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 Weekend chores

Parting is such sweet sorrow, or is it?

Posted by: Nicole Hvidsten Updated: September 19, 2014 - 7:48 AM

With fall in the air and the growing season past its prime, the tomato vines are tired, and to be honest, so am I.

Each season I plant gardens with greater ambition than I can seem to maintain. And each season ends the same way: I tell myself next year will be better. I love to garden, I really do. But I've found that part of gardening is learning your limits. Or at least what's important to you as a gardener. Some people flourish with flowers; others find more beauty and satisfaction with vegetables. Many of us are firmly planted somewhere inbetween. I've learned that since summer always seems to slip away from me -- and therefore my gardens -- I need to make things a little easier.

The front flower bed that's usually filled with annuals is now mulched in wi

th room for a couple of perennials. I'm going to plant brown-eyed Susans. Not only do I like the look of them, but they remind me of my grandma. Now I walk by with happy thoughts instead of cringing because yet another weekend passed without weeding getting done.

Then there's the vegetable garden. It's my favorite part of gardening, but one that causes the most angst. Why does one zucchini plant feed the world, but eight tomato plants never seem to be enough? And could tomatoes just ripen on weekends, so I can always get to them on time? Will the Brussels sprouts yield anything? And was I out of my mind for trying to grow them in the first place? Why were the cucumbers an epic fail?

And then I remember: I have limits, and my garden does too.

As we prepare to put our gardens to bed -- look for an article in Wednesday's Home and Garden section -- the Greengirls also are calling it a season. We'll be back in the spring with fresh ideas and enthusiasm. Because many of those lessons we learned this summer will be long forgotten, and the sky will be the limit.

Share with us your favorite lessons this growing season, and what you're planning for next season. Happy harvest and happy planning!

Slouching toward fall

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: September 15, 2014 - 10:22 AM

Fall doesn't begin officially until next Monday. But it's already starting to look and feel like fall in yards and gardens.

Maple trees are sporting a few flame-red flickers.

The tomatoes are tapering off after a flurry of ripening. There are only about a dozen still hanging on my scraggly vines, and the squirrels have beaten me to most of them.

Garden fatigue is setting in. A friend told me she usually quits watering her garden by early September, having lost interest in what little is left there. 

Me, I keep trying to preserve the last bits of garden goodness. My garden almost always has some late surprises up its sleeve.

Last week, the morning glory that I planted in May finally produced its first gorgeous flower. They're always slow to bloom in my garden, which has gotten too shady for morning glories. But they're worth the wait. 

I still have some late peppers and squash ripening, and I'm hoping they'll be ready to pick and eat before the frost hits.

And my cannas have a couple more clumps of buds that may or may not open into one last burst of autumnal bloom.

So I'll keep watering -- and savoring these last few days of "summer."

How about you? Have you lost interest in your garden, or will you keep nurturing it until the bitter end?

Shrub is surprise survivor

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: September 9, 2014 - 8:34 AM

This spring I waited patiently for some of my shrubs to revive after the brutal winter, and had finally written off one of them when it showed no signs of life by early June. There was no life in any of the branches, either tops or bottoms, and they snapped like brittle twigs.

OK, so I decided that this was one of those opportunities that life gives you: It was a chance to try out something new in that spot, and to much more readily get at my windows to give them a good cleaning. But I didn't get around to replacing it this spring, and figured it would be a good fall task when the shrub would have its best shot at settling in. (Or at least that was my excuse to myself.)

I

had sort of noticed in August that there was some greenery showing up around the dead shrub, which we hadn't fully hacked away yet, but figured it was just the weeds that show up around the roots of that plant that usually get fairly tall before I realize they aren't part of the shrub because the leaves blend in. But this weekend I looked more closely and realized that whatever was growing was from the old wood at the base, and was indeed shoots from the shrub I'd long ago given up on.

We hacked away all the old growth around it, although we need to get a more suitable tree saw to do a more refined pruning job than one can do with a Sawzall. So it still looks fairly scruffy at this point, but better than the eyesore of a dead shrub.

It appears to be growing back with the same leaves as it had, so possibly I don't need to worry about it being a grafted variety that will regrow differently from the rootstock. At any rate, I'm willing to let it grow and see how it turns out. Only this time I've promised myself that I'll prune it back more ruthlessly. No good having a sunroom that's shaded by a 10-foot shrub. And in the meantime, it will make fall window cleaning a lot easier than trying to wrestle a stepladder through a thicket of branches.

Got any late bloomers in your garden? Sometimes procrastination is its own reward.

Time for tulips

Posted by: Lynn Underwood 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 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.

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