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Showing posts from November, 2019

Black widows in Minnesota

Several live black widow spiders were sent to the Department of Entomology in October and November. What is the risk of black widows in Minnesota? Where do they come from? Are there special steps that should be taken to protect ourselves from these dangerous spiders? Fortunately, black widows ( Latrodectus spp.) are rarely found here. Of the five species known in the U.S. , only one, the northern black widow, is native to Minnesota. Even though it is native, people normally do not encounter this spider. Non-native black widows are sometimes accidentally transported into our state. Fortunately, they do not establish themselves here. While having three black widows reported this fall is considered an above average number of cases, overall, they are still rarely found in Minnesota. This black widow came from Texas.  Note the red hourglass on the underside of its abdomen which identifies it as a black widow.  Photo: Jeff Hahn, UMN Extension In one case, a black wid

The Dark Secret of Canned Pumpkin: What kind is it really?

The Dickinson Pumpkin. Photo: Elijah Dickinson moved from Kentucky to Illinois in 1835, carrying with him the seeds of Kentucky Field Pumpkin or as it later became known, the Dickinson Pumpkin.  This large tan pumpkin actually belongs to the squash species  Cucurbita moschata,  whose most famous member is the butternut squash. These squashes usually have a uniform, smooth, tan rind when ripe; similar kinds are cheese pumpkins, Canada crookneck, long neck pumpkin, and others. Butternut Squash Photo: Johnny's Selected Seeds Most gardeners grow butternut squash, which you can find in grocery stores and farmers markets. And here's the secret... The Dickinson pumpkin or squash really is the source of most canned pumpkin we eat today.  Why the Dickinson squash? As the Wall Street Journal reported last year, those who are determined to make pumpkin pie from scratch soon learn that "field pumpkins taste disgusting: strin

Have you checked your trees lately? This is a great time to do it!

An inspection of this Siberian Elm in the backyard of a Minneapolis residence  revealed a split was developing between two main trunks. The tree was taken down upon recommendation of a certified arborist. Photo: Gail Hudson, Extension Communications As leaves fall in November we can see the branching structure of trees, making this a good time to inspect for tree health. Winter is an ideal time for tree care and maintenance.  Start looking up at your trees and see how healthy they are, is the advice of Dr. Robert Polomski, Extension Specialist at Clemson University and winner of the 2019 GardenComm Gold Medal for the webinar: Have you Checked Your Trees Lately? A Routine Check Up Of Trees Saves Lives And Property Dr. Polomski’s webinar will show you MANY examples of trees that need help and show you clearly how to follow the seven steps for tree check-ups. What kind of tree do you have? But first, make sure you know what species of tree you are looking at and perhaps

Your Yard can 'BEE the Change': Make a Plan for 2020

Selfheal ( Prunella vulgaris)  and thyme flowers (Thymus vulgaris)  in a bee lawn. Photo: Mary Meyer, UMN Extension Want to be more pollinator-friendly and turn your yard into a bee lawn? The time for Minnesotans to apply for a state grant is just about here! In May of 2019, Minnesota Governor Tim Waltz signed legislation that set aside $900,000 in financial assistance to individual home owners who are willing to install pollinator-friendly native plantings. The program helps cover up to 75% of the cost of each conversion project, and up to 90% in areas with a “high potential” to support rusty patched bees, according to the Star Tribune . Your Yard Can BEE the Change is the slogan for the new Lawns to Legumes initiative from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. December 2019 will be the first round of applications for restoring pollinator habitat on residential property for spring and summer 2020 installations. [ Sign up for updates  about this new homeowner

Hunters can help with invasive species

Invasive species negatively affect food and habitat for game animals like white tailed deer. Your favorite season in Minnesota may depend on what you like to hunt. If you are a morel mushroom hunter, spring may be your favorite season. If you are a deer or game bird hunter, then fall is important to you. Whatever your game, hunters and gatherers can play an important role in locating new populations of invasive species where they don't belong. Invasive species out compete native plants that provide food for game, they invade and take over woodlands and wetlands, and they can be home to pests that harm wildlife and people. Hunting for invasive species WHEN you hunt This month, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture November Weed of the Month features invasive weeds that impact fall hunters, and what hunters can do to help. Locating and reporting these plants when discovered while out in natural areas can help agencies eradicate them from the land. Download the app! Ch

Wind in the willows? Youbetcha!

The Youbetcha Castle, MN Landscape Arboretum Photo: Jason Boudreau-Landis This year, artist Patrick Dougherty created the Youbetcha castle built on Scarecrow Hill at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Ever wonder where all those willow branches came from? They were actually part of a research project between University of Minnesota Extension and the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Funded by MNDOT, the willows were grown in ditches as living snow fences, cut and transported to the Arboretum for Dougherty's Youbetcha castle. Read more: The Willow Story Author: Julie Weisenhorn, Extension Educator - Horticulture

Q&A: African violet is wilted

Question:  M y African violet leaves are still green, but it's suddenly wilted, limp and hanging over the pot. What has happened and what can I do - if anything -  to revive it? Answer: Houseplants wilting can be due to several factors. Most common is either under or over watering, so check the soil first. If the soil is very dry, the plant is clearly under watered. Set the plant in a bowl of water and allow the water to be absorbed through the holes in the pot. If the soil is wet, the plant has been over watered - one of the most common reasons for the demise of a houseplant. Consistently wet soil creates an anaerobic (lacks air) growing environment for roots which leads to root rot and encourages pests like fungus gnats. Remove the plant from the pot and check the roots for rot (brown - black soft roots). It is possible for plants to grow new roots. If a majority of the roots are still white or light-colored, prune off the rotted roots, and re-pot the plant in soil fo

A Fall Garden Essential: How to Properly Clean Your Tools & Pots

Soil covered tools in need of cleaning at the end of the gardening season Photo: M. Grabowski, UMN Extension  Lower the risk for plant disease in next year's garden! Before you store your garden tools for the winter be sure to clean them. Many plant pathogens can survive from one season to the next in infected plant debris, soil, or on tools, trellises, stakes, or pots that were used to grow the plants. How to clean tools, pots, and other garden supplies Remove all soil and plant debris attached to tools, trellises, or old pots. Most plant pathogens survive best when sheltered by soil or in plant material.  Potting soil, annual plants, leaves and stems killed by frost can all be placed into a compost pile. Use a brush or a hard stream of water from the garden hose to completely remove soil and other organic material.  Disinfectants available to home gardeners 1) Bleach (5.25% Sodium hypochlorite) Make a 10% solution by mixing one part bleach with 9 parts of water.

Award Winning Perennials for MN Gardeners in 2020

As horticulture experts, we're always looking for new plants to talk about. And at this time of year when the national award winning perennials are announced, there's always a bit of excitement about it! Four hardy perennials were recently awarded national recognition. All of these plants are hardy in USDA Zone 4 and one is hardy in Zone 3. The All-America Selections and Perennial Plant Association awards are compiled from many locations across the U.S. Look for these new plants in garden centers next spring and enjoy their benefits in your garden. How All-America Selection plants are judged Since 1932 the All-America Selections program has trialed annual flowers and vegetables in numerous locations throughout the U. S. Winners are grown for one year and then awarded the coveted AAS selection. An independent panel of judges put this year's plant contenders through their paces...and once the "AAS Winner" label goes on it, it's like a stamp of approv

Protect plants from winter animal browsing

Plastic tree guards protect young trees A reminder to all Yard and Garden News readers (and anyone else ) who struggle with animals feeding on your plants during the winter! Our multiple feet of snow last winter left people off-guard and plants chewed, scraped and girdled by loss of the cambium layer that lies just beneath tree and shrub bark. The cambium layer is important because it contains vessels know as the phloem that transport sugars, generated through photosynthesis in the leaves, to the roots. Once chewed through, these vessels are damaged and transport of sugars no longer is possible. How to protect your plants Predicted decent weather over the next week makes this a good time to fence your trees, shrubs and other woody plants animals may choose to gnaw on this winter. A few tips to keep in mind: Use plastic white tree guards to protect young, thin-barked trees from animal browsing which can girdle the tree and kill it. The small grid and sturdy construction

Become a Smarter Gardener in 2019: How to Identify a Cultivar

Photo: Julie Weisenhorn, UMN Extension Many of us have a beautiful plant in our garden (or our neighbor’s garden) that we just can’t identify. We know what the plant is, a daylily for example, but not which daylily. Your friends keep asking, “What is that plant?” So how do you figure out what to ask for at the nursery? Cultivars are plants of a shared genus (e.g. oaks or dahlias, etc.) that are bred by humans for a specific reason like larger flowers or a nice smell. Even for a professional, identifying a cultivar can be a challenge. After all, there can be thousands of cultivars for one group of plants! Here are several resources to help you identify a cultivar. Check out what books are available Photo: Timber Press Some plant researchers have written books about the species they study that are very useful for identifying cultivars.  Some examples include, Hollies: The Genus Ilex by Fred C. Galle and The New Encyclopedia of Daylilies by John P. Peat and Ted