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.
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?
Wouldn't it be great to know when to schedule your garden party for peak bloom time? And to remember come spring which variety of perennial you planted where last year? Or what variety of seeds you sowed last year that yielded such great vegetables? If only there was one spot you could turn to for all that information.
There is, of course, if you're among those people who faithfully chronicle their yearly garden progress in a journal. Journals are a great way to chart successes to repeat and failures to avoid repeating,and to note bloom times, harvest schedules and which tomatoes were the most prolific or tasty. Also nice to have in a journal: a plastic sleeve to hold plant tags and empty seed packets, a calendar of what to do when, and a graph of your garden to help you plan.
Yep, that would be great. But I haven't done it, even though I kick myself every spring when I can't remember which clematis grows on old growth and which kind I should cut back, and the tags have long since vanished. Or which variety of nearly black heirloom tomato it was that I tried last year that was so tasty.
I've got no excuse but time and inertia. I even have a ready-made garden journal that someone gave me, complete with pretty pictures, helpful pocket folders and graph pages, all of which seem too immaculate to house my usual scribbled, dirt-smudged drawings of which tomato seedling went where. I find the pristine pages daunting, as if such an elegant volume requires notes more thoughtful than mundane. And every time I'm in note-taking mode, I've got dirty hands or gloves, so I just jot things down on whatever scrap of paper happens to be at hand and throw it into a folder, if I'm lucky.
Yes, I should just get over it, and break in the journal. Or else develop a weekly ritual of grabbing a notebook, sitting on the porch with a glass of lemonade and recording garden progress of note. (Doesn't that sound delightful? Too bad I'd need to fix the porch first.) Alternatively, there are any number of computer-based options for journaling, although you still need clean hands.
At any rate, this year I'm determined to at least make a start at a journal, and to help me I've turned to my camera. With a time-date stamp option, I can tell when I took what. So now I know when the peonies were in bloom (this year), which clematis is on which trellis and when it bloomed, when the pea seedlings set blooms, and where I planted new perennials. My pictures might not be quite as pretty as those in the untouched journal, but they're far more useful.
Do you keep a garden journal? What tips can you share for those of us who really, really plan to start one? (Other than pick up the pen....) This site offered great suggestions and templates for those inspired: www.hmk.on.ca/journal.html
Last week I wrote about how I put spare change in a Garden Jar year-round so in the spring I can spend money on the garden guilt-free. (Or almost guilt-free.)
There are lots of other ways to save money in the garden. And it doesn't mean you have to cut corners.
One my favorite tips is to use old nylon hose to tie up tomatoes, clematis and even this unruly "Tiger Eyes" sumac. Nylons are strong, soft and stretchy and don't cut into tender branches like twine or other materials. While I usually cut nylons into small pieces for this kind of work, in the case of "Tiger Eyes" I am trying to make the plant grow more upright and pulled the nylon quite tight, leaving the hose leg uncut so the band around the branches is wide and won't damage the branches.
Usually my nylon ties are eventually hidden by foliage, so you don't have to look at this all summer.
For plant labels, I've bought fancy metal labels, wood and plastic. For me, none of them matches the durability and low cost of used mini-blinds. I cut them up into four- or five-inch lengths and write the plant name on the blinds with a magic marker. While the ink eventually fades, it disappears on fancier labels too.
As far as plants go, don't overlook neighborhood sales and plant swaps (the GreenGirls are having one on May 19 in the little park across from the Star Tribune). And don't be afraid to ask friends if they'd be willing to divide a plant for you in the spring. Gardeners tend to be generous with anyone who shares their passion for gardening.
What tips do you have to save money in the garden?
This year, I've developed a new gardening ritual. When I water the containers on my deck, I always tear off a few leaves and eat them. Sometimes lettuce, sometimes chard, sometimes herbs. Occasionally, if I'm in the mood for something peppery, I'll nibble a few nasturtium leaves.
I can't help myself. They always taste so amazingly fresh and flavorful, plucked right off the plant. It's the ultimate appetizer!
Not all my containers have edible plants in them. But I'm mixing edibles and ornamentals more and more. I love the way rainbow chard sets off red and yellow flowers. Leaf lettuce makes a gorgeous border around purple and lavender flowers. And orange mint spreads beautifully, filling bare spots around other plants.
I know I'm not alone. Edible landscaping is a gtowing garden trend, one we featured in Home & Garden last May (http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/homegarden/93421844.html)
Mixing edibles with ornamentals feels fresh and new, after years of relegating them to separate plots and pots. But edible landscape pioneer and author Rosalind Creasy has been advocating this approach for decades. You can find great tips on her website (www.rosalindcreasy.com/edible-landscaping-basics/).
How about you? Are you growing more edibles these days? And are you mixing them in with plants that you grow only for their looks? What combinations do you like?
A friend of mine asked me the name of this spiny-stemmed shrub with sweet pea-like flowers. It's growing in the yard of the St. Paul home she moved into over the winter. It wasn't one I was familiar with, but the University of Minnesota Extension site came to the rescue with the name: Rose acacia, a native to the southeastern United States that's usually listed as hardy to zones 5 or 6, forms of which are adapted for our more brutal winters. It's not likely to be something you'll run across in local garden centers, so who knows how it got there. Read more about the plant here blog.lib.umn.edu/efans/ygnews/2009/07/rose_acacia_-_a_shrub_with_sho.html
Chances are most of us have been there at least once, new homeowners in spring time wondering what the heck that plant is that previous owners put in (only later do we sometimes wonder WHY they did so), whether that unfamiliar green shoot is a weed or a desirable as-yet-unknown treasure. The latter scenario repeated itself in my garden for a few years, as I seemed to suffer plant amnesia over the long winters and couldn't remember what was where.
What unknown treasures or out-of-zone oddities have you run across in your acquired gardens? And what references do you turn to for identification? I like plants.usda.gov/java/ and the websites of catalog companies such as Klehm's Song Sparrow www.songsparrow.com/ or Whiteflower Farms www.whiteflowerfarm.com/. On the weed front, I like the U's "Is this plant a weed?" feature: www.extension.umn.edu/gardeninfo/weedid/index.html. (In my case, there's a pretty good chance it's a weed, just not one I know.)
Do any of you have rose acacia and have any advice for my friend on her colorful new plant? Should she pull any suckers to avoid spreading? Does it need annual trimming?
And on an unrelated note: Is this a magnificent year for peonies or what? All the office gardeners were gushing this morning that this is the most wow peony year they've had.
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