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 Trees

I'm now a Pruning Advocate.

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: September 18, 2013 - 9:18 AM

After this week, I’m a firm believer in pruning your apple tree!  For YEARS I did not pick off those small quarter sized potential apples.  They were too cute – they held so much potential – I always think I’m going to have the biggest crop of apples EVER.

Then, last year happened.  Remember the early Spring and late frost?  The frost killed off all but three of my apples.  But, they were the prettiest, cleanest, non-wormy apples I’ve ever grown in the 15 years I’ve had the apple tree. All the tree’s defenses went into making those fruit the best fruit ever.

So I finally practiced what I preached and pruned my apple tree.  When they were about the size of a nickel, I plucked off the apples so there was only one every six inches.  Oh it was difficult.  I poured a bucketful of baby apples into my compost pile.  Ouch.

Now, as I looked at my apple tree this drizzly morning I’m happy that I pruned the tree.  And, as I bit into my

yummy Haralson for breakfast, I wasn’t worried about looking for half a worm.

Are you now a believer?  Will you prune your apple tree next year?

Finding inspiration in fall

Posted by: Mary Jane Smetanka 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?

Minneapolis homeowners affected by storm can buy low-cost trees

Posted by: Kim Palmer 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.

Next year's garden trends

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: September 3, 2013 - 12:24 PM


The growing season is winding down, but trendwatchers are already looking ahead to how we'll be gardening next year.


So what crops, methods and looks will be hot in 2014? Here are a dozen top trends from the Garden Media Group, presented  by trendspotter Suzi McCoy at the recent Garden Writers Association Symposium in Quebec City: 

1. Ground up. Food scraps are the new recyclables, according to McCoy. About 25 percent of Americans are currently composting and building their soil from scratch, and more will jump on the compost bandwagon, inspired by new user-friendly compost products.

2. Super Foods Super Models. The veggie-growing renaissance that emerged a few years back is still robust, with more gardeners branching beyond the basics to grow hard-to-find specialty veggies, fruits and herbs.

3. Drink Your Yard. Homegrown goes liquid, with more gardeners growing hops for homebrew, grapes for wine, ingredients for craft cocktails and "green smoothies." Homemade pickles and kimchi also will be big. "Fermentation gardens are the new chickens," according to Rebecca Reed of Southern Living.

4. Dress Up Your Yard. Outdoor living enthusiasts are in the mood to accessorize, using artsy pots, chandeliers and other "garden jewelry" to add flair to their landscapes. 

5. Bee-nificials. Pollinators are in peril, and consumers are primed to help, planting pollen-rich natives, moving away from monocultures and adding habitat, both natural vegetation and bee-friendly innovations such as "bee hotels."

6. Cultur-vating. Locavores are taking local to the next level, embracing plants that are local to their region but mixing them with plants from other cultures.

7. Simple Elegance. Gardens are taking a cue from fashion with color-blocking and other simple-yet-high-impact color schemes, including classic black and white.

8. Frack'd Up. Neat clean lines are passe. The trendiest gardens will feature fractional shapes such as triangles, circles and squares. Umbels -- a flower shape featuring spiky stems topped by round clusters of blooms -- will be especially popular.

9. Young Men Get Down and Dirty. Who spends the most money in the garden? Right now, it's young guys, ages 18 to 34, who shell out $100 more than average during the growing season. They're growing food for grilling, hops for homebrew and peppers for homemade salsa.

10. Think Gardens. As more people get the message that plants help us de-stress and work smarter, look for more outdoor garden meetings, indoor gardens at work and even desktop gardens.

11. Fingertip Gardening. Gardening goes digital. Instead of asking friends and neighbors for growing advice, we're now turning to the Internet and mobile apps.

12. Tree-mendous Reversal. Between development and pests, we're losing 4 million urban trees a year -- and we're increasingly aware of what that's costing us -- environmentally, economically and emotionally. Thus, we're going to be planting a lot of trees, trying to restore our arboreal balance.

That's what's in. Here's what's out, according to McCoy. "Fairy gardens are over," she said. (Although I'm not sure Minnesota gardeners are ready to let go of them, judging from the many fairy gardens entered in this year's Beatuiful Gardens contest.)   

So now it's your turn to weigh in, fellow gardeners. Which of these trends resonate for you? Which ones will you be embracing? Or ignoring?  



Mad about neonicotinoids!

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: August 28, 2013 - 2:48 PM  As a beekeeper and a consumer of food, I’m appalled that neonicotinoids are allowed in this country!  Check out the article written today by fellow GreenGirl, Kim Palmer. 

Our honey bees and the work they do help feed this great nation we need to take better care of our environment before all the honey bees die off.

I understand the need to keep pests out of the greenhouse in order to sell plants affordably; but don’t do it with substances known to affect honey bees!  Europe has banned neonicotinoids before all the ‘studies’ were complete.  Perhaps Europeans have a better understanding of the connection between the food we eat and honey bees.

Pollination has become a big business in direct correlation to the big business of food.  Colony collapsing disorder has put a damper on pollination and for the first time, there was a bee shortage for the California almond crop. 

So here I sit, a small two-hive beekeeper in central Minnesota.  How am I helping save the world? Well,  I’m helping the forest in the two mile radius of my hives pollinate more trees.  I’m helping the hayfield across the way produce more clover so the cows that eat hay in the winter can enjoy more nutritious feed.  And I’m continuing my hives so maybe someday, those almond farmers in California will pay me billions and billions for pollination services.


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