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    Japanese Beetles: Do Four O’clock Flowers Help?

    A rumor emerged that there existed a flower which could not only halt the Japanese beetle’s garden invasion but kill them in the process. After some investigation, this mythical plant people talked about was the four o’clock, also called marvel-of-Peru (Mirabilis jalapa).

    Bush Honeysuckle: A Shade Plant with Shady Lookalikes

    Every day I arrive to work in Le Center I’m greeted by a row of honeysuckles. When I would visit Iowa to see my parents, however,  an entirely different outlook about honeysuckles emerged. With an axe in one hand and a spray bottle of potent herbicide on the other, I was fighting a scourge rather than a landscaped plant.

    Goldenrods: Global Invasive?

    Thought to be introduced to Asia and Europe via gardeners, goldenrods have managed to cause havoc across the globe. Three Minnesota natives that are commonly put on worldwide “most wanted” lists include Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida), and giant goldenrod (Solidago gigantea).

    The Mystery of the Maltese Mushroom

    Maltese plants have several tricks under their leaves when it comes to survival. One plant in particular is not only a survivor, but has a fascinating, strange history.

    Native Poinsettia in Minnesota

    While we enjoy displaying them for the holidays, poinsettia itself is quite a wimp when it comes to cold, and would be doomed growing in a backyard in the Midwest. However, its close relative the wild poinsettia does manage to eke out a living in southern Minnesota.

    Christmas Cacti: A Bit Of Brazil In Winter

    One reason these plants are so robust lies in their homeland, southeastern Brazil. Wild Christmas cacti thrive in rocky, well-drained areas underneath trees.

    Use Soil Health Tests Wisely

    Most gardeners know an unhealthy soil when they work one, no test required. However, if you take steps to improve your garden beds, you may want to know if you are on the right track.

    Cover Crop Grades for the Garden

    Cover crops are a underused asset to any garden. See how common (and some uncommon) species did during the spring and most of the summer.

    Garlic Mustard: A Vinegary Disposition

    One aspect of garlic mustard, aside from its annoying growth habit, is its influence on the soil underneath.

    What Makes a Plant False?

    Whether it is Solomon's seal or false Solomon's seal, we must remember that plants, even the “false” ones, play an important role in their native habitat.

    Solarization in the Garden

    Solarization is where transparent plastic (2 to 6 mil) covers a garden bed and uses trapped heat to kill weed seedlings (and some diseases). Common in southern states, more temperate areas such as Maine, Indiana, and Minnesota have found some use in this process and are continuing to explore how to make it more effective.

    Oats: A Domesticated Weed

    In their day, oats were not a weed suppressor, but a weed. Before agriculture as we know it, wild grasses such as oats (Avena sp.), wheat (Triticum sp.), and barley (Hordeum sp.) often grew in the same area and were occasionally munched on by the earliest humans. Over time, people selected barley and wheat for domestication, leaving oats in the dust until fairly recently.

    Mother of Thousands: A Plant Factory

    Mother of thousands, a succulent native to Madagascar, has a unique method of reproduction in the plant world. Certain cells on the leaf margin spontaneously turn into entirely separate organisms, called plantlets.

    New Holiday Invader: Elongate Hemlock Scale

    Detected on holiday wreaths sold at Menards and Home Depot, these invasive insects pose a serious risk to Minnesota’s forest and residential landscapes, particularly to evergreens.

    Elderberry: A Magic Wand for Colds?

    There appears to be a measurable benefit (compared to placebo) to taking elderberry during the flu, but elderberries have a surprising history with humanity.

    Sparkling Water: Pesticide Panic?

    Linalool is indeed used in insecticides, but looks (and smells) can be deceiving with this plant derived chemical.

    Wasp Control for Lawns

    Ground nesting wasps can be quite the annoyance in late summer. Knowing when and how to control is key.

    Conifer Madness

    Thirty five to forty percent of my service calls deal with trees, and the vast majority of those calls consist of evergreens that often do not live up to their name.

    Creeping Charlie: A Tangled History With Hops

    Considered a garden weed, few people know the old brewing uses of Creeping Charlie and its long lost rivalry with hops.

    Neem: A Pesticide That Is Also a Toothpaste!

    Neem bark and seeds were traditionally used not only as an insecticide, but also as a tonic to treat human aliments such as leprosy, tooth decay, or malaria.

    Vinegar and Epsom Salt as Herbicides

    Spreading Epsom salt to combat weeds is dubious at best. However, horticulture vinegar (properly applied) can be effective at weed control in certain situations, particularly in organic vegetable production.

    Saffron Production in Minnesota?

    Growing saffron in a high tunnel can be done, perhaps even profitably according to new research by the University of Vermont.

    Winter Effects on Japanese Beetles

    Several deep freeze/thaw cycles in January can fool Japanese beetle larvae.

    Using Cover Crops: The Right Fit

    It may seem like a chore, but recording where and how long your vegetables grow in the garden is key to using cover crops effectively.

    Using Cover Crops: Species Selection for Gardens

    Even in Minnesota, there are quite a few cover crop species for you to choose, each with their own pros and cons. To narrow your possible choices, it is incredibly important to know the needs of your garden.

    Using Cover Crops: A History of Green Manure

    Grown primarily for improving the land rather than harvest, cover crops (aka “green manures”) have been in use by humans for longer than you might have imagined.

    The Ladybugs Return!

    These insects—while key in helping our local farmers control aphids—plague us in our homes. What you may not know, is that these beetles are not just a biting, stinking nuisance, but have real negative effects on our environment and even our wine!

    Fall Residue Control and Disease Prevention

    Infected residue on the surface can continue to pose a risk to your garden.

    Ash Tree Replacement (Updated 2019)

    Emerald Ash Borer is creeping its way up to Blue Earth County. When your ash dies, what do you plant?