Time to Remove Buckthorn

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Using the Weed Wrench to remove buckthorn.

October and November are great months to get out and pull all the small buckthorn trees that have popped up during the season. Buckthorn keeps its green foliage long after other trees and shrubs have dropped theirs so it is very easy to identify this time of year.

The Weed Wrench tool makes short work of smaller trees and you can borrow it free of charge from the Goodhue County Extension Master Gardeners.

Call University of  MN Extension, Goodhue County at 651-385-3100 for more information.

Become a Master Gardener in Goodhue County

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GCEMGs at the Colvill Discovery Garden

If you have an interest in plants and gardening and would enjoy sharing that interest with others, apply to become a University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener volunteer.  Applications are being accepted for the Goodhue County Extension Master Gardener Program now until October 15th.

Individuals selected for the program begin an internship that starts with the Master Gardener core course training on January 9, 2015.  The course is taught online or in-person at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska.  Instructors are University of Minnesota Extension educators and faculty.

Following the course, interns will complete 50 hours of volunteer service in the first year, working with local Master Gardener volunteers on a variety of projects that educate the public about gardening and horticulture.  You might answer plant questions by phone or at an information booth, write a newspaper column, or make a presentation to a community group.

After completing the internship, you become a certified University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener.  To remain certified, Master Gardeners must contribute at least 25 hours of volunteer service annually.

For an application packet and more information, call U of MN Extension Goodhue County, 651-385-3100 or 1-800-385-3101.  Also find more information about the training and the Extension Master Gardener program at http://www.mg.umn.edu.

GCEMG Presentation Topics

Goodhue County Extension Master Gardeners give presentations to garden clubs and other community groups all over the area on a variety of different horticultural topics. Here is a list of the available programs:

Installing a Rain Garden
Attracting Hummingbirds
Managing Oriental Bittersweet and other Woody Invasives
No-till Gardening
Hugelkultur Gardening
Monastic Herb Gardening
Shoreland Restoration
How to Prune Trees
Making a Faerie Garden
Understanding Plant Patents
Invasive Plants
Landscaping for Birds
Organic Gardening
Purchasing and Planting the Right Tree
Planning and Building a Public Garden
The MN Extension Master Gardener Program
Establishing Ground Covers
Planting for Fragrance
Planning a Potager (Kitchen Garden)
A Visit to Public Gardens Around the World

For more information about having a Goodhue County Extension Master Gardener speak to your group, please contact Terry L. Yockey at goodhuemgs@gmail.com or call the Extension office at 651-385-3100.

A GCEMG gives a presentation on No-till Gardening to a local garden club.

A GCEMG gives a presentation on No-till Gardening to the Horticultural Society in Red Wing.

Autumn Tree Care

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Oak leaves from Oakwood Cemetary, Red Wing MN (photo by Nancy Lizette Berlin)

This post is a University of Minnesota Extension News Release:

Media Contact: Allison Sandve, U of M Extension, (612) 626-4077, ajsandve@umn.edu

ST. PAUL, Minn. (10/14/2013)—Drought conditions over the last two-plus years have left trees and other perennial plants visibly stressed this fall. Tree stress symptoms include abundant seed production, leaf scorch, early fall colors, leaf drop, limb dieback and yellowing or browning of leaves and needles.

Fortunately, several measures can help enhance tree and shrub health.

Trees and shrubs–especially conifers (such as pine, spruce and cedar) and those planted in the last three years–should be watered generously until the soil freezes. Mulching newly planted trees also helps reduce winter root damage.

Young maples and thin-barked trees may benefit from sunscald protection to prevent the bark from cracking this winter and spring. This usually involves plastic tubes or tree wraps, which are removed in spring. These practices can also help reduce winter animal damage. Other fall management practices which will help reduce winter damage to trees and shrubs can be found at http://z.umn.edu/winterdamage

Protecting trees from rabbits, mice, voles and deer is another major winter concern. Mow or remove tall grass to reduce mice and vole damage. If the bark is removed or severely damaged around the tree, it will die. Protective physical barriers such as tree tubes, hardware cloth or fencing can be done when practical.

Odor, taste and visual repellents can repel many wildlife species, but may have inconsistent effectiveness. Human hair, soaps, garlic oil, hot sauce and animal repellents can be applied to branches and foliage to discourage browsing. Weather, application frequency, animal population and feeding pressure affect the success of repellents. Alternate the repellents since some animals become desensitized to them. A web resource that reviews prevention and control of wildlife damage can be found at http://z.umn.edu/critters

If you’re unsure about what’s causing problems in your landscape, University of Minnesota Extension has a great website to help homeowners diagnose tree, shrub and plant problems or identifying a weed or insect. This site also has links to the University of Minnesota Plant Disease Clinic and Soil Testing Lab: http://z.umn.edu/diagnose

Fall is also a good time to plant trees; water them until the soil freezes. Recommended trees for all regions of Minnesota are at http://z.umn.edu/rectrees. The best time to prune trees is during the dormant season from January to March. Flowering shrubs can be pruned in the summer after flowering.

Source: Gary Wyatt, University of Minnesota Extension agroforestry educator
For more news from U of M Extension, visit http://www.extension.umn.edu/news or contact Extension Communications at extnews@umn.edu. University of Minnesota Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

Soil Health and Cover Crop Class – September 11, 2013

Soil Health/Cover Crops will be presented by Thomas Steger from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service on Wednesday, September 11 at 7:00 P.M. in the Red Wing High School-Courtyard Cafe.  The class will cover soil health including discussions on “soil critters”, recognizing healthy soil and the long-term ramifications of poor soil health.  Tom will also discuss the use of cover crops, mulch and plant diversity and how they can benefit soil health.  Soil glomalin effects on soil aggregation as well as soil stability and water infiltration will be demonstrated.

This class is sponsored by Goodhue County Extension Master Gardeners and Red Wing Community Education.  The cost is $5.  To register,  call Red Wing Community Schools at 385-4565.

Keyhole Gardens

by  Karen O’Rourke,  Goodhue County Extension Master Gardener
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“Keyhole Gardening” by G. Elaine Acker in Texas Power Coop’s online magazine inspired me try a 3-D keyhole-style garden in the Spring Creek Community Garden.  This style of garden is  another “no-till” garden method.  It is built on top of existing soil on a site receiving 6-8 hours of sun per day.
I  modified the keyhole garden concept because it is in the Red Wing Sustainability Commission’s plot.  If it were at my home, the outer walls would have been made from brick, stone, recycled concrete or a more permanent material.  At the Spring Creek Community Garden,  I used 13 bales of barley straw, supposedly “weed-free”, from Sargent’s Nursery.
Bales were placed in a modified circle, two bales high to reach approximately 36″ with an inside diameter of 6′ (and, yes, I did have my trusty measuring tape out).  Wooden stakes were driven through the straw bales to help them through the summer.  A “wedge” was made into the circle for a path to easily reach into the tower.
Inside the circle, I placed a 4-foot tall and 1-foot wide chicken wire compost tower supported by three stakes.    This tower or basket, has alternating layers of wood chips, weeds, old hay, composted cow manure, (Cowsmo from Sargent’s Nursery) and will also contain kitchen waste, leaves, debris from the gardens as the summer continues.  It will be watered thoroughly throughout the summer and the plant roots will gravitate toward the tower to seek moisture and nutrients.  Little watering will be done in the area around the tower.
The inside of the straw bale circle around the tower also contains layers of old hay, shredded bark, Cowsmo, cardboard from the recycling center, weeds, etc. with several inches of compost from my composter located in the Master Gardener’s plot, and more Cowsmo – similar to the “lasagna” approach  found online and in a book by the same name available at the Red Wing Library.
What is the purpose of the keyhole garden?   This garden method can:
  • Save soil structure by avoiding tilling
  • Use recycled  materials to create new humus or soil
  • Reduce water use
  • Provide nutrients for the polyculture of vegetation  planted in the soil
 Historically, the keyhole garden came from Africa and has become popular in drier areas of the U.S.  Debra Tolman, a landscape architect from Texas, has several articles, photos and YouTube videos of  keyhole gardens –  just search online under her name or “keyhole gardens”.
Next time you are out to Spring Creek, please do wander over to the straw bale structure in the rear of the garden to view this process.  It will be as new for you as it is for me.

Trees…After the Storm

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By Katie Himanga, Goodhue County Master Gardener

Does your columnar arborvitae look like this photo as a result of the May 2 snowstorm?

Look closely to see if the stems are broken. Those need to be cut at the break or removed entirely. Arborvitae has some ability to re-sprout from broken stems, but only time will tell how a particular tree will respond. For stems that are bent but not broken, some will stand back up on their own. Others won’t do it on their own but can be supported with a splint for a few seasons until they regain strength. Use a long bamboo pole, wood dowel or flexible fiberglass pole. The latter are used for tents and for supporting netting in the garden. Strap the splint to the bent arborvitae stem at several points along the pole with Velcro tape or soft rags. Check the stems every few weeks throughout the summer and loosen the ties as the stem expands.

For other types of trees with broken limbs… If the tree has just one or two, it may be best to remove each broken branch entirely. Make the final cut just outside the branch collar. If there are many broken branches but the tree is otherwise safe to leave in the landscape, it’s best to cut off just the broken part of each branch. Use sharp tools but leave as much live tissue as possible on the broken stub. Healthy branches will re-sprout from dormant buds and it might be possible to do restorative pruning in future years. Plan to have a Certified Arborist work on the tree during the dormant season beginning in 2-3 years.

Stop Oriental Bittersweet in MN

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Goodhue County Extension Master Gardener Genella Mussell
answering questions about invasive Oriental Bittersweet

by Genella Mussell, Goodhue County Extension Master Gardener

As leaves, trees and undergrowth begin to fill out and eventually paint our world green I want to remind folks to be on the lookout for invasive species. We have heard the awful news about the Emerald Ash Borer for our Ash trees. How many of us as gardeners are aware of Oriental Bittersweet?

Bittersweet? That beautiful berry and vine used to make those fall wreaths often seen at craft fairs and stores? Well, yes and no. The bittersweet that should be used in these wreaths is the American Bittersweet. Unfortunately there may be wreaths made with a variety named Oriental Bittersweet.

The bittersweet causing concern for the Minnesota DNR is the Oriental Bittersweet. Unfortunately it was introduced to the US as an ornamental vine. It is a climbing woody perennial vine. It has proven to be very aggressive. It can grow to heights of 66’. Because of this aggressive growth it can smother trees, shrubs and other vegetation. It had been known to cover entire trees and pull them down due to the heaviness of the growth. The vines can girdle and kill grown trees.

The Oriental Bittersweet looks very similar to the American. Differences that can be noted are in how the fruit and flowers grow and the color of the berries. The Oriental Bittersweet has fruit and flowers located in the leaf axils along the length of the stem. American bittersweet, however, only has fruit and flowers in terminal clusters. The berries of the American Bittersweet are orange and those of the Oriental yellow. These are best seen in the fall.

Why the warning? As stated, this vine is very aggressive. The Oriental Bittersweet has at present a limited distribution in Minnesota, which is why we need to stop it now.  As gardeners we should be on the lookout for it or at least aware of it. Because it is a favorite in ornamental wreaths it may be unintentionally introduced. So as a warning, when attending craft fairs or shows, take a careful look at the wreath and make sure they are not compromised of the Oriental Bittersweet.

Sadly, we have any number of invasive species of which we must be aware. If we take a moment to familiarize ourselves with the plants around us or those with which we may come in contact, we can perhaps slow the spread of some of these species. We should remember the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

Online Resources:

The Soil is Alive!

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by Karen O’Rourke, Goodhue County Extension Master Gardener
“A bare plowed field is hungry, thirsty and running a fever.”  That statement sure caught my attention when I read the handout called “Soil Health/Soil Quality”  by Peter Hartman, NRCS Soil Scientist  - Rochester, Minnesota.  A few other things to consider:
  • There are 9 billion living organisms in just a tablespoon of soil.
  • Keep soil covered with living plants or plant residues to avoid erosion.
  • Minimize disturbance of the soil to limit weed seeds.
  • Maximize diversity of plants in rotation, using plants from many different groupings such as flowers, herbs, vegetables, ground covers for visual interest and to limit disease that can spread in monocultures.
  • Keep living roots in the soil to hold the soil in place as much as possible.  Consider cover crops off-season.
“Tillage is bad for the soil, tillage plants weed seeds” notes Hartman.  Community gardeners, lets keep the soil food web working!  Ruth’s Stouts book:  Gardening Without Work: for the Aging, the Busy, and the Indolent is a great reference for no till gardening and can be found at the Red Wing Public Library.  If you would like to see these methods in action, stop by the demonstration plots at Spring Creek Community Garden or email me at korourke3348@gmail.com .
Do you want to learn more about soil?  Check out the Soil Primer by the Natural Resource Conservation Service.