Volume 1 | September 2020
Welcome to the first issue of The Root of It, a publication of the Summit County Master Gardeners. Whether your garden is on a high-rise patio, a city lot, country acreage, or a project for another day, we hope you will learn, enjoy, and be inspired by this monthly publication. As Master Gardeners, we are teachers and students of horticulture and during these past pandemic months have been so grateful for our gardens, garden projects, and the green around us. A garden is an expression of hope and confidence, and we hope you’ll join us as we renew ourselves in the garden.  
Look Around
The world has slowed its pace for many of us, as we follow pandemic guidelines and navigate regulations. We want to count our losses, but what an opportunity to open our eyes to the beauty and wonder as our seasons change! These fall days offer a smorgasbord of sights, smells, and sounds.    As the earth tilts in relation to the sun, the angle of the light is lower in the sky and grows softer. Colors seem to glow and shapes are sharply defined. We love our maples, with their reds, oranges, and scarlets, but watch for the other players: sassafras, sourwoods, black tupelos, sumacs, and dogwoods.  Don’t forget the shrubs and perennials as viburnums, beautyberry, perennial geraniums, switchgrass and others put on their fall colors.  Seed pods and berries color up and add texture. Summer flowers fade, but fall bloomers are right behind with their vivid blooms and pollinator fare. Watch for the yellow flower sprays on goldenrods (see Leaf Brief below) and the elegant, paper-like blooms of the Japanese anemones.  Many sedum varieties end their season with sprays of pink, rust and red – stunning, and a haven for the bees, butterflies, and other pollinators that must get their fill before the season ends. The list of fall bloomers goes on---be on the lookout for them. As your life slows down and your eyes open wider you’ll notice the many species of spiders that show up and spin webs in fall. (See Creature Feature below.) The dew from our cool nights turns these webs into fleeting works of art.  As trees drop their nuts and seeds, squirrels become ever busier, stockpiling their winter rations. Who needs Netflix with this entertainment!

Fall offers special smells and sounds as well. Sweet autumn clematis opens its honey scented blooms. Katsura trees drop their leaves, emitting a tantalizing cotton candy-like smell.   And then there are the sounds. If you stop during your early morning or late evening stroll, or pause by your open window, you will notice that as the nighttime temperatures fall, the chirp of the crickets slow down as well (scientists tell us we can tell the temperature by the pace of the cricket chirps).  The rustle of dry leaves when fall breezes blow, the crunch of those leaves as we shuffle through them---these sounds tell us fall is here, and warm temperatures are fleeting.   A walk, a garden bench, a porch or picture window perch afford an opportunity to observe the wonder and beauty of this glorious season. “Look around!” we tell ourselves, and hope you do too.
Leaf Brief - Solidago
Let’s face it. A late fall garden can look a little tired and humdrum, but one workhorse that comes on strong is goldenrod. Many of you may be familiar with the golden yellow flowers that grow in fields or along roadsides, but this is no one-trick pony. One hundred+ species of goldenrod are known to exist, most in North America. Ohio alone has 22 species. All in all, they support over 430 types of insects and spiders including monarchs, humming birds and native bees. Peeper frogs too!

Many gardeners may be hard pressed to find a place for Canadian goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), which can grow 3-6 feet tall and spreads by both rhizome and by seed, but other more manageable options exist. One stellar variety is Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’, commonly known as Rough Goldenrod. A native of the daisy family, it forms a bushy upright clump of 18-inch arching stems. Like most plants, it likes moist, well-drained soil but is tolerant of dry and wet soils and it doesn’t try to take over your garden. Overall height is 2’6” to 3’6”. Divide it every 2-3 years and cut it back in the early spring. (see Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks' )
Other options include Zig Zag Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis), which is a native that grows in shady areas and Early Goldenrod (Solidago juncea) that is the first goldenrod to bloom in July. 

Interestingly enough, goldenrod does not cause allergies like its cousin ragweed. Both are members of the aster family but ragweed pollen has no nectar and is easily spread in the wind, causing allergies for some unlucky folks.  

Creature Feature - Spiders
EEK! A SPIDER! Some of us find an eight-legged, eight-eyed arachnid with venom-injecting fangs a little scary! But spiders are fascinating once you get to know them. There is a LOT to know, and many great resources about these not-so-cuddly critters, so here’s just a few tidbits to whet your appetite! And remember, of the more than 640 species of spiders found in Ohio, only two - the brown recluse and black widow – have been known to harm humans - in extremely rare cases.

Spider webs may look beautiful sparkling in the morning sun or under a harvest moon, but they are actually efficient ways to get in-home meal delivery – as long as you don’t mind a wait. Spider webs have four basic structures. The orb web is the classic, flat, wheel-shaped web you see on Halloween decorations. The interior silk spiral is coated with sticky glue droplets, while the radial and support lines are non-sticky. The orbweaver rebuilds her web nightly to repair damage from captured prey, or as the stickiness diminishes. She may even destroy her web each morning to keep predators like birds from spotting it, and then rebuild when darkness falls. Check out this video to watch an orbweaver build her web and catch her prey. She doesn't have to tip the delivery guy – he’s the meal!   

The second type of web is funnel-shaped. These webs have an entrance to a funnel-shaped burrow where the spider hides and awaits her meal. Grass spiders build these non-sticky nests. Look for grassy fields covered with these webs in the early morning. As the dew evaporates the webs seem to disappear, only to magically reappear when dew forms in the evening.

The sheet web is the third type of web. This may be simple or complex, but they all have a “sheet” of silk, which may be flat or bowl or hammock-shaped. These webs have a tangle of invisible threads dangling above the sheet; a flying insect is caught in the threads and tumbles into the sheet - and the jaws of the waiting spider!

The fourth web structure is the space-filling or 3D web. Built by common house spiders, this is the ubiquitous cobweb you find in all the best haunted houses.

Did you know that all spiders possess spinnerets for spinning silk, but not all make webs? The wolf spider doesn’t wait for meals; she actively hunts and traps her prey. This spider is also unique in that she carries her babies on her back for several days after they hatch. The spider life cycle has 3 stages – egg, baby spiderling and mature adult – and most spiderlings leave immediately after hatching. The coolest method of dispersing is through a technique called “ballooning”. A brave spiderling climbs up on a twig and releases strands of silk from her spinnerets, letting the wind carry her away. Spiderlings have traveled unbelievable distances this way!

If you’d like to learn more about these crawly critters, Dr. Richard A. Bradley, a renowned arachnologist and professor at The Ohio State University, is a great resource. Dr. Bradley, known as Ohio’s Spiderman, has authored numerous books about spiders, including the Common Spiders of Ohio Field Guide. His website, at spidersinohio.net.  is a great place to start. His site links to many other resources, including his blog “Spidersrule”, about spiders in Ohio.

And next time you see a spider, before you utter a sound, remember this - it can hear you even though it doesn’t have ears. Scientists have recently discovered that spiders can hear through tiny, sensitive hairs on their legs. Spiders perform a great service for humans by eating insects we don’t like such as cockroaches, flies, stinkbugs, mosquitoes, and Asian lady beetles. Maybe tell that spider “Thanks, Friend!”  
Cool Tool - Soil Knife
It’s got a funny name, hori-hori, meaning dig-dig. The Japanese invented the soil knife to cultivate around treasured plants. It can stand in for a trowel, bulb planter and a small saw. It’s one of the most versatile and rugged tools a gardener can own.

Most soil knives have either a stainless steel or thick aluminum blade embedded in a handle of wood or plastic. The convex blade, serrated on one side, has marks in inches and, depending on the knife, millimeters to measure depth for planting bulbs. An efficient weeder, it slices roots buried deep in the earth and can cut small roots with ease. It is practically indestructible.
The garden knife can be found on many online gardening- tool websites and in many plant nurseries. 

Bring in the Garden
Sometimes we form an attachment to plants. They speak to us, they complete our color scheme, we love their shape or smell, or they just need to be a part of our year-to-year gardens. Fall is the time to bring those beloved plants into the house to enjoy in a sunny window, or to propagate for next spring’s containers. Good candidates for this inside move are tropical plants, tender perennials and tender succulents. Coleus and geraniums (the tender pelargonium plants) work well, and, in fact, were popular house plants in Victorian days. Let’s explore this process with a geranium cultivar called Crystal Palace Gem (Pelargonium hortorum 'Crystal Palace Gem'), which mixes well in containers and offers bright chartreuse foliage and red flower sprays.  Why go to the trouble of bringing this beauty indoors? It is often hard to find in nurseries, and by bringing in a plant and taking cuttings in winter you will have the plants needed for spring pots and beds.  Let’s not forget, though, the delight when that chartreuse beauty puts out a bud in January or February!

Indoor potted geraniums: As the first frost approaches, find healthy specimens to bring inside. 

  1. Lift the plant from its container or the ground and check carefully for “hitchhikers”, insects and other creatures that can hide in the soil or on the foliage. 
  2. Cut your plant back by about one third to compensate for the loss of roots and root hairs. Always cut immediately above a leaf or branch to stimulate the plant to form new foliage. The foliage you remove will regrow after your plant acclimates to its new environment. 
  3. Pot up your plants into 6 or 8 inch pots with drainage holes, using a good quality potting mix. 
  4. Water and place in a bright spot, out of direct sunlight. Ideally, plants brought in the house to overwinter prefer a cool environment, and should not be placed near drafts or heat registers. 
  5. Water when dry, and use a dilute fertilizer solution once or twice during the winter months.
To get the most bang for your buck you can use those branches you removed before potting to start more plants. For information on rooting cuttings and bare root storage of geraniums please follow the link below.

This process for bringing in your annual geranium will work for many other tender perennials, such as coleus and fuchsia.   Now is the time to bring some summer green into your home.
For the Sprouts - Leaf Rubbings
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!
Our Ohio trees are especially beautiful right now, so this is a perfect time for leaf rubbing. Leaf rubbing is a fun, easy way to bring the beauty of fall indoors.

What You Need

  1. Leaves! Go outside and collect some leaves. The size, shape and color of leaves on different trees are different, so try a few kinds. Choose leaves that are freshly fallen or just picked from a tree.
  2. Crayons, colored pencils or chalk
  3. Paper (thin or lightweight works best).

What to Do

  1. Place a leaf on a flat surface face down (raised parts facing up). 
  2. Put a piece of paper on top of the leaf. 
  3.  Hold the paper and leaf in place, and gently rub the side of your crayon or pencil on the area over the leaf. 
  4. As you rub, a picture of the leaf will emerge like magic! Try using different colors on different leaves to make a fall collage.

You can cut out your leaves and glue them in a circle to make a fall leaf wreath. You can also use your leaf rubbings to decorate wrapping paper. You can decorate letters or a greeting card with a bit of fall magic! Use your imagination…and look for me in the trees!
Branching Out - Secrest Arboretum
Where can you find beauty, state-of-the-art research and the peace that only nature can provide? In this area that would be Secrest Arboretum, part of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center of the Ohio State University in Wooster, named for Edmund Secrest OARDC director and Ohio’s first state forester.

Nestled on 110 acres at OARDC, Secrest is a research arboretum thatattracts more than 7,000 visitors annually. They enjoy the simple pleasures of walking landscaped grounds, standing in awe of towering trees, attending sales of garden plants, trees and shrubs, and, in the spring, taking joy in the beauty of Crablandia II, one of the country’s largest crabapple collections.

It is also the essence of resilience. In September 2010 much of the 111-year-old arboretum was destroyed by a tornado that leveled huge stands of Secrest’s magnificent trees and flattened several of OARDC’s buildings. Crablandia I was destroyed. Secrest’s then-director Ken Cochran and crew started cleaning up the day afterward, and, after rebuilding with help of insurance and $400,000 in private donations, was able to bring the arboretum back even better.

Spots of particular interest to visitors are the Unique Collections area, the Pollinator garden and Nancy’s Tranquil Garden. Next summer, check out the echinacea trial garden, which is testing hundreds of coneflower varieties for beauty, hardiness and disease resistance. There also is the Fortress at Hog’s-back, an area with embankment slides, giant frogs and many kid-friendly activities and paved pathways through the grounds.

This fall, drink in the colors of Secrest’s tree collection. It is open dawn to dusk year-round. Only about an hour from Summit County, it’s a close-to-home attraction with a mission to make sure our gardens in the future are grounded in knowledge.

To visit Secrest Arboretum's website click here.

Secrest Arboretum
2122 Williams Rd.
Wooster, OH 44691

Down and Dirty
September Checklist
  • Replace tired summer annuals with mums, ornamental cabbages and pansies that can handle the cold and frost.
  • Bring select plants indoors now to overwinter. Bringing Houseplants Indoors
  • Clean, sharpen and oil your garden tools. 
  • Collect seeds/seedpods and branches for holiday projects and decorations.
  • Plan and order bulbs now for a fabulous payoff in the spring.
  • Divide mature perennials. How and When to Divide Perennials
  • Tidy up perennials but leave some seed heads for the birds and some underbrush for overwintering beneficial insects.
  • Put your vegetable garden to bed by removing spent plants and protect the soil by planting a cover crop or covering it with straw.
New Growth!
To learn more please check out :
Summit County Master Gardeners on Facebook
Summit County Master Gardener Community Gardening Newsletter
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.
Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.  – May Sarton

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