Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson and Kim Palmer 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 Lawn care

It's time for a little mulch envy

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: April 20, 2015 - 9:02 AM

It was a beautiful spring weekend but much too early to plant msot things here in the Twin Cities.

So what's a Minnesotan to do? Mulch.

Spreading mulch was the outdoor chore du jour, judging from the people I saw working outside in my neighborhood and around town over the weekend. Gardeners were even talking about mulch at church and posting photos of their freshly spread mulch on Facebook.

Wood-chip mulch is a good thing in garden beds for a whole host of reasons:

1. It conserves moisture, helping plants stay hydrated in the heat of summer.

2. It improves the health and fertility of your soil as it breaks down.

3. It inhibits weed growth.

4. And it greatly enhances the visual appeal of most landscapes. 

I always feel left out of the whole mulch conversation because my current yard doesn't have anywhere to put it. Whoever landscaped our place around 1990, the year the house was built, spread a layer of golfball-sized rocks around all the front-yard trees and shrubs. 

Sure, I've tweaked the landscape over the years. I've chopped down aging scraggly junipers and planted a few Endless Summer hydrangeas. But I've never done a major refresh of the original landscape. And after 25 years, it's definitely time.

I'd love to dig out a few more ugly overgrown shrubs and replace them with some charming little specimen trees. And I'd really love to surround them with mulch, not rocks.

So here's my dilemma: Can I take the easier way out and cover those rocks with a thick layer of mulch? Or do I have to remove all the rocks first and start from scratch? Anyone out there undertaken the rocks-to-mulch transformation? 

Crunch is good in candy, but not in lawns.

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: August 6, 2014 - 8:29 AM

Walking in the yard last week I heard a familiar crunch that I have not heard since September.  It was the terrible sound of grass crunching under my feet.  After such a wet Spring, I thought the sprinkler would never need to be used, but alas, it’s time to get the water going.

 

According to things I’ve learned from the University of Minnesota, grasses have very long root systems (if watered properly).  When given long, deep watering as opposed to quick short spurts, the grass creates a web of filtering roots that grow.  After our wet June, I figure roots must be about 10 feet long!

That same article points out that lawn watering is best done between 4 am and 8 am.  It reduces evaporation waste and drift.  So neighbors and paper delivery guy, if you see me out in my nightgown, baseball cap and pink Crocs at 5 am, please look the other way.  I’m just doing what I can to make sure I can wiggle my toes in green grass in a few days.

A home to show - and garden to grow.

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: July 23, 2014 - 8:45 AM

A friend of mine has plans on selling his house so asked me over for a “garden consultation.”  Most of his garden time was spent in the back yard where he spent time with his family.  However, he wanted the front yard to pop so that when people drove by, the wanted to see more.

It’s a beautiful old stucco house with magnificent wood accents.  He had just removed two large overgrown arborvitaes and was looking for replacement ideas.  When I got there, I realized there was more removal that needed to happen.  He had bushes that blocked walkways -- one of landscaping’s no-nos.  I recommended keeping the shovel out and removing those two bushes.

We did the walk around and the back yard and front yard were bi-polar.  The back was a combination of peaceful repose for parents with areas of unique plants and a large green lawn space for children and dogs.  It was fenced in nicely with a well-kept privacy fence and terraced back area that was not too dangerous or steep for curious boys.  The area to the side of the house was fully shaded and the only area in the back that might need some work.

Then it came to ideas for the front, he wanted to keep the budget relatively low, but still wanted the “wow” factor.   I noticed a few shrub rose bushes in the back that could be moved to the front.   But he has limited time and moving roses is not fun.  Besides, I already gave him the task of removing two bushes.  

“Let’s go with hydrangeas out front,” I said.  “Peonies?  What about coreopsis and sedum?”  I didn’t see the “magnificent idea” look on his face.  What I saw was.  “eh, common.”  Although he never said it, I could tell by the plantings in the back he wanted more.  “I could divide up some of my hostas and snow-in-the-mountain for the side garden,” I enthusiastically chimed in.  He said, “Really, snow-in-the-mountain.”

At this point, I hoped to slap him into reality.  “You’re moving.  You won’t have to deal with invasive snow-in-the-mountain!  The hostas are the plain green kind, but they’re free and spread quickly.  Plus, the peonies are on clearance now at the garden center.  Add some bright petunias and new mulch in the front and it will look fantastic.”   

I think he expected more from this Master Gardener.  But that’s what I had -- common, easy-to-grow, abundant plants.  They can be gorgeous and make for quick beauty.  Maybe I’m too practical – or too cheap – but I didn’t go with adding $50 shrubs and $20 perennials.  That would be the next owner’s creative palate to fill.  

Did I do my friend wrong?

One step closer to fresh produce

Posted by: Nicole Hvidsten Updated: June 18, 2013 - 8:21 AM

Gardeners, we have liftoff.

I was downright giddy when I checked my garden over the weekend and saw the sunflowers peeking through and realized that the carrot seeds did not get washed away after all. Tomatoes are thriving, the strawberries are coming into their own and my herbs become more fragrant by the day. Alas, the poor peppers are trying to stay strong after it appears rabbits used a fair share of their leaves for a tossed salad. But now that my little gardens look like Fort Knox (thanks, Pa!), I expect them to flourish as well.

But something I didn't expect? Just how happy my little gardens make me. I love checking them to see what's new, I love how they look in the corner of my yard and I love that neighbors stop to talk about what's growing and the curse of rabbits. Gardening gives me a different kind of energy, and it's refreshing.

Even the rest of the yard has benefited from the gardens. After a few lackluster year

A little mulch and some hand-me-down pavers dress up the area formerly known as the garden.

A little mulch and some hand-me-down pavers dress up the area formerly known as the garden.

s, the lilac bushes are in full bloom, not wanting to be outdone by the new kid on the block. The space formerly known as the garden was spruced up with mulch and pots of herbs, making it much more pleasing to sit outside on the patio. We even raked the lawn after mowing, and have vowed to be more committed to trimming.  I'm starting to think about the yard in terms of possibilities, not just a chore. (Because really, who needs more chores?) Even the kids are getting into it, with one daughter eyeing the perfect spot for a flower garden with a bench for reading. The ideas are flowing much quicker than time or money allows.

The key to my success, though, is not only making time for gardening but trying to maintain this momentum. It's easy to get excited when the seeds start to sprout or the first tomatoes start to turn -- I can already taste the BLTs -- and we have fresh strawberries with our homemade ice cream. What will happen when the adrenaline wears off and the weeds start to invade? A couple of years ago I might have been more concerned. This time I'm approaching gardening very differently: It's not what gardening does TO me, it's what gardening does FOR me. Yes, I believe I'm hooked.

When did you become hooked on gardening? Did it take a couple of tries? What does gardening do for you?

 

What this lawn needs is a comb over!

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: May 22, 2013 - 8:36 AM

My friend Mike and I were talking about his lawn.  He said it was beautiful when he moved in 10 years ago, but since then has become patchy.  They had the lawn aeration done in the Fall… good.  It was raked but not power raked a month ago… good.  Last week before all this rain, they seeded with new top soil and shade grasses… good and good. 

After visiting with him, I went to fill my car up with gas.  The person in line in front of me had two gas tanks and a lawn mower in back.  Hmm, maybe my advice to Mike wasn’t that good.  With gas at $4.39 a gallon maybe he should forget about his lawn. 

If you just don’t use the lawnmower does grass work like a bald man’s

comb over?  Couldn’t you just cover the patches with a few fine blades of grass?  Who cares if the wind blows and suddenly you’re staring at a patch of nothingness.  Is it that embarrassing? 

This high-priced gas is supposed to last until June, by then dandelions and quack grass will move in and no one will notice.  (Is that like a wig for a patchy lawn?)

So, Mike, let the Great Dane romp in the back yard.  Forget about filling in those patchy spots and forget about mowing twice a week.  What do you guys think?  Live and let live?  Go bald or go home?
 

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