Gardening here is hard [UPDATED]Published 4:07am Monday, August 5, 2013 Updated 6:13am Monday, August 5, 2013
According to the weather man who writes for the Minneapolis Tribune, the weather in Minnesota is the most extreme in the world, excepting Siberia.
No wonder we have zone envy. Gardening is hard here.
The state is divided into three zones: 4b with temps -25 to -20 in the south; 4a, that’s us, with temps -30 to -25; and 3b whose temps range from-35 to-30.
All well and good, but what about summer? Not only do we get 90 and above, we also get temps that drop from 90 one day to 65 the next.
The average number of days with a high dew point are also increasing and we have changes in the amount and type of rainfall.
Annual precipitation has increased over the last several decades and is expected to continue.
If we don’t get drowned, we get dried to death.
It’s a wonder we can grow anything.
It is tempting to try zone 5 and 6 plants when it gets so warm, but remember, it also gets cold. While they may do quite well all summer, next spring you may have a nice addition to the compost pile.
Mike Heger, of Ambergate Gardens in Chaska, suggests using native plants. They are adapted to our extreme weather.
Add a few exotics that grow in similar conditions. There are some tough plants that can handle heat, humidity and drought. Bishop’s cap, Bowman’s root, Blue Star Ansonia, Appalachian sedge, Bigroot geranium, blue sedge, Calico aster, Coral bells, Heart leaved aster, Japanese aster, Sky blue aster, Siberian bugloss and sweet woodruff will get you started.
Another way to go is to group plants with similar water and shelter needs together.
That way, you can save water in the hot, dry times by letting everybody have a drink but only giving the tender plants all that they need.
Gary Johnson, a professor of forestry at the University thinks gardeners should have eco-region maps.
They delineate areas according to ecosystem and environmental resources. They tell you about the precipitation, drought, wind, vegetation, geology, soils, wildlife and hydrology (this can be found online — someplace).
Gary thinks this should provide valuable clues as to which plants will grow well in your area. His thought is, “if you know what the original, native vegetation, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what you can grow.”
Especially trees. Maples for instance are a woodland tree. It won’t do well in a parking lot. It needs good soil and shelter.
Red oaks need good drainage and wind protection, however our bur oak will grow most anyplace.
Newly planted trees need water the first 5 years of their lives to do well. Gary keeps the top 6 to 8 inches of soil around a tree moist.
He will run a hose under each one from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. to keep it that way.
He checks it like Gramma used to check a cake to see if it was done. He sticks an iron rod into the ground under the tree. If the soil sticks, the tree is damp enough.
The moral this week is; invest in a rain barrel to water those water lovers. It keeps the water bill down.
More questions? Call the Extension office at 218-998-8760, or call the KBRF 1250AM Saturday morning radio program at 8:10 a.m., or stop in at the City Café Bakery from 9 to 10 a.m. on Saturday for more help.
Bev Johnson is a master gardener in Otter Tail County.