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.
As a gardener, part of the fun of traveling is seeing plants you've never seen before. Sometimes they're exotic species that would never make it in Minnesota. All you can do is admire them in their native habitat -- and take a couple pictures to remember them by.
But sometimes you discover plants that you can actually try at home.
I encountered some of both types this month. First we spent a week in South Carolina, a state we'd never visited before, and I got my first real encounter with Spanish moss. Sure, I'd seen it in movies and photos. But seeing it for real -- everywhere -- draped from trees like fluttering gray-green scarves -- was magical and enchanting. It's so different from anything we see up here that I felt like I had stepped into some sort of Southern Gothic Disney theme park -- Bayou Land!.
I'd love to have Spanish moss hanging from my tree branches here in Minnesota, but I know that's never gonna happen.
But closer to home, I discovered a plant I would like to try. We were in Madison, Wis., moving our daughter out of her apartment, and I took a side trip to the Allen Centennial Gardens (http://www.allencentennialgardens.org) on the UW campus.
The garden is a teaching garden for the UW horticulture department, and it's always worth a stroll. So beautiful that it's a sought-after site for weddings, it's also a living laboratory of interesting plant species.
This visit, what caught my eye were some purplish-black tomatoes, darker than any I've ever seen, as dark as an eggplant. The tag said they were 'Indigo Rose.' Back home, at my computer, I looked them up. Apparently Indigo Rose is a new tomato variety developed at Oregon State University. It's not only gorgeous, but it also apparently has a high level of antioxidants, so it's healthy to boot. How does it taste? "Like a tomato," according to one online review.
That's good enough for me!
Several seed companies are now carrying Indigo Rose in their catalogs, and I'm definitely going to get my hands on some next year and trying growing them at home.
What plants have you discovered while traveling? Any you've tried to grow at home?
This time last year, a lot of gardeners -- me included -- were grumbling about tomatoes. There weren't very many, they were hard and green, and they seemed to be growing at a glacial pace.
The 2011 crop was so disappointing that my fellow Greengirl Mary Jane Smetanka even wrote a Page 1 story about it: "Too hot, too cold, too bad for tomatoes." (http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/homegarden/126895018.html)
Not this year! I have nothing to gripe about -- at least on the tomato front. My cherry tomatoes started turning red and golden yellow more than a month ago, and I've been happily plucking and eating a couple every day ever since.
My Roma tomatoes are now flushing red, too. And I seem to have healthir tomatoes this year, with lush leaves, few pests and virtually no end rot.
Last week, I harvested my biggest yield for a single day -- ever -- 18 tomatoes of various sizes, shapes and hues. Not bad, considering I have about 10 plants and they're all in pots on my deck.
Everything in the garden happened early this year, thanks to a weirdly warm spring. But while my tomatoes seem early, at least compared to last year, they're right on schedule: mid-July through September, according to the Minnesota Harvest calendar. (http://www.pickyourown.org/MNharvestcalendar.htm)
What's happening with your tomatoes? Are you harvesting more than usual? And what's your favorite way to eat them?
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?
Growing a new vegetable for the first time is a little garden thrill that never gets old.
Saturday I picked my first homegrown pepper. I'd been keeping an eye on the biggest one for several days, watching it gradually turn from glossy green to brilliant red. Finally it was ready, so I plucked it off, sliced it up and popped it into my mouth. It was delicious! Juicy, crisp and sweet.
Since I'm a rookie when it comes to peppers, I didn't know whether my first harvest was early or not, so I checked the Minnesota harvest calendar (http://www.pickyourown.org/MNharvestcalendar.htm). Peppers generally start ripening in mid-July and continue through mid-September, according to the calendar, so mine appear to be on the early side but nothing unusual.
I do have some experience with tomatoes, enough to know that my plants are weeks ahead of schedule. I've been harvesting cherry tomatoes since July 1, although my full-size tomatoes are still hard and green.
This year's early spring and hot, sunny summer is expected to push a lot of crops onto the fast track. What's going on in your garden? What have you harvested so far? Are things ripening earlier than usual?
Summer fatigue. It happens every year, but this year, it's happening earlier than usual.
I'm talking about the container plants that start out in June looking all fresh and perky, but lose their looks long before summer ends.
This year it's my nasturtiums that have gone ugly on me -- something that doesn't usually happen until August.
The stems are scraggly, the lilypad-like leaves are now withered and shrunken, and the profusion of orange blooms has dwindled to a few random stragglers.
I'm about ready to give up on them and replace them with something more attractive.
I have plenty of old-faithful foliage plants that I rely on to keep my pots looking pretty past Labor Day. My elephant ears are loving this hot, humid weather, and my moneywort is tumbling so fetchingly down the sides of my urns and pots.
But I could use some tough, heat-tolerant flowers as well.
So I'm taking suggestions. What blooms have worked best for you?
|Annuals (35)||Books and resources (7)|
|Chickens (3)||Compost (5)|
|Critters and pests (24)||Farmers markets (7)|
|Flowers (62)||Fruit and berries (24)|
|Grasses (19)||Green gardening (17)|
|Lawn care (20)||Perennials (66)|
|Preserving (6)||Rain gardens (1)|
|Seed starting (10)||Soil prep (9)|
|Tools (6)||Transplanting + dividing (8)|
|Trees (24)||Vegetables (90)|
|Weather (53)||Weeds (17)|
|Weekend chores (40)|