Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Graupel, Black Rot, Sumac, Monkshood


Well, we got our first snow of the season last week (October 24, 2013). It started off with graupel, which is a term the weathermen in this area have been using for quite some time now so it's become a word in our vocabulary as well. And they didn't make it up either. Here is the definition from Merriam-Webster of graupel. And last night we got our first frost of the season. We've been lucky that it's held off this late. We've been known to get frost in early September.

Black Rot and Anthracnose on Pumpkins and Squash

The pumpkin pictured above was from a few years ago. . . don't know what happened that year, but it never made it to Halloween to be carved. It just kinda got really soft and mushy, then disintegrated.  You can see where it is kinda collapsing on itself. It might have been a year that maybe we got a lot of rain and the pumpkins rotted, or we might have even gotten an early frost. I think this was a year that there was a significant tomato blight in our area as well and I remember reading something that the tomato and pumpkin blight were related. Affected pumpkins might show black spots while they are still on the vine before they are picked. Here is some additional information on Black Rot and Anthracnose on pumpkins and squash.

Flowering Kale

This is a picture of a window box that I photographed while I was visiting some nurseries in Western New York about a month ago. The nursery was "going out of business" so I stopped in to see if there was anything I had to have. Well, I had to take a picture of this beautiful fall window box. I love the flowering kale and it goes so well with the coleus! I tried planting kale a few times but either the rabbits or deer ate it.  Will have to try it again-

Want to see some gorgeous pictures of flowering kale? Click on this link: Flowering kale images then scroll down on the page.


This is sumac. Every time I see one of these bushes I think of it as being poison sumac. But this is not poison sumac. I now know this is the non-poisonous version because of the flowerheads.
Non-poisonous sumac flowerheads

In this picture the dark red fuzzy flower head contains the seeds of the non-poisonous sumac. The poisonous sumac does not produce these seeds heads, but they have white berries on it in the fall. Sumac usually grows in swampy areas.

If you contract poison sumac the rash is very similar to poison ivy. The rash from these plants are actually an allergic reaction to the oil (urushiol) in the plant. The oil is in all parts of the plant: berries, stems, leaves, flowers and roots. Not all people are allergic to it. And some people are very sensitive to it and may contract it from gardening tools that have come in contact with it as well as from pets that have wandered through it. I've gotten poison ivy several times from my cats in the past. Here is an overview of poison sumac and poison ivy with its symptoms Poison Ivy/Poison Sumac.

Can you guess what that large harry vine is?
You'll never guess---I didn't! POISON IVY
A very large and old vine.

Poison Ivy leaves in summer
Poison Ivy leaves in the fall

Poison Ivy berries

Link to more information on identifying Poison Sumac: Poison sumac identification and information

Monkshood (Aconitum)

I really like the monkshood because it is deer resistant, but for me it blooms really late in the season. Mine didn't start flowering until the second week in October. There are different species of this plant, some of which are of a shorter variety and bloom earlier. They also come in various shades of purple, white, pink and bi-color.

This is another one of our beautiful plants that are poisonous. All parts of the plants are poisonous. Some people recommend that you wear gloves when handling the plant, and to keep children and pets away from the plant also. Personally, I've never had a problem with it. I don't think you would want to use these flowers in an arrangement and put them on your kitchen or dining room table though.

The plant got its name because the flowers look like little hoods.

More Fall Blooms

Dahlia and Mums

"Happy Single Flame" Dahlia

Well, it's a good thing I got pictures of these last week, because today after getting our heavy frost last night, it was time to dig the dahlias up. The mums are still doing ok though. And you don't need to trim the mums back until next spring.

Cedar Waxwings

Yesterday I spotted a flock of Cedar Waxwings in one of our trees on their way south for the winter. There were several immature ones with the flock and the parents were feeding them.

Cedar Waxwing and immature Cedar waxwing on upper branch

Cedar Waxwing

Green Tomatoes. Do you have lots of green tomatoes left in your garden? Here is an article if you want an idea how to ripen them:

Additional fall tasks before the snow starts to pile up: drain and put away all hoses, dig up and store from freezing any remaining tender perennial bulbs: canna, dahlias, gladiolas, tuberous begonias, elephant's ear, and calla lilies.  Store liquid fertilizers and pesticides in an area that doesn't freeze.

If you have one of the new varieties of knock-out roses you do not have to prune them. They are self cleaning.

Happy Halloween!

Inlet Common School, Inlet, NY

Want to hear some haunting barred owl sounds??? Click on this link, scroll down and then under "Sounds"select "Various Hoots": Barred Owl Sounds

The first time we heard this owl we were camping in the Adirondacks, in a tent, in a semi-wilderness area that was reached only by boat. Shortly after we went to bed we were awakened by this owl and he was directly overhead when he started hooting and calling to other owls down the lake. Needless to say I didn't get any sleep that night.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fall Harvests & Pumpkins!

Fall Harvests

North Branch Farms
We have so much to be thankful for with our wonderful fruits of the earth. We live in an area that's so diverse and we're able to grow so many healthy fruits and vegetables.

This year produced a lot of nice size pumpkins from my husband's vegetable garden. The grandchildren love coming up each year to pick their pumpkins in Grandpa's pumpkin patch. This year they helped him dig potatoes, too.
Some of my husband's pumpkins

Here's a trick for you: A few years when my husband, Ted, didn't have good luck with the pumpkins, we would just go to the local farm stands and buy some pumpkins and then put them in the pumpkin patch for the grandkids. They wouldn't know the difference whether Grandpa grew them or whether we bought them. They still had fun and they got to ride in the wagon on the back of the lawn tractor over to the pumpkin patch.

How to Grow Pumpkins

Pumpkins will grow in Zones 3-9. They need full sun and will grow in any soil type. Pumpkins require a lot of food and a long growing season. They need to be planted by late May in the northern zones. Do not plant in the spring until all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up. Pumpkins are very sensitive to the cold. They prefer a site that is well drained and they need lots of room to spread out. They are also heavy feeders. If you don't have a lot of room in your garden but would like to try growing some you can plant some miniature ones. Prepare your planting hill in advance by adding a generous amount of well-rotted manure or compost into a 12"-15" hole. Plant seeds 1" deep and 4-5 seeds per hill. Rows should be about 12' (feet not inches) apart and the hills should be about 5' apart. When the plants are well established thin the hill to the best 2-3 plants. 

Appledale Orchards
Pumpkins need a lot of water. At least 1" per week. When watering try to keep the leaves and pumpkins dry. A damp pumpkin can lead to a rotting pumpkin. Fertilize on a regular basis when plants are about 1' tall. Use a fertilizer that's high in nitrogen early in the growing season. Switch over to a fertilizer high in phosphorous just before the blooming period. Control weeds with mulch. Do not over-cultivate or you could end up damaging the roots because they are very shallow. Pinch off the fuzzy ends of each vine after a few pumpkins have been formed to send more energy to the pumpkins instead of additional vine growth. If your flowers don't produce pumpkins right away, that's normal because the plant produces male and female flowers and the male flowers appear first on the vine. You need bees for pollination so be careful of  using insecticides around your plants.

Poor light, poor weather at bloom time, too much fertilizer, and not enough pollinating insects can reduce the formation of the pumpkins. If you are getting a lot of flowers on the vines, but no pumpkins then you probably do not have enough pollinating insects in the area. Try growing flowers next to your pumpkins.

Harvest your pumpkins when they are mature. A pumpkin is ready when its skin is a deep, solid color. Do not cut the pumpkin off the vine too close to the pumpkin. A longer stem will help the pumpkin to last longer. Pumpkins should be cured in the sun for about a week to toughen the skin and stored in a cool dry place around 55 degrees.

Growing a Milk-fed Pumpkin??? Yes or No???

Not a milk-fed pumpkin but just the right size for the grandkids
Quite awhile back, I was reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder series of Little House Books. One of the books, Farmer Boy,  had a story in there on how to grow a giant pumpkin. Basically, the instructions were: when the pumpkins start to develop, pick out a good one and cut off all other pumpkins that were growing on that vine. Then cut off all the other vines too, so all the plants energy would go to the remaining pumpkin on the vine. Then cut a little slit on the bottom of the vine close to the pumpkin. Insert into that slit a thin candle wick or cord that will be able to take up a liquid. Then you want to put a little dish under the vine and put the wick from the pumpkin into the dish. Fill the dish up with milk. Keep the dish filled at all times.

Well, at first we thought that this technique was working. We would go out and check on them every day and all the milk would be gone. Wow! This was awesome! We should have the biggest pumpkins ever! That pumpkin was going through a lot of milk. After several weeks the pumpkin didn't appear to be growing very much...... well, no wonder.... our cats found  the milk!

Behling Orchards, Mexico, NY
Growing milk-fed pumpkins is actually more expensive that liquid fertilizer. And there is controversy on whether or not this works at all. Most of the current information on milk-fed pumpkins leans towards the fact that it could actually harm the pumpkins because by cutting a slit in the vine you are actually having an opening where diseases and insects could enter the plant. But I did find on the internet where some people have successfully grown milk-fed pumpkins.

Milk can be used on your plants by diluting it with water and watering the roots or the leaves. This is a great way to dispose of milk that is past the expiration date rather than just dumping it down the sink. Dilute it by using 10 parts water to 1 part milk. You can water your house plants with it too.

Stedman's Nursery

Stedman's Nursery, Newfane, NY

Stedman's Nursery

Stedman's Nursery

North Branch Farms, Henderson, NY

North Branch Farm

Sharp's, Belleville, NY

Country Belle Farm, Belleville, NY 

Roadside Farm Stand, Belleville, NY 
Zone 3 Landscape Nursery, Inlet, NY

Roadside Farm Stand, Adams, NY

Hi-Way Garden Center, Amherst, NY
Appledale Orchards, Mexico, NY

Appledale Orchards

Appledale Orchards

Zehr's On The Lake, Burt, NY

Swan Gourds from Behling Orchards,  Mexico, NY
Behling Orchards, Mexico, NY

Behling Orchards, Mexico, NY

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."

Lucy Maud Montgomery, Ann of Green Gables

Links to items in this article:

Farmer Boy written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, wife of Almanzo Wilder. 
   Wilder Homestead, Malone, NY

Appledale Orchards have a Facebook Page:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hibiscus; Mushrooms; Weeds & Wildflowers; Garlic Mustard

Hardy & Tropical Hibiscus 

Hardy Hibiscus
The hardy hibiscus (or perennial hibiscus) is a very large perennial. When you are purchasing them for outdoor use in the northern climates be sure to buy the hardy ones. They are a very large and tall plant so give them plenty of space. They can grow up to 10' tall. The flower itself is very large and dramatic as well. The plant needs plenty of water. They do not flower until the end of the season, usually late August or September. This plant will die down to the ground each winter and sprout up new growth in the spring. They usually are late coming up in the spring. The hardy hibiscus usually does not do well in warmer climates.

Tropical Hibiscus

The nurseries in our areas also sell the tropical hibiscus, but they are not hardy for the northern zones. You can have the tropical hibiscus outside for the summer, but they will not tolerate a freeze. The tropical hibiscus will stay green year round indoors and will continue to flower if located near a sunny window. The tropical hibiscus has leaves that are shiny and smaller than the hardy hibiscus and the flowers are smaller.

My Late Clematis Bloomer

Clematis: Mr. President
I had to cut this clematis back earlier in the season because it's leaves were pretty bad. Had a lot of brown curling edges. Not sure what caused it, but my clematises didn't do that well this year. I think it might have had something to do with all the rain we had earlier in the season. So when I cut this back I really wasn't expecting anything, but it sent up nice green leaves, and the buds started forming, and. . . . Voila!

Rain drops on redbud leaves 
I was walking in my backyard this morning and I thought these were just leaves on the ground,

but upon closer examination. . .

I have no idea what kind of mushrooms these are. I can see where something has been nibbling on them. Maybe a mouse? And there is a slug on top of it (in the upper middle of the above photo). Maybe the slugs eat them. I have a friend that loves mushrooms and has picked and eaten them in the past, but she advised me that some mushrooms are very poisonous and by even touching them you can get sick because of the spores on them. I checked this on the Internet because I wasn't sure about it and she was right. Here is a link to Exposure to Mushroom Spores. Unless you are very knowledgeable of the different mushrooms I wouldn't handle them or allow children to handle them either.

I think the light areas on this mushroom is from something that was eating them. 

"What is a Weed?

   A plant whose virtues have never been discovered."

 Ralph Waldo Emerson

Weeds & Wildflowers

This thistle plant was coming up in one of my gardens and I just let it bloom!  I love the white highlights on this flower. It looks like it's a fiber optic light. (I left this in my garden too long and it went to seed.)

Wild Asters & Goldenrod

Wildflowers in bloom across the road from our house.

Goldenrod and ??? I don't know what this pink flower is-- sorry.
Probably some flower that I accidentally dug up and discarded. 

Wild asters

Joe Pye Weed

Tried growing Joe Pye Weed a few years ago and it didn't do very good at all so I guess I'll have to be happy just seeing them bloom in the field down the road from us.

Queen Ann's Lace

The photo below might appear to be a "weed" to some people. It is milkweed. All that fluffy stuff that blows around in the fall that looks like dandelion fluff. Well, without milkweed, we might not have the monarch butterflies. The monarch butterfly only breeds where milkweed is found. It is the host plant where the monarch lays its eggs and when they hatch the caterpillars feed off the plant. They will eat the nectar from several other flowers though.  Link to Monarch Butterfly Habitat.

Milkweed pods
I hope that the milkweed plant continues to flourish so that the monarch will continue to exist. Unfortunately, the black and pale swallow-worts are crowding out the milkweed in some areas. It looks very similar to the milkweed plant. And if the monarch were to lay their eggs on the swallow-worts the larvae would die. They swallow-worts are poisonous to the monarchs. For more information on the swallow-worts you can check out one of my previous issues of my blog. (Scroll to the bottom of the link for Invasive Plants: Swallow-worts)
Monarch Butterflies on wild asters
Orange Sulphur Butterfly (For more info: Orange Sulphur Butterfly)

The pretty blue flowers you see growing along the side of the road in the gravel is Chicory.

Seeds from Jack-in-the-Pulpit. They may take up to 3 years to germinate.

Red Clover

Invasive Plants

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
Garlic Mustard - 1st year. The 2nd year plant has more triangular leaves.
Garlic mustard is found in several states and three Canadian provinces. It is found from the east coast to the west coast. This plant was originally found in Northeastern Europe which had plenty of insects to keep it in control. It was brought to this country as an edible plant. This plant here in the US is endangering our natural grasses and tree seedlings by spreading out into woodland areas as well as taking over areas of our natural woodlands where native spring flowers are growing such as trilliums, bloodroot, and wild ginger. The plant produces a chemical in the soil which slows down the growth of native plant materials. It can also be found in yards and along the road. The garlic mustard plant is also crowding out a native plant (toothworts) which is a host plant for three of our native butterflies which lay their eggs on it. The plant usually grows in the shade, but can be found in full sun. The Garlic Mustard is a biennial which was explained in a previous issue of my garden blog on foxgloves.
Deer in campground in Adirondack Mountains, New York   Photo Ted Link

Garlic mustard, unfortunately, is helped being spread by our deer which eat our native plants and thus makes more room for the garlic mustard to get established in those areas. Also, the seeds stick to the deer's fur which helps spread it to other areas. This was evidenced by my husband and me when we were camping in the Adirondack Mountains this past fall. We were staying in a popular public campground and there were several deer around. Right next to our campsite there was a large clump of first year garlic mustard growing. I think this might also be spreading by our pets as well when the seeds get stuck to their fur if they are in an area where garlic mustard is growing. There are no known natural enemies of the plant, and it doesn't require cross fertilization.
The best way to get rid of garlic mustard is by pulling them out before or when they have just started flowering, but before the plant goes to seed providing you don't have an extremely large area to cover. It helps if you do it after a rain when the soil is moist. They do pull out fairly easily. Be sure to pull up the entire plant and get the roots as well. I recently found these plants growing around our house in small numbers. Do not place these plants in compost where the seeds might still be able to germinate, but discard them in bags in a landfill where they will be buried.

Here is a  very good video from Wisconsin on Garlic Mustard and the impact of the situation on our environment:

More information and pictures of Garlic Mustard flowers:  NYS Invasive Species Garlic Mustard

Invasive Plant List from New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation: NYS Invasive Plants

This is a great butterfly site that includes a link to Butterfly Identification: Identifying Butterflies

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There won't be much color left in the gardens or fields once we get our first frost. It won't be long now before all the leaves are down and the fields are brown. . .