Lawns, Gardens & Trees
Every year, starting in late February or early March, I begin to get calls and emails about evergreen trees that aren’t very green. Some of the needles may be turning brown, red or even a shade of purple. Generally, we categorize the problem as “winter injury”. That’s somewhat vague, as the potential causes are many.
The classic example of winter injury is seen in the picture below. All of the needles that are located above the snow are exposed to harsh winter conditions such as fierce winds and brutal cold. Additionally, bright sunlight can reflect off the snow and create more problems.
The symptoms of winter injury in spruce trees are often somewhat different (below). Needles turn different shades of purple or red or brown. Usually, there is no specific pattern to the damage – the discoloration isn’t above the snowpack, or just on one side of the tree or even worse on one side. It isn’t necessarily newer needles, or older needles, or needles on the tops of the twigs that are affected. That makes diagnosis a little difficult – environmental problems usually show some type of pattern. Nevertheless, if symptoms like these develop over the course of the winter, after January, then it’s almost certain that the problem can be categorized as winter injury.
While rough winter conditions can kill needles, the buds that contain next year’s growth often survive. The trees in the first picture above were damaged in the 2009-2010 winter. The shoots had new growth in 2010 and the trees recovered well. Winter injury stresses trees and minimizing stress over the following growing season is important in helping trees recover. Watch out for pests and treat them as needed. Spruce trees that have been damaged by spider mites are more susceptible to winter injury than those that haven’t been attacked. Minimizing drought stress is also important. Make sure the tree has enough water to meet its needs, but don’t overwater. A rule-of-thumb for watering is once every 10 days, if there has been no rain. In the fall, watering up until the ground freezes will help keep the tree hydrated going into winter. This will help to minimize winter injury, though it won’t completely prevent it. Helping the tree to build new leaf tissue can also support its recovery. Adding a small amount of nitrogen fertilizer in the spring – 1 to 3 lbs of nitrogen per 1000 square feet of soil surface – can help the tree to recover.
Winter injury is common and reveals itself as dead needles during the spring. Minimizing stress during the growing season can help trees recover from winter injury, and in some cases, can even lower the probability of winter injury from happening in the first place.
North Dakota State University will make grants up to $1,000 available on a competitive basis to support youth gardening projects. Approximately $30,000 is available.
County Extension offices, 4-H clubs, schools, community organizations, church groups, and other youth organizations are encouraged to apply.
Any project related to youth and gardening is eligible. Examples include the establishment of school gardens and orchards, beautification projects in parks, construction of raised garden beds for the elderly, growing vegetables for local food pantries, and planting trees.
We have curriculum from the national Junior Master Gardener Program available, but projects are not required to use it. This curriculum includes hundreds of programming ideas and you can focus on gardening, nutrition, wildlife and literature.
The application is online and easy to complete. Review of applications will begin February 10, 2014 and continue on a regular basis through April or until available funds are exhausted.
For more information, go to www.ag.ndsu.edu/jrmastergardener
North Dakota State University and a team of over 500 gardeners have evaluated hundreds of varieties in backyard gardens over the past five years. The team rated the varieties for germination, plant health, earliness, yield and taste. The results of the 2013 trials and our recommendations for 2014 are available for downloading below.
Everyone is welcome to join our team! You will be introduced to new varieties, sharpen your skills in science, and grow healthy vegetables. It is a fun project for the entire family. Our seed catalog for 2014 will be posted in February. For more information, contact Extension Horticulturist Tom Kalb.
Recommended Vegetable Varieties for North Dakota Gardens - 2014 (PDF, 2 pages, 118 KB).
NDSU Yard & Garden Report for January 2014 (PDF, 8 pages, 672 KB).
The holidays are here—and these are the busiest shopping days of the year!
Selecting the right gift can be a challenge sometimes. It’s nice to know that many of our friends enjoy gardening. Here are a few gift ideas to consider:
Let’s start with a beautiful flowering houseplant. The delicate blooms of a cactus make it a special gift. Poinsettia and azalea also add dazzling color to the holidays.
Foliage houseplants make a nice gift that can provide for years of pleasure. Put the plant in a colorful ceramic pot to add a special touch. Give them a Norfolk Island pine (which looks like a tiny Christmas tree) and decorate it with ornaments.
A potted amaryllis is fun to grow. Your friend will be amazed on its rapid growth and fabulous flowers.
A dried flower arrangement is another colorful gift idea that provides long-lasting beauty.
A paper pot maker can turn old newspapers into seed starting pots. Soil block makers are another way to make your own plant pots. A heating mat can get the transplants off to a strong start this spring.
Good pruning tools are always appreciated. A new shovel, spading fork, or quality hoe may not seem like a showy gift, but it will touch the heart of a true gardener.
Consider giving some accessories such as a pocket knife, pair of gloves, or a kneeling pad. Maybe add a set of automatic watering globes—they even look like Christmas ornaments!
Other thoughtful gifts include a rack that dries herbs, a scissors that minces herbs, and crocks for pickling.
Give a subscription to a gardening magazine and they will remember you all year.
Thermometers, soil thermometers, and rain gauges provide valuable information to a gardener.
Hand scrubbing lotions are available that clean and moisturize the best tools of gardeners: their hands.
For the gardener who seems to have everything, wind chimes and spinners can add pleasing sounds and movements to a landscape. Gnomes and other gardening ornaments may be a risky gift, but such gifts can bring the biggest smiles!
Photo was made available under a Creative Commons license specified by the photographer: Portrait / Wedding …, http://www.flickr.com/photos/fensterbme/327411822/.
It is often confused with clover and black medic in leaf form. Oxalis has distinctly heart-shaped leaflets that are always lighter or yellowish green. This is a unique weed in that it has both an annual and perennial forms; the flower and capsule are what warrant special comment. The flower is yellow and tubular with 5 petals, and when the capsule matures, it expels seed, doing so with great momentum, scattering the seed like birdshot in multiple directions several feet away. The seed pod is erect, hairy, cylindrical, 1/3 to 1 inch long, and pointed at the tip. This weed is a curse to have in greenhouse environments and can go from being insignificant to a real headache is not controlled early in detection. Control this weed with Weedone DPC amine or Trimec.
Harvesting and Curing Gourds
Gourds are ready for harvest when the stems dry and turn brown. It is best to harvest gourds before frost. Mature gourds that have a hardened shell will survive a light frost, but less developed gourds will be damaged. The lagenaria will tolerate a light frost; but gourd color may be slightly affected. Gourds should be cut from the vine with a few inches of the stem attached. Take care not to bruise the gourds during harvest, as this increases the likelihood of decay during the curing process. Discard any fruit that is rotten, bruised or immature. After harvesting, gourds should be cleaned with soap and water, dried, and rubbing alcohol applied to the surface.
Curing cucurbita gourds is a two-step process which may take 1 to 6 months depending on the type and size of the gourd. Surface drying is the first step in the curing process, and takes approximately one week. During this time, the skin hardens and the exterior color of the gourd is set. Place clean, dry fruit in a dark, well-ventilated area. Arrange gourds in a single layer and make certain that the fruits do not touch each other. A slatted tray will allow air circulation around the gourds. Check gourds daily and discard fruit that show signs of decay or mold and any that develop soft spots.
Internal drying is the second step in curing and takes a minimum of four weeks. Keep the gourds in shallow containers in a dark, warm, well-ventilated area. If any mold appears on the outside skin, gourds can be wiped clean and allowed to continue drying. However, any gourds that become decayed, shriveled or misshapen should be discarded. Periodically turn the fruit to discourage shriveling and promote even curing. Providing warmth during the internal curing process will accelerate drying and discourage decay. Adequate curing is achieved when the gourd becomes light in weight and the seeds can be heard rattling inside. Cured gourds can be painted, waxed, or decorated.
Lagenaria gourds can be surface cured in the same manner as cucurbita gourds. However, the internal drying process takes much longer for the gourds to fully harden. After curing, the surface can be smoothed and polished with very fine steel wool or sandpaper. The hardened shell should be treated with rubbing alcohol, allowed to dry, and then waxed or shellacked for the final finish.
Luffa gourds have specific harvesting and processing techniques to produce high quality sponges. Harvest when the outer shell is dry, the gourd is light in weight and the seeds rattle inside. Remove the stem end of the gourd and shake out the seeds from the center cavity. Soak the luffa gourds in warm water until the outer skin softens to the point where it can be easily removed. Then soak the fibrous sponge in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water to obtain the desirable creamy-white appearance. Rinse in clear water and allow to dry before using.
Darkened areas and pitting occur in the outer skin of the apple. Corky, brown tissue forms inside toward the blossom portion of the fruit. Bitter pit is a disorder that is caused by a deficiency in calcium.
It is a beneficial insect that eats aphids and other insects. The larvae appearance has caused many homeowners unnecessary concerns.
Asparagus can be damaged by the beetle in different ways. Larvae and adult will give the spears/tips scarring. Droppings or frass can stain the spear and be unsightly.
Handpicking or brushing them to the ground with a towel or small broom is what is done in small garden situations for control.
Is Master Gardener training on your bucket list? Do all your friends and neighbors come to you for gardening advice? Would you like to learn even more about horticultural topics from NDSU professionals? Registration is now open for the 2013 North Dakota Master Gardener Program! We are delighted to offer both classroom and online training. The classes will run from September 27 through November 15th. If you have questions, contact Esther McGinnis, Master Gardener Coordinator (701-231-7406) or your local Extension agent. See the following website for more details: http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/mastergardener/