Dakota Gardener Newsletter, January 2010 by xyd75631


									                           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: tom.kalb@ndsu.edu
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
   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
                                                                                     of pink. They look like pompoms
                                                                                     and make an attractive cut flower.
14-3/8”                                                                                  Cosmos are one of the easi-
                                                                                     est annuals to grow. They toler-
                                                                                     ate both heat and cold (including
                                                                                     unexpected frosts), not to men-
                                                                                     tion drought and moist conditions.
                                                                                     Seed can be sown directly in the
                                                                                     garden or grown from transplants.
                                                                                        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

     Source: University of
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-
  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
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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