Siberian and Blue Flag Irises

By: Lucinda Miller – Grounds Crew and Science educator (retired) – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

As mentioned in previous articles, irises are among the many perennials that are ideal to plant in the fall. Planting and dividing irises, along with specifics about German irises were discussed in the previous articles. This week’s article will focus on Siberian iris and Blue Flag iris. Bloch’s Farm has Siberian iris stock in various colors and native Blue Flag wetland iris. 

The Siberian Iris, with smaller blossoms than the German Bearded Iris, is a very versatile plant. It is very similar to the Wild Native Blue Flag and comes in several color combinations. After blooming, the leaves remain in clumps with striking vertical form; therefore, it offers a longer season of garden interest.

The Siberian iris is adaptable to a range of planting times. To enjoy the blooms most readily, plant Siberian iris gardens in late summer or autumn. Planting Siberian iris gardens is best done in a rich, fertile soil with good drainage; however, Siberian iris will perform in lean or poor soils as well. The rhizomatous or fibrous roots can be planted in full sun to partially shady areas. Keep well-watered until established, usually for the first year.

Blue flag iris is ideal for wildflower gardens where the plant has access to plenty of moisture in spring. It makes a good pond or water garden plant, as it performs well in standing water. This plant, which reaches heights of 18 to 48 inches (.4 to 1.4 m.), displays long, narrow leaves, sometimes gracefully curved. The blooms are typically violet blue, but other colors also exist, including intense violet and white with bright pink veins.

Bloch’s Farm is open 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday. Check out our huge selection of perennials (including our large selection of irises), trees, and shrubs. Stop in today and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you. Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. 

German Bearded Irises

By: Lucinda Miller – Grounds Crew and Science educator (retired) – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

Autumn is the perfect time to plant and divide perennials, especially irises. As mentioned in last week’s article, Bloch’s Farm has a wide variety of irises, including German Bearded iris and German reblooming iris. 

There are two types of German Bearded irises; the standard iris that blooms in May and June and the reblooming irises that you may see in gardens now. Color selection is a personal choice as there are over 60 iris genera with at least 2,000 cultivars.

Dividing and planting German Bearded iris is quite easy. Lift the German Bearded iris rhizomes with a spading fork; separate the plants by teasing them apart. Shaking off the dirt makes it easy to inspect the plants. Removing any soft or diseased rhizome parts, and trimming the leaves back to short fans helps break the cycle of the iris borer. Always burn the diseased rhizomes and cut off leaves; do not just toss them into the compost.

            Replant the divisions shallowly, allowing some of the rhizome to show above the soil. Planting German Bearded irises in clusters gives a better show of bloom than planting them in rows. Cover the roots carefully and water well.

Bloch’s Farm is open 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday, closed Sundays. We have fall bulbs and annuals available. Also, check out our huge selection of perennials (including our large selection of irises), trees, and shrubs. Stop in today and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you. Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Fall Iris Planting

By: Lucinda Miller – Grounds Crew – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

Autumn is an ideal planting time for Wisconsin gardens and landscapes. It is the perfect time to divide perennials, remove any diseased specimens, augment soil, and rearrange our outdoor spaces. The ground is warm, rain is more frequent, and many horticultural specimens are on sale.

Irises are among the many perennials that are ideal to plant in autumn. Iris is a perennial plant with showy flowers. It takes its name from the Greek word for a rainbow, which is also the name for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, Iris. The Royal symbol fleur-de-lis is thought to be taken from the shape of the iris flower. 

Here at Bloch’s Farm, we have a wide variety of irises. We have German Bearded iris, German reblooming iris, native Blue Flag wetland iris, and an abundance of Siberian iris stock in various colors. The pots are well cared for with regular feeding and ready to be planted. Some could be divided when setting them into your garden. If you need help with iris division, we would be happy to show you how.

Horticulturally, irises are one of the plants that require division every 3-5 years or so to maintain an abundance of blooms. If your irises seem to be blooming less, they probably need division. Overcrowded irises die out in the center, often causing unnecessary loss of garden specimens.

Iris will thrive in most well-drained garden soils. Planting on a slope or in raised beds helps ensure good drainage. If your soil is heavy, coarse sand or peat humus may be added to improve drainage. Gypsum is an excellent soil conditioner that can improve most clay soils. The ideal pH is 6.8 (slightly acidic), but Iris are tolerant in this regard. To adjust the pH of your soil, lime may be added to acidic soils or sulfur to alkaline soils. It is always best to have your soil analyzed before taking corrective measures. Bloch’s Farm has soil test kits and the products needed to change your soil pH.

Bloch’s Farm is open 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday, and 10 am to 4 pm Sunday. We have fall bulbs and annuals available. Also, check out our huge selection of perennials (including our large selection of irises), trees, and shrubs. Stop in today and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you. Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Join us for this weekend’s sale: October 8th – October 10th: End Of Season Mystery Sale!

Fall Bulbs

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

One of the most welcome sights in spring are masses of beautiful, brightly colored spring bulbs. Red, yellow, pink, and shades of purple, along with white, brightens our yards and landscapes after a cold, dreary winter. There are many different varieties of spring flowering bulbs that can provide color from spring to summer. Bulbs come in early, mid, or late season varieties. Plant some of each so you can have extended color throughout the season. Bloch’s Farm has these fall bulbs available: Daffodil, Tulip, Hyacinth, Allium, and Muscari. 

Consider planting tulips, daffodils, alliums, and other hardy bulbs before the ground freezes in late fall, between mid-October to mid-November. Bulbs planted too early in the season tend to sprout and may begin their growth process if placed in the ground while there are still sunny, mild days and before it has cooled down. In general, bulbs should be planted in sunny areas; however, there are some bulbs that will take partial shade. When planting bulbs, it is very important to plant them at the appropriate depths. The rule of thumb is that you should dig the hole the same size and height of the bulb. Refer to the package or tag for variety specific information. Bulbs grow best in most soil as long as it has good drainage. Once your bulbs are in place, sprinkle each with bone meal or a special ‘bulb booster’ that will help them thrive.

Allium bulbs are mid-season bloomers producing sphere-like flower heads atop tall stalks. Flower heads can range in size and color. Alliums are part of the onion family, and are deer and rabbit resistant. 

Tulips come in many different colors and forms. They are often used in cut-flower gardens. True species of tulips are less likely to be eaten by deer and are often longer lived than the hybrid varieties. 

There are many varieties of daffodils. Beautiful flower heads, ranging in numerous colors, stand on tall stalks. Daffodils are easy to grow and deer resistant making them a favorite among gardeners.

Bloch’s Farm is open 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday, and 10 am to 4 pm Sunday. We have fall bulbs, annuals, and mums available. Find bulb booster and digging tools as well… everything you need to create a beautiful spring garden that will last for years to come. Also, check out our huge selection of perennials, trees, and other shrubs. Stop in today and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you. Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Join us for this weekend’s sale: October 1st – October 3rd: 30% Off Trees and Shrubs!

More Composting Methods

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

There are several different methods of composting fruit and vegetable scraps from your kitchen.  Depending upon your gardening situations, you may want to try a few different methods. Some involve producing and maintaining more heat than others. Some are thought of as cool composting methods although they technically produce a small amount of heat. Perhaps you’d like to try trench composting, lasagna gardening, or vermicomposting, a few of the cool composting methods.

Trench composting involves digging a 12-18 inch trench in the ground about 12-18 inches deep, and placing the soil in an adjacent garden bed. Add leaves or other organic matter to the trench until winter. Cover up the trench and in the spring, you can plant where the trench was located. Repeat the process each year in a different location.

Lasagna gardening is also a cool composting method. Begin with wet newspaper or cardboard. Add “greens” such as grass clippings, manure, or vegetable scraps in a layer. Then add a layer of “browns” such as leaves or straw. Continue adding green and brown layers until your “lasagna” is about 12” tall, ending with a brown layer to help prevent flies and other pests. If the process is completed in the fall, then you can begin planting on top of your lasagna mound in the spring. 

Vermicomposting uses earthworms to speed up the composting process. Start with a bin made of material that meets your needs. Place a bit of soil at the bottom, add worms, and then begin adding kitchen scraps or other organic materials. The worms do all the work for you. There’s no need to turn the pile, and you can even keep the bin inside your home. 

If you don’t have the opportunity to create your own compost, Bloch’s Farm sells Purple Cow Activated Compost, which contains essential plant nutrients, minerals, and microbes. It is manure free, natural, and organic. Fall is a great time to add compost to your soil to prepare your plants for winter. 

Bloch’s Farm is open 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday, and 10 am to 4 pm Sunday. Check out our huge selection of perennials, trees, and other shrubs! Fall annuals, bulbs, mums, and pumpkins are available as well. Stop in today and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you! Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Join us for this weekend’s sale: September 24th – September 26th: 30% Off Perennials!

Composting Methods

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

There are a variety of methods of composting for those who are interested in delving more into the science of soil. Perhaps you’d like to try hot or cool composting. 

Hot composting is the process of quickly breaking down organic matter by using the heat generated by bacteria in the decomposing process. This method requires regular temperature monitoring, watering and turning of the pile, and mixing an even amount of carbon “browns” and nitrogen “greens”. The recommended temperature for the hot compost pile is between 135 and 145 degrees. This is maintained through proper aeration techniques and via the decomposers. This method kills weeds and seeds and produces a larger amount of compost material which can be ready to use in 2 to 6 months. 

Cool composting methods use little or no heat reaction and are more laid-back as far as maintenance goes. The compost pile is turned less often, and there’s no need to worry about the temperature. However, the compost can take longer to be ready. In-situ (in place) composting consists of placing the organic material directly into the garden. Dig a hole about 12 inches deep to discourage animals from helping themselves to a free meal, add organic material, and then bury it. Move around the garden to equally disperse the compost.  

            If you don’t have the opportunity to create your own compost, Bloch’s Farm sells Purple Cow Activated Compost, which contains essential plant nutrients, minerals, and microbes. It is manure free, natural and organic. 

Bloch’s Farm is open 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday, and 10 am to 4 pm Sunday. Check out our huge selection of perennials, trees, and other shrubs! Fall annuals and mums are available as well. Stop in today and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you! Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Join us for this weekend’s sale: September 17th – September 19th : 30% Off Evergreens!

Composting

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

Composting is a process by which organic waste decays and transforms into valuable soil. Compost is dark brown and fertile. It is an inexpensive and healthy alternative to expensive fertilizers. Not only can composting save you money, but it can also decrease yard and food wastes. Compost can help amend the soil in a garden, as well. It adds nutrients to the soil, allows plants to utilize nutrients more efficiently, encourages vigorous root growth, and improves soil structure. 

It is easy to start a compost pile in your backyard or even in your kitchen. Many stores offer large rotating bins that assist in composting, and there are also smaller, odor free bins that can be placed in kitchens or on patios. Some people prefer to pick a spot near their garden and simply make a pile. The pile can be fenced in with wire, old pallets, a material of choice, or it can be left alone. 

Things that can be thrown in compost piles include: plant materials, food scraps, paper towels, coffee grounds and filters, hair, leaves, and wood chips. A ratio of 2 to 3 “browns” for every “green” is beneficial. “Browns” are high carbon materials, such as leaves, straw, pine needles, non-glossy paper, and untreated wood chips and sawdust. “Greens” are high nitrogen materials, such as fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, eggshells, and chicken manure.

If you feel concerned about the potential smell, pesky bugs or hungry animals, be sure to place your compost pile away from doors, windows or sitting areas. Ensure your compost pile is getting enough air filtered through it, and skip composting meat, fish, dairy products, fats or pet waste to avoid unwanted odors and pesky critters. Refrain from placing noxious weeds and plants with diseases in your compost area to avoid their spread. Also hold off on adding leaves that might raise the soil pH, such as ash or poplar.  

When it is time to use your compost, all you have to do is spread it on your garden, mix it in with the pre-existing soil, and enjoy the results!

If you don’t have the opportunity to create your own compost, Bloch’s Farm sells Purple Cow Activated Compost, which contains essential plant nutrients, minerals, and microbes. It is manure free, natural and organic. Stay tuned for next week’s article on different composting methods. 

Bloch’s Farm is open 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday, and 10 am to 4 pm Sunday. Check out our huge selection of perennials, trees, and other shrubs! Fall annuals and mums are now available. Stop in today and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you! Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Fungal Problems

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

As you’ve been checking your outdoor plants for pests and diseases, have you noticed spots on the leaves of your trees, shrubs, or perennials? Have they been looking less than vigorous no matter what you try? A rainy, humid summer can lead to problems with fungus. Fungus occurs naturally in the soil, and many kinds are actually beneficial for the earth by decomposing dead plant matter into simpler chemicals. However, there are types of fungus that can invade and cause ill health in our plants. 

Fungal infections are usually most severe during moist, mild weather. Look for leaves that are curling, turning yellow, or prematurely dropping. Keep an eye out for circular spots on the leaves of your plants. Typically small in size, up to ¾ inch in diameter, they can appear in a wide range of colors from yellows and reds to browns and blacks. While many spots will have a definitive margin, they can also join together to form blotches. 

Fungal diseases spread in several ways. Fungi that live in the soil and attack plant roots are most commonly spread when soil or infected plants are moved from one place to another. These types of fungi are responsible for root and crown rots in many species. Other fungi depend on splashing water to spread their spores. Many of the fungi that cause leaf spots on trees and shrubs spend the winter as spores on bark or on fallen leaves. They are then washed onto new leaves during the spring rains. Another common way fungi are spread is by dust-like spores that are carried to other plants by wind, insects, animals, plant contact, and tools. These types of fungi are responsible for serious diseases such as oak wilt, Dutch elm disease, and fire blight.

It is important to identify and treat fungal diseases as early as possible. Using fungicides early on may be helpful as they often work best as a preventative rather than as a curative measure. While you may not be able to completely remove harmful fungus from your soil, you can reduce the negative effects by making a few changes in your gardening techniques. Start by removing affected plants. At the end of the season, remove all plant debris from your beds. Refrain from placing affected plants or debris in your compost area. Plant a variety of crops in different locations each year or consider allowing the land to lie fallow for a while. Choose plant specimens that are resistant to soil-borne diseases. 

 Bloch’s Farm is open 7 days a week: 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday and 10 am to 4 pm Sunday. We carry a variety of fungicide products to safely treat your plants. Available brands include Copper Fungicide, Biosafe Disease Control, Natria, Neem Oil, and others. 

              Check out our huge selection of trees, shrubs, and perennials too! Stop in today and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you. Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Join us for this weekend’s sale! August 27th – August 29th: 25% Off Select Garden Decor!

Mulch

By: Jennifer LaMontagne- Assistant Horticulturist- Bloch’s Farm- Green Lake, WI

Adding mulch to your gardens or landscaped areas is highly recommended. A well mulched garden can lower your garden maintenance requirements and promote the health of your plants. Mulch is a layer of material spread on the ground around your plants. This helps to insulate and maintain moisture in the soil, reduces the amount of weeds, improves the texture of the soil, and keeps dirt from splashing up onto the leaves and flowers. When you choose organic mulch, as it decays, it will release valuable nutrients back into the soil. Mulches give a finished, well-groomed appearance to the garden. 

             After planting flowers or shrubs and removing weeds, scrape away old mulch so that plants aren’t damaged by mulch that’s laid on too thickly. Then apply a two-to-four-inch layer of mulch around the base of the plants, taking care not to get too close to the stems. Stones, grass clippings, peat moss, composted leaves, shredded bark, Eucalyptus, or Cocoa bean hull mulch are a few good choices. If you’re choosing to use Cocoa hull mulch, do not use landscape matting underneath it and only use it in bright sunlight areas or it will rot. 

When using fabric landscape mat under your mulch product, consider cutting slightly larger growing holes around the plant materials, or plants will not be able to spread. The mat can “girdle” or choke the plants. We suggest using 20 year DeWitt fabric landscape matting around your plant materials and underneath the mulch you choose to use. We sell DeWitt matting at The Farm. If you’re going to be drip irrigating your beds, first lay your matting down, then your irrigation hoses, and top it off with your choice of mulch. If you’re mulching around ground covers please use a light application so that the plant materials are able to spread readily. To determine how much mulch to purchase, multiply the length times the width of your garden area. Then check with your friendly Bloch’s Farm staff to convert it to cubic feet to see how much mulch you may need.

Bloch’s Farm is open 7 days a week: 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday and 10 am to 4 pm Sunday. We have a selection of mulch in bulk, as well as landscaping supplies to help your landscape be all that it can be. Check out our huge selection of trees, shrubs, and perennials too! Stop in today and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you. Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Join us for this weekend’s sale! August 20th – August 22nd: Buy 2 Six Packs of Groundcover, Get The 3rd Free!