Ask the Master Gardener: Curcuma plants can offer a spectacular display
Curcuma is a perennial plant in the ginger family that is native to tropical parts of Asia. Turmeric is also in this family. Although it is in the ginger family it is not edible.
Dear Master Gardener: I purchased a plant called a Curcuma this week. I’ve never seen one before and it didn’t come with instructions on how to care for it. Please advise.
Answer: Curcuma is a perennial plant in the ginger family that is native to tropical parts of Asia — turmeric is also in this family. Although it is in the ginger family it is not edible. You will find Curcuma in the houseplant section of nurseries or big box stores. They produce a spectacular display of purple or pink flowers on tall stems. Place your plant in a window where it will receive bright light and keep it evenly moist. If you let it dry out it will lose its leaves and stop flowering. Fertilize it every two weeks at half-strength during the summer while it is blooming. If you have your plant outside, you will need to bring it in before temperatures drop below 65 degrees, as it is very intolerant of cold temperatures. Because Curcumas are perennial, they will go dormant just like northern perennials. Let your plant rest during the winter. While it is dormant discontinue watering and fertilizing it. In spring, place your dormant plant in a sunny window and water it lightly until green foliage appears.
Answer: Monarch butterflies are probably the most well-known and beloved of all the butterflies. Unfortunately, the monarch butterfly population in North America has declined by about 80% since the mid-1990s due to destruction of habitats, spread of invasive species, widespread use of pesticides and global climate change. In fact, according to the University of Illinois, the yearly count of monarchs decreased by 53% in 2019 from the previous year and this continuous decline can be attributed specifically to a lack of Asclepias (milkweed) for larvae.
Try to include some Asclepias in your garden. Every added milkweed plant will help! And, one of the most important conservation decisions we can all make is to avoid the use of broad-spectrum pesticides sprayed around the yard.
Answer: Yes! You can plant lettuce and other salad greens such as arugula, spinach, and kale. Bush beans, turnips, and radishes can also be planted.
Dear Master Gardener: I’ve got some pretty flowers this year I’d like to show at the Crow Wing County Fair. What do I have to do to enter?
Answer: The Crow Wing County Fair starts Aug. 3 and runs through Aug. 7. Entry day to bring your flower, vegetable, and grain exhibits to the Horticulture Building is 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 2, though 4 p.m. is the cutoff time if you haven’t pre-registered. Judging begins at 6:30 p.m. so ribbons will be attached when the fair opens Tuesday morning. Blue Ribbon first place pays $4, Red Ribbon second place gets $3, and White Ribbon third place receives $2. There is also a separate Youth Category for kids under 16.
You may enter cut flowers, potted plants, container gardens, hanging plants, hostas, herbs, floral arrangements, fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. Just be sure to read, and re-read carefully exactly what is needed for your specimen to be judged. Sometimes multiple stems or blooms are required — even a perfect flower won’t be judged if there were supposed to be three of them. Get out your ruler, too — many categories are by size and a flower or hosta in the wrong size category won’t be judged either.
There are a few hints to help you be successful. First of all, pick all your flowers the night before and condition them by placing them in a solution that is 1 gallon warm water with 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1 teaspoon bleach added. Place the freshly cut flowers in the warm solution, then keep them in a cool, dark place until it’s time to go. For some magical reason, this makes the specimens stay fresher for judging and they look better for days, even when the Horticulture Building gets really hot.
Don’t wait until the last minute to bring your entries, it’s usually pretty hectic. Make sure you attach your official entry tag which will be waiting for you in the Horticulture Building. Brainerd Garden Club members will be there to help you and will get your entry placed in the correct spot.
Get a copy of the 2021 Crow Wing County Fair handbook, or go online to crowwingcountyfair.com and look under the Events tab. Page 70 is the start of the Department 90 rules and regulations for horticultural exhibits. The link for entering online is also under the Events tab. Look through the whole booklet though — you might want to exhibit lots of other things or enter the Demo Derby!