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.
My tomatoes have yet to ripen, and my beets are still babies. But I'm still finding good stuff to eat from the garden. Lately, I've developed a taste for nasturtiums. I love the peppery bite of the leaves, and always pick off a few to nibble while I'm out watering or weeding. Best appetizer ever!
The flowers are really tasty, too, with slight variations, depending on the color. The lemon-yellow blooms have a light, flowery taste, while the bright red-orange ones are stronger, with more of the pepper kick like the leaves. The dark, dark red ones (Black Velvet) are slightly less flavorful. Maybe the taste got lost in all the breeding it took to get that distinctive color.
With the help of my nasturtiums, I whipped up the simplest yet most beautiful summer salad the other night. I picked my homegrown micro greens and augmented them with some store-bought lettuce, then tossed in some nasturtium leaves and a light vinaigrette. And for the final touch, I scattered nasturtium flowers, in all three colors, across the top. Gorgeous! The men in my family weren't too keen on eating flowers, I must confess, but my mom and daughter were impressed.
Now I'm thinking about trying to grow other edible flowers. There are many more options than I would have guessed. Here's a list, along with tips on how to use them.
I'm curious, fellow gardeners -- what edible flowers have you tried? How did you like them?
As the growing season progresses and the monotony of yard and garden work sets in, I find myself using my gardening time to reflect. This week, as I was making the rounds, it struck me that raising flowers and vegetables isn't unlike raising children. Some similarities:
Boundary issues: The tomato plants might be caged, but that doesn't stop them from wanting to branch out, so to speak, into other areas of the garden. I love to see them grow and reach their full potential, but a little respect for boundaries would be nice, and the other plants would appreciate it.
Boundary issues, part 2: Strawberries. Need I say more?
Growth patterns: You have two plants (in this case, clematis), feed them and love them the same, and one flourishes and the other, while still growing, is having a harder time. These sibling plants are right next to each other, and you know how people judge. What's a gardener to do?
Guilt: One weekend out of town + one forgotten hanging plant = the first casualty of the gardening season. I never was fond of the plant, but did I subconsciously orchestrate its demise?
First impatience: You wait and wait for the seeds to germinate, the first blossoms on the tomatoes and finally, FINALLY the fruits of your labor.
Then regret: Before you know it you're knee deep in tomatoes and zucchini and can't make tomato sauce, salsa or zucchini bread fast enough. Why did I insist on those last two plants? But once the growing season is over and there are no more fresh tomatoes for BLTs and sweet corn is a distant memory, you think not only should I have insisted on those last two plants, I should have insisted on two more.
Oh, the mess! Watering and feeding are basic needs, but the weeds are just like a messy room. I only wish plants could pick up after themselves. (Children too, for that matter.)
And finally, pride: Much like bringing home a good report card or a piece of artwork that's bound to be the next Picasso, the first piece of harvested produce is brought into the house with smiles and a great sense of pride and accomplishment. We all see that if you nuture and care for something the right way -- even if there are a few mistakes along the way -- the end results are outstanding.
It's Beautiful Gardens season -- the time of year when Home + Garden invites readers to share their favorite gardens and enter them in our annual Beautiful Gardens contest. We're currently taking nominations, and we'll select a handful of winners to feature in upcoming sections and online at
during the coming months.
So if you know of a great garden -- including your own -- that you're thinking of nominating this year, here are a couple of suggestions:
PHOTOS: We ask for them to be included with each entry, and there's a reason. We don't need many, and they don't have to be of professional quality. A couple of snapshots will do. But we do need something visual. With 100-plus entries, we just don't have the staff to preview every garden. The judging panel carefully reviews submitted photos to determine the winners, which are then visited in-person by a reporter and photographer. So if you just tell us, "Hey, my friend has a great garden -- you should check it out," your favorite garden won't really be in the running.
PERSPECTIVE: Close-up photos are great! But we also need at least one back-off shot that gives us a broader sense of the garden, and how elements work together. If your nomination includes close-up photos only, we can see that your gardener knows how to grow healthy hostas or stunning roses, but we can't see or evaluate the garden as a whole.
SIZE: There are a LOT of ways to share photos electronically these days, and some of them are more effective than others. If your preferred photo-sharing tool results in teeny-tiny photos the size of postage stamps, keep in mind that a team of judges will be squeezed around a computer terminal squinting at them and trying to figure out what's going on in the photo. This puts your garden at a bit of a disadvantage, because larger photos inevitably have more impact than microscopic ones. The photos don't have to be huge. Just big enough to see. If you can't figure out a way to send expanded photos electronically, there's always snail mail.
TIMING: Spring flowers are beautiful, and every year we receive at least a few nominations for gardens that put spring blooms in a starring role. But if that's ALL we can see in the photos, or ALL that's described in the nomination, that garden is not likely to be a winner, no matter how beautiful it is in spring. That's because we'll be choosing the winners in late July, and taking photos in early August, when the peonies and iris and other spring flowers are spent. If the garden has summer-long beauty, in addition to its spring blooms, please make sure to include that.
So please keep those Beautiful Gardens coming! We're taking nominations through July 12. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or to "Beautiful Gardens Contest," Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488.
Gardens are beautiful places. Whether flowers, vegetables or lawn, gardens welcome visitors to stop and reflect. This week, I’ve noticed many gardens in unusual spaces.
This garden is located on a co-workers desk. It’s for contemplation and thought. You’d be amazed at how many people pick up the rake and rearrange the stones. Each time, the shape and style of the garden change.
Watching golfers tee off gives reflection to how lucky they are to walk throughout the well-manicured gardens planned and tended by some of the best. Sometimes that little white ball gets in the way of a lovely garden stroll.
As I was stopped in traffic this morning on 35W, I watch a hawk swoop down for a little breakfast on the roadside garden. Some may say it’s green space, but if you find beauty. It’s a garden. That hawk was awesome.
Each year, we hold an annual “Beautiful Gardens” contest. We enjoy looking at photos and hearing about the stories behind the garden. What makes this garden beautiful? Gardens are located anywhere in Minnesota and western Wisconsin – but they must be privately owned. (So you can’t take photos of the banks of 35W!) Here’s info on how you can enter your garden. http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/homegarden/212018581.html
Look for inner beauty in your garden -- your Mom’s or neighbors' gardens. Nominate your favorite garden. My own vegetable garden gives me pleasure each night I walk through the beds. Certainly picking weeds as I go, but gazing at the tomato’s buds longing for a ripe red wonder to place on my plate. I don't think a Beefsteak would win though!
Where’s your garden’s beauty?
I've had bees on the brain the last couple growing seasons. I keep adding native flowering plants to my garden, to provide habitat for pollinators, and butterflies, too.
But so far, the mammals are beating the insects to the buffet. Virtually every new bee- or butterfly-friendly thing I've planted this year has been nipped in the bud -- literally -- by hungry mammals. They come in the night and chomp off all the new growth -- buds and leaves, leaving only shorn broken stems.
Coneflowers and swamp milkweed have been especially hard hit. The latest casualty was three cardinal flowers I planted just Sunday evening. By Monday morning, they were half their size (although I've since discovered that the red-leaved variety I bought isn't a native, strictly speaking, but a cultivar.)
I'm not sure if it's deer or rabbits devouring my native plants at night. I suspect deer because they're also eating the buds on taller, non-native plants, like roses and lilies.
I'd still like to provide habitat for bees and butterflies, but at this rate, it's not looking good for this season. Can anyone out there recommend some plants that bees and butterflies like -- but rabbits and deer aren't as likely to eat first?
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