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's State Fair time, which means it's also the beginning of Minnesota's apple season. Some of the early varieties like Zestar! are already available, with Honeycrisps, Minnesota's most popular apple, soon to follow.
Honeycrisps usually start appearing in mid-September, but they may arrive as early as next week, according to growers. Some apple varieties are two weeks ahead of schedule.
Minnesota's total apple crop will be down this year, about 60 to 70 percent of normal, estimated David Bedford, research scientist and apple breeder at the University of Minnesota (www.apples.umn.edu). But that's actually good news. Growers were on edge this spring after unusually warm weather in March brought early blossoming, followed by April frost that nipped tender buds.
While a few growers were hit very hard, losing almost all of this year's crop, most growers fared better than expected. "Pollination went well," Bedford said. "It's not a total disaster. It could have been a lot worse."
Early-blooming apples might be in shorter supply than usual, Bedford said, because they were a little more vulnerable to this spring's unusual weather. There may be fewer apples available for U-Pick and at farmer's markets. But Bedford doesn't expect apple shortages in stores because most apples are shipped from other growing regions, including Washington state. That's where Pepin Heights, the state's largest producer of apples, will be getting much of its fruit this year, said vice president Tim Byrne. Pepin Heights' 125,000 trees survived the early frost only to lose most of their fruit during May hailstorms.
"There will be plenty of apples," said Mike Dekarski, president of the Minnesota Apple Growers Association and owner of Apple Jack Orchards in Delano (www.applejackorchards.com). "We will have enough for a lot of fall fun."
The Apple House at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (www.arboretum.umn.edu/applehouse.aspx) will open Sept. 1 offering freshly picked fruit including U of M introductions. Opening week will bring Zestar! and Chestnut crabapples. For up-to-date information about apple inventory, call 952-443-1409.
Also at the Apple House will be other freshly picked seasonal produce, as well as locally made ice cream, fudge, maple syrup and jams. The Apple House will be open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily through early November. It's located about 1.5 miles west of the Arboretum entrance on Highway 5 in Chanhassen.
If you have a favorite apple or a favorite orchard you like to visit, it's a good idea to call ahead, especially this year, to make sure the apples you want will be available. For a list of local growers, visit the Minnesota Apple Growers Association website (www.minnesotaapple.org).
What's your favorite apple? And where do you like to get them -- do you pick 'em yourself at an orchard or buy 'em at the farmer's market or grocery store?
In years past, I’ve had an abundance of apples dropping off the branches -- so much that I was able to make several cases of apple wine. This year… two apples.
Yes, just two.
The Pessimistic Gardener in me thinks… no apple crisp to bring into my work friends, no canned apples to enjoy in November, no apple wine for 2012.
As an Optimistic Gardener, I think this example shows me that pruning apples judiciously produces better fruit. The two that we have are beautiful. No worms, no scab, no diseases. They’re lovely. I also don’t need to worry about picking up the fallen fruit – that’s one fall chore I can cross off my list. And maybe, just maybe, this will break the cycle of apple maggots in my back yard.
Optimism wins, but doesn’t it always in gardening?
Hunting mushroom is fun and fascinating. Now that I’ve found a mycelium of chanterelles, I hike that area more often.
If you are accustomed to the plain button mushrooms found in grocery stores, you’ll be amazed at the difference in mushroom found in the wild.
Over the years I’ve found Mushrooms called “Chicken in the Woods” that are named thusly because they actually DO taste like chicken. (Great in hotdish!). Puffball mushrooms take on the flavors in your dish or sauté. They are excellent in a dish with wild rice and cream sauce.
The chanterelles taste like butter. These aren’t the type of mushroom I would put on a steak. They’re great all by themselves or over vermicelli pasta with a little parmesan grated over the top.
Are you a mushroom hunter? Tell us what you’ve found!
I spent as much of the morning of the Fourth as I could stand liberating plants from the tyranny of weeds. My reward: getting to pick a bowlful of blueberries that represents the bulk of this year's crop. It's still not a ton, but considering this is only the second year we've had them, and last year we had a total of three berries, it works for me. It's just enough to go over a bowl of homemade ice cream. It's not quite like childhood holiday picnics, since the Cuisinart did the cranking, but it's close enough.
Happy July 4th! Hope you and your gardens weather the heat.
These are the days that run up the water bill.
With a string of 90-plus and even 100-degree temperatures in the forecast over the next few days, we're going to be dumping a lot of water on our plants, trying to keep them healthy and hydrated in this extreme heat.
Even with extra watering, plants can suffer from heat stress in weather like this. My leaf lettuce and arugula are already bolting. My begonia blossoms look scorched.
My tomatoes look OK for now, but I'm a little worried they'll soon be wilting, dropping blossoms and fruit.
Last night I spent more than half an hour running back and forth from the kitchen faucet to my patio containers, trying to replenish the moisture Mother Nature had sucked out of them during the day. I'm sure my plants will be parched again when I come home tonight.
Veggies need a lot of water even in normal weather. How much? Some sources say each plant needs 3 to 5 gallons of water each week -- even more during a heat wave. Container-grown veggies, like mine, are especially vulnerable to drying out.
To make sure you're giving yours enough water, poke a finger into the soil, about an inch deep. If the soil feels dry, water. And make sure to water deeply. A light watering that only wets the surface won't cut it.
You can also try shading certain crops, such as leafy greens, to slow bolting and buy you a couple more days of edible crop.
On the plus side, the heat wave gives us an excuse not to mow for a few days. Grass is already under stress in extreme heat, and cutting it stresses it further.
And our tropicals will love this steamy jungle weather.
How's your garden faring so far -- is the heat taking a toll yet?
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