Growing Green

By Robin Trott, Extension Educator

Join University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners, Douglas County on May 21 for the return of their annual plant sale. This year, the sale will be held at the Alexandria Farmers’ Market from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Many of you look forward to purchasing plants that have been divided from Master Gardeners’ own gardens. This year we have not continued this practice due to the threat of jumping worms in Central Minnesota. Moving soil, potted landscape plants, sod, mulch (including bark mulch or woodchips) or compost can move jumping worms and their cocoons from one place to another.

 Jumping worm impacts:

• Jumping worms can dramatically change soils, giving it a unique texture similar to coffee grounds. Jumping worms feast on mulch and strip vital nutrients from topsoil. This kills plants and increases erosion. Homeowners may see garden plants killed and may have difficulty growing plants.

• Jumping worms can cause environmental harm where they are established. Studies have found nonnative earthworms dramatically change forest soils by eating the leaf litter layer and impacting soil chemistry, soil organisms and plant communities. Jumping worms have been shown to have similar effects. When the soil changes, the forest can’t support the same plant and animal species it did before earthworms.

Featured plants at this year’s sale include native perennials from Glacial Ridge Growers and seedlings started by the Master Gardeners.  Native plants work well for many landscaping and wildlife habitat plantings, because once established they seldom need watering, mulching, protection from frost or continuous mowing. Native plants produce nectar, pollen and seeds that serve as food for native birds, butterflies, bees and other wildlife. Proceeds of the sale benefit the volunteer work that Master Gardeners accomplish in Douglas County.

Join us on May 21! Whether you purchase plants or have pressing garden questions, the University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners are available to assist Douglas County residents with all of their gardening queries.

Until next time, happy gardening!

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The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul. ~Alfred Austin