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Your Yard can 'BEE the Change': Make a Plan for 2020

Want to be more pollinator-friendly and turn your yard into a bee lawn? The time for Minnesotans to apply for a state grant is just about here!

In May of 2019, Minnesota Governor Tim Waltz signed legislation that set aside $900,000 in financial assistance to individual home owners who are willing to install pollinator-friendly native plantings.

The program helps cover up to 75% of the cost of each conversion project, and up to 90% in areas with a “high potential” to support rusty patched bees, according to the Star Tribune.

Your Yard Can BEE the Change is the slogan for the new Lawns to Legumes initiative from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

December 2019 will be the first round of applications for restoring pollinator habitat on residential property for spring and summer 2020 installations.

[Sign up for updates about this new homeowner program.]
How the program works Minnesota has been divided into priority areas with most of the Twin Cities metro area as priority on…
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A Fall Garden Essential: How to Properly Clean Your Tools & Pots

Lower the risk for plant disease in next year's garden! Before you store your garden tools for the winter be sure to clean them.

Many plant pathogens can survive from one season to the next in infected plant debris, soil, or on tools, trellises, stakes, or pots that were used to grow the plants.
How to clean tools, pots, and other garden suppliesRemove all soil and plant debris attached to tools, trellises, or old pots. Most plant pathogens survive best when sheltered by soil or in plant material. Potting soil, annual plants, leaves and stems killed by frost can all be placed into a compost pile. Use a brush or a hard stream of water from the garden hose to completely remove soil and other organic material.  Disinfectants available to home gardeners1) Bleach (5.25% Sodium hypochlorite)

Make a 10% solution by mixing one part bleach with 9 parts of water. Dip or spray tools with the 10% bleach solution. This will kill fungi, bacteria, and viruses within seconds.

Note: Bleach can be…

Award Winning Perennials for MN Gardeners in 2020

As horticulture experts, we're always looking for new plants to talk about. And at this time of year when the national award winning perennials are announced, there's always a bit of excitement about it!

Four hardy perennials were recently awarded national recognition. All of these plants are hardy in USDA Zone 4 and one is hardy in Zone 3. The All-America Selections and Perennial Plant Association awards are compiled from many locations across the U.S.

Look for these new plants in garden centers next spring and enjoy their benefits in your garden.
How All-America Selection plants are judged Since 1932 the All-America Selections program has trialed annual flowers and vegetables in numerous locations throughout the U. S. Winners are grown for one year and then awarded the coveted AAS selection.

An independent panel of judges put this year's plant contenders through their paces...and once the "AAS Winner" label goes on it, it's like a stamp of approval.

In 201…

Protect plants from winter animal browsing

A reminder to all Yard and Garden News readers (and anyone else ) who struggle with animals feeding on your plants during the winter! Our multiple feet of snow last winter left people off-guard and plants chewed, scraped and girdled by loss of the cambium layer that lies just beneath tree and shrub bark.

The cambium layer is important because it contains vessels know as the phloem that transport sugars, generated through photosynthesis in the leaves, to the roots. Once chewed through, these vessels are damaged and transport of sugars no longer is possible.
How to protect your plants Predicted decent weather over the next week makes this a good time to fence your trees, shrubs and other woody plants animals may choose to gnaw on this winter.

A few tips to keep in mind:
Use plastic white tree guards to protect young, thin-barked trees from animal browsing which can girdle the tree and kill it.The small grid and sturdy construction of hardware cloth makes it a very good choice for fencin…

Become a Smarter Gardener in 2019: How to Identify a Cultivar

Many of us have a beautiful plant in our garden (or our neighbor’s garden) that we just can’t identify. We know what the plant is, a daylily for example, but not which daylily. Your friends keep asking, “What is that plant?”

So how do you figure out what to ask for at the nursery?

Cultivars are plants of a shared genus (e.g. oaks or dahlias, etc.) that are bred by humans for a specific reason like larger flowers or a nice smell.

Even for a professional, identifying a cultivar can be a challenge. After all, there can be thousands of cultivars for one group of plants!

Here are several resources to help you identify a cultivar.
Check out what books are available Some plant researchers have written books about the species they study that are very useful for identifying cultivars. 
Some examples include, Hollies: The Genus Ilex by Fred C. Galle and The New Encyclopedia of Daylilies by John P. Peat and Ted L. Petit. These books usually have color photographs which will be helpful! Visit a …

NEW VIDEOS: Taking Soil and Foliar Samples for Apple Trees and Grapevines

Author: Annie Klodd, Extension Educator-Fruit and Vegetable Production
We just released two new videos for fruit growers, on soil and foliar sampling. Check them out, either by clicking these links or watching below: Taking a Soil Sample: Vineyards and OrchardsTaking a Foliar Sample: Vineyards and OrchardsSubmitting a soil sample is necessary in order to know if your soil has the nutrients your plants need. Without soil test results, we don't really know what rates of fertilizer or compost to apply, or whether the soil pH needs amending. 

Fall is an ideal time to take a soil sample for your fruit trees, garden, and yard. It allows us to get the soil test report back in plenty of time to plan for the spring. Go out and do this before the ground freezes!

For perennial fruit crops, there is another step we must take, which is a foliar test (read below). 
Taking a Soil Sample: Vineyards and Orchards
For perennial fruit crops, such as orchards and vineyards, there is an extra step we must…

Holiday Cacti Care

My Christmas cactus is blooming at Halloween, but it's not Christmas. Is something wrong with it?

Not at all! Holiday cacti - Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii), Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata), and Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri) - respond to the shortening day lengths and set buds (not the holiday calendar).

Not true cacti, these long-lived, much-loved plants 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 somewhat moist soil makes these plants fairly easy to grow and reliable re-bloomers if conditions are proper.

Read more on our Extension webpage Holiday Cacti