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!

Tent Caterpillars

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

Summer is the time of year to observe your plants closely for diseases and pests. Have you noticed any tent-like webs or worms crawling on your ornamental, fruit, or woodland trees? Around our area and in many parts of the state, two tent-building caterpillars are Eastern tent caterpillars and webworms.

Eastern tent caterpillars overwinter in egg masses on the twigs of their host plants. Larvae normally hatch at about the same time that the host plant is beginning to leaf out. Their favorite host plants include apple, crabapple, hawthorn, wild cherry, mountain-ash, cotoneaster and many other ornamental trees. Larvae create silken tents in the branch crotches and emerge at night from the tent to feed. Feeding damage can range from barely noticeable to serious defoliation, depending on the number of caterpillars and the size of the tents. As larvae mature, they leave the host plant and look for a place to make their cocoons. The adults then turn into moths and emerge in late June or early July. If you inspect your trees closely, egg masses can be found encircling twigs throughout the winter and early spring. On small trees the egg masses can be removed manually by carefully scraping them off before young larvae hatch.

Webworms are often confused with Eastern tent caterpillars. Webworm nests are seen more in the late summer and fall, whereas the Eastern tent caterpillar nests are usually seen in the late spring or early summer. Webworms build their nests around foliage and on the ends of branches, while the Eastern tent caterpillars usually form their nests in between branches.

Removal of the small tents by pruning is effective early on or spraying the newly hatched worms with a homemade concoction of dish soap and water. Burning the tents and caterpillars with a small torch is also common, but this is a hazardous procedure that can seriously injure the tree if not done carefully. As the tents and caterpillars get larger a pesticide application may be needed, and any type of control works best with repetition. If you destroy the tent but don’t kill every worm they will simply rebuild on a different branch of the tree. 

Bloch’s Farm carries safe and effective products to control tent caterpillars such as Monterey Garden Insect Spray (with Spinosad), Thuricide Concentrate (Bacillus Thuringiensis), and Tree and Shrub Insect Control Systemic Drench. Before spraying use a stick to ‘open’ the tents to ensure that the pesticide gets in. It is very important to read carefully and follow closely all label directions when applying any kind of chemicals.

Bloch’s Farm is open 7 days a week: 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday and 10 am to 4 pm Sunday. 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 13th – August 15th: 20% Off Bagged Goods!

Showstopping Hydrangeas

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

            Hydrangeas can liven up any garden with long lasting blooms in a variety of colors. With just a bit of basic care, hydrangeas can grow to fill in spaces in one season. Bloch’s Farm is carrying an abundance of hydrangea varieties this year! Here are just a few that might pique your interest.

Vanilla Strawberry -These hydrangeas get their name from the white blooms that emerge in the summer which gradually begin to turn pink, then strawberry red throughout the season. Vanilla Strawberry hydrangeas can grow up to 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide, prefer full sun, and well drained soil. Hardiness Zone: 3-8.

Oakleaf – Named because of its oak-like leaves, which start out green and then turn a beautiful wine-red fall color. These hydrangeas can grow up to 6 feet tall and wide, prefer moist to well-drained soil and part sun to shade. Oakleaf hydrangea flowers bloom white in the summer and turn a pretty pink color in fall. Hardiness Zone: 5-9. Bloch’s Farm has Alice and Gatsby Gal oakleaf hydrangea varieties available. 

Confetti – This hydrangea brings beauty in the summer with its large white panicle flowers blooming on long stems. The flowers emerge white and then turn pink from the bottom to top, blooming well into the fall. Confetti grows up to 6 feet tall and produces the most blooms when planted in full sun. Hardiness Zone: 4-8.

Zinfin Doll – This new hardy panicle hydrangea produces large blooms on top of a strong, sturdy stem. The flowers emerge white, then turn pink from the bottom up throughout the beginning of the season, then end in a dark pink-red color. Zinfin Doll grows up to 6 feet tall and wide, and grows best in part sun to sun, with morning sun and afternoon shade being the optimal lighting. Hardiness Zone: 3-8.

Hydrangea Trees – Hydrangeas are typically considered shrubs but some types can be grafted to grow into tree form reaching up to 15 feet tall at maturity. Large beautiful blooms sit atop a tall tree trunk. They can grow in full sun to part shade and prefer moist, well-drained soils. Hardiness Zone: 3-8. Bloch’s Farm has Limelight, Quickfire, Vanilla Strawberry, and Phantom hydrangea trees available. Limelight flowers start out a soft subtle green, then turn a creamy white in the summer, fading to a hint of pink as the flowers age. Quickfire has white blooms to start, which then turn blush pink, and end a deep red fall color. Phantom blooms emerge creamy white, turn pink throughout the summer, and become a dark pink in the fall. 

            Bloch’s Farm is open 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday, and 10 am to 4 pm Sunday. We have these hydrangea varieties available as well as many others. 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: August 6th – August 8th : In response to the horrific wind storms we’ve had this week, 30% Off All Trees!