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Northern Gardening

  • 2nd Thursday 7-8pm
  • and following Saturday at 6am
News & Information

Recipes | Local Food on the North Shore

Northern Gardening covers a variety of gardening topics relevant to our northern climate. The program airs on the second Thursday of each month from 7-8 p.m. and is rebroadcast the following Saturday at 6 a.m. The program is a partnership between the Northwoods Food Project, the Cook County U of MN Extension Office, and WTIP.

The Northwood's Food Project is a non-profit organization who's purpose is to increase Cook County's long term food sustainability and self-reliance by eating and growing locally produced food.

Learn more about the partnership between WTIP, the Northwoods Food Project, and the Cook County U of MN Extension Office that makes Northern Gardening possible.

Jeanne Wright and daughter Olya, Diane Booth, and Melinda Spinler in the WTIP studio for Northern Gardening.

What's On:

Bees, Bugs, and Pesticides

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On the June edition of Northern Gardening, your hosts Joan Farnam and Diane Booth will be talking about bees, bugs and pesticides! They talked with local beekeeper Louise Reavis, and Jeff Hahn, an entomologist at the University of Minnesota.



Northern Gardening: Gardening with a short growing season

Northern Garden_051014_SAT_6A.mp3110.49 MB

For the May edition of Northern Gardening, your hosts Joan Farnam, Melinda Spinler, and Mark Spinler discuss gardening in a short growing season. They also talk with Graham Saunders, the author of the new book, "Gardening with Short Growing Seasons".

Learn more about Graham's book online

Copies are also available to borrow at the Cook County Extension Office at the Cook County Community Center in Grand Marais.



All About Tomatoes

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On the April 10, 2014 edition of Northern Gardening, it's all about tomatoes! Listen in to hear tips on how to grow tomatoes in the north shore climate, plus several informative interviews.

Guests to the program were Samantha Johnson, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, and Changbin Chen, an associate professor from the University of Minnesota, Horticulture Department.  Samantha lives in northern Wisconsin and loves to grow heirloom tomatoes.  She shared some of her favorite open-pollinated tomatoes.  Changbin and his students have been playing with chromosomes in tomatoes and has developed 7 dwarf tomato varieties that are short-day and very productive. 




Straw Bale Gardening and More

Northern Gardening Sept 12.mp354.34 MB

Northern Gardening hosts Diane Booth and Joan Farnam interview guests about straw bale gardening and other techniques and how effective they could be for growing vegetables on the North Shore.



All About Growing Beautiful Roses in Zone 3

Northern Gardening July 11.mp351.66 MB

Northern Gardening interviews rose breeder, Dr. David Zlesak, about growing roses in Zone 3. Is it possible? He also talks about some of the roses he has bred which are hardy, disease resistant and require less maintenance than others.



Great Christmas Gifts for the Gardener

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Great Gifts for Gardeners from the December Northern Gardening Radio Show


Here are some of the ideas ---



• Yard Butler’s GKS-2 Garden Kneeler and Seat

“I bought one of these about 2 years ago at Buck’s Hardware because I am getting older and it’s harder for me to get up and down in the garden. Wow! What a difference this kneeler/seat has made! I bet it has given me at least another 10 or more years of gardening life! I love it! I bet Buck’s would order it for those who want to shop local. Otherwise you can order one on I have seen them for sale in seed catalogs as well. Deep Seat Kneeler (Gardeners Supply Company carries them.) The cost will range from $29 - $39.95. You can also add a tool pouch kit to put your pruners, knife, markers, twine, etc.”

Hori-Hori Japanese Weeding Knife

This is probably one of the most useful tools for gardening we’ve found There are two different kinds. You can get it in stainless steel or carbon steel. The handle is wood and very sturdy.

The Hori-Hori (which means diggy-diggy in Japanese!) blade stays sharp, smooth, and rust-free, and it has a sharp side and a serrated side for cutting through landscape fabric or tough roots. The tip has a sharp point, so it goes into the soil smoothly and can get weeds with long taproots out. 

It’s great for planting annuals or six- packs, too, and just running underneath the soil to destroy tiny weed seedlings. 

Stainless steel blades work better in  clay soils, since the clay sometimes sticks to the carbon steel. And the stainless steel blades are sharper. On the other hand, the carbon steel is a heftier tool, and can be used for bigger jobs.

Either are highly recommended. A great gift.

$28 -$32 Duluth Trading Company or 

Soil Scoop puts the digging ability of trowels to shame. It’s got a great scooping portion, with serrated edges and a sharp tip so you can break up harder soil, enlarge planting holes, or get out weeds. If I did a lot of veggie gardening in raised beds or annual flower bed planting, this is the tool I’d pick up. (And HURRAH! It comes in purple! You can also have a nice birch wood handle.) $19.95  at Lehman’s but lots of other places like Burpees, etc.

Tub Trugs. When I first started gardening I didn’t think about good containers to put produce in or carry fertilizer or mulch or anything. I would use what I had – a bucket or a basket. They really didn’t work very well. I really like those Tub Trugs. They come from Spain. They are like a flexible bucket with strong handles. The original ones are made from 100 percent Food Grade plastic. They are frost and UV resistant. They come in sizes ranging from 1.3 gallons to 11 gallons. Some are taller and deeper and others are wider and squatter. Some places that sell them offer plastic covers as well for an additional $8. They come in fabulous bright colors, blue, red, green, yellow purple, and can range in price form $10 - $22. Gardener’s Supply Catalog has them, but so do lots of other places.

Agribon or Floating Row Covers: 83” x 50’ Insect control $19.99 – Frost protection $29.99.

(Peaceful Valley Farm) 118” x 50’ $23.95 (Johnny’s Selected Seeds)

•  Excalibur Dehydrator Deluxe 3000 Series (BPA free plastic) Easier to clean, 10 year warranty, even dehydration, heavy duty motor, adjustable thermostat, etc. $250. Harvest Essentials, Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply, on-line…

•  Felco By-Pass Pruners #6 Fits better for smaller hands, weight 7.5 oz. Best for flower growers because you can get closer to the stem of the plant. .8 inch diameter for cutting. $45

Felco 2 Pruner Works well with larger hands. Can cut up to 1” diameter with weight at 8.5 oz. $49.00 Both can be purchased at the Felco Store as well as other places. They have a limited lifetime.

Other tools and things for the garden:
• Promise to build a small greenhouse or a raised bed or two.

Electric roto-tiller

• OXO Good Grips Green Salad Spinner: Push the top down and spin the lettuce dry.$30. There are available at Target, etc.

Garden/English/Potato Fork: Garden forks are designed for either digging or scooping. The number and shape of the prongs (known as tines) depends on the intended use of the fork. I like the broader tines with a sharp end on them for digging potatoes or breaking up clay. Forged from a single piece of steel will make them last a very long time. $99.00 Johnny’s

  Soil Thermometer: $11.95

Compost Thermometer: $31.50

Bug nets /head nets: $8.95 ;

Walls-O –Water: perfect to keep tomato & pepper plants warm and toasty in June and July.  18” tall x 17” diameter $13.95, many seed catalogs carry them now.

Gift Certificates to favorite seed companies like Seed Savers, Seed of Change, Johnny’s or Fed Co.

Colored Twine Gift Pack, Gardeners Supply, 8 different colors of twine, 50’ of each color, great for both fun and practicality in the garden. $9.95.

• Garden Markers. I like the small plastic 6” markers. If you write on them with pencil, you can erase

and keep reusing. Wooden ones don’t seem to not hold up. If you use them outside, use a UV garden marker $4.25 Templars, Permanent Copper Plant Tags ‘Engrave with ball point pen. 20 for $6.95. Gardener’s Supply. 

Nitrile Gloves: You want the thin, flexible ones and you want to by them in a 4 – 6 pack because everyone loses them. They come in different sizes and sell for $16 -25. Single pairs for $4 – 7. They can be found many different places both locally and on-line.

•  Deep Rim Boot Trays: If you have mud, kids, grand kids. 21 2/3” wide x 2” deep by 43 ?” long. Two rubber grids go inside. $35.00 Gardener’s Supply Company This also works for snow.

Local Gardening Gifts:
Gift certificates to Buck’s, Hilja’s or the Blue Moose for plants/ seeds, garden art.

• Gift Certificate for bags of Black Gold, Western Lake Superior Sanitary District’s incredible compost. Buck’s carries it. ($5 for a 40 lb) etc.

• A personal gift certificate for an hour of weeding and/or watching children so a gardener can enjoy planting the garden by themselves;

Soil testing to the U of M is $15. Pick up a form at Extension, Buck’s, on-line by googling ‘U of M Extension soil testing’. They have forms you can print directly. Put the form and the $15 together in an envelope and you have a great gift!

• Support local producers. Buy local jams, jellies, maple syrups, wild rice. Great stocking stuffers. 


Tools to process all those veggies:
• Cabbage cutter for making kraut, 

• Vegetable Brush: $2.95
• A set of good cutting and paring knives.

• Canning jars, water bath for processing jams/ jellies, pressure canner for beans and corn.


Unusual, fun gifts in the West End: 

1. Water’s Edge: Plates of fused glass with flowers gorgeously arranged in the glass made out of glass. Very unique and different for that gardener who loves the one-of-a-kind gift. $21+

They also had candles with scents from honeysuckle, tuberose, peony, sweet pea, etc. $13, Butterfly wing earrings from Butterfly Artworks.

2. Caribou Highlands: Maple leaf sticky notes in bright red $8.95; delicate soap leaves in the shape, thinness, size of leaves $9.85.

3. Mountain Shop: Morning flower earrings $14.95 - $24.95 Fresh Jewelry made from actual flowers $26.95. Healing touch pottery with a worry stone on the top of the handle $24.95.

Birdhouse ornaments $11.50; Klutz makes a wristlet purse in the shape of a chicken complete with feet for that unusual child who loves having chickens in the garden. $15

There are lots of other great gift ideas, but these were suggested by local gardeners for local gardeners.

Happy Holidays from Joan and Diane!



Organic Gardening, one of the best magazines about organic gardening with lots of how-to articles, discussion of issues, etc.

“The Weeders Digest”  was suggested by one of our listeners as a great magazine that shares the best of personal garden writing. So if you have a writing / gardening friend this is a perfect gift for them.  1 year subscription $19.97  It has 4 issues per year.

Northern Gardener is put out by the Minnesota Horticultural Society.  What is nice about it is it focuses on issues for Minnesota gardeners.   $62 for one year.

 • Fine Gardening is a great gift for the gardener who loves to get ideas about garden design. Published by Taunton press, you receive s six issues a year for $29.95 or 3 years for $69.95.


Book Ideas: (Check local book stores to see what they have, too.)

 Beginning Gardeners:

 • Joy of Gardening by Dick Raymond. $13.97 - $16.47  This is probably one of the best beginning vegetable books ever written. 1982 by Garden Way, Charlotte Vermont.  Talks about each vegetable, cultivation, pests, very, very good.

The Vegetable Growers Handbook by Frank Tozer.  2008  $3.69 - $17.21  Everything you need to know about common vegetable crops.  Frank has gardened for 30+ years is a warmer climate but has great information about each vegetable, very short, concise and clear.  Includes some seed saving tips and even some recipes.

Homescaping by Anne Halpin 2005.  If you have a gardener who likes garden design or someone who is thinking about landscaping or re-landscaping their home, this is a great book to help a homeowner really think about what they need to do or would like to do to reflect their style in the landscape.  $8.42 - $26.72.  Great photos!

Step by Step Landscaping by Better Homes & Gardens.  1991.  (2007) This is a great book for the person who needs step by step instructions on how to do a patio, how to build walkways or paths, installation and construction ideas for the not so handy person who wants to learn how to do this.  Great photos!            


More Experienced Gardeners: 

The New Seed Starters by Nancy Bubel. 1988.  $5.73 - $12.70.  A great handbook for starting seeds indoors.  If you are looking for a gift for a  gardener who wants to start all their own plants, en this is a great book to give as a gift.

American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation:  The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques by Alan Toogood.  1999. $18.66 - $23.10.  Discussion of plant propagation techniques followed by sections for 1,500 plants.  Which method to use, how long does it take, special treatment for seeds, etc.  A good overview for many gardeners and a  reference book to come back to for more information.

Growing Perennials in Cold Climates:  Revised and Updated Edition by Mike Heger, Debbie Lonnee and John Whitman.  2011  If you have a gardener who has started to grow perennials and wants to do more with them, this is the best book out there by far for perennial growers.  $24.50 - $26.37.

Greenhouse Gardener’s Companion Revised:  Growing Food & Flowers in Your  Greenhouse or Sunspace by Shane Smith.  2000  This is probably one of the very best books you can purchase for anyone who has a greenhouse or is thinking about getting a greenhouse.

This talks about the greenhouse environment, setting up your greenhouse interior, selecting plants, plant propagation, pollination, scheduling your plant growing, and pests & diseases.

 $10.99 - $15.61.

 • Northlands Winter Greenhouse Manual by Carol Ford & Chuck Waibel 2009  $14.40.

The Flower Farmer by Lynn Byczynski  2008.  This is an organic grower’s guide to raising and selling cut flowers. If you know a gardener who grows flowers and would like to do this as a small business venture, this is the perfect gift.

• The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest & Disease Control by Rodale Press and edited by Fern Bradley, Barbara Ellis and Deborah Martin.  2009  This is pretty good reliable guide to have on your garden shelf for battling garden problems.$11.88 - $17.13


Newer/ Other Books:

The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips.  2011.  Explores the connection between home orchard and permaculture.  Native pollinators and their importance, field tested organic solutions

for some pest controls.  $26.37.

Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard by Jessi Bloom. 2012  $10.85 -$13.57  With chickens becoming a larger part of the landscape in both urban and more rural settings, this book would be a great gift for someone interested in doing both. 

The World According to Monsanto by Marie-Monique Robin.  2008  This is a very good book and a DVD is also available that discusses the whole story of Monsanto from the release of PCBs, Agent Orange, and why some people are concerned about ownership of seeds for the world food supply.  $12.39 - $13.57

Growing Vegetables with a Smile by Nikolay Kurdyumov.  2011 translated from Russian. This is for the gardener who grows not just for the food but because they enjoy the process of  growing food.  It goes beyond the technical aspects of gardening and is just a fun book to read.                           $19.49 - $20.58.  Sold a million copies in other languages.

The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Heirloom Vegetables:  The 100 Easiest-to-Grow,  tastiest-to-eat Vegetables for Your Garden by Marie Iannotti. 2011  If you enjoy learning more about heirlooms and some that have been tested, this is a fun book.  My German butter ball potatoes that I grow every year is included so that definitely lends credibility to this book.  $3.98 - $13.57.

How to Grow Food in Your Polytunnel by Mark Gatter.  2010  For gardeners more food in poly tunnels, this book is nice to have to read through all the season where discussions about holding food over during the winter is discussed.  $12.55 - $15.62.

And finally, here's Kent's sugggestion for great gifts to the gardener-- good soil, plenty of sun and water, a cold beer and Ibuprofen.

Merry Christmas, everyone!
Brought to you by your hosts, Diane Booth and Joan Farnam




Tips on how to handle our insect invasions & Charlie Butter on square-foot gardening

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This month, Northern Gardening hosts Diane Booth and Joan Farnam talk to Jeff Hahn, U of M. Extension entomologist and author of “Insects of the North Woods” about the insect invasion in our gardens this year, and local gardener Charlie Butter talks about his square-foot gardens and a new vegetable garden project at the hospital that he has developed.

Some garden insect pests that are being seen this year in Cook County include the following:
1. Flea beetles
   • Numerous species: striped flea beetle, western black flea beetle, spinach flea beetle, potato flea beetle
   • 1/16 – 1/8”
   • Black, bronze, bluish or brown to metallic gray, stripes
   • Large black legs used for jumping when disturbed
   • Overwinter as adults in the leaf litter, etc.
   • Early spring adults lay eggs in small holes in roots, soil, leaves
   • Common on radishes, broccoli, cabbage, turnips, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, spinach, melons,
   • Following egg hatch they feed on roots – little damage except to potatoes
   • Adults cause most of the problems feeding on foliage.
   • Typical damage are small rounded, irregular holes usually < 1/8” diameter looking like shot-holes.
   • Monitor with yellow sticky cards
    • Use floating row covers
   • Plant a trap crop – radishes before you plant your main crop

2. Onion maggots
   • A fly (Delia antique) lays eggs in early spring at the base of an onion and in nearby cracks in the soil.
   • The larvae form is what burrows into the onion bulb or lower part of the onion.
   • The foliage wilts or is stunted as the first sign.
   • If you pull the onion you will usually find the culprit burrowed into the bottom part of the onion. They feed on the bulb and rot invades as well.
   • A floating row cover can protect your plants from having the adult fly lay their eggs.
   • Rotate your onions so you don’t plant them in the same place.

3. Variegated cutworm
   • Eggs of the variegated cutworm, Peridroma saucia, were found in large numbers on windows, siding, screens this spring.
   • Apparently, variegated cutworm moths from outbreaks in southern states were blown north over a period of a few weeks in May and eggs were laid at night on emerging crops, gardens, fence posts, buildings, trees and almost anything that holds still long enough.
   • All these eggs will hatch, yielding tiny, translucent caterpillars with a few dark hairs and over-sized, black heads. They will be hungry. And, they have an extremely wide host range: most vegetable garden plants, fruit trees, rhubarb, raspberries, strawberries, ornamental plants, shrubs, hostas, canola, wheat, corn, sunflower, clover and other row crops. Cutworms feed at night and rest during the day so it is hard to find them, but the damage will be easy to spot: seedlings nipped off at ground level and large holes eaten out of leaves all season long.
   • The variegated cutworm is also called the climbing cutworm because mature caterpillar stages will spend both days and nights on their host plants in contrast to most other species of cutworm. After feeding, they'll pupate in the soil, emerge as moths and start another generation, likely in July. Adults created from this generation will migrate south in October to other states in order to overwinter.
• Projections for next year…. what can we expect? Will they pupate and overwinter in our soil, adults fly south to overwinter? If we have a cold winter, the cutworms will not survive it.
   • Variegated cutworms are beginning to show up in alfalfa in SW MN. The variegated cutworm is a migrating moth that makes its way into the region and occasionally arrives early and in large enough numbers to cause problems. Alfalfa is one of several host crops the moths are attracted to for laying eggs. The most distinguishing characteristic of the variegated cutworm is the 4 to 7 pale yellow, circular spots on the back of the larva. Its general body color is variable (olive to nearly black), but usually brown. The underside of the caterpillar is cream colored. There is a narrow, orange-brown stripe along the side.

4. Earwigs
   • Became noticeable in Minnesota in the 1990’s.
   • Forficula auricularia
   • Many areas of Minnesota experienced high earwig numbers last year. Cook County had a high infestation two years ago and we are seeing some again this year. Be on the watch for them in your garden this summer.
   • Earwigs are about 5/8 inch long, with a flat, reddish brown body and very short wings. They look like a cockroach or a rove beetle but are distinctive because of the pair of pinchers (cerci) on the tip of their abdomen. Nymphs are similar to adults except they are smaller and generally lighter in color.
   • They love moisture and usually come out to feed at night.
   • They are scavengers that often feed on decaying plant or insects. They will also feed on healthy plant tissue including flowers and vegetables.
   • The damage often looks like slug damage except there isn’t a slime trail.
   • Oil traps vs. rolled up newspaper traps in the garden. You can set out rolled up newspapers or similar objects to trap earwigs. You can also place old tuna fish cans baited with fish oil or vegetable oil. Set them out during evening in areas where you are seeing earwigs in your garden. In morning, shake the traps above a pail of soapy water to remove and kill the insects. 
   • Keep the top of the soil dry in your garden.
   • Permethrin around the perimeter of your home may help deter them from coming inside. It is best to caulk everything and prevent them from getting into your indoor space.

5. Spotted milk millipede
   • Blaninlus guttinlatus
   • Snake-like slender body (whitish / translucent) with pinkish spots on the side
   • Soil inhabitants that feed on decaying plant material.
   • They have been found here eating zucchini plants – feeding damage to the root system. They can also attack other plants especially when we have dry weather.
   • Last year they were especially bad for one grower in Cook County.

6. Imported Cabbageworm / Cabbage Butterfly
   • Pieris rapae
   • Winter is spent as a pupa amongst plant debris.
   • Adult females lay yellow bullet shaped eggs on leaves.
   • 2-4 generations a year
   • Like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage
   • Use of exclusion with reemay
   • Bacillus thuriengensis

7. Strawberry Root Weevil
   • Otiorhynchus ovatus
   • Very small, ¼ inch long, black or dark brown with rows of pits along their back
   • Feed on roots of strawberries, evergreens, raspberries, grapes, etc.
   • Adults emerge in early summer and feed on the edges of foliage, leaving a characteristic notched appearance
   • In hot dry summers, they can become invaders in your home looking for cool, damp conditions. They are attracted to moisture.
   • They are being found this year near water on docks, lakeshores and in basements, sinks, bathtubs.

8. Colorado Potato Beetle
   • Leptinotarsa decemlineata
    • Found occasionally in Cook County
   • Adults 3/8” long, yellow and black stripes on back
   • Larvae are reddish / red-orange with a dark head
   • Usually one generation a year
   • Hand pick

9. Potato Leafhopper
   • Empoasca fabae
   • Pale green, 1/8” long, move sideways when disturbed
   • Yellowing of tip of leafs followed by browning, cupping, distortion.
   • ‘Hopper burn’
   • Rose leafhoppers similar, but nymphs cannot move sideways. Pale yellow to creamy white color.
   • White apple leafhopper is also similar.

10. Four-lined Plant bug
   • Poecilocapsus lineatus
   • Adults are yellow usually with 4 dark lines on their back.
   • ¼ -1/3” long / immature forms are bright red-orange with black dots on the thorax
   • Feeding damage is little round circles of necrotic tissue damage

11. Tarnished Plant Bug
   • Lygus lineolaris
   • Adults are generally oval, about twice as long as wide, and about ¼ inch long. Generally brown with some yellow and reddish markings.
   • Feeds on developing leaves, flowers, fruits, killing the areas around the feeding site.
   • Catface injuries to fruit; hard nubbins for strawberries, etc.

12. Tobacco or Geranium Budworm
   • Heliothis virescens
   • Caterpillars can reach 1.5” and feed on flowers and buds. Found in Cook County by holes in geranium and petunia buds.
   • Hand pick or use Bacillus thuriengensis

13. Corn Earworm
   • Helicoverpa zea
   • Migration of adult moths can occur in our county. (Don’t overwinter here)
   • Eggs are laid on the silks of the corn
   • The small larvae tunnel down into the corn and eat for about 4 weeks.
   • Mineral oil on the silks when moths are around?
   • Cut off the damage to the end of the ear of the corn and use the rest.

14. Japanese Beetle
   • Popillia japonica
   • Overwinter as a nearly full-grown grub below frost line in winter.
   • Adults emerge in late June and early summer, feed on foliate, mate, and return to lawn areas. Females lay eggs in small masses in soil cavities 2-4” deep. One year cycle but can extend to 2 years.
   • Adults feed on foliage of more than 300 species: rose, mountain ash, willow, linden, grape, Virginia creeper, birches, ornamental apple, plum, cherry, etc.

15. Aphids
   • 1,300 species+
   • Normal reproduction is asexual. Sexual forms usually occur in one generation a year.
   • Suck sap from the phloem of plants and can cause injuries including transmit viruses, etc.
   • Honeydew that is secreted can be associated with sooty mold.
   • Common: apple aphids; lupine aphids; balsam twig aphid;

16. Leafhoppers carrying Aster Yellows
   • What leafhoppers are most common for this? Aster leafhopper? (Macrosteles quadrilineatus)
   • Phytoplasma that is picked up by the leafhopper, develops for up to 10 days or 3 weeks before it can be transmitted through saliva from the leafhopper to another plant.
   • 1-5% of all leafhoppers carry the aster yellows phytoplasma during the growing season.

17. Gladiolus thrips, iris thrips, daylily thrips
   • Thrips simplex
   • Feeding at the base of emerging leaves produces silvery scarring that later turns brown.
   • Infestation of the flowers produces scarring and distortion.
   • Corms can be corky, sticky when infested with thrips.
   • Store corms at 35-40 degrees for 4 months to kill thrips.
   • Napthalene flakes can be added to the corms in a tight paper bag for storage?

18. Eriophyid Mite Galls
   • Erinea (red felt-like patches) on maple leaves
   • Maple bladder galls
   • Ash flower galls

19. Iris Borers
   • Macronucutua onusta
   • ‘Water logged leaves’ are a typical sign. Larvae feed at the base of leaves and hollow out the rhizomes. Wound areas are frequently colonized by rots and the plants may be killed
   • Larvae are pale pink with a distinct brown head; adults are dull brown moths

Square-Foot Gardening

Charlie Butter has been working with square-foot gardening in his yard for the last few years and has seen some impressive results.
• The square-foot gardening technique is based upon the book by Mel Bartholomew by that name first published in 1981.
• Use a square foot system to make the most use of your garden space allowing you to raise only the amount of food you really need and will eat.
• 1 square foot = 4 lettuce plants, 1 pepper, 9 spinach or bean plants, 16 carrots or onions or radishes.
• Defines boundaries so that you take care of the plants you do have – less work, carefully grown plants – higher production.
• Vine crops are grown vertically to take advantage of smaller spaces.



All About Worms

NorGard_061412.mp3109.41 MB

Welcome to Northern Gardening!
Hosts Joan Farnam and Paula Sundet-Wolf hosted this month’s program with guests:
Ann Russ, local gardener and retired teacher who talks about using vermiculture in the classroom,
Kent Jones, local gardener, who talks about his experiences with worm composting and worms in the garden and
Cindy Hale, scientist with NRRI (Natural Resources Research Institute) in Duluth who talks about her research on earthworms and what is happening in our local forests.

Northern Gardening airs on the second Thursday of every month and is hosted by Cook County Extension and the Northwoods Food Project. It is also rebroadcast at 6 a.m. on the 2nd Saturday morning of the month.
Northern Gardening airs on the second Thursday of every month and is hosted by Cook County Extension and the Northwoods Food Project. It is also rebroadcast at 6 a.m. on the 2nd Saturday morning of the month.

Gardeners have been told for years that worms are great for the soil and they have some wonderful attributes they bring to the garden. Composting bins for worms or vermicomposting has exploded in the gardening realm and many gardeners use vermicompost as part of their starting media for plants or as a gardening additive.

• There are approximately 4,500 species of worms in the world and of those, about 2,500 are earthworm species.
• Minnesota has at least 15 species of earthworms.
• Earthworms are either earthmovers or composters.
• They tend to be solitary species with tunnel through the earth, aerating, decompacting and mixing soil strata and thus making surface nutrients available to plant roots at lower levels. Good for gardeners / not so good for native plants growing in our forests.
• Composters live in organic matter on the soil surface where they consume bacteria present in dead vegetation, animals and manure, turning it into humus.

Are earthworms native?
• Any native North American species of earthworms that may have been living here were destroyed when glacial ice sheets covered Minnesota. So our local forests evolved without an earthworm population.
• Earthworms were brought over in the 1800’s by settlers who brought plants with them from Europe. Earthworm egg cases were probably brought in with the plants.
• Ships would also use soil and rocks as ballast that would be dumped on shore when they adjusted the ballast for the ship.
• Recently, using worms as fishing bait has also increased their populations in forested areas. Unused fishing bait is often dumped out rather than taken back home. Road building activities that move dirt, vehicle tire treads can carry egg cases with them, etc.
• Without humans moving them, earthworms can move only about mile in only about 100 years.

Specific species of earthworms are causing damage in the forest
• Earthworms that are being found in hardwood forests can cause forest decline because they change the ecosystem substructure that many forest plants rely upon.
• If you don’t have earthworms in your annual leaf litter, decomposition is controlled by fungi and bacteria. Decomposition is much slower and the result is a thick, spongy forest floor called a “duff” layer. This layer can be 4-5” thick in very rich sites. This duff layer is essential for some understory plant species to survive. Small tree seedlings and understory plants have their root systems in this duff layer and are able to survive.
• When earthworms are introduced into this layer, decomposition occurs much faster and the duff layer pretty much disappears. They also mix the organic layer with the mineral soil layer. This has resulted in small tree seedlings not being able to germinate and survive. Additionally, many of the understory plant species cannot survive. This then has a domino effect leading to the loss of cover for ground nesting birds, small mammals, amphibians and reptiles, insects and spiders. Primary habitat and food sources are lost.
• Different invasive earthworms species have different habitat/feeding preferences (belong to different “functional groups”) and thus different impacts on the ecosystems into which they spread or are introduced. Different combinations of species can result in different impacts as well (Hale et al. 2008).

Boreal forests and earthworms
• Boreal forests composed of pine (Pinus sp.) and spruce on sandy and / or acidic soils are likely to be more resistant to invasion, as they have been in northern Scandinavia despite the presence of lumbricids for thousands of years.
• The presence of deciduous tree species with low C:N ratio litter, such as aspen and birch mixed with pine and spruce is likely to allow earthworms to inhabit a site, especially those species such as Dendrobaena octaedra.
• The rate and magnitude of the removal of the forest floor and consequences for native forest plant communities depends upon the species of earthworms invading.

Ann Russ set up a worm composting bin in her classroom.
The worms that are used by most worm composters are called red wigglers or are the species Eisenia fetida. These cannot survive our winters here if they are released into the outdoors. Since the decline of horses in agriculture, most populations are in artificial situations.
Lumbricus rubellus is being used in vermicomposting now, too. A population of L. rubellus can consume 10 cm or more thickness of intact forest floor within one growing season, which is faster than plants rooted in the forest floor can adjust, resulting in increased plant mortality during initial invasion.

Things to make us feel better:
• Most of us did not import these earthworms into our garden, they pretty much were already there in the soil when we started gardening. (We can blame our ancestors!)

• Earthworms: Their primary food source is bacteria, although they will eat fungi, nematodes, protozoa and organic matter on or in which these microorganisms live. Worms can live for 15 years. They shred organic matter, aerate soil, aggregate soil particles and move organic matter and microorganisms in the soil. Vermicastings(worm poop) are 50 percent higher in organic matter than soil that has not moved through worms. Worms’ digestive enzymes unlock phosphate and other nutrients making them available for plants.

They do great things in our agriculture soils.
• One study has shown that each year on an average acre of cultivated land, 7,200 kg of soil can pass through earthworms and be deposited atop the ground — almost double that amount can be moved in really wormy soil. 

How do I know if I have a good soil food web present in my soil?
• If you have 5 – 30 earthworms in your garden soil in a square foot.
• Set a soil trap. Bury a quart sized container in the soil so that the lip of the container is at the ground level. Put an umbrella over it or something to keep the rain out but keep it open at the soil level. Add a couple of moth balls. Leave alone for 3 – 7 days. Check to see what you have in your trap. If your soil is pretty good, you will have centipedes, millipedes, other macroarthropods.

TIPS to be responsible with your gardening when it comes to earthworms, etc.:
• Keep your gardening/agriculture soil totally separate from your forest soils.

• Don’t bring in soil from another location like down south that may contain egg cases for earthworm species you don’t already have in your garden.

• If you are using vermicompost, make sure if you are using it outside in your garden that you know exactly what species of earthworm you have present. Sometimes when you order a vermicomposting kit you can still have egg cases from other species present that you don’t know. It could be a species that may be harmful if it escapes into other forested areas.

• Don’t take garden soil from your garden and dump it into the woods. The same would be true with potted plants. Be very careful what you do with soil that comes in potted plants from other places.

• Don’t dump your leftover fish bait (worms) you have purchased into your garden or onto the forest soil or into a lake, hoping they’ll drown. They won’t, and you will have introduced them to that area.

Extension Updates: Variegated cutworm:
We are starting to see some of the larger cutworm larvae stages feeding on different plants in our gardens this year. Holes in potato leaves, broccoli leaves, pea and bean stems cut through could be due to cutworm larva.
• You can wrap several layers of newspaper around the stems of your plants about 1 to 1/5” below the soil and the same above to prevent the cutting off of the main stem by a cutworm larvae. Tinfoil will also work as will cardboard if it is close to the stem.
• You can spray or dust your leaves with a garden product like Thuricide or Dipel that contains Bt (bacillius thuriengensis) or Btk (bacillius thuriengensis var. kurstaki) as the active ingredient. This is a bacteria, ingested by a susceptible caterpillar, that will release a crystalline protein called an “endotoxin” that poisons the insect’s digestive system. Eventually holes in the caterpillar’s gut allow digestive juices to leak through the holes and cause a general infection that kills the insect.

Advantages of using Bt or Btk:
a. Caterpillars that die after ingesting Bt or Btk are not considered dangerous to birds or other animals that feed on them.
b. Generally, sunlight and other microbes destroy Btk applied to foliage, so Btk does not multiply or accumulate in the environment.
c. Btk does not appear to post any significant threat to human health or to pets.

Flea Beetle Damage:
Use a floating row cover to exclude flea beetles from your crops. You can also plant a ‘trap’ crop. They absolutely love radishes and / or arugula. They will then leave some of the other plants alone and simply ‘nosh’ on the arugula.

Cook County Extension office located in the CC Community Center building in Grand Marais does have soil testing available through the University. We do recommend a soil test before you start adding amendments to your soil. We also have an animal husbandry and gardening library available for folks who would like to check out more specific information on topics we discuss on Northern Gardening.
Cook County Master Gardeners will be planning a container gardening contest this summer with prizes and a local garden tour on Saturday, August 18th. So if you are a gardener and would like to enter either your garden as an example of how people can grow in small spaces using containers or small raised beds, pick up entry forms and fill them out by July 18th.
Entry forms can be found at the CC Extension office as well as on posters hanging up around town.