Volume 2 Issue 1 | January 2021
A new year full of gardening possibilities. Bring on 2021!
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Look Around
Crisp air, blue skies, intermingling tree silhouettes. Winter reveals the bones of the plant world as bare tree canopies expose the branching structure, shape, and bark characteristics of trees and shrubs. This is the time to appreciate the differences and drill down on what makes each tree unique and beautiful.
Some trees are readily identifiable from their bark. We see our old friend, the beech tree, with its elephant-like smooth gray bark, and the sycamore with its camouflage patches of white, brown, tan and gray. Other trees delight us with their exfoliating bark (bark that naturally peels away from the trunk). We all know the white, peeling bark of the birch tree, and the shagbark hickory is hard to miss, but are you familiar with the lovely cinnamon colored exfoliating bark of the river birch? The paperbark maple is a slow-growing tree, but so worth the wait when we see its exfoliating orange-cinnamon bark (see article below). Our native wild cherry trees are easy to spot. When young their bark is gray with distinct horizontal lines, and ages to a scaly, dark gray to black color.
Winter’s bare tree branches reveal the different tree silhouettes and shapes. We see that white oaks are round while pin oaks are oval. The beeches spread out from top to bottom, with lower branches that descend. Sweetgums form a triangle shape and tulip trees a more narrow, oval profile. To help us with our winter tree identification, we remember that trees are grouped by whether their branches come out of the trunk and limbs in an opposite or an alternate arrangement. Maples are one of the few that are opposite---so we can confirm our suspicions when we note the opposite branching on a tree we suspect to be a maple. The winter tree identification game is engaging, and gives us an opportunity to greet these friends by name as we pass them by. By passing this way often we can watch changes through the seasons and through the years. Take a winter walk to check out the tree silhouettes—look around!

K Edgington
Leaf Brief - Paperbark Maple
What if you had room in your yard for just one tree and you wanted something that looked good year-round, even in winter, had interesting foliage and bark, was relatively easy to take care of and gets big but doesn’t take over? Acer griseum, otherwise known as the paperbark maple, may just be your tree!

This stately ornamental tree is not your average maple. Its leaves are trifoliate, having three lobes instead of the typical 5 segmented maple leaf (think of the Canadian flag). They turn from yellow and orange in autumn to darker vibrant reds and scarlets that hang on into winter. Even in winter it shows off with a striking sculptured silhouette of multiple branches. What paperbark maple is most known for is, you guessed it, its paper-like bark. The coppery, orange cinnamon to reddish brown bark peels in curly translucent papery strips that provide interest after the leaves fall. These strips eventually give way to smooth tan, salmon or rose color bark.

The paperbark maple is a native of China, making it to the States in the early 1900s. It is hardy from zones 4a to 7b and is slow growing but will ultimately reach 15-25 feet tall and 15- 25 feet wide. Suitable for full sun or part sun, it will even tolerate shade. It is not drought tolerant though, so avoid full sun in southern locales or dry soils and remember to mulch. Moist, well-drained soil is optimal, but paperbark maples will do just fine in clay, sand, and loam and tolerates a range of pHs. Relatively free of diseases and insects, it needs little pruning or other care except for watering during dry conditions.

One drawback to this beautiful tree is the cost. Difficult to propagate, it can be challenging to find and somewhat expensive when located. Make it the star of your yard, to be seen by passing traffic, spotted from your deck or patio or featured at night with some moody up lighting. Even your neighbors will thank you!

J Gramlich
Creature Feature - Coyotes
January is a good time to spot our wily friend, the coyote. Primarily nocturnal, winter’s harsh conditions may force coyotes to hunt during daylight. Coyotes have been both revered and scorned in mythology and folklore for centuries. Whether you find them fascinating or frightening, their spine-tingling howl evokes the wild in the wilderness!

Coyotes are members of the dog family, along with wolves, jackals and foxes. Coyotes are usually gray, but may have rust, brown or off-white coloration. They weigh between 25-35 pounds but can look larger due to dense winter coats. Their eyes are yellow, and they carry their bushy tail down when they move, unlike dogs and wolves who move with raised tails. They can run 40 mph, leap 13 feet and are great swimmers, which enabled them to colonize islands. 

As omnivores, the coyote diet consists of shrews, voles, rabbits, mice, plants and fruit, but they will happily feast at a bird feeder or trash can. They are excellent rodent and rabbit control. For larger prey such as deer, coyotes hunt in packs. They mate for life. Breeding takes place between January and March, and parents care for the young together until they are 6-9 months old.

Coyotes evolved in North America and never left, unlike fellow species of canids who spread around the world. Originally found west of the Rockies, in 1804 Lewis and Clark called them “prairie wolves”; and in 1872 they got a bad rap from none other than Mark Twain, who described them in his book Roughing It: “…a long, slim, sick and sorry looking skeleton…a despairing expression of forsakenness and misery, a furtive and evil eye...”

A federal government agency created to exterminate wolves as a threat to livestock, targeted coyotes in the 1920’s, despite having no information about what coyotes actually ate. An Eradication Methods Laboratory developed the poisons, and in 1931 Congress granted the agency $10 million to eradicate coyotes. Over the next 9 years the agency used blanket poisoning techniques to destroy 6.5 million coyotes. When they later researched coyote diets, they discovered that coyotes had almost no impact on livestock population.

Coyotes survived due to their incredible ability to adapt. Fission-fusion adaptation is shared by humans—we can be social or solitary, depending on circumstances. Under the poison threat, coyotes left their packs and scattered east, singly or in pairs. Coyote litter sizes adjust in response to circumstances. As population is threatened, litter sizes increase. Coyote howls that go unanswered may trigger a larger litter. To learn more about this incredible story, read Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History by Dan Flores.

The eradication campaign ended by presidential proclamation in 1972 (a good deed by Richard Nixon). Public perception about killing coyotes was changing, perhaps helped by the popularity of Wile E. Coyote, the hapless and ever-flattened cartoon pursuer of the Road Runner. Approximately 500,000 coyotes are still killed annually, but coyotes continue to adapt, survive—even thrive—in all kinds of environments, including all major cities in the U.S.

As coyotes moved east they bred with the Eastern wolf, and a hybrid emerged called the coywolf, or Eastern coyote. Some scientists argue this is the evolution of a new species. This larger, very social animal is found in rural, suburban and urban areas. To learn more about the coywolf see: https://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/meet-the-coywolf-infographic-a-field-guide-to-the-coywolf-or-eastern-coyote/8663/.

The scientific name for coyotes (Canis latrans) means barking dog—well-deserved as coyotes have 11 sounds for different situations, both individual and in groups. Huffs, barks, and howls voice a threat or alarm, while yelping and low-pitched whines communicate submission. A lone howl says a coyote is separated from its pack, while group howling marks a reunion, and is also used to communicate presence to other coyotes. Click to hear these amazing sounds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ga0i1FSXZQ.

And remember that while coyotes may be your neighbors, they are wild animals and should be treated as such. Do not feed them, do not leave pets unattended outside, do not run from a coyote (instead shout or throw something at it), and report any coyote that acts aggressively. Coyotes are incredible survivors—we need to learn to live together!

C Christian
Cool Tool - Seed Starting Supplies
Don’t let the gray skies fool you: Seed starting season is upon us. A few simple tools will ensure your garden has beautiful, healthy flowers and vegetables at far less cost than buying transplants.

Here are the tools to help make your seed starting a success:

  • Containers to start your seeds. Many people use cell packs in plastic trays. The cell packs come in different cell sizes, the most widely available being 72 cells (12 packs) per tray. If you want to avoid excessive spending, you can try paper cups, pots made from peat and designed to be planted with the seedling, or even handmade paper containers. Try this link for directions on how to make a paper pot: https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/diy/how-to-make-paper-pots/ Make sure whatever you use has holes for drainage. Also, be sure to have a transparent dome or large plastic bag to keep the environment humid and filled with light. After the seedlings have germinated, the cover can come off.
  • Planting medium. Seeds need a soilless mixture for optimum growth, usually a combination of peat, perlite and vermiculite. The mix needs to be light enough so the roots can grow unhindered, sturdy enough to support the plant as it grows and quick to drain but able to hold moisture. There are many kinds on the market, including pellets that turn into soil when you add water. Be sure to moisten the medium before filling the trays.
  • Grow lights: Last month’s article on grow lights gives specifics, but the basic set-up is a shop light with cool and warm fluorescent bulbs hung from chains on a frame that allows you to raise the lights as the plants grow. Be sure to have your lights on a timer so that the seedlings have the darkness they need to germinate and grow properly.
  • Heating pad: A horticultural heating pad, which is waterproof, will enhance germination. Once germinated, seedlings prefer cooler temperatures.
  • Small fan:  A light breeze will encourage plants to develop strong stems.
  • Seeds: Decide what you want to grow. It’s easy to get waylaid by the gorgeous photos in seed catalogs and on seed packets. Yes, that rainbow chard would add vivid color to your greens, but if that isn’t already part of your diet, think again.
  • Seed markers: Don’t rely on your memory to know what you have planted. Mark each type of plant. Many people use plastic markers or wood markers such as popsicles sticks. Pencil markings won’t blur on wood or fade on plastic as “permanent” markers do, and the markings can be erased and the markers used next year.
  • Watering can: Pre-moistened soil will be sufficient for the first few days after planting, but it is important to keep the soil evenly moist. A watering can with a narrow spout works well on small seedlings.
  • Fertilizer. Once the cover comes off, the seedlings need a weekly dose of a weak liquid fertilizer solution. Germinating seeds do not need fertilizer.

S Vradenburg
Bring in the Garden - Windowsill Herbs
Beauty, fragrance and flavor: three good reasons to be an indoor herb gardener. But there’s no need to get out your green thumb, herbs are easy to grow and forgiving of less-than-ideal growing conditions. They do require:
  • A sunny location (several hours of sun per day)
  • Use of a good, well-draining potting mix and a drainage hole in the pot
  • A watering when they are dry (most complain when they are not allowed to dry out between waterings)
  • A quarter turn every few days so all sides can access the light
  • Several herbs benefit from occasional light fertilization
Some of the herbs suitable to windowsill growing include basil, parsley, chives, mint, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, lavender, and sage. Oregano, marjoram, rosemary lavender, and sage are Mediterranean herbs, and prefer lean, dry soils. Basil is the only annual among the group, and parsley is a biennial, meaning it grows the first season and flowers and dies the second.
What fun to start herb seeds and watch them grow! This is definitely the long-term way to get your windowsill herbs, but there’s fun to be had as you watch your seedlings grow, and extra plants for porch drop off gifts. If you’re not interested in going the seed starting route many herbs can be rooted from cuttings, including all of the above except parsley and chives. Just cut off a 4” or so stem tip, remove the bottom leaves, and place the stem in water in a bright area. What could be easier! For instant gratification, many garden centers and the produce area of some groceries carry herb plants.
To start herbs from seed:
Herb seeds may be unavailable locally right now but are readily available online. Follow directions on the seed packet in terms of planting depth and care. Most of the larger perennial seeds (and definitely parsley) benefit from a 24-hour soak in water. For even better germination add 1 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide to one cup of water and soak the seeds for a couple of hours before planting.
As soon as your herb seeds have germinated move them to a sunny window or other light source. Turn them daily to prevent legginess. Most herbs prefer lean (low nitrogen) soils, but parsley, basil and chives may benefit from an occasional watering with a weak fertilizer solution. When your seedlings have grown 1-3” tall, repot them into individual containers, using small pots initially, and potting up as the plant grows in the coming months.
Herb plant care:
Regular pinching and pruning is the way to get full, healthy plants. Of course, the prunings can be used in your kitchen. Always cut or pinch directly above a set of leaves, which stimulates new, branched growth.
Having good air circulation helps prevent pest and disease issues. Yellow leaves can indicate water stress, either underwatering or overwatering. You can tell how dry the soil is by sticking your finger 1” into the soil (Although the surface may be dry, there may be adequate water underneath.) or by picking up the potted plant to see how light it is.
Move your herbs outside in spring to give them access to more light and more ideal growing conditions. In fall, when freezing temperatures threaten, cut back your perennial herbs and move them inside to their windowsill abode. These old friends will settle in for another windowsill sojourn.

K Edgington
For the Sprouts - Be an Animal Tracker
Hoot Hoo Hello! I’m Owen, a Great Horned Owl. I live in a big tree in Cuyahoga Falls, and as you would expect, I am very wise. I know lots of fun things to do outdoors and in the garden, and my Master Gardener friends have asked me to share them with you!
Have you ever wondered what animals do in the winter? Find out by tracking animal prints in the snow! It is fun to be a detective on a snowy day. 

It may be easiest to find animal prints in the morning when snow is fresh, but you can go anytime. Bundle up, go outside and look around! Think about why animals would be walking in the snow. This may give you ideas about where to look for tracks. Look near bushes or trees, where animals may seek shelter or food. Take your time and examine the ground carefully.

If you find a track, notice how big it is—compare your own foot or hand. Count the toes. If it only has two toes, it may be a deer. Four toes could be a dog or coyote. A track with five toes might be a raccoon or a mouse. You have to be a good detective!

How deep is the track? That tells you how heavy the animal is. What direction was it headed in? Why was the animal going that way? Remember, rabbit tracks might look backward because when they hop their hind feet land in front of their front feet!

Here are some tracks you might find:
Take a picture of the track if you have a camera. Once you go inside and warm up (hot chocolate is a good idea!), research your tracks to identify them. Here are two good books to help: Big Tracks, Little Tracks: Following Animal Prints by Millicent E. Salsam, and Whose Tracks are These? A Clue Book of Familiar Forest Animals by James Nail.

The internet also has many great resources for animal tracking! Share your pictures with your friends and family. Maybe they will become animal detectives too!

C Christian
Branching Out - Sippo Lake Park
Public parks bring parks and people together. That was clearly the momentum behind Sippo Lake Metropark in Stark County between Canton and Massillon. In 1977 it was among the first parks created by the 10-year-old Stark Metropolitan Park District, by far the largest with a 99-acre lake and 100 acres of land surrounding it.

Walking the trails on a sunny winter afternoon, Mother Nature’s bones are showing. No longer dressed up in showy flowers and leaf-full trees, we are able to see what summer is built on, the bare and fallen trees, gnarls of grape arbor stems meandering throughout a stand of woods, the sodden ground that is a wetland. The lake is in full view, regardless of your location. Many of the park’s pedestrian entries are at dead-end streets. There are three park entrances; off 12 St. NW, off Genoa Ave., and off Tyler St., where the Marina and boat ramp are located.

The season-weakened sun still plays upon Sippo Lake’s waters, partially frozen into watery geometric shapes. The ducks carve V’s in the water as they paddle from one shore to another. The birds are fewer in number, but their calls remind listeners: “We’re still here.”

Sippo Lake was not always the clear expanse of water it is today. In the late 1990s, the water was so clogged with vegetation it could not be navigated safely in boats. Dredging was the answer but had to proceed carefully to ensure the integrity of the lake. With help from a grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the dredging employed a process that separated the vegetation from the water, returning the water to the lake and using the remaining organic matter to create wetlands that serve to slow stormwater runoff from the surrounding neighborhoods and filter the water going into the lake. The park district won an Innovation Award for this project from the Ohio Lake Management Association in 2010.

The need for a new park building at Sippo, combined with the need for a new library branch for Perry Township resulted in a unique partnership between Stark Parks and the Stark County Library District and a modern building that encompasses both entities.

The park's Exploration Gateway is a multi-purpose building that offers programs, banquet facilities and a gift shop featuring locally produced items, but all are currently closed due to the pandemic. The Perry Sippo library branch is open, with the Covid-19 requirement of mask-wearing and a limit on the number of people allowed in the branch at one time.

Sippo’s Wildlife Conservation Center took root when a photograph of an orphaned baby squirrel made the front page of the Canton Repository. In 1988, with foundation support, the Sanders Wildlife Center opened, taking in orphaned and injured animals for treatment and, if possible, release back into the environment. A newly rebuilt center opened in 2018, offering the opportunity to get close to some of the animal patients waiting for release back into the wild. Some cannot be released and are part of presentations the center staff take to the public or give on premises. Red tail foxes, red-tailed hawks, a rabbit and several owls live in enclosures that are open for viewing. The new center also has state of the art medical facilities. The outside viewing areas are open to the public during regular hours, 8:30am-4pm Tues. Thurs., Friday and Saturday. The facility is closed Wednesdays and Sundays.

The lake is quiet on winter days, with none but the ducks to enjoy the water. Usual summer activities include fishing, small-motor boating, paddle-boarding and paddle-boating. There are several trails, some on crushed limestone and others just footpaths through the woodlands and wetlands. No matter the time of year, Sippo Lake offers a respite from the hubbub just a stone’s throw from the busier world.

Sippo Lake Park
5300 Tyner St.
Canton, OH 44708

S Vradenburg
Down and Dirty
January Checklist
  • Look out your window and reflect on what worked and didn’t work in your yard last year and plan changes. Assess which plants need to be pruned back and reevaluate problem areas.
  • Peruse seed and plant catalogs and plan your summer garden. It’s never too early to order your flower and vegetable seeds. Dream big!
  • Check houseplants for spider mites and other indoor pests. https://extension.umn.edu/product-and-houseplant-pests/insects-indoor-plants
  • Continue using deer repellents on susceptible plants using a variety of products to keep the deer guessing.
  • Keep your bird feeder stocked to enjoy the beauty and entertainment of winter birds.

J Gramlich
New Growth!
To learn more please check out these programs :

  • Starting Seeds at Home with Summit County Master Gardener Vince Matlock on Wednesday, February 3rd at 6:30 pm

  • Utilizing Native Plants in the Home Landscape with Landscape Architect Kevin O'Brien on Wednesday, February 17th at 6:30 pm

  • Kokedama: Demonstrating a Japanese Art Form with Summit County Master Gardener Heidi Schwarzinger on Wednesday, March 3rd at 6:30 pm

  • Demonstrating Bonsai Techniques in a Home Setting with Summit County Master Gardener Greg Cloyd on Wednesday, March 17th at 6:30 pm

Meet Me in the Garden Series:

  • Ohio's Forests: Ecology and Management with Holden Forests & Gardens Biologist Mike Watson on Wednesday, January 27th at 6:30 pm

  • Wellness in the Garden with Summit County Master Gardener Andrea Bonesteel on Wednesday, February 24th at 6:30 pm

  • Phenology: Using Nature's Calendar to Predict Plant Bloom & Insect Activity with OSU Pollinator Education Director Denise Ellsworth on March 24th at 6:30 pm

Learn more about and register for these programs on our website (link below).
More learning opportunities :
Summit County Master Gardeners on Facebook
Summit County Master Gardener Community Gardening Newsletter
Follow Summit County Master Gardeners on Instagram: Find us by our user name osusummitmgv and follow us for educational information, gardening tips, and news and events related to the Summit County Master Gardener Program.
Submit questions online to be answered by Master Gardener Volunteers at Ask a Master Gardener
OhioLine Yard and Garden provides fact sheets and information on a variety of gardening topics.
Buckeye Yard and Garden onLine provides timely information about Ohio growing conditions, pest, disease, and cultural problems. BYGL is updated weekly between April and October.
Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the Spring and ends in the Fall is missing the best part of the whole year; for gardening begins in January with the dream.
Josephine Nuese

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