Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.

Posts about Perennials

Parting is such sweet sorrow, or is it?

Posted by: Nicole Hvidsten Updated: September 19, 2014 - 7:48 AM

With fall in the air and the growing season past its prime, the tomato vines are tired, and to be honest, so am I.

Each season I plant gardens with greater ambition than I can seem to maintain. And each season ends the same way: I tell myself next year will be better. I love to garden, I really do. But I've found that part of gardening is learning your limits. Or at least what's important to you as a gardener. Some people flourish with flowers; others find more beauty and satisfaction with vegetables. Many of us are firmly planted somewhere inbetween. I've learned that since summer always seems to slip away from me -- and therefore my gardens -- I need to make things a little easier.

The front flower bed that's usually filled with annuals is now mulched in wi

th room for a couple of perennials. I'm going to plant brown-eyed Susans. Not only do I like the look of them, but they remind me of my grandma. Now I walk by with happy thoughts instead of cringing because yet another weekend passed without weeding getting done.

Then there's the vegetable garden. It's my favorite part of gardening, but one that causes the most angst. Why does one zucchini plant feed the world, but eight tomato plants never seem to be enough? And could tomatoes just ripen on weekends, so I can always get to them on time? Will the Brussels sprouts yield anything? And was I out of my mind for trying to grow them in the first place? Why were the cucumbers an epic fail?

And then I remember: I have limits, and my garden does too.

As we prepare to put our gardens to bed -- look for an article in Wednesday's Home and Garden section -- the Greengirls also are calling it a season. We'll be back in the spring with fresh ideas and enthusiasm. Because many of those lessons we learned this summer will be long forgotten, and the sky will be the limit.

Share with us your favorite lessons this growing season, and what you're planning for next season. Happy harvest and happy planning!

The long goodbye in the garden

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: September 16, 2014 - 8:05 AM

First the bleeding hearts turn spindly and yellow. The squash leaves start to wilt. Then there's a cool night that turns my once-lush basil into spotty-leafed waifs.

The life is slow to completely ebb from my garden, but it's definitely starting to wave the white flag. The coneflowers hang on at one-quarter intensity and the summer bloomers start to look straggly.

There are a few welcome spots of color left: The asters are still bee magnets and the sedum Autumn Joy are putting on their reliable pompoms.

The veggies, too, are about to call it quits. Once I harvest that mega tomato weighing down a vine in the back row, I can go ahead and yank out the otherwise empty vine it's on. Four squash plants to pick and I can rip out all the vines sprawled over one raised bed.

Where there's no frost there's always hope. So I and the red cabbages and kale will hold on until the bitter end. But the kale will always outlast me.

So before your lawn turns crunchy from frost and leaves, make sure to take time to tour your garden to savor the long goodbye. You never know -- there might be some long-green tomatoes that finally ripened.

Time for tulips

Posted by: Lynn Underwood Updated: September 4, 2014 - 2:56 PM

No disrespect to Cub - but I’m going to grow my own tulips.

The past few springs when I hosted Easter or Mother’s Day brunches - I just picked up bunches of purple, yellow and pink tulips from the market and plopped the stems in vases to decorate the tables.

But I’ve decided to hunt down my garden trowel, get down on my knees and finally learn how to plant tulip bulbs this fall so I'll be rewarded with a colorful spring show. I want to experience that end-of-winter miracle of tulip foliage emerging from the once frozen ground. And then shoot photos and post them on Facebook like everyone else. A bonus: I’ll have clusters of blooms for my table.

I’ve already done a little research on the University of Minnesota Extension Service site. Tulip bulbs are planted 8 inches deep, 6 inches part, pointy side up in well-drained soil. Since my challenging landscape is made of hard-as-rock non-draining clay - I’ll have the extra chore of amending the soil.

I may even check out one of Gertens “How to Plant Spring Bulbs” free workshops being offered at 1 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 4. The workshop says something about critter proofing your bulbs. Great -  something else to worry about.

After I’ve emptied my spent planters in the composter and cut down dead perennials - I can start dreaming about my first-time tulips in all their Technicolor glory. But first, I have to get those bulbs in the ground by the beginning of October.

Do you have any tulip growing tips?  What are some of your favorites?  

Finally, hollyhock success

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: August 26, 2014 - 8:21 AM

After years of trying on and off, I've finally gotten at least this far with one of my bugaboo plants: The hollyhocks are blooming! That might not seem like much to crow about, but given my failed efforts over the years to grow this seemingly effortless plant that I've blogged about here, this is a major victory in the small world that is my garden. After a few weeks of seeing the stems crowded with buds, they've finally broken open.

I can't declare total success just yet. It looks like some insect is going after the leaves of one of the plants, so I'll have to be vigilant. And I have yet to see if these biennials will make a return appearance and self sow.  But baby steps. I'll take it for what it's worth and savor the blooms and sense of satisfaction of getting another chip off my gardening shoulder. First delphiniums, then astilbe, now hollyhocks.Time to exorcise another demon next year.

What plant bugaboos have you overcome? Or are you wiser than me and just chalk it up to inappropriate conditions and move on?

Inviting pollinators into your yard

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: August 25, 2014 - 12:21 PM

If you plant them, they will come.

I'm talking about pollinators and the native plants that attract them and provide nectar and habitat. 

The best thing in my inbox this morning was a short simple e-mail and two beautiful pictures. They were sent by Rich Erstad of St. Paul, a gardener I don't know, who just wanted to share the fluttering clouds of Monarch butterflies that started congegrating in his urban yard after he planted a cluster of native liatris.

It doesn't even have to be a cluster. Just a few plants can bring a noticeable increase in pollinator visits. Last summer, I planted one swamp milkweed plant in my garden. ONE! It quickly became a bee and butterfly magnet.     

If you're heading to the State Fair this week, stop by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture booth in the Ag/Hort building. The department has launched a public awareness campaign to protect pollinating insects, and has developed best practices for homeowners and other land owners. Here are a few simple things you can do to protect pollinators and invite more of them into your landscape:

1. Plant more flowers in your yard or on your balcony.

2. Let early dandelions flower -- they have nectar.

3. Leave areas of your lawn un-mowed.

4. Reduce pesticide use.

5. Find pollinator protection information on pesticide labels.

6. Set out water bowls and birdbaths for pollinators to drink.

7. Let clover grow and flower.

8. Start a beehive.

What are you doing in your garden to make it more pollinator-friendly?

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