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 Weeds

The year of the weeds

Posted by: Mary Jane Smetanka Updated: August 5, 2013 - 10:29 AM


This ugly pile of what’s-its is the result of five minutes of weeding one of my perennial gardens. This year, I could weed almost every day and not catch up. It is the year of the weeds.
Lately the state Master Gardener email list has featured photos of mystery weeds that have popped up everywhere, and sympathetic responses from gardeners who say they’re never fought so many weeds in their gardens.
This year I’ve seen lots of familiar invaders, including lamb’s quarters, Virginia copperleaf, oxalis and deadly nightshade. At least they are relatively easy to pull up in wet soil. But I have some horrible and aggressive newcomers, too. Sow’s thistle seems to be everywhere. I found many feet of wild cucumber climbing a big ornamental grass just a week after I’d weeded that garden. Bindweed, too, has invaded, and I seem to be untangling it all over the place.
Where did this stuff come from?
Some of the Master Gardeners wondered if the heavy rains we had through June helped waken long-dormant weed seeds that were just waiting for the right conditions to sprout. Maybe winds or birds deposited the seeds from other locations. I have several volunteer milkweed plants in the gardens, and I have left them as a welcome addition to the perennial mix.
Ironically my primary adversary of recent years, creeping bellflower, seems to have slowed its invasion at this stage of the year but the other weeds have taken over. I guess the only thing to do is to keep patrolling the garden for five or ten minutes a day, and try to get these guys out before they all set seed and begin a new advance nex year.
Here’s a visual guide that will help you identify some the most common weeds in Minnesota.

How are you fighting this year’s invasion? Seen anything unusual in the garden?

Happy July Fourth from the garden

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: July 4, 2013 - 10:42 AM


I went looking in my yard for some fodder for a red, white and blue bouquet. I've got a sea of blue to pick from, but I came up short on the red front.  The berries in my neighbor's yard were the only patch of red to catch my eye.


My weeds are knee high by the Fourth of July. Luckily I have a day off to liberate my garden. If the weeds aren't enough incentive, I've got a stack of mulch bags taunting me, piling on the guilt.

But once I'm done, there's a lawn chair and a tall glass of lemonade with my name on it.

Have a great day, whether you're weeding or kicking back and enjoying your garden.

Bales vs. Ground - a tomato test.

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: June 19, 2013 - 8:41 AM




I’m conducting an experiment this year.  I’m growing two Roma tomato plants --  one in ground, one in a straw bale. 

They were planted on Memorial Day in Central Minnesota.  As you can see, the plants were both the same size on planting day.  And, now three weeks later, they both have one set of flowers.  So when you compare the plants -- no difference so far.  But, compare the weed growth – yikes.


I think it’s obvious that I got grass straw bales and not oat straw bales.  Weeds are everywhere!  And, since I planted onion sets on the sides of the bale, I couldn’t wipe with vinegar as suggested to kill the grass.  So then I had to spend at least 20 minutes pulling out the weeds. 



And I must say, the smell of the rotting bales isn’t great to be around. 

The in-ground tomato had one thistle and that’s it. 
I’m lucky to have nice soil, so the bales weren’t necessary, just a fun gardening experiment.  But so far, the ground is winning.

Have you tried straw bales?  What’s been your experience?

Danger from the stranger in the garden

Posted by: Mary Jane Smetanka Updated: June 17, 2013 - 10:50 AM

This spring I noticed an attractive little stranger in the garden. The leaves looked kind of cool, so I let it grow.
Last week, the now-tall stranger bloomed. The emerging lavender flowers had the delicious spicy smell of stocks, which I had tried to grow a couple of times without much luck. Could this be some weird seedling from those plants?
When I got on the Internet, I realized I had something totally different: Hesperis matronalis, better known as dame’s rocket. As my plant grew taller — this morning it was a sturdy four feet tall — the tight ball of fragrant flowers grew spiky and loose, and I recognized my dame’s rocket as the same plant I see growing in ditches and in glades along West River Parkway along the Mississippi River.
Dame’s rocket is in the same plant family as garlic mustard, one of the most noxious weeds in the Twin Cities area. My beautiful visitor is banned or listed as a noxious weed in Colorado, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and in Michigan people who remove garlic mustard from the landscape are encouraged to take its cousin, too.
Here’s some more information about dame’s rocket: While it resembles wild phlox, it can be identified by its four-petalled flowers.
After I took this picture, I reluctantly pulled the plant up. It is very shallow-rooted, but dame’s rocket prolifically spreads through seeds, and I didn’t want my plant to populate my perennial garden.
I will be curious to see if dame’s rocket is eventually added to Minnesota’s list of noxious weeds.
Have you found visitors in your garden that turned out to be thugs instead of friends? This weekend another master gardener told me she lets dame’s rocket grow in her boulevard garden where it thrives in a hostile space. One gardener’s enemy is another gardener’s friend! Here’s a nice column on that issue:

With Spring comes...

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: May 15, 2013 - 8:30 AM


Ah Spring.  Finally. Last night as I walked around the back yard with my beverage of choice, I finally realized that we have turned the tide.  As with every Spring we see beauty and work ahead of us.

I lost my Mom 5 years ago, but the bright yellow of this daffodil reminds me of her smile and asparagus reminds me of my Dad.  Beauty is everywhere you look.  Peas are coming up, my sedum and peonies are peeking out from under the ground.  I need only clean away the mulch a little and sprinkle on some water and the garden comes alive. 

But then there’s the half empty side of the cup.  Weeds.  

Last week we had the lawn aerated.   We watered this morning thinking that with the heat and air near their roots, the grass will have a head start over the weeds. But crazy plants grow where they want.  A fern in the turf – come on!  Don’t they know to stay behind the plastic edging?!?

Then I have my hops to deal with.  I thought it would be fun to grow our own hops for our homebrew.  Little did I know that the vines would want to take over my vegetable garden.  Does anyone want some of these?  I’ll pull what I can for the Plant Swap on Saturday… but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Speaking of the Swap, they say it’s going to rain on Saturday... and we’ll be there – rain or shine.  If you come, please take one of my weeds and say they are the perfect plant for the perfect spot – even if it’s in your compost bin!



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