Archive for September, 2014

Every year when we lived in New England, I was asked how and why the leaves change to such brilliant colors. It’s a fascinating corner of nature. Here is a blog posting of mine from a few years ago that explains it all. Rather than saying the same thing, I’ve presented it again. I hope you don’t mind. Nothing has changed here!

It is a complicated issue and one that can take lots of words that often confuse and confound.  One of the best, and concise explanations was given in this article written by Richard Busch , former editor of National Geographic Traveler. It does a fine job of explaining why leaves change color in the fall.IMG_8928

“…Essentially, leaf colors begin to change because chlorophyll–a substance that makes them green–begins to diminish as a result of shorter days and cooler weather. As daylight shortens, the growth system in many trees begins to shut down. Tiny cells at the base of each leaf, known as the abscission layer, begin to dry out, chlorophyll dissipates and the photosynthesis process comes to a halt.

The colors that now begin to emerge are actually present in the leaves all year long; they are pigments masked by the chlorophyll during the warmer months. The yellows of such species as birch, aspen and hickory are caused by carotene, the same pigment that gives color to corn, carrots and egg yolks. The autumn reds and maroons in sugar maples, sumac and other species derive from the pigment anthocyanin, formed from sugar compounds stored in the leaves. This chemical’s effect on color depends on the acidity or alkalinity of the tree. Red maples, which are more acidic, turn red; ash trees, being alkaline, become purplish. …”

I would give you the link for the entire article, but the National Geographic has moved WAY beyond that article to other issues.  So, I’ll let it stand as I had in in my New England Blog, North Country Maturing Gardener.


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Here at Horizon House, we have a Green Roof.  It has somehow “sprung a leak”!  At any rate, there is lots of activity on that roof.  The link above will give you a wonderful explanation from UCDavis.IMG_2856

There are many good reasons for having a Green Roof.  These roofs have been around for centuries, and can still be found in their original form in some European countries in the form of Thatched Roofs.  But, why do we reach back in time to think about constructing Green Roofs again?

  • First and foremost…it absorbs rainwater.  This means the water, instead of dumping right into sewers with all the oil and debris it picks up along the way,   stops first at the green roof.
  • The soil to be found on the roof absorbs the water; filtering the pollutants, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and phosphorus, etc.
  • The plants then gobble up the nitrogen and phosphorus helping them grow.  Since those are ingredients in plant fertilizer…we don’t have to pay for them.  They are FREE!
  • The water taken up by the plants is put back into the atmosphere through transpiration and evaporation, instead of having to go into our sewer systems, etc.
  • INSULATION is a really important part of this equation.  The Green Roof provides as much as 25% cooling in the summer, and 25% warming in winter!
  • A Green Roof also helps insulate the building from sound pollution!
  • That Green Roof will provide a wonderful place for beneficial insects, birds, bees and butterflies to call home.  Our roof, being in the middle of an urban area, provides a welcome place for migrating birds and butterflies to rest!
  • This one surprised me!  It will increase the life span of a roof by as much as 200%!!!!!
  • Lastly, it helps by mitigating urban heat.  Here is a good article I read in the NY TImes about this very issue.  Check out the link!

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IMG_8928I just received  an advertising email from Molbaks.  It addresses cold weather veggies.  They are decent looking!  Maybe it’s something to think about when the tomatoes are done.  Rip them out and plant some cool weather, good looking veggies in their place.  Check out the Molbak’s link here.

About.com has a wonderful article about flowering annuals for cooler weather.  It would be worth a look at their site.

Another About.com posting deals with cool weather perennials.  Perhaps you’d prefer them?

Here’s a link to the University of Florida Extension Service that provides a list of flowering plants, as well as veggies that do well in cool weather.  It might help give you some more choices as well.

This is just a quickie posting, but I hope one that might give you some ideas for your gardens as our weather begins to cool down.

If you want to know when I do another posting, be sure to “Follow” me by clicking the link on the top right hand side of this page.


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My Master Gardening skills are coming into play more and more often, which I love!  Even though my certifications are from New England, and lots of stuff is quite different out here in the great north-west, there are SOME things that are easy to transfer!

Today, I got a question from Sue P. here at Horizon House about some kind of insect damage IMG_2762she is seeing on her plant leaves…so I went to work.  Even though the climate is different and SOME insects vary, most of the time you pretty much know what is causing the damage…whether here or in New Hampshire!

As you can see there is something nibbling on the leaves she brought for me.  They are not sucking sap; or burrowing between top and bottom of the leaves (miners); and the damage is rather small…signifying to me that it is not snails or slugs, who tend to gobble up the entire leaf!  I also don’t think it’s leaf cutter bees because their damage is VERY rounded, not irregular like these.  There are also no bugs, trails, webs or spittle to be seen.

My educated guess is that it is some kind of nocturnal insect that comes out at night and eats to it’s heart’s content only to disappear into the soil, debris or other protected places as soon as the sun rises.

Some possibilities include beetles (and their larvae),earwigs, weevils, caterpillars, or cutworms.  Here is an extension page from The University of Arizona and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) that does a pretty good job of explaining about these critters.

Now, what do you do about them?  As a Master Gardener, I frown on chemicals in the garden, so here’s my solution.

You won’t see nocturnal insects in the daytime, because they are only out at night.  I don’t imagine you’d want to spend an hour or so out in the garden at night!  What you actually can do is trap them!  As explained, they hide out in the daytime in dark, humid places…so…

Get a newspaper and roll it up, putting it in the garden under the affected plant.  Then in the morning, take that paper and unroll it, and more than likely you’ll have a trove of night-time eaters napping their day away in that handy bed you provided!  Dump them (or the whole newspaper) into a bucket of soapy water and do it again, and again, until you don’t have so many any more.  Your plants will be happier…as will you!  You might be surprised at what you’ll capture!  Or, you can use a small board, just laying it in the garden overnight.  In the morning scrape off whatever you catch into a bucket of soapy water.  An up-ended flowerpot would also offer some temporary comfort for them.

This technique is a little labor intensive Sue, but I think the satisfaction of controlling a nasty insect without chemicals,will be it’s own reward!  Good luck and Happy Gardening!

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