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Watermelon and Feta Salad
 
10 ozs. feta cheese
4 ½ cups large chunks of watermelon
¾ cup basil leaves
½ small red onion, very thinly sliced (optional)
Olive oil

Slice the feta into large but thin pieces, or just break it by hand into rough chunks.

Arrange all the ingredients, except the olive oil, on a platter, mixing them up a little. Drizzle over some oil and serve at once.



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Barbarians at the Gate 
Garlic mustard is headed for a garden near you. Call it what you will; vagabond, ruffian, or carpetbagger, this biological invader is running riot, massacring local species, and trashing their new habitats.

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a biennial herb in the mustard family which was introduced from Europe in the mid-1800s for food and medicinal purposes. Perfectly happy to grow in dense shade or full sun, this plant can quickly overtake disturbed areas, especially those recently cleared of buckthorn. Reproduction is entirely by seed, and each plant produces about 1000 seeds, which means about 100,000 seeds per square foot. The plant spends its first year as a rosette, then bolts in early spring of its second year, sending up a white flowered stalk over 3 feet tall, so it's hard to miss.
We are the only ones who will eat it-even deer or rabbits won't touch it-so forage away. Deer and rabbits only eat the expensive plants I bought at the nursery, not the freebies.
Sometimes I think that garlic mustard is quickly becoming the new super species, like the house sparrow, python, water hyacinth, wild boar, kudzu, and zebra mussel. Garlic mustard thrives while our native species either perish or are relegated to the conservationist intensive care ward.

How Can Garlic Mustard Be Controlled?
  • Make sure you have identified the right plant-the rough-toothed leaves and garlic odor when crushed are giveaways.
  • When you see a small infestation, pull it.
  • It's best initially to pull during flowering, before the plants produce seed.
  • Pull at the base of the plant and try to remove the entire root to prevent re-sprouting from root fragments.
  • Pulled plants will complete flowering and set seed, so be sure to bag and dispose of pulled plants.
  • Revisit pulled sites as often as possible to re-pull plants that re-sprout from left behind root fragments. This is especially important later in the spring as seeds develop.
Look for first year rosettes close to the ground.


Garlic Mustard is a Restricted Noxious Weed in Minnesota, which means it cannot be sold, propagated or transported.


If left unchecked, garlic mustard can quickly overtake entire woodlots which can reduce native groundcovers and decrease overall species diversity.
  
For more information on this restricted noxious weed
Mulch Madness
With the hustle and bustle of spring planting, I see many trees falling victim to a plague of over mulching. Mulch around the base of trees is a good thing, but too much is a bad thing. What is the proper way to mulch a tree?
 
Mulch is in the shape of a "doughnut" not a "volcano". "Mulch volcanoes" are excessive piles of mulch applied around the stem of trees. Think of a mulch volcano as a Band-Aid. What happens to your skin under a wet Band-Aid? It gets soft and mushy. This is what happens to tree roots under excessive mulch, they develop root rot. You will end up with trees like the ones in my neighborhood: 25 years in the ground and barely any bigger than when they were planted, and quite sickly looking. That is if they survive.   

Maximum of 4" deep. Too much mulch applied over the root ball or resting against the trunk can cause problems for trees. Roots often grow up and into the mulch causing stem girdling roots which can kill trees.   Too much mulch over the root ball can intercept water that could have reached the roots. This can cause the roots to dry on newly planted trees, causing stress and tree death.
A wide, flat mulch ring. Leave a gap, where there is no mulch, 12 to 18 inches from the trunk for any size of tree (that's why I refer to it as a "doughnut"). Place mulch out to the edge of a tree's crown or beyond
What is my favorite mulch for trees? 
Fresh, raw or un-composted hardwood mulches create the most benefit for the soil. Why? Because fresh chips are 'active' and generate carbon rich, microbiological activity that feed the landscape as it decomposes. Composted chips are inactive or stable, with all the nutrients being consumed in the compost pile. 


A properly mulched young tree.

Mulch volcanoes in a commercial landscape.
Look for this the next time you go shopping.



Trees struggle for air and water under excessive mulch.   


Remember, if a tree had a say in the matter, its entire root system, which usually extends well beyond the drip line, would be mulched.
For more information on proper mulching techniques.   

Thanks for reading.  
Happy Planting!    

Faith

Faith Appelquist

President & Founder

 

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