Ask the Learn Gardener: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day — or any day — with shamrock houseplants – Brainerd Dispatch

Dear Master Gardener: I would like to purchase a shamrock plant to have as a decoration for St. Patrick’s Working day. Will it preserve as a houseplant? If so, how do I treatment for it?

Reply: In March community florists, backyard garden facilities and grocery outlets promote shamrock (Oxalis) vegetation to rejoice St. Patrick’s Day. These shamrocks are not the identical as those people located in Eire. The phrase shamrock comes from the Irish Gaelic term seamróg, which suggests “young clover.” The shamrock that is the Irish symbol is essentially a 3-leaf clover (Trifolium). The “shamrock” plants you see now have green or purple leaves with a few triangular-shaped leaflets and little, five-petaled white bouquets. Oxalis are great houseplants. They do well in regular indoor temperatures but cooler evenings will extend blooming. Place them in an location with bright, oblique gentle. Their roots are shallow and they look to desire being pot-bound. Even though they are flowering, fertilize them every two to 3 weeks with a liquid houseplant fertilizer at 50 % the advisable strength. An interesting attribute of numerous Oxalis plants is the motion of their leaves in response to mild stages. Their leaves open up in brilliant mild and close on an overcast working day and at night.

Expensive Learn Gardener: How do I know when to begin my various vegetable seeds?

Reply: Starting off greens indoors from seeds can be a fulfilling job. It is a pretty low-cost way to mature a wide variety of vegetation and attempt distinctive varieties of veggies you could not if not locate. When you are choosing your seeds, examine the packet for the variety of days until eventually harvest to make positive they will ripen before frost. Quite a few extended-time fruits and vegetables need to be started indoors in early spring, because we have these a short developing time. Each individual species has its very own demands, so observe the seed packet or catalog guidelines. By mid-March the pursuing can be planted: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, head lettuce, and leeks. Mid-March commence eggplants and peppers.

Pricey Learn Gardener: I observed on television that a individual can develop a loofah sponge in their garden. Is it real and can it be developed in Minnesota?

Answer: Of course, it is accurate! The botanical identify for the plant is Luffa aegyptiaca. It is an edible gourd in the cucumber relatives. It can be grown in Minnesota if you start off the seeds indoors or mature it in a greenhouse, as it usually takes about 90-120 times to achieve maturity. Then, you need a number of much more weeks for it to establish its tough interior fibers and dry on the vine ahead of you harvest it, for a full of 150-200 heat, frost-no cost times. Seeds are offered by means of most seed catalogs. It could be a fun plant to improve as a task with little ones!

Luffa vines expand quite speedy and will need a sturdy trellis to preserve them off the ground so they never rot right before you have a opportunity to harvest them. When the squash-like fruit is nevertheless youthful, it is an edible vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked, as you would squash or eggplant. On the other hand, because the plant grows so quickly (about 1-1/2 inches for each day) it is challenging to continue to keep up with harvesting. Hence, you may perhaps as nicely develop them for sponges and permit them expand to about 2 ft in length. As they increase larger sized, they develop hard interior fibers. In accordance to Clemson University, “Luffa sponges are prepared to harvest when the pores and skin feels unfastened and brittle all over the hardened fibers inside. To approach the sponges, peel the skin off, shake the seeds loose (help you save some for future yr) and dip in a bucket of ten parts water to a person-part bleach for about an hour to get rid of any stains and make it possible for to dry.”

  • Hefty spring snowfall normally weighs down evergreen boughs. It’s in all probability most effective to just let the snow soften off on its individual. If you want to clear away it from your evergreens, scoop it off carefully instead than hitting the branches, which are even now brittle this time of yr and susceptible to breaking.
  • Prune apple and other fruit trees both this month or up coming, as prolonged as you do it before the buds break and development commences.
  • March is the month to also prune oak, maple, birch, honey locust, mountain ash, hawthorn, butternut, walnut, ironwood, and beech trees. 
  • Look at for black knot, a fungal ailment, on chokecherries and other members of the cherry relatives. Glimpse for challenging swollen black galls (tumor-like growths) that sort on branches and at times on trunks. Make the pruning slice at the very least 4 inches under the black knot gall. It is ideal to prune when temperatures are down below freezing to avoid black knot spores from infecting the pruning wound. If attainable, dip your pruners into a bleach solution concerning cuts. 
  • By the middle of the month start out seeds for annuals this kind of as ageratum, coleus, dusty miller, nicotiana, dianthus (pinks), snapdragons, and verbena. Seeds for alyssum, cleome, moss rose, and salvia need to be commenced at the end of the month. Once more, examine seed packets for seed commencing details as species and cultivars will vary.
  • Move crops you have been overwintering into a sunny window. Minimize off dead leaves and stems and start watering. Fertilize when you see new progress.
  • Sharpen pruning tools with a sharpening stone or have them skillfully sharpened. 
  • Use a file to sharpen the blades of spades, shovels, trowels, back garden forks and other digging equipment. 
  • Prune hydrangeas to the very first pair of buds over floor or 3 toes up if you want much better, considerably less floppy stems (as shortly as you can locate them beneath all the snow!)
  • Prune grapes just before new growth emerges.
  • Slash again yellow and crimson raspberry canes to 4 to 5 feet tall before new growth starts.
  • You can start fertilizing houseplants this month when you see new growth. Fertilize with liquid fertilizer at fifty percent-power.

You may perhaps get your yard questions answered by calling the new Grasp Gardener Assistance Line at 218-824-1068 and leaving a message. A Grasp Gardener will return your phone. Or, emailing me at and I will reply you in the column if house permits.

University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners are properly trained and accredited volunteers for the College of Minnesota Extension. Details offered in this column is centered on university research.

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