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.

Posts about Annuals

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?

Beauty break at the Fair

Posted by: Lynn Underwood Updated: August 21, 2014 - 3:48 PM

The Agriculture/Horticulture building is where you'll find beer - and fabulous flowers - at the Minnesota State Fair. If you’re heading there to taste brews made by the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, make sure to swing by one of the State Fair flower shows scheduled throughout the fair's run.

It’s a place to escape and get a glimpse of quiet beauty after navigating sweaty crowds, munching on food that should never be on a stick and battling for a bench at the KARE11 barn. I’m especially partial to the orchid and dahlia shows and look forward to gazing at glorious specimens that were judged the best of the best.

This year the Minnesota State Horticultural Society planted an Adopt-A-Garden that’s decked out with waterfalls, two streams and a bubbler. This garden hasn’t thrown in the trowel yet --  it’s also packed with  blooming perennials and annuals that will last through the fall. Take notes and photos on your smart phone to help plan next spring’s plant list.

Here’s the rundown:

Aug. 21-22: Cactus and succulents by the Minnesota State Horticultural Society and African violets by the African Violet Society of Minnesota.
Aug. 23-24: Gladiolus by the Minnesota Gladiolus Society.
Aug. 25-26: Minnesota State Fair Show - no idea what kind of plants are displayed.
Aug. 27-28: Floral designs by Federated Garden Clubs of Minnesota and Professional Designer of the Year Semi-finals by the Minnesota State Florist Association.
Aug. 29-30: Orchids by Orchid Society of Minnesota and bonsai by Minnesota Bonsai Society.
Aug. 31-Sept.1: Dahlias by Minnesota Dahlia Society.

The Ag/Hort building shows are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

What’s your must-stop flower show at the fair?

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?

Garden party glory

Posted by: Lynn Underwood Updated: August 14, 2014 - 3:01 PM

By the end of August, my garden looks like the dead zone.

It’s far from a colorful festive setting when I celebrate my son’s birthday right before Labor Day. Each year, I invite the family over for a party. Without fail - the green-thumb relatives head to the back yard or on the high deck to see what’s happening in the gardens. Without fail - they're disappointed.

The plants look like a birthday balloon that's slowing losing its helium after the party is over. Bee balm, black-eyed Susans and coneflowers are past their mid summer peak. The mass of phlox are spent and even the prolific moneywort has sprouted its last yellow flower. Thank God, the hydrangea bushes are still laden with plump petal balls. And the Autumn Joy sedum is just hitting its stride.

Sure, I could infuse bursts of vibrant color with garden variety annuals - petunias, impatiens and zinnias. But they never flourish in my mostly low, wet beds so they’re always relegated to patio pots. I’ve planted  New England asters, but they took their sweet time and didn’t bloom until mid September - weeks after the party was over.

I’d like a garden the family will gush over - not take one glance and then head inside for chips and salsa. I''ve got to be strategic in timing my garden glory.

What perennials can I plant next spring - in sunny and partial shade areas - that will reliably deliver gorgeous foliage and color right before Labor Day?

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