly delicious prepared this way with a nice spring herbal flavor with plenty of umami. You can also substitute nettle, but do NOT skip the potatoes or mushrooms in the recipe, which was created by Eddy Leroux, Chef de Cuisine at Restaurant Daniel, New York City.

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Spring


SAGE ADVICE Q:

rubbed on your pet. (Now I don’t have to wear a flea collar.) While the plant isn’t native and grows best in zones 8-10, it can be treated as an annual in my garden and an honored guest along with its friends citronella and wild geranium--which also happen to deter insects.

Are there any anti-mosquito plants or gardening solutions for those of us who are mosquito magnets?

Inspired by an off-hand remark made by our guide while touring the 9th century Moorish fortress and palace gardens of Alhambra in Granada, I decided to research anti-mosquito plants. As we traipsed through the fountained and tourist-plagued gardens, our guide drew our attention to the myrtle bushes that created a boxwood-like parterre in many of the garden “rooms.” These myrtles may be a natural gardening solution for those of us who are mosquito magnets.

But let's get back to Google. My search for “anti-mosquito plants” listed some other great options: lavender, marigolds, citronella grass, catnip, rosemary, basil, bee balm, garlic, lemon grass, pennyroyal (not safe on skin), scented geraniums, floss flower, peppermint, lemon balm, mint, and sage. As I look at the choices, I figure, if they don’t work, there still is an upside: many of these plants are pollinator friendly or are edible herbs which can flavor my recipes much like the herb section of potager.

Unlike the unwelcome and annoying myrtle vines that a landscaper planted as ground cover in my flower beds 25 years ago, this Myrtus communis, myrtle bush, he claimed, is part of an ancient anti-mosquito recipe.

Also, these plants can double as a floral arrangement: stuff a bunch of sprigs in a jar for a BBQ centerpiece providing beauty and fending off ankle biters.

While mosquitos shun my husband (he can sit sipping wine on the patio for hours), they zero in on me and I end up retreating inside within minutes. Our guide may have come up with a horticultural cure for our separate tables.

Editor’s note: 2018 Freeman Medal winner Pycnanthemum muticum is also known to deter pesky mosquitos.

He insists that the myrtle, when planted near citronella and wild geranium, is a botanical mosquito deterrent.

Thanks to Sarah Fleming, Chairman Zone IV, Rumson Garden Club, for sharing her Sage Advice.

The Google definition of Myrtus communis  states that this wonder plant also deters fleas if

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HortCuts: A quick roundup of horticultural news Kimberly Hatfield, The Real Dirt Assistant Editor, Noanett Garden Club, Zone I

One sec. I just need to check my voicemail. Scientists at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO) found that bugs below and above ground communicate with each other using plants as a 'green telephone.'. If that isn’t cool enough, new research shows that messages can be stored in the ground and retrieved later, kind of like voicemail. In this case rather than dialing in, bugs need to eat the soil to gather the 411.  

Eating from the ground up NIOO didn’t think communication was the only reason insects eat soil. So they looked at the microbiomes of leaf-eating caterpillars expecting to find bacteria and fungi reflective of a leaf diet. But what they found was one more closely matched to what’s in the soil with a 75% overlap. They conclude that leaf eating insects consume soil to increase beneficial microorganisms in their guts, like a trip to a health food store.  

Fighting nature’s tomb raiders It’s the bane of archaeologists around the world. Wood-eating fungi turn priceless wooden artifacts such as tombs into shells of dust. To save these ancient objects from complete destruction researchers turn to archaeological mycologists like Dr. Robert A. Blanchette, a wood pathologist at the University of Minnesota. Dubbed the “Indiana Jones” of fungi, Blanchette's story is in the Minnesota Daily. 

Surfacing invasive worms You’ve probably heard about invasive jumping worms that disrupt the cycling of raw materials along the forest floor. These worms are widespread across the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest according to Cornell University Cooperative Extension. There’s an easy way to check your property. Mix one gallon of water with 1/3 cup of ground yellow mustard seed.  Pour onto a patch of soil and watch what surfaces. If you find them avoid moving plants or soil out of your yard; even a single worm can generate an entire population.  

The coffee debate continues Who hasn’t heard that used coffee grounds are great for your soil? Oregon State University say coffee grounds supply nitrogen, improve tilth and repel pests. But not so fast, say  researchers in Australia who grew leeks, broccoli, and radish in soil in a 'closed loop' urban setting amended with either composted or spent coffee grounds and found that all the plants grew poorly, brewing concern about this practice. 

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Profile for The Garden Club of America

The Real Dirt, Spring 2019, Issue 51  

The Real Dirt, Spring 2019, Issue 51