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 Weeds

It's time to mulch!

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: June 14, 2012 - 9:38 AM


I put another 3” layer of cedar chips around my trees a couple weeks ago, but my beans weren’t high enough to put mulch in the vegetable garden.



Thanks to some nice rain and warm weather, it’s time.


As you see, for now I’m using grass clippings.  Grass clippings are abundant and free -- qualities I really like.  I prefer to use compost, but I was not good about stirring my pile this spring and it’s not ready yet.  I had the right mixture (4 parts brown to one part green), but I didn’t get in there with my pitchfork and give the pile some oxygen. 

Now, I’m adding more greens and shredded newspaper to the pile and it will take some time for that to break down.  Plus, look at this little beauty growing out the side.  Do I really want to disturb a tomato plant?  I wonder what variety grew.



Some people say that you don’t need to stir compost, that the worms will do their job well enough.  And I might test out that theory this year.  I’ll add my new items in holes dug into the working pile.  Maybe the worms would like a fresh banana peel once in a while.

How about you, are you a "stirrer" or a "piler?"  Or maybe you have two bins where you can let one work and add new items into the other.  What works for you?

Be careful what you plant

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: June 11, 2012 - 10:16 AM


I got more than I bargained for last summer. There were some bare spots in my garden, so I picked up three pretty little plants with dark glossy leaves and plopped them in.


I knew they were perennials, but that's all I bothered to find out. Not too smart.

This spring, I was surprised to discover that my three little plants had spread into a continuous patch that now covers about 25 percent of the garden bed.

That's a pretty aggressive plant! I wanted to figure out what it was, so I did a little research. It appears to be bugleweed, a ground cover with a fast-spreading habit.

"Weed"  should have been my first clue.

My new bugleweed patch looks OK for now, and so far, it's confined itself to the bed and not spread into my lawn. But I'm wondering if it's going to crowd out some of the things around it, like my fragile delphinium or the volunteer marigolds that sometimes spring up in that bed.

It's giving me flashbacks of some other plants I'd rather never see again. Like the creeping sedum that tries its best to conquer my landscape every growing season. My mother still hasn't forgiven me for sharing some of it with her, before we realized what we were dealing with.

What aggressive plants do you have in your garden? And anyone else ever unwittingly planted "weeds"?



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.


This isn’t a weed!

Posted by: Helen Yarmoska Updated: May 10, 2012 - 10:44 AM

There are a number of definitions of “weed”  -- noxious, invasive, aggressive.  I think a weed is a plant that grows where I don’t want it to grow.  Call me controlling, but it’s true.  Grass is nice in a lawn, but not in my flower bed.  Lilly of the Valley are lovely, but stay behind the border! 

Last night, I found this growing in my lawn.  ARGH!  My favorite vegetable has officially become a ‘weed.’ 

Oh the horror.  Asparagus is a perennial with deep roots.  Others will follow.  I can’t kill it, it’s too delicious.

Help!  Give me a solution quick.

Winning the buckthorn battle

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: September 28, 2011 - 11:42 AM


What will you be doing on Saturday? 


I'll be getting rid of the mountains of buckthorn branches now piled in my back yard and driveway. They've been there since last week when I grabbed a chainsaw and attacked them with a vengeance. Sometimes they fought back, poking me with their thorns until I had bloody scratches up and down my arms. It was a grueling battle, but ultimately very satisfying.

And this time, they're not coming back -- not if I can help it. This time I went medieval, dousing the freshly cut stumps with Roundup. I hate using chemicals in my landscape but buckthorn is such a relentless bully that I made an exception.

I've been pulling out little buckthorns and cutting down big buckthorns for as long as I've been living in my current house (in northern Eden Prairie). But the big ones always come roaring back, bigger and badder than ever.

What's the urgency with getting rid of buckthorn? In natural areas, the invasive shrub is so fast-growing and aggressive that it chokes out native plants that support songbirds and other wildlife. In home landscapes, it does the same thing, plus it's scraggly and ugly, quickly shooting to twice the size of everything around it.


Fall is an ideal time to battle this monster, when its leaves are still green, making it easy to identify. If you don't have time to tackle all your buckthorn, concentrate on the female plants, the ones with the blackish-purple berries. They're the ones that will produce armies of new buckthorn for you to battle. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has some good information about buckthorn eradication on its website:


As for getting rid of buckthorn branches, most waste haulers will pick them up as yard waste if they're cut and bundled. I've got so many that I'd be sawing and bundling until Christmas. Instead, I'm going to haul it to the Mulch Store (, which has four Minnesota Department of Agriculture-certified sites for disposal of tree branches and other yard waste. 

Is your yard plagued with buckthorn? Or  is something else on your "most hated" list?




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