Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2015

Nutsedge and Ornamental Sedges: What’s the Difference?

Mary H. Meyer, Extension Horticulturist and Professor, University of Minnesota

Nutsedge is an aggressive long-lived weed (some consider it one of the world’s 5 worst weeds) in the genus Cyperus whereas the ornamental sedges are in the genus Carex and although some are aggressive, they can easily be controlled. Taxonomically, the ornamental sedges have separate male and female flowers, born separately along the flowering stem, whereas yellow nutsedge has perfect flowers that are in a terminal, fairly conspicuous umbel (upside down umbrella) cluster, see image below. Yellow nutsedge, Cyperus esculentus, and Carex spp. are both in the Cyperaceae family which is known for triangular stems and leaves in three ranks thus the rhyme: Sedges have edges, grasses are round and hollow right up from the ground.

When you pull up yellow nutsedge, you might get a small tuber often referred to as a nut at the end of the root, thus the common name ‘nut sedge’. This tuber is edible (the word esculentus…

Western conifer seed bugs and kissing bugs

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

A western conifer seed bug, a type of leaf-footed bug, is a common insect in Minnesota. It is fairly large, measuring about ¾ inch long, and is reddish brown with a few white markings. It is distinctive in appearance because it possesses leaf-like structures on its large back legs. People rarely notice this insect during summer as it feeds on pine trees.

However, it is commonly spotted indoors during fall and winter as it searches for sheltered sites to spend the winter. It can accidentally enter homes through cracks and gaps, much like boxelder bugs and lady beetles. Fortunately, no more than a handful of western conifer seed bugs are usually seen at a time. They are a nuisance by their presence but otherwise are harmless. See also Nuisance invaders: birch catkin feeders, hackberry psyllids, western conifer seed bugs.

However, people recently have been confusing this insect with kissing bugs.  Kissing bugs are a type of assassin bug, be…

New online tool for choosing plants

A new version of the Plant Elements of Design plant selection program is now available from University of Minnesota Extension. Released September 1st, the program features close to 2800 woody and herbaceous plants, and approximately 3500 plant images. More plants and images are being added weekly. Users are encouraged to read the user manual and participate in the user blog. Links are provided in the program. Designed to encourage plant selection based on site conditions and design requirements, Plant Elements of Design is open to the public and free of charge. Visitors are required only to create a user name and password. To select plants, users identify site conditions (soil, light, zone, etc.) and plant characteristics desired (plant type, size, flower, texture, form, use, etc.), from drop-down menus and click search. A list of plants matching the criteria will be listed. Many plants have images and all images are downloadable. Desired plants can be exported to a spreadsheet to bu…

Order the 2016 Minnesota Gardening calendar for a favorite gardener

Keep your thumb green all year long! The Minnesota Gardening calendar features stunning seasonal photos and monthly gardening and plant tips. It is produced by University of Minnesota Extension and the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, so it contains the most reliable information around. More than a calendar, the Minnesota Gardening calendar highlights research-based information on healthy soil, growing vegetables in Minnesota gardens and composting. A kitchen compost bucket sticker is included to remind you and your family about what goes in and what stays out.  Visit to order from the University of Minnesota Bookstore. Buy one for your and one for a favorite fellow gardener in time for the holidays and the upcoming gardening year!

Holiday Cacti Care

Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), and Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri) do not have the typical requirements of most succulents. Although true cacti, they are epiphytic in nature, growing in the branches of trees in their native tropical forest rain habitats. The need for high humidity, bright but filtered light, and soil kept relatively moist most of the year sets these plants apart from the majority of cacti and succulents.
Read more ....

Q&A: African violet is wilted

Question:After being healthy for many years, my African violet leaves are still green, but suddenly wilted, limp and hanging over the pot. What has happened and what can I do - if anything -  to revive it?

Answer: Houseplants wilting can be due to several factors. Most common is either under or over watering, so check the soil. If it is very dry, water the plant and see if it revives. If the soil is wet, then remove the plant from the pot. Carefully remove the wet soil and check the roots for rot (brown - black soft roots), a common problem in over watered houseplants. Constantly wet soil in houseplants causes not only root rot, but also fosters fungus gnats, a fruit fly that thrives in wet soil. If a majority of the roots are still white or light-colored, prune off the rotted roots, and re-pot the plant in soil for African violets. You can water from top or bottom with water at room temperature or slightly warmer. Allow the plant to drain well.

Plants may also wilt from an exc…

What creates "fall color"?

Kathy Zuzek, Extension Educator - Horticulture

Want lemons? Act like a bee

Julie Weisenhorn - Extension educator - Horticulture

Hopefully by now, Minnesota gardeners have brought their precious houseplants indoors for the winter. But what about fruit trees? Some, like the Meyer lemon, require bees to do the pollinating. Once indoors the gardener needs to step in ...

Fun trivia about plants and Halloween

Julie Weisenhorn - Extension Educator - Horticulture

Going to a Halloween party? Here are some fun plant-related trivia to wow your friends ...

Halloween & the seasons
Food and the fall harvest is at the core of our traditional American Halloween. It is a combination of Christian traditions and the ancient Celtic Pagan festival Samhain (pronounced sah-win) which means “end of summer” and the harvest. It was a time to commune, put up resources for winter, and bring animals in from the summer pastures. Times of transition in the natural world were thought to be special and supernatural, creating the belief among some that Samhain was a time when spirits of the dead would cross over to the living world. However, the festival of Samhain as more about changing seasons and preparing for dormancy of nature as summer changes to winter.
Sources: History of Halloween
History of Halloween - Live Science

Pumpkins are a symbol of Halloween. The Latin name for pumpkins is Cucurbita pepo

EAB found in Duluth

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

(The following information is taken from an October 23, 2015 news release from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture)

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) last Friday identified emerald ash borer (EAB) in the city of Duluth (St. Louis County). Finding EAB in Duluth is not a surprise as Superior, Wisconsin, just across the state border from Duluth, confirmed EAB in August, 2013.

MDA staff found EAB larvae in an ash trees on Park Point. The find was discovered as part of a three-year
study the MDA is conducting in partnership with the city. The study is evaluating different methods for finding EAB, and one of those methods is removing samples of branches from ash trees to peel back the bark and look for signs of the insect. MDA staff found evidence of EAB in four of 35 trees sampled in this way.

Because this is the first time that EAB has been identified in St. Louis County, the specimen have been sent to the United States Depart…

Q&A: Fall lawn care

Sam Bauer, Extension Educator - Horticulture
Lawn care is a hot topic even as we move into cooler weather! Here are some answers to common questions from WCCO Smart Gardens listeners and Yard & Garden News readers.

Q: What mowing height should I keep my lawn at before winter?
A: Generally we suggest to keep your lawn at the same height as you've had in the fall.  Cutting the lawn short prior to winter has been commonly suggested in the past as a means of reducing spring damage from snow molds and voles, but cutting the lawn too short will be more of a stress to the grass than the injury you may experience from diseases or critters.  If the standard mowing height for your lawn is 2.5 to 3 inches, we suggest to keep it at that.  If the height is 3+ inches, then we would recommending bringing it down to 3 inches before winter.  If you do plan to lower the mowing height, be sure to mow several times at this height, not just the final mow.  The goal is to condition the grass to t…