GARDEN EXPO 2015 – Registration is now open!


Posted by cwcmastergardeners | Posted in Education, Event | Posted on 10-12-2014

UMN Extension Crow Wing County Master Gardeners

Ready, Set, Grow! Garden Expo 2015

Saturday, April 11th, 2015 from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

 Central Lakes College – Brainerd Campus

 501 West College Drive, Brainerd


Cost: $30. The registration fee will include morning / afternoon refreshments and a boxed lunch. There will be vendors, exhibitors, silent auction and door prizes.  This Horticulture Day offers a total of 26 different classes!

Visit for registration details and class offerings. Classes fill fast so register early. Your completed registration form must be accompanied with payment.

Space will be limited so register early! Garden_Expo_2015_Registration_Form

Jackie Froemming
Extension Educator
Master Gardener Program – Crow Wing County Coordinator

Ask the Master Gardener, December 2014


Posted by cwcmastergardeners | Posted in Ask the Master Gardener column | Posted on 04-12-2014

Ask the Master Gardener

Dear Master Gardener:
Orchids are so beautiful that it would be nice to have one as a house plant. How difficult is it to grow an orchid as a houseplant and is there a good one for a beginner to try?

There are at least 30,000 known species of orchids and many hybrids, so growing requirements vary considerably. Like any other houseplant, orchids require proper water, soil, fertilizer, light, temperatures, and humidity Cattleya, Phalaenopsis (moth orchids) and some Paphiopedilum varieties are among the easiest to care for as houseplants. They are both known for their long-lasting flowers, with Phalaenopsis flowers lasting two to six months. Phalaenopsis orchids are epiphytes, so in their natural habitat they grow in the branches of tropical trees and absorb moisture from the surface of bark that is wet from dew and rainfall. They need to be planted in a special orchid mix comprised of bark chunks that won’t absorb much moisture. Paphiopedilum orchids are terrestrials, meaning they grow in soil. Two other terrestrial orchids which are easy to grow are Ludisia (jewel orchid) and Phaius (nun orchid). Terrestrial orchids should be potted in a typical houseplant soil mix that holds some moisture but still drains well. Dendrobium and Oncidium can also be grown as houseplants, but are more difficult to grow.

When it comes to growing orchids, temperature is very important, and they are classified by the temperatures they prefer. Warm-growing orchids, such as Phalaenopsis, Doritis, Dendrobium, and Vanilla, grow best in temperatures in the 65-80° F. range. Cool-growing orchids, such as Cymbidium, Odontoglossum, Miltonias, Masdevallias, and some Paphiopediulm, prefer temperatures in the 55-70° F. range. Most of the remaining varieties do well in intermediate temperatures in the 60-75° range.

Orchids like high humidity with at least 50% relative humidity, so it helps to place a tray with stones under the plant to catch excess water and increase the humidity around the plant. Make sure the plant is not sitting in water, as orchids are prone to root rots. Frequency of watering depends on the size of the plant and pot, type of pot (clay or plastic), potting medium, temperature and relative humidity. It is best to use water that is at room temperature and avoid softened water. As a general rule allow the soil for orchid plants to dry out between waterings, but continue to keep them humid. Fertilize once per month in the spring and summer with a special orchid fertilizer or a 30-10-10 fertilizer at half strength. Some orchid growers use a bloom booster in fall since most orchids bloom in winter.

Most orchids grow best with bright, indirect light. They should be kept out of direct sun. If an orchid plant is not getting enough light the leaves tend to turn darker green. If the leaves get a pale yellow-green or purple color it is getting too much light.

Dear Master Gardener:
My friend said she planted globe thistle in her garden last summer so she can use them in dried flower arrangements. Aren’t thistles a noxious weed?

Thistles are often troublesome weeds in Minnesota gardens and lawns; however, despite its name, globe thistle is not a thistle, but a highly ornamental plant that makes a great addition to the back of a perennial border. Echinops ritro (Globe thistle) is a tall, drought-tolerant perennial that is hardy to our zone 3. The plants get two to four feet in height and are “deer-resistant”. They bloom in midsummer and do best growing in full sun in poor, sandy soil. They have dense silvery purple-blue spherical flower heads up to one to two inches in diameter, with small spiny
petals. Globe thistles attract beneficial insects (bees) and are a host plant for painted lady butterflies. The flowers make wonderful additions to cut and dried flower arrangements. For best drying results, cut the flower heads just before the blooms expand. ‘Taplow Blue’ is a variety that sports two-inch wide steel-blue flower heads, ‘Taplow Purple’ has bluish-purple flowers and ‘Veitch’s Blue’ has darker blue flowers.

Dear Master Gardener:
The artificial Christmas tree we have used for the past ten years is looking pretty ratty. We miss thefragrance of a real tree but have forgotten how to choose a good one. Can you help us?

Most tree lots will carry fresh pine, spruce and fir trees, and as you might imagine each variety has its upsides and its downsides. You will want to consider not only fragrance but also color, ability to hold light and heavy ornaments, and price.

Here are some tree options. Scots pine is probably the least expensive. Its needles are 2-3 inches long and its branches are sturdy enough to support fairly heavy ornaments. Pines have the best needle retention. White pine is a bluish-green Minnesota native with very fragrant and delicate, 3-4 inch long needles. It is best decorated with light-weight ornaments. Red pine, also known as Norway pine, another native, has stiffer, shorter needles than the white pine and tends to have more space between branches. White spruce, yet another native, has the
shortest needles of all, about ½ inches. It is denser than the pine and has an odor that some find mildly unpleasant. Balsam, Fraser and Canaan firs have been among the most popular trees in recent years. They have a beautiful silvery cast and are the most fragrant of all the trees. The Fraser fir has the sturdiest branches and is also the most expensive.

Before you make your final decision, shake a tree or run a hand gently over a branch to test for freshness. If more than a few needles fall off, it is too dry and you need to choose a different tree. When you get the tree home, cut off a 1-inch piece and immediately submerge the tree in water in a sturdy stand. Make sure that the cut end of the tree is always submerged in water as long as the tree is in the house. You may be surprised to find that the tree will take up a quart of water a day at first, so check it 2-3 times a day and keep the stand filled. If the stand goes dry, the cut will seal over, water uptake will stop, and the tree will rapidly dry out. Contrary to folk belief, nothing, such as aspirin, added to tree stand water will make it last longer or healthier. A real tree requires more work and attention than does an artificial one, but the color and fragrance and
knowledge that you are using a renewable resource bring great satisfaction.


  • While memories of this past summer are still fresh, make lists of things you want to do, try, and purchase
    for next summer’s gardens.
  • December has the lowest light and poorest growing conditions of the year. Therefore, do not fertilize
    houseplants this month. Do keep plants adequately watered.
  • Remove holiday plants such as poinsettias from their sleeves as soon as they arrive. Punch holes in the
    bottoms of the sleeves to allow water to drain out. Place plants on saucers to catch any additional water
    so that they do not stand in it.
  • Shovel before applying deicing compounds, reducing the quantity necessary. Apply them down the
    middle of walks and driveways so that as little as possible leaches onto the grass. Sand and kitty litter
    provide sidewalk traction without salt.
  • If you haven’t done so already, clean and oil garden tool blades and wooden handles to prolong their lives
    and appearance.
  • Be careful when hanging lights on outdoor trees and shrubs. Use only lights made for outdoor use and
    remove them before growth begins in the spring. Tightly wrapped lights can girdle and kill a tree in one
  • It’s too late to plant outdoors and too early to plant indoors, so relax and enjoy the Christmas season.

Crow Wing County Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers for the University of Minnesota Extension. All information given in this column is based on research and information provided by the University. To ask a question, call the Master Gardener Help Line at 218-824-1000, extension 4040 and leave a message. A Master Gardener will return your call.

UMN Extension Crow Wing County Master Gardeners’ Website

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Holiday Pizzazz: Using Plants in Your Décor, Dec 9 at the Brainerd Public Library


Posted by cwcmastergardeners | Posted in Education, Presentations | Posted on 20-11-2014

Holiday Pizzazz: Using Plants in Your Décor, flyer

Save the Date! Ready, Set, Grow! Garden Expo 2015


Posted by cwcmastergardeners | Posted in Education | Posted on 12-11-2014

Just a reminder that registration for Garden Expo 2015 will open in early to mid-December. If you would like to be added to the email notification list, email us. Your email is used ONLY for Master Gardener event notifications. 

UMN Extension Crow Wing County Master Gardeners

Ready, Set, Grow! Garden Expo 2015 

Saturday, April 11th, 2015 from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Central Lakes College – Brainerd Campus

501 West College Drive, Brainerd


Cost: $30. The registration fee will include morning / afternoon refreshments and a boxed lunch.  There will be vendors, exhibitors, silent auction and door prizes. 

This Horticulture Day will include classes on the following topics:  orchids, edible mushrooms, pruning flowering shrubs, woodland plants, selecting plants for small gardens, edible container gardening, herbs, pests of flower gardens, hardy roses, new plants for 2015, cool weather crops, native plants, pest of vegetable gardens, garden myths, hydrangeas, designing garden areas for entertaining, wild edibles, growing and storing root vegetables, container flower gardening, shade gardens and terrestrial invasive species. For the first time there will be a track for beginners: flower gardening 101, vegetable gardening 101, garden tools and frugal gardening.   A total of 26 different classes!

The registration form will be posted at sometime in December.  Space will be limited so register early!

Ask The Master Gardener, November 2014


Posted by cwcmastergardeners | Posted in Ask the Master Gardener column | Posted on 30-10-2014


Dear Master Gardener,
The power company removed a large oak on my property because it interfered with the power lines. My yard looks naked without it. Can you suggest a smaller tree that would not give us the same problem?

Northern States Power and Minnesota Power, together with the University of Minnesota, compiled a list of trees suitable for planting under and near power lines. Not all listed trees will work on every site, and height and width will vary somewhat depending upon the site and the owner’s maintenance practice. They are all under 20 feet in height and hardy through USDA zone 3b. A few you may think of as shrubs, but they can be trained (pruned) to tree form. Others are not included because they have disease problems, very short lives and other disadvantages that make them unsuitable. Here then are some suggestions: Amur maple, Tartarian maple, serviceberry, American hornbeam, pagoda dogwood, gray dogwood, Russian olive, burning bush (winged euonymus), forsythia, mugo pine, Korean mountain ash, Japanese tree lilac, and American arborvitae (gourmet fare for deer).

Dear Master Gardener,
I’ve seen pictures using Annabelle Hydrangea flowers to decorate wreaths and Christmas trees and I was wondering how to dry them so I can use them to decorate for Christmas?

Hydrangea flowers can be dried and used for indoor arrangements and decorating. It is best to cut them when they are mature, or aged, on the shrub because fresh blooms tend to wilt and turn brown. When cutting them from your shrub it is best to keep the stems shorter than 18 inches and cut them at an angle. One method of drying hydrangea flowers is to air dry them. Simply remove the leaves from the stem and hang them in a cool, dry place. Another method is to dry them upright in a vase or jar. Cut the flowers by cutting the stems at an angle, strip the leaves off and place them in water. If you are drying several flowers in one vase you may want to stagger the lengths so the flower heads do not touch each other, as they benefit from good air circulation for them to dry properly. Place the stems in a vase or jar with a few inches of water and keep them out of direct sunlight. Let the water evaporate. If the flowers still are not dry when the water evaporates, add a little more water and give the flowers more drying time until you feel they are adequately dried. Once your flowers are dry, you can use them to arrange in vases, or use to decorate wreaths, Christmas trees and topiaries.

Dear Master Gardener,
Last spring after the snow melted I noticed trails of dead grass in my lawn. What caused it and how can I prevent it from happening again?

It sounds like you had voles, which are small brown rodents about the same size and shape of a mouse. Voles are commonly found in yards and fields and spend a lot of time eating grasses and roots and making trails. The meadow vole and prairie vole are the most common species found in Minnesota. Vole populations go in cycles and approximately every three to five years there will be a population boom, especially during a mild winter with good snowfall. As the snow melts many homeowners and turf managers are distressed to discover that voles have been busy in their lawns over the winter. Tell-tale signs are crisscrossing trails throughout your lawn and patches of dried grass. They feed on lawns under protective snow cover and typically avoid open areas where they are a target for predators. As voles feed on grass they create one to two inch wide tunnels or trails filled with grass clippings. Because voles are so common, complete prevention is most likely impossible; however, there are some things you can do to keep their numbers down. Remove woodpiles and other debris from the ground to remove their hiding places. Keep grass trimmed short and bushes trimmed up from the ground. Bird feeders also attract voles, so if you are set on having a bird feeder, keep the ground very clean to help keep their numbers down, as they too like to eat bird seed. Although vole damage is unsightly, it is rarely serious or permanent and after mowing your lawn a few times it probably won’t be noticeable. You could also rake up the dead grass and reseed the areas where they have caused damage.

What is more worrisome is that voles can do significant damage to small trees and shrubs when they chew on the bark hidden under the snow. They eat mostly grasses and perennial plants, but will also eat bark, especially in the fall and winter. You may notice vole damage where bark has been chewed near the ground. Before it snows there are some prevention measures you can take to stop voles from damaging or killing your trees and shrubs. Encircle the trunks, loosely so as not to harm it, with a light colored tree guard, making sure that the guard is tall enough to reach above the snow line. In addition, bury the base of the guard in the soil or have a soil ridge around the base. Another prevention method is to surround stems with a cylinder of quarter-inch hardware cloth sunk six inches into the ground.

• If you have buckthorn on your property, now is a good time to identify and remove it. It stands out in the woods because its leaves stay green and attached after other deciduous leaves have fallen. Its clusters of dark berries provide further identification. Buckthorn is alien to Minnesota and crowds out more desirable plants. It is also difficult to remove.
• Keep watering shrubs, perennials and young trees until the ground freezes.
• Deer, mice and rabbits are attracted to the thin bark of young trees. Wrap their trunks with cylinders of hardware cloth several inches wider than their trunks so they can stay in place for several years. To prevent critters from tunneling underneath the cylinders, push them into the soil about three inches.
• As soon as the ground begins to freeze, mulch bulb and perennial beds. Straw and marsh hay are the best mulches because their hollow stems trap insulating air.
• Brighten grey days with a new blooming houseplant. Some attractive and readily available ones are kalanchoes, begonias, cyclamens, anthuriums, African violets, and moth orchids.
• Continue to rake leaves since they often harbor disease and encourage snow mold.
• Inspect and clean garden tools. Adding a light coating of oil protects both metal and wooden parts. Sharpen pruners and shovels.
• Use room-temperature water on houseplants. Give each plant a ¼ turn each time you water to keep plants symmetrical.

Crow Wing County Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers for the University of Minnesota Extension. All information given in this column is based on research and information provided by the University. To ask a question, call the Master Gardener Help Line at 218-824-1000, extension 4040 and leave a message. A Master Gardener will return your call.

UMN Extension Crow Wing County Master Gardeners’ Website

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Master Gardener class at the library, Indoor Gardening with Houseplants, Nov. 18


Posted by cwcmastergardeners | Posted in Education | Posted on 23-10-2014

Indoor Gardening with Houseplants

Learn about houseplants and what it takes to be a successful indoor gardener.

Topics covered include plant selection, containers, soil, water, light, fertilizers, and pests.

Tuesday, November 18 from 12:00 Noon to 1:00 PM, Brainerd Public Library
Presented by Crow Wing County Master Gardener Jackie Burkey

Register at the library or by calling 829-5574



Presentations facilitated by certified UMN Extension Crow Wing County Master Gardeners. Master Gardeners are University of Minnesota-trained volunteers whose job is to educate the public about a variety of horticulture subjects using readily-available, up-to-date re-search-based information. The Master Gardener Program educational effort is designed to enhance the public’s quality of life and to promote good stewardship of the environment.

Ask The Master Gardener, October 2014


Posted by cwcmastergardeners | Posted in Ask the Master Gardener column | Posted on 03-10-2014


Ask the Master Gardener


Dear Master Gardener:
Help! The deer are ruining my gardens and it seems worse this year than ever before. They are eating plants right next to my house. Are there any deer-resistant plants or proven repellents?

There seems to be more complaints this year about deer destroying gardens. In late summer
and fall you may see freshly raw places where the bark has been skinned on the trunks of
shrubs or young trees. Bucks remove the velvet from their antlers on young shrubs and trees,
causing open wounds which can kill the plant. Deer usually feed at dusk and dawn and browse
on twigs, foliage and flowers causing damage to gardens. They have no upper incisor teeth,
so they tear off their food and leave behind torn, ragged vegetation. Going out to your garden
in the morning only to discover that your beautiful hostas look like celery stalks sticking out of
the ground is very disheartening. In the summer when food is plentiful you would think that
deer wouldn’t need to feed from our gardens, but our garden plants are kept watered and are
therefore more succulent than plants in the wild, not to mention easier to get at.

The only true “deer-resistant” plant is a plastic one. With that said, you can minimize the
damage they can do by avoiding plants they prefer and planting those they tend to pass up.
Some deer favorites include daylilies, hostas, hydrangeas, lilies, roses, strawberries, sweet
potato vine, tulips, arborvitae and white pine. Deer usually avoid plants that are toxic, have
leaves that are fuzzy, tough and leathery, have spines or bristles, or are aromatic. Perennials
that are reported to be non-preferred plants are: Achillea (yarrow), Aconitum (monkshood),
Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle), Allium, Aquilegia (columbine), Astilbe, Baptisia (blue false
indigo), Narcissus (daffodil), Paeonia (peony), Perovskia (Russian sage), Pulmonaria
(lungwort), Salvia, and Stachys (lamb’s ear). Annuals that deer seem to avoid include
ageratum, wax begonia, heliotrope, sweet alyssum, dusty miller, and marigolds. Even plants
they do not like to eat, they will pluck out of the ground, spit it out and leave it to shrivel and
die. Shrubs that are reported to be “deer-resistant” are lilac, nannyberry, juniper, spirea,
Russian cypress and barberry. Winter is the worst time for deer in our cold climate and with
little food available they will eat almost anything they can reach, including prized dwarf
evergreens and the developing buds of deciduous trees and shrubs.

Once deer find your garden in winter, they will return each year throughout their lives, so it is
important to deter them from the outset. In our cold climate shrubs are more vulnerable to deer browsing, so many gardeners put black plastic or nylon netting over their shrubs to protect them. Burlap can be placed around arborvitae, which not only protect them from deer, but also winter burn. Snow fencing around vulnerable and/or prized trees and bushes can be used. Some gardeners put fencing around each garden bed, as deer are usually afraid to jump into small areas where they could get stuck.

There are commercial deer repellents. Some people have success with Milorganite, which is a
granular product composed of heat-dried microbes that have digested the organic material in
wastewater and is manufactured by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, so you not
only get a possible deer repellent but fertilizer too. Some commercial repellents are in liquid
form and sprayed on. They typically contain a variety of ingredients including, but not limited
to, eggs, garlic, castor oil, the urine of predatory animals, and capsaicin (hot pepper sauce).
Homemade versions have the same main ingredients as their commercial counterparts. If you
are going to use repellents, it is important to apply them regularly, especially after heavy rain or snow. Some gardeners have success with hanging bars of soap from trees, but experiments
conducted by R.K. Swihart and M.R. Conover (1990) showed that only approximately one yard
from the soap will be protected from deer, some damage to plants can happen, and there is no
one brand that repels better than another. If you are interested in reading a book about garden
remedies you may enjoy, The Truth About Garden Remedies What Works, What Doesn’t, and
Why by Jeff Gillman, a former University of Minnesota associate professor in the horticultural


Dear Master Gardener:
I need to replace some old and overgrown shrubs in my yard. I would like to plant ones that have berries, some for me and some for birds and other wildlife. What do you suggest?

Even in our cold zone 3 climate there are many to choose among. Here are some listed in
three categories: edible, tall (over 4 feet), and short (under 4 feet). Though we usually try to
include botanical (Latin, official) names, this time, in consideration of numbers and space,
common names will be used.

First are some edible shrubs: Juneberry (sometimes called serviceberry), bearberry,
chokeberry, wintergreen, sandcherry, sumac, gooseberry, rose, raspberry, dewberry,
thimbleberry, buffaloberry, wolfberry, blueberry, viburnum, and snowberry. Though all of them
do bear fruit, not all will be equally suitable for your purposes. Consider height, need for sun or
shade, and soil type. Also, remember that some berries that wildlife enjoy are not as palatable
to humans, and that you may not want your wild friends competing for your favorites. Not all
berries are ready to eat right off the plant, such as sumac and rose hips, which are steeped for
tea, and chokeberries, which must be processed.

Tall shrubs may grow to be eight or ten feet tall, though most can be kept pruned shorter or
come in dwarf varieties. Some attractive tall shrubs are serviceberry, winterberry (berries are
poisonous), elder, buffaloberry, and various viburnums.

Heights of short shrubs need to be carefully considered because some, such as bunchberry
and bearberry, are so short (6 inches) that they are really ground covers. Here are some short
shrubs: sandcherry, currant, rose, bearberry, blackberry, bunchberry, swamp fly honeysuckle,
raspberry, wolfberry, and blueberry.

The internet can give you a great deal of information about individual species. As always,
university-based sites are science-based and likely to be the most accurate.


  • Plant tulips this month. Clusters of a dozen bulbs or so make greater impact than do bulbs planted in lines.
  • Continue to water trees (especially evergreens), shrubs, perennials and lawns so that they tolerate winter better.
  • Lift and store tender bulbs such as cannas, gladiolas, and dahlias after the first frost.
  • Continue to weed, weed, weed.
  • Mow lawns to a 3-inch height going into winter.
  • Divide and transplant peonies now.
  • Cover strawberries with a thick layer of straw or hay late this month or after several hard frosts.
  • Get your soil tested.
  • Prune trees that bleed or are susceptible to disease such as oak, maple, birch, honey locust, and mountain ash.
  • Clean up fallen apples, apple leaves with spots, and tomatoes that had disease, disposing them off your property. Many diseases and insects overwinter in plant materials.

Crow Wing County Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers for the University of Minnesota Extension. All information given in this column is based on research and information provided by the University. To ask a question, call the Master Gardener Help Line at 218-824-1000, extension 4040 and leave a message. A Master Gardener will return your call.

UMN Extension Crow Wing County Master Gardeners’ Website

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© 2014, Regents of the University of Minnesota. University of Minnesota Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, this publication/material is available in alternative formats upon request. Direct requests to the University of Minnesota Extension at 612-624-1222.

Growing and Using Gourds


Posted by cwcmastergardeners | Posted in Education | Posted on 02-10-2014

The next free gardening class t the Brainerd Public Library.  This presentation will cover basic information about growing and using gourds successfully.

Presenter: Deb Hoffmann, UMN Extension Master Gardener

Date: Tuesday, October 14

Time: 12 noon – 1:00 pm

Cost: FREE

Register by calling the Brainerd Public Library at 218-829-5574.




Posted by cwcmastergardeners | Posted in Education | Posted on 15-09-2014

Are you interested in becoming a certified UMN Extension Master Gardener? If so, applicants are currently being sought by the Crow Wing County Extension office. For more details or if you have questions please contact me at 218-824-1068.

Jackie Froemming

UMN Extension Master Gardener Program

Crow Wing County Coordinator

Monday, Sept. 15, last chance to buy CWC Master Gardener cookbooks!


Posted by cwcmastergardeners | Posted in Cookbook | Posted on 14-09-2014

58 copies remain available for sale on MONDAY (9/15/2014) at the County Extension Office in Brainerd. The cost is $10…..once they are gone, they are GONE.

If you wonder what the cookbooks look like, please feel free to stop by the office to check them out……..250 recipes (most of them encouraging the use of local produce) + info on herbs + info on edible flowers + gardening tips.

Crow Wing County Extension office is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Monday. First come – first served.

322 Laurel Street, Land Services Building, Suite 22.


You can be a Master Gardener!

Are you interested in becoming a certified UMN Extension Master Gardener? If so, applicants are currently being sought by the Crow Wing County Extension office. For more details or if you have questions please contact me at 218-824-1068 or at

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