Get Ready…Get Set…Garden! 2013

This year’s trip to Baraboo for Get Ready…Get Set…Garden! is part of our continuing education. I talked about this particular educational opportunity in last year’s Get Ready…Get Set…Garden! post. The sessions are hosted by the Sauk County UW Extension, which actually puts on a substantial number of events during the year. Our itinerary for this year consisted of container bag gardening techniques, growing small fruits (strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries), and gardening with aches and pains (essentially a session on dealing with accessibility needs for gardeners).

The first session discussed container bag gardening and the advantages it offers over using buckets or over-sized pots to hold your garden on the patio. Every year Rebecca puts together a wonderful salad garden for me. Of special interest are the cherry and salad tomatoes. If I need a snack, I simply go outside, enjoy the flower garden she has put together for me, and munch a few tomatoes-nothing could be better than that. However, we had always wondered whether there might be something more that we could do. This year’s sessions shows that we can. However, instead of using the really expensive gardening bags that the instructor promoted as part of her business, we plan to use feed sacks. They’ll perform the same function and only cost a fraction of the amount (a bag large enough to grow tomatoes costs $22.00 if you go the garden bag route, the same size feed bag is free since we get them as part of buying feed for our animals). I’ll post again sometime later this year to let you know how the garden bags work.

We have also had a lot of problems growing blueberries, despite ensuring the ground is acid enough for them. It turns out that we have been doing a few things wrong-the most important of which is that we haven’t been watering our blueberries enough. It seems that they require almost boggy conditions to grow acceptably. Equipped with our new knowledge, we’re going to give blueberries another try this summer. One of the problems with gardening is that you aren’t likely to get the technique right on the first try, or the second, or the third. There are some people who think gardening is science. Well, that’s partially correct, but it’s also part art. Sometimes you just need to feel your way through a growing experience. The garden is looking great at the minute and I’m currently looking at storage buildings in PA as I need somewhere to store my tools and to put my feet up at the end of a rough day! I’m thinking of putting the building next to my allotment so that it’s looking out onto a nice view. I’m not 100% sure yet though!

Unfortunately, our instructor didn’t arrive for the third session. Someone with the UW Extension did fill in, but I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed because I was really looking forward to getting quite a lot out of this third class. As Rebecca and I get older, it would be nice to know about a few of the things we could do to make our gardening experience better. Even so, I must applaud the UW Extension instructor for getting up and giving an impromptu discussion on a topic that she hadn’t prepared for without any preparation time. To simply get up and start talking would be one thing-to do it exceptionally well given the circumstances is nothing short of amazing. I also plan to post again on some thoughts I garnered on meeting accessibility requirements for gardening.

There are some benighted people who think that education ends when you leave high school or college. Education is a lifelong endeavor. Gaining new knowledge and then turning it into wisdom adds spice and keeps our minds fit. Whether your intellectual love is technical, natural, or in some other realm, take time to embrace it by furthering your education. Let me know your thoughts on continuing education at


Enjoying the Flowered Woods

I always find the springtime woods inviting. All of the flowers are amazing! Unfortunately, I don’t know the names of every flower out there, even though I’m sure that someone has named them at some point. Every spring does bring back a few friends, such as the cranesbill geranium:


The berry brambles produce a riot of flowers too. The gooseberries, black caps (black raspberries), and red raspberries have already bloomed and set fruit. However, the blackberries are only now putting out blossoms and the initial burst of flowers portends a wonderful summer of berry picking.


I can taste the berries now. Our entire woods is packed with berry brambles. There are times when I can pick two or three gallons of berries in a single day. In fact, the limiting factor is usually the amount of time I have to pick, rather than the number of available berries. Everyone eats the berries during the summer months, including both birds and squirrels (oddly enough). There is no doubt in my mind that other forest creatures benefit from the berries too.

Sometimes the woods offers up something special. In times past, I’ve encountered bloodwort (bloodroot) and mayapples. Both plants were used for medicinal purposes in the past. The mayapple fruit is edible in small quantities as long as you know when to pick it. The fruit must ripen on the plant and must be completely yellow. The leaves can be used to make an effective insecticide when boiled, allowed to cool, and then sprayed.

This year we were treated to something special, a jack-in-the-pulpit. It showed up right above the rock garden at the very edge of the woods, so Rebecca was the first to spot it. I must admit that it’s a bit hard to see. We’re fortunate that this one came up so close that we can enjoy it each year. In fact, Rebecca plans to extend the rock garden to include our new addition.


Of course, there is a lot more to see in the woods and I hope to be able to take time to enjoy it all. Do you have a woods near to you? If so, do you ever get to enjoy all of the beauty it contains? Let me know at