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  • Putting Your Garden to Bed | DCMGV

    < Back Putting Your Garden to Bed If it’s yellow or brown, cut it down. If it’s green, leave it alone. This long-standing rule-of-thumb means you can’t just wake up one day and decide to put your garden to bed for the winter. It’s a gradual process because plants die back at different rates depending on when they transition energy to the roots. Cutting off green leaves can weaken a plant and affect its vigor and bloom next year. Besides, there are lots of reasons to avoid cutting shrubs, stems and perennials – for winter interest and for wildlife. Here are some ways to ready your gardens for cold and snow ahead. Connie Kotke, Master Gardener Ready for a Long Winter’s Nap? October is the time to put your garden to bed. This means cutting things back, cleaning up what's left, packing away tools and pots, and getting everything ready to go for next spring. Then you can settle in for winter knowing that your garden will look healthy and happily tucked in! Cut Back Keep your garden tidy and save labor later by cutting back many perennials after frost causes them to turn brown and die. On the other hand, some perennials (like Catmint) look good until the snow flies and can be left until spring. And some perennials offer seed heads for foraging birds…or shelter for beneficial insects. These plants support Mother Nature while providing some interest in what might otherwise be a bleak winter landscape. In the winter months when food is scarce, gardens full of withered fruit and dried seed heads can provide birds with a reliable food source. Seed-eating songbirds such as finches, sparrows, chickadees, and jays will make use of many common garden plants. When cleaning up the garden, prioritize removing and discarding diseased top growth, but leave healthy seed heads standing. Old stalks and leaves can be cut back in the spring before new growth begins. Examples of perennials to leave standing in the garden include sedum, purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susan, coreopsis, sunflower, switchgrass and little blue stem. Remember, don't prune woody plants, trees and shrubs until late winter when they are dormant. Clean Up Healthy plant debris can be composted at home or at a municipal compost site. Debris from plants with powdery mildew or other diseases should be composted at a municipal site, where temperatures get high enough to kill the disease. Pull dead or declining annuals. It's hard to do, but they won’t come back next spring. Clean up overgrown areas to prevent animals and pests from moving in – like brush piles or hidden spots around the yard where weedy trees and shrubs have taken root. Harvest everything above ground in the vegetable garden and under fruit trees. Don't leave fruits and vegetables out all winter to rot, attract animals, and set seed. Other Tasks Empty, clean and disinfect your containers by spraying them with a bleach cleaner. Pottery should be moved into a shed or garage to avoid freezing and breaking. Clean and store stakes, tomato cages, garden ornaments and other hardware. They’ll last longer and look better next spring. Clean soil from your tools, then sharpen edges with a file. Finish with a light coating of oil to prevent rusting. Move any plants that spend their winters inside. Quarantine before introducing them to your other houseplants to prevent pests from spreading. Dig up your tender bulbs and tubers well before the threat of frost. Store them in a warm, dry place out of direct light. For more information, check out these University of Minnesota resources: October Gardening Tips from the University of Minnesota Arboretum – October Gardening Tips ( Protecting trees and shrubs in winter | UMN Extension Photo credits: Connie Kotke (1, 2), University of Minnesota Extension (3, 4)

  • To Till or Not to Till | DCMGV

    < Back To Till or Not to Till One sure sign of spring for me as a young man was my father-in-law rototilling his vegetable garden. He’d fire up his trusty TroyBuilt and belching smoke and fumes, pulverize a good portion of his back yard. The resultant fluffy black soil seemed to invite planting. Jim Lakin, MD, Master Gardener One sure sign of spring for me as a young man was my father-in-law rototilling his vegetable garden. He’d fire up his trusty TroyBuilt and belching smoke and fumes, pulverize a good portion of his back yard. The resultant fluffy black soil seemed to invite planting. Thinking has changed over the years, however. Many soil scientists are questioning the wisdom of unbridled tilling. We’ve come to realize that garden soil is more than a receptacle for water and plant nutrients. Rather it is a living entity harboring billions of microbes and minerals most of which are highly beneficial to plant growth. It also is a complex structural milieux, permitting the passage and retention of water, the movement of oxygen and other gases of plant metabolism. Tilling can disrupt these structures and destroy many of the microbes beneficial to plant growth. Over time this can lead to soil compaction, reduced water holding capacity and erosion. Paradoxically, it also can bring weed seeds to the surface to germinate. That’s not to say that the time-honored process of tillage is without benefit. It does create an even seedbed. It warms the soil in spring and helps to work in compost and other soil amendments. So how can you achieve these desirable results from methods other than tillage? In starting a new garden, a rototiller will make quick work of existing vegetation. However, the same result can be obtained by solarization or occultation. Solarization is achieved by placing a sheet of clear plastic over the future garden area and letting the sun fry any plants underneath. I prefer occultation, a fancy term for smothering plant life under black plastic. A black plastic tarp covering a field for occultation If you are trying to start a garden on heavily compacted soil, say an area that’s been run over by heavy mower for years, tilling may be the best solution. However, if the soil is workable consider using a broadfork. This is a dandy tool to reduce compaction in a new or existing garden without breaking up the soil aggregates. A broadfork has several metal tines on a bar with a couple of handlebars on each end. Stand on the bar and use your body weight to plunge the tines into the soil. Lean back and pull the tines through the soil. The creates soil aeration without turning it over or breaking it up as a tiller would. A seven-tine steel broadfork A broad fork in action Weed management has been a traditional role for tillers. The problem is they bring weed seeds up from the ground as they turn in grown weeds and their seeds. The end result is more annual weeds over time. If you reduce tillage this favors the dominance of perennial weeds which can be hand pulled or reduced by solarization or occultation as we talked about. Working in amendments of compost, manure, commercial fertilizers or cover crops is an important process to replenish your garden soil’s fertility. Traditionally this had been done with a tiller although there are good alternatives. We’ve already talked about the broadfork. Alternately a tilther can be used. This is a modified light tiller that only tills the top two or so inches of the soil. Being much shallower than the traditional tiller it can work in amendments while being much less destructive of the deeper soil structure. Want to learn more? Check out these links to the University of Minnesota Extension for alternatives to tillage: for solarization and occultation: Happy planting! Photo of Black Plastic Tarp on Field, Courtesy of Haley Rylander, Cornell University Photo of Seven-Tine Steel Broadfork courtesy of Bully Tools Broadfork at Photo of Broadfork in Action courtesy of Seven Tine Unbreakable Broadfork at Way

  • Rose Mallow - A Rose of the North | DCMGV

    < Back Rose Mallow - A Rose of the North Jim Lakin, MD, Master Gardener Have a riverbank, marsh, or rain garden to manage? Consider adding the lovely, long-blooming Rose Mallow. This article will tell you why and how. Hibiscus lasiocarpos As Juliet observed of her beloved Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” We may then ask, “Would that which we call a rose be less beautiful if it is not?” To this I would unhesitatingly say, “Yes in the case of the rose mallow”. H. lasiocarpos and H. moscheutos are nearly identical members of the mallow family (Malvaceae). They are native to most of the Lower Midwest and northward to areas around Lakes Michigan and Erie. Their closely related cousin, the somewhat more cold-tolerant Halberd-leaved rose mallow ( H. laevis ) is native to Southeast Minnesota and up the Missouri River Valley. The rose mallows are hardy through zones 4-9. These perennials are closely related to the much-prized tropical hibiscus. Halberd-leaved rose mallow As you might expect, this gorgeous plant has been hybridized into a large number of attractive cultivars available at your local nursery. The value of these cultivars to our pollinators remains to be determined. There is no question, however that the three native species are key players in the ecological web of the Northern Midwest. They are very nectar and pollen rich, being great additions to a pollinator garden. Halberd-leaved rose mallow The rose mallows are essentially a wetlands plant found around lakes and rivers. They may even be seen growing in standing water. They do well though in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. If they are in a bed, remember to water them during dry, mid-summer weather. They eventually grow to about five feet so you should keep that in mind if inserting them into a border garden. They do well as a backdrop to sun loving ground covers. Rose mallow is slow to emerge from dormancy but once in gear it is a rapid grower, putting on as much as an inch per day. The blooms are quite showy, appearing from July to September so you would do well to mix them with earlier blooming perennials such as Jacob’s Ladder or creeping phlox. The flowers are from three to five inches across with a red center “eye” from which the stamen protrudes. Flower petals may vary from white to shades of pink. Once established, application of a slow-release fertilizer in the spring can enhance growth. While you are at it, pruning back the old growth to about six inches will help to make way for the new foliage. Deadheading usually is not necessary. Rose mallow winters over pretty well although putting a couple of inches of mulch over the plants in the fall will reduce the chance of winter kill. So, if you have a riverbank, marsh or rain garden to plant, you would do well to incorporate the lovely rose mallow. Photo Credit: Taylor Creek Nursery (1,2,3)

  • Mindfulness in the Garden with Kids | DCMGV

    < Back Mindfulness in the Garden with Kids Sarah Heidtke, Master Gardener Winter is a lovely time to experience and appreciate nature. The muted colors and slower gardening pace allow us the opportunity to take in and observe our natural environment more closely. Observing nature in winter with the children in your life enhances the experience. Watch your children, not only learn, but interact joyfully with the peaceful winter world around them. Read this article for tips about how to experience mindfulness in our natural spaces with children. We have heard about the mental and physical benefits of time spent in nature. Winter is a time when many of the colors of the warmer seasons are muted, and there is a hush as snow covers the garden and landscape. Mindfulness speaks to an intentional approach to experiencing our natural spaces - both outdoors and inside. We can do this in all seasons, but winter is a great time to slow down and focus before the explosion of sensory stimuli we anxiously await in spring. DO Here are five ways to practice mindfulness in the garden with kids. 1. Get up close to different textures and take some time to really look. Ask your child partner what they see once the leaves have fallen and we can find the contrasts between the bark, stems, and other organic materials against the snow on the ground. 2. Continue on a walk to visit dormant perennials and bulbs you may have planted last summer and fall. Ask your child partner what they think is going on with the plants underground. 3. Calmly look around your garden. Do you see or hear signs of the creatures that spend the winter there, such as nests or tracks in the snow? What do you think it feels like for those creatures in their winter homes? 4. Find a quiet place to sit - on the ground or on a garden bench perhaps. Close your eyes and listen to the garden while taking some slow breaths in - counting 1, 2, 3 - and out - 1, 2, 3. Do this a few more times before continuing your mindful garden walk. 5. Color awareness: take some time to observe colors in your winter garden - maybe some red branches of a dogwood, or brown leaves, or even some faded yellow flowers. Can you see why some plants and trees are called evergreens? How do you feel when you look at the plants around you? Winter weather making it difficult to get outside? We can practice mindfulness in our indoor gardens too. Take a slow tour of house plants, and pause to breathe deeply at each one. Ask your child partner for their observations of color, shape, or even what they would call the plant Plant a few seeds in a pot or tray and place in a warm, bright spot. Make a practice of visiting the seeds and any sprouts, and just taking time to observe what you see. Take some cuttings of plants - such as Trandescantia - and place in a clear glass or vase of water. Pay attention to any roots that grow and ask the child how this helps the plant. Most importantly, mindfulness in our gardens and other natural spaces allows our children of all ages to slow down and practice awareness in a busy world. It’s okay if they find treasures or want to make a drawing along the way, but the focus is on the present - a good skill for gardeners of all ages! READ And here are some books to read with your child gardener: Sing a Season Song , written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Lisel Jane Ashlock At Dakota County Library: On Amazon: If I Were a Tree , written by Andrea Zimmerman and illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong At Dakota County Library: On Amazon: (Making Tracks) Park by Cocoretto (Board Book) At Dakota County Library: On Amazon: Photo Credit: Sarah Heidtke

  • How Trees Talk to One Another | DCMGV

    < Back How Trees Talk to One Another Karna Berg, Master Gardener Have you ever walked in the woods and thought there was someone there, someone talking? Well, if you have, you were right. It was the trees talking to one another. Oak trees are the perfect example. My back yard has a small, wooded area of mostly oak trees. I now feel them talking to each other. Or are they talking to me? Are they saying they need more water? Would like a sunny day? Just what are they saying? As we all know, our trees are under attack from pollution, drought, pests, and disease. And while trees cannot just move to a more hospitable spot, they can help one another deal with all the stresses on them. Scientists have discovered that trees, and specifically oaks, have developed a root system, or network, through which they communicate. That root system is populated by fungus that aids them in this process. Let’s say a pest is moving into the neighborhood. As we know, they move in slowly, often tracked by tree specialists providing warnings to the public on what to be on the lookout for. Well, the trees are tracking the pests as well. And as the pests land on their branches, they signal ahead through the network that their neighbor trees should be prepared. Oaks and other trees will then produce chemicals and enzymes that help to ward off the pests. It sounds impossible, right? But it is true. Some scientists now even believe that trees also communicate through their leaves. If this is as fascinating to you as it is to me, you can read more about it in some of the books I relied on here. They include: “The Life & Love of Trees,” Lewis Blackwell; “The Hidden Life of Trees: What they Feel, How they Communicate,” Peter Wohllenben; and “Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest,” Suzanne Simard. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have. Photo credits: Julie Harris (1), (2)

  • Master Gardener Seed Trials – Choose the Best Varieties | DCMGV

    < Back Master Gardener Seed Trials – Choose the Best Varieties Julie Harris, Dakota County Master Gardener 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. The UMN Extension sponsors Annual Master Gardener Seed Trials to find the best varieties of various vegetables and flowers. In 2023, 235 Master Gardeners from 51 counties, participated in the Seed Trials. Seed Trial participants test 6 different varieties of 8 different plants against each other (6 vegetables and two flower varieties; including one herb). The collective results of the trials are compiled at the end of each growing season and each plant is ranked. Winners are the top performers in each trial. The rankings are published each year by March – in time to help you, the home gardener, learn about and obtain the most highly ranked plants to grow in your garden – or to purchase when harvested. This will be the 42 nd year of the Seed Trials’ existence, so there is ample data on many varieties to inform the home gardener. In Dakota County, Master Gardeners manage two Seed Trial Gardens; one in the First Presbyterian Church Community Garden, South St. Paul and one at St. Joseph’s Church in Rosemount. Some individual Master Gardeners also participate by testing plants in their own gardens. Two Dakota County Master Gardeners – Marc Battistini and Janice Gestner – are among the group at UMN Extension who select which plants will be part of the trials. Master Gardeners receive the seeds from the UMN Extension and grow the plants from seed. The plants are planted in the ground or transferred to the gardens in the spring according to planting instructions. Teams of Master Gardeners prepare the soil, plant the seeds or seedlings, water, weed, and monitor diseases and insects on the plants over the summer. Taste tests are performed when the plants are ready for harvest. Data is kept throughout the summer on each plant variety regarding: flavor, disease and insect tolerance, productivity and germination rate. At the end of the growing season, the data is given to the UMN Extension, which compiles the statewide data and produces the annual report. Dakota County Master Gardeners who work the gardens also provide horticultural education to community members. Produce is donated to a local food shelf. Complete results of the trials are available here . In 2023, the top ranked plants in each category were: Paste Tomatoes – Cipolla’s Pride; Green Pole Beans – Seychelles; Red Carrots – Malbec; Mustard Greens – Mizuna; Small Watermelon – Mini Love; Purple Basil – Amethyst Improved; Melampodium – Derby; and Pink Cleome – Mauve Queen . You can find a complete list of all of the seed trials since 1982 at the same site. In 2024, Master Gardeners will be testing 6 varieties of Swiss chard, Asian long beans, stem broccoli, cilantro, shallots, snacking peppers, helichrysum (strawflowers) and centaurea (bachelor buttons). Look for the results of those trials in winter 2025. Dakota County Master Gardeners also test plants for the PanAmerican Seed Company. These plants include annual flower varieties and some vegetables. Typically, the seeds grown in these trials are plants that PanAmerican is testing in various test trials around the country to help them decide which plants can be successfully grown and marketed. Data on these plants is compiled periodically over the summer and a report is sent to PanAmerican at the end of the growing season. Currently, the primary trial garden is located in Rosemount. Volunteer Master Gardeners around the state, including Dakota County, participate in various projects which improve horticulture and provide gardening information that will be useful to the home gardener. The vegetable and flower trials are one of these projects. Hopefully, you can use this information to grow happy, healthy vegetables (or flowers) for your enjoyment. Photo Credits: Photo 1 – University of Minnesota Extension; Susan Hickey Photo 2 – Robert Hatlevig Photo 3 – Robert Hatlevig Photo 4 – Robert Hatlevig Photo 5 – Jean Chrysler Photo 6 – Jean Chrysler

  • Top 3 Flowering and Edible Weeds | DCMGV

    < Back Top 3 Flowering and Edible Weeds Most of us view weeds as mere pests in the garden to be eradicated from our gardens. But some weeds have the redeeming virtue of being edible. In this article, Master Gardener Kristina Valle describes how three common weeds can be consumed and appreciated. Kristina Valle, Master Gardener “A weed is but an unloved flower,” – Ella Wheeler Wilcox. This year we welcomed a spring full of heavy rains that lasted days and quickly melted our towering snow mounds. This rain also gave many perennials and bulbs a much needed jump start to produce new growth on stems that may have been on the rabbits’ menu for most of the winter. While I did lose a few plants this winter, there were many that benefitted from a severe haircut and the early, and extra rain aided in providing the plants with the necessary support to recover and grow back quickly. Unfortunately, rain will help anything that is able to grow, including weeds. While most weeds are unwelcomed and take away some of the gardener’s enjoyment, eradicating them from our yard and gardens is a necessary part of the job, as we all know. But did you know that there are many weeds that can have a positive place in your life or rather, on your plate? This article will discuss the top 3 flowering and edible weeds that may already exist in your garden and that may alter your perception of their presence in your landscape. #1 – The Dandelion It’s early spring and POP! Bright yellow flowers appear and carpet many open spaces along roads and are sprinkled throughout our yard and gardens. As Minnesotan’s we appreciate the first sign of color after a cold and dull winter, but these flowering weeds are met with disdain as we know that our summer work has just begun. Instead of looking at these weeds negatively, we should really be thinking of all of their uses instead. All three parts of a dandelion are edible. The Flower The flower head can be incorporated into cookies, quiche, muffins and many other baked goods, adding a honey like flavor to any recipe. Another alternative is frying the petals as a fritter like you would for squash blossoms. The Leaves The leaves are simply greens and are versatile enough to be used in a sauté with pasta or even eggs. The Roots Looking for a coffee or tea alternative? Consider dandelion roots! Dandelion Root Tea is commonly available in most grocery stores, but you’ll need to put in a little more effort if you want to make some Dandelion Root Coffee. First, you’ll need to dry the roots in a food dehydrator, and then roast them in the oven until they are thoroughly dry. Afterwards, place the roots in water and bring to a boil, strain it, drink and enjoy! #2 – The Common Blue Violet While the dandelion is often one of the easiest weeds to identify, greater care must be taken for other edible weeds. The violet has heart shaped leaves and 5 petals. Unlike the dandelion, only the petals and leaves of the violet are edible so it is important to be sure you have a violet before you harvest. If you’ve been to a restaurant that garnishes dishes, or even cocktails with flowers, you may have eaten a violet. The visual appeal livens up whatever you’re serving and invites a touch of the season into whatever occasion you’re celebrating. If you’re feeling a little extra, consider freezing the petals in individual ice cubes to add a surprise to any cold drink during your next get together. #3 – The Clover Whenever I think of clover, I’m reminded of a scene in the Disney Movie “Bambi” where Thumper is feasting on and stuffing his cheeks full of delicious clover. Sure, bunnies love it, but we can enjoy it too! Similar to a dandelion, you can prepare the flower head as a fritter. The clover can also be added to pasta, salads and teas and can be easily identified by its pink-purple flower. It is best to boil the plant before eating it, which can be accomplished when cooking a pasta or making a tea, as the plant (excluding the flower) can be a little hard on the digestive system. Finally, have you considered creating a Bee Lawn? Need a cover crop? Your clover will be a benefit not only to your pollinators but to you as well! It is my hope that this article has at a minimum, piqued your curiosity about the volunteers that grace our gardens each year. If you are interested in foraging outside of your garden space for these weeds, onto public lands, do not harvest unless you can be sure that no pesticides have been used on the weeds. Always exercise caution when foraging and remember to limit your haul to only 10% so that the local wildlife is not negatively impacted by the removal of some beneficial plants. Photo credits: University of Minnesota Extension (all)

  • Let's Get Growing | DCMGV

    Let’s Get Growing is an event for home gardeners of all skill levels looking to learn more and have a great time. This event includes classes, a keynote speaker, lunch, silent auction and a chance to win door prizes too. Classes are taught by U of M Master Gardeners as well as horticulture professionals. Consider coming to enjoy friendly people and a garden marketplace where you can purchase books and garden décor in a spring time atmosphere! ​ Continue to check this page for the date and location of our 2025 Let's Get Growing! ​

  • Getting the Jump on Jumping Worms | DCMGV

    < Back Getting the Jump on Jumping Worms Jim Lakin, MD, Master Gardener Many of us associate worms in the soil as an indicator of “good garden soil.” Unfortunately, that is not necessarily true in Minnesota these days. “Jumping worms” have become more common in local gardens recently and that is not a good thing. Read this article to understand why. My Uncle Casey was a farmer. He’d pick up a clod of dirt. Earth worms would slowly wriggle out. He’s say, “Good soil.” It’s almost become axiomatic that the presence of earthworms, mostly of the family Lumbricidae, indicates a healthy soil. Indeed worms consume leaf litter and organic material, release nutrients and help in soil aeration, altering soil structure. But they are not native. They, along with so much else, came over to North America in the 1600’s with early European settlement. For millennia the soil of our continent got along quite nicely without them. In the late 19 th Century a new genus, Amynthas spp or “jumping worms” arrived from East Asia on imported plants or other agricultural materials. They have made their way from the Northeast into the Midwest, first appearing in Minnesota and Wisconsin over the last 10 to 20 years. Unlike their relatively benign cousins, they have caused quite a lot of damage to the soils they have colonized. Like other invasive species, they take over. They invade the first 4 to 8 inches of soil muscling out other worms. Jumping worms consume both living and dead plant material at accelerated rates and change the soil to give it a “coffee grounds-like” texture, which can severely stunt or kill plants. A jumping worm ( Amynthas spp) with characteristic cream-colored “collar” (clitellum). So how do you know if you have them? As their name implies, jumping worms are very active in comparison to other earthworms. They wriggle around vigorously. They also have a distinctive cream-colored band about a third of the way down their bodies. About the only other worm you might confuse them with is the night crawler. A really nifty app called iNaturalist can help in identification. A species of jumping worm (Amynthas agrestis) with a dead ladyslipper plant. Jumping worms change the soil and give it the granulated look of coffee grounds. What do you do if you have them? Don’t despair. Some plants will succumb but others seem to tolerate jumping worms. You definitely want to remove and destroy any jumping worms you come across. Pop them in a resealable plastic bag and put them in the trash. Don’t spread them around your property. Carting infested soil from place to place should be avoided. They are annuals, laying eggs in leaf detritus in the fall, so be careful what you do with raked leaves. Above all, spread the word. You can report jumping worm infestations to the Great Lakes Early Detection Network ( ). This is an organization which tracks invasive species around the Great Lakes and provides information to municipalities and individuals. If in doubt, report. They will verify. There’s a GLEDN app for either Apple or Google on which you can do this. What can you do to reduce the chances of getting jumping worms in your garden? Be careful of any horticultural products you bring into the garden. Soils, mulch, compost, potted plants all are potential sources of the worms. If you are thinking about trying vermiculture, be very careful that you don’t buy misidentified worms. If you have a fisherman in the family make sure he disposes unused worms in a sealed bag in the trash, not in the lake or on the shore. Want to learn more? Use this link to the University of Minnesota Extension. At present there is no known means of eradicating jumping worms, so vigilance is essential! Photo credits: Josef Gorres, University of Vermont. (1, 2, 3)

  • The Dakota County Seed Library | DCMGV

    < Back The Dakota County Seed Library This month we would like to tell you about the Dakota County Seed Library, located in the Farmington Library. Read on to learn about how this important project contributes to the support of pollinators and sustainable landscaping practices and, most importantly for you, the home gardener, how you can benefit from and contribute to this project. Lana Tullis with Julie Harris, Master Gardeners Dakota County Master Gardeners, in partnership with the Dakota County Library Foundation and Dakota County Natural Resources, maintain the seed library. The Seed Library provides residents and home gardeners with a diverse selection of heirloom and open-pollinated edibles, herbs, flowers and native plant seeds. This free resource is intended to promote the growth of healthy, flavorful food and preserve plant varieties by offering a number of heirloom varieties well suited for our climate but not commonly found in retail centers. These seeds allow you, the home gardener, to protect, preserve and share these valuable seeds. The Seed Library also offers native plant seeds that support pollinators and sustainable landscaping practices. These heirloom seeds are available to the public at the Farmington Library (508 3rd St., Farmington, MN 55024) while supplies last, beginning in March. A library card is not required, however, for the enjoyment of all, please consider limiting your selection to 5 packets per visit. The check out system is easy. Just select your seed packets, scan the QR code or fill out a checkout sheet and drop into the lockbox located near the seed cabinet. Each seed packet includes directions for planting and growing that are seed specific. The Farmington Seed Library was established about 5 years ago and has grown annually with generous donations from local and regional seed suppliers (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, Albert Lea Select Seeds) along with local gardeners. Note that you can contribute to the seed library . Heirloom seed donations can be left at the Farmington Library. Please provide the original supplier packaging with “packaged for dates” of 2021 or later. Harvested, or saved, seeds from your garden may also be shared through our ‘share’ drawer. Throughout the winter, Master Gardener volunteers sort, label and organize donations for an estimated 3,000 - 4,000 seed packets. Volunteers also maintain inventory throughout the season, conduct demonstration plantings and are available to support your gardening plan. Lana Tullis is the project lead and is supported by Becky Peterson, BJ Hansell, Jackie Pospisil, Cynthia Muller, Patty Sutherland and Janet Schutte. Check out Heirloom and Native seeds at the Farmington Library - automatic renewal and no late fees! More information can be found at . Photo Credit: Barbara Svoboda, Farmington Library Librarian (1), Valerie Rogotzke (2)

  • Chicken Curry | DCMGV

    < Back Chicken Curry Joy Johnson, Master Gardener Cooking in the winter is a time to fill your kitchen with tempting, warming fragrances that are new and exciting. This Chicken Curry recipe does just that. It also makes use of the carrots, parsnips, tomatoes, peppers and cilantro that you may have in your freezer from last season’s garden. Cooking in the winter is a time to fill your kitchen with tempting, warming fragrances that are new and exciting. This Chicken Curry recipe does just that. It also makes use of the carrots, parsnips, tomatoes, peppers and cilantro that I have in my freezer from last season’s garden. Chicken Curry – serves 4, over rice [ Ingredients: Spice blend: 1 ½ tsp ground coriander 1 tsp ground cumin ½ tsp turmeric ½ tsp ground cinnamon ½ tsp ground black pepper ¼ tsp ground mustard ¼ tsp ground cloves Curry: 1 T olive oil 1 c chopped onion 4 minced garlic cloves 1 T peeled and minced fresh ginger 1 cup chicken broth ¾ cup diced tomatoes ¾ cup sliced carrots ½ cup sliced parsnips ½ cup chopped green peppers Salt Cayenne pepper to taste 1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 ¼ inch cubes 1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tsp water 1/3 cup milk or almond milk 2 T chopped cilantro Directions In a small mixing bowl whisk together all of the spices in the spice blend, set aside. Heat olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add in onion and sauté until slightly golden brown, about 4 - 6 minutes. Add in garlic and ginger, sauté 30 seconds more then add in spice blend and sauté 30 seconds. Pour in chicken broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Pour mixture into a blender then cover with lid and remove lid insert, cover opening with a clean folded kitchen rag. Blend mixture until well pureed. In the now empty skillet, add carrots, parsnips and peppers, cook 5 minutes until tender. You may need to add a little water or oil. Return the blender mixture to skillet, stir, and heat over medium-high heat. Season sauce with salt and cayenne pepper (start with about 1/2 tsp salt and a few dashes cayenne then add more to taste). Add in chicken. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to medium-low, cover skillet with lid and simmer until chicken has cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 8 - 12 minutes. During the last minute of cooking stir in the cornstarch and water slurry if desired, to thicken sauce slightly (or if needed thin with a little chicken broth). Stir in cream/almond milk, then serve warm with cilantro over basmati rice. My husband, who does not like curry, loved this recipe. I think that’s because it doesn’t contain any curry! The spice blend is a fresh, light mixture instead of the pre-made spice purchased at the grocery store. Enjoy! Photo credits: University of Minnesota Extension (all)

  • Mendota Heights Pollinator Partnership | DCMGV

    < Back Mendota Heights Pollinator Partnership By Sarah Heidtke, Sue Light and Cindy Johnson, Dakota County Master Gardeners Master Gardeners are working with city government and residents to promote pollinator friendly gardens. Dakota County hosts a unique native garden in the boulevard alongside Victoria Road, between Marie Avenue and Douglas Road in Mendota Heights. Not only is it a beautiful sight to drive, bike or stroll alongside throughout the year, but the garden hosts a number of native pollinators - read on to find out how Mendota Heights staff and Master Gardeners got together with community members in order to create this special place and more! In 2016, the city of Mendota Heights took the admirable step of declaring itself a “pollinator friendly city.” That means that the city is encouraging residents to become more pollinator-friendly by avoiding the use of insecticides and adopting more environmentally friendly landscaping practices; avoiding planting plants that are treated with systemic insecticides; and planting more pollinator-supporting plants. Since then, Dakota County Master Gardeners Sue Light and Cindy Johnson have been working with city staff to identify ways to enhance pollinator habitats. One of their first and most successful projects was the reformation of the Victoria Road boulevard (Victoria Road between Marie Ave. and Douglas Rd. At the time, this area was a ditch filled with rip rap and, unfortunately, a lot of trash. By June of the same year, Sue, Cindy and a team of Dakota County Master Gardeners, seeded grasses and forbs on the Victoria Road boulevard. To be exact, they used Minnesota State Mix 35-621 Dry Prairie SE mix. This selection was based on the soil, water and light conditions. In order to maintain driver visibility, only species under two feet in height were seeded within thirty feet of the corners at each end. Within 2 years, the garden looked like this: Within that time, water retention improved - instead of gushing down the slope over rip rap and into the storm drains, much of the rain water is now slowed and absorbed by the native plants and their deep roots. In fact, rainwater and snowmelt are the only sources of water these plants receive. Every week brings something new to the City Partnership native planting along Victoria Road. Depending on the time of year, the Minnesota native plants you may see include - gorgeous swaths of Little Blue Stem, Wild Petunia, White and Purple Prairie Clover, Monarda, different Milkweeds, Rudbeckia, Goldenrod, Ironweed, Prairie Dropseed and Blue Vervain, to name a few. That “ditch” on Victoria Road has become a native plant treasure. 2024 marks the ninth year of the City Partnership Project. If you pass through in July, you will find Monarda (native Bee Balm) with full lavender colored blooms topping shoulder-high stems, complemented by Asclepias Tuberose (bright orange Butterfly Milkweed). Many insects, including the Rusty Patch Bumblebee and several Black and Gold Bumblebees, are attracted to the pollinator plants in the garden. Even though all of the intentional plants are native to Minnesota, regular management of this garden is done and required. During the growing season, three or four Master Gardeners at a time will weed the roadside twice a month. Weed pressure comes from invasive plants such as Siberian Elm, Crown Vetch, Thistle, Japanese Hedge Parsley and others. Some curious neighbors have come out to help weed and learn more about the plants. Walkers on the path frequently comment on the beauty of the plants as they walk by. Garden management also includes cutting back the vegetation in the spring so the new growth isn’t smothered by the matted plant material from the season before. The City of Mendota Heights and Dakota County Master Gardeners have also partnered to install and maintain the native plantings at City Hall. In addition, they have worked with Mendota Heights residents to install rain gardens. Master Gardeners have also hosted education nights for the public on the value and use of pollinator plants. All of these efforts are intended to improve water quality and welcome pollinators to Mendota Heights. Take the time to visit the extraordinary native garden on Victoria Road and at City Hall. And, keep an eye out for announcements from Dakota County Master Gardeners for public education nights to learn more about this partnership and the plantings. Photo credits: Sue Light (1,2,3,5,7,8), Sarah Heidtke (4,6), Robert Hatlivig (9)

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