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Showing posts from April, 2019

Should you be concerned about kissing bugs?

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently confirmed that a kissing bug, Triatoma sanguisuga, bit a girl on the face in Delaware last summer. This is the first time this kissing bug species has been identified in Delaware.

This report is significant because kissing bugs can carry the disease organism that causes Chagas disease, a potentially fatal disease. Fortunately, the kissing bug that bit the girl in Delaware tested negative for the Chagas disease organism but its presence does cause some worry about a northerly movement of kissing bugs.
Where do they come from? Nearly all kissing bugs are tropical or subtropical in distribution and are typically found in South America, Central America, Mexico. However, they have been increasingly more common in the U.S., especially in the south from California to the Carolinas. They have now been identified in 28 U.S. states.

Fortunately, cases of Chagas disease in the U.S. are not common. Most kissing …

Remember to 'Bee-Friendly' as you clean up your garden!

We all do it--the spring sun comes out, we get our first few days of 70-degree temperatures, and we're out there with the rake and clippers, clearing everything in sight, ready for a new growing season.

But now, thanks to extensive ongoing research, we know so much more about the habits of pollinators, and how to keep our yard and gardens "bee-friendly" all year round. That means, remembering what pollinators are doing, too, as the spring wakes up plants and insects alike.
Be careful with last year's plant stem debris For example, Extension Bee Researcher and Educator Elaine Evans reminds us that stem nesting bees overwinter in stems. So what's the best time to clean up our garden beds?

Dr. Evans recommends the following: "What we have seen is that most stem-nesting bees have emerged by mid-June. If you want to clear out your garden beds before then you have two options:

Examine broken stems for activity by bees (ends will be plugged with mud or vegetation) …

MN lawmakers buzzing about $$ incentives for 'Bee-Friendly' Lawns

Are you thinking of turning your lawn into a "bee lawn" this year? Some Minnesota lawmakers want to encourage residents and business owners to do this--in fact, 14 legislators have signed on as authors!

The legislation is called the "Lawns to Legumes bill. The proposal would provide three years of funding for sharing of up to 75 percent of the costs to convert lawns to pollinator friendly or bee lawns.
Bee lawn benefits You might be reluctant to change what your lawn looks like, but there are in fact, many benefits:
Your lawn will be more resilient to environmental pressures such as extreme seasonal temperatures and drought. White clover and fine fescue grasses are quite drought tolerant and low maintenance.Flowering lawns provide a natural diversity that benefits bees and other pollinators and insects.The beauty of the flowers themselves. Can bee lawns work everywhere? Can this work in urban and suburban areas?  Yes, according to James Wolfin graduate student at the U,…

Tan snow? Dust from Texas and New Mexico!

While shoveling my front walk during what I hope is the last snow of 2019, I noticed a tan surface on the new snow. First I thought it was sap from maple trees, but it was everywhere. What the heck was going on?
I found the answer in our Minnesota Weathertalk blog. According to blog author and U of M climatologist, Mark Seeley, the recent snow storm on April 10-12 swept across the plains from Colorado to Wisconsin. The wind was so strong, it swept up dust from states like Texas and New Mexico dropping it on our landscapes in Minnesota. Even my car has dust on it! Read more from Dr. Seeley: A Significant Mid-April Winter Storm

Become a Smarter Gardener in 2019: Grow plants for bats!

Yard and Garden News has been buzzing with posts about planting for insect pollinators. April 17th marks "Bat Appreciation Day 2019," so I recommend planting for one of our mammalian pollinators: Bats!
Why be 'Bat Friendly'? Like insects, bats are also important pollinators. Are you a fan of margaritas? Bats are the chief pollinator of the agave plant, the source of tequila. Bats also pollinate giant cacti, bananas, peaches, cloves, and carob, to name a few. They also disperse seeds. In fact, fruit bats spread new seed, regenerating cleared tropical forests, by defecating as they fly.

Bats are one of your best defenses when it comes to insect pest management. They are insectivores and will eat anywhere from 4-8 grams of insects in a single night. Pregnant or nursing mother bats will eat their weight in insects.
Bats are worth their weight Bats hunt and devour some of our peskiest garden offenders: leafhoppers, wasps, moths, flies, June bugs, cutworms, and of course,…

Will the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee become our 'State Bee'?

Twenty years ago, there wasn't a question. The rusty patched bumble bee was thriving, going about its business, moving from flower to flower collecting pollen and nectar, without much notice. It was found broadly across the eastern United States and the Upper Midwest in 28 states as well as southern Quebec and Ontario in Canada. 

Today, the rusty patched bumble bee's numbers have declined dramatically--87 percent over 20 years, putting it on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's "endangered" list in 2017. 

But Minnesota is a champion in the fight to recover this tiny pollinator! To draw attention to its plight, UMN Extension Bee Researcher Elaine Evans wrote this letter to members of the Minnesota State Legislature to make it the official "State Bee." The act will undoubtedly raise public awareness, which is considered a key step to its recovery: 
'Dear Minnesota lawmakers...'I am writing in support of HF 2070, a bill to establish the rusty patched …

Love impatiens and basil? New downy-mildew resistant varieties out now!

Gardeners have struggled with downy mildew on two favorite plants, the shade tolerant and floriferous traditional impatiens and flavorful basil, an easy to grow annual herb. Plant breeders to the rescue! New highly resistant forms of these two favorites will be available in 2019 and 2020.

Downy mildew is a devastating disease that can quickly kill an entire planting of impatiens or basil. This disease spreads easily and quickly, and no sweet basil or traditional impatiens were resistant to it until plant breeders changed that in 2018.
New downy-mildew resistant impatiens Traditional impatiens, the go to plant for shady sites, succumbed to a similar but different (from basil) form of downy mildew and many garden centers turned to New Guinea impatiens, a larger plant with darker foliage, and stopped selling the traditional Impatiens walleriana. 

Home gardeners that did find traditional impatiens often planted them to only find in a few weeks, leafless diseased plants that were soon dea…

NEW VIDEO: Happy 8th Anniversary 'Smart Garden' Radio Show!

Smart gardeners unite - every week, 52 Saturdays a year! This April, we're celebrating the 8th Anniversary of "Smart Garden," our hour-long radio program on WCCO 830 AM.  This show brings listeners the latest information on lawn and garden care. And it's all thanks to a collaboration between University of Minnesota Extension and WCCO. We've got more than 400 hours of shows to celebrate!

On Saturday mornings from 8-9 a.m., one of our UMN Extension experts joins WCCO's host Denny Long live on the air. They answer those lawn and gardening questions called in or texted in--on the fly! Our team of horticulture experts includes: Extension Educator Julie Weisenhorn, Extension Horticulturist and UMN Professor Mary Meyer and Master Gardener Theresa Rooney.
A behind-the-scenes look! In honor of this anniversary, we've put together this behind-the-scenes video of how it all works. We hope you enjoy it!
Video Producer, Gail Hudson, UMN Extension Communications 'S…

A 'New Normal' for Minnesota's Last Spring Frost Date?

If you had to name the date, when is the average last frost date for Minnesota? Mid-May sometime, perhaps? One expert says the unofficial data shows it's a lot earlier than you might think!

According to Dr. Mark Seeley, University of Minnesota professor emeritus and meteorologist, we can expect new normals in the last spring frost date for Minnesota. In his March 29th program onMPR Weather Talk radio, Dr. Seeley said in the last 20 years, April 20th was the average date for the last frost! 
When I spoke with him by phone recently, Dr. Seeley said, “Since 1999, we have only had two last spring frosts in May, the rest have all been in April. The latest was May 9, 2010 and the earliest was April 8, 2006.”
Data becomes official in 1-2 years The years 2019-2020 still need to be added to the new historical data (1991-2020) that will come out in late 2020 or 2021, but “for now we can see that the new median spring last frost date is shifting much closer to April 20.” This is of great in…

Emerald ash borer found in Stearns County

(Much of the following information was taken from an April 2, 2019 news release from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture)

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced yesterday (April 2) that emerald ash
borer (EAB) has been found for the first time in Stearns County in city of Sauk Centre. City workers discovered several trees showing symptoms of EAB damage and alerted MDA. MDA examined the trees, collected larvae and were able to confirm the presence of EAB.

An emergency quarantine has been enacted to reduce the risk of further spreading this invasive insect. First found in Minnesota in 2009, Stearns County is now the 18th county in Minnesota to have found this invasive insect pest. Nationally, EAB was discovered in 2002 and is now found in 35 states as well as five Canadian provinces.

The closest known infestation to Sauk Centre is Clearwater (EAB was found for the first time in September, 2018), about 50 miles away. On their own, EAB can only travel a mile …

NEW VIDEO: How to Look for Emerald Ash Borer Now

Now is a great time to examine your ash trees for evidence of emerald ash borer (EAB).  It may seem early, that you need trees leafed out to properly inspect your ash.  However, the health of the canopy is not a good indicator of whether your ash is infested by this invasive insect pest.  In fact, having a leafless tree makes it easier to search for EAB clues.

Not sure what to look for? We've created this video to show just how you can identify this pest in/on the ash trees in your yard.

Symptoms to look for Probably the best symptom to look for is woodpecker pecking. Woodpeckers love to eat EAB larvae.  Because of their pecking, they chip off bark, creating a blonding effect, and make holes.  Although woodpeckers eat other insects, their presence on an ash tree is definitely a red flag for EAB infestations.

If you see small, 1/8th inch sized D-shaped exit holes, that is a sure symptom of EAB.  Unfortunately, they are easy to overlook because of their size.  Also, EAB starts infe…

Soil Testing: A Sure Sign of Spring!

Get a soil test and make the most of this growing season for all your plants, trees and shrubs! As soon as your soil dries out, you can collect samples in your yard and garden for a soil test.
Your plants, trees & shrubs will thank you for it! Why do a soil test? A soil test will provide recommendations for fertilizer and lime application based on the soil you have and on what you want to grow (new lawn? fruit trees? vegetable garden?).  And while you can get a soil test any time of year (as long as you can sample your soil, that is!) spring and fall are optimal times for applying many soil amendments.

A soil test will also help you avoid applying too much fertilizer. Using only the fertilizer you need will save money, keep your plants healthy, and keep excess nutrients from getting into the environment. And while you can buy home soil test kits, they are not calibrated to the soil characteristics we have in Minnesota, nor do they provide recommendations specific to your situation…