Q: Do you know what these berries are? Are they good for jelly, or should I leave them alone? They were on large shrubs or trees about 12 feet tall growing at Rollag, Minn. — Jean Siirila, Wadena, Minn. A: Thanks for the wonderful photo. It's Silver Buffaloberry, Shepherdia argentea. The berries are very edible, commonly used now for jelly-making. It's been a long time since I nibbled a buffaloberry, but as I recall, they are a little tart until fully ripe. Native Americans used them extensively, combined with buffalo meat.
FARGO — What's the best part about the spritely colored potted mums sold in late summer at every national chain, hardware store and garden center? Yes, they beautify front steps and porches cheerfully, but they also keep Halloween decorations at bay for a few weeks, so jack-o'-lanterns and black cat decor don't appear in early September, which rushes the season a bit.
Q: What is this growing in my planter of dahlias? — Edye Nye, North Ferrisburgh, Vt. A: What an interesting plant and flower. It's Nicandra physalodes, known simply as Nicandra or apple-of-Peru. It's considered a weedy member of the nightshade family, a weed being any plant out of place. Other members of this huge Solanaceae family include tomato, potato, pepper, husk-tomato and tomatillo, along with highly poisonous nightshades.
Q: Our Autumn Blaze maples had iron chlorosis last year. An article you wrote prompted us to take action. We bought Medicap iron capsules made for trees online. Following the directions, we drilled holes and pounded the capsules into the trunks of our five trees. Here's a photo of the worst tree we had. You can see it's still lighter but not nearly as yellow as the year before. Our other trees that were slightly less chlorotic last year didn't turn yellow at all this year. The photo on the left is July 2017, the one on the right July 2018. — Deb Faber, Fargo.
FARGO — What type of lawn care provider are you? Do you mow only when you need to find where you left the wheelbarrow? At the opposite end of the grassy spectrum, do you fret if your mowing pattern doesn't look precisely even, causing you to lay down with a cold compress until the stress passes? Or maybe like most of us, you just want your lawn green, dense and weed-free.
Classic humor bears repeating. How can you tell if a newly emerging, unidentified plant in your flower garden is a weed or your new high-priced perennial? Simply give it a tug. If it pulls out easily, it was the high-priced perennial. If it won't pull, it's a weed. If you check Scripture, God never said, "Let there be weeds." The definition of a weed is "any plant out of place." Did you know dandelion, quackgrass, purslane and most of the "plants out of place" that we battle weren't originally here, but were instead imported into the United States?
Q: I just had to report that after planting milkweed two years ago, it has successfully attracted at least three monarch caterpillars this summer. Just doing my part to help the monarch butterfly! — BeAnn Canton, West Fargo.
Can you guess what gardening question I hear most frequently? At the top of the list is "What can I do about rabbits?" followed by preventing tomato blight and the best times to prune. Not far down the garden question list: "Is it too late to plant?" The last question is easier to solve than the rabbit dilemma. Just ask Elmer Fudd, especially since an elderly gentleman running through the neighborhood waving a shotgun after Bugs Bunny is no longer considered appropriate behavior.
FARGO — Have you noticed I never refer to our region's growing conditions as harsh, severe, challenging or any other negative adjectives, as though we're the last outpost on the way to the Arctic Circle? That's because our gardening region is positively wonderful, with more than enough flowers, vegetables and fruits to occupy anyone's gardening lifetime.
Q: I kept my dipladenia indoors over winter, and as you said it would, it dropped many leaves but overall remained healthy. I repotted it in May and the plant looks great with healthy leaves but no flowers yet. Is this typical or should I be adding anything to boost flower production? I use Miracle-Gro weekly. — Nicole Welsch.