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 Weeds

Gardens that are new to you

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: September 2, 2014 - 1:42 PM

Remember your first garden, when it was all new to you? Or a new bed you carved out of the yard that was a fresh start? I was reminded of that sensation this weekend when talking to a veteran gardening friend who moved into a different house this spring and put in four generous-sized flower and vegetable beds. She remarked how easy it is to maintain and how quickly you forget how hard it is later once the beds -- and your weeds -- become more mature.

My sister is finding that one out: Along with an immaculately maintained older home, she acquired an equally pristine-looking garden. That was her first experience gardening on her own, and it was a few years ago. This last weekend she spent hours pulling weeds, filling four large bags, saying her garden had never been so out of control.

Yep. That happens. A new plot seems as though it was a blank canvas, with no preexisting conditions, be they perennials that don't quite perform as expected or weeds that stubbornly refuse to be eradicated. Freshly planted and freshly mulched, the new garden rewards our efforts and our eyes. Then with time the perenials outgrow their artfully designed spaces, self-sowing or sending out shoots at their own whims. Weeds, in ever new varities, find a haven where we water. All of a sudden, chaos theory begins to make sense.

It's the flip side to the rejuvenating aspect of gardening, and it can be hard to overcome late in the season. When that happens, I search for motivation in the promise of things new: If I weed this area thoroughly now, next year I can plant a new daylily bed here, for instance. If I weed this raised bed and tie up these vines to the trellis, I can more readily find the new squash I planted this year.

This year's new squash, by the way, is a delicata. And like all things new, it comes with the usual learning curve of figuring out when to harvest it. Like everything one looks up on the Internet, views differ widely. Some sites indicate it's probably ready now; others would have me wait until the vines wither. Some say it needs a week of curing; others say it's ready to eat straight from the garden. So like all things new in the garden, the only way you'll find something out for certain is to try it for yourself. I think that's why I'll never really master my garden, just the art of learning, because gardens old and new teach us fresh lessons each year.

What's your garden taught you this year? Got any new beds in the works?

Photos credit: Rick Nelson took this photo of delicata at a farmers market, where they know when to harvest them.

Gardens are sometimes the best mysteries!

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: August 13, 2014 - 8:27 AM

Sometimes gardening is a mystery.  Because I’m a Master Gardener, people think I know all the answers. 

Certainly, there are gardeners that do… but I’m not one of them.  Throughout the growing season, I get handed bags with weeds or bugs and phones with photos and asked, “What is it?”

Some are easy, some require research.  Of course I like the easy ones because it makes me look smart, but the toughies can be a fun challenge.  The first photo is an easy one.  “Milkweed.  Let that grow so the monarchs have something to eat.”

The second photo is a bit different.  They are beets in a tiered garden that doesn’t get much air circulation.  “Fungal disease,” I reply.  But,  I need to know more.  I find that it is botrytis.  A fancy name for something you don’t want on your beets.  Everything I read said, remove from garden, discard - do not compost and wash your tools with bleach after removal.  Similar to tomato blight, there is no easy answer to tell the gardener.  There will be a reduced crop and don’t plant beets there again for a couple of years.

That said, many mystery plants can be fun.  Like in the third photo case, a mystery squash.  Let it grow and see what color it turns, then eat it.  I’m thinking a pumpkin by the looks of the stem, but maybe not.

Have you had mystery plants pop up in your yard?

Plant freebies in July?

Posted by: Lynn Underwood Updated: July 24, 2014 - 5:13 PM

By the end of July, it’s pretty clear which plants are greedy for more garden space. My midsummer garden is flush with too much growth. Masses of moneywort green tendrils have infiltrated the clumps of ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum.  Tall fringed loosestrife have infringed on the feathery foliage of astilbe. But the most nefarious plant is the sweet-looking buttercup primrose, which has vigorously multiplied and smothered everything in its path.

My garden is just too small for prolific perennials to run amok. So I’m continuiusly thinning and dividing, tossing the wandering plants with weeds and garden debris in the compost pile.

Local gardening groups organize scores of popular plant swaps, sales and giveaways in the spring. Why not at the end of July, too?

I wish I could share some of these healthy specimens with appreciative growers who still have holes to fill and don’t mind doing it when it’s hot and buggy.  And next spring, they'll reap the rewards.

What do you do with overzealous plants spreading across your garden? Does your neighborhood hold a midsummer plant swap?

Photos: Dave's Garden and Stepables

Getting your garden through vacation

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: July 1, 2014 - 6:57 AM

Welcome home. That’s the message I got from the garden when we got back from vacation last week. We were only gone five days, but what a change five summer days can make.

When we’d left, the peonies had given up and hardly any other blooms were in action. But a burst of heat and some (more) rainfall have opened up the clematis buds and yielded a riot of delphinium, astilbe, coneflower and malva. The pea plants have gone from mere stubs to vines serious about business. And what had been teensy would-be tomatoes are nice dark green hopefuls.

The watering system we’d rigged up in our absence mostly worked, except one plant that a kind neighbor took pity on, so we didn’t come back to dead plants. We put pots inside the raised beds so they'd get the benefit of the timed water lines, which looks funny, but it's effective.

Really, nothing makes me value the garden more than coming home to it after time away. Except did I mention what the weeds did in five days? Eeek.

What have these prolific rains wrought in your garden? And what’s your strategy for getting your garden through vacation?

Weeds that grow like flowers

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: June 3, 2014 - 8:04 AM

The difference between a flower and a weed is sometimes subjective. At this weekend’s plant swap, someone was looking for an ID on a plant they brought. We identified it as a primrose, but one of us later privately passed judgment on it as an invasive spreader. I confessed that the common primrose falls into the category of plants that I tolerate long enough to let them share their blooms before yanking them out.

Also in that category: creeping buttercup, damesrocket and some generic aggressively spreading ferns that I trim for bouquet filler before curbing their spread. The primrose and damesrocket add a touch of color in the alley garden before summer’s blossoms take hold, and they’re easy to pull before they go to seed if you pay attention.

Some of the flowery spreaders were something I unleashed on my world, like the pink mallow that so freely self sows. If it lands some place I don’t mind it, like the alley hell strip, I say more power to it. But if it lands at the front of a border and threatens to upset the design balance, out it comes.

I guess I’m just a sucker for a pretty bloom. Proof positive: When those blasted spreading bellflowers make an appearance, I clip them for a bouquet and and then try to tackle them before their insanely vigorous roots crowd out the campanula I actually planted.

What flower/weeds do you enjoy or at least tolerate? And where do you draw the line?

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