Thursday, March 9, 2017

Your Garden for 2017: Pests and Bio-controls

by Michelle L. Dauberman

Spring is right around the corner but it’s not too late to start planning your garden.  Part of your plan for 2017 may include weaning your garden off chemical pest control and you may have heard that bio-controls can help you in this endeavor but you’re not sure where to start.

Predatory insects (aka. beneficial insects) are a great place to start.  Yes, that’s right, beneficial insects.  Once you get over the fact that you actually want these bio-controls/insects in your garden you’re on your way to a healthy garden, better yields and a thriving ecosystem.

So, that’s all well and good but how do I attract the good guys to my garden?  Let’s start by planting groups of host plants like Achillea ļ¬lipendulina (yarrow), Cosmos bipinnatus (cosmos), Solidago virgaurea (goldenrod) and Aster alpinus (aster).

It’s a good idea to plant these hosts in groups since it increases your odds of attracting/hosting predatory flies, lacewings, ladybugs, hover flies and parasitic wasps to and in your garden.  Once these predators are in your garden they will begin to prey on the undesirables like aphids, mealy bugs and a variety of insect larvae.

There are several other plants that you can utilize to your garden’s benefit beyond what’s mentioned in this post so don’t limit yourself to these plants and always experiment.  Another tip about host plants:  Stager your plants by flowering season.  If you stager them by season you’ll experience more uninterrupted bio-control coverage throughout your growing season.

For more information about beneficial insects check out these PSU Extension links:

Pineapple Sage

By Stephanie Rukowicz

For the past two years I have been in charge of planting and maintaining the herb bed at my community garden. The varieties are typically predetermined by a group vote at the beginning of the season. This year, in addition to the usual suspects, a new garden member suggested pineapple sage (Salvia elegans).

He planted a 3” pot in early spring and the plant grew as quickly as he described. In just one season this sage grew quite large, taking over its corner of the bed and spilling out into the walking path. Unlike common sage that flowers in Spring, this sage variety flowers at the end of the season (photo taken in mid-October).
Pineapple sage grown from 3" pot in Spring, now enormous and flowering end of season (mid-October).

The tubular red flowers are quite decorative and delicious. I can see why some gardeners use them in salads. The community garden member who planted this salvia recommended using its leaves for tea. I brewed a cup using 4-5 leaves in boiled water, steeping about five minutes. I find it quite tasty.  

Herbal tea made from pineapple sage leaves. Brewed and consumed hot.

What a great idea this author had to use it in a container planting. With pretty foliage all summer long, and then beautiful red flowers give the container Fall interest (and Fall food for pollinators) as well.

The extension information available through Penn State also note another use: in ornamental wreaths. The foliage would be fragrant and beautiful.

  • Culinary
  • Cut Flowers
  • Containers (foliage throughout summer, flowers in fall)
  • Pollinator food in Fall (hummingbird, honey bees, butterflies)
  • Ornamental wreaths
  • Dry to use for potpourri 
  • Teas 

Bonnie Plants answers the question:
“Is pineapple sage used the same way as my other sage?
Pineapple sage and common sage are related. They are both salvias. Here the resemblance ends. They don’t look alike or grow alike, and they certainly do not taste the same. Consequently, their uses are different. While common sage is well known for its contribution to sausage, poultry dishes, and herb blends, pineapple sage is appealing in fruit and sweet dishes. It has a pineapple-like scent. In addition, the autumn flowers give it an ornamental role in the garden.”

Thursday, March 2, 2017

2017 PLANT SALE Seed starting project

Michele K Koskinen

This year the Master Gardeners will be starting more seeds than ever before to entice you to our annual plant Sale. Scheduled for Sunday April 30 at the Horticulture Center it is in the planning stages and has become a great place to get quality plants for your garden. Stay tuned for more information in the next few weeks.