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Showing posts from August, 2018

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.


Does your veggie garden have a party pooper?

Video: Annual flowers in the veggie garden: A plus for your produce?

It may seem like common sense to plant blooming flowers near vegetable gardens that attract bees and improve pollination, and end up with a fabulous harvest. 
Interestingly, some of the plants we commonly grow in our Minnesota vegetable gardens don't require insect pollinators to set fruit and thus can produce without the help of bees. Peppers, for example, are wind pollinated meaning just moving the plants in the breeze will blow the pollen from one flower to another give you peppers. But would peppers produce bigger, better fruit with improved seed set (more seeds = better pollination) with flowers planted nearby?

What do we know? A study in Brazil by Pereira et. al, (2015) found that planting bee-attracting flowering basil between rows of bell peppers produced fruit that were heavier, longer and wider in size with more seeds than large stands planted only with peppers. As an extension educator, I often recommend that flowering plants be part every vegetable garden both for bea…

Orb weaving spiders common now

Spiders are a frequent sight during the summer. One of the most common groups noticed at this time of the year are the orb weavers.  Don't worry if you seen one, they do not harm people.

Orb weavers are moderate to large in size; the length of their bodies range from ¼ inch to one inch. Orb weaver are typically shaped; they have a smallish head and a large, bulbous abdomen. They can vary in color; many are brownish but others can be brightly colored with red, yellow, or orange. You can also recognize these spiders by their webs.  They construct round, flat webs with spokes attached from the center to the outer part of the web, somewhat like a bicycle tire.

You can find orb weavers in a wide variety of sites from in your garden to around your home; anywhere they can attach their webbing. They particularly construct their webs where they are likely to find insects so they have a steady food supply. They do not have very good vision but can sense the movements of any insects …

Video: Bee Friendly--join the MN Bumble Bee Survey

Did you know...? Minnesota is a hotbed of bumble bee species diversity. We are home to 22 of North America’s 49 species of bumble bees. This August, there's still time to help document these bees by joining the Minnesota Bee Atlas Bumble Bee Survey! 

Take a look at why and how it's done in this new video narrated by Extension Educator Elaine Evans.
MN Bumble Bee Survey Facts: What: For more than a decade, Evans has been accumulating data with the help of volunteers across Minnesota.  She is also a bee researcher with the University of Minnesota Entomology Department.
Where: The survey is taken in parks in Minnesota to document the range and abundance of bumble bees, as well as the variability of populations between years.

Several bee species in particular (Bombus affinis or the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee and Bombus terricola or the Yellow-banded bumble bee) have disappeared from other parts of their range and are in need of conservation. 

Others species such as the yellow bumble b…