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.
Yesterday my kitchen looked like a garden center. It was filled with three mandevilla vines, two big potted tomatoes (a Mother's Day gift) and a couple dozen random annuals. I had hauled them in from the deck because it was supposed to freeze Sunday night. (Freeze! In mid May! Good grief!)
Then came today, with the forecast for 90 plus. So I hauled all those pots back out to the deck this morning, to soak up the warmth and sunshine, and doused them with water to keep them from getting parched.
I don't know if I dare plant the tomatoes yet, even though it's now hot enough to sun-dry them, if I had tomatoes to sun-dry.
This year has been such a bizarre extreme, especially compared to last year, when we were warning eager gardeners not to plant tomatoes in April, even though it was consistently warm and balmy and all the perennials were pushing up weeks ahead of schedule.
My garden remains in a state of suspended animation. There are a few signs of life on some of my perennials, but not all. The coneflowers haven't budged out of the ground yet. Two of five hydrangeas have yet to emerge. Even my hostas and sedum, the toughest stuff in my garden, are only showing about an inch of growth.
Now that it's finally quit snowing and freezing (I think), I know we're all impatient to start planting and get this growing season underway already.
The U of M Extension recommends May 15 to June 1 as the optimal time for planting tomatoes. I think I'll plant mine this weekend. I haven't even gotten a chance to plant my cooler-crop stuff like lettuce. The window between frozen, snow-covered winter and baking-hot summer has been so whisker-thin that I missed it entirely.
What will you do different in the garden this year, given that spring appears to have come and gone in about a day?
We've been waiting SOOOO long for spring to arrive. I'm dying to plant things in my plot and containers and make up for lost time. But spring's very lateness is forcing me to slow down. My perennials are so poky to emerge this year, that I can't tell what's coming back and what's dead.
I took a quick inventory last night. Of my five peony plants, only the early bird, the one that gets the most sun, is showing any life at all, and that's only a couple of stubs, no longer than the tip of my pinky finger. My Endless Summer hydrangeas are even more delayed. Only one plant is showing a few hints of green near the base. The rest look like Endless Winter, brown and lifeless.
My containers are a mystery. I have moneywort and creeping sedum that I use for "spillers" in several pots. They come back year after year, and I put the showier annuals in the middle, trying not to disturb the perennials on the edges. But this year, they moneywort and sedum just look brown and crispy, with no signs yet of new growth.
We just need to be patient, said Karl Foord, educator in horticulture for the University of Minnesota's Extension Service. Because of the unseasonably cold temperatures in April and into early May, we're weeks behind "normal" for plant growth. It seems especially stark because we were weeks ahead of schedule last year.
Foord isn't worried about heavy perennial casualties this year. "It was not a severe winter in any respect," he said. "It was long." But there was adequate snow cover, and temperatures weren't lower than usual.
So go ahead and plant your cool-crop veggies, but hold off on tender ones, like tomatoes, until Memorial Day, he advised. And don't give up yet on perennials that look like they didn't make it. They'll be poking their heads up soon. "It's going to happen fast now," Foord said. (For information about what veggies to plant when, visit (http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/dg1422.html)
What's going on in your garden? Are your perennials later to emerge than they've ever been?
What's coming up and what's not?
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?
Growing cannas was a test this year. I had traded hosta plants for canna bulbs at our Plant Swap back in May. I had the spot to plant them – on the side of the garage in full sun. The blank wall needed something showy in the summer that would die back in the winter leaving room for the pile of snow.
The cannas should work.
It took a while for them to emerge. (Maybe the soil is bad because we grew arborvitae trees and it could be acidic.) But they finally started growing. July came around and my neighbor’s plants were a foot taller than mine. (A different variety I’m sure.) Then I talked to a friend last week who said she was ready to pull her cannas out of the ground already. What the heck. Mine haven’t even flowered yet.
I’ve been waiting all summer to see a glimmer of red on the peak of my cannas. The leaves look spectacular – tropical, but I wasn’t getting any blooms.
OK canna lovers and the person who I swapped with at the plant sale, what did I do wrong to get a bloom finally in September? And when am I supposed to dig the bulbs?
The invasion has landed -- and is devouring our landscapes. I'm talking Japanese beetles, those voracious pests that make their presence all-too-known in mid-July.
A few months ago, there was some speculation in the plant world that this could be a worse-than-usual year for Japanese beetles because of the early spring and mild winter. Now that they're here and munching, that definitely seems to be the case, at least in my yard.
Japanese beetles started invading my space a few years ago, right after I planted a little contorted filbert tree. In no time at all, it was covered with beetles who turned its leaves into lace doilies. I'm pesticide-averse, so I didn't do much those first few growing seasons. Besides, the beetles were so enamored of the filbert tree that they largely avoided my few rose bushes.
This year, it's another story. The beetles are munching all over my yard, and it isn't pretty. In addition to the filbert tree, they've decimated my roses and a patch of Virginia creeper. I even found a few on canna in pots on my second-story deck, a refuge they've never invaded before.
I knocked those beetles into a pan of hot soapy water, then threw them down the garbage disposal. But the battalions of beetles below, in my garden, would take full-time surveillance to combat manually.
We did try an application of milky spore to the bare patch in my lawn where the beetles appear to be laying their eggs and spawning their larvae. But that will take several seasons to have any impact on the beetle population, I'm told.
I don't want to go the pesticide route, but I may weaken.
The University of Minnesota Extension Service has a lot of good information about Japanese beetles on its website, http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/dg7664.html
What's going on in your yard re: Japanese beetles? Worse than usual? About the same? Or do they leave you alone?
|Annuals (35)||Books and resources (7)|
|Chickens (3)||Compost (5)|
|Critters and pests (24)||Farmers markets (7)|
|Flowers (62)||Fruit and berries (24)|
|Grasses (18)||Green gardening (17)|
|Lawn care (19)||Perennials (65)|
|Preserving (6)||Rain gardens (1)|
|Seed starting (10)||Soil prep (9)|
|Tools (6)||Transplanting + dividing (8)|
|Trees (24)||Vegetables (90)|
|Weather (52)||Weeds (17)|
|Weekend chores (40)|