MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (12/5/2022) – Gardeners in Minnesota can’t be faulted for welcoming May with more than usual anticipation after the cold, wet days of April.
Extension horticulture educator Julie Weisenhorn can relate, but she also says it’s a good time to slow down and take stock of how the choices made in our yards and gardens can impact the environment at home. Minnesota and beyond.
Q: Can we really make a difference to the environment through our yards and gardens?
Absolutely. For example, you can conserve water by watering your lawn infrequently and deeply instead of often. Deep, infrequent watering saturates the soil and causes the grass roots to grow deep, seeking out that water and creating a healthy, resilient lawn. Plant a variety of pollinator-friendly flower masses, making sure something blooms in your garden from April through October. Spring bulbs, summer perennials and annuals, and fall-blooming native flowers provide valuable, nutritious nectar and pollen for bees of all kinds that are found in our landscapes from early spring through late autumn. ‘fall.
Q: Tell us more about the importance of plant diversity.
There are all kinds of interactions between plants and animals, including insects. A monoculture of a particular plant supports only a small population with shelter and food. Some plants have evolved with insects to support each other. For example, short-tongued bees feed on small flowers and pollinate the plant, and long-tongued bees feed on large flowers, pollinating as they forage. Plant monocultures can intensify the disease. Think of the majestic American elms that lined the streets of our city. Dutch elm disease (DED) has spread from tree to tree. Now we see the same thing with ash trees and the emerald ash borer. So we stopped planting elm trees and are now planting DED resistant cultivars. Planting tomatoes every year in the same garden bed will perpetuate soil-borne diseases on tomatoes. The solution is to plant other plants in this soil – called “rotation” – which are not related to tomatoes and therefore do not perpetuate disease.
Q: How important is it for a gardener to understand their soil?
Think of soil as the foundation of every yard and garden. It’s important to have a good base because the soil will affect everything you do in your landscape now and in the future. Unless the soil is toxic, we never recommend removing and replacing existing soil, but learning from a soil test and modifying accordingly. Understanding your soil, as well as the light and space you have available for planting, is important when it comes to choosing plants that will thrive, not just survive.
Q: We can’t talk about yards and gardens without mentioning plant breeding, can we?
One of my favorite subjects! There are so many great plants for Minnesota yards and gardens. As I mentioned, understand the type of growing conditions you have – soil, size of space, amount of light – then look for plants whose growing requirements match the site conditions. The Plant Selector Tool and the “Plant Elements of Design” video series are a good place to start and will help us learn to consider the characteristics of the plant we want and the site conditions we have before we start. buy plants that may not be suitable. You can find it on our website, www.extension.umn.edu.
Q: What about people who don’t have a garden?
The good news is that you don’t have to have a yard to have a garden. Patio, terrace and balcony gardens can be a haven for us. Containers of all shapes, sizes, and shapes can be filled with various plants that feed us, protect us, smell good, and attract and benefit bees, butterflies, and even birds. And then there are indoor plants! They can be moved outdoors in the summer, then indoors to bring the outdoors in in the winter. There are basic principles to keep pests from harassing your houseplants (and you) and ways to add supplemental lighting if your home is starved of light.
The University of Minnesota Extension horticulture team regularly publishes “Yard and Garden News” free of charge. You can also learn more at extension.umn.edu/yard-and-garden.
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