I’d like to personally invite each of you to a tour I know you’ll enjoy. More and more of us are gardening and beautifying our yards since the pandemic, and an upcoming tour can provide information and inspiration.

To meet the need for information about fruits and vegetables, hardy trees and ornamental shrubs, North Dakota State University will hold a field day and tour from 3:30-7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11, at the NDSU Horticulture Research Farm near Absaraka, N.D., and all are welcome.

If you’ve never been to the Horticulture Research Farm, you’re in for a treat. This 80-acre hidden gem is a gardener’s delight, located about 40 miles west of Fargo.

The surroundings are deceptive, as you drive along country roads bordered by corn and soybean fields and turn down a minimum maintenance gravel road lined by a tree belt. When you approach the gate to the farm, the awe begins as you glimpse the facility through trees surrounding the property.

The research farm was started in 1974 at a location with soil more representative of North Dakota than the heavy clay of the Red River Valley, which explains why it’s located a slight distance from Fargo. At the center of the farm is the Dale E. Herman Research Arboretum, which has the largest collection of trees in the northern Great Plains. It contains more than 5,000 species, cultivars and selections of trees and shrubs that are evaluated for winter-hardiness and adaptability to our region’s environment.

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The Dale E. Herman Research Arboretum has the largest collection of trees in the northern Great Plains. Don Kinzler / The Forum
The Dale E. Herman Research Arboretum has the largest collection of trees in the northern Great Plains. Don Kinzler / The Forum

Close by is a fascinating collection of evergreen shrubs and trees in colors ranging from steel blue to deep green. You’ll even see weeping evergreens as you meander through the collection.

The arboretum is surrounded by fruit and vegetable research plots, where new cultivars are bred or evaluated, and growing techniques are tested.

All of this can be toured during the Field Day tour on Wednesday, Aug. 11, that will feature fruit research, including hardy grape breeding and evaluation of raspberry cultivars. Participants can learn about new fruit crops for North Dakota such as haskaps and black currants. Vegetable growers will see the latest research on peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and potatoes.

“The arboretum is the perfect place to spend a summer afternoon in the cool shade of the trees,” says Esther McGinnis, NDSU Extension horticulturist. “Beyond admiring the beauty of the place, I guarantee that you will come away with ideas to plant new hardy fruits or trees in your home landscape.”

New this year, the field day will feature CBD hemp grown in a high tunnel as a high-value specialty crop.

The day will end with an arboretum tree walk led by members of the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement Program.

A light dinner will be available after the tour until supplies run out. The tour is free and open to the public.

The North Dakota State University Horticulture Research Farm was started in 1974 at a location with soil more representative of North Dakota than the Red River Valley's heavy clay. Don Kinzler / The Forum
The North Dakota State University Horticulture Research Farm was started in 1974 at a location with soil more representative of North Dakota than the Red River Valley's heavy clay. Don Kinzler / The Forum

If you go

What: NDSU Horticulture Research Farm Field Day

When: 3:30-7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11

Where: 14850 29th St. SE, Amenia, N.D. (farm is just due west from this address on 29th Street Southeast)

Directions from Fargo: From Interstate 94, take Wheatland exit (324) to Cass County Road 5, then head north toward Wheatland. After passing through Wheatland, the road curves west, then turn right at the next intersection to continue north on Cass County 5. At the Absaraka intersection (30th Street Southeast), turn right. Continue east until you reach the first left (section line), and turn left on 149th Avenue Southeast and head north until you reach the first left (section line). Turn left on 29th Street Southeast, and the farm is down this road on the left.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, is the horticulturist with North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at donald.kinzler@ndsu.edu.