Ask the Master Gardener, March 2015

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Posted by cwcmastergardeners | Posted in Education | Posted on 24-02-2015

Crow Wing County Master Gardener Program

Ask the Master Gardener

March 2015

 

Dear Master Gardener,

 I’m getting antsy to start some vegetables.  I know that most vegetables do best when their seeds are planted directly into the garden, but aren’t there some that can be started earlier under lights?  What is the process for doing so?

You are correct that most vegetables should be planted directly into the garden, but some can, and perhaps should, be started earlier because they need longer to mature or do best in cool spring soils.  Among those vegetables most amenable to starting indoors are broccoli, cauliflower, early cabbage, peppers and tomatoes. All should be planted in mid-March except tomatoes, which should be planted in early April.

To begin, assemble your equipment:  planting trays, seeds, sterile potting soil, adjustable shop lights, and a light timer.  Moisten but do not saturate enough of your potting soil to fill the cells of the planting trays.  With your finger or a pencil end, make a small depression in each cell.  Place 2-3 seeds in each depression and cover with about ¼ inch of dry soil.  When the tray is full, mist the surface and cover the tray with the rigid plastic dome that came with the tray or cover the top surface tightly with plastic wrap.  Lower the shop light to about 3 inches above the trays and set the timer to provide 14-16 hours of light each day.  Check the trays every day to keep them just barely moist.

The seeds will germinate in 1-2 weeks, at which time the plastic should be removed. Not all seeds will germinate, and those that do may do so at differing rates. As they get taller, snip off the weakest seedlings until each cell contains only one plant. Raise the lights as the seedlings grow, keeping them consistently three inches above the tops of the plants. The trickiest part thereafter is watering enough but not too much.  “Damping off”, in which a seedling will keel over, its thin stem collapsed and blackened, results from too much moisture. If the seedlings become too large for their cells, transplant them into larger containers.

When the last frost date arrives, begin the process called “hardening off”, the transition from the warm, protected conditions indoors to harsher, more challenging conditions outdoors.  Place the tray(s) outside in a spot sheltered from the sun and critters during the day. Over about a week gradually increase the time in the sun until full days are spent there.  Then the seedlings can be transplanted into the ground, and before you know it, you will be eating tasty fresh vegetables.

 

Dear Master Gardener:

My wife and I were shopping for cabinetry and doors for our remodeling project and noticed that knotty alder is a very attractive and popular wood right now for cabinets and doors. Do alder trees grow in Minnesota?

Alder trees are in the birch family Betulaceae, and the genus Alnus. Alders tend to grow in wet, slightly acidic soils especially along the edges of wetlands. The speckled alder grows in Minnesota and has gray bark that is interrupted with pale warty lenticels.

Alders form a symbiotic relationship with a nitrogen fixing fungus in their roots and convert nitrogen from the air to a usable form in the soils. This not only allows the tree to grow well in very poor soils, but also makes nitrogen available to other plants growing nearby. Just like adding legumes can improve the life of our gardens, alders perform the same function in the forest, often benefiting the trees, shrubs and understory plants around them. Because they have aggressive growth potential and improve soils, they are useful for land reclamation after disturbances. The alder can actually be beautiful and functional and can be trained to a tree-like form by removing lower branches.

The alder that is most commonly used in woodworking is the red alder, which is a North American hardwood typically found in the Pacific Northwest. It can range from rustic with heartwood, streaks, pin holes and open knots to clear and unmarked. It is a softer wood than maple or cherry, has consistent color, stability and accepts stains and finishes very well, so it has proved to be an excellent species for furniture and cabinetry.

 

Dear Master Gardener:

I’ve heard that Blue False Indigo is a deer and rabbit resistant plant.  Does it grow in this area?

Baptisia, false indigo, is an easy to grow, low-maintenance, long-lived perennial that is hardy to zone 3. At maturity a Baptisia gets about 3-4 feet in height with a spread of 3-4 feet, but it can take three years to become an established, flowering plant. They develop an extensive, deep root system and should not be disturbed once established. Baptisia are members of the legume, or pea family and have the capability of fixing nitrogen in the soil. Plant them in deep, rich soil that drains well and add lots of organic material to the soil.

A Baptisia blooms for several weeks in May to June and grows best in full sun, but can tolerate part shade. Their black seedpods are valued additions to dried flower arrangements. These plants have no serious insect or disease problems. They are a non-preferred plant for rabbits and deer and attract butterflies.

Baptisia australis, blue false indigo, forms a mound of bluish green foliage and blooms with spikes of one-inch blue flowers, maturing to 48 inches. There is also a dwarf variety, Baptisia australis var. minor, that matures to half the size at 24 inches. ‘Purple Smoke’ has gray-green stems with purple blue flowers that look gorgeous at peak bloom. ‘Carolina Moonlight’ has spires of soft, butter yellow pea-like blooms with blue-green foliage. Baptisia can act as a shrub, or make an excellent addition to a perennial border, cottage garden or native plant garden.

MARCH GARDEN TIPS

  • Finish pruning oaks this month. Pruning them in April through June will attract sap-loving beetles carrying spores that cause oak wilt.
  • Cut pussy willow and forsythia shoots and put them in water for an early taste of spring.
  • Often March snowfalls are heavy and wet, bending evergreen branches. Resist the urge to shake the snow off and let Mother Nature do it. Even seemingly gentle shaking can break branches.
  • March is the ideal time to prune apple trees. Thin the center for good air and light penetration. Remove all water sprouts (shoots growing straight up). For large trees hire a trained arborist.
  • Check chokecherries for black knot cankers. Prune them out, cutting back to healthy wood.
  • Resume fertilizing houseplants, using fertilizer at half strength while plants are actively growing. Repot crowded plants in pots just one size larger.
  • If you have overwintered any bulbs such as cannas, dahlias, and begonias, check them over, discarding any that are rotted or desiccated.
  • Repot stored geraniums and begonias this month in order to have blooms before midsummer. Use good, fresh soil and water them regularly to initiate new growth. Give them plenty of sun.

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
http://crowwingmastergardeners.org/

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Selecting and Growing Hostas – March 10, Noon to 1 p.m.

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Posted by cwcmastergardeners | Posted in Education, Presentations | Posted on 23-02-2015

Selecting & Growing Hostas
Brainerd Public Library
Tuesday, March 10, 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

 

Join Jackie Froemming, Extension Educator for this free and informative class thanks to the U of MN Extension Office.

SELECTING AND GROWING HOSTAS ‘Big Daddy’, ‘Surfer Girl’, ‘Gentle Giant’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Rhinestone Cow-boy’, ‘Little Devil’, ‘Winter Warrior’…so many HOSTAS!! Come join us to learn about selecting and growing the most popular shade perennial.

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 research-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.

http://crowwingmastergardeners.org/

Ask the Master Gardener, February 2015

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Posted by cwcmastergardeners | Posted in Ask the Master Gardener column | Posted on 20-01-2015

http://blog.lib.umn.edu/mgweb/crowwing/monthly_gardening_column/

CROW WING COUNTY MASTER GARDENER PROGRAM

Ask the Master Gardener

FEBRUARY 2015 COLUMN

 

Dear Master Gardener:
I just learned recently that oranges and lemons can be grown indoors in Minnesota. I would love to grow my own citrus fruit! How do I do it?

Yes, certain oranges and lemons can be grown as houseplants, but you will be disappointed if you expect to harvest large quantities of fruit such as you would find in a supermarket. Commercial fruit trees are too large to grow indoors and could not survive our Minnesota winters. The most commonly found indoor citrus trees are Calamondin oranges (Citronfortunella mitis) and Meyer lemons (Citrus x meyeri). Less popular but often available are tangerines (Citrus reticulata) and Satsuma oranges (Citrus reticulata Blanco), which are really very sweet tangerines whose blossoms are especially abundant and fragrant. Calamondin oranges are small and sour so are not particularly good for eating out of hand. They do, however, make good marmalade, and are colorful and fragrant plants. Meyer lemons are milder and sweeter than commercial lemons, are not abundant producers, and need annual pruning to keep their size manageable.

All citrus trees grown indoors have similar growth requirements. Indoor temperatures should be around 65 degrees, up to 10 degrees lower at night. They prefer a south-facing window with several hours of direct sunlight. They benefit from being set outdoors from about May- September, transitioning to a couple of weeks in the shade both going out and coming in. They are acid-loving plants so their soil requirements include plenty of peat moss. A mixture of 1/3 sterile potting soil, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 perlite or vermiculite would be ideal. Fertilize plants at half-strength once or twice a month when they are actively growing (about April through September) with a fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants. They need regular watering and wilt easily. Make sure they do not sit in water.

Indoor citrus make attractive houseplants and have the added benefit of fragrant blossoms and colorful and interesting, though not abundant, fruit. Sometimes a plant will have blossoms and fruit at the same time. Just don’t plan to send boxes of Minnesota fruit to friends in Florida and California.

Dear Master Gardener:
My grandmother had some bleeding hearts growing in her garden. Do they grow up here and if so, should I plant them in the sun or shade?

Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra) are hardy to zone 3 (-40° F.) and are a wonderful addition to the shady garden. They are easy to grow and have lovely blue-green foliage with distinctively shaped flowers that dangle from arching stems. Plant them in light to full shade, ideally in a woodland garden. They grow best in loose, organic soil that has been amended with compost, rotted manure, leaf mold, or peat moss and is kept evenly moist. Dicentra cucullaria, also known as Dutchman ’s breeches, has lacy foliage and small white flowers tipped yellow. It goes dormant after blooming in spring. Dicentra formosa ‘Langtrees’ (‘Pearl Drops’) and ‘Luxuriant’, which is also known as Western Bleeding Heart, bloom in spring and often reblooms throughout the summer if deadheaded. ‘Luxuriant’ is vigorous and flowers freely. Dicentra – Hearts Series was bred in Japan. A variety that does well here is ‘Burning Hearts’, which has deep rose red flowers and striking blue-gray foliage. The Hearts Series, like other fringe-leaved Bleeding Hearts, bloom profusely during late spring and early summer and may bloom off and on throughout the rest of the season. Dicentra spectablilis is the Common Bleeding Heart with pink flowers. ‘Alba’ is the pure white variety, which isn’t as vigorous as the pink varieties. In our climate, the Common Bleeding Heart blooms from late spring into early summer.

Dear Master Gardener:
Our daughter is getting married at our home next summer and the grass in the area
where we would like to have the reception looks quite bad. We would like to start a new lawn from scratch and have sandy soil. Do you recommend seeding or laying sod to have a wedding-worthy lawn?

That is a common question for those who want to establish a new lawn and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. The main difference between seeding and sodding is the time necessary for developing a mature or durable turf. Basically, sodding is transplanting a mature turf that has been cared for by a professional. There are many variables when it comes to seeding, which makes it difficult and often unsuccessful for a homeowner. The advantages to seeding rather than sodding are: more grass types and varieties from which to choose, stronger root system initially, and less expensive. Disadvantages include: takes longer to establish and moisture is critical, and for best results seeding should be done in late summer and early fall.

The advantages to sodding are: rapid establishment, relatively weed-free, good for slopes or areas prone to erosion, and it can be laid any time during the growing season. The disadvantages are: less selection of grass types, which could be an issue if you have shade (most sod grown in Minnesota is a mixture of Kentucky bluegrass) and it is more expensive.

Whether you seed or sod, preparation of the soil is extremely important and will simplify future maintenance. You may want to get your soil tested first to find out if the soil needs amending. Sandy loam, which is mostly sand with some silt and clay, is the best type of soil for growing turf. If you add “black dirt”, which is usually made up of silt and clay, carefully incorporate it into the native soil. If you need a large amount of fill to raise us an area, you may use good quality topsoil as long as it is less than 20% clay and free of herbicides. If your soil test suggests adding amendments, till them into the soil, then grade the area. You can use a roller to firm the soil slightly and now your site is ready for seed or sod.

If you decide to seed, the best time to seed is mid-August to mid-September as the conditions are more favorable for germination and growth and fewer weed seeds germinate at that time.  You can seed in the spring, but the weeds that compete with grass germinate at this time, the root system doesn’t have time to develop before the summer heat stresses it, and high summer temperatures often reduce the chance for success. If you decide to sod, buy it as fresh as possible and lay it as soon as possible, ideally within one day after delivery. Lay sod on slightly moistened soil, staggering the joints.

If you are interested in getting more ideas on how to get your landscape ready for the wedding you may want to attend the 2015 Garden Expo sponsored by the Crow Wing County Master Gardeners being held at Central Lakes College on Saturday, April 11th. One of the 26 seminars being offered is “An Invitation to the Garden: How to Create the Perfect Setting for Entertaining”. This seminar should appeal to anyone who wants to get information and ideas about getting their gardens and lawn ready for outdoor entertaining in general, but especially those hosting a big event, as the presenter will share photos and ideas about preparing for an outdoor wedding at their home. There will be 26 seminars offered at the Expo where you may get additional landscaping ideas and information that would be beneficial for hosting your big event.

FEBRUARY GARDEN TIPS

  • Spend some time this wintery month perusing seed catalogs and seed racks in stores and garden centers. Order seeds now to be sure you get what you want.
  • Washing dust off houseplants will allow maximum light for photosynthesis. Either wipe leaves off with a damp cloth or set entire plants in the sink or shower and spray them.
  • Pansy, impatiens, wax begonia, viola and snapdragon seeds should be started this month because they need extra time to mature to transplant size. It is too early to start most other seeds because they will tend to get leggy and weak.
  • If you plan to start seeds indoors this year, start assembling supplies now. You will need pots, trays, fluorescent lights that can be raised and lowered, a timer and good potting soil.
  • Check houseplants frequently for destructive insects. Cottony fuzz indicates mealy bugs; sticky, shiny honeydew suggests aphids or scale; pinprick discoloration means spider mites. See houseplant insect control on the University of Minnesota extension site on the internet.
  • Roses are by far the most popular Valentine flowers. Consider other blooming plants as well, such as orchids, anthuriums, birds-of-paradise, or baskets of blooming bulbs.

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 z.umn.edu/crowwingmgs

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© 2015, 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.

Earth Diggers – Forestview Junior Master Gardener Club!

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Posted by cwcmastergardeners | Posted in Education | Posted on 12-01-2015

Earth Diggers – Forestview Junior Master Gardener Club, Grades 5-8

It’s coming to Forestview…the new Forestview Youth Garden!

If you love to get your hands dirty and see and eat the fruit of your labor, this is the club for you. University of Minnesota Crow Wing county Master Gardener volunteers and Brainerd Schools Community Education Garden advisor and staff will offer horticultural and environmental science education sessions.

Leadership and life skills will be developed through FUN and CREATIVE activities. Individuals and group activities will be offered. This program is committed to helping young people become good gardeners and good citizens so they can make a positive contribution to their community, school and family.

Each FMS JMN member will receive their own resource/literature binders, JMG pin and t-shirt. All Earth Diggers JMG members are encouraged to participate in every session. We will meet indoors until the garden is built and during inclement weather.

Forestview,  Room #2802 (See time and dates below)

Fee: $85.00 Class #3071

 

The FMS JMG will meet from 3:15-5 p.m.

Tuesday Jan. 27 – design garden

Tuesday Feb. 3 – design and choose “content” of garden

Tuesday March 3 – seed starting, plant propagation

Tuesday March 31 – hands-on seeding

Tuesday April 7 – early growth stage of plants

Tuesday May 5 – transplanting

Saturday May 16 – FMS Garden Build Day – times to be determined and weather permitting. In case of rain, back up day will be Saturday, May 23.

Tuesday May 19 – Recognition, Pinning Ceremony – families welcome

Monday June 1 and Tuesday June 2 – Planting Days

Watch for our SUMMER 2015 FMS JMG Club information included in the Community Education Guide to Summer Adventures which will be mailed out on Friday, April 3.

This program was made possible through a grant from Crow Wing Energized and Home Depot.

218-454-6924

Create the Beauty, Month by Month – Gardening class, January 13

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Posted by cwcmastergardeners | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 07-01-2015

Create the Beauty, Month by Month

This class provides practical tips for handling all of those extra tasks which are necessary, though mundane, to produce healthy, vibrant flowers, both annuals and perennials. We’ll discuss simple steps to plan monthly gardening activities. The goal…to build a plan which leaves an abundance of free time to “stop and smell the roses.”

Register at the library or by calling 829-5574
Tuesday, January 13 from 12:00 Noon to 1:00 PM
Brainerd Public Library
presented by Master Gardener Coralee Fox

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, January 2015

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Posted by cwcmastergardeners | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 23-12-2014

http://blog.lib.umn.edu/mgweb/crowwing/AskMG-January2015.pdf

CROW WING COUNTY MASTER GARDENER PROGRAM
Ask the Master Gardener
JANUARY 2015 COLUMN

Dear Master Gardener:
I find the Asian-looking leaves of the ginkgo tree very attractive and would like to plant one in Nisswa. Will it grow here and is there anything I should know before I plant one?

Though we don’t see many Ginkgo biloba trees here, there should be no problem in getting them to grow. They are hardy through zone 3, so hardy that they survived the atom bombing of Hiroshima when almost all other plants were destroyed. They are tolerant of drought, air pollution and salt, and are resistant to most insects, animal predation, and diseases. They grow up to 40 ft. tall and have a roughly pyramidal shape. They are prized for their lovely 3-inch, fan-shaped leaves and their rich yellow fall color. In Asia the leaves have both culinary and medicinal use. They are considered the world’s oldest living tree species and can live for a thousand years. They originated as wild trees during the Mesozoic era 200 million years ago in China, where they were domesticated and propagated. Of course there is always a fly in the ointment. For the ginkgo it is the very distasteful odor (some compare it to vomit) emitted by rotting fruit of the female gingko in the fall. Ginkgos are dioecious, meaning that male and female parts are on separate trees. They are pollinated by wind and only the females produce fruit. The odor remedy is to plant only male ginkgos. Most commercially available trees are male but check carefully to make sure. They are sometimes called the “maidenhair tree”, perhaps because of their similarities in foliage to the maidenhair fern, or the “fossil tree” because of their history.

Dear Master Gardener:
I would like to add some plants with silver-colored foliage to my gardens. What plants do
you suggest?

In a garden, silver and gray colored plants can soften the transition from one plant to the next. They are great additions to a moon garden as they pick up and reflect the light of the moon. A “deer resistant” annual with silver foliage you could add to your garden is Dusty Miller. Perennials with silver or gray foliage include:

  • Athyrium niponicum (Japanese painted fern); Athyrium (hybrid) ‘Ghost’
  • Artemisia
  • Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’, and ‘Looking Glass’
  • Heuchera (Coral Bells) ‘Jade Gloss’, ‘Pewter Veil’, and ‘Silver Scrolls’
  • Lamium maculatum (Spotted Dead Nettle) ‘Beacon Silver’, ‘Orchid Frost’, and ‘White
    Nancy’
  • Perovskia (Russian Sage) ‘Little Spire’ (dwarf)
  • Pulmonaria (Lungwort) ‘Berries and Cream’, ‘E.B. Anderson’, ‘Little Star’, ‘Majeste’, ‘Margery Fish’, ‘Rasberry Splash’, ‘Silverado’, ‘Silver Bouquet’, ‘Silver Shimmers’,‘Sissinghurst White’, and ‘Smokey Blue’
  • Stachys (Lamb’s Ears or Big Ears) ‘Helene von Stein’

Dear Master Gardener:
How do I go about creating a miniature moss dish garden?

First, decide on a container other than metal because mosses are sensitive to metals and chemicals. Drill a drainage hole if your container doesn’t have one and line the bottom of the container with landscape fabric, so the drainage hole doesn’t clog. An unbleached coffee filter also works well. Add a thin layer of pea gravel or similar drainage material; then fill the dish with well-draining potting mix to just below the brim. Lay moss and lichen on top of the potting mix and firmly press down. Cut the moss to fill the dish by adding a larger piece of moss than the space allows and trimming it to a size a little larger than needed so the edges can be tucked in. Tuck the moss into the dish. Harvest moss from your own property or check your local garden center or floral shops. Always collect responsibly and remove only what you need from a colony. It is illegal to remove moss from protected areas, such as state and national parks or public land. When your dish garden is complete, water it thoroughly and press the moss down. Water it well every week, misting between waterings or adjust the frequency depending upon rainfall if your dish garden is outside. If kept outside, keep your dish garden in a shady spot. You may add accents to your dish garden; anything other than moss is considered an accent. Accents can be other plants, such as hostas, Christmas fern, miniature ebony spleenwort, dwarf mondograss, and other species that thrive in conditions similar to those of moss. You may also add stones, pieces of driftwood or other accents for visual interest.

JANUARY GARDEN TIPS

  • The average annual minimum temperature in January in Crow Wing County is minus 30 to minus 35 degrees F.
  • In January houseplants often suffer from the very low humidity in most homes.
  • Watering from the bottom, soaking the entire rootball, can help. Fill your sink with water deep enough to come to within an inch or two of the top of the pot. Making sure that the pot has bottom drainage holes, submerge it and let it sit in water for about 20 minutes or until the soil on top feels damp. Return the plant to a sunny window.
  • Poinsettias can be kept attractive for several months by placing them in your sunniest window and checking the soil surface every day or two. As soon as the surface no longer feels moist, water it. Do not let the plant (or any plant) sit in water. In February start fertilizing at half strength every four to six weeks
  • Avoid using commercially prepared ice-melting chemicals. They can kill or damage grass, perennials and shrubs. Use sand instead. Dampened sand adheres better than dry on icy walks.
  • If you received amaryllis bulbs for Christmas, start them now and keep them green and watered until planting them outdoors after the last frost. Planted now they should bloom in 4-6 weeks.

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, ext. 4040 and leave a message. A
Master Gardener will return your call.

UMN Extension Crow Wing County Master Gardeners’ Website
z.umn.edu/crowwingmgs

Find us on Facebook

© 2015, 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.

 

 

 

GARDEN EXPO 2015 – Registration is now open!

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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 z.umn.edu/crowwingmgs 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

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

CROW WING COUNTY MASTER GARDENER PROGRAM
Ask the Master Gardener
DECEMBER 2014 COLUMN

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.

DECEMBER GARDEN TIPS

  • 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
    season.
  • It’s too late to plant outdoors and too early to plant indoors, so relax and enjoy the Christmas season.

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
z.umn.edu/crowwingmgs

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

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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

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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 z.umn.edu/crowwingmgs sometime in December.  Space will be limited so register early!