Friday, October 31, 2014

Fall Yard clean-up

As fall clean-up continues, some handy reference charts have helped with decisions re: whether to prune now or in the spring and about the optimal time to move plants to new locations in the garden.


Broad-leaved evergreens (Rhododendrons,...):  Broad-leaved evergreens require little pruning.  Most grow very slowly.  If pruning does become necessary, selectively prune branches back to a side branch so that the foliage hides the pruning cuts.  Broad-leaved evergreens should not be sheared or cut back into older, non-leafy areas as these plants lack latent buds.  New growth is initiated from terminal buds.  

Spring-flowering shrubs (lilacs, forsythia, viburnums, honeysuckle, chokeberry, mock orange, weigela):  Spring-flowering shrubs produce flower buds on one-year-old wood  produced the preceding summer.  Prune these shrubs AFTER they have flowered in spring, but before the next year's flower buds are set.  If you prune these shrubs in winter or early spring, you will remove many of the flower buds.  Spring-flowering shrubs that sucker readily from the base benefit from thinning 

Summer-flowering shrubs (hydrangeas, roses, rose-of-Sharon, smokebush):  Summer-flowering shrubs produce flower buds on new growth in the spring.  Prune these shrubs when they are dormant or in early spring before budbreak.  If you postpone pruning until late spring or early summer, you will remove many flower buds.  Examples of summer-flowering shrubs are hydrangeas, roses, Japanese spirea, rose-of-Sharon, potentilla, and smokebush.

Evergreen trees such as pine, spruce, fir, Douglas-fir, and hemlock require little pruning.  These trees typically have a broad, pyramidal form with low branches, and should be left intact.  DO NOT remove lower branches as this destroys the natural aesthetic form of the tree.  NEVER remove the main, central stem.  DO remove crossing, dead, diseased, or broken branches.  Also remove individual branches to help maintain the tree’s natural outline.  When pruning large branches, use the 3-point method of pruning.

Pines: New growth in pines occurs once a year from terminal buds.  To maintain a more compact, densely branched habit, remove approximately 1∕2 to 2∕3 of the elongated terminal buds (candles) before the needles expand in spring.  Candles can be pinched in half (see figure), or pruned with hand pruners.  Do not cut branches back to older growth farther down the stem.  Pines produce buds only at the tips of the current season's growth and will not produce new shoots farther back down the stem.

Spruce, fir, and Douglas-fir: New growth in these trees occurs once a year from terminal buds.  To maintain the tree’s natural shape and promote denser growth, cut the tip of the branch back to a lateral bud.  Do not leave branch stubs.  In early summer, you can also remove 2∕3 of an unbranched tip to keep the tree fuller.

Hemlocks, arborvitae, and yews: These evergreen trees and shrubs have latent (dormant) buds farther back down the stem. You can also prune them in spring before the new growth has expanded because any subsequent growth will hide the pruning cuts. You can also shear these evergreens in late spring or early summer after new growth has expanded.    You can also prune individual branches back to a bud or a branch to encourage more compact habit.  If these evergreens are used in formal hedges, maintain the base of the hedge wider than the top to insure adequate light penetration to the bottom of the hedge.

Junipers and false cypress: These shrubs require little pruning.  They have scale and awl-like foliage that can be tip pruned in summer.  Selectively prune branches of these plants back to a side branch, so that pruning cuts are hidden under foliage.  These plants should NOT be sheared or cut back to older, non-leafy areas because this type of pruning would take years for new growth to conceal.  Do not prune these plants after August, as the new growth will not harden off sufficiently before winter.

Types of pruning

Thinning:  This technique is the most common and best way to renew a shrub, preserving the overall plant shape. It  is particularly useful for shrubs that sucker from its base  Remove interior branches with loppers or a pruning saw back to the base of the plant or the point of origin.  Remove only 1∕3 of the largest branches at one time. 

Heading back: Heading back can be used to reduce the height of most types of shrubs.  This technique entails removing each branch back to a larger branch or bud.  When pruning back to a bud, cut the branch on a slight angle to within ¼ inch above the bud.  DO NOT leave a stub.  Disinfect your pruning tools with alcohol or a 10% bleach solution after each cut to avoid spreading diseases.  Wound treatments are not recommended and can actually slow down wound closure.

Rejuvenation:  Use this technique for shrubs that are overgrown or leggy, and for shrubs that sucker readily from the base.  Cut the entire shrub back to a height of four to 10 inches from the ground when the shrubs are dormant.  Shrubs that can tolerate rejuvenation pruning include butterfly bush,  and Annabelle hydrangea.

Shearing:  This technique involves the removal of new shoots using hedge shears.  Shearing should be used only on formal hedges.  Examples of shrubs that can be sheared into formal hedges are yews, and arborvitae.  Maintain the base of formal hedges wider than the top to insure adequate light penetration to the bottom of the hedge.  Each time you shear a hedge, leave one inch of previous growth to allow for the plant to regrow.  Most shrubs should NOT be pruned with hedge shears since they will eliminate the shrub’s natural form,  reducing the amount of foliage and flowers in the shrub’s interior, and causing a proliferation of shoots that will make the shrub unsightly.

Pinching:  This technique involves the removal of shoot tips allowing for additional side branching.  Pinching increases the bushiness of a shrub.  This type of pruning can be done on smaller shrubs in spring, or on certain evergreens.

Deadheading:  This technique involves the removal of spent flowers by hand.  For some shrubs such as roses, deadheading can encourage another flush of flowers.


One last trip to the local yard waste site to dump branches and invasives as fall yard clean-up continues.  Bagged grass and fall leaves have been added to the compost bins along with debris from the vegatable gardens clean-up, in anticipation of lots of compost ready for next spring's planting season.

Compost production diverts yard materials from landfills into productive use. Compost is a soil-like material rich in stabilized carbon produced from the breakdown of organic materials (materials that contain carbon). Most compost is considered a soil conditioner or amendment, not a fertilizer, because compost usually doesn't contain very high levels of macro-nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium - N, P, K). However, compost may provide low levels of macro and trace nutrients essential to plant growth. The primary benefit of compost is that it increases soil organic matter, improving soil water holding capacity and soil physical properties and allowing for greater plant root penetration. Compost increases soil biodiversity (number and type of microbes and other small creatures in the soil), which helps plants obtain nutrients from soil, and maintains a balance among organisms to help prevent outbreaks of disease causing organisms.

Our stainless steel compost bucket sits next to the kitchen sink to be filled with:

The lid has a rim to allow insertion of charcoal filters to prevent absorb odors.

When full, the pail is carried out to add to yard waste in our compost bin, partially hidden behind the lilac bushes by the back garage service door.

Compost recipe

Compost Bin
Compost bins available at Outagamie County
Recycling and Solid Waste Office
(and facilities in numerous other counties
around Wisconsin) for $45. 

Compost bin hidden behind lilac bushes,
conveniently located outside garage service door,
not far from kitchen door to deck.
Compost bin system that allows moving compost from bin to bin as it composts allowing compost to be easily turned and processed over the months

Until we invest in one of these systems we have added a second bin next to our original bin to allow us to compost larger amounts of kitchen wastes and coffee grounds from our favorite local coffee shops during the winter after adding grass and leaves this fall.

Mulching with unprocessed yard materials as a soil cover around plants, shrubs, and trees should enhance moisture retention and suppress weed growth. Yard materialsused as mulch include shredded bark purchased to add throughout the course of the growing season, grass clippings (that have not been treated with herbicides and contain little seed as overgrown grass might), leaves,  and pine needles.
Grass clippings have been left on the lawn when mowing all season, instead of bagging, to add allow them to decompose adding nitrogen back to the soil.  Grass was bagged and added to the composter and to a newly established planting bed seeded with native plant seeds gathered ithe yard.
Pine needles have been left under the pine tree where they fall where they can condition the soil and protect the shallow root system of their parent tree. While pine needles are high in acid and resin, which can make them difficult to compost, they  make a good mulch for acid loving plants such as lilies of the valley, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, roses and conifers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A windy October afternoon

A number of die-hard enthusiasts showed up to take advantage of 5-20 mph winds from the SW with gusts over 20mph, despite a big drop in temperatures today.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

LFL Book Additions

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. 
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go." 
~Dr. Seuss

The recent AAUW annual used book sale, held Oct. 23-26 in the Northland Mall, proved to be a great source of books to restock the library.  Most all books were sold for only $1.

Another good source of reasonably priced books is Better World Books.  Better World Books is a self-sustaining, for-profit social venture whose mission is to capitalize on the value of the book to fund literacy initiatives locally, nationally and around the world. They partner with nearly 3,100 libraries and over 1800 college campuses across the U.S. and Canada, collecting unwanted textbooks and library discards in support of non-profit literacy programs.  across the At the top of the home page, a coninually updated tally proclaims that as of late October over 15 million books have been donated, over 152 million books have been reused and recycled, and nearly $15 million have been raised for literacy and libraries. Every time you purchase a book from, they donate a book to someone in need through hundreds of non-profit organizations. Books for Africa and Feed the Children partner with them to take large numbers of donated books and get them to people who need them.  The website even shows how many books individual customers have donated.  When I login the site reports I have "donated" 192 books to date through my purchases.

Recent additions to the Little Free Library:

Over in the Meadow by Jane Cabrera
Up, Up, Up! It's Apple-Picking Time by Jody Fickes Shapiro
Eyewitness Pond & River
Box Turtle at Silver Pond Lane by Susan Korman
Tuesday by David Wiesner
Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs by Jui Barrett
Stone Soup by Ann McGovern
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Witch Hazel by Alice Schertle
Can You Find Me? A Book About Animal Camouflage by Jennifer Dewey
Clifford Makes a Friend by Norman Bidwell
Little Black, A Pony by Walter Farley
Dr. Suess's ABC
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
A wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss
Kids Cooking: A Very Slightly Messy Manual by the editors of Klutz Press
Grow it Again by Elizabeth MacLeod
Birds of North America by Chandler S. Robbins, Bertel Bruun, and Herbert S. Zim
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven & David Borgenicht
The Official Outdoor Wisconsin Cookbook by Dan Small & Nancy Frank
Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg
Wicked Business by Janet Evanovich

The first book I read from the books added to the Little Free Library:

Bed & Breakfast by Lois Battle (set in the Hilton Head Island area of South Carolina where my folks settled for their retirement years)

“Books are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time.”
~Edwin Percy Whipple

Halloween Fun

“The farther we've gotten from the magic and mystery of our past, 
the more we've come to need Halloween."
~Paula Curan

My husband parked himself on the bench by the Little Free Library he had decorated for the occasion  to hand out Twix bars and information about the library to trick-or-treators and their parents. (Meanwhile, I was busy weeding the garden beds nearby.)

The bookmark we have been handing out, is available in a waterproof version (sealed in clear Contact paper) in an old card holder (from a former library book) inside our Little Free Library.

How Does This Library Work?
This Little Free Library offers a way
 to share good things to read—favorite
 books from your childhood or books
 you would recommend to friends;
 books that teach, intrigue and engage
 you.  All of us can help by keeping this
 collection stocked with good reading material.  
Whose library is this?  It belongs to 
everybody -- neighbors, friends, and
 people we don’t even know yet.
  Anyone can use it.  That’s why we
 want to take care of it.  
Take a book. If you see something
 you would like to read, take it.  Look
 inside and see who gave it; who else
 has read it.                         
Share it. Return it to any Little
 Library or pass it on to a friend.
Give books. Leave notes in them.  Be
 a friend of all libraries by helping any
 way you can. Pay it Forward! 
We support reading for children,
 literacy for adults, and libraries around
 the world.                  

“Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination.
 They open up windows to the world and
 inspire us to explore and achieve, 
and contribute to improving our quality of life. 
Libraries change lives for the better.” 
~Sidney Sheldon

Friday, October 24, 2014

High Cliff in the fog



"Autumn asks that we prepare for the future 
—that we be wise in the ways of garnering and keeping. 
But it also asks that we learn to let go
—to acknowledge the beauty of sparseness." 
~Bonaro W. Overstreet

Wild Ones creating swags

The October meeting of the Fox Valley Are Chapter of Wild Ones hgave us an opportunity to get a start on our holiday decorating. Loris led a hands-on session. where swags were created using native evergreens and prairie forbs and grasses. 

Drying flowers earlier in the year
allows creation of arrangements
that preserve the colors of the season
Identifying native plants dried in the fall
Loris demonstrates how she makes swags

Joy displays her swag

Some of our creations

My swags

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Appleton's Memorial Gardens in fall

"Listen! the wind is rising,
and the air is wild with leaves.
We have had our summer evenings,
now for October eves."
~Humbert Wolfe, P.L.M.: Peoples, Landfalls, Mountains, 1936

Weeping larch (foreground)

Amsonia Hubrichtii & Russian Sage
Asters (foreground)
Milkweed seed pods

"Fall colors.... so bright and intense and beautiful. 
It’s like nature is trying to fill you up with color,
 to saturate you so you can stockpile it 
before winter turns everything muted and dreary."
 ~Siobhan Vivian, Same Difference