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 Compost

Spring Compost Concerns

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: May 8, 2014 - 10:19 AM

Do you ever have the problem of not enough room in your compost bin? 

Every spring it happens to me.  I pack it full of chopped leaves and grass in the fall, hoping that it will break down quickly before Winter sets in.  Then it gets too cold, decomposition stops and the pile remains.

THEN, Spring hits; the leaves are still in the pile, I might toss in a few kitchen scraps to add some fresh greens, but it still does not work fast enough!  So I add more and more and more.  

Cleaning my pond didn’t help speed up thing either.  The pine tree over the pond shed quite a number of needles during the polar vortex and now the needles are sitting in the compost bin.

Gardening wisdom says that I should go out there and stir the pot.  Get some oxygen in to pump up the decomposition.  But I’ve got other things to do, like PLANT.  

Do you stir and tend your compost… or leave it rot?  How does your pile look right now?

On a side note:  Just wanted to tell everyone that the Greengirls will be at Star Tribune Booth at the Friends Plant Sale this weekend at the State Fair Grounds!  Friday 9 – 1 then Sunday 10 – noon.  Stop on by and say “hi.”

Next year's garden trends

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: September 3, 2013 - 12:24 PM


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?  



Catching up with the Edible Estate

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: July 16, 2013 - 10:44 AM

Last night I got my first look at Edible Estate #15 since its installation over Memorial Day weekend.

A lot has changed. The tiny seedlings have blown up into big, beautiful vegetable plants -- more than 100 different crops, if you count color variations. The Schoenherrs' front yard in Woodbury is already producing so much food that the family of four can't eat it all. They're sharing veggies with their neighbors and bringing bags of lettuce to work to give to co-workers. "I don't want another salad for awhile," admitted Catherine Schoenherr.

She's most excited about the bright-purple cauliflower now peeping from its leaves. "We knew it was cauliflower but we didn't know it was purple," she said.

Her husband, John, is experimenting with pestos and juices, and their grown kids, Aaron and Andrea, are making salsa. And they're all trying to figure out what to do with chamomile, besides make tea.

Catherine has organized several "gardening nights" when neighbors are invited to come, pull a few weeds and bring home a bag of produce. And she'd like to plan a sauerkraut-making party later in the season. "We're going to have a ton of cabbage."

The garden is not open to the public, but the public can get a peek starting Aug. 8 at the Walker Art Museum, when it kicks off its Edible Estates exhibit, part of artist Fritz Haeg's residency. (Haeg is the creator of Edible Estates and the designer of the Schoenherrs' new landscape.) You can learn more about Haeg and his vision at:

We'll be featuring the Schoenherrs' new landscape in Home + Garden on Aug. 7. So what do you think? Would you want to grow this much food in your own front yard?  



Interesting finds for the compost pile.

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: June 28, 2012 - 11:32 AM


New home owners are fun.  They have so many questions! 

A recent new home owner purchased a compost bin and we had a discussion about what can be put in the bin.  Of course, the usual leaves, grass clippings, vegetable peels, and dead flowers; but then she asked me about a few other things that was cause for pause.


  • Toilet paper rolls.  Why not, rip them up and they’ll break down.                                  
  • Egg Cartons.  Yes.  The paper kind only, rip them up and add to your compost         
  • Food boxes.  Yes as long as the food has not touched the cardboard.  In other words, yes to the pizza box, but no to the greasy round cardboard holding the pizza.  Rip these up before adding
  • Dryer lint.  I suppose, even though it might be polyester, it’s broken down enough to put into the compost pile
  • Contents of your vacuum bag.  Ummmmm, why not.  Hair, dust, small particles.
  • Magazines.  No.  The glossy paper won’t break down, but those pesky ‘seeds’ (mail back cards) will compost after you rip them up.
  • Droppings from a dog.  No Way!  If the animal eats meat, keep their droppings away from the home composter.  Now you can take their fur.
  • Then my friend was going to have a barbeque to celebrate her new home and that brought up a few other items she could add to the compost:  Paper table cloths (as long as food is not spilled on them), raffia, crepe paper streamers.

Think of what you throw in the garbage.  What other things can you add to your compost?  Just this morning I used cotton swabs to wipe mascara from my eyes.  That could be added.   What else?

It's time to mulch!

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: June 14, 2012 - 9:38 AM


I put another 3” layer of cedar chips around my trees a couple weeks ago, but my beans weren’t high enough to put mulch in the vegetable garden.



Thanks to some nice rain and warm weather, it’s time.


As you see, for now I’m using grass clippings.  Grass clippings are abundant and free -- qualities I really like.  I prefer to use compost, but I was not good about stirring my pile this spring and it’s not ready yet.  I had the right mixture (4 parts brown to one part green), but I didn’t get in there with my pitchfork and give the pile some oxygen. 

Now, I’m adding more greens and shredded newspaper to the pile and it will take some time for that to break down.  Plus, look at this little beauty growing out the side.  Do I really want to disturb a tomato plant?  I wonder what variety grew.



Some people say that you don’t need to stir compost, that the worms will do their job well enough.  And I might test out that theory this year.  I’ll add my new items in holes dug into the working pile.  Maybe the worms would like a fresh banana peel once in a while.

How about you, are you a "stirrer" or a "piler?"  Or maybe you have two bins where you can let one work and add new items into the other.  What works for you?


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