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Fall is coming — is your garden ready?

Dear Master Gardener,

Q: I am growing rutabagas, turnips and parsnips for the first time and I am wondering when to harvest them and how to store them.

A: You should have healthy winter meals from these nutrient-rich root crops. Turnips can be picked at any time, usually when they are 2 to 2.5 inches in diameter. Rutabagas and parsnips should be left in the ground until after two to three light frosts. Frost turns their starches into sugars and their flavors improve. All three should have their tops trimmed down to about one inch. They should be washed clean and any bruised vegetables used as soon as possible. Healthy vegetables should be stored in cool, dark conditions, ideally between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit and at 95 percent humidity. Home storage conditions matching these may be difficult to provide, so approximate them as closely as possible. Their storage life will vary from two to five months depending upon storage conditions. Although you may find rutabagas, turnips and parsnips that have been dipped in wax in stores, the University of Minnesota advises against doing so.

Dear Master Gardener,

Q: We have been getting carpenter ants in the house and my husband thinks it is due to the wood mulch around our foundation plantings. Does wood mulch attract carpenter ants?

A: Wood mulch does not attract carpenter ants. They do not eat wood; they bore into solid wood to build a nest. Carpenter ants nest in live and dead trees, telephone poles, rotting logs and stumps. If you have any piles of wood, stumps and/or dead trees near your house that is the most likely cause of the carpenter ants. To eradicate them it is imperative that you locate the nest and remove or chemically treat the infested wood.

Dear Master Gardener,

Q: I found grubs in the soil when I was planting a new perennial bed where there had been grass. Do grubs eat the roots of plants?

A: According to the entomology department at the University of Minnesota, white grubs is a general name for the grub (larval) stage of beetles in the family Scarabaeidae, order Coleoptera (beetles). There are a number of related beetles in the family Scarabaeidae that feed on the roots of grasses. In Minnesota, the Japanese beetle is the worst pest. All species of scarab beetles have larvae or grubs that are C-shaped and vary in size depending on the species and larval age. Not only do Japanese beetle larvae (grubs) feed on grass roots, but it has been recorded that they also feed on the roots of corn, beans, tomatoes, and strawberries.

Dear Master Gardener,

Q: Which perennials can be divided now?

A: The following perennials can be divided in late summer/early fall: Asiatic lilies, bearded iris, daylilies, Jacob’s ladder, peonies, tall phlox, and Siberian iris. Peonies should be divided infrequently. All of the aforementioned perennials may also be divided in early spring with the exception of Asiatic lilies and bearded iris.

Dear Master Gardener,

Q: Which mums are hardy for cold climates?

A: The University of Minnesota’s mum breeding program is one of the oldest public sector breeding programs in the world and the only one in North America. The U of M has introduced many hardy garden mums over the past 50 years, which may be found at many garden centers and nurseries in late summer and fall. Look for variety names on each plant.

Following is a list of recommended University of Minnesota Chrysanthemum varieties. Names beginning with Minn have a cushion habit of growth: Autumn Fire, Betty Lou Maxi-mum, Burnt Copper, Centennial Sun, Centerpiece, Dr. Longley, Gold Country, Golden Jubilee, Golden Star, Goldstrike, Grape Glow, Inca, Lemonsota, Lindy, Maroon Pride, Mellow Moon, MinnAutumn, Minnglow, Minngopher, Minnpink, Minnqueen, Minnrose, Minnruby, Minnwhite, Minnyellow, Rose Blush, Rosy Glow, Royal Knight, Royal Pomp, Snowscape, Snowsota, Wayzata, Wendy Ann, Yellow Glow and Zonta.

Crow Wing County Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers for the University of Minnesota Extension Service. All information given in this column is based on research and information provided by the University. To ask a question, call the Master Gardener Help Line at 824-1000, extension 4040 and leave a recorded message. A Master Gardener will return your call.


September garden tips

• For a lush, early lawn next spring apply fertilizer early this month and again in late October. Fall is also the optimal time for lawn weed control.

• Evergreens usually do well when planted this month, especially red (Norway) and white pines, which are native to our area. Cover the root area with three to four inches of mulch such as wood chips and water regularly until the ground freezes. If deer are a problem on your property, white pines will require cage protection as well.

• Bring houseplants indoors. Wash them well to eliminate unwanted bugs and mites. Isolate them for a few weeks before returning them to their usual indoor sites to make sure you are not bringing in hidden pests and diseases.

• Home invaders such as Asian lady beetles, boxelder bugs, sowbugs, millipedes and spiders will soon be looking for warm winter quarters. Caulk entry points like cracks, crevices and holes around windows, foundations and doors. Also minimize debris around foundations, including firewood.

• Mark perennials by name so that you don’t inadvertently damage or remove them next spring. We always think we will remember what and where we have planted, but...

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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