Master Gardeners follow directions

Did you know that Master Gardeners in Minnesota work under the supervision of the University of Minnesota Extension, and are required to use information that is approved by the university?...

Did you know that Master Gardeners in Minnesota work under the supervision of the University of Minnesota Extension, and are required to use information that is approved by the university?

Many Master Gardeners are people who have been gardening for years, and have decided to take the 50-hour course, do 50 hours of volunteer work during the year of their internship and 25 hours a year after that, just for their own education.

Even though a Master Gardener has a great new idea about how to deal with Asian Lady Beetles, unless Extension has done the research and approved the idea, that's not information the public is likely to hear.

But every Master Gardener has favorites, and will happily share lists, along with the reasons those plants are so wonderful.

When it comes to plants, there is something for every occasion, and someone who loves it no matter how odd others may think it is.


At this early, cool-weather stage of our Northern Minnesota spring, people are anxious to get out and grub in the dirt on sunny days. So what's a gardener to do?

It's not too early to start haunting the greenhouses. They're beginning to open on a regular basis, and just breathing in the warm, humid air is a delight. You can even start looking for young plants that can withstand our still-cool nights: pansies can tolerate temperatures as low as 26 degrees, and can always be covered or hauled indoors overnight if anything below 28 is forecast.

Ornamental kale or cabbage can tolerate temps as low as 20 degrees, if you can find any large enough to plant. And snapdragons can also be put out early, but cover them if it's likely to go below freezing.

All this information is found in a brand-new booklet published by Extension and available (in Park Rapids at the Extension Office, located at the fairgrounds, on Fair Avenue) titled "The Best Plants for 30 Tough Sites." It was written by Master Gardeners, and contains lists of plants that have been tested in Minnesota.

At about $8, it's well worth the price. It will give you ideas of what plants might not be palatable to deer, plants to use in rain gardens, and a multitude of other difficult situations, all in Zones 3 and 4, which covers most of Minnesota.

It doesn't cover other things, such as poisonous plants or designing a bed with contrast in mind, but there are hundreds of other publications for those questions.

Pretty 'poison'

What about poisonous plants?


Datura (or Jimson Weed, or Angel's Trumpet, all related to Brugmansia) is a large plant with fuzzy leaves, and bears lots of stunning, huge, trumpet-shaped flowers.

It's an annual in Minnesota, but self-seeds readily, so plants will pop up here and there if the seedpods are left to mature. However, all parts of the plant are poisonous, so the only safe way to grow it is behind a fence that will keep all people and animals away from it, and to cut off the seedpods before they ripen and burst, spreading the seed for several feet.

Any good reference book on annual and perennial plants will warn readers about such plants, but another excellent reference is the University of Minnesota Extension Web site, at .

For more ideas

Books on design are available in libraries and bookstores in town.

This is the ideal time of year to review them.

One very basic idea is to use plants with different kinds of foliage in the same bed. The broad, thick leaves of medium to large hostas are set off beautifully by the light, airy texture of ferns.

Once the plants come up in the spring, all they need is a little moisture, and the plants will continue to spread, making the bed larger and larger. At which point, the same kind of fencing that keeps people and pets away from the poisonous datura will keep the deer from devouring the entire thing.


Extension recommends fencing as one of the few sure-fire ways to keep the deer out of the garden.

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