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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: Much ado about mulch

Mulch is a gardener’s best friend. Mulch can cover the surface around plants and help hold moisture in the soil. It also can moderate soil temperature, reduce soil erosion and compaction and keep lawn mowers and weed whips away from tree trunks. In the case of tomatoes or other related crops, it can prevent soil containing disease organisms from direct contact with leaves and fruit.

PRAIRIE GARDENER: Late June means roses, a lot of roses

No other flower quite compares to the rose. Known as the “queen of flowers,” the rose has been attracting the attention of humans since prehistoric times. Romans would fill rooms with the fragrant petals. England endured the War of the Roses in medieval times. Times have changed and today, roses, both hardy and non-hardy, are found in many of our gardens. In June, the breath-taking rose can now be spotted in many gardens in all its floral glory.

PRAIRIE GARDENER: Teach kids to garden

School’s out, so how will you entertain the kids for the next three months? Why not teach them to garden. From preparing the soil to selecting the plants and watching them grow, gardening is great wholesome entertainment the entire family can enjoy.

PRAIRIE GARDENER: Weird run of weather has gardeners asking, what’s next?

Weather-wise, this spring has been one big roller-coaster ride. While the winter was relatively normal according to Red River Valley standards (typical snow, cold and three big storms) March brought an unusual warm-up.


Back in the early 1900s, apples were a big deal, says David Bedford, a scientist in the apple-breeding program at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul.

DARREL KOEHLER: Have no fear, there’ll be plenty of pumpkins for Halloween

Pumpkins, traditional round, orange fruits, take center stage every October. Local grocery stores and other outlets, including roadside stands, are decked out with piles of these golden orbs of autumn.



October is a time to celebrate the serene beauty of autumn with its golden sunlight, brisk air, crackling leaves and flaming palette. Besides enjoying the fleeting days of autumn, we are busy with getting our produce safely stored, cleaning up fall debris and preparing for the winter that’s just down the road. We also are bombarded with household tasks including washing and placing on storm windows and doors, winterizing and getting the furnace serviced for the grueling heating season ahead.

DARREL KOEHLER: Raspberry patches can be renovated any time from late summer until late March

The single biggest stress facing trees over much of the state has been the exceptionally dry weather early in the growing season in recent years. Other stresses include insect damage and, construction damage caused by compacted soil.

DARREL KOEHLER: Autumn is perfect time to visit public gardens

Few cities have one truly outstanding garden, but this city long famous for its granite has a “two-fer.” Sitting next to one another are the Munsinger Gardens and the Clemens Gardens. Both gardens are located on the east bank of the Mississippi River, across from St. Cloud State University, and they have been attracting visitors for years, especially gardeners who want to pick up some new ideas. The gardens are often filled with wedding parties who want to use the rich floral background in their keepsake photos.

DARREL KOEHLER: Time to get lawn into shape

While our dry summer, coupled with a late spring warm-up, hasn’t been kind to our lawns, early autumn is the ideal time to repair the damage. Lawns got off to a rough start last spring after the severe winter. The summer was on the cool side — normally ideal for grass — but rainfall often was in short supply. Fortunately, we didn’t have lots of scorching heat, but most weeks we didn’t receive the inch of rainfall normally needed for good lawn development. Weeds were a problem.


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PRAIRIE GARDENER: Let’s make the most of the last summer harrah

Labor Day traditionally is the high point of the gardening year. Vegetable gardens are producing a bounty of sweet corn, tomatoes and cucumbers, all the good stuff for the long holiday weekend. Flowers also are taking on new life with dahlias, cannas and gladiolus all coming on strong as bedding plants and annuals finally get their second wind.


PRAIRIE GARDENER: Check out Bergeson Gardens before Jack Frost arrives

Late summer is a perfect time to take in the public gardens at Bergeson Nursery, just south of Fertile. While Fertile may be best known as the home of the annual Polk County Fair, the Bergeson Gardens — the garden spot of the county — draw their fair share of people as well.


PRAIRIE GARDENER: Time to say goodbye to big elm on block

It won’t be long before a bright orange “x’’ will be painted on the dying elm in front of the East Grand Forks home of the Prairie Gardener. Last summer there were signs the half-century old elm was afflicted with Dutch elm disease. That became even more apparent this summer as most of the leaves withered and were carried away by the winds.


PRAIRIE GARDENER: St. Paul is a fun destination for flower garden enthusiasts

When it comes to flower gardens, it’s hard to beat Minnesota’s capital city. The city is filled with lovely public and private gardens, including the well-kept one at the St. Paul Hotel, which the Prairie Gardener discovered on a sweltering day this summer.


PRAIRIE GARDENER: Master Gardener course set for August, September and October

If you are really into gardening, consider signing up for a Master Gardener course planned for August, September and October. The three-month session is sponsored by the NDSU Extension Service-Grand Forks County. Deadline for registration is Aug.1.


PRAIRIE GARDENER: Karin Overbeck’s garden is a feast for the eyes in more ways than one

Anytime is s good time to take in a garden tour, even if you are on a vacation trip to Wisconsin’s Door County. Our tour group saw not only a wonderful garden, but also met a gardener who works with stained glass and mosaics.


PRAIRIE GARDENER: 27th annual garden tour set for July 16-17

After a long winter and a cool, wet spring, we are all ready for the 27th annual garden tour July 16-17-. The event is sponsored by the Grand Forks Horticulture Society and has become a summer tradition for horticulturists. Hours will be 10 a.m. 4 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday with tours beginning at the Myra Museum, Grand Forks County Historical Society, 2405 Belmont Road. There will be seven gardens on tour this year.


PRAIRIE GARDENER: Fort Sumter: Shot through with 150 years of history

It’s been 150 years since the Confederates opened fire on this fortress, which is located on a small man-made island off the coast of Charleston. Those opening salvos were fired early on the morning of April 12, 1861, with the Civil War continuing until April 1865. These were the first shots of the Civil War with the battle continuing for two days before surrender. No one on either side died in the battle.


PRAIRIE GARDENER: Hybrid tea roses are the most popular of roses for several reasons

Roses, which are coming into peak bloom, have a reputation for being a high-maintenance perennial. However, that rule typically only applies to tender roses, particularly hybrid teas, which are prone to a variety of maladies and should be closely monitored for best results. Hardy shrub roses, particularly those developed by our Canadian neighbors, need little cuddling.


PRAIRIE GARDENER: Annuals will add a splash of color to your flower bed

Your flower bed can be awash with color this summer and autumn if you plant some annual bedding plants now. Prices on plants often are lowered this time of year as garden centers wind down the planting season. These bargains are especially welcome if the family dog has destroyed some plants or the rabbits took a hankering for your fancy petunias. You may have suffered damaged from frost, too much rain or the high winds that have swept the region much of the spring. Bedding plants can be put into the garden until mid-July, so you have plenty of time to fill in those hole and gaps in your gardens and borders and then enjoy their beauty until a killing frost.