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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Black flies and midges are out now

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

There are two types of flies that are being commonly seen this spring: black flies, also called gnats, and chironomid (ki-ron-OM-id) midges. Black flies can inflict painful bites to people, while midges are just nuisances.

Black flies are small but many people think they inflict a more painful bite
than mosquitoes.  Photo credit: Jeff Hahn, Univ of MN Ext.
Black flies are stout, humpbacked, dark-colored flies. The larvae live in rivers and streams. The adults are good fliers and can be found miles from where they emerged. They commonly bite people on exposed skin during early morning and early evening as well as on cloudy days. Fortunately, black flies are not known to transmit diseases to people in Minnesota. Even if they don’t bite, they can still be annoying by flying around a person’s face.

It is challenging to avoid black fly bites. When possible, avoid the times when black flies are most common. When you are out, wear protective clothes to cover bare skin including long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks and shoes, and hats. Wear something on your head as black flies love to bite around the hairline of heads. Although black flies can be active throughout the season, they are most common during spring.

Unfortunately, repellents, like DEET, are not consistently effective against black flies; but their use is still probably better than nothing. For more information, see Black flies.

Chironomid midges don't bite but often occur in large numbers
which can be annoying.  Photo credit: Jeff Hahn, U of M Ext.

Chironomid midges have also been common around Minnesota. They are mosquito-like in appearance; males have feathery antennae. Despite that, they do not bite. The larvae live in water but the adults are not strong fliers so it is common to see them on foliage near where they emerge.

These midges commonly fly in large clouds in order to mate. Anyone around such a cloud can get midges in their faces and their food and drink. Annoying but not the end of the world. Even though these midges do not have chewing mouthparts, they have been suspected of damaging turf and garden plants; fortunately they are incapable of injuring plants.

Midges are short-lived, usually not lasting more than a week or so. While there are different species that can occur at different times of the year, most hatchings are not noticed by people. There is no control for midges, ignore them (as best you can), and they will go away on their own. See also BugGuide for information on chironomid midges.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What to do with ornamental grasses in spring

Mary Hockenberry Meyer, Extension Horticulturist
Gail Hudson, Extension Communication Specialist

Volunteers and Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Gardener Erik Lemke used a gas powered trimmer, rakes, and tarp to move switchgrass tops to the compost pile on May 9, 2018. The other grasses were burned May 2nd before new growth started.
Photo: Mary Hockenberry Meyer
Perennial ornamental grasses, once established, can be one of the easiest plants to grow in your garden. And spring time may be the only time when you'll need to give them a bit of attention.  
Take a good look at your plant. Is the center of it dead? Large mature grasses with a dead center can particularly benefit if they're divided in the spring. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Do not treat Japanese beetle grubs in spring

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

It is too late to treat white grubs now.  Photo: Jeff Hahn, U of M Ext.
People who experienced Japanese beetles last summer are looking to take action against them this year before they become a problem. However, if you are thinking of treating for grubs this spring it is too late (or too early depending on your point of view).

The bottom line is that grubs are too large to treat now. The best time to treat Japanese beetle white grubs is July through mid-September when they are small or moderate-sized. As they get larger, it is more difficult to kill them and by fall it is no longer practical to manage them. When spring arrives, these grubs are still too large to try to control.

3 Tips to reduce the need to weed

Annie Klodd, Extension Educator-Fruit and Vegetable Production

For most gardeners, weeding is one of the most arduous tasks in the vegetable garden. Save time, save your back, and save your energy: these 3 tips will reduce the need to weed.

1: Mulch in May once the soil has warmed

Thick straw mulch creates a physical barrier to suppress weeds.
Photo: Annie Klodd
Mulch creates a powerful physical barrier to weeds. Common mulch choices for vegetable gardens include straw, grass clippings, and chipped leaves. Apply these mulches liberally to create a 2 to 4-inch mat, which suppresses weeds from germinating and growing. Plant-based mulches have the added benefit of adding valuable organic matter back into the soil.

Landscape fabric also works well to suppress weeds. It is most appropriate for transplanted vegetables, since holes can be cut into it to plant seedlings.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Giant water bugs just a curiosity

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

This giant water bug was found on the side of a building near a street light.
Photo:  Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota Extension
Some people are finding a large, up to 2 1/3 inches long, insect outdoors around their homes or their work. Sometimes people think this insect is a beetle, a cockroach, or even an invasive species. In fact, it is the giant water bug, Lethocerus americanus.

This giant water bug is a common native species. It is olive brown with large front legs for grasping and holding prey and large, flattened back legs for swimming.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Future engineering gurus plant flowers for pollinators

4H club wanted an experiment and Master Gardener leader came through

Julie Weisenhorn, Extension Horticulturist

4H Engineering Club of Lyon and Lincoln counties
plant annual seeds for the Flowers for Pollinators study

The Lynd Community Center was a bee hive of activity on Saturday, May 5th as 11 members of the 4H Engineering Club of Lincoln and Lyon Counties joined the effort to help pollinators by starting seeds for their own Flowers for Pollinators studies. Five other 4H groups from Redwood county and another in Lincoln county will also participate.

Flowers for Pollinators (F4P), now in its 4th year at various MN sites, asks the question "Are annuals attractive to pollinators?" The 4H club of elementary and middle school youth is led by Extension Master Gardener Stephanie DeJaeghere. The club wanted to conduct some kind of experiment and DeJaeghere had heard about the F4P as an Extension volunteer. 

The club members - and their dedicated parents - started six of the 30 F4P varieties for planting and evaluation in their own gardens:
  1. Dwarf sunflower 'Suntastic bicolor pink' - blooms early, pollen-less yet attracts bees, large pink
    Seed packets and plant labels for the 6 varieties
    to dusky yellow flowers with black centers
  2. Melampodium 'Showstar' - prolific bloomer all season, small gold daisy-like flowers
  3. Zinnia 'Zahara Starlight Rose' - small bushy zinnia, white flowers with rosy center
  4. Zinnia 'Old Mexico' - prolific bloomer; red and gold medium sized flowers
  5. Cosmos 'Double Take' - Blooms more in mid to late summer; pinks and whites
  6. Marigold 'Bambino' - deep gold, medium flowers, low and bushy

They'll be evaluating the plants for insect activity and recording insects visits on the flowers. A F4P blog and an Instagram account (flowers4pollinators) are available for the club members to report their experiences and observations.

UMN Extension 4H Program Coordinator for Lyon county, Sam Jens, was so interested in the study that he and DeJaeghere decided to plant two study sites at the Lyon County fairgrounds.

Follow the progress of the Lyon county 4H Engineering club on the F4P blog!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Start the season right with healthy plants

Learn what to look for while you shop!

M.Grabowski, UMN Extension 

Coleus for sale at a local garden center
Photo: M. Grabowski, UMN Extension
The first step to prevent disease problems in the garden is to start out with healthy disease free plants.

Many plant pathogens are able to hitch a ride from one garden to the next by infecting plants before they are sold or shared. This can result in disease problems for years to come as the new pathogen becomes established along with the new plant.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Reduce the risk of tar spot and apple scab now

M. Grabowski, UMN Extension
Apple scab at mid summer
M. Grabowski, UMN Extension 

Two common leaf spot diseases that blight Minnesota landscapes every year are tar spot of maple and scab of apple and crabapple. Both diseases are caused by fungi that survive winter on last year’s infected leaves.

As snow melts and tree buds begin to swell, gardeners have one last chance to remove these infected leaves before the fungal pathogens become active.

Build a home for bees

Make your garden a haven for bees

Aaron Irber, Research Scientist UMN Dept of Entomology and Elaine Evans, UMN Extension Educator

Photo: Heather Holm
We can help bees by planting flowers, but nesting habitat is important too. Roughly 60-70 percent of bees nest in the ground. You can help them by leaving patches of ground undisturbed and leaving some bare spots. The other 30 percent are cavity-nesting, using hollow plant stems or holes in wood.

You can make nesting habitat to provide homes for these cavity-nesting bees. There are many pre-made options for bee houses, but often these are more cute than effective.  

Watch the video at the end of this article to see a bee making its home in a cut-off plant stem!

Lawn care: 'Tis the season...Finally!

Learn how to use a growing degree day tracker to time herbicide applications

Remember this?!
Photo: Gail Hudson, UMN Extension
As you read this, it has likely been only a week or two that you’ve been able to see your lawn this spring.  What an interesting spring it’s been!

The University of Minnesota Climatology Team provided a summary of our weather conditions throughout the month of April, which, in many cases was a record setting month.  Needless to say, lawn care practices have been pushed back much later this year.  As we get into the swing of things with the growing season, here are several considerations for lawn care practices this spring.

Monday, April 30, 2018

May to-do list for vegetable gardening

The snow has melted! So when can I plant?

Annie Klodd, Extension Educator-Fruit and Vegetable Production
Michelle Grabowski, Extension Educator-Plant Pathology
Extension Educator Annie Klodd planted these bell peppers from seed in a greenhouse on April 1 and will transplant them outside on May 30. (Photo: Annie Klodd, University of Minnesota)
The cold spring and record-breaking snowfall in mid-April may have delayed the start of the 2018 vegetable garden for many Minnesotans. But do not worry! There is still plenty of time to prepare your garden and plant vegetables throughout May.

The May to-do list includes preparing the soil, choosing healthy transplants, deciding the right time to plant, and planting cool and warm season vegetables.

Want happy plants and a healthy lawn? Get a soil test!

Anne Sawyer, Extension Educator - On-Farm Food Safety  

Finally, spring seems to have sprung in Minnesota! The soil is rapidly warming across much of the state, and it'll be time to plant before we know it.

  Before you put anything in the ground, however, you should consider testing your soil so you know how best to prepare for planting. The only reliable way to determine how best to fertilize is to do a soil test.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Help identify invasive stink bugs

This pest even has it's own Smart phone app!

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

[Note: The following article was modified from a Crop News Letter article written by Bill Hutchison, Theresa Cira and Bob Koch. The original article can be found here. ]
Look for the Midwest Stink Bug
Assistant screenshot to download
the app.

Brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is an invasive insect that was first found in Minnesota in 2010 and has slowly been gaining a foothold in the state. This insect feeds on over 300 plants, including many important crops such as apples, corn, grapes, peppers, tomatoes, and soybeans.

During the past two years, this pest has been found in apple orchards and soybean fields. Although crop loss has not occurred in Minnesota yet (it has in the eastern U.S. since 2010), it is only a matter of time. To help protect against BMSB, it is critical to find new infestations in Minnesota before they can become abundant..

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Do not prune oaks!

Michelle Grabowski, UMN Extension Educator

It is now the high risk period for oak wilt in Minnesota. Gardeners in the area of the state where oak wilt occurs should not prune oaks until next fall.

Oak wilt is a fatal disease that can affect all oak trees. Red oaks can wilt and die in as little as 4 weeks. White oaks often slowly decline over several years. Protecting trees from wounds and pruning cuts during the high risk period is critical in preventing new oak wilt infections.

It's tick season!

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

We have waited patiently (or in some cases impatiently) for the arrival of spring. Now that it is here, we can’t wait to get outside and enjoy the nice weather. Keep in mind that with the warm weather also comes ticks. With a few precautions, you can still enjoy the outdoors without worrying about them.

Adult female American dog tick (wood tick) is not an
important disease vector. Photo: Jeff Hahn, UMN Extension
There are two common ticks in Minnesota; the blacklegged tick (also called deer tick) and the American dog tick (also called wood tick). Both ticks are nuisances because they bite to feed on our blood as well as the blood of our pets, including dogs and horses.

However, blacklegged (deer) ticks are a health problem because they are a potential vector of Lyme disease and other diseases (see Tick-borne disease in Minnesota). Both of these ticks are common in grassy fields and the underbrush of hardwood forests.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Basics of starting seeds

Easy steps show how to grow from seed

Gail Hudson, UMN Extension Communication Specialist

The thought of growing plants from seeds sounds daunting. What kind of soil should you use? What kind of pot(s)? How deep should they be planted? And so on.

In this home gardener-friendly video, Extension Educator Julie Weisenhorn walks through the process--showing the materials you'll need, how to plant your seeds and where to keep your seed tray while it's growing.

And as Julie says, "Happy Gardening!"

Monday, April 2, 2018

Growing healthy transplants

M. Grabowski, UMN Extension Educator

Starting seeds indoors can be a great way to get a jump on the growing season. Unfortunately damping off, a common disease of seedlings, can kill plants before they are strong enough to transplant outdoors. Find out best practices to prevent damping off and grow strong healthy transplants.

For more information about damping off or starting seeds indoors, visit UMN Extension online.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Spring seed starting: Try the rag doll method!

A family-friendly gardening technique

Want to make sure your seeds are viable? Try the "rag doll" seed starting method. It's a great thing to do with kids--and they can easily see results.  UMN Extension Educator Julie Weisenhorn and one of her best friends demonstrate for us.

And for information about starting seeds indoors, go to:

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Spring garden design project in mind?

Julie Weisenhorn, UMN Extension Educator

Ah, spring at last! If you're like me, you are itching to get out into your garden. This period of fluctuating weather (warm one day, snow the next) is a great time to stay indoors and do thinking about your next great garden design project. Start with these five considerations of sustainable design (in order of importance) and how they apply in your landscape:

  1. Functionality - What do you have to be able to do in your landscape? Some common functions are entertaining, play area, pet areas, grow vegetables, have a fire pit (and haul firewood to your fire pit), access to all areas of your landscape.
  2. Maintainability - Be able to maintain your yard and garden at the level you desire. Common landscape maintenance aspects include mowing, pruning, shoveling and storing snow (ugh), maintaining structures.
  3. Be environmentally-sound - Promote a positive effect on the surrounding environment (vs. harming it) by choosing plants that will thrive - not just survive - in your landscape and thus remain stress-free, pest-free and healthy. This will result in fewer inputs such as pesticides, less water waste, less work for you and a better looking landscape overall.
  4. Cost-effectiveness - Have a landscape you can afford financially and from a time allocation aspect. Summer is short enough in Minnesota without spending all your free time maintaining your yard and garden (unless you're into that kind of thing like I am). Create a landscape that will keep your personal inputs (money, time, work) in achievable bounds.
  5. Visually-appealing - What you want to see when you are in your yard and garden. This is where the fun and creative aspects of garden design bloom. Collect ideas from magazines, websites, home and garden shows, public gardens, garden tours. Think how you can incorpoate some of these into your little slice of paradise.
If you are still wishing you had more help, take part in our Landscape Design Basics for Homeowners workshop on Saturday, April 14, 2018, 8am - 5pm on the U of M St. Paul campus. At this workshop, we walk you through the design process with the goal of helping you to have a healthier, better functioning and maintainable landscape. The day-long workshop includes hands-on exercises on bubble diagrams, plant selection, concept lines, and draft design. There's still space available! Register  here: MSHS Northern Classes & Events

Monday, March 26, 2018

April to-do list for vegetable gardening

Early preparation = fewer weeds

Annie Klodd, Extension Educator-Fruit and Vegetable Production

Tomato and pepper seedlings should be started
in April for late May transplanting. Photo: Julie
Are you ready for the 2018 vegetable gardening season? This new and ongoing series of monthly articles will lay out what to do during each month in the garden, to produce an abundance of fresh, healthy vegetables.

In April, the to-do list includes starting seeds indoors, getting the soil ready, and planting early or "cool-season" crops like asparagus, potatoes and onions.

Starting seeds indoors

Certain vegetables perform best when the seeds are sowed indoors in mid-spring, grown into seedlings for several weeks, and planted outside once the threat of frost has passed. These include warm-season crops like peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes, which all require warm temperatures and a long growing season to produce vegetables.

Gardeners can choose to start their own seeds indoors in the spring or purchase transplants from a supplier several weeks later, to plant directly into the garden.

Friday, March 23, 2018

How to prune apple trees: A 3-part video series

Produce more high quality apples by pruning

Annie Klodd, Extension Educator-Fruit and Vegetable Production 

Perhaps you've recently planted some apple trees, and you are ready for the next steps to help them produce a healthy crop of fruit.  Or maybe you just moved into a home with a couple of trees in the yard. Either way, pruning will be a crucial part of caring for these apple trees. 

Why prune? 

Pruning is essential for reliable fruit production from year to year. If left to their own devices, apple trees will develop dense canopies and many small fruit with uneven ripening, reduced quality, or generally lower productivity. Pruning focuses the tree’s energy into producing larger, higher quality apples and increases airflow through the tree, reducing disease potential.

How to prune an apple tree

Last month, we went outside to the apple orchard at the University of Minnesota Horticultural Research Center to film a three-part video series on pruning apple trees called "Apple Tree Pruning Made Easy." Thank you to David Bedford and Emily Tepe for assisting us in this effort. You can watch by clicking on the video boxes below:

 Apple Tree Pruning Part 1: 

Apple Tree Pruning Part 2:

Apple Tree Pruning Part 3:

Videos produced & edited by Gail Hudson, UMN Extension Communications Specialist

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Last Chance to Prune Oaks

M. Grabowski, UMN Extension Educator

Fresh pruning cuts on an oak tree.
M.Grabowski, UMN Extension 
If you have oaks in your landscape that need pruning and you live in an area of Minnesota where oak wilt occurs, pruning must be done before the oak wilt fungus and it's insect vector become active. Oak wilt is a fatal disease of oak trees that can be found in some counties of Minnesota. If you live in an area where oak wilt occurs, it is critical to prune oak trees before the high risk infection period begins in April. The risk status for oak wilt is updated as weather conditions change, but in a normal year high risk of oak wilt infection occurs in April, May, and June. Check in with My MN Woods to find the current oak wilt risk status before you prune.

Oak wilt has been found within
20 miles of all areas colored pink
Oak wilt is caused by a fungal plant pathogen. Spores of the oak wilt fungus are carried by sap feeding beetles in the Nitidulidae family. These small beetles are attracted to wounds and fresh cuts on oak trees. When they arrive at the cut branch, spores of the oak wilt fungus are knocked off and can infect the open wound.

Red oak trees are highly susceptible to oak wilt and can wilt and die in as little as 4 weeks after infection. Once infected with oak wilt, there is no way to save a red oak tree. White and bur oaks can also become infected with oak wilt. These trees are able to slow the infection but will eventually succumb to the disease in a few years. Some treatment options are available for white and bur oak trees if the disease is identified at the early stages.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Prune out cankers and galls now

Michelle Grabowski, UMN Extension Educator
Black knot gall on a wild cherry tree.
M. Grbaowski, UMN Extension

An important late winter gardening task is pruning to remove diseased branches. Winter is the best time to prune for several reasons. Diseased and damaged branches are easily seen when leaves are not present. Winter temperatures are not ideal for the fungi and bacteria that cause disease in trees and shrubs. The pathogens will still be present but at much lower levels than during the growing season. By pruning out infected branches now, gardeners can significantly reduce the risk of the disease spreading within the plant and to neighboring plants once the growing season begins.

Several types of disease can affect branches of landscape trees and shrubs.

Gall rust on a pine tree. M. Grabowski,
UMN Extension
A gall is an unusual overgrowth of plant tissue caused by a pest or pathogen. Fungi and some bacteria can cause galls to form on branches of trees and shrubs. Galls can be round, oblong, or irregular in shape. They are made of wood but may have discolored bark due to the infection. Galls can girdle a branch and kill all leaves and shoots beyond the gall. Some trees and shrubs will tolerate galls and will not suffer any damage as a result.

Golden canker causes the reddish purple
bark of pagoda dogwood to turn yellow.
M. Grbaowski, UMN Extension 
A canker is an infection of the sapwood and living bark caused by a fungal or bacterial plant pathogen. Cracked, discolored, or blistered bark in an isolated area of a branch indicate that there is a canker. In some trees and shrubs a thick hard layer of resin or sap may cover the infection. If the bark is peeled back, reddish brown discoloration of the wood can often be seen.

A canker will eventually grow to encircle the branch, cutting off the flow of water and nutrients. This results in death of the branch, and any shoots and leaves beyond the canker. In some diseases, the canker can progress into the main trunk and result in death of the tree.

Make the pruning cut a minimum of
4 inches below visible symptoms at
a branch union. M. Grabowski,
UMN Extension 
How to prune out cankers and galls
First examine the tree carefully to find any branches with discolored, cracked or blistered bark or with any unusual tumor like growths. The infection will extend beyond the visible discoloration of the bark so the pruning cut should be made at a minimum of 4 inches below symptoms of disease. The tree will heal the pruning cut most rapidly and easily if the cut is made just above a bud or a branch union.

All branches with galls or cankers should be removed from the area and burned or buried. Pruning tools should be cleaned with undiluted Lysol (active ingredient .1% alkyl dimethylbenzyl ammonium saccharinate) or a 10% solution of household bleach in water.

Your Winter Garden: Pest tips for houseplants

By Julie Weisenhorn, Extension Educator - Horticulture

Just like in our summer gardens, we need to keep an eye out for pests in our indoor winter gardens (houseplants). Pests may sometimes hitchhike on houseplants that spend the summer outdoors, and emerge in the warmth of our homes. New plants may also bring in new pests. Insect eggs laid on the underside of leaves or in the soil may hatch indoors and suddenly appear too.

Hand showing plant debris accumulated on the soil of a potted plant.
Remove plant debris
Tips to reducing pest issues in your winter garden:

Groom plants that come in from the outside. Clear away dead plant debris (leaves, flowers) and prune off dead or overgrown stems and branches. Remove dust that can filter light by wiping off leaves with a soft, damp cloth or spraying the plant with water.

Scout for signs and presence of pests.
Look at the undersides of leaves and along edges and the bottom of  pots for insects and egg masses and remove or treat. Shiny, sticky leaf surfaces (honeydew) can be a sign of sucking insects like scale and aphids. Fine webbing is a sign of spider mites. Household insects

Some plants may be outgrowing their containers and need re-potting. 
Take this opportunity 
to check the underside of the plant as well as
roots, and to prune off any roots that are dark brown and mushy.
Re-pot plants in fresh, sterile soil and a clean pot.
Use fresh soil and a clean pot.

Give new plants plenty of space. Quarantine new plants for a couple of weeks away from your current, pest-free plants to make sure the new fella is pest-free too.

Follow pesticide labels. Many pests can be eliminated from houseplants by hand-picking, wash or a blast of water. If you do choose to treat with a chemical, use one for houseplants and follow all pesticide label precautions. This is especially important with indoor plants as they live where we live. Household Insect Control
    Examine all parts of plants.
    Cottony scale on orchid
  • Look to treat outside on one of those warm winter days or in a ventilated garage. 
  • Bag the plant in a plastic garbage bag, and poke a small hole in the bag for your spray nozzle. Then spray, apply a piece of tape over the hole, and let the plant site covered. Remove the bag when the plant is dry. This contains the pesticide till dry and protects furniture and walls from spray. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Perfect Timing for Pruning Your Apple Tree

Produce more apples

By Gail Hudson, Extension Communications Specialist for Horticulture

Photo courtesy: Julie Weisenhorn
By the end of the winter, most gardeners are itching to get outside and start doing something! You certainly can--by pruning your apple tree(s). Extension Educator Annie Klodd, a fruit and vegetable specialist, says late February, early March is just about right for Minnesota gardeners. The trick is to do it at the end of winter just as the temperatures are rising a bit, but before the tree's buds emerge. 

Pruning an apple tree is an important task for home growers, she says, for several reasons: 
  1. It's a good time to get rid of diseased, damaged and dead wood on your tree.
  2. It gives the apple tree a nice shape and allows more light to get to the buds and fruit.
  3. The tree will be healthier, produce more fruit and grow better overall. 

Tools to use

Line up the right tools before you begin pruning. Depending on the size of your apple tree, you'll need at least a pair of hand clippers for a small one.  For a large tree, large loppers work as well as a pruning saw.

For more information about growing and maintaining apple trees, read this article by University of Minnesota Horticulturist and fruit expert Emily Hoover:

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Your Winter Garden: Watering house plants the right way

Plus, how much light does your plant need?

By Gail Hudson, Extension Communication Specialist in Horticulture

Now that it's early March, we've still got piles of snow on the ground in Minnesota. That means our efforts to garden inside will continue for a little while longer!

If your window sills are filled with plants, you know it's easy to run into trouble with these greenery, by not providing enough light or too much light, with pests, diseases and/or a lack of water or too much water.

Keep your plants un-stressed

The trick is to keep your plant happy and un-stressed.  You can do that by giving your  plants the right amount of water.  In this video, Extension Educator Julie Weisenhorn has some tips and reminders for those of you with an indoor green thumb, plus she'll show you how to prevent leaf spot diseases with a simple watering tip.

Too much light may not be a good thing

As the sun grows stronger in the windows of your home, particularly those south-facing windows, be careful with your tender house plants. You may think they welcome the spring-time sun as much as we do, but high intensity light can.  Plants exposed to too much light may become scorched, bleached and limp. Review these tips from Extension Educator David Whiting.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Seed Catalogs Decoded!

Michelle Grabowski
Annie Klodd
Extension Educator Annie Klodd browses
peppers in the 2018 Rupp seed catalog

For many gardeners, the first sign of spring arrives in the form of seed catalogs in the middle of winter. Glossy color pages provide the promise of flowers, fruits, and vegetables in the coming season. Seed catalogs can open up a wide array of possibilities not to be found in local garden centers. Savvy gardeners can choose from multiple colors of flowers or vegetables, find disease resistant plants or varieties especially well-suited to their growing conditions.

To make the most of what seed catalogs offer, it is important to understand the terms, abbreviations, and numbers that can be found in the description of each variety.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Help save Minnesota's forests from invasive pests: Become a 'First Detector'

Workshop registration now open

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

Want to be part of Minnesota's award-winning Forest Pest First Detector volunteer program? Registration is now open for this year’s required workshops for volunteers who help detect invasive pests around Minnesota.

Workshop attendees participating in small group discussion
about invasive pests, part of the activities during a Forest
Pest First Detector workshop.
The workshops are being taught in Andover on February 28 and Mankato on March 21. Space is limited so register early! The cost is $50 which includes the online course and in-person workshop, including lunch and refreshments.

The Minnesota Forest Pest First Detector training program is designed to help identify the occurrence of invasive forest pests in Minnesota, including emerald ash borer, gypsy moth, Asian longhorned beetle, Japanese barberry and Oriental bittersweet.

Firewood insects: An indoor pest or not?

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

It can be common for wood boring insects to emerge from firewood that is brought indoors. These insects can also come from other wood such as decorations made of branches or from new construction. Fortunately, these insects are harmless to people and property and do not reinfest any wood in a home.
A whitespotted sawyer, a type of long-horned beetle.
Photo credit: Unknown

There is a wide variety of borers, including long-horned beetles, metallic wood boring (buprestid) beetles, bark beetles, horntails, and wood wasps, that are attracted to dying and recently dead trees. Parasitic insects, like ichneumonid wasps that attack these borers, can also be found emerging from wood.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Extension gives fruits and vegetables renewed focus

New educators to help home and commercial growers

Do you like growing vegetables and fruits?  For the first time in several decades, University of Minnesota Extension will have two educators on staff whose sole focus will be to bring the latest information about growing fruits and vegetables to both home and commercial growers.

Extension Educator Annie Klodd  Photo:Gail Hudson

First, meet Annie Klodd 
She joined the University of Minnesota in January as Extension Educator for Fruit and Vegetable Production, based in Andover, Minnesota.

Annie is originally from Indianola, Iowa where her family owns a commercial vineyard and winery. She has been working in the vineyard since 1997 when her family planted their first grapes.

Back porch view of Annie's family vineyard in Indianola, Iowa.  Photo: David Klodd

She continued working in horticulture at Penn State University, where she studied how perennial cover crops can be used in vineyards to manage grapevine health. Most recently, she worked for Penn State Extension as a weed management specialist and also helped manage the Penn State Community Garden.
Continue reading to meet another new Extension educator, Anne Sawyer...

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Part II: Make a New Year's resolution to be a better gardener in 2018

Easy ways to improve your yard & garden

Gail Hudson, Extension Communication Specialist for Horticulture

   Are you planning to plant any new trees or shrubs this year?  Do you struggle with pests in your yard?  What's the first step in creating a more sustainable lawn? 

   Our extension educators provide some food for thought as you think about your yard and garden this coming spring and ways to improve it. 

   Watch Part Two of our recommended "New Year's Resolutions for 2018." And once again, we wish you a Happy New Year from University of Minnesota Extension! 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Part I: Make a New Year's resolution to be a better gardener in 2018

Easy ways to improve your garden!

By Gail Hudson, Extension Communication Specialist in Horticulture

Want a better garden next spring, summer and fall? By taking a few simple steps, you can improve your lawn, flower and vegetable garden.

From adding the right plants to attract Minnesota's endangered bees or to testing your garden's soil, our horticulture extension experts will help you become an even better gardener!

Take a few minutes and watch Part One above. And Happy New Year to you from University of Minnesota Extension! 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Landscape ideas for 2018? Get started with Landscape Design Basics workshop

Julie Weisenhorn, Extension Educator - Horticulture

Do you dream about having a beautiful home landscape or have a specific landscape project in mind, but don't know how to get started? Whether professionally designed or not, it's fair to say most landscapes start out with good intentions. This five-session workshop is your opportunity to learn the theory and basic principles of sustainable landscape design and learn how to avoid some common mistakes.

The workshop focuses on the landscape design process. Participants use their own property as a class project focused on designing an entry garden or a deck and/or patio garden, or similar landscape space. You'll learn:
  • How to perform a site survey and site analysis (including how to collect a soil sample and complete a landscape needs assessment), 
  • Develop base plans, concept lines and concept plans, draft and completed designs
  • site-specific plant selection
  • landscape installation
  • Participants will also learn how to develop quality bed lines, how to properly mix and match plants based on function and landscape characteristics when designing landscape beds, and how to build flexibility into the landscape design and implementation process.

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