Planting Time

We’ve decided we need more perennials in our beds and want to do some serious planting this spring.  I found an interesting publication from the U of MN Extension.  I’m always amazed at the wealth of information available on that website.  Tap or click on the image to go to the site.  And because it’s from the U of Mn I know all the plants will be appropriate for this region.


Monthly Garden Tips – May


MN Landscape Arboretum

All Hail the Garden

We had a sudden storm last night. I’m mean, sudden.  Within a 15 minute period we went from 80° and sunny to this:  

 Yes those are ice balls.  After the storm the temp was still a balmy 75° and steam was wafting from the deck.  The lower right photo was taken 2 hours later when the hail was still hanging around and the temps had dropped to 59°.  All those lovely pink petals were on the tree before the storm.

This morning we have the aftermath to deal with.


The upper deck (right picture) was “protected” by a huge awning that was lowered during the storm to form a sort of lean-to.  All that got in under the tent.  All the mulch beds are covered with broken leaves.  The good news is that it’s sunny and warm, and once all the mess dries up it should be fairly easy to blow it into a pile.

Crab Grass Prevention

We don’t try to achieve organic status with our lawn.  We do, however, try to limit the amount of chemicals we use and purchase environmentally friendly options when available.  Thanks to a really helpful timing model from Michigan State University, I’m guessing we almost always waste our time, money and chemical footprint when we apply our crab grass preventer because we usually wait too long.  Note:  MSU has only verified the tracker for the Great Lakes region.

To use the model, enter your zip code at the top.  It shows a map with color zones indicating optimal times for applying the pre-emergent.  Since the effectiveness of pre-emergents is related to temperature, these recommendations are based on current weather conditions (GDD – growing degree days) and are more reliable than using a fixed date every year.  For example, I live in a little pocket that says it’s already too late for this year.  Great.


Also very useful is an article from Purdue University that helps explain the results and what to do about it.  For example, if you’re late like we are, you can try a preventer with a different active ingredient that may still be a viable alternative.

Along the right of the map there are links to other timers such as Japanese Beetle emergence, weed flowering, etc.  The tracker is focused primarily on lawn care professionals, so it’s a little heavy on the use of chemicals, but it can be helpful for all types of prevention and control.

Spring is Bustin’ Out

This azalea had been pretty sparse in its old location so we transplanted it a few years ago.  Over the subsequent seasons it’s been slowly looking better, and this year we’re finally seeing what it’s capable of!  It now looks happy enough to survive some shaping after the flower show.


Mulch Dilemma

Cypress Trees

Cypress Trees

We had professional landscaping done in our yard about 7 years ago, and at the time they put down a truckload of cypress mulch.  We have always liked the look of it:  it has a warm, golden red color and soft, fluffy appearance that looks beautiful under our plants and with our house and retaining walls.  It’s supposed to be somewhat resistant to insects due to its aromatic oils.  Every year we buy a bunch of bags of the stuff and refresh the beds.  The new mulch replaces what’s decomposed in the past year, and with some fluffing up of the older mulch, it looks new again.  I always love to see the beds after such a renewal.

This week, in anticipation of the annual spring ritual, I went online to research prices.  To my astonishment and chagrin, I found all sorts of articles about why cypress should not be used as mulch.  These were from varied sources like the University of Florida Extension, Sierra Club and other environmental organizations, and organic gardening sites.  Unlike other wood mulches, cypress is not made from wood by-products of the lumber industry, but the trees are cut down specifically for mulching.  Cypress take decades to mature and live to over 100 years old.  The system is not sustainable and now young, immature trees are being used.  In addition to the environmental impact, many of the beneficial features of cypress mulch, such as resistance to insects and rot, require maturation to develop the oils in the wood, and are not even present in most of the mulch produced today from immature trees.  Many areas of Florida and Louisiana, the two primary sources of cypress, prohibit the sale and use of cypress mulch.  Organizations such as the Save Our Cypress Coalition have been trying to persuade large retailers such as Home Depot, Lowes and Walmart to stop selling cypress mulch, to no avail.

Sadly, we’ve decided we cannot in good conscience continue to use cypress mulch.  After some additional research, we have decided to use pure hardwood double-shredded bark.  It’s not going to have the beautiful warm color of the cypress, but it’s made from the bark cut off during lumbering and doesn’t require endangerment of the wetlands to be produced.  The bark is the most nutrient-rich part of a tree, so as it decomposes it will nourish the surrounding soil, and it doesn’t deplete nitrogen from the soil when it decomposes the way mulches made from the wood of a tree do.

Hummer in the area

According to the siting website, there was one reported in this area on 4/17; it’s always fun to see how long it will be before we see one in our yard.  

MTP Originals

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minnesota growing

Growing things in the frozen upper midwest

Through Open Lens

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leaf and twig

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Travels of the Elderly

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