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Showing posts from February, 2019

Get a taste of spring: Growing basil indoors

Basil plant. Photo: Mary Meyer, UMN Extension Fresh greens are truly a sight for sore eyes in white February and March in Minnesota. Fragrant fresh greens feed our eyes and provide a refreshing reminder of summer.  The scent of fresh basil filled my grocery cart, my car and my kitchen recently when I purchased a potted basil plant from the produce section of the grocery store. Locally grown with about 6 plants in a small pot, I could not resist this fragrant plant. The plant survived the single digit temps that day by being double bagged, completely covered, and getting back inside as soon as possible. That was 2 weeks ago and the plant is still doing ok. If it lives another 2 weeks that will be a success! Of course, I am removing leaves daily and eating on salads and many other dishes. Indoor growing requirements To grow herbs indoors in a Minnesota winter, the plants need the most light possible, full sun is great, supplemental light is a good option for any herbs

Become a Smarter Gardener in 2019: Learn about the 'Hair of the Earth'

Oehme palm sedge Which came first--Sedges or Grasses? At a recent talk I was asked which plants are older--Sedges or Grasses? I guessed sedges.  However, when I looked this up and saw Wikipedia’s evolutionary tree showing the monocots like grasses and sedges near the top as younger plants. I am not sure we know which evolved first, but I think its probably a simple grass and sedges came later? Which are more plentiful? As far as numbers go and which are more plentiful? Grasses are considered the “hair of the earth” for what they cover in acreage. Think of the geographic names given to grass: pampas, steppe, savanna, plains, prairie. Worldwide Poaceae is the 5th largest family in terms of species, with 700 genera and 11,000 species. What about Minnesota? However, in Minnesota, despite our original prairie, the Cyperaceae or sedge family is a force here! Welby Smith’s Sedges and Rushes of Minnesota lists 15 genera and 217 species in Minnesota; largest genus is Carex. Ownbe

Good Lavenders for the North!

Lavender trials at the Chicago Botanical Garden. Photo: Chicago Botanical Garden Lavender is a favorite plant for many people, with its distinctive fragrance and attractive foliage. It’s a tough plant to grow in Minnesota. Although we have the alkaline soil lavender loves, it struggles in heavy clay and poorly drained conditions. Rarely, ok never listed as hardy in zone 4, lavender often dies in zone 5. Well-drained sites are essential and usually require consistent winter protection such as 2 feet of snow. New research from the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plant Trials, shows what was hardy in their USDA Zone 5 growing conditions, still warmer than most of Minnesota, but good information for us to know. Lavandula angustifolia  'Imperial Gem' Photo: The Royal Horticultural Society Chicago Botanical Garden lavender trials Richard Hawke selected 40 different kinds to trial for 7 years: 2010-2016.  Seven taxa received the highest ratings for exceptional flower production,

Help protect Minnesota from invasive pests

Learn about important invasive  insects, weeds, and plant diseases at this year's workshop.  Photo:  Jeff Hahn, U of MN Extension 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-

Found tulip bulbs in your garage? Will they bloom?

Spring tulip display at the MN Landscape Arboretum. Photo: Mary Meyer, Extension Horticulturist 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, whe

What the Polar Vortex Means for Fruit Trees

A Minnesota vineyard in January 2019. Photo: Annie Klodd 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 ra

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

Fresh cut flowers will last longer with proper care. Photo: Gail Hudson, Extension Communication Specialist 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

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

Bumble bee on blue giant hyssop Photo by Julie Weisenhorn 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