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Help protect Minnesota from invasive pests

If you love trees and you want to help protect them from invasive pests, like emerald ash borer, oak wilt, and oriental bittersweet, consider registering for the 2019 Forest Pest First Detector workshop!

This year, we will be in St. Cloud at the MnDOT Training Center on March 4 from 9:00am – 4:00 pm. Registration is $50 which includes the online course and in-person workshop (lunch and refreshments will be provided).

Who should attend:

Master Volunteers (Master Naturalist, Master Gardeners, Tree Care Advisors, etc.), tree care
professionals, forestry professionals, natural resource professionals, environmental educators, MN Conservation Corps participants, and others. Current Forest Pest First Detector volunteers are also welcome to refresh their training!

All registrants will complete an online training course in preparation for the in-person workshop. The online course should take approximately 3 hours to complete, and should be completed prior to attending the in-person worksh…
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Found tulip bulbs in your garage? Will they bloom?

Fall gardening chores often pile up and before we know it it’s the dead of winter and we are dealing with snow, ice and the frozen north. Did you find a bag of unplanted tulips or daffodils near your snow blower?  What to do with them now that it is February? 
Temperature conditions make the difference If your garage is unheated, the bulbs are dead, -25 0  F this year would kill them. But if your garage is heated, the bulbs MIGHT be able to be forced indoors.

If you have potting soil, plant the bulbs in a container with good drainage, water and place it in a cool location with good lighting. The bulbs will start to grow within two weeks if they are not dead. You may see just a small amount of growth or if lucky, you may end up with flowers.
What happens to tulip bulbs in the winter Every day past Jan 1, unplanted bulbs are deteriorating. Ideally, they are planted in the fall, when roots form and exposure to cool winter temperatures causes the flower buds to form, which we see the fo…

What the Polar Vortex Means for Fruit Trees

Farmers, gardeners, and wine enthusiasts alike are wondering what last week's polar vortex may have done to apple trees and grapevines in Minnesota. This question was even explored on Kare11 News on January 31, with UMN grape breeder Matt Clark.
Apples The University of Minnesota breeds fruit to survive harsh winters, and the apples in the breeding program used to be subjected to much colder winters decades ago. When older varieties like Haralson and Connell Red were developed, -20 degree temperatures were more common in Minnesota. Still, Jim Luby, professor of fruit breeding at the U of MN, cautions that last week was the type of cold snap that can cause damage to apples and other fruit trees.

The "cold hardiness" of a fruit variety refers to the ability of the plants to survive at cold temperatures. The relative cold hardiness of common Minnesota apple varieties is listed here. According to Jim, those rated as "very good" or "excellent" cold hardin…

NEW VIDEO: A Cut Above--Prolonging the Life of Your Cut Flowers

Flowers truly are a sight for sore eyes, as dreary winter days seem endless by mid February. For Valentines Day or any day of the year, how can you keep those beautiful flowers lasting longer in your home?

In the video below, we'll take you behind-the-scenes at Bachman's to find out the secrets to success!
Simple steps to keep flowers looking fresh! Follow these three easy steps:
Fill a vase with room temperature water.Stir in a packet of flower food aka. commercial preservative. Read the packet for how much water to use.Make a fresh cut to remove about 1-2 inches off the end of each stem and place it in the prepared container. Keep cut flowers out of direct sun and heat. Cooler temperatures will prolong their life; changing the water every 3-5 days, and adding new preservative will also help prolong their life.  Why do some flowers last longer than others? Some flowers have the genes to last a long time: chrysanthemums, daisies, and carnations can last well over a week. Roses…

Be a Smarter Gardener in 2019: Is a Cultivar as Good as the Native Plant Species for Pollinators?

The short answer is, “it depends.” Some cultivars are better than their native species, some are no different and some are worse at attracting pollinators. Each plant should be considered on its own merits. 

As a gardener, you can compare an ‘improved’ cultivar to its wild species in your own garden. 
Cultivars vs. Natives in Vermont When Annie White was a PhD graduate student at the University of Vermont, she compared several native species to cultivars. For two years in two locations, she counted all pollinators--her results are summarized below. 

She counted all insects and grouped them into broad categories. She included all bees, native and otherwise, butterflies, flies, beetles, etc. that were found foraging on the flowers. 

The total number of insects is amazing! And what a difference between the New England aster and wild indigo! Some of the cultivars attracted more insects than the species of other flowers. 

Below is a list of plant species and respective cultivars researched by …

Be a Smarter Gardener in 2019: Ice Cubes to Water Orchids?

Orchids are now the most popular house plant with their long lasting flowers sold at many retail stores. Orchids are epiphytes or air plants and grow with minimal (if any) soil usually coarse bark.

This makes watering orchids  a challenge as water easily runs out of the bark and container making you wonder if you watered the plant enough.  The idea of watering orchids with ice cubes placed on top of the container has often been promoted as an easy care method.
New study on orchids & ice cubes While no commercial grower uses ice cubes and few serious orchid hobby growers use ice cubes, researchers at The Ohio State University and the University of Georgia tested watering weekly with 3 ice cubes compared to an equal amount of tap water and found no difference in plant health, growth, or flower longevity.

They tested 48 plants using 4 different cultivars of Phalaenopsis, the most popular or moth orchid, at both university locations over 4-6 months. Each week, three ice cubes or the …

A low-salt diet: Critical for our landscapes and waterways

Snow and ice removal on roads, sidewalks, parking lots and driveways can make getting around Minnesota a lot easier during winter. Improperly maintained, icy surfaces can cause debilitating falls and car accidents, and even create liability issues. But before you pull out your deicing salts to make conditions safer, consider the impact of these chemicals on our plants and our waterways.
How do deicers work? While regular snow removal reduces the potential for slippery conditions, sometimes ice can build-up and create hazards. Deicing salts are applied onto icy surfaces and reduce the melting point of water to anywhere from 20°F to - 30°F depending on the formulation. This prevents ice from forming.

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, sodium chloride is the most commonly used product for deicing roads, sidewalks, parking lots, and driveways. Other deicing chemicals include magnesium chloride and calcium chloride, calcium magnesium acetate and urea.

Organic additives li…