- There are 9 billion living organisms in just a tablespoon of soil.
- Keep soil covered with living plants or plant residues to avoid erosion.
- Minimize disturbance of the soil to limit weed seeds.
- Maximize diversity of plants in rotation, using plants from many different groupings such as flowers, herbs, vegetables, ground covers for visual interest and to limit disease that can spread in monocultures.
- Keep living roots in the soil to hold the soil in place as much as possible. Consider cover crops off-season.
Looking at my 2012 garden calendar, by this date last year I had planted radishes, raddichio and spinach in my community garden. The crocus, early daffodils, forsythia and cherry leaves were sprouting in my backyard. While its not to soon for spring, a post today (March 22) on the MN Master Gardener Listserve, reminds us we can be planting vegetables, even with the foot of snow on the ground:
"I've cold-sown all kinds of seeds in many types of containers in the last 7'ish years. I've gotten the best results from: 1. Seeds of perennials , especially natives (Stands to reason, eh?) 2. Seeds of self-seeding annuals, including tomatoes (Again, this makes perfect sense) 3. Seeds of cold-hardy annuals like kale, lettuce, snapdragon, pansies, broccoli, etc. While a gardener can try cold sowing with any seed, in my experience the lowest germination rates come from the least cold-tolerant plants, e.g., peppers. As for timing, I am doing my cold-sowing this week. While I've done it earlier in the season, I've found no advantage in doing so and maybe a slight reduction in germination rates in the more cold-sensitive plants. When is it too late to cold-sow? When you can sow seed directly into your garden! For cold-tolerant seed, that means as soon as the soil is workable. For heat-loving seed, that means when the soil has warmed to ~60 degrees (F) and the danger of frost has passed. The beauty of cold-sowing is that the seedlings emerge and grow in concert with Mother Nature. Only "she" decides when the seed will germinate and how fast the seedlings should grow. And when the time comes to transplant the seedlings into the garden, they experience no temp-related transplant shock. (Sue Schiess Hennepin County Master Gardener)"
Also don’t forget Terry Yockey’s great link on Winter Sowing.
Looking for gardening references and educational materials? Goodhue County Master Gardeners participated in a seed saving webinar last month and we liked what we saw. Click HERE to go to the USDA Peoples Garden Resource page for educational webinars, videos, curriculum and other references.
Browsing through seed catalogues during an early spring thaw, it is easy to be drawn to the color of nasturtiums. It is easy to admire the color nasturtiums bring to containers or the way they dress a salad with salad with their peppery taste. Why stop here when there is a great online resource on the University of Minnesota’s Extension Master Gardener website.
Beyond salads, cakes and other desserts can be decorated with colorful blooms and cold drinks can be enhanced with a floral garnish. The small test tube-like containers used at florists can be inserted in a cake to hold small blooms and provide water.
To assure flowers come from pesticide-free plants, it is best to grow them yourself. Several of the plants listed in the chart below grow well in containers. Harvest blossoms the same day you plan to use them, gently wash them and allow the plants to air dry. Remove the tart internal stamens and styles of larger flowers such as tulip or squash blossoms. If need be, store your colorful prizes in covered containers in the refrigerator. Add the pretty posies just before serving.
Bon appetite! Here are a few suggestions from University of Minnesota Extension Factsheet: (http://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/h104edibleflowers.html )
|Alpine Strawberry||Flowers and leaves often used in tea|
|Apple or Plum||Flowers|
|Beebalm||Flower taste differs by cultivar; avoid ‘Panorama’ as the taste is too astringent|
|Borage||Flowers and leaves|
|Chamomile||Flowers have an apple scent and flavor|
|Chives||Flowers blossoms and stems|
|Daylilies||Flowers buds are good stir-fried|
|Dill||Flowers, seeds and foliage|
|Lavender||Flowers can be bitter, but wonderfully scented.|
|Lemon Balm||Leaves and flowers are scented.|
|Marjoram||Flowers and leaves|
|Mint||Flowers and leaves|
|Mustard||Flowers, leaves and young seed pods|
|Nasturtium||Fowers and leaves have a peppery taste|
|Rose||Use flower petals.|
|Scarlet Runner Beans||Flowers and young bean pods Note: Sweet Pea flowers NOT edible.|
|Sage||Flowers eaves fresh or dried.|
|Squash||Flowers can be stuffed or fried. If female blossoms are picked fruit will not develop.|
The University of Minnesota Soil Lab will give you recommendations to make your lawn or garden more productive for just $17. Download the form at http://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu/files/2012/08/LawnGardenInfoSheet.doc and follow the instructions. You simply collect five trowels of soil from throughout your lawn or garden, mix it together and mail one pint of your sample to the University of Minnesota Soils Lab with the form and a check.
Two or three weeks later you will receive a summary of your soil texture, percent organic matter, pH, nutrients and suggested fertilization needs. With this information you are on your way to improving your garden soil.