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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…
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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…

Wildflower of the Month: Trillium & marsh marigold

If I had to pick two favorite spring wildflowers, trillium and marsh marigold would be right at the top of the list. I spent Memorial Day weekend near Moose Lake, MN, visiting my parents with my husband. The trillium and marsh marigold were in full bloom and amazingly beautiful!
Trillium grandiflorum, large-flowered trillium There are four species of trillium in Minnesota - T. flexipisces, T. cernuum, T. nivale and the largest T. grandiflorum, the large-flowered trillium. According to the Minnesota Wildflowers website, it is slow to mature, but can live a long time.

Seeds are spread by ants that take the seeds into their underground homes, eat the outer fleshy seed coat and leave the seeds behind. An herbaceous native perennial, this trillium grows to 8 - 18 inches tall, grows in shady, richly organic woodland soil, and blooms May - June in Minnesota.

My reference book, The Names of Plants (Gledhill, D.) notes that "trillium" refers to groups of three's - the petals, leav…

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, …