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.

Parting is such sweet sorrow, or is it?

Posted by: Nicole Hvidsten under Annuals, Flowers, Perennials, Vegetables, Weekend chores 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!

The long goodbye in the garden

Posted by: Martha Buns under Perennials, Weather Updated: September 16, 2014 - 8:05 AM

First the bleeding hearts turn spindly and yellow. The squash leaves start to wilt. Then there's a cool night that turns my once-lush basil into spotty-leafed waifs.

The life is slow to completely ebb from my garden, but it's definitely starting to wave the white flag. The coneflowers hang on at one-quarter intensity and the summer bloomers start to look straggly.

There are a few welcome spots of color left: The asters are still bee magnets and the sedum Autumn Joy are putting on their reliable pompoms.

The veggies, too, are about to call it quits. Once I harvest that mega tomato weighing down a vine in the back row, I can go ahead and yank out the otherwise empty vine it's on. Four squash plants to pick and I can rip out all the vines sprawled over one raised bed.

Where there's no frost there's always hope. So I and the red cabbages and kale will hold on until the bitter end. But the kale will always outlast me.

So before your lawn turns crunchy from frost and leaves, make sure to take time to tour your garden to savor the long goodbye. You never know -- there might be some long-green tomatoes that finally ripened.

Slouching toward fall

Posted by: Kim Palmer under Annuals, Flowers, Vegetables, Weather, Weekend chores 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 under Vegetables 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?

Shrub is surprise survivor

Posted by: Martha Buns under Weekend chores 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.

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