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 Annuals

What's a gardener to do after a hailstorm?

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: August 7, 2013 - 10:55 AM


It wasn't on my bucket list, but I now have firsthand experience with golf-ball-sized hail. I've seen and heard it crashing, held it in my hand -- and witnessed the carnage it can wreak in a garden.


I live in Eden Prairie, where the hail started hammering my house and landscape not long after I got home from work. My husband, who had just left to run an errand, called me with an urgent plea to get the other car into the garage.

I ran outside, ice balls painfully pelting my head and shoulders, and got the car under cover. Back inside, I watched my deck as ice balls and pellets piled up, turning the deck surface as white as a snowstorm. I could see my plants whipping in the wind and driving rain. Two containers blew completely over. 


After about 10 minutes, the icy onslaught subsided into softer rain, and I went out to inspect the damage. Wow! At least a dozen tomatoes, in various stages of ripening, were sheared off the plants, sometimes stalk and all. 


My giant black elephant ear -- my big splurge of the season -- had lost half its foliage, and what remained was punched so full of holes that the leaves looked like crocheted doilies. My canna were shredded to ribbons. My beets were submerged under a couple inches of standing water. (Apparently the drainage holes I had punched in that big pot were no match for the downpour.)

So much for homegrown tomatoes this year. There are only a few left on the plants, and they're pitted and pocked.

I'll still try to over-winter the elephant ear, but its days as the dramatic focal point of my outdoor "room" are over.


I haven't done a complete inventory of my back-yard garden yet, but I know it's not going to be pretty. 


What's a gardener to do after a hailstorm wipes out a growing season's worth of growth? 

Here's what plant experts have to say:

Trees and shrubs: These should probably be your first priority. Broken, dangling branches need to be cut off cleanly. Also remove limbs with severe gouges and tears. (Less-serious wounds will probably heal naturally).

Perennials: Damaged plants also need trimming. Unfortunately, the timing of this storm was not good for gardeners. Late-summer hail damage creates problems for plants because some will struggle to produce a new set of leaves, with limited success this late in the season. Damaged plants will be weakened and under stress, making them more susceptible to disease, pests and death. Plants that do sprount new leaves won't have time to harden off before fall, making them more vulnerable to winter kill. You can improve plants' chances by inspecting frequently for signs of pests or disease -- and treating problems promptly. Extra mulch can help protect damaged plants during the winter.

Vegetables: Remove damaged veggies and leaves. It's too late to try planting new tomatoes to replace ones you lost. Better luck next year. Root crops, such as radishes and beets, should survive as long as their tops aren't too badly damaged.

Annuals: These tend to recuperate quickly. Trim them back, fertilize them lightly and give them extra water for a days to promote new growth.

And next spring, when you're surveying those holes in your garden left by hail-damaged plants that died over the winter, consider replacing them with native plants. Because they've adapted to local growing conditions, they're better able to withstand being pelted with hail.

How did your garden hold up last night? 

Tomato time!

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: July 23, 2013 - 11:47 AM


There's an almost-ripe, red tomato about a day away from being ready for my dinner table.



It seems like tomatoes are taking longer than usual to ripen this growing season. Many on my biggest plants have been big but hard and green for weeks. My smaller plants are still a long way from producing edible tomatoes. 

I can't help being nostalgic for the weird, crazy growing season of 2010, when I spotted my first green tomato on May 24 and plucked two ripe ones for eating in late June.

This year appears much more typical, with tomatoes starting to ripen in mid-July. (For a calendar of what edibles ripen when in Minnesota, go to:

Will it be a good year for tomatoes? Or not? So far, I can't tell. My plants look mostly healthy so far, although there are spots on a few leaves, which could hint at end rot to come.

What's going on with your tomatoes this year?


Days of vines and roses

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: July 18, 2013 - 8:12 AM


I recently overheard a small boy ask his mother if she were a plant, what kind she'd like to be. He earnestly volunteered that he'd want to be a vine, so he could grow around things.


He's got a point. Vines rise above it all, and have a great grasp on life, even while relying on others for their support. From the gardener's perspective, vines are a great way to add some height to the back of a border or disguise an otherwise unattractive structure or fence.

My favorite vine combo is clematis growing on roses, although getting both plants to bloom at the same time is an inexact science.

Right now many of the vines in my garden are outstripping their support structures. The pole beans have hit the top of their obelisk and are flopping down the other side waiting for me to provide another foothold. Ditto with the hops. Clematis plants that have overrun their trellis have started wrapping around themselves. But other vines are resolutely turning their backs on their intended support. When presented with a perfectly serviceable trellis, the cucumbers and watermelon are instead intent on winding themselves as tightly as possible into the protective chicken wire that surrounds them despite daily efforts to give their thoughts another direction.

If you're in the market for some plants that will grow on you, here's a link to some perennial and annual vines broken down by height and sun requirements:

One of the plants on the list is zone hardy wisteria, which looks lovely, but I've heard people complain it's hard to control and needs really heavy duty support. Have you grown wisteria, and if so, how have you controlled it and would you recommend yea or nay?


While I 'm a sucker for most vines, not all the vines growing in my garden are welcome: Bindweed has gotten loose in one area. Just like their favored flowering counterparts, vining weeds sometimes grow a little too fast to keep up with.



Catching up with the Edible Estate

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: July 16, 2013 - 10:44 AM

Last night I got my first look at Edible Estate #15 since its installation over Memorial Day weekend.

A lot has changed. The tiny seedlings have blown up into big, beautiful vegetable plants -- more than 100 different crops, if you count color variations. The Schoenherrs' front yard in Woodbury is already producing so much food that the family of four can't eat it all. They're sharing veggies with their neighbors and bringing bags of lettuce to work to give to co-workers. "I don't want another salad for awhile," admitted Catherine Schoenherr.

She's most excited about the bright-purple cauliflower now peeping from its leaves. "We knew it was cauliflower but we didn't know it was purple," she said.

Her husband, John, is experimenting with pestos and juices, and their grown kids, Aaron and Andrea, are making salsa. And they're all trying to figure out what to do with chamomile, besides make tea.

Catherine has organized several "gardening nights" when neighbors are invited to come, pull a few weeds and bring home a bag of produce. And she'd like to plan a sauerkraut-making party later in the season. "We're going to have a ton of cabbage."

The garden is not open to the public, but the public can get a peek starting Aug. 8 at the Walker Art Museum, when it kicks off its Edible Estates exhibit, part of artist Fritz Haeg's residency. (Haeg is the creator of Edible Estates and the designer of the Schoenherrs' new landscape.) You can learn more about Haeg and his vision at:

We'll be featuring the Schoenherrs' new landscape in Home + Garden on Aug. 7. So what do you think? Would you want to grow this much food in your own front yard?  



Flowers: the other edibles

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: July 9, 2013 - 10:03 AM


My tomatoes have yet to ripen, and my beets are still babies. But I'm still finding good stuff to eat from the garden. Lately, I've developed a taste for nasturtiums. I love the peppery bite of the leaves, and always pick off a few to nibble while I'm out watering or weeding. Best appetizer ever!


The flowers are really tasty, too, with slight variations, depending on the color. The lemon-yellow blooms have a light, flowery taste, while the bright red-orange ones are stronger, with more of the pepper kick like the leaves. The dark, dark red ones (Black Velvet) are slightly less flavorful. Maybe the taste got lost in all the breeding it took to get that distinctive color.

With the help of my nasturtiums, I whipped up the simplest yet most beautiful summer salad the other night. I picked my homegrown micro greens and augmented them with some store-bought lettuce, then tossed in some nasturtium leaves and a light vinaigrette. And for the final touch, I scattered nasturtium flowers, in all three colors, across the top. Gorgeous! The men in my family weren't too keen on eating flowers, I must confess, but my mom and daughter were impressed. 

Now I'm thinking about trying to grow other edible flowers. There are many more options than I would have guessed. Here's a list, along with tips on how to use them.


I'm curious, fellow gardeners -- what edible flowers have you tried? How did you like them?





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