Caterpillar Tunnel Discussion: Using Simple Structures to Increase Vegetable Production

Adam Austing, University of Minnesota Extension

BUFFALO, Minn. (11/23/2020) – The University of Minnesota Extension and the Crow River chapter of the Sustainable Farming Association (SFA) have partnered to bring you a conversation about caterpillar tunnels, simple structures that have been increasingly popular amongst fruit and vegetable growers in recent years. This event will take place via Zoom on December 10, 2020 at 6:30pm Central time. Register for this event at

Caterpillar tunnels can extend the length of the growing season, manage pests and soil, and help achieve other goals growers have. Sarah Lindblom, owner of Solar Fresh Produce and current president of the Crow River SFA chapter, utilized caterpillar tunnels on her farm for the first time in 2020. Solar Fresh Produce is a small CSA operation located near Buffalo, MN. Sarah will share her experiences after her first year growing high-value crops under caterpillar tunnels. Sarah has documented her journey through a video, a podcast, and a series of reports that can be viewed at

Natalie Hoidal, UMN Extension vegetable crops educator, and Troy Salzer, UMN Extension educator and farmer in St. Louis County, MN, will also be joining the discussion. Troy is also new to the world of caterpillar tunnels, and will be sharing his personal experiences of using these structures to extend the season and manage deer damage. The night’s discussion will be moderated by Adam Austing, UMN Extension educator in Wright County, MN.

This event is intended for produce farmers, horticulturalists, avid gardeners, and anyone else that works with fruit and vegetable production. Registration information for this discussion is at This event will be recorded and sent out to all registrants. For questions or more information, please contact Adam Austing at 320-249-5929 or

Gardening from the Ground Up Webinar Series Returns

Source: Katie Drewitz & Adam Austing, University of Minnesota Extension

University of Minnesota Extension Educators are excited to bring you the third annual Gardening from the Ground Up Zoom webinar series. Free virtual workshops will take place February 22-25, 2022 from 1:00-2:30 pm each afternoon. The series will cover a wide variety of topics ranging from soil nutrients, plant health, and insects - all useful for any curious beginner gardener or yard owner.

Tuesday, February 22: How environmental factors affect nutrient management

In the past few years, we’ve experienced it all in Minnesota. We’ve had large rainfall events and intense droughts accompanied by fluctuating temperatures. How do temperature and precipitation affect nutrient availability and plant nutrient uptake? Join local Extension Educators Adam Austing, Tarah Young, and Troy Salzer to discuss how to best manage your fertilizer, soil, and garden in extreme weather conditions.

Wednesday, February 23: Building a resilient garden

Gardens can be unpredictable places. By building diversity in our gardens, we can reduce weak points and assure that even when some things go wrong, there are other things that succeed. Local Extension Educators Troy Salzer and Robin Trott will discuss how soil health and plant selection can lessen the impact of a changing climate in your garden.

Thursday, February 24: How not to kill your tree

As local Extension Educators, we often receive phone calls about trees that appear to suddenly be dying. We’ve learned to look for and identify risk factors early on that will lead to immature tree death. Local Extension Educators Katie Drewitz and Karen Johnson will share with you how to identify these risk factors and how to avoid killing your trees.

Friday, February 25: App-free insect ID

Local Extension Educators Shane Bugeja and Claire LaCanne will provide guidance for identifying insects commonly found in the yard and garden - without a phone app! Identifying insects—or at least narrowing down the suspects—is important to properly address them. Having an idea of what you are seeing can also aid in communicating with other gardeners or horticulture professionals.

Gardeners and yard owners throughout Minnesota and the Midwest may find this series useful. Gardening from the Ground Up is brought to you by University of Minnesota local Extension educators across much of Minnesota, representing Benton, Blue Earth, Douglas, Hubbard, Le Sueur, Meeker, McLeod, Morrison, Rice, Stearns, Steele, St. Louis, and Wright counties.

To join us for all or one of these webinars, please go to to register. When you register, you can choose to attend one or multiple sessions. Pre-registration is required to receive the webinar link. Recordings of the webinars will be sent out at the conclusion of the series.

If you have questions about the webinar series or need assistance with registration, please call your local Extension office. Residents in Wright County can call 763-682-7381 or email

Managing Deer Damage on Trees and Other Plants

“Wright County Extension Connection”

Managing Deer Damage on Trees and Other Plants

Source: Alannah Sperr, University of MN Extension intern - Wright County

The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is a popular species of wildlife in Minnesota. Hunters and wildlife watchers enjoy seeing these deer make a home on their property, but deer can cause significant problems for farmers and gardeners. Deer will often feed on agricultural crops, landscaping plants, and gardens which can cause irreversible damage to the plants. White-tailed deer are known to cause the most damage when their populations are high and when they are facing pressure in their natural environments. Living with wildlife like white-tailed deer requires patience and taking action early to prevent damage.

White-tailed deer damage is the result of deer browsing on or trampling plants. This type of damage can occur year-round, but is most common on new growth in the spring. Branches, leaves and twigs browsed by deer have a rough, torn or shredded appearance, but there won’t be any teeth marks because deer do not have upper incisors. In areas where crops like corn, soybeans, alfalfa or grain are grown, those crops can make up to 78 percent of the deer’s diet. Male deer also will damage or shred the bark of small trees by rubbing their antlers to remove the velvet during the fall breeding season or rut. Also during the fall, deer eat energy rich foods like acorns to build up their fat reserves for winter.

Deer are very persistent once they are used to feeding in an area. It is easier to prevent them from developing the habit in the first place than trying to break the habit later on in the season. Deer are creatures of habit. They prefer the safety of known foraging grounds to unfamiliar areas. They will often create and use specific paths for areas they visit often. To prevent these habits from developing, detect damage early and take immediate action to prevent any further damage to plants or crops. Some steps you can take to deter deer activity include planting deer-resistant plants, fencing, using repellents, and regulated hunting. Some common deer resistant plants include daffodils, poppys, blue salvia, lilacs, and red osier dogwood.

Deer have benefited from changes humans have made to the environment, especially the conversion of forests to agricultural fields. They are one of the few species that have a bigger population today than they did before European settlement. Humans have removed or reduced many natural predators of white-tailed deer, including gray wolves, black bears and bobcats.

It is important to have realistic goals for reducing damage caused by deer. You should not expect to eliminate deer damage completely. A 50 percent reduction in deer browsing is very successful; a 30 percent reduction is a more likely result.

For more information on controlling deer damage you can visit or reach out to your local Extension Educator. Residents in Wright County can call 763-682-7381.