Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson and Kim Palmer 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.
It was a beautiful spring weekend but much too early to plant msot things here in the Twin Cities.
So what's a Minnesotan to do? Mulch.
Spreading mulch was the outdoor chore du jour, judging from the people I saw working outside in my neighborhood and around town over the weekend. Gardeners were even talking about mulch at church and posting photos of their freshly spread mulch on Facebook.
Wood-chip mulch is a good thing in garden beds for a whole host of reasons:
1. It conserves moisture, helping plants stay hydrated in the heat of summer.
2. It improves the health and fertility of your soil as it breaks down.
3. It inhibits weed growth.
4. And it greatly enhances the visual appeal of most landscapes.
I always feel left out of the whole mulch conversation because my current yard doesn't have anywhere to put it. Whoever landscaped our place around 1990, the year the house was built, spread a layer of golfball-sized rocks around all the front-yard trees and shrubs.
Sure, I've tweaked the landscape over the years. I've chopped down aging scraggly junipers and planted a few Endless Summer hydrangeas. But I've never done a major refresh of the original landscape. And after 25 years, it's definitely time.
I'd love to dig out a few more ugly overgrown shrubs and replace them with some charming little specimen trees. And I'd really love to surround them with mulch, not rocks.
So here's my dilemma: Can I take the easier way out and cover those rocks with a thick layer of mulch? Or do I have to remove all the rocks first and start from scratch? Anyone out there undertaken the rocks-to-mulch transformation?
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.
Sometimes gardening is a mystery. Because I’m a Master Gardener, people think I know all the answers.
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.”
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?
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
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?
|Annuals (68)||Books and resources (9)|
|Chickens (4)||Compost (9)|
|Critters and pests (48)||Farmers markets (14)|
|Flowers (114)||Fruit and berries (40)|
|Grasses (25)||Green gardening (31)|
|Lawn care (24)||Perennials (129)|
|Preserving (9)||Rain gardens (5)|
|Seed starting (14)||Soil prep (14)|
|Tools (8)||Transplanting + dividing (13)|
|Trees (41)||Vegetables (138)|
|Weather (79)||Weeds (28)|
|Weekend chores (67)|