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October 2010 Archives

Earlier this year, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released The Climate-Friendly Climatefriendlygardener.jpgGardener: A Guide to Combating Global Warming from the Ground Up.This science-based but accessible guide explains how home gardeners can avoid contributing to climate change by using certain techniques and tools that are more climate-friendly than others. When too much carbon dioxide and other global warming gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, are released into the air, they act like a blanket, trapping heat in the atmosphere and altering weather patterns around the world.

Climate-Friendly Gardener discusses the connection between land use and global warming, and offers the following recommendations for conscientious gardeners to maximize the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide their green spaces store and minimize the other global warming gases gardens can emit.

1. Minimize Carbon-Emitting Tools and Products. This includes gasoline-powered lawn mowers and other equipment, as well as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which require a lot of energy to produce. The guide provides several tips for avoiding garden chemicals and fossil-fuelpowered equipment.

2. Use cover crops.
Bare off-season gardens are vulnerable to erosion, weed infestation and carbon loss. Seeding grasses, cereal grains or legumes in the fall builds up the soil, reduces the need for energy-intensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and maximizes carbon storage. The guide recommends that gardeners plant peas, beans, clovers, rye and winter wheat as cover crops and explainsthe specific advantages that legume and non-legume cover crop choices have for gardens.

3. Plant Trees and Shrubs Strategically.
Trees and large shrubs can remove significant amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over long periods of time. Well-placed trees also shade buildings from the summer sun or buffer them from cold winter winds, reducing the need for-and cost of-air conditioning and heating. UCS's guide discusses the most suitable types of trees for a climate-friendly yard.

4. Expand Recycling to the Garden. Yard trimmings and food waste account for nearly 25 percent of U.S. landfill waste, and the methane gas released as the waste breaks down represents 3 to 4 percent of all human-generated heat-trapping gases. Studies indicate that well-managed composted waste has a smaller climate impact than landfills. The UCS guide describes how to create a climate-friendly compost pile.

5. Think Long and Hard about Your Lawn. Residential lawns, parks, golf courses and athletic fields are estimated to cover more than 40 million acres-about as much as all the farmland in Illinois and Indiana combined. A growing body of research suggests that lawns can capture and store significant amounts of carbon dioxide, but some newer studies warn of the potential for well-watered and fertilized lawns to generate heat-trapping nitrous oxide. The science is unsettled, but there are practical things gardeners can do to maximize lawn growth and health with a minimum of fertilizer and water. The new UCS guide summarizes the science and offers tips for homeowners to make their lawns truly "green."

We hope you find The Climate-Friendly Gardener to be a useful resource. For more information, or if you would like to request free printed copies of the guide to share, please contact Jennifer Palembas at or call 202-331-5435.

Founded in 1969, the Union of Concerned Scientists is an independent,science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world.

(PHoto credit: Union of Concerned Scientists )
In an earlier post, I mentioned a question from a homeowner who had been advised by a landscape architect to plant  hedge of FineLine buckthorn - Rhamnus frangula 'Ron Williams'. Initial searches yielded some commercial growers stating that this plant was a good choice. In fact, the Proven Winners website stated:

A great landscape plant, FINE LINE® combines the feathery foliage of 'Aspenifolia' with the FineLine buckthorn.jpgnarrow upright habit of 'Columnaris.' Use FINE LINE® in narrow hedgerows for privacy, as an accent plant, or even in a patio container. It's a great vertical accent for the perennial garden, and the narrow habit is perfect for framing entrances. This is an extremely useful, architectural plant for the home or commercial landscape. This cultivar produces very few fruit, none of which have been shown to be viable. FINE LINE® is a responsible and environmentally friendly replacement for weedy, older varieties.

I kept looking and used the option 'Advance Search' / 'Search within a site or domain:'  to find only sources that end in .edu (educational institutions). I also checked the DNR's "Minnesota and Federal Prohibited and Noxious Plants List" and found R. frangula and all cultivars to be restricted noxious weeds. By definition a 'restricted noxious weed' means "that the sale, transportation or movement of these plants is prohibited statewide by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture."

Long story a little longer ... I informed the caller of this information and recommended she choose a different plant for her hedge.


The University's Learning Circles program and Carver / Scott Master Gardeners recently collaborated in bringing the C/S MGs videos, produced on public access, to the Learning Circles curriculum offerings. The first of these are available online at Extension Learning Circles.

For many years, Learning Circles has been a means for citizens to come together and learn, focusing on University-provided topics and teaching materials. Some Master Gardeners have presented to Learning Circles. These dvds by C/S MGs will also bring Master Gardeners into the Learning Circle environment!
From Garden ABCs:
The Learning Bug
HERE to go to the website!

2011 Youth Garden Grant
 ~ DUE Nov 1
Youth Garden Grants recognize outstanding youth-focused garden programs throughout the country. This year 100 recipients will receive a $500 gift card from our The Home Depot and educational materials from the National Gardening Association. The top 5 winners will also receive a $500 gift certificate to Gardening with Kids.

American Honda Foundation ~ DUE Nov 1
Funding for youth education, specifically in the areas of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, the environment, job training and literacy.

USDA Peoples Garden School Pilot Program ~ DUE Nov 8
The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is announcing the opportunity for public and not-for-profit organizations to submit applications for a Peoples Garden School Pilot Program grant competition. FNS has set aside $1 million for this pilot program. One grantee will be selected to enter into a cooperative agreement for the purposes of developing and running community gardens at eligible high-poverty schools; teaching students involved in the gardens about agriculture production practices, diet, and nutrition; contributing produce to supplement food provided at eligible schools, student households, local food banks, or senior center nutrition programs; and conducting an evaluation of funded projects to learn more about the impacts of school gardens.

PS: UMN Master Gardeners are being included in one of these Peoples Garden grants spearheaded by our Food and Nutrition staff in Extension.

Brita Filter For Good Eco Challenge ~ DUE Nov 18
Enter to win one of fifty $1,000 grants to make your school more sustainable. From kindergarten to college, students, teachers and schools are discovering new ways to make our planet more sustainable. From turning the energy created from a simple workout into electricity to power a campus building or creating a campus guide to finding organic and local foods, opportunities to create a greener school and community are limitless.

Thank you to all of you who report your hours as you go and get them finished up by the end of the calendar year. I speak for all staff - local and state - when I say how much we appreciate this. Keep up the good work!

How are your hours used by Extension?
* By local county programs in reports to the county administration, Extension committees, and to UMN Extension regional directors who manage the regional offices;
* By the Master Gardener state program in our annual report to Extension (see the Master Gardener website under Reports and References);
* By UMN Extension in our annual federal report;
* By National Cooperative Extension where our data is compiled with other state Master Gardener Program data for federal funding requests.

"When do my hours need to be entered?" Several counties have set a due date for submitting hours that is earlier than the State program requires. The State Master Gardener Program requires that annual volunteer hours must be reported online by Dec. 31, 2010. That is the date used for State and Federal reports and for determining status of Master Gardener volunteers. As a general rule, any hours not entered by Dec. 31st will not be entered and thus will not count for volunteer or continuing education hours.

"The online reporting is confusing". Please enter information as best you are able. You are welcome to ask local or state program staff to clarify. At the state office, contact Bridget Barton, our state program assistant at or call 612-625-4211.

Don't panic - there's still time to enter your 2010 hours. Please note that the state office does not have the capacity to enter hours for volunteers. If you need help or don't have access to a computer, please contact your county program coordinator or local volunteer coordinator to help you, or use the buddy system and team up with a fellow Master Gardener for computer help.
The 2012 Upper Midwest Master Gardener Conference will be hosted by ... us!

The three-day event will be held at the MN Landscape Arboretum on July 19-21, 2012. Visit the conference FaceBook page for updates and information AND some awesome photos of the Arboretum. Registration will be available via this site as well as info about the upcoming speakers, special events, and sessions to come.

If you would like to be on the planning committee, shoot me an email, or use the comment tool to let me know. Organizers will be getting together via cyberspace soon.

P1040579.JPGWhen answering questions on your local hotline or the Arboretum Y&G line, sometimes you run into the following situations:

  • The caller is from outstate.
  • The caller is a commercial grower or wants to be.
  • The caller has a questions that needs faculty or staff response (weird plant stuff, mutants, ideas, etc.).
  • You have checked all your resources and are just stumped.
What to do?

The state office has a general email address that comes to Bridget and me:
You are welcome to give out this email if you run into the above situations and I will handle their question. You can also contact me for help with questions anytime at my office: 612-625-1925 or cell 952-239-6608. I will be happy to help you.

Questions from the public are almost always interesting.

I answer all the gardening and plant calls that come through the Hort Science Department or to the state office. It's a part of my job that's fun detective work and the people on the other end of the phone are always appreciative. It's also a great way to connect and put a face (well, at least a voice) to the department and the Master Gardener state office. When talking with these folks, I also always take the opportunity to promote the Ask A Master Gardener online email tool, promote their local Master Gardener program, and tell them about Gardening Information. I've listed a few recent questions below just for fun.

If you have additional solutions to mine or want to share some unusual questions you have had recently, feel free to post them in the Comments section after this posting. It would be interesting to hear from you!

Can a person put tulip bulbs in a bag instead of in a pot of soil in the refrigerator to force them? After some searching around, I found Cornell had the best explanation (and confirmed it with my office neighbor, Bill Peters, who teaches plant prop in the department). Hardy bulbs like tulips and daffodils need to establish roots prior to and during the cold treatment (stratification)to support the blooms to come, so therefore the best method is to plant them in well-drained soil before subjecting them to stratification.

How do I get rid of a woody vine that is growing like a mass over a red dogwood hedge? First step, of course, is we had to identify the vine. It was Vitis riparia - wild grape. The caller worked at a senior housing deveopment, and one of the residents had planted the dogwood hedge ten years ago - he was 85 then - and now it was overgrown and had the grape covering it. The grounds crew pulled off the grape, and then cut the hedge to 24" tall straight across (ouch). Now the caller wanted to know how to control the vine in the future. The best solution I could come up with was also the most time-consuming: find the base - or bases in this case - of the grape, cut them and immediately treat the stumps of the grape (carefully avoiding the dogwood) with Round Up (glyphosate) for woody brush. Big, big job as this hedge is very long and the vine has been allowed to grow uncontrolled for a number of years. I took the opportunity to promote mulching the hedge - it is planted in turf - and to prune out the large, corky stems of the dogwood (maximum 1/3 of the stems) to promote the growth of the younger, redder stems.

Waterlily roots big and woody as logs were floating up and congregating along the shore of a small, private lake in southern MN. The water lillies were blooming and beautiful. The woman was amazed and concerned, and called the DNR. A DNR representative came out with his boat, drove around the lake, and deemed the lake healthy. However, he couldn't give her an explanation for these large, woody roots and why they were floating up now. I couldn't either and we don't have a faculty member here with expertise in this unique area of plant life. I told her if the DNR agent felt the lake was healthy, then I wouldn't worry about these roots. They may just be old and have broken off to make way for new roots.

Like you, I also get calls from people with unique plant needs, ideas, mutants, etc. I like these because inevitably the conversation gets interesting. Some of these were:
  • found a mutant of thornless black raspberries
  • wants to grow Aronia as a field crop (did you know there is a Midwest Aronia Association?)
  • A landscape architect encouraged planting Fineline Buckthorn, Rhamnus frangula. BTW None of the R. frangula cultivars are allowed per the MN DNR.
Speaking of buckthorn, one of my all-time favorite questions was out at the Arboretum Yard & Garden Desk. Two women approached with a branch in a bag. The branch had black berries, dark green ovate leaves, and attractive, silvery bark. They wanted to confirm that the branch was chokecherry because they had a lot of it and wanted to make wine. One look at the branch and - you guessed it - it was buckthorn.  

Thanks, Master Gardeners, for helping answer all those questions out there. You are a valuable resource for the gardening public!

HORT SCI header.jpgHort Faculty and Staff In the News
Excerpt from the TWIG BENDER - Oct. 17, 2010

Planting trees in the fall can be cost-efficient and effective. Learn more in Professor Jeff Gillman's article in the Star Tribune.

KARE quoted Professor Bud Markhart in a piece about spending time in the garden this fall to save money this spring.

Bagging and tossing fall leaves doesn't make the most of them! Read Professor Mary Meyer's article in the Star Tribune to learn some 'greener' options.

A Star Tribune writer released a piece that recognizes Tim Kenny, director of education for the Arboretum, for his efforts to organize its Urban Youth Program.

Click HERE to read more about this issue and previous issues.

P1110046.JPG10/13/10 - From UM NEWS - By Deane Morrison

On a crisp September morning, James Luby ushers visitors into a vineyard hung with plump, ripe grapes and takes a cluster of mouth-watering dark fruit into his hand.

"We have about eleven acres of grapes here at the HRC," he says, referring to the University of Minnesota's Horticultural Research Center.

For more than 30 years, the HRC and its rustic vineyards have been home to research on producing cold-hardy grapes and making the best wines from them. Luby, a professor of horticultural science who has been with the University since 1982, is in charge of the breeding program along with Peter Hemstad, who joined in 1985.

Click HERE to read more .....
source cover.pngGreat articles in Extension's fall issue of SOURCE magazine. Educators Bob Olen (St. Louis County) and Wayne Seidel (Lake County) are featured in this quarter's issue. Master Gardeners from Ramsey County are also featured as well about programming surrounding environmental education. It's exciting to read too about our colleagues in food and nutrition, 4H and agriculture.

Excellent work everyone!

To read more, go to SOURCE
Invasive plants cost California over $82 million per year. Amazing. Master Gardeners in California are involved in educating the public on just what plants are invasive, how to erradicate them and solutions Read more at Plant Right!

Master Gardeners conducted a survey of retail sites about invasive plants. Sixty-six MGs surveyed 73 retail nurseries, and found on 22% of nurseries were selling 1-2 invasive plants. Just a few years ago they found 100% of nurseries surveyed were selling one or more invasive plants.

Master Gardeners also participated in continuing education about invasive plants.

P1100980.JPGUniversity of California - UC Davis - Nat'l Master Gardener Coordinator Conference 2010
New in 2008, the Good Life Garden is an edible landscape on the campus located outside the Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science. Bordered on three sides by modern laboratories and vineyards, the Good Life Garden features a formal, "plot" type design, an olive grove, flowers for pollinators, and and large turf area in the center for events. Granite block is strategically situated here and there for spontaneous seating, and the view of the vineyard brings a feeling symmetry and being in the midst of potentially great wine.

Click HERE to watch a video of the Good Life Garden.

University of California - Davis, CAP1100674.JPG
Made the trip without issue with Dave Moen and Karen Jeannette. I couldn't resist taking pictures of the land below as we descended into Sacramento. It's a veritable agricultural quilt below.

The campus is featuring Autummn right now with buds turned to seed heads, leaves turning browns and golds, and a few last ditch efforts on the part of flowers. Lunch was great - and outside under sycamores - and the three of us walked back from town, taking time to stroll through part of the Arboretum which is embedded in the campus. We saw students were practicing theater, music, studying and sleeping under the great branches of the P1100693.JPGredwoods (Sequoia sempervirens). It's such a different kind of plant world out here. I asked Dave and Karen to imagine if the MN Landscape Arboretum was actually part of the UMN campus. Wow. I bet that would attract more students than a new stadium.P1100712.JPG

Over 120 coordiantors - state and county - are attending this conference from across the country. Today - day 1 of the conference - starts with a walking tour of the Arboretum and of the Good Life Garden at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science (think they study grapes here?) This afternoon we meet is the Consumer Horticulture National Committee meeting and an informal reception afterward.

One unfortunate thing: I lost my voice yesterday due to a cold (yes, again!) Am pumping tea and cold drugs. I figure I am getting this out of the way for the upcoming core course.

'Tis the season ... no, not Christmas but CANNING season! I have canned pickles, peaches, P1090709.JPGmade peach jam, jalapeno jelly salsa, and habanero jelly (thanks, Jackie Smith, for the peppers!). I've got a bunch of tomatoes in the freezer ready to be cooked into sauce on some future chilly day, and have replaced old herbs with this season's dried herbs. I have referred to the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving several times this season as well as the UMN Extension website and the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. Wow! What a wealth of information! Read on for more information and resources about continuing education about food safety ....

(Thanks to the MG newsletter Can You Dig It? by Terry Salmela, Master Gardener Coordinator, Pine County for the following information):

Suzanne Driessen, University of Minnesota Extension Educator in Food Science, has recorded 18 five minute video slide presentations that cover a variety of safe food preservation topics. Find links to these presentations on the Extension Food Safety web page. Click Food Preservation and Safety Presentations to access these presentations. (Located near theP1050899.JPG bottom of the webpage).

Master Gardeners can count viewing these presentations toward their 2010 continuing ed hours.

If you can't access the video presentations (or even if you can), there are other ways to get information about safe food preservation. Many fact sheets are available on the UMN Extension Food Safety Website. Fact sheets on a wide variety of food preservation topics are also available on the website of the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.

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