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Darrel Koehler

Darrel Koehler writes 'The Prairie Gardener' for Thursday's Herald. Send garden questions in care of him to Grand Forks Herald, P.O. Box 6008, Grand Forks ND 58206-6008.

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PRAIRIE GARDENER: Fall’s approach kicks off apple-picking, eating time

If you have a hankering for fresh apple pie or crisp straight from the oven, you are in luck. The apple crop is ripening a week to 10 days ahead of normal this season, promising consumers a big supply of this luscious fruit.

Prairie Gardener: Now would be a perfect time to divide your peonies

Peonies are one of the most beloved and adaptable perennials we can plant in our flower gardens. They include a wide variety of flower forms and beautiful colors with attractive foliage that remains long after the flowers have faded.

PRAIRIE GARDENER: No rest for the weary; September jobs abound

Once Labor Day has passed, most gardeners began to feel a little melancholy. The growing season is about over, and we face a myriad of tasks before the onset of another prairie winter. Sometimes, the list of tasks appears overwhelming, so the best thing is to set priorities so you can get everything wrapped up by early November when we can experience our first winter storm or blizzard.

PRAIRIE GARDENER: Gladiolus and dahlias offer a rainbow of colors well into fall

Summer is waning and Labor Day is just around the corner. While it is never easy to watch the slow approach of autumn, signaling another winter, we can still have several more weeks of blooms if we planted summer-blooming tubers, bulbs and corms. We are talking about gladiolus and dahlias primarily, but we also tossed in lesser-known cannas and calla lilies. There are others in this group, too.

PRAIRIE GARDENER: Tough year for trees

It’s not been a kind year for trees in the region. There’s been a host of diseases and problems including needle cast disease in the evergreens, chlorosis affecting maples and other trees, and ash trees were hit by anthracnose in the spring. Dutch elm disease has come back with a vengeance in East Grand Forks where many of the last elms may fall victim. Topping off this sad scenario was the late July thunderstorm that brought 50 mph winds to Greater Grand Forks and caused widespread damage to trees, especially ash, evergreen and Canada red cherry trees.

PRAIRIE GARDENER: Dealing with slugs

Slimy, slobbery, slithering slugs — often described as a snail without a shell — may be lurking in your garden. These nocturnal pests slide beneath leaves, stones and boards during the day. Then at night when you are comfortably snug in bed they can strike your garden. Holes chomped into leaves and fruits are telltale signs of slug feeding. Slugs are particularly fond of hosta plants, which also thrive best in shady, moist locations.

PRAIRIE GARDENER: Gardeners should dig and divide irises every three to four years

Irises are among the best-known and beloved of all perennial flowers. Easy to grow, they provide several weeks of bloom with little or no effort by the gardener. Today’s irises come in many colors, can repeat bloom in the autumn and can suffer benign neglect and still produce an abundance of blooms.

PRAIRIE GARDENER: Officials hope wasps will slow down the emerald ash borer

Three tiny wasp species that can’t even sting may be the silver bullet that will save our ash trees from the emerald ash borer. According to Minnesota Department of Agriculture officials in St. Paul, several hundred of three species of wasps will be released as part of the effort to combat the threaded borer, which was originally brought over from China.

PRAIRIE GARDENER: Greater Grand Forks garden tour slated for July 17-18

The 26th annual Greater Grand Forks garden tour promises something for everyone this year. The event is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 17, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 18. A total of eight gardens will be on exhibit including six private and two public gardens.

PRAIRIE GARDENER: Magnolia Gardens: One of the oldest and loveliest public gardens in U.S.

Magnolia Gardens, just 10 miles from downtown Charleston, has been drawing visitors since the late 1800s. A part of Magnolia Plantation, which has been the ancestral home of the Drayton family since 1676, both operations offer nearly 500 acres of gardens and grounds to explore. The manor house is one of the top 25 most visited historic homes in America.

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PRAIRIE GARDENER: Ash-loving insect boring into Minnesota

If you toured this wonderful state park — Minnesota’s crown jewel — last summer, you probably noticed purple tent-like devices scattered in areas of the facility. What you actually saw were three-cornered purple prisms used to detect emerald ash borers. This was an effort by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to track down and head off the destructive, invasive pest. The department will hang out about 6,500 of these traps in trees around the state beginning this month. This number of traps will be about 2,000 more than in 2011.


PRAIRIE GARDENER: Don’t jump the gun when it comes to early lawn work

Gardeners tend to jump the gun when it comes to lawn chores. Lawns normally are what get the attention once the snow melts and the brown turf begins peeking out from under winter’s snow banks. For many people, this means only one thing. Either get out the rake or even better, fire up the lawn mower and get the yard freshened up for the summer. However, sometimes we can do more damage than good if we jump the gun.


PRAIRIE GARDENER: Gardening Saturday set for April 14

This week the Prairie Gardener will spotlight Gardening Saturday, April 14, which has become a tradition for the northern Red River Valley. Since its beginning about 25 years ago, it has grown into the largest horticulture event in this region, drawing hundreds each spring for an all-day session of classes and speakers.


PRAIRIE GARDENER: Besides classic orange, pumpkins come in green, blue-green and even white

There will be gremlins, goblins and perhaps even an occasional witch out on the prowl Monday night as we observe that most American holiday — Halloween. But while everyone else is out trick or treating or having generally a good time, the Prairie Gardener will be cleaning up his files for a five-month break from writing the garden column.


PRAIRIE GARDENER: Fall leaves and garden debris make for excellent compost

When settlers moved into Dakota Territory back in the 1870s and ‘80s, they couldn’t believe the organic matter content of the soil. Crops grew at rapid rates and produced yields that were astonishing. After more than a century of cultivation, soils have lost some of their organic material, but we can replace it with compost.


PRAIRIE GARDENER: Grand Forks Horticulture Society offers gardening classes

If you want to learn how to grow grapes, do a rock garden or make a rain garden then do we have a deal for you. For a $10 fee, you can join the Grand Forks Horticulture Society and learn more about all of these topics, as well as others


PRAIRIE GARDENER: Time to clean up the garden before the snow flies

By early October, most of us have lost some of our earlier interest in gardening as we hunker down for another long winter. However, we are forced to complete some garden tasks before the first snowflakes arrive. One of our most dreaded tasks is to clean out the garden. We like to tidy up the garden by pulling out annuals and vegetables and to cut perennials back to the ground. This is called the clean cut garden. You also can roughly till the garden so the frost action of the coming winter will help mellow the soil.


PRAIRIE GARDENER: Wet summer should produce colorful fall foliage

Maples, aspens and cottonwoods soon will be decked out in all their autumn glory. In fact, fall color conditions are said to be perfect for an extraordinary autumn display. This will be especially true in much of northern Minnesota, including the Arrowhead region and the north-central portion of the state including the Chippewa National Forest.


PRAIRIE GARDENER: Tulips enter the limelight as we look down the road to spring

After a long, cold, snowy winter we patiently wait for the first crocus to poke out of a rapidly melting snow drift. But to enjoy spring-flowering bulbs next spring will require action now.


PRAIRIE GARDENER: Hardy hibiscus gives us a taste of the tropics

One of the showiest flowering shrubs we can have in our outdoor landscape is the Chinese or tropical hibiscus. And for 17 years Mary and Al Morken, 440 Campbell Drive, have enjoyed such a wonderful plant as have their neighbors.