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 Vegetables

It's Draft Day for tomatoes: Make your pick for the season

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: April 30, 2015 - 8:52 AM

It’s Draft Day. Some may think that’s the day when NFL teams choose their next superstar. Nope. Today is the day you pick out which type of tomatoes you’re going to plant this year.

First of all you need to assess your current team. You shouldn’t plant tomatoes in the same spot each year, so where are the holes in your lineup? You’ll need a 3’ x 3’ space for each plant; do you have room? Do you have at least 8 hours of sun? If you’re using pots, are they at least 8 gallons? And is your equipment cleaned with a bleach solution? Ready -- hike.

First you need to pick neonicotinoid-free plants. Neo-nics are fodder for another blog – they kill beneficial insects and stay in your soil for years. Let’s just say that if you buy plants using neonicotinoids, you are getting a player that’s on life support.

Second, do you choose heirloom tomatoes or modified? That’s another big choice to make. I have blight in my soil and overhead sprinklers, so I need to go with plants with lots of V’s and F’s after them.

Third, how are you going to eat your tomatoes? Do you want the perfect tomato for a BLT? Are you canning? I do both, so in my lineup are Better Boys, Romas and Mortgage Lifters. Better Boys are for the BLTs and to impress my neighbors. Romas are a determinate plant (all the tomatoes come due at once – easier for canning). I also like Mortgage Lifters. They are huge prolific tomatoes that are great for canning – ugly and huge.

And don’t forget about ‘days to maturity.’ You don’t want and unripe team on playoff day. What are your team colors this year? Cherokee Purple? Aunt Ruby’s German Green? (can those two plants be on the same field together?

What's your favorate draft pick?

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?

Where are the cucumbers?

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: September 10, 2014 - 8:39 AM

When I blog, I usually like to include pictures from my garden about the topic of the day.  What I’ve chosen to

discuss today is cucumbers and I don’t have a photo… because I don’t have ANY CUCUMBERS.  And by the sounds of it, I am not alone.

What happened this year?  August and September I’m usually searching for different pickle recipes because I can only eat so many bread and butter pickles.  I bring the overabundance into work for my co-workers to enjoy.  Not this year.  I barely have reaped enough for a salad.  

No cucumbers with sour cream to enjoy.  No cucumber soup.  
My back yard is subject to a little powdery mildew; so I thought maybe it was a local/weather thing in Minneapolis, but my brother-in-law complained about his lack of cucumbers too.  He lives in Brainerd.  Another friend in Coon Rapids reaped a miniscule harvest.  

What gives?  Is anyone making pickles this year?

The good, the bad and the ugly

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: August 18, 2014 - 4:49 PM

Gardens spring forth with high hopes, but by mid-August, the garden is what it is. It's time to savor the successes -- and write off what didn't pan out this year. Here's what's going on in my garden, the good, the bad and the ugly:

THE GOOD: We are now harvesting awesomely delicious tomatoes, plus as much basil and oregano as we can pick. Squash and peppers will soon be ripe and ready for the table. And my nasturtiums are still ablaze with tasty blooms for tossing in salads. I love the peppery kick of the flowers and the leaves. 

On the ornamental front, one of my succulents surprised me by shooting off a long arm, which is now covered with hot-pink buds. I've never gotten a succulent to flower before. Cool!

THE BAD: What happened to the morning glories? I plant them every year, usually from seed, and I typically get like three flowers, and not until early October. This year, I bought plants at the garden center, figuring that would speed up the flowering. But I still haven't seen a single bloom -- just a few feeble bud-like nubs that dried up and fell off. What the heck?

THE UGLY: An intruder has discovered my awesomely delicious tomatoes. Every morning when I check the vines, there are two or three more tomatoes with giant gaping bites taken out of them. I suspect the bold chipmunk I often see darting around my deck. But we also have an army of squirrels snacking on maple seeds in the tree right above my tomato pots, so it could be one of them. I'm glad they're enjoying them -- we have enough to share.

What's good, bad or just-plain ugly in your garden, now that summer is winding down?

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