Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thinking About Spring

I just started receiving seed catalogs in the mail for next years plantings. Seeing as there is over a foot of snow on the ground right now, digging in the dirt is very far off. But "window" shopping is ok and makes me start thinking of what I will try next year. So far I think I will try a different tomato as last years Brandywines were HUGE. I will also plant beets as I have a fantastic pickled beets recipe. Also toying with the idea of planting wax beans...the kids love them and so do I. Both of these will be a new experience so it should prove to me an interesting summer.

What are you thinking of planting next year?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Little Things in Our Gardens

It is easy to miss the little creatures that fill our gardens. I recently purchased a macro lens which gets me in closer to smaller things. I was out today in the garden and happened upon this spider resting in the sun on one of my coneflowers, and the ladybug below was sipping on my sedums.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Favorite Way to Eat Fresh Tomatoes

My favorite way to eat tomatoes is to toast bread, smear them with some whipped cream cheese, top with tomato slices, and then sprinkle salt and pepper over it all. Yummm!

Monday, September 21, 2009

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes

A week ago my husband accidentally knocked some of my tomatoes off the vine as he was mowing the lawn. Needless to say I was not too happy with him, as two of them were huge...and all of them green. I wasn't sure if they were a loss or not, as this is my first time ever growing tomatoes.

So I did some research on line and many people talked about placing them in a south facing window. Well, these were pretty green and I felt the sun would do more harm than good. So I decided to try one suggestion and sit them next to ripened bananas.

There were four really green tomatoes when I started this experiment, so, I sat them next to my old bananas (to make banana bread with later), and waited. Well, a few days ago, I took this photo. One of the large tomatoes is amazingly turning to an orange color, with another one not too far behind it.

Four days later, the large orange one is now red, and the other large green one is now orange. The smaller two are still green but showing signs of fading. Wow, ripe bananas really work...you'll just have to put up with the gnats though!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Wild Cardinal Flower

I see this flower every summer along the Mississippi River, but have never been able to get close enough to photograph it and see what type of wildflower it is. So finally I stumbled on the other weekend and figured out it is a wild Cardinal Flower. The red stands out boldly in the backwaters of the Mississippi.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How to Grow Tomato Plants from Seed, Part 4

As you can see, my first try at growing Brandywine Red Tomatoes has been a success. I have a ton of green tomatoes covering the six plants. What I wasn't expecting was how huge these plants were going to get. Two weeks ago they started to flop over from the weight. I had them all growing up spirals supports, but that wasn't enough. I had to run out to the garden store and get six tall heavy duty spikes to randomly place around them. Then, taking advice from my mother-in-law, I cut up an old t-shirt into strips, and tied up the flopping stems to the new supports. (The soft fabric is gentle on the stems).

Of course I lost some stems doing all of this, as they break easily. I have also had to thin out some of the extra stems to let more light and air circulation into the center of the plants. Next year when I grow these, I will plant them in a long row so they are easier to get to, and get more sun.

Here is the first tomato of the year, collected a few days ago. I sat it in my kitchen to ripen up some more.

Follow my tomotoes' journey:

How to Grow Tomato Plants from Seed, Part 3.

How to Grow Tomato Plants from Seed, Part 2.

How to Grow Tomato Plants from Seed, Part 1.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Black Eyed Susans Stand Out in my Garden

I planted two Rudbeckia "Goldsturm" last year and they grew quite tall this summer. I have some coneflowers planted behind them as I wasn't expecting the Black Eyed Susans to get so large. When I called Bachman's to ask what type of Black Eyed Susans were true perennials for zone 4, the only one they said would last was "Goldsturm". All the rest you see for sale might last two years at the most. Hopefully he is right...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tall Phlox

I usually only see Phlox sold in pinks and purples, so when I saw this tall Phlox for sale at Bachman's, I snatched it up. It is called "Orange Perfection" and while not really orange, but more of a coral color, it is an amazing. Grows up to 4 feet tall.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Growing Joe Pye Weed

I am constantly getting asked by people walking by my home what these tall plants are growing in my garden. When I tell them Joe Pye Weed, they almost always say they have never heard of them. Growing up to 9 feet tall, mine ("Gateway") are currently around 6-7 feet high, and only two years old at this point. They like moist areas so I have them growing in an area that receives alot of runoff from my yard. I am growing really tall perennials in the middle of my bed to act as a naturally fence.

In the perennial garden on the other side of my house, I decided to try out the dwarf variety, "Little Joe", as they only get about 4 feet high, but mine are a little taller than that. He gets a little more shade here, but he seems to be doing just fine.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What a Plant Sale Looks Like

In late May, the Dakota County master gardeners had a plant sale. It started at 9 am, and when we arrived at 9:15, the crowd you see above was already there. Needless to say, it was a mad house and half of the plants were already claimed. I picked up some Penstemon Husker's Red and Balloon Flowers. It was a fun event to attend and see the different plants available, many of which were said to come from the master gardeners own gardens.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

One of my Coneflowers has Stem Rot

Horticulture Magazine had this very informative question and answer article on “Why are my Coneflowers Dying?” Since many of us grow Coneflowers or Echinacea, I thought this might be a very helpful article.

This site has some great photos of diseases that effect Coneflowers

Question: Why Are My Coneflowers Dying?July 27, 2009

My two-year-old coneflowers (Echinacea) are wilting and dying. They make many flowers, then they wilt and the leaves turn brown. The whole plant seems to die, stem by stem. What can I do? Nothing else in my perennial bed seems harmed.

Answer: Coneflowers are generally easy to grow and free of pests, but there are some diseases that attack them when conditions are right. The symptoms you describe suggest sclerotinia stem and root rot, also sometimes called crown rot. It is caused by the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum.
This disease can present itself while the plants are still small or during bloom. It can originate in the soil and form black areas on the roots and plant crown after the plant dies. It can also reach the plant through the air, in which case it causes stem blotches, wilting and dieback. Flower heads may droop. Digging up one of the plants to examine the roots should help you diagnose the problem. A small, weak or broken root system also points to a fungal problem.
This disease is most likely to occur in damp conditions. If your area has received more rain than usual this year or it has been very humid, this fungal disease is most likely the problem. Also, echinacea are drought-tolerant plants that don’t require or prefer a lot of watering. If you are watering consistently to meet the needs of the other, undamaged plants in the bed, you might want to consider growing your coneflowers elsewhere.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sick Plant? Ask a Master Gardener

The Dakota County Master Gardeners will be holding plant health clinics for anyone that has a question about what is eating or destroying their plants.

At the Plant Diagnostic Clinic you may...

  • Bring a sample of a plant or weed for identification
  • Bring a sample of a damaged plant for diagnosis of common insects or disease problems
  • Receive recommendations on how to culturally control pests and weeds
  • Discuss problems on lawns, trees, flowers, fruits, vegetables, or pests with the University of Minnesota Extension Dakota County Master Gardeners

All clinics are held from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Clinic dates and locations

Tuesday, July 28 - Galaxie Library, 14955 Galaxie Avenue, Apple Valley
Tuesday, August 4 - UMore Park, 1605 West 160th Street, Rosemount
Tuesday, August 11 - UMore Park,1605 West 160th Street, Rosemount
Tuesday, August 18 - UMore Park, 1605 West 160th Street, Rosemount
Thursday, August 20* - Umore Park (Open House), 1605 West 160th Street, Rosemount

*Please bring your sample to the clinic at least 30 minutes before closing time*

Fleshy plant parts - (bulbs, fruits and roots) - Wrap specimens in clean, absorbent materials (like paper towels) to absorb all leaks.

Flowers and vegetables - Include the entire plant, the root system, and the surrounding soil (often what appears to be a leaf problem is really a root-related problem). Enclose the roots in a plastic bag and keep the soil from touching the leaves. Include enough of the plant to show all stages of the disease or problem. When possible, bring several whole plants. Bring notes on the pattern of the symptoms over your whole garden.

Foliar disease - Include enough plant material to show all stages of the disease, from healthy to very sick. Submit only freshly collected materials. Note the overall disease pattern on the plant. Are all the leaves affected, or just the lower branches?

Turf samples - Turf samples are discouraged, as it is difficult to diagnose turf problems from samples. If you wish to bring one, though, please bring a turf section measuring 6" x 6" with the roots, from each of these areas: the sick turf, the turf on the edge of the sick area, and the healthy turf .

Woody trees and shrubs - Collect an infected branch sample, a moderately infected branch, and a healthy branch. Please do not bring completely dead branches

Insect samples - If possible, bring several insect samples. Include a plant sample showing insect damage. Preserve soft-bodied insects in rubbing alcohol.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Endless Summer Hydrangea

I planted two Endless Summer Hydrangeas last year and since the flowers can either be blue or pink, depending on the soil pH, I have been experimenting on getting the flowers blue. This one is a light purple, while the one below is a bright pink. I have been putting used coffee grounds around the base of each plant, and some Aluminum Sulfate as well. Since I don't know how much aluminum sulfate to use to get a good blue, this will be a continuing experiment. The one below has a faint touch of lavender in some flowers, but it is being stubborn compared to my other bush.

Some of the things you must do to protect this variety of hydrangea is to keep watering the shrub up until the first frost and to cover it with mulch to protect it from the winter weather. I also planted them in an area that is partially protected from winter winds, and get part sun during the day. So far, they are doing quite well!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Second Perennial Garden Project

My second perennial garden is one I purchased from BlueStone Perennials. They arrived last summer as small plants, and are doing quite well this year. Some of them have failed to survive the winter, but BlueStone replaced them this spring. The rabbits enjoyed a feast this spring and stunted some of the plants, giving others no chance to survive...so my only solution was to put up the bunny fence. It is really ugly and I hope not to need it next year.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

My Coneflower Garden

Last year I planted a Coneflower Garden on one side of my house, along with some Liatris 'Kobald' and Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm'). They should be opening up in the next few weeks.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hot to Grow Tomato Plants from Seed, Part 3

Shortly before we left for vacation, around June 26th, I planted my tomato plants in the ground. Since I don't have alot of space, I put them in an unused bed on the west side of the house, enclosing them in an area 3 x 6 feet. I had seen the spiral rods in stores and magazines and decided to try them this year as tomato trellises....you guide the central vine up the rod and it helps support the plant, leaving more room for other plants in tight spaces. So far it is working quite well. Oh, and I put alot of compost in the hole for each plant for extra nutrients. Stayed tuned to see how they turn out!

How to Grow Tomato Plants from Seed, Part 2.
How to Grow Tomato Plants from Seed, Part 1.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

One of my Perennial Gardens

Some of you are probably wondering what my garden project looks like. Since this is only my second season in my new garden, I am constantly learning how a garden works in a Zone 4 environment. I have to tell you, the plant options for perennials are really fun, and can make your head spin trying to decide what you want in your garden. I wish I had another half acre!

But anyway, this is newest project. I have Joe Pye Weed in the very back, some phlox, peonies, butterfly weed, butterfly bush, etc. I made it into an "L" shape so it can become a garden fence for my yard.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Coral Bells Finally in my Garden

I fell in love with the dark purplish leaves of this Heuchera and its bright redish pink flowers while shopping at Bachmans one day. It is a nice contrast for the garden so I picked two of them up. This Coral Bells name is "Swirling Fantasy".

Monday, June 22, 2009

Blanket Flower

I decided to plant some Blanket Flowers (or Gaillardia) in my large perennial bed. I needed some short plants on the edge of a border section. It is still a work in progress. I went for the magic three plants (that of planting in three's) and bought two "Goblin", placing one called "Arizona Sun" in the middle. Some plants of Goblin that I have in my other perennial bed spread this year and I need to dig up the "new" plant that was formed and transplant it somewhere. These guys can get crazy if you don't watch them.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


I planted some Alliums last fall since I have never grown them and they turned out quite well. These bloomed later than my other alliums in another part of the garden and are a beautiful purplish blue. At first I thought they were never going to bloom, but then remembered they are late bloomers.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

How to Grow Tomato Plants from Seed, Part 2

Seedlings to Plants

Yes, this is my first year trying to grow tomato plants from seed, and in fact, the only year I have tried. Now that the seeds have sprouted and the plants have been growing the last few months, I thought I would share their progress.

As you can read, at the link below, in my previous post, I explained the process I used to spout some tomato seeds. After they had grown a little, and developed the first set of small leaves, I decided it was time to transfer them to larger pots. So on April 27th, I chose the six best seedlings and transferred them to a six pack left over from the pansies I purchased a few days before.

Gently pull the seedlings from the planting medium and place the roots all the way to the bottom. I then filled each cell with some of the remaining seedling dirt I had left over.

I don't have the funds for sun lamps, so I placed the plants in my south facing kitchen window to get the most amount of light possible. It is still to cold outside in April and early May too put them outside and get some real sun. At this point, I watered them only when they appeared dry, and did not fertilize them.

Around May 27th, roughly four weeks later, the tomato plants were going on the third and fourth set of leaves. I decided it was time to transfer them to the next stage of individual pots. The original seedling/sprout leaves have at this point fallen off, but you can still see where they were.

Using the pots that some begonias came in, I carefully loosened each plant, placed the root system at the bottom of the new pot, and covered with seedling dirt all the way to the top. For the most part, this meant that everything below the sprout leaf nodes is now under dirt.

I will most likely leave the tomato plants in these containers for three more weeks, then transfer to the garden by the end of June. On June 1st, I moved the six tomato plants, now in individual containers, outside to my deck where they can now receive maximum sun, get fresh air, and grow.

How to Grow Tomato Plants from Seed, Part 1.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I found this Mayapple in the woods while visiting family in Wisconsin. It blooms when morel mushrooms are in season. The plant only has two leaves and a single blossom.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hyacinths in my Yard

Practiced taking some close up shots of my Hyacinths that are blooming. I think I could have stayed next to these all day because they smell so good!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

War Declared on Rabbits

Last week I planted three different colors of Columbine around my garden. Though their bloom time is short, they ad variety to the garden. So you can imagine my anger when I walked out this morning to find my pretty yellow Columbine half eaten....not to mention a section of my tulips and some other perennials trying to come up.

That's the Final Straw!

Later in the morning, I went to Home Depot, and purchased some garden bed fencing, applicably called "bunny fence", and I have spent the better part of the day surrounding my perennial bed with this wire. My fingers ache and I have cuts on my arms from the wire, but bunnies be damned, I will not let them enjoy another bite!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

White Crab Apple

We have some white crab apple trees blooming behind our home and this branch was just low enough for me to try taking a macro photograph of the flowers. I love the green star inside the petal. Oh, and they smell soooo good!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Got to Kill the Wabbit...

I walked around the yard today, pulling weeds out of my garden beds, only to discover that some of the red tulips my mother gave me have gone missing. Now, I don't mean dug up and gone forever, but eaten. Yep, looks like some pesky rabbits have been having some late night dinners, courtesy of me. The bulbs had another week to open. Out of nine bulbs, the rabbits left me all but one to enjoy...unless they come for that one tonight. Needless, to say, but I feel like Elmer Fudd right now.

(the photo is kind of hard to tell, but it is my rabbit damage from a month ago, when the tulips were first coming up)

Monday, April 27, 2009

First Daffodil of Spring

Finally, all the daffodil bulbs I planted last fall from Breck's catalogue are finally opening up!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Master Gardener Plant Sale Coming Soon

I was just reading the paper this evening and came across a notice all Minnesota gardeners will love. The Dakota County Master Gardener plant sale will be coming up in a few weekends, giving all of us novices the chance to have a little something the experts have in their gardens. So make sure to save the date:

Saturday, May 9th
9am- Noon
UMore Park
1605 W. 160th St.
Rosemount, MN

The website states "Browse hundreds of plants that can be placed in native gardens, English cottage gardens, woodland gardens, rain gardens and more", and if you would like to see a list of potential plants, they have one for you too.

Friday, April 24, 2009

My Garden Book

This is for all of us out there that need some organization. After living in Florida for three years, I knew where everything was in my garden because nothing ever went dormant. But once we moved to Minnesota, where everything disappears for six months, I figured the best strategy was to buy a notebook and log information about all my plants. There was no way I was going to remember where I planted all my bulbs.

I started by dividing the book into sections: Front Beds, Side Beds, and Rear Beds. Then I made a drawing of the bed, using symbols for plants. If the plants were of the same family, they got the same symbol. For example, the triangles in the photo are all Coneflowers, but each is a different variety. So the variety received a number, and I noted the numbers at the bottom of the page. I left a few pages after the map, so I could right down growth notes over the next coming years.

If something doesn't survive, I write it down on one of the last pages in the notebook so I have a list of plants that may not do too well in my soil. Oh, and one last thing, I always keep the flower info stakes that come with the plant, so I have quick access to the plants growth needs, not to mention remembering where I bought the plant from. (if too many plants die or don't make it through the winter, and they come from one garden center, then I know to not go back to that business).

The book has been wonderful to have this spring. Of course, I discovered that I forgot to note down where I planted some of my daffodils, so there have been about five surprise locations this spring. I have quickly written down these locations now!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The First Flower Planting - Pansies

Bachmans of Apple Valley started selling their Pansies this week so I picked up a few, as they were Buy-One-Get-One-Free. How can I resist buying some blue and purple pansies for my garden? Since Spring is later this year, none of my bulbs are blooming yet, and I just need to see some color in my garden. I picked up some yellow pansies as well and planted them near the tulips.

Behind the pansies, in this photo, are some Allium bulbs I planted last fall. We'll see how they do later.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Blooming Bulbs

Spring is finally here! After spending an entire weekend planting hundreds of various bulbs, they are finally coming up. About three weeks ago, the last week of March, my tulips started to peak through the ground. The daffodils, however, were worrying me and I was afraid they didn't make it. But a little over a week ago, the first ones started to finally show themselves.

From The Minnesota Garden

Below are some of my daffodils, with an Endless Summer Hydrangea bush just starting to sprout some new growth behind them.

From The Minnesota Garden

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How to Grow Tomato Plants from Seed

My garden project this year, well, at least one of them, is to grow my own tomatoes from seed. After all, it is cheaper. Being as I live in Minnesota, the cold spring tends to hang around, so a week ago, I bought my tomato seeds to get the process started indoors.

Picking out the seeds wasn't too hard. I know I like sweet, juicy tomatoes, and when I saw the "Brandywine Red", it looked like this variety would work.

Having never done this before, I looked online for ideas, but I couldn't find something simple. I knew I didn't want to put the money into buying the trays so I was at a loss of what to do. Randomly, I picked up an old Garden Gate mag from last year and came across a reader's suggestion on how she grew her tomato plants from seed.

Exhibit A : The Rotisserie Chicken Container
If you keep the base and lid of last weeks chicken, you can use it as a nifty growing tray. All you have to do is the following:
  1. Clean both parts with hot water and soap.
  2. Punch a few holes in the bottom of the tray for drainage. I filled the tray with a teaspoon of water and watched where the water pooled, then cut small holes in these locations. Then place a chard of pottery over the holes so the dirt doesn't flood out.
  3. Next, fill the bottom tray with seed starting mix about 3/4 full. Since I used "Brandywine Red", the package says to plant at a depth of 1/8", so what I did was just place the seeds on the top of the soil, then cover over with about 1/8" of dirt.
  4. With a spray bottle, mist the top of the soil with water until it is a damp. Cover with lid.

(the tiny white specks are the tomato seeds)

At this point, I was really wondering if this was going to work. I placed the tray on my kitchen counter where the sun would hit it as different times of the day. The moisture in the soil will condensate on the lid,and trickle down, watering the soil for you. It has been seven days since I planted the seeds and I have not had to water anymore so far.

The tomato seed package says you will start to see sprouts within 7-15 days. I planted mine on March 11th, and five days later, I saw the first tiny shoots appearing. Now, two days later, each seed I planted is about one inch tall.

WOW! I can't believe it actually worked!

I took the lid off for the above photo, and then placed it back on, sitting it in it's afternoon sunny location. When the seedlings show a second set of leaves, it will be time to move them to larger pots. Stay tuned for additional updates on my tomato project 2009, growing tomato plants from seeds.