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.
I weeded this garden a week ago, but you’d never know it. My arch enemy, oxalis, has popped up again.
I’ve been battling this weed for years. To pull it, I water the garden and grab the stems near the ground, hoping to get the whole plant as well as its roots. But the stems are delicate and tend to snap off. If it’s gone to seed, the battle is already lost.
Part of the issue is that I haven’t mulched the perennials the way I usually do, so weekly weeding is a must.
Here’s another pest that I’ve had for the last few years. At least Virginia copperleaf is easy to pull up. It can reach three feet at maturity, but I haven’t let it get that big!
And my old friend nightshade has sprung up again, growing remarkably fast. Again, it’s easy to pull up if the soil is wet, but you have to grasp the stem at ground level to get the roots or the plant will snap off and regrow. The nightshades have some cool-looking flowers — they’re related to tomatoes and potatoes — and some of the plants are poisonous. Again, if they seed they’ll end up everywhere, so it’s best to pull them before they flower. Here's some nightshade:
I dig up or pull all but the hardest-to-eliminate weeds, and resort to a weed killer only for plants like dandelions that are growing in a crack in the pavement or for really hard to kill weeds like thistles.
If you go the chemical route, make sure you pick the right chemical and read the label carefully. Any chemical with glyphosate in it is an indiscriminate plant killer, and will take out your grass and other plants as well as what you’re trying to kill. It will kill the weeds in your lawn as well as the grass, as the owner of this lawn discovered:
Here’s a guide to some of Minnesota’s most common weeds: www.extension.umn.edu/gardeninfo/weedid/index.html
Do you have a weed that’s driving you crazy?
Weeding isn't the WORST garden chore in the world. It's satisfying to grab a fistul of weed and feel the roots give way -- plus you get the instant gratification of seeing a cleaner, tidier garden.
Grab and pull, grab and pull. Once you get into the rhythm, it's oddly therapeutic.
But after two hours of grabbing and pulling under the hot sun yesterday afternoon, I've had quite enough weed therapy, thank you very much.
The patches I weeded look pretty good, but there are others I never made it to. And the patches I weeded two weeks ago need weeding again, thanks to all our recent rain.
I've been playing defense against weeds. It's time for a stronger offense, I decided. Not chemicals. My garden needs to become naturally less weed-friendly.
So here's my action plan:
Step 1: More perennials, planted more densely. Landscape designer Jamie Durie, who was in town earlier this month, is a fan of this method. "I don't endorse bald spots," he said. "I plant abundantly. I don't even give weeds room to pop up." (http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/homegarden/157260875.html)
I need more big, hardy perennials like bee balm and ligularia and cardinal flower, that come up reliably and take up a lot of garden space.
Step 2: Mulch. This one will be a little more tricky to execute, at least in my yard. My biggest weed headache is the area covered with river rock in the front. Whoever installed my landscape, about 20 years ago, apparently laid plastic, then put dirt and the rocks on top. It looked good when we moved in 16 years ago, but every year, more weeds sprout between the rocks. This year, there was more green than gray.
I'd love to replace the rocks with a thick layer of wood mulch. But removing all those rocks will be such a nightmare that I'm tempted to just put the mulch on top. Anyone out there ever tried that? Or should I resign myself to a weekend of rock removal?
I put another 3” layer of cedar chips around my trees a couple weeks ago, but my beans weren’t high enough to put mulch in the vegetable garden.
Thanks to some nice rain and warm weather, it’s time.
As you see, for now I’m using grass clippings. Grass clippings are abundant and free -- qualities I really like. I prefer to use compost, but I was not good about stirring my pile this spring and it’s not ready yet. I had the right mixture (4 parts brown to one part green), but I didn’t get in there with my pitchfork and give the pile some oxygen.
Now, I’m adding more greens and shredded newspaper to the pile and it will take some time for that to break down. Plus, look at this little beauty growing out the side. Do I really want to disturb a tomato plant? I wonder what variety grew.
Some people say that you don’t need to stir compost, that the worms will do their job well enough. And I might test out that theory this year. I’ll add my new items in holes dug into the working pile. Maybe the worms would like a fresh banana peel once in a while.
How about you, are you a "stirrer" or a "piler?" Or maybe you have two bins where you can let one work and add new items into the other. What works for you?
I got more than I bargained for last summer. There were some bare spots in my garden, so I picked up three pretty little plants with dark glossy leaves and plopped them in.
I knew they were perennials, but that's all I bothered to find out. Not too smart.
This spring, I was surprised to discover that my three little plants had spread into a continuous patch that now covers about 25 percent of the garden bed.
That's a pretty aggressive plant! I wanted to figure out what it was, so I did a little research. It appears to be bugleweed, a ground cover with a fast-spreading habit.
"Weed" should have been my first clue.
My new bugleweed patch looks OK for now, and so far, it's confined itself to the bed and not spread into my lawn. But I'm wondering if it's going to crowd out some of the things around it, like my fragile delphinium or the volunteer marigolds that sometimes spring up in that bed.
It's giving me flashbacks of some other plants I'd rather never see again. Like the creeping sedum that tries its best to conquer my landscape every growing season. My mother still hasn't forgiven me for sharing some of it with her, before we realized what we were dealing with.
What aggressive plants do you have in your garden? And anyone else ever unwittingly planted "weeds"?
We were strolling through the Lake Harriet Rose Garden when my husband said something that suprised me:
"Do we have any roses?"
Huh? "You just mowed the back yard," I said, a bit sharply. "Didn't you see them? They're all in bloom."
Needless to say, my husband is not a gardener, which has been a disappointment to me. I've always thought it would be more fun -- not to mention we'd have a better garden -- if we worked as a team.
Every once in a while, I've "invited" him to share some garden chore, which he's dutifully done. But I realized I'd never really tried to share our garden with him in a more accessible way -- by opening his eyes to what was there.
"I'm taking you on a tour when we get home," I said. The next morning, we walked through our garden. I pointed out the roses, the pink ones climbing on the trellis, and the deep-red ones on hardy shrubs. I showed him the clematis, the heuchera and the peonies, stopping here and there to pull a weed. I showed him the veggies, pointing out which ones would produce tomatoes, lettuce, peppers and beets.
"Is that a weed?" he asked, pointing at a big, vigorous clump of ligularia.
"Nope, it's a perennial -- it comes back every year," I said. "I planted it because I like the leaves, but it gets a flower, too, a yellow one."
By the end of our little tour, he could identify a few plants. And I had a new appreciation for my own garden -- because I'd taken time to stop and see the roses.
Tending a garden is its own reward, but sharing a garden is even better. If you tend a great garden -- or know someone who does -- now is the time to share it, by nominating it in our annual Beautiful Gardens contest. It's easy to nominate. Just send a few snapshots of the garden, along with a brief description, including who tends it and where it's located, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if you prefer snail mail, send entries to: Beautiful Gardens, Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488, We'll be accepting entries through June 16. The winning gardeners and gardeners will get their moment of glory on the cover of the Home & Garden section and online at startribune.com.
We're looking for gardens of all types and sizes -- big and small, urban and suburban, flowers and veggies.
So don't be shy. Share your garden so others can enjoy it. And even if your garden, like mine, is kind of ordinary, take a few minutes to share it with someone -- maybe even someone in your own household.
|Annuals (48)||Books and resources (8)|
|Chickens (4)||Compost (7)|
|Critters and pests (37)||Farmers markets (10)|
|Flowers (83)||Fruit and berries (33)|
|Grasses (23)||Green gardening (22)|
|Lawn care (21)||Perennials (89)|
|Preserving (8)||Rain gardens (3)|
|Seed starting (11)||Soil prep (12)|
|Tools (7)||Transplanting + dividing (8)|
|Trees (35)||Vegetables (115)|
|Weather (68)||Weeds (21)|
|Weekend chores (55)|