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.

Time for tulips

Posted by: Lynn Underwood under Flowers, Perennials, Weekend chores 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?  

Gardens that are new to you

Posted by: Martha Buns under Weeds, Weekend chores Updated: September 2, 2014 - 1:42 PM

Remember your first garden, when it was all new to you? Or a new bed you carved out of the yard that was a fresh start? I was reminded of that sensation this weekend when talking to a veteran gardening friend who moved into a different house this spring and put in four generous-sized flower and vegetable beds. She remarked how easy it is to maintain and how quickly you forget how hard it is later once the beds -- and your weeds -- become more mature.

My sister is finding that one out: Along with an immaculately maintained older home, she acquired an equally pristine-looking garden. That was her first experience gardening on her own, and it was a few years ago. This last weekend she spent hours pulling weeds, filling four large bags, saying her garden had never been so out of control.

Yep. That happens. A new plot seems as though it was a blank canvas, with no preexisting conditions, be they perennials that don't quite perform as expected or weeds that stubbornly refuse to be eradicated. Freshly planted and freshly mulched, the new garden rewards our efforts and our eyes. Then with time the perenials outgrow their artfully designed spaces, self-sowing or sending out shoots at their own whims. Weeds, in ever new varities, find a haven where we water. All of a sudden, chaos theory begins to make sense.

It's the flip side to the rejuvenating aspect of gardening, and it can be hard to overcome late in the season. When that happens, I search for motivation in the promise of things new: If I weed this area thoroughly now, next year I can plant a new daylily bed here, for instance. If I weed this raised bed and tie up these vines to the trellis, I can more readily find the new squash I planted this year.

This year's new squash, by the way, is a delicata. And like all things new, it comes with the usual learning curve of figuring out when to harvest it. Like everything one looks up on the Internet, views differ widely. Some sites indicate it's probably ready now; others would have me wait until the vines wither. Some say it needs a week of curing; others say it's ready to eat straight from the garden. So like all things new in the garden, the only way you'll find something out for certain is to try it for yourself. I think that's why I'll never really master my garden, just the art of learning, because gardens old and new teach us fresh lessons each year.

What's your garden taught you this year? Got any new beds in the works?

Photos credit: Rick Nelson took this photo of delicata at a farmers market, where they know when to harvest them.

See you at the Fair!

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: August 27, 2014 - 9:07 AM

Today from 3 - 5, two of us Greengirls (Connie and Helen ) will be at the Minnesota State Fair.  We are playing a game and handing out prizes.  The game is "Good for the Garden... or Bad for the Garden."  And here is one answer... the above photo is a honeybee... and YES, they ARE good for the Garden!  See you later today!

Finally, hollyhock success

Posted by: Martha Buns under Flowers, Perennials 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 under Flowers, Green gardening, Perennials 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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