Thursday, October 6, 2016

Mantids in the Fall

by Stephanie Kearney

I was recently approached by a neighbor about praying mantids (the plural of ‘mantis’).  She wanted to know if there was some reason why she was seeing them in her Philadelphia garden now when she never remembered seeing them in the past.  

We are now officially in autumn, and it is actually quite common to see mature mantids this time of year.  Though eggs hatch in spring, we don’t usually see the tiny babies until they’re about 2 inches in length or longer, which doesn’t happen until late summer.  These larger mantids are easier to spot, and can often be seen hunting for prey – which for them is an extensive list.  Praying mantids are generalists, which means they will eat practically any insect in your garden.  This might sound like a good thing, but they eat beneficial insects too, and an overabundance could disrupt your ecosystem.  It’s also important to note that there are a few different species of mantids in our area, and only the Carolina mantis is native.  They are distinct from the rest as they are brown and smaller than their larger green cousins. 

As the weather turns colder, a female praying mantis will choose a branch on which to lay her eggs.  The foam-like, hard case, called an ootheca, may contain 50-200 eggs set to hatch in the spring.  I’ll be on the lookout for oothecae (another fun plural) on my shrubs as this season progresses, and I’ll be paying close attention to population changes next year.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


by Michelle L. Dauberman

So you planted some Stevia in your herb garden this year and now it’s time harvest and use this trendy new sweetener.  Here are some suggestions on how to get the most out of your Stevia plant:

1.  Harvest your Stevia plants as late in the fall growing season as you can.  The longer you wait the sweeter the leaves will taste.
2.  Before the light frosts begin to settle it will be a good idea to lightly cover your plants.
3.  Protecting your Stevia plants extends the growing season but be sure to harvest your plants before the killing frost.  If you wait too long you will lose your plants.
4.  Now you’re ready to harvest, trim each stem from the base of the plant.
5.  Remove each leaf from the stem and place them on a drying screen or a net.
6.  On a warm fall day take the leaf-covered screen/net and place it in direct sun for about twelve hours.  You can also use a dehydrator but utilizing the sun is better.
7.  When your Stevia leaves are completely dry they are ready to be used or stored.

Using your home grown sweetener is easy.  Just crush or grind the leaves to taste and drop them in you favorite beverage or dish.

If you’d like to store your Stevia leaves for future use put them in any air-tight glass container and they will remain sweet for around two years.

For information on the health benefits of this sweetener:

Friday, September 23, 2016

Revitalize your garden for next year

Michele Koskinen

Summer is in our rear view mirror and we gardeners are looking forward to next season. There is much to do before the winter sets in. Cleaning the beds, removing any diseased plant material, composting your raised beds, maybe caring for a few cole crops through November, planting buls for a spring bloom, getting the vegetables beds ready for early spring planting (remember when you couldn't start because of the snow on the ground) and other chores you may have each year.

This past year, looking at my garden did not inspire me.  I see a tired, overgrown, wrong plant wrong place garden that was beautiful 5 years ago but now some love and tough decisions are required. So where do I start?

Do I remove the weeping cherry that is failing or try to save it?
The Magnolia is getting too tall and looks crowded in the corner…..Prune and lighten up the small specimen or remove.
One Hydrangea seems to not have good growth or bloom this year. Investigate how to help it become vigorous again.
Move some of the perennials and divide other's.
Add a piece of art to the garden.

The two photos are my timeline of two years that show the problems that became more obvious this year. This is one of my tools for reinvigorating the garden. After all, we do forget from year to year what did well and what needs to be changed.

Garden Shot 2015 July Magnolia getting too large for space
Yes you see veggies with my flowers.

Garden in late June 2016…Coneflowers reseeding everywhere, hosta needs to be divided, back beds not showing well this year.


The list below are questions and suggestions you may use to look at and evaluate your garden.

1. Photograph and map your current garden for reference.
2. If you have kept a journal every year, check back for any comments or photos on your garden. This allows you to remember any changes made over time.
3. Make a list of what you like and dislike about your current garden.
4. If large trees, shrubs or  perennials need to be removed or pruned, decide the how, who, and what will replace them.
5. Is your garden all seasons, or spectacular in two seasons? Do you want to extend the beauty of the seasons by adding another or happy with what you have?
6. Are your plants perennial, mixed, or mostly annual? How about your vegetable and herb garden.
7. Start planning now if you are going to add shrubs, trees or perennials. Many could be planted at this point and watered until the first frost. Fall plantings are often less traumatic for many species and will have a head start in the spring.

Remember that gardens are not static and last forever.  They grow, are beautiful and often need our help to remain beautiful and inspiring. Change is not a bad thing.

For more inspiration check out these articles:

Journals for the garden     previous blog
Photography of the garden…..previous blog

Updating you garden/

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Peas, peas and more peas...please.

by Michelle L. Dauberman

When I was a very small child, growing up in central PA, I remember how accessible home vegetable gardens were and in the beautiful garden that my parents planted I recall running through rows of string beans, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, radishes, beets, peas and even several 30’ rows of sweet corn.

I bring up the past in today’s post because I remember with fondness how close we were to our food (literally and figuratively) and I recall, with a wink, how I would help with the harvest and by harvest I mean picking and immediately eating the yields, especially the sweet peas.

In this year’s PSU Edible Demonstration Garden you will find some tasty and tempting peas as well.  Sugar Snap Peas to be exact.  To get these wonderful green peas and pods plant them in average garden soil, full sun, don’t let them dry out completely and remember to support your plants.  As it is with most plants in the pea family they are climbers and welcome the support.  For vegetable gardeners with limited space you can grow your peas in pots and containers but make sure that you get the bush-style variety.

Enjoy your peas and I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for the harvest!

For more information on peas check out this PSU Extension publication:

HortLine New email address for all Philadelphia Gardeners

Penn State Extension Philadelphia Master Gardeners' Horticultural Hot Line -- HortLine -- has a new email address.

Send your questions about flowers, vegetables, fruits, trees, soil health, pruning and all other horticultural topics to this email address. A qualified and knowledgeable Master Gardener will answer your email and help to solve your problem, or find someone who can.If you have photos to illustrate your problem, please send these, too.

Not a Philadelphia County gardener…….check you local or state Extension for their Hot Line. Master Gardeners are always ready to help with your questions.