2013 UW-WMARS Annual Flower Evaluations

The 2013 season is over and the results of our annual flower trials have been compiled. This year we conducted evaluations on 182 flower cultivars in our general trial and an additional 85 cultivars within our CFGW (Commercial Flower Growers of Wisconsin) trial. Starting in July we conducted evaluations a total of three times, approximately one month apart.  This data is used by seed companies, commercial greenhouse growers, and the public to better select varieties that will succeed in our region of the world. We thank all participants including student evaluators Deanna Delfosse and Rachel Peters.

2013 UW-WMARS Flower Trial

2013 CFGW Flower Trial

Insect of the Week

Hey insect fans! This week we’ll be talking about the Spotted Cucumber Beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata), a pest of cucurbit crops that made its first appearance in the gardens this past week. (pictured below – our apologies for the small picture, this guy was FAST)








The Spotted Cucumber Beetle is a coleopteran pest of cucurbit crops, feeding on plants in this group during both the larval and adult stages of its life cycle. As a larvae, this insect feeds on roots and shoots of growing cucurbits. As an adult, it feeds on leaves, flowers, and fruit.

The primary damage caused by this insect is not its consumption of plant material, however. Cucumber beetles carry bacteria that cause vascular wilt, and transfer them to cucurbit crops through feeding damage and fecal contamination. Vascular wilt, once established in the plant, cannot be cured and quickly causes the infected plant to wilt and die. This bacterial disease plugs up vascular tissue inside plants, blocking the flow of water and nutrients. This  blockage is what causes the initial “wilty” appearance, and is ultimately the cause of death in the plant.

Because of the severity of the problem caused by vascular wilt, it is important to scout frequently for Spotted Cucumber Beetle if you are growing cucurbit crops. If you see wilted sections of vine, it is also wise to make sure that vascular wilt is to blame for the problem. To test for vascular wilt, slice the stem of the affected plant and hold the two ends together for a few seconds. After holding the two halves together, pull them slowly apart and look for a milky, viscous sap stretching between the two ends. If this  milky sap is present, the plant has vascular wilt.

Many chemical and cultural controls are available for the control of Spotted Cucumber Beetle, but they are very diverse and highly dependent on the situation. For this reason, we’re including the link to the UW Extension page on the cucumber beetle so that you can find more detailed information if needed. Here’s the hyperlink: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CDAQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fadams.uwex.edu%2Ffiles%2F2013%2F05%2FCucumber-Beetles.pdf&ei=wlboUfOrKcO1rgGdr4DwCQ&usg=AFQjCNExHH0uA0QZlChftDBntDcdqZuORg&bvm=bv.49478099,d.aWM

Thanks much for reading! Tune in again next week!

-Dave Schreiner, WMARS Intern

Jammin’ With Service Berries…

Although various species of this woody perennial are technically classified as under the genus Amelanchier, they seem to have as many common names as they have berries! Ok… so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. However, if you find yourself confused when a person asks you to taste test between Juneberry, Saskatoon, and  Serviceberry Jam, don’t be- they might all taste the same because they are, in fact, the same berry!

Serviceberries are commonly found in our area scattered around neighborhoods as ornamental plants, or growing as low-slung shrubs in the open woods. They are often mistaken for a variety of crabapple due to the apparent similarity in the appearance of the fruit and foliage. With a little practice however, it is easy to tell these delicious fruits apart from the sour and typically unusable ornamental crabapple.


Don’t let the multiple names or initial ID confusion intimidate you. Serviceberries are well worth your effort, as they can be cooked in a number of wonderful ways including jam, pie, sauces, and more. The serviceberries out at WMARS were in full season this past week, and we tried out our jam making capabilities with delicious results. Here’s an intern taste-test picture:












Serviceberries are extremely common, easy to cook with, and a lot of fun to eat. Get outside in your neighborhood or woodlot this weekend and try to find some of your own! Happy picking!












– Madeline Wimmer and Dave Schreiner, WMARS Interns

Insects of the Week

Hey there, insect enthusiasts! This week, we’ll be talking about spittlebugs and ladybugs (also sometimes called ladybird or lady beetles), two groups of insects that are frequently observed in landscapes and gardens.

We’ll start by talking about spittlebugs (Clasirptora sp.), pictured below. Spittlebugs are true bugs in the insect order Hemiptera (suborder Homoptera), and use piercing sucking mouthparts to feed on plant sap. The nymph stage of this insect is one that is often familiar, as gardeners sometimes spot what look like globs of human spittle stuck to the stems of plants in their landscapes or gardens. This “spittle” however, is actually a secretion created by the insect. The nymph stage of the spittlebug, after hatching from eggs laid by female adults on sheltered stems and leaves of host plants, secretes a fluid from its body and adds tiny air bubbles. The secretion, when finished, completely covers the nymph while it feeds and develops. Occupying this “spittle” provides the nymph with protection against predators and parasitoids (“spittle” pictured below on a geranium).


“Spittle” on a geranium.


Nymph stage found within spittle.

While both nymph (pictured above) and adult spittlebugs do use piercing, sucking mouthparts to feed on plant sap, they typically cause only aesthetic damage, and are easily washed off with a hose if they become unsightly. In most cases, the plants that you grow in your home or garden are in little danger if you notice a spittlebug or two.

The second group of insects we’ll talk about this week are the ladybugs, larval stage pictured below.


We’ve been seeing a lot of ladybug larvae around the Station over the past couple of weeks. While nearly all gardeners are familiar with the widely noticed – and loved – adult stage of these beetles of the insect family Coccinellidae, many people are not familiar with the larval stage of the life cycle. This leads many home owners and gardeners to mistakenly kill or remove what is in fact the larval stage of one of their greatest insect allies, which is the reason that ladybugs are being featured on the blog this week. Ladybug larvae, like the adults, are mobile predators that feed on numerous garden pests using chewing mouthparts and are particularly known in our area for their extensive feeding on aphids.

Yellow to orange colored eggs are typically laid in small clusters by female adults in close proximity to a food source during the spring and summer months, often an aphid infested area of a plant. After hatching, larvae feed on insects for several weeks, pupate on a leaf or stem, and ultimately emerge as the familiar adults. The number of generations per year depends on the species of ladybug, but all follow this general pattern.

Regardless of the life stage you might find, make sure to give these guys plenty of respect in your garden! They’re working on your side, free of charge.

Thanks for reading! Keep tuning in every Monday, all summer long.

-Dave Schreiner, WMARS Intern

Insects of the Week

Insects are always a part of interacting with vegetable, fruit, and ornamental plants in your home or garden. Although many people see insects around their homes or gardens on a frequent basis, many are left asking questions. Mostly, everyone wants to know whether or not their mystery insect is a pest, but some want information about where they come from, how they live, and what they do to survive. For all of these reasons, this summer West Madison ARS will be featuring life cycle and pest status information on selected insects each week that we’re seeing around the gardens on our own fruits and vegetables in an effort to help everyone learn more about the insects around them. Remember, not all insects are pests! Most are, in fact, not pests at all – and a great many contribute enormous benefit to humans.

Up this week: the  Spotted Asparagus Beetle and the Common Black Ground Beetle! We’ve seen a lot of both of these guys around the station in the past few days. We’ll talk about the Spotted Asparagus Beetle first (pictured below).


The Spotted Asparagus Beetle, pictured above, is a common insect found in many vegetable gardens across North America. This insect is considered to be a pest of asparagus, and was accidentally introduced to North America from Europe in the late 1800s. This insect can often be observed in the foliage of the mature asparagus plant during the spring and summer months in many gardens. The larvae of the spotted asparagus beetle bore inside of asparagus plants and consume the pulpy tissue inside, while the adults attack the foliage of mature asparagus plants. This insect is able to overwinter as an adult in your garden, sheltering in stems of fallen plants or other garden debris.

Our second insect of the week is the Common Black Ground Beetle, pictured below.


The Common Black Ground Beetle, pictured above, is an insect that is often found by gardeners who are turning over their soil for the first time in the season or moving straw or other garden residue. The Common Black Ground Beetle is a member of the insect family Carabidae, also known as the ground beetles. Like other members of its family, the Common Black Ground beetle is a mobile predator, feeding on caterpillars and other soft insects using chewing mouthparts. In spite of its fierce appearance, this insect is NOT a pest! They consume many insects that would otherwise harm your garden, serving as a method of natural pest control, and should be a welcome addition to any garden or landscape.

Thanks for reading, and check out the new Insects of the Week post every Monday, all summer long!

-Dave Schreiner, WMARS Summer Intern

2012 – Field Conditions and Vegetable Review

Ruby King-Sweet Bell Pepper

The 2013 season will soon be upon us and looking back on last years field trials I am hoping for moisture. We have taken some time to review last years field conditions and the outcome of the Vegetable Trials. Please visit the following link which includes a review of the 2012 season and an overview of top performing veggies.

2012 Site Conditions and Vegetable Review

Garden Expo/Wisconsin Grape Growers Association – Table Grape and Pruning Program

Dormant season pruning, summer vine management and trellising, and summer pruning are three of the most important techniques a grower needs to master if he or she is to grow healthy and productive grapes.

09Sept1SomersetPortions of the presentation below were presented at the Wisconsin Commercial Fruit and Vegetable Conference and modified for the Wisconsin Garden Expo program.

The second presentation is the first section of the Wisconsin Garden Expo program and focuses on Seedless Table Grape production at the UW-Madison, West Madison Ag. Research Station.

garden Expo.Beginning Pruning 6

Garden Expo Seedless Table Grapes 7

Seedless Table Grape Report


Trollhaugen Seedless Table Grape

The seedless table grape trial at the station, in the garden, began in 2007.  Fifteen varieties were planted in early June.  We were all optimistic and had great hopes that at least four or five of the varieties would over-winter and produce a great crop of seedless table grapes.  The hardiness zones for the grape varieties ranged from Zone 6 to Zone 4.   Only one selection was rated at Zone 4.  Most fell in the range of 5a or 5b.


Sommerset Seedless Table Grapes

Now five years later, we know that 12 of those original 15 varieties have over-wintered, and produced abundant fruit that ripens in our climate, and each has a unique and unusual taste.

Our annual seedless table grape report for 2012 has a detailed account of the varieties that have over-wintered, and a description of each variety.   Please check the link below for the annual report.


Vanessa Seedless Table Grapes

Vanessa Seedless Table Grapes

2012 Vegetable Evaluations

‘Polar Bear Pumpkins’

Each year we trial annual fruits and vegetables. We evaluate new and old varieties side by side. During the season we make careful notation of flowering dates, fruit set dates, and first ripe fruits. In addition we evaluate plant habit, health, insect pressure, and taste. Our goal is to find out what varieties do best under our weather conditions here in Wisconsin.
Our data is used by both the home and market gardener to determine what to grow.

This years evaluations include a brief summary of weather conditions here at the station.

2012 UW-WMARS Vegetable Evaluations

2012 Annual Flower Evaluations

Some of the 2012 Annual Flower Trials

This year our flower trials included 388 cultivars of annual flowers. Three times during the season (Jul. 7, Aug. 6, and Sept. 10) we make careful evaluations of each. We look to evaluate the seed companies claims about the plant. We note consistency of size, habit, flowering, and color. We also note disease issues, insect pressure, and weather tolerance.Our evaluations are compiled with weather data and provided to the individual companies as well as the public.

In addition to our general trials we conduct a specific trial for the CFGW (Commercial Flower Growers of Wisconsin). With their financial support we trial up to 130 cultivars of one or two types of flowers a year. This year we conducted evaluations on sun loving impatiens and osteospermum. The goal of the trial is to provide this industry group a better understanding of which varieties thrive in conditions here in Wisconsin. This data helps Wisconsin growers provide consumers with varities better suited to our climate and soils.
Follow the links to this years annual flower evaluations:

2012 WMARS General Trial Evaluations

CFGW 2012 WMARS Field Trials-Impatiens

2012 CFGW Trial Evaluaitons – Osteospermum