By: Darrel Koehler, Grand Forks Herald
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For several years, the column has been discontinued during the winter months — when gardening news is sparse — resuming in April and continuing through the following October. That will be case again this year. However, the Prairie Gardener will check his mail weekly at the Herald and he is in the phone book if you want to call or write during his absence. In April, he will resume the column by promoting Gardening Saturday set for April 14.
Besides ending the column for the winter, the gardening show on KNOX-AM ended late September and it also is expected to resume in mid-April. For 11 years, the Prairie Gardener has fielded garden questions live on air for the station during the growing season.
But we digress, so let’s get back to gardening.
There fortunately were enough pumpkins to go around this year for those wanting them for display or for carving into jack-o’-lanterns. Some of the smaller pumpkins will end up in holiday pies and other baked goods. Other areas of the country weren’t so fortunate due to the deluge Hurricane Irene brought to the northeastern states earlier. Extreme drought elsewhere hurt yield. Locally, the pumpkin crop was a success.
Pumpkins are easy to grow. The Prairie Gardener ended up with enough volunteer plants in his garden to produce a crop without even bothering to plant them. Pumpkins are easier to grow than to classify. At least three different species are called pumpkins, and all can be correctly called squash. Besides classic orange, pumpkins come in green, blue-green and even white.
The four most common types grown include the following: Miniatures are used for centerpieces and indoor decorations. Pie pumpkins make flavorful baked goods, while field types are favored for jack-o’-lanterns. Giants indulge our appetites for real big stuff and these are the kind that make the news due to their huge size.
If you are planning to include pumpkins in your garden next year (youngsters love pumpkins) you can choose from these varieties: Miniatures would include Baby Boo or Jack Be Little. Pie types include New England Pie and Small Sugar. Field types for carving would be Howden or Rocket. And if you are into giants, there is the old favorite Atlantic Giant or Prizewinner.
Gardeners are counting the days before the Floriade, which is a world horticultural exposition, hosted every decade in the Netherlands. The sixth event is scheduled from April through mid-October 2012.
The event includes 165-acres, 100,000 flowers, 30 country exhibitions, wine tastings, cultural shows and region culinary delights.
Ron Smith and wife, Betsey, have joined Judy’s Leisure Tours, Fargo, in assisting with the tour set for June 4-14. For more information including a full day-day itinerary call Judy’s at (800) 598-0851.
Sign up early for a discount.
The long-term forecast is indicating a warmer than-normal autumn. This is good news for gardeners who still have a myriad of tasks to complete before the first snow arrives. Typically, we get a taste of snow about mid-November with the bigger snowfalls arriving around Thanksgiving or into early December. We may want to be extra careful in winter preparation such as mulching and covering tender plants. The winter predictions call for a wetter and colder winter such as the La Nina event we experienced earlier.
Caution should be used if you are planning to do some late fall pruning. Fruit trees are typically pruned in April following winter. Spring-flowering shrubs should such as lilacs should be pruned right after flowering in the spring. If you prune now, you will remove the flowering buds that are already formed.
Hybrid tea roses, as well other tender roses and some shrub roses, require winter protection if they are to bloom again. If you have expensive roses, you may want to try the Minnesota tip method for protection. Dig a narrow trench on one side of the plant. Tie the canes together, loosen one side of the roots, tip the plant into the trench, cover with soil and mulch.
If that sounds like too much work and you don’t have a lot invested in the roses, you can make a mound a foot or so of soil over the center of the rosebush. Then cover the mound with some mulch and some chicken wire to hold the insulation in place. Plastic foam rose cones also work, however, they do need air hole and close monitoring. Mold can be a problem.
The winter sun and hungry varmints can harm trees, especially young trees with thin bark. Wrap trunks with plastic tree protectors, but be sure to remove as soon as weather warms in spring. If you don’t want to bother wrapping and unwrapping trees, use hardware cloth to form a cylinder several inches larger than the tree trunk. Push several inches into the soil. There are sprays that protect plantings from deer and rabbits, too.
Evergreen shrubs benefit from burlap screens or wrapping.
Thanks go to the many people who have commented on the mini-garden at an intersection on the north end of East Grand Forks. It’s a beautification project where the Prairie Gardner wants to give something back to the community. It will be back in 2012. Farewell until April.
Koehler is the Herald’s garden columnist. Send garden questions to him in care of the Grand Forks Herald, Box 6008, Grand Forks ND 58206-6008. This is the final garden column for the 2011 gardening season. The weekly column resumes in April 2012.