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.

A home to show - and garden to grow.

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska under Lawn care, Perennials 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?

Snatching victory from the jaws of squirrels

Posted by: Martha Buns under Critters and pests, Vegetables Updated: July 22, 2014 - 8:59 PM

I've gotten very tired of coming home to see what had been tomatoes on the cusp of ripeness hanging from the vines in shards. For the most part the squirrels don't even bother to make off with their prize, just claw at it to the point that it's no longer a candidate for the table.

I'd made a few efforts this weekend to try to ward them off, knowing that the riper the tomatoes got, the more vulnerable to marauders they become. But a ring of netting didn't deter the varmints, so I'm going to have to take sterner measures.

In the meantime, until I get to a store for more defense supplies, I've started taking the precaution of picking them far sooner than I would ordinarily prefer, just so we get some tomatoes this year, even if they're counter-ripened.

Do squirrels attack your tomatoes? And what measures have you had success and failure with when it comes to protecting your bounty?

It's a party -- with pollinators!

Posted by: Kim Palmer under Critters and pests, Flowers, Green gardening, Perennials Updated: July 21, 2014 - 10:25 AM

Walking along Franklin Avenue Friday after work, I was passing a tiny front-yard garden when something caught my eye. Bees, two big fat ones, were busily foraging among the coneflowers.

I paused to watch them in action, marveling at their ability to find the few flowers in an urban forest of concrete. 

Bees, their decline, and the important work they do to pollinate our food supply, are getting a lot of attention these days. If you're interested in learning more about how to protect bees, provide habitat or maybe even start keeping bees, head to Lyndale Park Gardens on Thursday evening. From 5 to 8 p.m., there will be a free " Pollinator Party" on the lawn near the Lake Harriet Peace Garden.

The event brings together scientists, educators and beekeepers, with opportunities to learn about everything from urban beekeeping to making your back yard more bee-friendly. But it's also a fun event to stop by and just hang out, with live music, activities for kids, food and beverages to purchase, and at dusk, a showing of the Disney movie "Wings of Life." 

For more information, visit: 

http://www.minneapolisparks.org/documents/activities/environmental/PollinatorParty2014Flyer.pdf

Blueberry season is here

Posted by: Martha Buns under Fruit and berries Updated: July 15, 2014 - 8:49 AM

It's blueberry season, both at the farmers market and in my back yard. It's a much shorter season in my yard, where I have three bushes still trying to get established, but it's no less sweet.

Last year I made the mistake of waiting too long to pick them, hoping for the same perfectly ripe berries that the squirrels and birds apparently were too, and they thought it was worth fighting through the netting to get them. This year I picked a tad earlier and have done my best to turn the bushes into Fort Knox once green berries showed up.

Only one of the bushes is producing fruit this year, but that's not surpising given the tough year the other two suffered last year. Before I got savvy to how much bunnies like to munch on blueberry bushes in early fall, they'd suffered a major setback.

So I've only got a small bowlful to show for it so far, but it's a start. Every time I pick them I feel like digging out more of the yard and planting a whole row, with visions of blueberry jam and pie. But the area where I'm considering putting them in is the same area I keep thinking I'll do another blanket of lilies, and so far neither vision has won out.

If you want to start a blueberry patch, keep in mind that many varieties need another compatible plant for cross-pollination, so buying two of the same kind is a good idea.Some high-bush varieties don't require companion plants, but most of them do better with a pollinator near by.

Any fellow blueberry growers out there? What's your season been like? And how long did it take to get your plants established?

Now I've just got to find out what kind a grower at the farmers market has: Best berries ever.

Endless winter vs. Endless Summer

Posted by: Kim Palmer under Flowers, Perennials, Weather Updated: July 14, 2014 - 11:04 AM

Now that it's midsummer, it's pretty clear what is and isn't going to deliver this growing season. Are some reliable blooms missing in action? Specifically, Endless Summers, the hardy hydrangeas? 

Apparently there are enough no-shows this year that Bailey Nurseries issued a press release last week. Chalk up another one to the Polar Vortex. The unusually harsh winter of 2013/14 resulted in many healthy-looking plants that have chosen not to bloom this year. They need a year of growing "in a vegetative state" to recover from the damage they suffered, according to Bailey.

You might think that Endless Summers planted near your house would have a more sheltered microclimate than those planted farther away. But actually the opposite is true, according to Bailey's release. Plants closer to houses were subjected to a more damaging freeze-thaw cycle. 

That's apparently the case at my house. I have five Endless Summers, all of which have bloomed reliably since I planted them several years ago. This year, the one closest to the house is big and green but with  nary a hint of a flower bud. The other four are blooming, although sporting fewer blooms than usual.

Is there anything we can do to coax flowers at this point? Probably not, according to Bailey. Resist the urge to fertilize, which just risks burning and damaging the roots. Just wait. And pray for a milder winter next year. 

If you have Endless Summer plants, are you seeing fewer blooms than usual this year?

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT