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 Vegetables

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.

Raised bed expectations

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: August 22, 2013 - 12:02 PM


Have you joined the raised bed craze? Lots of people have this year, if my extended neighborhood is anything to go by. And one significant change: Many more of them are popping up in front yards to take advantage of sunnier spots.


On daily walks I chart the progress of several of them. There's a two-tier model using the square-foot gardening technique that seems to be doing well. A twine trellis holds up some tomatoes on the far end, and greens, beets and other smaller veggies seem to be contained nicely. In another front-yard expansion of three large raised beds, some cantaloupe have escaped, further taking over the former lawn.

My next-door neighbors are among those joining the club, deciding to give up trying to grow grass in a difficult spot and putting in a few raised beds surrounded by stepping stones and herbs in pots. They'll gain a spot for microgreens just steps from their kitchen and cut their mowing chores. It's been fun trading notes, and it made me remember how much work it was to put in ours to begin with.

Here's a few tips I was able to share that worked for us, and some lessons learned:

A thick layer of newsprint at the bottom of the raised beds worked better than weed cloth at keeping grass from trying to grow back through.

Put temporary rebar stakes around the outside to keep the beds from moving out of position when you fill them. Dirt is heavy, and there's no shifting them once they're full.

Free fill dirt on Craigslist is often worth about that. Much of it has been dug away from foundation areas and is rocky and filled with concrete shards. You'll get your new garden off to a better start if you spring for some slightly better dirt. I put in a bag of potting soil in each bed, along with lots of dirt and a hearty dressing of compost. You'll need way more dirt than you'd expect.

The level of dirt will drop each season, so you'll need to add more compost/dirt. Luckily, my raised beds are right by the composter, so they get first dibs.

They can be thirsty. We've got ours on a timed watering line to keep the soil from drying out.

They're rabbit magnets. The second phase for every raised bed construction I see is barriers to protect the goodies.

Garden trends have a slightly longer shelf life than most pop culture trends, but I'll be curious to see how long this one lasts. If you're considering putting in raised beds, here are a few links to get you started:

What's your experience been with raised beds? Did they meet your expectations? Would you do it again? For us it's been great -- except sometimes I think four aren't nearly enough....

Garden abundance.

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: August 21, 2013 - 9:58 AM

Last year, my pickles were a failure!  Two things went wrong.  One, I didn’t use fresh dill.  I used dried dill weed that had

been sitting in my cupboard for a few years.  Second, I tried brining the cucumbers.  They were flavorless chewy blobs.


But, just like any garden, a new year springs optimism.  Check out these pickles. 

Fresh dill, fresh pickles (no brining), and a ton of garlic in each jar.  I can’t wait.  Maybe the cukes were a little big, but my hubby did a great job of cutting them down to size.  I had extra beans so I tried pickling a few of those as well.  Purple beans give the brine a color I didn't like, but I can look through that if they taste good.

Besides cucumbers coming out of my ears, I found a couple of zucchini

logs hiding.   I found a recipe for Zucchini Salsa and am trying that out.  First taste was a little sweet (the recipe called for a cup of brown sugar). But I’m sure after a 15 minute water bath the cumin and peppers will mellow that out.


What are your plans for garden abundance?

Success with succession planting

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: August 15, 2013 - 11:17 AM


It's nice when a plan works. This year I decided to try to make fuller use of my raised beds by trying to time the market, so to speak.


This spring some lettuce and arugula had volunteered in one of the beds, and I took it as a sign what to plant where. In the midst of the wandering greens, I planted rows of peas. In between the rows of peas I planted broccoli, and in the middle I planted pole beans.

So far it's working out well. When the cool weather lettuce crop was past it, the peas were in full production mode. The peas are now well on their way out; most of the plants are drying up with just a few pods left to harvest. That's made way for the broccoli, which is now standing tall and flourishing amid the remains. And rising above it all are the purple pole beans just now coming into harvest season.

Overall I think that combination worked -- although it has sometimes looked a little messy as one season phases into another -- and I'll probably try it again next year. I think there may be room for a late season crop of greens in the space that will be vacated by the peas.

 If you want to try growing vegetables on the installment plan, here are a few links to get you started, including a chart on timetables for planting a second crop: One word of warning: planting in waves means never running out of garden produce, which means you may find yourself spending as much time in your kitchen as your garden.

So, do you do the garden crop wave? If so, what crop combos have worked for you? What's your favorite second-season crop?

Late-season planting

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: August 13, 2013 - 10:03 AM


My tomato dreams for the season are over -- wiped out by last week's hail storm. 


At least a dozen tomatoes, in varying stages of ripening, were sheared off my plants and dumped rudely on my deck. I was hoping to salvage the tomatoes that managed to stay on the vine, but after inspecting them over the weekend, it was clear they were a lost cause. Every single one was damaged, the skin pierced in multiple spots by hailstones.

Since that's a recipe for disease, I reluctantly plucked them and threw them away. 

So with six tomato plants, I harvested exactly one -- ONE -- tomato before the destruction. There's still hope for my beets, and I've been enjoying my basil, three kinds, all summer long, as well as mint and salad greens. But all in all, that's a pretty pathetic yield. 

It's way too late to plant new tomatoes, obviously, but I'm thinking about late-season veggies I might try, so this year's growing season isn't such a bust. 

The U of M extension service has some guidelines and suggestions for mid-to-late-summer planting on its website (

So tell me, fellow gardeners. What late-season veggies have you tried? What's worked for you? Or should I just resign myself to the farmer's market?








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