Q: Could you please identify this vining plant that grows on our chain-link fence? It is very invasive, as it originally started two doors down and over the years eventually made its way across our neighbor's fence and onto ours. We all know to cut it back as needed. Are the berries edible? It has lovely fall color when conditions are right, but not this year. — Denice Heiser, West Fargo.
Q: While digging carrots, I found one white one among all the regular orange ones. What causes one to be white? — Anne Barbee, Moorhead. A: Besides the most commonly grown orange carrot varieties, there are also carrot varieties that are purple, red, yellow and white. The original ancient carrots are said to be white and purple, and centuries of cross-breeding developed the orange type common today.
Q: Can you tell what type of pumpkin or gourd the greenish-gray one at the front of the photo is? I planted seeds for the gourds behind it and don't know where the gray or pink ones came from. Any clues? Are they edible? — Jody Bendel. A: Both the gray-green and pink pumpkin-shaped items are edible heirloom squash, and the gray-green is likely the Jarrahdale variety. Gourd seed is usually a mixture of shapes and colors, and sometimes squash or pumpkin seed is inadvertently mixed in by the supplier.
FARGO — Did you notice the heavy crop of seeds on the region's trees this summer and fall? Elm seeds fell by the millions this summer at our home in Fargo. People around the region shared photographs of buckets filled with acorns and walnuts as trees produced bumper crops of seeds and nuts. Folklore says when trees produce an overabundance of seed, it forecasts a cold, snowy winter. Is this true, or is it an old wives' tale?
FARGO — What's the first thought that comes to mind if someone mentions cutting back? Fewer trips through the buffet line? Less snacking between meals? Gardening has a dialect all its own with words like pinching, deadheading, slip, crown and cutting back. So, when a questioner asked about cutting back, I knew they weren't reducing their caffeine consumption.
Q: What is this bush with the black berries that's growing right next to some chokecherry trees? — Judy and Tim Hansen, Sabin, Minn. A: Thanks for the chance to discuss one of the most invasive, yet unrecognized plants in the Upper Midwest. It's common buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica, which becomes a small tree or large shrub, growing 10 to 24 feet high. When I was with the Extension Service, this was the plant most commonly submitted for identification because it pops up in unexpected places as birds deposit the seed after eating the berries.
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.