Little things matter. Along the way you discover they weren't so little after all.

Tag Archives: spring

Digging up grass takes a long time, or I just have a short attention spanMy family and I have now been in our new house for about one year. Last summer I was very responsible and only accomplished the following garden goals:

  • Uncover the brick path from house to garden (it was almost completely covered in grass)
  • Carefully and selectively weed the main flower garden in the rear so as not to weed actual plants
  • Slap forehead after I discover I destroyed valuable plants when I thought they were weeds
  • Create a small garden along driveway
  • Generally weed like crazy
  • Plant a few things (my “few” might look different to me than it does to you)
  • Lay out a walkway through the rear garden
  • Grow a few veggies in containers

Now that all that responsibility can be over with and more of the garden is identifiable, I’m pretty sure that this is the summer I can go to town on this yard.

We have a big yard (finally) and it has quite a bit of shade cover, which is why I have to be a bit stubborn about where I start a vegetable garden. My dear husband has a favorite option but I don’t think that location will provide enough light, and as we all know, a vegetable garden must get as much light as possible. But much of the sunniest portion of our yard is on a slight slope, so that adds a small potential twist.

I think I’ve found the answer though, and I’m so excited to get in there and dig! A wonderful friend of mine asked if I would be interested in doing a garden together with her, so I feel confident that I can accomplish this garden because I’ll have back-up. The strategy we are going to use is to plant a mounded garden rather than a traditional flat garden in skinny rows.

Edward C. Smith wrote the Vegetable Gardener’s Bible and in it he shows how a mounded garden supports root growth and leads to a superior yield, and even less weeding. I won’t go into that now, but seriously, if you haven’t heard of planting in anything but straight, flat rows, it’s definitely a trip to the library to check out his book.

Everything I’ve researched tells me that I would have been better to begin my garden preparation in the fall. Oops. I wasn’t ready in the fall! We were still watching the light and learning about our yard at that point. But if you want to be picky about it, I should have laid a garden hose out to deliniate the shape of the garden, chunked up the sod, flipped it over  in the same spot with the dirt side up, and let nature get rid of the grass. I’m in for some hard work since I wasn’t ready to commit before.

A big item to be mindful of is to only plant what you’ll eat and don’t get all crazy and start too big. If you don’t eat what you grow, what’s the fun in growing it (in a vegetable garden)? And if you make a jumbotron garden right away, chances are that you’ll get overwhelmed and begin resenting it halfway through the season. Start with something managable and filled with yummy stuff your family likes!

Now the big dilema is whether to wait to start planting. It has been so unseasonably warm in Minnesota that a big part of me thinks I’m a fool to wait. Lettuce, broccoli and a few other things actually like the cold and so might do just fine now even if it does get cold again. But you can see me exercising my self control in the photo below because I’m only planting pansies…for now.

See how restrained I am by only planting pansies?!


Recently I have been reading and re-reading a gardening book I bought at a Goodwill or Salvation Army some time ago. It goes through the entire year and maps out what you could do to work on your garden, even in the winter. It’s pretty amazing. But the most amazing discovery I have made through reading it is something called rooting powder.

Rooting powder is supposedly this amazing stuff that makes portions of plants grow roots and become independent plants in their own right. If I was more curious, I would find out what amazing chemical compound forces plants to do this, but I wouldn’t probably know what those compounds were anyway, so I haven’t bothered. (Is this lazy or merely efficient?) The time required varies widely for different plants to begin sending out roots, and some of them take so long that I would surely have thrown them out long before they had a chance to prove themselves. However, there is one particular plant for which I am willing to go the distance: the flowering almond.

Not to be confused with the sweet almond, which I mistakenly kept calling this plant until I did more research, the pink flowering almond is not as fragrant, and this is good for a nasally, allergic-y type like me. As much as I like the springtime scents of things in bloom, those same scents can be my undoing. With a flowering almond, I get to have the fluffy pink and white blossoms of spring without the itchy eyeballs and chain sneezing. The problem is, I don’t have a flowering almond, and a one gallon plant from the store costs at least $30, which I also don’t have, at least not for any more plants. Enter rooting powder.

A small container of rooting powder only costs $5 and if I can stay away from my favorite drive-thru $1.07 fountain beverage for a week, I’ll make up the difference in no time. I took some cuttings from a plant I had access to, I dipped the end of the cutting in water, then dipped it in the powder, then stuck it in some dirt. Later, I realized my mistake and repeated the process, only putting the dipped stick in a bunch of sand rather than dirt. Now I must wait. But before I wait in vain, I just wanted to ask if the plant in the photo below looks the way it is supposed to? My instincts tell me something is amiss.

These are root powder cuttings after a couple days. This does not bode well.

We finally (FINALLY!) moved into our new house. We could take a moment to reflect and rejoice just about that fact alone, but we will move on to the real point of this post — my newly inherited garden.

It is so hard to wait and see what comes up in the garden beds. I’m dying to get  my hands in the dirt and add to the basics that I’ve found so far. It is still kindof early, but already I’ve identified multiple varieties of hostas, peonies, daffodils, sedums, rhododendrons, silver mound and grape hyacinths. Someone here cared for this yard at one point, but it has been a while. And of course, as things vary by gardener, there are placements of flowers and shrubs that leave me scratching my head. For example, why did someone plant burning bush, which is now at least five feet tall, at the front of a flower bed along the side of the house and then place sedums behind it? The sedums will be blocked out from sight by the shrubs. Why? I’m not sure yet, and it may end up being a lack of planning, but maybe there’s a secret reason that will become clear as the season progresses.

I found a fantastic website that focuses on plants that thrive in Minnesota. None of this “landscaping in Georgia business” that so many gardening magazines use as their starting point and which won’t help me in the least. The University of Minnesota Extension Office is a great resource and this particular link has all kinds of helpful plants that grow well in our conditions. They also have lists of plants that are deer resistant, which is a new challenge of my new location. They’ve already munched the tops off the emerging hostas near the road and along the end of the driveway, and I’m curious about how far into the yard they will venture.

If you’re looking for plants that have a good chance of thriving in Minnesota, that don’t need a lot of babying, and that have a long flowering season, check out this link and see what you think. They even list things that attract butterflies or hummingbirds, always a welcome addition to the interest of the garden. I have a feeling it will be something I come back to again and again.

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