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Sunday, February 28, 2010

So, what are the best grass varieties for this area?

Bob Mugaas, University of Minnesota Extension Educator

Resources for turfgrass species selection

Determining and then finding the best lawn grasses for one's lawn is not as simple a task as it might seem. However, there are at least a couple readily available resources about turfgrass species and
varieties that are helpful when trying to determine which ones will do well in this area. One of those is a local source from right here at the University of Minnesota. The other is a national database with
extensive information about turfgrass varieties. Let's see how we might utilize these to make a list of suitable varieties for this area.
UofMN NTEP trials(2) - med.jpg
U of MN NTEP perennial ryegrass trial
Bob Mugaas

We'll begin with a look at the national database known as NTEP, the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program. Their information can be accessed at: This program is a cooperative effort between the non-profit National Turfgrass Federation, Inc. and the United States Department of Agriculture. It conducts comprehensive evaluations of turfgrass species and varieties across the country in cooperation with researchers at state Universities. (See Photo 1. U of MN NTEP perennial ryegrass trial). The evaluation data is submitted to NTEP for review, analysis and publishing. As a result of that effort, reports are created and made available to anyone wishing to view that data at no cost. For more information about the organization and what resources they can provide, visit their website mentioned above. They also provide a variety of helps to help navigate through the information.

Determining well adapted varieties

Variety information provided by NTEP as well as many others use a very common statistic known as 'least significant difference' or LSD to help aid the user in determining which varieties show true differences from the others being evaluated. This statistic also comes with a probability value that indicates these differences would occur either less than 5% or even less than 1% of the time strictly by chance. Hence, that gives us some level of certainty that the observed differences were not just a chance occurrence but are real differences between the varieties. Fortunately, the LSD and its probability value will have already been determined by NTEP or by the organization doing the data analysis. It is usually found at the bottom of charts that list various variety ratings for a particular characteristic.

For example, when looking down a column of numerical rankings, there can easily be questions about which of these varieties are really superior to all or any other varieties. That would be a perfectly fair question and hence, the need for a tool to help separate the top performing varieties from the rest of the pack. This is where we use the LSD statistic.

Here's how it works. Let's suppose we have the following (fictitious) ranking of bluegrass varieties based on their overall turfgrass quality during the year. In other words, which of these varieties consistently exhibited the best overall turfgrass quality? In this case the rating scale is 1 to 9 with 1 being virtually dead and the lowest quality and 9 being the very best overall turfgrass quality. In most cases, a rating of 6.0 or above would be considered acceptable for a home lawn situation.


Variety Turfgrass Quality

Variety A 7.1

Variety G 7.0

Variety Y 6.8

Variety B 6.8

Variety M 6.7

Variety J 6.4

Variety S 5.7

Variety C 5.6

Variety R 4.4

Variety H 3.7

LSD 1.3

As noted above, these are all fictitious numbers but they will serve to illustrate how to use the real data presented by NTEP or individually by Universities such as here in Minnesota. Remember the LSD statistic indicates what the minimum difference is between the averages of the different varieties for them to be considered truly better or different than the others. In this case, all of those varieties separated by a difference of less than 1.3 would be considered similar in their turfgrass quality even though they may not have exactly the same average value. Thus, in our example, varieties A, G, Y, B, M, and J would all be considered similar in turfgrass quality. Hence, there should be little to no difference among the first six varieties relative to overall turfgrass quality.

In general, you work from the top down when determining LSD groupings. It should be apparent that you could start anywhere in the column and create a set of varieties that are not significantly different from each other in turfgrass quality. For example, using our LSD of 1.3, we could justifiably say that varieties M, J, S and C are not significantly different from each other. That would be a true statement but, there would be some question as to how meaningful that particular group of varieties would be. In general, we are looking for varieties that rank at or near the top for our particular characteristic, not necessarily those in the middle of the pack. Hence, the reason for beginning at the top and working down the column rather than working from the bottom up or starting randomly in the middle of the column. One can also use the LSD statistic to compare one variety with another rather than creating a particular group of varieties as was just done in the above example.

UofMN Newturftrials install(2)_med.jpg
Early growth of new U of MN turfgrass evaluation study
Bob Mugaas

Our own University of Minnesota Turfgrass Program website,, also has variety evaluation information. Likewise the evaluation data presented in our various research reports is arranged in the same manner as that of NTEP and utilizes the LSD statistic to separate significant differences between particular cultivars or groups of cultivars. Thus, if you would like to know how particular turfgrass varieties performed in this area, check out this website for that information as well as other information about the University of Minnesota Turfgrass program.

Hopefully, this information will encourage you to do some investigating into the turfgrass varieties that have the potential to perform well in this area and in your particular situation. Next month, we'll discuss understanding a grass seed label and what to do when the varieties you're looking for aren't listed on any of the packages of seed you've examined.

Baptisia australis, 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year

Karen Jeannette, Research Fellow and Yard and Garden News Editor

Baptisia australis 7 years after planting
Karen Jeannette

The 2010 Perennial Plant of the Year goes to Baptisia australis, also referred to as false indigo. While many times the perennial plant of the year is in fact versatile and well-suited for Minnesota, as with any nationally nominated plant, there are years when the plant of the year does not always turn out as we hope in Minnesota, or is not hardy to any or all of our Minnesota cold hardiness zones ( 2, 3, 4).

 Baptisia australis is considered a long-lived perennial (barring any catastrophe, abuse, or major disruption to the plant or root zone) and is cold hardy in zones 3-8.

The Perennial Plant of the Year is named annually by the Perennial Plant Association, whose board of directors include plantsmen and women who represent nurseries, universities, botanical gardens, and other horticulture entities. The Perennial Plant Association hosts a Plant of the Year Committee, who votes yearly on one of several previously nominated perennial plants, and then nominates future selections based on the following characteristics:

  • Suitable for a wide range of climatic conditions

  • Low maintenance

  • Pest and disease resistant

  • Readily available in the year of release

  • Multiple season of ornamental interest

  • Easily propagated by asexual or seed propagation

Uses and information about Baptisia australis can be found in the Perennial Plant Association's flyer, as seen here:


As mentioned in the above flyer, Baptisia australis can be quite useful in prairie gardens, landscapes, or restoration, along with native and related species, Baptisia bracteata (cream to yellow flowers) and Baptisia alba (white flowers).  The University of Minnesota bulletin Plants in Prairie Communities: Characteristics of Prairie Plants lists all three species as being used in mesic plant prairie communities

Purchasing Baptisia australis - don't let its sparse start fool you!

Because Baptisia australis takes three years to become an established, flowering plant, note that when purchasing first year plants sold in one or two gallon pots, they will not be blooming. In fact, the two or three-stemmed potted plant may look a bit sparse next to other quicker to establish perennial plants for sale. However, just be aware that a first year false indigo plant will likely require a little imagination on your part at the time of purchase.  As long as the plant appears in good health (i.e. not wilting, foliage intact, roots whitish with no rot), these first year plants actually hold much potential. Once planted in the appropriate garden site and soil, false indigo will begin the establishment process needed to become the long-lived, drought resistant, cold hardy, and robust perennial performer it has been touted as being.

Pavement Ants During Winter

Jeffrey Hahn, University of Minnesota Asst. Extension Entomologist

Pavement ant
Jeffery Hahn
Although it is cold outside, that does not stop some ants from being active in buildings. A common indoor winter ant is pavement ants. A pavement ant is 1/8 inch long and is reddish brown (it can actually range from light brown to dark brown). If you examine a pavement ant closely, you will see a two-segmented petiole, the 'waist' connecting the abdomen with the thorax. With magnification, you can also see a series of fine grooves etched into their heads as well as a pair of small spines on the back of their thorax.

Pavement ants typically nest in the soil, usually under objects, such as stones, bricks, sidewalks, and driveways. When they are found during winter, they are nesting in the soil under the concrete slab. When the nest is kept warm from the building's heat, the ants stay active, move through cracks in the concrete and actively forage for food and water. Ironically, many people that see pavement ants during winter do not see them in the summer when the ants are more likely to forage outdoors. Pavement ants prefer to feed on greasy food, including meats, dry pet food, and peanut butter.

If you are having a problem with pavement ants, first see if you can determine where they are coming from. If you find them moving through a crack, e.g. in an expansion joint, you can try to seal it to help keep pavement ants out of your home's interior.

If this isn't possible, the best long-term control is baiting them. Select a bait that is effective for grease feeding ants and place it where you are commonly finding the ants. Don't be surprised if there is an increase in the number of workers that are active around the bait. They will recruit additional foragers to take advantage of the newly discovered food source.

You might be tempted to spray the ants with a household insecticide but the number of foraging workers represents just a small percentage of the total number of ants in the nest. You can't destroy a nest through attrition by killing the workers you see. You can get some relief from their presence but it will only be temporary and the ants will return. Insecticides will also interfere with the ability of the workers to take bait back to the nest. The less bait that is brought into the nest, the less effective it will be in eliminating it. You can also consider hiring a professional pest control service to treat your ants.

If you ignore pavement ants, they will probably start foraging outdoors as warmer weather arrives, and 'disappear' from inside a building.

Keep in mind that not all ants seen during winter are pavement ants. You may also see carpenter ants, Pharaoh ants, yellow ants, and thief ants. Their habits differ as well as their treatment. If you have any doubt as to what kind of ant problem you have, get them identified them by an expert.

A Cuban Cockroach in Minnesota

Jeffrey Hahn, University of Minnesota Asst. Extension Entomologist

Cuban cockroach
Jeffrey Hahn
Bananas are favorite fruit of many people. Because they are grown only in tropical areas, they need to be imported into Minnesota. Some people have occasionally discovered inadvertent hitchhikers, primarily spiders, that have been accidentally been brought into Minnesota with the bananas. Recently an interesting cockroach was discovered around bananas.

A person in Morris, Minnesota (in the west central part of the state) found an insect around a sink where some bananas had been sitting. The insect was about 3/4 inch long, pale green, with long antennae and fully developed wings. A quick check of the literature revealed that the insect in question was a Cuban cockroach.

A Cuban cockroach gets it name because it was originally collected in Cuba. It is now commonly found in Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. It is only found in the U.S. in Florida. Although a Cuban cockroach is an outdoor species, it likes to enter buildings and other structures. They particularly are attracted to lights. Cuban cockroaches are also commonly brought indoors on bananas.

Because this cockroach species is native to tropical and subtropical areas, it does not survive long in the upper Midwest. In fact, this particular individual died shortly after it was found. A Cuban cockroach should not be considered a pest when it is found in Minnesota. It is short-lived, does not reproduce in homes, and does not cause any damage. If you find one, just consider it a curiosity.

March 2010 Garden Calendar

Contributors: Karen Jeannette, Research Fellow and Yard and Garden News Editor; excerpts from the 2010 Minnesota Gardening Calendar.

Plant Tips

March is a good time for pruning out disease
Shown here: Black Knot on Prunus
Karen Jeannette

  • Inspect your apple or crabapple trees for fire blight so you can prune out all traces of the disease this month. You might also find the blackened, dead branch tips on pear trees or mountain ash. Check also for black knot swellings on chokecherries and other members of the cherry family. Prune at least six inches back in to healthy wood when you remove diseased tissue. If possible, dip your pruners into bleach solution between cuts.
See the following articles from the March 1, 2007 Yard and Garden News to best implement sound pruning practices:Pruning Tools, Pruning Cuts, Pruning Out Galls and Cankers

  • Start seeds that need eight to ten weeks growth indoors under fluorescent lights by mid-month. Sweet alyssum, blue salvia, and dianthus pinks are just a few such seeds. Peppers, eggplants, and leeks are among others. Tomatoes may be started at the same time, but plants will be rather large when you put them outdoors. It's better to wait until the end of the month to plant tomato seeds indoors.
  • Check produce you've kept in cool storage to make sure nothing is turning soft or rotting. Remove anything suspect, as problems can readily spread. Winter squash, onions, apples, and potatoes all have finite storage life, particularly if temperatures are warmer than ideal. Non hardy summer bulbs, roots, and corms such as dahlias, tuberous begonias, canna or calla lilies may also soften or shrivel if temps are too high or conditions too dry.
  • Heavy spring snowfall often weighs down evergreen boughs and flattens newly emerging bulbs. It's probably best to just let the snow melt off on its own. If you prefer to remove it from evergreens, scoop it off gently rather than hitting the branches. They're still brittle this time of year and prone to breakage. Snow won't permanently harm bulbs, though they might not straighten up completely this year.
  • Fertilize houseplants now that days are growing noticeably longer
  • Just getting to planning the garden now? Review the January notes for Planning the 2010 Garden with Minnesota Gardening Information.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Professors and Golf Course Superintendents Recognized for Turfgrass Phosphorus Fertilizer Training Program

Appreciation Ceremony N Green Expo 01-06-10-1.jpg
Photo: (Left to right) Dr. Brian Horgan; Gene Hugoson, MDA Commissioner; Rick Traver Jr., CGCS, and Scott Turtinen, MN Golf Course Superintendents Association. (Not Shown, Dr. Carl Rosen). Scott Turtinen.
The Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has recently awarded two University of Minnesota Professors, Drs. Brian Horgan and Carl Rosen, along with Mr. Rick Traver, Jr.,CGCS and Mr. Scott Turtinen of the Minnesota Golf Course Superintendents' Association, for their dedicated service to the Turfgrass Phosphorus Fertilizer Training Program.

Dr. Horgan is an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota and Turfgrass Extension Specialist. He travels around the world giving lectures on nutrient fate, fertilizer management, water conservation strategies and general turfgrass management. His research focuses on creating common sense solutions for the practitioner of today and future turfgrass managers.

Dr. Rosen is a Professor and Extension Soil Scientist in the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate at the University of Minnesota and holds a joint appointment with the Department of Horticultural Science. Since 1983, his extension and research programs at Minnesota have focused on improving nutrient use efficiency in a variety of crops with particular emphasis on nutrient management in irrigated crop production. Efforts in recent years have also focused water quality issues related to fertilizer use and agricultural/horticultural use of municipal and industrial by-products as soil amendments. 

Below is the letter of appreciation signed by the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, outlining the reach and accomplishments of the Turfgrass Phosphorus Fertilizer Training Program in the North Central agronomic region. Congratulations to all four gentlemen!

Letter of Appreciation-1.pdf
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University of Minnesota Master Gardener Vegetable and Ornamental Trials for 2009

Jackie Smith, Belle Plaine, Carver/Scott Master Gardener

Over 100 Master Gardeners throughout Minnesota participated in the trials for 2009. As always, weather was a factor for many, with a long cool dry spell early in the season followed by hot and dry and then by a cool, rainy, stretch at the end. Despite the weather, our testers persevered and most successfully grew and evaluated one of the three vegetables or two ornamentals. Participants grew all the cultivars listed and evaluated yield, flavor, and ornamental value by ranking their performance from 1 to 3 (1=excellent, 3=poor).   They also recorded whether or not they would purchase the cultivar to grow again.

Lima Beans

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Zucchini and lima bean trials
Jackie Smith

Lima growers sowed directly outdoors on an average date of May 30. Growers planted five or more seeds of each variety, and kept from two to three plants of each for evaluation. All varieties were marked as bush varieties. Flavor and texture were evaluated using cooked young shelled beans.
  • "Burpee Improved" averaged 2.8 light green beans per pod at 103 days from planting to harvest. The beans were quite large at .8" each, and the plants averaged 1.1 cup of shelled beans each. Ranked #1 for flavor, texture, and overall. Seventy-five percent of our testers are willing to purchase Burpee Improved in the future.
  • "Dixie Butterpea" was earliest to produce light green beans at 102 days from planting. The small, ½" beans were produced at the rate of 3.2 per pod, with an average of 1.2 cups of shelled beans per plant. Flavor and texture were ranked in 5th place, but our growers rated Dixie Butterpea last overall. Still, sixty-four percent will grow again.
  • "Eastland Bush" set light green beans at 103 days from planting. The beans averaged .6" in size-3.1 per pod- at the rate of 1.1 cup per plant. Growers rated Eastland in second place for flavor, texture, and overall. Sixty-four percent will purchase again.
  • "Henderson's Bush" also produced .6" light green beans at the rate of 2.9 per pod, 103 days from planting. Pod set was light, with a total yield of only .8 cup of shelled beans per plant. Ranked in second place (tied with Eastland) for flavor, but only 4th for texture, Henderson averaged 3rd place overall. Fifty-four percent will purchase in the future.
  • "Speckled Calico" produced beautiful large (.8") beans at the rate of 2.5 per pod, and 1.3 cup per plant. The beans were a lovely marbled combination of pink and white. Plants were slow to set fruit, averaging 109 from planting to harvest, and were large vines that required support. Flavor rated only 4th place, while texture was rated 3rd. Coming in at 4th place overall, Speckled Calico will be grown again by fifty percent of our testers.
  • "Early Thorogreen" took 104 days to harvest, producing .6" light green beans at the rate of 3 per pod and .8 cup per plant. Rated last for flavor and texture, our growers still ranked Thorogreen in 5th place overall. Only forty-six percent will grow again.

Leaf Lettuce

Leaf lettuce trials
Jackie Smith

Participants were asked to sow seeds directly outdoors as soon as the soil was workable and the danger of heavy frost past. They were asked not to thin, but to cut the plants for baby lettuce beginning at 3" in height, and to continue to harvest as often as possible. The growers sowed an average of 35 seeds of each variety on May 7.
  • "Australian Yellow" averaged 43.6 days to first harvest. Leaves were chartreuse color and our growers averaged 5.7 cuttings before the plants bolted or simply quit growing. Flavor was rated 5, and texture last, giving Australian Yellow a overall final ranking of 5. Still, seventy-three percent of the growers will try this again
  • "Black Seeded Simpson". This old standby variety is still doing well in comparison trials, ranking first for flavor and third place overall. BSS was ready to harvest at 42.8 days, and was top yielder at 6.2 cuttings. Leaves were chartreuse in color. Ninety-two percent of our testers will continue to grow this variety.
  • "Grand Rapids" also produced chartreuse leaves starting at 43.2 days from planting. Ranked 4th for flavor and 3rd for texture, this variety placed fourth overall. Harvest was relatively brief, with 4.8 cuttings, but a whopping ninety-eight percent will grow Grand Rapids again.
  • "Lolla Rossa" seed was a crop failure and a different variety was substituted by the supplier. Unfortunately, the variety name was unreadable - but the following rankings do not apply to Lolla Rossa: leaves were green with red margins with good texture but unpopular flavor. Ranked in 6th place, only 68% of our growers liked this lettuce, whatever the variety.
  • "Midnight" leaves were a uniform dark red produced at 41.8 days from planting (earliest), and continuing for 5.6 cuttings. Flavor was ranked #1, tied with BSS, and texture #2. Overall, our growers rated Midnight in first place and eighty-eight percent will purchase again.
  • "New Red Fire" plants produced green leaves with red margins at 42.8 days from sowing. Plants gave up early, however, standing up through only 4.7 cuttings. Flavor and texture were average, but New Red Fire ranked second place overall. Eighty-four percent will grow again.

Green Zucchini

Participants in this trial planted seeds directly outdoors on May 24, planting a minimum of 3 seeds of each variety. Asked to grow at least one plant of each variety, the growers averaged two or more of each. Evaluations for flavor and texture were conducted tasting raw fruit at 6" in length. All varieties produced dark green fruit that was predominantly slender and straight. Powdery mildew was rampant across the state. Vine borers and/or squash bugs were common, but no varieties were either more or less attractive to these pests.
  • "Ambassador" produced fruit at 53.6 days from sowing, at the highest rate of 14.1 fruit per plant. Ranked third for texture, Ambassador was tops in flavor and overall, with 89% of our growers willing to purchase it again for future planting.
  • "Black" took 53.3 days to harvest. One of two varieties with large leaves that seemed somewhat less prone to mildew. Texture was ranked second, but Black's flavor was the least favorite. Production was average at 12.8 fruit per plant. Our growers ranked this third overall and seventy-one percent are willing to buy again.
  • "Cashflow" was the earliest to harvest at 52.2 days from planting. Texture wasn't a favorite, but testers rated it second for flavor. Plants averaged 13.6 fruits. Ranked fifth overall, only fifty-nine percent will purchase Cashflow in the future.
  • "Dark Green" also produced large mildew-resistant leaves with fruit ready to harvest 54.3 days from planting. Plants averaged 12.8 fruits each, with top rated texture. Ranked last overall, still seventy-eight percent will grow Dark Green again.
  • "Emperor" ranked fourth for flavor, texture and overall. The plants were slowest to produce fruit, at 55.6 days from planting, and averaged only 9.6 fruits each. Seventy-eight percent of our growers were still willing to try this variety again.
  • "Spineless" texture placed last in our grower's opinions, but flavor was average. Plants produced fruit sooner than others at 49.3 days from plants, with an average of 13.8 fruit per plant. Ranked in second place overall, Spineless will be purchased again by 83% of our testers.


Dianthus varieties
Jackie Smith

Growers were asked to start seed indoors as soon as received (average March 15) and to select at least three plants of each variety to transplant outdoors for evaluation in this trial. Transplanting was to take place when weather was warm and settled, with the actual average transplanting date of May 26, 2009. Varieties grown were all relatively low plants and were not meant to be color mixes. In addition, none were notably fragrant. In most cases, bloom was curtailed only by frost at season's end.
  • "Corona Cherry" plants averaged 7.7" tall by 8.0" side, with 2.0" single blooms in varying shades of raspberry pink. Ranked in third place for amount of bloom, and fourth place overall, Corona Cherry will be purchased again by 77% of our trial participants.
  • "Crimson Carpet" produced attractive blue leaves when out of bloom on plants that averaged 8.5" tall by 7.4" wide. Ranked in fourth place for amount of bloom, plants produced single red blooms that averaged 1.4" in diameter. Placing last overall, only 57% will purchase Crimson Carpet again.
  • "Ideal Red" single blooms were 1.4" in diameter in a pleasing shade of warm rosy red on plants that averages 8.7 inches by 8.5 inches. Ranked second for amount of bloom, this variety also placed second overall. A full 80% will grow Ideal Red in the future.
  • "Parfait Raspberry" large single blooms averaged 1.8" in raspberry shading to cream edges. Plants averaged 8.0" by 8.3", with blue leaves. Flower production was the lowest in the trial, but because of the large bloom size, there was plenty of flower-power. Ranked number one overall, Parfait Raspberry will be grown again by 73% of our testers.
  • "Snowfire" is our third variety with blue leaves. Plants were a bit larger than the others at 10.2" tall by 8.9" wide. The 1.6" blooms were a little more sparse than most (5th place) and were single, with smallish fire engine red centers on white petals. Ranked fifth overall, sixty-seven percent will purchase Snowfire again.
  • "Telstar Crimson" produced small (1.3") single red flowers abundantly (ranked #1 for production). Plants grew to 9.3" tall by 8.9" wide. Growers rated this in third place overall and a very strong 82% will purchase Telstar Crimson in the future.


rudbeckia prairie sun and cherry brandy_med.jpg
Rudbeckia "Prairie Sun" and "Cherry Brandy"
Jackie Smith

Growers were asked to start seeds indoors (average starting date was March 23), and to transplant outdoors in full sun when the weather was warm and settled (average May 28). They started an average of 8 seeds of each variety, and averaged one to three plants of each by trial end.
  • "Cappuccino" plants averaged 21" tall by 17" wide. Petals of the single, 4.6" blooms were gold with rust toward the brown centers. Ranked the most floriferous of the varieties tested, Cappuccino tied for number one overall, along with Cherry Brandy. Eighty-nine percent of our trial participants will purchase again.
  • "Cherry Brandy" is an unusual color breakthrough for Rudbeckia with burgundy petals backed with pink and brown centers. The single blooms averaged 3.1" in diameter and were ranked second in flower production. Plants grew to 26" tall by 16" wide. Tied for number one overall with Cappuccino, Cherry Brandy exceeded it in popularity with a full 100% of the growers interested in trying it again.
  • "Chocolate Orange" seed caused problems for several growers, with a dismal 28% germination rate. Those who were successful were rewarded with 3.5" single blooms with petals showing orange tips and dark red toward the dark centers. Bloom amount ranked third on plants that grew to 23" tall by 16" wide. Rated in third place overall, 94% of our growers will continue to grow Chocolate Orange.
  • "Indian Summer" produced very large, 4.5", single gold blossoms with dark centers on plants that grew to 29" tall by 18" wide. Ranked fifth for flower production and fifth overall, Indian Summer remains popular enough to encourage 94% to continue to grow it in the future.
  • "Maya" was at a disadvantage grown against the others since it was the only double flower on much smaller plants, which grew to only 16" tall by 12" wide. The gold blooms were 2.9" in diameter, but flower production was only average or below. Ranked in 6th place overall, only 33% will grow Maya again.
  • "Prairie Sun" differed from the others by being the only variety with light green centers. The blooms averaged 4.2" diameter, and the gold petals had lighter yellow tips. Coupled with the green centers, the overall effect of the blooms was a paler yellow. Plants grew to 28" tall by 17" wide, but flower production was rated least of all tested varieties. Growers ranked Prairie Sun fourth overall, but enjoyed it enough to encourage 90% of them to purchase it in the future.

Asian Vegetables

Red noodle bean was part of the Asian vegetable variety trials
Jackie Smith
Trial information was also collected for a number of Asian vegetable varieties. A summary of these results can be viewed this spring in the Northern Gardener

How well do you know your Minnesota lawn grasses?

Bob Mugaas, University of Minnesota Extension Educator

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Springtime lawn and landscape
Bob Mugaas

One of the favorite winter pastimes for Minnesota gardeners is looking through seed and nursery catalogs that in turn, fuel one's desire to plant and try new vegetables, flowers, trees or shrubs in the coming year. But, this is also a good time of year to plan ahead to repair or replace those lawn areas that may not be doing so well. If you are thinking about just trying to thicken up your lawn or perhaps even introduce some different types of grasses into an existing lawn to improve such things as drought tolerance, disease resistance, shade tolerance or lower the need for inputs of water and nutrients, this is also a good time of year to do some homework on the best grasses to use to achieve those goals.

A good planning exercise for the winter is to look out your windows and try to reflect on whether or not the lawn seems to be doing well in those areas. If not, make a note of what seemed to be the problem and try to determine why the grass may not be doing so well in those areas. For example, has the amount of shade increased due to the growth and canopy expansion of landscape trees? Or, has the shrub border grown and enlarged such that it has increased shading of the adjacent lawn area? Both of these conditions can cause a thinning and overall decline of the lawn. In this case, some tree and/or shrub pruning may be needed to provide some additional light and better air circulation to the area. Hence, with an improved growing environment for the grass plants, reestablishment success will be more likely.

As another example, an area may be thinning due to excessive play and use that has resulted in significantly compacted soils and consequent weed invasion. Making note of problem areas and possible causes for lawn decline will help determine appropriate turfgrass species and varieties to use as well as what other repair strategies may be needed. Spending some time making these assessments now will make the implementation of a repair plan during the busy spring gardening period much easier to carry out.

Now, on to our lawn grasses. In this part of the country, we are very fortunate to have several lawn grass species to choose from that can meet most anyone's lawn goals and expectations. Following is some brief information about the three primary lawn grasses used in Minnesota: Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue and perennial ryegrass. If you would like a more comprehensive review of these (and other) species, see the home lawn care section chapter on selecting grasses in the Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series website:

Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis)

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Kentucky bluegrass
Bob Mugaas

Kentucky bluegrass remains the most popular lawn grass planted in Minnesota and is almost exclusively used in the production of sod for this area. See Photo 2. It's widely used in home lawns, parks, athletic fields and golf courses. Varieties of Kentucky bluegrass range from medium to dark green in color. Most varieties require higher maintenance (water, nutrients, etc.) levels to remain healthy and vigorous and most will not perform well in shady conditions.

Kentucky bluegrass grows and spreads by producing underground stems known as rhizomes that send up shoots as they grow through the soil. This allows Kentucky bluegrass to more rapidly recover from injury and abuse than any of the other lawn grasses and be very competitive against weed invasion. This is also the primary reason why this species is so popular with sod producers.

The tip of an unmowed Kentucky bluegrass leaf is shaped like the front end of a typical fishing boat, hence the designation of having a 'boat-shaped' leaf tip. This is a very reliable identification characteristic for Kentucky bluegrass and can help to easily assess where and how much Kentucky bluegrass is growing in a home lawn.

Fine Fescues (Festuca spp.)

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Leaf texture comparison of fine
fescue and Kentucky bluegrass
Bob Mugaas

The term "fine-leaved fescues" is generally applied to three similar species commonly used in our lawn mixes. They are strong creeping red fescue (Festuca rubra spp. rubra), chewings fescue (Festuca rubra var. commutata) and hard fescue (Festuca longifolia). Occasionally, sheep fescue (Festuca ovina) is utilized in mixes to be used in very low-maintenance areas and 'no-mow' mixes. Strong creeping red fescue does spread by rhizomes but is not nearly as aggressive as Kentucky bluegrass. Chewings fescue and hard fescue are considered bunch-type grasses as they lack rhizomes or stolons and spread primarily by tillering. They are both considered excellent choices for home lawns. Fine fescues are not normally available or grown as sod.

 As their name implies the fine fescues are very fine textured grasses. See Photo 3 for comparison of fine fescue leaf texture with that of Kentucky bluegrass. They are also characterized by medium to slow growth rates and medium to dark green color. Fine fescues have lower maintenance needs (i.e., less water and nutrient inputs) including some that have reduced mowing requirements. They have good drought tolerance and adapt well to the shadier areas in the landscape, particularly dry shade. Their wear tolerance is not as good as that of Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass. Likewise, fine fescues will tend to do better in lawns receiving lower levels of lawn care inputs while Kentucky bluegrasses will perform better at moderate to higher lawn care inputs levels.

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Fine fescue no-mow mix at UMORE Park
Bob Mugaas

The fine fescues are frequently mixed with Kentucky bluegrass for average home lawn conditions. In a mixed landscape where there are some areas of full sun and some areas of partial shade, the fine fescues will usually tend to dominate in the shadier areas while the Kentucky bluegrasses will be more dominant in the sunnier areas.

Fine fescues, particularly hard and sheep fescues, are usually major components of mixes sold as 'no-mow' mixes. See Photo 4 for example of a two year old no-mow mix growing out at UMORE Park in Rosemount, MN. These mixes have been increasingly popular choices where mowing is not able to be done on a regular basis or site conditions make mowing unsafe. No-mow mixes have also been used to create a transition zone from natural plantings such as prairie or woodland gardens to maintained lawn areas. Their slower growth rates and limited spreading ability help prevent them from aggressively invading into these natural areas.

Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne)

Perennial ryegrass is a cool season, medium-textured, bunch-type grass. It is a higher maintenance requiring grass that can withstand the higher amounts of wear and tear common to areas such as athletic fields or intensively used backyards. Its biggest drawback is its lack of cold hardiness. It is the least hardy of the three major lawn grasses used in this area.

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Perennial ryegrass
Bob Mugaas

Perennial ryegrass usually has a dark green color with a texture similar to that of Kentucky bluegrass. See Photo 5. Hence, perennial ryegrass makes a good seed mix component with Kentucky bluegrass when used for higher maintenance / higher use lawns and recreational areas.

Perennial ryegrass can usually be identified by its shiny green color on the underside of the leaf blade while the upper surface has a rather dull, flat green appearance. The mid-vein of the leaf is also visually quite prominent on the upper side of the leaf.  The leaf tip comes to more of a point rather than the 'boat shaped tip' common to the bluegrasses. The lower portion of the perennial ryegrass shoot is usually dark red to purplish colored as opposed to Kentucky bluegrass which is a lighter green to nearly whitish at the base of the shoot.

Perennial ryegrass is well known for its quick germination and vigorous seedling growth. Those characteristics make it particularly valuable when rapid repair and establishment of a turfgrass cover is desired. A drawback of that characteristic is that it can quickly shade and overpower slower germinating Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescue seedlings when sown at the same time. Ultimately, this can result in very low populations of Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescue getting established in the lawn. With the hardiness problems associated with perennial ryegrass, severe winter injury could result in a very thin lawn the following spring with a consequent need for significant reseeding to be done. Nonetheless, small amounts (< 20%) of perennial ryegrass in a home lawn seed mix will help get some early establishment on the site and provide some protection of the slower germinating grasses.

More Next Month

That's it for now. Next month we'll explore a couple of other grass species occasionally encountered in seed mixes for this area. There will also be some information about specific turfgrass variety selection and what to do when you can't find them at your local garden center or other retail outlets. Until then, take some time to do a little lawn care reflection and planning along with enjoying the many seed and garden catalogs that all help, once again, create enthusiasm for this coming growing season.

New Do-It-Yourself Bed Bug Monitor

Jeffrey Hahn, University of Minnesota Asst. Extension Entomologist

In the fight against bed bugs, one of the challenges is knowing whether these biting insects are present and where they are located in a building. Recent research at Rutgers has developed a monitor that will make it easier to find them. This research was presented at the 2009 Entomological Society of America (ESA) annual meetings held in Indianapolis and has since been widely reported in the media.

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Do-it-yourself bed bug monitor
Rutgers Cooperative Extension
This research, conducted by Wan-Tien Tsai and Changlu Wang, found that a monitor could be successfully made from an insulated plastic 1/3 gallon jug filled with about 2 ½ pounds of dry ice pellets. You leave the pour spout partially open to allow CO2to escape which emits CO2 for about 11 hours. The jug is set on top of an upside pet food dish. Put fabric around the outside of the dish to allow bed bugs easy access to the inner part of the dish. You should also coat the inner section of the dish with talcum powder so the bed bugs can not climb back out. This trap costs about $15.

While this monitor has been demonstrated to be effective in detecting bed bugs, some members of the media have misconstrued this technique as a cheap method for controlling bed bugs. This monitor WILL NOT CONTROL AND ELIMINATE bed bugs in your home. Further, there are apparently some reports of pest control services (although none I am aware of in Minnesota) that have been using this monitor incorrectly in bed bug control programs.

Again, these monitors are to be used to determine whether bed bugs are present in your home. People that are suffering unknown bites but have not seen any insects could verify whether bed bugs are present or not with this monitor. For people that have bed bugs treated in their home, this trap can be used to help determine whether any bed bugs still remain.

With that said, there are some drawbacks to this monitor and people should consider carefully whether they wish to use it. First, while the components to build this trap are inexpensive, dry ice may not be easily obtained. People need to exercise caution when handling dry ice. You should never touch dry ice directly or allow it to contact bare skin as this will cause freeze burns. You can not store dry ice, not even in your freezer. You have less than a day to use it before it evaporates.

This monitor is also a potential child hazard. The trap is unsecured and a curious child could open the jug and accidentally touch the dry ice and severely injure themselves. It is even possible that if more dry ice is used than is suggested and the trap is placed in a small room with poor ventilation that the CO2 could be very harmful to people in that room.

This monitor is an advancement in the war on bed bugs but people that are considering whether to make one themselves at home need to understand its safe and use and limitations. For more information on bed bug monitors, including dry ice traps, see the Rutgers Cooperative Extension fact sheet,
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