Planning and tending to a garden is a year-long adventure. I love it, but other than a few months of winter, there really is no off season. Whether you’re planning your crops, prepping your garden space, or starting a few plants from seeds, there is plenty to do all year. And that’s not to mention cooking from your bounty! I’ve been tending the Ely Hilltop Garden for long enough now that I have learned some tips and tricks, so I wanted to put together a garden guide that I’ll add to as the year goes on so you can enjoy the fun of gardening along with me.
Planning Your Garden
If you’re looking for a go-to resource, for all things gardening, I recommend the University Of Minnesota Extension office vegetable garden guide. It’s an invaluable resource for preparing your garden and choosing the plants that are right for you. A few things to keep in mind:
- Most of Minnesota is in plant hardiness zone 3-4, which means you need to choose vegetables that will grow in our climate. Ely is further north, so you may be able to grow a few different things in the metro and southern MN.
- Always grow for your space. There is no garden too big or too small, but make sure you space your plants accordingly and make note of the amount of sunlight and moisture.
- Some of your plants can be started indoors as early as February to get an early start.
Planting Your Garden
I like to spend a May weekend at the cabin planting my garden. There are plenty of veggies, that will thrive on this timeline, but take note of some of the different timing. Again, the U of M is a great resource and has a wonderful chart.
Make sure your soil is in good shape (you can do a soil test) and follow the instructions for planting depth and spacing. And don’t forget to mark your plants so you remember where everything is as the growing season gets underway. It can be hard to tell sometimes, especially early on!
Once the middle of summer hits, you should be cruising! Of course, plants are living creatures, which means some of the fun of gardening is seeing what works well for your location. Some things won’t take, despite your best effort. It could be the sun, rain or soil. Too much or too little of anything and you might have some issues. In seasons of drought, you may have to water more often and if you have more shade, you may have to move some plants next year. Or switch up your crop next year. Here are some things to look for during the season:
- Pests. Check out the U of MN Extension office for info on diseases and what to do.
- Water and sun. Make sure your plants are getting enough of both, but not too much. Look for wilting and other signs of drought. Also, be aware of soil drainage to make sure you aren’t over or under watering. Many gardens will do well with a nice deep watering twice per week, but factor in the weather.
- Weeds. Pull them! Keep your garden free of weeds throughout the summer so the nutrients go where you want them. As your crop gets bigger, weeds are more likely to be crowded out or starved of sun.
- Keep your eye out. Monitor for anything that looks amiss and check for blooms to make sure things are progressing. Watching things grow is much of the fun.
- As you start harvesting, check out the recipes below!
Early Season Recipes
Rhubarb is a spring rite-of-passage, and if you don’t grow some yourself you probably know someone who does! You may not know asparagus is a hearty vegetable for our climate, and one of the first veggies ready for harvest in late spring or early summer. And, of course, late June and early July call for strawberry picking. Below are my favorite recipes for some of the first harvest of the season!