Stacking Functions Garden

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The best-laid plans

Where to find me

Time to state the obvious: I don’t write here on Stacking Functions very often these days. I am still a blogger! Blogging is still a thing, and I may never stop. Lately, I am blogging for the Minnesota Horticultural Society’s Northern Gardener Blog, a monthly feature called Ask a Master Gardener. I can’t recommend this blog enough; new articles about gardening are posted there nearly every week, by a variety of wonderful writers.

If you join the Hort society for as low as $34 a year, you’ll get a handy email with links to new blog posts, plus my pride and joy: Northern Gardener magazine, to which I also contribute.

But I’d be sad to miss out on my annual Garden Recap and Planning post, so I’ve stopped by here for a visit.

What worked well in 2022 for me? I had a few successful endeavors this year.

Drip Irrigation

2022—our second drought year in a row. It got real bad this fall, and I am slightly nervous about how many of my trees and shrubs will actually be alive come spring.

In late 2021, I threw out the old soaker hose-based irrigation system I had used for several years. It kept springing leaks, and didn’t work that well in the first place. It was nearly impossible to get the water pressure just right—powerful enough so that it would actually drip out of the soaker hoses, but light enough so that it wouldn’t blow apart the connecting pieces. It was driving me crazy. I thought to myself, well I’ll just hand water for a year and see how it goes. And then we got hit with drought year two, even worse than 2021.

In early July, a fellow Hennepin County MG gave me a tour of his drip irrigation system, and I decided instantly to try it myself. I purchased from DripWorks, installed it in mid-July, and loved it immediately. Key features that make it successful: it has a pressure regulator that eliminates the guesswork around the correct water pressure, and it is infinitely configurable.

Digging the trench for the main line—I got a large kit so that I’d have enough for all my veggies and many perennials, too.

The only downside I’ve found so far is that squirrels seem to like chewing on the smaller drip tubes. I’ve had to replace one of them twice already.

The thing about drip irrigation is that it allows you to really just give things a good soaking without having to stand there for an hour. I was having a hard time keeping up with watering my vegetables, and it showed: the carrots and peppers in particular absolutely took off after I installed the drip irrigation.

Sowing lettuce seed under a shade cover

Lettuce seed does not like to sprout when it’s hot. And yet “when it’s hot” is precisely when it’s time to sow a second lettuce crop because your spring lettuce has all bolted. I’ve worked around this in the past by starting new lettuce seedlings indoors, under grow lights. But it feels silly to be messing around with grow lights during the longest days of summer, when sunlight is so very plentiful.

This frost blanket shaded the newly-sown seed just enough to get it to sprout in hot weather. The frame is the hoop house that I use to extend the season in the spring and fall, just without its plastic.

This year, short on time and energy, I decided to just try pulling out my spent lettuce in July, adding some fresh composted manure to the tank, and sowing some new lettuce seed. I shaded it with a frost blanket for the first week—until most everything had sprouted and was actively growing. It worked a wonder, and we had ample leaf lettuce from mid-August until almost Thanksgiving.

No time for preserves? Try syrup.

A recurring theme of my summer: I did not have a lot of energy or time for many things, including pitting cherries. The whole cherry harvest felt stressful and overwhelming. But I am always very motivated to harvest as many of the fruits as I can, as part of good orchard management to control the number of cherry maggot flies for next year.

Freshly-made gooseberry and cherry syrups. I didn’t bother canning either—they went into the freezer.

Desperate to use up about a gallon of cherries, I threw them in a pot with a small amount of water and several cups of sugar. I cooked them until they broke down and thickened slightly, strained out the pits and solid material, and called it cherry syrup. We then proceeded to put it on ice cream and in carbonated water, and it’s been a delight. 

I liked it so much that I did the same thing with my gooseberries, currants, and grapes, allowing us to make fancy black currant syrup-infused adult beverages and grape soda this summer and fall.

Cut flower gardening

My daughter asked me if I would grow some cutting flowers this year. Most of the flowers I grow are natives; 70% of my yard is a mix of prairie and woodland native plants, and many of them make fine cut flowers. But I wanted to try dahlias, to see if I was up for the challenge. Reader: I am hooked. Obsessed, even. I will always grow majority native plants, but I will also now make room for some dahlias going forward. We had fresh dahlia and zinnia bouquets for months, and it was a delight.

Some of the first dahlias I harvested this summer. I’m not sure of the name, but they’re a smaller one at 3-4 inches.

I also planted a row of zinnias in the alley next to the new garage. The soil was absolutely terrible—all rocky fill, and in a terrible location to boot. I planted the zinnias with little hope. To my surprise and delight, the zinnias thrived, and brightened up a dreary part of the neighborhood. I now plan to make this little zinnia patch permanent.

“Whirlygig” zinnias from Seed Savers Exchange, grown in poor soil in my alley.

On to 2023

As for 2023, I have a few small plans. First, my veggie garden:

Nothing too earth-shattering here, just more of my favorite tried-and-true vegetables plus moving some of the cutting flowers into the veg garden. Squirrels ate all but one of my cucumbers this year so I am doing a little crop rotation and putting cucumbers inside the squirrel-proof cage. I’ll try tomatoes in a newly-relocated tank, but I’ll only grow cherry tomatoes, knowing that a good 30% of them will be eaten by my furry tree rat friends. I’m trying celery this year! So that ticks my box for trying something new.

Second, I’ll have to replace my magnolia. I cut it down in September after debating it all summer long, and trying to wish and hope the magnolia scale away. I have a Regent serviceberry that I planted in a deeply-shaded area a few years ago that is struggling; I plan to relocate it to the area where the magnolia was.

If your magnolia looks like this, you have my sympathy.

Are you ready to believe that those are really truly my only plans for 2023’s garden? That’s all I’ve got so far, but it feels like plenty to be going on with. I am growing ever more protective of time that I could spend simply savoring my yard, too.

I’ll leave you with a few photos from the gardening season that was, 2022. Wishing you and yours good health in the new year.

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Gardening Kickoff 2022

Happy Superb Owl Sunday and Start of Garden Season to you and yours. I’ve sown my first onion seeds today; therefore I consider February 13, 2022 to be the start of this season. It’s that time of year—making the best of plans, ordering seeds, getting totally unrealistic about what I can accomplish in one year—it’s simply the best. I’ve got a lot of garden-related plans as usual.

(Onions for 2022! Sown today.)

Now that I have a seed-starting setup that can accommodate most of what I want to start, it helps to have a schedule—of course I start indoors, but once we hit April I’m sowing both indoors and out. I’m leaving my dates a bit vague on purpose; I’d rather work within rough timeframes so that I’m not stressed and also to account for variations in weather—March through early May is a real weather roller coaster in Minnesota.

(Late April, early May, when I have flats of plants everywhere, and am often hauling them in for the night and out for the day. The chicken wire is to protect new radishes from marauding squirrels.)

I already bought my seeds for this year, and most of them have arrived. I shopped at both Seed Savers Exchange and High Mowing Organic Seeds. I usually try to do as many heirlooms as possible but this year I’m opting for more f1 hybrids that have been bred for disease resistance. I’d like to see if their yield is higher, too.

Without further ado, here is one northern gardener’s schedule for 2022. I realize this is a lot. I am an ambitious gardener but I think gardening is cool no matter your goals or level of interest. Maybe you just want to grow a tomato in a pot, and I think that’s awesome. Nevertheless, it helps me stay organized if I have a plan before the madness of spring sets in.

Mid February

  • Start leek and onion seeds inside – DONE!
  • Prune trees and shrubs that need it (exception: magnolia, which gets pruned later)

Early March

  • Start dahlias, lettuce, and parsley inside

Mid March 

  • Start peppers, chamomile, and okra inside

Late March

  • Start basil, cilantro, and holy basil inside

Early April

  • Transplant lettuce seedlings into hoop house, sow lettuce seed around them
  • Start tomatoes, brussels sprouts, tithonia, cosmos, zinnias inside (replaces lettuce tray)
  • Direct sow snap peas, collards, kale, mustard greens, chard, carrots and radishes outside (seeds)
  • Remove cages from shrubs, place around tulips instead

Mid April

  • Start cucumbers inside (use compostible pots)
  • Set out tulip pots wherever they’re needed
(Hardening off seedlings in the hoop house, 2021)

Late April

  • Transplant onions into half barrel
  • Transplant shallots into strawberry bed
  • Dig up and find homes for hops
  • Put up new trellises by deck

Early May

  • Pot up nasturtiums
  • Acquire other annuals for one or two large front yard pots
  • Dig up and get rid of one gooseberry bush
  • Acquire other herbs for herb spiral and plant (rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, etc)
  • Move compost bin
  • Create new raspberry bed (like this) and transplant raspberries into it
  • Sow Dutch white clover all around raspberries in their new home
  • Plant new hedgerow (!) where the raspberries were
  • Remove cages from shrubs; transfer to newly-potted annuals
  • Get seed potatoes ready
  • Plant new climbing rose and Virgin’s Bower (Clematis virginiana) plants around deck
  • Plant sale!!
(Plant sale haul, 2021)

Mid May

  • Move around prairie plants as necessary for new driveway, cutting garden
  • Plant okra, tomatoes, sweet peppers (weather permitting)
  • Plant green beans, runner beans, potatoes
  • Plant cucumbers

Late May

  • Plant cutting garden: tithonia, zinnia, dahlias, cosmos
  • Plant Brussels sprouts in tank after carrots are done, or thinned out enough to make room
  • Plant hot peppers in tank after radishes are done, or thinned out enough to make room
  • Plant annuals in pots after tulips are done
(Mid- to late May is also when I usually start harvesting radishes.)


  • Sow cilantro and ‘teddy’ dill after garlic harvest is done
  • Patio and path paver work
  • Fencing work
  • Fruit harvesting season! Sour cherries, currants, gooseberries


  • Plant more Pennsylvania sedge if needed around new patio
(A picture from the upstairs window (taken during garage construction) to help me plan the size and placement of the new patio that we’ll install this summer. It will be surrounded by Pennsylvania Sedge grass.)

Early to mid-May is my craziest time of year; the week leading up to Mothers Day is usually the most intense. Part of the reason for that is I like to attend the annual Friends School Plant Sale at the state fairgrounds, so I have to get ready for new perennials, annuals, and everything else. The past few years I’ve been taking most or all of that week off work, so it’s easier to cram lots of my to do list into one week. 

Of course, all of these plans are made knowing some things may not be possible depending on the weather. The last few years, we’ve had light frosts the first and second weeks of May, so I’ve had to be more conservative with setting out really tender annuals such as tomatoes and peppers.

(May 9 2019: I took the day off work to garden and it was so cold I was wearing a winter coat and hat.)

My vegetable garden layout is here for your perusal; it’s not terribly exciting anymore because I’ve figured out what grows well in this space and now it’s just a matter of rotating things around as best I can.

(Here’s my vegetable garden for 2022. I’m growing okra! So that’s something fun and different.)

We’ve got some exciting things going on this year, not least of all my husband setting up a pottery studio in our brand new garage. Some light landscaping will need to be done around that project, including a brand new fence and gate. I’ll also have to retool the garden area that’s adjacent to the driveway after we’re done replacing that (the old driveway was a casualty of construction equipment).

I’m also really excited to move my raspberries, for so many reasons. Not the least of which is: they are in too shady of a spot and our harvests have been puny for several years. I want to revitalize them, and move them into a spot where they will be more productive. I will also plan better this time so that they are more contained.

(Raspberry hedge in 2010; they’ve lost a lot of vigor in recent years.)

I’m downright silly excited about the new cutting garden I’m going to create. I’ve never grown dahlias before, and they sound a little bit challenging. But I’ll pair them with easy-to-grow zinnias and cosmos, so if they fail the whole area should still look good. I’m also planting a climbing rose! I still have plenty of pollinator supports / native plants all over the yard, and I will always make sure they are in the majority, but I’ve decided it’s OK to add a handful of plants that are mostly just for me.

(Zinnias, 2019)

Get ready, get set, and here we go: gardening is underway for the year. Thank goodness.

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2021 Wrap-up

Well, it’s another pandemic year in the books. We had good times and bad times in 2021, just like you most likely did.

We had so many good things. A remodeled bathroom! A new garage! (Note: not quite done yet as of 1/1.) Difficult health issues in our immediate and broader families overshadowed us the whole year. Ironically, not a single one of them was pandemic-related, but each was pandemic-affected. Happily, we all ended the year healthy and my appreciation for times of good health continues to grow.

But let’s get on to gardening. What lessons did I learn in 2021? What’s in store for 2022?

A gorgeous October walk in my fair city. A big pandemic takeaway: a long walk helps diffuse even the most difficult of emotions.

Honestly, most of the lessons I learned this year were tangential to gardening. For example, I learned hard lessons about trying to please hard-to-please people. I said no to many, many gardening-related “opportunities,” some fun and some less fun, for the sake of trying to be less busy and create more space for relaxation and spontaneity in my life. And I found myself relieved at having taken on significantly less than in previous years.

Here’s a list of my top 5 takeaways from 2021.

1. Experiment.

I moved the kids’ old fairy garden tanks into a sunnier area in fall 2020, with the idea of maybe growing some veggies in the new spot. I knew they’d get full sun in spring and fall, but I wasn’t sure about the summer. I dedicated this year to experimentation with them, and I’m happy to report that they appear to get enough sun to grow vegetables the entire season—I successfully grew spring radishes, bok choy, summer onions, zucchini, fall onions, and radicchio in them. I kept my experimentation cheap by using only seeds and/or seedlings I’d started myself. 

Zucchini, July 2021

The coolest part about this new addition to my garden? I extended my growing season and was actively gardening from the end of March (!) to the end of November. That’s eight full months of gardening, nine or ten if you count starting my seeds indoors. It was awesome. And now I can confidently go forward counting on these two raised beds to really produce for me.

Early spring madness. The chicken wire is to protect new seedlings from squirrels’ digging.

2. Seed starting rocks (for the most part)

I expanded my light setup and was able to start nearly every seedling I wanted this spring, including plenty to share with neighbors and friends. The seedlings I was especially happy to have on hand were ones that got planted at weird times when seedlings can be harder to find at garden stores, like onions. I planted tiny onion starts in early April, and again in early August. I would have been unlikely to find seedlings at a store at those times.

First planting of onions, April 2, 2021. I think this was the earliest I’ve ever planted. Another advantage of the raised planters is that they warm up faster in the spring.

Seed starting is also really great when you simply want a lot of a single plant—I place chamomile and nasturtiums all over my yard so I like to have at least 15-20 of each. They’re both easy to start from seed and starting them saved me some money this year.

I also had a fantastic lettuce year in 2021—all from seeds I started.

On the other hand, some of my seedlings didn’t do so well. Trickier herbs—rosemary, lavender, thyme, and oregano—stayed tiny for so long that they didn’t really produce for a very long time. I will buy those next year so I can get bigger plants to start with.

3. Creating community from shared produce

I didn’t have the time or energy to deal with my entire sour cherry harvest (it is immense) or my wine grapes this year. I reached out and found a local baker who was happy to come and harvest many buckets of cherries, and a local brewer/wine maker—Jeff of Urban Forage Winery—who forages yards like mine all over the Twin Cities. He gave me a bottle of wine in exchange for my wine grapes, and I felt like that was a good trade. He chuckled and said many people are in my boat—they plant all these fruit-producing perennials and then don’t have time to manage the harvest. I was just happy to see my fruit not get wasted, so the wine was a nice bonus.

Wine grape harvest, 2021.

4. Let go of what’s not working

We haven’t harvested our brewing hops in several years, and as part of the Great Garage Purge of 2021, we admitted defeat and sold all our brewing supplies. Next, I’m going to replace the hops plants that climb up our “booze bower” every summer. I love the fast-growing privacy that the hops provide, but I don’t love getting a rash every time I accidentally brush up against them—and they are constantly hanging over and invading areas I walk through every day.

The largest hops plant is on the south side of the arbor in full sun. I’m replacing it with a climbing rose in honor of my daughter, who loves red roses. I’m not sure what I’ll use to replace the hops on the north side of the arbor; they are not thriving due to a lack of sunlight. If you have recommendations for a fast-growing perennial or annual vine that does fine in shade, please let me know in the comments.

This spring, I also cut down a shrub I once adored: my Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry. It was growing so slowly that we were forced to admit after 8+ years that it was simply never going to achieve anywhere near the promised height of 15-20 feet. This spring, it looked sickly and possibly fire-blighted so I cut it down and replaced it with a witch hazel. I will be looking to add another Autumn Brilliance serviceberry somewhere else in the yard as soon the opportunity arises.

So far, the witch hazel seems happy in its new location. It even bloomed late this fall.

5. It’s OK to plant something just for me

I am a stickler about using native plants in my yard, as much as possible. I love how my yard full of pollinators and their insect and bird predators has created a nearly pest-free environment for my vegetables. If you know me at all you already know how enthusiastic I am about native plants.

BUT. I also have nostalgic affection for tulips and other spring flowering bulbs. I planted some tulip bulbs in 2020 and they were a very welcome site this spring. This fall I added daffodils—they should be easier to protect from squirrels and rabbits and should be a very nice complement to my bloodroot and other native spring bloomers.

Tulips, spring 2021.

I’m also contemplating a hedge. I would like to create a privacy screen in a narrow, shady area north of my house, and evergreen would be a nice bonus. I have not been able to find a native plant that fits the bill. I’ll be looking at area nurseries and plant sales in the spring to see what I can find—I’m thinking yew could be an option.

Harvesting leeks in November.

I’ve already got a long gardening to-do list for 2022, so I think I will once again stick to my yard and not take on a community garden plot. There were so many times this summer when I was grateful to not have to drive to a place to tend a whole extra garden. Having a little more time allowed me to enjoy what was happening right outside my door.

Monarch butterfly on a purple coneflower, summer 2021.

Since I’m not on this space very often anymore, consider following my gardening adventures on Instagram so you can see some of the following projects take shape this year:

  • Tulips in pots! One of my experiments this winter.
  • Privacy hedge in a shady spot
  • New raised raspberry bed(s)
  • New fences and gates (with arbors, whee!) on the east and west sides of the backyard
  • A climbing rose
  • Daffodils in the prairie boulevard
  • Plenty of vegetables in my raised beds and main garden, as usual

I’ve got seed catalogs spread all over the coffee table and my garden journal open to a “2022 planning” page. What have you got going in your garden this year?

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Memorial Day 2021 Garden Photo Tour

As I do every year, let’s take a little tour and see what’s happening in my yard in late May. I’ll try to do this again in late June—the rate of growth during that month of very long days is astounding.

Blue false indigo is blooming (Baptisia australis). This is not a native plant but it is beloved by bumblebees, and it is just gorgeous. Pretty tough, too.
Our wild and weird weather patterns have my horseradish blooming a bit early. I’ll cut these off once they’re spent so that this plant doesn’t spread any more than it already has.
My ninebark is blooming. I have the common/native type, Physocarpus opulifolius. I have this in a shadier spot than was recommended for it, so I’m glad it’s thriving. And the shade is keeping its size in check.
But wait what’s this?! Some ants are farming some aphids on my ninebark. I’m letting it be for now but if it starts to look real bad I may give them a spray with some neem oil. It’s right next to my front door after all.
My comfrey is also blooming. Another bee magnet.
My two American Highbush cranberries (Viburnum trilobum) died last year, so I replaced one of them in a slightly different spot. The new one bloomed for the first time this spring.
My wild geraniums (Geranium maculatum) are mostly done blooming now, and look at the seed heads! If they look poised to shoot their seeds into the far distance, that’s because this is precisely what they do, as soon as they’ve dried out. Such a neat plant, and it does pop up in surprising locations all over the yard.
On our way to another bumper gooseberry harvest. Last year, our black lab mix dog Buckles discovered how much he loves gooseberries. He’s not the brightest dog I’ve ever met and yet he remembered them for an entire year; he’s been checking the berries every day the past week to see if they’re ready to eat yet. Only a few more weeks, Buckles!
I added walking onions to my garden last year, and I’m so glad I did! They’ve spread just a bit and I’m carefully weeding around them to cultivate a little patch here that will persist into the future. I’ve been using them more like chives, just cutting off the green stems and slicing them up, as you would any green onion or chive.
Lettuce is at peak, and I need to harvest it all as quickly as I can or it will bolt—we have a weekend heat wave in the forecast.
I harvested most but not quite all of my bok choy before it bolted. I’m leaving these flowers for a few days for pollinators to enjoy while I figure out what I want to plant here next.
The bok choy is in my daughter’s old fairy garden stock tank. The kids lost interest in each having their own little garden, so I emptied these tanks out, moved them, and refilled them last fall. In their new location, they get enough sun in the spring and fall to grow some fast-growing veggies. My son’s tank in the background has radishes (also about to bolt). Here with the bolting bok choy are carrots and some spring onions. I’m happy with how these worked out so far.

There you have it: some highlights and happenings from my garden in late May, 2021. Thanks for walking along!

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Is it safe to use rain barrel water on vegetable gardens?

Happy summer to you! My vegetable garden is in, I’m eating radishes and lettuce every day, new perennials are planted, the final large section of grass I had in my yard is sheet mulched, and we finally got some much-needed rain this week. Garden season 2021 is well underway!

I helped teach a vegetable gardening basics class online earlier this spring for Hennepin County Master Gardeners. It was really challenging adapting our curriculum and teaching style to the online format, and it gave me a whole new appreciation for what school teachers have been through during the past 12+ months.

In creating our section on watering, we looked at current U of MN recommendations, and discovered that the U does not recommend using rain barrel water on your vegetable gardens.

A rain barrel next to a house
One of my first rain barrels—I like to use fancier wine barrels for the front yard.

The U has good reasons for this—one is that birds and squirrels regularly defecate on your roof, and rain washes all those feces into your rain barrel, where the bacteria has a nice warm and wet environment in which to thrive. 

Additionally, depending on the material and age of your shingles, various chemicals can also wash down those downspouts and into your barrels. A study in Seattle found that runoff from asphalt shingles was cleaner than the researchers had anticipated, while runoff from wood shakes was basically unusable because of high arsenic levels.

All of this makes sense to me. Yet, I’ve been watering my vegetables, fruits, perennials, and pretty much everything else in my yard with rain barrel water for 10+ years. Have I been unwittingly putting myself and my family in danger?

This rain barrel is situated directly next to my vegetable garden, although I use it more often lately for some newer trees in my back yard.

On the other hand, as I thought about it, I realized that I do employ some strategies with my rain barrel water that help mitigate those risks.

The most obvious one is: don’t ever rinse off produce with rain barrel water and then immediately eat it. Just like you wouldn’t drink water from a garden hose or rain barrel.

The next biggest one is this: avoid using rain barrel water on anything I’m going to eat in the next 5-7 days. I see little to no risk in using rain barrel water on, for example, the tiny leeks in my garden right now that I won’t be harvesting until September. I’ll probably use rain barrel on them until at least August. Allowing some time between watering with the barrel and harvesting allows for bacteria to be killed by our favorite bacteria-killing friend: the sun. Additionally I always, always wash produce inside the house with tap water before eating.

I have lots of fruit-bearing trees and shrubs and I can testify how much happier they are with rain water. Even the U of MN says it’s fine to use rain barrel water for fruit trees and shrubs, as long as you water in a way that doesn’t splash up onto the fruit. My favorite way to water trees and shrubs from the barrel is to hook up a hose to it and let the barrel water run out onto the ground.

This barrel is hooked up to soaker hoses into which I’ve drilled holes to improve how much water can seep out from a low-pressure rain barrel situation. The water goes directly to the roots of my raspberry plants (left).

As a master gardener, when advising the public, I have to stick to research-based University of Minnesota recommendations. And research shows that rain barrel water *does* have bacteria in it. But the research is also not completely conclusive on this—Rutgers University did some research and concluded that in most circumstances, it’s perfectly safe (they recommended strategies similar to the ones I recommended).

Unofficially, if you are a person who can handle nuance, and employ some risk mitigation strategy, I am prepared to say that, in my personal anecdotal experience and on some actual research that does exist, rain barrel water is OK to use on fruits and (to a lesser extent) vegetables. It’s not a must though—if you’re uncomfortable with it, then by all means just use your rain barrel water on your trees, shrubs, perennials, and houseplants. They’ll thrive on it.

Clear as mud, right? I’m very curious how many other people use rain barrel water on their vegetables and other edible landscaping, so please comment if you do. I would love to see more research done about it.

Coming soon: I’ll start working on my annual Memorial Day garden photo shoot tonight, so watch for that post early next week.

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Managing my expectations for 2021

It drove my 22-year-old idealist self crazy when my first manager at my first full-time job used to say, “You’re going to need to manage your expectations on this, Jennifer.” High expectations have hammered me again and again, in this first large chunk of adulthood that I’ve now completed. And that was before the pandemic.

As I face middle age and this new year, I’m feeling the need to manage my expectations and be aware that things can and will change, but often not in the ways or at the pace that I want.

Gardening is full of constant unexpected change–large trees getting cut down, hailstorms, late frosts, early frosts, heat and humidity at the wrong times, you name it. The opportunity to roll with those changes has been good for me, mentally.

(Harvesting ALL my leeks in early October due to unseasonably cold weather.)

But this past year other things have become more precarious, too. And those changes are requiring a little more from me, mentally. I am trying not to plan too much or expect too much from 2021. But. I can make some garden plans.

(The small fairy garden tanks in their new location. I will put some short perennials around them this spring. There is a very sharp contrast between my out-of-control tallgrass prairie on the left, and my last bit of lawn on the right. I sort of love it.)

My teenagers have lost interest in gardening for now. Last September I moved their old fairy garden stock tanks to the edge of my main backyard path, where they’ll (hopefully) get nice full sun in the spring and fall. I’m planning some strategic quick-growing cool season veggies that will take advantage of this—radishes, green onions, maybe some radicchio, what else should I try?

I will most likely not have a community garden plot this year. I’m thinking of it as an experiment in scaling back. More bike rides? More time for beers with friends when we finally get vaccinated? I hope so. Without further ado, my garden layout for 2021:

My garden layout is becoming less an artsy arrangement of vegetables, and more a schedule for me to follow so I know roughly when to start seeds, when to sow them outside, etc. Drawing it out like this every year also helps me keep better track of crop rotations. I don’t always follow it with absolute precision, but I usually come pretty close.

(I’ll be growing dragon tongue beans at home this year after a spectacular harvest of them at my community garden plot in 2020. They can be purchased from Seed Savers Exchange, among other places.)

I have precious little full sun to work with, so I plan plenty of leafy greens–collards, lettuce, mustard greens, bok choy–in my part-shade areas. I’m also trying a new vine on one of my garden trellises–passionflower vine, passiflora incarnata. It’s a north American native plant that can be made into a tea with medicinal properties and it supposedly thrives in part-shade. We’ll see!

I’ll continue to grow plenty of things in pots. I have found over the past several years that both sweet and hot peppers perform much better in pots. They really dislike cold soil, so if you plant them in May when the ground is usually still pretty cool / cold (here in the Twin Cities), they will go into a bit of a shock and take many extra weeks to recover and start producing. Planting in pots means the soil is nice and warm and they can start growing immediately. I do not have raised beds but I imagine they would be almost as good as pots in this respect.

(Carrots also grow surprisingly well in a pot–just be sure to thin them properly.)

Another change for me this year is that I’m expanding my seed-starting setup. This is partially for my mental health; it will give me a bunch of gardening to do starting in February. Here’s my tentative seed starting schedule:

Lavender (start in late Jan and stratify in refrigerator for a couple weeks)

Holy basil
Peppers (sweet and hot)
Lemon balm

Tithonia (aka Mexican sunflower)

May (everything started in May is for late summer / fall harvest):
Lettuce (heat tolerant varieties)

That is an awful lot for March, so some of those things will probably spill out into early April. I only need 3 or 4 of most of those plants, so I should theoretically have room. I also have a couple of temporary greenhouse options for outside so many seedlings will be moved outside for finishing in early April (depending, of course, on our wild Minnesota spring weather).

(A tiny temporary greenhouse that Adam made for me last April using old bicycle tires.)

The Friends School Plant Sale is ON for 2021, and I am looking forward to it so much. I plan to get several new perennials and shrubs, too. Those plans are still in progress, but they are hopefully going to include an elderberry bush. I have become keenly interested in plants with immune-boosting and/or medicinal properties, and both the flowers and the berries of elderberry can be used for different purposes.

Just writing up this little plan has brought me so much joy on a gray winter day. I hope you are well and, like me, dreaming of warmer and more colorful days to come.

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Summer’s end

I’ve been away from this space for a long time. There are many reasons why. For the most part I’ve not had much trouble finding small things here and there to take photos of and write little sentences about on Instagram. But it’s the long form that I’m struggling with right now.

Maybe part of what’s holding me back is that I need more time to process things before I feel like I can write about them intelligently. More time to think about a man dying in an intersection, just hours after I’d driven through that same intersection and commented to Adam “it always seems like there are people struggling on this corner.” My privilege was practically dripping out of the car with the air conditioning condensation, as I accelerated through that intersection on my way home from my natural foods co-op.

bearded iris

Bearded iris in late May.

Late May: back when we were still in the “making the best of it” phase of the pandemic. If we just baked enough cakes—complicated cakes!—and learned how to make sourdough bread—finally! that’s been on my bucket list for a long time!—we would be able to come out the other side of this content for the time we’d spent at home.

Just two weeks before, and just three short blocks west of Cup Foods, my fellow community garden volunteers and I had pulled off our biggest plant giveaway ever. That weekend—with masks, hand sanitizer, the works—we gave away hundreds of tomatoes, peppers, herbs, seeds, annual flowers, and hope that the garden could grow enough food to help see us safely through the pandemic. It was one of my most optimistic days of 2020.

My Pilot, loaded up with plants for the giveaway.

And then a man lost his life, trying to buy food, and maybe passing a fake $20. And the man who took his life was a tax felon who had stolen much, much more. There is no justice. It all came crashing down.

Just days later, I found myself gathering with neighbors, with blackhawk helicopters hovering overhead, making plans on how to defend our neighborhood from white supremacists bent on causing mayhem and fanning flames—literally.

My adrenaline surged. Carrying a shovel, seeds, and donated plants past soldiers with guns, I kept going back to Sabathani. I tended my own garden plots, which had been planted in mid-May. I turned over two more extremely weedy, neglected plots in searing heat, sweat dripping, and planted them with the intention of giving away the produce to the community. I went home and stayed up all night for several nights, listening and watching. Every unplated truck that drove past our house was discussed by many people.

Sunset over Sabathani

Sunset over the community garden on June 5.

My neighborhood was lucky. We lost our closest gas station and our pharmacy for a while. But homes remained untouched. We kept coming together in June and July as a community to collect and distribute food. But as the summer progressed, everyone and everything started to feel tired. Our most recent meetings have only had a handful of attendees.

But I’d be lying if I said this whole summer has been a waking nightmare. It hasn’t. I’ve had moments of light and joy. I fell in love with several K-pop groups, thanks to my now-teenagers. I painted both kids’ bedrooms. I took time off work, using a neat thing called VPTO (volunteer paid time off) to tend those gardens.

One of the volunteer plots at Sabathani.

After spending an unprecedented amount of time in my flower and vegetable gardens at home, I don’t think my yard has ever looked as good as it does this year. I harvested every single sour cherry from my Mesabi cherry tree and made some of the most delicious jam I’ve ever tried. I shared fruit, jams and jellies with family and friends. In moments of lightness and ease, I reminded myself of how very lucky I am.

Mesabi cherries.

This is the first time in a very long time that I’ve had no plans. It’s such an odd feeling. As of late February, I had a busy summer and fall of travel planned, including taking the kids to see BTS in Chicago for their 13th birthday. It was heartbreaking to cancel. And now that everything else has been canceled, it feels weird to have and make no plans.

Red twig dogwood berries.

What have I learned about gardening this year? Well. Mary Oliver said attention is the beginning of devotion. And I realized this year how much more I notice about my gardens—and how much more I love every part of them—when I simply spend time observing. 

A goldfinch eating anise hyssop seeds in August.

I noticed house sparrows eating Japanese and grapevine beetles. I noticed a chipmunk climbing my cherry tree to pilfer cherries. I noticed a bumblebee digging a hole in the ground. I noticed flies farming aphids for their honeydew. I noticed a hummingbird on several occasions and noticed which flowers it seemed to like the most. I noticed my neighbors and how the same ones tend to walk by, at the same time, every day. I laughed one day when I noticed one man surreptitiously picking a purple coneflower from my front yard.

I have plenty of coneflowers to spare.

I welcome the cooler weather coming this week—I probably won’t cover my basil on Tuesday night when it’s supposed to get down in the 40s. I’m ready to let it go.


I feel like the theme of 2020—well, there are many themes—but one of them is getting used to uncertainty. I want to believe that I’ll come out the other side somehow wiser, more content to live in the moment. I want to believe that my family will come out the other side, alive and healthy. And I want that for my neighbors and friends, too. I want to live in a country where we’ll look at the hard lessons of 2020 and decide that we give a shit about public health.

I harvested an unprecedented amount of chamomile this summer.

Lots of good is happening, every single day. I’m not having any trouble seeing it at a micro level. I just step outside my door and watch the bees for a few minutes.

I’ve already drawn up some garden plans for 2021. I’m moving my stock tanks for the first time in 10+ years. I’m planting at least two or three new shrubs, since two of  my viburnums died out this year. I’m going to expand my seed-starting operation. Maybe I’ll finally fix up the grassy area in the back. I’m even adding some more tulips this fall, which feels really out of character for my native-plant obsessed self. But I saw people taking pictures of my tiny patch of tulips this spring and it brought me joy. I want more of that.

Shallot harvest.

I’m planting seeds of hope and crossing my fingers that they all germinate. I’m going to need them next spring.

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Spring in the Minnesota garden

I can’t think of a more glorious month than May in the state of Minnesota. For the second year in a row, we had a rather chilly April and start of May, so when things finally got warmer, and then we got some much-needed rain here in the Twin Cities on the 17th, plants really took off and the end of the month has been simply glorious. There’s nothing better than planting untold numbers of seeds and transplants, only to have them well-watered in by rain. Here are some photo highlights from May in my garden.

Bee approaching a serviceberry

A mining bee (not sure of the species) approaches my Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry (Amelanchier grandiflora) in early May. Early flowering plants like this are critically important sources of nectar for all manner of queen bees who are the only ones in their colony to have overwintered, and now must feed the entire next generation.

Jacobs Laddder

Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium reptans), also blooms in May. It’s a low-growing groundcover plant that thrives even in dry shade. It deserves to be widely planted—it spreads only slowly and the foliage looks great even after blooming.

Protecting plants from squirrels

A not-so-fun spring project around here is trying to protect plants from squirrels and rabbits. Strategies for both need to evolve for different times of year. Rabbits are more of a problem in the winter, when they will eat woody shrubs and small trees down to the ground (or frustratingly, just eat the bark off them, which also kills them).

In the spring, squirrels get very excited about digging in freshly-disturbed soil, especially the friable soil in pots and containers. Happily, this behavior dies down after the pots have been around for a while and the plants in them are actively growing. So these ugly cages on nearly all of my containers can be taken down in another week or two.

Many spring garden vegetables such as lettuce and peas will need to be protected from rabbits continuously. Summer vegetables like zucchini and tomatoes require protection from squirrels. Last year I lost all but one or two zucchinis to squirrels. This year they’re in an impenetrable cage with my tomatoes.

My solution for lettuce is to grow it in a stock tank—it’s a little too high for the rabbits to jump in. We’re eating lettuce daily now and enjoying it while it lasts. The season is always over so quickly. One nice thing about being home-based now with my work is that I’ve had a little extra time to think about succession: I’ve got some romaine lettuce started already in my basement. When this lettuce seeds out in early July, I’ll replace it with some nice romaine. Hopefully.

Beans emerging

Thank goodness for an abundance of lettuce, because the rest of the vegetable garden is only just getting going. Beans are sprouted and up, along with carrots and zucchini. My tomato, kohlrabi and brussels sprouts seedlings are small but healthy, and I am growing more sweet and hot peppers this year than I ever have!

Barrel of onions

Here’s a weedy corner of my back yard. Well, weedy depending on who you ask. It’s got a giant mullein that I’m keeping my eye on—I’ll pull it as soon as it flowers to keep it from self-seeding. The area has also filled in with wild sarsparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) at the front, and it’s fine for now. I’ve got a honeycrisp apple tree in here, as well as a nice patch of Mexican sunflowers at the back (in a rabbit-proof cage for now; rabbits love to eat sunflowers when they’re little).

In the front pots are some 2020 experiments. I took an apple tree pruning and grafting course in February—one of the last social things I did before the pandemic, and it was such a pleasure. So I’m trying to get my grafts to “take” in the smaller foreground pots. We’ll see if it works. Behind them is a half barrel. We had a rain barrel for years that was not holding water very well anymore, so Adam cut it in half and now I have a new large planter. It’s going to be my barrel of onions this year. I plant onion starts thickly, then strategically thin out and harvest them green, gradually creating more room for the remaining ones to grow into bulbs.

Mini prairie in spring

Here, an early spring glimpse into what is my ultimate plan for a good-sized chunk of my backyard: a miniature tallgrass prairie! It’s honestly not that impressive in the spring. These are plants that thrive on heat, and every year I spend April and early May fretting about whether they’re actually alive or not. The answer is nearly always yes because these are seriously hardy plants. I’m trying to keep the palette fairly simple, mostly big bluestem, culver’s root, joe pye weed, and I’m trying out a couple of royal catchfly at one edge.

It’s also bordered by many other random things, including asters, showy goldenrod, rhubarb, a cherry tree, gooseberries, and a serviceberry. This part of the backyard has been really fun to sort out since my southerly neighbor cut down a very large tree that deeply shaded it until just a couple years ago. Suddenly I have so many options…

Wild Columbine

We had a very rainy Memorial Day weekend here, just perfect for sprouting carrots. It also knocked down the last of the pink crabapple petals around the neighborhood—at times it was raining pink petals in a very magical way. The main star of my gardens right now is Wild Columbine. It’s gently reseeded itself all over my yard, and it really ties everything together nicely. Repetition is such an important part of good design, and incorporating more of it in my landscape has made a big difference.

Red Lake Currants

Fruit season is right around the corner: my Red Lake and Ben Sarek currants, plus my gooseberries are nearly ready to eat. Sour cherries are coming along too. We’ll get a short breather between the madness of planting season and then jam-making season will be upon us. And thank goodness—had I not made some rhubarb sauce we would be pretty much out of jam.

Red chokeberry

I’m so happy to see one of my two red chokeberries (Aronia arbutifolia) blooming this spring. Both shrubs are alive, but barely: I piled snow a little too high next to the protective rabbit fence, and they used the snow as a jumping off point to get right inside. They nibbled off most of the bark on the bottom 1/4 of many of the branches. Fortunately enough branches survived that I think ultimately these shrubs will bounce back.

The web traffic to this blog has gone up significantly this spring—interest in gardening is at an all-time high. If you’re new here, what brought you here? Do you have gardening questions? Ask away, I am happy to help. My U of MN Extension Master Gardener activities are currently on hold, so I’m happy to answer questions virtually. Thanks for reading.

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Pandemic gardening

Gardening this year, like everything else, is imbued with a feeling that nothing is the same, and might not be for a very long time. And yet. As I watch my yard come to life this spring, there are certain plants for which I feel so much gratitude. Well, honestly, I feel gratitude for all green things in the spring.

Blood root in full bloom

Bloodroot, one of my favorite wildflowers, is blooming in the Twin Cities area right now.

Here are some plants I was especially excited to see–some are weeds, and some are perennials I planted, but ALL are edible.

In times of uncertainty, growing your own food is taking control of something that you can take at least a measure of control over. I’ve been seeing lots of news articles about people suddenly taking an interest in gardening, and there’s never been a better time. There’s also never been a better time to search out locally-produced dairy and meat.

I also buy nearly all my meat directly from a farm family–Chris and Tamara Johnson of Johnson Family Pastures–and this has also been a source of comfort during this uncertain time. Getting to know the people who raise my food has always been important to me, but now it feels vital. Pasture-based meat is more expensive (and more nutritious) than conventional, but I use it more thoughtfully as a result.

Anyway, back to gardening, since that’s what I am here to write about.

One of the main principles of permaculture is to emphasize perennial edibles over annuals. This can be somewhat challenging in the north. And yet. When I look out on my yard today I see several things to eat–even though the snow only just melted–and having just a few things feels like a bit of added security. That feeling will get stronger when I have cherries, raspberries, and currants to pick.

Here are six edible perennials I’ve got growing right now. Each of these multipurpose plants stacks up several functions in the garden–from feeding my family and me to feeding pollinators.

Garlic mustard

Young garlic mustard plants. Later it gets much taller, with tiny white flowers.

Garlic mustard
One of my big goals is to try and make garlic mustard more popular. I walked along Minnehaha Creek last week and was really sad to see the extent to which it is taking over the natural area along the shore. If more people knew how delicious it is, perhaps they could over-harvest it like they do with ramps. 

Garlic mustard was brought over from Europe by early white settlers, and spread throughout the United States rapidly. It’s a green; you eat it like spinach, raw or lightly steamed. Its name comes from a slightly garlicky taste and aroma. Every year, I carefully remove every bit of garlic mustard from my yard, and yet every year more comes back. Someone nearby must have quite a bit that they allow to go to seed.

Please note: do NOT let garlic mustard go to seed. If you see it, pull it, whether you plan to eat it or not. This stuff is seriously invasive. Now is the very easiest time to find it, as it’s one of the only green things in natural areas.

stinging nettle pesto

Cutting up stinging nettle for steaming. Note the gloves–necessary only until nettles are cooked.

Stinging nettle
I’ve been allowing a little stinging nettle patch in my yard for several years now. I keep a very close eye on it to make sure it doesn’t expand too much, ruthlessly pulling any that appears beyond the bounds of where I’ve decided it can grow.

Why keep stinging nettle around? Two very important reasons. First, it’s a superfood. After a long winter of greens trucked in from California, in the early spring your body is practically begging for something local, fresh, and packed with anti-inflammatory goodness. My favorite two ways to use it are in an herbal tea, or lightly steamed and made into pesto–just use a standard pesto recipe and substitute steamed nettle leaves for the basil. Steaming it removes the sting.

The second reason I like to keep a little patch of nettles is that it’s the host plant for the Red Admiral butterfly–their caterpillars exclusively eat members of the nettle family. Red Admirals are not endangered like monarchs, but I can spare a few square feet of my yard to feed their babies.


French sorrel in a bunny-proof protective basket.

French sorrel
Unlike my edible weeds, I’ve actually had to purchase and plant new French sorrels several times. Without a protective cage, rabbits will eat it to the ground over and over in the spring. I’ve also killed it by planting it in shade–it stays much bigger and healthier in a sunny spot. French sorrel can be used like spinach as well, and its flavor gets more pungent as the season goes. I think of it as a spring food; sorrel soup is a spring tradition around here but it’s also good in egg dishes.

Lovage is new to me so I only have baby pictures so far! I hear it gets quite large…

Here’s a new-to-me plant this year. I read about lovage in permaculture books several years ago, but then became inspired to plant it after reading several of Monty Don’s books last winter. It’s a perennial that gets quite large and must be planted in a sunny spot. Its early spring leaves have a celery-like flavor; the best use for it truly is in soups. The flavor is not as good later in the season, but Monty Don recommends cutting it down severely in the early fall to encourage new tasty, leafy growth.

First chive harvest of 2020.

I first planted a small pot of chives more than 10 years ago, and now have several little clumps of them around the yard. They come back faithfully every year, surviving in all kinds of light conditions. They can spread quickly in a sunny spot, so I purposely keep them in partly-shaded areas. Chives are always my very first harvest of the spring–this year I picked my first on March 28.

Harvesting rhubarb on a VERY cold early May day in 2019.

Who doesn’t love rhubarb? Rhubarb can be a little tricky to grow for two important reasons. First, it MUST have full sun (8-12 hours of direct sunlight per day) or it will die out after a year or two. I nearly killed mine by initially planting it in a spot that kept getting shadier each year. When I realized it was dying, I moved it into a new sunny spot and now, two years later, it’s thriving again. Secondly, it’s hard to resist picking every last beautiful rib of your rhubarb plant, especially in the early years when you’re so excited to finally have rhubarb. If you pick too much, you will kill your plant. My rule of thumb is to never pick more than half the plant at a time.

My tiny lettuce seedlings survived some very cold nights recently in the mini-hoophouse.

Cold season veggies
Halfway through writing this post, I got word that Mother Earth Gardens and other local garden centers are reopening again, after doing a limited website ordering/curbside pickup system for several weeks. I’m sure it will not be the delightful shopping experience we once knew and loved, but it’s necessary.

Please consider buying your plants from a local nursery, rather than a big box store. There are several good reasons to do this. First, big box stores treat their plants with neonicotinoids, which will injure and potentially kill any bee that tries to pollinate your flower. Secondly, these stores are primarily concerned with making a sale, not helping you be a better gardener. Also, does it even need to be said that small businesses need extra help right now? Choose integrity, and choose people who truly care about plants and pollinators–vote with your dollars on this issue.

I like to buy onion “starts” from Mother Earth Gardens. You tease them apart and plant them around 2″ apart from each other, then start thinning them when they reach delicious green onion size.

Garden season is really heating up along with the weather–as of right now in the Twin Cities it’s safe to plant out “cold season” vegetables. These are the ones that won’t be hurt by a light frost, like peas, lettuce, anything related to cabbage, greens, and many annual flowers. Perennial plants can also go in now. I sowed kale, collards, and poppy seeds yesterday, and I’ve got flats of herbs under grow lights in the basement. I’ve also got some pretty tiny lettuce seedlings under my mini-hoophouse.

Planting out kale, collard, and poppy seeds on April 18, 2020.

Time to get growing. Questions about gardening? Ask in the comments below or follow me on Instagram for more frequent updates.

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Garden Plans for 2020

I usually plan my gardens in January and February. This year, I was waiting during those months to find out whether my community garden would be available or not this year. Just days after I found out that we would be able to garden there this year (yay!) a … global pandemic hit.

Uncertainty has got to be the word of the year for 2020, yes? My anxiety over the community garden seems laughable now in hindsight.

I’ve decided to plan my garden for the best case scenario—the scenario in which my favorite local garden store is able to supply me with things like onion starts, leek starts, and various other seedlings that I usually buy each spring. My seed starting setup is rather small, but I’m also trying to strategically max that out, just in case. Anyway, here’s my plan. Click to enlarge:

Layout for an urban garden

LOTS going on here. First, I need to tell you something sad about my home garden. Reader, I sorta ruined my own home garden plot. How did I do this? Here’s some photographic evidence:

grape and hops growing on an arbor

This is my wine grapes and hops arbor—my “booze bower” that was featured in Northern Gardener magazine last August. Behind all that lush, green, tall foliage, to the right, is my vegetable garden. You can see the tomato cage just peeking out at the very far right of the picture near the bottom. What I’ve done here: I created a beautiful, shady, just lovely place to sit in the summer. The unintended consequence: I took away a few hours of late afternoon and evening sunlight from my vegetable garden, especially the west side of it.

As you know, vegetables NEED a lot of sun. I’ve had to do some rethinking of this garden. The plot at the far west is really only good for greens now. Kale and collards grew marvelously in that spot last year and I’m going to try them again—is this best practice? No. I simply can’t rotate other types of vegetables into that spot (except for lettuce, I suppose). I’m going to experiment and try some Hungarian breadseed poppies mixed in with the greens, to see how different types of annual flowers do here.

Last year, even further east in the garden, my beans were all foliage and no fruit:

pole beans out of control

Now, pole beans always take a long time to get going, and last year was a very late spring. But plants that are very leafy might be trying to tell you something: they’re not getting enough sun.

I had some other fails last year too, one of which is pictured above. I tried to grow Christmas lima beans inside the tomato cage. Here’s the thing about my squirrel-proof tomato fortress: we realized that it is nearly impossible to move, for a variety of reasons. So in late 2018 I decided it was going to stay in the same spot and I’d just rotate different crops into and out of it. I can always grow a tomato in a pot if I’m desperate. Anyway, this year I have the fortress slated for 1/2 tomatoes and 1/2 zucchini. I’m going to attempt to stake the zucchini following this interesting tutorial.

Over at Sabathani Community Garden, here’s where we stand. A high rise building for elderly folks will be built starting in September or October of this year (pending global pandemic easing up, I suppose). This is great news for the community, truly.

We will be kicked out of the garden as soon as mid-September and have no access to it for at least a year. When it reopens it will be a different configuration, the soil will be compacted from having construction equipment on it for 12+ months, and half the garden will now be a parking lot. Again, this was slightly more upsetting before I knew the other things that were coming our way for 2020.

But I’m glad I get to garden there this year. I’m going to refrain from planting pumpkins, since they might not be done in time. I’m moving all leek activity to the home garden since I usually harvest those late August-late October. Even planting brussels sprouts is taking a bit of a chance, but then again I started harvesting sprouts in August of 2019 so hopefully that will be true again this year. Check out this bounty from my community garden plot last August:

Community garden harvest

The tomatoes were a little uninspiring—diseases are unfortunately rampant in the community garden and our cool wet spring did not help. But I had a banner year of many things, including runner beans:

runner beans

If you’ve never grown these, I cannot recommend them enough. They are SO easy to grow. They are a vine plant so they need some support, but they get gorgeous flowers, and produce bucketloads of large edible green beans. If you don’t get to them in time and they get very large, no worries! You can simply shell them and eat the seeds like lima beans, or let them dry and use them as dried beans. This plant is amazingly versatile.

So I’ve got my “plan” for 2020 but I don’t feel very certain about it; so much will depend on… so many things. UNCERTAINTY, folks, get used to it, I guess? I’ve never been more thankful for my edible perennial plants. I’ve already got a protective bunny-proof cage around my French sorrel, and keep watching for my lovage to pop up. I can’t wait for some of the wild edibles that I know I’ll see, like garlic mustard and stinging nettle. I can count on raspberries, cherries, and hopefully some apples. I’ve never been a prepper on the scale of the types of people you see on the news, but the little bit of prepping that I have done here is helping to ease some of this uncertainty.

a tiny tall grass prairie

A big area of uncertainty is my teeny tallgrass prairie in my backyard. I had hoped to at least triple its size this year with the addition of 40-50 new plants, but I don’t know what stores will be open / what will be available. I can divide some of what I have and expand it slowly year by year, so it’s not a terrible thing. I am going to need to learn patience. That’s for sure.

Be well, friends. Take care of each other. Call me if you’re local and need divisions or volunteers of wildflowers.