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 Vegetables

Baby, it's cold outside

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: May 12, 2014 - 10:50 AM

Oh, Minnesota. You definitely keep things interesting, from a gardener's perspective. Especially in spring.

Just two years ago, it was so hot and balmy in early April that experts had to caution us to resist the temptation to put hot-weather crops like tomatoes into the ground prematurely.

This week, we're looking at a weather forecast with a couple of dips down into the 30s. It'll feel "more like October than May," as meteorologist Paul Douglas noted.

So where does that leave us, in terms of spring planting? The old rule of thumb used to be to wait until Memorial Day. But in recent years, Mother's Day has become sort of the unofficial kick-off to the gardening season.

This year, the old model is probably the safest model, at least for certain plants.

Cold-hardy plants can handle a nippy spring. Cool-weather veggie crops like broccoli and cabbage thrive on it. But it's definitely too soon to plant tomatoes and peppers. If you've already bought those plants or grown them from seed, keep them inside a while longer. It's best to wait until the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees before putting them in the ground.

Tropicals and houseplants that you want to bring outside for the season also should stay indoors a while longer -- until there's nothing lower than 50 in the forecast.

What have you planted so far? And what are you still sheltering indoors?

Getting the garden party started

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: May 5, 2014 - 8:21 AM
Heuchera Amber Waves from Terra Nova Nurseries is among the many charmingly colored coral bell options.

Heuchera Amber Waves from Terra Nova Nurseries is among the many charmingly colored coral bell options.

If you were starting a garden from scratch, what would you put in it? I was struck by the number of garden starter sets I’ve seen in catalogs lately, collections of plants aimed at beginning gardeners, or at least gardeners beginning anew.

That made me wonder what I’d put in my own starter kit if I was given a blank slate – and a few bucks to spend along with it. Here’s what I wish I’d started out with:

A shrub: Lilacs are my hands-down no-fuss favorite, although I’ve got a soft spot for the bird-friendly weigela or the fairy shrub rose.

A climber: I love clematis, but some can be fussy. I’d suggest something less finicky to start out, like the Jackmanii our grandmothers and great-grandmothers grew.

For shade, ever-reliable super-hardy coral bells in their magical colors add bright spots that don’t rely on blooms to make a season-long show. And one of the many two-tone hosta like Autumn Frost or a big blue like Blue Angel give color without much trouble.

For sun, repeat-bloom daylilies and Asiatic lilies put on a long-running show. Just make sure to shield newly planted bulbs from digging squirrels and protect young shoots from rabbits until they get tall enough to no longer tempt them; otherwise they’re pretty much care-free. Hard to go wrong with coneflowers and other rudbeckia, too, for bloom time and reliability. And my gotta-have-it, even though it’s not a long bloomer: a deep-pink double peony. Worth it for the scent alone.

One the annual front, I like cosmos and calibrachoa for sun, and caladium and impatiens for shade. The latter may seem ubiquitous, but up until last year’s blight, they were the ever-reliable, long-blooming space fillers perfect for filling garden gaps until you learn what perennials you want and work in your yard.

For a beginner’s veggie plot, I’d plant leaf lettuce, onion sets, a cherry tomato plant like Sweet 100 (or blondkopfchen if you like flavorful yellow cherry tomatoes), a pole bean, one cucumber plant – and I do mean just one unless you’ve got a real hankering for canning –and a broccoli plant, since you get to keep harvesting broccoli all season once it sets.

If I was starting out with an herb garden, I’d suggest basil, the basic Genovese and or Perpetua, the two-tone leaf variety that’s not prone to bolt. Parsley is nearly no-fail, as is sage, rosemary and thyme. I’d round it out with Vietnamese cilantro: It has all the flavor without the pesky bolting habits (you can find the plants at farmers markets).

Which brings me to a where to shop suggestion: If you’re starting out and have a lot of space to fill, head to the farmers market in spring with a set amount of cash and an open mind. Save the garden centers for that special gotta-have-it perennial or midseason sales of flats of annuals until you’re sure you know what you want and can afford to spend.

And in the tool shed, I’d get gloves, a sturdy trowel, short pruning shears, garden scissors and a really strong shovel. I’ve got other tools I use occasionally, but those are my most well-used tools.

Garden choices are highly subjective, like most areas of design. What would be in your beginner’s kit for gardeners?

Getting the garden party started

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: May 5, 2014 - 8:16 AM
Heuchera Amber Waves from Terra Nova Nurseries is among the many charmingly colored coral bell options.

Heuchera Amber Waves from Terra Nova Nurseries is among the many charmingly colored coral bell options.

If you were starting a garden from scratch, what would you put in it? I was struck by the number of garden starter sets I’ve seen in catalogs lately, collections of plants aimed at beginning gardeners, or at least gardeners beginning anew.

That made me wonder what I’d put in my own starter kit if I was given a blank slate – and a few bucks to spend along with it. Here’s what I wish I’d started out with:

A shrub: Lilacs are my hands-down no-fuss favorite, although I’ve got a soft spot for the bird-friendly weigela or the fairy shrub rose.

A climber: I love clematis, but some can be fussy. I’d suggest something less finicky to start out, like the Jackmanii our grandmothers and great-grandmothers grew.

For shade, ever-reliable super-hardy coral bells in their magical colors add bright spots that don’t rely on blooms to make a season-long show. And one of the many two-tone hosta like Autumn Frost or a big blue like Blue Angel give color without much trouble.

For sun, repeat-bloom daylilies and Asiatic lilies put on a long-running show. Just make sure to shield newly planted bulbs from digging squirrels and protect young shoots from rabbits until they get tall enough to no longer tempt them; otherwise they’re pretty much care-free. Hard to go wrong with coneflowers and other rudbeckia, too, for bloom time and reliability. And my gotta-have-it, even though it’s not a long bloomer: a deep-pink double peony. Worth it for the scent alone.

One the annual front, I like cosmos and calibrachoa for sun, and caladium and impatiens for shade. The latter may seem ubiquitous, but up until last year’s blight, they were the ever-reliable, long-blooming space fillers perfect for filling garden gaps until you learn what perennials you want and work in your yard.

For a beginner’s veggie plot, I’d plant leaf lettuce, onion sets, a cherry tomato plant like Sweet 100 (or blondkopfchen if you like flavorful yellow cherry tomatoes), a pole bean, one cucumber plant – and I do mean just one unless you’ve got a real hankering for canning –and a broccoli plant, since you get to keep harvesting broccoli all season once it sets.

If I was starting out with an herb garden, I’d suggest basil, the basic Genovese and or Perpetua, the two-tone leaf variety that’s not prone to bolt. Parsley is nearly no-fail, as is sage, rosemary and thyme. I’d round it out with Vietnamese cilantro: It has all the flavor without the pesky bolting habits (you can find the plants at farmers markets).

Which brings me to a where to shop suggestion: If you’re starting out and have a lot of space to fill, head to the farmers market in spring with a set amount of cash and an open mind. Save the garden centers for that special gotta-have-it perennial or midseason sales of flats of annuals until you’re sure you know what you want and can afford to spend.

And in the tool shed, I’d get gloves, a sturdy trowel, short pruning shears, garden scissors and a really strong shovel. I’ve got other tools I use occasionally, but those are my most well-used tools.

Garden choices are highly subjective, like most areas of design. What would be in your beginner’s kit for gardeners?

Getting the garden party started

Posted by: Martha Buns Updated: May 5, 2014 - 8:08 AM
Heuchera Amber Waves from Terra Nova Nurseries is among the many charmingly colored coral bell options.

Heuchera Amber Waves from Terra Nova Nurseries is among the many charmingly colored coral bell options.

If you were starting a garden from scratch, what would you put in it? I was struck by the number of garden starter sets I’ve seen in catalogs lately, collections of plants aimed at beginning gardeners, or at least gardeners beginning anew.

That made me wonder what I’d put in my own starter kit if I was given a blank slate – and a few bucks to spend along with it. Here’s what I wish I’d started out with:

A shrub: Lilacs are my hands-down no-fuss favorite, although I’ve got a soft spot for the bird-friendly weigela or the fairy shrub rose.

A climber: I love clematis, but some can be fussy. I’d suggest something less finicky to start out, like the Jackmanii our grandmothers and great-grandmothers grew.

For shade, ever-reliable super-hardy coral bells in their magical colors add bright spots that don’t rely on blooms to make a season-long show. And one of the many two-tone hosta like Autumn Frost or a big blue like Blue Angel give color without much trouble.

For sun, repeat-bloom daylilies and Asiatic lilies put on a long-running show. Just make sure to shield newly planted bulbs from digging squirrels and protect young shoots from rabbits until they get tall enough to no longer tempt them; otherwise they’re pretty much care-free. Hard to go wrong with coneflowers and other rudbeckia, too, for bloom time and reliability. And my gotta-have-it, even though it’s not a long bloomer: a deep-pink double peony. Worth it for the scent alone.

One the annual front, I like cosmos and calibrachoa for sun, and caladium and impatiens for shade. The latter may seem ubiquitous, but up until last year’s blight, they were the ever-reliable, long-blooming space fillers perfect for filling garden gaps until you learn what perennials you want and work in your yard.

For a beginner’s veggie plot, I’d plant leaf lettuce, onion sets, a cherry tomato plant like Sweet 100 (or blondkopfchen if you like flavorful yellow cherry tomatoes), a pole bean, one cucumber plant – and I do mean just one unless you’ve got a real hankering for canning –and a broccoli plant, since you get to keep harvesting broccoli all season once it sets.

If I was starting out with an herb garden, I’d suggest basil, the basic Genovese and or Perpetua, the two-tone leaf variety that’s not prone to bolt. Parsley is nearly no-fail, as is sage, rosemary and thyme. I’d round it out with Vietnamese cilantro: It has all the flavor without the pesky bolting habits (you can find the plants at farmers markets).

Which brings me to a where to shop suggestion: If you’re starting out and have a lot of space to fill, head to the farmers market in spring with a set amount of cash and an open mind. Save the garden centers for that special gotta-have-it perennial or midseason sales of flats of annuals until you’re sure you know what you want and can afford to spend.

And in the tool shed, I’d get gloves, a sturdy trowel, short pruning shears, garden scissors and a really strong shovel. I’ve got other tools I use occasionally, but those are my most well-used tools.

Garden choices are highly subjective, like most areas of design. What would be in your beginner’s kit for gardeners?

Straw Bale Gardening through the Summer

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: September 25, 2013 - 8:46 AM

It started as a spark when reading the article about Straw Bale Gardening (SBG)in the Home and Garden section this Spring.  The spark started to smolder when my friends working on the Cargill Giving Garden attended a seminar on SBG.  Then flames ignited when I met a fellow customer in a garden center who complained that she could not grow tomatoes at her north shore cabin.  Scene set.  I was going to try a SBG at my cabin garden this summer.

Then I read the book.  Without daily contact, I couldn’t follow all the directions.  Conditioning the bales (breaking them down so you can grow in them) would take longer.  Because we turn off the water before we leave the cabin, irrigation was out of the question.  And  I got started late, so I couldn’t use the hoop which would really help up north.  Out of the shoot I'm breaking three rules.

Conditioning went OK.  (I blogged earlier about the bear who loves blood meal).  Planting day arrived.   The local hardware store ran out of top soil.  The garden center was 45 minutes away; I didn’t want to waste a perfectly good Memorial Day weekend, so I used compost (rule break number 4).  The tomatoes went in.  Two hybrid Roma plants started purchased at the Isle Farmer’s Market.  I put one in the ground and one in a raised bed.

After a couple of weeks, it looked like Raised bed 1, SBG 0.  Weeds were terrible and mushrooms were sprouting everywhere.  It was a wet Spring so I did not need to worry about water.  
Summer came, the tomatoes grew, then I messed up again.  Although I bleached my cages, and my trowels, I forgot to wash my gloves (at the cabin we have no washing machine).  Blight came to both tomato plants.

I’m going to cut this story short by saying that I got equal amounts of tomatoes from each of the plants.  Both a skimpy.  The squash and pumpkins did GREAT!   I compare my “up north” experiment to the tomatoes grown with irrigation, daily tending, and proper care at the Cargill Giving Garden (see picture) and I have concluded that I need to wait until I retire to try the straw bale thing again!

 

And this being our last post for the season, please feel free to comment about your year’s disaster, your year’s accomplishments and maybe your favorite photo or blog item for the year. 

May the Winter bring you many seed catalogs, many happy dreams of flowers blooms and promise of a wonderful Spring.

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