University of Minnesota Extension
http://www.extension.umn.edu/
612-624-1222
Menu Menu

Extension > Yard and Garden News

P1220417.JPGLandscape design is always a popular subject and smart gardeners think "sustainability" when they plan a landscape project. People are eager to try new things in their gardens. Likewise, our season is so short, we have an inherent need at this time of year to get our hands dirty!

Jim Calkins and I are teaching two sessions (May, June) of our landscape design short workshop this spring through the LearningLife program here at the University of Minnesota College of Continuing Education. These are designed for home gardeners who want some good basic fundamentals on sustainable landscape design that they can apply in their own yards and gardens. These are intensive classes and are by no means meant to replace the huge benefits of securing the services and talents of a professional designer. What we have found is that after taking our workshops, people stop making - like choosing an 10x10 ft shrub for a 5x5 ft area or thinking they need to keep trying to grow turfgrass in a narrow shady side strip along their house.

Hope you can join us at one of our upcoming sessions! They are lots of fun and loaded with information. Visit the link below for more information:  U of Minnesota College of Continuing Education LearningLife Program

Saturday mornings are a good time to grab a cup of coffee, tune tWCCO.jpghe radio to WCCO 830AM, and listen U of M Extension answer listeners' questions about everything from aphids to zinnias, from grapes to grasshoppers. Heck, we just like talking about Minnesota gardening!

Saturdays, 8-9am on WCCO radio, 830 on the AM dial. year-round
Host: Denny Long
U of M Extension Smart Garden team: Julie Weisenhorn, Sam Bauer, Mary Meyer
Extension Master Gardener volunteers: Theresa Rooney (Hennepin County), Darren Lochner (Hennepin County)
Listen for special guests like Jeff Hahn, John Loegering, Karl Foord ....!
Podcasts of previous shows here: WCCO Smart Gardens

Wasp queens active now

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota

Photo 1: Yellowjacket queens are occasionally found indoors during early spring

Now that spring has finally arrived, much to our relief, we may need to deal with insects that have been overwintering within our homes. This includes yellowjackets (Vespula spp. and Paravespula spp.) and paper wasps (Polistes spp.). Once freezing temperatures arrived last fall, the old queen and all the workers in nests died. The only survivors were the queens that were produced during late summer.

After these new queens mated, they left their nests and started looking for sheltered, protected sites to spend the winter, much like boxelder bugs or lady beetles. These sites include firewood, loose bark on trees and logs, brick piles, under leaves, as well as in and around buildings. The wasp queens remain inactive until it starts to warm up during late winter and early spring. When queens overwinter in homes, they can also become active when mild temperatures occur during mid-winter.

Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota

Photo 2: Many paper wasp queen can sometimes be found in homes during early spring

Once active, wasp queens leave their overwintering sites and start to look for an appropriate place to begin a new nest. If they are in buildings, they usually become trapped. Finding wasp queens in homes and other buildings during early spring does not mean a nest is present. While only one or two yellowjacket queens at normally seen at a time, it is possible to see a larger number of paper wasp queens as they like to overwinter gregariously, i.e. in non-social groups.

Physical removal is the only necessary control for wasp queens found indoors. They are just a nuisance and do not indicate a bigger problem. Use a jar or some sort of container to remove and release them outside. If they are by a window or door, just open it up and let them fly out. Killing and removing queens is also an option. This is a temporary problem that will go away on its own.


Starting seeds = Spring

Tomato seedlings 041414.jpg

Planting seeds is a sure sign of Spring. Luckily here in Horticultural Science, there is no lack of seed starting happening. My Master Gardener friends, who work on campus, and I started seeds for the 2014 annual seed trials in the greenhouses. The trials are in their 32nd year (I think) and this year, over 100 people are participating by planting and growing out the seeds in their home garden, school gardens, community gardens, and demonstration gardens. On campus, our seed trials can be found in the Department's Display and Trial Garden located at the corner of Gortner and Folwell Avenues on the U of MN St. Paul campus. Trials this year include six herbs for tea, and six varieties of container tomatoes, bull horn peppers, spinach, yellow squash, carrots, shasta daisy, and alyssum. Seed trial results are published each year in the spring issue of Northern Gardener magazine.

I also started some seeds for the Gopher Adventures garden. GA is a day camp for kids here at the U. Kids ages 5-13 can choose to do all sorts of activities at the U from computers to rock climbing to art and dance to - yep - gardening. Master Gardeners and I plant a children's garden on the west end of the display garden. Edible plants, flowers, trees, monarch way station, plants for pollinators - even a miniature garden called "Little Goldy's Garden" complete with a very small golden gopher (it's a magnet on a stick). Last year we had straw bale gardens and pallet gardens. The seeds I started for GA are in my office on a heat mat under a grow light. I used a tray with fifty Earth plugs from Seeds of Change. I used my own seeds from home and planted a couple kinds of peppers, nasturtiums, Salvia, Echnicaea, basil, teddy bear sunflowers, and even a mystery seed that will hopefully emerge (and I can identify). This year, we'll be planting Smart Snacks - an Arboretum educational program about plants that are good snacks for people and pollinators.

Seeds are amazing. Everything needed to grow a plant (water and soil not withstanding) are encapsulated in a seed. Everyone should plant a few seeds and feel a little amazed at the result!


Surprise! It's snow mold!

Michelle Grabowski, UMN Extension Educator

M. Grabowski

Many Minnesotans have anxiously awaited snow melt this spring. The joy of seeing green grass again may be coupled with the disappointment of snow mold. Lawns affected by snow mold have round to irregular patches of matted down tan to gray turf grass. If a light drizzly rain is present or humidity is high at low temperatures, cobweb like fungal mycelia may be seen growing across the infected turf grass.

This winter's heavy wet snow layer has provided ideal conditions for the fungal pathogens that cause snow mold. These fungi thrive at temperatures just around freezing. Persistent snow or cool rainy weather provides the humidity and temperatures needed by the fungi to thrive.



M. Grabowski


Photo 2: Fluffy fungal growth on a snow mold patch on a cool rainy day


In spring the best management strategies for dealing with snow mold of a home lawn include removing heavy snow from valuable turf areas, raking up matted down turf grass to improve air circulation and drying of infected patches, and removing any leaf litter or other plant debris that may have accumulated on the lawn. Sunny weather and warming temperatures will favor growth of the turf grass and most lawns recover. In severe cases, the center of the snow mold patch may need to be reseeded.

P1230029.JPGIn 2013, our Legislature directed the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to develop BMPS - "best management practices" - for protecting insect pollinators - bees, moths, wasps, butterflies, etc. The MDA has published the Pollinator Report: Pollinator Bank, Habitat Protection and Pesticide Special Review. I am still reading it. Thought you all might like to as well.

As noted in the Executive Summary (pg. 4), the objectives of the report are: "(i) provide interpretations of the term 'pollinator bank' and propose feasibility, constraints, and uncertainties of the various interpretations; (ii) delineate past, present, and future efforts by MDA, DNR, UMN, MPCA, BWSR and MnDOT to create and enhance insect (native and commercial) pollinator nesting and foraging habitat, as well as to establish and protect pollinator reserves or refuge areas by using Best Management Practices (BMPs); (iii) discuss efforts and progress on developing BMPs to establish, enhance, protect, and restore pollinator habitat that will ultimately be incorporated into pesticide applicator and inspector training; (iv) outline the process and criteria of a special review of neonicotinoid insecticides, and provide a status update on the process, criteria, and progress of the special review of neonicotinoid pesticides registered by the Commissioner for use in this state currently and in the future."

Feel free to pass it on!

April 2nd 2014 Issue

  • © 2014 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
  • The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy