Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson and Kim Palmer 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 Weather

Harvest envy

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: September 24, 2013 - 10:48 AM

I've seen some truly amazing edible gardens in the last month.  

One was a formal vegetable garden in St. Paul, one of this year's Beautiful Gardens winners, that's as productive as it is beautiful. Gardener Eileen Troxel especially loves growing heirloom tomatoes for her favorite recipe, a delicious-looking tomato tart that she serves to guests at her outdoor dinner parties. (You can see and read about her garden in Variety Home + Garden on Oct. 23).

Then there's the "Edible Estate" in Woodbury, where an artist and crew tore up the front lawn Memorial Day weekend and replaced it with more than 100 different edible crops. I made my final visit of the season recently, and was blown away by how much it's producing. Even after sharing with most of their neighborhood, the Schoenherr family has more food than they know what to do with. They're making pestos and salsas, canning sauces and figuring out new recipes for eggplant and Brussels sprouts. They're even growing artichokes! (Their landscape will be featured in Home + Garden on Oct. 2.)

Seeing all this bounty in other people's gardens makes me painfully aware of how little my pitiful garden actually produces. Mother Nature didn't do me any favors this year, pelting my garden with golf-ball-size hail in August, which pretty much wiped out my tomatoes. That wasn't my fault.

But the sad beets definitely are my fault. I'm not sure what I did wrong this year -- maybe I didn't thin them aggressively enough -- but my yield will be very small, and the beets themselves are only about the size of quarters. I may get one salad out of the whole crop.

I harvested some decent lettuce early in the season, and my basil and mint production have been fantastic. (Although, as one garden author noted to me earlier this year, "If you can't grow mint, you truly are a terrible gardener.") 

All in all, not a banner year in the garden for moi, but I'm already resolved to do better next year. What are you eating out of your garden these days? And what are you going to do different next year? 

I'm now a Pruning Advocate.

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: September 18, 2013 - 9:18 AM

After this week, I’m a firm believer in pruning your apple tree!  For YEARS I did not pick off those small quarter sized potential apples.  They were too cute – they held so much potential – I always think I’m going to have the biggest crop of apples EVER.

Then, last year happened.  Remember the early Spring and late frost?  The frost killed off all but three of my apples.  But, they were the prettiest, cleanest, non-wormy apples I’ve ever grown in the 15 years I’ve had the apple tree. All the tree’s defenses went into making those fruit the best fruit ever.

So I finally practiced what I preached and pruned my apple tree.  When they were about the size of a nickel, I plucked off the apples so there was only one every six inches.  Oh it was difficult.  I poured a bucketful of baby apples into my compost pile.  Ouch.

Now, as I looked at my apple tree this drizzly morning I’m happy that I pruned the tree.  And, as I bit into my

yummy Haralson for breakfast, I wasn’t worried about looking for half a worm.

Are you now a believer?  Will you prune your apple tree next year?

Minneapolis homeowners affected by storm can buy low-cost trees

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: September 10, 2013 - 10:24 AM

Is there a void in your landscape where a tree used to be?

Minneapolis homeowners who lost trees in the June 21 storm have an opportunity to order a replacement tree for $25. The city is offering about 500 lost-cost trees between now and Sept. 20 (earlier if the trees sell out).

Six species of trees will be available, including hackberry, harvest gold linden, heritage oak (an English oak and bur oak cross), heritage river birch, Honeycrisp apple and royal star magnolia.

If the tree you lost was on the boulevard, hold off. These trees are not to be planted on boulevards; the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is developing its own plan for boulevard tree re-planting, to be implemented in the spring.

To order a tree, visit Homeowners who order trees will pick them up in late September (2-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28 at the Minneapolis Impound Lot, 51 Colfax Ave. N.) Volunteers will be available at the pickup location to help load each tree and provide a complimentary bag of mulch. 

And if you need help keeping your new tree aIive and healthy, there's a free workshop on tree planting and care, offered Sept. 23, from 6-7 p.m., at McRae Recreation Center, 906 E. 47th St., Minneapolis. No RSVP is required.

Now is the time to water

Posted by: Mary Jane Smetanka Updated: August 26, 2013 - 10:41 AM


Brown leaves are dropping from the linden trees that line the boulevard on my way to work, and they’re not dropping because fall is approaching. They’re dropping because it’s been so dry.
Now is the time to water trees, grass and gardens. With trees it’s especially critical, because the damage from drought can be delayed but long-lasting. Often trees don’t show any sign of distress, so the unobservant homeowner may not even know that trees are thirsty. Then a year or two later when people see bare branches at the top of trees, they wonder what’s wrong.
In my garden, I know it’s time to water when the leaves on water-sensitive plants like hydrangea and Joe Pye weed go limp. In a week like this I will give those plants a drink every couple of days, and I water the entire garden every four or five days.
Anything in a raised bed or pot probably needs to be watered at least once a day when temperatures are in the 90s. And if you have a lawn, don’t forget your grass. A lawn needs about an inch of water each week to last through a hot dry period like we’re having now.
So please water!

Late-season planting

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: August 13, 2013 - 10:03 AM


My tomato dreams for the season are over -- wiped out by last week's hail storm. 


At least a dozen tomatoes, in varying stages of ripening, were sheared off my plants and dumped rudely on my deck. I was hoping to salvage the tomatoes that managed to stay on the vine, but after inspecting them over the weekend, it was clear they were a lost cause. Every single one was damaged, the skin pierced in multiple spots by hailstones.

Since that's a recipe for disease, I reluctantly plucked them and threw them away. 

So with six tomato plants, I harvested exactly one -- ONE -- tomato before the destruction. There's still hope for my beets, and I've been enjoying my basil, three kinds, all summer long, as well as mint and salad greens. But all in all, that's a pretty pathetic yield. 

It's way too late to plant new tomatoes, obviously, but I'm thinking about late-season veggies I might try, so this year's growing season isn't such a bust. 

The U of M extension service has some guidelines and suggestions for mid-to-late-summer planting on its website (

So tell me, fellow gardeners. What late-season veggies have you tried? What's worked for you? Or should I just resign myself to the farmer's market?







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