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.
Last night I got my first look at Edible Estate #15 since its installation over Memorial Day weekend.
A lot has changed. The tiny seedlings have blown up into big, beautiful vegetable plants -- more than 100 different crops, if you count color variations. The Schoenherrs' front yard in Woodbury is already producing so much food that the family of four can't eat it all. They're sharing veggies with their neighbors and bringing bags of lettuce to work to give to co-workers. "I don't want another salad for awhile," admitted Catherine Schoenherr.
She's most excited about the bright-purple cauliflower now peeping from its leaves. "We knew it was cauliflower but we didn't know it was purple," she said.
Her husband, John, is experimenting with pestos and juices, and their grown kids, Aaron and Andrea, are making salsa. And they're all trying to figure out what to do with chamomile, besides make tea.
Catherine has organized several "gardening nights" when neighbors are invited to come, pull a few weeds and bring home a bag of produce. And she'd like to plan a sauerkraut-making party later in the season. "We're going to have a ton of cabbage."
The garden is not open to the public, but the public can get a peek starting Aug. 8 at the Walker Art Museum, when it kicks off its Edible Estates exhibit, part of artist Fritz Haeg's residency. (Haeg is the creator of Edible Estates and the designer of the Schoenherrs' new landscape.) You can learn more about Haeg and his vision at: http://www.walkerart.org/magazine/2013/garden-all-seasons
We'll be featuring the Schoenherrs' new landscape in Home + Garden on Aug. 7. So what do you think? Would you want to grow this much food in your own front yard?
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????
Everything is winding down in the garden. The bee balm is spent, the cardinal flowers are drooping, the tomato plants have withered to spindly stalks.
But I just got an October surprise: morning glories -- beautiful, blue blooms bursting forth on the vine I planted from seed back in late May.
The vine had grown big and vigorous, engulfing my trellis and twining upward to the house. But I hadn't gotten a single flower. I asked some master gardeners about my less-than-glorious morning glories, and they agreed in their assessment that I probably didn't have enough sunlight.
So I checked my vines at mid-day. They seemed to be in full, bright sun, but maybe there weren't enough hours of it to coax the plant into flowering.
I had given up on seeing flowers, at least this growing season. But, lo and behold, they finally made their appearance. Morning glories are supposed to produce flowers about 60 days after planting from seed, but they have been known to take up to 120, according to several gardening websites I checked this morning.
Mine are definitely in the late-bloomer category, but they were worth the wait -- even if I can enjoy them for only a week or two.
What's going on in your garden? Any late-summer -- or fall -- surprises?
As a gardener, part of the fun of traveling is seeing plants you've never seen before. Sometimes they're exotic species that would never make it in Minnesota. All you can do is admire them in their native habitat -- and take a couple pictures to remember them by.
But sometimes you discover plants that you can actually try at home.
I encountered some of both types this month. First we spent a week in South Carolina, a state we'd never visited before, and I got my first real encounter with Spanish moss. Sure, I'd seen it in movies and photos. But seeing it for real -- everywhere -- draped from trees like fluttering gray-green scarves -- was magical and enchanting. It's so different from anything we see up here that I felt like I had stepped into some sort of Southern Gothic Disney theme park -- Bayou Land!.
I'd love to have Spanish moss hanging from my tree branches here in Minnesota, but I know that's never gonna happen.
But closer to home, I discovered a plant I would like to try. We were in Madison, Wis., moving our daughter out of her apartment, and I took a side trip to the Allen Centennial Gardens (http://www.allencentennialgardens.org) on the UW campus.
The garden is a teaching garden for the UW horticulture department, and it's always worth a stroll. So beautiful that it's a sought-after site for weddings, it's also a living laboratory of interesting plant species.
This visit, what caught my eye were some purplish-black tomatoes, darker than any I've ever seen, as dark as an eggplant. The tag said they were 'Indigo Rose.' Back home, at my computer, I looked them up. Apparently Indigo Rose is a new tomato variety developed at Oregon State University. It's not only gorgeous, but it also apparently has a high level of antioxidants, so it's healthy to boot. How does it taste? "Like a tomato," according to one online review.
That's good enough for me!
Several seed companies are now carrying Indigo Rose in their catalogs, and I'm definitely going to get my hands on some next year and trying growing them at home.
What plants have you discovered while traveling? Any you've tried to grow at home?
"Seeds emerge in 7 to 14 days." Those words on the side of the seed packet are among the most hopeful phrases I know. It's a packetful of promise of suppers to come.
Every day I check for signs of tiny seedlings, waiting for that first day there's a glimpse of green, wondering at first if it's only a bit of tree leaf debris before deciding -- yes! -- it's the first brave seedling just at the surface waiting to unfurl. Oh, and there's another one! And another .... Finally the wobbly rows show themselves, arriving promptly within that promised seven-to-14-day window.
I stand back and savor that triumphant moment for a bit, before all the propping and picking that seem far less magical. Then I grab the netting to protect my little darlings from the rabbit's little darlings.
And some 61 days later, when I've almost forgotten to look, I'll accidentally realize it's harvest time, when the shriveled pea seeds have completed their magic transformation into plants loaded with -- I hope -- plump pods. That will give me plenty of time to ponder my staking options. I planted a fairly low growing variety haven't tried before, so I'll have to see whether they warrant staking.
Do you stake your peas or let them fend for themselves? If you do, what's your favorite way to support pea plants? And what seedlings are emerging in your garden?
Can't wait to plant my beans and cucumbers and start the anticipation countdown again.
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