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Friday, March 20, 2015

MN Weather Talk: First Day of Spring & the Vernal Equinox

Excerpt from MN Weather Talk blog by U of M Climatologist Mark Seely

A displacement of the polar jet stream north into Canada brought very warm air to Minnesota last weekend.  Scores of warm temperature records were set around the state over March 13-16, including 60 new daily high maximum temperature records, and 35 new daily high minimum temperature records. ...  These unusually high temperatures drove the frost out of the soil to a depth of 10-12 inches, though there is still some frost below that depth.  ... Losing the frost in the soil this early in March will allow the soil to absorb more precipitation when it comes later in the month (expected late this weekend and next week).
All of the record-setting temperatures ended by St Patrick's Day (March 17th) as temperatures fell back closer to normal for this time of year.  After setting a record high temperature earlier in the week, Bigfork reported snow on Thursday (March 19th).  In fact Thursday brought light snowfall to a number of locations in central and northeastern Minnesota, mostly less than 1 inch.  Cloquet reported 1.5 inches as did a few other locations. Read All

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Before buying plants, understand your site

The first trip to your local garden center or nursery in spring can be exhilarating. After six months of winter, gardeners may allow their emotions and excitement rather than their site conditions to determine their plant choices. It's important to select plants that don't just grow in your landscape, but thrive. Healthy, long-lived plants can be a good investment in your landscape as well as a well-landscaped yard adds value to your home.

Take time before visiting your local garden center or nursery to gain a good understanding your soil, the quantity and quality of light in your landscape, and your space available for planting. Armed with this information, you will make better plant choices, and better choices will save time and money, and improve your chances for a healthy, beautiful landscape.
  • Understand your soil. Healthy soil is like building a good foundation for your house, and understanding your soil type is the first step to a healthy landscape. The best option is to submit a soil sample to the U of M Soil Test Laboratory. Instructions for how to collect and submit a soil sample are found on the U of M Soil Test Laboratory website. The cost for a routine test is $17. You'll receive information in a couple weeks that includes your soil type, pH, % organic matter, fertilizer and lime recommendations, etc. Explanations are included on the back of your results.

    At minimum, you should know whether your garden soil is clayey or sandy by doing the soil ribbon test. Clay soil does not drain well while sandy soil drains too quickly. Mixing in compost can help in both of these situations. Amending Soils for Perennial Beds
  • Observe the quality and quantity of light in your landscape. Plants are usually labeled with
    their optimal light requirements for best plant performance. "Full sun" means the plant requires six hours or more of complete sunlight. "Part sun" is 3-6 hours of complete sunlight. "Shade" means three hours or less of sun. "Heavy shade" means almost no sun. Remember that nearby trees cast shade as well as buildings, overhangs and fences. Quality of light is also important to understand. Six hours of morning sun is going to be less intense light and heat than six hours of afternoon sun. Some plants like Ligularia and Hydrangea macrophylla will wilt in intense heat, so locating them in a site that receives less intense morning sun may reduce wilting. The Best Plants for 30 Tough Sites

  • Know how much space you have available. The goal is to choose plants that will easily fit
    into landscape spaces when they reach their mature size and form. Measure the garden space you are planting. Locate windows, steps, driveway, walks, patios, decks, easements, and utilities on your drawing. Measure the height of windows nearby to avoid buying plants that potentially would overgrow the windows and thus require severe pruning. You may choose to draw a  base map. A base map is drawn to scale and represents your entire property on paper. It shows existing plants, topography, structures, North arrow, views, natural areas, mature trees, easements, fencelines, etc. A site survey form is helpful in identifying features of your site. A base map is especially helpful if you are planning to add / change areas of your landscape.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Upper Midwest Home Lawn Care Calendar

Many people ask for advice on the timing of lawn care - when to seed, when to apply preemergent herbicide for crabgrass, when to aerate.

The following is a very helpful calendar guide to these and other basic lawn care maintenance for the average home lawns in the upper Midwest. Note that this calendar indicates the optimal and second-best timing for general lawn care. For more details about lawn care, be sure to visit our Extension Lawn and Turfgrass Management website.

For more: Upper Midwest Home Lawn Care Calendar.

Spring in Minnesota

It seems like it would never get here, but spring in Minnesota is coming slowly but surely. March 20th is the first day of spring and the vernal equinox. There are two equinoxes each year - March and September - when the length of night and day are almost exactly the same.

One plant is starting to show itself in the the Horticulture Garden on the St. Paul campus: daylily 'Wayside King Royal' shoots are starting to emerge. The forecast calls for snow (much-needed moisture) and one more day of single digits, but then a warm up.

Lack of snow means soil is low in moisture content. As the weather warms, and if we continue to have dry conditions, water plants well. Mulching plants will help soil retain moisture longer in the root zone area as temperatures rise. Amend soils with compost (organic matter) to hold moisture as well especially in sandy soils.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Frost depths increase - MN Weather Talk - February 20, 2015

By Julie Weisenhorn

Exerpt from MN Weather Talk blog by Mark Seely, U of M Climatologist

Frost Depths Increase: The spell of abnormally cold weather combined with the thin snow cover continues to allow frost depths to go deeper into the soil. In southern Minnesota counties frost depths now range from 25 to 35 inches, while in northern counties many frost depths are reported that are deeper than 40 and 50 inches. Shallow soil temperatures, 2-4 inches have fallen this week into the teens F and even the single digits F in some places. Such low temperatures present a threat of winter injury to alfalfa fields and other plants. Maximum frost depths usually occur near the end of February or early March, so the depth of frost in Minnesota has likely not reached its maximum extent for this winter. Read more.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Your 2015 Garden: Starting seeds

The catalogs have been coming in the mail, and some recent balmy days have people thinking about the upcoming gardening season. Seeds can be economical, offer a wide variety of plant options, and a fun project for gardeners of all ages.

P1060058.JPGStart by becoming familiar best practices. The Extension publication, Starting Seeds Indoors, covers all aspects of seed starting including buying seed, types of growing media, how to sow seeds, light and heat requirements, watering, transplanting, etc. Timing seed starting is critical. Start seeds too early and the plants can become spindly and weak. Start seeds too late, and you may not have a good harvest. Read the seed packets and start seeds at the appropriate time. In Minnesota, most seeds require 6-8 weeks of growing indoors before they can be transplanted outside after all danger of frost has passed. Find the spring frost-free date for your area.

Standing in front of a seed display can be exciting - and overwhelming. Before heading to your local garden center, make a list of vegetables you like to eat and read Extension Vegetable publications. Some publications have lists of varieties that have proven to grow well in Minnesota gardens and have better disease resistance. If you are a flower lover, the University of Minnesota annual flower trials is a helpful resource for finding those varieties that performed well in locations around the state.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Indoor Gardening: Holiday cacti care

Holiday cacti.jpgMany of us receive plants over the holidays as gifts or buy them to bring a little green into our homes during winter. Usually these plants are in full bloom and look terrific for some time. After the flowers dry up and drop off, indoor gardeners are sometimes left wondering how to care for these plants and more importantly - how to make them bloom again! Our Extension publication Cacti and Succulents has a very helpful section on "Holiday Cacti" that explains the affects of temperature and light on Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), and  - yes - Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri). All three of these plants require short days and cool night temperatures to induce budding. Read more.

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