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.
Yesterday my kitchen looked like a garden center. It was filled with three mandevilla vines, two big potted tomatoes (a Mother's Day gift) and a couple dozen random annuals. I had hauled them in from the deck because it was supposed to freeze Sunday night. (Freeze! In mid May! Good grief!)
Then came today, with the forecast for 90 plus. So I hauled all those pots back out to the deck this morning, to soak up the warmth and sunshine, and doused them with water to keep them from getting parched.
I don't know if I dare plant the tomatoes yet, even though it's now hot enough to sun-dry them, if I had tomatoes to sun-dry.
This year has been such a bizarre extreme, especially compared to last year, when we were warning eager gardeners not to plant tomatoes in April, even though it was consistently warm and balmy and all the perennials were pushing up weeks ahead of schedule.
My garden remains in a state of suspended animation. There are a few signs of life on some of my perennials, but not all. The coneflowers haven't budged out of the ground yet. Two of five hydrangeas have yet to emerge. Even my hostas and sedum, the toughest stuff in my garden, are only showing about an inch of growth.
Now that it's finally quit snowing and freezing (I think), I know we're all impatient to start planting and get this growing season underway already.
The U of M Extension recommends May 15 to June 1 as the optimal time for planting tomatoes. I think I'll plant mine this weekend. I haven't even gotten a chance to plant my cooler-crop stuff like lettuce. The window between frozen, snow-covered winter and baking-hot summer has been so whisker-thin that I missed it entirely.
What will you do different in the garden this year, given that spring appears to have come and gone in about a day?
My dad laughed out loud when he heard I was one of the Greengirls, and frankly I don't blame him; it is quite a stretch.
I grew up under the green thumb of my dad, and although he's not a master gardener, he certainly has mastered gardening. My childhood was filled with baskets of fresh green beans, zucchini, cabbage, broccoli, onions, rutabagas, lettuce, spinach, parsnips, peppers and tomatoes, among other things. One would think that being surrounded by all of that, not to mention flower beds galore, some of that knowledge would have rubbed off. It didn't. But it did leave me with a love for all vegetables -- well almost all of them, I can take or leave a parsnip -- and big gardening dreams.
Our current garden space is small and is primarily used to feed my love for all things tomato.
For years I've been eyeing spaces to expand the garden, but have yet to take the plunge. I was certain this would be THE year, but then started to wonder if the crazy spring weather was trying to tell me something. Can I manage a bigger garden? Where do I even start?
Although life with three kids is hectic at best, gardening makes me happy. I love looking at the garden in various stages of growth, and I love that when you eat fresh-picked vegetables -- especially tomatoes off the vine -- you can almost taste the sunshine. It leaves me hungry for more.
So as the greenest of the Greengirls, I'm turning to you for advice. Is it too late to take the plunge or would I be biting off more than I can chew? I'm all ears.
Oh, and don't forget the Greengirls plant swap on Saturday -- find details here.
Green Girl commenter BertieW has this question for veteran Brussels sprouts growers. Since my main knowledge of Brussels sprouts is that they're really tasty with bacon, I'm certain I'm not the best person to offer guidance. I know they're technically biennials generally grown as annuals with the harvest usually in the first season, but haven't run into the situation below:
BertieW's sprouts did not produce last fall, so he covered them with a healthy layer of leaves and figured the worst that could happen was they wouldn’t make it. So BertieW was quite presently surprised when he dug around the leaves yesterday and discovered green, growing Brussels sprout plants. His question is how does one deal with overwintered vegetables? Could they actually produce? Can they be dug up and replanted elsewhere? Has BertieW confused the plants sufficiently to get Brussels sprouts in June?
What advice can you offer BertieW? Should he leave the science project in place and see if sprouts result in cold weather, then dig them out and plant summer crops in their place? Or is this a pipe dream?
Photo credit: Tom Wallace
This last weekend, a good friend joined me in a class at the MN Landscape Arboretum. It was put on by Seed Savers Exchange and changed my outlook on vegetables. In the class, we learned about how plants are pollinated and the importance of plant diversity.
Plants produce seeds differently – and important to making the seed is the flower. The showy flowers of an eggplant and squash have evolved because of how the plants need to be pollinated. They need honey bees to share pollen between flowers.
On the other hand, a bean plant’s flower can pollinate itself – so it stays small and somewhat closed.
Tomatoes, for example, self pollinate and you can help increase plant production by shaking the plant a little bit during the flowering stage to "sprinkle" the pollen within the plant!
Learning seed saving techniques and more about the plant botany was great.
Many seeds are easy to save. Some are more difficult. This photo above is one of the more difficult seeds to save over the years. Take a guess at what these seed pods will produce.
Others, like watermelon are much easier to save -- once pollinated correctly. Yes, you can eat the watermelon and spit the seeds
out. What a fun way to save!
I’ll be bringing some seeds to our plant swap on May 18. I invite others who have seeds to join us. I'll be sharing some tof the things I learned at the class. So I hope to see you at 9 AM next week Saturday.
In the mean time -- what will those seeds on my hat produce????
We've been waiting SOOOO long for spring to arrive. I'm dying to plant things in my plot and containers and make up for lost time. But spring's very lateness is forcing me to slow down. My perennials are so poky to emerge this year, that I can't tell what's coming back and what's dead.
I took a quick inventory last night. Of my five peony plants, only the early bird, the one that gets the most sun, is showing any life at all, and that's only a couple of stubs, no longer than the tip of my pinky finger. My Endless Summer hydrangeas are even more delayed. Only one plant is showing a few hints of green near the base. The rest look like Endless Winter, brown and lifeless.
My containers are a mystery. I have moneywort and creeping sedum that I use for "spillers" in several pots. They come back year after year, and I put the showier annuals in the middle, trying not to disturb the perennials on the edges. But this year, they moneywort and sedum just look brown and crispy, with no signs yet of new growth.
We just need to be patient, said Karl Foord, educator in horticulture for the University of Minnesota's Extension Service. Because of the unseasonably cold temperatures in April and into early May, we're weeks behind "normal" for plant growth. It seems especially stark because we were weeks ahead of schedule last year.
Foord isn't worried about heavy perennial casualties this year. "It was not a severe winter in any respect," he said. "It was long." But there was adequate snow cover, and temperatures weren't lower than usual.
So go ahead and plant your cool-crop veggies, but hold off on tender ones, like tomatoes, until Memorial Day, he advised. And don't give up yet on perennials that look like they didn't make it. They'll be poking their heads up soon. "It's going to happen fast now," Foord said. (For information about what veggies to plant when, visit (http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/dg1422.html)
What's going on in your garden? Are your perennials later to emerge than they've ever been?
What's coming up and what's not?
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