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  • Foxglove | DCMGV

    < Back Foxglove Jim Lakin, MD, Master Gardener Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) can be a charming addition to your landscape. In this article you will learn about its interesting history and growing tips. In the year 1785 the English physician William Withering published An Account of the Foxglove, describing the medicinal features of extracts of this native perennial in the treatment of dropsy. That was a term for the swelling associated with severe congestive heart failure. This was the first account of its use in the medical profession, yet herbalists had been using foxglove tea to treat heart failure for centuries before. The only drawback of this “miracle cure” was that too much of a good thing could quickly dispatch the tea imbiber. The pharmacologically active agent in foxglove is digitalis, a drug still used today to treat heart failure and disturbances of heart rhythm. Digitalis, like foxglove has a narrow therapeutic range. Too much can cause serious side effects, including death. If, however, you are not prone to munching on your garden perennials, you will find that Digitalis purpurea is a charming addition to your landscape. Although originally native to most of Northern Europe, it has naturalized to the Upper Midwest where it grows as an herbaceous biennial or short-lived perennial. That is to say, a given plant usually lives two to three years but plentifully reseeds. Thus, if a garden area is left undisturbed, germination should provide an ongoing colony of Foxglove. In the first year, the plant forms a tight rosette on the ground. The second year a 3 to 6 foot stem develops with spirally arranged 3 x 2 inch or larger leaves. The flowers are arranged in a showy, terminal, elongated cluster. Each flower is tubular hanging downward. The “finger like” flower shape is reflected in the name Digitalis . These flowers are typically purple, but some plants, especially cultivars, of which there are many, may be pink, rose, yellow, or white. Foxglove tends to bloom in late spring to early summer with occasional shows later in the season. Digitalis purpurea prefers partial sunlight to deep shade, being a forest understory dweller. It frequently pops up in areas where the soil has been recently disturbed. Some accounts maintain that skin contact with foxglove can be harmful, so it is best to wear gloves when handling it. Although it can be grown from seed, this can be a little tricky and germination rates are not all that high. It’s probably a better bet to purchase a potted plant in the spring and enjoy the spectacular show that Foxglove provides. And remember, no nibbling the plants! Photo credits: www.abebooks.com (1), publc domain (2)

  • Buttonbush (Queen of the Wetlands) | DCMGV

    < Back Buttonbush (Queen of the Wetlands) Jim Lakin, M.D., Master Gardener Buttonbush is a great shrub for naturalizing in wet areas and attracts butterflies. Read more about its attributes. We have some wonderful marsh lands on our property. Among the Giant Blue Lobelias and the Cardinal flowers, there’s a delightful shrub that stands out, the Buttonbush ( Cephalanthus occidentalis ). This is a native perennial plant to much of the Eastern North America from Nova Scotia to Minnesota, south to Florida and East Texas. You’ll find it in a range of wetland habitats including swamps, floodplains, mangroves, around ponds and margins of streams and even moist forest understories. It grows as a deciduous shrub or small tree, running from three to ten feet in height. It has glossy green leaves which appear in the late spring. Its unique fragrant white to pink bloom, shown in the first picture, gives it its common name. Buttonbush usually blooms from June through September although this period may be shorter further north. It was introduced commercially in 1735 as a source of nectar for commercial honey production. Thus, it’s other common name, Honey Bells. Buttonbush forms an important link in the wetland ecology. A number of waterfowl eat the seeds and wood ducks use the plant as nest protection. We’ve had a pair in our pond for several years that seem to regularly avail themselves of our buttonbushes building material. Deer browse the foliage which surprisingly is poisonous to livestock. Darn deer eat anything! A number of native as well as honey bees feed on the nectar as do hummingbirds. The plant acts as larval host to Titan Sphinx, Walnut and Hydrangea Sphinx moths. It can be used in butterfly gardens, as a naturalizing plant or to control erosion in difficult, moist areas. It’s great for naturalizing. To grow Buttonbush, select a fairly moist environment. As you might imagine it has a pretty high water requirement even though it likes shade to part shade. It is a spreading multi-branched shrub with an irregular crown which produces balls of white flowers resembling pincushions. As it can get a bit lanky, plants in a more formal setting might need to be pruned from time to time. It is a rapid grower and spreads by suckering. It is said to be hardy from Zones 5 to 11 although a number of plants do just fine in Zone 4. For Minnesota gardeners it might be wise to consider planting in a protected area and mulching in the fall at least for the first year or two. Getting a local specimen is also important. Buttonbush is an otherwise hardy ornamental perennial. It’s a native that is an attractive addition to any moist shady area. Photo credits: Jim Evans, Wikimedia Commons (1), C. Fannon, University of Texas (2)

  • Snack on Celery | DCMGV

    < Back Snack on Celery Kristen Andrews, Master Gardener Intern Celery, while a delicious treat, can be a challenge for the home gardener to grow. Learn how you can start your own celery plants indoors and have a harvest of this versatile vegetable, early or late, into the growing season! Ants on a log I have fond memories of snack time as a child, munching on “ants on a log.” Those familiar with the treat know there are three main components: the ants (chocolate chips and/or raisins), the glue to stick the ants on the log (usually peanut butter), and the log (a crisp piece of celery). The star of the snack, a crisp piece of celery, has been produced commercially since the early 1800s. Celery is part of the Apiaceae (or carrot) family. These plants are known for their hollow stems, taproots, and flat-topped flower clusters. Other familiar plants in this family are dill, fennel, and cumin. Growing celery at home may be difficult, but the harvest serves as an excellent reward for anyone up for the challenge. There are two main types of celery: Trenching and Self-blanching. Trenching celery requires extra care to ensure the stalks are protected, whereas self-blanching does not. The taste of self-blanching celery may be a little more muted, but is generally easier to grow. Two recommended self-blanching varieties are Utah and Pascal. For the home grower, celery does best when started indoors, 10-12 weeks before the last spring frost date, for a spring crop. A fall crop can also be started indoors, 10-12 weeks before the first fall frost date. Transplant outdoors once temperatures are above 50F during the day, and no lower than 40F during the night. Celery's three main needs are: cool weather, water, and rich, organic matter soil. Celery Celery can be harvested by removing the outer stalk layer leaving the rest of the plant to continue growth. The plant can also be left to grow up to 3-inches in diameter and then all the stalks harvested as a whole. Cool temperatures and water will continue the growth of the plant. The rooty, stalk structured plant with leafy greens has many uses. The stalks are regularly consumed and used in everything from stir-fry to broth, or simply consumed raw. Less popular, but still edible, are the leafy greens on the top of the plant. Those can be added to salads or minced and used as a seasoning. If looking for new and innovative celery uses, Taste of Home has 28 Non-Boring Ways to Use Celery . Sources: https://extension.usu.edu/yardandgarden/research/celery-in-the-garden https://www.almanac.com/plant/celery https://extension.umn.edu/find-plants/vegetables https://www.britannica.com/topic/list-of-plants-in-the-family-Apiaceae-2038061 https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/non-boring-celery-recipes/ Photo Credit: Brian Talbot, Flickr (1) & Buuz, Wikimedia (2)

  • Beyond Rosemary, Basil, and Thyme | DCMGV

    < Back Beyond Rosemary, Basil, and Thyme Stacy Reeves reviews Beyond Rosemary, Basil, and Thyme, a book that describes the many ways to enjoy a variety of herbs. The book talks about seventy herbs both common and uncommon. It includes history, growing tips and recipes to help you enjoy herbs that you can grow in your own garden. Stacy Reeves, Master Gardener Theresa Mieseler’s book, Beyond Rosemary, Basil, and Thyme, is aptly named. After many gardeners’ first plants of the season, their next thoughts often move to next season, next harvest, and how to go beyond. My personal beyond has always been something edible in my garden, but Mieseler highlights the many uses of herbs, such as for flavor, garnishes, spiritual and cultural rituals, medicines, and aromas. Though the author is Minnesotan she details herbs from all over the world and includes an outline of growth habits, favorite uses, and even offers some recipes. The pictures included in the book are beautiful and aid the author’s explanations of the varieties. Walking through a seed catalog can be delightful. However, Mieseler's inclusion of her farm, grandfather, and even the weather as characters made the book more interesting to read. She recounts the herbaceous varieties she’s loved over the years and why she would recommend them. Readers are sure to learn new things about both familiar and unfamiliar herbs. Photo Credit: Theresa Mieseler (1)

  • Make Your Own Terrariums | DCMGV

    < Back Make Your Own Terrariums By Carole Dunn, Master Gardener Terrariums are miniature gardens that can bring a touch of nature to any room, making them the perfect project for kids who love getting their hands dirty and learning about the environment. Not only are they fun and easy to create, but they also teach children responsibility and patience as they watch their plants grow and thrive. Here are some tips for getting your little ones involved in planting and caring for their own terrariums. 1. Choose a container The first step in creating a terrarium is choosing a container. This can be anything from an old mason jar to a fishbowl. It’s important to make sure the container is clear so that your child can easily see the plants growing inside. 2. Select the plants Next, let your child choose the plants they want to include in their terrarium. Succulents and cacti are great options as they’re low-maintenance and can survive in a variety of conditions. Other plants to consider are moss, ferns, and air plants. It’s important to choose plants that have similar care requirements and will grow well together in a closed environment. 3. Layer the soil and gravel Place a layer of gravel at the bottom of the container for drainage, then add a layer of potting soil. This will give the plants the necessary nutrients to grow. You can also add a layer of activated charcoal to prevent odors and keep the soil fresh. 4. Plant and decorate Let your child get their hands dirty and help them plant the chosen plants in the soil. They can also add decorative elements such as small figurines or rocks to add a personal touch to the terrarium. Encourage them to use their creativity and make it their own. 5. Provide care and maintenance Explain to your child the importance of taking care of their terrarium by watering it regularly and providing adequate sunlight. It’s important to not overwater the terrarium as the enclosed environment can become too damp, causing the plants to rot. Teach your child to pay attention to the signs of when a terrarium needs water, such as dry soil or droopy plants. For more information about building terrariums, watch this video ! Photo credits: All creative commons (1), Cassandrapence.blogspot.com (2)

  • The World Needs Birds, Butterflies, and Bees | DCMGV

    < Back The World Needs Birds, Butterflies, and Bees Mary Gadek, Dakota County Master Gardener Swoosh, swish, and buzz! With the start of summer, children look in awe at the birds, butterflies, bees, and other pollinators bustling around outside. Investigate with your young gardeners to understand why pollinators are important to our gardens and explore ways to interact with pollinators by reading this article. What Are Pollinators? Pollinators are creatures who help gardens, parks, farmlands and other landscapes bring us food, resources, and beauty to our world. They carry pollen from one plant to another to fertilize (or feed) plants to allow them to make fruit or seeds. Bees are the most well-known pollinators but other varieties include ants, flies, beetles, and birds. Why Are Pollinators Important? Pollinators are important to our world because they: Help feed the world: Pollinators are necessary for bringing us food and other resources. They are responsible for about one of every three bites of food we eat and are important in producing nutrient-dense foods, like fruits and nuts. Aid the growth of plants: 80% of plants rely upon pollinators to reproduce and continue to grow. We need plants to flourish in the world to feed our animals, to stabilize (or hold together) soil, and to filter water to keep it clean. Give and maintain the diversity of plants: A successful plant landscape requires plant diversity (or variety) to survive. By pollinating many types of plants, pollinators keep our gardens and farmlands growing strong and beautiful. When plant diversity exists, the failure of one plant in our garden is not devastating because we still have others to use. Also, our gardens and farms can continue to grow for many years and provide beauty to the world. How Can You Help Keep Pollinators in Our World Plant an assortment of flowers that have pollen and nectar. https://beelab.umn.edu/plant-flowers Create pollinator habitats (or homes) and nesting sites. https://extension.umn.edu/lawns-and-landscapes/pollinator-nests#:~:text=Natural%20habitats,be%20left%20in%20the%20ground Eliminate or limit the use of pesticides that are dangerous to pollinators. https://beelab.umn.edu/pesticide-free-plants To further investigate pollinators with your children, here are some activities: DO *Plant in your garden: https://beelab.umn.edu/plant-flowers *National Park Service activity booklet for pollinators: https://www.nps.gov/sagu/learn/kidsyouth/upload/pollinator-activity-booklet.pdf *Make a bee bath https://www.hammerandaheadband.com/bee-bath-diy/ READ A colorful and informative book for pre-readers and above illustrates why we need bees in our world. Available for purchase: “ Give Bees a Chance .” check out the book at the Dakota County Library: ISBN: 9780670016945 References https://extension.umn.edu/lawns-and-landscapes/flowers-pollinators https://extension.umn.edu/natural-resources-news/important-lessons-pollinators#:~:text=Pollinators%20and%20plants%20mutually%20support,stigma%20to%20enable%20plant%20reproduction . https://beelab.umn.edu/plant-flowers https://extension.umn.edu/lawns-and-landscapes/pollinator-nests#:~:text=Natural%20habitats,be%20left%20in%20the%20ground https://beelab.umn.edu/pesticide-free-plants Photo Credit: Mary Gadek (1,2,3)

  • Fruit Tree Pruning Advice I Could Have Used 30 Years Ago | DCMGV

    < Back Fruit Tree Pruning Advice I Could Have Used 30 Years Ago Sally McNamara, Dakota County Master Gardener Are you afraid to prune your fruit trees? Are you confused about when and where to cut branches? Master Gardener Sally McNamara learned some lessons the hard way about pruning fruit trees. She is happy to share the wisdom she has gathered over the years so you don’t have to make the same mistakes. Learn about how to protect your trees and prune them properly to keep them healthy and help you harvest the fruit easier. By the time I learned that apple trees, and fruit trees in general, take well to pruning, my apples and pears were well beyond reach. Fortunately, a family dog scratched all the bark off several of them resulting in death, so we were able to start over. (A chicken wire cylinder would have prevented that - so another lesson learned too late). On the new ones we learned that snow ABOVE the tree wrap makes rabbits happy and trees dead. Build a complete fence around very young trees early - those rabbits are active right after fall planting. Now, late February, early March, is the time to prune most trees, apples included. Spring sap will help heal the cuts and renovation invigorates the tree. Tree structure is visible without the impediment of leaves. If there is disease or death, marking those branches in the fall can be helpful for spring pruning. For apples trees which are intended for harvest, restraining them to reachable heights is an achievable goal, especially while they are young. While cutting the main leader is typically NOT what to do when pruning, it IS the solution to controlling heights in fruit trees. Keeping the branches reaching at an angle reaching outward and not so much up is the goal. When looking at where to cut on any tree, consider how to let light and air in and encourage growth out and up . Cut back to an, outward facing bud on the branch. Cut diagonally above the bud, not leaving an awkward stump to encourage entrance for insects and disease. When cutting major branches, for example dead ones or lower ones, to allow for maintenance underneath, cut back only to the branch collar leaving the collar materials to create a natural growth over the pruning wound. (Maintenance underneath an apple tree would include removing dropped apples and leaves to diminish the chance of disease and insects persisting to the next season.) Geriatric apple trees take well to restoration through dynamic pruning. Go for dead, damaged, diseased and crossing first. Then open up for light and air. This might be a multi-year process as removing more than 1/4 of the tree in any one season is discouraged for the health of the tree. Select upward angled branches - horizontal ones can be wet and vertical ones tend not to fruit. Never forget to take those before and after photos! Fruit pruning is an important topic and the U of M has some excellent resources. Visit the U of M Extension for three short but effective videos. Many late winter/early spring days call us to get outside and pruning is the perfect activity: it needs doing, it requires lots of motion and decisions and signals the start of a new season. Photo Credit: Dyck Arboretum (1), deepgreenpermaculture.com (2), North Dakota State University (3)

  • Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) | DCMGV

    < Back Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) Jim Lakin MD, Master Gardener Looking for a small tree to add to your landscape? Consider the Pagoda Dogwood, it grows quickly and offers delicious berries for the birds in late summer. Read more about this attractive tree here. January is a time for planning. Where to put the annuals can be figured out on the fly. Perennial forbs take a bit of thought but you can dig most of them up if you want to move them next year. However, tree placement should be very carefully considered. What looks good now will be there years from now and may not look so good. Short of a chainsaw massacre, you’ll be stuck with the ill-considered tree. Then, of course, you have to consider size. Do you really want a 90-foot white oak in your 12 x 16 courtyard? Fortunately, if you are looking for a small tree, you have many excellent choices, one of which is the Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) or alternate-leaved dogwood. This beauty is a common understory tree which grows rapidly as a youngster, adding a new tier of branches each season. Pagoda dogwood is native to northeastern North America and is found in central and southern Minnesota, Iowa and all the way down to the Ozarks. It does best in well-drained soils and will have difficulty in clay or compacted soils. In the wild it is found in moist woodlands so it is best to plant it where it is protected from the hot afternoon sun. Observing this caveat, it will grow in full sun if there is sufficient moisture, but it will do better in part to near-full shade. One of its most compelling features is the berries produced in late summer, greatly loved by the birds. For good fruit-set, however two separate trees are needed. After a time, some trunks will suddenly die and turn orange. Quick rejuvenation is possible by pruning away the dead trunk. Select a vigorous new shoot from the sprouts that usually emerge quickly. Pagoda dogwood’s horizontal tiers of branches give the tree its name and render it a charming ornamental at the corner of the house or the edger of a wooded landscape. It is great as a bird garden plant. These lovely branches are festooned with clusters of creamy white blooms in the late spring. The resulting berries are bluish black and ripen in late summer, providing welcome nourishment to a variety of songbirds. Come fall, the leaves will turn a striking yellow to burgundy. The popularity of this showy ornamental has been enhanced by the development of a number of great cultivars. You might check your local nursery this spring for such attractive varieties as “Pistachio”, “French Vanilla”, “Gold Bullion” or “Big Chocolate Chip”. Whichever you choose, keep it well-watered and mulched that first year and you’ll soon have a great addition to your landscape! Photo credits: Morton Arboretum (1), University of Minnesota Extension (2)

  • Have a Sunny Garden? Try These Perennials | DCMGV

    < Back Have a Sunny Garden? Try These Perennials Kristina Valle, Dakota County Master Gardener Do you have an area of your garden that receives 6 to 8 hours of sun each day? If so, you will want to plant “sun perennials” in that space. Perennials that prefer a sunny location should thrive in your yard, assuming, of course, that you provide them with healthy soil, ample water, and some tender loving care. Read this article for profiles of “sun perennials” for every season between the frost dates. Calling all sun worshipers! Since I have a north facing house position, my front yard is mostly shady. Most of the plant color in my yard is found in the back yard, where the southern light creates the perfect environment for my sun-seeking perennials to blossom. In this article I will feature my top 3 full-sun-perennials for each season, that will ensure a constant show of color in your garden from last to first frost. The plants featured below perform best in full sun, which is defined as 6+ hours of direct sunlight a day. Spring These early bloomers pop up in our gardens as winter gives way to spring, seeking out the sun that has already begun to warm the soil. Yarrow This is the most eager plant in my garden and the fern-like leaves are already pushing through the soil. I especially love this hard-working plant for its ability to choke out weeds which it succeeded in doing last year in a problem area of my garden. The plant comes in a variety of colors and heights that are sure to suit any color scheme or garden size. It is important to note, however, that it can be aggressive so plan carefully. Bloom Duration : early spring to late fall. Fernleaf Yarrow Creeping Phlox My rock wall signals the first colors of spring as the matted green leaves appear, giving way to bright, florescent shades of pink, purple, and white flowers. This is a great ground cover and can be tucked in between rocks in an alpine garden. You can get a second bloom later in the growing season by deadheading any spent blooms. Bloom duration : 3-4 weeks Salvia Perennial Salvia is a great addition to the garden if you want to support our early pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Salvia is a drought tolerant choice that holds steady through our dry spells. It needs at least 8+ hours of direct sunlight a day to thrive. Depending on the variety, this plant can range in size from 1’ to 5’, giving you multiple options for garden placement. To encourage multiple bloom cycles, trim off the spent flowers, or if it is under blooming, you can cut the plant back mid-summer to encourage more blooms. Bloom duration : 6-8 weeks in spring and then after a haircut, into late summer/fall. Summer By the time summer rolls around, the heat is reaching new heights and as we have seen in the past few years, rolling drought puts a lot of strain on our plants. Luckily, these sun-loving perennials are built to withstand some weather-related strain. Common Milkweed Beautiful and fragrant purple/pink poms top off THE host plant for the Monarch butterfly. Even planting one milkweed plant in your yard will help support future generations of this at-risk butterfly. Once hatched, the young caterpillars will feast on the leaves so be cautious using chemicals around this plant. Common Milkweed is best placed in the center or the back of your garden due to its height, which averages around 3’-5.’ The seeds pods should be collected at the end of the season to prevent reseeding. Bloom duration : June – September. Hardy Geranium - G. Rozanne If you are looking for a sprawling, prolific bloomer, this is your plant. The violet-blue petals persist through the heat of summer and into fall, attracting bees and hummingbirds. This low maintenance plant really pulls its weight in the garden, but if it starts to lag, you can prune it back mid-season to rejuvenate it. Stunning along a border, or in the garden where you can create a cascading effect. Blooming Duration : Early Summer – Late fall. Coneflower (Echinacea) A garden staple, the coneflower supports pollinators in spring and summer, and provides seeds to songbirds (like Goldfinch) throughout the fall and winter months. When choosing a coneflower, opt for a less showy bloom with a single blossom to attract more pollinators. Think of the center of the flower as a landing pad. If it is obstructed by a complex petal structure, pollinators may find the flower less attractive and move on in search of flowers easier to access. To ensure a long bloom season, deadhead the spent flowers to promote a second flush of blooms. Blooming Duration : July – September. Autumn Cooler temperatures are followed by fading flowers and the promise of garden cleanup before the snow flies. Luckily, the color show does not have to end. These plants will round out the year with their warm, vivid colors. Aster Aside from its striking color amid a dulling floral background, this plant plays a critical role in continuing the nourishment of late season pollinators. Great for filling out a space in the garden that is abundant in spring and summer bloomers, to keep the color rolling into fall. You can cut these down to the ground once the first frost arrives or wait until spring to allow birds to enjoy the seeds through winter. Blooming Duration : August – October Sedum As a member of the stonecrop family, Autumn Joy Sedum is unique. The taller varieties, which can grow up to 24”, have large succulent leaves and tight clusters of flowers that deepen to rose or salmon as the temperatures cool in the fall. This variety is perfect in a garden where spring and summer blooming flowers have faded. Creeping sedum is used as a ground cover and is well suited for rocky landscapes with dry soil conditions where it is harder to grow other types of plants. Blooming Duration : Late summer into fall. Autumn Joy Stonecrop Hardy Mums A true sign of fall, this beautiful plant comes in a multitude of colors and is prized for its late season blooms. It is important to note that there are two distinct types of mums: the “hardy mum” and the “florist mum.” “Florist mums” are typically found at the end of the season at grocery or hardware stores. They are not adapted to our winters and are mainly a short-lived decorative plant. A “hardy mum” may need to be sourced out of a catalogue or special ordered from your nursery and should be planted in the spring to encourage root establishment through the year. Once established, you will be rewarded with a reliable display of color into fall each year. Bloom Duration : Late summer – Late fall. It is important to remember that while there are many plants that are versatile in their light requirements, with the ability to exist in a range of sun exposures, plants do have a best sun exposure which should be adhered to as much as possible to ensure that your plant is in a space where it can reach its full potential. These sun perennials need full sun to perform their best and to delight you year after year. Photo Credit: Pixabay.com (All Creative Commons) (1), Mike Myers, Flickr.com (All Creative Commons) (2), University of Minnesota Extension (3), Stockbridge School of Agriculture ( UMass.edu ) (4), Penn State Extension; extension.psu.edu (5), Horticulture and Home Pest News; iastate.edu (6), UW Arboretum ( wisc.edu ) (7), PNW Plants ( wsu.edu ) (8), Illinois Extension (UIUC) (9)

  • Our State Soil: Lester | DCMGV

    < Back Our State Soil: Lester If you have ever planted anything in the ground, or even just dug a hole, you know how our soil can vary depending on where we live. As a gardener, it is likely you have had your soil tested and amended your soil to provide optimal growing conditions for your plants. Here in Minnesota, mother nature amended some soil on a very large scale and deposited about 400,000 acres of it across 17 counties, perfect for growing crops like corn, soybeans, and alfalfa, right in the heart of our state. Click here to get the dirt on Lester, our state soil. Lisa Olson, Master Gardener It’s 2012, and Lester, named after Lester Prairie, Minnesota where it was first acknowledged, is about to be named the state soil of Minnesota. Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, summed it up with, “Maybe with this [vote], we’ll stop treating our soil like dirt.” After all, it’s easy to take for granted what’s under our feet. But without soil, clean water and air, we literally can’t live. And by the way, to get right down to the nitty gritty, soil and dirt are not the same thing. Dirt is just that, dirt. It’s what you get on your hands or wipe off the floor. Soil, on the other hand, is a living ecosystem. Let’s dig in and learn what is so special about Lester soil and how it came to be designated as the “Official Minnesota State Soil” by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton on April 28, 2012. It all began about 10,000 years ago when glaciers were sliding south across Minnesota, depositing rocks, pebbles, sand, and other materials along the way. After the ice melted, plants began to grow on the material left behind by the glaciers. The cycle had begun. Plants would grow, die, and become organic matter to nourish new plants that would grow, die, and support the next generation of plants. Forests and prairies eventually grew up and spread across the land. The roots from grasses and trees worked their way through the rocks and pebbles further breaking them down while water flowed into the soil dissolving minerals that had been deposited during the glacial period. The decaying leaves and grass from the forests and prairies added to the layers, called horizons, and continued to increase the fertility of this nutrient rich soil. In addition, the glacial moraines where the soil formed provided well-drained conditions adding to the ideal properties of the soil. In 1985, the Minnesota Association of Professional Soil Scientists put together a task force to select a soil to represent Minnesota. In 1987 they voted to recommend Lester as the state soil because they recognized the significance of this resource. It took a while for Lester to gain its status as the official state soil however. There is always competition with other groups, often schoolchildren, pushing for designations of various state symbols. But finally, after the blueberry muffin became a symbol and the black bear didn’t, and just in time for the Smithsonian exhibit “Dig It!” to arrive in Minnesota, with Lester featured as the state soil, and coinciding with the University of Minnesota celebrating its 100-year anniversary, and 40 years of the Minnesota Association of Professional Soil Scientists – phew! - Lester became official. From the Smithsonian State Soils exhibit Having a state soil provides unique opportunities for education about this precious resource, especially since agriculture is extremely important to the Minnesota economy. As we have learned, soil is one of the basic necessities to support life and we need to care for it. We can’t control drought, but we can control how we plant, protect our resources, and share our knowledge. typical landscape where Lester soil is found Resources for this article: https://www.startribune.com/hot-dish-politics-new-state-soil-is-a-standout/150303445/ https://www.soils4teachers.org/files/s4t/k12outreach/mn-state-soil-booklet.pdf https://files.dnr.state.mn.us/mcvmagazine/young_naturalists/young-naturalists-article/soil/soil-health.pdf https://www.soils.org/files/certifications/licensing/lester.pdf Photo Credit: Smithsonian Institute ( http://forces.si.edu/ ) (1), Minnesota Association of Professional Soil Scientists https://www.soils.org/files/certifications/licensing/lester.pdf (2), Smithsonian Institute ( https://forces.si.edu/SOILS/interactive/statesoils/html/State-Soils/Default.aspx?selection=Minnesota ) (3)

  • Rosemary | DCMGV

    < Back Rosemary Rosemary has been a prized herb with many uses for centuries. It has been associated with enhanced brain function, it has health benefits, it has a lovely scent and it adds flavor to your recipes. Read this article to learn more about this ancient herb and, if you don’t already grow this herb in your garden, why you should consider doing so next season. Shari Mayer, Master Gardener Rosemary is truly a very special herb and one of my very favorites. Today, we may love rosemary for its scent, use in the kitchen and decorative qualities but this is an herb that has been appreciated by humans for centuries. The use of rosemary has a long and distinguished history. The first known reference to rosemary dates back to Egyptian cuneiforms over 7,000 years ago. But most of the early references to this herb are from the Greeks and Romans, beginning around 500 B.C. Rosemary originated in the Mediterranean, especially around the coastal areas. Its name comes from ‘ros’ and ‘marinus’, which translates to ‘dew of the sea’. Originally classified as ‘rosmarinus officinalis’, in 2017 it was reclassified as ‘salvia rosmarinus’. Rosemary has long been associated with aiding in brain function. Greek scholars would braid it into their hair to help them with their studies. Today it is known to be rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. It is also known to help with digestion and hair growth and renewal. When used in cooking, it is used sparingly, as it has a very strong flavor and a little goes a long way. Rosemary is a perennial shrub in zones 7 to 10. Here in Minnesota, it is grown as an annual, as it cannot survive our harsh winters. My favorite way to grow rosemary is in combination containers. The ‘prostrata’ varieties have a trailing habit, and tuck right up to the edge and spill over, creating a fabulous lacy carpet. Since rosemary is slow growing, it will not overwhelm other plants. I purchase starters as early in the season as possible, which allows it to get bigger before I transplant it. This summer, I used several as a trailer in a container with a boxwood. A week before the temperatures were forecast to drop into the 40s, I repotted the rosemary into a smaller container all by itself to settle in before bringing it inside for the winter. It is a good candidate for overwintering, as you can leave it out much longer than other plants, and put it out again in early spring. The plant can survive a frost, so typically I bring it in around November, and put it out again in April. Once indoors for the winter, place it in a sunny spot, away from drafts. It likes humidity, but hates wet feet. Misting it often is recommended. Some winters I do not try to overwinter rosemary in containers. Instead, I just make a fresh rosemary bouquet. This works well for the upright versions. Cut the stems at the base of the plant and place in a container of water. Make sure you strip the leaves at the bottom, as they will rot in water (these can be used in your cooking). The rosemary bouquet eventually dwindles as you use it, however, it usually takes me through the holiday season before it is gone. Rosemary has been a prized herb with many uses for centuries for good reason. If you don’t already grow this herb in your garden, consider doing so next season. Photo Credit: kampung-kuliner.blogspot.com (All Creative Commons) (1), Shari Mayer (2)

  • Here a Pollinator Garden - There a Pollinator Garden – Everywhere a Pollinator Garden - Part 2 | DCMGV

    < Back Here a Pollinator Garden - There a Pollinator Garden – Everywhere a Pollinator Garden - Part 2 Brenda Scheer, Master Gardener Master Gardener Brenda Scheer understands how important pollinator gardens are for the environment and wanted to start this type of garden. But how to start? This article is the second in a series of three in which Brenda describes her experience starting a pollinator garden in her backyard. Follow Brenda’s motivation, planning, lessons and tips to build your own environmentally friendly garden. In this installment, Brenda talks about how plan for and choose plants for her native garden. (This is the second in a series of three articles by Master Gardener Brenda Scheer describing her experience starting a pollinator garden in her backyard. Follow Brenda’s motivation, planning, lessons and tips to build your own environmentally friendly garden.) This month, I’ll take you through the process of selecting the garden location, preparation, plant selection and the planting plan for my 2022 pollinator garden. Garden Location and Site Preparation I decided to apply for the Lawns to Legumes program with Scott County. By doing so, Scott County provided some guidance in addition to the possibility of receiving some grant money. A Resource Conservation Technician visited my property to help evaluate the garden location. When I showed her my first choice, her immediate concern was the existing dense grass coverage. It would be a lot of work to clear, especially if I wanted to plant yet that year. We then looked at an alternate location. The second site had some volunteer trees and shrubs that I would need to remove, medium weed coverage to be cleared, was closer to a water source and had some natural ‘messy’ areas of leaves/twigs that pollinators could use for nesting. Option two was definitely a smarter choice. Over the next month, I removed about 10 volunteer trees and shrubs, the largest under six feet high and four feet around, and cleared the weeds. Existing woodchips were left in place. Plant Selection It’s so fun buying plants! I started by ordering/using online catalogs from Minnesota Native Landscapes (MNL Corp) and Prairie Moon Nursery as both companies sell Minnesota native plants. Google was also helpful when looking for images of plants that were not pictured in the catalogs. My pollinator garden is 175 square feet with the following conditions: · Part shade/part sun - about ½ of the garden getting 5 hours of morning sun · Full sun plants - 1/3 of the garden getting 8+ hours of sun · Mostly shade plants - 1/5 of the garden getting only 4 hours of morning sun · Regardless of the sun level, the soil is medium for holding water With the variability in garden conditions, I had options! Smaller plants and patience were going to fit my budget far better than larger plants and immediate gratification. The recommended spacing in the Lawns to Legumes program was one plant every 12 – 16” when using 2” plugs. That’s 130 - 175 plugs! I admit, I was overwhelmed with all the options available. I remembered that Scott County Soil and Water Conservation District was selling native plant kits designed by growing conditions. I took the easy way out and ordered Woodland Edge, Pollinator Sun, Pollinator Partial Sun and Sunny Garden Kits to fill my garden. Creating a Planting Plan Using the list of plants in each of the garden kits ordered I started gathering data on each plant. Data used for each plant to help create the planting plan were: · Plant name · Quantity of plants by plant name · Bloom color · Bloom time · Mature height · Mature width · Light Conditions After assigning a number to each plant name, I drew the garden boundaries on graph paper, marked where the light conditions change and started placing plant codes on the garden plan. Now I wait impatiently for my plants to arrive. Come on back in May and follow my story. Photo credits: Brenda Scheer (1, 2, 3)

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