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Northern Gardening

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  • 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:

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

Nor Gard_071212.mp3111.19 MB

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.



Container Gardening & Early Diseases in Your Garden

NorGard_051012.mp3111.32 MB

Northern Gardening hosts Diane Booth and Joan Farnam talk with the experts about container gardening and early diseases in the garden. Click to listen.

The hosts were joined by Ilena Berg, local container gardener, Michelle Grabowski, U of M Extension Educator in Horticulture and Plant Pathology and Jane Horn, U of M Master Gardener, who will be teaching a workshop on container gardening at the Community Center June 2.

Michelle Grabowski talked about plant diseases and prevention and control. Here is a summary of a few of the points she made. (Listen to the broadcast to hear all her advice.)
• Starting seeds indoors: Use a soil-starting medium, not dirt from your garden. Keep it moist but not too wet. It is very important to have enough drainage.
• Different seeds need different soil temperatures to germinate. Radishes, for example, can germinate in 50 degree soil, while tomatoes and peppers need 70 degrees to germinate.
• Soil thermometers are useful for garden soils as well as indoor pots.

How to have healthy plants
• Clean up your garden in the fall to eliminate habitats and overwintering sites for pathogens and pests
• Rotate where you put your plants in the garden each year for fertility and to deprive the pathogen of a suitable host
• Healthy soils with good drainage
• Proper plant nutrition
• Environmental management -- use physical controls like floating row covers to keep out pests and/or warm soils,
• Use cultural techniques such as proper timing or practices to avoid a pathogen
• Use disease resistant varieties and treated seeds

 IPM (Integrated Pest Management) At what point do we decide to intervene and decide we have a pathogen we need to take action against? It’s important to understand the pathogen and under what conditions it can become a problem where damage & economic loss is not tolerable.

Here are some of the specific issues with pathogens that we might encounter in Cook County.
1.  Anthracnose:  Caused by the fungus Colletotrichum lindemthianum, primarily infects snap beans and dry beans such as pinto, kidney, and navy beans.  It survives the winter in infected plant debris and produces spores in the spring that are rain splashed or windblown to healthy plants.  It may also be introduced into the garden on infected seed.  Develops quickly during cool, wet conditions.  Small, reddish brown spots on leaves and pods that enlarge.  Remove plant material as soon as noticed.
2.  Bean rust:  Caused by the fungus Uromyces appendiculatus, survives winter in infected plant material and produces spores in the spring that are wind blown. It is not seed-borne.  Appears as rust-colored pustules on the bottom of leaves and on pods surrounded by a yellow halo.  Remove plant material as soon as noticed.
3.  Bacterial diseases on garden beans:  Bacteria can be from the seed or infected plant material from the previous year.  Common blight, halo blight and brown spot infect the leaves and pods of many different beans.  Not all beans are susceptible.  The disease starts as a watersoaked spot that usually become brown surrounded by a yellow halo.
Don’t save seed from infected plants and remove infected plants from the area.
4.  Mosaic:  Virus that overwinters in perennial weeds.  It is transmitted to beans and vine crops by aphids.  Yellow and green mottling of leaves, plants are stunted, yields reduced, infected fruit is mottled, bumpy and misshapen.  Rogue out infected plants.

1.  Black Rot:  Light brown to yellow ‘V’ shaped lesion on the leaf caused by the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris.  When leaf veins are cut in half – they will be black. Seed-borne, water splash.  Moves very quickly under warm, moist conditions.
2.  Fungal diseases:  Black leg (Leptosphaeria maculans)light brown lesions with purplish outline often containing pinhead-sized black dots.  Favored by wet, windy conditions.
Seed-borne, water splash, crop residues, equipment.
Club root (Plasmodiophora brassicae) causes galls to form on the roots of infected planats.  First sign is wilted plants in warm weather because plant can’t pick up water due to galls.  Dig up plant and check for disease.

1.  Aster Yellows:  Plant disease which affects a wide range of plants:  aster, chrysanthemum, cosmos, daisy Echinacea, gladiolus, marigold, petunia, carrots, onions, potatoes, tomatoes.  Caused by a microscopic organism called a phytoplasma. Aster yellows is transmitted by leafhoppers and grafting.  The phytoplasma survives winter in perennial and biennial plants. Symptoms include:  stunting with outer leaves rust colored to purple; roots are bitter, stunted and deformed with tiny hair-like roots.  Flowers are often irregular, deformed, green.  Once infected, there is no cure.  Remove infected plants.

1.  Corn smut:  Common disease of sweet corn caused by the fungus Ustilago mayclis. Disease rarely kills corn plants, but results in smaller ears.  Fungus survives winter in corn debris or in the soil.  Spores are windblown or rain-splashed on healthy plants.  When the galls formed are small and silver or white you can eat them and they are considered to be a delicacy.  Remove before they turn brown and the spores erupt.  Some corn varieties are more susceptible than others.
2.  Purple leaves:  Low pH can cause purpling of leaves with yellow leaf edges.  Plants will be uneven in height if the pH is low.  Low phosphorus can also be seen in the spring with cold, wet soils. Plants will be uniform in height and not have the yellow leaf margin.

1.  Bottom rot:  Caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia solani.  Favored by warm, wet weather.  Plants are usually affected when they are nearly mature. First symptom is usually wilting of the outer leaves.  The fungus enters the plants where leaves are touching the soil. If conditions are favorable, the fungus continues to grow until the entire head becomes a slimy brown mass that soon dries and becomes darker.
2.  Sclerotina Drop: Fungi Sclerotina sclerotium and S. minor do well under cool, moist conditions.  Wilting of the outermost leaves is preceded by a water soaked area that appears on the stem near the soil.  As the fungus grows into each leaf, the leaf tips droop and wither with their tips touching the soil.
3.  Gray mold, lettuce mosaic, aster yellows, etc.

Onions, Garlic, Leeks
1.  Yellow Streak virus:  This is carried by the wheat curl mites that can be found inside of garlic cloves. Leaves are yellow streaked, stunted.  Loosen up the clove covers and soak the cloves for a few minutes in alcohol to kill the adult mites at planting time.
2.  Fusarium basal rot: Bulbs may become infected at any point during their time in the field.  Yellowing and browning of leaves begins at the tip and moves downward. Red brown rot appears where the roots are attached to the basal plate. Rot may happen in storage.
3.  Botrytis neck rot: Outer leaves yellow and die back.  Stem appears water soaked at the soil line.  Small, hard black fungal structures form in the decayed stem tissue.  Disease is common in cool wet weather or in heavy wet soils.
4.  Bacterial soft rot: Softening and water soaking of one or more of the inner fleshy scales of the onion bulb. Shows up just before or at the time of harvest or when in storage.  Pathogens are soil borne.

1.  Ascochyta blight: Disease involving three different fungi.  All survive winter in plant debris or enter the garden on infected pea seeds.  Plants generally show blackening of the stem from the soil line to about 7” tall.  Plants have yellow foliage, brown spots on leaves and stems and bud drop.  Pods and seeds can be infected.  Remove infected plants.
2.  Bacterial blight:  Disease caused by Pseudomonas syringae that initially appears as shiny dark green (water-soaked) spots on the upper and lower leaf surfaces.  Older spots may appear brown, papery and translucent with the center of the lesion lighter in color.  Remove and discard all infected material.
3.  Seed decay, Damping off, and Root rot: These are caused by a number of fungi with cool, wet soils favoring seed decay and damping off.  Infected seedlings may fail to emerge or collapse after they emerge.  Older seedlings may also fail as they develop a root rot.  Root rot is more common in heavier wet soils.  Plants infected by root rot fungi may appear yellow, stunted. Symptoms may not show up in cooler weather but as soon as the weather becomes hot and dry, plants die quickly.    
Peppers  (Diseases are similar to tomatoes)
1.  Common scab:  Disease caused by bacteria Streptomyces scabies is most severe in soils with a pH greater than 5.2 or under drought conditions.  Tubers are most susceptible but stems and roots may also be infected. Scab does not adversely affect potato tubers in storage. Scab tolerant:  Norland, Norgold, Russet, Superior.  Scab can also infect beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips and radishes.
2.  Verticillium wilt:  Soil-borne fungi that can affect tomatoes, potatoes, cucumber, eggplant, pepper, rhubarb, watermelon, beet, etc.  Wilting is the characteristic symptom during the warmest part of the day in August and then recover at night.  Leaf edges and areas between the veins appear yellow and then brown.  Vascular brown streaking can be found in stems near the ground.  Cool weather disease 65-83 degrees. Plant resistant varieties; remove and destroy plant material so it doesn’t overwinter.  Enters through wounds in roots – nematodes, etc. Resistant: Gold Rush, Itasca, Century Russet, Ranger Russet.
1.  Aschochyta leaf spot:  Leaf infection with Aschochyta rhei appears as small, green-yellow irregular spots less than ? “ in diameter on the upper leaf surface.  The infected spots turn brown, die and fall out – producing a ‘shot-hole’ appearance. Stalks are not affected.
2.  Phytophthora ‘root rot’:  Serious disease of rhubarb.  Slight, sunken lesions at the base of the stalks enlarge rapidly, resulting in wilted leaves and collapse of the entire stalk.  The crown & roots turn brown or black and disintegrate.  Control by setting out disease-free plants and plant in well-drained soil.
3.  Ramularia leaf spot:  Ramularia rhei shows up as small red dots that enlarge to form circular lesions a ?” or larger in diameter.  Stalk infections appear later and white fungus develops in the centers of spots on both leaves and stalks.    
Summer Squash
1.  Blossom end rot:  A disease most often found on summer squash under wet conditions.  Also may be found on pumpkins, etc.  Flowers are covered with white then purplish black fungal growth.  The blossom end of the squash is soft, rotted and covered in fluffy purplish black growth.  The fungus can survive in crop debris and spread by insects, splashing water, wind.  Good air circulation helps.
1.  Anthracnose:  Symptoms do not appear until the fruit is ripening.  The fungus is between the cuticle and epidermis of the fruit and is activated by low temperatures, fruit maturation or plant stress.  Small, depressed lesions appear circular in shape.  Lesions enlarge, become more shrunken, and eventually turn tan with black fruiting bodies.  Cut off as soon as you see the shrunken areas. This fungus can persist in the soils.
2.  Early blight: Target spot of tomato, potato, eggplant, pepper is caused by the fungus Alternaria solani. Symptoms usually appear at the end of the season.  Brown lesions first appear on older, lower leaves and spread up toward new growth.  Lesions are small, dry and papery and may develop dark concentric rings of raised and necrotic tissue.  Leaf tissue turns yellow at the edge of the lesion. Lesions on stems begin as small dark slightly sunken areas.  Fungus overwinters in the soil. Under cool, moist conditions, the fungus can produce numerous spores that are wind blown. Nitrogen and phosphorus deficiencies increase susceptibility to early blight.
3.  Late blight: Caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans this can occur any time during the growing season but is more likely to be seen in late summer and early autumn.  Disease spreads rapidly during cool, rainy weather, killing plants within a few days.  Daytime temps between 60 – 70 degrees and night time temps between 50 – 60 degrees and high humidity create ideal conditions for infection and spread of disease.  Fungus becomes inactive during dry periods.  Fungus survives in potatoes and perennial weeds like nightshade. Late blight starts out as irregularly shaped, dark-green (water-soaked) lesions on the lower leaves of the plant.  Lesions enlarge, entire leaves turn grown, shrivel and die.  The entire plant collapses.  Rotate potatoes and tomatoes; don’t plant potatoes next to tomatoes; ensure good airflow; remove and dispose of any volunteer potato or tomato plants; apply chlorothalonil or mancozeb at the first sign of the disease.
4.  Septoria Leaf Spot: Caused by the fungus Septoria lycopersici.  The fungus can survive winter on diseased plant materials. Spores are wind blown or rain splashed to healthy leaves. Symptoms usually begin to appear on the lower leaves after fruit set.  Initially round, yellow spots develop.  Later, these spots enlarge and turn brown to gray.  Tiny black fruiting bodies form in the center of the leaf spots.  Exposed fruit may be damaged by overexposure of the sun.
Vine Crops: Cucumbers, Pumpkins, Watermelon, Squash
1.  Alternaria leaf blight: Caused by the fungus Alternaria cucumberina is most problematic on melons but can also occur on cucumber, pumpkin, squash.  Does not infect fruit but can reduce yields and fruit quality due to reduced plant vigor. Brown leaf spots that can cause leaves to turn brown, curl up, wither and die.
2.  Angular leaf spot:  Bacterial disease caused by Pseudomonas syringae with cucumbers less affected due to resistant varieties.  Leaves develop small, angular brown or straw-colored spots with a yellow halo.  Leaf spots dry out, leaving irregular shaped holes in the leaves.  Water soaked to tan small circular spots on fruit.  Thrives in warm humid conditions.  When fruits are infected, the seed also becomes infected. White sticky bacterial ooze can form.  Pathogen can survive on plant debris.
3.  Anthracnose: Caused by fungus Colletotrichum orbiculare that can attack all cucurbits but especially cucumbers, muskmelons and watermelons.  Irregular brown leaf spots form on squash, melon and cucumber.  The center of the leaf may drop out resulting in shot hole or ragged appearance.  Very common on cucumbers.  May have sunken elongate lesions on stems. Disease is favored by warm, moist environments.  First seen in mid to late season. Purchase clean seed; some resistant varieties are available for cucumbers.
4.  Bacterial wilt: Caused by bacteria Erwinia tracheiphila. This can cause severe losses in cucumbers, muskmelons.  Squash and pumpkins are less severely affected.  Watermelons are not affected.  Does not occur in Minnesota every year. Leaves first appear dull green, wilt during the day, and then recover at night.  Leaves eventually yellow and brown at margins, completely wither and die.  Striped and spotted cucumber beetles carry bacteria in their gut.
5.  Powdery mildew:  Primarily caused by fungus Podosphaera xanthii that infects vine crops. First shows up as pale yellow leaf spots.  White powdery spots can form on both upper and lower leaf surfaces rapidly covering entire leaf, stem, etc.  When majority of plant is infected, plant is weakened and fruit ripens prematurely. Humid conditions with temperatures 68-81 degrees and usually noticed in mid-late summer.  Older leaves are most susceptible.  Fruit has poor flavor, doesn’t store well, etc.
Sulfur applied when first noticed can slow spread.  Good air circulation, not over applying nitrogen, planting less susceptible varieties.
6.  Viruses: Infection with virus is common on all cucurbits.  It is very difficult to identify individual viruses by symptoms.  Virus infected leaves often have a mottling or mosaic pattern in shades of green and yellow.  Leaves may be distorted or deformed.  Early infections result in no fruit production. If you see symptoms, remove plants.  Keep tools and hands clean.

1.  Botrytis blight:  The fungus Botrytis cinerea attacks stems, buds and leaves.  It begins early in the spring, most common during cloudy, rainy weather.  Young stalks discolor at the base, wilt and fall over.  Gray, fuzzy fungal spores are usually characteristic of this infection.
2.  Phytophthora blight: The fungus Phytophthora cactorum is similar to Botrytis however doesn’t have the felty growth.  Infected parts become dark brown or black and somewhat leathery.  The entire shoot my turn black and die. Cankers can infect the stem, crown, etc.  Remove and destroy along with adjacent soil.

1.  Black spot:  Caused by the fungus Diplocarpon rosae it can cause almost complete defoliation by early Fall.  Circular black spots that are surrounded by a yellow halo.  Yellow leaves fall prematurely.
2.  Powdery mildew: Caused by the fungus Sphaerotheca pannosa. Young leaves can curl and turn purple.  Young canes can become distorted and dwarfed.  Leaves, buds, and stems are covered with a white powdery coating.

A few botanical and biological controls
• Fermented nettle tea (preventative spray for fungus + nutrient boost)
• Equisetum tea (root dip during transplanting against fungal attack – dessication silica)
• Chamomile tea (preplanting seed soak to kill seed borne pathogens)
• Liquid seaweed (strawberries foliar treatment for nutrients / disease)
• Watery compost extract (suppression of soil borne plant pathogens?)
• 1% chlorine bleach solution for 10 minutes for some tomato or brassica seeds to reduce pathogens on seeds
• Baking soda /milk for powdery mildew

Container Gardening
Container gardening is becoming more popular with people living in rentals and/or downsizing their outdoor space. 
Ilena Berg talked to us about what containers she uses to grow plants, what kind of plants she grows, and her successes and failures.

• Small containers (1-2 gallons)  lettuce, spinach, peppers, radishes, carrots, beets, beans, patio tomatoes
• Medium containers (3-10 gallons)  eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, determinate tomatoes, gourmet potatoes
• Large containers (greater than 10 gallons) cabbage, indeterminate tomatoes, high yielding potatoes, vine crops including cucumbers, melon, squash
• Full sun 8 -12 hours daily
Jane Horn was also a guest and talked to us about her experiences with container gardening. She began gardening 14 years ago when she moved into her first house and for five years has been a University of Minnesota extension Master Gardener.  Her garden was showcased as one of the Star Tribune's Beautiful Gardens and has been featured on the Better Homes and Gardens web site.  Her experimental garden planted in a pile of dirt on asphalt was the focus of an article on   
Container design is one of Jane’s strengths and she has placed in the top 10in Fine Gardening magazine's Container Design Challenge.     
Jane is also going to be teaching a Container Gardening Workshop on Saturday, June 2 at the Community Center hosted by the U of M Cok County Master Gardeners.
Here’s the schedule for that day.
• 7:30 a.m. Eleanor Hoffman teaching Yoga for Gardeners (Please wear loose clothing and bring a beach towel or mat.)
Following our yoga start to the day, refreshments will be available.
• 8:30 a.m. Container gardening workshop begins.
Topics will include: 
Growing Vegetables in Containers with Diane Booth;
Spicing up Your Garden by Planting in Containers with Jane Horn
Hands-on Container Planting Demonstrations with Nancy Carlson, Max Linehan, and Emma Bradley
Cost for the entire morning is $20 that includes handouts, etc. Call 387-3015 to reserve your splot.
Also, the Art Colony Potters are making a bunch of flower pots, containers and garden art as a fundraiser for the ceramics studio. They will hold a silent auction of the items during the workshop.

 • A Container Gardening Contest is being sponsored by the U of M Cook County Master Gardeners with sign-up information becoming available in May.  Categories will include:  Best Miniature Garden, Best Hanging Garden, Most Unusual Garden, Best Edible Garden, and Best Window Box Garden.  Prizes will be $25 for each category.  You need to sign up by Friday, July 13. Watch for the sign-up information or stop by the Cook County Extension office to pick up entry forms.
Gardens will be judged on Aug. 18 in conjunction with the container garden tour on that Saturday, Aug. 18 from 1- 3 p.m. as well.  If you are interested in being on the garden tour, please contact Diane in the Extension office at 387-3015. 
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.





All About Soils

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All About Soils

The Cook County Extension office receives a lot of questions about soils and how to build up soils in an area where many of us have gravel or clay. Organics added to your soils are the key to changing the soil structure over time. You know you have pretty good soil when you can take a handful of the soil and squeeze it with your hand, when you open your hand it retains its form until you take your finger an gently poke it. If it breaks apart when you poke it you have pretty good soil tilth or structure.
If you have questions about how your soils work, the information below is based upon a great book, “Teaming with Microbes. The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web.” It will help you understand much more how your soils work and what you need to grow great vegetables.

What are the characteristics of a healthy soil that will help your plants?

• Nutrient retention in your soil
• Improved soil structure (tilth)
• Improved disease defenses for your plants
• Influences soil pH for optimum plant growth
• Soil food webs are intact

How do we know if we have a healthy soil or not?
Most people start with a soil test.
When you do a soil test it usually tells you the percent of organic matter; pH (7 being neutral; acidic soils being below 7 and alkaline soils being above 7); amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK).
What the soil test doesn’t give you is the soil texture; structure; whether you should garden organically or inorganically (what does that mean anyhow?), how to build up your soil to support a web system of local soil microbes, or how important the other macro and micro nutrients are to the success of your plants.

What does organic vs. inorganic mean when we are talking about soils/fertilizers?

• Inorganic or synthetic fertilizers: These are commercially prepared forms of nutrients. Nitrogen is obtained from the atmosphere and phosphorous and potassium are mined from the earth’s crust. They are generally concentrated. They don’t build the soil or support the microbial food web within the soil. A little bit of the nutrients are utilized at the root tip and the rest of the nutrients are often drained down through the soil until they hit the water table.

• Organic fertilizers: These fertilizers generally have a plant or animal origin. Animal manures or compost are some examples. Nutrients are contained generally in complex organic forms which will release more slowly over time. Nutrients are utilized by the microbes in the food web. They in turn release additional nutrients as waste materials and eventually die and decompose putting additional nutrients back into the soil.

In general, a garden should have about 8 percent organic matter in the soil or a little higher for vegetables.

Soil Texture:
This refers to the size of the mineral particles of the soil. Particles are sand, silt and clay. The relative proportions of those three make up your soil texture. “It takes 65 million clay particles to fill up the same amount of space as one grain of sand.” Ideal loam: 15% clay, 35% silt, and 40% sand, 5 – 10% organic matter.
These three particles are shaped differently and arrange themselves differently when grouped together:
~ loose & sandy
~ crumbly & light (loam)
~ compacted clay (particles are flat crystals that can pack together tightly leaving very little space for air)
You can’t really change the soil texture.

Soil Structure: (Tilth) This you can change. The soil structure refers to the way the mineral particles are arranged into aggregates (groups of particles loosely held together). The soil structure becomes a by-product of the decay of organic matter. You can change the structure of your soil with organic matter. The microbial life of the soil binds together the sand, silt & clay.

Organic matter – compost – humus – structure

Humus is the end product of organic decay. This decaying process usually takes place right under the ‘duff’ or layer of material you can recognize on the forest floor or the top of your garden. Humus is created by microbes. Humus is a fairly stable and complex carbon compound that serves to hold the pore structure of soil open. Little nooks and crannies in humus provide ‘condominiums for microbes’.

Pore space is a maze of minute continuous channels found throughout the upper layers of most soils. Very important for air and water flow. If there is inadequate pore space you may end up with air being utilized, no recharge of air occurs, and then you have anaerobic conditions that end up killing root systems.

Plant Roots: These act as places where ion exchanges take place. They are electrically charged with H+ cations. They give up these in exchange for anions like -NO3 (nitrate) or -SO4 (sulfate) or phosphate -(PO4). The cation exchange capacity of soils is based upon the amount of clay and organic matter it contains. Sand and silt have low exchange capacities.

pH: Every time a root tip exchanges a H+ (cation) it can be measured as pH or the concentration of H+ ions. The more H+ ions, the more acid the soil or solution. Root surfaces also take up negatively charged anions or hydroxyl (OH)- ions so that helps to balance out the exchange. pH influences the type of microorganisms that live in the soil. Certain fungi and bacteria are important to different plants to help them thrive.

Bacteria: They play a major role in plant nutrition. They lock up nutrients that might otherwise disappear due to leaching. They prefer cellulose over lignin. The bacteria remain on soil particles and that keeps the nutrients remaining in the soil. The bacteria in turn are eaten by protozoa and reduced to wastes. These nutrient wastes are picked up by the plant roots.
Bacterial slime raises soil pH; nitrogen-fixing bacteria generally require a pH above 7. Serve as barriers around roots to block entry of disease organisms.

Arachae: Discovered in the 1970s, these life forms are now considered to be the most abundant life form on earth. They are the most 
abundant ammonia oxidizers in soil – making nitrogen available to plants. They are decomposers of organic and inorganic materials. They produce methane – a key component of greenhouse gas. They are important members of the soil food web – much of what is still unknown.

Fungi: Fungi are unable to photosynthesize and have chitin in their cell walls instead of cellulose. They prefer lignin (woody materials). A teaspoon of good garden soil will have several yards of fungal hyphae. They can transfer nutrients from one end of the hyphae to the other. Phosphorus is especially made available to plants by fungi as they have the ability to release it from its chemical and physical bonds. Their hyphae leave microscopic tunnels in the soil that water and air can flow through. Fungi are the primary decay agents in the soil food web. The nitrogen released by fungi is the NH4 (ammonium form). Enzymes released by fungi are acidic and lower the pH.

Myccorrhizal fungi: There are two kinds: ectomycorrhizal fungi, grow close to the surface of roots and are associated with hardwoods and conifers. Endomycorrhizal fungi actually penetrate and grow inside roots and extend out into the soil. These are preferred by most vegetables, shrubs, perennials, annuals, etc. Some require specific plant hosts and become mutually dependent upon each other. Provide additional water and phosphorus to plants

Protozoa: They eat the bacteria, a few fungi and other protozoa. In turn, they provide food for nematodes and other worms.

Nematodes: (Non-segmented blind round worms) One teaspoon of good soil averages about 40 – 50 nematodes. Many of these nematodes made minerals or nutrients available to plants by releasing them from the protozoa or fungi they feed on. Nematodes need less nitrogen that protozoa so they release more nitrogen and make it available to the plants. Fungi and bacteria ‘hitch’ a ride on nematodes to different locations in the soil.

Arthropods: Arthopods have segmented limbs/bodies and an exoskeleton. Soil arthropods are important because they are shredders, predators and soil aerators. The presence or absence of some of these key arthropods can tell you about the health of your soils and the plants growing in them. Examples: springtails, mites, millipedes, ants, sow and pill bugs, etc.

Earthworms: 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% 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.
Bad news about earthworms: Forest floors that have been invaded by earthworms have completely altered the soil food web by drastically increasing the decaying of organic matter to point where it is not healthy for the trees and the rest of the soil food web. Earthworms are not native to the Great Lakes region. Their introduction has destroyed the ‘duff’ layer that dozens of understory plant species rely on to survive. Some of these native species cannot survive without that duff layer. Fungi, bacteria and other arthropods and even small animals are affected by disruption of the ecosystem that was developed without earthworms.

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.

How can I use soil food webs to increase the health of my soil and the health of my plants?

Some plants prefer soils dominated by bacteria; other plants prefer soils dominated by fungi. They need nitrogen for building amino acids. Bacteria predominated soils have –NO3 (nitrate) predominately and are more alkaline. Fungi predominated soils have more –NH4 (ammonium) and are more acidic.

Fungal to Bacterial ratio (F:B)

1. Carrots, lettuce, broccoli, cole crops F:B ratio of .3-.8 to 1.0
2. Tomatoes, corn, wheat F:B ratio of .8 – 1 to 1.0
3. Lawns F:B ratio of .5 – 1 to 1.0
4. Conifer trees F:B ratio of 50 – 1000 to 1.0
5. Maples, oaks, poplars F:B ratio of 10 -100 to 1.0
6. Orchards F:B ratio of 10 – 50 to 1.0
7. Alder, beech, aspen, cottonwood F:B ratio of 5 – 100 to 1.0 (mature)
(Frankia bacteria fixes atmospheric nitrogen in alders)
8. Annuals: Prefer bacterially dominated soils
9. Perennials, shrubs: Prefer fungal dominated soils.

Add compost. Compost can inoculate an area with microbes to support soil food web organisms. Compost made with C:N ratio of 25 -30 to 1 is best. You can manipulate that ratio for vegetables to 25% alfalfa meal; 50% fresh grass clippings and 25% brown leaves or bark for more of a bacterial compost.

• Put down your compost first and then add mulch.
• Provide different kinds of mulch: leaves, grass clippings, wood chips, etc. for your trees, shrubs, perennials. These will provide different soil food webs.
• Rhizobia bacteria associated with legumes can be added to your beans, peas and will make nitrogen available in about two weeks after inoculation.
• A green mulch will provide bacteria to the soil; a brown mulch will add fungi to the soil. Peat moss used as mulch is sterile. Pine needles and cedar chips contain terpenes that can be toxic to many plants.
• Wetting your mulch grinding it up and working the mulch into the soil will support bacteria; coarser, drier mulch on top of the soil will support more fungi. Keeping your mulch on top of the soil larger (3/8” or larger) will prevent nitrogen being used up by bacteria. There will be enough nitrogen to feed the fungi.
• Keep your mulch layers 2- 3” to avoid blocking air and water resulting in possible anaerobic conditions.
• Active aerobic compost tea does work when brewed at room temperature. It takes about two days to make, use within 4 hours of completion. Do not use simple compost leachate or hanging a bag of manure in water. That results in anaerobic pathogens and possible alchohols.
• Rototilling and compaction of soils all have a negative effect on mycorrhizal fungi. Reducing this activity is key to keeping your soil food web healthy.
• Applications of synthetic fertilizers can kill microbes.
• If you add additional organic fertilizers, use low numbers.

The first step is to take a soil test. Call the extension office at 387-3015 to find out how to do this.


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. Please call Diane at 218-387-3015 if you have questions or stop by.

Youth Spring Gardening Class

A youth spring gardening class will begin Tuesday, April 17 from 4 – 5 p.m. in the 4H log cabin building at the Cook County Community Center. The class will run every Tuesday through May 22. Youth can sign up for the After School Lounge in the I.S.D. #166 office and walk over with our youth coordinator, Melissa Wickwire, right after school, have a snack and be ready for gardening with Max Linehan and Penny Ortmann U of M Master Gardeners.

Container gardening workshop

Saturday, June 2, starting at 9 a.m. at the Cook County Community Center, our U of M
Master Gardeners will be hosting a container gardening workshop with topics that include: Growing Vegetables in Containers with Diane Booth; Spicing up Your Garden by Planting in Containers with Jane Horn; and hands-on container planting demonstrations with U of M Master Gardeners Nancy Carlson, Max Linehan, and Emma Bradley. Save the date!
Also, the Art Colony Potters will be making planters and garden art as a fundraiser for the ceramics studio. They will be sold during the workshop.
In conjunction with the Container Gardening workshop in June, the Cook County Master Gardeners will also 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, watch for more information about this in May and early June.

Cook County Co-op
If you’re planning to grow vegetables for the Cook County Co-op this summer, be sure to talk to Jeri Persons right away. The Co-op has new rules for local growers this year. Call Jeri at 387-2503.

Cook County Farm & Craft Market
The Cook County Farm & Craft Market will be making a table available for local growers who just have a small amount of produce to sell this year as well. Call Joan at 387-3101 to find out more.



Youth Gardening and Pruning Apple Trees

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Welcome to Northern Gardening.

In this month's program, Karina Roth discusses the food program at Great Expectations School and how the school is using the greenhouse to grow food for lunches at the school.
She also has some requests for help from the community. Karina can be reached at 387-1876 if you can help.

  • The Food  Committee’s goal is to continue to have more locally produced food  for their lunch program at Great Expectations School. They have a greenhouse, but need help with adding more ventilation to it to use during warmer weather. This would allow more use of the greenhouse for growing warm season crops without over-baking.
  • Karina is also looking for people to help start tomatoes and peppers for the Great Expectations Plant Sale. Is anyone willing to help start them or take care of plants at your home? Call her at 387-1876.
  • GES could also use addditional indoor plant light stands, either be purchased or built, for more plant-starting options. Call Roth if interested.

Max Linehan, U of M master gardener, was in the studio to discuss the children’s gardening programs she does in conjunction with another U of master gardener, Penny Ortman. They are always looking for willing hands and help with their programs. These are the two upcoming sessions being offered.

  • Spring Session will be on Tuesdays, April 17 – May 22 from 4 – 5 p.m. at the 4H Log Cabin Building at the Cook County Community Center.  Youth in grades 3 – 8 grade are welcome to sign up for the After School Lounge program and walk over with them right after school. The program is free if your student participates in the After School Lounge program. If your child wishes to attend just the gardening program, the cost is $10 and parents need to be responsible for dropping child off and picking them up.
  • Summer Session will be on Tuesdays, June 12 – August 22. If your child is part of Summer KIDS Camp, then they will be automatically participating in this program. If you would like your child to just attend the Summer Gardening program the cost will be $15 for the summer to help pay for materials, etc.

If there is interest in having youth gardening programs either at Birch Grove Center in Tofte or up in Grand Portage, please contact Diane Booth in the Extension office at 387-3015.

Apple Tree Pruning Basics

Older trees that were planted years ago were on standard root stock so they grew quite large and were difficult to prune as they became older. Most apple trees being planted now are on semi-dwarf root stock or dwarf rootstock. These are less hardy than standard root stock, but reduce the size of the tree so that you can plant them closer together. To grow well you need to mulch, make sure they have good snow cover, and remove grass competition.

Regardless of the rootstock you choose, the training of the small tree will help determine the type of pruning you have to do on the mature tree later.

Correct training and pruning are important because they will affect time of production to some extent, sustained high yields, optimum fruit quality. You need strong branches that can hold a lot of fruit without breaking. And there has to be a balance between vegetative growth and growth that will produce fruit.

Pruning removes unproductive growth and encourages growth of new bearing wood so that at the end of each growing season, the top of the trees and the roots are in balance.

Dormant pruning removes some growing points, and this increases the root resources for the remaining buds.

Light exposure is very important for fruit production. The top of the tree will receive the most light. The middle of the tree will receive about 60 percent light and still be productive. If the lower, center part of the tree only receives 30% light, it will become less productive with smaller fruit and not good color.

  • Light exposure also depends upon the size of the tree. 
  • Open center trees that have a dense canopy at the top will shade more of the tree resulting in less production.
  • Pyramid-shaped trees exposes more leaf area to sunlight resulting in more productivity.
  •  Increased fruit production reduces the amount of tree vigor going elsewhere and helps control the tree, shoot growth and tree size.
  • Branches that are almost horizontal will reduce vegetative growth and more flower formation is stimulated. Branches that are bent below the horizontal will have more vigorous upright waterspouts near the base of the branch.

All pruning cuts can be classified as:

  • Heading back – removes only a portion of a branch resulting in usually vigorous growth. Cut directly above a bud. These cuts should best be done on 1-year growth rather than on older wood. Used on older wood induces waterspout growth. 
  • Thinning out – an entire branch is removed at the junction of the trunk or lateral branch. Doesn’t result in vigorous growth. Make sure you leave the branch collar.

So, if you are planning to purchase a new apple tree this year or if you have planted one a couple of years ago, here are some suggestions for working with your young apple trees. There should be an emphasis on training a young tree rather than pruning  it – you should very limited pruning on young trees.

The First Year

  • Pruning should be limited to cuts necessary for proper tree development and broken branches.
  • If you have a single whip (1 leader only) then you will need to head it back at about 30” – 36” to induce laterals to develop. All shoots developing below 18” should be removed.
  • Try to avoid heading back laterals.
  • Train a central leader for dominance to keep laterals in check. If the leader grows by more than 18” you may need to cut it back by ? because you want a strong leader.
  • Fruit forming on central leader needs to be removed to keep that dominance.
  • Use spreaders or weights to make sure the laterals have wide crotches for strength and better fruit bearing. Spreading the laterals will increase flower production and reduce vegetative growth. 60 degrees.

The Second Year

  • If you didn’t have laterals to spread the first year, make sure your laterals that grew last year that you are keeping are spread to 60 degrees. (easier after bud break)
  • Keep your central leader dominant. Remove any competing laterals.
  • Each lateral should be 8” from another lateral branch. They should not be clustered in the same area along the trunk of a tree.
  • Lower laterals on the tree should be longer to keep conical shape and allow more light. As the laterals develop, they may start growing vertically again and you will need to keep moving the crotch angle to 60 degrees.

Three to Five Years

  • Continue to make sure you keep your central leader dominant.
  • Keep your laterals in that conical shape.
  • Continue selecting specific laterals to keep and removing others at the main trunk.
  • You may end up doing more thinning cuts to remove unnecessary branches.
  • The key is to keep good light exposure and keep the tree from becoming vegetatively vigorous. You want the energy of the tree to go into fruit production.

Trees that are Bearing Fruit
Dormant pruning should be done in late winter before bud break. This time of the year reduces susceptibility of tree injury due to low temperatures.

  • Pruning trees after bud break or when in bloom can increase spread of diseases.
  • Branches growing upright into the interior of the tree can be thinned back to the lateral.
  • Branches growing down below a major lateral that are shaded can also be thinned back to the lateral.
  • Keep branches that are growing horizontally from the lateral.
  • purs are short 3- 5” branches that produce flowers and fruit on apple trees. Sometimes they become long, weak and heavily branched. You can thin them out and head them back to a strong bud.
  • Some spurs that are underneath a lateral branch can be removed to encourage more spur production where there is more light.
  • Remove water spouts and upright shoots.
  • Remove branches that are crossing and/or  dead or injured branches.
  • Once the height of the tree has been reached (8 – 10 ft dwarf) (12-16 ft semi-dwarf) you can cut the leader to a weak side branch. You will probably need to do this every year to keep it at that height. Laterals will all need to remain shorter than leader you will need to prune back into 2-year-old wood.

If you have older apple trees that have not been pruned for a number of years, here are some additional suggestions you may want to follow:

What do I do if I inherit older apple trees that have not been pruned?

  • First decide if you want to keep the tree or do you want to replace it with a new apple tree you can start training and pruning correctly? Do you like the fruit?
  • Does the tree receive all day sun?
  • Plan a 3 – 5 year recovery for this older tree.
  • Cut out all the dead wood.
  • If you find any diseased wood, cut that out next, making sure you disinfect your tools by wiping the blades with Lysol or ethanol or isopropyl alcohol. These are all better than bleach solutions. Burn all diseased or insect-infested wood.
  • You cannot remove more than 1/3 of the wood from the tree at a time and really should probably remove less.
  • Start by opening up the tree and removing branches that grow straight up.
  • Prune more heavily in the upper part of the tree first to get more light into the tree.
  • Cut out narrow crotched branches.
  • Cut out branches that are crossing each other.
  • Remove droopy branches – less fruit production or small fruit production.
  • Prune with a bud facing outward to force the new branch to grow in that direction.
  • If you have multiple leaders and no central leader, you may have to prune the best you can while keeping the open or vase shaped configuration.

If you have questions, call Diane Booth at 387-3015. Here is a link on pruning apple trees with diagrams included.

In other gardening news, the Cook County Extension office has copies of the 2012 guide to good vegetable varieties to grow in the county. They are free and can be picked up at the Cook County Community Center. Copies are also available at local stores.

The Northwood Food Project is accepting applications to serve on its board. Call 387-3015 for more information.





Beekeeping and How To Shrink Your Lawn & Plant Flowers Instead

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Northern Gardening hosts Joan Farnam and Paula Sundet-Wolf welcome author Evelyn Hadden and bee entomologist Mike Goblirsch on the first show of the 2012 season.
Hadden has written a number of books about naturalistic landscaping, including "Apprentice to a Garden," and "Shrink Your Lawn: Design Ideas for Any Landscape." She has a new book coming out this month, "Beautiful No-Mow Yards." To see a video about this book, click here. In this program, she discusses what people can do to shrink their lawn and plant flowers and grasses which will thrive in our area.
Goblirsch is a Ph.D student in entomology at the University of Minnesota and will be teaching "Introduction to Hobby Beekeeping" at the Cook County Community Center on Saturday, Feb. 18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (To register for this class, call Diane Booth at 387-3015.)
In this program, he talks about the mysterious collapse of honey bee colonies across the world, as well as his experiences as a beekeeper.



Growing for the Co-op, growing for yourself

NorGard_011412.mp3112.58 MB

Northern Gardening hosts Diane Booth and Joan Farnam talk to Jeri Persons, produce manager at the Cook County Whole Foods Co-op, about what growers need to know about growing vegetables for the co-op. Rick Skoog, who grows kale, kohlrabi and radishes for the co-op, was in the studio as well.
The hosts also talk to Paul Gallione, from Johnny Seeds Co. in Maine, a popular seed source for Cook County gardeners.

Below are notes and questions used in the interview as well as lists of popular vegetable varieties that do well in Cook County.

Jeri Person, Cook County Co-op
Jeri: Many of us have watched the growth of the Cook County Whole Foods Cooperative over the years and have applauded the organic / local foods movement in part represented by the co-op. One of the goals both Extension and the Northwoods Food project share is trying to get more local food production in Cook County. How much of the produce provided by the co-op (%) is:

· From Cook County

· From the northeastern region of Minnesota

· From Minnesota

· From Wisconsin, Iowa or the Dakotas

· From further away?

· What about Canada?

As the produce manager for the co-op, would you please share some thoughts or ideas you might have for folks interested in selling produce to the co-op? How would they go about doing that and what things should they know about? Do you have written guidelines or certain requirements? (these are just some thoughts I have – you might have others)

· Reliable source: Can you meet with someone this time of year and contract for a certain amount of produce and kinds to be available – or is that too uncertain for our county?

What about if a group of growers worked together to create better certainty for products? Seasonal vs. out of season?

· Paperwork and tracking: How difficult is it to say, oh, I’ll purchase your extra apples but you will need to supply us with (x) amount in order to make it feasible for the paperwork and tracking we have to do for occasional suppliers?

An invoice that identifies the supplier or grower’s name and address. Good record keeping is important in case of a trace back of a product due to illness or injury.

· Organically certified vs. naturally grown:

Documentation needed for sale to Co-op? Three years of records, documentation that references the USDA organic certifying agent. If less than $5,000 products sold, a record of what has been done to produce and / or land where product has been grown?

· Quality of produce: Are you seeing any signs of insects, disease, bruising and damage, freshness, over ripeness or immaturity? Is the product kept cold after picking, how soon before the product is brought to the Co-op before being sold? What condition does it need to be in? Dirt washed off, bundled in the case of radishes, carrots, small onions, small turnips, lettuce cleaned and spun dry???

· Contamination of product: Is the product transported in clean boxes, containers, or with dogs, dog hair and dog breath? Are there signs of contamination by rodents, insects or birds? Does the grower wash his / her hands before picking produce?

· Is the produce something people will buy? If wild raspberries are abundant and some is picking them and trying to sell them, will people buy them if they are readily available? If you are growing a more unusual product like purple mizuna – it might be easy to grow – but will people purchase it? Are you willing to try things like this?

Licensing, state requirements, etc… · Commercial food operators(i.e. restaurants, caterers, grocery stores, food markets) can purchase produce directly from the grower if the person is selling produce that they have grown on their own land.

*State of Minnesota Constitution, Article 13, Section 7 NO LICENSE REQUIRED TO PEDDLE. Any person may sell or peddle the products of the farm or garden occupied and cultivated by him without obtaining a license therefor.

*Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 28A.15, Subdivision 1 highlights:

Sales by farmers, not others in food business

Prepares and sells not potentially hazardous food at community event / farmers market $5000 or less. “Products are homemade and not subject to state inspection” if they are prepared in a non-licensed kitchen. Name and address of person preparing and selling the food.

Home processed / home canned foods need to have less than $5,000 in gross sales and can be pickles, vegetables or fruits having a pH value of 4.6 or lower.

· If a grower is selling produce to commercial food establishments, is the grower considered an approved source?

*Yes, as long as the food is not processed and is grown on the farm or garden cultivated by them. Food cannot be prepared or stored in the private home.

· Would a grower be required to have a license for foods that are processed?

*Yes, but processing does not include trimming as part of the harvest process or preliminary washing to remove extraneous soil and debris. Cutting, heating, canning, freezing, drying, mixing, coating, bottling would require a license.

· What if I buy produce from my Uncle Sam and want to resell it here along with my produce?

*You might need to be licensed as a Minnesota Wholesale Produce dealer.

· If a grower does not need a license, does that mean they do not have to comply with good agricultural and management practices?

*No, even though a grower

Jeri: What products are you looking to maybe purchase locally?

Meeting in April with potential growers for the Whole Foods Coop?

Johnny's Seeds, Paul Gallione
Paul: As a small commercial grower in Maine, do you have any additional suggestions we have not discussed for marketing your produce to a Whole Foods Cooperative or restaurant, etc?

Paul, you operate a small organic farm in Maine, you are an agonomist and you work as a technical services technician for Johnny’s Seeds. Tell us more about what you grow and what you do for Johnny’s.

Johnny’s Seeds has become known for selling seeds that will do well in short season, cold weather varieties. Winslow, Maine where Johnny’s Seeds is located sits at a latitude of 44.54 while Grand Marais is about 47.73. Our growing zones would be considered zones 3 and 4. How different or similar is your growing zone to ours?

· Have you noticed a change in climate that has been translated to being able to grow longer days to maturity for vegetable varieties?

We have seen a resurgence in both gardening as a whole and especially in gardeners looking for heirloom or open-pollinated varieties. Johnny’s offers some heirloom varieties but still offers a large number of F1 hybrids. Do you see this changing in the near future? Is Johnny’s doing more research on heirloom varieties for northern climates?

Johnny’s offers some seed varieties they have developed themselves. Talk to us a little bit about the process you go through to develop those varieties.

· If your company hasn’t developed these varieties directly, how do you determine what seeds to sell and / or recommend in your catalog?

Interplanting and succession planting becomes more difficult when you are growing vegetables in short season, cold climates. What seed combinations / varieties have worked well for interplanting and give us some recommendations for succession plantings that work well. Too cold – then too hot – then too cold…. How much do you rely on season extenders?f

· Problems with bitterness in lettuce.

· Problems with bolting in spinach

· Problems with timing for a second crop of broccoli or a later crop of peas.

· Other common problems people encounter?

· How important are inoculants for peas, beans, etc?

Paul, what are some of your favorite vegetable varieties you continue to plant year after year that you have had good success with?

Tell us about some of the new vegetable varieties you are offering and how you think they may ‘stack up’ against the older more favorite varieties for our zones 3 and 4?


· Provider – 50 days germinates well in cold soils

· Amethyst - 56 day (new) purple bean flavor?

· Fortex – 60 day pole bean – how does it compare in flavor to the blue lake beans


· Touchstone gold – 55 days

· Blankoma – 55 days – white, taste in comparison to touchstone gold and red ace


· ? shorter day varieties seem to have less side shoot production

· Development of ‘button heads’ if left in seed flats too long before being transplanted out.

· Excessive heat when developing can cause little to no head development

Mini Broccoli (Gailon is Chinese broccoli (Kale) Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra

· Broccoli x Gailon – Happy Rich – 55 days Better, smaller tasting stems than regular broccoli?

· Atlantis – 60 days

Brussels Sprouts

Flower Sprouts Brussels sprouts x kale

· Kaleidoscope mix - 90 days Flavor??


· Best for making sauerkraut? Kaitlin – 94 days

· Gonzales – 66 days for mini cabbages

· Ruby Perfection – 85 days

· Red cabbage seems to be more resistant to the white cabbage butterfly than green cabbage?


· Mokum – 36 days very sweet early Nantes type for fresh eating ( high in sugar, low is starch – don’t keep well)

· Caracas – 57 day baby Chantenay – better for growing in heavier soils

· Bolero – 75 days great for storage

· ? No Danvers type carrots are listed in the catalog?


· Best self-blanching varieties

· Fremont – 62 days

· Bishop - 65 days better Fremont variety

· Denali - 73 days for Fall production

· Graffiti – 80 days purple variety - flavor? – freezing qualities?

Corn ( Natural II treatment applied to seed as a film?)

· Spring Treat – 66 days (se) sugary enhanced yellow

· Trinity – 68 days (se+) sugary enhanced bicolor

· Mirai corn varieties – combination of se,su, sh2 ??? Have you trialed it there?

· Painted Mountain – 85 days flour, hominy, roasting


· Northern Pickling – 48 days for pickles

· Diva – 58 days Sweet, seedless, bitterfree cucumbers (variety developed by Johnny’s?)

Asian Greens:
Tatsoi, Mizuna, etc. What varieties are best for late Fall, early Spring in unheated

greenhouse / cold frame, etc.?


· Toscano – 30 days a type of dinosaur kale – better tasting?


· King Richard – 75 day vs. later varieties


· Best varieties that won’t become bitter over summer

· Keep replanting every 20 days or so? / shade cloth

· Bambi – 50 days little gem type for mini-heads.


· Sarah’s Choice – 76 days, cantaloupe F1 consistently best tasting

· Honey Pearl – 74 days, honeydew F1 early and cool-weather tolerant

Onions ( If onions bolt and form flower stalk before end of season – any prevention?)

· Copra – 104 days best storage… Is Patterson a better variety? Or Pontiac?

· How well have cipollini onions done for you?


· Maxigolt – 62 days best tasting pea

· Sienna – 55 days powdery mildew resistant

· Penelope – 59 days powdery mildew resistant


· Ace – 50 days / 70 days

· Olympus – 65 days / 85 days

· Lipstick – 53 green, 73 days red

· Superior – (early) white, scab resistant, long-storing

· Dark Red Norland – (early) stores well

· Gold Rush – (mid) stores well, early russet

· Yukon Gold – (early-mid) yellow, stores well, Production?

· Kennebec – (late) white, good storage


· Racer – 85 days, 12 – 16 lbs

· Big Doris - 90 days, 30 -40 lbs

· Orange Smoothie – 95 days, 6 – 9 lbs


· Rover – 21 days – heat tolerance – better to plant as 2nd or 3rd crop?

· Alpine - 55 days Daikon white radish more tolerant in warm weather

Spinach Smooth vs. Savoy?

· Best for Fall or Winter growing? Red Cardinal – 21 days

· Best for summer growing in more heat? Emu – 42 days

· Tyee – 40 days Typically bolts


· Honey Bear – 85 days

· Delicata – 100 days - different strains taste different

· Sunshine – 95 days – kabocha

· Red Kuri – 92 days – hubbard

· Butternut – what works best for you/

Tomatoes …. Are you using rootstocks for your tomatoes? Best roma tomato?

· New Girl – (F1) 62 days – better tasting and more disease resistant than Early Girl (Ind)

· Martha Washington (F1) – 78 days – too late for outdoors here? Pick green and ripen indoors?(Ind)

· Polbig – 60 days (F1) – perform in cool climates, better tasting than Oregon Spring (Det.)

· Juliet – 60 days (F1) – nice small roma for salsa, salads, pasta, long shelf life (Ind)

· Rebelski – 75 days (F1) – best greenhouse tomato: northern exposure, celebrity, 4th of July,(Ind)

Best Cherry / GrapeTomato

· Sun Gold (F1) – 57 days

· Sakura (F1) – 55 days One of the first varieties to ripen in greenhouse How do they do outside?

· Five Star Grape – 62 days – Bred by Johnny’s (Ind.)

· Black Cherry – 64 days – Almost black in color, taste is more like an heirloom


· Little Baby Flower – 70 days (F1) Smallest red 2-4 lbs, fruit with 3 – 5 per plant

· Sweet Bite – 75 days (F1) seedless – what about the flavor of seedless watermelons?

Announcements: Introduction to Hobby Beekeeping class on Saturday, Feb. 18 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with Mike Goblirsch, graduate student working with Marla Spivak, University of Minnesota. Mike plans to cover the following topics: Starting and managing healthy honey bee colonies, performing routine hive management, identifying and inspecting for diseases and parasites, harvesting and packaging honey, and overwintering a colony. Cost will be $35 for the day and include lunch. Please call the Cook County Extension office at (218) 387-3015 to register for the class.

Squash-a-thon Potluck: Sunday, Feb. 5 starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Cook County Community Center. If you still have squash – make something with squash, otherwise make something wonderful to share. If you need squash, contact Diane at 387-3015. Bring your recipe to share for the Northwoods Food Project cookbook, too. For more information, call Joan at 287-3101.