Posted by cwcmastergardeners | Posted in Ask the Master Gardener column | Posted on 30-10-2014
CROW WING COUNTY MASTER GARDENER PROGRAM Ask the Master Gardener
NOVEMBER 2014 COLUMN
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.
NOVEMBER GARDEN TIPS
• 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.
QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS?
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