In our continued efforts to provide educational outreach, the Baltimore County Master Gardeners (BCMG), volunteers who are part of the University of Maryland Extension, offer this newest installment in our monthly newsletters designed to provide timely, informative articles to assist you in your gardening activities.
Spring is almost here, and Baltimore County Master Gardeners are back in action! Visit us at many activities we perform to educate the residents of Baltimore County and beyond. Watch the webinar on the Spotted Lanternfly update. Read articles on "Planting for Pollinators" and the "Hardy Kiwi."
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********************************************************************* Speakers Bureau
Basic Vegetable Gardening Tuesday, March 21; 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.
Starting a vegetable garden is great family fun! This class will provide you with the necessary information to create your own successful garden. Best practices in site planning, soil preparation, seed and plant selection, garden maintenance, and pest management topics will be presented.
Beyond Basic Vegetable Gardening Tuesday, April 11; 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.
Want to build on your knowledge from last year’s gardening experience? This class will provide growing tips on specific vegetables, information about composting and fertilizers, and specific ways to deal with pesky weeds, animals, insects, and plant diseases.
Register online at the following link –
Get answers to your plant questions!
Visit us at the following weekly Farmers Markets Catonsville
Oregon Regional Park
Eddie's of Roland Park on Sunday, May 7
Watch the latest information on the Spotted Lanternfly.
Planting for Pollinators By Gwen Wilson, Baltimore County Master Gardener Intern
Much attention is being given to the importance of including plants for pollinators in our garden planning. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), "three-fourths of the world's flowering plants depend on animal pollinators to reproduce." Further, with bees disappearing and bats dying, the problem is compounded when there aren't enough pollinator-friendly plants available to support them. Happily, with a bit of foresight and thoughtful planning, we can improve the outlook for these vital species.
As you design your garden with pollinators in mind, it is important to remember that the plants most appealing to your appreciative eyes and nose may not be the best choices for pollinators. Native plants are preferable. In a February 23, 2023, article entitled "The Beautiful Flowers That Bees Can't Use," Emmanuelle Picaud reported for the BBC Future website that, while some flowers offer great ornamental value, "they are not necessarily useful for bees and other pollinators." Picaud cited Stephanie Frischie, a native-plant materials specialist at the Xerxes Society, who advises that hybridization to maximize blossom sizes may compromise the flowers' nectar production or accessibility for pollinators. A prime example is the petunia, which has added beautiful color to many gardens. Unfortunately, the newer hybrid "double flower" varieties produce less nectar. Similarly, some horticultural varieties of pansies "either contain almost no nectar or are inaccessible to bees due to the shape of their flowers." Picaud has usefully reminded us that although "non-native plants can seem more appealing to humans—perhaps because of their vibrant colors, unusual flower shapes or cultural heritage—that doesn't mean insects see them in the same way." The National Wildlife Federation offers an online Native Plant Finder to help you with plant selection and advises gardeners that "by planting natives, you restore the health and function of your local ecosystem."
Picaud further cautions that "today, only a small minority of the plants sold by commercial nurseries are wild-type native species. For example, one 2017 survey of 14 garden centers in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. found that just 5.75% of the plants they sold were this kind." Selecting the best pollinator plants for your area can be challenging. Fortunately for those of us gardening in Maryland, the University of Maryland Extension provides valuable advice on their Pollinator Gardens page, where we are assured that even a small garden or a few pollinator-friendly plants will help.
There are some simple guidelines to follow. Just like animals, pollinators need food, shelter, water, and room to raise a family. A garden that welcomes pollinators will offer a variety of colors, shapes, heights, and a season-long succession of blooms. It will also offer water. According to The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, "pollinators need sources of water for many purposes, including drinking and reproduction. Butterflies, for example, will gather and sip at shallow pools, mud puddles, or even birdbaths." If your garden lacks a natural water source, you can add a puddling area, dripping bottle, or small container. Change the water 2-3 times weekly to prevent mosquito breeding.
When selecting plants, consider your local area. Maryland has three regions: the mountains, Piedmont plateau, and coastal plains. Knowing in which region you garden will help you select plants that will thrive.
Armed with this information, but before heading to your local nursery, make note of your garden's size, sunlight exposure, soil type, and moisture level. Successful pollinator gardens can be established in containers as well as in the open landscape. While keeping in mind that butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds prefer larger blossoms and tubular flowers, also be sure to include host plants that feed young butterfly caterpillars.
Among the many online resources available to gardeners, the University of Maryland Extension's Pollinator Gardens site offers garden-design links courtesy of Live Green Howard, from the Howard County Government. These designs target specific environmental conditions. After evaluating your prospective or existing garden's conditions, you can consult the recommended plantings for locations that are Sunny and Dry, Sunny and Moist, Part Sun and Dry, Part Sun and Moist, Shade, or Wet. These links remove much of the guesswork from your planning process and increase the likelihood of success.
Avoiding the use of chemical pesticides is advisable. Some damage to plants can be tolerated before any control measures are considered, and may even be caused by beneficial insects, including the larvae of the native pollinators we are trying to support, e.g., monarchs and other butterflies and most moths. Fortunately, though, if allowed to do so, nature may provide some pest control of its own. Often unsung heroes in the fight to preserve your plantings are the parasitoids. The Garden Ecology Lab of Oregon State University provides A Primer on Parasitoids online. Parasitoids differ from parasites in eventually killing their hosts. According to the Oregon site, "as biocontrol agents, parasitoids can effectively manage a very wide variety of pests from aphids and sawflies to weevils and mites, along with many more. They occur naturally if their hosts/prey and habitable conditions are present, and it costs little to nothing to maintain their populations." The University of Maryland Extension website article on Parasitoids also recommends plant diversity, native plants, some plants with shallow flowers (such as coriander, dill, parsley, or wild carrot), a long succession of blooms, and an early-blooming cover crop in the fall to provide nectar and pollen in the following spring. The encouragement of parasitoids will go a long way toward strategically controlling pests in your garden.
The University of Maryland Extension also advises that pollinator gardens should provide a year-round environment. This means that they need less maintenance as "unpruned perennials and ornamental grasses, leaves, and other garden debris are overwintering places for many of the insects we enjoy seeing in summer." The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends leaving the leaves, some uncovered soil, and dead trees and stumps (a.k.a. snags). "Stems and twigs provide nesting sites for solitary bees and other insects. Hold off on pruning and snipping until late spring or just let stems naturally decompose." Pollinators such as leafcutter and mason bees may establish nests in the hollow stems of some perennials. If you feel the need to prune, leave the clippings in a pile. In pollinator gardens, doing less is doing more.
With a bit of planning, we can all establish successful pollinator gardens. "Pollinators like honeybees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other animals are hard at work providing vital but often unnoticed services." USDA. Let's help them!
MD Dept. of Agriculture
Mary Free, Master Gardener of Northern VA.
University of Maryland Extension www.Saveourmonarchs.org
Hardy Kiwi By Deana Karras, Baltimore County Master Gardener
What exactly are hardy kiwis? Not the fuzzy kiwi fruit (Actinidiadeliciosa) you see in the grocery store or a kiwi (which is a bird or a New Zealander!). Once called Chinese gooseberries but now referred to as kiwi berries or hardy kiwi (Actinidiaarguta), these smooth, delicious, grape-sized berries are just beginning to be sold commercially locally – for a price. If you have some space and the right conditions, why not try growing your own?
Hardy kiwi is native to northern China and Russia. The first seeds were brought to Massachusetts in 1877, and they were planted throughout New England from the late 19th century on. Beatrix Farrand, the talented garden designer, loved them and used them decoratively in her designs for Edith Wharton’s garden at The Mount and in her designs for Dumbarton Oaks. Hopefully, they also harvested the fruits!
If planting hardy kiwi sounds enticing, keep reading. This is not a vine you can plant and ignore. It is very vigorous, growing 20 feet in a season once established and up to 40 feet if not kept in check, and it will scale just about anything in its path. (I write this from experience, having grown kiwis for 30 years in two locations and admittedly let one grow to the third story of my home, watching it wrap around the chimney on the roof.) A firm pruning hand is required. And a substantial support system. Hardy kiwis also can live up to 80 years.
Now that you are sufficiently advised, you should also know that hardy kiwi is a wonderful fruiting deciduous vine that is essentially disease- and pest-free. It can be the victim of crown or root rot in poorly draining soil. Japanese beetles, red spider mites, leaf rollers, and thrips may visit, but I have never experienced a problem with insects. Deer will browse the leaves they can reach, and in winter, beware of rabbits girdling the trunks.
Where to plant your hardy kiwi? It prefers a little afternoon shade but will tolerate full sun as long as the soil is moist. A slightly acidic soil rich in organic matter is ideal. In the BCMG Demonstration Gardens, we have three 3-year-old vines growing in full sun using the fence as support. They are doing well despite full exposure to wind and sun.
Male and female flowers bloom on separate plants, so you will need at least one of each to get fruit. One male kiwi berry vine will pollinate up to six females. ‘Issai’ is a self-fertile variety, but it is rather fussy to grow and produces smaller fruit. ‘Ananasnaya’, for good reasons usually called Anna, is perhaps the most commonly available variety and is tough, with excellent fruit size and flavor. Other varieties commonly available are ‘Dumbarton Oaks’ and ‘Meader’. It will be three to five years after planting before the first berries appear and 8-10 years to full fruiting maturity.
So, to pruning. Like grapes, kiwis can be trained to a variety of forms. Do a little research to find what suits your needs and aesthetics. Often hardy kiwis are trained with a single trunk and a couple of main lateral branches at a good height for harvesting; this is called cordon pruning. Pruning should be done when the vine is dormant, sometime between December and March; up to 70 percent of the vines can be removed. If pruned much later in the season, hardy kiwi can bleed seriously where cut. Branches that produced fruit and crossing branches should be cut out and all laterals should be trimmed to about the 8th node from the branch. Cut back the non-flowering lateral growth two to three times during the summer, along with tip-pruning flowering branches to 4-6 leaves beyond the last flower.
To me, the best flavor is obtained by allowing the fruit to soften and ripen on the vine, usually in September or October and into November in Maryland. The berries can also be harvested firm and allowed to ripen off the vine, with excellent results. They can last many weeks if allowed to ripen slowly in the refrigerator.
One final note: hardy kiwi has been reported as potentially invasive in Massachusetts, where colonies have escaped into the wild in clear-cut areas. While there is no evidence of this occurring in our region, gardeners would do well to keep a close eye on their hardy kiwi vine. https://fruit.umn.edu/kiwiberry-invasive-potential
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