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.
It's still officially summer. But it will definitely feel like fall tonight, when the temperature is expected to fall to 40 degrees in the metro area.
That's not a freeze, of course, but it's cold enough to make some plants, especially tomatoes, shiver.
"Tomatoes don't like cold weather," said Mary Meyer, University of Minnesota Extension horticulturist and professor.
The plants are unhappy with temps below 50, and the tomatoes themselves are susceptible to injury even in the low 40s.
My tomato plants are still producing, but they've definitely slowed way down these last couple weeks.
Leaves are starting to turn yellow and fall off, and the plants are looking leggy and spindly. There are still green tomatoes on the vines, but they're ripening at a glacial pace now that the days are shorter and cooler.
If you have tomatoes you want to protect, it's a good night to cover the plants with sheeting, according Meyer. "Covering will help somewhat."
If you have tomato plants in pots, consider bringing them indoors tonight, if possible. And if you have tomatoes that are ready to pick and eat, it's a very good night to add tomatoes to the menu.
If you still have green tomatoes, don't give up on them, Meyer said. "Continue to water. It's still early. I think we'll probably have another two to three weeks of weather for ripening outdoors."
How are your tomato plants looking this week?
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?
It's State Fair time, which means it's also the beginning of Minnesota's apple season. Some of the early varieties like Zestar! are already available, with Honeycrisps, Minnesota's most popular apple, soon to follow.
Honeycrisps usually start appearing in mid-September, but they may arrive as early as next week, according to growers. Some apple varieties are two weeks ahead of schedule.
Minnesota's total apple crop will be down this year, about 60 to 70 percent of normal, estimated David Bedford, research scientist and apple breeder at the University of Minnesota (www.apples.umn.edu). But that's actually good news. Growers were on edge this spring after unusually warm weather in March brought early blossoming, followed by April frost that nipped tender buds.
While a few growers were hit very hard, losing almost all of this year's crop, most growers fared better than expected. "Pollination went well," Bedford said. "It's not a total disaster. It could have been a lot worse."
Early-blooming apples might be in shorter supply than usual, Bedford said, because they were a little more vulnerable to this spring's unusual weather. There may be fewer apples available for U-Pick and at farmer's markets. But Bedford doesn't expect apple shortages in stores because most apples are shipped from other growing regions, including Washington state. That's where Pepin Heights, the state's largest producer of apples, will be getting much of its fruit this year, said vice president Tim Byrne. Pepin Heights' 125,000 trees survived the early frost only to lose most of their fruit during May hailstorms.
"There will be plenty of apples," said Mike Dekarski, president of the Minnesota Apple Growers Association and owner of Apple Jack Orchards in Delano (www.applejackorchards.com). "We will have enough for a lot of fall fun."
The Apple House at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (www.arboretum.umn.edu/applehouse.aspx) will open Sept. 1 offering freshly picked fruit including U of M introductions. Opening week will bring Zestar! and Chestnut crabapples. For up-to-date information about apple inventory, call 952-443-1409.
Also at the Apple House will be other freshly picked seasonal produce, as well as locally made ice cream, fudge, maple syrup and jams. The Apple House will be open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily through early November. It's located about 1.5 miles west of the Arboretum entrance on Highway 5 in Chanhassen.
If you have a favorite apple or a favorite orchard you like to visit, it's a good idea to call ahead, especially this year, to make sure the apples you want will be available. For a list of local growers, visit the Minnesota Apple Growers Association website (www.minnesotaapple.org).
What's your favorite apple? And where do you like to get them -- do you pick 'em yourself at an orchard or buy 'em at the farmer's market or grocery store?
You know it is State Fair time when you see a trailer full of sheep driving down 35W at 2 in the afternoon. The hay was
carefully piled on top of the truck’s cab and the sheep were happily smiling at those of us staring back at them.
There’s so much to love about the Fair, but I must admit, my favorite building is the Horticulture Building. I usually start off in the building at the honey ice cream line. Then I see some friends, admire the photography and check out the fascinating honey exhibits. Make sure to check out the thousands of colors of honey, it’s amazing.
I always make my way to the apples. My husband gets one kind and me another and we taste the difference. Then I wander and read and learn. It’s fantastic. Last year, my visit to the fair prompted me to plant a green manure crop of buckwheat near my beehives. The girls liked it so I’ll probably plant it again, the soil really needs help.
If I’m lucky, we are there on the day of the floral show. I’ve entered a floral competition and it isn’t easy. When you look at a Hosta leaf in a bottle, you might think, nothing to it, I could win that. Go ahead and try. The judges look at everything! How healthy is the plant, is it symmetrical, is it displayed properly. There are rules! But don’t get me wrong, there is also quite a bit of satisfaction when you see you name displayed next to a ribbon! Then you can say You Did It!!!!
A few of us GreenGirls will be at the Fair! Friday 8/24, Monday 8/27 and Wednesday 8/29 from 3 PM-4. Stop by the Star Tribune booth and take the Compost Quiz!
Do you enjoy the Hort building? Have you ever exhibited? Share!
As a gardener, part of the fun of traveling is seeing plants you've never seen before. Sometimes they're exotic species that would never make it in Minnesota. All you can do is admire them in their native habitat -- and take a couple pictures to remember them by.
But sometimes you discover plants that you can actually try at home.
I encountered some of both types this month. First we spent a week in South Carolina, a state we'd never visited before, and I got my first real encounter with Spanish moss. Sure, I'd seen it in movies and photos. But seeing it for real -- everywhere -- draped from trees like fluttering gray-green scarves -- was magical and enchanting. It's so different from anything we see up here that I felt like I had stepped into some sort of Southern Gothic Disney theme park -- Bayou Land!.
I'd love to have Spanish moss hanging from my tree branches here in Minnesota, but I know that's never gonna happen.
But closer to home, I discovered a plant I would like to try. We were in Madison, Wis., moving our daughter out of her apartment, and I took a side trip to the Allen Centennial Gardens (http://www.allencentennialgardens.org) on the UW campus.
The garden is a teaching garden for the UW horticulture department, and it's always worth a stroll. So beautiful that it's a sought-after site for weddings, it's also a living laboratory of interesting plant species.
This visit, what caught my eye were some purplish-black tomatoes, darker than any I've ever seen, as dark as an eggplant. The tag said they were 'Indigo Rose.' Back home, at my computer, I looked them up. Apparently Indigo Rose is a new tomato variety developed at Oregon State University. It's not only gorgeous, but it also apparently has a high level of antioxidants, so it's healthy to boot. How does it taste? "Like a tomato," according to one online review.
That's good enough for me!
Several seed companies are now carrying Indigo Rose in their catalogs, and I'm definitely going to get my hands on some next year and trying growing them at home.
What plants have you discovered while traveling? Any you've tried to grow at home?
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