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Aster Yellows in 2013

Michelle Grabowski, UMN Extension

M.Grabowski, UMN Extension

Photo 1: Purple cone flowers infected with aster yellows

Many gardeners had never heard of the plant disease called aster yellows before 2012. As summer progressed, however, flowers on purple cone flowers open up to green spikey alien like blossoms, carrots were thin, hairy and bitter when dug up and plants from onions through tomatoes turned a sickly shade of yellow. The plant disease aster yellows was responsible for all of this.


Aster yellows is caused by a phytoplasma, a small bacteria that lives only within the vascular system of a plant or within the aster leafhopper that carries it from plant to plant. Once a plant is infected, the aster yellows phytoplasma moves systemically through the plant, infecting every part from the roots through the flowers. Symptoms of the disease include yellowing of leaves and stems, unusual flower formation and clusters of weak stems known as witches brooms. The aster yellows phytoplasma can infect over 350 plants including many common vegetables, flowers and weeds. Once a plant is infect, it can never be cured.

M.Grabowski, UMN Extension

Photo 2: Petunias with yellow leaves and small discolored flowers from aster yellows

In 2012, unusually high numbers of aster leafhoppers migrated into Minnesota from southern states where they overwinter. Many of these leafhoppers were carrying the AY phytoplasma. As a result exceptionally high rates of aster yellows was seen throughout Minnesota.


So what is the status of aster yellows in Minnesota in 2013. Happily there have been significantly fewer reports of disease throughout Minnesota in 2013. This is likely due to a combination of factors. Aster yellows can survive Minnesota's winter in perennial plant parts like the crown of an infected purple cone flower. Gardeners that did not remove infected perennials last year may see symptoms again this year. The aster yellows phytoplasma that infected any annual plant like a tomato or cosmos, however, would have died with the plant at the first hard frost. Very few aster leaf hoppers overwinter in Minnesota as eggs and these do not carry the aster yellows phytoplasma. In addition, surveys indicate that lower than average numbers of aster leafhoppers migrated into Minnesota in 2013. Gardeners should continue to watch for symptoms of aster yellows and remove any infected plants.

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

Jeff Hahn

Photo 1: Spotted wing Drosophila is one of the pests attendees will learn about at the Fruit and Vegetable Pest First Detector workshop.

It is not too late to sign up for the Fruit and Vegetable Pest First Detector Workshop. If you have an interest in fruits and vegetables and want to learn more about new and emerging invasive pests and pathogens that are threatening Minnesota, then consider signing up for this half day program. This workshop, put on by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the University of Minnesota Extension, is scheduled for Wednesday, July 24 at the MacMillan Auditorium at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Check in starts at 8:00 a.m. and the program begins at 8:30. The workshop ends at noon.

This workshop is appropriate for anyone with an interest in fruit and vegetables, including home gardeners. Attendees will learn how to identify invasive pests and distinguish them from common look a likes. They will also find out the proper steps to take if they suspect you have found and invasive pest.

Attendees have the option to become a First Detector volunteer. First detectors are a local resource to help state officials respond to calls made to the Arrest a Pest Hotline. First Detectors are volunteers trained to help citizens diagnose and report possible infestations of invasive species to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. First Detectors are a part of the National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN) First Detector Program which promotes the early detection of invasive plant pathogens, arthropods, nematodes and weeds.

For more information, see the Minnesota Fruit and Vegetable Pest First Detector web page, . To register, go to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum web page.


Veggies for Your Patio

By Mary Meyer, Extension horticulturist

P1070964.JPGAlmost anyone can grow a few vegetables or herbs in the summer, even if you do not have space or time for a traditional garden. You do need sun, however and a container that can be placed where you can easily water and harvest the plants. The easiest plants to grow are greens, such as lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, pak choy or bok choy and herbs such as basil, chives, thyme and rosemary. Use a container that drains well, holds enough soil so you do not have to water more than once a day in the summer, and will be big enough for the plants you choose.

Here are some ideas: an 8 inch pot holds about 1 gallon and can grow 2-3 lettuce, spinach or Swiss chard plants or 1 herb; a 10 inch pot holds closer to 2 gallons and can grow 2 pepper plants or 1 small tomato plant, such as Tiny Tim, Pixie, Hybrid Patio, all smaller tomato plants that are good for containers. Cherry tomatoes such as Sweet 100 or Sweet Million are large plants and need large containers, 3 gallon or more.
Use a lightweight potting soil and water regularly, fertilize with a slow release in the potting soil or add liquid fertilizer weekly when you water. Look for vegetables already potted for you at the garden centers this spring. Vegetables are popular and easy to grow, especially if you have full sun.

Tomato Blossom End Rot - Facts & Control

Karl Foord - Extension Educator, Horticulture

In anticipation of spring tomatoes, please consider your tomato systems and avoid one of the scourges of gardening - tomato blossom end rot.

Michelle Grabowski

Photo 1: Blossom End Rot




Michelle Grabowski


Photo 2: Blossom End Rot


Symptoms of blossom end rot

Water soaked areas at the blossom end of the fruit usually appear when the fruits are one third to one half full size (Photo 1). This enlarges and darkens as the fruit matures (Photos 2 & 3).

Michelle Grabowski

Photo 3: Blossom End Rot

These large sunken lesions dry out flatten and become black and leathery. Typically the first fruit are most severely affected, and later developing fruit can be unaffected.

Causes and the role of calcium

Blossom end rot is a "physiological disorder" induced by a localized calcium deficiency in the fruit. The incidence of the disorder is usually not due to a lack of calcium in the soil, but rather due to factors affecting the uptake and translocation of calcium.
On a cellular level calcium is a critical component of cell walls (a structural nutrient). So when calcium is limiting cell walls cannot form properly and rapidly growing parts of the plant suffer breakdown. As a structural component calcium once incorporated into a cell wall is not mobile within the plant.

At the plant level, the end of the fruit is an area of rapid growth and has a high need for calcium as do other rapid growth areas like meristems. If 90% of the calcium that a mature fruit contains is already in the fruit by the time it is ½ - ¾" in diameter then the critical time for calcium uptake is early in the development of the fruit.

Soil calcium and plant uptake

Calcium uptake is associated with water uptake. Thus anything that interferes with water uptake can create calcium deficiencies. Dry or wet soils interfere with water uptake in different ways but both can lead to calcium problems. The strongest sink for calcium is actively transpiring leaves because they are actively pulling water. Other plant structures are not transpiring near the degree that leaves are and thus function as poorer calcium sinks. A waxy cuticle develops on the fruit when it is ½ - ¾ "in diameter which reduces transpiration and thus weakens the fruit as a calcium sink.

The fruit is competing with leaf tissue for calcium so a higher fruit to leaf ratio reduces the relative strength of the leaf as a calcium sink allowing more calcium to be allocated to growing fruits. This adds to the logic recommending pruning of tomato sucker shoots.

Control of Blossom End Rot

Maintain even and adequate soil moisture; mulch aids in this process. Avoid poorly drained and cool soils. Avoid over- fertilizing with nitrogen which creates excessive vegetation. Avoid ammonium based fertilizers as ammonia inhibits uptake of calcium. Use nitrate as the main source of N in fertilizers. Choose cultivars that have fewer tendencies to demonstrate blossom end rot. Use soil test data to maintain proper nutrition and optimum pH in the 6 - 6.5 range.

Foliar applications of calcium

There seems to be disagreement about the effectiveness of foliar applications of calcium. The logic on the ineffective side is that calcium is immobile in the plant and will not translocate to the fruit from material sprayed on the leaves. The response is to spray on the fruit. However, a waxy cuticle develops on the fruit when it is ½ - ¾ "in diameter which reduces transpiration and perhaps direct absorption of sprayed calcium.

Often blossom end rot decreases as the season progresses. This could be due to weather effects, warmer soils, or a slowing of vegetative growth all of which would make it appear that early applications of calcium have been effective.

Perhaps foliar sprays applied on plants prior to the first cluster of fruit or directly on small fruit can be used to supplement calcium. Calcium nitrate and chelated calcium are the safest sources of calcium to be applied as a spray. However spray applications of calcium are no substitute for proper nutrition and water management.

If calcium is best allocated by the plants xylem water conduction system, then keeping this system functioning optimally is the best course of action.

Editors note: This article was developed from a presentation created by Dr. Carl Rosen and Michelle Grabowski and delivered by Dr. Carl Rosen at the Upper Midwest Regional Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference.

Basil Downy Mildew found in Minnesota




M. McGrath, Cornell University, Bugwood.org


Photo 1: Angular leaf yellowing caused by downy mildew on basil



Michelle Grabowski, University of Minnesota Extension Educator

Downy mildew of basil has been officially reported in Ramsey and Washington counties in Minnesota. This new disease was first reported in Florida in 2007. Since then it has spread to many more states.

Basil downy mildew is caused by the pathogen Peronospora belbahrii. This pathogen thrives in warm, humid conditions. It can move into the garden in infected seed or transplants or as airborne spores.

Plants infected with basil downy mildew first display yellowing of lower leaves. Upon close examination, gardeners will notice that the yellowing appears to occur in sections restricted by major veins. This causes a blocky or angular yellow sections on the leaf. If the lower surface of the leaf is examined, dark colored spores can be seen as a dirty looking fuzz that grows directly below the yellow sections of the leaf. A small magnifying glass may be useful in viewing these spores. As the disease progresses, infected sections of the leaf turn dark brown to black and leaves may fall off.

M. Grabowski, UMN Extension

Photo 2: severe damage on basil caused by downy mildew

Basil downy mildew appears to only infect basil (Ocimum sp.). Sweet basil, Ocimum basilicum, is highly susceptible to the disease. Ornamental or exotic basil (Ocimum citriodorum and Ocimum americanum) can be infected by basil downy mildew but symptoms are less severe than in sweet basil. More information about susceptibility of common basil varieties can be found at the Cornell University webpage.


Symptoms of basil downy mildew can easily be confused with several disorders including nutrient deficiency and sunscald. It is therefore important for the disease to be confirmed by a laboratory examination. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture requests that suspected cases of basil downy mildew be reported to the Arrest a Pest Hotline at onlinne at Arrest.the.Pest@state.mn.us or by phone at 1-888-545-6684.

M. McGrath, Cornell University, Bugwood.org

Photo 3: Gray sporulation of downy mildew on the loser surface of infected basil leaves

Gardeners do not have many management options available this late in the growing season. Healthy leaves can be harvested and eaten. Infected plants should not be brought indoors to overwinter. Bury or burn infected plant debris. In 2013, gardeners should inspect all basil transplants for symptoms prior to purchase. Grow a less susceptible variety of basil like Lemon, Blue Spice or Thai basil.

Look for fruit rot on pumpkins and squash




M.Grabowski, UMN Extension


Photo 1: Anthracnose fruit rot on winter squash


Michelle Grabowski, UMN Extension Educator

Although most pumpkins and winter squash are not yet ready to harvest. It is important to keep a close eye on the developing fruit. Many different kinds of fungal pathogens can rot winter squash and pumpkins before they are ripe. There are a few things that a gardener can do to prevent wide spread loss.

Weed the pumpkin patch! Weeds crowd growing fruit and create a moist shaded environment that fungal pathogens thrive in. Removing weeds from the garden allows better air flow around the developing fruit. This way the new pumpkins and squash will dry out quickly after rain or irrigation.

Remove any infected squash from the garden. Many fungal fruit rot diseases are easily splashed from one fruit to another on rain or irrigation. If one fruit is infected, the rotted area or the spots on the fruit will produce spores from now until harvest. If left in the garden, the disease will continue to spread to other developing squash and pumpkins. Infected fruit can be thrown in the compost pile if it heats up or take it to a municipal compost site.

M.Grabowski, UMN Extension

Photo 2: Butternut squash overrun with weeds

Elevate squash and pumpkins on wet heavy soils. Some fungal pathogens will infect developing pumpkins and squash from underneath, where the fruit is sitting on the soil. These bottom rots are common on heavy wet soils. Remove any squash and pumpkins that are already rotting. Elevate remaining healthy fruit on a layer of airy mulch like straw or wood chips to improve air circulation and reduce contact with soil. Be careful not to injure fruit. In the future consider growing plants on raised beds to improve drainage.

Common Blight on Garden Green Beans

Michelle Grabowski, UMN Extension Educator

M. Grabowski, UMN Extension

Photo 1: Common Blight on Bean

Common blight is a bacterial disease of many kinds of bean including green beans, dry beans, and scarlet runner beans. This disease causes large brown blotches that are surrounded by a bright yellow halo on bean leaves. If disease is severe, browning of the leaves can spread, eventually killing the leaf. On bean pods, infections start as round water soaked spots, that become reddish brown with time.


Common blight is caused by the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris pv. phaseoli. Common blight bacteria often first come into the garden on infected seed. Once introduced, it can spread from plant to plant through splashing water or on a gardener's hands and tools. The bacteria can over winter in infected leaves and pods that fall to the ground. Common blight thrives in hot (82-90F) humid weather. The summer of 2012 in Minnesota has provided ideal conditions for the common blight bacteria.

Common blight is best managed by using resistant varieties. In addition, gardeners should avoid working in infected plants when they are wet. Bacteria are easily moved on hands and tools at this time. Use drip irrigation or direct water at the base of plants to avoid spreading the disease through splashing water. Remove weeds from the garden. Many weeds can harbor the bacteria. At the end of the season, remove infected plants and bring them to a municipal composting site or place them in a backyard compost that heats up. In large gardens, till under infected plant debris and avoid planting beans at that site for 2-4 years. Fungicides do not control common blight and should not be used. Although copper has been shown to be effective against some bacterial pathogens. Studies show that copper does not effectively manage common blight.

Tomato Leaf Spot Season Begins

Michelle Grabowski, UMN Extension Educator

M.Grabowski, UMN Extension

Photo 1: Leaf spot diseases starting on the lower leaves of a tomato plant

Warm wet weather throughout Minnesota has provided excellent conditions for tomato leaf spot pathogens to grow and spread. The first leaf spots of many tomato diseases have recently been observed.

Both fungal and bacterial leaf spot diseases are commonly found on tomatoes in Minnesota. Septoria Leaf Spot, Early Blight, and Bacterial Spot are all common problems on garden tomatoes. All of these diseases overwinter on infected plant debris in the soil. Rain or irrigation can splash spores or bacteria up onto the lower leaves of the plant to start new infections.

If you are growing tomatoes this year, take the time now to examine the lower leaves of your plants. Look for black to brown spots on the leaves closest to the ground. For help identifying which disease is affecting your plant visit the 'What's wrong with my plant?' online diagnostic tool.

Do not be disheartened if you do find disease on your plants. There are still a few things that can be done to prevent the spread of disease and end up with a good harvest of tomatoes.

- On the next dry day, go to the garden and pinch off all leaves with leaf spots on them. Start with the worst infected leaves and stop when you have removed 1/3 of the plant's leaves (removing more than this hurts the plant).

- Remove the infected leaves from the garden. Infected leaves can be composted if the compost gets hot or buried so that soil microorganisms will begin to break down the plant material that shelters the pathogen.

- Stake plants to improve air movement around the leaves.

- Avoid spraying leaves with water. Use drip irrigation or direct water at the base of the plant. If sprinkler irrigation is the only option, water early on a sunny day so leaves dry quickly.

- Mulch the soil around the plant with an organic mulch like straw or woodchips or with plastic mulch to prevent spores from splashing up from last year's plant debris.

- Remove any weeds that might be crowding the plant.

- If you choose to spray a fungicide to protect leaves from Septoria Leaf Spot or Early Blight, sprays should begin now. Read all label instructions prior to applying the fungicide. Tomato MUST BE LISTED on the pesticide label and ALL INSTRUCTIONS must be followed or the tomatoes will not be safe to eat.

Remember that we grow tomatoes for the fruit not for the leaves. It is an acceptable practice to use the cultural control practices above to reduce leaf spot disease problems and tolerate some leaf spots. One study found that yield in tomatoes was not reduced until over 50% of the plant's leaf area was infected by Septoria Leaf Spot. That means plants will continue to produce the same amount of tomatoes until diseases reaches very severe levels.

Black Rot on Crucifers

Michelle Grabowski, UMN Extension Educator

M. Grabowski, UMN Extension

Photo 1: Black Rot Lesion on a Broccoli Leaf

A bacterial disease of crucifers (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, Brussels sprouts and more) called black rot caused severe damage to many gardeners last year and has been found again in Minnesota this summer. Black rot is caused by the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris. This pathogen often enters a garden on contaminated seed. It can also survive on infected weeds like wild mustard and pepper weed or in plant debris from previous years infected crop.

Black rot can be recognized by the v shaped lesions that form on infected leaves. The tip of the V points towards the mid rib of the leaf. The center of the v is often dead brown tissue which is surrounded by a yellow halo. As the disease progresses, leaf veins turn black within the lesion. The infection can move into the plants vascular system and result in wilt and soft rot.

Black rot enters the leaf through natural openings on the leaf and through wounds. The sticky bacteria are easily spread on a gardener's hands or tools, on splashing water or by insects. The bacterial pathogen thrives in warm wet weather and gardeners may see plants wilt rapidly under these conditions.

M.Grabowski, UMN Extension

Photo 2: Black Rot on Radish Leaves

The best management of black rot is to prevent introduction of the bacteria into the garden in the first place. Look for seed and transplants that are certified disease free. Inspect transplants for signs of disease and reject any with v shaped leaf spots or wilted yellowing lower leaves. If disease shows up in one or two plants out of many, remove the infected plants completely. If infection is light (a few leaf spots) remove the infected leaves completely. Wash hands and tools with soap and water after touching infected plants.

Once disease is established in the garden, its spread can be slowed by several management practices. Avoid watering when dew is present and in early evening. Bacteria can spread in the dew and will thrive in moisture left on leaves after sunset. Rather water when the sun is bright and will dry leaves quickly. Avoid splashing water on leaves as much as possible. Do not work in plants when they are wet from rain, dew, or irrigation. Bacteria easily spread on hands and tools during this time. Copper sprays can be applied to slow the spread of the disease although they will not cure plants. Always completely read the label before applying a pesticide and follow all instructions.

At the end of the season, till under any plant residue as soon as the crop is harvested. Avoid planting any crucifer in that location for another two years.

Karl Foord - Extension Educator, Horticulture

Click on the link to see the video with host Dr. Mary Meyer, Professor of Horticulture


Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum)

Karl Foord

Photo 1: Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum)

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Karl Foord

Photo 2: Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)


Common Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Karl Foord

Photo 3: Common Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)

Cold Wet Soils Help Root Rotting Fungi

Michelle Grabowski, UMN Extension

H. Schwartz, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Photo 1: Onion seedlings suffering from root rot

Although spring came early in Minnesota this year, recent cold wet weather throughout the state is reminding many gardeners that summer is not here just yet. Many perennial plants, trees and shrubs have been leafed out for weeks now. However, gardeners should remember that when starting warm season vegetables from seed in the garden, it is important to wait for soils to warm up. Pumpkin, cucumber and squash seeds like soils that are 65F at a 2 inch depth. Melons prefer soil temps of 70F or above. Sweet corn seeds germinate best when soils are between 55 and 60F. Soil temperatures are measured weekly by the UMN Climatology group at several sites across Minnesota and can be viewed online.

Seeds planted into cold soils may sit and wait or may germinate but grow very slowly. In these very early stages of life, seedlings are highly susceptible to soil borne pathogens that cause root rot and damping off. Gardeners may notice that seeds are failing to emerge from the ground or that young seedlings emerge and then yellow and fall over. Older plants may become stunted by root rot. Leaves may wilt and dieback. The recent excess of heavy rain in many areas of the state has created ideal conditions (cool, wet soils) for these root rotting pathogens. Several cases of seedling damping off and root rot of young plants have been reported.

Dept. of Plant Pathology Archives, North Carolina State University, Bugwood.org

Photo 2: Impatiens transplants suffering from root rot

To prevent these early season root rotting pathogens, wait to plant warm season vegetables until soils have warmed to the recommended temperature and are moist but not heavily wet. In some areas of Minnesota, it may be necessary to start seeds indoors and transplant them into the garden when outdoor conditions improve. In addition many simple structures like cold frames and walls of water can help warm soils and protect plants. Black plastic mulch also warms soil in the root zone. By growing plants in a raised bed, gardens have improved drainage even in wet weather.

Seeds coated with a fungicide treatment will be protected at the earliest stages of growth. For gardeners that choose not to use treated seed, waiting until soil warms up to the appropriate temperature or using the techniques listed above to heat soil and improve drainage can be just as effective in preventing early season root rot.

Winter Squash: Easy to Grow and Good for You

Mary H. Meyer, University of Minnesota Professor and Extension Horticulturist

Image Source's Name

Squash and pumpkins can store for several months, if harvested at maturity and properly cured. (Click to enlarge.)

I love winter squash! So with the more than 100 kinds grown at the Arboretum this past summer, it was fun looking at the huge variety and deciding which ones I would try cooking this winter. I settled on 8 'new-to-me' kinds: orange hubbard, fairytale pumpkin, autumn crown, Queensland blue, marina di chioggia, rouge vif d'etampes or cinderella pumpkin, crown, large world of color blend, and 1 'old' favorite: blue hubbard, see photo below. You can still find winter squash at the markets and you can make plans this winter to grow your own squash next summer. Winter squash are easy to grow, have high nutritional value, and some kinds store well for several months. If you can still find open Farmer's Markets, you will likely have a much better selection of squash and pumpkins than the one or two kinds available in the supermarket.

Pumpkin and winter squash were cultivated by the American Indians for centuries and are native to North America. Pumpkin is derived from the French word pampion meaning "sun-baked squash", which was modified to pompkin and finally to pumpkin.

What is the difference between a pumpkin and squash?

The scientific name of most pumpkins, and acorn, delicata, and spaghetti squash is Cucurbita pepo; these fruits have very hard stems or petioles, which cannot be dented with your fingernail.

Winter squash usually has a softer, wider, pulpy stem or petiole, which you can penetrate with your fingernail. Most of the large fruited types, the HUGE award winners, 'Boston Marrow' and 'Mammoth' are Cucurbita maxima, along with many kinds including buttercup, kabocha and hubbard squash.

The third species is the buff-colored butternut squash, these oblong beige fruits are Cucurbita moschata, and are excellent for baking and pies. This species is usually sold as canned pumpkin.

Mary Meyer

The 2011 pumpkin and squash display in the Great Hall at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

Although all kinds of pumpkin and squash are edible, they vary in consistency, texture, color, and flavor. Some may have flesh that is several inches thick with a small seed cavity, while others are thin fleshed with large seed cavities, making them inefficient to process and bake.

What squash or pumpkin is best to grow in Minnesota?

Most winter squash and pumpkins can be grown and mature successfully in Minnesota, especially central and southern areas. In general, the larger the fruit, the longer the growing season required. Any variety that matures in 100 days or less should produce mature fruit in Minnesota. Varieties that need 120 days will likely be successful only in the southern portion of the state. Most are direct seeded in the field. It is important to know the days to harvest for the varieties you are considering.

Winter squash require full sun, plenty of space for their long vines, and adequate moisture. After growing to maturity on the vine, harvest fruit before any injury from frost. Although appearing to be tough and firm, all curcurbits are tropical plants and do not do well in cool or cold weather; frost can damage the fruit and prevent the rind from curing properly and long storage.

After harvest, clean the rind with a soft cloth to remove any soil. Store the fruit at 80° to 85°F with 75 to 80% relative humidity for approximately 10 days to cure the fruit. Curing heals wounds, helps ripen immature fruit, enhances color, and insures a longer post-harvest life. Curing is beneficial in pumpkins and some winter squash, but 'Butternut,' 'Hubbard,' and 'Quality' squashes have not shown any added benefits from curing. Curing is detrimental in Acorn types, and will hasten senescence. After curing, the fruit can be stored at 50-55 degrees but no cooler, and it can be held at room temperature if 50-55 is not possible. Store cut pieces in the refrigerator.

Immature fruit will not fully develop indoors. Fruit that is mature green, may ripen further indoors but will not have as high nutritional value, or flavor. Color change is often important, as most squash and pumpkins turn from green to orange, beige, blue, pink or yellow, at maturity.

Nutrition and Cooking

While all squash and pumpkins are edible, some have more sugar and flavor. If the fruit is fully mature, it will remain firm and can actually improve in storage, for 3 to even 6 months, if the rind has been cured properly and is not bruised. Acorn squash is an exception; it is not a 'good keeper' and should be used within a month of harvest. Cucurbita pepo, true pumpkins, acorn and spaghetti squash have long fibers and some cooks prefer winter squash because they are non-fibrous. Regardless of the type, cooking is similar for all squash or pumpkins, however, the large ones are much more difficult to handle and peel. By far the easiest way is simply by cutting the fruit in half, removing the seeds and baking it cut side down. Rubbing the edges with olive oil, or butter prevents adhering to the pan.

Winter squash is a good source of complex carbohydrates and fiber. Research suggests that the soluble fiber in foods such as squash can play an important role in reducing colon cancer. Winter squash is also a source of potassium, niacin, iron and beta carotene. Usually, the darker the orange color, the higher the beta carotene content. Beta carotene is converted to Vitamin A, which is essential for healthy skin, vision, and bone development. The nutrient content of winter squash can vary, depending on the variety, maturity and condition of the fruit. The following information is a summary of all varieties, cooked, baked and cubed:

Nutrition Facts (1 cup cooked, cubed)
Calories 80
Protein 1.8 grams
Carbohydrate 18 grams
Dietary Fiber 5.8 grams
Calcium 28.7 mg
Iron 0.67 mg
Potassium 895 mg
Folate 57 mcg
Vitamin A 7,291.85 units

I have vine borers in my squash, how can I control them?

Vine borers are difficult to control effectively with insecticides. You can reduce potential damage the following season by disposing of infested plants. Vining types of squash can be encouraged to root at the nodes, giving the plant some ability to withstand attacks of vine borers. Some success in control of an active infestation may be achieved by carefully splitting open areas being fed upon and removing the larvae. Late planting of short maturing squash, planting after July 1, after which the adult has laid its eggs, may avoid borer damage.

References:
Minnesota: http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/m1264.html
North Carolina State: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-24.html
Alabama: http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1041/ANR-1041.pdf
Illinois: http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/wsquash.cfm
A beautiful book on squash: Goldman, A. 2004. The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower's Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes, and Gourds. Workman Publishing.

Peppers - Sweet and Heat!

Karl Foord

Photo 1: Sweet peppers

Karl Foord, UMN Extension Educator

I traveled to Bagley, Minnesota to Ter-Lee Gardens, the home and farm of Terry and Loralee Nennich. Ter-Lee Gardens offers Pick-Your-Own strawberries at the farm and almost every vegetable that you can think of, most of which is marketed at the Bemidji Area Farmers' Market. I had heard that Loralee was growing more than 50 varieties of peppers and was intrigued. Terry is a colleague of mine and he persuaded Loralee to give me a tour of the two high tunnels where she was growing her peppers. You can see the peppers she showed me on photos 1 and 2.

Karl Foord

Photo 2: Hot peppers

Most pepper cultivars come from the species Capsicum annuum, whose center of origin is Mexico. The Habanero and Tabasco peppers come from C. chinense and C. frutescens, respectively. The center of origin for these species is the Amazon River basin in northern South America. The amount of variation in size shape and color is impressive. Especially fascinating are the color changes that many of the cultivars go through as they ripen. Most but not all start out green and then turn various shades of yellow, orange, red, and purple. Others start out purple, chocolate, or gray green and stay that color. Beyond color and size C. annuum peppers can be divided nicely into those that are sweet and those that "bring the heat". Loralee had plenty of each.

Karl Foord

Click to enlarge

The spicy heat of a pepper is a function of the amount of the compound capsaicin present in the pepper; the more capsaicin the hotter the pepper. Capsaicin stimulates chemoreceptor nerve endings in the skin, especially the mucous membranes. Each hot pepper variety is characterized by a range of capsaicin that it may contain as denoted by the Scoville scale measured in Scoville heat units (SHU). The scale was named after its creator Wilbur Scoville. There is also a rating scale from 1 to 10 also based on SHU (photo 3).

Karl Foord

Photo 4: Cayenne Pepper 'Andy'

Although the genetics determine the potential of heat, the environment can significantly modify the production of capsaicin. Growing temperature, hours of sunlight, moisture, soil chemistry, and the type and amount of fertilizer used can all be influencing factors. The conditions under which it a pepper was dried can also influence heat. The habanero pepper seems particularly sensitive to environmental factors and can vary in heat by a factor of 10.

Karl Foord

Photo 5: Anaheim pepper

The names of many of the pepper types and or varieties reflect where they were developed. For example:

Cayenne:
These peppers came from the Cayenne district of French Guiana (photo 4).

Karl Foord

Photo 6: Jalapeño pepper

Anaheim: this green pepper was cultivated for a canning factory in Anaheim, California. (Editor's note: The first American canning factory was constructed in New York City in 1812. The canning industry moved westward and became active in the latter part of the 19th century). These peppers are also known as California Chile and Chile Verde and are used in the making of chiles rellenos. If Anaheim peppers are left on the bush to ripen, dried and ground into pepper, the product produced is Chile Colorado (photo 5).



Karl Foord


Photo 7: Paprika pepper


Jalapeño: When dried, the Jalapeño is known as "Chipotle" and around 20% of the Jalapeño harvest is dehydrated for Chipotle sauce (photo 6).

Paprika: Paprika is the Hungarian word for pepper, and the actual pepper was developed in Hungary (photo 7).

Pimiento: "Pimiento" is the Spanish word for "bell pepper" while "Pimento" or "pimentão" are the Portuguese words. Pimento peppers are the familiar red stuffing found in prepared Spanish green olives.

Padron: These peppers came from the Padron region in the province of Coruna in Spain.

Habanero: traveled from South American and is postulated to have come from Cuba and named after Havana thus the name "Habanero".

Karl Foord

Photo 8: Bell pepper 'Lilac'

Check out a nearby farmers' market to see the variety of peppers available. If your market produces anything close to the variety that Loralee grows, you are in for a treat.

If you are interested in growing some of these varieties please see the publication: Growing Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplant in Minnesota Home Gardens

Special thanks to Loralee and Terry Nennich of Ter-Lee Gardens for sharing their time and expertise on peppers.

The Rotting of the Harvest

Michelle Grabowski, UMN Extension Educator

Storage vegetables are a great way to keep eating healthy and local throughout Minnesota's long winter. A wide variety of vegetables will keep for one to several months with minimal preparation. Common storage vegetables include carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, cabbage, kohlrabi, potatoes, onions, garlic, winter squash and celeriac.

Under ideal conditions winter squash can keep for 2-6 months (depending on variety), onions keep up to 4 months, potatoes keep up to 6 months, and carrots keep up to 8 months. It is important to remember that each vegetable has specific moisture and temperature requirements to maintain them in good condition during storage. In her publication 'Harvesting and Storing Home Garden Vegetables', Dr. Cindy Tong of the University of Minnesota Department of Horticulture, provides a detailed table on what environmental conditions each vegetable requires. In addition, Dr. Tong talks about different places in the home that these conditions could be found or created.

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Photo 1: Dark, soft, sunken spots on this pumpkin are the early stages of storage rot IM.Grabowski, UMN Extesnion.

Whether you grow vegetables in your own garden, receive them as part of a CSA, or purchase them from the farmers market, always select undamaged produce for storage. Small wounds are easy entry points for storage rot fungi and bacteria. Produce with even a small area of rot will continue to rot and can spread the pathogen to neighboring produce in the refrigerator or on the pantry shelf.

Storage rot fungi often infect vegetables while they are growing in the field, but symptoms may not show up until weeks later in storage. The 2010 growing season had regular rains and warm weather. These are ideal conditions for fungal plant pathogens. Many common garden vegetables suffered from severe leaf spot and fruit rot diseases in the field. It is likely that even healthy looking vegetables put into storage contained some unseen latent infections.

It is important to inspect storage vegetables regularly through the winter. At this time of year, fungal rot can frequently be found in storage vegetables, particularly those in less than ideal conditions. Look for soft sunken spots or dark discolored areas on the surface of the vegetable. Fluffy white cottony growth is an indication of fungal activity and can often be found at the stem end or base of the vegetables, where two vegetables touch together, or areas where humidity is high. Powdery black, blue green or even pink fungal spores may been present.

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Photo 2: Fusarium basal rot on shallot M.Grabowski, UMN Extension.

If early signs of rot are found, these vegetables should be immediately removed from the storage bin. If caught early enough, rotted areas can be cut out and the remaining healthy tissue can be used for dinner. If left, however, these minor infections can grow until the vegetable completely collapses from rot. In many cases the disease will spread to infect and rot neighboring vegetables. It is possible for an entire bin of vegetables to succumb to rot started on one fruit.

minnesotagrownlogo.ashx.gifIf you do not have ideal vegetable storage facilities in your home, look for stores that carry local Minnesota storage vegetables. Often these vegetables are labeled with the Minnesota Grown label.

Pumpkins are Too Cool!

Karl Foord, UMN Extension Educator

The word pumpkin originates from the Greek word pepon or "large melon". The French changed this to pompon, the British to pumpion, and the American colonists to "pumpkin".

Pumpkins (cucurbits) originated in Mesoamerica, and many of the wild species are found in the area south of Mexico City to the Guatemalan border. There are three species of interest: Cucurbita pepo, C. maxima, and C. moschata. The terms squash and pumpkin have no botanical meaning because as you will see each species has produced both squash and pumpkins. This article will mention the squash but focus on what we traditionally call pumpkins.

All species are monoecious having separate male and female flowers. The pollen is heavy and must be transferred by a pollinator. Two bee genera evolved to become efficient pollinators of cucurbits (squash bees, Peponapis spp. and Xenoglossa spp.). Interestingly enough pollination seems to be a morning phenomenon as breeders have found that the percentage of successful pollinations is greater in the early morning and then decreases gradually until noon.

There is great variation for size, color, skin type, and shape both within and among pumpkin species. The species that contains most of the varieties that we would encounter at a market or pick your own come from Cucurbita pepo. The size categories break down as follows: 1. Miniatures (< 1 lb.) like 'Wee-B-Little', 2. Baby pumpkins (1 - 3 lbs) like 'Summer Ball', 3. Small pie pumpkins (4 - 7 lbs) like 'Baby Pam', 4. Jack-o'Lantern types (7 - 30 lbs.) like the white 'Moonshine', the wart skinned 'Knuckle Head' , American Tondo, and the traditional 'Howden Biggie'. Other commonly encountered Cucurbita pepo members include: most summer squashes, Gourds, Pattypan Summer squash, Crookneck squash, Scallop Summer Squash, and Zucchini.

The species Cucurbita maxima as expected given the name the large giant pumpkins like 'Dill's Atlantic Giant' which grown normally produces 50 - 100 lb pumpkins, but when given special attention can produce 2 - 300 lb pumpkins, and is the variety that holds the record for the largest pumpkin at > 1,600 lbs. This species also has some pumpkins with interesting characteristics such as the 'Rouge Vif D'Etampes' (rouge vif meaning "vivid red") whose shape served as the model for Cinderella's carriage pumpkin. Also quite different is the variety 'Marina Di Chioggia' with its green color and wart like banded skin. Other commonly encountered Cucurbita maxima members include: Hubbard squash and most winter squashes.

The final species is Cucurbita moschata whose main contribution is the 'Libby's Select Dickinson' field pumpkin. Libby's owns close to 90 percent of the canned pumpkin market in North American. In the early 1800's the Dickinson family moved from Kentucky to Illinois and started a canning facility using what is now called the 'Libby's Select Dickinson' pumpkin. Libby's purchased both the canning plant and variety rights to the pumpkin in 1929. Some other interesting Cucurbita moschata varieties are 'Musque de Provence' and 'Naples Long' a peanut shaped squash that is considered an Italian heirloom variety. Other Cucurbita moschata members include butternut squash.

The variation within these Cucurbita species is really quite remarkable and we haven't even touched on the variability among the squashes.

All photo credits Johnny's Selected Seeds.

A special thanks to Johnny's Selected Seeds of Winslow, Maine for graciously allowing us to use their photos in this article; some very nice people up there in the State of Maine. Seed can be obtained for all varieties pictured from Johnny's Selected Seeds.

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Mildew Aplenty on Minnesota's Pumpkins, Squash and Cucumbers

Michelle Grabowski, University of Minnesota Extension Educator


Two types of mildew can be seen on pumpkins, squash and cucumbers in Minnesota this August. Powdery mildew and downy mildew have both been reported. Despite the similarities in their names, these two diseases are caused by very different pathogens and have very different symptoms and control strategies.

Powdery Mildew
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Photo 1: Powdery mildew on squash M.Grabowski, UMN Extension.

Powdery mildew is caused by the fungus Podosphaera xanthii. As its name implies, this disease can be recognized by the powdery white fungal growth on leaves and stems. Infections often start as a few white powdery spots but can quickly grow to cover the entire leaf in a layer of powdery white fungal spores and mycelia.

Although the powdery mildew fungi do not commonly attack squash fruit, yield of infected plants can be reduced because infected plants have less energy to invest in fruit. Often severely infected plants produce fewer and smaller squash, cucumbers or pumpkins.

Spores of the powdery mildew fungus blow in on the wind and are impossible to keep out of the garden. The best way to prevent powdery mildew is by planting disease resistant varieties. Many powdery mildew resistant varieties of pumpkin, squash and cucumber are available. Home gardeners can also use a fungicide with sulfur as the active ingredient to protect susceptible plants. In order for fungicides to be effective, they must be applied when the first small spot of powdery mildew is observed and the fungicide must be sprayed to cover both the upper and lower leaf surfaces. Perhaps the simplest solution for the home gardener is to include a few extra plants in the garden, to make up for the yield lost to powdery mildew.

Downy Mildew
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Photo 2: Downy Mildew on Cucumber D.Moen, UMN Extension.

Downy mildew is caused by Pseudoperonospora cubensis, a fungus like organism, often called a water mold because it thrives in moist conditions. This disease can be recognized by the almost square yellow to brown spots that appear on leaves. Leaves infected with Downy Mildew often look like a patchwork quilt of yellows, greens and brown. On the underside of infected leaves, a purplish gray fuzzy mold can be seen. Under warm wet conditions, downy mildew can spread rapidly. Many leaf spots grow together, turning infected leaves brown so quickly; they almost appear to have been hit by frost.

The downy mildew pathogen cannot survive Minnesota's harsh winters. Each year new spores must move into the state on moist wind from areas to the south. This means that gardeners experiencing problems with downy mildew this year may not see it at all next year.

Although there are several varieties of cucumber that are resistant to downy mildew, gardeners may not be able to find squash or pumpkin varieties with good resistance. Once downy mildew has started an infection, it is very difficult to control. In a home garden, the best solution is to remove infected plants as soon as symptoms appear to reduce the spread of the disease to other cucurbits in the garden.

Leaf Spots are Sprouting in the Vegetable Garden

Michelle Grabowski, UMN Extension Educator

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Photo 1: Bacterial Brown Spot on Beans Photo by M.Grabowski UMN Extension.

This summer early warm weather and frequent rain alternating with sunny days have created conditions allowing vegetable gardens to flourish. Many gardeners are amazed at the size of their tomato and corn plants. Recently, however, gardeners have been noticing yellowing and spotting of their prized plants, especially on the lower leaves. This discoloration is caused by several different fungal and bacterial leaf spot pathogens. Unfortunately warm wet weather also favors growth of these pathogens.

Leaf spot fungi and bacteria come into the garden on infected seed or transplants or are blown in on the wind. Many of these pathogens can survive from one season to the next on infected plant debris. Splashing rain carries fungal spores and bacteria from the soil and plant debris onto this year's leaves. Moisture in the plant canopy then allows these pathogens to start new infections. Established leaf spots create a whole new generation of bacteria and fungal spores, starting the cycle all over again.

Luckily several basic cultural control practices can help to keep leaf spot pathogens in check.

1. Reduce moisture on leaves and fruit by watering the base of the plant with drip irrigation, a soaker hose, or simply by directly the hose at the soil and not the leaves.

2. Stake plants like tomatoes, runner beans, and cucumbers.

3. Mulch the soil with straw, wood chips or a plastic mulch to prevent the pathogen from being splashed up onto the lower leaves.

4. Inspect plants regularly. If a few leaf spots show up, pinch off the infected leaves and remove them from the garden. Never remove more than a third of the plants foliage!

5. At the end of the growing season, remove infected plants or till under the plant debris to speed up breakdown of infected plant parts.

6. Rotate crops. Wait 3-4 years to plant the same plant in the same location. It is best to rotate between plant families. Follow tomatoes with broccoli, corn or beans since they are not closely related. Peppers and eggplant should not follow tomatoes since they share many of the same diseases.

The leaf spot diseases below have been recently found in Minnesota.

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Photo 2: Peppery Spot on Turnip Photo by M.Grabowski UMN Extension.

Peppery Leaf Spot - Seen here on turnip leaves, this bacterial leaf spot disease is caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. maculicola. This disease can occur on turnip, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. The peppery leaf spot bacteria enter the field on infected seed and then return each year by surviving on plant debris. Bacteria spread from plant to plant by splashing water, on tools, gardener's hands and insects. The outer older leaves are typically infected first. Pinch off severely infected leaves and remove them from the garden. Do not plant any of the susceptible brassicas in the same location for three years.

Black Spot and Gray Spot - These two fungal diseases of brassicas are caused by Alternaria brassicae and Alternaria brassicicola. Disease can occur on cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, kale, turnip, and rutabaga. Leaf spots start out as small dark pinpoint spots, but quickly grow into a large gray to brown circle. Dark rings within the spot make them look like a target. Leaf tissue around the spots turns yellow, and dark brown spots may be seen on the heads of cauliflower and Alternaria .jpg

Photo 3: Gray Spot on Chinese Cabbage Photo by M.Grabowski UMN Extension.

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The black spot and gray spot fungi can be blown into the garden on wind or brought in on infected seed. The disease thrives when high humidity occurs. To reduce problems with these fungal leaf spot diseases, remove diseased leaves from the garden and till in infected plants at the end of the season. Be sure to remove weeds from the brassica family because they can harbor these fungi even when vegetable plants are not around.

Early Blight - This common fungal disease of tomatoes is caused by Alternaria solani. The fungus can also infect potatoes and occasionally eggplant and peppers, but the most severe damage in gardens often occurs on the tomato plants. Fruit, stems and leaves can all be infected by the early blight fungus. Infection on all three plant parts results in large brown spots, with concentric dark rings, that look like a bulls eye.

Like many leaf spot fungi, the early blight fungus survives in plant debris in the soil from yearearly blight leaf.jpg

Photo 4: Early Blight on Tomato Photo by M.Grabowski UMN Extension.

to year and is splashed on to leaves and fruit by rain or irrigation. It thrives in moist conditions.Reducing moisture around plants through staking, spacing for good air movement, pinching off lower leaves, pruning to one or a few stems, and mulching the soil can all help reduce disease problems. Often cultural controls reduce the disease enough to produce a good crop of tomatoes even though a few leaf spots can still be found on the plant.

Bacterial Brown Spot - This bacterial disease of beans is caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv syringae and can affect both the leaves and pods of the bean plant. Leaves have round brown papery spots. Leaf spots occasionally fall out, resulting in a shot hole appearance of the leaves. Infected bean pods also have brown spots and may be bent or twisted around the infected area. To reduce problems with bacterial spots on beans, space plants to allow good air movement between plants. Stake runner beans. Avoid working in plants when leaves are wet. Instead, wait until a cool dry day to pinch off infected leaves Septoria ls2.jpg

Photo 5: Septoria Leaf Spot on Lettuce Photo by M.Grabowski UMN Extension .

and pods. Remove this diseased material from the garden.

Septoria Leaf Spot - This fungal leaf spot disease of lettuce is caused by Septoria lactucae. Spores from this fungus often come into the garden on seed, but can also survive in plant residue and on some weeds. Gardeners that have problems with Septoria leaf spot of lettuce might consider looking for lettuce seed that is produced in a desert area, like the south western states, as these seeds are less likely to be contaminated by this moisture loving fungus. When growing successive crops of lettuce, be sure to seed the next crop in a location away from any currently diseased plants. Do not plant lettuce in the same area of the garden for one year to allow infected plant debris to break down.

Tasty Tomatoes in Containers

Karl Foord, UMN Extension Educator

There is little doubt that one of the best taste treats in a Minnesota Summer is a vine ripe tomato. In this case I am referring to a vine that you grew and a tomato that you picked when you decided it was ripe. In addition the distance it had to travel to your kitchen is measured in feet not thousands of miles. As an aside where did tomatoes come from in the first place?

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Photo 1: Tumbler. Karl Foord.

Tomatoes were first domesticated by early Indian civilizations of Mexico. Cultivars were taken to Europe in the mid 1500's and then back to North America by colonists in the early 1700's. Tomatoes were slow to catch on because of their similarity to the poisonous belladonna of the nightshade family. The appeal for tomatoes took hold in the middle of the 19th century. In 1863 there were 23 known cultivars whereas in 1883 there were several hundred cultivars. Presently there are around 7,500 cultivars with a great variety of fruit sizes shapes and colors. Tomatoes also demonstrate different plant types commonly classified as determinate or indeterminate. Determinate, or bush, types bear a full crop all at once and top off at a specific height. Note the mass of flowers positioned above the foliage in the variety 'Tumbler'. Indeterminate varieties develop into vines that never top off and continue producing until killed by frost. Note the smaller inflorescence of flowers located nestled within the vine in the variety 4th of July. kf2.jpg

Photo 2: Fourth of July.Karl Foord.


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Photo 3: Tumbler flowers. Karl Foord.


One goal would be to have tomatoes for as long a period during the summer as possible, and one strategy to achieve this is based on variety selection. Many but not all of the early maturing tomato varieties are determinate; however an early maturing determinate tomato is a good way to start the season. An early maturing indeterminate variety will keep fruit coming connecting early and later maturing determinates as well as the late season indeterminates.


There are advantages and disadvantages to growing tomatoes in containers. The advantages may include avoidance of; damage by critters, problems associated with soil born diseases, and most leaf diseases because the leaf surfaces dry quickly when containers can be placed in an airy location such as an elevated deck. The ambiance created by container tomatoes on a deck or patio is very appealing.

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Photo 4: Container varieties. Karl Foord.

The disadvantage of containers is water related. Because determinant and indeterminate varieties develop into different size plants they have different combined leaf surface areas and thus different water needs especially at maturity. The indeterminate vines can get big and require a lot of water. If they are grown in small pots that dry quickly the plant will experience problems associated with constant water stress, one of which is blossom end rot. One way to avoid this is to select a pot size related to the tomato cultivar's growth type. In this way one can avoid the water stress problem by having a large enough pot that will hold enough water permitting the plant to be watered only once a day.


A demonstration of variety type matched to pot size is on display at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum as part of the Powerhouse Plants exhibit.


This demonstration shows 5 different cultivars of various growth types and maturity dates in several different pot sizes (Table 1 and photo of varieties).

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Table 1.

Arboretum Challenge: Veggies by the Yard

Leslie Cooney, Membership Services Manager, Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Are you thinking about your gardens? Starting seeds? Planning a vegetable bed? Need a garden plan?

The Arboretum is issuing a challenge to all gardeners out there to plant and compare with something we're calling "Veggies by the Yard." Part of our summer exhibition on Powerhouse Plants, we're going to find out just how much food can be grown on a 4x12 ft. plot. Our website offers several vegetable garden plans to choose from:

We'll keep a harvest tally of our yields and ask you to do the same - entering the data online every Saturday June through September. It's a chance to go head to head with Ted Pew, our valiant veteran veggie guy and landscape gardener extraordinaire! raised bed_medium.jpg

Photo: Will you be planting one of the Veggies by the Yard garden plans this year? Karen Jeannette.

Find out more about how you can participate in the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's Veggies by the Yard by visiting: http://www.arboretum.umn.edu/VeggiesByTheYard.aspx

Jackie Smith, Belle Plaine, Carver/Scott Master Gardener

Over 100 Master Gardeners throughout Minnesota participated in the trials for 2009. As always, weather was a factor for many, with a long cool dry spell early in the season followed by hot and dry and then by a cool, rainy, stretch at the end. Despite the weather, our testers persevered and most successfully grew and evaluated one of the three vegetables or two ornamentals. Participants grew all the cultivars listed and evaluated yield, flavor, and ornamental value by ranking their performance from 1 to 3 (1=excellent, 3=poor).   They also recorded whether or not they would purchase the cultivar to grow again.

Lima Beans

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Photo 1: Zucchini and lima bean trials. Jackie Smith.

Lima growers sowed directly outdoors on an average date of May 30. Growers planted five or more seeds of each variety, and kept from two to three plants of each for evaluation. All varieties were marked as bush varieties. Flavor and texture were evaluated using cooked young shelled beans.


  • "Burpee Improved" averaged 2.8 light green beans per pod at 103 days from planting to harvest. The beans were quite large at .8" each, and the plants averaged 1.1 cup of shelled beans each. Ranked #1 for flavor, texture, and overall. Seventy-five percent of our testers are willing to purchase Burpee Improved in the future.
  • "Dixie Butterpea" was earliest to produce light green beans at 102 days from planting. The small, ½" beans were produced at the rate of 3.2 per pod, with an average of 1.2 cups of shelled beans per plant. Flavor and texture were ranked in 5th place, but our growers rated Dixie Butterpea last overall. Still, sixty-four percent will grow again.
  • "Eastland Bush" set light green beans at 103 days from planting. The beans averaged .6" in size-3.1 per pod- at the rate of 1.1 cup per plant. Growers rated Eastland in second place for flavor, texture, and overall. Sixty-four percent will purchase again.
  • "Henderson's Bush" also produced .6" light green beans at the rate of 2.9 per pod, 103 days from planting. Pod set was light, with a total yield of only .8 cup of shelled beans per plant. Ranked in second place (tied with Eastland) for flavor, but only 4th for texture, Henderson averaged 3rd place overall. Fifty-four percent will purchase in the future.
  • "Speckled Calico" produced beautiful large (.8") beans at the rate of 2.5 per pod, and 1.3 cup per plant. The beans were a lovely marbled combination of pink and white. Plants were slow to set fruit, averaging 109 from planting to harvest, and were large vines that required support. Flavor rated only 4th place, while texture was rated 3rd. Coming in at 4th place overall, Speckled Calico will be grown again by fifty percent of our testers.
  • "Early Thorogreen" took 104 days to harvest, producing .6" light green beans at the rate of 3 per pod and .8 cup per plant. Rated last for flavor and texture, our growers still ranked Thorogreen in 5th place overall. Only forty-six percent will grow again.

Leaf Lettuce


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Photo 2: Leaf lettuce trials. Jackie Smith.

Participants were asked to sow seeds directly outdoors as soon as the soil was workable and the danger of heavy frost past. They were asked not to thin, but to cut the plants for baby lettuce beginning at 3" in height, and to continue to harvest as often as possible. The growers sowed an average of 35 seeds of each variety on May 7.

  • "Australian Yellow" averaged 43.6 days to first harvest. Leaves were chartreuse color and our growers averaged 5.7 cuttings before the plants bolted or simply quit growing. Flavor was rated 5, and texture last, giving Australian Yellow a overall final ranking of 5. Still, seventy-three percent of the growers will try this again
  • "Black Seeded Simpson". This old standby variety is still doing well in comparison trials, ranking first for flavor and third place overall. BSS was ready to harvest at 42.8 days, and was top yielder at 6.2 cuttings. Leaves were chartreuse in color. Ninety-two percent of our testers will continue to grow this variety.
  • "Grand Rapids" also produced chartreuse leaves starting at 43.2 days from planting. Ranked 4th for flavor and 3rd for texture, this variety placed fourth overall. Harvest was relatively brief, with 4.8 cuttings, but a whopping ninety-eight percent will grow Grand Rapids again.
  • "Lolla Rossa" seed was a crop failure and a different variety was substituted by the supplier. Unfortunately, the variety name was unreadable - but the following rankings do not apply to Lolla Rossa: leaves were green with red margins with good texture but unpopular flavor. Ranked in 6th place, only 68% of our growers liked this lettuce, whatever the variety.
  • "Midnight" leaves were a uniform dark red produced at 41.8 days from planting (earliest), and continuing for 5.6 cuttings. Flavor was ranked #1, tied with BSS, and texture #2. Overall, our growers rated Midnight in first place and eighty-eight percent will purchase again.
  • "New Red Fire" plants produced green leaves with red margins at 42.8 days from sowing. Plants gave up early, however, standing up through only 4.7 cuttings. Flavor and texture were average, but New Red Fire ranked second place overall. Eighty-four percent will grow again.

Green Zucchini

Participants in this trial planted seeds directly outdoors on May 24, planting a minimum of 3 seeds of each variety. Asked to grow at least one plant of each variety, the growers averaged two or more of each. Evaluations for flavor and texture were conducted tasting raw fruit at 6" in length. All varieties produced dark green fruit that was predominantly slender and straight. Powdery mildew was rampant across the state. Vine borers and/or squash bugs were common, but no varieties were either more or less attractive to these pests.

  • "Ambassador" produced fruit at 53.6 days from sowing, at the highest rate of 14.1 fruit per plant. Ranked third for texture, Ambassador was tops in flavor and overall, with 89% of our growers willing to purchase it again for future planting.

  • "Black" took 53.3 days to harvest. One of two varieties with large leaves that seemed somewhat less prone to mildew. Texture was ranked second, but Black's flavor was the least favorite. Production was average at 12.8 fruit per plant. Our growers ranked this third overall and seventy-one percent are willing to buy again.
  • "Cashflow" was the earliest to harvest at 52.2 days from planting. Texture wasn't a favorite, but testers rated it second for flavor. Plants averaged 13.6 fruits. Ranked fifth overall, only fifty-nine percent will purchase Cashflow in the future.

  • "Dark Green" also produced large mildew-resistant leaves with fruit ready to harvest 54.3 days from planting. Plants averaged 12.8 fruits each, with top rated texture. Ranked last overall, still seventy-eight percent will grow Dark Green again.
  • "Emporer" ranked fourth for flavor, texture and overall. The plants were slowest to produce fruit, at 55.6 days from planting, and averaged only 9.6 fruits each. Seventy-eight percent of our growers were still willing to try this variety again.

  • "Spineless" texture placed last in our grower's opinions, but flavor was average. Plants produced fruit sooner than others at 49.3 days from plants, with an average of 13.8 fruit per plant. Ranked in second place overall, Spineless will be purchased again by 83% of our testers.


Dianthus

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Photo 3: Dianthus varieties. Jackie Smith.

Growers were asked to start seed indoors as soon as received (average March 15) and to select at least three plants of each variety to transplant outdoors for evaluation in this trial. Transplanting was to take place when weather was warm and settled, with the actual average transplanting date of May 26, 2009. Varieties grown were all relatively low plants and were not meant to be color mixes. In addition, none were notably fragrant. In most cases, bloom was curtailed only by frost at season's end.



  • "Corona Cherry" plants averaged 7.7" tall by 8.0" side, with 2.0" single blooms in varying shades of raspberry pink. Ranked in third place for amount of bloom, and fourth place overall, Corona Cherry will be purchased again by 77% of our trial participants.
  • "Crimson Carpet" produced attractive blue leaves when out of bloom on plants that averaged 8.5" tall by 7.4" wide. Ranked in fourth place for amount of bloom, plants produced single red blooms that averaged 1.4" in diameter. Placing last overall, only 57% will purchase Crimson Carpet again.
  • "Ideal Red" single blooms were 1.4" in diameter in a pleasing shade of warm rosy red on plants that averages 8.7 inches by 8.5 inches. Ranked second for amount of bloom, this variety also placed second overall. A full 80% will grow Ideal Red in the future.
  • "Parfait Raspberry" large single blooms averaged 1.8" in raspberry shading to cream edges. Plants averaged 8.0" by 8.3", with blue leaves. Flower production was the lowest in the trial, but because of the large bloom size, there was plenty of flower-power. Ranked number one overall, Parfait Raspberry will be grown again by 73% of our testers.
  • "Snowfire" is our third variety with blue leaves. Plants were a bit larger than the others at 10.2" tall by 8.9" wide. The 1.6" blooms were a little more sparse than most (5th place) and were single, with smallish fire engine red centers on white petals. Ranked fifth overall, sixty-seven percent will purchase Snowfire again.
  • "Telstar Crimson" produced small (1.3") single red flowers abundantly (ranked #1 for production). Plants grew to 9.3" tall by 8.9" wide. Growers rated this in third place overall and a very strong 82% will purchase Telstar Crimson in the future.

Rudbeckia


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Photo 4: Rudbeckia "Prairie Sun' and 'Cherry Brandy'. Jackie Smith.

Growers were asked to start seeds indoors (average starting date was March 23), and to transplant outdoors in full sun when the weather was warm and settled (average May 28). They started an average of 8 seeds of each variety, and averaged one to three plants of each by trial end.

  • "Cappuccino" plants averaged 21" tall by 17" wide. Petals of the single, 4.6" blooms were gold with rust toward the brown centers. Ranked the most floriferous of the varieties tested, Cappuccino tied for number one overall, along with Cherry Brandy. Eighty-nine percent of our trial participants will purchase again.
  • "Cherry Brandy" is an unusual color breakthrough for Rudbeckia with burgundy petals backed with pink and brown centers. The single blooms averaged 3.1" in diameter and were ranked second in flower production. Plants grew to 26" tall by 16" wide. Tied for number one overall with Cappuccino, Cherry Brandy exceeded it in popularity with a full 100% of the growers interested in trying it again.
  • "Chocolate Orange" seed caused problems for several growers, with a dismal 28% germination rate. Those who were successful were rewarded with 3.5" single blooms with petals showing orange tips and dark red toward the dark centers. Bloom amount ranked third on plants that grew to 23" tall by 16" wide. Rated in third place overall, 94% of our growers will continue to grow Chocolate Orange.
  • "Indian Summer" produced very large, 4.5", single gold blossoms with dark centers on plants that grew to 29" tall by 18" wide. Ranked fifth for flower production and fifth overall, Indian Summer remains popular enough to encourage 94% to continue to grow it in the future.
  • "Maya" was at a disadvantage grown against the others since it was the only double flower on much smaller plants, which grew to only 16" tall by 12" wide. The gold blooms were 2.9" in diameter, but flower production was only average or below. Ranked in 6th place overall, only 33% will grow Maya again.
  • "Prairie Sun" differed from the others by being the only variety with light green centers. The blooms averaged 4.2" diameter, and the gold petals had lighter yellow tips. Coupled with the green centers, the overall effect of the blooms was a paler yellow. Plants grew to 28" tall by 17" wide, but flower production was rated least of all tested varieties. Growers ranked Prairie Sun fourth overall, but enjoyed it enough to encourage 90% of them to purchase it in the future.

Asian Vegetables

redNoodleBean2(2)_med.jpgTrial information was also collected for a number of Asian vegetable varieties. A summary of these results can be viewed this spring in the Northern Gardener magazine.
 

Photo 5: Red noodle bean was part of the Asian vegetable variety trials. Jackie Smith.

Edible Landscape Wrap-Up

Emily Tepe, University of Minnesota Research Fellow, Department of Horticultural Science

After many weeks of harvesting mountains of chard, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers, raspberries and a multitude of other vegetables, fruits and herbs, the University of Minnesota Edible Landscape has been put to bed. Well...almost. The few lone stands of silvery blue kale seem to mock the cold, their leathery leaves sweetening with each frosty night. And many of the herbs are even holding onto their green. Other than those, the Edible Landscape is now resting after a long and productive season. snow on kale_tepe.JPG

Photo 1 (left and above): Snow on dinosaur kale in the University of Minnesota Edible Landscape on October 12, 2009. Emily Tepe.

If you haven't had a chance to see the gardens on the St. Paul campus this year, and if you haven't been following the Edible Landscape blog, here's a rundown of some of the details of the project. The Edible Landscape filled four beds outside the Plant Growth Facilities on Gortner Ave. The 1500 square foot garden was comprised of 75 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. The garden was designed to emphasize the ornamental qualities of edible plants, and demonstrate how these plants might be incorporated into the home landscape in creative, attractive ways. Most of the ornamentals, herbs and warm season crops were started from seed in the greenhouse during the winter months. Others, such as chard, kale, summer and winter squash, melon, lettuces and radishes were direct seeded throughout the season. By mid-October, almost 500 pounds of produce had been harvested from the Edible Landscape and shared with students, faculty and staff in the Department of Horticultural Science.

After cleaning all the annuals out of the garden (which were then composted), winter rye seed was raked into the beds for a winter cover crop. It may sound strange to think of cover crops in a home gardening demonstration. After all, we normally think of cover crops being used on acres of land, not in the backyard. But cover crops in the home garden can offer great benefits such as weed suppression, erosion control, increased microbial activity and moisture retention, just to name a few. You can read about Green Manure Cover Crops for Minnesota on the U of MN Extension Website.

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Photo 2 (right and above): The largest bed in the University of Minnesota Edible Landscape in mid-July. Emily Tepe.

If the idea of edible landscaping sounds intriguing, or if you would simply like to learn more about this project, visit the Edible Landscape blog. The entire season was documented on the blog, which is filled with photos, design ideas, plant lists, growing information and more. Now that the harvests have finished, and the season is being evaluated, there will be more discussions on the blog about plant combinations that worked well, successful varieties, and lessons learned. Read, learn, share and join the discussion.

Wealth of Education Found in the Display and Trial Garden

Emily Tepe, Research Fellow, Department of Horticultural Science

10-1-09ediblelandscaping_emilytepe.JPGIf you walk through the St. Paul campus Display and Trial Gardens these days you're bound to see a lot of activity. No, I'm not talking about bees on the flowers (although there were a lot of those with the unusual warm weather in September), I'm talking about students. With the start of the fall semester comes a plethora of courses on plant identification, propagation, diseases and insects. The Display and Trial gardens offer a convenient and valuable living laboratory for these courses. In fact, throughout the year (save for a couple of months in the depths of winter) these gardens offer education to many people in the University community and beyond.

Photo 1 (left): Edible landscape portion of the University of Minnesota Display and Trial gardens. Emily Tepe

An Inspiring Outdoor Classroom

The Display and Trial gardens are comprised of various areas between Alderman Hall (home of the Department of Horticultural Science) and the Plant Growth Facilities on Gortner Avenue. Trees, shrubs, and hardscaping create the foundation for the gardens, and break it up into beds, each with their own theme. These themes change from year to year as new varieties are introduced, student projects are realized, and interesting gardening styles bring an opportunity to explore and experiment. The 2009 season brought some inspiring plantings and great educational opportunities.

These educational opportunities often get started while there is still snow on the ground, as students propose projects for the garden and begin designing beds and planting seeds in the greenhouse. Classes ,such as Professor, Neil Anderson's Floriculture Crop Production, research and schedule their assigned crops, working backwards from the planned finish date (mid-May), to assure their annual flowers are at the perfect stage for judging before being planted out in the gardens. Many of the varieties they grow are trials for major seed companies.

When spring arrives, students who have proposed projects for the gardens, begin breaking ground, laying out beds, sowing seeds, and eventually setting out transplants. They are responsible for maintaining their plantings throughout the season, keeping the beds watered, weeded and looking good. It's a great experience for students to take what they've learned in the classroom and put it all into practice. These projects bring the fresh ideas of students to the forefront, allowing them to experiment with new concepts and interesting designs, and even showcase some of their research.

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By the time the gardens are in full swing, the St. Paul campus is pretty quiet. Most of the student body is gone for the summer, and the gardens become an inspirational outdoor venue for summer camps, youth enrichment programs, Master Gardener events, and horticulture industry field days. 

Photo 2 (right): Master Gardeners tour the Edible Landscape at the University of Minnesota State Master Gardener Conference. Emily Tepe

On any given summer day you are bound to find a group of high school students cutting flowers for a design and marketing program, or a flurry of youth in matching t-shirts tending a plot of vegetables; kept on task by their nurturing and enthusiastic mentors. Members of the local community often visit the gardens to view the new varieties released by the University, the vast array of annual flowers, and the creative ideas such as this year's Edible Landscape.

A Living Laboratory

10-1-09PlaPathclass_EmilyTepe.JPGOnce classes start in September, University students begin spending a lot of time in the gardens. Many of the students in the introductory horticulture courses have never seen some of these plants before, and the gardens offer a close-up look at the topics they're studying. Tom Michaels, professor in the Department of Horticultural Science (teaching Plant Propagation this semester) said of the Edible Landscape portion of the gardens, "Students pass right by those beds every time they come to lab. They can't help but see examples of the food they buy in the produce department actually growing in front of them. It gives me the opportunity to talk about those foods and encourage them to stop by the beds and find examples of how chard differs from lettuce or dinosaur kale, or similarities and differences between beans and peas". The gardens are indispensable for the plant identification courses as well. Students find examples of hundreds of species, and with hand lenses and forceps, can scrutinize tiny flower parts to determine the plant family to which they belong.

Photo 3 (above): Plant pathology students observing symptoms of apple scab in the Display and Trial garden. Emily Tepe.

Horticulture students aren't the only ones spending time in the gardens. The Display and Trial Gardens provide a wonderful laboratory for plant pathology and entomology students as well. Todd Burnes, scientist in the Department of Plant Pathology, said numerous courses spend time in the gardens identifying and studying various plant diseases. While in the home garden, powdery mildew, leaf spot and white mold would likely prompt immediate action, here we aren't so hasty. The opportunity for students to observe the symptoms of diseases, collect samples and study them in the lab is worth a few ugly plants here and there at the end of the season. Entomology students roam the gardens, sweeping their longs white nets along the edge of the prairie strip, or carefully trapping unsuspecting insects on the zucchini flowers. Once back in the lab, they'll identify and study their specimens.

Photo 4 (below and right) : Powdery mildew on zinnias in the Display and Trial Gardens. Emily Tepe.10-1-09_Med_powderymildewonZinnia_EmilyTepe.JPG

It is truly amazing the wealth of education that can be found in a garden. Here on the St. Paul campus, the Display and Trial gardens offer many people a chance to get up close and personal with flowers, grasses, trees, fruits and vegetables. And whether in class or just wandering through, there are countless opportunities to discover. Every garden offers such opportunities for young and old alike.

Quick Update on Colorado Potato Beetles

Jeffrey Hahn, Asst. Extension Entomologist
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Do you have a problem with Colorado potato beetles in your garden? If you grow potatoes, there is a good chance you see them at one time or another on your plants. Don’t forget that in addition to potatoes, they can also attack eggplants, tomatoes and peppers. This insect can be challenging to manage but here are a few tactics you can use to deal with this pest.

Monitor susceptible plants regularly so you know if Colorado potato beetles are present in your garden. If you have a history of these insects in your garden, the odds are good you will see them again. Because you can have overlapping generations, you can find all life stages in your garden at any given time. Once they are active in spring, you will generally have Colorado potato beetles in your garden all summer.

If you have a smaller garden, and the time, handpicking is a great nonchemical control method. To be sure they are killed, just toss adults and larvae into a bucket of soapy water. For the really small, young larvae, just put on your gloves and squish them. And don’t forget the eggs. Look for them on the underside of the leaves. They are easy to recognize as they are orange and in clusters.

If physical removal is not practical, you may wish to use an insecticide. There are two low impact products available. Spinosad is produced by the fermentation of a soil-dwelling bacterium, Saccharopolysora spinosa. It is quick acting, attacking the nervous system of insects. It is most effective against caterpillars, flies (mostly leafminers), and thrips, as well as leaf beetles, grasshoppers and other insects that consume a lot of foliage.

art5-2_600.jpgNeem is derived from the neem tree, a plant found in arid tropical and subtropical areas. Neem can deter insect pests in one of several ways. They can inhibit their feeding, repel them, or disrupt their life cycle preventing them from successfully molting. Neem is generally effective against a wide array of insects, including beetles.

You might be wondering about Bacillus thuringiensis var. tenebrionis, a commonly used home garden product for leaf beetles, like Colorado potato beetles. This bacterial insecticide, which acts as a stomach poison, is quite effective against young larvae. However, this product is no longer registered in Minnesota. It was previously available from Bonide in a product called Colorado Potato Beetle Beater. If you look at Bonide’s products, you will still find a product with that name, but it now contains spinosad.

There are a wide variety of residual insecticides, such as permethrin and carbaryl that are labeled to treat Colorado potato beetles. However, there is a good chance that the Colorado potato beetles in your garden are resistant to these insecticides already. This will be particularly true if you are any where near a commercial potato field. Instead try a newer insecticide, like esfenvalerate. The beetles in your garden are more likely to be susceptible to it.

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Terrance T. Nennich, University of Minnesota Extension Educator

The gardening season in Northern Minnesota is brutal and harsh to say the least. Lack of heat units, freezing temperatures in early June and late August, very cool nights and high winds are very challenging to even the most experienced and patient gardeners. The long period of times that plants are wet from dew or prolonged rain can make disease control nearly impossible some years. Gardeners in Northern Minnesota are usually very optimistic people, continually telling themselves that next year things will be much better and the weather will be much more cooperative to help produce that lush, bountiful harvest that we all hope for. Then about every five years, somewhat ideal conditions come together and that super abundant crop is produced. And so the cycle goes.

High tunnels can help gardeners produce that great crop every year with little risk. High tunnels can lengthen the growing season as much as 5-6 weeks in the spring and also in the fall. What are high tunnels?

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If you are looking to get fresh ideas for your garden, to see the latest in University flower, fruit, and vegetable varieties and accompanying research for yourself, or just to experience a beautiful, accessible garden, you will want to visit the 6-acre Master Gardener Education & Research Display Garden! There are over 25 different display and trial gardens to see.  They are well-labeled and a fantastic resource for Minnesota gardeners.

The garden is free to the public and open daily (sunrise to sunset) with plenty of free parking available. It is located on the South side of Highway 46 in Rosemount, Minnesota, just two miles East of Highway 3. It is within and part of the 5,000 acre UMore Park (University of Minnesota Outreach, Research, and Education Park). The garden started in 2001 with the purpose of being a display garden serving the public through education and research.  It is located in the Southeast metro and has a much different flavor and a unique purpose compared to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum located in the West metro. 

Text and sketch below used with permission from the Land Stewardship Project
*Ideas and wording used taken from MACSAC, the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition.

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What is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)?

CSA farms provide a regular delivery of sustainably grown produce (often weekly or every other week) to consumers during the growing season (approximately June to October). Those consumers, in turn, pay a subscription fee. But CSA consumers don't so much "buy" food from particular farms as become "members" of those farms. CSA operations provide more than just food; they offer ways for eaters to become involved in the ecological and human community that supports the farm.

Michelle Grabowski, University of Minnesota Extension Educator

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Photo 1: Fusarium wilt resistant and susceptible tomato seedlings. Michelle Grabowski

Although winter still holds Minnesota in its icy grasp, smart gardeners are already pouring over seed catalogs and preparing for the season ahead. There are many factors to consider when choosing which vegetable variety to grow this season. One option available to gardeners is disease resistant varieties. These are varieties that have been specially bred or selected for their ability to remain healthy in the presence of a pathogen. Choosing disease resistant vegetable varieties can save the gardener time and money since they will likely not require fungicide sprays or other control measures to prevent the development of fruit rot, leaf spots or other disease problems.

Fellow Gardeners—Start Your Seeds

Meleah Maynard, University of Minnesota Master Gardener

In February, as winter seems to drag endlessly on, gardeners who just can’t wait to feel some soil between their fingers finally have something to do: start sowing seeds. While many seeds need to be planted just four to six weeks before being moved outdoors, others that are slower to mature should be started 10 to12 weeks before being transplanted. Timing is important because you want your seedlings to be strong enough to manage on their own, but you don’t want them getting so big that they crowd each other and compete for light, water and nutrients.

2009 All-America Selections Winners

David C. Zlesak, University of Minnesota Extension Educator

All-America Selections (AAS) serves as the oldest (first award winning varieties were designated in 1933), most established, impartial international testing organization in North America. Breeders from around the world enter their best flower and vegetable seed varieties with the hope that their entries would prove themselves to be superior performers across the 46 trial gardens in the United States and Canada and earn this prestigious award. Performance of test varieties are compared with the best commercially available varieties of their class. In addition to the trial gardens, there are display gardens which feature recent and next year’s AAS winners. All together there are 176 AAS display gardens. The five AAS display gardens located in Minnesota are listed at the end of this article. Seeds and transplants of new AAS winners are widely available from leading garden centers and seed catalogs.

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