Photo credit: Wisconsin AIS Partnership
Water hyacinths, free-floating aquatic invasive plants, pictured here in Wisconsin waters
by Melinda Myers
Spread the word and help make a difference by participating in North America National Invasive Species Awareness Week February 20-26. You have the attention of the garden enthusiasts and homeowners that we need to reach with this message, so we can make a difference in our environment now and in the future.
Aquatic invasive species (AIS) impact everyone in our state, whether you enjoy boating, swimming, fishing, hunting, or recreating in or near the many lakes, waterways, and wetlands in Wisconsin. Keeping them free of invasive plants is critical for maintaining our enjoyment and the health of our waterways. With your help, we can spread the word and enlist more people to help.
Your audiences come to you with a wide range of experiences and an understanding of this garden-related issue. Explaining the What, Why, and How of invasive species can help them identify ways they can get involved and make a difference.
The What: Defining the term invasive plants is always a great place to start the discussion. I think the definition on the North America Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) website is clear. They say “The term "invasive" is used for aggressive species that grow and reproduce rapidly, displace native species, and cause major disturbance to the areas in which they are present.” A key difference that I feel is worth explaining is garden bullies are aggressive plants that stay in the landscape while many invasive plants leave the bounds of our gardens and disturb nearby natural spaces and are regulated under Wisconsin’s Invasive Species Rule NR40.
The Why: The Wisconsin Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan shares the following impacts of AIS:
“The introduction of AIS into the Great Lakes and inland state waters is a source of biological pollution that has significant negative effects on natural resources, human health, recreational opportunities, and other ecosystem services throughout the state and region. AIS may compete with native species for food and habitat and can, directly and indirectly, harm or displace native species, degrade habitat, and alter food webs and energy flow. AIS can also have significant economic effects on waterfront property values, tourism, utilities, and other industries.” If aquatic and terrestrial invasive species are not managed, they can and will limit land and water use now and into the future.
Our well-cared-for gardens, ponds, and shoreline landscapes can play a role in reducing the wide range of impacts AIS have on individuals, communities, and the state. Your involvement can be at whatever level aligns with their gardening endeavors, abilities, and interest.
The How: As gardeners and gardening influencers, we can be part of the solution. Encourage others not to purchase and grow plants restricted in Wisconsin in their water features and landscapes. Although regulations for the sale, purchase, and possession of invasive species are in place, some online sellers are not aware, not up-to-date, or not concerned with following existing state and federal regulations. Just because you are able to purchase a plant does not mean it is allowed in Wisconsin. So it is up to us, the individual gardener, to make sure invasive plants do not end up in our gardens, natural spaces, and waterways. Instead buy plants from a reliable and whenever possible, local source.
Learn to identify problem plants and look for alternatives. Encourage gardeners to fill their landscapes and water gardens with native plants. This is an appealing first step in growing success and keeping our waterways safe. I have partnered with the UW-Madison Extension Aquatic Invasive Species Program to help do just that.
On February 22 at 6:30 p.m. CT in celebration of NISAW, I am hosting a free webinar, Grow Beautiful Water Gardens Free of Invasive Plants. I will provide tips on identifying problem plants and suitable substitutes. Registration is required; sign up by clicking here. Visit the WI DNR webpage Aquatic Invasive Species and Publications and Products for more helpful tips and resources.
Help people properly manage water gardens and landscapes for ease of maintenance and the management of invasive plants. Share the importance of removing and properly disposing of invasive plants to prevent their spread. Most municipalities allow you to bag and throw invasive plants in the garbage. Discourage them from sharing invasive and aggressive plants with friends and family. These well-intentioned “gifts” result in more work for the recipient and can harm nearby natural spaces. For videos to share and help spread the word, click here.
Report invasive species populations in public spaces and waterways to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WI DNR) so they can contain and manage the problem. And if you are interested in volunteering to help control these unwanted plants, email DNRAISinfo@wisconsin.gov to be connected with a county AIS coordinator. The more people watching for these problem plants the sooner we can begin containing and managing the problem. “The longer we ignore the problem the harder and more expensive the battle for control will become,” according to NISAW.
Tackling the topic of managing invasive plants can be overwhelming and lead to inaction. My partners at the WI DNR AIS remind us “Maintaining and restoring our waters and landscapes can reduce the impacts even when we don’t have other management options for an invasive species. Reporting invasive species is a first step in containing their spread.”
Together we can make a difference!
REGISTER FOR THE FREE WEBINAR
Feb. 22, 6:30 PM: Grow Beautiful Water Gardens Free of Invasive Plants – Register here.
Fall into Winter Gardening
Tips for Getting Landscape Plants Ready for Winter, Thursday, October 13, 12:00 p.m.
Even though the days are getting shorter and winter is around the corner, your gardening tasks are not done yet! Join us to learn about how to protect susceptible plants from snow and cold damage. We will also talk about proper mulching and watering to help your plants through the fall and survive the winter. Presented by: Lisa Johnson, Horticulture Outreach Specialist, UW-Madison Division of Extension, Dane County.
Protecting Young Trees from Animal and Other Damage Over Winter, Thursday, October 20, 12:00 p.m.
In winter, young trees are prone to a variety of hazards. Be prepared to mitigate that damage by learning how to protect young trees from potential wildlife damage and how to effectively protect trunks from winter sunscald damage. Presented by: Diana Alfuth, Horticulture Outreach Specialist, UW-Madison Division of Extension Pierce and St. Croix Counties.
Maintaining Your Festive Houseplants, Thursday, October 27, 12:00 p.m.
Description: Festive houseplants are a common gift that you may give or receive. Learn how to keep a poinsettia, Christmas cactus, Norfolk Island Pine and other favorite gift plants thriving. We'll cover requirements including light, watering, fertilizer, and humidity. Presented by: Janell Wehr, Horticulture Outreach Specialist, UW-Madison Division of Extension Wood and Marathon Counties.
Find out more and consider registering today!
Even for the most experienced Master Gardener, the term keystone plant may be new. Thrown around by ecologists, a keystone plant is one with high ecological value – one that is significant as a food source. In fact, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) states that 96 percent of U.S. terrestrial birds rely on insects supported by keystone plants. Interestingly enough, in Wisconsin, trees top our list of keystone plants.
In a recent article by Jennifer Rude Klett for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, oak trees – to include white, bur, swamp white, chinkapin and black -- stood out on top of the list. According to the NWF’s list of keystone plants by ecoregion, the white oak Quercus alba is listed as the number one keystone plant for most of the state, in part because of its role as a host plant for up to 450 species of caterpillars.
Caterpillar diversity is the main reason a tree may be listed as a keystone plant. According to the article, in addition to oaks, other trees that top the list include American plum, black cherry, chokecherry, river birch, sweet birch, bitternut hickory and Eastern white pine. Sugar maple, Wisconsin’s state tree, is another keystone plant that acts as a host plant for well over 200 caterpillar species. Interestingly, silver maple and box elder, also a member of the maple family, along with Eastern cottonwood, are also keystone plants, according to the NWF. Those three, however, are sometimes thought of as “junk” trees to be removed but nonetheless offer high wildlife value.
Neil Diboll, a noted Wisconsin expert on keystone plants, stated that “most gardeners do not know about keystone plants because our culture does not focus on the ecology of our gardens and landscapes. You need a diverse mix of trees, shrubs and flowers, along with some grasses and maybe some sedges, to create a complete habitat for pollinators, birds and other wildlife. It’s all about the diversity.”
To learn more about keystone plants…and trees, read the complete article.
This is a repost from September 2018. Now that we are past Labor Day, it's time to start thinking about finishing up the garden tasks. Here are a few links with information for the rest of our growing season.
Mowing: According to David Bayer from UWEX Outagamie County the most important cultural practice associated with turf care is proper mowing. Mow high (3 inches) during the spring and summer months when grass reaches 4 inches. Continue mowing in the fall until the grass stops growing. Mow shorter in the last few mowings. For the last mowing set the mower 1 inch shorter to prevent snow mold in spring and to discourage moles, voles, and mice from burrowing in your lawn all winter.
Fertilizer: A fertilizer program is recommended based on your personal preference. A minimum maintenance program is to apply a winterizer fertilizer (26-0-12) in early September. If you prefer a more lush lawn, fertilizer can be applied two times; add an early June application to the September application. For our area a maximum application of three times is recommended; for a high maintenance lawn apply fertilizer in early June, July, and early September. The July fertilizer application can be skipped if a mulching mower is used. These are the active grass growing periods in Wisconsin. Never apply fertilizer during dormant periods.
Seeding: The best time to establish a new lawn or reseed is between August 15 and September 20; mid-May is also a good time. It pays to buy quality seed; it will contain less weed seed and better grass varieties. According to the University Extension, “the only way to evaluate the quality of a mix is to read and understand the label. “ Extension recommends paying attention to these points when checking out labels:
Kentucky Blue Grass is one of the most popular grasses in Wisconsin. It is winter hardy, grows by rhizomes, is soft to touch, and mows well. However it goes into summer dormancy, does not tolerate heat well, is shade intolerant, and has high fertilizer needs. Most sod is Kentucky Blue Grass.
Perennial Rye Grass is quick to germinate, but is not very winter hardy and is intolerant of summer stress of heat or drought. It is usually put into seed mixtures because it is quick to germinate and helps with early erosion control.
Fine Fescues ( Hard, Red, or Chewings) have low fertilizer needs, are slow growing (less mowing), can be grown in shade or sun, and have some drought tolerance. However they are susceptible to disease in high traffic areas, and can get summer patch and snow mold. It is good to have a mix of Fine Fescues to help offset the negatives.
The type of seed will determine the number of fertilizer applications needed and how much you want to mow. For example, a mix with a high percentage of Kentucky Blue Grass may not do well if you plan to fertilize once per year. Each seed type has its advantages and disadvantages. There are none that are perfect for every situation.
UW Extension Bulletins
These bulletins and more can be viewed and downloaded as a PDF file or purchased from the
Three Sisters Garden: This space located near the south end of the vegetable garden displays the
“Three Sisters” combination of Corn, Beans and Squash. For centuries these three crops have been
the center of Native American agriculture and culinary traditions. While planting styles varied,
the concepts for planting these three vegetables near each other were as follow. The corn provides
tall stalks for the beans to climb so they are not outcompeted by the sprawling squash.
Beans being legumes, fix nitrogen through their symbiotic relationship with rhizobia bacteria, and
provide nitrogen to the corn, and the large vining squash leaves shade the ground which helps
retain soil moisture and reduces competition from weeds. The vegetables seeds for this planting
were gifted to us by the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe tribe and include Cherokee Trial of Tears black
pole beans, Bear Island and Mandan Bride flint corn and the Gete Okosomin (big old squash).
In this garden the corn was planted in early June in a swirl with space between rows approximately
two feet. The inter swirl is Mandan Bride and the outer part of the swirl is Bear Island. When the
corn was about 6 sinches tall a single bean seed was planted near the base of each corn plant.
About a week later after the beans germinated the squash seeds were planted several feet around the
edges of the outer swirl of corn.
Seed to Kitchen Collaborative/Organic Seed Alliance vegetable trials: For many years the Spooner
Research Station has conducted field scale organic vegetable variety trials for the SKC project.
The goal of this research is to evaluate new and promising vegetable varieties that have improved
flavor and direct market qualities. These plots are typically 1/8 to over one acre in size and
include replicated and randomized plantings. To increase participation and feedback, gardeners and
fresh market growers can now participate in evaluating select breeding line in their own gardens.
Participating gardeners are sent all the seeds they need for their trials, labels, planting maps
and datasheets. They agree to start the seeds and plant a minimum of 3-4 plant and manage them as
they normally would other crops and provide feedback on how plants grew. In the Display Garden we
have a pepper breeding trial, four different tomato breeding trials, and several potato breeding
trials. More info at https://seedtokitchen.horticulture.wisc.edu/
Children’s Garden and Little Free Library: We now have an officially registered Little Free Library
located in what is now being called our Children’s Garden Area. This Little Free Library features
kids’ books and will be incorporated into our summer Kids in the Garden program.
Organic Mulches in the Garden: Keeping the soil covered is one of the guiding principles of
improving soil health, and mulches are one option. Shredded bark and wood chips are being used in
walkways and under perennial plants, and various locally sourced plant materials are used under and
around annual plants. Organic mulches suppress weeds, help retain soil moisture and enrich the soil
with organic matter and nutrients.
The Teaching & Display Garden is a joint effort between UW-Madison College of Agriculture and Life
Science Spooner Agriculture Research Station, UW-Madison Division of Extension and Master
Gardener and Research Station Volunteers. More info at https://spooner.ars.wisc.edu/
2022 Twilight Garden Tour
4-7 pm on Tuesday, August 23
Brian Huddleson, Director, Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic at UW-Madison on plant diseases
Renae Essenmacher, forester with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on nonnative invasive trees and shrubs
Sarah DeGraff from UW’s Seed to Kitchen program discussing their projects
Late Season Issues Mini Webinars
Yard and Garden Cleanup with Diseases and Insects in Mind
Wednesday, August 24, 12:00 p.m.
Be prepared to approach your garden and yard cleanup with a better understanding of strategies you can use to benefit your yard, keeping in mind plant diseases, insects, winter interest and wildlife food.
Presented by: Andrea Ackerman, Horticulture Outreach Specialist, UW-Madison Division of Extension Brown County
Fall “Lawndry” List
Wednesday, August 31, 12:00 p.m.
Fall is a good time of year to give your lawn some TLC. Join us to learn more about lawn fertilizer requirements and recommendations for this time of year, aeration and overseeding, and the basics of weed control.
Presented by: Paul Koch, Associate Professor, Department of Plant Pathology, UW-Madison
Bringing the Garden Inside
Wednesday, September 7, 12:00 p.m.
Get ready to continue enjoying your garden by bringing your plants indoors. You’ll learn about which plants can come in, the requirements for growing plants indoors after they have been outside all summer, and how to properly transition them to their new indoor home.
Presented by: Darrin Kimbler, Agriculture Educator, UW-Madison Division of Extension Iron County
To register for any of these mini webinars, go to https://bit.ly/3g0IfhF
This mini-webinar series is hosted by UW-Madison, Division of Extension, Horticulture. For upcoming events and learning opportunities go to: https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/events/
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