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.

Look what the birds planted

Posted by: Kim Palmer under Annuals, Critters and pests, Flowers, Green gardening, Perennials Updated: September 17, 2013 - 10:48 AM

I didn't plant sunflowers this year -- or any other year, for that matter. But I've got gigantic 5-foot-tall sunflowers now blooming in my back-yard garden.

I noticed them sprouting there a couple months ago. They've never sprouted there before. But my husband discovered birds this spring and bought a bird feeder, which he filled with sunflower seeds and placed on the deck.

That deck is right above my garden, which is how I wound up with sunflowers.  

From a strict garden-design standpoint, the sunflowers aren't a great addition to my garden bed. Theyr'e way too tall, compared to what's planted around them, and look kind of silly. But I can't help smiling whenever I see their sunny yellow faces.

They provide a welcome burst of bright color, at a time when the flowers around them are winding down.

And -- best of all -- they've turned out to be irrestible to bees. I don't know what kind of sunflowers they are, but every time I venture outside, morning or evening, bees are buzzing around them, and camped out on the flowers and even nearby leaves. 

The three new flowering natives I planted this spring with bees in mind haven't done as well as I expected. One plant died after a few weeks. One stayed tiny and never flowered. The third plant, a coneflower, thrived and attracted a few bees. But nothing like the sunflowers, which are bee magnets.

What are the bees liking best in your garden this September? And did your garden have any surprises up its sleeve?

Finding inspiration in fall

Posted by: Mary Jane Smetanka under Perennials, Trees Updated: September 16, 2013 - 11:27 AM
With the garden winding down, there’s no better place to visit to get ready for next year than the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.
On Saturday, I went to look at trees I am considering for my backyard once a giant silver maple is removed. the specimen trees at the arboretum are labeled so you know exactly what you’re looking at. Looking at the mature versions of the saplings I’d seen in garden centers, I realized that I needed to change my plans and aim at smaller evergreens than I’d planned. And when a tree that was planted in 1974 is eight feet tall, I knew I needed to choose something else unless I’m willing to wait for my landscape to look its best when I’m in my 90s.
I wandered around the gardens, too. While I don’t have the space for the big displays that they have at the arb, the gardens are a good reminder of basic garden design. Massing plants for maximum impact is good. And paying attention to issues like contrasting colors and textures yields interesting results.
Here’s some pictures from my Saturday visit.
The tree at center is Picia abies “Acrocona,” a Norway spruce that looks like a Dr. Seuss plant to me. It gets raspberry red cones on branches in the spring. While this little one was cute, the mature version is a shaggy giant that I realize will overtake my small yard.
And this is grapeleaf anemone:
Maybe I will look for this plant for next year's garden.
Have you started planning for 2014 yet?

Where the bees are

Posted by: Martha Buns under Critters and pests Updated: September 12, 2013 - 12:46 PM

Most of the year my garden has had to rely on wasps as pollinators, with the bees conspicuously absent. But last week I noticed my garden was suddenly bee central, with swarms of them orbiting some basil plants that desperately needed topping.

I don't know why they finally descended upon my yard. Maybe they're just picky eaters and the fall asters and goldenrod are more to their liking than the spring and summer blossoms.

What's your bee population been like this year? And has it been constant throughout the year or are you also seeing a late season influx? Bee mavens: What causes bees to shift territories mid-season?

While I'm happy to see them -- something as a child I could never imagine saying about bees -- they did increase the degree of difficulty points once I finally got around to harvesting that basil. But the pesto was worth it.

Oh, and I learned it's really hard to take pictures of something has twitchy as a bee.

Gifts from the Garden

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska under Vegetables Updated: September 11, 2013 - 10:33 AM

Share.  It’s a nice thing to do.  This morning when I came into my cubical, I found a wonderful bag of kale. 

Yesterday, I brought in zucchini and cherry tomatoes.  My little cube has turned into a farmers’ market!   

At my office, what folks can’t preserve themselves, many bring in to share with teammates.  Not only do they share the food, but the stories and recipes behind them.  And flowers are enjoyed as well.  One of my customers has a perpetual bouquet of garden flowers on her desk – zinnias, black-eyed-Susans, with dusty miller and hosta leaves as greens.  

I’ve been volunteering as a Master Gardener with Cargill for the past couple years on their Giving Garden.  So far they've donated over 1000 pounds of food to local food shelves.  If you company is interested in learning more about Corporate gardens, there is a great website available.   The group holds a Fall Corporate Gardens Summit to help your company get a jump start by learning from others.

Another excellent option for excess is to give to your local food shelves.  Fresh, good produce is accepted and enjoyed by many.

What do you do with your excess?  Do you bring it into the office or your neighbors?  Bring it to a food shelf?  Compost it?

Minneapolis homeowners affected by storm can buy low-cost trees

Posted by: Kim Palmer under Trees, Weather, Weekend chores Updated: September 10, 2013 - 10:24 AM

Is there a void in your landscape where a tree used to be?

Minneapolis homeowners who lost trees in the June 21 storm have an opportunity to order a replacement tree for $25. The city is offering about 500 lost-cost trees between now and Sept. 20 (earlier if the trees sell out).

Six species of trees will be available, including hackberry, harvest gold linden, heritage oak (an English oak and bur oak cross), heritage river birch, Honeycrisp apple and royal star magnolia.

If the tree you lost was on the boulevard, hold off. These trees are not to be planted on boulevards; the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is developing its own plan for boulevard tree re-planting, to be implemented in the spring.

To order a tree, visit Homeowners who order trees will pick them up in late September (2-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28 at the Minneapolis Impound Lot, 51 Colfax Ave. N.) Volunteers will be available at the pickup location to help load each tree and provide a complimentary bag of mulch. 

And if you need help keeping your new tree aIive and healthy, there's a free workshop on tree planting and care, offered Sept. 23, from 6-7 p.m., at McRae Recreation Center, 906 E. 47th St., Minneapolis. No RSVP is required.



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