October begins with drought, ends wet

This area went into the month of October in drought conditions. Seems like it has been raining ever since. This is good for replenishing ground water but not so good for farmers trying to harvest their crops. Crops really could have used this moisture in July and August. From local reports it sounds like advanced technology in corn and soybeans with drought tolerant seed was beneficial again this year.

Gardens were okay as long as they had supplemental watering. At times it was hard to keep everything watered. Even though we have had quite a bit of moisture in October, Sue notices that the slow gentle rains don’t always hit the ground in the shaded areas because of the tree canopies. Make sure your flower beds and trees go into winter well watered.

Sue had a report the other day from someone who plants Cherriette radish. Their spring crop was terrific but the fall crop which was planted in late July — not so good. Could have been too hot and dry for them this year. We hope they don’t give up on them for another year. Perhaps planting in mid-August when the weather has cooled down a bit would be better.

It was a terrific year for apples. Apple trees are usually in bloom by Mother’s day but this year it was toward the end of May. No frost hit the blossoms so maybe this contributed to the good crop. Whatever the reason, we will take it.

We have received information from Gary Wyatt of the University of Minnesota Extension about tree care for this fall. 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.

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.

LaVonne would like to remind you all young or smooth bark trees need to be wrapped before winter. Do this now while the weather is nice as it is a pleasant chore, but can be a miserable job when it is windy and snowing. This is the voice of experience speaking.

If you’re unsure about what’s causing problems in your landscape, University of Minnesota Extension has a great web site 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.

Fall is also a good time to plant trees; water them until the soil freezes. 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.

This is our last column of the year. We hope you all have had a successful and productive gardening year and are making notes for what you want to accomplish in 2014.

LaVonne Swart and Sue Morris, Master Gardeners

Fall reflections on perennials, apples, gourds

Last week we gave suggestions on the best way to divide/move perennials in the fall. This week we would like to pass on information we gleaned from Julie Wisenhorn’s Saturday morning WCCO’s Smart Gardens program.

Wiesenhorn is state director of the University of Minnesota Master Gardener program. She said something very profound about moving shrubs or trees (large perennials). The question was when to move and Julie said spring was the best, but then added that the fall before moving, the person should take a spade and cut a circle around the tree or shrub, the depth of the spade. At that time, new tiny feeder roots would begin to grow inside this circle and would already be there for the plant when it is moved the following spring. Then in the spring, just dig out that area and replant.

We have tried something similar when starting a new shrub from a sucker root. In that case we cut off the root of the sucker close to the mother plant and let it grow for another year. At that point we moved the shrub — in this case a rose bush grown on its own root stock. It worked well.

If you enjoy the first blooms of spring and wish to enlarge your floral display, now is the time of year to plant the spring flowering bulbs. Buy the biggest and nicest bulbs that you can find. You won’t be disappointed. General rule is to dig the hole at least twice the height of the bulb. For newly planted bulbs mulch after the ground has frozen. If you mulch before then, you might be making a nice winter home for rodents.

We are experiencing a terrific apple crop this year. Sue didn’t get her dwarf Honey Crisp apple tree thinned and it had such a heavy crop that she was afraid the limbs were going to break off from the weight. She decided to harvest them the third week in September in order to save the tree. The apples were very sweet and ready for harvest. Each year is different as to when the different varieties of apples are ready, so keep a close watch on your trees.

Since we get this question a lot when the weather turns cool, we would like to repeat information. “What is the implication of the freeze warning on the apple crop?” It depends on how cold it gets. We don’t worry about apples freezing unless the temp drops to the mid 20’s. The University of Minnesota Yard and Garden articles gives us a more complete answer. The temperature within an orchard is not consistent. The “rule of thumb” is about 10 percent of the fruit on the tree will freeze if the temperature drops to 28 degrees and remains so a few hours. Ninety percent of the apples will freeze if the temperature drops to 25 degrees and remains so for a few hours. However, the level of sugar in an apple also changes the severity of the event. The higher the amount of sugar, the lower the temperature has to be before freezing will occur because sugar lowers the freezing point of a solution. Note that if the fruit freezes on the tree, but is not touched until it thaws, the fruit is fine to harvest.

Did you grow gourds in your garden this year? Now what? Leave gourds on the vine as long as possible. Pick only the most mature or those with the thickest shells. Choosing is the most difficult to do as you can never tell which ones will work. Small gourds usually never make it, gourds with larger and thicker shells are better.

After harvesting the large bottle gourds, wash the gourds in warm soapy water, then rinse in water and a household disinfectant such as ammonia or bleach at a rate of ½ cup to one gallon of water. Gently dry with a soft rag. Some people say to then space them 12 inches apart on boards, rack or several layers of newspaper in a 70 to 75 degree sunny airy place. They will need to be turned at least once a week or they will rot. They can take up to a year to cure. Sue hung hers in the warm basement by the stems and they dried quite well.

When the bottle gourds are dry enough to hear the seeds rattle, they need to be cleaned. Clean the gourd by soaking with warm soapy water to take off the outer layer. Scrub with a plastic kitchen scrubby — not metal. Use a hacksaw blade to cut open the gourd if you are making a bowl, birdhouse, or other similar object. The shell will crack if you wait too long to cut it. Clean the inside with a spoon, ice cream scoop, etc. (Wear a mask when cleaning out the inside as they can be very toxic) Work outside or in a well-ventilated area.

When decorating your bottle gourd, you can use paint, dye, shoe polish, markers, beads, wood burning, carving, basketry, weaving, lacing, decoupage, etc. Use your imagination. They make nice bowls, bird houses, etc.

–LaVonne Swart and Sue Morris, Master Gardeners

Some tips for dividing and transplanting

As you are emptying your flower pots this fall and putting them away for winter storage, you might be surprised to find a sweet potato tuber hiding in your potting mix in a pot where a decorative sweet potato had been planted last spring. If you happen to find a tuber, you can save it for next year just like a dahlia.

You can also take stem cuttings to save a sweet potato vine. We have wondered if these tubers are edible. They are but they probably don’t taste as good as the ones grown specifically for eating. Also you need to consider if you used any chemicals on the decorative vine during the summer. (Some of this information was found in Garden Gate magazine.)

Are you wondering if you should divide some of your perennials? Some signs to look for include fewer flowers, a plant that is shrinking or having a dead center. We feel that spring is the ideal time to get this job done as plants are small and there isn’t much foliage to deal with. Fall is the next best time.

However since we are in the middle of a second (or third) drought year, there needs to be extra care taken when moving or dividing your perennials. It is probably best to use the same advice as if you are transplanting in the middle of summer. Cut the foliage back by at least half. You will have a smaller root system and it won’t have to send so much energy to the foliage.

The day before you do your dividing and/or transplanting, water the plants well and also water the area where you are going to transplant them. In fact, if you can, dig the new hole ahead of time and fill it with water.

When transplanting/dividing, get your plant in the new hole quickly so the roots don’t dry out. After the plant is in place, fill the hole halfway with soil and water well. By doing this, you are ensured that the water isn’t rolling off the soil’s surface. Fill the hole completely, water it once more and put down a layer of mulch. You aren’t done yet. You need to check your transplants daily to check for wilting or if they need more water.

Of course if we ever get any rain, that takes a lot of work out of transplanting. Continue to water your trees, shrubs and perennials. Sue lost several hosta and some other perennials last winter. Must be nature’s way of telling her she has too many flower beds. (She now needs to get out her garden map and delete the things that didn’t make it over last winter.)

Another suggestion is to make a spring “to do” list and write down all the chores that need to be attended to and didn’t get done this fall. It’s easy to forget what needs to be done when everything is emerging in the spring.

While talking about watering during a dry fall, we would like to give you some information taken from a Bachman’s information sheet. “The lack of rain during the late part of the growing season should be a major concern for anyone who values their landscape plants. How much watering should you do? There is no simple, easy answer that would fit all landscapes. Many factors including soil type, drainage, variety of plants and methods of applying the water will influence how much you should water and how often.

“To make the most of watering, apply it slowly and target the feeder root system. With perennials or grass, the feeder roots are in the immediate area of the crowns of the plants. With established trees and shrubs, the vast majority of the feeder roots are out beyond the dripline or canopy. The area within the canopy of the tree is called the rain shadow. 50 percent of your tree’s surface area is below ground. The majority of the feeder roots are outside the canopy and within 12 inches of the surface. Feeder roots are fine, fibrous roots capable of absorbing water. Most of the roots within the canopy have bark. They are conduits for carrying moisture absorbed by the feeder roots. They are also the anchors, providing stability to the tree.”

Good advice to keep in mind.

LaVonne Swart and Sue Morris, Master Gardeners

The incredible salt mysteries

What do you know about salt? LaVonne had never given it much thought until a lady at the herb group she belongs to suggested it be a topic for one of the meetings. This lady, Lois Hegna from Granite Falls, was then asked to research it and report at one of the following years meetings. What a lesson we had! We learned where it is found, how it is gotten and saw many kinds and colors of salt. Lois even went to an exclusive Salt Store, when visiting her son who lives in the state of Washington. Lois will be the guest speaker at the Kandiyohi County Area Horticulture Society on Sept. 24. The meetings are held at the Willmar Community Center at 624 Highway 71 NW, Willmar. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. Please come, everyone is invited. There is no charge for the meeting. We know you will enjoy all the information as Lois continues to add to her presentation. Mark Sept. 24 on your calendar and learn all about salt.

We still receive calls about tomatoes. Not only do they have holes, but some have light areas that do not turn red along with the rest of the fruit. We feel holes are likely caused by slugs or crickets and the larger holes might be caused by squirrels. As always, we are open to other ideas. The light areas near the stem end of the tomatoes are likely caused by sunscald. When the days are sunny and hot, the part of the tomato that is not protected by leaves will become leathery and not change color. Kind of like a sunburn. There is another problem called yellow shoulders which is similar to the sunscald, however this problem can be lessened by adding more fertilizer and more potassium.

Speaking of telephone calls, many Extension Master Gardeners continue to welcome them. One day, someone called LaVonne and had three questions. After answering the first, she felt the caller was not satisfied with her answer. They continued to discuss the problem and one small comment, by the caller, got them on the right track and the problem was solved. This would not have happened were it not for the two way conversation. We do like being of help and sharpening our “detective” skills is always enjoyable. There is also a Help line which may be accessed by calling 231-7890 and pressing #7 when prompted and leaving your question on the answering machine. Someone will get back to you in a day or two.

Fall is here and if you would like to watch birds and haven’t already done so, feeding stations need to be set up soon. Birds will develop a route and when several neighbors have feeders, these birds will remain in that area. Some worry that feeding birds early in the season, then going south for part of the winter, will cause these birds to starve. Those in the know, say the birds are not that dependent on our feeders, and will find food someplace else. The only problem might be that the traveler may find it takes a while for the birds to rediscover their feeders when they return. If you are able to have a heated bird waterer, it will attract many more birds to your area. They do like water, however we keep stones in there so they will not attempt to take a bath.

LaVonne Swart and Sue Morris, Master Gardeners

The continuing mystery of holes in tomatoes

Today we have a mystery, as of beginning this article the answer is not certain. The last time Sue and LaVonne were on the KWLM garden program, a lady called asking if we knew what was making holes in some of her tomatoes. Though we had a few suggestions, we did not have an answer for her. A few days later a very nice lady, Diane Haney, from Willmar called and suggested it might be cicadas. She had put down sticky traps near the tomatoes and found cicadas stuck to them.

Thinking it was time to learn something about cicadas, we looked them up on the computer and a few days later Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota Extension entomologist, also had an article about them. He stated this is the time of year, July into September, we see and hear cicadas. There are two types, one called dog day, (also named annual) and the other being periodical cicadas. Those that appear every year are annuals while those that remain as nymphs in the ground for 13 to 17 years and emerge together in tremendously large numbers are the periodicals. Those we have are mostly the dog day type.

Cicadas are quite large, about an inch long and are considered stout insects with a broad head and very short antennae. Their color is either green or brown with black markings. They have four fly-like wings, the first two are much larger than the abdomen and are often held tent-like over their bodies.

These cicadas are harmless to people and property and are more often heard than seen. People most often see the immature nymphs which look much like the adults without the wings. As nymphs, they are subterranean and feed on tree roots. When they have emerged from the ground they climb up trees, posts and fences to continue their development. When mature, they molt, shedding their skins, these exoskeletons are often found at the base of trees. It is clear and in the shape of the insect. LaVonne saw many of these this summer, long before she heard their hum. They produce a high-pitched sound during the day that resembles a power line hum. This noise, which is made by vibrating a membrane in an internal air chamber, is made only by the males to attract females.

As mentioned earlier, cicadas are not harmful or dangerous to people, pets or property in any stage. While they do feed only on trees, they do no noticeable damage so no control is necessary.

This means cicadas cannot be blamed for holes in the tomatoes. Crickets, grasshoppers and slugs then came to mind. We then looked up crickets and found they might be a possibility, but when looking up grasshoppers we found something very interesting. Grasshoppers will eat some tomato leaves, but will not touch the fruit, nor will they eat most vine crops. Slugs are a good possibility as we have seen them on tomatoes and another is the tomato hornworm which is quite large and would make a big opening.

As we end this article, we have not answered the tomato question with certainty, but we do thank you, Diane Haney, for your suggestion. We are better informed than we were before you called.

LaVonne Swart and Sue Morris, Master Gardeners

This is how it all began

Have you ever wondered how the master gardener program got started? The program was devised out of necessity in the early 1970s in Washington state. There was a big resurgence of gardening at this time, due in part to the increasing high cost of gas and gas shortages which, in turn, raised the price at the grocery store. Gardening during the first half of the century was done out of necessity and the younger generation at that time lost interest in the activity. (Personal observation: The hippie movement started bringing people back to ‘the earth’ and growing things.)

Washington State University Extension initially assigned horticulture faculty to county offices as part of their programs. Crop production was their major emphasis. With rapid urban growth and the burgeoning interest in gardening began, extension began to develop programs emphasizing urban horticulture. They started getting information out via the mass media but it only informed members of the public that if they had questions, the extension office was the place to get help. Gardening knowledge had always been something handed down from generation to generation and now there wasn’t enough of a knowledgeable older generation to ask for advice. After trial and error as how to get information out to the public and ease the telephone calls to the county extension offices, WSU personnel came up with a training curriculum for volunteers and what we now know as the extension master gardener program in 1972.

Other states began to notice the success of the program in Washington state. Mike Zinns, professor at the University of Minnesota Extension had a good friend at WSU and Zinns realized that they had stumbled onto something great. He successfully campaigned for the University of Minnesota to adopt such a program and the first training session in Minnesota was in 1977 with a class of 25 people. There is now a master gardener program in all 50 states.

There are now 2,240 active master gardeners in Minnesota in 81 of the 87 counties. Last year they logged 128,188 hours as volunteers with a value of $2.8 million (the value of this volunteer time per the federal rate for charitable giving of time). 30,100 continuing education hours were completed by these volunteers last year to remain up to date on current horticulture topics and techniques.

The first to take the training in Kandiyohi County were LaVonne Swart, Mary Wittman and Dave Schwartz in 1981. The training has been held in Willmar three times: 1983, 1994 and 2004. There are currently 26 active master gardeners in this county.

Master gardeners are required to volunteer 50 hours the first year as interns and 25 hours annually thereafter as certified active Master Gardeners. Active volunteers are also asked to participate in continuing education of 5 hours per year. Some activities of the master gardeners include: teaching classes and workshops, answering phone inquiries, assisting with county horticulture days, teaching and demonstrating horticulture techniques in the community, writing articles about horticulture, answering questions on the radio, working at information booths at county and state fairs, etc.

Do you have an interest in gardening and think becoming a master gardener would be something you would enjoy? Now is the time of year to spring into action. The County Extension Office (320-231-7890) is accepting applications for master gardener training at this time. Application deadline is Oct. 1. Registration is due by Dec. 1. The training will start in January. You will have the choice of taking the course online or attending the training on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota.

The schedule for the 2014 EMG Core Course conducted in-classroom on the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus is 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday and Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, Jan. 14 through Feb. 8.

Online course sessions begin the same week, Jan. 13. One module is presented weekly. While the pace of the online course is weekly, interns can move through sessions at a faster pace since modules and quizzes will be posted well before the week they are listed. Call the Extension Office in Willmar for more details.

LaVonne Swart and Sue Morris, Master Gardeners

Renovating your summer bearing raspberry patch

Something we haven’t addressed for quite a while is renovating your summer bearing raspberry patch. We would like to share information received recently from Nathan Winter, Extension Agent for Meeker and McLeod Counties.

“Some summerbearing raspberry plants are through producing and a few of the fall-bearing varieties are starting to ripen. In most cases, raspberry plants produced a good crop of fruit over an extended period of time. Now it is time to renovate the patch and prepare for a good crop of easy to harvest berries for next year.

“Left unchecked, a summerbearing red raspberry patch can become an unproductive, unattractive thicket in as short time. An overcrowded raspberry planting produces small, poorly flavored, crumbly fruit. In addition, the decreased sunlight and air circulation that results from overcrowding increases the likelihood of fungal disease, including anthracnose and spur blight.

“Annual renovation of your summer-bearing raspberry plants will keep them at their productive, healthy best. Although raspberries can be renovated any time from late summer after harvest is finished until late March of the following year, late summer renovation often results in slightly more vigorous canes and larger fruit. If plant hardiness is a concern and canes may be lost to winter damage, March renovation is preferable.

“To renovate, simply remove all canes that have already produced fruit and then thin all broken or weak first year canes. Those canes that have fruited are easy to spot at this stage as they have numerous side branches. These canes will die soon anyway, and removing them to the ground will help prevent disease and give the new canes room to grow. The first year canes, on the other hand, are relatively unbranched. A common recommendation is to leave four to six canes per foot of row or six or seven canes per hill in the hill system, but the actual number of canes left in the row after renovation is unimportant as long as they are sturdy, healthy and have room to grow. Do not cut back the cane tips until the following spring when you can determine die-back and winter damage. Never cut off more than 25 percent of the tip of the cane to avoid lowering the yield.

“After thinning the old, weak, and broken canes, check your row width. Raspberry rows should be no wider than 12 inches in order to maximize light penetration and air circulation. Removing canes that grow outside the 12-inch width requires frequent attention, but it results in a healthy, easy to harvest patch.

“Summer is not a good time to fertilize raspberries and it is wise to wait until early spring to apply nitrogen. Summer, however, is a good time to add mulch to the existing mulch or, if you have not mulched your raspberries, put about six inches of straw, hay, pine needles, compost or other organic material between the rows.

“To maximize yield from fall bearing raspberries and to avoid many disease and insect problems, cut all the canes to about two inches from the soil surface in late fall when plants are dormant or in early spring before growth resumes. You will harvest ripe berries only in the fall, but the yield will be greater and the quality of the berries will be better.”

LaVonne Swart and Sue Morris, Master Gardeners

More than you ever wanted to know about the snake plant

What was the name of that different looking plant at the Master Gardener booth at the fair this year? When Sue went to pick up her pots at the end of the fair that was a question she was asked. When she obtained the first bulb from master gardener Randy Siem of Litchfield, he called it a snake plant. Now if you want more technical information, here it is.

Hydrosome. A tender, tuberous rooted plant resembling from which they differ in technical characteristics only. They belong to the Arum family. Natives of Africa and Asia. The name probably comes from the location these plants favor. The only one in cultivation is H. rivieri, the Devil’s tongue or Snake palm.

During the summer it may be placed outside, either in open ground or a pot in a partially shaded area. It requires plenty of water and a liberal feeding of diluted liquid fertilizer. During the winter, it should be stored quite dry at 50-60 degrees (same as a glad corm).

Propagation is rapid by freely produced offsets. Grows from 3 to 4 feet. It has a huge calla-like bloom which appears before the foliage. This flower is brownish purple at maturity emits a disgusting, carrion odor.

The leaves are single, immense, much divided and umbrella like. The younger bulbs don’t produce flowers for a couple years but that is a “good” thing as you will discover they are pretty smelly. (Sue starts her plants in the house around April first for a better summer show). Now you probably know more than you ever wanted to know about the snake plant (palm).

There was a question on List serve recently about variegated plants reverting back to a solid color green. This happens from time to time as most variegated plants are sports from a solid green parent at some point in time. The suggestion was to cut out all the solid green portions of the plant as soon as you see this happen. We have seen this happen on hosta and Sue has noticed this happening recently on a variegated weigela shrub this year.

Another question that was addressed on Listserve recently was plants to put in a shade to part shade garden that you don’t need to stake or that wouldn’t grow too tall. Suggestions on that site included: Goats beard, rodgersia, monarda, goldenrod, Solomon’s seal, Jack in the Pulpit. Angelica gigas. ligularia (Rocket, Little Rocket, Britt Marie Crawford, Othello), Heuchera, Epimedium, Astrantia major (masterwort), woodland peony, bleeding heart and baneberry.

We then checked a booklet put out by Iowa State University entitled “Perennials for Shade”. This publication really goes into specifics. They have lists for sun tolerant shade perennials, those with fragrant flowers, for cut flowers, for moist soils, for dry soils, those that go dormant in heat, native plants, and those that are rarely eaten by deer.

Since we get a lot of pesky deer questions, we would like to list some of the latter. (Please note it says rarely). Some of the more familiar include Monkshood, columbine, wild ginger, astilbe, cimicifuga, fringed bleeding heart, epimedium, Dutchman’s Breeches, Goat’s beard, Jack in the Pulpit, ferns, meadowsweet, Dame’s Rocket, Coral bells, lobelia, woodland phlox, bloodroot, false Solomon’s seal, foamflower, Spiderwort. Note: you won’t find hosta in this category!

LaVonne Swart and Sue Morris, Master Gardeners

Ideal time is now to move iris and peonies

This is the ideal time to divide and/or move iris and peonies. Mary Meyer from the University of Minnesota Extension reminds us that you should plant peonies only 1½ inches deep as they need the cold winter weather to thrive. We had never heard that before. Knew that they were supposed to not be planted too deep but had never heard the part about them needing the cold. (Learn something new every day.)

If you have a perennial or two that doesn’t seem to be thriving, try moving it to another part of your garden and see if it likes the new location better. A suggestion we heard years ago that makes sense is when you buy a plant, buy two and plant each in a different part of your yard. You will probably find that the plant prefers one location over the other. Strange but true.

There were five entries in the scarecrow contest at the Kandiyohi County Fair this year, all very imaginative. Hope you had a chance to see them and vote for your favorite. Consider entering next year. The scarecrow which received the most votes was designed and made by three friends: Tami Kremer, Rose Berghuis and Bonnie Swenson. They received $25 for their effort. The theme for the booth this year was “Go Green” and emphasized composting, showing different methods and there were handouts for those who were interested in this method of recycling.

Questions received at the master gardener booth this year included newly planted asparagus. What should they do? Asparagus should go into winter with all the growth attached. Clean up the bed early in the spring. Newly planted asparagus shouldn’t be harvested until the third year and then only sparingly. The same is true for rhubarb.

Another question was when do I plant garlic? Garlic should be planted in mid-October and mulched well for winter. If it is planted much earlier it could start sending up shoots before frost and you wouldn’t want that to happen.

This just happened to Sue this week and she ran across this info on the University of Minnesota website and wanted to pass it along as useful information since she handled it the wrong way. Lily pollen can stain your skin or clothing if you rub against it. Warm soapy water will take the stain off your skin, but don’t make the mistake of wiping your clothes with a wet rag. It will only serve to spread and set the stain. Resist the urge to brush it off with your fingers, too. The oils from you skin will set the stain.

What she should have done:

1. Let the pollen dry on your clothes, then brush it away with a dry soft brush or facial tissue.

2. Gently dab the pollen with adhesive tape until it’s removed.

3. If some pollen remains, hang the clothes in direct sunlight for two hours usually removes any traces.

4. Pollen stains can also be removed by soaking the garment in an enzyme detergent.

Since this is turning out to be another drought year, depending whether or not you have been blessed with timely rains, be sure to keep up a watering routine. When you do water, water deeply to encourage roots to grow deeper in the soil. We lost several plants this last winter and it wasn’t for lack of snow cover. Sue wasn’t as diligent in her watering as she should have been.

Don’t forget to make a garden map or update the current one with anything new planted this year. We try to use garden markers but they have a tendency to get lost, thanks to pets and/or wildlife running thru the garden so it’s good to have a map to fall back on. We also keep track of where each plant was obtained. It is interesting that some sources are more dependable than others as far as winter hardiness. Keep track of sales slips and receipts for places that guarantee your purchase for a year.

–LaVonne Swart and Sue Morris, Master Gardeners

Groups of beekeepers will come to rescue bees if removal needed

We mention the information we receive from List Serve quite often as sometimes we feel we are really learning something and many times the answers are overkill. One of the items we found to be informative followed a news article where bees were swarming and in the interest of safety were sprayed with water. Many emails followed and we learned there are groups of beekeepers who will come immediately and rescue the bees. They have hives ready to go and will be happy to add another hive to their number.

By looking up bees and University of Minnesota, we were able to learn much. Here are a few other sites we found interesting: Visit our Bee Squad Beelog and if you wish for more information, there is this email: BeeSquad@umn.edu.

While writing this article recently, LaVonne was outside and could hear a buzzing. Usually she has a radio blaring and would hear nothing, but to her surprise bees were swarming. They were not in a ball form as she’d seen them do before, but were thick along roof boards. Today they were gone, and if they moved on or back into the building, she doesn’t know.

This was also on list serve, and after reading it, we decided our practice of mixing purchased planting mix with soil was probably a good idea. Folks have found many potting mixes have little or no calcium, resulting in blossom end rot even though watering and the right fertilization is used. Dr. Jeff Gillman from the University of Minnesota wrote this in his recent Garden Professor’s Facebook. While testing various potting media by growing tomatoes, we found that tomatoes planted in one, Miracle Gro Moisture Control, always had blossom end rot. The reason? Low calcium. Lowest of all the media we tested. (The one with the second lowest calcium level, Espoma, had one tomato with end rot). If you want to avoid end rot, one cure is adding a little gypsum (which is actually calcium sulfate).”

We were asked about care of a raspberry patch and thought the email sent to answer the question might be worth including in our column. Are your raspberries bearing now? If they are, when they’ve finished, cut out all those branches that had the berries. Cut as close to the ground as possible. What you have left will be greener, newer, nicer stems, allow them to grow.

If we do not have an early frost, they might bear on the end of these stems later this fall. (Some of ours do, and some don’t. It depends on the variety.) These stems will be the ones to bear next year, but if they have some fruit this fall, that will not take from next year’s production and just cut that part off next spring. Those stems will be the ones you remove next year, after they bear.

If the plants are 5 to 6 feet tall, they might need some support over winter. They could be pruned to about 4 feet, or tie them loosely to posts. (A heavy pack of snow could be hard on them.)

Now for starting another row, LaVonne’s Mom always said “It usually rains a good shower about the 20th of August and that is a great time to start more.” Dig out some runners, or plants from the bed, prune them back to about one foot and plant in the new row. Keep them watered, and they should be well established before the ground freezes. Spring is always a good time for starting raspberries, but this gives you a head start.

We hope you will find this helpful.

LaVonne Swart and Sue Morris, Master Gardeners