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  • Create Frozen Luminarias

    < Back Create Frozen Luminarias Marjory Blare, Master Gardeners Frozen luminaries are both fun and beautiful to create. This article will give you suggestions on using materials you may have around the house and in your winter garden to create a frozen luminary. Here are two easy winter crafts that you can do with your little ones! Frozen Luminarias You will need: A large shallow container, at least 3” deep, perhaps 18”x14” or so. Vegetation; weeds, twigs, leaves, evergreen cuttings and so on. A pitcher or bucket to pour water into your container A tea candle or an electric candle in a mason jar. (If you choose a real candle you will also need a long lighter such as you would use for a grill. After making sure the candle is firmly fixed in the bottom of the jar, tip it sideways to light.) Make sure you take pictures of the process! Kids enjoy helping to collect the weeds. Cut them a bit longer than your container. Look for bold contrasting shapes. Colors are a bonus but not required. A monochromatic palette also creates beautiful results. Have your child arrange the various pieces in the shallow container. You might have them choose three long pieces, five medium pieces and seven or more short pieces. Cut them to fit the container. Odd numbers of pieces generally result in a pleasing composition. It can be easy to put too much into the container: you want light to be able to show through the finished composition. Don't worry about having the bottom edge all neat, this part will be buried in the snow. Gently pour about two to three inches of water over the vegetation and press down anything that floats, trying to keep them mostly below the surface. You may want to do this yourself, or make sure if your child spills, you've got a towel under it. Letting it soak indoors for a day before putting it outside can help the vegetation become waterlogged and submerge better. Put the container outdoors in a place where snow and/or other debris can't get into it, or alternately, cover it. Don't move it again until it's frozen solid or you will get cracks and air in it. After it's frozen solid, gently tap the frozen piece out of the container. Set it upright in a snow bank, packing snow at the base to help hold it upright. You can place it so that sun streams through it during the day or wait until dark, then light and place the candle behind your frozen weeds. Stand back and admire! Weeds and Buckets You will need: one or more buckets Vegetation, as above. You can use much larger and longer pieces of vegetation.- Enough water to fill the buckets about 4-5" deep. Place the tallest pieces in first, then medium, and finally the shortest pieces around the outside. You will need enough of the shorter pieces to hold the taller pieces upright, although some graceful arching is very pleasing too. Allow the water to freeze and then gently tap to remove. Place on your front porch or wherever you'd like decorations. Photo credits: Marjory Blare (all)

  • Autumn Leaves

    < Back Autumn Leaves Brynne Eisele, Master Gardener This page introduces books and fun activities that will help your child to understand why leaves change color and learn that leaves have some things in common with humans. Summer Green to Autumn Gold: Uncovering Leaves’ Hidden Colors , by Mia Posada, answers readers’ (ages 5-10) questions about why leaves change colors. It gives the science behind the many different colors of leaves and includes beautiful watercolor and collage art on every page. The author and illustrator reside in Golden Valley, MN! Fletcher and the Falling Leaves , by Julia Rawlinson, lets young readers (ages 1-5) follow Fletcher the fox cub as he discovers his favorite tree seems to be sick. Each day more leaves turn brown and fall to the ground. Fletcher is very worried for the tree until he finds a wonderful surprise on the first day of winter. Do For elementary aged children try these two very simple experiments that demonstrate the importance of trees and their leaves to our daily lives. It will also help them visualize the concept that plants and trees are alive just like us! 1. Do Leaves Breathe? Materials: Freshly picked leaf that is still green Bowl of water large enough to fit the leaf Rock or something to weigh down the leaf Instructions: Ask the child to observe the leaf. What do they see? Do they hear the leaf breathing? Fill the bowl with water and submerge the leaf in water using the rock to make sure the leaf is fully submerged. Place the bowl in a sunny location. Wait for a few hours then check on the leaf. You should see small bubbles forming on the leaf and edges of the bowl Explanation: Your child is observing part of the process of photosynthesis where oxygen is being expelled from the leaf. While the leaf doesn’t use lungs to breath as we do, it does similarly take in and release air. As humans we breathe in the oxygen expelled in our daily lives. Adapted from 2. Do Leaves Sweat? Materials: Clear zip lock bag String or twist tie to secure the bag tightly Branch of leaves in the sun Instructions: Ask the child to observe the leaf. How does the leaf feel? Can they see the leaf sweating? Fit the plastic bag on the end of a branch which has several green leaves on it. Make sure your branch is in the sunlight for a few hours. Secure the bag tightly with the string or twist tie. One corner of the bag should be pointing down toward the ground so that the water can collect into one location. After a few hours, check the bag. You should see water pooled in the corner of the bag. Explanation: Your child is observing plant transpiration. This process can be explained to a child by comparing it to a human sweating and expelling water to cool down. Plant transpiration is crucial to our daily lives as it releases water into our atmosphere to be evaporated. Adapted from Kids Fun Science, Youtube channel Fall Leaf Scavenger Hunt For younger children around ages 2-5 set up a fall leaf scavenger hunt. Depending on the age, the child may need greater parental assistance. See below for some suggestions but feel free to add your own categories! Find a yellow leaf (or one with yellow on it) Find a green leaf (or one with green on it) Find a red leaf (or one with red on it) Find a brown leaf (or one with brown on it) Find a leaf with a whole in it Find a leaf with three points Find a leaf that has an oval shape Find a small leaf Find a big leaf

  • Taking on Ticks

    < Back Taking on Ticks Jim Lakin, MD, Master Gardener You’ve turned in after a productive day of gardening. Beginning to doze off, you feel something ever so slightly brushing against your thigh. You reach and feel a small hard object crawling up your leg. Lights on. It’s a tic, ambling along, looking for a nice warm place to suck your blood! It is tick season and there is good reason to be wary. You’ve turned in after a productive day of gardening. Beginning to doze off, you feel something ever so slightly brushing against your thigh. You reach and feel a small hard object crawling up your leg. Lights on. It’s a tick, ambling along looking for a nice warm place to suck your blood! Enough Stephen King. Ticks are gross but sometimes unavoidable if you are a gardener. Yet in addition to being unpleasant they can also be dangerous. The Centers for Disease Control list at least sixteen serious infectious diseases that can be transmitted by ticks in the United States, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. So what are these guys and how do they manage to get on your skin? Ticks are arachnids, insects that are second cousins to spiders, members of the Ixodida family. Like many insects they go through egg, larva, nymph and adult stages. At each stage of life they need a blood meal to survive. Most aren’t picky as to whose blood they drink, selecting mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian hosts as they pass through their life stages. Also they aren’t picky as to what’s in the blood they drink, ingesting whatever assorted bacteria or viruses the host happens to have. Ticks can’t jump or fly but they can wait patiently on a blade of grass or leaf, latching on to whomever happens to be passing by. Once on board, the tick settles down on a promising spot and inserts a feeding tube. In the process it often secretes saliva which can contain whatever infection the tick has picked up from its previous host. If all goes well (for the tick) it will feed for several days and then drop off to begin its next life stage and find its next victim. The deer tick (blacklegged tick) below is much smaller than the wood tick (American dog tick) above and to the right. The lone star tick on the upper right is occasionally seen in Minnesota. Although there are about a dozen species of ticks in Minnesota, two types commonly spread disease. They are the deer tick or black legged tick and the wood tick or American dog tick. Of the two the deer tick is by far the most common disease spreader, transmitting Lyme disease among other things. Wood ticks may spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia but most bites thankfully are unpleasant but harmless. There are a number of things you can do to lessen the chance of picking up one of these fellows. First of all avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass or leaf litter. Walk in the center of trails when you are out in the woods. If you can’t avoid these high exposure areas consider treating clothing and gear with 0.5% permethrin. It is available as a spray or you can even buy pretreated clothing and gear. The Environmental Protection Agency suggests use of insect repellants such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. They advise against using OLE or PMD on children less than three years old. After a day out in the garden or the woods, it's best to shower down and then carefully check your body, clothing and gear for ticks. Don’t forget to check the family dog too! The life stages of the Blacklegged (deer) tick, lone star tick and American dog (wood) tick demonstrating their relative sizes. If you do find an attached tick, remove it with a pair of fine tipped forceps (tweezers). Grasp it as close to the skin as possible. Pull up with steady, even pressure. Don’t jerk or twist it as this may break off the mouth parts, leaving them in the skin. If this does happen remove them with the tweezer tips. After removing the tick, clean up the bite with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Never crush a tick with your fingers. If you do develop a rash or a fever within a few weeks of a tick bite, see your health care provider right away. Be sure to tell him or her about the bite, when and where it occurred. Want to learn more? The CDC has an excellent site . Also check out this Minnesota Department of Health article . And read this article from University of Minnesota Extension’s entomologist, Jeffery Hahn. Photo credits: Minnesota Department of Health (1, 2)

  • Goldenrod

    < Back Goldenrod Jim Lakin, MD, Master Gardener Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) – A Much Maligned Masterpiece I just hate to see goldenrod blooming. My eyes and nose itch. I sneeze like crazy…” I’ve often heard this complaint, wrongly hurled at a beautiful and ecologically important group of native plants. The problem is these late-summer blooming beauties unfurl their golden flowers at the same time that the relatively inconspicuous ragweed releases its allergy-causing pollen into the air. It is ragweed pollen, not the flowers of goldenrod, which creates all the misery of fall hay fever season. (Read this month’s “Gardener Beware” article for more on ragweed and hay fever.) Unlike ragweed which is wind-pollinated, goldenrod is dependent upon visiting insects to spread its pollen from plant to plant. Consequently, goldenrod produces abundant, nectar-rich flowerings to attract the pollinators. It thus is a very important source of late-summer and fall nectar for these vital insects, when little else is available, save for the asters. So, if goldenrod is so great why don’t we see it more in gardens than in vacant lots? As you might expect there is some debate as to whether or not goldenrod is a native plant to be cherished or a common weed to be eradicated. When you get right down to it, that’s a pretty subjective decision. One man’s weed is another’s treasure. Most goldenrod is leggy or “weedy”. They can be pretty aggressive spreading by seed and underground rhizomes. They will take over from less robust plants. Therefore, you have to be careful where you plant them. Some folks consider them “inappropriate” for formal garden settings. So, if your home turf is severely suburban, your neighbors might look askance at a front lawn patch of goldenrod. As you’ve probably guessed, my own aesthetics are a bit more on the wild side. I find Solidago sp. a great addition to fall landscape color in our wooded acreage. They are great for tough spots where most other perennials are reluctant to grow. They attract a variety of butterflies and bees in late August and September. Their seed heads are an important source of nutrition for birds during the winter months. Now that you’re ready to get in the goldenrod game, here are a few of my favorite species: Zigzag Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis) is very hardy, reaching 1 to 2 feet. And yes, its stem does grow in a zigzag pattern. Bog Goldenrod (Solidago uliginosa) will grow in areas with wet, boggy soil although is prefers good drainage. It gets 3 to 5 feet tall. Old field Goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis) only grows ½ to 2 feet in contrast to its taller cousins. All goldenrods prefer full sun but will soldier through light shade. They have very few natural pests and really don’t require fertilization on all but the poorest soils. A little fertilizer or compost in the spring will boost their height. You should water newly planted goldenrod weekly. In subsequent years they get by with help only in the driest periods of summer. As I said, Solidago can spread. Planting it in a confined bed will help. Some folks suggest digging it up every couple of years before the roots become established. Another suggestion is to deadhead the flowers before they form seed, although this deprives birds of a vital food source in winter and early spring. So if you are up to a little naturalization, Solidago is the thing. The birds and the bees will thank you. References: Grow your own birdseed Most gardeners are nature lovers and therefore love their feathered friends. In your selection of plants to grow, have you ever considered growing your own birdseed? Photo credit: Native Plant Trust: Go Botany (1)

  • Junior Winter Garden Detectives

    < Back Junior Winter Garden Detectives Mary Gadek, Master Gardener Do you know a child who has wondered where all the garden creatures live in the winter in Minnesota? Help that child become a Junior Winter Garden Detective by gathering clues, using some scientific techniques and then searching outside to solve this chilly mystery. CALLING ALL JUNIOR WINTER GARDEN DETECTIVES! Do you know a child who has wondered where all the garden creatures live in the winter in Minnesota? Help that child become a Junior Winter Garden Detective by gathering clues, using some scientific techniques and then searching outside to solve this chilly mystery. NOTE: Adults can help guide, or work together with, their child through this project. Utilize the books mentioned later in this article to reinforce the information from this article and to assist younger children in learning the concepts. Junior Winter Garden Detectives - Let’s find out where birds, common Minnesota animals, turtles, frogs and insects live in Minnesota winters. Some creatures migrate, or move, to a warmer part of the world in late summer or fall. Many others remain here in Minnesota. But, where are they all? Often, they are not so easy to see. By READING the clues from the information below, you will be able to solve the case of the hiding winter creatures by looking in your own backyard or neighborhood park. THE CLUES BIRDS - When the cold and wind of a Minnesota winter settles in, watch for birds to make a roost and group together in the holes of trees, next to trees or a thicket of pines . Insect eating birds fly South for the winter so they can eat insects from open water in warmer climates. The remaining birds can survive on the seeds, berries and garden waste found in our yards and parks during the cold weather. Sometimes people leave seed in bird feeders to help these birds survive during the cold days. Just like humans, birds keep warm with their down coat; that is, their feathers. Some common Minnesota winter birds are cardinals, finches, blue jays and woodpeckers. DEER AND SQUIRRELS - Look around and you will see many animals, including deer and squirrels, in your local landscape. Deer stay active and hang out by stands, or groups, of pine trees . These trees, called conifers, keep their needles all year round so snow can easily collect on their branches and keeps the forest floor warm and dry underneath for a cozy gathering spot. The common gray squirrel can be seen occasionally popping out from their nests in tree cavities or leaf and piles collected from trees in the fall and thickened by moss. You can view the squirrels scampering around nearby their nests to retrieve the food they hoarded in the fall, foraging on pine cone seeds, or stealing from the bird feeder in your yard. TURTLES AND FROGS - Keep a sharp eye open for turtles hibernating, or sleeping all winter, at the bottom of a pond or lake, digging themselves into the mud of the water's bottom , where the temperature stays warmer and more stable than up at the top of the water's surface. Frogs can be found in two different areas, depending on the type: 1. Aquatic frogs hibernate in the water near the bottom of the stream or pond where they breathe oxygen from the water through their skin; and, 2. Tree and wood frogs become dormant under leaves and plants from the past growing season in our garden and then freeze solid for the winter months. These frogs’ bodies use a special process where a natural antifreeze, called glycerol, keeps their organs from fully freezing. Carefully look under some leaf piles and you might see a frog that looks dead but really is just temporarily frozen. How is this possible?! All good detectives verify their clues--see below for more information on this special antifreeze process. INSECTS - Minnesota insects survive winter by migrating, by tolerating the cold or by avoiding the cold. Monarch butterflies migrate 3,000 miles to the warm south. The Banded Woolly Bear caterpillar tolerates the cold by becoming dormant underneath leaf litter and a blanket of snow, similar to the tree and wood frogs, after producing special antifreeze called glycero l, which keeps its cells from bursting when they freeze. (See the scientific process below). Bees hibernate in winter in one of three ways: in the ground, in flower stem cavities or, for bumble bee Queens, under leaves and brush. Most bees in Minnesota are ground nesters who burrow into bare soil to stay warm in winter and lay eggs for spring. Look for a small ¼-½ hole for a tunnel in the soil without a lot of plant cover to get a glimpse of where a bee might be in its winter slumber. You will need to wait until spring before you see a bee emerge! Some other bees take winter shelter and lay eggs in the hollow of flower stems . A garden left for a spring cleanup, instead of in the fall, will reveal hollow stems where flowers once were. Imagine bees and their eggs resting, safe from the harsh winter conditions. Bumble bee queens prefer to tuck into leaves or brush left in the garden, often near pollinator plants. The workers have died in the fall, while the Queens are left to start new colonies in the spring. READ READ these children’s books to do additional detective work with your child to see how creatures live in winters. Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer, tells about a red fox's discovery of how to live in the winter while learning about what some other creatures do for homes in the winter. Available at the Dakota County libraries. ISBN: 9780544313347 or, buy at Amazon : Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner and art by Christopher Silas Neal, takes you along a cross country ski family adventure to what creatures are out and about in the winter. Available at Dakota County library. ISBN: 9780811867849, or buy through Amazon : DO EVIDENCE: WHAT IS IT LIKE FOR THE FROG AND BANDED WOOLLY BEAR CATERPILLAR TO HAVE ANTIFREEZE Once you gather all your clues, every good detective verifies the clues. Our clues show an amazing antifreeze process for tree and wood frogs and the banded woolly bear caterpillar, which allows these critters to live in the Minnesota winter. Using your detective skills, let’s do the following experiment to see what the antifreeze is like in the frogs and caterpillars. Supplies Any Gelatin Hot water from tap (not boiling), amount used in gelatin instructions Small paper cups (or small ziplock bags) Tablespoon Directions Follow the instructions to prepare the gelatin, but using warm water (not boiling). Fill a paper cup with about 1 tablespoon of the prepared gelatin. Put the cup in the freezer for about 20 minutes. (The antifreeze process for frogs occurs in about 20 minutes). When the time has elapsed, take the cup out of the freezer. You will notice the gelatin is part frozen, part liquid. The mixture is similar to the liquid in the organs of these creatures that stays cold but not frozen so they can survive being dormant in the winter. SOLVE THE CASE: FIND THE ANIMALS The last step for Junior Winter Garden Detectives is to find the animals or their homes outside! Put on your winter boots or snowshoes and go search to solve the case. Make notes on the checklist provided below or make a photo journal of the winter garden homes you find. JUNIOR WINTER GARDEN DETECTIVE CHECKLIST Check off the creatures you see outside. For the critters that go dormant, use your imagination and find a spot that might be their winter home. Note: Since they are trying to stay warm, it might take a few visits outside before you complete the list. Optional: list where you see them or take a photograph. 1.Birds 2. Deer 3. Squirrels 4. Turtles 5. Aquatic Frogs 6. Tree and wood frog 7. Banded Woolly Bear Caterpillar 8. Bees- A. Ground Nester B. Flower Stem Cavities C. Bumble Bee Queens SOURCES How Do Critters Survive Minnesota Winters How Evergreens Provide a Winter Oasis for Wildlife Common Winter Birds in Central Minnesota How Do Frogs Survive Winter? Why Don't They Freeze to Death? Woolly Bears in the Snow Give Bees a Chance: Fall Cleanup for Pollinators Minnesota Master Naturalist Explorers Winter Curriculum Photo credits: Mary Gadek (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9), Donald Lorr (8)

  • Planting Seeds with Children

    < Back Planting Seeds with Children Kristen Beardsley Schoenherr and Mary Gadek, Master Gardeners Kids love to plant seeds, and it’s a great way to show them the joys of gardening. Now’s the time to get seeds started for indoor and outdoor growing. Kids love to plant seeds, and it’s a great way to show them the joys of gardening. Now’s the time to get seeds started for indoor and outdoor growing. Explore these educational resources for you and your family. WATCH, READ and DO! WATCH this how-to video ! Read The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle (Ages 3-8 ) A simple description of a flowering plant's life cycle through the seasons. Check it out at Dakota County Library or Buy online Plant a Little Seed by Bonnie Christensen (Ages 4-7): Children plant a seed, care for their flowers and vegetables during the growing season, and enjoy the harvest. Check it out at Dakota County Library or Buy online DO activities for different age groups This month we have two suggested project for you to try with your children: 1. Seed Starting with Young Children MATERIALS Child sized apron (optional) Mat/waterproof cloth to work on (optional) Seed starting soil in an airtight container Child sized trowel or spoon Plant pots (cam reuse old yogurt or egg containers, clear container to see roots, something decorated, etc.) Seeds displayed based on the age and abilities of your child, with or without seed packets and plant labels (for a young toddler maybe put out many types of seeds so they can see the variety, for an older toddler maybe put out one type of seed with the seed packet and labels, and older child can write their own labels and can be given more seed choices. Little pitcher/watering can/spray bottle Cloth for cleanup A warm lit place to put planted pots Tray to help carry materials, materials should be arranged from left to right in order of use Place to work, can be a little table, counter with a stool for child, kitchen table, or the floor. PRESENTATION OF ACTIVITY Invite child when they are well rested and feeling good. Show them where the materials are located and invite them to help carry the materials to where you will work. (If you are right-handed, sit to your child’s right, opposite for left handed. This will allow the child to see what your hands are doing.) Name each material as you take it off the tray (this is a great embedded language/vocabulary opportunity) Say, “I will plant one seed and then you can have a turn.” “Watch.” (This draws their attention to your hands.) Open container with soil, show the child how to carefully scoop the soil and place it in the pot. Close the container. Introduce seeds. “I’m going make a little hole for the seed.” Show how to make a little hole, put a seed in the hole and cover it with soil. “We only need one seed.” (they may plant more, and that’s okay) If you are using labels, show how to label the plant or how the child can create their own label. “Now we need to get some water.” Get water in the pitcher or watering can and pour on soil or show how to squirt spray bottle. Show child where they can put their planted seed. Clean up any spills as you go. “I see there is a little spill, I will clean it up.” “Now you can plant as many seeds as you like, when you are finished, I’ll help you clean up.” Offering multiple pots helps to encourage repetition. Empty pots can be kept in a different spot, instead of on the tray if that is easier. THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN PRESENTING Young children are creatures of process not product. They benefit from simply doing the activity or even a part of the activity as opposed to the finished product. These seeds may or may not grow into great seedlings that can be transplanted into the garden, and that is okay. Limit language and distractions during the presentation and while the child is working. If you want to point out something additional or add more language or sensorial opportunities, try these at a different time. When you show your child how to plant seeds for the first time ever or the season you want them to focus on the activity and your hands so that they can be most successful. SENSORIAL OPPORTUNITIES AND EXTENSIONS It can be fascinating for young children to shake the seed packets and hear the noise that different seeds make. They can notice how the sound changes with seed shape. Collect a variety of seed packets for your child to shake. Make sure to pick some large seeds, such as peas or squash, and some small seeds such as lettuce or carrots, so that the child can hear the different sounds while shaking the packets. This activity will help the child develop their fine motor skills while learning about music and sounds! Children might love feeling the soil and become entranced with using their hands. Others may hate the feel of the soil and don’t want to touch it. When you offer the child to have a turn, it is a great opportunity to sit back and observe how your child proceeds. They do not have to repeat exactly how you modeled. LANGUAGE EXTENSIONS At a different time, invite your child to observe different kinds of seeds with you, notice and discuss similarities and differences. On a plate or tray lay out small piles of various seeds. Ask the toddler to describe the seeds. Questions you could ask: Is the seed round or flat? What color is the seed? Which seed is the largest? Which seed is the smallest? Which seeds look similar to another kind of seed? Let the child pick up the seeds to explore them. This activity will help the child develop their descriptive vocabulary and fine motor skills while learning about various seeds.Three period language lesson: Choose three types of seeds that are quite different. Tell the child the name of each seed, “This is a sunflower seed, this is a bean seed, and this is a pumpkin seed.” Ask the child fun questions to reinforce names of each seed. “Where is the pumpkin seed? Put the pumpkin seed next to the bean seed. Give the sunflower seed to your brother.” Test knowledge by asking, “Which seed is this? Which seed is this?” If your child answers incorrectly no need to correct them, simply say which it is, “That’s the bean seed.” This can be done in a group or with an individual child. MODIFICATIONS This activity is very easy to modify. Seeds and planting containers can be switched regularly to meet your family’s gardening needs and preferences.This activity is intended for one child to do at a time (young children love working alone and can concentrate best when alone), but we easily used the same materials and a similar process to include our child in our family’s group seed planting. If you have multiple children, you may need multiple trowels so they each could fill pots at the same time. Or one child could fill a pot, one plant a seed, and an older child could write a label. 2. GRASS HEAD PROJECT - WATCHING GRASS GROW CAN BE FUN! PURPOSE Introduction to plant biology to observe seeds transforming into a plant and to learn how to take care of a plant. EQUIPMENT Clear container with wide opening and its cap (plastic cup or item recycled from your household) Items to create a face on the container (permanent markers, puffy paint, colorful seeds, pipe cleaners, goggly eyes, stickers, etc.) Potting soil Fast growing seeds, like grass seed-bag of lawn patch kit or cat grass Optional- glue; scissors INSTRUCTIONS Punch a hole in the bottom of the container for drainage.Decorate a clear container to make a face on one side.Fill container ¾ full of soil; sprinkle seeds on top of soil; top with additional soil. Put the container cap or a shallow dish under the container.Set the container near a light source. Water (daily) so soil doesn’t dry out; since the container is clear, you can see if the soil is adequately saturated (not too little or too much). Watch the seeds grow! LEARNING POSSIBILITIES Explain what a plant needs to grow: soil, light and water.Growth cycle: Notice how the seeds are changing under the soil and then how the plant grows above the soil. Activities:Measure and record growth in a written and/or photographic journal.Predict how long it will take for grass to grow to a certain height.Give the grass a haircut with scissors and watch regrowth happen.Repeat A and/or B.

  • Pruning Hydrangeas and Clematis

    < Back Pruning Hydrangeas and Clematis Carolyn Plank, Master Gardener Ever wonder when is the best time to prune hydrangeas and clematis? This article will help clear up the pruning mystery for these beautiful blooming plants. Ever wonder when is the best time to prune hydrangeas and clematis? In this article I’ll help clear up the pruning mystery for these beautiful blooming plants. HYDRANGEAS When to prune hydrangeas depends on when it blooms. If the hydrangea blooms in late summer on new growth, pruning should take place in late winter or early spring before the shrub begins active growth. Some of the hydrangeas in this category include Limelight, Burgundy Lace and classic snowball types. Most other hydrangeas that bloom on old wood (growth from the previous year) should be pruned in summer after they’re done blooming. Pruning too soon increases the risk of cutting off dormant buds. Oakleaf, Big Leaf, Nikko Blue and other pink and blue flowering hydrangeas bloom from the previous year’s buds. If you want to maintain their size or shape, prune in summer before August. Ever-blooming hydrangeas such as Endless Summer also bloom on old and new wood and should also be pruned the same way. CLEMATIS Clematis pruning made simple. There are three groups of clematis. Group I is in the Red Category (red means stop) and blooms in early spring set on old wood from the previous year’s wood and doesn’t die back in winter. Pruning should be done sparingly. This category includes Pink Perfection, Spooneri and Pink Swing. Group II is in the Yellow Category (yellow means go slow) and grows on old wood in late spring/early summer, and on new wood in late summer or fall. This group should be given a light trim in March before it begins blooming. Remove dead wood and cut back remaining stems to 6-8”. This category includes Horn of Plenty, Patricia Ann Fretwell and Beautiful Bride. Group III is in the green category (green means go) and blooms on new wood in summer and dies off to the ground over winter. In March, prune all stems back to a strong set of buds 12” from the ground. This category includes Summer Snow, Prince William and Mississippi River. Stems of live and dead wood look alike. The leafy growth from the bud indicates a live vine. Always prune from the top down. Work down each vine until you find a live bud or growth and then stop once you find it. You can cut off all of last season’s growth to the ground; however, this results in a shorter plant, a few less flowers, and will bloom a little later. Happy pruning!! Below are a few great sites to visit for further information: University of Maryland Extension Guide to Pruning Hydrangeas | University of Maryland Extension ( Wayside Gardens Tips for Pruning Clematis l Wayside Gardens Spring Valley Nurseries Clematis Pruning Guide | Easy Clematis Care | Spring Hill Nurseries ( Photo credits: Pat Cox (1), University of Maryland Extension (2), Kansas State Johnson County Research & Extension (3, 4)

  • Helping Houseplants Stay Healthy this Winter

    < Back Helping Houseplants Stay Healthy this Winter Jim Lakin, M.D., Master Gardener 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. Healthy plants look better. They have less insect problems. Their chances of making it through the winter and out onto the patio next spring increase. So, what can we do to help them out? First grow plants in the best possible conditions. Here you will have to do a little research on the preferences of each plant. Match the plant to its light, moisture and temperature requirements. If a plant is struggling with too little light, too much moisture or too warm or cold a temperature, it will not do well. Second, fulfill your plant’s nutritional requirements. Is your fellow a big feeder or not? Generally speaking, fertilize at half the “recommended dose” for a given plant at the intervals suggested. Fertilizers will be most effective when applied while the plant is actively growing. Third, water your plants properly. This is a biggie! More plants ascend to heaven (or descend to the compost) from overwatering than any other cause. Over-watering combined with poor drainage can encourage root rot and pest problems. If you water on a schedule, say every Tuesday whether they need it or not, you’ll set yourself up for this problem. Water when the soil is dry, say,halfway up your index finger. Also don’t let your plants stand in water. Water at the base of the plant, not on the leaves. Fourth, keep your plants clean. Remove dead leaves, stems and flowers. Don’t let them pile up on the soil surface where they can harbor insect pests. Fifth, use new, sterile potting soil when potting plants. Avoid outdoor garden soil. It probably is chock full of weed seeds and insect eggs. Plant in clean pots and wash off the roots before planting bare-rooted purchases. Finally, inspect your houseplants frequently for insect pests. They most often tend to congregate on the underside of leaves. Early detection is key. If you do suspect that bugs are beginning to set up shop, check out “Managing Insects on Indoor Plants” on the University of Minnesota website: It’s a great aid for diagnosing and treating pest problems. Observe these few simple procedures and you’ll go a long way to having happy house plants and home bodies! Photo credits: University of Minnesota (1, 2)

  • Protecting Our Trees from Invasive Species

    < Back Protecting Our Trees from Invasive Species Dan and Cheryl Forrest, Master Gardeners The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources defines an invasive species as “species that are not native to Minnesota and cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” This article defines and identifies the invasive species that can cause harm to the economy, environment, or human health. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources defines an invasive species as “species that are not native to Minnesota and cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” We’re looking at a two part definition. In the first part we see that these species are not native to Minnesota. We often use such terms as exotic, alien, introduced, etc. There is an implication that all invasive species come from outside the United States. This is not always the case. These new pests simply come from outside Minnesota. In the second part of our definition the key word is harm. We are concerned with those pathogens, plants, animals or insects that can cause harm to the economy, environment, or human health. Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) The number one new pest facing our trees in Dakota County is the emerald ash borer (EAB) . The nearest confirmed sighting is in the area of Fort Snelling in Hennepin County and Highland Park in Ramsey County. The general rule that the insect can travel by itself somewhere between 13-15 miles in a given year implies that within a short period of time we will have confirmed sightings within Dakota County. Do you know the symptoms to look for? The first thing to look for is increased woodpecker activity. These birds know a tasty treat when they find one. This increased activity normally happens in the second year after EAB infestation and is followed by vertical splits in the bark and sometimes defoliation in the tree canopy. A closer inspection could then reveal the large s-shaped galleries under the bark and the D-shaped exit holes. These symptoms generally confirm that the tree has been infected. Gypsy Moth The second pest that we all need to be aware of is the gypsy moth . It attacks several varieties of trees but here in Minnesota aspens and oak seem to be the favorite. The gypsy moth caterpillars are capable of defoliating acres of trees. It has arrived in Minnesota! Not necessarily here in Dakota County, but it has invaded out state. Lake and Cook counties in the Arrowhead region have reached the point where they will be experiencing the first steps in a quarantine . How will it affect us? Most of us will not be directly affected. But if we have property in these counties or intend to vacation there we will feel the impact. Thousand Canker Disease Thousand Canker Disease is a third new pest that affects black walnuts. It is a fungus carried by the walnut twig beetle. When it enters the bark it leaves behind a fungus that causes a canker. If you have any black walnut trees you need to be concerned and be able to recognize it. For the rest of us you do need to know that it is now the law that black walnut wood of any size or shape cannot be imported into Minnesota. A quarantine is in effect that makes this illegal. Asian Longhorn Beetle The fourth pest emerging in Minnesota is the Asian Longhorn Beetle . While poplars, maples and box elders seem to be the preferred trees in Minnesota it also feeds on several other varieties which makes it especially dangerous. Signs and symptoms include crown die-back, shallow depressions in the bark where the eggs are laid, sap seeping from these egg niches, pencil-size round exit holes and a sawdust on the top of branches or on the ground surrounding the tree. Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Two new and emerging pests do not actually kill the tree but both will damage the fruit the tree produces. The first is the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug . It has been found in several Minnesota counties and is considered a pest because it feed on fruit and vegetables. The insect is also considered a nuisance as it invades houses and other buildings in the fall seeking warmth. When disturbed, it emits a foul odor. Spotted Wing Drosophila Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) is also a new and emerging pest and has been found in 20 counties in Minnesota. It is similar to a fruit fly. But unlike the typical fruit fly that feeds on damaged fruit, SWD feeds on intact, healthy, ripening fruit, especially thin-skinned berries. The female can pierce the soft skin and lay its eggs. In doing so there is also a possibility of an introduction of rot and fungus. So far in Minnesota the favorite has been raspberries. It has been known to attack apples and other tree bearing fruits. Oriental Bittersweet In our training one invasive plant was discussed. Oriental Bittersweet has been found in Dakota County in Burnsville and Eagan. It is a vine that can grow over 60 feet long and will girdle and smother trees and shrubs. It is spread by rhizomes and seeds, mainly through birds ingesting and then eliminating the seeds. Through this natural action, entire plant communities have been known to be overwhelmed. iI becomes our job to eradicate it. What Can I Do? We still need to answer one important question. What should be done if you suspect you have found one of these tree pests? There is an “Arrest the Pest” hotline you can email at or by phone at 888-545-6684. Doing so could help us protect our native trees.

  • Holiday Cacti

    < Back Holiday Cacti Janelle Rietz-Kamenar Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti are beautiful flowering holiday plants Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) are two beautiful flowering holiday plants. They are often given as gifts during the festivities. Believe it or not, these plants are native to Brazil, but have been a favorite indoor plant in the United States for many years. They can live a very long time (100+ years). Some people have trouble getting them to bloom and there are a few tricks one needs to be aware of to produce healthy, vibrant blooms. First, holiday cacti like high humidity and bright, filtered light. They need relatively moist soil with 1 part potting soil, 2 parts peat moss and 1 part sand. They do not tolerate standing in water or extreme cold air drafts. Holiday cacti, however, do need shorter days and cooler nights in order to produce blooms. Placing plants in a cool, bright location where daytime temperatures are 65-70 degrees and evening temperatures are 55-65 degrees will encourage bud development after approximately 5-6 weeks. Once the plants have bloomed, reduce the frequency of watering until spring when there is more active growth. These plants are relatively easy to take care of if you follow these instructions. If you are having trouble with your plants blooming there are usually 3 possible causes (assuming the plant is healthy): Indoor air is too warm: lower the room temperature to 55-65 degrees at night, 60-65 degrees during the day. Plant days are too long: this is usually not an issue in Minnesota if near a window but one can put the plant in total darkness for a minimum of 12 hours. Plant does not have enough nutrients to produce buds. Fertilize the plant at half strength with a fertilizer that is lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorus and potassium (0-15-10). For a more comprehensive article about these plants, check out this website: Common Issues with Holiday Cacti Photo credit: Janelle Reitz-Kamenar

  • Request a Speaker | DCMGV

    Request a Speaker Master Gardeners are available to speak to garden clubs, at workplace seminars or other groups about a wide variety of garden-related topics. We have access to the latest university based research, attend educational seminars throughout the year and have personal interest in many aspects of gardening. Here is a list of just some of the topics we are able to present to your group. Don’t see what you are looking for? Contact our Speakers Bureau and we can help. ​ Please remember that our Speaker Bureau program is run by volunteers and we therefore ask for your patience. Please allow 3-5 business days for a reply. Ideally, we ask that you request speakers a minimum of 4-6 weeks before your event although more urgent requests will be considered and fulfilled whenever possible. We appreciate your understanding. Popular Topics Annuals Bee friendly plants Beekeeping Blueberries Container gardening Composting Herbs Houseplants Invasive plants and pests Orchids Putting your gardens to bed Shade gardening Spring bulbs Square foot gardening Seeding starting Vegetables And more!! ​ Request a Speaker First Name Last Name Email Write a message Submit Your request has been sent.

  • Stumped by a Stumpery?

    < Back Stumped by a Stumpery? Deborah Snow, Master Gardener Have you thought about planting a Stumpery in your yard? A what? A Stumpery is basically a stylized shade garden. The garden uses stumps and logs as habitat for shade-loving plants; mainly, ferns, mosses and lichen. Colorful mushrooms may eventually grow and add color and character to the wood. When I tell people how excited I am about creating my own Stumpery, almost everyone asks, “What is that?!” As any gardener, I’m learning along the way. I tell them it’s basically a stylized shade garden. The garden uses stumps and logs as habitat for shade-loving plants; mainly, ferns, mosses and lichen. Colorful mushrooms may eventually grow and add color and character to the wood. So, how did this garden style get started? It came from a Victorian tradition of growing ferns among tree stumps. One of the first documented Stumperies was at Biddulph Grange in England. It was designed in 1856 by Edward William Cook, an artist and garden designer. Estate owner, James Bateman, was a wealthy horticulturalist who exemplified the Victorian passion for collecting plants from around the world. They created the Stumpery by stacking tree stumps into 10 foot high walls and filling the crevices with ferns and other plants. Due to the popularity of ferns during the Victorian era, the Stumpery was adopted as the garden space to display their collection. The Stumpery was emulated throughout England. One of the most famous Stumperies was created by Prince Charles of Wales, now King Charles, and is still a featured part of the gardens at Highgrove, his home in Gloucestershire. I did see a Stumpery in England but you don’t need to go that far. We recently toured a Stumpery at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. I highly recommend a visit there if you’ve never been. What inspiration does a Victorian tradition from England have for American gardeners? A Stumpery is a workable concept for a modern garden. There is beauty in the architecture it provides. Its unique design lends itself to beneficial growing environments for shade-loving plants. Ferns are an obvious choice but any woodland plant could be included. It’s always evolving and that’s exciting to me! As the stumps and logs gradually decompose, the peeling bark provides habitat for insects that will feed the birds and frogs or pollinate the plants in the garden. Then come the mushrooms! I can’t wait for that. Next, I’ll talk about how to create your own Stumpery. It can be large or small. It can consist of several unearthed trees showing the roots or simply make use of logs or driftwood. You will use the arrangement of logs and stumps as an organizing feature. The wood will be equally important as the plants. Shade or part shade will work best and, if possible, plant on a slope for the best viewing. Along the edge of some woods would be perfect. My Stumpery is still very young. I put it together in the fall of 2021 and have added more wood and plants this last season. I’m sure it will get bigger as I learn more and find interesting pieces of wood. I’m always on the hunt. Friends have even contributed stumps. I will share the steps I used to get started. First, I chose and cleared the site. Next, I gathered some wood. I laid cardboard as the base to smother any weeds. I used logs as an outline and piled a mix of garden soil and compost inside. I created a mound since I didn’t have a slope. I partially buried some interesting stumps in and around the mound and covered it with wood chips for mulch. Now I was ready to plant. I’m such a plant collector and all that summer, before I started to build, I collected mostly ferns. I looked for varieties I didn’t already have wherever I went. Any time I saw something differed or unique I bought it. Also, I transplanted some ferns from my other gardens. So now I had a nice selection of plants to tuck in and around the wood. I planted ostrich ferns as a backdrop and started some mosses inside some hollowed out pieces of wood. I have continued putting in plants and stumps all this next season. And of course, me being me, I had to put a fairy garden piece in as well! I’m sure that will grow in the future. The garden looks mostly brown still but should be showing more green in the spring – I hope. I have struggled to keep it wet enough to get the mosses going. They don’t like this hot dry weather pattern we are stuck in. I’m hoping for a rainy spring and I’ll place more mosses. I’m researching best practices for moss and hope to do better next year. So, now you know what I know and I hope you are inspired to get out and build one of your own or at least find a stumpery to visit. There are lots of beautiful photos online to give you a better sense of what a mature Stumpery will look like. Good luck and happy gardening. Photo credits: Deborah Snow (all)

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