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 Green gardening

Habitat for who?

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: June 25, 2013 - 11:03 AM


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?


Start Saving Seeds!

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: May 8, 2013 - 9:14 AM


This last weekend, a good friend joined me in a class at the MN Landscape Arboretum.  It was put on by Seed Savers Exchange and changed my outlook on vegetables.  In the class, we learned about how plants are pollinated and the importance of plant diversity. 


Plants produce seeds differently – and important to making the seed is the flower.  The showy flowers of an eggplant and squash have evolved because of how the plants need to be pollinated.  They need honey bees to share pollen between flowers. 

On the other hand, a bean plant’s flower can pollinate itself – so it stays small and somewhat closed. 

Tomatoes, for example, self pollinate and you can help increase plant production by shaking the plant a little bit during the flowering stage to "sprinkle" the pollen within the plant! 

Learning seed saving techniques and more about the plant botany was great.

Many seeds are easy to save.  Some are more difficult.  This photo above is one of the more difficult seeds to save over the years.  Take a guess at what these seed pods will produce.

Others, like watermelon are much easier to save -- once pollinated correctly.  Yes, you can eat the watermelon and spit the seeds

out.  What a fun way to save!


I’ll be bringing some seeds to our plant swap on May 18.  I invite others who have seeds to join us. I'll be sharing some tof the things I learned at the class. So I hope to see you at 9 AM next week Saturday. 

In the mean time -- what will those seeds on my hat produce????

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!

Weeds: Offense or defense?

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: June 25, 2012 - 11:00 AM


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." (

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?





Don't keep your garden to yourself

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: June 4, 2012 - 11:18 AM


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 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

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.



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