Saving Summer Plants for Winter Color

Have you ever thought about bringing in some of your summer plantings in the fall to grow through the winter? While researching different plants that we could grow here in Montana I came across some that most of us have in our yard during the summer.

After such a scorching summer, we are usually ready to send everything to the dumpster or compost pile. But think outside the box. How about some color, plants for decorating, or use for cooking. Some of these plants will need to be repotted for indoors or take cuttings.

Geranium – Bring them in before frost and give them a light trim. Water when dry, feed monthly and give bright direct light. http://www.wikihow.com/Propagate-Geraniums- from-Cuttings

Caladium – The same plants sold as tubers and potted and sold, at a much higher price, as houseplants. Indoors they like indirect light. Keep their soil moist, but not wet. They prefer temps from 60 to 85 degrees. If they yellow and die back, just let rest until spring. Store in a cool dry spot and repot in February or March. They like low to moderate light.

Boxwood– Small potted evergreen boxwood make easy going houseplants and special winter decorations with a little pruning. Turn the pot every few days to keep growing evenly. Humidity is crucial to evergreen houseplants so keep a mister handy. Put plenty of pebbles in the bottom of the pot. Water when the soil dries and feed monthly. They like bright to moderate light.

Coleus – Coleus come in so many different colors it’s a shame not to try cuttings from your favorites. They like indirect bright light and to be warm. Keep the soil moist and feed monthly. Pinch off any flowers to prevent them from going to seed.

Hot Peppers – Peppers are tropical perennials and can be kept growing and producing. Smaller hot peppers are the easiest to bring indoors. They like their soil a little dry and underfed. Bright direct light is necessary to set flowers and grow peppers. Think orange, yellow, green and red for winter color. Do watch for aphids and fungus gnats.

Herbs – Many herbs do well indoors. Do you have chives, basil, parsley, rosemary or lemon grass? It is best to start with small, young plants. Perennials, like lemon grass and rosemary can be potted and brought back and forth from outdoors to an indoor window sill. Be sure they get bright light and trim to keep bushy. They like bright light.

If you are bringing plants in from outdoors you may think about isolating them before bringing them indoors. Make sure all the hitchhikers are gone. You don’t need extra pests to infect your existing plants. Fungus gnats are generally caused by overwatering.

Submitted by Sheri Kisch

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A QUICK MEAL WITH FRESH GREENS

My friend in Switzerland taught me to use kale, spinach, Swiss chard or beet greens when in season for a delicious meal.

Put about a tablespoon of butter in a pan; add coarsely chopped greens and sauté. She adds a small amount of chicken or beef bouillon with a little water to dissolve it for added flavor.

When ready to eat, add a grated cheese of your choice on top. The stalks of kale, swiss chard or beets can also be used in this manner or saved for soups and salads.

Meat is very high priced in Switzerland and used sparingly. She tries to get vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein from other sources. They have a vegetable garden, fruit trees and current and berry bushes.

Mountain cheese is used a lot because the family has it on hand year round. Sometimes the above recipe would have cream added instead of cheese.

For desert berries and currants are served.

Submitted by Sheri Kisch

The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife

Naturalist Nancy Lawson’s primary purpose is to help animals. She writes a column called ‘Humane Backyard’ (http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/wild_neighbors/humane-backyard/humane- backyard.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/) for the Humane Society publication All Animals and is the founder of The Humane Gardener, a comprehensive website and outreach initiative focused on gardening for animals(http://www.humanegardener.com/)

In six chapters, Lawson introduces the reader to the ideas of: · Trying Something New – By abandoning preconceived notions of what a garden should be and focusing on native plants. · Embracing the Wild – By allowing nature to take over a portion of a garden to see who sets up housekeeping. · Supporting Ecosystems – Fostering habitat by providing desirable food and shelter for native animals, and making gardens safe for the animals that make their homes there. · Providing Natural Food for Wildlife – By understanding that the creatures that live in our gardens must eat, too. · The Importance of the Full Life Cycle – By taking a new look at decaying plant material that may be messy, but that provides food and shelter to garden inhabitants. At the end of each chapter is an in-depth profile of a pioneer who has reclaimed a landscape for wildlife.

There is a handy “Getting Started” guide at the end of the book that includes: · General Information · Regional Books on Habitat Growing · Native Plant Information and Regional Databases · Native Plant Retail Sources and Supplies · Co-Existing with Wildlife · Habitat Certification and Yard Signs. Each provides valuable resources for readers who would like further information on native plant species, humane gardening, and wildlife habitat. Also included is a section titled “Plants Mentioned in this Book,” a comprehensive list of the many native and non-native species discussed, with their common and Latin names.

The Humane Gardener is an idea-packed examination of what happens when we view our yards as opportunities to preserve and foster habitat for native plants and animals. As Lawson says, “Even in a small yard, you might be surprised by who shows up if you let them.”

By: Tracy L. Livingston

GARDEN FRESH SALSA

2-3 cups fresh fleshy tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion (use a few green onion tops if desired)
1/2 cup sweet bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup hot peppers (habanero or jalapeno) seeded and fnely chopped
2 tsp lime juice
salt and/or pepper to taste

Cut small tomatoes in half and gently squeeze to remove seeds and excess juice until you have 2 to 3 cups of fresh tomato flesh (between a dozen and twenty tomatoes). Place in processor and pulse six times, or coarsely chop by hand . Add onion, peppers, cilantro, and lime and pulse six more times (or coarsely chop by hand and combine in a large bowl). Add salt and pepper to taste. Eat fresh and store leftovers for 3-4 days. Adjust amounts of each ingredient to suit your taste and availability of vegetables. Best
used fresh.

Submitted by Corinna Sinclair

Here’s the Dirt!

 

Have you tried to grow a hanging basket filled with petunias in hopes it will be a big ball of flowers like the nurseries grow but with little to no success? If so, I have a real easy method to share with you. You will need a 14” across hanging planter/basket with good drainage filled with potting soil, slow release fertilizer and five 4 1/2” “Supertunias”. Why supertunias? They are self-cleaning and they can grow 3 ½ feet in one season. When buying your plants make sure that each one has a bloom so that you are not surprised if you are going for a “one color basket”. Pick plants that are a nice healthy green color. My personal favorite source for finding 4 ½” supertunias is any ACE hardware. They have a local supplier who grows them and offers a variety of colors. Once you have your plants, add your fertilizer and plant one plant in the center of the basket and the other four around the edges. Water in the plants and hang. After a few days pinch back any blooms on the plants. This will force the plant to set strong roots and fill in quickly. Pinch back blooms a few more times depending on how big your plants are or how fast they are growing. The three most important things to growing this type of basket are sun, fertilizer and water. During really hot days you may have to water your baskets twice a day as water is essential to the health of your basket. Later in the season you may have to trim your basket if it gets a little leggy. You can trim the bottom flowers to meet the bottom of the planter. Even though supertunias are self-cleaning, I do clean mine up and may trim a little along the way. If you have no place for a hanging basket, you can use the same process for a small planter that sits on the deck. Happy Planting!

 

Submitted by Donna Canino

 

Photo credit Mississippi State University Extension Service

GRAPES IN MONTANA ?

When I think of grapes and vineyards, I think of California, France or the Mediterranean. I don’t really imagine grapes growing in our climate. Yet over 30 years ago we planted two grape vines near the entrance to my garden and they are still going strong all these years later!

Every year the stick-like canes sprout beautiful green grape leaves, then little grape buds, and in early to mid-August beautiful dark blue-black grapes. I know the grapes are ready to harvest when the wasps and robins begin hanging around the ripening grapes. I do little to tend the vines except trim them back some after the leaves have fallen in the fall and give them some of my home-made fertilizer in the spring.

The variety we planted is called “Valiant.” It is a cross between native and concord grapes. It was originally bred in South Dakota but the same wild grapes in this cross also grow here in Montana. This variety may still be available from a landscape contractor. I’m not sure you would be able to find it in a retail store. I suspect having the wild genes in these plants helps them survive our harsh conditions, resist diseases, and produce fruit in our short growing season. Perhaps there are other such crosses out there now if you cannot find “Valiant.”Grapes 2017

My grapes are not eating grapes. They are not sweet enough. I make grape juice from them every year. I think they would make a fine wine but I have not tried that. When they are ready, I harvest enough to make a few quarts of juice, then leave plenty of fruit for the birds and wasps (though for a few days I have to use the back entrance to my garden to avoid the wasps!).

I hope others will try grape vines in their gardens and will get the same pleasure and good juice from them that I have enjoyed all these many years!

 

Submitted by Ann Guthals