Gardening on the Northern Prairie

Jul 7, 2017

Eric Bergeson has written a new book especially for gardeners in the Dakotas and northwestern Minnesota, called Successful Gardening on the Northern Prairie.

Eric hails from the town of Fertile, MN, population 800, located about midway between Bemidji and Fargo. His grandfather started Bergeson Nursery in 1936, growing strawberries in the middle of a peat bog. After the depression grandfather Melvin started raising windbreak stock and supplied millions of trees to farmers in a bid to stop erosion. The nursery sold to Eric's parents in 1970, and they turned it into a full service garden center. Eric owned it for 17 years before selling it to his brother.

"Grandpa insisted on serving customers homemade donuts," Eric said. "Grandma made them for a while. That's something you can't stop once you start. A lady in town now makes 1000 dozen donuts for the nursery every spring."

Successful Gardening on the Northern Prairie focuses on the Zone 3 cold of this region and the alkaline soils. Less then 1% of the population of the United States gardens in an area as cold as this one with soils that are alkaline. Most populated areas have acid soils, and gardeners have to add lime. Not so on the northern prairie.  Soils in town in Bemidji are predominately alkaline, and as you travel toward Duluth the pH goes down to where it is ideal for trees (6.2) at about the  halfway point.

In alkaline soil micronutrients get locked up chemically and are unavailable to the root. Iron is one crucial element that is affected. To make the nutrients available the pH needs to be lowered by adding acid. Some gardeners use ammonium sulfate. Vinegar also works. "Fertilizer that acidifies is almost always in order," says Eric.

More on cold weather gardening on alkaline soils is in the interview below. Follow this link to find a copy of Successful Gardening on the Northern Prairie.

A video about the book is available here, on Facebook.