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Fall 2019

Issue 53

The Real Dirt

Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference: Horticulture Elevated! Highlights Dig In and Win: Seed Challenge Winners Destinations: Ashland Propagation Primer: Leaf Cuttings

The Garden Club of America’s Quarterly Horticulture Publication

A Note from the Editor There is something magical about fall. While nature busily paints her summer farewell in a final blaze of fall glory, I never tire of the miracle of pulling at leafy “green tops” to harvest a fully grown vegetable where not long ago a tiny seed was planted. Speaking of planting, when I plant my daffodil bulbs, I will also be planting a pair or two of jockey shorts to participate in the Soil Your Undies Challenge. What a novel way to measure and learn about the health of our soil! Fall also brings us the Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference. This September, Conference Chairman, Nancy Schotters and her team from the Garden Club of Denver brought us to new horticultural heights through educational workshops, demonstrations, and tours. If you weren’t able to join us, don’t worry! We will share the highlights of these workshops and elevate your horticultural knowledge in this and future issues of The Real Dirt.

Verononica noveboracensis

This fall, as we put our gardens to bed, let’s take some time to celebrate some of our successes. Thanks to our contributors who shared their knowledge in the spring and summer issues of The Real Dirt, I now have a few new hydrangea and azalea bushes. Hopefully you do too! So many of you shared your success propagating from seed with us. Thank you for participating in our seed challenge, and congratulations to our Dig In and Winners! I only wish we could include photos of all your entries in this issue. But perhaps my favorite part of fall is the celebration of Thanksgiving. When I think of my many reasons to be grateful, my thoughts include you, our TRD readers. Your enthusiastic willingness to participate in our challenges and share your ideas and stories encourages us all to continue to learn and grow. Thank You, Susan Schieffelin The Real Dirt Editor, Greenwich Garden Club, Zone II

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Fall 2019

In This Issue A Note From the Editor Dig In and Win! Leaf Propagation Challenge News - Soil Your Undies Challenge Seed Propagation Challenge Winners My Favorite Thing - Buckwheat

page 2 page 3 page 4 page 5 page 7

Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference: Selfies with Shirley Old Rose Gardens Water Gardens Steppe Gardens Pressed Flower Workshop

page 8 page 10 page 11 page 13 page 14

Gardening for Insects - or Not Soil Health Leaf Cutting Propagation Basics Sage Advice Destinations: Ashland HortCuts - A Quick Round Up of Horticultural News

page 16 page 17 page 18 page 19 page 20 page 21

If you would like to submit an article to The Real Dirt, click here. Questions?

Dig In and Win! Propagation Challenge Leaf Cutting! Let’s keep growing together! Here’s Our New Propagation Challenge! It’s Easy! Plan a workshop (or try it on your own) to grow a plant from a leaf cutting.

conditions, etc.

1. Propagate a plant from a leaf cutting. (Begonias are a good choice for this.) 2. Photograph your entry on June 1, 2020. Send it to us by June 15, 2020. 3. All entries must include a GCA horticulture propagation card, providing a detailed explanation of the propagation method, dates, growing medium,

For a step-by-step guide to leaf cuttings, turn to page 18. Questions? Email us at: On the cover: Helianthus petiolaris, Centerra, CO, SMHC post trip by Kate Fahey, Four Counties GC, Zone V. Many thanks to our contributing photographers: Brenda Barrett, GC of Lexington, Zone VII; Annie Bigliani, GC of Englewood, Zone IV; Kathleen Bourke, Short Hills GC, Zone IV; Patty Carpenter, Fairfield GC, Zone II; Susan Choi, Philipstown GC, Zone III; Helen Couch, The Palmetto GC of South Carolina, Zone VIII; Kimberly DeCamp, GC of Lexington, Zone VII; Kate Fahey, Four Counties

GC, Zone V; Anne Green, Greenwich GC, Zone II; Lisa Hurst, Greenwich GC, Zone II; Barbara Kehoe, GC of Winnetka, Zone XI; Blair Louis, Glenview GC, Zone VII; Peggy Mayfield, Fox Hills GC, Zone I; Kathy Palmer, Green Tree GC, Zone XI; Sandy Scott,Woodside-Atherton GC, Zone XII; Ruthie Taylor, The Little GC of Memphis, Zone IX; Wendy Walcott, Green Tree GC, Zone XI ; Grace Yagtug, Litchfield Garden Club, Zone II.

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Fall 2019



MEASURE YOUR SOIL'S HEALTH WITH A PAIR OF SKIVVIES Healthy soil means hungry soil. The ground beneath your plants should teem with millions of tiny life forms—bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, earthworms—all busy transferring nutrients, eating and decomposing organic material in processes that help plants thrive. 

But how do you measure the health of your soil?

Enter the undies challenge - it's as easy as 1-2-3! 
 1. Bury a pair of white,100% cotton undies beneath your soil. Lay them flat about 7" deep. Mark the spot so you remember it. (Bury them now, before the ground freezes!)
 2. Take a photo planting your cotton jockeys now, then dig them up next March. (Mark your calendar to remember.)
 3. Take a photo of the results and send both photos to The Real Dirt by April 1, 2020!
 Sterile, lifeless soil will keep your tighty-whities clean and intact whereas busy, organically thriving soil will eat away at your briefs, leaving nothing but an elastic strap!

Ideally, your dug up jockeys will look decomposed like the ones on the right.

Originated by the Farmers Guild in 2017, Rusticus Garden Club, Zone III, tried it (GCA Conservation news October 11, 2018). You can too! Join the Soil Your Undies Challenge and learn about the health of your soil! For the complete story on soil health, turn to page 17.

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Fall 2019

Dig In and Winners! Garden Club of America members from across the country rose to the challenge and shared with us their seed propagation stories! To make things more fun, we expanded the challenge into three different growing divisions. Congratulations to everyone who entered! We just wish we could share all the pictures with our readers!

And The Winners Are… Less Then One Year: Gina White, The Little Garden Club of Memphis, Zone IX Poppy seeds were planted October 19, 2018, in a raised bed of professional soil mix amended with alfalfa and cottonseed meal. Seeds sowed directly into bed and pressed into loose soil. Seeds germinated in 2 weeks in full sun. Thinned seedlings at 1” tall. Lost some seedlings during hard freeze in December. Thinned remaining plants to 6” apart in March. Added weak strength of water soluble fertilizer with fish emulsion in April. Photo taken May 21, 2019. Papaver somniferum ‘Violetta Blush’

One to Three Years: Sharman Howe, Garden Club of Dublin, Zone I 1/25/18 Seeds planted in seed-starting soil and kept outside frozen under snow. 2/22/18 Seeds moved inside and kept in south facing window. Soil kept moist. 6/1/18 Seeds repotted in potting soil and kept outside in full sun. 7/10/18 Plant removed from pot and put in garden bed, again full sun. Monarda fistulosa, Wild Bergamot The Real Dirt

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Fall 2019

Three Years or More: Collier Blades, River Oaks Garden Club, Zone IX In 2010 Tara Eastland led a group of ROGC Provisionals through Burr Oak propagation. We soaked the acorns we collected and discarded “the floaters”. Wrapped them in damp newspaper until they sprouted. We planted acorns in potting soil in one gallon pots. After two years of nurturing the trees along my driveway, I transplanted the trees on my property in Schulenburg, Texas. In addition to the provisional propagation project, I repeated the process with acorns from my tree in Schulenburg. Quercus macrocarpa, Burr Oak

Special Recognition

Solanum melongena ‘Black Beauty’, Jeanann Kaczynski Suter, Three Harbors GC, Zone III. Propagated 3/19/19

Clivia miniata, Susan Prentice, GC of Hartford, Zone II. Propagated in 2016 The Real Dirt

Ipomoea alba, Ruthie Taylor, The Little GC of Memphis, Zone IX. Propagated 4/20/19

Plectranthus scutellarioides ‘Watermelon’ Melinda Abell, River Oaks Garden Club, Zone IX.

Propagated October 2018

Persea americana, Cindy Simpson, Little Rock GC, Zone IX. Propagated May 2006

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Eutrochium purpureum, Wendy Walcott, Green Tree GC, Zone XI. Propagated 2013

Fall 2019

My Favorite Thing - Buckwheat! Grace Yagtug, Litchfield Garden Club, Zone II Fagopyrum, Buckwheat is a genus comprised of many species. Among those it can be either an annual, Fagopyrum esculentum, or a perennial, Fagopyrum dibrotys. Though it is thought to have originated in Southeast Asia, its first real debut took place in the Balkan area of Europe around 4000 BC. Buckwheat has long been used in America as well. Common in colonial times, it was a crop favored by some of our founding fathers like George Washington. Its popularity peaked in 1866 and by 1960 had severely declined. Today it is beginning to make a comeback.

Grace’s grandson running through the Buckwheat field.

Standing at 30-50 inches tall, buckwheat grows quickly and contains fragrant flowers. Because it grows so fast and easily, even in poor soil, it’s often used as a “smother crop” or a crop that is grown in a field during a period of rest as a green manure crop to keep the field in working condition. It’s also great at helping to control stubborn weeds! Here in Connecticut, I plant the buckwheat seeds over garden rows after removing my vegetables and flowers, casting the seed on the soil, walking over it and forgetting about the seed. I also use the buckwheat hulls as mulch, a perfect cover that aerates the soil without matting, allowing air and water to penetrate the earth and suppress weeds. Buckwheat is a great pollinator crop. Honeybees love its aromatic white flowers and produce from it a rare dark and strong honey. One acre can produce 150 pounds of monofloral honey in a season. However, this dark, strong honey’s popularity waned with the decline of buckwheat as a food. It is now so uncommon that it would probably be the most expensive! Buckwheat is actually a fruit seed, an achene, that can be used in place of grains. The buckwheat seed within the hulls, called groats, can be eaten as a porridge or ground into flour. It is used to make Japanese noodles, French buckwheat crepes, and American buckwheat pancakes. Despite its name, buckwheat contains no gluten! Long used in Chinese medicine, it has a high content of amino acids, and is rich in manganese, magnesium, iron and zinc. Try planting this versatile crop! It might soon become your favorite thing too!

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Fall 2019

Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference: Horticulture Elevated! Selfies with Shirley!

Missy Eliot, President, GC of Denver, Zone XII, and Nancy Schotters, Vice Chairman, SMHC

Debbie Edwards, President, The Garden Club of America, takes time for a selfie with Shirley!

Brian Vogt, Director of the Denver Botanic Gardens, poses with the real Shirley

Nancy Schotters, Vice Chairman, GCA Horticulture Committee, 2019 Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference Chairman, along with the Garden Club of Denver took us to new heights in Denver, Colorado, for the 18th GCA SMHC. The Denver Botanic

Gardens, welcomed 245 delegates in addition to 70 volunteers for 3 full days of speakers and workshops that provided a wide variety of horticulture experiences and education that delegates could take back to share with their clubs. Over the next few issues of The Real Dirt we will share workshop and meeting highlights with you, including one of our favorite traditions: Selfies with Shirley!

“Flat Shirley” takes a selfie with Christine Fulton and Carrie Casey, GC of Allegheny County, Zone V The Real Dirt

Nancy Schotters and Horticulture Committee Chairman, Annie Bigliani, enjoy some Shirley time! –8–

Shirley’s daughter Peggy, with Angela Overy, GC of Denver, Zone XII Fall 2019

Ruthie Taylor and Kathy Adams, The Little GC of Memphis, Zone IX

Debby Melnyk, Late Bloomers GC, Zone VIII, toasts the “real” Shirley!

Vesta Fort, Garden Study Club of New Orleans, Zone IX

Patty Carpenter and Simin Allison, Fairfield GC, Zone II

Carol McPeek and Susan Choi, Philipstown GC, Zone III

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Jan Blynn, GC of Philadelphia, Zone V, poses with “Flat Shirley”

Michele Manning and Lesley Faria, Newport GC, Zone II

Even Shirley takes a Selfie with Shirley!

Tennessee ladies from GC of Lookout Mountain and Knoxville GC, Zone IX say hello to Shirley. –9–

Joan Biddle, Wissahickon GC, Zone V

Deb Deres and Stephanie Bradford, Lenox GC, Zone I

Fall 2019

Why Old Garden Roses belong in your garden Peggy Mayfield, First Vice Chairman Horticulture Committee, Fox Hill GC, Zone I

Matt Douglas of High Country Roses in Colorado provided an overview of old garden roses, from Albas to Portlands, before leading us on a walk to explore the roses in the Fragrance Garden, the Romantic Garden, and the Herb Garden at Denver Botanic Gardens. 

Matt Douglas of High Country Roses

Old garden roses are those that belong to classes of roses in existence before 1867, the year the first hybrid tea rose was introduced. These pre-1867 classes include old roses from Europe, and the Middle East, as well as some “antique” roses from the Far East. These roses are known for their fragrance, dense blooms, disease resistance, and surprising hardiness. Most old garden roses bloom only once, usually in the spring, and produce attractive hips late in the season. They come in a variety of growth habits, from small dense shrubs, to rambling climbers.

Classes of old garden roses include Alba, Bourbon, Centifolia, Damask, Moss, Portland, Hybrid Perpetual, and Hybrid Gallica. Old garden roses are a great choice for many gardeners, since they require very little pruning, and are usually more cold hardy than modern varieties. Rosa ‘Baronne Prevost’ In addition, many are less susceptible to insect and leaf diseases. They do best when planted in an uncrowded part of the garden, in full sun, but be sure to plant them where you can enjoy their heady fragrance.

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Fall 2019

WORKSHOPS: Water Gardening in Containers Barbara Kehoe, Horticulture Committee Zone Representative, Garden Club of Winnetka, Zone XI Sandy Scott, Vice Chairman Horticulture Committee, Partners for Plants, Woodside-Atherton Garden Club, Zone XII

Once your garden is set up it requires minimal maintenance from spring through fall. It will be necessary to empty the container and store it. Place any fish in an indoor aquarium, and overwinter tropical plants if you want to save them for next spring.

Tamara Kilbane, Curator of Aquatics, Denver Botanic Gardens.

Tamara presented a thorough introduction to water gardening in containers and included a garden walk to view water plants growing at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Growing plants in water containers is a low cost, low maintenance, easy-set-up way to replicate all elements of a pond, including fish and recirculating water features. Containers suitable for water gardens can include those with any sealed interior and exterior surfaces and no (or plugged) drainage holes. Examples include half whiskey barrels, glazed ceramic bowls, plastic containers, bird baths or even old bath tubs. Plants can include those that float, submerged plants, floating leaved plants and marginal plants. Only use small varieties of fish such as goldfish or minnows as koi will rapidly outgrow most containers.

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Water gardens at the DBG Hardy plants should be stored in an area where the root systems will not freeze solid. Water gardens can be a wonderful addition to almost any garden.

Resources Books: Helen Nash has many books on water gardening. Online purchase: Hugh’s Water Garden, Pond Megastore. For new Water Lily introductions: They also have an invasive species list by state.

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Fall 2019

WATER GARDEN REFERENCE GUIDE Supplies needed for water gardening:

1. Waterproof containers with no drainage holes: fully glazed ceramic, whiskey barrels with liners, plastic, old bird baths or bathtubs. 2. Supplies: pH neutral soil, heavy clay loam or purchased aquatic soil (baked clay particles). No peat, bark or sand. 3. Fertilizer tabs: to be pushed into the soil every three weeks during the growing season (Pondtabbs). 4. Algaecide: AlgaeFix is safe for plants and fish. 5. Black pond dye: optional, helps control algae growth. 6. Mosquito control: mosquito bits or dunks.


Please check your state’s invasive plant list before planting any aquatic species. 1. Floating plants: Pistia stratiotes (water lettuce), Azolla caroliana (fairy moss), Eichhornia crassipes (water hyacinth), Limnobium laevigatum (frogbit) 2. Floating plants, in pots: miniature and small hardy waterlilies in pots - Nymphaea (‘Helvola’, ‘Perry’s Baby Red’, ‘Chrysantha’) 3. Submerged plants, in pots: Vallisneria tortifolia (eel grass), Cabomba caroliniana, dwarf Sagittaria pygmaea, Ceratophyllum demersum (hornwort). These can be very helpful in reducing any murkiness in the water. 4. Plants for the margin, in pots: Nelumbo nucifera (lotus), Colocasia esculenta (taro), Cyperus papyrus (Paper Papyrus), Cyperus involucratus (false papryus), aquatic cannas (‘Australia’, ‘Pretoria’, ‘Erebus’, ‘Chiquita Punch’). Many of these plants like bog conditions and can tolerate sand or peat in the soil.


1. Small varieties: goldfish, minnows, mosquito fish (Gambusia spp.). Avoid Koi as they quickly outgrow containers.

Maintenance: Spring/Summer 1. Important to keep water on the roots so they don’t dry out, margin of 1” over roots, 2” or more for water lilies. 2. Use bricks to raise potted plants in a container. 3. A mix of plant growth habits is desirable to keep water fresh. 4. Trim spent leaves and blooms as needed, removing dead foliage helps keep water fresh. Spent Lotus leaves should be cut above the water line to avoid rot. 5. Fertilize potted plants and add Mosquito Bits every 2-3 weeks, add algaecide as needed. Fall/Winter 1. Empty container and store upside down for winter months to avoid cracking. Container can be stored in a pond 20” or more in depth. 2. Place fish inside in an aquarium. 3. Overwinter tropical plants inside or treat as annuals. 4. Store hardy plants to protect roots from freezing - in water or with moist soil in a large garbage bag.

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Fall 2019

Steppe Gardens: Bringing Together the Great Steppe Regions of the World

Brenda Barrett, Horticulture Committee Zone Representative, GC of Lexington, Zone VII

This year’s Shirley Meneice Horticulture Conference was held in the middle of one of the four great steppe (pronounced “step”) regions of the world. The four steppes are the Rocky Mountains in North America, the high plains along the Silk Road in Central Eurasia, Patagonia in South America and in the interior of South Africa. Steppes are semiarid regions dominated by flowering plants and grasses that experience extreme temperature fluctuations. The plants that grow in the steppe regions are some of the most resilient and water-wise plants on earth.

penstemon and salvia. The South American steppe is dominated by grasses including the striking pampas grass, while the Central Asian steppe hosts some of our most cherished garden plants including cranesbill, iris, digitalis, veronica, and tulip. The colorful South African steppe has the highest concentration of succulents and bulb species in the world. Altogether the steppe regions have given us some “pretty tough plants” that are beautiful additions to our gardens.

The Denver Botanic Gardens showcase the beautiful plants that grow in these rugged landscapes. Panayoti 1.The soils are low in humus and rich in mineral Kelaidis, DBG Senior Curator, has traveled the world in content. These soils tend to be porous due to the search of steppe-adapted plants. These trips have freeze-thaw action of frequent frosts and, if watered resulted in hundreds of plants that are new to sparingly, they retain a high level of fertility. cultivation. Mike Bone, DBG Curator of Steppe 2.The sunlight in the steppe is intense. Plants are Collections, has utilized these resilient plants to create often evergreen (or ever-silver) in order to help a stunning steppe garden. them tolerate the high level of light that would burn This beautiful garden in the heart of the DBG reflects many other plants. the great diversity of plants found throughout the 3.The steppe receives less than 10 inches of water steppe regions. It also introduces visitors to the per year. hundreds of exciting plants that are well suited for this environmentally challenging ecosystem. In the diverse North American steppe you will find a Steppes are characterized by three things:

multitude of plants including columbine, hyssop,

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Fall 2019


Kathy Palmer, Vice Chairman Horticulture Committee, Awards, Green Tree GC, Zone XI

An hour with the very talented Angela Overy, Garden Club of Denver, and her team for the Pressed Flower Workshop was just not enough time! I could have spent the entire day creating beautiful notecards with professionally pressed flowers and leaves of every shape and size. 

Angela Overy and Kathy Palmer

We were all given some simple tools: a small paint brush, Elmer’s glue with a little water added so it's the consistency of hobby paint, pointed tip manicure scissors, clippers, toothpicks and five stunning white, torn-edge cards and envelopes. But when we were to choose our flowers, it was overwhelming. They were laid out on large tables by color and the abundant variety of flowers expertly pressed was stunning. You almost felt bad disrupting the random beauty of each display. But that we did, as everyone dove into the display and chose their favorites.

Choosing Flowers

Artist at Work

Then we went to work; and the end results were all so abundantly different, from simple arrangements of a few ferns with stems to elaborate combinations in a spectrum of colored flowers. In the end it was all we could do to tear ourselves away and go on to the next session. But we all left smiling in the knowledge that we had learned a practical and valuable skill, to be able to create one-of-a-kind notecards with unique floral designs that can be sent over the miles to someone special. Many thanks to Angela and her patient helpers!

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Fall 2019

Hints for Flower Pressing:

Flower-press ladies happy with their note cards!

Always use very fresh flowers without dew or dampness on them. Type to enter text

Leaves and flowers with flat blooms are best, such as violets, daisies, leaves and ferns, but you can cut a larger flower in half, such as peonies or roses. Avoid flowers that are thick with moisture such as inpatiens and begonias. Trim stems to a length you like, leaving a few leaves, or you may also trim them after they are dry depending on the size of your project.  Place flowers, not overlapping, between parchment paper; and use a wooden press found at most hobby stores or you may use a large old hardcover book and stack more books on top to create more pressure.  Flowers will take up to 2 weeks to dry. When dry, handle with care, using  tweezers if necessary as they are very fragile. A light layer of glue is applied to the back side of the dried flower and then it is gently pressed into place. It is helpful to lay out and decide on your arrangement before glueing.

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Fall 2019

GARDENING FOR INSECTS - OR NOT! Sue Thompson, Vice Chairman, Horticulture Committee Freeman Medal,The Tuckahoe GC of Westhampton, Zone VII

Whitney Cranshaw, Ph.D., Professor of Entomology at Colorado State University and author of Garden Insects of North America, spoke on managing insects in the garden.

plantings that provide food and shelter for larvae and adults is key to creating habitat. Dr. Cranshaw recommends learning to identify the larval forms of beneficial insects.

 Dr. Cranshaw’s advice is to use the right plants to support desirable insects in your garden. Butterfly gardens require host plants as food for caterpillars and adults, and small water puddles for habitat. And no pesticides please. Zinnias, larkspur, cosmos, verbena, sunflowers, asters, sedums, and lilacs are all good nectar sources.  Mass plantings are more effective than scattered plantings.

Encouraging native bees in your garden is critical to pollination of native plants. Bees need food sources from the earliest blooms until the last of the season. Food sources for bees include bulbs and violas in the early season and sedums, caryopteris and hemp late in the season.

Along came a spider

Dragonflies resting

 Dr. Cranshaw discussed problem insects such as the European Paper Wasp which “invaded” Colorado around 2001. These insects feed on caterpillars and have had negative impact on butterfly populations.  
 “Bugs that eat other bugs” are part of a biological control system. Knowing what bugs are active in your garden is key to helping insects benefit your garden. Encouraging desirable insects such as syrphid flies (whose larvae eat aphids) with

The Real Dirt

Swallowtail Caterpillar

Bumblebees are native to North America, while others, such as honeybees, are non-native bees from Europe but are important for pollinating non-native crops. 

Find Dr. Cranshaw’s slides, including the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly feeding on Aristolochia macrophylla, Pipevine, the 2019 Freeman Medal Winner, at the website: BSPM.CSU  under Insect Information, Power Point Presentations.

Busy Bee on Echinacea – 16 –

Fall 2019

SOIL HEALTH: THE UNDIES CHALLENGE Helen Couch, Horticulture Committee Zone Representative, The Palmetto GC of South Carolina, Zone VIII

Using 100% cotton undies, you can take a measure of your soil’s health!

Lisa Hurst, Greenwich GC, Zone II

Paige Morrison, New Orleans Town Gardeners, Zone IX and Estelle Lozmack, The GC of Houston, Zone IX

Kathy Adams, The Little GC of Memphis, Zone IX

Soil health is dependent on the interplay of three properties: 1. Physical: Aggregation, structure, compaction, porosity, water movement, and availability 2. Chemical: pH, soluble salts, sodium, nutrient holding capacity, and availability 3. Biological: Macro & micro-organisms, macro & microfauna, roots, biological activity, & organic matter Standard soil tests tell you about physical and chemical properties, but what about biological? Biological health is critical to soil health as healthy soil contains millions of micro and macro-organisms that help plants access nutrients in the soil. Without these organisms, there is no biological activity and plants can’t receive all the nutrients they need.  As a result, plants are weak and prone to diseases. How do you test for biological activity? White undies of course! Soil organisms get energy to do their work by feeding on carbon compounds from plants, such as sugars that leak out of plant roots and cellulose plant tissues. One hundred percent cotton undies simulate a plant food source—they are chemically similar to the plant compounds. The cellulose content of cotton undies is 90% as compared to 80% cellulose in corn stalks. After two months in the soil, the portion of underwear consumed provides a measure of the size of your biological population. Large populations eat more food, and in this challenge that means undies. So, if you end up with only a waistband, you have very healthy soil! If the undies are intact and stained brown, your soil is leaching, and biological activity is low. Understanding Your Soil Undies: The more the underwear is degraded, the higher the biological activity in the soil. If all you have left is an elastic band—congratulations, your organisms are doing their job! The whiter the underwear is after washing, the higher the biological activity in the soil.  Biologically active soils have “glues” that keep nutrients in place. Stained underwear means that the glues are insufficient for holding nutrients in the soil. This nutrient leaching causes the brown stains on the undies.  And brown stains on undies are never a good sign. Send your photos to TRD. We will share the results in the spring issue along with techniques to amend your soil. Follow #soilyourundies on Instagram. The Real Dirt

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Fall 2019

Propagation Primer: Leaf Cuttings Jocelyn Sherman, Newport Garden Club, Zone II

Prepare a mini greenhouse using a clean, recycled plastic salad box or bakery container. You can also use a clean small nursery pot. Mix equal parts perlite and vermiculite and place approx. 1” of this mix in container. Spray with water to dampen, not saturate.

Choose a strong healthy leaf. Cut a 1” circle, separating the petiole (stem) and leaf base from leaf. Petiole should be approx. 1” too. Trim remaining leaf’s outer edges, leaving a wide strip. This will depend on the size of leaf you’re propagating. Place petiole into mix, and some leaf edges also, gently securing both but not covering leaf. Form cone of inner leaf and stand in mix, placing a little mix in center. Or stand individual pieces in mix. Document date, plant name, and mix on container and be patient! Place container in warm, safe location away from sunlight. Do not jostle or tug plant to see if it’s rooted, but open container monthly for signs of new life. Some leaf segments may rot; remove these. Don’t expect anything for at least 2 months, but remain positive. If the mix feels dry, water sparingly by misting lightly to dampen, not saturate. Document when you see signs of life and maintain monthly checks. Replant babies when large enough. A mini greenhouse can also be made using a plastic bag. Be sure not to allow the bag to touch the leaf.

A helpful video tutorial featuring begonias, Summer Rayne Oakes, and professional grower Steve Rosenbaum is available on YouTube. The Real Dirt

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Fall 2019


What is the best way to harvest, and store root vegetables from the garden for the winter?

If you live in a climate where the ground doesn’t freeze, you can leave root vegetables in the ground and harvest as needed. Cover them with a six-inch layer of straw to prevent damage from occasional frosts. They will rot if surrounded by heavy wet soil, but this technique works in well-drained raised beds particularly in California and southern states. If you live in a colder climate, leave root vegetables in the garden as long as possible. Cool fall temperatures encourage vegetables to store more sugars and starches, and less water, helping them to last longer. Most root vegetables are also sweeter if you wait until they have been exposed to a light frost, but harvest before a killing frost. Harvest vegetables during a dry period, let them dry in a cool area at least overnight. Potatoes and sweet potatoes require a few days in a warm area to cure, allowing the skin to toughen. Be certain to keep them in the shade, particularly white potatoes, as the sun will turn potatoes green—and toxic. To prepare root vegetables for winter storage, don’t wash vegetables before packing them away, simply brush off any large clumps of soil and trim the green tops, leaving a one-inch stub. The top growth will decay if left untrimmed. Take care not to cut the root flesh, and don't cut off root tips, either—breaks in the skin invites spoilage. Carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, and potatoes keep best when they are in a cold (about 32-40 degrees) and quite moist (90-95% The Real Dirt

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humidity) environment. If you have a cellar or unheated area in your home, or garage that does not freeze, it might be cold and damp enough to store them there. The refrigerator is a good option, but the dry air will cause vegetables to shrivel and turn rubbery if you put them directly inside without placing in a moisture retaining container or wrapping in damp towels first. You can create a moist ‘root cellar climate’ in almost any cool dark area by storing the root vegetables in a container, rather than in open air. Cardboard or wood boxes, and plastic bins placed off the ground on pallets work well. Pack your vegetables in the containers filled with play sand (a fine-grade sand that has been washed, dried, and screened). Check occasionally to be sure the sand is slightly damp; if dry, spray with distilled water. Saw dust and peat moss are other traditional mediums. You can also use plastic bags for both container and refrigerator storage. Plastic bags may not be ideal from an environmental standpoint, but they are effective, and you only need to use one bag to keep a lot of vegetables fresh for months. If you do choose to use plastic, make sure there are a few holes, for excess moisture to escape. A few notes of caution: Be careful not to expose vegetables to freezing temperatures. Keep apples away from root vegetables including potatoes, and do not store onions near potatoes either – these combinations will cause your vegetables to spoil more quickly. For more tips & techniques that work best in your growing area, check with your local agricultural extension service.

Fall 2019

Destinations: Ashland Janie Pappas, Garden Club of Lexington, Zone VII

The Garden Club of Lexington was founded in 1916 by twelve women who affiliated with The Garden Club of America in 1924. In 1950 the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation asked the club to create a formal garden honoring one of the most influential political figures of his era, Henry Clay, on the grounds of his estate known as Ashland. In 1809 the Clay family moved into Ashland, a 672-acre estate that farmed hemp, tobacco, and grain. Today the home, and its 17 remaining acres, reflect Henry’s lifelong interest in agriculture with beautiful gardens, and features monumental sky-scraping sculptures by famous sculptor, John Henry. The Garden Club of Lexington hired landscape architect, Henry Kenney of Cincinnati, to design a formal parterre garden in1950. The garden was gifted to the Henry Clay estate and is open to the public. In 1986 our club was given a large collection of Professor A. P. Saunders’ hybrid peonies by Bobbi Van Meter honoring her mother, Alice McIlvain Prewitt, a longtime club member and owner of the collection. The club created and maintains a large peony garden on the grounds of Ashland to the east of our formal bricked garden.  Garden club members can be found every Wednesday morning from April through late October maintaining the garden and its more than 120 varieties of trees, shrubs, and flowers. The garden parterres are divided into collections of herbs, roses, ornamentals, topiaries, and a bronze statue. Around the edge of the garden are mixed borders filled with annuals, perennials, ferns, and small shrubs in a variety of colors, forms, and textures. The garden proper is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm most days of the year. For more information check out and come visit. It’s worth the trip!

The Real Dirt

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Fall 2019

HortCuts: A Quick Roundup of Horticultural News Kimberly Hatfield, The Real Dirt Assistant Editor, Noanett Garden Club, Zone I

Marginal Improvements Prairie ecosystems produce some of the richest soils on earth, supporting life above and below ground. Conventional farming techniques have stripped these lands of richness and resilience. In Iowa, researchers and farm owners are experimenting with the incorporation of patches of native prairie on farmlands. Long-term benefits are still being studied, but already farmers report improvements in numbers of beneficial insects, soil conditions, and water quality. The challenge is making this program more palatable in an industry that is pressured to maximize land use on thin profit margins.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger You probably know that caterpillars sometimes play unwitting host to parasitic wasp eggs. But did you know that these caterpillars sometimes survive, and may even benefit from the experience? Here’s what scientists found in the case of the hawk moth caterpillar. When attacked, it receives parasitic wasp eggs as well as bits of DNA designed to protect the wasp larvae. The hawkmoth caterpillar resourcefully incorporated this DNA into its own genome, thus better arming its soon-tobe-winged self against future virus attacks.

Walla Walla Woes Bad news for winegrowers in Washington’s Walla Walla Valley. Phylloxera, the devastating insect that nearly wiped out European vineyards a century ago, has been detected in some of the region’s grapevine roots. Walla Walla Valley’s sandy soils and cold winters had been considered inhospitable to the damaging pest. Growers are taking steps to limit the spread of this insect and must now consider grafting their vines to resistant rootstock.

Green Heart Project Scientists in Kentucky are looking to gather evidence for what gardeners already know – the positive link between nature and health. The Green Heart Project, with the help of The Nature Conservancy, seeks to plant 8,000 trees and shrubs in several of Louisville's urban neighborhoods. Scientists will study the health impact this dose of nature has on residents in hopes of finding positive changes on heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Locals who wish to participate or volunteer can get in touch at The Real Dirt

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Fall 2019

Profile for The Garden Club of America

The Real Dirt, Fall 2019, Issue 53  

The Real Dirt, Fall 2019, Issue 53