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Showing posts from June, 2019

WCCO 'Smart Garden' Radio Program Survey: We want to hear from you!

Are you a WCCO Smart Garden listener?

2019 marks the 8th year of WCCO Smart Garden radio show, a collaboration of WCCO radio and University of Minnesota Extension. Thank you to the many listeners who call in and text questions from near and far. We love providing science-based answers that you can use! 

Over the years, you’ve asked us questions - more than 10,000 - and now we’d like to ask YOU some questions! We’d like to know how WCCO Smart Garden has helped you in your yard and garden projects. 

Please take 5-10 minutes to answer the following survey and your name may be drawn to win a copy of Mary Meyer's book, 10 Plants that Changed Minnesota. Include your contact information to be eligible for the drawing.
Thank you for completing the survey and for listening!

Survey link:

Author: Julie Weisenhorn, Extension horticulture educator

Houseplant Heaven: A summer outdoors!

“Where did your plants go?” was a recent question from my grandchildren. Used to seeing a green living room, they now found an empty space. “They are all here,” I replied, “but enjoying the summer outside on the porch!”

And they are much happier I am sure. Minnesota’s long summer days mean catch up time for house plants, where they enjoy the fresh air and increased light to grow bigger and hopefully flower.
Acclimating your house plants The hardest part is acclimation or getting our indoor plants used to the outdoors. If you have a 3 season porch or indoor room, the transition is easy. Light is higher here but out of direct sun that can damage leaves developed indoors in lower light.

For any plants going out into even a partial day of full sun, go slow and treat the plant as you would in getting a sun tan. Wait, is anyone doing a sun tan anymore? Probably not!

Plant leaves are shocked with sudden full sun conditions. Their cells are not ready for this and can actually photo burn or d…

Become a Smarter Gardener in 2019: Fertilizing and Watering Container Plants

Container plants are a great way to have lots of green in a small space. They often require a bit more attention than plants growing in a garden, but a little maintenance can go a long way towards healthy, productive container plants.
Fertilize regularly  Even if you used a potting mix with a slow-release fertilizer, repeated watering will leach nutrients over time. It's a good idea to start regular fertilizer applications anywhere between 2-6 weeks after planting a container, depending on the type of potting media used, watering schedule, and rate of plant growth. 
There are lots of options for fertilizers to use in container plants. A good place to start is with an all-purpose fertilizer. All-purpose fertilizers have nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus - the nutrients that plants need in large amounts - as well as other essential plant nutrients like iron, manganese, and zinc.

To promote flower or fruit (rather than leaf) production, you can also select fertilizers with higher …

Beyond the plant: Mealybugs can hide anywhere

Mealy bugs are prehistoric looking white insects with a fluffy white coating. Up close, they remind me of trilobites. They insert their proboscis into plant tissue and suck out the plant juices. Then excrete honeydew, a clear sticky substance made up of mostly sugars, onto plant leaves as well as pots, saucers, table tops, etc. I have had mealy bug issues on some of my houseplants ever since I brought in a rescued Clivia (or was it that Darwin orchid?)

Regardless, mealy bugs have kept me on my toes ever since. I have handpicked them from the folds and undersides of leaves and at the base of plants. I have washed plants with water and also resorted to a few select pesticides (Note: Few of these plants are pollinator-attractive, and those that are are kept indoors when blooming, out of the reach of bees, butterflies, etc.). Unfortunately, even my best efforts could not rid my plants of mealy bugs.

When summer came along and some of these plants headed outside onto the deck, I was clean…

Become a Smarter Gardener in 2019: Fertilizing Annual Flowers

Annual flowers give us summer long blooms, but these plants have a shallow, temporary root systems that require additional water and regular fertilizer. If you have been disappointed with flowers on annuals, it may be due to a lack of fertilizer, or possibly a lack of water or sunlight.
What kind of fertilizer? Begonias, impatiens, petunias (especially wave petunias) and even geraniums, an easy to grow, carefree annual, grow larger and with more flowers when they have regular fertilizer. I use a slow release fertilizer in the planting hole when I plant annual flowers and then use a liquid fertilizer once a week throughout the summer.

Plants in the ground can get by with less water and fertilizer, but plants in containers will require your constant attention all summer, daily watering and weekly fertilizer is a standard to consider using. I use a complete fertilizer for the slow release and liquid feeding. An analysis of 20-20-20 is a common ratio for liquid fertilizer, with nitrogen,…

What to do about bird mites

People have been finding bird mites in and around their homes lately. These mites are annoying and can potentially bite people. Fortunately, they are a short-lived problem.

When birds build nests on homes, they bring bird mites with them. These parasites feed on bird blood and can produce large numbers of mites.

If numbers are too large, bird mites will leave the nest to search for other bird hosts. They will also leave when birds abandon their nests. During their search, they can enter homes and encounter people.

While these mites are very small, about 1/32 inch long, people can see them. They are a translucent yellow but may appear darker if they have been feeding. They have eight legs and resemble miniature ticks when viewed closely.

As they search for new hosts, bird mites can bite people to see if we are suitable hosts. Fortunately, we are not. Bird mites are NOT able to sustain themselves or reproduce on human blood.

Any bird mites that get into your home do n…

Become a Smarter Gardener in 2019: Recycling Plastic Pots

In the normal spring plant purchases I do every year, I have collected about 15 different plastic pots that I want to recycle. My municipal curbside recycling company does not accept these pots for recycling. What to do?

Home Depot and Lowes both have garden pot recycling programs. This is smart. It gets me into their stores with my empty pots and it’s very likely I will buy more plants.  Home Depot stores across the country have been accepting and recycling plastic plant containers for the past decade.
Home Depot plastic pot recycling program In a June 5, 2019 press release, the company says it is "moving toward a circular economy" with its recycling program. “Customers can bring back their empty pots for growers to refill. When the pots are no longer reusable, The Home Depot’s partner, East Jordan Plastics Inc., turns them into new pots, trays, and hanging baskets. Every year, East Jordan Plastics recycles more than 15 million pounds of used plastic containers, equivalent…

Essential Tips for a Healthy Lawn, Part I

June is that time of year when we're assessing the health of our lawns--giving it a thumbs up or down on whether we've achieved a lush green carpet. So just how do you go about getting a healthy lawn? It begins with the question, "What type of lawn do you desire?"

Material excerpts from a 2017 presentation by former Extension Educator Sam Bauer, "10 Tips for a Healthy Lawn" 
Tip #1: Choose the most appropriate type of grass  Do you want to spend a lot of time taking care of it? Or hardly any time at all? The grass species you have in your yard can make a big difference.
High maintenanceKentucky Bluegrass: Best quality, good spreading ability, poor in shade, available as sodPerennial Ryegrass: Quick germinating, poor tolerance to winter and summer stress, poor in shade Low maintenance
Fine fescue species (Festuca sp.): Shade tolerant, slow growing, some salt tolerance, low fertility needs, drought tolerant; But--disease under wear, more susceptible to snow mo…

Watch for fourlined plant bugs

People are starting to report fourlined plant bug damage in their gardens. You can recognize this feeding by looking for small, dark, circular, sunken spots on leaves. Fourlined plant bugs particularly like many types of perennials and herbs, like mint and basil.
What's it look like? Both the immature nymphs and adults feed and damage plants with their piercing-sucking mouthparts. Immature fourlined plant bugs are bright red and 1/16th inch long when they first hatch.

 As they get larger, they turn reddish orange with black and yellow-green stripes. As adults, they are yellow-green with four black stripes and are ¼ - 1/3 inch long.
Will it hurt my plant? The good news is that fourlined plant bug damage typically just affect a plant’s appearance, it normally does not seriously injure them. However, the amount of damage a gardener is willing to accept is subjective and will vary with different people.

Fourlined plant bugs will feed from June to early to mid-July. The soon…

What to do about biting flies

Regardless where you live in Minnesota, the odds are very good that you are encountering at least one kind of biting fly right now. The two most common are mosquitoes and black flies. While they are irritating, there are steps you can take to minimize their annoyance.

Become a Smarter Gardener in 2019: Grasses for the Shade

As our gardens age, trees grow and produce welcome shade, but shade means a change for what grows under these beautiful trees. A sunny garden and landscape ages into a shade garden. I am often asked to recommend grasses, especially tall grasses, for shady sites.
Shady favorites: Landscape and ornamental grasses I know of no tall grasses (4 feet or more) that grow in shade. (Aruncus, goat’s beard, and Thalictrum, meadow rue, however, are tall shade loving perennials).

Below are listed a few lower grasses and sedges that grow well in shade. River oats is native to the Ozark Mountains and southeastern U.S. and is marginally hardy in Minnesota, but it usually self-seeds to live in shady gardens as a perennial.  Hakone grass is native to the forests of Japan, especially in moist sites.
How to use in the landscape In establishing these plants, water well in the first year or two, as many shady locations are dry sites with other established plants competing for moisture. Combine these grass…