The 2009 Oklahoma State Master Gardener Conference was held in Bartlesville last week. Conference topics included: Vegetable gardening, life in the soil, understanding chemicals, native plants, tree care, integrated pest management, and lawn care. The keynote speaker was Dr. Alan Stevens from Kansas State Horticulture Research Center.
Here are some of the things we learned in the sessions
Stevens said that the latest flowerbed and flowerpot design is a combination of colorful foliage plus flowers with foliage in the center of the design.
The Prairie Star program at Kansas State University has a website of plants that performed well over a 2-year period prairie conditions. The annual plants are listed at www.prairiestarflowers.com/. Perennials are at the Prairie Bloom link.
Brian Jervis from the Tulsa Master Gardening program pointed gardeners to Kelly Solutions (www.kellysolutions.com) for information on all things bugging your yard and garden.
At Kelly Solutions, gardeners can search for pesticide information on all 20 insecticides and 7 fungicides available
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strives to minimize harm to the environment by targeting a specific problem and using the least harmful solution.
Professor Tom Royer said that gardeners should learn the life cycle of insects, weeds and diseases. When we see a symptom such as a wilted leaf, we should scout to find out what caused the problem rather than reaching for a full-spectrum poison.
Royer also said that beneficial larvae eat more pests than adults. For example, lacewing, ladybug and hover fly larvae are better than adults at clearing the garden of harmful bugs.
Green manures, such as mustard crops, act as fumigants in the garden by enriching the soil, controlling weeds, bacteria, fungi and pests. (See http://www.csrees.usda.gov/nea/pest/pest.cfm).
Sue Gray from Tulsa Extension said they have had triple the usual number of requests for soil tests and home canning classes.
She said that an average home vegetable garden costs $70 to put in and yields an average of $350 in food.
OSU Fact Sheets to check out include: HL 6009 fall gardening, HLA6004 spring gardens, HLA6007 soil fertility, HLA6436 healthy garden soil, HLA6005 commercial vegetable varieties and HLA6000 fertilizing vegetables.
All the OSU Fact Sheets and information about the Master Gardener program are listed at http://www.hortla.okstate.edu/hortla/resources.htm.
Tidbits of advice from Gray’s talk:
Cucumbers grown on a trellis produce more fruit than those grown on the ground.
Garlic grows better in wide rows than in single rows.
Grow yardlong beans as a hot weather substitute for fresh green beans.
Interplant chives and onions with other vegetables.
Remove suckers from tomato plants up to the first flower.
Entomologist Dr. Carmen Greenwood, spoke about microscopic animals in the soil that live in microhabitats such as around plant roots.
One teaspoon of soil has 6 to 9 feet of fungal strand, up to a billion bacteria, as many as 200 bacterial feeders, 100 arthropods, 5 or more annelids, and thousands of protozoa.
They all work at breaking down organic matter and soil toxicity, are a source of carbon storage, control insects and improve the physical structure of the soil.
Box mites have 8 legs but can close into their shells like a turtle. Pill bugs or rollie pollies, are actually land-living crustaceans. Other crustaceans are lobsters and crabs.
Termites and earthworms are called soil ecosystem engineers because they can reshape a landscape.
Parasitic wasps help keep harmful insects out of the garden, even going into the soil looking for bugs.
Maureen Turner is the chief horticulturist for the Tulsa Zoo and Woodward Park. She provided information about native plants.
Turner's recommendations include Halesia Carolina, or Carolina silverbell that grows slowly to 30 feet tall and 25 feet wide. Also look for Eupatorium maculatum, Joe Pye Weed hybrids, for moist soils in half sun.