Wednesday, April 26, 2017

17th Annual Plant Sale, Sat., 05/06/17, 9am-1pm

© Ellen Macdonald

The Penn State Master Gardeners of Bucks County hold their 17th Annual Plant Sale on Saturday, May 6, 2017, 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM at Neshaminy Manor Center Health Building, 1282 Almshouse Rd, Doylestown, PA (corner of Route 611 and Almshouse Rd).

This is a rain or shine event.

The sale offers many types of annuals, perennials, rare and unusual woodies, Master Gardener grown and donated plants, a huge selection of herbs and vegetables, including heirloom types.  Also offered are pond and butterfly/pollinator plants, shade and deer-resistant plants, house plants, native plants, container garden plants, as well as a beautiful selection of gift plants for Mother’s Day.  

This year’s sale features a much larger area with more parking and easier checkout.  
50+ Master Gardeners are on hand to answer home gardening questions and help with plant selection for Bucks County gardens.

Bring your wagon or cart. Boxes are available as well as help getting your purchases to your vehicle.   Cash and checks are preferred.


For additional information please call 215-345-3283.  All proceeds benefit the educational outreach of the Penn State Master Gardener Program of Bucks County.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Latest Buzz on Pollinators


Easter Cucurbit Bee - Peponapis pruinosa © Alex Surcic─â

Pollinators are animals (mostly insects but some mammals) that fertilize plants, resulting in seeds and fruit. Humans and other animals rely on pollinators to produce nuts and fruits that are essential components of a healthy diet.  Also, pollinator help is needed to make the seeds that will become the next generation of plants.
World-wide, pollinator populations are shrinking and several factors are contributing to this disturbing global trend. 
 
Habitat destruction along with chemical use are major contributors to ongoing declines in pollinator populations. You can help reverse this troubling trend by planting a pollinator garden and limiting chemical use on your property. 

In 2017, thanks to the
efforts of the Xerces Society, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the rusty patched bumble bee as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Why?  Rusty patched bumble bees contribute to our food security and the healthy functioning of our ecosystems. Bumble bees are keystone species in most ecosystems, necessary for native wildflower reproduction and for creating seeds and fruits that feed wildlife as diverse as songbirds and grizzly bears. Bumble bees are among the most important pollinators of crops such as blueberries, cranberries, and clover and almost the only insect pollinators of tomatoes. Bumble bees are more effective pollinators than honey bees for some crops because of their ability to “buzz pollinate.” The economic value of pollination services provided by native insects (mostly bees) is estimated at $3 billion per year in the United States.

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee - Bombus affinis © Dan Mullen

Have you seen a rusty patched bumblebee?  Submit a sighting!

Meanwhile, scientists have some wild ideas about solving the bee problem.  Eijiro Myiako, a researcher at Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, thinks there may be a technological fix. He and his colleagues have developed an insect-sized drone capable of artificially pollinating flowering plants!

Are you a beekeeper?  Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research needs your help! Through a beekeeper-scientist partnership, you can help identify landscape features that promote honey bee health. The Center is looking for interested beekeepers in Pennsylvania and surrounding states to be a part of this project.  Registration closes May 31st.

Are you interested in becoming a beekeeper?  Check out Penn State's online Beekeeping 101 course.

Keep up with the latest research on pollinators at Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research and the Xerces Society.

If your Bucks County garden club, library, EAC or other group would like a Master Gardener presentation called "The Latest Buzz on Pollinators" we can help!  Contact us at BucksMG@psu.edu



-- Kathleen Connally
Master Gardener Coordinator
Master Watershed Steward Coordinator
Penn State Extension - Bucks County

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Join us for "Cultivating Respect for Insect Diversity"

Please join the Bucks County Master Gardeners, in partnership with the Henry Schmieder Arboretum at Del Val University and Bucks Beautiful, in welcoming Dr. Daniel P. Duran, Associate Teaching Professor at Drexel University and adjunct faculty member of the Barnes Foundation Arboretum School, to the Life Science Center at Del Val University.

Simply put: all life on earth depends on insects, for more reasons than most people realize. This presentation will explore some of the immeasurably important ways that insects keep ecosystems functioning. Nutrient recycling, pollination services, and trophic interactions will be reviewed. Lastly, there will be a discussion of the ways in which we can conserve our much needed insect diversity.

Dr. Daniel P. Duran is an Associate Teaching Professor at Drexel University and adjunct faculty member at the Barnes Foundation Arboretum School. He is also president and co-founder of a new non-profit insect conservation organization, The Mid-Atlantic Native & Threatened Insect Zoo (MANTIZ). He received a B.S. in Environmental Science from Stockton University in 1998, an M.S. in Entomology from University of Missouri in 2002, and a Ph.D. in Evolution and Ecology from Vanderbilt University in 2010. In between his degrees, he has also worked for the Natural History Museum, London, UK and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Currently, he teaches courses about a variety of topics pertaining to ecology, evolution, insects, and plants. His research is focused on 1) the discovery of new species and advancing the field of integrative taxonomy, and 2) examining the important roles of insects and plants in functioning ecosystems. Dr. Duran is a co-author of the book "A Field Guide to the Tiger Beetles of the United States and Canada, 2nd Edition".

Cultivating Respect for Insect Diversity
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
6:30pm Reception, light refreshments
7:00pm Lecture

Delaware Valley University Life Sciences Building
700 E Butler Avenue
Doylestown, PA 18901

Arboretum Members - Free
DVU Students - Free
Military - Free
Senior Citizens - $3.00
Non-DVU Students - $3.00
Faculty and Staff - $3.00
Non-members - $5.00


Monday, March 20, 2017

Join us for "Pawpaw: The Story of America’s Forgotten Fruit"


Wednesday, March 22, 2017
6:30pm Reception, light refreshments
7:00pm Lecture


Please join the Bucks County Master Gardeners, in partnership with the Henry Schmieder Arboretum at Del Val University and Bucks Beautiful, in welcoming Andrew Moore, author of the James Beard Award nominated book Pawpaw to the Life Science Center at Del Val University.

What is a pawpaw, and why have most people never heard of this amazing native plant or its delicious fruit?


Andrew Moore offers a brief history of the pawpaw, the largest edible fruit native to the United States, and offers some explanations as to why it has been overlooked in modern times. He also provides an overview of the growers and producers working to raise the fruit's profile, and how the fruit tree can be reintegrated into our diets, our culture and our gardens.

Delaware Valley University
Life Sciences Building
700 E Butler Ave
Doylestown, PA 18901

Arboretum Members - Free
DVU Students - Free
Military - Free
Senior Citizens -  $3.00
Non-DVU Students - $3.00
Faculty and Staff - $3.00

Non-members - $5.00

Thursday, March 9, 2017

More about mulch than you thought there was to know!


Photo courtesy © Darrick J. Smith
Well, it’s too early to plant, but not too early to plan!

As you’re shopping the seed catalogues and looking for perennials and shrubs to show sprouts of life, now is also a good time to give some thought to mulch!  And there is a LOT to think about!

There are many kinds of mulch to choose from.  Recently a Bucks County Master Gardener came up with a list of over 30 types of mulch—and each has its special features and benefits!

Whichever you choose, there are also right and wrong (some very wrong) ways to introduce the mulch to your garden.   First:  The benefits of proper mulching:

·        Weed Control:  One chief benefit of mulching is the reality that mulch prevents weed seeds from getting the sunlight they need to germinate and grow. A layer of cardboard or wet newspapers placed under a more traditional layer of mulch is very effective in weed control.  With this purpose in mind, early mulching is most effective. 

·        Soil temperature moderation: If an early warm spring thaw activates seeds or young sprouts, mulch (last year’s leftovers or a new layer if you got an early start) can moderate the soil temperature to protect tender plants and seeds from temperature variation or extremes!  This could save a plant’s life if Mother Nature throws a late freeze/snow anomaly our way!  Mulch can protect the soil from (too) early warmth and insulate it from (too) late cold.  Temperature swings in spring can be killers---and mulch can be the shield that makes the ultimate difference in a healthy start for a new plant.

·        Moisture control—goes hand-in-hand with the moderation of soil temperature.  Bare soil will heat up more quickly because it lacks the insulating layer of mulch; this will cause baked hard soil to lose moisture.  Alternately, during cool evenings in early spring mulch will insulate the soil, helping it to retain daytime warmth.  At temperature extremes, mulch can even prevent frost from heaving plants out of the ground.

·        Visual garden appeal:  a fresh layer of mulch enhances the curb appeal of your springtime garden, giving a fresh tidy appearance.  However, we recommend you resist the temptation to use dyed mulch.  Dyed mulches can leach poisons into the soil and be especially damaging to new plants. 

·        Prevention of soil erosion:  This is especially important on slopes or in an area where rain or drainage may cause soil erosion—heavy mulches (think stone or pebbles) can keep soil from eroding. 

·        Prevention of soil splash:  Splashes of mud can damage tender plant leaves or introduce pathogens that are harmful to the plants.  Especially on vegetables and fruits that are grown for food, this benefit is most appreciated at harvest time.

·        Enhanced soil structure:  Organic mulches (think finely shredded bark or wood chips, straw, or shredded leaves) that break down over time can improve soil structure.  Although not a substitute for fertilizer (or a reason not to test your soil for proper nutrients), decomposed mulch can be overall beneficial to soil fertility.

So how can you go wrong?

·       Depth:  Mulch spread too thick, or too thin, can be ineffective or counter-effective to the reason for spreading the mulch!  If using finely ground (or textured) mulch, 2” is ideal; for coarser mulch,  spread to a depth of 4”.  Deeper mulch is ineffective in moisture utilization and may encourage rodents to take up residence, or encourage plant diseases.  Use the 2-4”  range, along with the square footage of your garden, to calculate the cubic feet of mulch you should order—don’t over order (and overspend) and then be tempted to spread a layer that’s too thick. 

·        Proximity to plants/trees: Even professional landscapers have done it – the dreaded mulch volcano!  Mounding up soil and mulch around the base of either deciduous or evergreen trees or shrubs can be harmful – and potentially fatal -- to the tree or plant.  A freshly planted tree with a mulch volcano around it will be subject to girdled roots—root growth circling the tree trunk to the point of strangling the growing tree in the years ahead.  (Sadly, you’ll see new trees planted this way in professional landscapes each spring.) For a mature tree, the trunk—all the way down to the where the roots flare out at the soil line—should be above ground and exposed to oxygen which roots  need to breathe.  If the lower trunk is covered, the situation encourages insects, mice, voles, moles and even diseases—enough damage to eventually kill the tree.  Wet bark can be a breeding ground for disease, rot, and fungus.  In autumn, exposed bark down to the root flare needs to harden to prepare for winter cold—if bundled in mulch, the hardening will be delayed and the tree will not be ready for winter’s harshness.  Always keep mulch or soil at least 3-5 inches away from the trunk to allow proper circulation so the bark can dry out between rain events, and so roots have proper oxygen and growth patterns, and rodents and insects will not take up residence.

·       Compaction: If last year’s mulch is not fully disintegrated, and a new layer of mulch is added, it may prevent moisture from sinking into the soil—and dampness from escaping.  Be sure to fluff up last year’s leftovers before adding more. You may find that only a small new layer is needed and then do not exceed the 2-4” limit including last year’s remnants.

·        Timing: Mulch is best applied in mid-to-late spring, after the ground has warmed and dried from winter rains. If applied too early, it can lead to water-logged soil.  If applied too late, it will be less effective for weed control.

·        Type:  There are many, many types mulches from which to choose.  Each has benefits and disadvantages in certain applications.   Black polyethylene used commercially by some fruit and vegetable growers doesn’t permit passage of water—but does protect plants from soil splash.  Some mulches (wood chips and bark) are high in carbon and actually drain nitrogen from the soil.  Compost adds great nutrient benefits to the soil, but can be a poor performer for weed control.  Pick the mulch that works best for your specific needs.

DO YOU WANT TO LEARN MUCH MORE?  While NCAA fans are filing out their basketball brackets this month, you can select from the Sweet 16 mulches to pick your Final Four—and the ultimate winner for your garden!  Yes, it’s MULCH MADNESS on Saturday, March 18 when the Bucks County Master Gardeners invite the public to the Extension office auditorium from 10am-1pm to view/touch/learn about 16 types of mulch and get information about the best ones for Bucks County gardens.  You’ll find out if newspaper, aluminum foil (!) or wood chips are in your Elite 8 of mulch picks.  You’ll learn about application, timing, garden value, and mulching tools—and you’ll be a Mulch Master after taking advantage of this opportunity.  Plus, you’ll have fun learning—perhaps an opportunity to make a ‘hoop’ to win a chance at a beautiful planter.

Light refreshments will be available, light-hearted fun will be included, but most of all, a heavy dose of mulch knowledge is guaranteed at our Mulch Madness event.  Hope to see you there! Bucks County Extension, 1282 Almshouse Road, Neshaminy Manor Center, Doylestown, PA 18901.  Questions? 215-345-3283
 
-- Mary Ann Smith, Bucks County Master Gardener, March 2017

 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Spotted Lanternfly Public Meetings - Spring 2017


 
Spotted Lanternfly Public Meetings - Spring 2017
Would you like to learn more about this invasive insect?
- Why should we be concerned?
- What is the biology and life cycle?
- How does the quarantine order affect residents?
- What can you do to help?
Volunteers are needed!  We are looking for volunteers to place sticky bands on Ailanthus altissima (Tree of Heaven) throughout the summer and report how many spotted lanternflies are captured. If you would like to do this on your property, we’ll address this during the last half hour of the meeting so you can learn what to do and get the supplies you’ll need.
Nearest meeting locations:
BUCKS COUNTY
Saturday, April 29th, 9:30 - 11:30a.m.
Milford Township Office
2100 Krammes Road
Quakertown, PA
MONTGOMERY COUNTY
Wednesday, April 12th, 9:30 - 11:30a.m.
Montgomery County 4-H Center
1015 Bridge Road
Collegeville, PA
LEHIGH COUNTY
Saturday, April 22nd, 9:30 - 11:30a.m
Lehigh County Ag Center
4184 Dorney Park Road
Allentown, PA
Please register for the meetings online at http://extension.psu.edu/pests/spotted-lanternfly/events  or by calling 610-489-4315. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Why Garden?



Bristol Borough Community Garden, Bucks County, ©2016 Kathleen Connally
 
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” – Audrey Hepburn

Last summer I saw this quote on a local garden center sign.  I was impressed by its simple yet profound meaning. How many of us have planted seeds and waited for those first leaves to emerge? This is an affirmation that there will be a tomorrow and we will be around to see it.

A sense of well-being is one of the benefits of gardening. Senior citizen centers and community living facilities utilize garden clubs and gardening to improve the lives of their residents, including those who suffer from dementia and depression.  A recent experiment published in the Journal of Health Psychology compared the stress-relieving benefits of gardening to those of reading; however a more significant decrease in stress was experienced by those who gardened.  So how about reading in our gardens for maximum benefit?  Sounds like a bonus activity.  For me, gardening produces a sense of accomplishment.  Feeling accomplished and connected is especially important for retired seniors who no longer have their professional lives to instill self-worth.

Gardening can also help people reach fitness goals. Gardening is considered a moderate-to-heavy intensity physical activity and has been linked to beneficial changes in total cholesterol and reducing blood pressure (Armstrong, 2000).  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports only 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity level activity per week can reduce the risk for obesity, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer and premature death.  Even a few plants in containers or a small raised bed can demand enough attention to fulfill 2 ½ hours of physical activity per week.  I am not proposing that gardening is a total substitute for exercise, but an afternoon in the garden can produce plenty of sore muscles!

Anyone who has planted a vegetable garden knows the joy of picking fresh vegetables and eating them raw, or cooking them same day.  The taste is incredible and nutrition is at its peak.  Growing your own food also gives an opportunity to know where your food comes from and if pesticides or insecticides were used to produce them.  Plus, if we go to the trouble to plant, care for and harvest our own fresh fruit and vegetables we tend to eat more of them.  Don’t be afraid to mix herbs and flowers with your vegetables in containers and gardens.  Flowers add color and possibly some insect or animal deterrent properties to your garden; herbs can be a healthy way to add flavor and color to your meal.

Gardening can also be a way to get our kids away from their electronics and become engaged in helping to grow their own food. Studies have shown that kids involved in growing and preparing food are more likely to try new foods.  My love of gardening began working beside my father in our vegetable garden and helping my mother in her flower beds, some of my fondest childhood memories.

Don’t have the space to garden outside?  Taking care of a few houseplants is still beneficial. Many plants, such as Snake Plant (Sanseveria), Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) and Golden Pothos (Scindapsus aures) have been shown to improve air quality in our homes.

Community gardening is even being used in many urban areas to combat crime.  Replacing abandoned lots with communal gardening plots gets residents outside to interact with neighbors. Scientific studies show that crime decreases as the amount of green space increases. 

If gardening is of significant benefit to our health and welfare, a better question might be: Why not garden?

Resource: Harriet Cooper The Dirt on Gardening, MSU Extension, What are the physical and mental benefits of gardening? www.gardeningmatters.com, Multiple Benefits of Community Gardening

- Written by Bucks County Master Gardener Joan Pavlica

Friday, October 28, 2016

Just SCRAPE IT! Spotted Lanternfly Egg Masses



Spotted Lanternfly Adult, Photo courtesy U.S. Dept of Agriculture
Just SCRAPE IT!
Spotted Lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula, is a new threat to Pennsylvania and the United States. Experts are still learning about this threat to agriculture and how to combat it.

This pest poses a significant threat to Pennsylvania's $20.5 million grape, $134 million apple, and $24 million stone fruit industries, as well as the hardwood industry in Pennsylvania which accounts for $12 billion in sales.

Early detection is vital to the effective control of this pest and the protection of PA agriculture and natural resources-related businesses.

It's a good time of year to spot the egg cases of the Spotted Lanternfly, now that leaves are falling, foliage is dying back and surfaces are exposed.  SLF adults lay eggs starting in October and will continue to lay eggs through the first few hard frosts.  Egg masses are live and viable from about October through July.

Egg masses can be found on tree bark and other nearby smooth surfaces, like rocks, outdoor furniture, vehicles and other vertical man-made objects which are stored outside. The egg masses are about 1-1.5 inches long and 1/2 -3/4 inches wide. They are gray-brown in color. Newly laid egg masses are somewhat shiny – covered in a waxy coating. The wax, when it is first deposited, is light gray, but it takes on the appearance of mud as it dries.

Photo ©Holly Raguza, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Property owners can scrape egg masses whenever encountered using any hard or rigid tool such as a stick, a putty knife, or credit card. It's unknown if eggs scraped onto the ground can survive, so the best advice is to scrape egg masses in a downward direction into a container with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. They can also be double bagged and thrown in the garbage.

Here's a Penn State slideshow on what to look for:
http://extension.psu.edu/pests/spotted-lanternfly/photos/spotted-lanternfly-what-to-look-for

Please report any egg masses you scrape here:
https://www.paplants.pa.gov/EntomologySurveyExternal.aspx 

More resources:

Guidelines for the Control of Spotted Lanternfly
http://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Protect/PlantIndustry/spotted_lanternfly/Pages/default.aspx

Scrape It! Campaign information
http://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Protect/PlantIndustry/spotted_lanternfly/Documents/SLF%20SCRAPE%20IT%20SURVEY%20INSTRUCTIONS.pdf

USDA Pest Alert
https://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/plant_health/2014/alert_spotted_lanternfly.pdf




Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Overwintering Pepper Plants by Master Gardener Karen Murphy

Photo courtesy ©Heather Clemons
 https://www.flickr.com/photos/28041307@N03/

There’s always something new to try when gardening. This fall I plan to overwinter peppers, which can be done in two ways.

Method 1:
1) Check plants for bugs or disease.  If diseased or heavily infested with pests, toss them. If not, spray the good plants gently with a hose to remove any insects.

2) Place the plants in containers using existing garden soil or a good, fresh potting mix. Slowly acclimate them to the indoors to avoid stressing the plants and continue to monitor for pests.

3) Once indoors, place in a sunny window and/or under grow lights or fluorescent lights. Peppers prefer temperatures of 60-70F, but not below 50F.

4) Do not let them dry out but water moderately, about once a week.  Continue to fertilize the plants.

5) Harvest peppers during the winter!

6) When planting time arrives, gradually move  the plants outside.

Method 2:
1) Follow steps 1 & 2 above.

2) Once indoors, place in a cool area (about 55F degrees) with a little light.

3) Reduce watering to every three weeks but don't let them go completely dry. The leaves will begin to drop initiating hibernation.

4) Cut back plants to approximately  4" leaving a "Y" shape. Remove any peppers.

5) About one to two months before planting time, move the plants to a warmer, brighter place in your home. Water the plants more frequently.

6) Follow step 6 above.

I plan to experiment with both techniques. Hopefully, I can pick some peppers but if not I'll have great plants for next year's garden!

- Karen Murphy, Bucks County Master Gardener

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Native Plant Expert Barry Glick at Del Val, 09/20/16


 
The Penn State Master Gardeners of Bucks County, Bucks Beautiful and the Henry Schmieder Arboretum are excited to present: 

WOODLAND WONDERS FROM THE WILD with native plant expert Barry Glick,
owner of Sunshine Farm and Gardens:
http://www.sunfarm.com


Tuesday, September 20, 2016
6:30pm Reception and Light Refreshments
7:00pm Lecture


Some of the most interesting and unusual wildflowers are growing in our own backyards, right under our noses!
  Take an enlightening, entertaining and educational look at some of the plants that we overlook on our woodland hikes.  Join native plant expert Barry Glick for a fascinating, wild wander into the wonderful world of woodland wildflowers.
 

Barry Glick is a Philadelphia native who relocated to Renick, West Virginia in 1972 to start Sunshine Farm and Gardens where he specializes in rare and exceptional plants for gardeners and plant collectors. Over the last four decades, Barry has amassed a diverse collection of over 10,000 different flowering perennials, bulbs, trees and shrubs from around the world, many unknown to cultivation, on his 60-acre mountain top farm in beautiful Greenbrier County.

Through a state-of-the art-tissue culture laboratory, Sunshine Farm & Gardens breeds new and better plants for the landscape and the garden and provides high quality, unusual plants at reasonable prices to garden centers, nurseries, landscape professionals and home gardeners worldwide. 
A primary focus at the farm is native plants.  Barry has developed propagation protocols and growing regimens for many native species previously thought to be difficult to grow.

Barry writes for many gardening publications including Fine Gardening Magazine, Garden Design Magazine, Brooklyn Botanical Garden Journal, Castanea: The Journal of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society,  North American Rock Garden Society Newsletter, New, Rare and Elusive Plants Journal (UK),  Viola Society Newsletter and  Native Plants Journal. Barry is also a regular columnist for Washington Gardener Magazine.

Barry will be giving away four copies of Amy Stewart’s books as well as selling six varieties of trillium.

Delaware Valley University Life Sciences Building
700 E Butler Ave
Doylestown, PA 18901

6:30pm       Reception, light refreshments
7:00pm       Presentation

Arboretum Members – Free DVU Students – Free
Military – Free
Senior Citizens -  $3.00
Non-DVU Students - $3.00
Faculty and Staff - $3.00
Non-members - $5.00

 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Wheel bug in our Almshouse Demonstration Garden



Bucks County Master Gardener Kim Lawrence noticed this Wheel bug in our Almshouse Demonstration Gardens today. It's paralyzing a bumblebee on a Hyssop plant!

Our Almshouse Demonstration Gardens are maintained by Bucks County Master Gardeners and feature plants that perform well in Bucks County gardens. We have a beautiful display of seasonal flowers and plants, most of them named for reference.

The gardens are open to the public during business hours. To schedule a tour of the gardens with a Master Gardener, for yourself or your group, please call us at 215-345-3283.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Timely Tips for April & May

Photo © James Helminski

If it flowers, don’t cut it now!  This includes lilac, azalea, rhododendron, hydrangea.  These plants set next year’s buds shortly after flowering.  If you want to prune these plants, wait until they’re done flowering.

Be prepared for late spring frosts. Cover tender plants with row covers, cardboard, blankets, hot caps, or newspaper. Do not use metal or plastic for protection; they can conduct cold to plants. The last frost date in Bucks County is between May 15th and May 30th.  Keep an eye on local forecasts.

Buy healthy vegetable transplants. Leaves and stems should be green and healthy without any signs of yellowing or browning which may indicate an insect or disease problem.

Use a water-soluble starter fertilizer to water in vegetable transplants. A starter fertilizer is high in phosphorus, which helps to promote good root development, getting the plant off to a good start. The most common water-soluble starter fertilizers (such as 5-10-5, 10-52-17 or 8-32-16) should be used at the rate of one to two tablespoons per gallon of water.

Cut back the foliage of ornamental grasses to about four to six inches. Not removing the foliage delays the warming of the crown slows new growth. Ornamental grasses can be divided in the spring, especially if the center of the plant has died out or if it has overgrown its space. If the base of the grass looks like a doughnut, it's time to divide it. You can dig up and divide the entire plant or you can just dig up half and leave the rest in the ground.

Don't apply a nitrogen fertilizer to your lawn too early in the spring. Research has shown that grass roots thrive, forming a network of deep roots, in early spring. Deep roots will help your lawn survive hot, dry summer weather.  Applying fertilizer too early will promote grass shoot growth at the expense of root development. If you usually apply a pre-emergent crabgrass killer, try to find one without fertilizer, then wait until mid-May to put down a nitrogen fertilizer to the lawn.

Many beneficial insects (butterflies, praying mantis, spiders, bees, ladybugs, etc.) lay their eggs in the garden debris, and under the leaves and mulch on the garden floor. Leave as much as you can for another month. Your beneficial insects either eat other insects, or are pollinators, or both. We need them in our gardens!

Summer flowering bulbs, including tuberous begonias and cannas can be planted in mid-May. Choose a well-drained and partially shaded area. Set the tubers in the ground so they are barely covered, placing them 18 to 24 inches apart to allow plenty of space for growth and air circulation. Fertilize and water when the soil is dry, preferably in the morning or early afternoon to give the foliage time to dry before nightfall to reduce chance of disease. 

Coffee Grounds for the Garden

By Scott Guiser
Penn State Extension Horticulture Educator, Retired
Barnes Foundation Weed Science Educator 

Photo ©Tony Smith

Coffee grounds. Almost everyone has them. Only gardeners look at them and say, “I wonder how they’d work in a compost pile?”

For many years while talking about soils and compost with Master Gardeners, and others, the questions would arise:  Are they too acidic for gardening? Can I add them to the compost pile? Will they make my worms hyperactive?  All I knew was…. a Penn State reference said the C:N ratio was 30:1. That was it. Also, I knew I had been adding them to my compost pile for years, along with the other kitchen crap, and observed no problems.

Kitchen crap is not a technical term but it is a good description of what we generate in our kitchens because it turns out that vegetable waste has abut the same C:N ratio as many manures. Don’t believe me? Check this out. 

Ok, back to the subject at hand… coffee grounds. To shed some light on this question I urged Master Gardner programs to collect a sample of coffee grounds, submit it to Penn State’s fine Ag Analytical Services Lab and send me the results. After 20 years I got tired of waiting. It took retirement and the kind offer to pay for the analysis from the Bucks County MG program to get some real data. Ask Ms. Connally, Master Gardener Coordinator, for a copy of the entire report if you’d like it.

I collected grounds over a one week period from Starbucks Italian Roast beans that had been brewed in a double-walled, glass, French-press coffee maker made with Bedminster, PA, well water. Do the coffee brand, brew method and water source affect the coffee grounds? I don’t know. I can tell you that these results are very similar to tests done by others.

Here are some conclusions I came to after looking over the lab results.

Q. Are coffee grounds acidic?

A. Yes, but not so much that it matters for gardening and composting situations. At Oregon State Extension in Lane County they have composted more than 200 tons of coffee grounds from multiple sources. They found pH of brewed grounds to range between 6.5 and 6.8.

Hey, isn’t that about the sweet spot, pH wise, for most plants? Yep. It seems that the fear of the “acid” in coffee grounds is similar to the fear and misconceptions about tree leaves, bark etc. I will say that my Starbucks Italian Roast grounds came in at pH 5.5. But that is still not a big deal. pH changes in the decomposition process… probably rising from low to high. And remember, these grounds will go into a much larger body of growing medium… your garden soil.

Q. Are coffee grounds a good addition to the compost pile?

A.  Absolutely. No reservations…unless you find yourself approaching more than 25 % of the total volume of your pile. If you get to that point, you’ll want to know a lot more about the other feed-stocks in your compost recipe so you can dial in an ideal, or at least satisfactory, C:N ratio of about 30:1.


Photo © Jeff Moser

Q. What’s this C:N business?


A. You may know that we look at the C:N ratio  (the ratio of Carbon to Nitrogen) when composting in an attempt to create an ideal ratio that facilitates the decomposition process. We called stuff that has a C:N ratio of 30:1 or lower GREEN STUFF. And stuff with higher than 30:1 C:N ratios  BROWN STUFF.  The target ratio for the mix is about 30:1. Again, I refer you to this table from Cornell University On-Farm Composting Handbook for C:N ratios of lots of stuff.

Hey! Telephone books… C:N ratio of 772:1!

Q. A young person asks, “ What’s a telephone book?”

A. Sonny, in the olden days….

Q. OK Pappy, what’s the C:N ratio of coffee grounds?

A. The Oregon State and Cornell reference number is 20:1. My test results came in at 24:1. So, we should call coffee grounds GREEN STUFF since their C:N ratio is below 30:1. For comparison sake, see that vegetable kitchen waste is about 12:1.  Both are GREEN STUFF but veg scraps are greener than coffee grounds. And we are not talking about their color. 

Q. Isn’t Starbucks Italian Coffee quite expensive? How can you afford to pay for it on a state pension?

A. Yes, it is relatively expensive compared to the brewed sawdust you are drinking but it tastes much better. And packs a better punch. If you watch for the sales, it comes in nearly at the same price as other good coffees. Also, I will switch to Verona, Sumatra, French Roast or even the bland sounding Breakfast Blend if the price is right. Note that I don’t go out and pay someone to make my coffee. I figure I am making a high quality “Vente” for close to 58 cents, including the milk and sugar. I could brew up some Sawdust Brand for 29 cents a cup. But, I only drink one cup a day. A wise man once said, “You only live once ... but if you do it right, that’s enough.” I rest my case. Keep paying your taxes.


© Steven Depolo

Q. So what’s the bottom line on using coffee grounds in the compost pile?


A. Do it. It’s GREEN STUFF. So combine with some BROWN STUFF. Oregon State folks used up to 25 % coffee grounds, by volume and got nice hot piles. It was not clear to me what the other 75 % of the pile was but they suggest leaves and grass clippings as good partners. As usual, this is a good book recipe but is not too useful. Who has grass clippings and tree leaves available on demand? If you are like most of us, coffee grounds are just one of many kitchen items that go into the slop bucket and out to the compost pile. If you find yourself hauling home 10 lb. bags from the coffee shop, mix it with some brown stuff in at least equal portions. Maybe using 25 % coffee grounds as a starting point. When you start filling the truck with coffee grounds, get yourself a few of PSU compost analysis feedstock kits here and the Cornell On Farm Compost Handbook and go to work. Your Horticulture Extension Educator would probably enjoy assisting you.

Q. Can I compost the coffee filters?

A. Who cares! I use a French Press… no filters! A French press is not a fancy as it sounds.  Yea, the paper ones will decompose. Don’t compost your gold filter.

Photo © Christy Baugh

Q. What about N-P-K and other nutrients in coffee grounds?

A. The PSU lab says 2.4 -.22-.44 as far an NPK goes. That 2.4 % N is not too shabby, as organic N sources go. Not so hot on the P and K. I did not want to stretch the resources of the Bucks County Extension service and get the super duper analysis with micronutrient content. Anyway, we don’t give a hoot about micro nutrients in Pennsylvanian soils since Mother Nature loaded us up a few million years ago on this account.

Q. Any other lab results?

A. Soluble salts levels are low. No issues there. The nitrogen is almost all in the organic form. This means that the N is tied up in complex, slowly released forms. In fact, most of the N is not readily available to plants. In the Oregon State work, they found that adding 25 % coffee grounds to seed starting mixes inhibited plant growth. It seems that there may have been a nitrogen deficit as the microorganisms involved in decomposition hogged up that N in the breakdown process. So, don’t use coffee grounds as a fertilizer, per se…. at least not a quick-release one. Moderate amounts applied to garden soil won’t present any problem. And once composted or broken down in soil, the N is free to be absorbed by plants. That 2.4 % N is a nice contribution to the needs of the plants you are cultivating.

Q. Can I just spread it on top of garden beds of any kind?

A. Sure! Recall that pH is in a decent range (5.5-6.8) for all kinds of plants and don’t confuse the weak acidity of a few pounds of coffee grounds applied per 100 square feet with the pH of the entire rooting zone of plants. I’d considerer it a weak, slow-release fertilizer when applied in this manner.  

Q. Can I work it into garden soil?

A. Sure, and here you’ll get the physical, soil amending properties of the organic matter in the coffee grounds, too. No composting necessary!
 
Q. Do worms like it?

A. I have no idea …but there are many Internet testimonials indicating it’s OK for worm composting or vermiculture. One thing that became very clear in my Internet search was that 95 percent of what was posted was a re-write of what a very few people actually did or observed. I don’t think this adds to the validity of any observation. I am sure glad I am holding my very own PSU Ag Analytical report of Starbucks Italian Roast brewed grounds. Not that you need to analyze your own coffee grounds. It’s just that I feel better talking to you about the chemical components of coffee grounds now.  I am unaware of any reputable studies on coffee grounds and worms. The apparent observation that worms thrive in coffee grounds feed-mixes is pretty clear. The conclusions we draw about how to use them in gardens and compost piles is from of fairly well understood science.

I must say I liked the comment from someone that Grandpa always put a pinch of coffee grounds in his fishing worm box to liven-up the bait.

Q. Aren’t you done yet? This is exhausting. I need a cup of coffee.

A. Finally, I am a big fan of Horticulturist Linda Chalker-Scott from Washington State. Here she discusses coffee grounds myths, etc.

 

Photo © Jessica Wilson


Scott Guiser
Penn State Extension Horticulture Educator, Retired
Barnes Foundation Weed Science Educator 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Bucks County Master Gardener Plant Sale - Saturday, May 7, 2016


Photo © Julie Falk 

Bucks County Master Gardeners Annual Plant Sale
Saturday, May 7, 2016

8:30am - 1:00pm
Rain or Shine

Neshaminy Manor Center - Health Building Parking Lot
1282 Almshouse Road
Doylestown, PA 18901
(Corner of Route 611 & Almshouse Road)
  • Unusual perennials, annuals & woodies
  • Native plants
  • Pollinator plants
  • Large selection of veggies & herbs, including heirloom varieties!
  • Pond plants
  • Butterfly garden plants
  • Shade plants
  • Deer-resistant plants
  • Container garden plants
  • House plants
  • Beautiful selection of Mother's Day gifts - Mother's Day is May 8th!
  • Master Gardeners' own donated plants!

Larger sale area this year!    *   Easier checkout!   *   More parking!

Boxes are available for your purchases. Bring your wagon or cart.  Cash & checks accepted.

50+ Bucks County Master Gardeners on-hand to answer your home gardening questions!

More info:  215-345-3283 or BucksExt@psu.edu

All proceeds support the Penn State Master Gardener Program of Bucks County.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Learn About Becoming a Master Gardener in Bucks County



Are you fascinated by gardening? Do you enjoy sharing your gardening knowledge with others? You may be interested in the Penn State Master Gardener volunteer program!

Thursday, March 24, 2016, 6:00pm - 7:00pm                                                            

Program Details
Master Gardener Coordinator Kathleen Connally will lead a free informational presentation, “Becoming a Master Gardener,”   followed by a Q&A and panel discussion with several active Bucks County Master Gardeners.
Registration is not required to attend this free program.

Additional Information
Penn State Master Gardeners are volunteers extensively trained in horticulture by Penn State Extension. Bucks County Master Gardeners assist Extension staff by providing and expanding educational programs in consumer horticulture for the residents of Bucks County. There is an application, a course fee, and an interview/selection process to join the Penn State Master Gardener program in Bucks County.
Master Gardener basic training classes will be held on Thursday evenings from 6:00pm to 8:30pm., beginning October 6, 2016, and ending March 2, 2017, with an open-book final exam. There are no classes during the holidays (November 24, December 22, and December 29).  All classes will be held in the auditorium at the Penn State Extension Bucks County office in Doylestown. Details will be discussed during this program.
Following successful completion of training, Master Gardener apprentices begin participating in Extension-approved volunteer activities to meet a first year requirement of 50 hours of volunteer service.  After the 50 hours are achieved, apprentices receive their Master Gardener certification.
With a mission in consumer horticulture education, the Penn State Master Gardeners of Bucks County volunteer for youth programs, demonstration gardens, plant sales, gardening workshops, garden tours, on our Horticulture Hotline, in our “Ask a Master Gardener” booth at local events, and more.

More information about the Penn State Master Gardener program.

Contact Information

                                                       
Phone
215-345-3283