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.
It started as a spark when reading the article about Straw Bale Gardening (SBG)in the Home and Garden section this Spring. The spark started to smolder when my friends working on the Cargill Giving Garden attended a seminar on SBG. Then flames ignited when I met a fellow customer in a garden center who complained that she could not grow tomatoes at her north shore cabin. Scene set. I was going to try a SBG at my cabin garden this summer.
Then I read the book. Without daily contact, I couldn’t follow all the directions. Conditioning the bales (breaking them down so you can grow in them) would take longer. Because we turn off the water before we leave the cabin, irrigation was out of the question. And I got started late, so I couldn’t use the hoop which would really help up north. Out of the shoot I'm breaking three rules.
Conditioning went OK. (I blogged earlier about the bear who loves blood meal). Planting day arrived. The local hardware store ran out of top soil. The garden center was 45 minutes away; I didn’t want to waste a perfectly good Memorial Day weekend, so I used compost (rule break number 4). The tomatoes went in. Two hybrid Roma plants started purchased at the Isle Farmer’s Market. I put one in the ground and one in a raised bed.
After a couple of weeks, it looked like Raised bed 1, SBG 0. Weeds were terrible and mushrooms were sprouting everywhere. It was a wet Spring so I did not need to worry about water.
Summer came, the tomatoes grew, then I messed up again. Although I bleached my cages, and my trowels, I forgot to wash my gloves (at the cabin we have no washing machine). Blight came to both tomato plants.
I’m going to cut this story short by saying that I got equal amounts of tomatoes from each of the plants. Both a skimpy. The squash and pumpkins did GREAT! I compare my “up north” experiment to the tomatoes grown with irrigation, daily tending, and proper care at the Cargill Giving Garden (see picture) and I have concluded that I need to wait until I retire to try the straw bale thing again!
And this being our last post for the season, please feel free to comment about your year’s disaster, your year’s accomplishments and maybe your favorite photo or blog item for the year.
May the Winter bring you many seed catalogs, many happy dreams of flowers blooms and promise of a wonderful Spring.
I've seen some truly amazing edible gardens in the last month.
One was a formal vegetable garden in St. Paul, one of this year's Beautiful Gardens winners, that's as productive as it is beautiful. Gardener Eileen Troxel especially loves growing heirloom tomatoes for her favorite recipe, a delicious-looking tomato tart that she serves to guests at her outdoor dinner parties. (You can see and read about her garden in Variety Home + Garden on Oct. 23).
Then there's the "Edible Estate" in Woodbury, where an artist and crew tore up the front lawn Memorial Day weekend and replaced it with more than 100 different edible crops. I made my final visit of the season recently, and was blown away by how much it's producing. Even after sharing with most of their neighborhood, the Schoenherr family has more food than they know what to do with. They're making pestos and salsas, canning sauces and figuring out new recipes for eggplant and Brussels sprouts. They're even growing artichokes! (Their landscape will be featured in Home + Garden on Oct. 2.)
Seeing all this bounty in other people's gardens makes me painfully aware of how little my pitiful garden actually produces. Mother Nature didn't do me any favors this year, pelting my garden with golf-ball-size hail in August, which pretty much wiped out my tomatoes. That wasn't my fault.
But the sad beets definitely are my fault. I'm not sure what I did wrong this year -- maybe I didn't thin them aggressively enough -- but my yield will be very small, and the beets themselves are only about the size of quarters. I may get one salad out of the whole crop.
I harvested some decent lettuce early in the season, and my basil and mint production have been fantastic. (Although, as one garden author noted to me earlier this year, "If you can't grow mint, you truly are a terrible gardener.")
All in all, not a banner year in the garden for moi, but I'm already resolved to do better next year. What are you eating out of your garden these days? And what are you going to do different next year?
Share. It’s a nice thing to do. This morning when I came into my cubical, I found a wonderful bag of kale.
Yesterday, I brought in zucchini and cherry tomatoes. My little cube has turned into a farmers’ market!
At my office, what folks can’t preserve themselves, many bring in to share with teammates. Not only do they share the food, but the stories and recipes behind them. And flowers are enjoyed as well. One of my customers has a perpetual bouquet of garden flowers on her desk – zinnias, black-eyed-Susans, with dusty miller and hosta leaves as greens.
I’ve been volunteering as a Master Gardener with Cargill for the past couple years on their Giving Garden. So far they've donated over 1000 pounds of food to local food shelves. If you company is interested in learning more about Corporate gardens, there is a great website available. http://www.healthyeatingmn.org/group/twin-cities-corporate-giving-garden-network The group holds a Fall Corporate Gardens Summit to help your company get a jump start by learning from others.
Another excellent option for excess is to give to your local food shelves. Fresh, good produce is accepted and enjoyed by many.
What do you do with your excess? Do you bring it into the office or your neighbors? Bring it to a food shelf? Compost it?
I might start out with the best-laid plans, but somewhere meandering around the garden centers and farmers markets each spring, a few surprises not on the list seem to make it into my garden flat, and I find myself back home, wondering exactly where I thought I was going to put that.
Sometimes it's a plant I bought for the name as much as anything. Like the Sun Sugar tomatoes, tiny orange tomatoes that have lived up to their name this year.
Other times it's a seeming bargain that tempts me: the woman at the farmers market this spring who was eager to make me a deal on a flat of her delphiniums. Since there were no pictures, I was curious to see how the plants billed as "mixed" would turn out. I was rewarded with a dozen double blooms of white and pale blue at about the price of one of my fancier hybrids. They had shorter bloom times, and we'll see what the reseed rate turns out like next year. At any rate, they filled in some gaps at a nice price.
I've never grown watermelons before, figuring that given my limited space, they were best left to the farmers market. But I yielded to the impulse to buy one billed as producing smaller melons. Unfortunately, the tag I carefully put in the soil next to it I now realize only had the price on it, not the variety name, so I'm left to other methods to determine when it's time for harvest. I plan to cut into one this weekend and see whether my $3.95 was worth it. Certainly it's been a prolific bloomer, and there are at least a few melons to show for it.
My favorite impulse purchase this year was a rose, at the pricier end of my whimsies. I was in the market for something to shade out the roots of a troubled clematis, and came home with a Blanc Double De Coubert shrub rose. It was so long between when I planted it and when it bloomed that I'd forgotten part of its billed attraction was its strong fragrance until I finally stopped to smell the roses, literally. Well worth the $16 I paid for it, and the clematis behind it is happier too.
What gems have fallen into your garden cart this year? It's always fun to step off the planned path and experiment. And if it doesn't work out, there's always next year in the garden.
The growing season is winding down, but trendwatchers are already looking ahead to how we'll be gardening next year.
So what crops, methods and looks will be hot in 2014? Here are a dozen top trends from the Garden Media Group, presented by trendspotter Suzi McCoy at the recent Garden Writers Association Symposium in Quebec City:
1. Ground up. Food scraps are the new recyclables, according to McCoy. About 25 percent of Americans are currently composting and building their soil from scratch, and more will jump on the compost bandwagon, inspired by new user-friendly compost products.
2. Super Foods Super Models. The veggie-growing renaissance that emerged a few years back is still robust, with more gardeners branching beyond the basics to grow hard-to-find specialty veggies, fruits and herbs.
3. Drink Your Yard. Homegrown goes liquid, with more gardeners growing hops for homebrew, grapes for wine, ingredients for craft cocktails and "green smoothies." Homemade pickles and kimchi also will be big. "Fermentation gardens are the new chickens," according to Rebecca Reed of Southern Living.
4. Dress Up Your Yard. Outdoor living enthusiasts are in the mood to accessorize, using artsy pots, chandeliers and other "garden jewelry" to add flair to their landscapes.
5. Bee-nificials. Pollinators are in peril, and consumers are primed to help, planting pollen-rich natives, moving away from monocultures and adding habitat, both natural vegetation and bee-friendly innovations such as "bee hotels."
6. Cultur-vating. Locavores are taking local to the next level, embracing plants that are local to their region but mixing them with plants from other cultures.
7. Simple Elegance. Gardens are taking a cue from fashion with color-blocking and other simple-yet-high-impact color schemes, including classic black and white.
8. Frack'd Up. Neat clean lines are passe. The trendiest gardens will feature fractional shapes such as triangles, circles and squares. Umbels -- a flower shape featuring spiky stems topped by round clusters of blooms -- will be especially popular.
9. Young Men Get Down and Dirty. Who spends the most money in the garden? Right now, it's young guys, ages 18 to 34, who shell out $100 more than average during the growing season. They're growing food for grilling, hops for homebrew and peppers for homemade salsa.
10. Think Gardens. As more people get the message that plants help us de-stress and work smarter, look for more outdoor garden meetings, indoor gardens at work and even desktop gardens.
11. Fingertip Gardening. Gardening goes digital. Instead of asking friends and neighbors for growing advice, we're now turning to the Internet and mobile apps.
12. Tree-mendous Reversal. Between development and pests, we're losing 4 million urban trees a year -- and we're increasingly aware of what that's costing us -- environmentally, economically and emotionally. Thus, we're going to be planting a lot of trees, trying to restore our arboreal balance.
That's what's in. Here's what's out, according to McCoy. "Fairy gardens are over," she said. (Although I'm not sure Minnesota gardeners are ready to let go of them, judging from the many fairy gardens entered in this year's Beatuiful Gardens contest.)
So now it's your turn to weigh in, fellow gardeners. Which of these trends resonate for you? Which ones will you be embracing? Or ignoring?
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