North Dakota State University Extension Service January 2010 A newsletter for gardeners in North Dakota Vol. 3, No.1 Dakotans choose best veggie varieties This is a wonderful time of the crease yields, reduce the need for due to rising food costs. One out year for vegetable gardeners. It’s pesticides, and produce higher of every three households in a time of hope and optimism. The quality food. North Dakota grows vegetables— seed catalogs are arriving in the worth well over $30 million. Three On the other hand, gardeners mail and it is amazing to see all of out of four persons in our state who sow a lousy variety are the varieties being offered. But do not eat enough vegetables for headed for frustrations. No mat- what variety is best for us? a healthy diet—this makes us ter how hard they work in prepar- more susceptible to infectious dis- It’s an important question. Se- ing the soil, watering, weeding, eases (such as the flu) and lecting a good variety is the first and spraying their crops, they chronic diseases (such as cancer step to success in growing a pro- may have disappointing results. and diabetes). ductive garden. Gardeners who We need to identify the best Continued on back page sow a superior variety can in- varieties for our state. Consumer interest in gardening is soaring INSIDE THIS ISSUE Feature stories Testing veggie varieties 1 Attracting bluebirds 2–3 New European cosmos 4 Growing a pineapple 4 Favorite seed catalogs 4 New plum for the north 6 Gardening tips for January 5 Written by: Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist e-mail: email@example.com Page 2 Dakota Gardener January 2010 FEATURE STORIES Attracting bluebirds Have you ever seen a bluebird? Most people haven’t. These people are missing out on a re- markable experience. Bluebirds are gentle creatures that naturally bring a smile to your face. The sky blue color of their plumage is rich and brilliant--it is a shade of blue rarely found in nature. The rusty feathers of its breast further accentuate its beauty. The Eastern bluebird is a sum- nesting sites so they can suc- mer resident of North Dakota. Its cessfully raise their young. cousin the mountain bluebird Building a bluebird nesting box sometimes nests in the northwest is a fun project. Many designs are corner of our state. available (see story on next page). Once threatened across the Some common features are the Great Plains and Midwest, blue- use of one-inch-thick wooden locate an insect, they will swoop bird populations are starting to boards; holes at the top of the box down to eat it. make a comeback. for ventilation and at the bottom of the box for drainage; a one and Bluebirds raise one or two The decline of bluebirds was broods from late April through a half-inch-diameter entrance mostly caused by the reduction of early August. Nest boxes should hole in the front of the box, and a its habitat. Bluebirds prefer to be visited at least every seven door that opens for monitoring the nest in cavities of older trees and days during this period. progress of the nest. wooden fenceposts. But more in- tensive farming practices, in- Keep the nesting sites at least Bluebird nests are easily iden- creased use of metal fenceposts, 100 yards apart. A pair of boxes tified. They are neat and cup greater use of pesticides, and the is often mounted at each site. shaped, and typically made of fine sprawl of urban development Often a bluebird will nest in one grass. The eggs are powder blue have reduced the available habi- box, and another bird such as a or white. tat for bluebirds. house wren, tree swallow, or In contrast, sparrow nests are chickadee will nest in the other. If that wasn’t enough, two ag- messy and coarse in texture. gressive species of birds were Install your nest boxes in ar- Their eggs are cream in color with introduced from Europe into the eas that provide open space, such irregular brown speckles. United States. These species, the as near open grasslands, pas- By checking on a regular ba- house sparrow and starling, vi- tures, orchards, hayfields, and sis, you can defend the bluebirds ciously kill bluebirds and take along roadsides. against sparrows and other natu- over their nesting sites. The ground below should have ral enemies. You can also watch The most effective way to re- grass. Bluebirds will perch on the progress of the birds as they store the bluebird population is to fenceposts or branches to look for raise their young. You won’t be provide adult bluebirds with good insects in the grass. Once they disappointed! January 2010 Dakota Gardener Building a bluebird house Years of extensive testing in Min- diam. x 2-1/4 long (1-1/2 project- nesota have shown the Peterson ing inside). Nails: 26 galvanized bluebird house to be a preferred 1-1/2” long nesting box. It’s a little more diffi- Use the rough side of lumber cult to construct compared to the for outside. Make two parallel saw standard rectangular boxes, but cuts 1/8” deep beneath the entry its beauty and the increased odds of attracting a bluebird couple hole for perching. Leave exterior European delights unpainted, or paint with light make it worth the effort. shades of gray, beige or green. Look across the Atlantic when you Materials: All lumber is stan- Do not paint interior or entry hole. need a special flower for your dard 1” (actually 3/4” thick) ex- Use wood stain or latex paint. garden. While searching for vari- cept back, inner top and bottom eties overseas, start with those For more information, includ- pieces, which use standard 2” x varieties worthy of the ing more (and simpler) bluebird 4” (actually 1-1/2” x 3-1/2”). Back: Fleuroselect Award, comparable house designs, you may contact 1-1/2” x 3-1/2” x 24”; front: 3/4” x to the All-America Selection Award the Bluebrd Restoration Associa- 3-3/8” x 12-1/2”; inner top: 1/2” x in the USA. tion of Wisconsin (www.braw.org) 3- 1/2” x 8-3/8”; top: 3/4” x 10 1/ or Bluebird Recovery Program of This year, there is a new 4” x 2-3/4 x 17-1/2” x 14-3/8; bot- Minnesota (www. bbrp.org). Fleuroselect Award winning cos- tom: 1-1/2 x 3-1/2” x 3”; pegs: 1/4 mos, ‘Rubenza’. This cosmos is 13” noted for its unique ruby red pet- als that mature to a traditional 9-1/4” 7/8” 63° rose color. I can’t wait to try this 3-3/8” cosmos! ‘Double Click Snow Puff’ cos- mos is another 2010 Fleuroselect 2-1/4” x Award winner. It has double flow- 3” ers of white petals with just a blush 17-1/2” of pink. They look like pompoms 24” and make an attractive cut flower. 12-1/2” 14-3/8” Cosmos are one of the easi- est annuals to grow. They toler- ate both heat and cold (including 2-3/4” unexpected frosts), not to men- tion drought and moist conditions. Seed can be sown directly in the garden or grown from transplants. 5” Look for these varieties at your garden center; or to be sure of availability, order them directly from seed companies such as Thompson and Morgan (www.tmseeds.com). Source: University of Wisconsin-Extension Page 4 Dakota Gardener Bring the taste of the islands to your home Remember the old TV show off easily from the “Hawaii Five-O”? fruit, the pineapple may be too ripe. In this famous police show, Steve McGarrett, Dano and other After you get officers chased after evil criminals home from the all over the beautiful tropical is- grocery store, lands. There were lots of hula put on your Hawaiian dancers, grass skirts, and ocean Once the plant gets 18 inches shirt and flip-flops to get you in tall it’s capable of forming a fruit. waves—and then every show the mood (wearing a grass skirt ended with McGarrett catching the Put the plant inside a clear bag. is optional). Slice off the top half Insert a couple of ripe apples into crook and telling his detective: inch of the fruit, leaving the foli- “Book him, Dano”. Now that was the bag for a few weeks. The age intact. Clean out the pulp from apples will give off ethylene, which a great show! the top so that only the outer rind will get the pineapple plant “in the Although it’s wintry outside, you is left. Set the top near a sunny mood” to have a baby. can bring a bit of Hawaii into your windowsill for a couple days to let home by growing your own pine- the wound dry. Several months later you will apple. notice a flower spike that will grow Plant the pineapple top so that into a small pineapple. Be proud Go to the grocery store and one inch of the lower foliage is of your accomplishment and taste select a fruit that is freshly picked buried. Keep the soil moderately the goodness of the islands! and still green. If the leaves pull moist and fertilize monthly. Aloha! My favorite seed catalogs Seed catalogs are great!. It’s so If you are interested in heir- Several other companies of- fun to see what new varieties looms, you need the catalog of fer an impressive array of flower are available each year. These Seed Savers Exchange. It’s the and vegetable varieties. These are my favorites: largest source of heirloom vari- include Burpee, Gurney’s, Ter- eties available. I’m not a huge ritorial, and Harris. Baker Creek I highly recommend the cata- fan of heirloom varieties in gen- Seeds and Seeds of Change log of Johnny’s Selected Seeds. eral, but the seed quality of this are noteworthy companies for This company has developed company is truly outstanding. their selection of heirlooms. several outstanding varieties Contact them at their web site for short-season areas— If you are looking to buy <www.seedsavers.org> or 563- perfect for us in North Dakota! large volumes of seed, you may 382-5990. Join the organization Request their free catalog by wish to get the catalogs of Jor- and you gain access to 13,000 going to their web site at dan Seeds and Mountain Val- varieties. Wow! <www.johnnyseeds.com> or ley Seeds. calling them at 1-877-564- You will also like the cata- 6697. As a bonus, their catalog log of Jung Seed Company All of these companies can is full of valuable gardening ad- (www.jungseed.com). It is full of be found online and their cata- vice. varieties for the north. logs are usually free. January 2010 Dakota Gardener Page 5 GARDENING TIPS FOR JANUARY Trees and lawns Sap can bleed profusely out of the pruning wounds of maples and birches (as shown at right). Don’t worry—this bleeding is completely harmless. We do not recommend putting wound dressings on these trees. They heal better without the dressing, as dressings can some- times trap moisture in the wound, creating rot. Tree branches that cast shade over flower beds should be pruned before spring so pruned branches do not fall onto growing plants. Trees and shrubs have an economic value. If damaged by ice or accident, they are sometimes covered by homeowner’s insurance. Black knotty growths on plum and cherry trees should be removed during winter. Prune 8–12 inches below where you see the fungus to make sure you remove all of it (including the fungus within the branch). Remove this diseased tissue from the area since it is in- fectious. Kentucky bluegrass is not damaged by heavy snowmobile traffic (80 passes), as long as there is an inch of snow over the turf. Seri- ous damage is caused after warm spells when the snow becomes slushy or when snowmobiles go over bare grass patches. Flowers and houseplants Check any flower bulbs that you have in storage. Toss out any soft, rotted bulbs. Cool temperatures (40–50 degrees) will reduce the likelihood of bulbs prematurely sprouting. If your African violet has stopped blooming, it likely needs a bit more light. Move it closer to a bright window that does not get harsh after- noon sun. Most houseplants do not actively grow in December and January. We typically do not fertilize houseplants this time of year. Tall, spindly hibiscus plants can be pruned back to develop a bushier plant. Cut back to side shoots located down the branch. New shoots will develop wherever you make the pruning cuts. A spindly plant can be trimmed back to only six inches tall, and it will regenerate itself. A three to four foot high hibiscus is generally ideal. The vines of sweet potatoes make for an interesting houseplant (shown). Start your plant by placing a sweet potato in a container of water, leaving the top 1/3 exposed to air. Transplant the potato when a strong root system develops. North Dakota State University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, Vietnam Era Veterans status, sexual orientation, marital status, or public assistance status. Direct inquiries to the Executive Director and Chief Diversity Officer, 202 Old Main, (701) 231-7708. Photo credits: Jung (‘Black Ice’) and Thompson and Morgan (‘Rubenza’). New plum for the north Are you looking for a fancy plum plums. The trees are naturally that is easy to grow? ‘Black Ice’ dwarf, making them easy to care may be for you! for. This Japanese hybrid needs a pollinator for good fruit set. It’s a large plum hardy for ‘Toka’ is often used as a pollina- North Dakota (at least to Zone 3B) tor plum. The variety is being of- with sweet, juicy, yellow flesh. Fruit fered by Jung Seed Company ripens in early August, about 2 to (www.jungseed.com). 4 weeks earlier than most other Dakotans choose best veggie varieties (continued from Page 1) A team of 360 gardeners prefer, and which of the varieties it turned bright orange in the sum- across the state was formed in (one, none, or both) they recom- mer and matured very early. 2009—the largest team of its kind mend to other gardeners in North in the USA—to evaluate promis- Dakota. An evaluation of the 2008 ing varieties. Project coordinator project showed 100% of respon- Tom Kalb says, “The best way to The program is so simple that dents felt the project was useful identify superior varieties for a kid could do it—and many kids to their gardening practices. All home gardens is not at a research do this project with their parents respondents stated they would station. It makes more sense to for school projects—as well as for recommend the program to other focus on which varieties perform fun and togetherness. gardeners. Participants especially best in home gardens under the appreciated being introduced to Over 1,000 reports have been management of home gardeners. new varieties as well as being part submitted this fall and the final Gardeners in North Dakota have of a research team with other gar- results will be available by mid been doing an amazing job of test- deners and the university. January 2010. Some of the top ing varieties for our state.” performers in the past two years “Thank you for the opportunity The program is simple and have been ‘Bush Blue Lake 274’ to learn and grow as a gardener” straightforward. Gardeners select bean, ‘Red Ace’ beet, ‘Nelson’ wrote a grower in Cass County. A varieties from over 40 different and ‘Purple Haze’ carrot, ‘Sweet gardener in Ward County com- vegetables—everything from A Slice’ and ‘Sweeter Yet’ cucumber, mented, “I loved the program—it (asparagus beans) to Z (zuc- ‘Flashy Trout Back’ and ‘New Red will impact the varieties that I plant chini). In many cases a new vari- Fire’ lettuce, ‘Early Frosty’ pea’, next year.” ety is compared with a popular ‘Spineless Beauty’ and ‘Flying variety. Gardeners receive Saucer’ summer squash, ‘Bright Kalb notes that “Many garden- enough seeds to plant a 10-foot Lights’ Swiss chard, and ‘Hon Tsai ers thank the project for the op- row of each variety. They receive Tai’ greens. portunity to participate. But we simple planting instructions and a are the ones who should thank Results show some varieties them for all of their work in help- 10-foot string to help them lay out that win national awards do not do ing to identify the best varieties their plots. Gardeners receive row well in North Dakota. For example, for us in North Dakota.” labels and an evaluation form with simple questions. the Christmas melon ‘Lambkin’ won the 2009 All-America Selec- The project is always looking The evaluation form has a tions Award for its unique flavor; for more participants. More infor- checklist. Gardeners mark which however, it performed poorly in our mation on the project and previ- of the two varieties germinated trials across the state. On the ous results are available at best, was healthier, had higher other hand, gardeners in our state <www.dakotagardener.com>. An yields, and tasted better. They raved over a fairly unknown online seed catalog will be avail- note which of the varieties they pumpkin variety, ‘Neon’, because able in late January.
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