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.

Posts about Grasses

What this lawn needs is a comb over!

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: May 22, 2013 - 8:36 AM

My friend Mike and I were talking about his lawn.  He said it was beautiful when he moved in 10 years ago, but since then has become patchy.  They had the lawn aeration done in the Fall… good.  It was raked but not power raked a month ago… good.  Last week before all this rain, they seeded with new top soil and shade grasses… good and good. 

After visiting with him, I went to fill my car up with gas.  The person in line in front of me had two gas tanks and a lawn mower in back.  Hmm, maybe my advice to Mike wasn’t that good.  With gas at $4.39 a gallon maybe he should forget about his lawn. 

If you just don’t use the lawnmower does grass work like a bald man’s

comb over?  Couldn’t you just cover the patches with a few fine blades of grass?  Who cares if the wind blows and suddenly you’re staring at a patch of nothingness.  Is it that embarrassing? 

This high-priced gas is supposed to last until June, by then dandelions and quack grass will move in and no one will notice.  (Is that like a wig for a patchy lawn?)

So, Mike, let the Great Dane romp in the back yard.  Forget about filling in those patchy spots and forget about mowing twice a week.  What do you guys think?  Live and let live?  Go bald or go home?

It's watering time!

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: September 13, 2012 - 8:28 AM


If you were one of those folks who let their lawns go dormant over the heat of summer, it’s time to pull out the hoses.  If you don’t provide your lawn with proper moisture now, there may be no turf grass to come back in the Spring.


Sam Bauer, Extension Turfgrass Educator for the University of MN Extension, wrote that usual Fall lawn maintenance on drought affected turfgrass may actually do more harm than good.

For example, the usual maintenance right now is to lower your mowing height to prevent snow mold.  However, Sam says to keep the height up right now and mow less to help encourage grass recovery. 

And fertilizer, don’t think about it.  The University of MN has already informed us that the October feeding is no longer recommended. And in drought conditions, any quick release nitrogen flows right into the ecosystem because lawns aren’t growing as quickly and robustly as a ‘usual’ Fall in Minnesota.

So pull out those hoses right now.  Give your trees a drink and give you lawn chance to turn green before it turns white!  Will you do it?

Don't keep your garden to yourself

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: June 4, 2012 - 11:18 AM


We were strolling through the Lake Harriet Rose Garden when my husband said something that suprised me:


"Do we have any roses?"

Huh? "You just mowed the back yard," I said, a bit sharply. "Didn't you see them? They're all in bloom."

Needless to say, my husband is not a gardener, which has been a disappointment to me. I've always thought it would be more fun  -- not to mention we'd have a better garden -- if we worked as a team.  

Every once in a while, I've "invited" him to share some garden chore, which he's dutifully done. But I realized I'd never really tried to share our garden with him in a more accessible way -- by opening his eyes to what was there.

"I'm taking you on a tour when we get home," I said. The next morning, we walked through our garden. I pointed out the roses, the pink ones climbing on the trellis, and the deep-red ones on hardy shrubs. I showed him the clematis, the  heuchera and the peonies, stopping here and there to pull a weed. I showed him the veggies, pointing out which ones would produce tomatoes, lettuce, peppers and beets.

"Is that a weed?" he asked, pointing at a big, vigorous clump of ligularia. 

"Nope, it's a perennial -- it comes back every year," I said. "I planted it because I like the leaves, but it gets a flower, too, a yellow one."

By the end of our little tour, he could identify a few plants. And I had a new appreciation for my own garden -- because I'd taken time to stop and see the roses. 

Tending a garden is its own reward, but sharing a garden is even better. If you tend a great garden -- or know someone who does -- now is the time to share it, by nominating it in our annual Beautiful Gardens contest. It's easy to nominate. Just send a few snapshots of the garden, along with a brief description, including who tends it and where it's located, to Or, if you prefer snail mail, send entries to: Beautiful Gardens, Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488, We'll be accepting entries through June 16. The winning gardeners and gardeners will get their moment of glory on the cover of the Home & Garden section and online at

We're looking for gardens of all types and sizes -- big and small, urban and suburban, flowers and veggies. 

So don't be shy. Share your garden so others can enjoy it. And even if your garden, like mine, is kind of ordinary, take a few minutes to share it with someone -- maybe even someone in your own household.


Sprinklers today, really?

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: May 24, 2012 - 11:42 AM


On my way in to work this morning, I saw someone’s sprinkler system running.  Seriously?  We received about 3” of rain last night and someone doesn’t take the time to turn off their system.  Plus there is more rain on the way… and it was forecasted for about a week.


Now I’m not your best water conservationist.  I don’t have a rain barrel and I rinse my dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.  But seeing that person’s sprinkler going this morning really got me going.  Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes and we don’t have a problem with obtaining enough water – but what if we did?  What would need to be done in terms of public education?

This is a gardening blog so I’ll get back to that… BREATH.

A lawn needs about 1” of water per week.  The best time of day to water is very early in the morning and once or twice per week.   It is best to provide more water and allow that water to sink deeply in the soil rather than short frequent bursts of watering (10 minutes daily).

And while we are talking lawn care, friends have been asking me about weed control.  Usually, you should wait until the end of June before applying post emergent killers.  This year is out the window due to our early Spring.  If weeds are bad, whack ‘em… just like I wanted to whack that sprinkler owner this morning.

Survivor: 2012 edition

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: May 14, 2012 - 11:03 AM


After spending much of the weekend getting up close and personal with my garden, I have a pretty clear idea of what survived the winter and what didn't.


By now I think it's safe to say that whatever hasn't come up yet is not going to come up.

The casualties were not heavy at my house, but there definitely were some. This is a little surprising, given that it was such a mild winter. But the lack of snow cover gave plants little protection, which can be worse than extreme cold, from a plant survival standpoint.

I lost about two-thirds of my dianthus and a couple of stargazer lilies, leaving some holes to fill in my garden beds.

And there will be no repeat performance of last year's spring surprises, when annuals including dusty miller and marigolds sprang back to life for a miraculous encore.

On the plus side, the lettuce I grew in a giant container on my deck apparently reseeded itself, so I already have a little volunteer lettuce crop.

I'm getting concerned about my Endless Summer hydrangeas, which are leafing out nicely but show no signs of flower buds. Did that April freeze zap them at a particularly vulnerable time? 

What are you finding in your garden? Did you lose any plants? Or find any spring surprises? And if you have any Endless Summers, do you have any flower buds yet? 


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