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SWEET POTATOES | FOX-FRIENDLY GARDENS | COMMON DISEASES

Bringing your garden to life

F ll 2012 Fall

HOW-TO PG 20

amaranth BEAUTIFUL AND EDIBLE

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display it!

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National Home Gardening Club Magazine | www.gardeningclub.com Cover_Final4.indd 1

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To everything there is a season. Plants thrive in fall’s ideal growing conditions. Gentle rains and cooler soil temperatures rejuvenate summer-stressed plants, preparing them for the winter ahead. You can help, too, by making Osmocote® Smart-Release® Plant Food a regular part of your fall gardening routine. Osmocote adjusts to changing soil temperatures, so your plants always get just the right amount of nutrition. Maybe that’s why passionate gardeners have trusted Osmocote for 40 years – no matter what the season. © 2012 The Scotts Company LLC. World rights reserved.

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20

features Fall 2012 • www.gardeningclub.com

27

32

ON THE COVER

Amaranthus tricolor ‘Perfecta’ Photo: Bill Johnson

COVER

20 Amazing Amaranth They’re a beautiful, bright spot in the fading garden. And their leaves and seeds are edible! BY TERESA O’CONNOR

27 Dressed For Fall Play up the colors and textures of the season with a multilayered, multicolored container planting. You can make it using things from your yard or your local nursery. BY ELIZABETH NOLL

32 Get Your Sweet On! Find all the tips you need to grow sweet potatoes, whether you have warm southern gardens or cold northern beds. BY WELDON BURGE

39 Plant It Right Give a new tree the best chance for survival by following up-to-date planting and care advice. BY MELEAH MAYNARD

Gardening How-To (ISSN 1087-0083) is published Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/June, Summer, and Fall, by the National Home Gardening Club, 12301 Whitewater Drive, Minnetonka, Minnesota 55343-9447. To become a Club member, send $18 annual dues to: National Home Gardening Club, PO Box 3401, Hopkins, MN 55343-2101. For Canadian membership, please send $36 Canadian funds (including 5 percent GST) for annual dues. $15 of each year’s dues is for an annual subscription to Gardening How-To. Periodicals postage paid at Hopkins, MN, and additional mailing offices. Direct editorial inquiries to Gardening How-To, 12301 Whitewater Drive, Hopkins, MN 55343-9447. POSTMASTER: Send all UAA to CFS. (See DMM 707.4.12.5); NON-POSTAL AND MILITARY FACILITIES: send address corrections to Gardening How-To, PO Box 3401, Hopkins, MN 55343-2101. Canadian GST registration number R131271496. Canadian Post Publication Mail Agreement No. 40063731. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Gardening How-To, Station A, PO Box 54, Windsor, Ont. N9A 6J5. E-mail: returnsIL@imex.pb.com. Copyright 2012, North American Membership Group Inc. All rights reserved. Produced in U.S.A. Volume 17, Number 5, Issue 96.

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find us

online join the conversation Make every day a gardening day when you join our lively discussions on the Club’s website, www.gardeningclub.com, and social media sites.

9

14

departments garden club 9 Garden Variety

4

Garden Talk

Putting the garden to bed, Bohemian waxwings, black gum trees, and more

5

Garden Giveaway

Win valuable gardening prizes!

16 Site Specific Watch for these common diseases.

6

44 Backyard Wildlife

14 Expert Advice

Foxes are good for your garden and fun to observe.

Answers to your questions about sealing wood beds, protecting perennials, and birds using hummingbird feeders.

60 Up Close Meet an autumn classic.

55

Member Letters

Twitter! r! Find out ut what’s happening at the magazine, what fellow gardeners are tweeting about, and tips and ideas for your garden. Facebook! Win prizes, exchange ideas, see cool projects: www.facebook. com/GardenClub Pinterest! Post your own photos, get inspired, learn gardening secrets and tips: www.pinterest.com/ GardeningClub/

48 Member Garden A member shares her story about life lessons learned while gardening with her grandmother.

free newsletter

50 Member Tips

We have so much great gardening information it won’t all fit in the magazine. Go to

Members reveal the most invasive plants in their gardens.

52 Home Grown

don’t let a week go by!

www.gardeningclub.com and sign up for the free Extra Dirt newsletter.

Your best garden photos

55 Member Tested Members report on a wood chipper/ shredder, a leaf hauler, deer and rabbit repellent, and more.

57 Members Only Your National Home Gardening Club benefits

2 FALL 2012 | GARDENINGCLUB.COM

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STUMP REMOVAL

FAST & EASY! Volume 17 • Number 5 • Issue 96

Kathy Childers, Editor

Production Erin Nielsen, Production Manager

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Art Mark Simpson, Executive Art Director Jenny Mahoney, Art Director Donna Holzinger, Assistant Art Director Matt Sprouse, Senior Digital Art Director

National Home Gardening Club Kathy Childers, Executive Director Andrea Meester, Assistant Vice President, Member Services

Advertising Gardening How-To 12301 Whitewater Dr., Minnetonka, MN 55343, 800-688-7611 Steve Clow, Senior Vice President, Advertising Grayle Howlett, Group Publisher ghowlett@namginc.com

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Contact Member Services If you need help with your Club membership, please contact us.

Midwest

VISIT the Club Web site

Susanne Siegel, Sales Director

www.gardeningclub.com

312-346-0732, ssiegel@namginc.com

E-MAIL the Club memberservices@gardeningclub.com

Michigan/Indiana Jay Gagen, RPM Associates 248-557-7490, jay@RPMAssoc.com West Mike Nelson, 503-968-2304 m.nelsonoutdoors@frontier.com Direct Response Smyth Media Group Stephanie Musella, 914-693-8700 stephanie@smythmedia.com

CALL Member Services 800-324-8454 (Weekdays, 7:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. CST, and Saturday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. CST)

WRITE to the Club NHGC PO Box 3401 Hopkins, MN 55343-2101

Please include your member number when you write, e-mail, or call the Club.

Randi Wisner, 914-693-8700 randi@smythmedia.com Gardener’s Market Sales Linda Reznick, 952-352-7500 lreznick@namginc.com

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GARDENTALK

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Call 1-888-230-2318 Visit www.nationwide.com/gardeningclub Contact a local Nationwide agent

& Nationwide may make a financial contribution to this organization in return for the opportunity to market products and services to its members or customers. *Savings compared to stand-alone price of each policy, based on national customer data from November 2010. Products Underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Affiliated Companies. Nationwide Lloyds and Nationwide Property & Casualty Companies (in TX). Home Office: Columbus, OH 43215. Subject to underwriting guidelines, review, and approval. Products and discounts not available to all persons in all states. Nationwide, Nationwide Insurance and the Nationwide framemark are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. ©2012 Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. All Rights Reserved.

taking stock HAVE YOU STARTED YOUR LIST YET? You know what I’m talking

about. Even as we mourn the close of another growing season, we’re looking to the future and making plans. The list is our starting point. We’re noting what worked and what didn’t, and what we’ll do differently for the next growing season. My list (stored in my head for the moment!) is long, starting with the clematis that’s been struggling for several years on the south wall of my garage. It’s a tricky spot that’s dry and gets lots of reflective heat. This season, between the rabbits’ early destruction and the unrelenting heat of the summer, it bit the dust. Next year, a black-eyed Susan vine will replace it until I can figure out a reasonable perennial alternative. My friends’ list is short, beginning and ending with “Deer control!” Their first garden was planted last spring with great excitement. Unfortunately, the uninvited visitors from the nearby woods were the only ones to enjoy the harvest. Challenges like these are just the fuel gardeners need. They drive us to find solutions and can lead to important changes. In “Plant It Right” (pg. 39), we share the latest methods for planting trees, which came about when previous practices proved to be dead wrong. “Get Your Sweet On” (pg. 32) showcases sweet potatoes, the southern garden staple that northerners can now also plant, thanks to the failures and successes of devoted plant breeders. There are plenty more tempting stories in this issue, from the amazing qualities of amaranth (pg. 20) to the fascinating role of foxes in the garden (pg. 44). It’s just the inspiration you need as you start making plans for 2013!

Kathy Childers Editor, Executive Director | editors@gardeningclub.com

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PHOTO: LARRY OKREND

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garden Win a great prize!

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Enter and win! To win a terrific prize from the National Home Gardening Club, simply enter online at www.gardening club.com between October 1, 2012, and December 31, 2012, or send us your name, address, and phone number on a postcard. (See official rules below.) Drawing will be held January 15, 2013.

fabric pots Stop your container plants from becoming root-bound with a selection of aerated fabric containers from GEOPOT. Unlike plastic pots, which force roots to circle the container in search of nutrients and water, these sturdy, breathable pots prune the roots naturally. GeoPots come in a variety of sizes and styles, including pots with handles for easy moving, containers with Velcro seams for easy transplanting and reusing, and raised beds with PVC pipe frames. Winners will receive a 2-gallon transplanter with a Velcro seam (tan), a 5-gallon self-supporting pot, a 10-gallon self-supporting pot with handles, a 4-pocket hanging garden, and two 15-gallon potato bags with handles and Velcro seams ($50.56 total retail value). www.geopot.com 10 winners

copper slug stoppers SLUG SHIELD’s new Stem Barrier ($13.95/12) and Perimeter Barrier ($29.95/32 feet) are made of copper, a natural deterrent to slugs and snails. The pests are repelled by an electrochemical reaction with the metal. The Stem Barrier, which is made of strands of copper, is wrapped around the base or stems of slug-susceptible plants. The Perimeter Barrier, made of finely woven copper, can be installed around garden plots, raised beds, or greenhouse tables. Unlike slug bait, copper lasts all season long. Rain doesn’t reduce its effectiveness, even after it gets a green patina. www.slugshield.com 12 winners

Enter onl Enter o ine!

Garden Giveawa y

Official Giveaway Rules No purchase necessary to enter or win. Making a purchase will not improve your chances of winning. See official rules at www.gardeningclub. com. Submit your entry at www.gardeningclub.com or send a postcard with your name, member number (if available), address, and phone number to: Garden Giveaway, CRID #3934, P.O. Box 3428, Minnetonka, MN 55343.

www.ga nce a day at rdeningc lub.com and imp rov e your chances to win!

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MEMBERLETTERS

teaching gardening I taught for 27 years in two middle schools and ran a 5-acre science center in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Southern California’s climate provided for year-round gardening. All 180 students of mine had individual garden plots. They measured their plots and used maps that showed where each plant or seed needed to be placed. That way, they knew the name of the plants and could compare growth rates with other students. Each student planted a sunflower, three kinds of onion sets, six red beet seeds, and a cabbage seedling. Most students had little or no science background. But the class work developed their measuring and spelling skills, vocabulary, and ability to care for plants. They learned nutrient and water requirements, insect names and damage, and the need for weeding. All of my students struggled to learn plant terms and the problems involved in growing veggies for the table. Some of the parents didn’t know how to prepare the produce, so the following year, recipes were sent

home to educate them. The next year, many of my students returned and reported they started gardens at their homes and planted veggies the family liked. —Carol Eyster, Wetumka, OK

caution about carrot tops Regarding the practice of eating carrot tops, as mentioned in the Summer 2012 issue of Gardening How-To (Expert Advice, pg. 16): Be sure you know what you’re picking before you eat carrot tops. I once read about a woman who snipped what she thought were carrot tops from her garden. She put them in her salad, but it turned out they were the tops from another plant in the carrot family—wild poison hemlock. She died shortly after. To avoid this unlikely yet deadly mistake, eat carrot tops just after harvesting carrots from the garden. I cut off the tops and freeze them (sometimes I chop them first). I then use them in place of parsley in my cooking. They’re especially good in soups, stews, and homemade stock. —Kristina Seleshanko, Cottage Grove, OR

persistence pays Last summer, I was surprised to find that several morning glories had worked their way inside our garage and were blooming just as if the sun was shining there. I guess they thought the inside of the garage needed some beauty. They were brighter than the lantern! —Janet Stroup, Brethren, MI

happy newbie As a new member, I love Gardening How-To. The Summer 2012 issue included many new ideas and several affirmations of things I already do. The native vines advice for the Southwest (Site Specific, pg. 19) also applies in the Northeast. It was a well-written article! —Sharon Provost, Skowhegan, ME SWEET POTATOES | FOX-FRIENDLY GARDENS | COMMON DISEASES

WRITE TO US!

Bringing your garden to life

F ll 2012 Fall

HOW-TO PG 20

amaranth h Send your BEAUTIFUL AND EDIBLE comments about the magazine to make it, display it! Member Letters, Gardening tree lan llanting ant How-To, 12301 tips Whitewater Dr., Hopkins, MN 55343. Or e-mail them to letters@gardeningclub.com. Please include your name, address, phone number, and member number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. PG 27 P

PG 39

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FABULOUS FALL CONTAINER

6 FALL 2012 | GARDENINGCLUB.COM

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take care of your tools PHOTO: MARK TURNER

Your trowel, spade, and pruners have worked hard for you all season long. Now, after you put the garden to bed—but before you hang up your hoe for the winter—it’s a good idea to invest a little time in your tools. Well-maintained garden tools can last a lifetime and save you a ton. And, if they’re sharpened regularly, they can make almost any garden task easier. CLEAN UP: Remove dirt and debris with a strong spray from your garden hose. Use a wire brush to get rid of stubborn bits of debris and rust. SHARPEN: You wouldn’t use a dull knife in the kitchen, so don’t settle for less in the garden, especially when it comes to tools that cut and cultivate. Use a metal file or honing stone to sharpen dull blades and smooth rough edges. Professional tool-sharpening businesses often offer this service, too, typically for less than $10 per tool. OIL: To prevent rust, apply a light coating of motor oil or honing oil. Use a rag to massage it into the metal and absorb any excess. STORAGE: Hang tools separately, each on its own hook or nail, away from the elements, off cold or freezing floors, and definitely out of the path of rain, snow, or snowmelt.—Sarah Dorison

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GARDENVARIETY

garden spot

Fall is a fantastic time to visit botanic gardens, especially those that exhibit brilliant fall colors and stunning autumn interest. At the 5-acre SHINZEN JAPANESE GARDEN in Fresno’s Woodward Park, you’ll find not just the glow of turning Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis), tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera), and tallow trees (Triadica sebifera), but also winning—and rare—architectural features. Established in honor of the city’s sister city, Kochi City, Japan, this friendship garden includes a Japanese entrance gate, a ceremonial tea house with an authentic thatched roof, and seven beautiful bridges, including a stone bridge that presides over a large koi pond. Opened to the public in the 1980s, this garden’s founders sought to provide an atmosphere of elegant simplicity and quiet beauty, known as shibui in Japan. Maybe that’s why you can find serenity in the gardens all year long. Waterfalls, evergreens, meandering paved pathways, and an intentional emphasis on all four seasons complete the experience. For more information: Shinzen Japanese Garden, Woodward Park, Fresno, CA, 559-8401264, www.shinzenjapanesegarden.org. —S.D.

PHOTOS: TOM SKELTON

shinzen japanese garden

10 FALL 2012 | GARDENINGCLUB.COM

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plant pick

black gum tree

PHOTO: ROB CARDILLO

There’s fall color, and then there’s knock-your-socks-off, “Oh! Wow!” color. Black gum tree (Nyssa sylvatica) definitely offers the latter kind of autumn interest. Also known as sour gum or tupelo, this North American native puts on a brilliant show every fall, when the leaves morph from yellow to orange to red or purple in a matter of weeks. Though it won’t attract as much attention in the spring and summer, it does bring in other fans: Butterflies love its flowers’ nectar, and birds love the sour fruits that follow. It’s best planted in full sun to part shade, rich, acidic soil, and average to moist growing conditions. Black gum, however, isn’t fussy. In fact, it’s one of the very few trees that tolerates poor drainage; it can actually grow in standing water. It’s also found in the wild on dry mountainsides and can tolerate some drought, once established. It requires no pruning or feeding, though you can add mulch to keep it moist. Black gum is usually dioecious, meaning there are female and male trees. Occasionally “perfect” flowers (with both male and female parts) are found on one tree, but if you want your black gum to produce a lot of fruit, plant a male and a female tree to ensure pollination. Give this tree room to grow: It can reach 30 to 50 feet tall or, rarely, 70 to 90 feet tall. Zones 4 to 9. —Elizabeth Noll Sources Cold Stream Farm, Free Soil, MI, 231-464-5809, www.coldstreamfarm.net; Forestfarm, Williams, OR, 541-846-7269, www.forestfarm.com

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When it comes to defeating pesky pests in the garden, prevention is often the best approach, especially when you’re putting your garden to bed for the winter. Follow these goodhygiene tips to outsmart many critters—and their eggs—by making winter harder to survive. • Weed one more time. Really. Not only will you reduce weeds in spring, but you’ll also reduce places for insects to overwinter. • Cut back perennials after they’re felled by frost, and pull up dead annuals to provide fewer places to shelter bugs and slugs. • Cut off damaged and diseased portions of plants. Insects seem to be attracted to plants with problems. Get rid of them, and you’ll get rid of pests. And don’t put diseased plants in the compost heap or you may spread disease with the finished compost. • Turn over your vegetable garden or other open garden areas. Some insects like to overwinter in the soil. Till or spade under your vegetable garden to expose them to winter’s harsh, killing conditions. • Take notes and plan for spring. Identify and read up on the worst pests in your garden this year. Then be ready to cope with them next spring by planting resistant varieties, moving plants to new locations, rotating crops, or having the right supplies at the ready when they reappear. —Veronica Lorson Fowler

12 FALL 2012 | GARDENINGCLUB.COM

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bohemian waxwing Few birds are more elegant than Bohemian waxwings. In winter, flocks of these handsome fruit-eaters head south into southern Canada, and northern and central areas of the U.S. Bohemian waxwings are highly nomadic and social, traveling in large, tight-knit flocks. Perched in crabapple trees backdropped against a clear, blue winter sky, they make a stunning sight. LOOK for gray-olive birds with black masks, yellow tail tips, jaunty crests, and brilliant red, waxy-looking tips on their wings. DISTINGUISH a Bohemian waxwing from a cedar waxwing: A Bohemian waxwing has white wing patches and rusty-colored feathers (called coverts) under its tail. Cedar waxwings have white undertail coverts. Bohemians are larger, plumper, and grayer. KNOW what Bohemian waxwings love to eat: fruit. By the time these migrants arrive in the yards, gardens, parks, and countryside near you, most of this food comes in the freeze-dried form. ATTRACT Bohemian waxwings with apple or fig pieces, or raisins, in tray feeders. LISTEN for the high-pitched, raspy, lispy call—zree, zree—as a flock moves through the trees or bushes. DID YOU KNOW that Bohemian waxwings get their name from their nomadic, gypsy lifestyle? —Tom Carpenter

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EXPERTADVICE

answers to your questions about finishing wood beds, saving grasses, and more

I built several redwood raised beds for vegetables. Can I stain or treat the outside of the wood to preserve it without introducing toxins to the plants? —Frank Hernandez, Sacramento, CA

Even “natural” wood preservatives like linseed oil and copper can gradually leach into the soil. Though the health risks are probably low, the only completely safe solution for edible crops is to use untreated woods that are naturally moisture-resistant. Redwood, red and white cedar, Douglas fir, white oak, and locust typically last five years or more when they’re in continuous contact with moist soil. You can extend this lifespan by emptying the planters at the end of the growing season and letting the wood dry out for a few months. Depending on the size of your planters, you may be able to find plastic or metal liners that nest inside. This would allow you to paint or treat the wood as you wish. —Kathleen LaLiberte, garden writer and

Like all plants, daffodils (Narcissus) use their roots and foliage to produce the energy they need to flower. Your daffodils probably stopped blooming because the bulbs were overcrowded. Dividing them was the right thing to do, but you need to give the replanted bulbs a year or two to rebuild their energy reserves. Once the bulbs have fattened up, they’ll begin to produce flowers again. Daffodil flowers are formed inside the bulbs during the summer and early fall. To encourage good flower production, don’t remove daffodil foliage until it’s yellowed. And be sure your daffodils are getting enough sun. Most require at least a half-day of full sun, ideally more, to put on their signature show of trumpet-shaped blooms. Your bulbs may also benefit from being fertilized in the fall with a top-dressing of compost or allpurpose fertilizer. —K.L.

protecting perennials

delayed daffodils

I have perennials planted around my patio wall. If I put leaves over them and snow covers the leaves for the winter, will they be protected enough? —Cynthia Bear, Ontonagon, MI

I have a number of daffodil bulbs that produce a lot of greenery but haven’t bloomed for the last couple years. Last year, I dug them up and replanted them in the fall, but I still had no blooms the following spring. What do I need to do? —Jean Duckworth, Etowah, TN

Most perennials don’t need special cold protection and will overwinter just fine, even with little to no snow cover. In fact, a thick layer of leaves can make a perfect winter nesting place for voles and other rodents who may damage your plants by burrowing or nibbling.

industry consultant

PHOTO: MARK TURNER

safely finishing wood beds

14 FALL 2012 | GARDENINGCLUB.COM

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That said, perennials that are marginally hardy in your area, or cold-sensitive plants such as roses and tree peonies, appreciate having their roots insulated with a 4- to 6-inch layer of leaves. Winter mulch shouldn’t be applied until the ground has begun to freeze. Make sure the material is dry and fluffy so your plants don’t suffocate under a thick, soggy mat of compressed leaves. In windy areas, a layer of burlap may be used to hold leaves in place. —K.L.

overwintering grasses I have several ornamental grasses in containers, including purple fountain grass and ‘Fireworks’. I’d like to overwinter them, but they aren’t hardy to our zone. How would I go about it? —Cheryl Rohlfs, Fairbury, IL

There are a couple ways to overwinter your ornamental grasses. The easiest would be to keep the containers in your garage. This usually works best if the garage is attached to the house, where one wall is slightly warmer and offers more protection. If your garage is detatched, group the pots together and throw an old quilt or blanket over them. If it’s a dry fall, water the containers every week or two until soil in the garden begins to freeze; then move them into the garage. Cut back the grasses once they’re tan and dry. (You could wait until spring, but after new sprouts appear, you need to trim more carefully to avoid harming them.) The other overwintering method is burying the grasses, containers and all, in the garden. Of course, this is an option only if you have sufficient garden space. The containers may be sunk vertically, or—to save having to dig so deeply—horizontally in a trench. Either way, the containers must be completely covered with soil, with no parts protruding into the cold air. Treat the grasses as you would for storing in the garage, but dig the holes before the ground freezes. Cut back the grasses and lower the containers into the soil. After covering them completely with soil, you can add several inches of leaf or straw mulch as added protection. Lift the containers in spring when you see the first signs of growth in other garden perennials. —Deb Brown, professor emeritus, University of Minnesota Department of Horticultural Science

sugar rush for birds

PHOTO: STAN TEKIELA

Recently, I’ve had a downy woodpecker and a nuthatch drinking from my hummingbird feeder! I have a bird bath and a creek. Why would they drink the sweetened water? —Patty Banks, Delaware, OH

Birds are always doing something fascinating, aren’t they? But even in exceptional cases, their actions are never random. In this scenario, the downy woodpecker and nuthatch aren’t after the liquid in your hummingbird

Downy woodpecker

feeder, they’re after the sugar! As birds of the tree trunks, downies and nuthatches are very familiar with tree sap and readily drink it when it flows in springtime. Quite simply, the intensely sweetened sugar water in a hummingbird feeder replicates tree sap and provides numerous calories that the birds crave for putting on fat. Fat is essential for small songbirds. It supplies energy for the rigors of raising young, and it helps the birds stock up for a long autumn migration. Your opportunistic downy woodpeckers and nuthatches are leveraging the convenient, easy-access source of fatbuilding calories available at your hummingbird station. —Tom Carpenter, outdoor writer

improving poor soil What can I do to improve my soil? It’s okay when it’s damp, but it’s as hard as concrete when dry. —Wink Elliott, Cambridge, MD

Adding organic matter is the key to improving soil. Once your soil is alive with beneficial microorganisms, it drains well, retains nutrients and water, offers good air circulation, and is much easier to work. Compost is the easiest and most common soil amendment. You can buy it in bags at a garden center or make some yourself by starting a compost pile with kitchen scraps and yard waste. Spread finished compost in a 6-inch layer on top of the soil and turn it in with your shovel. After doing this annually for a few years, you can just add compost as a top-dressing every year. You can also till in organic matter, but don’t do this often because tilling does more harm than good to soil structure over time. —Meleah Maynard, garden writer and master gardener

GARDENING QUESTIONS? Send questions to Expert Advice, Gardening How-To, 12301 Whitewater Dr., Minnetonka, MN 55343, or e-mail editors@ gardeningclub.com. Sorry, we’re unable to respond personally to all questions.

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SITESPECIFIC

common diseases What’s happening in your region—and how to manage it.

southwest them like mine had last year, your vegetable garden has fallen victim to powdery mildew. This fungus attacks ornamentals, too, like roses, bee balm, and phlox. Foil the fungus by using a homemade preventive spray. Mix one tablespoon each of baking soda and lightweight horticultural oil (like neem) in a spray bottle or hose sprayer with one gallon of water. Use the mixture weekly but on an overcast day; bright sun can burn through the mixture and damage leaves even further. Using recommended plant spacing also helps keep powdery mildew at bay by allowing better air circulation and drier conditions. Of course, the best prevention is to grow plants that resist mildew spores. Old-fashioned roses do best, but newer varieties like ‘Julia Child’ and Bolero were specifically bred to resist disease. Knockout roses are resistant, too. White Phlox paniculata ‘David’ thrives in my garden, where other phloxes have succumbed. ‘Blue Stocking’ bee balm (Monarda didyma) has a reputation for fighting off the fungus, as do many varieties of berry shrubs. —Stephanie Hainsfurther, Albuquerque, NM

around the garden • Bag and discard leaves attacked by powdery mildew and other diseases. • Divide yarrow and daylilies for transplanting. • Bring in tender perennials before first frost. • Prep beds for spring plantings with compost and cattle manure, letting the material break down as it overwinters.

Sources ‘Julia Child’

High Country Gardens, Santa Fe, NM, 800-925-9387, www.highcountrygardens.com; Prairie Nursery, Westfield, WI, 800-476-9453, www.prairienursery.com

PHOTO: POWDERY MILDEW, BILL JOHNSON; ‘JULIA CHILD’, SAXON HOLT

IF YOUR CUCUMBER LEAVES have a white dust on

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Parrotia persica

PHOTOS: ‘PURPLE VIKING’, ZACHARY D. LYONS; PARROTIA PERSICA, JOSH MCCULLOUGH

‘Purple Viking’

northeast

pacific northwest

HARVESTING POTATOES always feels like a treasure

IN THE NORTHWEST, we love our Japanese maples (Acer palmatum)—all 500 different types. So it can be devastating to discover that verticillium wilt, a soil-borne fungus fatal to maples, has killed off a treasured tree. There is no effective treatment, and because the disease persists in the soil, it does no good to plant another maple. The astonishing red, orange, gold, and pink leaves of Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica, Zones 4 to 8), which grows to about 30 feet tall and wide, will make you forget about the maple. Parrotia is a member of the witch hazel family and has the family’s characteristic zigzag stems. Small, red flowers like shredded ribbons appear on the bare branches in winter. The lacy leaves of fernleaf beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Asplenifolia’, Zones 4 to 8) give it a soft texture similar to a Japanese maple. It can reach 60 feet tall, but it is slow-growing, adding only a foot per year.

hunt. You never know what size or shape they’ll be, how many you’ll get, and whether or not they’ll be scabby. Common potato scab is caused by a soil pathogen, Streptomyces scabies, which is present in most soils where potatoes are grown. The disease infects the surface of the tubers, causing dark, corky lesions. Scab doesn’t compromise flavor or storage life, but it’s ugly enough to make peeling a must. The best way to inhibit the disease is to plant in soils that are heavy, consistently moist, acidic, and low in organic matter. (A pH of 5.0 to 5.2 will suppress the potato scab pathogen, but unfortunately most other vegetables grow best in soil with a pH around 6.2.) If scab is a problem in your area, plant scab-resistant potato varieties, such as ‘Caribe’, ‘Chieftain’, ‘German Butterball’, ‘Gold Rush’, ‘Russet Burbank’, ‘Superior’, and ‘Purple Viking’. —Kathleen LaLiberte, Richmond, VT

around the garden Prune summer-bearing raspberries by removing all the canes that bore fruit this past summer. Remove any weak or broken canes, and trim new canes to chest height. For fall raspberries, cut canes to the ground.

—Marty Wingate, Seattle, WA

around the garden • Leave dried seed heads to feed the birds and hollow brown flower stems to house solitary bees and beneficial insects. • Buy firm, plump bulbs and plant them in October.

Sources

Sources

The Maine Potato Lady, Guilford, ME, 207-343-2270, www.mainepotatolady.com; Wood Prairie Farm, Bridgewater, ME, 800-829-9765, www.woodprairie.com

Forestfarm, Williams, OR, 541-846-7269, www.forestfarm.com; Dancing Oaks Nursery, Monmouth, OR, 503-838-6058, www.dancingoaks.com

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southeast

midwest/mountain

SLOW GROWTH AND PUCKERED LEAVES are signs

BROWN SPOTS ON LEAVES are a common symptom of

that a mosaic virus has invaded your pepper patch. Infected pepper plants are seldom killed, but they stop growing and produce poor crops of blemished fruit. If you see the symptoms, remove infected plants from the garden. Pepper viruses can persist in soil, so always rotate peppers with unrelated crops. When you’re transplanting peppers, wash your hands and avoid breaking roots because the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) enters plants through broken tissues. The vigorous ‘Jupiter’ bell pepper is resistant to TMV. Hybrid ‘Catriona’ ripens to sunny yellow and resists TMV and two other common pepper viruses, including tomato spotted wilt virus, one of the most devastating in the Southeast. ‘Garden Salsa’ also delivers excellent virus resistance along with heavy production of sweet-hot peppers.

many diseases. But when you see irregular brown spots that follow the veins of maple, ash, oak, and sycamore trees, consider anthracnose. This disease is caused by several different fungi and is common in years with cool, wet springs. Fortunately, anthracnose isn’t harmful to most trees. Simply rake and destroy the fallen leaves to reduce the source of the disease next season. Sycamores are the exception, because twig and branch dieback can occur. Grow ‘Bloodgood’, ‘Columbia’, or ‘Liberty’ London plane tree (Platanus x acerifolia) if you like the looks of a sycamore and don’t want to deal with the disease. The London plane tree has beautiful camouflage-colored bark and grows 70 to 100 feet tall and at least 65 feet wide. Grow it in full sun or light shade in well-drained soil.

—Barbara Pleasant, Floyd, VA

—Melinda Myers, Milwaukee, WI

around the garden • Shred fall leaves with your mower and leave them

around the garden • Plant garlic in late October. • Overseed bermuda or centipede grass with turf-quality perennial ryegrass seed.

on the lawn, or use them as mulch, dig them into your garden, or compost them.

• Start planting daffodils, tulips, and other spring-flowering bulbs when temperatures are consistently low.

Sources High Mowing Organic Seeds, Wolcott, VT, 802-472-6174, www.highmowingseeds.com; Park Seed, Greenwood, SC, 800-845-3369, www.parkseed.com; Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Mineral, VA, 540-894-9480, www.southernexposure.com

Sources Arbor Day Foundation, Nebraska City, NE, 888-448-7337, www.arborday.org; The Tree Farm, Longmont, CO, 303-652-2961, www.thetreefarm.com

PHOTOS: ‘CATRIONA’ PEPPER, HIGH MOWING ORGANIC SEEDS; PLATANUS X ACERIFOLIA, JOSH MCCULLOUGH

Platanus x acerifolia

‘Catriona’ pepper

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Amaranthus tricolor ‘Perfecta’ 20 FALL 2012 | GARDENINGCLUB.COM 20 FALL 2012 | GARDENINGCLUB.COM

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amazing amaranth

PHOTO: BILL JOHNSON

While the rest of the garden fades away, these beauties continue to brighten the landscape— and the kitchen —well into fall. BY TERESA O’CONNOR

The growing season’s disappearing quickly for many plants, but one of our favorites remains a beacon in the autumn landscape: amaranth. This attractive annual shows its colors summer through fall. Its dramatic foliage and brightly colored seed heads come in all shapes and sizes, and because it has a long growing season, it’s the perfect choice for ornamental gardens in need of a boost. But beauty isn’t amaranth’s only calling card. It’s tasty and nutritious, too. Amaranth leaves can be used in salads and its seeds can be cooked and eaten as a hot cereal or a chilled salad. Need more convincing? Amaranth’s easy to grow, thrives in heat, and adapts readily to a wide range of growing conditions.

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Love-lies-bleeding

‘Hopi Red Dye’

‘Golden Giant’

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growing tips The Amaranthus genus includes more than 60 species. Though Amaranthus hypochondriacus is the most common type grown in the U.S., A. cruentus, A. caudatus, and A. tricolor, also known as Joseph’s Coat or summer poinsettia, are also popular. Amaranth, best grown from seed, thrives in full sun. In spring, after the danger of frost has passed, sow seeds about ¼-inch deep into a garden bed amended with organic materials, such as compost, well-aged manure, or worm castings. Amaranth seeds are small and more fragile than larger seeds, like corn or wheat. Tiny seedlings can struggle to break though the soil if a thin crust forms after a rain. For best results, avoid planting amaranth in heavy clay soil, and keep the growing area moist and weed-free. Once plants are established, amaranth grows well in dry, sunny conditions. Space plants 2 to 3 feet apart, depending on the size of the variety. If you’re growing amaranth for baby greens, space the plants a bit closer

eight amazing amaranths Have fun experimenting with any of these amaranth varieties. Some are more prized for their edible seeds or leaves. Others are more commonly grown for their decorative foliage and unusual flowers. ‘Autumn Palette’ ((A. cruentus) features bronze-tipped, pistachio-green plumes with tasty leaves and seeds. It reaches 3 to 4 feet high. Burgundy y (A. hypochondriacus) soars 6 to 8 feet high with leaves and stems that turn from green to reddish burgundy. Its seeds are white and delicious. Edible red leaf ((A. tricolorr) grows to only 2 feet. Its leaves, which mature in 45 to 55 days, have a hearty spinach flavor that’s sweet and slightly tangy. It’s also suitable for ornamental gardens with its showy green foliage striped with red.

PHOTO: LOVE-LIES-BLEEDING, ‘GOLDEN GIANT’, BILL JOHNSON; ‘HOPI RED DYE’, MARK TURNER

‘Golden Giant’ ((A. cruentus) sports green foliage and golden flower heads that produce up to 1 pound of white seeds. It reaches 6 feet high. ‘Hopi Red Dye’ ((A. cruentus x A. powelli)i features deep red leaves and flowers. Hopi Indians used this variety as a dye in ceremonial foods. It grows 4 to 6 feet high. Love-lies-bleeding ((A. caudatus) is an heirloom variety famous for long, red, ropelike flowers that produce excellent seeds. It features leaves long used for cooked greens. It reaches 3 to 4 feet high. ‘Molten Fire’ ((A. tricolorr) offers stunning crimson-maroon foliage with dark-red seed heads. Reaching about 4 feet high, this colorful plant adds a dramatic spark to garden beds. ‘Perfecta’ ((A. tricolorr) draws applause with wavy-margined leaves of bright red and yellow. Favored by Thomas Jefferson, it also goes by the common name Joseph’s Coat and summer poinsettia. It reaches 3 feet high and works well as a temporary hedge.

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PHOTO: BILL JOHNSON

Burgundy

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together. As you thin seedlings, throw the delicious thinnings into salads. Taller varieties can grow 4 to 8 feet high, so they’ll need staking. Place stakes early to avoid damaging plant roots. Feed amaranth with a balanced fertilizer at planting time.

harvesting leaves and seeds Typically, you can start harvesting cut-and-come-again amaranth leaves in 30 to 40 days. To maximize leaf production, remove the flowers. If you’d like to harvest the seeds, however, allow several of the colorful flowers to go to seed. Harvest seed heads, which can have up to 50,000 seeds each, before they become dry and brittle. Lay them inside a paper or cloth bag to finish drying. Remove seeds by beating the heads together over a cloth or by rubbing the seed heads gently while wearing gloves. Remove debris or dirt with a small mesh screen. When seeds are completely clean and dry, store them away from heat and direct sunlight in an airtight container.

controlling pests

PHOTOS: LYGUS LINEOLARIS, BILL JOHNSON; AMARANTH SEEDS, MARK TURNER

Amaranth can suffer from pests and diseases. One effective way to control these problems is crop rotation. Don’t grow amaranth, beets, Swiss chard, spinach, quinoa, or other members of the Chenopodiaceae family in the same garden spot more than once every three years. Although no viruses or serious bacterial diseases have been noted on amaranth, the plant can suffer from fungal diseases. To reduce the risk, plant amaranth in a sunny spot with well-drained soil, mulch well, and avoid wetting the foliage by watering at the root level. If you must water overhead, irrigate in the morning so plants can dry before evening. Beetles, alfalfa webworms, and lygus bugs (Lygus lineolaris) are some common amaranth pests. Tough plants can survive quite a bit of insect damage, but you can use organic insecticides with pyrethrin, or products with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), if necessary.

Though amaranth seeds are tiny—only slightly larger than poppy seeds—they can grow into 6-foot-tall plants.

edible and nutritious Amaranth, often called an ancient grain, was cherished by the Incas, Aztecs, and early American cultures. Thomas Jefferson was said to have grown amaranth at Monticello. Today amaranth is a culinary crop in Africa, China, India, Russia, and Nepal. Amaranth offers many health benefits. Its leaves are as nutritious as spinach, which often bolts from the hot sun right about the time amaranth starts thriving. Similar to quinoa, its seeds are unusually high in protein for a non-legume, with more protein than oats, corn, or wheat. Amaranth seeds and leaves are also high in fiber and contain iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, and vitamin B6. Amaranth seeds are also rich in the amino acid lysine, a plus for vegetarians. Try small, young amaranth leaves in salads. Use the older, larger leaves in stir-fry dishes or with steamed vegetables. Seeds can be sprouted and used on sandwiches and salads like sunflower sprouts. Hot cooked amaranth seeds can be served instead of rice with stir fries and casseroles. Another option is to cook the seeds and eat them instead of oatmeal for a hot breakfast: Add fresh berries, honey, apple slices, cinnamon, and a touch of milk. Amaranth seeds, which have a slightly sweet, nutty taste, can also be served cold as a tabbouleh-style dish. Amaranth flour, which is made commercially from ground amaranth seeds, can be used in baking. But, because it’s free of gluten, it must be mixed with glutinous flours to make leavened bread. Master gardener and garden writer Teresa O’Connor lives in Idaho. She’s the co-author of Grocery Gardening: Planting, Preparing & Preserving Fresh Foods (Cool Springs Press, 2010). Sources

Lygus bugs can be pests on amaranth plants, but organic pesticides can help combat these critters.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, rareseeds.com; Botanical Interests, www.botanicalinterests.com; Seeds of Change, www.seedsofchange.com; Sustainable Seed Co., sustainableseedco.com

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dressed for fall TEXT B BY Y ELIZABETH ELIZABETH NOLL PROJECT BY SCOTT ENDRES PHOTOS BY TRACY WALSH

Play up the colors and textures of the season with a multilayered, multicolored container planting.

GARDENINGCLUB.COM 27

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O

rang and reds. Berries and pinecones. ranges The hallmarks of fall have all been captured in this exquisite container garden. And like another hallmark of the season, the planter reflects a time of season transition: It uses Scotch moss and trans grasses that wouldn’t look out of place gras on a summer day, but also ornamental gourds and bare stems that signal the go ccoming of winter. The living plants used are fairly cold-hardy, so the container could last happily through the winter in Zones 6 or warmer. In colder zones, you could keep the stems, berries, and pods, and simply use evergreen boughs to replace plants that succumb to cold. We provide a list of the plants used in the container, but don’t let that limit you. Do you have grasses or moss that you could dig up? What about seed pods, pinecones, W oor rose hips you could collect? You might be surprised to find the makm ings of a gorgeous container in your ing own backyard!

materials design tips • When choosing your materials, use contrasting colors, textures, and forms for the greatest impact. • Proportion is important. The height of the arrangement should be 1½ to 2 times the height of the container. • Color can multi-task: White pansies stand out in the evening; dark red-purple kale provides a restful spot for eyes to linger; the bright chartreuse of Scotch moss glows in the muted fall light. • Use pods, berries, and rose hips to bridge the gap between low-growing moss and tall stems. They can also help balance all sides of the container.

• Large, decorative outdoor pot • Potting soil for outdoor containers • Clippers • Various plants: • African knobs (or pinecones or milkweed pods) • Brown sedge • Kuwa stems (or dogwood or curly willow) • Ornamental gourds of various sizes and colors • Peacock Red kale • Rose hips • Scotch moss • Sweet flag (dwarf variety) • Variegated hebe • White pansies • Winterberry

28 FALL 2012 | GARDENINGCLUB.COM

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1 Assemble your materials. Fill the pot with potting soil to 3 or 4 inches below the rim. Plant sweet flag, Scotch moss, and variegated hebe at the edge of the pot, so they’ll fall or creep over the rim. Add more potting soil.

2 Add kuwa stems (or whatever stems you’re using) to the center of the pot.

3 On one side of the stems, add a branch of winterberry. Add two Peacock Red kale plants, one on either side of the pot. (This is a kind of ornamental kale that does not develop a head.)

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Nestle the white pansy and the sedge next to the winterberry and kale. The sedge should arch over the edge of the pot.

4 Add a few gourds of varying size and color. We used three, but it depends on the size of your pot and the size of the gourds. Clip stems of seedpods to varying lengths and arrange them behind the gourds and extend some out to the rim of the pot.

5 Clip stems of rose hips, and use the clumps of hips to fill hollows and gaps within the arrangement.

6

Elizabeth Noll is the former managing editor of Gardening How-To. Scott Endres is a horticulturalist and co-owner of Tangletown Gardens in Minneapolis.

30 FALL 2012 | GARDENINGCLUB.COM

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GET your SWEET ON! Find all the tips you need to grow and harvest sweet potatoes, whether you have warm southern gardens or cold northern beds. BY WELDON BURGE

‘Beauregard’

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‘Beauregard’ sweet potatoes mature in 90 to 100 days. They’re a good bet for home gardeners, even those in northern climates.

rom the garden to the table, the sweet potato is no shrinking violet! Its culinary versatility is reflected in a wide range of dishes, from sides to desserts. And the plant’s flamboyant appearance livens up vegetable gardens and containers. But even though cooks throughout the U.S. use the tuber in the kitchen, the plant is found most often in Southeast gardens. Northern gardeners tend to grow the plant only for its decorative foliage. That’s a missed opportunity. There are varieties that mature early, making them perfect for cold-climate beds. And the sweet potato is easy to grow. Whether you’re an experienced grower or a firsttimer, use these tricks for choosing, planting, growing,

PHOTOS: KATHY JENTZ

F

and harvesting. You’ll be rewarded with a bounty of sweet tuber treats!

early maturing varieties Gardeners in the Southeast, with its long growing season, have many varieties of sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) from which to choose, including the classic ‘Nancy Hall’ and ‘Covington’. But there are now plenty of quick-maturing varieties that gardeners as far north as Minnesota can plant. ‘Centennial’ is one of most commonly grown sweet potato varieties in the U.S. Developed by a Louisiana Agriculture Experiment Station, it matures in 90 to 100 days. Though it’s been a dependable variety for

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northern gardeners for years, there are others of equal or even better suitability: ‘Georgia Jet’, for example, matures in 90 to 100 days and offers better yields than ‘Centennial’. ‘Beauregard’, which matures just as quickly, also produces well and is disease-resistant, too.

vine or bush, garden or container? Sweet potatoes, which are related to the morning glory, require a well-drained site, full sun, and plenty of space to produce tons of tubers. Vining varieties like ‘Centennial’ can sprawl more than 15 feet and should be planted in beds separate from the rest of the garden. If you have a small garden, look for bush varieties like ‘Vardaman’ and ‘Bush Porto Rico’, which produce bountifully but stay compact. With their pretty vines and flowers, sweet potatoes can be used in landscaping as well. Plant them along the top of a retaining wall and allow the vines to tumble over the side. Use them as ground covers in front of petunia beds for an interesting contrast. Grown in containers, sweet potatoes can add a touch of the exotic to a sunny patio or porch. You can even grow sweet potatoes in bushel baskets or large, wooden half-barrels. Line a basket or barrel with black plastic, poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage, and fill the container with potting soil. Plant a single sprout in the center and place the basket or barrel in a sunny spot. If you water deeply once or twice a week, you’ll soon have a mound of cascading vines and, eventually, fat tubers. ‘Vardaman’ and ‘Bush Porto Rico’ are excellent for containers, often producing meatier, rounder tubers in confined quarters than when they’re grown in the open garden.

‘Georgia Jet’

Sweet potatoes can survive in a variety of soils. But if you want fat, sweet tubers, you should take a few extra steps to prepare the soil. Compacted clay soils restrict roots, resulting in malformed, thin tubers. Overly rich soils can produce numerous but inferior tubers. And poor, sandy soil produces high-quality tubers in low quantities. The trick, then, for the best crops is to create a balanced, light, sandy loam of moderate fertility. Work the bed to a depth of 8 to 10 inches, loosening the soil and adding peat moss and sand, if necessary. Don’t use manure-enriched compost or organic matter high in nitrogen, which can promote excessive vine growth at the expense of tuber production. If you use a fertilizer, use one high in potassium and phosphorus, ideally a 5-10-10 formula. Northern gardeners should grow sweet potatoes in raised beds mulched with black plastic to warm the beds and extend the growing season. Raised beds heat up faster

PHOTO: KATHY JENTZ

soil matters

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sweet potato options Look for these varieties of sweet potatoes to plant in your garden. ‘Beauregard’ (90 to 100 days) Prolific, quickmaturing variety recommended for northern gardeners; copper-colored skin with bright orange flesh; resistant to cracking. ‘Evangeline’

‘Bonita’ (100 days) Recommended for high sucrose content and flavor; tan skin with stark white flesh. ‘Bush Porto Rico’ (110 days) Popular bush type for gardeners with limited space; dark red, copper skin with yellowish-pinkish flesh.

testing in northern New York); susceptible to cracking; red-orange skin with deep orange flesh.

‘Murasaki’ (100 days) Purple-skinned, Japanese variety with bright-white flesh; distinctive nutty flavor; resistant to both southern root-knot nematodes and fusarium root rot.

‘Carolina Ruby’ (100 days) Irregular-shaped tubers with rough, deep-red skin and dark-orange flesh.

PHOTOS: ‘EVANGELINE’, ROB CARDILLO; ‘CAROLINA RUBY’, ‘BONITA’, ‘COVINGTON’, NC STATE UNIVERSITY, COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE & LIFE SCIENCES

‘Centennial’ (90 to 100 days) Probably the most widely recognized and commonly grown sweet potato in the U.S.; copper to orange skin with carrot-colored flesh, excellent for baking.

‘Nancy Hall’ (110 to 120 days) Old-time favorite; familiar “yellow yam” your great-grandmother baked in the 1930s and ’40s; light skin with yellow flesh.

‘Covington’ (110 days) An improved Beauregard

‘O’Henry’ (90 to 100 days) Produces large pale-

type, released by North Carolina State University in 2005; high-yielding variety prized for uniformity of tubers; resists fusarium wilt, soil rot, nematodes.

skinned tubers with white flesh that’s drier than other sweet potato varieties when cooked.

‘Vardaman’ (100 days) Bush variety recommended for smaller gardens, producing small tubers with outstanding flavor; yellow skins darken after harvest; tender orange flesh.

‘Evangeline’ (100 days) One of the sweetest of sweet potatoes, with traditional orange flesh; hardier than most varieties, and resistant to southern rootknot nematodes.

‘Georgia Jet’ (90 to 100 days) Very early variety, appropriate for northern gardeners, with yields more than double standard varieties (based on five years of

‘Carolina Ruby’

‘White Yam’ (100 days) One of America���s oldest varieties, also called ‘Southern Queen’, ‘Choker’, and ‘White Bunch’; white-skinned tubers with sweet white flesh and high sugar content. —W.B.

‘Bonita’

‘Covington’

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‘Murasaki’

PHOTO: ROB CARDILLO

‘Porto Rico’

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I yam what I am (and I’m a sweet potato) There’s often great confusion over what’s a “sweet potato” and what’s a “yam”—even in commercial packaging of the products. (“Candied yams,” for example, are actually sweet potatoes.) So, what’s the difference? The familiar sweet orange (sometimes golden) tubers commonly available in the U.S. are sweet potatoes. They’re from the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae). True yams, which are from the Dioscoreaceae family, are generally imported from the Caribbean and are dry and starchy with white flesh. Relatively few people in the U.S. have eaten true yams. Although the USDA requires that sweet potatoes be labeled as such, many people still mistakenly call them yams. —W.B.

in the spring, and the black plastic helps the soil absorb heat and retain moisture. Floating row covers can be used to protect tender young shoots from an unexpected frost.

plant sprouts, not seeds Unlike white potatoes, which are cut into small pieces and planted, sweet potatoes are grown from slips, or sprouts. You can sprout your own from grocery store tubers, but some store-bought varieties can take up to 160 days to mature. It’s best to buy slips from a local garden center or order the plants by mail. They’ll be shipped in the spring after the danger of frost is past. If you sprout your own plants from a dependable variety, start them indoors about two months before planting in the garden. If you receive the slips in the mail, plant them immediately in their prepared bed, unless the soil is cooler than 60°F. If it’s too cool to plant the slips, wrap the roots in damp paper towels, and keep the plants indoors until they can be safely moved into the garden. Space the plants 18 to 24 inches apart in the bed, planting each slip right up to the small leaves at the top, making sure to cover some of the nodes (joints) along the stem. Roots will form at these nodes. Once you plant the slips, mulch around the plants with clean straw or shredded newspaper. If you plant the slips through a sheet of black plastic, mulch is unnecessary. Watering is critical the first few days after transplanting. Keep the soil beneath the mulch moist until the roots have expanded and the plants renew growth. Once established, sweet potatoes are drought-tolerant and probably the most heat-tolerant plant you can grow in the home garden.

To harvest, wait until a dry, overcast day, if possible. Using a spading fork, carefully lift the plants, gradually working to the center of each plant to avoid harming the tubers. If you’ve prepared a friable soil, digging should be no problem. Handle the tubers gently, as they bruise easily. Brush the loose dirt from them, but don’t wash them. Spread them out to dry for the rest of the day, and bring them indoors before the evening. Inspect the sweet potatoes, setting aside the damaged or badly bruised ones to eat first because they won’t keep. If you have too many damaged tubers to use immediately, simply peel them and cut into 2-inch pieces, parboil them, and freeze for later use. Never refrigerate raw sweet potatoes; they’ll spoil quickly.

cure, then store To cure the remaining undamaged tubers, place them in a warm (80°F to 85°F), well-ventilated room, garden shed, or garage for two weeks. This allows the skins to toughen and minor surface cuts to heal before the tubers are stored for the winter. Most varieties become sweeter after curing because their natural starches convert to sugars. After curing, wrap each tuber in a sheet of newspaper; then pile the tubers loosely in bushel baskets or bins in a cool storage area. Stored at 60°F to 65°F, sweet potatoes will last most of the winter. Never allow the storage area to cool below 50°F. Regularly check the potatoes and immediately discard any that show signs of rot. There’s nothing like homegrown sweet potatoes in the dead of winter! They’re a wonderful change from traditional white potatoes at the dinner table and are even more versatile.

harvest before frost Allow the tubers to fatten in the soil as long as possible, but pull them just before freezing weather arrives. Frost can ruin the tubers underground. When the vines die, decay rapidly spreads into the roots, making them bitter. If a frost forecast catches you off-guard, cover the plants with floating row covers or chop off the vines and harvest the bed as soon as possible.

Weldon Burge is a garden writer in Newark, Delaware. Sources W. Atlee Burpee & Co., Warminster, PA, 800-888-1447, www.burpee.com; George’s Plant Farm, Martin, TN, 731-587-9477, www.tatorman.com; Park Seed, Greenwood, SC, 800-845-3369, www.parkseed.com; Steele Plant Co., Gleason, TN, 731-648-5476, www.sweetpotatoplant.com.

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plant it

right! g Give a tree the best chance for survival by following up-to-date planting and care advice. You might be surprised by what’s changed. BY MELEAH MAYNARD ILLUSTRATIONS BY ELARA TANGUY n the corner of my street, neighbors are saying goodbye to what was easily the most beautiful maple tree most of us have ever seen. At first they thought drought was responsible for the smattering of dead branches at the top of the tree’s canopy. But when watering more diligently didn’t solve the problem, they called in an arborist, who told them it was too late to help the dying tree. The problem? It was planted incorrectly. Now, two decades later, it was being strangled by its own roots because it had been buried too deeply. The people who planted that maple likely thought they were doing the right thing at the time. It was once considered good advice to plant trees deeply. The thinking was that young trees would be less susceptible to being blown over by high winds, and tree roots would be better protected from the elements by being buried deep underground. As my neighbors found out, this was bad advice. More recent studies show that a different approach ensures healthier trees. Here are the steps now recommended for planting (and caring for) trees. And this is the perfect time of year to try them out!

PHOTO: BILL JOHNSON

O

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the proper time

location, location

t

Climate plays a big role in choosing the right time to plant trees, and because of that there’s a fair amount of debate over which trees do best when planted in spring or fall. In northern states, for example, most trees do best when they’re planted in the fall. Birch, pines, and redbuds are an exception. Those trees tend to die when planted in the fall, so they’re best planted in the spring. If you live in a warm climate, any time except summer is typically a good time to plant container-grown and balled-and-burlapped trees. If you live in a region with cold winters where the ground freezes, spring and fall are considered the best times to plant, but summer is okay, too. Depending on where you live, spring and fall are the best times to plant bare-root trees, which have no soil around their roots.

Always match your tree with the conditions your site offers. Soil type, drainage, and sun exposure should all be considered. Above all, though, choose a location where the tree can reach its maximum height and width listed on the plant tag. Too often, mature trees have to be cut down or pruned beyond recognition because they interfere with overhead utility wires or block windows and driveways. Remember, too, that location can also influence temperature and moisture levels. Westerly winds, for example, can dry out trees quickly in unprotected areas. And trees planted on the south side of a building will be much warmer and drier in winter than those planted on the north side. This is fine for some trees, but evergreens are easily damaged when warming causes too much water loss in colder months.

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watch the flare u

p

Planting trees deeply is one of the biggest reasons why trees die. Look around: If you see a tree trunk that looks like a telephone pole shooting straight into the ground, it’s planted too deeply. What you want to see just above the soil is the tree’s natural root flare, a slight bulge at the base of the trunk where it transitions into the root ball. Planting trees so that the root flare is visible rather than buried ensures that the roots will be close enough to the soil surface to get the air, water, and nutrients they need. Roots have a job to do, and they have to get to the soil surface to do it. If you plant a tree too deeply, it may take 10 to 20 years, but those roots will grow up in an attempt to get closer to the surface. As they do, they’ll circle the base of the tree and girdle it, essentially strangling it. To plant a tree correctly, ignore advice to plant trees at the same depth they’re planted in the nursery container. It’s very common to find containerized trees that are planted too deeply. Gently remove your tree from its container and use your hands or a trowel to scrape away the top layer of soil until you find the root flare. Don’t be surprised if you have to dig down several inches. Once you’ve exposed the flare, plant your tree, keeping the flare just above the soil surface.

stake only if needed You may have heard the old advice that all young trees should be staked. New research, however, has shown that it’s better to forego the stability offered by staking and allow young trees to move freely in the wind. Doing this helps trees develop strong, tapered trunks, which will give them their own lifelong stability. Too much support for too long can make trees more likely to break or blow down. There are exceptions, however. Trees planted in areas where they’ll be exposed to high winds do benefit from staking during their first year in the ground. So do trees with naturally flexible stems, such as some types of oaks, because they might not grow straight if they aren’t staked. Stake trees for no more than one year, and be sure that the stakes give the tree enough room to move freely. Use two metal or wooden stakes, and place them equidistant from the trunk. Bury stakes about 2 feet deep to provide adequate support. Use soft, flexible materials as ties to avoid harming the bark. Place the ties about a third of the way up the trunk. Check on your staking system often to be sure the tree doesn’t become choked or damaged because stakes have fallen or ties have become misaligned.

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three planting options Just like annuals and perennials, trees can be purchased in several different forms.

Bare-root These trees look a bit like fragile broomsticks when you buy them. They’re dug from the nursery in spring or fall, and all of the soil is removed from the roots. Bareroot trees are lightweight and easy to plant, and they’re also much less expensive than other options. But be sure to keep the roots moist until planting time.

Container-grown Containerized trees are available in a variety of sizes, but it’s best to buy the smallest one possible because younger trees with well-established root systems typically suffer less shock and establish themselves faster than trees in larger pots. These trees can become root-bound, however, so be sure to slide them out of their containers and inspect the roots before you buy them. Avoid buying extremely rootbound trees because they’re already experiencing stress.

Balled-and-burlapped Dug from the ground in a manner that keeps a good-sized root ball intact, these trees are larger at planting time. They require a wire basket, burlap, and twine or metal wiring to hold all the soil in place. It takes some maneuvering, and usually some equipment, to plant them. They’re more expensive than other options and are fairly susceptible to transplant shock. Diligent watering is a must.

help it survive Young trees often don’t make it through their first year or two of life. One of the biggest reasons is not enough water. While established trees need about an inch each week to thrive, young trees often need more than that for the first couple of years, especially during very hot weather. Their root systems are small and unable to sustain them through periods of heat and dryness. Mulch helps newly planted trees retain moisture and moderate soil temperature. Two or three inches works best. Spread the mulch out in a circle around the base, keeping the mulch flat rather than mounded and about 3 inches away from the trunk. If critters are a problem, use rabbit fencing or another type of fencing to circle the trunk and keep them out. Meleah Maynard is the co-author of Decoding Gardening Advice: The Science Behind the 100 Most Common Recommendations (Timber Press). She blogs at www.everydaygardener.com.

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BACKYARDWILDLIFE

a fox-friendly garden Inviting foxes into your gardens is good for them and for you! BY DAVID MIZEJEWSKI

visit your garden is a fox, and you should do what you can to make it feel welcome. Why invite foxes into your gardens? There are benefits for them, and you get a first-hand look at their beauty. Create a natural food supply Foxes aren’t dangerous to people or pets as long as you don’t feed them table scraps or pet food, or allow them to get into your trash. This teaches them to associate humans with food and encourages them to approach people. And though your chance of being bitten is always small, it increases in such situations. That said, the average weight of an adult red fox (the largest species in North America) is only about 12

With the right food and shelter, foxes like this red one can become welcome visitors to your gardens.

pounds, about the same as a housecat. Their long legs and thick coats make them look much bigger than they actually are. Foxes naturally prey on rodents, rabbits, birds, insects, lizards, snakes, and the eggs of reptiles and birds. So while you don’t have to worry about your cats or dogs becoming a meal for foxes, you should make sure that backyard chickens or rabbits have a secure coop or hutch for protection. Foxes also relish berries and other fruits and even graze on grasses, so plant a good variety of native plants, and you’ll provide foxes with everything they need to

PHOTO: WINDIGO / LON LAUBER

THE LARGEST PREDATORY ANIMAL that’s likely to

44 FALL 2012 | GARDENINGCLUB.COM

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9/10/12 5:09 PM


Foxes of North America

eat while preserving their natural caution around people. Raspberries, blueberries, huckleberries, and fruit trees are good food sources—as long as you don’t harvest everything and allow some fruit to drop to the ground. Such a garden can also attract the small animals that foxes eat. A water garden or even a birdbath placed on the ground will serve as a water source. Provide cover Foxes are naturally shy and seek cover whenever possible. Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not around, and this is true not just in the country. Red and gray foxes are particularly adaptable and can even thrive in fairly urban areas in gardens, empty lots, pocket woodlands, and city parks. Swift and kit foxes require more wild areas and are declining in some places due to development. If you create a garden that makes foxes feel comfortable and secure, you might get lucky enough to have one move in and

Is it a red or gray fox? Identifying whether you see a gray or red fox can be difficult. Here are some tips for telling them apart: ● Gray foxes often have a lot of red fur, and red foxes can sometimes be gray or even black. ● Gray foxes are smaller and have shorter snouts, and they’re also the only foxes (and the only wild canids) that regularly climb trees. So if you see a fox in the branches, it’s a gray. ● The tail is the foolproof identifier: Gray foxes have black-tipped tails, while the tails of red foxes are white-tipped.

make regular appearances. When you plan your garden, preserve dense or mature vegetation to provide this cover, and choose berry plants to supply a food source. If your property has a lot of open lawn, consider planting a living fence of shrubs to serve as a corridor for foxes. You can also build a brush pile, which foxes will use as a hunting ground as well as a hiding place. A brush pile can be a simple random mound of logs and branches similar to what occurs in nature, or you can build one by laying a base of larger logs a foot or two apart from each other and then layering successively smaller branches on top, creating a large pile that has several compartments for foxes and other wildlife. Help them reproduce After mating, female foxes, called vixens, are on their own. They’ll give birth to their kits in a sheltered spot. Vixens often expand burrows started by other creatures such as groundhogs. They might use a hollow log or a brush pile if it’s big enough. Or if there’s no suitable natural place for them, they may give birth under a porch or shed. The kits stay in the den for a few weeks, nursing and growing, and eventually begin exploring their surroundings. Fox kits are particularly delightful to watch in your garden as they play and frolic under the watchful eye of their mother. Baby foxes in the garden: It’s hard to think of a greater reward for a wildlife gardener! David Mizejewski lives in Washington, DC, and is a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation.

PHOTO: WINDIGO / LARRY HOLJENCIN

It can be difficult to tell the difference between a red fox and a gray fox (pictured). Look at the tail for a definitive ID.

Five fox species are found in North America: red, gray, swift, kit, and Arctic. Swift foxes live on the central short-grass prairies, and closely related kit foxes are found in Western deserts. Both favor wild areas, but they could show up in a rural or possibly suburban setting. Arctic foxes aren’t likely to show up in anyone’s backyard. Red and gray foxes are a bit more cosmopolitan than their cousins. Both species are generally found coast to coast, from forests to deserts and mountains to coastal areas. As a result, they’re the two species you’re most likely to encounter in your yard.

46 FALL 2012 | GARDENINGCLUB.COM

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MEMBERGARDEN

life lessons This Alabama member discovered a road map for living while gardening with her grandmother. BY JOANNA MCKINLEY

AS A CHILD, many of my days were spent in my grandmother’s

I’ll come talk with you in the garden. I will meet you at the swing. We’ll talk and talk as we have always done About every little thing. I’ll hear your voice in the garden Whispering softly in my ears. It will remind me of the things you taught Throughout the many years. I’ll feel your touch in the garden Brush against me like the breeze, And hug me like the ivy hugs The biggest of the trees. I’ll think of you so often And I will look to see your face Smiling as you sit and swing In our secret meeting place. And I’ll feel your gaze upon me, It will warm me like the sun, And fill me with a sense of peace To have you with me in the garden. Joanna McKinley, July 2001

WHAT’S YOUR GARDEN STORY? Send your 300-word essay to: Member Garden, Gardening How-To, 12301 Whitewater Dr., Hopkins, MN 55343 or e-mail membergarden@gardeningclub. com. Please include your name, address, daytime phone number, member number, and at least one clear color photograph (not photocopy) of you in your garden. We’ll pay $100 for stories we publish. Sorry, we can’t acknowledge or return submissions.

PHOTO COURTESY MEMBER

In The Garden

garden. When I was young, I just played. I wandered the walkways, picking flowers and gathering ingredients for mud pies. As I grew older, I began to follow my grandmother around. I’d listen intently as she answered my questions about all the plants she’d collected. Most of them had a history. Some came from dear friends, while others were souvenirs from vacations. Her garden was her scrapbook. While she was gardening, she was collecting and storing the precious moments of her life. She was always eager to share plants with others. A visitor to her garden rarely left empty-handed. So when I married and bought a house, starting my garden became Grandmother’s first priority. When she came to see the house, she had plants in her arms. Every time I visited her, she would take me out for a walk in her garden with shovel in hand. Before long, she was digging plants and loading them into my car. I was reluctant at first, because I didn’t look forward to the work involved. But she was so excited to share her plants that I took them and lovingly made new homes for them in my yard. Then I began to enjoy gardening. Now that Grandmother has passed, I’ve learned the immeasurable value of the treasure she shared with me. The plants weren’t the only gift she gave me. She helped me start my own scrapbook, beginning with time spent with her and continuing with memories of my own. Tending my garden keeps her memory alive. I’ve also realized that while sharing her love of gardening, she shared her feelings and her thoughts on life. The time we spent together in her garden taught me many lessons: Always share with others, look for beauty in unexpected places, never be afraid of change, and tend things with love and they will bloom. Gardening has truly become a part of my identity, and all the memories and the lessons I learned from her are rooted forever in me. As I pass along my plants and tell her stories, I hope that I can pass along the lessons as well.

48 FALL 2012 | GARDENINGCLUB.COM

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9/12/12 11:04 AM


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9/10/12 5:09 PM


MEMBERTIPS

worst invasive plants Members share their stories of good plants gone bad.

not-so-lovely lilies A kind friend shared lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) with me 15 years ago. I enjoyed them until they took over. I’m still trying to rid my garden of them. I wish I’d known the woods is the best place for them. — Diane Johnson, Hutchinson, MN

horrible houttuynia My worst invasive plant is houttuynia (Houttuynia cordata). It grows in sun or shade, moist or dry soil, and takes all kinds of abuse. It even grows under concrete— and can split it. I tried vinegar, brush killer, torch, and digging, but to no avail. Finally, I cut the leaves off and sprayed it with Roundup herbicide. Zapped, finally! — Patty Davenport, Murfreesboro, TN

garlic mustard galore The worst invasive plant in my garden is garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). Fortunately, it’s edible. I cook the flower stems when they’re still buds like broccoli. Yum! —Carol Schneider, Dundee, NY

renegade red sorrel A few years ago I ordered mulch for the garden and, unfortunately, red sorrel seeds came along with it. These plants have hair-thin, spreading roots that move underground and sprout up as new plants, inches away from the mother plants. They’re impossible to completely eradicate, because the thin roots break easily and pieces of them remain in the soil, only to regenerate new plants. Argh! —Paula Cardran, Haverhill, MA

Bindweed? Morning glory? I’ve heard a few names for it and have also read that this plant (Convolvulus arvensis) has roots that can be found far beneath the surface. It seems like a curse on the land. Some people say persistent Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis)

PHOTO: DREAMSTIME

inglorious morning glory

50 FALL 2012 | GARDENINGCLUB.COM

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9/12/12 3:23 PM


Johnny jump up (Viola tricolor)

Roundup herbicide warfare eliminates it, but that sounds too expensive. I know that physically attacking it with a shovel or hoe produces zero effect. —Roy Barlow, Colorado City, AZ

PHOTO: ROBIN R. BUCKALLEW @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS DATABASE

johnny, please don’t jump up Years ago, my friend gave me just two little, innocentlooking, purple-flowering plants called Johnny jump ups (Viola tricolor). Now, 10 years later, my friend Johnny has lived up to his name and is jumping up in my three flower gardens, vegetable garden, and even in the grass near my sidewalk. —Linda Schmidt, Sherburne, NY

imperfect pears Bradford pear trees (Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’) were desirable back in the day. Over the years, they’ve matured into oversized monsters with structural problems. Their blooms scent the neighborhood like dirty socks, and their out-of-control offspring appear everywhere and develop thorns. —Laurie Carden, Augusta, GA

FOR OUR JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2013 ISSUE: How do you get your gardening fix in winter? Send responses to Member Tips, Gardening How-To, 12301 Whitewater Dr., Minnetonka, MN 55343, or e-mail tips@gardeningclub.com. Deadline is November 1, 2012. Please include your name, address, daytime phone number, and member number. Sorry, we can’t acknowledge or return submissions. Responses may be edited for length and clarity. Tips are member ideas and are not tested by Gardening How-To. Members whose tips appear in this issue will receive a copy of Fallscaping, by Nancy Ondra and Stephanie Cohen (Storey Publishing), www.storey.com.

GARDENINGCLUB.COM 51

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9/13/12 9:21 AM


HOMEGROWN

1

Members give us a peek into their gardens.

3

2

5

4

1 Fatty, the cat of Life Member Suzanne Hoskins, Salt Lake City, UT, poses with a trio

of homegrown dahlias. Okra blooms and pods put on a double feature in the garden of Life Member James Charlet in Salvo, NC. 2

3 This shy, little frog greeted Life Member Frances Shell, Plymouth, MN, in her

flower garden. A butterfly couldn’t resist the lure of a coneflower in the garden of Life Member Cathy 4

6

Foulk, Bloomsbury, NJ. 5 Brendan Earsley, grandson of Life Member Lenore Martens, Mora, MN, lights up a giant

jack-o-lantern grown from a saved seed. 6

Bathed in warm, late-summer light, dahlia blooms dance and play in the golden garden of Life Member Judy Romo, Camano Island, WA. 7

Life Member Ann Weaver, Kenly, NC,

grows milkweed to attract butterflies, but on this day she found numerous monarchs drying their wings on her orange echinacea. 7

We love to see what’s growing in your garden. Send sharp, clear photographs (not photocopies) with your name, address, phone number, member number, and the names and relationship of anyone pictured to Home Grown, Gardening How-To, 12301 Whitewater Dr., Minnetonka, MN 55343, or e-mail photos to editors@gardeningclub. com. We can’t acknowledge or return submissions. Members whose photos appear in this issue will receive a ComfortGEL set of snips, a pruner, a scabbard, and a sharpener from Corona, www.coronatoolsusa.com.

PHOTOS COURTESY MEMBERS

PHOTO CALL!

52 FALL 2012 | GARDENINGCLUB.COM

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9/13/12 10:28 AM


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MEMBERTESTED 542 National Home Gardening Club members tested products valued at $22,457 for this issue. AMANDA MCCUEN, PRODUCT TEST EDITOR

chipper/shredder Patriot Products, Inc., 800-798-2447, www.patriot-products-inc.com MEMBER RATING: 8.8

BEST FEATURE: QUALITY

Powered by a Briggs & Stratton 4 hp gas engine, the durable Patriot 4HP Wood Chipper & Leaf Shredder ($939) will help you make compost and mulch by shredding and chipping loads of leaves, twigs, and pruned branches. Its shredding hopper is 16 inches long x 14 inches wide at the top, allowing you to easily deposit debris. Its tapered chipping cone allows you to feed rigid branches and sunflower stalks into it, even if they still have side shoots or branches attached. It can chip branches up to 2½ inches in diameter, requires minimal assembly, and has two 12-inch wheels for easy transportation. JEN PERKOWSKI, LANCASTER, PA “The Patriot Wood Chipper & Leaf Shredder completely ate a 6-year-old pile of sticks, branches, leaves, and pine needles in about five hours. It starts easily and also helped me chip up a freshly cut mulberry tree.” CAROYL ALIX DAVIDSON, DAYTON, OH “It’s very user-friendly and really made some wonderful mulch and compost material for my yard.”

leaf-hauling tool EZ Lawn & Garden, 339-499-7460, www.ezlawnandgarden.com MEMBER RATING: 8.0

BEST FEATURE: EFFECTIVENESS

The EZ Leaf Hauler ($34.99) is an easy and effective tool to help with raking, hauling, and bagging leaves and yard debris. It’s a modified tarp with reinforced sides and pockets that allow you to haul five times more debris than you could carry with a wheelbarrow. It features six built-in handles for easy transport and sturdy stakes to secure the tarp to the ground on windy days. CAROLINE DAILEY, PITTSBURGH, PA “It’s easy to use for gathering leaves and hauling them away, plus I use it for cleaning up dead annuals and clippings by moving it to various beds and pots in my garden.” CURTIS POTTERS, LEBANON, KY “The EZ Leaf Hauler is made of durable material that’s really well-designed. My children actually enjoyed dragging it around the yard to help me with cleanup.”

This seal is awarded to the products on these pages, which our testers recommend to fellow Club members.

See the Deals & Discounts section of www.gardeningclub.com for special offers from these companies.

ABOUT THE TESTING PROCESS These products were tested and recommended by fellow National Home Gardening Club members. The Member Rating is based on a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being the highest. To become a product tester, you must complete a Product Test Profile form, available at www.gardeningclub.com or by calling Member Services at 800-324-8454. GARDENINGCLUB.COM 55

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shredder/vacuum Echo Incorporated, 800-432-3246, www.echo-usa.com MEMBER RATING: 9.2

BEST FEATURE: PERFORMANCE

Echo’s ES-250 Shred ‘N’ Vac ($229.99) is a blower, vacuum, and shredder that can quickly turn leaves, twigs, grass, and other yard debris into garden mulch. Its curved blower tube provides rotational control for easier use and less fatigue. It has a maximum airspeed of 165 mph. Its patented, four-blade shredding mechanism reduces the volume of yard debris up to 12 times and stores it in a large, 2-bushel bag. KATHY SEXTON, METHUEN, MA “I’m not sure you can buy a better shredder/vacuum and blower for the home gardener. I can now clean up debris at the far ends of my property and—in one step—vacuum and shred it.” KYNDALL IOCCA, QUINCY, FL “I absolutely love the versatility of the Echo ES-250 Shred ‘N’ Vac. It’s easy to use and not too heavy, and it makes short work of what’s normally a physically exhausting job.”

deer and rabbit repellent Scoot Products, 800-460-7378, www.scootproducts.com MEMBER RATING: 8.0

BEST FEATURE: EASE OF USE

Protect your trees, shrubs, vegetables, and flowers from deer and rabbit damage with all-natural Scoot Deer & Rabbit Repellent ($15.99/32 ounces). This time-released solution is 100 percent effective even after multiple days of heavy rainfall. It has a strong garlic aroma when applied, but it dries odorless. It comes with a money-back guarantee and is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency as an environmentally friendly product. RAVIN LONG, MICHIGAN CITY, IN “The Scoot Deer & Rabbit Repellent not only kept the deer and rabbits away, it also kept my dog from digging holes in the areas where I used it. It continued to be effective through three days of rain.” SUZANNE BRANT-JOHNSON, BECKER, MN “After spraying, the rabbits stayed at the edge of my flower beds. I’ve used a lot of different products, but this one actually worked!”

tests in progress FISKARS’ STAYSHARP PLUS REEL MOWER ($229.99)

WINGSCAPES AUTOFEEDER

combines patent-pending technology with superior ergonomics to deliver best-in-class cutting performance without the gasoline, oil, charging, long cords, or noise created by other mowers. It features an InertiaDrive Reel for 75 percent more cutting power than standard reel mowers, a StaySharp cutting system to eliminate the cost and inconvenience of annual blade sharpening, and a unique grass discharge chute that throws clippings forward, away from your feet. Fiskars Brands, Inc., 866-348-5661, www.fiskars.com.

($129.95) is the first programmable automatic bird feeder that allows you to determine how much seed to offer birds and when to dispense it. Powered by four AA batteries, it can be programmed to dispense seed up to four times each day. Wingscapes, 888-811-9464, www.wingscapes.com. ($12.99/16 ounces) is a powerful bio-stimulant. It’s an allnatural liquid concentrate that’s applied directly to plant foliage. It boosts a plant’s resistance to adverse conditions and diseases, while increasing crop yield and nutritional value. Fast2Grow, Inc., 877-687-7448, www.fast2grow.com.

FAST2GROW

56 FALL 2012 | GARDENINGCLUB.COM

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MEMBERSONLY Check out some of the benefits you enjoy as a member of the National Home Gardening Club!

shop and save Receive discounts on gardening products and services! The offers are always changing, so check back frequently for new deals. Right now, save 10 percent when you purchase the Gardener’s Hollow Leg. For details and more terrific offers, visit www.gardeningclub.com/benefits/deals-discounts.

member help CONNECT WITH THE CLUB If you need help with any aspect of your Club membership, please contact us.

VISIT the Club website www.gardeningclub.com

E-MAIL the Club memberservices@gardeningclub.com MEMBERGARDEN

es the Rocki riches in high in the mountains. to creating a lush garden

A couple discovers the secret

BY CHARLES AVERY

to discover those light, Come spring, we were shocked transformed into a disgusting, crunchy leaves had been resisted shredding, smelly, slimy mass that effectively turning, and spreading. ng husband to do? What was this poor nongardeni trying to move than Rather plan: the with up I came decaying vegetation, we that mountain of nauseating, a wall around the built rocks, gathered the ever-present bed! a it called and pile, hole, fill it with potting soil, Planting was easy: Dig a pay dirt! (Excuse the pun.) and drop in seeds. We hit and cosmos. The first crop was huge zucchini all over the place that Today, we have rich beds a We refined our technique produce unbelievably well. land the leaves while they’re we moved from the fertile bit: Susan found that shredding IN DECEMBER 1998, , and after the first the rugged, dry terrain 4,480 still dry greatly speeds composting is required. Each year, of western Washington to of Montana. Spring year, watering and light fertilizing 3 inches of shredded feet up in the Rocky Mountains and we discovered how the the beds with about replenishes she came, the snow receded, 8-hp Lots of rocks. Is there to help, I bought her an leaf mulch. (Always willing Rockies got their name: Rocks! must be or there wouldn’t shredder for her birthday.) any dirt, we wondered? There was eccentric, but now People used to think Susan be so much mud and dust. said we needed to gardeners for the leaves, the competition from other My wife, the inveterate gardener, , and even manure is It was easy in Washington coffee grounds from Starbucks, compost to create good soil. the Queen of even things you don’t want gardeners have dubbed her Local fierce. where everything composts, county that are envied at the But here our trees are all Compost. She plants crops to, like your roof or siding. organic of awards. We eat fresh, grass. And rocks don’t compost. fair, and she wins a slew evergreens, and there’s no to find the nearby the town gets cleaner air. produce well into fall, and That fall, Susan was horrified in a smoky haze as small town of Superior wreathed leaves dropped by beautiful residents burned the big, She begged them to give YOUR GARDEN STORY? WHAT’S Gardening the maple trees all over town. Garden, them to: Member soon they were bagging Send your 300-word essay Dr., Hopkins, MN 55343 or e-mail her the leaves instead, and How-To, 12301 Whitewater lub.com. Please include your name, up. (We’ve hauled many and calling us to pick them and at least membergarden@gardeningc number, member number, your garden. mountain, but have yet to in address, daytime phone truckloads of leaves up the (not photocopy) of you one clear color photograph publish. Sorry, we can’t acknowledge we convince people to deliver.) We’ll pay $100 for stories under our roof’s drip line, or return submissions. We piled all those leaves that winter under the snow. where they were invisible GARDENINGCLUB.COM

47

PHOTO: KATHLEEN REPKE

Susan Avery Members Charles and rocky soil of Montana transformed the dry, and flower beds. into rich, fertile vegetable

earn $100

WRITE to the Club

What inspires you to garden? Do you have a special gardening accomplishment? If we publish your story, we’ll pay you $100! Send us a 300-word essay along with a clear color photograph of you in your garden. Type Member Garden in the subject line and include your name, member number, address, and daytime phone number. E-mail your submission to member garden@gardeningclub.com, or send it to: Member Garden, Gardening How-To, 12301 Whitewater Dr., Hopkins, MN 55343.

NHGC PO Box 3401 Hopkins, MN 55343-2101

CALL Member Services 800-324-8454 Mon.-Fri., 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST

Please include your member number when you write, e-mail, or call the Club.

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www.plantskydd.com CALL TOLL FREE 1-800-252-6051 GARDENINGCLUB.COM 57

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siren’s call

Chrysanthemum ‘Pancho’ captures your attention with its fruit-punch, red-orange glow. It plays perfectly off autumn’s tangy hues, yet it’s also irresistible on its own, offering excellent cut flowers and fragrant, ferny leaves that remain green until frost. Plant it, and other hardy garden mums like it, in full sun to partial shade. —Sarah Dorison

PHOTO: TRACY WALSH

UPCLOSE

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Gardening How-To - Fall 2012