2019 International MG Conference ‘Dig into Our Roots’

 by Leo Lubke,  IMGC Committee

International Master Gardener Conference
Jun. 17-21, 2019
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
International Master Gardener Conference
Jun. 17-21, 2019
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania

What better way for MGs to ‘dig into their roots’, both horticulturally and historically, that to attend the 2019 International Master Gardener Conference at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The planning of this biennial event has been years in the making and is sure to meet Master Gardeners’ diverse interests and needs. The focus of this conference from June 17 to 21 (there will also be pre-conference and post conference tours) is: teaching the latest research-based sustainable horticultural and environmental stewardship best practices; sharing knowledge of the introduction and development of horticulture in the Philadelphia region and its far-reaching influence; providing networking opportunities with other Master Gardeners; facilitating tours of public and private gardens and arboreta, and visits to Pennsylvania historical tourist sites; and continuing the mission. In meeting these goals, conference attendees will have an enormous challenge selecting from a vast variety of break-out sessions, field study trips, evening programs and guest speakers, such as Dr. Doug Tallamy (Delaware), author of Bringing Nature Home and advocate of including native plants in our landscapes.

If you are interested in refining teaching skills, or recruiting volunteers to assist in educational activities, you might want to attend the “Master Gardeners as Teachers” session with Eric Barrett (Ohio), or perhaps his presentation on busting gardening myths, “Gardening Myths and Legends,” found on the Internet.

If you’d like to know more about hypertufa containers and gardening, Dr. Mark Bridgen (Cornell) is presenting “Building and Designing Trough Gardens.” Dr. Bridgen is also leading a presentation “Easy, Hands-on Plant Propagation Exercises.”

For those interested on historical gardening, Kirk Brown (Pennsylvania) will play the part of “John Bartram, America’s First Master Gardener.” Bartram was close friends of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington as well as other founding fathers. Linda and I have personally seen Kirk acting this part and guarantee you will enjoy this presentation. For more sessions and descriptions, please go to IMGC Website given below.

Field Study Days aims to take gardeners into the field to learn and the choices are many. Longwood Gardens, Rodale Institute, Winterthur, Morris Arboretum and Barnes Arboretum are just a few of the choices. Tours will also be available and include the Essential Philadelphia Historical Sites. Check out a full listing of Field Study Days and Tours by visiting the IMGC Website.

It goes without saying — various networking activities are built in to the conference schedule beginning with the “Welcome Reception” on June 17. With an international conference of this nature, convenient accommodations and popular sessions will fill fast. Registration for accommodations is open now and conference registration will be open mid- to late-October. Registration and specific conference information is available at www.internationalmastergardener.com.

Plan now and let’s “Dig into Our Roots.”

Creating a Moss Labyrinth

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by Pat Butler

With limited relatively flat ground, we managed to create the labyrinth with just enough width for walking and added a stump for sitting.
We began it 3 years ago, collecting moss from our yard and from friends with wooded and wild areas.
One Bradford Pear did not survive the gentle grass removal and we have replaced it with a Weeping Cherry, to try to maintain reasonable shade for the moss.
It still requires some weeding and sometimes pinning it down as birds love it for their nests.

The Tater Tree Project by Pam Barron

The Tater Tree Project

The Tater Tree Project

Pam and Larry Barron loved the very old, large cherry tree in their back yard. The piece of barbed wire fence through the middle of it gave the tree extra character. But one night after dark, the tree dropped a very large limb into their yard, barely missing their neighbor’s fence. That was when they first realized the tree was diseased and would have to be professional removed. The removal left a large crater of a stump in their yard, and Pam was determined to find a function for it.

Cherry Tree Stump

Cherry Tree Stump


And so was born theTater Tree Project.  In February, Pam began to prepare the soil with coffee grounds to make it more acidic. When the ground temperature reached 50 degrees, she planted Yukon Gold potatoes in her prepared plot. Pam planted her potatoes on March 22nd, hoping they would do well. The last couple of late frosts took a bit of a toll, but the potatoes seemed to be making a comeback.


Yukon Gold Potato Planting

Yukon Gold Potato Planting

However, there are other forces at work, including evidence of rabbits. The site is far enough from the house that it’s been difficult to keep an eye on.

Pam says she plans to do something else with the site for the 2019 gardening season. Some gardening experiments work and others don’t, as well all know. But there are always ideas and challenges in the gardening world.

Tater Tree

Tater Tree


Cuttings, Your Pathway to Plant Propagation by Roger Simpson*

Hydrangea cutting rooted and ready to plant.

Hydrangea cutting rooted and ready to plant.

Knowing how to propagate plants from cuttings is one of the most useful skills anyone interested in plants can have. With it, a gardener gains the ability to grow plants without any cost except time and effort. The advantages of taking cuttings are many; it is cheap and convenient, large plants are much quicker to get from cuttings than from seeds, many varieties and hybrids vary if raised from seeds, while cutting gives a plant exactly like the parent. Finally, certain plants such as lavender do not readily reproduce from seed. There are several types of cuttings; softwood cuttings, hardwood cuttings, single-eye cuttings, leaf cuttings, and root cuttings. This article will deal with softwood cuttings, the most common method.
It is easy to learn how to take softwood cuttings, there are numerous articles on line, and for practical experience, just volunteer to work at the Senior Citizens’ Green House in the early spring. Glenna Julian will be glad to show you how and give you immediate on the job training. For best results, take the cuttings when the mother plant is at an intermediate stage of growth in the spring, when the shoots are neither too soft nor too mature. If the shoot bends without snapping like glass or crushes without bending, then it is in the right condition. This is usually May or June for outdoors plants, or earlier in the spring for plants in a hot house. If the stem is too mature, it might not root and grow properly. If the stem is too green and soft, there is a greater chance that it will rot during the rooting process. The most vigorous shoots are not the best cuttings, side shoots of middling strength cut at their base, root the easiest. The best shoots come from the side of the plant, not the top or the very bottom. . If small side-shoots are not available, you can use the tips of longer shoots. The cutting should come from a stem that has not flowered. Study the plant you wish to propagate. Carnations, for instance, only the side-shoots from the center of the stem make good flowering plants. Do not take cutting from plants that have wilted. Therefore, the recommended time for making cuttings is early in the morning. If the plant does show signs of wilting, water it before taking the cuttings.
Take the cutting off the donor plant from ¼ to ½ inch below a leaf or a pair of leaves. It is from this part of the stem below the node that roots are most like to grow. Place the cutting into rooting medium as soon as possible and before it wilts. If this cannot be done immediately, then place the cutting in a damp paper towel, do not put it in water. Also, in the future treatment of the cutting, it is essential that it never be allowed to wilt. Cuttings are generally 4 to 6 inches long. To make the cut, use a sharp, thin-bladed pocketknife, razor blade, or sharp pruning shears. If necessary, dip the cutting tool in rubbing alcohol or a mixture of 1-part bleach to nine parts water to prevent spreading diseases.
Remove the leaves from the lower one-third to one-half of the cutting (Figure 1). On large leafed plants, the remaining leaves may be cut in half to reduce water loss and conserve space. Species difficult to root should be wounded. That is, a small area below the bottom node is scraped or small cuts made into the stem.
There is a debate among gardeners if a rooting compound is needed. Some people use it while others do not. If you do use it, prevent possible contamination of the entire supply of rooting hormone by putting some in a separate container before treating the cuttings. Any material that remains after treatment should be discarded and not returned to the original container. The rooting medium (the soil you put the cutting in) should be sterile, low in fertility, and well drained. It should retain enough moisture so that frequent watering is not necessary. Materials commonly used are coarse sand, a mixture of one-part peat and one part vermiculite (by volume), or one part peat and one part sand (by volume). Vermiculite by itself is not recommended because it compacts and holds too much moisture. There are plenty of commercial rooting/potting soils available at the garden store. Moisten the potting medium before using it. Insert the cutting one-third to one-half its length into the medium. You need to stick them in far enough that they stand straight up. Maintain the vertical orientation of the stem (do not insert the cuttings upside down). Space cuttings far enough apart to allow all leaves to receive sunlight. Water again after inserting the cuttings. Now if you do not have a green house and most of us do not, here is where the procedure became tricky for me. The experts always recommended that the cutting/container then be placed in a plastic bag or that some type of plastic tent be made in order to keep the cutting and rooting soil from drying out. This is something that was hard for me to understand. However, at one site, there was a tip on using clear plastic drink cups to cover the growing pot. The clear plastic drink cup being either slightly larger and fitting over the lip of the growing container or slightly smaller and fitting snugly down inside. The plastic cup creates a mini-greenhouse for the cutting. With my luck, I got a growing container and drink cup that were the same size. So after placing the cup over the container, duct tape was used to seal the two together. It worked like a charm. Just remember to make a drain hole in the growing pot.

Plastic cup mini greenhouse

Plastic cup mini greenhouse

Place cuttings in bright light. NEVER PLACE NEW CUTTINGS IN THE SUN. They will cook in the plastic. And even if they are not in plastic, they should be placed in a bright shady area. For this spot, I choose an area under my deck away from the direct sun. Check the plants every day or so, but do not water again until top of soil begins to feel slightly dry. Over watering will cause cuttings to rot.
Depending on the plant, the cuttings could root in 2-3 weeks. Some cuttings root in as little as one week. If a tug on the cutting resists the pull, it is rooting. If the slip pulls out easily, then it has not rooted. Also, some plants are slower to root. Hydrangeas are notably slow, taking up to two months. Once the plant resists being pulled, and is rooted, it can be taken out of the protective container. Depending on the type of plant you have rooted, the time for transplanting could be at once, or in the fall, or it might need to be over wintered. For plants that need it, getting cuttings through the over wintering without a greenhouse is the trickiest part. Starting new cuttings in late spring or early summer will give them the best chance for surviving the winter.
For plants that require over wintering, here are some suggestions. Experts recommend sinking pots of cuttings into the ground and covering them well with lightweight mulch or placing smaller pots of cuttings next to a foundation and covering them with large clay pots for the winter. While some people manage to take cuttings through the winter indoors, this also has its drawbacks. Not being an expert, I choose bringing my pots inside for the winter. This next section is entitled: “Mistakes I made”, or how “I Kill My Own Plants”. The plastic cup covers worked very well for me. My plants would receive bright, but indirect light, I placed the tray of cuttings under my deck close to the house foundation. Out of the tray of cuttings, several cuttings did become soft and then rot. I realized that the plants, which had spoiled, came more often from the side of the tray facing the wall. Next time I make cuttings, I will switch the orientation of the tray from time to time so each plant gets equal light. The last cuttings I made were for a hydrangea, and they had to be over wintered. I decided to bring them inside the basement when the temperature went below freezing. However, I made a mistake and they were left outside below freezing. This did not kill all the plants, just some of them, but it did damage them all in some way. So always err on the side of bringing in or otherwise preparing the plants for winter sooner rather than later. The last way that I damaged my plants, was once on the inside, I would visibly check my plants as I walked by. However, when physically checked them, I discovered that several of my best cuttings had dried completely out. I have over wintered lavender before and it was not this sensitive. Making the cuttings and rooting of a plant is relatively easy but know the requirements of the plant you are rooting, and make your decisions based on this. Once the technique plant propagation is acquired, it enables the gardener to fill a landscape with plants identical to ones which have already thrived there.
A Styrofoam and a clear plastic cup make a great green house to start cuttings.
A month after being taken these Hydrangea cuttings are healthy, but still not rooted.

Cuttings 1 month old but not yet rooted.

Cuttings 1 month old but not yet rooted.







The following spring, this Hydrangea plant will be ready for planting:

Hydrangea cutting rooted and ready to plant.

Hydrangea cutting rooted and ready to plant.









* This article was previously printed in the June 2007 SCAMGA newsletter.  Sadly, our friend and fellow Master Gardener Roger Simpson has passed on. He is missed.



Black Medic

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by Colette Mancke

Bl;ack Medic_Medicago_lupulina Forest & Kim Starr CC License

Black Medic
Image by Forest & Kim Starr

Have you ever wondered if that weed you are looking at is a clover plant? At first it appears like clover with 3 leaves but it spreads all over and has yellow flowers. It is called Black Medic (Medicago lupulina). It often colonizes dry infertile spots or areas of soil compaction where little else will grow. At first plants stay close to the ground until ready to bloom. By the time that flowers appear the stems may be 6-26 inches long. If it is in the lawn, aeration helps along with adequate nitrogen and phosphorus for discouraging this weed. If you don’t have many of them they can in spring and early summer be pulled out. But the entire root must be with it or it will reappear. When pulling the weed out use gloves and a tool to get underground where the root is located. Twist and pull up while the tool is also lifting the root and soil.

Another way to control this weed is to use a corn gluten herbicide in spring to prevent germination of the seeds in the soil. Just do it in a spot where you won’t be planting any other seeds. Or to control it chemically apply a broadleaf herbicide containing a combination of 2 4D and triclopyr as an active ingredient in late May and early June. It should be applied when the temperatures are between 60 -80 degrees and when NO rain is forecast for 24-48 hours. It is also best done when there is little or no wind so other broadleaf plants are affected. Roundup / Glyphosate can be used but keep in mind that it kills everything it hits.


Gardener’s “APRIL” To-Do-List

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By: Lee Gray, Sevier Co. Master Gardener

IMPORTANT – Begin to prepare the plants that you are going to donate for the annual Master Gardener Plant  Sale on April 21st.

Plants in Flower

Crabapple, Carolina Silverbell, Dogwood, Redbud, Flowering Cherry, Viburnum, Pearlbush, Lilac, Carolina Rhododendron, Sweet Shrub, Piedmont Azalea, Loropetalum, Exbury Azalea, Spirea, Pieris, Evergreen Azaleas, Kerria (Easter Rose), Drooping Leucothoe, Weigela, Wisteria, Periwinkle, Ajuga, Candytuft, Violets, Columbine, Trillium, Flags (Dwarf Iris), Bloodroot, Bleeding Heart, Jack-In-The-Pulpit, Anemone and Siberian Squill.

What to Fertilize & Spray

  • Fertilize shrubs if not done in March.
  • Once you can determine whether your fruit trees have any fruit, you can decide how much fertilizer to give them.

What to Plant

  • Many gardeners prefer to transplant azaleas in April so they can group the
    plants according to their flower color.
  • The following vegetables can be planted this month: beets, cabbage, Chinese
    cabbage, Swiss chard, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, and potatoes.
  • Divide overgrown clumps of Hosta now that you can see the leaves unfurling above ground.
  • Repot houseplants you plan to move outdoors. Their roots will need more room as they grow rapidly in the sun.

What to Prune

  • Prune spring-flowering plants like azalea, lilac, forsythia, spirea, and
    weigela after the flowers fade.
  • Prune berry producing shrubs like holly and pyracantha while in flower to
    prevent complete removal of all of this season’s berries.
  • If needed, trim spring flowering trees like Bradford pear, flowering cherry and redbud.
  • Cut out any winter damage that may have occurred this year.
  • Last chance to prune roses to approximately one half their present size.

Pest Outlook

  • Observe the following landscape shrubs for the following insect pests: azalea-lacebug, boxwood-leaf miner, euonymus-scale, hemlock and juniper-spruce mites and spray as needed. Hybrid rhododendron should be sprayed for borers annually.
  • Spray iris beds for iris borers.
  • Treat broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower for worms as needed. An organic product containing BT is recommended.
  • Spray your squash plants at first bloom near the base of the stem to control squash vine borer. Continue through June 1 and use only the recommended insecticide.
  • Spray your apple and pear trees with streptomycin for control of fireblight while the trees are in bloom. Apply two times, once at early bloom and a second treatment at full bloom. In wet spring weather consider a third application.
  • Start a fungicide spray program for your bunch grapes this month. Follow
    with weekly sprays.
  • Continue with the rose spray program.
  • Begin weekly tree fruit sprays after flower petals fall.
  • With the exception of borer insects, always scout your landscape plants before spraying. Pests may not be present.

Lawn Care

  • Maintain mowing height of fescue and bluegrass at 3 inches.
  • Do NOT fertilize cool season lawns such as tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass anymore this spring. April is the first month to fertilize zoysia lawns.


  • This is a good time to layer new plants by lowering a branch of your favorite shrubs and covering it with soil and a stone.

Specific Chores

  • Make sure you clean and disinfect all tools to protect from spreading disease. Start your gardening season off disease free. This is worth noting again for those who have not started their spring cleaning.
  • Mulch all of your landscape plants as needed. Pine needles, cypress mulch and pine bark are good mulches. Pine bark, cypress mulch, pine needles and hardwood bark are good mulches.
  • Prepare labels for all new plants and keep records on how well they perform.




The Weather Rock by Jack Bailey-5/8/2018


The Weather Rock

Greetings from the Weather Rock!  After what I posted last month, especially to those of you who never heard of The Weather Rock before, I want to explain some things….but first a bit about the next month’s weather….

If you recall in last month’s report, it was said, that the coolness of April, would run well into May, further delaying our growing season. Other than a few days with a late-afternoon 80’s, it has been cloudy and cool.  I have seen a lot of gardens with ‘slow-growers’ in them.  That time may actually end in just a day or two and should be good for about two weeks with temps slightly above normal.  We will then, probably, go back below normal for the rest of the month of May.  Precipitation is a little harder to predict, given the jet stream and it’s wild swings….but, in a Little Ice Age Event, it is mostly too wet or too dry.  Brian Fagan’s The Little Ice Age (history of) states in his book….”when the Little Ice Age began, in 1300 a.d., it rained, and it rained, and it rained….and then it rained some more”.  I lean toward too wet, especially here in the mountains & did I say cloudy?….LOW LEVEL CLOUDY!!  Anyway, we can always irrigate if it’s dry (with some planning)!  Where do I get these forecasts?  I get them from a fellow named Joe Bastardi.  When I started with Joe he was the chief, long range forecaster, at Accuweather.com., that was in early 2000.  He now owns WeatherBELL Analytics and with Joe D’Aleo (co-founder of the Weather Channel) provide long-range forecasting for farms like my own.

Our Summer should be a degree above normal with above normal rainfall.  That said, corn and beans are very late going into the ground because of the cold and the wet in April….by the way…April was the COLDEST on record….for the whole nation….EVER!  The Weather Channel has NOT disputed this.

Because of this planting delay there is a concern….the ‘two Joes’ use analogs (snapshots of past patterns of similar weather) to predict and the analogs see cool patterns in late Summer and early Fall.  There is always a concern for early, harvest time frosts or worse.

I’m feel some of you may have been shocked by my provocative statements in what may have been your first “the Weather Rock”.  My journey began in the early 1990’s with the history of Little Ice Age Events.  There is a written historical record that goes back into the Dark Ages.  We have the sunspot data that goes back to around 1600 a.d. We have the Greenland Ice Cores GISP1 and GISP2 a two-mile yearly record 110,000 years deep, also the Russian’s Vostok  ice cores from Antarctica.  There is tree ring and sedimentary data from beneath the seas.  The cores detail the climate and complement each other.

Then there are the scientists.  Theodor Landscheidt….early astrophysicist who in the middle 1950s discovered the pattern of deep solar minimums that occurred on a regular schedule causing Little Ice Age events.  He thought they occurred every 180 years.  Today, it has been refined to 209 years.  The disturbance in the geomagnetic field of our solar system that makes our Sun sleep every 209 years is caused by the combined conjunction of Uranus and Neptune with some interaction with the planet Saturn.  It is believed that the position of Saturn determines the “depth” of the Deep Solar Minimum.  Global temperature can go down as much as 4 degree F. and last through 2 extended solar cycles….thirteen years long instead of eleven.  The Sun then goes back to normal and the cycle repeats itself in 209 yrs.  NASA Shuttle engineer John Casey completed the work around 2010 with the establishment of cycle length (209 yrs) and a book called “Cold Sun”.  (It reads like a Weather Rock, I was very taken back.)  The result of this disturbance is less output from our Sun for a short amount of time (no sunspots and TSI or total solar irradiance goes down).  All this equals shortened growing seasons.  This is what it’s all about!

2007 is the year that it started.  In April of 2007 it went to 16 degrees F. for four (4) nights.  This has NEVER happened before.  It was the first, long, deep, temperature anomaly.  You remember how the whole Eastern United States looked after that period.  Every leaf and blossom died on those nights.

There are many times I wish I did not know about all this.  Sandi and I talk of this, often.  It is surely disturbing.  There are over 8 billion people in this world.

Next month I will tell you why the eruption in Hawaii is important.

From a Weather Rock that wishes it didn’t know so much….

Service Hours

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Another gentle reminder that your Master Gardener volunteer hours are due on the State Master Gardener Web Site ASAP. Several have entered your time, but I know of several who have lots of hours but are not been entered as of yet. Please take a few minutes to get this part of your volunteer work up to date so I can begin the process of year end reports (due Dec. 1st) and planning for awards. If you have any problems getting your time entered, please let me know. I will be happy to assist you in entering your time.

Alan Bruhin

Popcorn Garlands

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Anyone willing to make one or two popcorn garlands?  We need one for the JMG tree and one for the MG tree for the Festival of Trees.  I had thought about doing this myself at home.  However, I thought there might be some of you wanting some extra service hours.  Our trees will be 7′ to 8′ each.  We are looking for non buttered/no flavor air popped pop corn garlands (just plain old pop corn).  You can count your time for shopping for the popcorn, your time popping the corn, and the time you take to make the garland(s).  These are needed by Thursday, November 16 5:00pm.  They can be dropped off at the extension office.  Please let me know ASAP, if you would like to do one or two of these for us. 
Thank you, 

Tammie Browning