Lawns, Gardens & Trees


Lawns, Gardens & Trees

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Youth gardening grants available

Funds are available to support gardening projects for youth in North Dakota

Girl planting perennialThe North Dakota State University Extension Service will make grants up to $1,000 available to support youth gardening projects in North Dakota.

Schools, 4-H clubs, community organizations, church groups and other youth organizations are encouraged to apply. Review of applications will begin February 25, 2016 and continue until available funds ($30,000) are exhausted.

More than 5,200 youth participated in North Dakota Junior Master Gardener projects in 2015. These projects included establishing school gardens, beautifying schools and parks, building raised beds for the elderly and growing food for local food pantries. We encourage you to read our 2015 Annual Report or 2015 At-A-Glance summary for ideas. 

Our JMG program helps children to learn about gardening and become active in serving their communities. For more information and an application form, please go to

Written by Tom Kalb, NDSU Extension Horticulturist. Photo courtesy of Vanessa Hoines, NDSU Extension Educator.

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Unwanted guests

Japanese beetles detected again

Japanese beetle trap
Japanese beetle trap and close-up of beetle
Japanese beetle has been detected again in North Dakota. The pest was found in 40 traps across the state in 2015.

Japanese beetle (Popillia japonicais one of the most destructive pests in landscapes. It destroys lawns, roses, grapes and more than 300 other plants.

The beetle has been in the USA for 100 years and has been found every year in North Dakota since 2012. Japanese beetle is well established in Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana—but not in North Dakota. It struggles to survive our brutally cold winters. It's hard to say, but thank goodness for our cold winters!

In North Dakota, we use traps to locate and eradicate colonies before they become established. In 2015, the North Dakota Department of Agriculture (NDDA) set up 1,700 traps to monitor for the beetle. Traps were set up across the state with a focus on high-risk areas including nurseries and irrigated golf courses.

A total of 56 beetles were caught in 40 traps located in 10 counties. These were in Barnes (1 positive trap, 1 beetle); Burleigh (12, 15); Cass (10, 14); Grand Forks (2, 2); McKenzie (1, 1); Richland (1, 1); Stark (2, 3); Stutsman (1, 1); Ward (6, 10) and Williams (4, 8).

These numbers are similar to 2014 and down from a peak of over 400 beetles detected in 2013. This downturn was largely achieved after a major nursery supplier in Minnesota implemented safeguards to reduce spreading the beetle when shipping plants across state lines.

The presence of Japanese beetle in North Dakota is a concern but its populations are extremely low. There are individual landscapes in Minnesota with beetle populations many times greater than what we have detected in our entire state.

Looking ahead, the NDDA will continue trapping albeit on a smaller scale in 2016. Anyone who sees a Japanese beetle next summer should contact the NDDA or their local Extension office immediately. The beetles are about one-half inch long, metallic green with bronze wing covers, and have distinctive white tufts along their sides.

For more information, download NDSU publication Integrated Pest Management of Japanese Beetle in North Dakota or watch the NDSU presentation Japanese Beetle in North Dakota.

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Source: Elhard, C. 2015. Japanese Beetle Survey 2015. North Dakota Department of Agriculture. Photos courtesy of Charles Elhard and Kristi

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New golden pepper

'Escamillo' is an award-winning pepper for the north

Bullhorn peppers
'Carmen' (left) and 'Escamillo' (right) bullhorn peppers
It’s a challenge to grow peppers here in North Dakota. Our summers are too brief, too cool and too dry for optimal production.

That’s why it is important to grow a cultivar with a proven record of success in our state. Research trials have shown ‘Carmen’ to be one of the most reliable and productive pepper cultivars grown in North Dakota. Released in 2004, this Italian “bullhorn” type has a sweet flesh and is well suited for salads and roasting.

A promising new cultivar similar to ‘Carmen’ has been released for 2016: 'Escamillo'.

In the French opera, the gypsy Carmen fell in love with Escamillo, an eye-catching bullfighter. In our gardens this summer, we will have an opportunity to fall in love with 'Escamillo', an eye-catching pepper.

This golden bullhorn complements the red radiance of ‘Carmen’ (see photo). The cultivars have a similar size (6 inches long and 2.5 inches wide) and early maturity (60 days after transplanting to immature green; 80 days to mature red/gold).

‘Carmen’ and ‘Escamillo’ were developed by Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Located in Maine, Johnny’s is a leader in the development of cultivars for the north.

‘Escamillo’ is a winner of the 2016 National All America Selections Award. ‘Carmen’ won the same prestigious award in 2004.

Like Carmen the gypsy, I am captivated by Escamillo. Is this pepper as good as it looks? I can’t wait to try!

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Photos courtesy of All-America Selections. 

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What is a blue raspberry?

The ultimate in artificial fruits

Blue raspberryHow was your Halloween? Our Halloween was great—the kids had a fun time and collected lots of candy from our neighbors. Then I saw something weird—my boy had a blue tongue!

His blue tongue was caused by blue raspberry candy. There are lots of blue raspberry snacks and juices on the market now.

Many of us are familiar with red, purple and even yellow raspberries, but what is a blue raspberry?

The blue raspberry originated in a laboratory, not on a farm. It started when makers of ice pops had more red flavors (cherry, strawberry, raspberry and watermelon) than shades of red dye. Kids who wanted a cherry ice pop, for example, could not figure out which red ice pop to select.

Raspberry pops originally used a dark red dye (FD&C Red No. 2) but it was later banned by the FDA as a possible carcinogen. The ice pop makers found Brilliant Blue dye (FD& C Blue No. 1) sitting on the laboratory shelves and the blue raspberry was created—along with blue tongues.

Its flavor mimics the flavor of blackcap raspberry Rubus leucodermis, a wild berry most of us have never seen or eaten (bottom left photo).

There is no such thing in nature as a blue raspberry. Even if you find a blue raspberry product with natural flavors it probably doesn’t have any actual raspberry flavor. Less expensive juices such as apple and orange are more commonly used in these products.

Source: Matt Soniak. What the heck is blue raspberry? Accessed online on November 10, 2015, Photos courtesy of Tom Kalb, arbyreed and Zoya Akulova.

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Growing tulips indoors

Enjoy the bright colors of spring during winter!

Forcing tulipsWinter is coming and the first snowflakes are already falling. Humbug! I’m thinking about SPRING today!

Have you ever grown tulips indoors? It’s easy! This is a process called forcing. We are literally forcing the bulbs to bloom under unnatural conditions. 

Start by selecting the finest, biggest bulbs you can find. Partially fill pots with potting soil and set the bulbs close together (see top left photo). Bulbs should not touch each other but be no more than two inches apart. Fill each pot with soil so the tips of the bulbs are exposed at the soil surface. 

Each tulip bulb has a curved side and a flat side. The largest leaf grows from the flat side. Set that side of the bulb against the inner rim of the pot and the leaf will arch over the rim—beautiful!

Label the pot with the variety name and planting date. Water the bulbs and keep them at around 40 degrees. Set the pots in a cool cellar, unheated garage or in the basement refrigerator. This will be their “winter” (much milder than the winter we will face, that’s for sure!).

After 12–14 weeks, the bulbs will start sprouting. Bring them to a cool (50–65°F) spot with bright, indirect sunlight for 1–2 weeks. Many gardeners take only a few pots out of storage at a time. This will extend the spring show.

Move the pots to a sunny window after the sprouts have reached two inches tall. The plants will bloom in two weeks.

Try forcing daffodil, crocus and hyacinth bulbs too! Enjoy the bright colors of spring—in winter! 

Photos courtesy of Tom Kalb, Thomas Knox and Lori L. Stalteri

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Pumpkins: Think PINK

Sales of pink pumpkins support the fight against breast cancer

Williston High School FFA Pink Pumpkin ProjectOctober is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink ribbons are on display everywhere to promote early detection of the disease. 

We can fight breast cancer by purchasing or growing PINK PUMPKINS.

Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2015).

The Pink Pumpkin Patch Foundation was established in 2012 to supports organizations involved in breast cancer research. Farmers and community groups grow and sell pink pumpkins with a portion of the proceeds going to raise money for the foundation.

Local groups include the Williston High School Future Farmers of America (FFA). Kimberly Holloway of NDSU and Carrie Bolstad of FFA coordinate this project, which is supported by the NDSU Junior Master Gardener Program (see left photo). "I enjoy the energy these kids bring to this endeavor," Holloway said. So many of them have someone in their family who is fighting or has fought cancer, that it becomes a very personal thing for them."

A special variety, ‘Porcelain Doll’ was developed to support these projects. Besides its distinctive pink rind, the pumpkins have a sweet, dark orange flesh. This flesh is great for pies, soups and treats. It’s very nutritious and full of cancer-fighting antioxidants. ‘Porcelain Doll’ is offered by many seed companies.

Look for pink pumpkins at your local farmers market. Next year, grow your own pink pumpkins and join the battle against breast cancer. For more information, go to

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2015. October: Breast cancer awareness month. Photo at right courtesy of University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

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Boxelder bugs are swarming

Boxelder bugs swarmingThe redcoats are coming! The redcoats are coming!

With apologies to Paul Revere, swarms of red-coated boxelder bugs are marching toward our homes.  

Adult boxelder bugs are large black insects with reddish-orange markings on their wings (see photo). The immature nymphs have red as their dominant color.

These bugs spent summer sipping on the sap of soft-wooded maples, including silver and boxelder maples. They didn’t damage the trees and most of us did not notice them.

But the warm, carefree days of summer are over and the bugs are desperately looking for heat. You can find them sunning themselves on the south- and west-facing sides of homes.

Boxelder bugs are fairly harmless. They don’t breed indoors and they won’t eat your food. They won’t bite your toes and they won’t eat your furniture. They are just looking for a warm place to spend the winter.

You can leave them alone and after a few hard frosts the problem is over.

If the bugs are causing you a major nuisance, consider spraying them with detergent. Mix three to five tablespoons of liquid detergent per gallon of water. Detergent sprays kill bugs that are sprayed upon and have no residual effect. Repeated detergent sprays will be necessary.

For severe infestations, toxic insecticides can be sprayed on and around the foundation of the home. Insecticides with synthetic pyrethroids are recommended since they work under cool temperatures. These include permethrin, cyfluthrin, and esfenvalerate.

The best defense is to “pest-proof” your home. Caulk any cracks along the foundation, doors or windows. Seal openings where utility cables enter the home. Screen any vents, and apply weather stripping on doors.

Any boxelder bugs that enter your home can be swept outside or vacuumed. Avoid squishing the bugs because their “juices” can stain fabrics. If vacuuming, empty the dust bag immediately to prevent bugs from escaping out of the vacuum.

Photo courtesy of William M. Ciesla, Forest Health Management International,

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Discover diervilla

A tough shrub with striking beauty

First Editions® Cool Splash® diervillaKodiak™ Orange diervilla

There is a new plant appearing in North Dakota landscapes and it is grabbing a lot of attention. It's diervilla (Diervilla sessilifolia). I've never heard of it before—have you?

Originally considered nothing more than a tough shrub for riverbanks and roadsides, new selections of diervilla are generating excitement across the nation.

Michael Dirr, one of the most respected woody ornamentals experts in the USA, originally dismissed diervilla but now admits he was wrong. Start with First Editions® Cool Splash® (top photo). Dirr states Cool Splash® definitely has the “wow factor!” The creamy white and green variegated leaves are bright, clean and do not burn. Cool Splash® is hardy to Zone 3.

Proven Winners Kodiak™Orange diervilla is just as special but in a much different way. Its orange-red hues glow in fall (bottom photo) and rival the beauty of burning bush. It is hardy to Zone 4.

Diervilla has light yellow flowers that attract bees and butterflies in summer. It is a thick, suckering shrub that grows 3–4 feet high and spreads 4–5 feet wide. Diervilla seems well-suited to grow in masses in low-maintenance, naturalized settings. It is resistant to deer.

Dirr reports diervilla is a “tremendously tough” plant that is tolerant to winds and drought. This sounds great for us in North Dakota!

Cool Splash® can be planted in sun but is often used as an understory plant in partial shade, where its white leaf tones are bright and dramatic. It makes sense to plant Kodiak™Orange in full sun where it develops its optimal fall color. 

Diervilla is a tough shrub with striking beauty. Look for these and other hardy selections of diervilla in the future.

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Photos courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc. and Proven Winners. This article was originally published in the NDSU Yard & Garden Report, September 2, 2015. Source used for this article: Dirr, M.A, 2009. Manual of woody landscape plants. 6th ed. Stipes Publishing: Champaign, IL.

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Bee friendly

Bees in ND are threatened by economic development and mites. Learn how to promote bee activity in your yard.

Bee on asterThe undisturbed prairies of North Dakota were once a haven for bees, but the landscape of our state is changing. The oil boom, increased pesticide use and an onslaught of mites are threatening bees. We can no longer take these insects for granted. 

Bees are vital for a productive garden. We need them for cucumbers, melons and squash. We need them for berries, apples, cherries and other popular fruits.

We can take steps to make our landscapes bee friendly. Bees are just like every other creature on earth. They need food, water and a safe shelter.

Bees need food. Grow lots of different flowers. Bees will forage on flowers from the first crocus in spring until the last aster in fall (photo). Native plants are especially well suited for attracting native bees and other pollinators.

Preferred perennials include beebalm, blazing star, blanketflower, goldenrod and aster. Useful annuals include sunflower, salvia and snapdragon. Herbs such as borage, basil and chives are welcome.

Bees need water. Bees will drink from rims of bird baths. A piece of wood in the bath can serve as a landing platform for bees. You can make a bee bath by placing a shallow plate on the ground, lining it with rocks.

Bees need a safe shelter. Bees generally do not need help in constructing nests, but bee houses are easy to construct. Many bees nest in soil so allow some bare patches in the garden. 

Avoid insecticides. Dust and wettable powder formulations are especially dangerous because they collect in the hair of bees. Insecticides that are relatively safe for bees include Bacillus thuringiensis, neem and horticultural oils. Chemicals should be applied in the evening when bees are not active. Avoid products with long residual activity such as soil drenches of imidacloprid.

The Xerces Society is a good source of information on attracting pollinators.

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Information was taken from an article published in the NDSU Yard & Garden Report, July 31, 2015. The photo was made available under a Creative Commons license specified by the photographer: Michael Frank Franz. Source used for this article: Stack, L.B., F. Drummond and A.C. Dibble. 2000. How to create a bee-friendly landscape.Univ. of Maine: Orono.

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Radiant and reliable

Sedum is a fall-blooming perennial that thrives in North Dakota.

Autumn Charm™ sedumChrysanthemum is the superstar of autumn—no other flower can match its brilliance in the late season.

That said, there is nothing brilliant about a perennial that blooms for only one year. Many mums planted this fall will not survive our winter.

Why not grow a fall bloomer that thrives in North Dakota? Something that will bloom this fall—and next fall.

Sedum is one of the most drought-tolerant, low-maintenance, hardy plants available. It’s perfect for North Dakota and is especially well-suited for harsh, rocky soils. It’s no wonder it is nicknamed stonecrop.

Sedum has year-round appeal. In spring and summer, its thick leaves provide an attractive foil to other flowers. Once autumn arrives, its pink flowers command our attention while other flowers in the garden fade. You will notice that bees and butterflies are drawn to sedum blooms. In winter, birds hop on top of the flower clusters and poke at the seeds.

Sedum is a staple plant of every rock garden but it will grow in any well-drained spot. They are effective when planted in groups, along borders or as a large groundcover.

‘Neon’ is a very popular sedum. Its magenta blooms are absolutely brilliant. ‘Autumn Joy’ has been an attractive and consistent performer for decades. Autumn Charm™ is a sport of ‘Autumn Joy’ with variegated leaves (shown). Wow!

The latest series of sedum are the Sunsparklers®. These compact plants come in vivid shades of red, purple and green. The creeping, 8-inch-tall plants are adorned with deep pink flowers in autumn. They are hardy to Zone 4.

Fall is coming and chrysanthemums will soon be appearing at garden centers. Enjoy them, but also keep in mind there are more reliable fall-blooming perennials for us in North Dakota: sedums.

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc. Additional photos are available in the August 23, 2015 edition of the NDSU Yard & Garden Report

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