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.
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?
It’s a busy time of year for gardeners! As a Hennepin County Master Gardener, I’m involved with a few programs that
require quite of bit of time and planning during April.
Last year, Cargill Corporation started an employee volunteer program whereby they planted vegetables in a company owned garden then donated their produce to local food shelves. As a Master Gardener, I assisted in planning, instructions and ‘bug advice.’
Over 60 volunteers showed up Tuesday (some still in business clothes). They turned the soil, added compost, marked out their plots and planted cool weather vegetables. In a month or so, they’ll plant tomatoes, peppers and other warm weather crops.
In all, they hope to donate over 1,500 pounds of vegetables! (last year they donated 800 pounds)
Imagine how these fresh vegetables will put smiles on hungry, needy family’s faces!
It’s not too late if you want to organize a group of friends/co-workers to work together to give. If you’re not a green thumb, attend a Master Gardening Program at your local library.
As a community garden you’ll need ‘rules’ and ‘assignments’ but if everyone has a good attitude it can be done! There are hungry people in Minnesota that will benefit from the nutrition and taste of fresh vegetables. AND, it’s fun to garden with friends.
What do you think, are you in?
Non-gardening season was extra short this year, especially for me. My 2011 gardening season ended on a raw December day when most people already had up outdoor holiday decorations in their yard, and I was out in mine attempting to plant garlic.
It was an accident, like many ventures in my gardening career. I had bought garlic at the farmers market in fall, and I set it aside to plant a few weeks after the first killing frost, as instructed. But that was a long time coming, and eventually I tucked it out of sight (and mind) when guests were coming over.
Then in December, my husband asked what had ever happened to the garlic we had bought. Well, shoot. Or no shoots, if I didn't so something. Could it be a case of better late than never? It was definitely past first frost, but sadly well past a hard freeze, and long since I should have put them in the ground. The dirt in the raised bed where I had good intentions to plant the garlic was already frozen solid and singularly resistant to digging. (Oh, we tried.)
Then my husband tried the big pile of dirt leftover from a yet-unfinished project, and it turned out to be more open to shovel work, so we added a layer of soil on top of the raised bed, planted the garlic and put more dirt on top of that. I mulched the bulbs with some leaves held back for future compost, and put down mesh to keep out inquisitive squirrels and bricks to hold down the mesh.
Then I forgot about it until a few weeks ago, when rows of garlic shoots emerged to reward our sheepish December gardening efforts. They weren't the straightest rows I've ever planted, but given the degree of difficulty points, I'll give myself a pass. I don't know what role the mild winter may have played in the garlic's survival, but I'll take it. If it all works out OK, this summer I'll dig out the aioli recipes and this fall I'll put "Plant garlic" on my electronic calendar for early October.
What is the latest you've ever planted? And what garden accidents have worked out well for you?
And if you want to know how to grow garlic properly, rather than improperly like me, the fine folks at the Extension service have all the details: www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/cropsystems/dc7317.html
"Do you have flowers on your Endless Summers?" That's what a colleague asks me year after year. She sounds wistful at the beginning of the growing season, irritated by the end.
That's because my Endless Summers flower like crazy, and hers rarely boast a bloom. Both of us eagerly ran out and bought the plants after their much-hyped debut in 2004. But while mine have lived up to the hype, delivering pink and violet bursts of color all summer long, hers have been a big disappointment.
"Do you fertilize them?" she asks. Nope. Haven't done it once. "Did you mix in compost before you planted them?" Nope. Didn't do that either. They shouldn't be so happy in my yard, but for some reason, they are.
I know a lot of people are very pleased with the performance of their Endless Summers, but there are some disgruntled gardeners out there as well, who complain that their plants don't bloom much or at all. My mother is one of them, although, to be fair, she says it's probably because deer eat the buds as soon as they form.
I've also heard people complain about the plants' stature, that they don't get as tall as other hydrangeas they're used to. That's probably true; Endless Summers reach a mature height of 2 to 4 feet. That's a big plus in my landscape, where plants tend to overgrow their welcome. The five Endless Summers I planted along the walk in front of the house stay petite and compact and, yes, loaded with blooms. Did I mention that? Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.
I got curious about why Endless Summers perform so well for me but not for everyone. Siting appears to be key. The ideal location receives morning sun and afternoon shade. That's because Endless Summers, like all bigleaf hydrangeas, dislike hot afternoon sun. (My front yard, for what it's worth, does have morning sun and afternoon shade.)
There's a lot of great information about getting the most from Endless Summer in northern climates at Northscaping.com (http://www.northscaping.com/InfoZone/IS-0124/IS-0124.shtml).
In the meantime, what's been your experience with this plant? Has it lived up to the hype? Or are you still waiting, like my colleague? And if your Endless Summers are happy (flowering) campers, what's your secret?
"I believe gardening is the highest form of art." That's what a gardener, one of the past winners of the Star Tribune's Beautiful Gardens contest, once told me when I was visiting her garden, and it's stuck with me.
She wasn't bragging. She was reflecting on the challenges all gardeners face in their quest for beauty.
Gardening, like most art forms, takes years to learn and master, she noted. But gardening is, by its nature, ephemeral, she added. One bad storm, one bad winter, and the gardener's careful creation can be dramatically altered or even destroyed.
When I visit winning gardens, I'm always amazed at the many ways gardeners find to create and nurture beauty. Some turn a tiny, postage-stamp city lot into an enchanted oasis. Others work on a bigger canvas, transforming acres of weeds into their own personal arboretum.
Have you experienced a "Wow!" garden? Maybe it's your Mom's. Maybe it's your neighbor's. Maybe it's in your own back yard.
Now is the time to share its beauty with others by nominating it in our annual Beautiful Gardens contest. It's easy to nominate. Just send a brief description of the garden and the gardener who tends it, along with a few photos -- they don't need to be of professional quality. Snapshots are fine.
The winning gardens and gardeners will be featured in the Star Tribune, in print and online, during the coming months.
So share the beauty -- and help inspire your fellow gardeners! Please e-mail nominations to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or mail them to: Beautiful Gardens contest, Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. The deadline is June 17, 2011.
In the meantime, let's talk about beautiful gardens. What makes a garden special? What's a memorable garden you've experienced? What's the most beautiful thing about your own garden?
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