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    Soil Testing Labs

    Crop Producers, agronomists, gardeners, homeowners and anyone else who is thinking about taking soil samples this fall or next spring need to be aware that South Dakota State University no longer offers commercial testing. (Effective Oct, 2011). Below is a list of nearby state or private laboratories that can be used for crop production fields, gardens and lawns. The private laboratories are not necessarily recommended or endorsed, however many will give university recommendations when asked. Crop producers, agronomists, gardeners, and home owners with questions on sample submissions, analysis charges and recommendations should contact the laboratory of interest.

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    It Wouldn’t Be Summer Without Some Earwigs, Right?

    Recently, areas of Eastern and Western South Dakota have received large amounts of rain. For some, these rain events have resulted in indoor and outdoor property flooding. In addition to property damage, these rains have also made the conditions perfect for one of South Dakota’s nuisance insect pests: earwigs.

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    May 2018 Climate Summary and a Look Ahead

    May 2018 was a 180-degree turn from April. South Dakota had its second coldest April on record, to something close to the tenth warmest May on record. As we are in early June, it appears as if the heat will continue.

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    Spring Annual Weeds

    There are a number of weeds that pop up very early in the spring and even start flowering before most other plants have shown any signs of growth. Most of these are spring or winter annuals that come back from seed each year. Spring annuals germinate early in the spring while winter annuals actually germinate during the previous fall, overwinter then resume growth the following spring, flower and die. In most cases, these cool season weeds are more prevalent in waste areas, growing on bare soil.

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    Controlling Weeds in Perennial Beds

    Quackgrass and bromegrass are often two of the worst weeds in perennial flower gardens and in perennial vegetables like asparagus. Kentucky bluegrass and other lawn grasses can also be a problem. Perennial broadleaf weeds are also other common weeds among flowers and perennial vegetables. They are both aggressive plants that can grow among other plants so tightly that it is difficult to get them out. In addition, plants like quackgrass, bromegrass, creeping jenny and others produce creeping, underground stems called rhizomes that allow the plant to spread a foot or more in a season, producing new plants as they grow.

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    Spring Perennial Planting

    There is always something to do in a garden – some pruning, raking, weeding or just checking on things to see what new is blooming or growing. This is also the time for the uncovering of old plants and planting new ones. Planting using bare root plants is a great way to get plants at an economical price and probably find some of those special plants that are just not available from your local garden center or discount outlet store. Now is the time when all those beautiful plants are on display and available, and you just want to buy one of everything! However, you should do some things before you head off to the garden center.

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    Forcing Tender Bulbs Indoors

    Every once in a while, someone will ask me if they can still force their spring-flowering bulbs. Unfortunately, it is likely too late to try to force bulbs like tulips, daffodils, hyacinth etc. which should have been potted up last fall or planted out in the garden. Theses cold-hardy bulbs need to go through a rooting phase, right after planting, and then a vernalization period of nine to 12 weeks before they will flower. If you still have some of these bulbs, they are likely not any good now since they have probably dried out and died.

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    Ornamental Milkweeds to Try in Your Garden

    Swamp milkweed (Asclpeias incarnate) is native to the Great Plains, and is a great ornamental milkweed for your home garden. Don’t let the swamp milkweed name discourage you from trying this plant, you do not need a swamp to grow it, since it is a very adaptable plant. While it prefers average moisture conditions, it can tolerate periods of dry weather as well as some occasional standing water. It too is perennial but generally not as long-lived as butterfly weed.

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    Soil Testing Labs

    Crop Producers, agronomists, gardeners, homeowners and anyone else who is thinking about taking soil samples this fall or next spring need to be aware that South Dakota State University no longer offers commercial testing. (Effective Oct, 2011). Below is a list of nearby state or private laboratories that can be used for crop production fields, gardens and lawns. The private laboratories are not necessarily recommended or endorsed, however many will give university recommendations when asked. Crop producers, agronomists, gardeners, and home owners with questions on sample submissions, analysis charges and recommendations should contact the laboratory of interest.

    Read More »

    Post-Harvest Food Safety for Fruit & Vegetable Growers

    When harvesting, produce should be placed in clean and sanitary field containers, rather than on the ground. Ideally Field containers should be cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis, as well as be free of contaminants such as mud, industrial lubricants, metal fasteners, or splinters.

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    Spring Annual Weeds

    There are a number of weeds that pop up very early in the spring and even start flowering before most other plants have shown any signs of growth. Most of these are spring or winter annuals that come back from seed each year. Spring annuals germinate early in the spring while winter annuals actually germinate during the previous fall, overwinter then resume growth the following spring, flower and die. In most cases, these cool season weeds are more prevalent in waste areas, growing on bare soil.

    Read More »

    Controlling Weeds in Perennial Beds

    Quackgrass and bromegrass are often two of the worst weeds in perennial flower gardens and in perennial vegetables like asparagus. Kentucky bluegrass and other lawn grasses can also be a problem. Perennial broadleaf weeds are also other common weeds among flowers and perennial vegetables. They are both aggressive plants that can grow among other plants so tightly that it is difficult to get them out. In addition, plants like quackgrass, bromegrass, creeping jenny and others produce creeping, underground stems called rhizomes that allow the plant to spread a foot or more in a season, producing new plants as they grow.

    Read More »

    Sustainable Landscape Design Using Herbaceous Plants

    When it comes to landscape design many people often think of pretty flowers and lush green gardens. Though this is probably true in many cases, plants have a lot more to offer than just looking pretty. A thoughtful design utilizing herbaceous plants can make a site sustainable by providing habitat to animals, protecting water quality, increasing biodiversity, as well as adding social benefits like minimal maintenance and increased property value.

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    Living Christmas Tree Alternatives

    Living Christmas trees are not a new concept. Often this means buying a potted or balled and burlaped, normally hardy tree, from a local nursery, then bringing it into the home, right before Christmas to enjoy for a week or so before planting it out in the landscape. Of course there is usually a problem with that game plan because usually by the end of December the ground has already frozen here in the northern Great Plains.

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    Choosing the Perfect Christmas Tree

    Christmas tree lots are already beginning to spring up around the state and Thanksgiving marks the start of the Christmas tree season, with more than 30 million trees being sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Another 50 million homes use artificial trees either for convenience or environmental concerns. However, the traditional Christmas tree can be the environmental friendly way to celebrate the holidays.

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    Aronia: Beautiful and Healthy

    Aronia melanocarpa, or simply “aronia,” is an attractive shrub that has recently been gaining more attention in the Midwest – its berries are very high in antioxidants thought to be beneficial for human health. Aronia is also known as chokeberry (berry, not cherry), descriptive of the astringent taninns present in the dark-blue fruit. When fully ripe, the berries, which look somewhat like blueberries or chokecherries, have a sugar content as high as table grapes and sweet cherries, but balanced by high acidity and complex flavors.

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    Trees and Drought

    A dry summer is not only stressful for people, pets and livestock, but for our trees and other vegetation. Trees require a lot of water to meet their functional needs and long-term shortages can influence growth and survival. Trees signal their water deficit through a number of symptoms. The most common changes in appearance are lighter green to yellow-green foliage, leaf scorch around the margins, wilting leaves and dropping them prematurely.

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    How to Remove a Stump

    Spring is the time of the year when people get around to remove trees from their yard. Removing trees and disposing of the brush is a hazardous undertaking and is best performed by professionals who have the training and equipment to safely remove them. However, whether a professional tree service or the homeowner remove the tree, there is usually the question what to do about the stump.

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    Fall Yard and Garden Cleanup

    The leaves have fallen off the trees and the frost has hit the garden. Before the snow falls, a few tasks can help make for a healthier yard and garden next year. If you have a mulching lawnmower, instead of raking up your leaves, you may be able to run over them with the mower, returning all that organic matter directly to your lawn. If the layer of leaves is too thick, it may be possible to spread them out and then mulch them with the mower.

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    Flowers With Fall Color

    We often think of trees as providing our primary source of fall color, or perhaps it might be the colorful Indian corn or pumpkins that come to mind. But there other sources of fall color too, in our perennial flowers. This goes beyond the hardier flowers that can withstand some frost and still retain their flowers with little damage but rather I am referring to the plants and their foliage itself.

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