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 Fruit and berries

Where are all the apples?

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: August 2, 2012 - 8:35 AM

I love this time of year.  The tomatoes are ripening, the egg plants are ready for frying, and the cucumbers are perfect for eating right off the vine.  This year’s summer has been hot and many vegetables and flowers are enjoying the heat.  But remember that warm spring and quick freeze we had?  I do each time I walk out to look at my apple tree.

In years past, I’ve had an abundance of apples dropping off the branches -- so much that I was able to make several cases of apple wine.  This year… two apples. 


Yes, just two. 


The Pessimistic Gardener in me thinks… no apple crisp to bring into my work friends, no canned apples to enjoy in November, no apple wine for 2012.

As an Optimistic Gardener, I think this example shows me that pruning apples judiciously produces better fruit.  The two that we have are beautiful.  No worms, no scab, no diseases.  They’re lovely.  I also don’t need to worry about picking up the fallen fruit – that’s one fall chore I can cross off my list.  And maybe, just maybe, this will break the cycle of apple maggots in my back yard.

Optimism wins, but doesn’t it always in gardening?

Hunting for delicious mushrooms.

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: July 26, 2012 - 10:12 AM

Hunting mushroom is fun and fascinating. Now that I’ve found a mycelium of chanterelles, I hike that area more often. 

This last weekend we were lucky again.  I found these mushrooms hiding to the left of my walking path.

If you are accustomed to the plain button mushrooms found in grocery stores, you’ll be amazed at the difference in mushroom found in the wild. 

Over the years I’ve found Mushrooms called “Chicken in the Woods” that are named thusly because they actually DO taste like chicken.  (Great in hotdish!).   Puffball mushrooms take on the flavors in your dish or sauté. They are excellent in a dish with wild rice and cream sauce.

The chanterelles taste like butter.  These aren’t the type of mushroom I would put on a steak.  They’re great all by themselves or over vermicelli pasta with a little parmesan grated over the top.

If you are interested in learning more, the Minnesota Mycological Society (MMS) is an educational organization for the study of mushrooms and other fungi.  They hold forays (hunts) and membership dues are relatively low considering the assistance they lend.  Learn more at

Are you a mushroom hunter?  Tell us what you’ve found!

Picked on the Fourth of July

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: July 4, 2012 - 5:02 PM


I spent as much of the morning of the Fourth as I could stand liberating plants from the tyranny of weeds. My reward: getting to pick a bowlful of blueberries that represents the bulk of this year's crop. It's still not a ton, but considering this is only the second year we've had them, and last year we had a total of three berries, it works for me. It's just enough to go over a bowl of homemade ice cream. It's not quite like childhood holiday picnics, since the Cuisinart did the cranking, but it's close enough.


Happy July 4th! Hope you and your gardens weather the heat.

Helping your plants beat the heat

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: July 2, 2012 - 11:04 AM


These are the days that run up the water bill.


With a string of 90-plus and even 100-degree temperatures in the forecast over the next few days, we're going to be dumping a lot of water on our plants, trying to keep them healthy and hydrated in this extreme heat.

Even with extra watering, plants  can suffer from heat stress in weather like this. My leaf lettuce and arugula are already bolting. My begonia blossoms look scorched. 

My tomatoes look OK for now, but I'm a little worried they'll soon be wilting, dropping blossoms and fruit.

Last night I spent more than half an hour running back and forth from the kitchen faucet to my patio containers, trying to replenish the moisture Mother Nature had sucked out of them during the day. I'm sure my plants will be parched again when I come home tonight.

Veggies need a lot of water even in normal weather. How much? Some sources say each plant needs 3 to 5 gallons of water each week -- even more during a heat wave. Container-grown veggies, like mine, are especially vulnerable to drying out.

To make sure you're giving yours enough water, poke a finger into the soil, about an inch deep. If the soil feels dry, water. And make sure to water deeply. A light watering that only wets the surface won't cut it.

You can also try shading certain crops, such as leafy greens, to slow bolting and buy you a couple more days of edible crop. 

On the plus side, the heat wave gives us an excuse not to mow for a few days. Grass is already under stress in extreme heat, and cutting it stresses it further. 

And our tropicals will love this steamy jungle weather.

How's your garden faring so far -- is the heat taking a toll yet? 

Tomato troubles

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: June 18, 2012 - 11:11 AM


I have met the enemy, and he is nasty!


He's a worm, brownish with caterpillar-like feet, and he's having his way with my tomatoes.

I've been watching, waiting for him to show himself for days, ever since ugly holes started appearing in my beautiful green tomatoes. What was eating them? I didn't have a clue.

My veggie-growing endeavors have been relatively pest-free. There was an unfortunate infestation of cabbage worms that destroyed my first attempt at Brussels sprouts a few years back. But tomatoes have never been a problem.   

I always figured it was because I grow my tomatoes in giant pots on my deck, the sunniest spot in my yard. The downside of growing tomatoes in pots is that my yields are always pretty modest. But the upside is that my plants, on a second-story deck with no access to the ground, have never really been plagued by pests.

Until now. 

Finally, yesterday morning, I caught the tomato poacher in the act. He was clearly a worm, not a bug. But what kind of worm? And what could I do to get rid of him and his whole nasty family? 

I checked out a lineup of pests on the University of Minnesota Extension website:

Apparently hornworms are the usual suspects in Minnesota, but they're green, and my enemy is definitely brown. He appears to be a corn earworm or cutworm, both of which also tunnel through tomatoes.

As for how to combat tomato worms, the preferred weapon appears to be bacillus thuringiensis, or BT, a bacteria that kills the worms but is supposed to be harmless to humans and pets.

How are your tomatoes doing? Any pests munching on them? Have you ever battled tomato worms?






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