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Mid-summer fun facts for yard and garden success

For better emergence, Don Kinzler recommends applying a light layer of moistened peatmoss or compost over the row your row of carrots. Old timers often laid a board over the row and removed as soon as the tiny seedlings broke the soil surface.

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Squash produce separate male and female flowers on the the same plant. A female blossom, at left, has a miniature fruit at the base.
Michael Vosburg / The Forum
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FARGO — There’s a precious old truism in gardening: “It takes time for plants to grow, so be patient. And while you’re waiting, pull some weeds.”

Mid-summer is filled with fascinating gardening observations and fun facts that can increase our gardening success. Following are a few of my favorites:

Squash, pumpkin, cucumber and melons produce separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Female flowers can be identified by the miniature fruit at the flower’s base which expands when pollination is complete. The earliest flowers are often all males, and fruits won’t form until the plant also produces female blossoms.

Daylilies aren’t true lilies, because they grow from thickened roots instead of bulbs. True lilies, such as the Easter Lily, grow from bulbs.

Tomato blossoms are primarily wind-pollinated, so fruit can form even in the absence of pollinating insects.

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Potato flowers can be white of lavender and produce green seed balls if pollination is successful.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

Potato flowers can be either white or lavender, depending on the cultivar. It doesn’t always happen, but if pollination is complete, clusters of green, ball-shaped seed-bearing fruits form at the top of the potato plant.

Elm tree seeds can sprout as soon as they drop, becoming weeds in flowerbeds and landscapes. Oak tree acorns, on the other hand, require a cold overwintering treatment before they’ll sprout.

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"Growing Together" columnist Don Kinzler says measures taken on a hot, windy day can save plant lives.

If your back is fatigued from stooping to pick string beans, plant pole beans instead. A support fence is needed, but the beans are borne at a height that’s much easier to harvest.

Clear plastic mulch, laid on the soil at planting time, speeds the ripening of muskmelon and watermelon by warming the soil and conserving moisture.

Fallen evergreen needles don’t turn soil acidic. Although the needles themselves are often slightly acid, their acidity is neutralized as microbes decompose the needles. If other plants have difficulty establishing under evergreens, it’s because the shallow-rooted evergreens suck the moisture and nutrients from the soil, not because the soil has become acidic.

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Tiny native bees are among the most important pollinators.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

Apple trees require five to seven years to reach the age of fruit production, depending on cultivar. If apples form on a tree before this prescribed bearing age, the fruits should be removed while tiny. Allowing apples to mature on a tree that’s not ready to bear diverts valuable energy away from the young tree’s structural development.

Apple trees have a definite practical lifespan in the Upper Midwest. Although there are certainly exceptions, 25 to 40 years is an average productive life before various maladies cause dead wood, trunk troubles, branch dieback and eventual death.

Fireblight disease is more apparent in many communities this year in apple trees, ornamental crabs, and pear trees. The bacteria that cause the disease can enter the trees through the blossoms, and with our cool, moist spring, the flowers of these trees remained open longer, providing a longer window of opportunity for the bacteria to enter blossoms. Symptoms include leaves and twigs with a scorched, flamed appearance, with tip growth often curling in a “shepherd’s crook” pattern.

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If you want larger onions, start with plants instead of dry “sets.” Bunches of onion plants can be purchased from garden centers in the spring, or you can start your own onion transplants from seed sown indoors in February.

Carrots are a challenge for many gardeners. The seed is tiny, they’re sown shallowly, and it’s difficult to keep the soil surface moist and free from crusting while the fragile seedlings emerge. For better emergence, apply a light layer of moistened peatmoss or compost over the row. Old timers often laid a board over the row and removed as soon as the tiny seedlings broke the soil surface.

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One purselane week can produce 240,000 seeds that can remain viable in soil for 40 years.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

One purslane plant, which is a common garden weed, can produce 240,000 seeds capable of being shot a distance of 25 feet, and able to remain viable in the soil for 40 years. They can also regenerate from stem sections that fall to the soil.

Weeds are much easier to pull after a rain.

Cardboard sheets, overlapped, can be an effective weed control underlayment when using shredded bark or wood chips.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, is the horticulturist with North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at donald.kinzler@ndsu.edu.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, is the horticulturist with North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at donald.kinzler@ndsu.edu.
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