Friday, November 21, 2014

Pumpkins Turned Into Centerpieces

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

The 4-H Garden Club, having put this year's vegetable garden to bed for the winter, have turned to some fall and holiday crafts using garden and natural materials. Earlier this November they used cornhusks from their popcorn plants to make cornhusk dolls and dream catchers.

This week we used small pumpkins, hollowed and cleaned, as vases for Thanksgiving centerpieces.
Let's start by looking at all the great creations and smiling faces.

Master Gardener Denise Lucas described the main parts of creating a floral arrangement.
Denise Lucas demonstrates the steps to making a floral arrangement.
Master Gardeners and 4-H families contributed evergreen cuttings and dried materials such as milkweed pods, teasel, ornamental grasses and flowers as well as pine cones and dried berries.
Here's a few shots of the creative process.
Next meeting we will pop the popcorn we grew and enjoy snacks, including some popcorn, while we string popcorn and cranberries for holiday decorations.

Special thanks to the 4-H parents who always stay and help as well as Master Gardener Barb Petrucci our regular volunteer.

Happy Thanksgiving from the 4-H Garden Club.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Gass House Garden Celebrates Completion of Phase I

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener

Sign Recounts Patrick Gass' Life
A long view of the garden area
Today 39 people gathered for the formal opening of the Patrick Gass Garden. Borough Commissioners, Master Gardeners, local Historical Society members, and others heard a brief presentation about the concept and development of the Garden highlighted today by the recently installed sign.
Key coordinators of the Gass Garden
Arrowheads, a small knife and a number of coins were found at the site.

Bill Stead revealed to all, including Cindy Stead, archeological finds unearthed during work in the garden. Coins dating back to the 1600's plus arrowheads and a small knife.
Information about the Lewis and Clark Expedition on reverse of sign
After the presentation, attendees were treated to refreshments and had an opportunity to look at display materials about the Garden and the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Patrick Gass Historic Marker at the Site
Photos by Master Gardener Trey Gelbach

More information on Gass Garden
Gass Garden Background
Gass Garden - Timberrr
Gass Garden-Sod Busting and Soil Prep
Gass Garden Spring 2012 Planting
The Patrick Gass Garden
Gass Garden Spreads Its Wings

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Decorating with Holiday Greens

Shared by Carol Kagan, Penn State Master Gardener, Franklin County
Last year Master Gardener Annette Macoy posted this helpful article about Decorating with Fresh Greens for the Holidays. It has lots of good information.
One of our nicest winter holiday traditions is decorating with fresh greenery. Evergreens such as cedar, ivy, pine and holly add a natural look and fresh fragrance to our homes; for many, they represent life everlasting and the coming renewal of spring. Your own landscape is a great place to look for holiday greenery. You may have a variety of materials unavailable at a store, and what you gather will be much fresher. Just remember that you are actually pruning the plants as you gather greenery, so consider carefully which branches you can trim to preserve the natural form of the tree or shrub.
Proper Conditioning of Greenery 
Conditioned greens will last for quite a while in arrangements.
  • Immerse entire evergreen branch in warm water for 12 hours or overnight. This will prolong the life of the branch and also clean the foliage.
  • Remove all lower leaves to ensure that there is no soft material below the water level where it can rot and form bacteria.
  • Re-cut the stem ends at an angle to provide a large surface area for the maximum absorption of water.
  • Stand all branches in water in a cool, dark place until ready to use.
  • Change the water every 2-3 days. A few drops of bleach may be added to the water to prevent bacteria formation.
Check your decorations often, and replace any greenery that becomes dry. Keep greenery away from heat sources and out of direct sunlight. Some popular decorating materials have toxic berries or leaves, so keep holiday decorations out of the reach of children and pets.

Suggested Varieties for Decorating

Needled and broadleaf evergreens include white pine, juniper, Douglas fir, cedar, fir, spruce, ivy, holly, mountain laurel, boxwood, evergreen magnolia, arborvitae, evergreen viburnum, Leyland cypress, nandina, Cryptomeria, hemlock, and Chamaecyparis.

Other plant parts such as berries, dried flowers, cones, seed pods, and twigs can add color and texture to holiday arrangements. Some possibilities include: acorns, bittersweet, holly berries, hydrangea blossoms, magnolia pods, nandina berries, pine cones, pyracantha berries, rose hips, sweet gum balls, bayberry, redtwig dogwood, and fruits such as lemons, limes, crabapples, seckel pears, kumquats, and pineapple.

Annette Macoy, Penn State Extension of Cumberland County

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Gathering and Storing Flower Seeds

I'm so far behind this year...but I'm finally busy gathering in my seed for next year.


I grow marigolds and zinnia from seed every year; I use seed I collected from the year before.  I'm on my 26th generation of seeds, I think.  But I've been so busy this year, I haven't gotten any so far.  Well, it's time to get busy and check this off the list.

If you have any marigolds and/or zinnias, they are some of the easiest seeds to save and start in the spring.

First to the zinnias:  They look great, bright, and stand out in your garden.  But as they grow older, the petals lose their color, and you're left with a brown mound.

Those are your seeds, and you don't want to get rid or the plants before you get to this part!  The more dried-out they are, the better off you are.  So here is a good picture to show you the stages you will see.

Zinnia: colorful, very dry, and drying
The pink zinnia in back is still looking good; the one on the bottom is in the process of drying out; the center one is just about ready for you to pick.

Zinnia seed head

Zinnia seed heads
These last two pictures are what you want in a good zinnia seed head.  It will snap off nicely for you.  I lay it out on newspaper for a day or two to get the moisture out, then put them in paper bags and hang them in the garage.

In the spring, they will be nice and dry - you will be able to take that seed head and twist it, and all the seeds will detach.  (But be careful: in the center of that pile of seeds is a very pointed and sharp receptacle that the seeds are attached to.  Wear gloves.)

The marigolds are even simpler.  They usually last longer into the fall, and the bright yellow and orange color is a favorite of mine.  In this first picture, you see lots of yellow and orange petals, but to the right, you can see one dried brown seed head.  As the flower fades, it wrinkles and browns, and it will actually do all the work for you.

Marigolds in various stages

This next picture shows you what you are looking for: good, dry seed heads.  The one on the right is still yellow, and has a a lot of moisture in it.  The one in the center is ready for you to pick.

Almost ready!

The seed pods will snap off easily when they are dry.  As they get dryer, some will shatter when you touch them, and the seeds will be propelled away (its own way of seeding itself).  The seed pods in the center of this picture are very near that point.

Dried and waiting for you

Lastly, marigold seed heads will also help you out if you let them.  When they have dried out and are ready to seed themselves, they will often bend over, so the seeds can just drop and be spread.

Bent seed head trying to seed itself

I collect the seed pods, lay them out on newspaper for a couple days, and then store in paper bags until spring, hung up in the garage.  You can literally crumble a handful of these in your palm and then spread the seed in the spring.

So store a few for next spring and try it out.  It doesn't take much time, or space, and you'll be happy when those little seeds start sprouting in the spring.

PS  Wet seeds will mold and rot, so the dryer the better.  You can actually take a fully-in-bloom zinnia or marigold and dry it well and get the seeds out, but letting them mature to the dry and brittle stage will help with germination.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Make Your Own Fresh Holiday Creations

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener
It is always disheartening to tell a caller that a workshop is full. Don't be that caller!! Don’t let your friends miss out!

Register now for these popular Franklin County Master Gardener workshops. Class size is limited so call Penn State Extension at 717-263-9226 now. Held at the Ag Heritage Building – 185 Franklin Farm Lane, Chambersburg.

And ask to be added to the e-mailing or mailing list to get announcements of all our workshops and events for 2015.
You will learn HOW to make these holiday decorations and can create them year after year for yourself or as gifts.
Fresh holiday greens make beautiful wreaths
Fresh Holiday Wreath Workshop
Thursday, December 4, 2014 – 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Learn how to make your own evergreen wreath, and take home your finished product. Materials provided. Cost is $15 per wreath. Class size is limited. 

An example- workshop centerpiece may vary
Fresh Holiday Centerpiece Workshop
A second session has been added to this popular workshop. Call now.
Saturday, December 6, 2014 – 9:00 – 11:00 AM  or  12:30-2:30 PM

Learn how to make a fresh centerpiece for your holiday table. Centerpiece materials provided. Bring small pruners, scissors, gloves, any small items you want to include and a box to take your creation home. Cost is $25. Class size is limited.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Penn State Master Gardeners, Franklin County Recognition Dinner

by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener
A mini-gourd with fresh flower arrangement

Enjoying one of the last mild autumn evenings, Penn State Master Gardeners, Franklin County and guests gathered for their annual recognition dinner and program at Chestnut Landing, Menno Haven.

As usual the Special Events Committee provided beautiful centerpieces for the tables and each attendee was able to take home miniature flower arrangements presented in small hollowed gourds.

George and Sue Weigel (L,Miller)
The evening included a delicious dinner and a program by George Weigel, Central PA Garden Writer, Horticulturist and (per his Website) Certified Gardening Nut. George brought copies of his new book, "Pennsylvania Getting Started Garden Guide," for sale and signing. And also a box full of hyacinth bean seed pods - some were taken to MG homes for next year and the remainder went home with Juanita Kauffman for the greenhouse and plant sale.

John McGinley, MC (L.Miller)
Photographer Larry Miller (Thanks, Larry) held back on the full photo shot of MC John McGinley who wore his signature khaki shorts at the request of the Committee but opted for white shirt and bow tie for a more formal look. After good-natured no-ante betting on if Bill Stead would come in shorts, Bill arrived with Cindy and was wearing long pants.

In introducing our speaker, John related the story of how he, then a features editor and colleague of George at the Patriot-News and a Certified Gardening Wacko himself, one day said to George, “You like to garden, right? How’d you like to write a weekly gardening column?”

George talks about winter problems (L. Miller)
For the evening talk George picked a timely theme about winter problems as we are coming into the first weekend of very cold and maybe frost/freeze in our area.

Donna Scherer (L.Miller)
After the presentation, Donna Scherer, Master Gardener Coordinator for Franklin County, gave a brief recap of the year's highlights. Listed in the 2014 Annual Report for Franklin County it is noted that there were 97 active Master Gardeners who logged 1,078 continuing education hours and 9,630 volunteer hours. It is estimated that those volunteer hours have a time value of $211,282. A number of spouses were recognized for their volunteer time contributions as well.

Nina Redding, District Extension Director, made brief remarks on the accomplishments of the Master Gardener. Donna then handed out both recognition certificates and the coveted MG hour badges with volunteer hours listed (500, 1000, etc.).

The 2014 Master Gardener class was recognized.
(L-R) Verna Rife, Darlene Sord, Donna Scherer, Ruth Young, Cathy Campbell,
Jessica Kauffman, Pat Glasgow, Ron Schlecht (L.Miller) Not present: Jane Birt, Krista Cowan, Trey Gelbach, Walter Wray

Master Gardeners who achieved the 100 hour volunteer mark did not get MG hour badges but were recognized with certificates.

Jane Birt  -  David Brashier  -  Cathy Campbell  - Patricia Glasgow  -  Colleen Johnson  -  Jessica Kauffman   -   Paul Luka   -   John McGinley  -  Diane Morgan  -  Billy Morningstar  -  Tom Newcomer  -    Cindy Scanzello   -    Ronald Schlecht   -    Judith Scriptunas    -   Ruth Young

Volunteers with 500 hours
(L-R) Barbara Boyer, Penny Buckus, Jerry Lewis, Carol Kagan, Juanita Kauffman,
Diane Keeney, Georgia Townsend (L. Miller) Not present: Cindy Fair
Diane Fusting and Cindy Stead achieved the 1000 hour status.

Both Linda Horst and Denise Lucas hit to 1500 hour mark.
Denise Lucas and Donna Scherer (L.Miller) Not present: Linda Horst
Still just a bit behind in the race for top hours was Barb Petrucci, snapping at Nancy Miller's heels with 2000 hours.
Barb Petrucci and Donna Scherer (L. Miller)
And Nancy Miller with this year's top number of 2500 hours.
Nancy Miller and Donna Scherer (L. Miller)
 The program ended 15 minutes early and everyone took the opportunity to catch up and socialize before slipping out into a much chillier evening than it was earlier.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

HERBS 103: Harvesting, Preserving & Overwintering Workshop Report

by Carol Kagan, Penn State Master Gardener, Franklin County

Although it was a crisp autumn start at this October 18 workshop, 17 attendees and 7 (yes, 7) Master Gardeners had a fun and informative (according to the evaluations) session.
At their seats attendees found peppermint cuttings that Jerry Lewis brought in.

Carol Kagan talked about air drying herbs and Trey Gelbach showed his dehydrator, putting in some herbs which he brought out near the end of the morning to demonstrate how quickly and thoroughly they dried. Barb Petrucci passed around samples of roses and other flowers she either air dried or dried with a desiccant. The difference in the colors and shapes were evident.

Barb, Jerry, Trey and Sue McMorris led the group over to the herb garden with baskets and shears where attendees were able to harvest a variety of herbs and flowers to take home. Popular take-aways were lavender and gomphrena.

Jean Schlecht and Maria Giles set out the refreshments and Maria put materials at each seat for a hands-on activity to prepare herbs to dry in the refrigerator.

When everyone returned from the gardens, refreshments were served and the hot mulled cider was popular. In addition there was cold cider, lemon-grass infused water, Apple Sage cake and Lavender Tea Biscuits (recipes below), as well as Trey's homemade dip of smoked jalapeno with homemade crostini and Sue's dill dip with chips.
Sue shared more methods of drying herbs including freezing and screen drying and reviewed the best way to preserve a variety of culinary herbs for later use.

Maria went over preserving herbs by drying in the refrigerator and had everyone folding up their thyme into neat little envelopes.

Trey, self-proclaimed "chili-head," showed off a variety of home-grown peppers, some of which were air dried and some smoked, passing these around along with some of the chili powders he made from them. Here he pulled some of the herbs from the dehydrator to show how fast they dried.

Carol reviewed the three methods to overwinter herbs: Protect outdoor perennials, bring plants inside, and create an indoor garden from seed, plant division or rooting cuttings. She also demonstrated pruning a winter savory (or perhaps a thyme plant, as there was a bit of pleasant dissent among the Master Gardeners as to which it was) and tips for rooting.

Along the way our students asked many good questions and among the seven Master Gardeners answers were found and sometimes explanations and cautions mentioned. Some of the participants attended all three of this year's Herb Series and received "Herb Enthusiast" certificates.

The session ended as Jerry shared some of his tips, especially about seed saving, and Jean Schlecht distributed the parsley and honey-melon sage she brought to share.

Honey melon sage (Salvia)
As per request, here are the two recipes for refreshments served at the workshop.

Lavender Tea Biscuits (Makes 6 doz. little 1” biscuits)
½ C. softened butter (1 stick)
½ C. sugar
1 egg
1 C. self-rising flour
1  ½ Tbsps. lavender buds
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Cream the butter, sugar and egg. Add flour and lavender buds and mix well. Wrap and roll the mixture into 1" tubes (about 4 or 5 tubes) and refrigerate for 1 hour. *
Spray a mini-muffin tin with non-stick spray. Spoon marble-size (small) pieces of dough into each cup. Gently press with a wooden pestle dipped into water or sugar or use the back of a small spoon.
Bake 10-12 minutes. Remove while warm.

* Alternately you can freeze the tubes of mixture to use later. Cut 1/4" or smaller slices from the tube and place on a parchment covered baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Apple Sage Cake (9”x13” pan)

3 large eggs, room temperature
1 ½ C. sugar
¾ C. vegetable oil
1/ ½ C. all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 C. Granny Smith apples, peeled and shredded (about 3 apples)
½ C. fresh sage leaves, minced fine
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Butter a 9”x13” baking pan and line it with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and oil. Add in flour, baking soda and salt. Mix until well combined. Stir in apples and sage and mix well.
Pour into baking pan, releasing the air bubbles. Bake approximately 30 minutes, until the cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let cool and serve as a cake or cut into small bites.