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Will's Windmill column: Managing pests in landscapes, homes

Dandelions, creeping charlie, ladybugs, cluster flies, mosquitoes, leaf eating insects, plant diseases, the list goes on! Do you recognize any of these common home and garden problems? You are probably not alone, and may have wondered how to gain a better understanding of them.

Beginning in April, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture will be offering a free, entry-level workshop to the public. Participants at the workshop will: Learn how to distinguish pest injury caused by insects, plant diseases and wildlife; Learn how the environment affects pest activity in the landscape and home; Learn how to manage weeds more effectively in turf and landscape; Be introduced to pest management strategies that have long lasting results; Solve pest problems working in small groups; Learn pesticide safety in the landscape and home.

Participants will receive a free copy of "Managing Pests in Landscapes and Homes" and numerous information sheets. Register and view the course book/agenda at:

Workshops in this part of Minnesota will be held April 15 in Moorhead, April 24 in Crookston and May 6 in Bemidji. Registration must be done online.

Frost dates

Avoiding frost in the spring and fall for gardeners and farmers is always a concern and can be a gamble. The state climatologist lists median dates when identifying the last frost of spring and the first frost of fall. It is important to remember that median means that one-half of the time, frost occurs after this date in the spring, and before this date in the fall. In practical terms, gardeners and farmers cannot assume these dates will work every year, but can be used as guidelines.

Below are listed the median frost dates and other critical low temperature thresholds for Park Rapids/Detroit Lakes (these median temperatures are calculated from a 45 year period, 1948-92).

-- 24 degrees: May 1 in spring, Oct. 7 in fall. Days between median dates: 162.

-- 28 degrees: May 8 in spring, Sept. 27 in fall. Days between median dates: 143.

-- 32 degrees: May 19 in spring, Sept. 20 in fall. Days between median dates: 124.

The last median date of 32 degrees Fahrenheit in the spring for Park Rapids/Detroit Lakes is approximately May 19. This means that one-half of the time this last minimum temperature of 32 degrees will occur after May 19. So you can see why we nearly always plant tender transplants near the end of May or in the beginning of June in this area of the state. Some years, as we have experienced recently, we can plant earlier depending on seasonal weather patterns.