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Showing posts from May, 2019

Why are the leaves on my boxwood brown?

You can see the damage in many Minnesota landscapes--broadleaf evergreens like boxwood, rhododendrons, vinca and pachysandra covered with brown leaves, particularly on the tops of these plants. So what happened?
Damage report The 2018-19 winter took a toll on these plants. When it was cold in December and January, before snow covered these plants, their leaves were frozen and killed. This was not so much normal desiccation or drying out, as it was outright death by extreme low temperatures when the plants had snow cover.  The damage is just showing up now. Record snow came later after leaves were exposed and open to killing temperatures.

I planted this boxwood knot (see above image) on the north side of my home in 2004, 15 years ago. This year it shows the most winter injury ever, because normally it is covered with snow and protected from extreme temperatures.
Hardy broadleaf evergreens Due to our rigorous winters, only a few broadleaf evergreens will survive in Minnesota. Boxwood, …

Dividing Grasses Without Fear!

Spring is the perfect time to divide ornamental grasses. But the task can be daunting, particularly if the grasses are old and overgrown. So what do you do when you have cool season grasses or warm season grasses? How tough are these plants anyway?

Extension Horticulturist and Professor Mary H. Meyer sorts it all out for us.  Watch the video from this Facebook Live Event held on May 23rd, when Mary showed us just how to tackle dividing ornamental grasses without fear!

Author: Gail Hudson UMN Extension Communications

Mn State Lawmakers encourage residents to 'Bee Friendly'!

Minnesota lawmakers made big strides during the Spring 2019 legislative session to help our home landscapes become a little more friendly to bees. They've set aside $900,000 for one year to assist homeowners with the cost of establishing a bee lawn (See Star Tribune, May 30, 2019).

What's a bee-friendly lawn? Bee lawns are turfgrass areas that include low-growing flowers that wild bees and honey bees use as forage for nectar and pollen. Some of the flowers used include: Dutch white clover (Trifolium repens), self-heal (Prunella vulgaris), and creeping thyme (Thymus sepryllum).
What causes pollinator decline?  Several main factors contribute to pollinator decline:  loss of forageirresponsible use of pesticidesintroduction of pests and diseases from abroad Bees need sources of nectar and pollen to survive, and given that over 50 million acres nationwide are made up of turfgrass (one of the largest mono-crops), the opportunity is great to provide more foraging opportunities for b…

Trees and Shrubs 2019: A big year for fungal diseases

Are you seeing spots on the leaves of your trees? Why are the leaves on my trees curling? The needles on my evergreen tree are discolored. So what's up with that?!

The bad news is, our very wet spring...and May snowstorm, believe it or not, means this will be a big year for fungal diseases on trees and shrubs in Minnesota.
Damage report A new article in this month's MyMinnesotaWoods newsletter delivers the grave details:

"During cool, wet spring seasons, a variety of fungal diseases affecting trees and shrubs flare up. The symptoms of these diseases are often unsightly and somewhat alarming, and can be a cause for concern for homeowners and woodland owners. This spring is no exception — it’s been quite cool and wet so far (heck it even snowed this May!), and as expected, now that it’s warmed up we are seeing a lot of diseases like tar spot on maple, anthracnose on a variety of hardwood species, and others.

The good news is that in general these diseases look worse than t…

Spiders are our friends

Whether you are outside tending your garden or are inside your home, spiders are commonly seen everywhere now. People have different reasons for asking questions about spiders. Some are curious by what kind of spider they have found. Others are concerned they may be pests or even think they may have encountered a dangerous spider.
Can spiders be dangerous? First the good news, we do not have any dangerous spiders in Minnesota. While it is true that a black widow or a brown recluse can be accidentally transported into Minnesota, this is a very rare occurrence and neither is a native spider. Any spider you see is almost certainly a native Minnesota spider.

Most spiders are not capable of biting us; their chelicerae (fangs) are too small and weak to penetrate human skin. Spiders are also not aggressive. For those spiders that can potentially bite us, they are not interested to do so. Their instinct is to flee from and avoid people. If they feel threatened, they can bite to pr…

NEW VIDEO: How to Read Plant Labels

Ever take a closer look at the label on the plant you're about to purchase? Don't forget to use this important tool that's going to help you "Become a Smarter Gardener in 2019"! Planting a tree, shrub, perennial, annual can sometimes be complicated...and this information will help you site and care for the plant so it has the greatest chance to succeed.

Take a few minutes to watch this Extension Video Guide to reading plant labels. You'll be glad you did!

Who regulates plant labels?  In our state, the Minnesota the Department of Agriculture regulates what information is required on plant labels. Plants have a tough time growing in Minnesota’s rigorous climate, and sometimes so do we!  Our winters are rough and many plants will not survive in Minnesota’s USDA Hardiness Zones as follows:

Zone 3 (minimum winter temperature of -40°F); Zone 4 (minimum winter temperature of -30°F); and in the metro and far southern MN, Zone 5 (minimum winter temperature of -20°F).�…

Wildflower Feature of the Month: Virginia Bluebells

We're starting something new in Yard and Garden News! Every few weeks during the summer we will feature a different wildflower. We're kicking off this new series with one of our favorite spring ephemerals!
Wildflower Feature for May Virginia bluebells, Mertensia virginica, is so impressive as a wildflower that when my husband first saw them in the woods he said, ”Who planted these?” Showy but brief, these blue, then purple and finally pink flowers form in clusters at the ends of 2 foot tall stems with lush foliage. Flowers are tubular and pendulous on plants 12-30 inches in height.
Where to find them Native in central and southern Minnesota, and most states east of the Mississippi, this hardy wildflower, is a nice addition to shady garden sites.  In the wild it is found in shady to semi shady sites in wooded areas or at the edge of woods.

A true spring ephemeral, Virginia bluebells grow very early in the spring, flower before most trees have leafed out, and then completely di…

Myth or miracle: Coffee grounds, eggshells, and Epsom salts?

Every once in a while, it's good to take a step back and think about what we add to our gardens and why. Some things we add are helpful, some are neutral, and some can even be harmful to your soil or plants. Let's take a look at three common "remedies" and talk about why they may or may not be helpful in the garden.
Remedy #1: Used coffee grounds will lower soil pH Coffee grounds can be beneficial to your soil, but not because they lower pH. Coffee grounds contain carbon, nitrogen, and other compounds that feed soil organisms. Cultivating a robust and diverse population of soil microbes is the foundation for healthy soil - and healthy plants! Soil organisms then transform these nutrients into chemical forms that plants use for growth.

Coffee grounds can also contain compounds that help suppress some plant disease-causing microbes. However, coffee grounds have not been shown to have a consistent effect on lowering soil pH. But don't give up on coffee grounds in t…

Time to start thinking about watering - at last!

Dare I say that spring has finally arrived? With the warmer weather comes the important task of assessing watering needs of your landscape plants. How, when and why you water depend on several things and it's our responsibility as gardeners and plant owners to provide adequate moisture to plants if Mother Nature isn't helping out.

Our Extension webpage Water Wisely provides some great information. Here are a few tips:
Know your plants and their water requirements Plants can grow in many conditions when given good care. When it comes to buying a new plant, it's important to know the kind of growing conditions you can provide for it. The growers' plant tags provide a lot of information about the growing needs of plants.  Your zone? Check USDA Cold Hardiness Zones mapPlanting space available should match size of full grown plantSun / shade - full sun 6+ hrs, part sun/shade 3-6 hrs, full shade less than 3 hrsSoil type - clay, sand, loam (the best!) Soil texture matters!  S…

Don't treat Japanese beetle grubs during spring

Spring is finally here but some gardeners are already thinking ahead to summer and what steps they want to take to protect their plants from Japanese beetles. For those thinking about treating grubs now to reduce Japanese beetles later, don’t do it, it isn’t effective.

Unfortunately, grubs are too large to treat now. The best time to treat Japanese beetle grubs is July through mid-September when they are small or moderate-sized. As they get larger, it is more difficult to kill them and by fall it is no longer practical to manage them. When spring arrives, these grubs are definitely too large to control.

Even if you could effectively treat grubs in the spring, this does not have any impact on how many adult Japanese beetles you will see later. This
is because Japanese beetle adults are good fliers. They
can travel up to several miles and can easily enter your property from adjacent areas.

However, do treat grubs to protect your lawn from damage. If your lawn has suffered …

NEW VIDEO: How to Transplant Seedlings

Got some seedlings to transplant? Get some tips on great techniques to use as you baby these seedlings a little bit longer before they go into the garden!

Extension Educator Julie Weisenhorn walked viewers through the process on Facebook Live from the greenhouses on the University of Minnesota-St. Paul campus. Take a look!

Tune in for UMN Extension Yard & Garden's next Facebook Live on Monday, May 6th at 11 a.m. Julie will show you how to prepare a raised garden bed for planting. Make sure you tap "Follow" on our Facebook page...and it will alert you when the broadcast will begin.

Author: Gail Hudson, Extension Communications

Become a Smarter Gardener in 2019: Pick plants that will THRIVE, not just survive!

Today is a lovely, early spring day in central Minnesota and I am thinking about my garden--what I want to keep, what I want to change and what I want to plant. With winter a recent memory, Minnesota gardeners are more than ready to invest in plants at this time of year and get back out in the garden.

Let's visit three key points to choosing plants that will THRIVE and not simply survive.
Match plant needs to site conditions1. Choose plants with growing needs that match the kind of soil and amount of light you have available.

Avoid plants that need rich, moist soil if you have sandy soil. Blooming plants that require full sun (8+ hours of sunlight per day) will not bloom as well in shadier conditions.  Most plant tags are written by the grower and provide the basic growing conditions for the plant, so it's important to read a plant tag before you buy the plant and determine if you can honestly give this plant the growing conditions it needs to thrive. If you are not sure, ask …

Become a Smarter Gardener in 2019: Get the right container for your veggies!

How big a container do you need to grow a tomato? Kale or lettuce? Rosemary or basil? The larger the plant, the bigger the container required to grow and produce food. Pick the right one, and you'll get a better harvest this summer!
What's the right size? Tomatoes like 'em big!  Use at least a 12" diameter pot, but overall larger is better. Larger pots provide more soil and hold more water which minimizes wilting and stress as plants get large. See the table below that matches plant type to container size.
What's your container made out of? Avoid using metal containers, which can absorb too much heat and be deadly to plant roots. Roots cannot tolerate extreme high or low temperatures that upper plant parts can take. Black containers can also be very hot for roots in full sun conditions. Light colored containers are best at minimizing hot conditions.
Soil & Fertilizer Lightweight potting soil is good for container vegetables and herbs. Adding slow release fertili…

Plant a 'Minnesota Winner' in your Veggie Garden this year!

Want to know some of the best vegetable or flower varieties to try in your garden or planter this year? Take a closer look at University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners’ new list of top picks just for Minnesota gardeners. Master Gardener Seed TrialsIn February, 2019, more than 120 volunteers from 46 counties around the state announced their favorites for Minnesota gardeners after growing and observing six kinds of vegetables and two flowers last summer. This annual top picks effort goes back to 1982, and more than 200 plants are on the list. “We can help save frustration and money by guiding gardeners toward varieties that really do well in Minnesota,” said Sue Schiess, chair of the Minnesota Master Gardener Seed Trial Leadership Team. “I don’t think you can get that information any place else.” What makes these plants 'Minnesota Winners'?In a blind test, Master Gardeners monitor half a dozen varieties of each plant for disease and insect tolerance, growth and germinatio…

How to Plant Fruit Trees and Grapevines

Once you plant fruit trees, fruit shrubs, or grapevines on your property, they will be there for many years. Where and how you plant them will have important impacts on their long term success.

Follow this process to plant fruit trees:
Choose a site with full sun. Most fruit types require full sun exposure. A few types, like currants and elderberries, can produce fruit in partial shade but have better yields in full sun. Therefore, select a site that is fully sun for most or all of the day. If planting fruit shrubs or vines along the side of a building, they will be most successful on the south-facing wall. Choose a well-drained site. Avoid areas where water tends to accumulate, or areas with heavy clay soil at shallow depths.Do a soil test to determine whether your soil is suitable for fruit. Based on the soil test results, amend your soil accordingly by spreading or incorporating the appropriate amount of fertilizer and organic matter prior to planting. For more information on takin…