With record temperatures this winter, and more warm weather headed our way, Minnesota gardeners are beginning to dust off their gloves and dig out their trowels.
Mary Meyer, professor of horticulture at the University of Minnesota, joined MPR News host Kerri Miller to offer early gardening tips and to answer listener questions.
"I think everything is pointing toward the fact that it could be an early gardening year," Meyer said. "The soil is going to start warming up quickly."
What to know about starting your first vegetable garden
Plant your vegetable garden in full sun, with well-drained soil, if possible.
While you can start your garden from seed, "I would encourage you to buy plants for tomatoes, peppers, cabbages — you have a much better head start with plants," Meyer said.
Use a mulch around your vegetables to minimize weeds, and be sure to provide enough fertilizer.
To kill garden slugs, grab a six-pack
If slugs are sliming up your garden, consider opening a beer or two.
"Slugs really are attracted to beer," Meyer said. "We think it's the fragrance." Sink the open cans of beer in the ground as traps. Slugs will crawl to them, fall in and drown.
Identify your garden pests
Knowledge is power when it comes to battling garden pests. If you are unsure what kind of bug is feasting on your plants, photograph it and contact the University of Minnesota Extension. Staff there can help you identify the pest and determine the best course of action.
Plants your vegetables at the right time, depending on the weather
Peas, spinach and many lettuces "will grow much better in cooler conditions than they will in hotter temperatures," Meyer said. With the current forecasts, these could be planted as early as this month.
For warmer weather plants, wait until the frost has passed. This includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash.
Have a Plan B for your ash trees — you will likely have to replace them
Emerald ash borer continues to be a devastating problem for ash trees in this region, and yours may need to be replaced with a different species. Monitor the health of your trees and be ready to remove them.
Trim back your ornamental grasses
Ornamental grasses do best with an extensive spring trim. Cutting the grasses allows light and water to reach the center and spur growth.
Don't worry about cutting them too low, Meyer said. "Their growing point is down in the soil," so a severe trim won't harm them.
Do not prune early-flowering shrubs now
Leave your magnolias and lilacs alone right now — if you prune them, you will remove the buds.
For more gardening tips from Mary Meyer, use the audio player above.
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