Fall chores

It’s time to get started

Those big yellow school buses have been lumbering along for well over a month now, so you know it is time to start getting your gardens ready for winter. This is a good time to work outside; the bugs are fewer and it’s not so cold that you’ll be miserable in an hour.

I recently did some pruning on my Japanese red maple trees. We all know that sugar maples pump sweet sap up from the ground in spring, but did you know that all maples send lots of liquid up in spring, even if not the sweet stuff? Because of that, spring is not a good time to prune. Now is a much better time.

I attended a pruning workshop in 2019 at Shin Boku Nursery in Wentworth. Palmer Koelb has been growing, pruning and selling trees trained in the Japanese tradition for over 50 years. Some of his nursery stock is several decades old, and all of it is beautiful.

One of the things I learned at that workshop is that Japanese red maples are best trained over time. It is better to do a little pruning every year or two than to wait 10 years and need to cut big branches. I was told that I should never use a saw on a Japanese red maple; apparently they don’t react well to removing big branches. Hand pruners are best.

So what did I do? I reined in the height of my trees. I like them to top out at around 8 feet, so I looked for skyward-growing branches and cut each back to a lower fork, one hidden in the foliage. I also removed extraneous foliage and small branches in the interior of the trees, opening up the center of the tree so that the interesting branch shapes are visible. These trees, by their very nature, are not dominated by a single straight trunk, and I want to see the structure of a tree. I remove clutter and rubbing branches.

‘Pink Diamond’ hydrangea blooms each year in the fall. Courtesy photo.

This is also a good time to shape all your hydrangeas and prune them to keep them to the size you like. If you want to develop a new hydrangea to be upright, this is a good time to prune out downward-growing branches, and even to stake up a central branch to be the “leader” growing upward.

I like to collect some flowers for drying indoors. Most of us cannot afford to buy flowers from a florist for the table each week, so picking blossoms now that look good in a dry vase is a good alternative. All the hydrangeas will provide lovely blossoms now, so long as you pick them before frost, which causes them to turn brown.

My favorite hydrangea is one called Pink Diamond. It produces lots of big pointy flower panicles that start out white and turn to pink. In a dry vase the pink will fade a little but stay quite pink all winter, as will other hydrangeas. The stems on Pink Diamond are stiff and upright on the bush and don’t flop the way some others like Annabelle do when rained on.

Unlike lilacs and forsythia, hydrangeas are late-season bloomers so you do not lose any blossoms next year if you prune now. They bloom on stems that grow in the spring. I like to leave some blossoms on all winter to remind me that summer will get here eventually.

Grasses and grains are blooming now and can look good in a dry vase too. I grew an annual grain this year called black millet and I recently picked some stems and put them in a dry vase. Millet produces small seeds on narrow “cobs” much like corn, but without the outer leaves. It is found in bird seed mixes, and I ate it as a gruel when serving in the Peace Corps in West Africa. This year I bought some plants at a nursery, but I will start plenty from seed next year. Purple Majesty is probably the name of the variety I planted.

Black millet works well in a dry vase. Courtesy photo.

I’ve been potting up annual plants I want to bring in before winter, rather than waiting until the afternoon before the first hard frost. I potted up some Diamond Frost euphorbia that I bought in small pots last spring and planted in the ground. This is a delightful plant that has tiny white blossoms all summer. As a “Proven Winner” plant, it is trademarked and is not sold by seed.

Diamond Frost makes a nice house plant that continues to bloom indoors all winter. It prefers a bright windowsill but will survive most anywhere so long as you remember to water it regularly. Then in the spring it can go outdoors again — and at no expense.

Each fall I dig up at least one rosemary plant and bring it indoors. I like to do this early in the fall so that it can get used to being in a pot while sitting in the garden in just the same place it was in the ground. This lets it have fewer changes in its environment at a time. Later I will wash it well with a hose in order to get rid of any aphids or other pests before bringing it indoors.

Don’t use any fertilizer now for any houseplants coming inside. A plastic pot or an enameled one will keep moisture in better than an unglazed clay pot, so if you are a lazy waterer, select them.

Raking the leaves can wait till later, after all the leaves have fallen. But go outside and start chipping away at the chores on nice days, even if it means playing hooky from work.

Featured photo: This Japanese red maple was full of clutter before pruning. Courtesy photo.

Kiddie Pool 21/10/14

Family fun for the weekend

Early tricks and treats

Charmingfare Farm (774 High St. in Candia; visitthefarm.com) will begin three weekends of its Children’s Trick or Treat program this weekend, Saturday, Oct. 16, and Sunday, Oct. 17. Reserve tickets online for the event, which will feature candy stops (kids are encouraged to wear costumes), costumed characters, a witch in the woods, visits with the barnyard animals and Halloween-themed juggling. For an extra fee, pumpkin-decorating kits (with sugar pumpkin) and pony rides are also available. Tickets cost $22 (23 months old and under get in free).

Fun with science

• SEE Science Center (200 Bedford St. in Manchester; see-sciencecenter.org, 669-0400) is holding a Whiz Bang Weekend on Saturday, Oct. 16, and Sunday, Oct. 17, to celebrate National Chemistry Week, according to the website. The weekend will include chemistry demonstrations and hands-on activities. The center will also begin its monthly Science Sprouts program for preschoolers with an hour-long science class on Saturday, Oct. 16, at 1 p.m. The class costs an additional $3. Register for center admission online; tickets cost $10 for everyone ages 3 and over (free for younger children). Two-hour admission blocks are available at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.

• The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (2 Institute Dr. in Concord; starhop.com, 271-7827) will host monthly activities and presentations about the University of New Hampshire at Manchester’s Novel Methods of Antibiotic Discovery in Space (NoMADS) program, starting with an event Saturday, Oct. 16, at 10:30 a.m. According to a Center press release, Team Cooke, a research team at UNHM led by Dr. Sue Cooke, is sending the NoMADS experiment to the International Space Station, and the presentations at McAuliffe-Shepard will be connected to their research and include a look at bacteria in petri dishes and hands-on engineering challenges. Admission to the center costs $11.50 for adults, $8.50 for children ages 3 to 12, and $10.50 for seniors and students. The center offers two time slots for admission: 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 1:30 to 4 p.m., according to the website, where you can reserve your time in advance.

On the screen

The Tim Burton-directed black-and-white animated movie Frankenweenie (PG, 2012) will screen Sunday, Oct. 17, at 7 p.m. at the Rex Theatre (23 Amherst St. in Manchester; palacetheatre.org). The movie follows a young Victor Frankenstein zapping his late but still beloved dog Sparky back to life. Common Sense Media recommends the movie for ages 9 and up. Tickets cost $12 and some of the proceeds benefit Motley Mutts Rescue.

Winter storage

Tips for putting away veggies

Like any industrious squirrel, I am getting food stored and ready for winter. Even if your vegetable garden is depleted, you can buy things in bulk from your local farm stand now to save for winter.

Each type of veggie has its own requirements. Some like a cool space with high humidity. Others want it cool and dry. Then there are a few, like sweet potatoes, that require a warm space and suffer in the cold. Let’s take a look.

Storing is the easiest and cheapest way of keeping veggies for a few months. Winter squash store well in a cool dry location such as under the bed in a spare, unheated bedroom. Drafty old farmhouses have plenty of good places to store them, along with cardboard boxes of onions and garlic. I’ve stored a blue Hubbard squash (which has a very thick skin) for up to a year without any problems. But they will rot in a high-humidity area.

Potatoes, carrots, kohlrabi, rutabagas, celeriac or celery root, turnips and parsnips will store for months at 35 to 50 degrees with high humidity. You can do that in a spare fridge, preferably in a drawer that keeps humidity in it. Or put them in zipper bags and punch a few breathing holes in the bags. You can put an inch of moist sand in a bucket, and store carrots in the garage if it stays cold but not frigid. Keep a lid on the bucket, and check from time to time. Rodents love carrots and potatoes, so you can’t store them in an open container.

I built a “cold cellar” for storing potatoes in my cold basement that often has temperatures below freezing. I made a bin of cement blocks, two layers high, and covered it with an insulated plywood lid. I weighted the lid to be sure mice could not sneak in. I put a heat mat in the bottom to use if temperatures neared freezing in the box.

A full-sized freezer is a good investment. Among other things, tomatoes, corn, broccoli, beans, peppers, kale and fruit store well in a freezer. I freeze them in freezer-grade zipper bags. You can suck the excess air out of the bag with a drinking straw by closing the seal up to the straw, then pulling it out quickly and snapping shut while still sucking on the straw.

Freezing is a time-honored process for storing food. Some veggies need to be blanched before freezing to keep them tasty. Blanching is a quick immersion in boiling water before freezing. It kills the aging enzymes in your vegetables, keeping them fresh-tasting longer. If you know you will eat your frozen things within 3 months, don’t bother with it. I recommend blanching beans, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, corn, kale, peaches, squash and Swiss chard. I freeze apples, peppers and tomatoes without blanching.

If you blanch, just do it for 60 seconds, which is often even before the water has come back to a full boil. Use lots of water in a big pot, and not too many veggies. There are special pots sold for blanching. They have an inner pot with holes that help you lift the veggies out of the water quickly.

If you blanch veggies too long they will be mushy. Drop the blanched veggies in a sink of cold water, spin dry in a salad spinner, and blot with a cloth dish towel. Then bag and freeze.

I also dehydrate foods, notably tomatoes, hot peppers, apples and pears. You can buy a good dehydrator like the ones made by Nesco American Harvest for somewhere under $150. Or you can buy the Cadillac of dryers and get an Excalibur for $300 or more. Those use less energy and dry the food evenly without having to rotate the trays.

Dehydrating is great for hot peppers: I dry them until they are brittle, then grind them in my coffee bean grinder. That way I have a powder I can add to soups or stews a little at a time and that is well-distributed. And I dry cherry tomatoes cut in half; I use them in soups and stews. They offer a bite of summer.

I also make tomato paste and freeze it in ice cube trays. I often do this with imperfect tomatoes: I cut out the bad parts and put the rest in a Cuisinart to blend them into a loose “soup” that I then cook down slowly in a big enameled cast iron pot. When I can literally stand a spoon up in the mix, it is done. Having a supply of tomato paste is essential for cooking, and I like that I don’t have to open a can when I need just a little.

If you have an apple tree you probably have already made some applesauce this year. It freezes well and is always tasty. But have you made cider? You don’t need to buy a cider press. I bring apples to my local orchard and ask them to press and bottle the juice. Be sure to tell your orchardist that you are freezing it and to leave an inch of space for expansion. They will charge you a fee, but it is well worth it for the satisfaction of having your own cider in winter.

Lastly, have you thought of making sauerkraut? Cabbages are easy to grow — or inexpensive to buy at your local farm stand. If you want to learn the basics just Google my name and “sauerkraut.” I wrote a full article on it in 2015 and it is available online along with book recommendations for in-depth learning.

One last bit of advice: Don’t freeze or store any veggies or fruit that are not perfect. Freezing rotten food does not make it better! And you will not want to eat it later if you don’t want to eat it now!

Featured photo: Buy potatoes now and save for a winter meal. Courtesy photo.

Kiddie Pool 21/10/07

Family fun for the weekend

Fall fun

This week’s cover story (starting on page 10) looks at the pumpkin fun on offer this weekend — from pumpkin festivals to pumpkin picking. And of course apple picking is still a tasty long-weekend option; find our listing of some area orchards in the Sept. 16 issue of the Hippo (find the e-edition at hippopress.com; the apple story starts on page 13). Also in that issue is rundown of some area corn mazes (see page 12).

Some farms are adding something extra to their offerings this weekend, a three- or even four-day weekend for some area schools. Beans and Greens Farm (245 Intervale Road, Gilford; beansandgreensfarm.com, 293-2853) is holding a Harvest Festival Weekend, featuring their large corn maze, munchkin corn maze (for ages 5 and under), pumpkin maze, barnyard animals, live entertainment, pumpkin carving contest, family games and more, according to the website. Saturday, Oct. 9, the farm will hold an all-you-can-eat farm-to-table brunch; cost is $29.95 for adults, $19.95 for kids ages 5 to 11 and free for children 4 and under. See the website for tickets and times.

Applecrest Farm (133 Exeter Road, Hampton Falls; 926-3721, applecrest.com) is holding an Indigenous People’s Day Weekend Festival & Great Pumpkin Carve with live music daily (Monadnock Bluegrass Band on Oct. 9, Unsung Heroes on Oct. 10 and Bolt Hill Band on Oct. 11) and the Great Pumpkin Carve on Sunday, Oct. 10.

Coppal House Farm (118 N. River Road, Lee; 659-3572, nhcornmaze.com) will hold its second of three Flashlight Night Mazes at its corn maze on Saturday, Oct. 9, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tickets cost $12 per person for everyone age 5 and up (4 and under gets in free).

One of the pumpkin festivals on this weekend’s schedule is in Somersworth (see page 13 for details). Stick around afterward for Celebrate Somersworth, which will run from 5 to 8 p.m. at Somersworth High School, which will feature music, food, rides, demonstrations and displays from the police and fire departments and fireworks, according to a press release.

Museum happenings

The Currier Museum of Art (150 Ash St., Manchester; currier.org, 669-6144) will be open this Monday, Oct. 11, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as the usual schedule of Thursday through Sunday (also from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with Art After Work on Thursdays running from 5 to 8 p.m.). Admission to the museum costs $15 for adults, $13 for 65+, $10 for students and $5 for youth (ages 13 to 17); kids ages 12 and under get in for free. Everybody can get in free Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m., and this Saturday, Oct. 9, New Hampshire residents can get in for free. There will also be a free craft — a WPA mural-inspired collage about New Hampshire nature — in the Creative Studio and family tours of the exhibit “WPA in New Hampshire: Philip Guston & Musa McKim.”

The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (2 Institute Drive, Concord; starhop.com, 271-7827) will also be open on Monday, Oct. 11. Hours Friday through this Monday are 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1:30 to 4 p.m. Reserve tickets online; admission costs $11.50 for adults, $10.50 for students and seniors, $8.50 for children (ages 3 to 12) and admission is free for ages 2 and under.


Asian jumping worms take over

After decades of improving my garden soil, I have an infestation of Asian jumping worms. They can eat all the organic material in the soil, depleting it terribly. These foreign invaders multiply more quickly than our common worms, outcompeting them. Everything I have read about them says they are bad news for gardeners.

Scientists are working on organic solutions to the Asian jumping worm problem. I was able to phone Brad Herrick, a researcher at University of Wisconsin who has been studying them for years. He explained that although they came to the United States nearly 100 years ago, the worms are spreading rapidly, now infesting 37 states. Their worst impact may be in the forest: they eat dead leaves and forest duff, potentially creating a soil devoid of the organic matter that nourishes native wildflowers and trees. The soil can become sterile.

To see if you have them, start at a shady, mulched bed — that is where they like it best. Pull back leaves or mulch on your soil. The worms are surface feeders, living in the top inch or two of the soil, and readily seen on the soil surface. Touch one and it moves fast, wiggling and moving — quite a contrast to our relatively sluggish ordinary worms. The soil in infested areas often looks like it has coffee grounds spilled on the soil — which are their castings or excrement.

The clitellum that produces the egg sacs or cocoons is a whitish band near the head end of the worm. This contrasts with our common worms, which have a reddish-brown clitellum that is usually a bit raised.

Brad Herrick explained that unlike the earthworms we know and love, these guys can reproduce asexually, so even one worm can start an infestation. But they also spread when the cocoons, which sit on the soil surface, are washed away by rains. This allows them to expand their territory quickly, especially on hillsides.

How did I get them? I don’t know. They may have arrived when I bought plants for a new flower bed. I know my source of compost and know it has been heated sufficiently to kill all the weed seeds, so that would have killed any cocoons, too. And I see none of the worms in my purchased compost pile. But I had work done on my septic system, and soil was brought in.

According to Brad, freezing temperatures kill all the adult worms each winter. Unfortunately, it does not kill the eggs, which over-winter and start the cycle again. The eggs hatch once the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees, perhaps in April or May. He said it takes 70 to 90 days to reach maturity, at which point they start producing eggs; they continue to produce eggs from late June until frost.

So what can you do? If you have a new infestation you can try removing them by hand. Scientists often use a solution of yellow mustard powder in water to get worms to come to the surface. One third cup per gallon of water. But if you have a large area, that might not be practical. The best time to do this is in early summer before new worms have reached maturity.

Brad said you can heat the soil to kill the worms by solarizing it with clear plastic. Worms — and castings — will self-destruct at 104 degrees for three days, perhaps less. Unfortunately, that will not work in forests or shady beds, which is where I have them.

The worms can live in sunny beds if they are mulched. In fact, Brad told me, the worms have an enzyme that allows them to eat wood mulch. I wonder if mulching with peastone or small gravel instead of bark mulch or leaves might help to reduce the problem. If they run out of food, they may well die out. That theory has not been tested, and you may not like the look of a stone mulch. If you do this, please let me know if it helps.

My worm problem so far exists only in one large shady area. Here’s my plan: After frost I will rake off leaves and mulch (and collect and destroy any worms I see). Worms are usually within an inch or two of the surface. I will treat those leaves as toxic waste as they probably will have cocoons in them, which I don’t want to get into my compost pile

Hopefully I can burn my rakings in the driveway to destroy the leaves and cocoons. Then I will cut back all my perennials and go over the area with a flame weeder. This is a torch attached to an 8-gallon propane tank that sends out a big flame. That should burn up the cocoons on the soil surface. Flame weeders are available from Johnny’s Selected Seeds or Fedco seeds.

Brad told me of a product, BotaniGard, that contains a fungus that is listed for use to kill the worms. However, according to a University of Vermont study I read, it is only about 70 percent effective in a lab setting. That is not good enough for me, especially since even a solitary worm can produce viable eggs. And it sells for $90 a pound.

When buying nursery stock, look for coffee grounds on the surface of the pot, and when removing the root ball, look for worms. If you see either, do not plant it, and report the problem to the seller. Check purchased compost for worms, too. Clean your tools and shoes if working in beds with worms — the egg cocoons are tiny and not visible to the naked eye.

Featured photo: Jumping worms usually have a white clitellum and move fast when disturbed. Courtesy photo.

Kiddie Pool 21/09/30

Family fun for the weekend

Day on the farm

Charmingfare Farm (774 High St. in Candia; visitthefarm.com) kicks off its two-weekend Pumpkin Festival this weekend. The event runs Saturday, Oct. 2, and Sunday, Oct. 3, and then the following weekend (Columbus Day weekend, when some area schools have a three- or four-day weekend) from Saturday, Oct 9, through Monday, Oct. 11. Tickets cost $22 per person (for everyone 24 months old and older). The event includes tractor- and horse-drawn wagon rides, pumpkin picking, pumpkin art, costumed characters, pony rides and live music. Purchase tickets online for the specific day and time.

Throughout October and November you can sign up for horse trail rides. The cost is $69 per person. Reserve an hour of time on Saturdays or Sundays with slots available at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. The ride itself is 45 minutes long with 15 minutes of basic instruction, safety guidelines and getting up on the horse, according to the website. The horse trail rides are open to children 10 years and older (an adult must accompany kids under 18), riders can not exceed 270 pounds and the horses are kept at a walk (no trotting or cantering) and are good for beginner riders, the website said.

Applecrest Farm Orchards (133 Exeter Road in Hampton Falls; 926-3721, applecrest.com) holds its Harvest Festival on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will feature apple and pumpkin picking, live music, a corn maze, tractor rides, an opportunity to visit the barnyard animals, food for purchase and more. This Saturday will be the Great Pumpkin Carve, when a master carver works on an 800-pound jack-o’-lantern, according to the website. The live music scheduled for this weekend includes Unsung Heroes on Saturday and Back Woods Road Band on Sunday.

• Get a photo with one of the draft horses at Coppal House Farm (118 N. River Road in Lee; 659-3572, nhcornmaze.com) on Saturday, Oct. 2, from 1 to 3 p.m. The farm’s corn maze is open Monday, Thursday and Friday from noon to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission costs $9 (for everyone 13 years old and older) and $7 for children ages 5 to 12.

• Lavoies Farm (172 Nartoff Road in Hollis; 882-0072, lavoiesfarm.com) is holding its harvest weekends, with hayrides and corn boils (from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) along with pick your own apples and pumpkins and a corn maze. The farm is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• Head to Scamman Farm (69 Portsmouth Ave. in Stratham; 6868-1258, scammanfarm.com) on Fridays in October for a night in the corn maze. The night maze runs from 6 to 9 p.m. (with the last admittance at 8:30 p.m.), according to the website, which recommends bringing a flashlight. Head back on Saturday, Oct. 2, for Doggie Day, when dogs are allowed at the farm and in the corn maze. The maze is generally open Monday and Wednesday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; admission costs $9 ($7 for kids ages 5 to 12 and for seniors; kids under 5 get in free with a paid adult).

• The Educational Farm at Joppa Hill (174 Joppa Hill Road in Bedford; efjh.org, 472-4724) will hold a Family Trail Run on Sunday, Oct. 3, starting at 10 a.m. Registration costs $20 per person and runs through Oct. 1. The run is described as a “family friendly 2-mile trail loop that begins and ends at the Educational Farm at Joppa Hill,” according to the website. The race itself starts at 11a.m.; after the race there will be a fall fair with activities, lunch, live music and more, the website said.

What monarchs want

A few flowers that attract butterflies

Monarchs are on the move! It is time for their long trip to Mexico to spend the winter. And like marathon runners, they need to bulk up on calories before the event. You may have let a patch of milkweed grow on the edges of your property to support them. That is great, and many of us have done that. But the milkweed plants are for the caterpillars to munch on. Right now they offer nothing to monarchs. Our monarchs need blooming flowers for nectar and pollen.

Of the monarchs I see floating around my gardens, three plants seem most attractive to them for feeding right now: Joe Pye weed, goldenrods and asters. Let’s look at these and their garden worthiness.

Joe Pye weed is a native wildflower that likes stream edges and places with good moisture, though it will grow almost anywhere it is planted. It is a big plant, often 5 or 6 feet tall in the wild. It is a clumping plant, with the clumps getting bigger every year.

It is readily found in plant nurseries, although most sold are a named cultivar, one called “Gateway.” I have found that Gateway blooms longer and does better in a vase than the truly wild ones that have popped up along my stream. There is now a smaller Joe Pye that is called “Little Joe” that only gets to be 3 to 4 feet tall. It is a patented variety that does not breed true, and is actually a different species in the same genus, Eupatorium dubium. Then there is one called “Baby Joe,” but I have not yet tried either one.

The flowers of Joe Pye weed are a light purple and appear in large panicles at the top of the plant. The stems of Gateway are a deep purple, though the wild ones tend to be greener. Plant Joe Pye weed where you want it as the fibrous roots go deep into the soil, and when firmly established they are nearly impossible to dig out.

‘Fireworks’ goldenrod is commonly sold in nurseries now. Courtesy photo.

Goldenrods are a wonderful though frequently maligned genus of plants. For many years they were prohibited in arrangements in the flower room at our county fair, as it was believed they caused hay fever. They do not. They have a heavy, sticky pollen that does not fly in the air but is transported by insects. There are at least 20 species of native goldenrods, including some that prefer shade, while others demand full sun.

Goldenrods are important not only for monarch butterflies but also for many butterflies, moths, bees and other pollinators. And yes, some of the big, sun-loving species will expand their territory and send tenacious roots deep into the soil, even muscling out some dainty perennials.

Years ago I purchased some blue-stemmed goldenrod at The Garden in the Woods in Framingham, Massachusetts. I grow it in dry shade and in rich soil in moist shade. It has never been a pest or traveled around my garden beds, staying just where I planted it, blooming in September and into October. It is quite dainty.

My favorite goldenrod is a variety called “Fireworks” of the speciesSolidago rugosa. It prefers full sun and moist soil, but I have also grown it in part sun and fairly dry soil. Its flowers are tiny, blooming first at the tips and working their way down the 3- to 4-foot stems. The stems arch gracefully like a fireworks display. They can be divided every three to four years to keep the clumps to a manageable size and to increase (or share) them.

All the asters and aster-family flowers are great for monarchs and other butterflies. Scientists don’t call the genus aster any more, but Symphyotrichum, which is a shame as it is much less user-friendly.

There are at least 30 species of asters that grow wild in America, including many nice shade-loving ones that are certainly uprooted as weeds by tidy gardeners long before they bloom now, in the fall.

Asters have flowers with many rays and a bright yellow eye. They range from deep purple to white, along with pink and a light blue. All are quite tough, surviving any winter thrown at them.

Similar to asters, and a plant I just saw visited by a hungry monarch, is New York ironweed. It has smaller, deep purple blossoms in big clusters at the top of stems that can reach 9 feet tall.

According to Tracy DiSabato Aust in her fabulous book, The Well-Tended Perennial Garden, shorter, later-blooming plants can be created by cutting back all the stems to the ground when they reach 2 feet tall. I shall certainly try that next spring. I moved mine from moist soil to dry soil in partial shade partly because it got too tall in the full sun.

If you care about your monarchs, plant native plants. Native plants are much more useful to pollinators and wild animals than plants imported from other continents. Many of the native plants are just as beautiful and pleasing to me in the garden, and hopefully they are to you, too.

Featured photo: Monarch feeding on New York ironweed. Courtesy photo.

Kiddie Pool 21/09/23

Family fun for the weekend

Another fair weekend

• The Granite State Fair, which kicked off last weekend, continues Thursday, Sept. 23, through Sunday, Sept. 26, at 72 Lafayette St. in Rochester. The fair and midway open at 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday; the fair opens at 10 a.m. and the midway opens at noon on Saturday and Sunday, according to granitestatefair.com, where you can buy tickets and find directions. Admission costs $10; kids 8 and under get in free. Shows, ride passes, parking and more require separate tickets, which are also available online (where you can find height requirements for the rides, in case you’re trying to figure out which kids are tall enough for which rides). One event to consider: Circus Hollywood, with shows at 5 and 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 23, and Friday, Sept. 25; at 2, 5 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, and at 2 and 5 p.m. on Sunday. General admission is included, or get a ringside premium box for $15 (each box allows up to four guests), according to the website.

Another festival weekend

• Beaver Brook Association (117 Ridge Road in Hollis; 465-7787, beaverbrook.org) will hold its 40th annual Fall Festival and Nature Art Show this weekend — Saturday, Sept. 25, and Sunday, Sept. 26, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The celebration has events for all ages; for the kids, there’s a children’s art exhibit, a petting farm and children’s nature crafts, according to the website.

• We’re still in the thick of Old Home Day season and this weekend the Sandown Old Home Day Fall Festival will come to Sandlot Sports (56 North Road in Sandown) with events Friday, Sept. 24, through Sunday, Sept. 26. Saturday, Sept. 25, is the big day with games and a bouncy house and mini steam train rides from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; a coloring contest station from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; a bungee jump from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; face painting from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; cow plop bingo at noon and a pie eating contest at 2 p.m. There will also be a bike parade at 9 a.m. and live music from about 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., when fireworks are scheduled, according to the event’s Facebook page. On Sunday, check out fire and police station tours, the schedule said.

• DeMeritt Hill Farm (20 Orchard Way in Lee; 862-2111, demeritthillfarm.com) will hold its Harvest Weekend this Saturday, Sept. 25, and Sunday, Sept. 26, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both days. The schedule includes pumpkin painting, guessing games, food sampling and more, according to the website. The farm also offers hay rides on the weekends ($2 per person) and is in the thick of its pick your own apple season. (For more places doing pick your own apples, check out our “Farm Fun” cover story in last week’s (Sept. 16) issue of the Hippo, which features stories on upcoming agricultural fairs, apple picking and corn mazes. See hippopress.com and scroll down for the e-edition of the paper. The stories start on page 10.)

• J&F Farms (124 Chester Road in Derry; 437-0535) is offering a Fall Hayride on Saturday, Sept. 25, with ticketed times at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. The cost is $10 per person and includes a hayride to the pick your own pumpkin patch, cider doughnuts, a petting zoo and more, according to the farm’s Facebook page. Find tickets via a link to an eventbrite page on the Facebook page.

Put up a wall

How to build hedges and fences

While vacationing recently on the Maine coast I admired many nice gardens. Many of them had hedges or fences, more than I am used to seeing in rural New Hampshire.

When settlers first arrived in New England they dug out stones left by the glaciers some 10,000 years before. They piled them up to clear farm fields, and began making stone walls to define property borders and to contain animals — or to keep them out. Gradually dry stone wallers learned how to make them look good and last forever.

Building a stone wall or retaining wall is hard work, and expensive to have someone else build. If you want to build your own, remember three things: First, the soil moves in winter as it freezes and thaws. This can make walls tumble if not properly built. Wallers have learned to add drainage under and around a wall: at least a foot of one-inch crushed stone in a trench beneath the wall works well. Round pebbles will act as ball bearings would, allowing stones to move.

Each stone should touch four others, two below it, two above it. Stones should not be stacked one on top of another, much the way bricks are laid. This helps to tie it all together and prevent movement.

Lastly, use a long string to keep the wall straight and level. Or if you are creating a curved wall, define it carefully before starting. You can place a garden hose on the soil to help define the curve.

Early settlers also made wattle fences. I talked to Crow Boutin, who makes his living making wattle fences in the Kennebunk area of Maine. These fences are simple: He cuts lengths of fresh yellow birch that are 1 to 2 inches in diameter. First he makes “pencils” that he drives in the ground with a hammer after he cuts them to length and sharpens them with an ax. Then he weaves pieces of birch 8 to 10 feet long between the vertical pencils that he spaces about 16 inches apart. The tension of the bent stems holds the fence in place. Simple? You bet, and something you could try.

But why do people need fences or hedges? Some are just for the looks, or to create a backdrop for flowers. Others are to keep others from looking into the yard, or to keep animals in (or out). Let’s take a look at a few I saw.

The nicest fences I saw were white picket fences. Maybe I like them because my grandfather had one, and I remember it from my youth. They show off flowers well, and allow climbers to climb on them. But generally you have to pay someone to install them, and, as Tom Sawyer knew, you must paint them from time to time. Now these fences come in a variety of materials including fiberglass or plastic that needs no painting.

Living fences — hedges — come in a variety of species. Evergreen hedges like yew or arborvitae can look good summer and winter, but are often eaten by deer. Hemlock and pine are less likely to be predated by deer, but they will grow to 60 feet tall unless they are trimmed every year and most somehow escape and do get tall.

Rugosa roses are commonly used as hedges on the Maine coast. They will grow in sandy soil and produce copious fragrant flowers and handsome red fruits in the fall. But they look bedraggled over time, and aren’t green in winter. Their thorns do keep people and pets from cutting corners through the yard.

Lilacs look great when blooming and have handsome green leaves eight or nine months of the year, but do little to block the view of your house and yard in winter. They do best in sweet soil, so add limestone every year or three to keep them blooming nicely. Lilacs, too, need trimming or they can get gangly.

The split rail fence is generally made of cedar, which lasts a long time — up to 20 years. It creates a rustic look, but neither keeps animals out nor blocks the nosy neighbor’s view. It will keep cars from parking on your lawn, and can support vines like roses or clematis.

Less common fences include stockade fences, which are tall wooden fences that block all view of the yard. These are what you need if you like to sunbathe nude in the garden and have a near neighbor. Definitely not a friendly signal to neighbors. Iron rail fences, wire fences and chain link fences all have their uses, but I can’t imagine having one installed.

Lastly, there is the deer fence. Many gardeners use them in order to grow vegetables, or to have tulips in the spring. Nowadays there are woven plastic fences that are inexpensive and come in 8-foot widths that work well to keep out deer. You can install them yourself on posts or stakes you cut in the forest. They work — unless you leave the gate open! Me? I have depended on having dogs to scare away the wildlife for many years. They did the job well, though I am now looking to adopt a dog as my corgi, Daphne, passed away a year ago. And I love dogs, too, which I can’t say for fences.

Featured photo: You could build this simple wattle fence. Photo courtesy of Henry Homeyer.

Kiddie Pool 21/09/16

Family fun for the weekend


• As you may have read on page 24 of last week’s Hippo (find the e-edition at hippopress.com) or on page 9 of this week’s issue, this weekend is the Granite State Comicon 2021. The Con will run Saturday, Sept. 18, and Sunday, Sept. 19, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Downtown (at 700 Elm St.). Kids under 8 get in free with adult admission (which costs $25 on Saturday, $20 on Sunday and $40 for a weekend pass). Organizers for Kids Con New England (which is returning to in-person cons with a Kids Con in Portland, Maine, in November and in May 2022 in Concord) will have a setup in the Fan Zone during the convention. See the full program for GraniteCon at granitecon.com.

Meeting of the makers

• See the hobbies and inventions of the makers at the NH Maker & Food Fest at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (6 Washington St. in Dover; childrens-museum.org, 742-2002) on Saturday, Sept. 18, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. People with a variety of experiments, creations and hobbies will show off their work at this event, which will also feature food trucks and food vendors. Admission is pay-what-you-can (suggested donation of $5), according to the website.

Town celebrations

Derryfest will run Saturday, Sept. 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at MacGregor Park on East Broadway. The day will feature kids activities, live animals, demonstrations and performances by local groups throughout the day, food and more. See derryfest.org.

• Head to Pelham’s Old Home Day for a parade, food trucks and chicken poop bingo on Saturday, Sept. 18, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. The day kicks off with a pancake breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m., craft fair vendors open at 9 a.m., a cornhole tournament starts at noon and the parade steps off at 2:30 p.m., according to pelhamoldhomeday.org, which also explains chicken poop bingo — it features a chicken pooping every hour throughout the day, and if the poo lands on the square corresponding to the number you’ve picked, you win prize money. Kid-specific amusements include face painting, touch a truck, inflatable ax throwing and more, the website said.

• The annual Fall Equinox Festival hosted by TEAM Exeter will run 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18, at Swasey Parkway. The day will feature food vendors and live music as well as kids activities and artist vendors, according to teamexeter.com, which suggests a $10 donation per person or $20 per family.

Movie time

• See Indiana Jones in his first (and best) adventure, Raiders of the Lost Ark (PG, 1981), on Friday Sept. 17, in Wasserman Park (116 Naticook Road in Merrimack) as part of the town’s summer movies in the park. The screening starts at dusk and the films are free and open to residents and nonresidents, according to the town’s Parks and Recreation website.

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