Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2011 Gardening in Review

Last January, I made several gardening resolutions.  Here they are:
  1. I will plant fewer "salad greens" that only end up feeding the slugs. 
  2. I will can, freeze, or otherwise preserve everything we can't eat fresh.  Even that last harvest of green beans which just kept on producing in 2010.
  3. I will begin to vermicompost before the year's end.
  4. I will buy and use a decent composting bin to replace what my husband believes is my "compost eyesore" 
  5. I will always amend soil before planting in a new location (see #3 & 4).
  6. I will not overcrowd my perennial gardens!
  7. I will make pesto instead of allowing all of those lovely herb leaves to be destroyed with the first frost.
  8. I will weed more often! (one can always hope)
Five out of eight ain't too bad!  I did not do 3, 4 or 7.  But that's ok, that's what next year is for!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Something's Cookin'

Tomorrow, my coworkers get to taste the delicious treats my garden shared this fall.  In the crockpot, I have Goat & Beer Vegetable Soup cooking with onions, carrots, and potatoes from the garden along with some goat stew meat, a can of beef broth, minced garlic, spices (thyme, salt, pepper and two bay leaves) and a bottle of beer.  It's "Crockpot Monday" at work and we take turns bringing in lunch to share.  It's a way to get everyone in the faculty lounge and it's something to look forward to on an otherwise uneventful Monday.  I'm also bringing a back-up soup, Red Pepper Tomato Soup, just in case the goat doesn't go over well.  Though one thing I appreciate about this group of people is that there are several hunter/gatherer/gardeners among us.  You usually have to ask what the meat is because it's not always identifiable in that lounge.  This year we've had elk, bear, venison, goose, and now goat to go along with the usual chicken, port and beef.  If the recipe is a hit, I'll share.  Though it may be hard to tell, there is a saying about food in a teachers' lounge.

Here's another measure of how much I enjoy these people I work with:  I used the last of my canned tomatoes for the soup!  This year's harvest wasn't as good as last.  But I also made salsa and pizza sauce this year, which I hadn't last year.  The pizza sauce was a winner - all fourteen pints of that have already been used!  The salsa, not so much.  I just can't find a salsa recipe that I'm excited for, I guess.  I have about ten quarts of spaghetti sauce in the freezer, and we use about a quart a week, so not too many weeks left of the good stuff! 

One of my gardening resolutions last year was to use all of the harvest and not let anything go to waste.  I'm proud to say we did just that!  Though it may be too soon to report on the potatoes, I still have a basement full!

How did I do on my other gardening resolutions?  I'll think about that tomorrow....

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Winter Walk

Winter Road on a Sunny Afternoon
Winter always puts me in a funk, but if I could see beyond it, there is a lot of beauty in the season.  I happened to pull out my phone and take a few pictures on my afternoon walk.  The temperature was a brisk 23 degrees.  We have had a very dry fall.  Usually we have a few inches of snow on the ground this time of year.  This dusting was just from the overnight.

A very sunny Shade Garden
We also stopped by Rita's to take a peek at our vegetable garden but I just couldn't bring myself to take a picture.  It's strange to think how land that is so fertile and verdant in the summer can be so barren and cold just a few short months later.
Rabbit and Deer Tracks - I wonder which came first
I wish I could learn to love winter.  Maybe I need to solicit the advice of other northern gardeners to see how they cope in the gardening off-season.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Where did summer go?

Has it really been four months since I posted?  Terrible!  What happened?

Oh yeah, life... :)

In August, we took a 12 day trip to Colorado and when we returned, I was back to work.  While Colorado was lovely, our return to Minnesota was bittersweet.  It was great to be home, but I was sad to have missed two weeks of time on the lake and in the gardens.  Summer is so short here, I decided then that I would NOT spend two weeks away again during our most beautiful time of the year.

So, having not blogged for awhile, here is how the season turned out:
1.  LOTS of potatoes and onions harvested (will definitely plant Candy onions again next year!)
2.  Not as many tomatoes as last year, but still enough to freeze about 20, 3 c. bags of spaghetti sauce.  I freeze 3 cups in a bag because my family seems to never use the last cup in a quart jar, and 3 c. is just right with no waste!
3.  LOTS of pickles this year.  I stopped canning at 24 quarts and started giving them away.  People started running away whenever I started to say anything about cucumbers.
4.  Few squash - our cold spring, dry August, and early frost pretty much made for a difficult year for everyone.  We yielded about a third of what we did last year and only froze 10 cups this year.
5.  Great flower show this year!  Wish I had taken more pictures.  Maybe next year (famous last words!).

So now we have had our first accumulating snowfall of the season, and we're settling in for a long, cold winter, northern Minnesota style. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

MMM...mmm... Good!

It was a good day of Raspberry picking today!


 I don't have a special secret recipe, just the insert from the box of Sure-Jell to guide me.  It's SO GOOD!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011



I've long since lost the tags for these lilies, so while I don't know their varieties, I do know that I LOVE them!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

More Hostas

I just updated my blog to include a page devoted to my hosta collection.  It is my intent to grow this collection, and this is a way for me to simply keep track of things!  I also placed an order today with Bluestone Perennials for more.  Here's what I chose:

Great Expectations - Because I love to read and it is one of my favorite books

First Frost - Recommended by Diane at My Cottage Garden

Frosted Mouse Ears - I just added Blue Mouse Ears, may as well have a set

Lakeside Baby Face - Living on the lake, need I say more?

Patriot - Great name, beautiful hosta!

Stained Glass - Fell in love with this one after visiting a co-worker's beautiful backyard shade garden

There you have it!  What are your favorite hosta varieties?  Is there a must have that I'm missing?

Perennial Border Update

Well, I've been a bad garden blogger and have been gardening more than I've been blogging.  But here are updated photos of my sun border, both a pre-season photo and one I took a couple of days ago. 

Early Spring  Perennial Border
Mid-July Perennial Border  
Perennial Border
Perennial Border - Shadier End
The lilies are alive right now, which is so exciting!  I'll post some closeups of the lilies next week.  Happy gardening!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Garden Bullies

A garden is like a playground; it's a beautiful sight when everyone is getting along.  But every once in awhile, someone gets a little out of hand, and then the adult needs to step in.  You know what I'm talking about:  plants that don't stay where they're planted, that push their way into others' space, that knock others down, hog all of the resources (SUN), and overpower their playmates. 

Today's biggest offender:  Filipendula, a.k.a. Queen of the Prairie.
Alone, it's a beautiful plant.  This picture, and the plants in my garden, are from Glorified Weeds.  I had some planted in the back of the sunny driveway border.  Had I looked more closely at the details of this plant before I set it in the soil, I would have discovered that it spreads by stolon and should be given either a large space, or should somehow be contained.  So I guess I got what I deserved, a beautiful plant that overshadowed everything around it and almost took over my border. 

What are stolons?  They are horizontal shoots from plants that grow just beneath the surface and produce clones of the same plant at the buds on the tip.  Strawberries and spider plants are other plants that spread from stolons.

But back to the filipendula.  I did decide to rip this out of my driveway border.  I tried to salvage some of them and planted a few in Emma's new bed behind the large boulder.  On one side of the plant is the boulder so it won't plop over on other plants, and behind it are trees, so these two "enforcers" on both sides should keep this unruly plant in line. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Weekend Warrior - Blue & White Garden Installed

Whew!  I'm exhausted.  This weekend, I put in a new "blue and white" bed in front of the addition. 

Here's the before shot:

The bench was actually not a part of the "before."  My husband's need to move it from its prior location so he could take down some dead trees prompted the whole project.  Behind the bench is some goatsbeard, to the left is a Quickfire hydrangea, and to the right is a variegated dogwood of some sort. 

Needless to say, the sod removal was the most labor intensive part of the project.

 The stepping stones are heavy slate rocks that someone had dumped off at my husband's shops because they didn't want or need them anymore.  Again... notice how I'm blaming this project on my husband. :)

And here's the finished project.  At the sides of the bench are two Sum and Substance hostas (one which looked much better before I moved it).  I planted some Walkers Low nepeta along the sidewalk, some Glory Bee Geraniums and some balloon flowers along the front of the curve, with little white clips campanulas for edging.  Closer to the stairs (back left corner) I planted several herbs to have right outside of the kitchen window.  But I'm most excited for the irises that I planted in this garden.  I've had irises here for several years in a variety of locations and they just don't enough sun to produce blooms, so I'm hoping now that they're here, they'll bloom next year.

I'd like to say that this is my last new garden of the year, but I still have several wheelbarrows full of black dirt in a pile behind the garage just begging to be part of a new little garden soon!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rabbits... Stinkin' Rabbits!

One of my favorite plants for shade is tiarella, also known as foam flower.  Above is a picture of what it should look like.  This picture is from Kathy Wieditz of Glorified Weeds Perennials.  

Here's what MY tiarella looks like in my shade garden

Again, the picture is taken with my iPhone so I apologize for the blurriness - but you'll notice something missing.  Each of the foamy flowers have been chewed off!  I've had these in another part of my yard for four years and I've never had any rabbit damage to them, but apparently these must be pretty tasty. 

So... do I move them?  Leave them and appreciate the foliage?  Or put out rabbit traps? 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Random Shade Garden Photos

Lily of the Valley

Shade garden - Pulmonaria, lamium, and bleeding heart in bloom

Shade garden - tiarella and forget-me-nots in bloom

Another area of the shade garden - muscari and bleeding hearts in bloom
When we moved to our house four years ago, I lamented the fact that it was a heavily wooded lot and I wouldn't have as much room for sun-loving perennials as I did at our previous house.  But I'm starting to change my tune.  Here are some random shots of my shade garden from my iPhone, so the quality is not the best.  Most of these plantings were new last year so it's fun to see that most survived the winter and are thriving.  I can't wait to see it in three years when everything has filled out a little more! 

The lily of the valley was transplanted from another area in our yard where it was growing for three years but never bloomed.  How fun to finally see flowers!  I'm not sure why it bloomed in this area and not the other, except that this area is much more shaded than where it was previously planted, so that could be part of it.

The debris in all of the photos is a result of a hailstorm here on Saturday.  Out of nowhere it started hailing golf-ball sized hail!  My rhubarb took a beating, as did some of the hostas that have leafed out, but otherwise, the flowers were pretty much left undisturbed.

On the vegetable garden front, this week we've planted broccoli, beans, carrots, beets, cucumbers, and tomatoes (added to our already planted potatoes, onions, and peas) at our community garden.  Squash will go in this weekend.  I haven't planted ANYTHING in my little salad garden at our house - not even salad greens which could have gone in several weeks ago.  Maybe the weather will cooperate this weekend so I can get that taken care of and checked off of the infamous "list" that all of us gardeners have... the list that is never ending.  But that's a good thing!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pretty Much Picasso Petunia, take two

Last year I really wanted to plant some of these petunias in hanging baskets on the lake side of the house where they would get a lot of sun, but they were nowhere to be found around here.  This year, I did get my hands on some, which are potted in two lovely hanging baskets just waiting for summer to arrive.  Currently, they're sitting on the hearth of the fireplace where they won't freeze at night!

I was excited to finally find these, but I was also surprised at how small the flowers were.  This picture is from the Proven Winners website and unless you really look closely at how the flowers compare to the leaves, you would assume that they're larger than they truly are.  Or at least I did.  But that didn't stop me from buying them.

Now we just have to wait for the temps to catch up with the calendar here in northern MN!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Hyacinth (hyacinths?) are a new flower in my garden this spring!  I'm so glad that I planted more spring bulbs last fall.  I have these hyacinth blooming right now as well as graph hyacinth, scilla, a plethora of daffodils, and a few tulips.  Bulbs that haven't bloomed for me this spring yet are the allium and snowdrops that I also planted last fall.  If the snowdrops haven't bloomed yet, and it's late May, does that mean they won't?  Does anyone have experience with these, especially in zone 3? 

Monday, May 23, 2011


Today, the kids helped me plant 12 pounds of seed potatoes - four pounds each of red norlands, white kennebecs, and norkotah russets.  Last week we planted onions (candy variety from plants) and peas (sugar ann snap peas). 

It's still really cold here, cooler than average, so while I usually plant tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and the rest on Memorial Day weekend, I'm not sure it's a good idea to go ahead and do that quite yet.  Maybe beans, carrots, and dill can go in this weekend, but I think I'll wait another weekend to plant my transplants and cucumbers & squash.

Any other zone 3 readers out there who have been brave enough to plant more than potatoes and peas?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

More Spring Blooms

Narcissus - Not sure of the variety
Fern Leaf Bleeding heart

Primrose - This one has never bloomed for me, so it's a treat to see!

Dwarf Bearded Iris

Forget Me Nots


Here are some of the beauties in bloom in the gardens today.  The tulips are just starting to open up, and the yellow daffodils are putting on a beautiful show!

Turf to Brag About

Look at this beautiful lawn!  Ok, it's not winning any "turf awards" to be sure, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  At one time, before I started gardening and thinking more about my family's impact on the environment, I might have been embarrassed that our yard isn't lush and green and free from weeds.  But if my lawn did meet that aesthetic standard, then I wouldn't have the opportunity to see these white little wildflowers that I believe are some kind of anemone.  There's also a fun little patch of moss in the bottom right corner of the photograph, and maybe some wild strawberry as well.

What fun surprises nature has in store for us if we let her do her thing!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Prairie Restorations Field Trip

On Saturday, we took a long road trip to the Prairie Restorations headquarters in Princeton, MN, with the purpose of purchasing some swamp milkweed to add to our butterfly garden.  Butterflies, particularly monarchs, lay their eggs on swamp milkweed as the caterpillars find the plant quite tasty.    Not only did we find some milkweed at Prairie Restorations, we also went home with a few other treats!

Pink Rue Anemone (Enemion biternatum)

Dwarf Trout Lily (Erythronium Propullans)

Bishop's Cap or Two-leaf Miterwort (Mitella Diphylla)
I'm hoping these plants thrive in our woodland shade garden.  When we moved into our house four years ago, I lamented the fact that I couldn't grow a large number of my favorite sun loving plants because of our heavily shaded lot.  I have one very small sunny garden that I've had to load up with lilies and the like, and the rest of the gardens are made up of shade loving plants. Four years later, and my favorite spot in the yard is the shade garden out by the road.  Who would have thought I could learn to love the shade.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wildflowers in my yard!

Who knew that my yard was a prime breeding ground for a variety of wildflowers.  We now have field pussytoes (antennaria neglecta) in bloom (sorry, no picture) all over the lakeside hill.  And when I was walking the dogs around the yard I spotted a large clump of Northern White Violas (viola macloskeyi).  With the help of my four year old, we dug up several of these and moved them to an area in my shade garden where they were less likely to be disturbed.

Northern White Violet also known as Small White Violet
I also found several Early Meadow Rue (Thalictrum dioicum) growing in the shady spot behind my garage where nothing grows.  In fact, it's become the resting ground for all of the river rock that was once surrounding our house and has slowly been removed bed by bed, so I wouldn't have thought that it would be good breeding ground for many plants.  We dug some of those up as well and moved them to various spots in the shade garden, leaving a few back there behind the garage.  That space may become an impromptu "rock garden" before you know it!

Early Meadow Rue

I also think that I spotted a few Canada Mayflowers (Maianthemum canadense), otherwise known as "False Lily of the Valley," behind the garage.  I think I'll wait until they flower to go through the hassle of moving them, just in case they aren't Canada Mayflowers after all.

I guess it's a good thing that my husband and I live in a neighborhood where it's ok for us not to be obsessed with our "turf."  Grass just doesn't grow well here, but we have a lot of beautiful varieties of moss!  And we have more creeping charlie than most people would care for.  Can I admit in this space that I actually enjoy the minty smell of creeping charlie when underfoot?  And there is nothing sweeter than my little guy bringing me a hand-picked bouquet of dandelions with a big smile and loving hug.  So I'll take my imperfect lawn any day as it holds surprise treasures all over the place!

Thank you to the Minnesota Wildflowers website for providing so much helpful information on these and other Minnesota natural beauties!

Ring-necked Duck

It's fishing opener in Minnesota, but the lakes are quiet today except for the whitecaps from the strong winds.  These Ring-necked Ducks were finding a little respite from the rough waters along our shoreline.

L to R:  Male and Female Ring-necked Duck

What a beautiful bill!

According to Ducks Unlimited,  the "ring-necked" name comes from a faint brownish ring at the base of the neck that you can slightly distinguish on the first picture. 

And this lonely Mallard seems like he's not really sure what to do and eventually swam off, perhaps to find another of his kind.

L to R:  Ring-necked male, female, and male Mallard
Duck recap from this spring:
Common Mergansers
Hooded Mergansers
Ring-necked Duck
Common Loon

I wonder what we'll see next!