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  • Garden Mulch and Jumping Worms | DCMGV

    < Back Garden Mulch and Jumping Worms There are many things to consider when choosing which type of mulch to use. Aesthetics is one consideration but mulch that will help and not hurt your garden soil is another. This article will help you select the mulch that's right for your garden. Garden Mulch and Jumping Worms There are several options for mulch or soil covering in our gardens. Choices can be either organic, which are compostable materials that improve soil fertility, or inorganic film coverings that can be black, red, green or silver colored. Inorganic film mulches are often sold in rolls. Mulch can improve our plants and gardens in the following ways: · Moisture retention/water conservation · Soil temperature control and stabilization · Weed suppression – weed growth is eliminated when light is not available · Soil borne disease prevention · Improved soil fertility through decomposition of organic mulches left on the top of the soil · Minimize soil erosion and compaction from heavy rains and help with water absorption · Improved landscape appearance with clean and neat mulch between plants In the spring, gardeners have to decide what type(s) of mulches to use. The best mulch application time is after the plants are established, four to six inches tall, and the soil has warmed up enough for active root growth. Mulch applied too soon will delay root development. Be sure not to touch the plants with the mulch. Many plants such as tomatoes are planted only after the soil is sufficiently warm. For tomatoes and other warm season transplanted plants, it is best to apply the mulch immediately to avoid soil splash-up/soil borne diseases. If you are using an inorganic film, you can add a couple of layers of newspapers under the film to help with weed suppression. The newspaper is a safe, compostable layer. Depth for most organic mulches is two to three inches to provide the positive results described above without becoming too heavy. Mulch applied too deep can cause a lack of oxygen to roots, can yellow foliage, and could provide a space for small burrowing animals to feed on plant stems. In fact, be sure that the mulch is close but not touching the stems! Favorite organic mulches include straw with newspaper under it to prevent light to seeds, compost with newspaper under it, brown decomposing paper rolls, dried grass clippings, and mulched leaves. Other possible organic mulches include cocoa bean hulls, pine needles, and crushed corn cobs. Gardeners who choose to use straw should be sure to buy tight bales that do not have too many seeds. Some gardeners have also successfully used burlap bags, and they can be reused year after year. Mulched leaves may need to be reconsidered this year and in the near future due to jumping worm concerns. Jumping worms are a type of angleworm, but they change the soil texture to make it look like coffee grounds. As they move and eat, they strip the soil of nutrients and kill plants. They are recognizable, in part, by their whipping action. They live in leaf litter on the top floor of forests and hatch in the soil in late spring. All gardeners in Dakota County need be aware of them and on the lookout for them. For more detailed information about them, please read the University of Minnesota article titled “Jumping Worms” . Another excellent article is “Coping with Jumping Worms” by Karen Randall. The damage jumping worms can do should cause gardeners to reconsider the types of mulches that they add to their gardens. At this time, there are no known ways to easily rid the soil of jumping worms once they are present. Inorganic mulches may be considered as alternatives to organic mulches. They do not break down and add nutrient value to the soils, but they help with several of the mulch attributes described above. Black, red, green and silver plastics provide weed control, splash-up protection, and some temperature control. Red plastic used with tomatoes is said to improve crop harvest by 20% because it reflects growth-enhancing light waves from the sun. It can be used with newspaper under it to control weeds and help conserve water. The down side of inorganic mulches, in addition to initial cost, is that they add to environmental plastics and may or may not be reused in a future year. Inorganic mulches can be found either in garden centers or in seed catalogs. Mulch can be a great addition to your flower or vegetable garden. However, take care in choosing a type that will benefit your garden. Photo credits: Janice Gestner (1, 3, 4), University of Minnesota Extension (2)

  • Adaptive and Therapeutic Gardening | DCMGV

    < Back Adaptive and Therapeutic Gardening Mickey Scullard, Dakota County Master Gardener Volunteer “Time spent in nature is essential for our health and comes with myriad benefits,” says Dr. Jean Larson, the manager of Nature-Based Therapeutics and Nature Heals Initiative at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and faculty lead of the Nature-Based Therapeutic Studies at the Earl Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing of the University of Minnesota. Read on for Master Gardener Mickey Scullard’s article about the therapeutic applications of horticulture and ways to make the benefits of gardening more accessible to many different levels of ability. Adaptive and Therapeutic Gardening addresses health, healing, and methods to help people of all abilities garden. Adaptive gardening provides suggestions for tools and garden structures that facilitate people who may have visual, sensory, or physical limitations such as arthritis or mobility difficulties that don’t permit kneeling on the ground. Therapeutic gardening, often called Horticultural Therapy, employs techniques that help people regain lost skills or learn new skills. Horticultural therapy has a long history of proven success in helping people heal through gardening. Originally focused on people with mental illnesses and then on soldiers returning from combat, it has expanded far beyond that to include physical rehabilitation for many conditions. Research has shown that horticultural therapy helps improve memory and cognitive abilities, too. Some programs have found success helping people who live with eating disorders. Physically, people can improve muscle strength, coordination, balance, and endurance. Horticultural therapy is performed by therapists who are professionals with specialized training leading to certification. The University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Health partners with the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to offer a horticultural therapy certification program as part of their Nature-based therapeutics program: UMN Nature-Based Therapeutics . They also offer courses in animal-assisted interactions and therapeutic landscape design. The Landscape Arboretum has a Sensory Garden that provides people with a wonderful example of the different type of healing properties of plants through smell, texture, and beauty. Designed to help encourage people to relax and designed to be accessible, it has something for everyone. Adaptive gardening provides methods people can use to garden throughout their life. This may start with the garden design, identifying the best planting structures, and using tools that have been designed to lessen strain, extend reach, and other mechanisms to help people perform all the steps needed to grow flowers and vegetables. Oregon State University developed an informative guide that walks you through the things to think about (see link below). For example, you may want to plan your garden walkways to be wheelchair accessible, position garden beds near water sources, or use a plastic garbage can filled with water to allow the gardener to easily dip their watering can. The material you use on pathways between garden beds can facilitate movement and thinking about different heights and widths of garden beds are other considerations. Container gardening may be a good technique for some people to continue to garden with less maintenance. The Landscape Arboretum’s Sensory Garden provides some examples of adaptive gardening through containers and raised beds. There are also smaller, easier ways to adapt to gardening limitations that include the availability of specialized garden tools that have handles that lessen strain on arthritic limbs and hands, or those that extend the reach so you don’t have to bend as far. For example, you can get easi-grip trowels, ergonomic and/or ratcheting pruners. You will want to practice safe lifting techniques by bending at the hips, lift with your knees, and lift close to your body. Consider lighter loads and making multiple trips. Pushing is better than pulling and it is always good to use carts/wagons. Other techniques that can help you garden longer safely include stretching before starting, gardening in shorter amounts of time, e.g., 60 – 90 minutes. Try to avoid or break-up repetitive movements and make sure you drink water. Gardening has many benefits to our health, well-being, and good mental health. With some extra work, it can be experienced by everyone. It can also help people heal from injuries, learn new skills, and address many different types of mental health issues. References University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Health Nature-Based Therapeutics Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Nature-Based Therapeutics Oregon State University University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Photo Credit: Sarah Heidtke (1,2,3) & University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (4,5)

  • What to Do With a Round Zucchini? | DCMGV

    < Back What to Do With a Round Zucchini? By Joy Johnson, Master Gardener Have you ever been gifted with a vegetable that you didn’t know what to do with? Read this entertaining article to find out what Master Gardener Joy Johnson made with the large, round zucchini she received from a family member. Her clever recipe will inspire you! My brother-in-law stopped by for a visit on Monday. He handed me a round zucchini when he walked in the door with a big grin on his face. I didn’t know what it was at first. It was the size of a cantaloupe, dark green with dark orange stripes. I didn’t believe him when he said it was a zucchini. Have you ever been gifted with an interesting vegetable that you didn’t know what to do with? I gave my neighbor a kohlrabi last summer and she had the same look on her face that I gave my brother-in-law when I handed it to her. I love to share my garden produce and I also enjoy trying new foods and veggies. I watched the large round zucchini for a couple of days as it sat on my counter staring back at me. It seemed friendly enough. I was scheduled to make dinner at my dad’s apartment on Thursday evening. I needed to come up with something I could make at his place that wouldn’t take too long, use too many dishes and utensils but would be healthy and tasty. I grabbed the zucchini, a half-used package of Cotija cheese (that was left from when I made Chile Rellenos), a handful of dried parsley. I stopped at the grocery store and bought a package of Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice (Red Beans & Rice flavor). That is something I’ve never used before. I usually make rice from scratch, but that takes time, and I knew I’d need something with a lot of flavors because zucchini is so mild. I also had a couple of slices of leftover ham. Now I just needed some side dishes to serve with the zucchini. I quickly made a lettuce salad and grabbed some leftover butternut squash. So, this was going to be a summer and winter squash supper! Here's my improvised recipe for the large round zucchini. Ingredients: 1 large round zucchini 1 pack Uncle Bens Ready Rice, Red Beans & Rice flavor 1 handful of dried parsley 2 thick pieces of ham, diced ½ cup Cotija cheese, crumbled Process: Slice the top off the zucchini as if you are going to carve it like a Jack-o’-lantern. Scoop out the seeds and stringy middle flesh and discard. Scoop out a little more flesh so you have about a 2-cup hollow. Cover the zucchini with its lid. Cook it in the microwave or oven until it just starts to get tender. It took mine 20 minutes in the oven, then 5 minutes in the microwave. If you bake it in the oven, put it in a pie plate and add water to the pie plate before putting it in to bake at 350 degrees. Dice the extra zucchini flesh that you scooped out. Cook the rice according to package directions, add the diced zucchini, the handful of dried parsley and the chopped ham. You may need to add 1/3 cup water or broth. You don’t want it soupy, but you need to cook the ham and the diced zucchini. Remove the large round zucchini from the oven or microwave. Scoop the cooked rice mixture into the zucchini, stir in the crumbled cheese, put the lid on it and heat it through in the microwave for about 3-5 minutes. Eat and enjoy! Photo credits: Joy Johnson (1,2)

  • Our State Fruit: Honeycrisp Apple | DCMGV

    < Back Our State Fruit: Honeycrisp Apple From mysterious beginnings, to a world-famous apple breeding program at the University of Minnesota, thanks to the research and writing skills of a 4th grade class, the “Honeycrisp” apple became a Minnesota state symbol. Read this article to learn more about the interesting journey of this delicious fruit. By Lisa Olson, Master Gardener The road to becoming a state symbol begins with a motivated elementary classroom more often than not. In 2005, at Andersen Elementary School in Bayport, Minnesota, 4th grade teacher Laurel Avery made her students’ education come to life when she directed her class to write a persuasive letter. After learning that another 4th grade class had persuaded the state legislature to proclaim the monarch butterfly the Minnesota state insect several years earlier, Ms. Avery’s class set about researching the perfect candidate for the Minnesota state fruit. Since the University of Minnesota has a world- renowned apple breeding program, the 4th graders came up with an obvious choice: a true Minnesota state fruit, an apple that was created right here in Minnesota and became a favorite around the world; the award-winning “Honeycrisp” apple. While the “Honeycrisp” was “born” in Minnesota, its beginnings were somewhat of a mystery until very recently. For decades, the parentage of the “Honeycrisp” was mistakenly assumed to be the “Macoun” and “Honeygold” apples. This was due to a recordkeeping error in the 1970’s. Imagine thousands of research records dating back to the late 1800’s, the beginning of the University’s apple breeding program. The paper records were haphazardly stored in a fireproof vault. So, it wasn’t surprising that an error had been made in determining the apple’s lineage. Jim Luby, a professor in the Department of Horticultural Sciences, who along with Senior Research Fellow David Bedford, leads the University of Minnesota apple breeding program, tasked librarians and graduate student Nick Howard to sort all of the records and make sense of it all. As they tackled the monumental task, Nick Howard dug even deeper by cross-referencing the data with DNA tests. They ultimately concluded that “Honeycrisp” is the child of “Keepsake” and an unreleased apple “MN1627.” Like humans researching their genealogy, apple DNA testing along with the newly organized handwritten records allowed the apple breeders to trace the “Honeycrisp’s” ancestry all the way back to Europe. James Luby, left, and David Bedford Becoming a world-famous apple doesn’t happen overnight. The “Honeycrisp” was developed in 1960, patented in 1988, and not released until 1991. Here is the typical process: Year 1: Study various cultivars to choose parents with desired characteristics. Hand pollinate the flowers, germinate the seeds, plant the new trees in a greenhouse, and do DNA testing on a leaf from each plant that was grown to see which traits were passed on. Years 2-5: Graft successful matches onto dwarfing rootstocks and allow those trees to grow. First fruit appears at around Year 5. Fruit from every tree is tasted with about only 1 out of every 200 passing the taste test. The rest of the trees are discarded. Years 5-15: The trees that make it to this round of evaluation are cloned by budding/grafting onto common rootstock. For the next 10 to 15 years, these trees are evaluated by looking at 25 desirable characteristics, like texture, flavor, storage ability, disease resistance, etc. Like the previous round, most trees that get to this round will be discarded. Years 15-20: Trees that do make it to this round of evaluations are planted across Minnesota and the U.S. in diverse settings. Researchers see how they perform and if the growers have any interest in the apple. Years 20-25: Commercialization begins with naming, licensing, and distribution to growers to propagate the trees. Years 25-30: About 5 years after commercial growers propagate the trees, consumers can finally have access to the apple. The trees that were the result of the cross of “Keepsake” and “MN1627” that made it through all the rounds of evaluation were a huge success. The apple is grown around the world, and is known as “Honeycrunch” in Europe. The “Honeycrisp” has been described as explosively crisp and juicy. It can last at least 7 months if it is refrigerated. Its harvest season lasts from about September 15 to October 5. And, it is hardy all the way to zone 4. Since the “Honeycrisp” was released over 30 years ago, the next generation of apples with “Honeycrisp” as a “parent” have been released, including “First Kiss” and “Triumph.” Time will tell if they are as well liked as “Honeycrisp.” Thank you to Ms. Avery’s class, who made an excellent choice for their recommendation to the state legislature. Their persuasive writing skills clearly made an impact on their representatives who took their case to the capitol. And though they didn’t see success the first year, the following year as 5th graders, their letters and an apple song they wrote and sang to the tune of the Minnesota rouser convinced the state legislators to adopt the “Honeycrisp” as a fitting symbol of our state. Resources for this article: Photo credits: University of Minnesota Libraries (1), University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (2, 3), Anderson Elementary Stillwater Schools (4)

  • Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria): Springtime Treat | DCMGV

    < Back Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria): Springtime Treat Jim Lakin MD, Master Gardener Read on for Master Gardener Jim Lakin’s exploration of this month’s featured Minnesota native perennial - Dutchan’s Breeches, a springtime treat! Antiquated articles of gentlemen’s attire do not make good names for flowers…usually. One exception is Dutchman’s Breeches, named after the ubiquitous knee-pants of the 17 th century Lowlands. This curious little ephemeral pops up each spring, looking for all the world like a series of Hollander’s pants hung out to dry. Dicentra cucullaria is native to temperate North America and can be found throughout the Midwest. It is hardy from USDA Zones 3 to 7. North Shore gardeners note! Dutchman’s Breeches is a forest dweller, preferring humus-rich, well-drained soil in part shade. You will usually find them on north or east facing forest slopes with underlying limestone. The foliage is fernlike, emerging in the early spring. Blooms last for about two weeks in April or early May, looking like upside-down white britches. The flowers are translucent, luminous white, standing out vividly against the primavera greens of the spring woodlands. Once the forest canopy closes and blocks most sunlight, the plant will stop blooming. Soon after flowering, the leaves will turn yellow and disappear. The flower stalks and leaves arise from an underground corm. Seeds are dispersed by ants, who are encouraged to carry the seeds underground as they are covered by a protein and fat-rich layer called an elaiosome. The elaiosome covering makes great food for the ant larvae. Once established, the plants grow to about 6 to 12 inches in height and width. They can be grown from seed although that is a bit of a process. Use fresh seed and sew in the early spring. The seeds need a warm period followed by a cold one before germination, so don’t expect sprouting until the following spring. An easier, and more expeditious means of propagation is to plant corms, which are similar to bulbs, in the fall. You should have a plant blooming late in the following spring. If you are interested in propagating more Dutchmen, the mother corm will produce offset corms after a couple of seasons, which can be separated and replanted in the fall. The landscape uses of D. cucullaria are numerous. It makes a classic addition to shade or woodland rock gardens. If you have a shaded slope, it will make a great spring accent. It nicely fills in a bare spot in a shaded raised bed. No matter where you plan Dutchman’s Breeches it will always produce a smile at the beginning of the gardening season. Photo Credit: Wikipedia, Fritz Flohr Reynolds (1), Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources (2)

  • Teaming with Microbes, by Jeff Lowenfels | DCMGV

    < Back Teaming with Microbes, by Jeff Lowenfels The book, Teaming with Microbes, may leave a reader inspired to learn more and in awe of the world below their feet. If that is the case, Jeff Lowenfels' book may be a good next choice. Reviewed by Stacy Reeves Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels was recommended to me upon the purchase of my first worm bin. As I took a dive into the world of vermicomposting (or perhaps I should say tunneled into), Lowenfels' book was just the ticket to increase my passion for caring for these invertebrates. Though it's not an instructional on the do's and don'ts of worm bedding, food and breeding, it does highlight the many benefits worms and other soil life contribute to a gardener's goals. Lowenfels' book is a wealth of information concerning the soil food web. It contains 24 chapters reviewing the complex relationships of anything from bacteria to mammals to trees. If a gardener is interested in soil health, organic gardening, or maximizing nature's processes, Teaming with Microbes is a great read. Lowenfels highlights how slime, wastes, exudates, and tunnels work together to create soil that is not only rich in nutrients but, more specifically, rich in nutrients that have been transformed and unlocked in such a way to be readily available for plant use. The book would be worth a second read or to be used as a reference for gardeners working to "team" as effectively as possible with their garden soil's inhabitants and systems. The overarching lesson of the book is that it's far better to encourage nature's systems than to override them and therefore, Lowenfels speaks against chemical treatments. He highlights the symbiotic, complex and dynamic relationships that exist best with all the "good guys and bad guys" at play.

  • Low Cal Jerk Chicken Tacos? | DCMGV

    < Back Low Cal Jerk Chicken Tacos? Joy Johnson, Master Gardener If you are trying to lose your extra ‘Covid’ pounds or working on getting back in gardening shape or just like great chicken tacos, you will love this recipe. In this offering, Master Gardener Joy Johnson still manages to find something from her garden to place into her March recipe. By the time March rolls around, we’ve all probably given up on our New Year’s resolutions, but if you are still trying to lose your extra ‘Covid 19 lbs’ like I am, here’s a low calorie (272 calories in two tacos), delicious recipe that pops with flavor. I made my own jerk seasoning, which is listed here, but you can purchase a jar of jerk spice as an alternative. Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken Tacos with Caribbean Salsa Serves 8 Ingredients for jerk seasoning: 2 T onion flakes ½ tsp each of Thyme, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, salt, nutmeg, sugar ¼ tsp black pepper 1 T dried parsley (this is the only ingredient that actually came from my garden – hey, it’s March) Ingredients: 4 cloves garlic, crushed 2 T jerk seasoning Kosher salt 2 ½ lbs boneless chicken breasts 2 T lime juice ½ c orange juice 2 T chopped fresh cilantro Ingredients for Caribbean Salsa : 2 large mangos, peeled, diced into ½ pieces 1 avocado, peeled, diced into ½ pieces 2 T chopped red onion 2 T chopped fresh cilantro 2 T lime juice ¼ tsp salt Black pepper 12 extra thin yellow corn tortillas Process for the Chicken : Combine the garlic, jerk seasoning, and ½ tsp salt and spread it over the chicken. Put the chicken, the lime and orange juices, and cilantro in the crock pot. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours. Process for the Salsa : In a medium bowl, combine the mango, avocado, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and black pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove the chicken from the slow cooker and shred it with two forks. Pour any liquid left in the slow cooker into a bowl, then return the chicken to the slow cooker. Add 1 cup of the reserved liquid, just enough to moisten the chicken, and season with 1/8 tsp salt and black pepper to taste. Heat the tortillas in a skillet set over medium-high for about 30 seconds. Fill each with 1/3 cup of the chicken and 2 T of salsa. Photo credit: Joy Johnson (1,2,3,4)

  • The Short-lived Beauty of Blooming Cactus | DCMGV

    < Back The Short-lived Beauty of Blooming Cactus Joy Johnson, Master Gardener Various cacti can provide gardening pleasure in Minnesota both outside in the summer and inside during the cold weather. There are thousands of varieties of cacti, many of which are different and exotic, in other words, pretty cool. But there are some tricks to growing cacti successfully. Here are some tips on growing healthy cacti and getting them to re-bloom. A long time ago, I thought growing cactus would be a piece of cake. Just set the little cactus I’d picked up at Home Depot on the window sill, ignore it for six months and then give it a little water. I thought I would be extravagantly rewarded for all my effort. NOT! Within a month the cactus had shriveled up and died. I did some research, mostly to convince myself that it really wasn’t all my fault it had died, but I found out it was. Short and sweet, here is what I’ve learned about growing cactus over the years. First, they need a growing medium that is 60% sand/small gravel and 40% cactus potting soil. Second, it is best to grow them in a traditional, non-glazed clay pot with a clay saucer underneath the hole in the bottom of the pot. This allows them to dry out thoroughly between waterings. Third, they should be watered once a week, not flooded, but enough to get the soil thoroughly wet. Don’t water them if they are not all the way dry. Fourth, they need light. In the winter my cacti (all 52 of them) are in my house in front of south and west facing windows. They go semi dormant in the cool basement and only need ¼ cup of water every two weeks. This allows them to rest. In the spring, I bring them upstairs, where there is more light, and give them a little cactus fertilizer (half the recommended dose) with every other watering. When outdoor day time temperatures are above 65 degrees and all chance of frost is past, I move them all outdoors. If possible, a week in a shaded area is a good transition before placing them in full sun. Because I have so many, they don’t all get treated to shade before being placed in the full sun, I simply don’t have the space. A few have gotten sunburned spots on them, but all have survived. It doesn’t matter if they get poured on by a summer thunderstorm. They seem to love the extra moisture, as long as they are in pots that drain and can dry out. I occasionally fertilize them during the summer, but not too often. It’s important to place them out of harm’s way, where they won’t get blown over, or bumped by passersby. In June and July, you may be rewarded by these stunning blooms. They only last 24 hours, but they are simply breath taking. This year, we had one cactus that bloomed in both June and July (usually they only bloom once a year). Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus also enjoy being outside in the summertime. Make sure they aren’t in full sun, they definitely like it a little shady. We have one large cactus that I call a dragon’s head cactus because it’s flowers really look like a dragon head with its mouth wide open. Every summer I’ve put it outside, it gets tiny brown spots all over it. I bring it in before the first frost and it rewards me with blooms in January. The brown spots fade once it’s been in the house for a month or so. I’m thinking it doesn’t like being outdoors, even in the shade. But I like the extra space I have in the house during the summer once all 52 cactuses have been moved to their outdoor summer homes! I don’t know the scientific names for all our cactuses, many seem to have been mislabeled, simple called “Euphorbia” or my favorite, “cactus”. We just enjoy them, after all a cactus by any other name will still look stunning. Photo credits: Joy Johnson (1, 2, 3)

  • All About Peonies | DCMGV

    < Back All About Peonies Tori Clark, Master Gardener Peony is a favorite flower of many northern gardens. The sweet-scented flowers are large and range in colors of pink, red, white and pale yellow with attractive stems of pink to red. Paeonia (pay-own-ee-uh) or peony is a favorite flower of many northern gardens. The sweet-scented flowers are large and range in colors of pink, red, white and pale yellow with attractive stems of pink to red. The foliage remains interesting in the garden all season. Peonies make an excellent border or small hedge but may need the support of a low wire cage to prevent flopping. They are low maintenance when established but need soil preparation and well-drained soil. Let the leaves fade before trimming to allow for the feeding of the roots that fix next years blooms. Peonies are native to China but are suited to northern United States. They need a winter chill and do not thrive in the American south where temperatures do not drop below 20 degrees F. Plant them correctly in full sun, a minimum of six hours a day, in rich soil. A layer of composted manure in the bottom of the hole will get the plant off to a good start. If planted to deep, flower buds will turn brown. Plant the eyes just below the soil surface 1 ½”-2”. The plant may not bloom the first year as it is still developing a root system. Bartzella Itoh Peony Peonies are not native to North America but have an interesting connection to Minnesota. For many years Faribault, Minnesota, was the peony capital of the world, due to the work of O.F. Brand family. O.F. Brand began planting peonies in 1868 from seed, sometimes waiting ten years for the plants to bloom. He sold bare root plants through a mail-order catalog. By 1920, Brand Peonies were the best in the country. The city of Faribault celebrated the fame with a community peony festival that featured a parade and peony queen. The depression ended the festival but Brand Peonies, later known as Tischler Peonies, continued until 1980. For many gardeners the easy maintenance, and fragrant cutting flower make peonies a favorite garden plant. Sources for this article Schier, Mary Lahr. The Northern Gardener: from apples to zinnias, 150 years of garden wisdom. 2017: Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. Heger, Mike and John Whitman. Growing Perennials in Cold Climates. 1998: John Whitman Contemporary Books, Lincolnwood, Illinois.

  • January, A Perfect Time to Re-Design Your Landscape | DCMGV

    < Back January, A Perfect Time to Re-Design Your Landscape By Janelle Rietz-Kamenar, Master Gardener When January brings us huge snowdrifts and blustery winds do you think of Spring? Yes, it’s the perfect time to be thinking about your flower and vegetable gardens and begin making plans for re-designing your landscape. If you have these thoughts, then click on the link to learn more about basic landscape design concepts and current 2024 trends in landscaping. Landscape design is so much more than picking out the right plants for a given area. It can be so overwhelming at first that many of us put it off and live with our overgrown jungle that was landscaped 20 years ago. But the first step to landscape design is to come up with a comprehensive plan that can be tackled over time making it easier for Do-It-Yourselfers. There are many books written about landscape design but I hope to address some of the basic concepts in this short article. There are five parts to a sustainable design: 1) Functional; 2) Maintainable; 3) Environmentally Sound; 4) Cost Effective; and 5) Visually Pleasing. 1) Functional: What do you need the space to do for you. Examples include: play area for children, garden area, kitchen patio, boat, trash, or firewood storage, utilities, dog kennels, and access to the front and backyard are just a few examples of function that you should consider. 2) Maintainable : Similar to function, maintainable addresses planning for mowing areas so you don’t have to use a trimmer, creating a screen planting to provide privacy, and planning for snow storage and ice/sand/salt usage. How large a space can you take care of. Maintenance is a huge consideration in landscape design. 3) Environmentally Sound: Addresses the need to reduce the amount of fertilizer, pesticides, equipment, water, and labor usage. Rain gardens, plants that require limited mowing and pruning, and eliminating invasive plant species are just a few examples. 4) Cost Effective: You must not only factor in the initial cost of the project but also, the cost of annual maintenance in your design both in materials as well as labor. 5) Visually Pleasing: Yes, of course it needs to look good. This consideration also gets involved with plant selection, what gardeners love doing the most. Planting the right plant that will adapt to the light, water, and soil conditions is imperative in landscape design. While the basic concepts of landscape design remain consistent year over year, design elements do change over time. Below I have listed 5 of the 10 2024 Garden Design trends by . These 5 trends seemed to be consistent but not limited to other trend articles that I reviewed: 1) “Enhancing Your Garden with Edimentals” : Edimentals are plants that usually live more than one year such as shrubs, perennials, and trees. Examples include daylilies, currants, gooseberries, elderberries, fennel and asparagus. Including annual edible plants such as kale, rainbow chard, and nasturtiums can also be considered. 2) “Exploring Naturalistic Planting & the New Perennial Movement” : This consists of primarily native plants with a less manicured look to mirror nature, but it doesn’t have to been completely unmanicured. The focus is on a blend of plants that invite pollinators and wildlife. (Read Jim Lakin’s monthly Garden Buzz articles on “native” plants for ideas about plants that are appropriate for Minnesota gardens.) 3) “Preserving Every Drop with Eco-Friendly Rain Gardens” : Yes, establishing a rain garden to limit water runoff into sewers. 4) “Learning to Love Bugs”: Reducing the use of pesticides is the trend here. Becoming more tolerant of bugs and understanding that there are beneficial insects. Note, certain bugs are attracted to specific species (i.e. monarch butterfly and milkweed, rusty patched bumble bees like lupines, asters, bee balm, native prairie plants, and spring ephemerals). But of course, there are bugs that are on the invasive list such as jumping worms, pine bark beetle, and lantern fly. 5) “Adapting and Growing with a Changing Climate” : In the last few months, the USDA published a new plant zone map. Many areas across the nation and in our neck of the woods have become hotter. Adapting for this change in your plant selection process is imperative as you look to designing your future landscape. I hope you can enjoy planning, prepping, and planting your new garden bed(s) in the next few months. Check out our website resources for many articles on the topics discussed above. And spend your January dreaming and planning for your beautiful 2024 garden. Resources: Creating a Home Landscape, You Can Love & Enjoy/Sustainable Landscape Design Basics for Homeowner, Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Workshop, James B. Calkins, Ph. D, 2022. , Research Garden Design, 2024 Trends in Garden Design by Rebecca Sweet, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ( ) Rusty Patched Bumble Bee ; USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map Photo credits: (1,3), Creative Commons (2)

  • The Ws (plus an H) of Bulbs | DCMGV

    < Back The Ws (plus an H) of Bulbs The great thing about planting bulbs is that they will bloom year after year. Here's what you need to know to grow bulbs successfully in your garden and look forward to early spring color. Marjorie Blare, Master Gardener Who should plant bulbs? You! Why plant bulbs? Bulbs can provide color all in all three seasons and many bulbs will return year after year. Most bulbs prefer full sun but some bulbs even thrive in shade! What are bulbs and what kinds to plant? What we loosely call bulbs are actually a group containing: true bulbs (Tulips, lilies), corms (Crocus), rhizomes (Callas, Iris) and tuberous roots (Dahlias, Tuberous begonias). All of these plants have a self-contained food storage system that has adapted to living underground. Bulbs are either hardy (perennial) or tender (need to be dug and stored) and this will determine where you plant them. Most people are familiar with Tulips, Daffodils and Lilies. All of these come in early, mid-and late season, as well as short medium and tall. There are a host of small bulbs that are often overlooked. Many of these will grow well in areas under trees because they flower before the tree leaves out. Where should I plant bulbs? Most bulbs should be planted in full sun. They don't like wet feet. Most bulbs will do well in soils ranging from sandy to clay. Jack-in-the-Pulpits, Trillium, Tuberous begonias and Martagon lilies are bulbs that will grow in the shade. How do I plant bulbs? Dig a hole two to three times deeper than the bulb's circumference. Amend the soil with organic matter. You may have heard of putting bone meal in the hole, don't do this unless you have a soil test ( ) that shows your soil needs calcium and phosphorous. According to the University of Colorado, bone meal will only be available to plants in soil that has a pH level of 7 or lower. Dakota County soils tend to be naturally high in phosphorous. Make sure to plant bulbs deeper if your soil is sandy. Putting a wire barrier over the bulbs may deter digging critters. It is recommended to plant odd numbers of bulbs for aesthetics. Smaller bulbs can be planted on top of larger bulbs, rather like a fruit cake. When do I plant bulbs? Bulbs can be planted from late September through late October in Minnesota. If you are dividing bulbs, wait for the foliage to dry, but you can move them immediately. Some bulbs, such as lilies, can be moved “in the green”, as long as they are done blooming, and are taken care of through any dry, hot weather. If you wish to overwinter tender bulbs, plant them where it will be easy to dig them in the fall. For more information go to For information on growing bulbs indoors go to . Happy Planting! Photo credits: Carolyn Plank (1), Deborah Snow (2), University of Minnesota Extension (3)

  • December - Enjoying the Winter Garden | DCMGV

    < Back December - Enjoying the Winter Garden Dawn Struble As Minnesotans, we learn to appreciate the cycle of northern gardening. The truth is, after putting the garden to bed for the season, the winter respite provides a chance to enjoy the garden in different ways. Read this article for thoughts about how to enjoy your garden in winter. Over the years I’ve often exclaimed, “I wish I lived in zone 7 or 8!” Then I wouldn’t have to say good-bye to my gardens as winter arrives. But over the same years, I’ve come to appreciate the cycle of northern gardening. The truth is, after putting the garden to bed for the season, the winter respite provides a chance to enjoy the garden in different ways. Before the snow flies, make time to move any garden art or sculptures closer to your home’s windows. This will allow you to appreciate the light, shadows and snow accumulations on your art, as well as on standing vegetation, shrubs and tree branches during the snowy months. Now is also the time to make note of plants that may need to be moved, split or removed next spring. You will thank yourself in the spring for writing it down! Watching the snow for animal tracks will help you learn more about the variety and habits of wildlife in your area ( 12 weeks of winter: The scoop on scat | UMN Extension ). You can use the cold weather downtime to read some great gardening books ( Gift Idea: Good Books for Minnesota Gardeners ( or Books that created conversation in 2021 | UMN Extension ). And nothing tastes better in the middle of winter than a warm muffin baked from the garden rhubarb you froze last June! ( Using your harvest | UMN Extension ). If you are really missing the dirt under your fingernails, try an indoor herb garden, or make a winter window box or front entry pot. Taking care of your garden tool maintenance is also a valuable task during frigid weather. ( Clean and disinfect gardening tools and containers | UMN Extension ). Get the family involved and combat the dark days by making beautiful winter luminaries. It’s a fun and rewarding project for everyone, and will brighten your yard and garden areas. As you take that winter vacation to warmer destinations, don’t forget about the reciprocal garden admission program for Minnesota Landscape Arboretum members. Reciprocal Admissions Program – American Horticultural Society ( . You’ll find the visit sparking your excitement for another season of northern gardening after the well deserved winter break. Photo credits: University of Minnesota Extension (1, 3), (2)

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