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  • You Know It Is Summer When You Have Strawberry Pie | DCMGV

    < Back You Know It Is Summer When You Have Strawberry Pie Mary Holec, Dakota County Master Gardener Those of you who have established strawberry plants may be harvesting them in June. And, those of you who do not have strawberry plants may be looking forward to enjoying the harvested strawberries beginning in June. And, to carry it one step further, those of you who want to have your own strawberries to harvest next June, should plant young plants in early June. Here is one recipe that makes it all worthwhile. Those of you who have established strawberry plants may be harvesting them in June. And, those of you who do not have strawberry plants may be looking forward to enjoying the harvested strawberries beginning in June. And, to carry it one step further, those of you who want to have your own strawberries to harvest next June, should plant young plants in early June. Strawberries can be a low-calorie snack and they contain lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. We cannot claim that this recipe can be counted as low-calorie. But we can claim that it is delicious! This is a family favorite during strawberry season! Fresh Strawberry Pie Ingredients: ½ cup butter 1 cup flour 2 tablespoons sugar 1 cup sugar 3 tablespoons cornstarch 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup water, divided 3 tablespoons strawberry gelatin (powder) 1-quart fresh strawberries Directions: Crust : combine butter, flour and 2 tablespoons sugar until crumbly. Press into pie plate and bake at 400 degrees F about 8 – 10 minutes. Cool. Filling : In saucepan, combine remaining sugar, cornstarch and salt with 1/3 cup cold water. Add 2/3 cup boiling water and cook until clear. Add gelatin. Mix well. Pour over 1-quart fresh strawberries. Cool slightly. Add to cooled crust and top with whipped cream. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Eat and enjoy! Photo Credit: www.publicdomainpictures.net , (All Creative Commons) (1), CookingwithRuthie.com , (All Creative Commons) (2)

  • Indoor Plants | DCMGV

    Indoor Plants ​ Give Your Orchid a Vacation Orchids are like school children. They have been cooped up in your house all winter. They have treated you well, stayed healthy, and maybe even treated you to blooms; for that they deserve something special: a vacation! It is easy; you don’t need a travel agent, an airline reservation or even a hotel room: just set them outside. Read this article by avid orchid grower, Paul Wood, to learn how to safely grow your orchids outside in the summer. Read More ​ How to Select an Orchid Have you been intrigued about orchids but don’t know where to start or how to keep them alive? Or, are you already an orchid grower but want some expert tips? This article on orchids is the first of three by orchid expert, Paul Wood. The first article provides great advice about how to choose the right orchid for you. Read on to learn how you can begin to be an orchid grower – and lover! Read More ​ Moving Houseplants Outdoors for a Summer Vacation You have been enjoying your indoor plants during our long, cold winter. But soon it will be time to think about transitioning some of those plants outdoors. March might seem a bit early to think about moving your indoor plants to the outdoors but plants do require a transition time and warm weather will be here sooner than you think. There are many reasons that you might move your houseplants outdoors for the summer. But there are several things to consider to ensure that your plants flourish as a result of this move. Read More ​ Indoor Allergen Friendly Plants Did you know that Americans spend roughly 90% of their time, on average, indoors according to US EPA report? As a gardener, perhaps it’s time we focus on our indoor space and the benefits and types of plants we could have indoors. Click on this link to learn more about Indoor Allergen Friendly Plants. Read More ​ Pet-Safe Plant Choices There are a lot of us in Dakota County and beyond who love both plants and our pets. Not all plants are compatible with the dogs and cats who live with us. Read on to find out about safer plant choices to make for our furry family members - and a few plants to keep away! Read More ​ Propagating House Plants Winter blahs got you down? Bring more green into your home by propagating your houseplants. It’s easier than you think for many plant varieties, and it’s a fun way to spend part of a gray day. Read More ​ The Short-lived Beauty of Blooming Cactus Various cacti can provide gardening pleasure in Minnesota both outside in the summer and inside during the cold weather. There are thousands of varieties of cacti, many of which are different and exotic, in other words, pretty cool. But there are some tricks to growing cacti successfully. Here are some tips on growing healthy cacti and getting them to re-bloom. Read More ​ African Violets African Violets are one of the most popular houseplants because they require little maintenance and, cared for properly, bloom several times a year. But, as with any plant, they do have specific needs that you must know and pay attention to in order to provide the color and pleasure that you are hoping for. Read this article to understand how to achieve a happy, healthy African Violet in your home. Read More ​ Houseplant Pests Discovering and controlling pests on your indoor plants is an important step for keeping your indoor garden healthy and happy. The information in this article will help you keep these unwanted visitors off your plants and out of your home. Read More ​ Helping Houseplants Stay Healthy this Winter Chances are, you’ll be spending more time indoors over the next few months. So will your green and growing friends – your houseplants. It makes sense then to get to know how to keep them healthy. Read More ​ Holiday Cacti Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti are beautiful flowering holiday plants Read More ​ Poinsettias – A Home in Mexico and Dr. Poinsett The Poinsettia is a weed in its native Mexico. It is called lobster plant or Mexican Flame Leaf and has become an essential part of North America’s Christmas décor. Read More 1 1 ... 1 ... 1

  • Gardening by the Month | DCMGV

    Gardening by the Month ​ Behind the Plant Sale Every May, the Dakota County Master Gardeners put on a fabulous Plant Sale. In this article, we focus on what goes on “behind the plant sale.” From harvesting native seeds, to growing vegetables and herbs in our green and hoop houses, our plants are healthy, well-cared for and home-grown. This is a look at the people and processes that allow us to bring you some of the best quality, healthy and unique plants in the area. Read More ​ Cool Season Vegetables for Spring Planting There are a number of “cool season” vegetables that can be planted outdoors in early spring. Get a head-start on your planting by starting your seeds indoors and planting them out when the temperature is right. Cool season vegetables can be planted out much earlier than, for example, tomatoes or peppers. You can seed indoors as much as six to eight weeks before the last frost date! Read this article for valuable information about seeding and planting “cool season” vegetables. Read More ​ January, A Perfect Time to Re-Design Your Landscape When January brings us huge snowdrifts and blustery winds do you think of Spring? Yes, it’s the perfect time to be thinking about your flower and vegetable gardens and begin making plans for re-designing your landscape. If you have these thoughts, then click on the link to learn more about basic landscape design concepts and current 2024 trends in landscaping. Read More ​ Winter is a Perfect Time to Start Seeds On a chilly February day, the thought of blossoming flowers and growing vegetables seems like a far-off dream. Despite this, February is the perfect month to begin planning your summer garden and organizing a plan for indoor seed starting. Read this article to learn the why, what. how and when for starting your own plants. Read More ​ February - Starting Seeds Indoors If you want to grow plants from seed for your garden this spring, February is the time to start – planning and planting. There is a little more to it than dropping a seed in soil. Read More ​ Lop & Lose While March is the ideal time to prune most trees and shrubs in your garden; note that it is NOT the time to prune those that bloom in the spring. Pruning your spring blooming trees and shrubs may kill blooms that are forming. These plants should be pruned right after they bloom in the spring. Read this article for valuable information about pruning some of your most beautiful spring blooming shrubs. Read More ​ Snowdrops for the Early Spring Garden Are you a gardener that loves to have flowering plants staggered throughout the growing season? Then perhaps you should consider planting snowdrops in your yard. They are the first spring bulb to bloom and they are known to pop up amongst the snow melt. They usually bloom before larger daffodils and tulips. Read More ​ Master Gardener Seed Trials – Choose the Best Varieties It’s March and you may be thinking about starting vegetable or flower seeds for your garden this summer. First, you have to decide what to grow - beans, basil, zinnias, tomatoes? But there are several different varieties of each of these plants. So, how do you know what variety to plant? You can look through the seed catalogs or go to the garden store and peruse the many different varieties on the racks. Confused? The University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners can help. Read More ​ I Forgot to Plant My Garlic in October! Planting Garlic in March Are you a garlic lover? Yes, you can buy it at the grocery store but garlic grown in your own garden is so good. Garlic is normally grown in late fall BUT not to worry, if you act quickly, you can plant garlic in March and harvest it in July. Read this article to learn more about planting garlic in the spring or the fall. Read More ​ There Is Science Behind Lawn Care Believe it or not, the snow will melt soon and your thoughts will turn from shoveling to lawn care. Do you continue to use a lot of fertilizer and water on your lawn with mixed results? Are you concerned about the impacts of climate change affecting your lawn? Are you overwhelmed with all the lawn work in the Spring? If you said yes to any of these questions, click the link to learn more about the Science behind lawn care and how it can help you, your lawn and the environment. Read More ​ April - What To Do About Winter Damage As we think beyond winter to spring, you may encounter winter damage to some of your plants. In this article, Karna Berg reminds us how to give your plants a boost going into winter and how to deal with winter damage in a way that will allow plants to recover and, ultimately, flourish. Read More ​ Companion Gardening It’s April and we are starting or continuing to plan our gardens for the new season. Most of us consider the amount of sunlight we need, flower size and color and, probably, our favorite plants. But many of us do not take into account how various plants interact with each other - “companion planting.” Companion planting considers how to enhance the garden or impact plants by growing them in close proximity to each other. Companion planting has the potential to enhance your garden, reduce the need for pesticides, promote stronger plants and take maximum advantage of the space available. Read this article to learn more about why and how to use companion planting in your garden. Read More 1 2 3 4 1 ... 1 2 3 4 ... 4

  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life | DCMGV

    < Back Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life This month, we are excited to recommend “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life,” by Barbara Kingsolver, a must-read book for gardeners interested in learning more about the connections between food, sustainability, and community. Kingsolver takes readers on a journey through a year of eating only locally grown or produced food, providing practical advice, personal anecdotes, scientific facts, cultural history, and recipes to explore the complex web of issues surrounding food production and consumption. Her engaging writing style and thoughtful insights make this book both inspiring and informative. Reviewed By Kelly K. Vriezen, Master Gardener "Every little bit of action adds up to something big." ~ Barbara Kingsolver “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” is a beautifully written and insightful book by Barbara Kingsolver that is a must-read for any gardener interested in sustainability and the environment. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, this Winner of the James Beard Award for Writing and the Indies Choice Book Award for Adult Nonfiction is a personal account of Kingsolver's family's journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle by growing their own food and eating only locally sourced products. The book is divided into chapters that are organized according to the seasons, detailing the challenges and successes of growing and preserving their own food. Kingsolver's writing is both engaging and informative, weaving together anecdotes, scientific facts, and cultural history to create a rich tapestry of the issues surrounding food production and consumption. She shows how our current industrial food system is unsustainable and harmful to the environment, and how growing and eating locally can be a powerful act of resistance and renewal. Her emphasis on the importance of soil health and biodiversity is particularly poignant, and she offers practical advice on everything from food preparation to composting to seed-saving to raising chickens. Also included are recipes and seasonal menus that are sure to spark your interest. One quote from the book that will particularly grab the reader’s attention is: "Our vegetables and fruits, long-lost flavors, are gradually returning to our tables. These local foods also offer a new kind of economic stability to small farmers and communities." This quote captures the essence of what is most compelling about Kingsolver's book - the idea that by growing and eating locally, we can not only improve our health and the health of the environment, but also build stronger, more resilient communities. Overall, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” is a thought-provoking and inspiring book that is sure to resonate with gardeners and anyone interested in learning more about the connections between food, sustainability, the environment, and community. It will change the way you shop for food and the way you look at the food you eat. Kingsolver's engaging writing style and thoughtful insights make this a must-read book for anyone passionate about gardening and local food. Photo credit: Book Cover

  • The Magic of Snow | DCMGV

    < Back The Magic of Snow Connie Kotke Nothing beats the beauty of a snow-covered garden. Falling or drifting snow creates interesting sculptures on our benches, arbors, and paths. Evergreens look brighter, and trees with ornamental bark are showing off against a white background. Crowns of sparkling white form on sedum, ornamental grasses, and other perennials we left standing in the garden. Snow is useful to gardeners in other ways, too. Learn more! Making the Most of a Snowy Winter When everything is covered in snow, the landscape is peaceful and still. The snow sparkles, and everything seems clean and pure. Yes, it’s cold! But aside from moving to a warmer climate, we can take advantage of the many benefits snow delivers to Minnesota gardeners. Most importantly, snow cover insulates your valuable plants from wind and sub-zero temperatures. Most winter damage to plants occurs when we don’t have sufficient snow cover. This is especially important for roots, which do not become dormant in the winter as quickly as stems, branches and buds. A good snow cover moderates the temperature of the soil. That’s good, because the roots of most trees and shrubs in Minnesota die at temperatures below 10 degrees. If you planted some new trees, shrubs and perennials this fall, you’ll want to wish for a deeper snow cover to protect those newly-formed roots. Snow also protects plants from the freeze/thaw cycles that heave them out of the ground. This happens because of the way snowflakes are shaped. There are small spaces in each one that are filled with air. As they pile up, the result is low heat conductivity so the daily temperature permeation into the snow is reduced and the plants are protected from really cold temperatures. Snow helps preserve moisture in the soil during winter and provides water to the soil as it melts in the spring. This slowly waters the emerging perennials. Here are some other ways to use the snow: Insulate your garden planters. If you overwinter any potted plants outdoors, shovel or blow snow onto the planters to protect the roots. Snow acts as a natural barrier to shield the ground beneath it from the really cold wind gusts. When it warms up, the snow will melt and act like a slow-release drip irrigation system. Snow insulates your garden planters and moistens the soil as it warms up. Collect snow in rain barrels. As it melts, use it to water spring ephemerals, moisten compost, and incorporate leaf mulch into the soil. It’s free, it’s clean (no chlorine or other chemicals added to our city water), and delivered free to your door. Some people call snow “the poor man’s fertilizer.” As it falls through the atmosphere, nitrogen and sulfur attach to the flakes. When the snow melts, these elements are released into the soil and absorbed by plants. Nitrogen is essential to plant growth. With everything covered in snow, your birdfeeders will lure more birds and other critters closer to your home. It’s easier to see them, too, with a heavy blanket of white in the background. For more information, check out this University of Minnesota resource: Protecting Trees and Shrubs in Winter - Protecting trees and shrubs in winter | UMN Extension Photo Credit: Connie Kotke (1), Mike Darcy, Black Gold (2)

  • The Midwest Native Plant Primer | DCMGV

    < Back The Midwest Native Plant Primer Alan Branhagen is a well-known expert on native plants in Minnesota. Jim Lakin reviews Branhagen’s “Primer” on why you should consider planting natives in your yard. Once you are convinced, learn which plants to grow. Reviewed by Jim Lakin, M.D., Master Gardener So many plant guides, trying to be encyclopedic, become as engaging as a phone book. Alan Branhagen’s latest addition to the literature of Midwestern botany happily avoids this pitfall. A native of Decorah, Iowa and current Director of Operations at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Alan is passionate about the plants he describes. In this concise yet informative sourcebook Alan deftly describes 225 plants for an earth-friendly garden. This is a timely addition to our reference library as we become increasingly aware of the vital importance of native plants to the support of our complex and interwoven ecosystem. A well-considered introduction discusses plants native to the heartland of North America. As we Minnesotans well know, “No place else on earth has such an extreme continental climate , yet ours is a region filled with plants of every size in every hue…Native plants are important because they sustain all life in this landscape. Many animals, mainly insects, through millennia of adaptations and evolution are viscerally linked to a specific plant.” He discusses the various subregions of this vast and varied land, enabling us to understand the diversity of environment that must be kept in mind in selecting native plants. The mantra “the right plant in the right place” holds very true for natives. Other considerations include “who are you planting for...birds, insects, humans? The answer will influence the plant to select. The aesthetics of the garden may come into play for the Homo sapiens. For birds or insects, that may not be the prime criteria. But each species may have quite stringent requirements for the right plant species to provide the food and/or shelter for survival. For example, wild grapes act as host for the Pandora Sphinx caterpillar. This fellow in turn provides protein rich food for young birds. Absent the plant, the web of life is broken. Alan discusses designing with native plants, considering various styles—prairie, woodland, water, rock or edible gardens—along with a few words on maintenance. One thing about maintenance of native plants: they’ve been getting along just fine without humans for millennia. So, in a properly constructed native landscape maintenance should be minimal relative to our more formal gardens of exotic cultivars. Finally, the author provides a listing of the 225 most desirable native perennials for the various micro-climates discussed. Plants are listed in order of common names, a plus if you are not a Latin scholar. For easier reference they are subdivided into trees, shrubs, groundcovers and vines. The book itself is lavishly illustrated with a plethora of photos by the author and other photographers. Once again Timber Press produces a handsome volume that will grace the gardener’s library as a valuable and engaging reference. * Branhagen, A. The Midwest Native Plant Primer, Timber Press, Portland Oregon, 2021, 253 pages. Photo credit: Book jacket (1)

  • Wild Blue Violet (Viola sororia): One Name, Many Faces | DCMGV

    < Back Wild Blue Violet (Viola sororia): One Name, Many Faces Jim Lakin MD, Master Gardner For lovers of that special harbinger of springtime, the wild violet, there are many fascinating and rewarding varieties to choose from and enjoy. In this article, Jim Lakin, describes various varieties and explores why you may want to add this native perennial to your woodland garden. I long ago realized I do not have the patience to be a taxonomist. The wild blue violet is a case in point. The battle raged among botanists for years as to whether or not to split a number of similar plants into separate species or to combine them into one. The “lumpers” finally won out over the “splitters” and today Viola sororia is the moniker for some quite different plants. We’ll discuss that in a bit. Wild blue violet as a native perennial found in almost all of Eastern North America including the entire Midwest. It is a woodland plant, loving humus-rich soils and tolerating a high amount of shade. Most varieties are pretty easy to grow in any rich soil that is moist in the spring when they flower. If the soil becomes dry in summer the plant may go dormant. A number of varieties freely self-sow although many propagate by rhizomes. Indeed, some varieties can be aggressive growers even moving into grass lawns. Nonetheless, they can be a wonderful addition to other woodland flowers in a shade garden. Wild blue violet can be an important ecological niche plant, hosting several fritillary butterflies as well as attracting a number of specialist bees and other pollinators. Happily, the fritillary butterfly which the plant hosts can keep the more invasive violet varieties in check by feeding off them during the butterfly’s larval stage. Mind though that this larval caterpillar emerges from its egg in the fall and overwinters in the surrounding leaf-litter. If you rake up the leaves in your wildflower garden in the fall, you will destroy the caterpillars before they can trim back the violets by feeding in the spring and subsequently emerge as fritillary butterflies. Viola sororia is variable in its form and behavior. Flowers are usually royal blue but the color can vary from light blue to white on one end of the spectrum to a deep navy on the other. Among the recognized strains is the woolly blue violet. This fellow is covered by short woolly hairs upon its stem, producing springtime flowers of a deep blue-violet. He is found in woodland flood plains and in upland oak-hickory woods. In the garden he is usually well behaved with limited self-sowing. Viola bloom color can vary Butterfly violet or dooryard violet is one of the largest and most aggressive strains of Viola sororia. It is a larger plant (one foot) and self-seeds freely. It can shadow out smaller wildflowers and even invade lawns. If you adopt a live-and-let-live attitude, however, the Fritillary butterfly caterpillars usually will keep the dooryard violet in check and have a good meal in the bargain. And you may have some spectacular butterfly watching later in the summer. Finally, there is a variety known as the Confederate violet. It forms a blue to grey flower with speckles. There are a couple of commercially marketed strains: “Freckles” with speckled blue flowers and “Rosie” a rosy-white form. For lovers of that special harbinger of springtime, the wild violet, there are many fascinating and rewarding varieties to choose from and enjoy. Photo credits: North Carolina State Extension (1), University of Minnesota Extension (2)

  • The Power of Edamame | DCMGV

    < Back The Power of Edamame Edamame is a recently popular vegetable that deserves a place in your garden and kitchen. Rich in protein, antioxidants and fiber, it has many health benefits. Edamame can be eaten in many different ways. Read more about this powerful vegetable in this article. Marjory Blare, Master Gardener Edamame is a name for immature green soy beans. It has been enjoyed in Asia for a long time and now it is catching on in western cuisine. In the U.S., you will find it in the frozen vegetable section. It will be in the pod and is meant to be steamed or boiled. The pod isn't edible, but the beans slip out easily after cooking, to be eaten immediately or used in other dishes. They are good cold too. In addition to tasting good, there are some promising health benefits. A life-long diet rich in soy has been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer. Edamame can reduce the LDL (bad cholesterol) if soy protein replaces animal protein. Isoflavones found in edamame can have an effect similar to estrogen, and may reduce menopause symptoms. Edamame is low on the glycemic index making it attractive to people with type II diabetes. It is a good source of vitamin C, calcium and iron. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-edamame Edamame can be eaten raw or cooked, tossed in a salad, mashed with garlic on toast or put into pasta or hot dishes. You can find dry-roasted, salted edamame snacks that are vegan, gluten free, Kosher, and non-GMO. If you grow you own, you can make your own snacks! With all these benefits it is great to learn that edamame is also easy to grow! Many seed catalogs will carry Tohya seed (an early variety, 78 days to maturity), but there are also Karikachi (85 days) and Chiba (83 days) varieties. The last and first frost dates for Dakota County are May 8th and October 10th. Knowing these dates and the days to maturity will help inform your choice of variety. Plant the seeds about 6” apart and 1” deep, after the last frost date. They do not respond well to being started indoors and transplanted. They need well-drained soil and don't like wet feet. They have very few pests and most vegetable varieties have been bred for resistance to aphids and Phytophthora root rot. The plants can be up to 2.5 feet tall, the pods are about 2.5” and contain 2-3 beans. Most pods ripen at nearly the same time, but if you leave the smaller pods they will get bigger later. They are open-pollinated, so it is possible to save seed. Try this is recipe from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension: Crispy Edamame Ingredients: 1 (12 ounce) package frozen shelled edamame (green soybeans) 1 tablespoon olive oil ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese Salt and pepper to taste Directions: ● Preheat the oven to 400° F (200°C). ● Place the edamame into a colander and rinse under cold water to thaw. Drain. Spread the edamame beans into the bottom of a 9 × 13 inch baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle cheese over the top and season with salt and pepper. ● Bake in the preheated oven until the cheese is crispy and golden, about 15 minutes. Read more at: https://lenoir.ces.ncsu.edu/2018/02/dont-be-afraid-of-the-little-green-bean-2/ Growing edamame is easy and rewarding. Eating it is delicious! Give it a try! Photo credits: www.ourfood.nl (1), www.flickr.com (2), Pumpsandiron.com (2)

  • Forcing Flower Bulbs Successfully | DCMGV

    < Back Forcing Flower Bulbs Successfully Need a little color in your home this winter? After all the holiday décor is stored away, forcing flower bulbs indoors is a great way to enjoy flowers, both for their color and fragrance, during the cold winter months. Carole Dunn, Master Gardener Forcing bulbs indoors is quite easy and does not require expensive materials. You will first need to choose some bulbs. Flower bulbs that are easy to force are: Grape Hyacinths, Daffodils, Hyacinths and Paperwhites. These can be found at most garden stores or purchased through catalogs and online. Chilling Prechill bulbs, such as hyacinths and daffodils. To do so, place them in a paper bag and store in the refrigerator for at least 6 weeks. Paperwhites and amaryllis bulbs do not require a chilling period. Forcing bulbs in water One of the easiest ways to force bulbs is in water. Find a vase or jar that will hold your bulb or bulbs in an even layer. Fill the container with water to just touch the base of the bulb(s.) You will quickly see roots forming. Once you see them, keep the water level below the bulb to prevent rotting. Keep in a cool. Dark place until you see an inch or two of leaf growth. Move the bulbs to a bright spot but avoid direct sunlight. Rotate the vase from time to time to keep the plant growing straight. Add water when needed but keep it below the bottom of the bulb. Forcing bulbs on stones If using a larger vase, creating a base of stones can help keep your bulbs above the water level. Some “stone” options are pea gravel, river rock, glass chips and marbles. Set the bulbs on top of the stones then add a few stones around each bulb to anchor them and keep from tipping. Do not cover them. Add water to reach the base of the bulbs. Add water as it evaporates, keeping the level just below the bulb base. Tip for Paperwhites Get your Paperwhites tipsy! Paperwhites tend to get a little floppy, to prevent this, when leaves are 1 to 2 inches tall, pour out the plain water in your vase and replace with a 1:8 alcohol-to-water solution. Do not over do it, too much alcohol can kill the plants. You can use vodka, whiskey or rum. The use of this mixture stunts the plant’s growth, keeping it compact and sturdy. Keep adding until it is done flowering. Follow these tips to enjoy bringing a little early Spring to your home. Photo credits: University of Minnesota Extension (1), Gail Maifeld (2)

  • Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum): A-Long Blooming Stunner | DCMGV

    < Back Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum): A-Long Blooming Stunner Jim Lakin, MD, Master Gardener Anise Hyssop or Agastache foeniculum is a tough plant, easy to grow, beautiful to behold and a one of the premier plants for feeding pollinators. Add to those virtues, Anise hyssop is drought tolerant and does not attract deer or rabbits. As a perennial native to the American Midwest, this plant belongs in your garden. For millennia the hyssop plant has been associated with ritual purification. Tradition holds that King David, regretting some of his actions, prayed, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Ps 51:7). It has been used medicinally for digestive and intestinal problems including liver and gallbladder conditions, intestinal pain, intestinal gas, colic, and loss of appetite . While I can make no claims for its therapeutic properties, I can quite vigorously assert the virtues of its American cousin, Anise Hyssop or Agastache foeniculum . This is a tough plant, easy to grow, beautiful to behold and a one of the premier plants for feeding pollinators. Agastache foeniculum alternately known as anise hyssop, blue giant hyssop, fragrant giant hyssop or lavender giant hyssop is a native perennial to the American Midwest and Central Canada although it has spread to much of upper North America. It is drought tolerant and not very tasty to deer or rabbits (a plus in Minnesota). As mentioned, it is very attractive to honey bees as well as a host of native bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, bumblebees and night flying moths. Anise hyssop grows as a bush some 2 to 4 feet tall with a clump-like upright shape. Its tiny lavender flowers appear as a flashy panicle (stalk of many small flowers) above oval, serrated leaves with white tan undersides. Its blooming season is long, starting in early June and continuing into September. Anise hyssop puts down a taproot, so if you are transplanting, do it in late fall, dig deep and don’t expect 100% success. Anise hyssop grows easily from seed, although you should stratify the seeds before trying your hand at germination. This simply means storing the seeds in a moist, cold environment for 30 days. Popping them into the fridge in a Ziploc bag with a moist coffee filter does the trick nicely. After that just sprinkle a few seeds on the seeding media and press them in. Don’t cover with soil as the seeds need sunlight to germinate. Once the seedlings have developed their first two sets of true leaves, they should be ready to transplant. You can, of course seed directly into the garden in late spring but you may not get blooms the first year. The plant does best in full sun (6+ hours of sunlight) but will soldier along in partial shade (at least 4 hours sunlight). It is not particularly fussy about soil type although the site should be well-drained. Avoid damp areas around ponds or areas prone to flooding. Those areas will leave the plants open to foliar disease, fungus and root rot. Although it is of the mint family, anise hyssop is not invasive. It does self-seed but if you are manicuring your garden, it is a pretty easy matter to pull unwanted seedlings in the spring. If you are going for a more naturalized effect, mixing with Black-eyed Susan, Coreopsis, Bee Balm, Echinacea purpurea, and/or Smooth Blue Aster can create a stunning effect. No matter how you incorporate this versitle plant into your garden décor, it will prove to be a valuable addition to your local ecology. Photo credits: www.flickr.com (1), istock (2)

  • Tomatoes: What to do Now for Luscious Tomatoes This Summer | DCMGV

    < Back Tomatoes: What to do Now for Luscious Tomatoes This Summer Tomatoes are one of the most home-grown crop; probably because there is nothing like that big bite or slice of that juicy, delicious red ball. But many enthusiastic home gardeners find themselves frustrated or disappointed in their tomato crop. This article explains gardening practices that you can adopt to increase the chances of producing happy, healthy tomato plants in your yard. By Michelle Scullard, Dakota County Master Gardener Many people eagerly await that first bite of homegrown tomatoes every summer. And that first succulent bite is achieved by the work you do now, early in the summer. First, it is not too late to plant tomatoes, but at this point, you will need to purchase plants if you did not start your own. Whether you choose an heirloom or a modern variety (often bred to decrease susceptibility to disease and other unfavorable traits) is a personal preference. One approach to choosing might be to get a variety you have grown before and a variety new to you. Some other characteristics you may want to consider relate to the disease resistance of the tomato plant. Plants marked with “F, FF, FFF” are resistant to fusarium diseases, while a “V” indicates resistance to Verticillium Wilt. A plant marked with “VF” is resistant to fusarium and verticillium wilts. A plant labeled with “EB” is resistant to Early Blight. If you choose a tomato that does not indicate that it has been developed with resistance to different tomato diseases, you’ll want to implement some good, basic gardening practices to decrease the risk of losing your tomato crop. Choose a tomato with a sturdy stem that is at least a pencil width. Make sure there are no spotted leaves as that may be an indicator of disease. Leaves should be spaced closely together. There are two main types of tomatoes; determinate and indeterminate. Determinate tomatoes are bushy and generally do not need pruning, staking, or trellising. The top, also called terminal point, ends with flowers and fruit. They grow to about 24 – 30 inches tall and produce fruits within a 4 to 6-week period. They may be best for container grown tomatoes. Most tomato plants are Indeterminate and they are vining. They do need support to keep their leaves and tomatoes off the ground, allow for air flow, and reduce the risk of diseases. The terminal point keeps growing as the plant grows. Tomatoes grow along the branches, and they will produce fruit until it gets too cold. Stake or trellis plants immediately when you plant them. Good tomato gardening practices start with ensuring good soil. You want rich loamy soil that drains well. If you don’t know what kind of soil, you can do a soil test from the University of Minnesota and add amendments such as fertilizer or other missing nutrients. The next critical step is to not plant your tomatoes in the same place every year. You need to rotate them to different areas in your garden, if at all possible. This helps decrease the threat of diseases that remain in the soil. It is recommended to wait three to four years before planting tomatoes again in that spot. Make sure you space your tomatoes a sufficient distance apart. You can find that information on the seed package or the plant tag. Dig a hole deep enough to place the whole container part of the plant and remove lower leaves and branches so they aren’t touching the soil. If you have a slightly crooked plant, you can actually dig the hole even deeper so the above ground part is the straight part. The tomato will actually grow roots from the stem that is underground. Consistent watering is critical to prevent “blossom end rot” (where the tomato has a black bottom), as is an adequate amount of calcium. You can find products in the store that you may want to periodically add throughout the season. When you water your tomatoes, make sure to water at the base of the plant and not overhead. This reduces disease risk on the leaves and prevents water splashing from the soil onto the plant, which is another source of tomato diseases. You will want to water deeply to help promote deep rooted plants. Generally, one inch a week is recommended but you may need to water more frequently if it is very hot and dry, or your tomato is in a container. Sandy soils will require more frequent watering, too. Despite your best efforts, you may still find diseases impacting your tomato plants and your tomatoes. Early blight, tomato viruses, bacterial spot, and late blight are some of the diseases that plague many Minnesota tomato growers due to Minnesota’s climate. To learn more about each of these diseases and how you can recognize them on your tomato plants, you can learn more here: Tomato Diseases . In addition to tomato diseases, you will need to watch for insects that may impact your tomato harvest. Insects to be aware of include: cutworms, flea beetles, Colorado potato beetle, aphids, sap beetles, and tomato hornworms (for more information, start here: Insects and Tomato Plants ) Finally, some common problems you may experience and may have little ability to prevent are: blossom end rot, growth cracks (fruit grows too quickly), catfacing (many causes), leaf roll, sunscald (tomato fruit gets too much sun), and yellow shoulders (top never ripens). You can find more information on these disorders here: Tomato disorders Tomatoes are not hard to grow but do require some specific gardening practices to ensure you can get a lot of fruit that are healthy and tasty. And most gardeners will agree that they are worth all the effort! Reference: University of Minnesota Extension Gardening Growing Tomatoes in Home Gardens Photo credits: UMN Extension (1-5), University of Wisconsin Madison Extension (6)

  • Harvesting and Preserving Herbs | DCMGV

    < Back Harvesting and Preserving Herbs Harvest time is such a fun time of the year. There are so many herbs to harvest and preserve for the upcoming winter months. Some share their bounty year after year, like tarragon and oregano, and others, like basil and marjoram, are planted in spring for a fall harvest. Shari Mayer, Master Gardener I’m always playing with herbs in my yard, tucking them into the landscape, my gardens, and containers. Wherever they end up, as fall approaches, my attention turns toward harvesting. I’ll share a couple of harvesting techniques that have worked well for me over the years. Personally, I tend to wait as long as possible before the final harvest. Oftentimes I find myself gathering armfuls of herbs to bring indoors in a race against inclement weather, especially my frost-sensitive herbs. Looking at mountains of plant material all over my kitchen counters and in buckets makes me sometimes wonder what I was thinking way back in the spring! Anyway, here are some techniques that help me prolong the fresh herbs for cooking and make short work of processing. These methods preserve the flavor and essential oils, which is what it’s all about. First, prepping for harvest is important. I don’t like to waste an enormous amount of time washing and drying herbs once they are inside, so I try to use the gift of rain. This washes the majority of dust, dirt and debris from the herbs. It also ensures they are hydrated just prior to harvest. If no rain, then I achieve the same effect with a garden hose. My favorite way to process a lot of herbs is what I refer to as the ‘slurry’ method. I’ll use basil, since it is a perfect example. Basil does not like temps below 50 degrees F, and discolors to an unappetizing brown if cold and wet. This method preserves the color and makes it super simple to use in cooking. The key to a slurry is the ratio of fresh, packed herbs to oil. Use a 4:1 ratio. The process is simple. Two cups packed leaf material and ½ cup oil (my favorite is olive). Do not use woody stems. Using a food processor, start pulsing the leaf material, and slowly add the oil until incorporated. The mixture should be thick and pourable, but not runny. Fill ice cube trays and freeze the mixture. Once frozen, store in freezer bags. I mark the bags with ice cubes that equal 2 cups of herbed cubes. This is the base amount to make one recipe of pesto. If you want to make a pesto, just thaw, and add the remainder of pesto ingredients to it. Otherwise, for cooking, just pop an ice cube or two as needed or desired. The slurry method works well also with water as an oil substitute. Another favorite technique of mine is to make herb bouquets. I just go outside and collect herbs as you would cut flowers, and bring them in and arrange the herbs in vases. If the herb is annual, such as basil, I will cut it right at the ground level and bring the whole plant inside. If it is a perennial, such as tarragon, then just bring in a number of branches. They last for weeks this way, and provide fresh herbs for your cooking well into fall. I find the varied greens of the herbs are as beautiful as flowers. There are so many ways to preserve herbs, but these are a couple of my favorites. Here’s to fall bouquets of green! Photo credits Emily Murphy, “ PassthePistil.com ” (1), University of Minnesota Extension (2, 3, 4)

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