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Garden Guru


Jim Boxberger
Posted 6/24/22

This week I had a good reminder of val­uable res­ources that go under­utilitized everyday. These re­sources are not the clean water or air we have here in Sullivan County, but the …

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Garden Guru



This week I had a good reminder of val­uable res­ources that go under­utilitized everyday. These re­sources are not the clean water or air we have here in Sullivan County, but the resource of knowledge.

I was invited to be a guest speaker this week for the Liberty Garden Club’s monthly meeting. As I looked around the room, I realized that there was collectively nearly 700 years of gardening knowledge looking back at me. These ladies and gentlemen serve their com­munity every month, main­taining flower­beds and gardens around the village as well as helping out others in need around town. With all their knowledge, I was happy to bring something new to the table. Last week I spoke about plant science and soils which most of these members read.

So this week I brought them some Foxfarm solutions, and talked about old school fertilizers versus the newer fertilizers that most people do not know about. Unlike Scott’s Miracle Gro products that are advertised everywhere every day, Foxfarm products are not advertized at all except in trade publications for garden centers like ours. The Foxfarm product that peeked the most interest was Foxfarms Microbrew. Microbrew is a mycorrhizal fungi solution that helps plants grow bigger, faster by forming a symbiotic relationship with your plants roots.

The mycorrhiza breaks down fertilizers, elements and minerals in the soil into finer particles and feeds your plants roots so that the plant grows larger. In return, once the plant is thriving and sending carbohydrates down the roots to be stored, excess carbohydrates are sweat out of the roots into the surrounding soil and that is what the mycorrhiza eats. If the mycorrhiza doesn’t make the plant thrive it won’t get fed, so it has a vested interest in producing the best plant it can.

I also went over some of the other Foxfarm products as well, but I’m not going to go over everything as I have written about them before. I know a lot about plants and plant science, but like any good guru, I’m always in search of knowledge. This meeting had no shortage of knowledge for me to gain, including a presentation on a native woodland plant that is seldom seen or often overlooked.

Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) are not the most colorful spring flowers, but what they lack in beauty they make up for in interesting characteristics. These easily identified plants are full of surprises, from their ability to change from male to female and back again, so not all Jacks are Jacks. These plants are truely transgender. Most plants will produce male only flowers while they are storing up additional energy. The male flowers produce pollen, which doesn’t require much energy. As the plant matures it will continue to photosynthesize and store energy in the form of carbohydrates in its root system.

Once enough energy has been stored, the plant will produce female flowers, and if pollinated will then produce berries. After fruiting, the plant will revert back to being male, and the cycle will continue. Male flowers are generally accompanied by a single leaf comprising three leaflets. Females, thanks to their additional energy stores, usually sprout two leaves. Beyond that, the plants look basically the same, unless you open the spathe to examine the flowers within.

Male flowers appear in a loose cluster of tiny, pale yellow pollen blooms. The female flower resembles a cylindrical cluster of small green berries, which will mature and become the plant’s crimson fruit in late summer. Fungus gnats and flies, attracted by the plant’s color and odor, are the main pollinators of Jack-in-the-pulpit, although they have a tough go of it. While the spathes of the male flowers have a small opening at the base, by which lucky pollinators may eventually emerge carrying their bounty of pollen, there is no such escape hatch in the female plant. So a pollen laiden insect that finds its way into a female Jill-in-the-pulpit will pollenate the female and spend the rest of its life within the spathe. This is just some of the knowledge that these garden club members have and I learned as much from them this week as they did from me.

They are a wonderful resource to have in the village of Liberty, and they have plenty of plant knowledge to share with anyone willing to learn.


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