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Showing posts from September, 2019

Top ten annuals for 2019!

The Horticulture Display Garden at the U of MN West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) in Morris, MN, boasts one of the largest and most impressive displays of annual flower in the Upper Midwest. 

Every year, horticulture scientist Steve Poppe and his team grow, plant and evaluate the performance of approximately 400 new annuals in Minnesota landscapes. With an eye on design, the annuals are planted into the display garden landscape and labeled. Only the highest ranking cultivars earn the distinction of a Top Ten Performing Annual for Minnesota. 

Get out your pen and paper, and read on to learn which annuals YOU might want to include in your 2020 garden!
2019 Top Performing Annuals

Tips for Harvesting and Caring for Beautiful Pumpkins

It's the most wonderful time of the year - pumpkin time! You can buy your 2019 pumpkins or winter squash directly from a local farmer via a roadside pumpkin stand, or find a local pumpkin patch and enjoy hot cider and other fall attractions while you pick out your perfect jack-o-lantern canvas.

If you grew pumpkins or winter squash yourself, the time is coming to harvest those too! Read on for tips on choosing, harvesting, and storing pumpkins until Thanksgiving or longer.
When to Harvest Your Pumpkins Most mid-sized pumpkin varieties we grow in Minnesota take between 90-105 days from planting to when they are mature and ready to pick. Miniature pumpkins mature faster, in about 70-90 days. This year, pumpkin farmers in much of the state planted pumpkins between June 1 to June 14 . That means pumpkins are reaching maturity right about...now. 
To determine if your garden pumpkins are mature, count back days to when you planted the seeds. If you planted transplants instead of seeds,…

Become a Smarter Gardener in 2019: Plant a cover crop over your vegetable garden!

As the weather gradually grows colder in Minnesota,  you may find that some of your early summer garden plots are ready to be cleaned up and put to bed for the winter. But you can give your garden one last boost before you say "goodbye" 'til spring.

Did you know...this could be a perfect time to plant something called a "fall-seeded cover crop"?!
What's a cover crop? These arer specific plant or crop varieties that are grown and turned into the soil to improve its overall quality. Farmers often plant "cover crops" in a field in the fall (off-season).  For home gardeners, they're started by seed in an empty garden bed like a vegetable garden plot or a new garden bed.

Sometimes these plants covering your garden are killed by frost, and some last the whole winter and remain until the snow melts away in the spring. So why do it?
Reasons to add a 'living mulch' Think of it as a "living mulch." Basically, you're planting your …

Ant swarms are harmless

Residents have been seeing large numbers of winged insects in their yards lately. Despite their fears that they could be carpenter ants or even termites, these insects are harmless field ants.

Essentially all ant nests produce large number of winged ants for mating swarms, although they do so at different time of the years. Field ants swarm any time from July through September. Carpenter ants only swarm in the spring so any flying ants seen now are never carpenter ants. Termites are rare in Minnesota and swarms even more rare. When they are found swarming, termites do so in the spring.

A mating swarm consists of females and males, which leave at the nest at the same time. They mate and then the females fly off as new queens to look for new sites to start nests. The males die shortly afterwards.

Fortunately, field ants nest in the ground and do not infest homes when they swarm. They are at best just a nuisance. People may also be seeing cornfield ants swarming now too. The…

State Fair Wrapup: Celebrating 8 Years of 'Smart Garden'

Nothing like some cake to turn an Anniversary into a real celebration! Extension's 'Smart Garden' weekly radio show on WCCO 830 AM Radio is in its 8th year...Count 'em--that's roughly 436 hours to date of terrific gardening advice from Extension experts! 

Extension Professor and Horticulturist Mary Meyer brought some free cake to Fair-goers last weekend to mark the occasion.

Not letting an Anniversary take them off course, Denny, Mary and UMN Turf Scientist and Professor Eric Watkins quickly began to answer gardening questions from their live audience, from phone callers and text-ers.

Here are some highlights:
Q: My tomatoes have spots on the lower leaves. Should I cut them off?  A: Yes. Remove the disease portion of the plant if it's not too much.  The caller also asked what could be eating some of the tomato blossoms.  Answer: It could be deer, chipmunks or squirrels--it's difficult to know.  Q: When should I cut down my Siberian Iris?  A: You don't…

Become a Smarter Gardener in 2019: Why so few pumpkins and squash?

We’ve heard multiple reports of pumpkin and squash plants not producing well this year. Some plants have no fruit at all, and others produced fewer fruit than usual.

If this happened in your garden, there are a few explanations.
1. Pollination Pumpkins and squash are dependent upon insect pollination. They are monoecious, which means that each plant will produce both male and female flowers. 
However, these flowers emerge at different times. Male flowers bloom about one week before female flowers. In an ideal situation, bees and other pollinators would visit the male flowers and coat themselves in pollen. When the female flowers bloom a week later, those same pollinators would visit and pollinate them. 
However, most squash and pumpkin flowers only last for about four hours, so conditions have to be just right for pollination. The time lapse between male flower bloom and female flower bloom means that conditions have to continue to be favorable for an extended period to ensure good p…

Emerald ash borer now found in Steele County

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced today that emerald ash borer (EAB) has been confirmed in Steele County for the first time in the city of Medford. Several dying ash trees were discovered by a tree care professional who contacted MDA. MDA was able to find live EAB, which were confirmed by the USDA.


Steele County is the 20th county in Minnesota known to be infested with EAB. This invasive beetle was first found in Minnesota in 2009. Since EAB was first found in North America in 2002, it has spread to 35 states and five Canadian provinces. It has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees and has cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Minnesota has nearly one billion ash trees in the state, one of the largest in the country.

Minnesotans can help prevent the spread of EAB with these three easy steps:
Don’t transport firewood. Buy firewood locally from approved vendors, and burn it where you buy it; Be aware of quarantine restrictions. If you live in a quarantin…

Some Favorite Trees for Minnesota Landscapes

Trees contribute a great deal to any and all landscapes -- shade, structure, a canopy “ceiling”, protection, wildlife habitat -- and fall is an excellent time to plant trees. Sunlight is less intense and temperatures are cooler which reduces transplant stress.

Usually there is more rainfall as well (Note: if rainfall is scarce in your area, see "Water Wisely" under Planting and care for Trees and Shrubs).

Looking for new trees for your landscape? Shop for locally-grown trees as they will adapt to and perform well in their new surroundings.

While the following list of recommendations doesn’t nearly cover all the trees available for Minnesota landscapes, these trees are some good options. 

True North™ Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioica ‘UMNSynergy’) A male selection, so no messy pods. A member of the Fabaceae (legume) botanical family, disease resistant and tolerant of heat, cold, wind and dry soils with high pH. Good tolerance to both deicing salt spray and run off. Yellow…

Become a Smarter Gardener in 2019: How to manage Creeping Charlie

Treating aggressive perennial weeds requires proper timing, an effective product and cultural
practices to help deter re-establishment. Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea) is consistently a problem weed though some homeowners have come to tolerate it because it attracts and provides food for pollinators (one of its few redeeming qualities).