Growing Vegetables In Wisconsin

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

Are you itching to grow some fresh vegetables of your own? Knowing your hardiness zone and growing season length can help you decide the best vegetable varieties to grow. Vegetables need the optimum amount of growing days in order to produce a mature crop. To get the most harvest possible, try growing cool season crops. Whether you start your own seedlings indoors or buy them from your local greenhouse, it’s a good idea to gradually acclimate them to the outdoors.  

Here in Wisconsin, the growing season is relatively short. Therefore, when choosing vegetable varieties, make sure you choose those that take 80 days or less to mature. This is because if you select a tomato that takes 120 days to mature, you may not get a full harvest from that plant. The tomato will not have enough time during the season to fully mature. Seed packets will tell you the growing information on the back. When buying greenhouse seedlings, ask nursery staff if you are unsure. 

Do you know what planting zone you are in? At Bloch’s Farm, we are in zone 5a. If you don’t know your hardiness planting zone, you can find it in a gardening book, by searching online, or asking one of your local greenhouse nursery staff.  

Get the most out of your growing season by growing cool season vegetables. Cool season vegetables tolerate and often prefer cooler soil and temperatures. Examples of cool season crops are: peas, lettuce, spinach, kale, swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli, and beets.

If you started growing your seeds indoors or bought new seedlings from your local greenhouse, they need to become accustomed to their new environment before planting them outdoors. A few weeks before you plant the seedlings outside, set them on a shady porch or under a tree for a few hours, gradually increasing the time in the sun each day. Be sure to bring them back indoors for the night. After about two weeks, they should be acclimated enough to stay outdoors, assuming temperatures won’t drop below freezing at that point.

Bloch’s Farm is open 7 days a week from 8 am to 6 pm. We have a huge selection of herbs and vegetables, trees, shrubs, annuals, and perennials! 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. Don’t forget to visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Don’t miss out on this weekend’s sale: May 14th – May 16th: 20% Off Bagged Hardgoods and Garden Gloves!

Double Play Spirea Series

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

            Are you looking for a beautiful, low maintenance, deer resistant shrub? You certainly can’t go wrong with spireas. They are not fussy about soil or sunlight conditions, and thrive with an average amount of water. Spireas typically grow between 2 to 6 feet tall and have saw-toothed foliage in a variety of colors and pretty clusters of flowers ranging from white to red.  

Bloch’s Farm has new varieties of spirea this year called the Double Play Series. This new series has long-lasting gorgeous flowers and dazzling foliage that is a must have for any garden! Double Play Series Spirea blooms on new wood and requires minimal pruning. To tidy the appearance and encourage new growth, prune lightly after flowering. Heavy pruning can be done in late winter or early spring. Fertilizing in the spring will encourage growth. Come see the different varieties of the Double Play Series that are available at Bloch’s Farm!

Double Play Blue Kazoo– Growing up to 36 inches wide and tall, this spirea will add colorful beauty to your landscape. Blue Kazoo’s striking blue foliage emerges in the spring, and throughout the season it changes to hues of green, pink, and purple, ending with a stunning red fall color. Eye-catching large white flower clusters bloom in early summer. This variety grows well with 4 to 6 hours of daily sun and is not particular about soil conditions or watering. 

Double Play Red– With its radiant nearly red flowers and dark burgundy spring foliage, this spirea is a show-stopper addition to your garden! It attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. This variety grows best in sun to part sun and prefers moist, well-drained soils. It grows up to 36 inches tall and wide. 

Double Play Painted Lady– Growing up to 36 inches tall and wide, this spirea has splashy green, yellow, and cream variegated foliage that turns a coppery color in the fall. The strikingly bright pink flowers bloom from late spring to early summer. The Painted Lady grows well in sun or part shade and once established tolerates dry conditions.  

Double Play Candy Corn– This new and colorful spirea is a staple for any landscape! Candy corn spirea produces bright candy apple red foliage in the spring, which then turns pineapple yellow. Throughout the rest of the season the leaves change to bright orange. Stunning dark purple blossoms are produced in late spring or early summer. This variety grows up to 24 inches tall and 30 inches wide and prefers sun to part shade. 

Bloch’s Farm is open 7 days a week from 8 am to 6 pm. We have these stunning spirea available as well as other Double Play Series Spirea such as Artisan, Big Bang, Pink, Doozie, and Gold. We also have a huge selection of trees, shrubs, annuals, and perennials, and vegetables! 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. Don’t forget to visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Don’t miss out on this weekend’s sale! May 7th – May 9th: 20% Off Bud N’ Bloom Hydrangeas and Roses!

Soil and Your New Plant

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

It’s important to determine the availability of moisture and nutrients in the soil for your new plants. Consider the terrain and soil type you have when picking out new plants to add to your garden. You don’t necessarily want to plant a shrub that requires mostly dry soil in a low point in your yard where water tends to collect. Likewise, a plant that grows best in wet soil may not do well planted atop a high spot in sandy soil that drains easily and doesn’t retain moisture.  

Dig around a little to analyze your soil. Do you notice that it is dark and moist, light and sandy, or is it squishy clay? Is the soil compacted, root bound or stony? Knowing the characteristics of your soil can help you make adjustments or choose plants that prefer those conditions.

Additionally, a soil test can help you identify the available nutrients and pH levels in your garden. Bloch’s Farm sells do-it-yourself kits, or you can request a soil test through the UW-Madison Extension office. Soil pH expresses the acidity or alkalinity of a sample using a scale of 0 to 14, with 7 representing a neutral reading. Typically, plants grow best when the soil has a pH of more than 6, which is slightly acidic and less than 7.5, which is slightly alkaline. In this range, plants are best able to access the essential nutrients needed for optimum growth.   

You have a few options once you know the attributes of your soil. First, you can match your new plants to the existing conditions. For instance, butterfly bush, rose of sharon, flowering quince, sedum, butterfly weed, and tickseed are a few plants that tolerate sandy soil. A few examples of plants that can tolerate clay soil are flowering currants, barberries, geraniums, hostas, and daylilies. Some plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, and blueberries prefer acidic soils, while lilacs, lavender, rosemary, and honeysuckle grow best in alkaline soils.   

 Second, a variety of adjustments can be made to the soil. Adding compost, peat moss, and healthy black dirt full of organic matter can make a world of difference to your plants. Even just working up compacted soils and adding water regularly will help. If you have heavy clay soils or low lying moist areas, consider building raised beds and filling them with rich topsoil. If you have sandy or clay soil, both will benefit from adding organic matter. To make pH adjustments, add acidic fertilizers or incorporate lime into the soil as needed. Your soil test results can also be used to add fertilizer with the essential nutrients that may be lacking in your garden.  

Need to add soil to your garden? Bloch’s Farm sells topsoil by the yard as well as in bags. We also have compost, peat moss, organic fertilizers and more to fulfill your gardening needs. 

Bloch’s Farm is open 7 days a week from 8 am to 6 pm. We have a huge selection of trees, shrubs, annuals, and perennials! 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. Don’t forget to visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Sunlight and Your New Plants

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

After you have chosen new plants that will thrive in your Hardiness Zone, you’ll want to place them in the ideal location in your garden or landscape area. The terms full sun, full shade, and partial sun or shade can be confusing, in addition to physically defining those areas in your yard at different points in the season and throughout each day. Planning ahead will help reduce your maintenance workload as well as lessen pest and disease problems. 

Since new plants or seeds typically contain their sunlight exposure needs on tags or on the backs of seed packets, the most challenging task is to determine the general sunlight pattern for your area. Spend some time watching where the sun shines in your yard and make note of where the shadows fall throughout the day. Does your house cast a shadow on an otherwise sunny location? Do bare branches of springtime bushes and trees leaf out during the summer to create areas of shade? Once you have the average daily sunlight pattern figured out, placing your plants is the fun part. 

Plants that require full sun need six or more hours of direct sunlight each day. While the mornings may provide gentle sun rays, the afternoons are often hot and bright as the sun beats down. Some perennials that are heat tolerant and thrive in full sunlight include purple coneflower, lavender, Russian sage, and butterfly weed. Of the hydrangea varieties, the panicle hydrangea is one that prefers full sun. Annuals offer plenty of beautiful long-lasting blooms throughout the summer. Marigolds, zinnias, petunias and poppies are a few colorful choices that enjoy full sun.  

Is there a location in your garden that is in full shade most of the day? Full shade is defined as an area of your yard that receives less than four hours of direct sunlight per day. Plants that are considered full shade-loving often prefer a few hours of gentle morning sun. Hostas, bleeding hearts, and coral bells are well-known shade-loving perennials, but what other choices are available for those shady spots? Red columbine, Virginia bluebells, or dutchman’s breeches are other examples of shade-loving perennials.  

Areas that receive between four to six hours of sun can be referred to as partial sun or partial shade. These parts of your flower gardens may be the most challenging to figure out and the terms partial sun and partial shade are sometimes used interchangeably. Partial sun-loving may indicate the need for a combination of cool morning sun and a little of the afternoon sun. Partial shade can refer to the need for protection from the most intense afternoon sun rays. For example, some varieties of hydrangeas prefer morning sun and afternoon shade. Some hostas, daylilies, and bee balm prefer partial sun while some impatiens and begonias prefer an area of partial shade. You’ll need to observe your plants to determine if they need to be moved toward areas of  more or less direct sunlight.  

Bloch’s Farm is open to the public 7 days a week from 8 am to 6pm. We have a huge selection of trees, shrubs, annuals, and perennials! Stop in today and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you find the right plants for the right spot in your yard. Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Don’t forget to visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Location and Your New Plants

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

Some gardens look effortlessly beautiful, filled with lush, vibrant plants. Gardeners with green thumbs know there are important considerations to take into account when making landscaping choices. One of the fundamental factors in growing strong, healthy plants is an understanding of how location affects the types of vegetation in your particular area.     

One of the first things to consider is the climate zone. The standard that is used to identify climate zones is the US Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map. The current map divides North America into eleven zones based on average winter temperatures. Each zone is about 10 degrees warmer or cooler than the adjacent zone. In which climate zone do you live? Choosing your plants based on their preferred climate zone can help you avoid a lot of extra maintenance and uphill battles with pests and diseases.    

Here at Bloch’s Farm, we are in Zone 5a. If you are unsure of your zone, or you would like to know more about a particular plant’s preferred zone, contact your friendly greenhouse staff members.  You can also check the plant’s information tag as well as your favorite gardening book or website. 

Of course, it is possible to grow plants that may prefer the edge of your zone or different zones. Those plants may be considered “sensitive”, meaning they can still survive, but they may need some extra tender loving care. Perhaps some added protection may be needed throughout the winter months, or maybe some extra water or shade will need to be provided during the hot summer seasons.

Once you’ve chosen a plant that grows well in your climate zone, the next step is choosing a location in your garden or in your landscaping project for the plant to grow. Ensure that the area is large enough to accommodate your plant once it reaches maturity. Plan ahead for the height and width of the mature vegetation to avoid issues with maintenance and overgrowth as well as to prevent pest and disease problems. 

Finding the perfect location for your new plants is important for many reasons. A lot of time is spent in nurturing beautiful gardens, and you definitely want your plants to reach their full potential. Be sure to consider your climate zone and the plant’s ideal location in your garden. Stay tuned for more tips to consider when buying a new plant. 

Bloch’s Farm will be open soon! We are busy getting ready for all your spring needs. We will have a huge selection of trees, shrubs, annuals, and perennials that will beautify many areas, even those challenging ones! Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Don’t forget to visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

When to Prune

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

            Pruning and the removal of dead limbs is an important part of annual tree and shrub maintenance. It supports the overall health of trees and shrubs and improves their appearance. Properly timed pruning encourages trees and shrubs to rebloom and increases their flower and fruit outputs.  

It can be confusing as to the proper timing of pruning different trees and shrubs. One helpful tip is to note whether they flower on new wood or old wood. Trees and shrubs that bloom on new wood often begin flowering mid- to late summer. The best time to prune them is during late winter or early spring, when they are dormant, and no new growth has yet appeared. This will provide them time to recover and an opportunity to put all their energy toward producing new growth and buds.

Arborvitae, for example, do well when pruned in spring just before new growth is produced.  New growth will develop in the crotch of the branches and will cover the pruning cuts. February to early April is the best time to prune apple trees, crabapples, mountain ash, and hawthorn to prevent chances of infection and the spread of bacterial diseases. It’s best to prune shade trees in late winter or early spring, and to decrease the chances of oak wilt disease, it’s a good rule of thumb to prune oak trees before mid-April. 

Certain trees such as elm, maple, birch, and black walnut may ooze sap if cut back in the spring. This does not harm the tree; however, these trees can also be pruned in early summer or late fall to reduce oozing if it’s concerning to you.

Boxwoods and other evergreen or ornamental shrubs such as butterfly bush, sumac, and red-twig dogwood typically benefit from an annual spring trim to keep their shape and to support their good health. Panicle and smooth hydrangeas, burning bush, roses, rose of sharon, coralberry, potentilla, diervilla, honeysuckle are other varieties of shrubs that flower on new wood.

However, not all trees and shrubs should be pruned in spring. Those that bloom in early summer on mature, or old wood should typically be pruned in late summer or early fall before the next season’s buds begin forming. If you prune them in spring, you will be removing the flower buds. It’s best to wait until right after they have finished flowering. This will provide a time for beautiful blossoms and a time for new buds to develop.

Dogwood trees, as opposed to the red-twig dogwood bush, are an example of a tree that should not be pruned in spring due to an increased chance of harmful insects boring into the cut areas. It also seeps a very sticky sap if pruned during its active growth period, so it’s best to hold off on any needed pruning until late fall or winter. Other flowering trees such as cherry, pear and magnolia can be pruned when their blooms have faded away.  

Lilac bushes need to be pruned soon after their flowers are spent. Like other bushes that bloom on mature wood, lilacs set the buds for next season almost immediately after the last blossom has faded. Other examples of shrubs that bloom on old wood are bigleaf hydrangea, forsythia, weigela, and azalea.

Bloch’s Farm will be open soon! We are currently busy getting ready for all your spring needs. Call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. You can also check out our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Spring Garden Tasks

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

            Spring brings on the warm temperatures and the excitement of outdoor gardening. It’s finally time to gear up for gardening tasks in preparation for the growing season. Here are some suggestions for work that can be completed from March to May to get your gardens in tip top shape!

            March/April – You can begin planting seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the safe outdoor planting date, which is usually mid-May for our area (Zone 5a). Just be aware that seedlings can get leggy and weak if started too soon. A special lightweight seed-starting soil mixture works well for planting. March and the beginning of April are a good time to prune trees and shrubs that bloom on new wood (plants that bloom in the summer). Before growth begins in the spring, fertilize grapes, raspberries, and blueberries. Weather permitting, you can uncover roses. Other tasks include cleaning and sharpening garden tools, and checking your inventory of potting soil, fertilizers, and pesticides. 

            April – This is a good time to fertilize roses, woody plants, ground covers, and lawns. It’s also a good time to begin fertilizing houseplants again. Once the ground has thawed, but before blossoming, fertilize fruit trees. You can begin to clean up and prepare your garden areas by removing dead plants and leaves, removing winter mulch, and adding compost to the soil. In late April or early May, you can direct sow cool-season vegetable seeds, such as brussel sprouts, collards, cabbage, radishes, and onions.  Other vegetables that do well when planted in spring include turnips, potatoes, chard, spinach, and peas among others.

May – Temperatures are typically warm enough to plant perennials. After Mother’s Day, most vegetable seeds can be planted directly into the soil, or if started indoors, the seedlings can be transplanted outside. By the end of May, most tender annuals, as well as tuberous begonia, dahlia, canna, and caladium can be planted or transplanted outdoors. In addition, May is a good time to mulch plants and to prune shrubs and trees such as junipers, arborvitae, yews, white pine, and hemlock.

Happy spring gardening! Bloch’s Farm will be open soon! We are busy preparing for all your spring gardening needs. Will you need tools or gardening items, such as pruners, gloves, or knee pads? We will have all that and more to help you accomplish your spring gardening dreams. Call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. You can also check out our website at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Common Houseplant Pests – Part 2

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

Last week’s article discussed the common houseplant pest, the mealybug. Unfortunately, there are more pests that cause our houseplants to suffer including spider mites and aphids. How can these infestations be identified, and how can they be stopped or prevented altogether?   

Spider mites are tiny spiders hardly visible to the naked eye. With a hand lens you may notice that the creatures have eight legs rather than six, which is typical of many insects. Like most spiders, they spin small webs. Spider mite webs are visible beneath and between leaves and over flower buds. Small yellow or brown spots (stipples) may also appear on the tops of leaves. A severe infestation will give the plant a dusty look, and the leaves will eventually turn a rusty red color before dropping off.  

Houseplants are susceptible to spider mites because of the favorable warm temperatures, dry conditions, and the lack of natural enemies indoors. For early detection, try placing a piece of white paper under a single leaf or the entire plant, and then tapping it. The small mites (about the size of fine sand) are easy to see on the white background as they crawl around. 

To control spider mites; mist the plant regularly with cold water. Spider mites dislike the humidity and the cold. Adding a little insecticidal soap to the water will also help in the battle against this most persistent pest. Remove the webs and the spider mites by washing the plant in soapy water, paying particular attention to the undersides of all the leaves. To ensure complete  removal of the eggs, repeat the treatment every 3 to 4 days until the plant is clear. Insecticidal spray or neem oil may work also well for treatments. For severe infestations, an insecticide containing pyrethrum as an active ingredient works well.

Another common houseplant pest are aphids, which are found mostly on the undersides of leaves, new shoots, and buds. Aphids range in a variety of colors and live in small groups. Aphids suck out juices from the plants, causing stunted growth, and distortion of buds and leaves. Like the mealybug, they also excrete a sticky ‘honeydew’ which can attract a black sooty mold. 

To control aphids, remove as many as possible by hand with a soft brush. Then take the plant and rinse it upside-down in a weak solution of soapy water. Take care not to water the soil with the soapy solution. If the soapy water does not work, you can use common insecticides. Aphids are becoming resistant to some of the commonly used chemicals, so make sure to read the label front and back to see if it controls aphids. 

Bloch’s Farm will be opening soon. We are busy getting ready for all your spring needs! Call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. You can also check out our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.