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.
Sedum is the old shoe in my garden. It's so low-maintenance that I tend to forget about it. And during summer, when other plants are bursting with blooms and calling attention to themselves, sedum recedes to the background.
But fall is sedum's turn to shine. While my other plants are looking spent and scraggly, my sedums are just coming into their own, with big clumps of tiny blooms that put on a show of fall color.
I have the ubiquitous Autumn Joy but there are many other varieties, from the variegated Pink Chablis to the dusky Black Jack.
Sedum isn't maintenance-free but it's pretty darn close. Mature plants need to be divided every few years or they tend to collapse in the middle. Or so I'm told. But to be completely frank, I haven't divided ANY of the sedums that I acquired along with my house 14 years ago, and they still look pretty darn good.
Sedum is tough as nails in garden beds, but it's equally indestructible in pots. I bought some Dragon's Blood sedum plants seven years ago to trail over the edges of my patio pots. Every fall, I just leave them in the pots and let them freeze. And they STILL come back, year after year. That's a survivor!
What's your favorite sedum?
Last year, we ran a story about veggies for dummies (we gave it a classier headline at the time). The experts I interviewed offered up the usual easy-grow suspects -- tomatoes, summer squash, cucumbers ... and one veggie that surprised me: beets.
I had never tried growing beets. And for some reason, I would have guessed they were hard to grow. But horticulturist Mike Hibbard assured me that beets are no-brainers. Toss seeds on the ground in April, and they germinate with no care at all, he said.
I decided to try my hand at beets. I bought three big resin pots, potting soil and bagged compost, and three kinds of beet seeds. I planted in late April and put the pots on my deck. Within 10 days, my pots were full of tiny seedlings. They grew so fast and thick that they soon looked very crowded.
"You have to thin them," said Karen, my friend and go-to veggie expert. The seeds are actually seed clusters, she explained.
"What do you do with the ones you pull?" I asked.
"Throw 'em away," she said.
I'm not good at throwing things away (my parents grew up during the Depression). So I bought a couple more big pots and tried replanting the pulled seedlings. They looked a little limp for a couple of days, but I kept watering them, and most of them rebounded.
Soon I had five pots of thriving beets. Sadly, this was not good news to the others in my household, who refused to eat them. I don't know what it is about beets. Garden centers tell me beet seeds are a hot seller, but most of the people I know turn up their noses at them.
I didn't like them myself until a few years ago. Beets, to me, were those pickled things in salad bars. But then restaurants started putting more beets on their menus around the time I started a diet and was trying to expand my veggie repertoire. I tried roasted-beet salads and beets with balsamic glaze and chilled golden-beet soup. I loved them all.
My "Beet Farm" became a family joke. But I produced a lot of small but sweet, tasty beets, including my new favorite, chiogga (candy-striped) beets. This year, I'm doing it again.
What veggies have you found surprisingly easy to grow? And how do you feel about beets?
By Holly Collier, Guest blogger
My 1951 St. Paul rambler came with ugly foundation shrubs: straggly potentilla, barberry with spike thorns, and some nondescript evergreens. I pretended to love them because they were encased in layers of crushed limestone. Then the juniper died and volunteer maple trees and stinging nettle sprouted in the limestone. But the thought of digging out all that rock drove me to garden in the back yard instead.
Then, overnight a huge hole appeared in the front yard. On Facebook, I asked if Minnesota had sinkholes. The responses were entertaining. Voles? Garden gnomes? Hobbits? Buried treasure? I wish.
I called the city to find out that I probably had a broken sewer line, which meant a $3,000 repair and redoing the entire front yard. Well, this was my chance to plan a garden makeover. But first, I had to deal with the limestone.
I've decided that the road to purgatory is paved with crushed limestone. As soon as I whined on Facebook about removing the stuff, friends were commiserating. It’s backbreaking work, as you probably know. I shoveled bins and buckets and posted “free rock” ads on Free Market, Freecycle and Craiglist. I was exhausted and discouraged. And I’d only just begun.
Then my high-energy gardener boyfriend showed up with his high-energy brother. Within minutes, we were raking and shoveling rocks assembly-line style into a wheelbarrow. A few hours and a quick trip to Chipotle later, the three of us (OK, mostly the two of them) finished the task. But both guys were in the military, so that might have contributed to their divide-and-conquer approach. Thanks T and C. And thank you, U.S. Marine Corps, if you had anything to do with teaching these guys how to clear rocks at a speedy clip.
What are your suggestions for dealing with landscape rock? Do you clean it and reuse it? What do you use instead?
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