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Showing posts from August, 2018

Fall cleanup: Key to reducing risk for next year's plant diseases

Cool weather is a reminder that fall is not far away and soon gardeners will be preparing the landscape for winter. Many plant pathogens are able to survive winter in gardens in infected leaves, flowers, branches, and fruit. Gardeners can reduce the risk of plant disease next year by using the following steps to do a thorough fall garden clean up.
Trees and shrubs Examine leaves before they change color for evidence of a leaf spot disease. Leaf spots come in many colors, are randomly scattered across the leaf surface, and often are more severe on the lower and inner leaves. They will be easiest to identify when the leaves are green.If a leaf spot disease is found, leaves should be raked up and removed or mulched into the lawn with a mulching lawn mower after normal leaf fall. Look for branches with wilting or dead leaves. Discolored, cracked or blistered bark on these branches could indicate the presence of a canker infection on the branch. A large tumor like growth on the branch woul…

Fun Facts about Your First Kiss (Apple)

Well, not your first kiss exactly, but your first, "First Kiss®"!  It's the name of the new commercial apple introduced to Minnesotans by the University of Minnesota.

Here's the beauty of this scarlet red beauty: First Kiss® tastes like Honeycrisp, but, lucky for the fans of this popular apple, it is ready to harvest earlier. 
What's the story?This variety has been in the works since the late 1990s when UMN apple breeders David Bedford and Jim Luby set out to develop an apple that would be ready to pick and eat by Labor Day weekend.

After two decades of rigorous trials to evaluate hundreds of crosses and thousands of trees at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's Horticultural Research Center, First Kiss emerged as a clear winner. And with it, David Bedford says, "we got the best of both worlds!" 
Can I buy these apples?The new apple is available this fall (you can try one at the State Fair) but supply will be limited. As the trees mature and bear frui…

Podcast: How much do we know about Japanese beetles?

Many gardeners reading this article have either seen or dealt with Japanese beetles this season. Their population levels were high, and they could frequently be spotted enjoying the foliage of entire trees before moving on to the next palatable plant nearby.

As I have traveled the state to talk to gardeners and farmers, Japanese beetles were one of the most common questions I received. Many gardeners had stories and innovative ideas they have tried to control this invasive insect.

In response to this, I sat down with Jeff Hahn and Dominique Ebbenga in the University of Minnesota entomology department to get the scoop on what we currently know about Japanese beetles. In this recorded interview, Jeff and Dominique laid out what researchers have found, and where future efforts are going.

Some of the questions we discussed were:
Can you plant any flowers to ward off JB?
When might growers use nematodes to control JB grubs? Is it worth it?
Why do we advise against using traps for JB control?

Grasstalk: What's wrong with my grasses?

Ornamental grasses are the exclamation points in our modern garden landscape...but as low maintenance as they can be, sometimes they do have problems.

Take the fountain grass 'Ginger Love' (Pennisetum alopecuroides). At the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum this August, Extension Educator and Horticulture Scientist Mary Meyer noticed the grass was growing like a doughnut--grass around the outside and dead in the middle.
What's wrong with this fountain grass? Meyer says the winter cold killed the center, proving it is not a reliably winter hardy grass in Minnesota. Also, Meyer has a warning for home owners. She's observed the grass can self-sow and grow into a lawn where it's very hard to kill.

New sterile forms (that is, plants that won't spread into turfgrass) are being trialed at the Arboretum this summer, but they have yet to flower.  And how winter hardy they won't be known for several seasons.

Watch for signs of rust in fallHave you ever noticed your shoe…

Lots of weeds in the grass? Make your lawn weed-resistant this Fall

What did this summer's heat and rain mean for weeds in our lawns? Created more of them! All it takes is above average air and soil temperatures combined with timely rains throughout the summer months like it did this year (2018), and the end the result will be more summer annual grassy weeds.
This year's weed culprits This is no more apparent than the increased incidence of goosegrass (Eleusine indica) in lawns throughout the Twin Cities compared to past years. Goosegrass is a summer annual grassy weed that is not normally a problem for lawns in central to Northern MN.
Goosegrass is similar to crabgrass (Digitaria spp.) in that it can out-compete cool-season turf species in hotter and drier conditions.However, goosegrass can typically withstand higher amounts of heat and traffic stress compared to crabgrass, and is often found along driveways or sidewalks. How to manage annual lawn weeds
In the last few weeks, I have received several questions asking what to do about summer annu…

Watch out for wasps now!

August and September is prime time to see wasp nests in and around homes. What you do about any nest you find will depend on where you find it.


There are three general scenarios where wasp nests can be located: exposed nests, hidden nests, or nests in the ground.

Exposed wasp nests

Exposed nests, i.e. those attached to a surface and are clearly visible, such as the eaves of a home or the branch of a tree are the easiest to control. If they are found in out of the way places, where there is little or no risk of stings, the best thing to do is ignore it. Eventually freezing temperatures will kill all of the wasps in the nest.


If the nest is close to human activity, and there is a risk of stings, then it should be controlled. This is a straightforward task that residents can do themselves. Use an aerosol can of insecticide labelled for wasps and hornets and spray into the nest entrance.

Do this during late evening when wasps are not very active. One application is usually all t…

Five cover crops to try in your garden

Have you ever thought about planting cover crops in your vegetable garden? Foster a healthier garden by planting cover crops in the off-season, after vegetables are harvested.  Big benefits Fall cover crops benefit the garden in numerous ways, like building soil, stopping erosion, suppressing weeds, creating beneficial insect habitat, and adding nitrogen and organic matter to the soil.
Each cover crop species has unique traits and benefits, and can even be planted in mixes to combine their strengths! When planted in the fall, some species are hardy enough to overwinter into the spring. Others will grow through the fall and die at the first killing frost. Here are 5 popular cover crops to try this fall: Winter rye (cereal rye) Winter rye is a popular due to its cold-hardiness, ease of growth, and high biomass. Its dense canopy makes it a top pick for managing weeds and adding organic matter to the soil.
Plant rye by mid-October, at least three weeks before the first killing frost. It…

Soldier beetles abundant but harmless

The goldenrod soldier beetle, Chauliognathus pensylvanicus, is a common insect in gardens during late summer. They can be very abundant on flowers but fortunately are harmless.


This soldier beetle is about ½ inch long or less. It has a somewhat flattened, oval body with wing covers that are soft and leathery. While its head and legs are black, the prothorax (the area behind the head) and the wing covers are a yellow brown. There is a rectangular black spot on the prothorax and an oval black spot on each wing cover.

Soldier beetles are active fliers and readily fly from plant to plant. They are common on goldenrod and other flowers in open areas August into September. Adult beetles feed on pollen and nectar and help pollinate plants. The larvae, rarely seen, are predacious on a variety of insects.

Even though this soldier beetle is often numerous on flowers, they are harmless and should be ignored.  For more information about the goldenrod soldier beetle, see BugGuide.

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Does your veggie garden have a party pooper?