Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2011 Garden Planning Begins

Why is it all the garden catalogs start arriving after Christmas?  Maybe because once the holidays are over, the next thing to look forward to is Spring.  But in Minnesota, that's a long time coming.  It is nice to think about the snow melting, and the temperatures warming, but in some ways it's also pure torture!  But with the arrival of seed and perennial catalogs certainly comes longing for the next gardening season to begin.  In that vein, I've already put together my vegetable garden plot for next year.  This may undergo some changes yet - it'll only be our second year of gardening on this site and I need to do some research regarding companion planting, but I already know that I need to make sure that I move the potatoes and tomatoes from year to year to discourage scabs and blight, respectively.  And I already know not to plant the cucumber near the squash.  But here is the overall plan for the garden:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

End of the Gardening Season - really this time

I've planted every bulb that I've ordered this fall, as of yesterday, so I'd say that the gardening season is officially over here.  I have no plans to move anything else, plant anything else, separate anything else, or otherwise do anything that requires tending to any garden of any type until spring.  It makes me a little more than sad.  However, I did get a Gurney's catalog in the mail last week, so I guess that means that it's time to start planning for next year.

What's first on my "to-do" list for the next gardening season? Probably moving the oriental lilies that I just ended up planting in the vegetable garden because I had already covered all of the gardens with leaves by the time these arrived, and I didn't feel like trying to figure out where they should go.  Second will be preparing beds around the large boulders that we recently brought to the yard from the garages.  There's always plenty to do in the garden, which is part of the beauty of it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Potatoes Harvested

We dug the potatoes yesterday.  Rita said that they need to be dug before frost otherwise they'll get sugary, and frost was forecast for last night - and indeed we did get frost!  So our timing was just perfect.  We have eaten most of the reds already with probably one or two meals left.  We yielded 95 pounds of Norkota (russets) and Kennebec!

I plan to freeze some of the russets as french fries.  I found this info online somewhere and the kids LOVED them, so I plan to do more.  Here's what I did:

Peeled potatoes and cut into french fries.
Boil potatoes in salt water until just about done.
Dry thoroughly and freeze on cookie sheets.  Transfer to freezer bags.
To bake:  toss fries with one to two tablespoons of oil and bake on a cookie sheet for 25 minutes at 425.


Monday, September 6, 2010

End of Summer

How SAD - I think I might actually like fall if it didn't mean two things:  1) Back to work which means a lot less free time for the gardens and 2) WINTER is an inevitability.  Yuck, I just hate saying that word - winter.  I really should live in a different state but I wonder if tolerating this winter is part of what makes the summer so sweet.

The cucumbers have slowed considerably thanks to the cold weather we've had the past few days.  It's gotten down to the upper 30's at night, which makes me nervous as I have a garden full of green Romas still!  Twenty-two quarts of pickles - AND a bag of cucs donated to a good friend - all, in all, the cucumbers were a success!

Now on to tomatoes - I picked three boxes of romas that were "almost" ready so I could monitor them more closely in my window sill now that I'm headed back to work.  I have big plans for spaghetti sauce, salsa, and just plain tomato sauce and hope that the weather cooperates!

We've been eating potatoes for at least 6 weeks now.  I've harvested half of the reds, and just a few of the Norkota plants.  I found a website that gave advice for freezing potatoes, so I thought I'd give french fries a shot.  I peeled, sliced into "fries" and boiled the potatoes before freezing them on a pan and then transferring to freezer bags.  The site said that when ready to cook, toss the frozen fries in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil and bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Hopefully that works!

When Joey (my four year old) saw me taking the pans of fries out of the freezer, he said "Where did you get those?"  I told them they were from the garden.  He said "WHAT?!  Rita grows french fries in her garden?  That's silly!"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pickles Galore

As of today I've canned 17 quarts of pickles and one quart of refrigerator dills.  And we're just getting started!
  Here's an easy pickle recipe that I've used in the past and love:

(recipe is for one jar, and you can make several jars at once, of course):

2 clumps/heads of dill
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp canning salt
dash (less than 1/8 tsp) alum
1/2 c. cider vinegar
water to cover pickles
Cucumbers to fill jar

In sterilized 1 quart jar, put one clump of dill, 1 clove of sliced garlic, and cucumbers. Add sugar, canning salt, alum, and cider vinegar. Add water to cover the pickles. Add another head of dill and one more clove of garlic (cut up). Boil in a hot water bath canner for five minutes. Wait six weeks to eat.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fall Perennial Order

The fall catalogs are arriving - a bittersweet thing.  It means the season is almost over, but it also means planning for fall plantings to enjoy next year.  Here's what's on my wish list (including where I plan to plant it so I don't forget!):

From Bluestone Perennials:

Grape Hyacinth   (Shade Garden)
Scilla (Shade Garden)
Hyacinth (Blue Ice - a light blue one, and Blue Jacket - -a dark blue) (Garage Border)
Snowdrops (Shade Garden)
Lime Frost Daylily (Driveway Border)

I'm also ordering some more oriental lilies from John Scheepers to enhance my garden this time of year next year when a lot of things are past peak.  I ordered five of each so I can plant some in the garage boarder, driveway border, and maybe even around the shed.

Miniature Oriental Lily Mona Lisa
Garden Party


and some more spring bulbs:
English Bluebells (Shade Garden)
Allium (Driveway Border)

About two weeks ago the kids and I doubled the size of the shade garden.  The soil was actually pretty good when I tilled it up - I just had to add some peat moss and it looks really good.  I just divided up some of my perennials and moved a few more to fill it in.  We also tilled up a little garden around the shed and put some more sun loving things there.  I can't wait to see how things fill in next summer!

Other plans for the shed and garage next year - WINDOW BOXES!!!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Martagons, here I come!

Lilium Martagon

Lilium x dalhansonii

We recently expanded the shade garden and now I'm ready to add some martagons to the mix.  Martagon lilies are shade loving plants.  Their attractive whorled foliage emerges early in the season.  The small waxy flowers have recurved petals and are noted for their tremendous substance plus wide color range.  Martagons are slow to increase, which is nice if you don't want to disturb your plantings, but not so much if you want them to multiply in your gardens.  Here are the varieties I've ordered for this fall.

Lilium Martagon var. Album

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I wish I had taken a picture of the cucumber we harvested and ate from the garden today!  Joseph has inspected the cucumber daily since we noticed it growing a few days ago, and today we decided that it was time to pick it.  Mmmmm.... nothing better!  I planted two plants here in my kitchen garden in June and we have several little cucs on the vines.  Then we planted both slicing and pickling cucumbers from seed at Rita's down the road and those just aren't doing as well.  I think they're in a spot that's a little too shady so next year the cucumbers will trade spots with the squash and we'll see if they do better there!

We harvested more potatoes, broccoli, peas, and thinned the carrots resulting in some sweet little baby carrots to eat on July 23rd.  Can't wait until the beans are ready - any day now!

On a flower note, the kids helped me carry rock to the shade garden yesterday to expand it!  They had so much fun - I totally let them design the shape of the shade garden, complete with stepping stones that were repurposed old cement pavers that were hiding in a pile behind the garage.  The bonus is that it cleared it out a little behind there.  I've also decided that our old river rock from around the house will be spread behind the garage since it's so shady there nothing will grow.  But one thing at a time - there's a lot of work to do out there in the shade garden (sod removal, haul in topsoil and composted manure, plant plants... whew!).

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day Lilies in Bloom - July 22

Old Rose
Indian Love Call
Raspberry Pixie
My Melinda (?)
Catherine Woodbury

Carlton County Master Gardeners Tour - July 20, 2010

Here are some of our favorite pictures from the Carlton County Master Gardeners Tour.  We toured three beautiful gardens and got all kinds of inspiration!

July 16 Blooms

From the top left:  white phlox, rose campion in front of some silver artemesia, bee balm (red & burgandy), a pink asiatic lily, and Quick Fire hydrangea.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Baby Red Potatoes

We had our first harvest of baby red potatoes on July 7.  YUM!  I was surprised that we actually had some potatoes the size of oranges!  Now if I could get my weeds controlled I'd really feel like a successful gardener!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Potatoes Fertilized

After much internet research, I came up with a plan to fertilize the potatoes.  I followed the advice of one website and worked 1 Tbsp of 10-10-10 into the soil six inches from the stem of each plant yesterday (7-6-10).  Thankfully it also rained profusely last night so I didn't have to worry about watering to distribute the fertilizer.  The site I found recommended applying the fertilizer 6 weeks after planting, which was just about right (ok, a little late, but it was a busy week last week!).  I went back to the garden to weed today and didn't notice any dead or over-fertilized foliage, so that's a good sign!

Friday, July 2, 2010

My favorite container

This is my favorite container this year - I just love the lime color of the sweet potato vine with the purple foliage and the New Guinea Impatien. 

University of MN Yard & Garden News

The July issue of the University of Minnesota Extension Yard & Garden News is now available to learn about some of the latest horticultural research, tips, and happenings coming from the University of Minnesota.

Access this month's Yard and Garden News directly on the Extension website @ http://blog.lib.umn.edu/efans/ygnews/2010/07/

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Grandma Swanson's Peonies

Thanks, Mom, for this bouquet!  These are from a transplant from my Grandma Ruth Swanson's peony bush from her home near Denham, MN.  Grandma passed away around five years ago, so it's nice to have these beauties every year.

The Story of the Squash

This summer, I am "community gardening" with my neighbor down the road, Rita.  Her husband, Joe, passed  away three years ago.  They had a huge garden in their backyard - it was his summer's passion.  He had cross bred two types of squash to create his own variety that he planted every year from seed from the previous year's harvest.  This summer, we planted seed from the squash that was from his last gardening year.  Lo and behold - we have plants!  Yesterday I counted six plants - I'm hoping I have a lot of friends who love squash!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Blooming Update

The following plants are now in full bloom:

Siberian Iris
Jacobs Ladder
Fern Leaf Bleeding Heart
Geranium (all varieties)

The following are past bloom: Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart, Columbine, Virginia Blue Bells, Lungwort, Miniature Iris, Forget Me Not.

This fall I need to divide up the Siberian Iris and put some in the other part of the main garden where all of the Lilies are as there is almost nothing in bloom there right now and it looks awfully green and boring. I planted some peonies there last year but they just haven't bloomed yet this year. Plus I just need to move them a little because they are getting crowded by the white peonies that are in full bloom.

Always work to do in the garden!

Monday, June 14, 2010

First Harvest!

Last night, we enjoyed the first salad from our garden. Granted it was just lettuce with a green onion sliced on top, but it was wonderful!

Today I saw a little bitty tomato on one of my tomato plants. I can't remember the variety but it is supposed to be an early producer. My tomato plants are looking a little soggy from all of this rain. My brandywines especially are showing the effects of too much water. Hopefully it dries up and we get some sun soon (2 inches of rain here in the last week - whoa!).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Garden Update

On June 2nd, I finished planting the vegetable garden. I planted squash, beans, the rest of the row of peas, 18 roma tomato plants, and several hills of cucumbers, both slicing and pickling. I hilled the potatoes two days ago and did some more weeding. Everything is coming along so nicely!

Today I finished planting my latest delivery from Bluestone Perennials: Blue Angel hosta, Zounds hosta, Paul's Glory hosta, bergenia, and snowdrop. I've really been adding things to the shade garden - not really expanding the bed sizes, just filling them up more. I will post pictures when things start flowering!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day

What a wonderful memorial day weekend! Here's what we got done:

* Eight graduation parties and one graduation ceremony that almost went off without a hitch!
*A family birthday party at our house today.
*Our salad garden at our house planted with the following: lettuce (planted a few weeks ago), green onions, clicing cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, celery, and some basil and cilantro for some kick.
*Shade garden update: Added some lupines and sweet William, divided up the Mrs. Moon pulmonaria and planted the divisions at the other end of the shade garden, moved some hostas around and divided those a little, added some impatiens, and the results are a shade garden that looks a little more full. (Next year we'll make it a little bigger as well!)
*Planted some perennials at the end of the shed: Cherry Bells, and some red little tyke day lilies.
*Planted some Sum and Substance up by the house on the new addition and in the shade garden behind the bench.
*Cleaned the house.
*Played with my kids.

All in all, a very, very busy weekend!

Friday, May 28, 2010


Rita called on Wednesday to tell us that we had potatoes sprouting out of the ground. Yay!

Today I picked up broccoli, tomatoes, celery, sage, green onions, and some impatiens from the greenhouse. Memorial Day weekend! Yay, summer!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

More Vegetable Gardening

I tilled the remaining section of the vegetable garden today and planted Sugar Ann Snap Peas, beets, dill, Black Seeded Simpson lettuce, and spinach. The I came home and logged two miles jogging on the treadmill after weeding my flower beds. Very tired. I am hoping we'll get some rain soon so I don't have to drag out the sprinklers.

Blooming flowers include:
Bleeding Heart (both the old fashioned and fern leafed varieties)
Lilacs (MMMM... they smell wonderful!)

Onions and Carrots

We planted onions and carrots on Thursday (5/20) and am hoping that rain holds off until this evening so I can till up the rest of the garden and plant peas and beets. I also want to make a trip out to my favorite perennial garden - Glorified Weeds - out in Kettle River to pick up some new plants. I want to add some "Sum and Substance" to my shade garden!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Stomp, plop, pull, POTATO!

What a gorgeous weekend! We got black dirt spread in the vegetable garden and tilled it in on Sunday before planting three rows of potatoes (about 5 lbs per row). We had quite an assembly line going there. Rita had a potato planter tool and we had all three kids helping us. I'd "stomp" the planter in the ground, Emma or Joey would "plop" a potato in it, Ben would "pull" the lever and when the potato was deposited he'd yell "POTATO!" Hence the mantra "Stomp, plop, pull, POTATO!"

Next I have to get those onions in the ground, and I'd like to plant peas and carrots within the next couple of days as well. Prior to this beautiful weekend we had at least a full week of wet, cold weather, so it feels like I'm a little behind given that we've had an early spring. But it is still just mid-May in northern Minnesota, so I guess we're probably right on schedule.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Heckuva Day!

What a gorgeous day today! We had highs in the 70's. It really felt like summer.

My Bluestone Perennials order came today, so I planted some Snakeroot, Lady's Mantle, Biokova Geranium, and some Summer Sky Coneflower. I was really impressed with the quality of the plants and how they held up during transport. I will definitely be ordering from them again!

I spread some mulch in my new bed by the bay window. That area is a huge improvement. I'll snap some pics once things fill in a little bit.

We also spread some black dirt in the garden at Rita's. That was quite a job! Tomorrow we'll till that in and hopefully plant potatoes and peas, and maybe some lettuce and spinach depending on how ambitious I feel (and how well I can move tomorrow after all the manual labor today).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Container Gardening

I just checked out this book P. Allen Smith's Container Gardens: 60 Container Recipes to Accent Your Garden from the Moose Lake Public Library.

I don't do much container gardening - just a few annuals in pots here and there because my kids like to buy annuals in our many trips to local greenhouses, but I think I'm going to actually pay more attention to my containers this year and we'll see what happens. I really like the idea of having some fresh herbs in pots outside of my kitchen door, but I need to put them somewhere where they'll get more light in our shaded lot!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mothers Day!

I always associate Mothers Day with spring wildflowers such as trillium and marsh marigolds. When Mothers Day fell later in spring, we would sometimes walk out in the woods and pick a bunch of trilliums for my Mom, and I think she appreciated those as much if not more than the store bought gifts we gave her. Yesterday as we were driving to the greenhouse by my parents' house, we saw the woods full of these beautiful white flowers. So I pulled the van over and we went on a little trek in the woods to pick a handful for my mom. It was evident that I need to get my kids out in nature a little more - they were all hesitant to come with me ("Are we going to get woodticks?" "Will there be wild animals?"). But it didn't take long to pick a nice little bouquet of trilliums and my Mom sure appreciated these flowers delivered by her grandchildren.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Well, my Rhododendrons don't look quite as full of blooms as the picture I posted last week - one only has one lonely bloom on it. I'm hoping that's because I kept them in their containers most of the summer and only got them in the ground in late August. Maybe next year they'll perform better. They do have a lot of new growth on them which is exciting to see, so it seems like it was a good spot for them

An unfortunate casualty of my planting the rhododendrons where I did are these bushes - I think they're a type of ornamental cranberry. I moved them to plant the rhododendrons and I'm afraid they didn't make it. But the upside of that is now I know just where to plant some Russian Sage. This is below the bay window that faces the lake (facing south), and it's pretty dry in that location, which I'm hoping will suit the Russian Sage just fine. I can just visualize it in full bloom against the white of the siding below the window.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

PJM Rhododendrons

My PJM Rhododendrons are blooming! I planted them last summer here, so these are the first blooms I'm getting from them. I'll take a picture when they're in full bloom but for now, here's what they will hopefully look like soon!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Green Girls are back!

My favorite garden blog, Greengirls, is back! It's produced by writers at the Star Tribune and has great daily advice about gardening. A welcome sign of spring!

On 4/19, the kids and I planted 25 new strawberry plants. I will be diligent about picking all flowers this year, as painful as that may be!

Perennials are growing like crazy here. Still no daffodils or tulips, though.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bluestone Perennials Order

I placed a Bluestone Perennials order today: I ordered some Lady's Mantle, Summer Sky Echinacea, Biokovo Geranium, Black Snakeroot (aka Bugbane), and a Butterfly Bush. The thing I'm most excited about, however, is the Innocence Mock Orange (pictured here). It reminds me of the first house my husband and I lived in. Next door to us was a charming old woman with a beautiful garden that happened to serve as a border between our two lawns. In the spring, the scent from her Mock Orange was just heavenly. Wherever you are, Mrs. Winchester, the Mock Orange will always remind me of our little place in Moose Lake and our lovely neighbor!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Busy Saturday

Well it was a busy day here today! I expanded the raspberry bed. I'm pushing the limit in terms of how much sun the expanded area will get but we'll see what happens there. I planted some lettuce, and we tilled up the gardens at Rita's house. We'll order a load of black dirt to add to the gardens there since they haven't been used for a few years. Em and I dug up our strawberries and planted them at Rita's, readying our bed for the new plants that are to arrive any day now. I also was able to get a wheelbarrow full of compost from my makeshift compost pile from last year to add to the strawberry bed. I'm so proud of that - makes me want to really get serious about composting this year. I may have to look at actually purchasing a compost bin if that's the case.

Gotta love spring!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

First bloom

I have flowers in bloom! The pulmonaria is in bloom, and I have one purple and yellow viola cheerfully announcing that spring is here! Almost everything has come up already, even the hostas, which are slow to arrive, are starting to appear. Astilbe hasn't shown its face yet nor has the liatris, but otherwise everything else has broken through the ground.

I still don't have any daffodil or tulip blooms yet. They usually bloom later here - I don't have them by the house and they just don't get enough sun. But hopefully next week we'll see some spring bulbs in bloom.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Strawberries - Change of Plans

Ah, the best laid plans... I went to order my strawberries today and they were sold out. So I'm ordering Earliglow, which should be ok, they're just a little less hardy than Glooscap so I'll need to remember to put a good thick bed of straw over them this fall after the ground freezes.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

More on Strawberries

After talking to my brother about how lovely his strawberries perform every year in his garden south of the Twin Cities, I decided that I'm going to grow strawberries come hell or high water! After researching the University of Minnesota Extension Service site for information on strawberries, I decided to pull up my strawberries and start over. I think I planted ever-bearing plants there four summers ago and made two mistakes: 1) I let fruit form the first year and should have pulled the flowers, and 2) I shouldn't expect high yields from ever-bearing plants. So I'm going to order some Glooscap plants this year from Indiana Berry & Plant Company, which I found from a simple Google search. I did some research on a site called Dave's Garden. This site is incredibly useful as it provides feedback on mail order sites. So I'm going to order 25 of these babies, pull the flowers this year, and see what happens next year. If I don't get fruit next year, the strawberries are coming out and will be replaced by raspberries, which do very well here!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Pretty Much Picasso petunia

I've seen this 2010 new variety petunia in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and in Better Homes & Gardens. Hopefully some greenhouses in our area will have some. I don't have many spots in my yard that get full sun, but I always plant some petunias in hanging pots that are facing the lake and these will be just gorgeous there!

Easter Weekend

What a beautiful week it's been. We've had temps in the low 70s, all the snow and ice has melted (even on the lake!) and we're almost done clearing out the leaves. We have a heavily wooded, large lot, so it takes the equivalent of two weekends of my husband and I both working out there to get it done. I'll save some leaves to chop up for mulch on the garden as it helps reduce weeds and when I till them into the soil in the fall, it adds some organic material.

I was at Rita's the other day measuring away to plan the vegetable plots. Exciting!

On a flower note, most everything except hostas, astilbes, lilies and peonies have started to grow.

Now to think about what to do with those strawberries - give them another year to see if anything happens, or pull them out to plant something else. Wish I knew a strawberry expert!