Gardens of Eatin’

Home Demonstration Gardens: Summer Vegetables & Herbs

Gardener Ted Pew designs six special gardens for your home. On display at the Arboretum, these gardens give many examples for how you can fit nature into your home. During the summer months the home demo gardens display many vegetables easy to grow in Minnesota. Ted Pew and his crew will tell you what we are growing and how to take care of it, from watering, weeding, and fertilizing, to harvesting all summer long so your gardening skills and your garden can grow along with us.

This summer we are battling the Japanese beetles, pests like the rabbits and chipmunks, and many other challenges that face our favorite vegetable garden. 

What's new with Ted Pew?

Things are winding down in Home Demo. As we get closer and closer to the end of the summer season we're aren't planting anything new but rather focusing on upkeep and slowly moving towards preparing for winter. With the home demo vegetable garden this mean harvesting as much as we can, this means there are a lot of empty spots in the home demo gardens but our restaurant has a lot of yummy "home" grown vegetable. Last week we pulled a large amount of both cucumbers and tomatoes to be used in salads or anything else the kitchen can come up with! In regards to our rose gardens this means continuing to pull pedals on the roses so they look neat but no longer deadheading. This, again, gets the rose ready for the winter by telling it to stop re-flowering. The roses will not be tipped and buried until the first hard frost, most likely around mid October. The majority of the student workers and interns have departed for their school year so for the most part the staff on the grounds are gardners or MAST students, international students who come to study and work in Horticulture. Ted and Clarence are still working hard in the gardens, and I, your blogger, will be departing soon myself, for college. 

Fall is coming! This doesn't mean a lot for home demo and our gardens but for the Arboretum it means Apples! Now the Apple House is open. There are 50 varieties of apples at the Arboretum Apple House including, of course, the Honeycrisp. 

Baby Snapping Turtles! 

Another new occurence in the home demo gardens is several baby snapping turtles have hatched. Last fall we had a mama turtle lay eggs in several different places within the home demo/wilson rose garden area. These eggs appear to be hatching. This past week we found 25 baby snapping turtles potentially from the same nest. We carried them from where they were in home demo down to the Iris pond which is the closest body of water that is not drained in the winter. If this is not done, many of these babies will die when the closer ponds, woodland azeala and Japanese garden, are drained for the winter. If they do happen to wander towards the right pond it is quite a journey across many roads with some car and foot traffic. To give them the best chance that we can we bring them down and let them go near the water. Of course first we had to show them off to as many people as we could, visiting children and adults alike. They are delightfully grumpy looking little turtles aren't they?

Fall Fruiting/Fall Flowers:

Although we have entered fall, our home demo vegetable garden is still producing fruit. Although most vegetables and fruits are summer plants you can get fruit all the way into the fall, even to the frost. Our fall flowers are still blooming and look beautiful at home demo. 




Flower Arranging:

At the Arboretum we do not only use our plant outdoors, often we use them indoors as decoration as well. In home demo we have a cutting garden which is meant for creating flower arrangments. Below in the plant lists you may see some plants that are optimal for creating flower arrangments. In this short video Jewel Engstrom teaches how to put together a flower arrangment based on the flowers in the home demo and other cutting gardens at the Arboretum

Rock Garden:

If you’ve been walking around the Arboretum in the past month you may have seen a change in process around the home demonstration gardens. Across from the Japanese garden sits the home demo rock garden full of beautiful succulents. Recently the MN rock garden society came by and helped us plant our stone trough planters we installed.  These beautiful planters are full of mini plants surrounded by rocks, set up similar to a fairy garden. In the past few weeks they have become some of my favorite plants to brush my hands across as I pass by. Do you have fairy gardens in your backyard?

Home Greenhouse:

In the Home demonstration gardens we also have a small greenhouse. This is an example of some of the cacti or succulents that might do well in a home greenhouse or even in a warm area of your house with high sun.  Some of the plants are useful and fun like agave and aloe plants. 

Sustainably and YOUR home garden:

Gardening plays an important role in sustainablity and environmental efforts. Reducing environmentally wasteful turf space in your yard while producing oxygen and even vegetables is a great reason to start a garden. One of the cheapest and most enjoyable ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to take up gardening. Reducing the size of your grass yard reduces carbon emissions by decreasing the need to mow and can also save water in a dry climate. A home garden can be sustainable by using many farming techniques such as crop rotation, cover crops, and natural pest predators. These three techniques are used often by sustainable farmers to increase yield and reduce the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and the need for carbon releasing tools. Crop rotation enriches soil as different crops require more or less of the different nutrients. Allowing the soil to "rest" season after season with a different crop allows the soil to rejuvinate its nutrient supply. Cover crops can reduce soil eroision, supress weeds, and enhaces soil quality. The idea of cover crops is to plant something in your garden even between seasons. Finally natural pest predators are insects, birds, and spiders that are beneficial to the plant while harmful to the pest. This reduces the need for pesticides and is sustainable because of reproduction. Sustainable gardening is not hard. In home demo we use all of these techniques to increase our vegetable crop yield and present an example of good gardening for your own home garden. Now get gardening!


There are several different kinds of fertilizer we use for the home demo vegetables and the three rose gardens. Most of the vegetable garden gets mixed fertilizer which has several amino acids nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus for example which create a optimal environment for vegetable as it addresses the roots, the shoots (above ground), and the plant as a whole. For our azaleas and rhododendron we use a acid fertilizer, these plants thrive in an acidic environment. For our roses we use both fish emulsion and a nitrogen fertilizer. The Wilson rose garden, the high maintenance roses get the fish emulsion (nitrogen rich) which is a water solution and can be more effective. The Nelson Shrub Rose Garden gets a general nitrogen fertilizer, a pebble-like fertilizer that is sprinkled around the roots.

The good and bad of fertilizers:

example of an algae bloom

example of an algae bloom

Like humans plants need food, their foot comes in the form of amino acids rather than our FDA approved pyramid diet. If your soil is not rich in these naturally it can be highly beneficial to use a fertilizer, different crops like different amino acids and therefore there are a million different products on the market along with homemade fertilizers. Unfortunately fertilizers also can create problems, often fertilizer will run off, particularly fertilizers that are mixed with water previous to use.  When fertilizer ends up in bodies of water they create large algae blooms that overtake lakes, rivers, etc. When these blooms die the decomposition process removes the oxygen from the water creating a "dead zone" where fish either die or move on.

What should you do? Use fertilizers sparingly, if your crops are doing well, don't use them at all. Use rich soil when you are planting to avoid the use of fertilizers. Try not to fertilize near bodies of water. Do your research about what fertilizer is right for your plants and whether or not homemade fertilizers are right for you. 

Square Foot Gardening:

Square foot gardens are what most of our vegetables in the home demonstration gardens are planted in. Square foot gardening is one of the easiest forms of vegetable gardening. It is easy to plan and set up and allows us at home demo to show you many different examples for your own garden. Square foot gardening also takes up less space allowing you to keep your lawn but still enjoy a garden. Our square foot gardens are set up in 4x4 plots both in our main vegetable garden and in our garden for small spaces. The squares are separated by white string and the 4x4 plots are separated by stone walk ways. Square foot gardening isn't right for every space but if you want a small organized garden they might be right for you. 

What's in our garden?

This is a partial list of plants in the home demo vegetables gardens. As the summer progresses some of our vegetables ripen and we harvest them. This plant list is the orginal vegetables, herbs, and plants we planted in May and June since then a lot has changed.

Cutting Garden – Ideal for plants you wish to cut and put into bouquets, full sun

Hybrid Dianthus, Fortress Yellow Statice, Caucasian Pincushion Flower, Strawflower, Globe Amaranth, Giant Imperial Blend, Mealy Cup Sage, Dahlias, Hybrid Penstemon, Calla Lily, Hybrid Lobelia, Plumed Cockcomb, Statice, Gladiolus, Zinnia, Snapdragon, Black eyed Susan

Herb Kitchen Garden – Ideal for herbs you wish to cook with, full sun

German Garlic, Red Vein Dock, Dwarf Lady’s Mantle, Anise Hyssop, Culinary Sage, Creeping Germander, Common Sorrel, Curly Tansy, Greek Oregano, Lemon Bee Balm, Lemon Thyme, Lamb’s Ear, Golden Lemon Thyme, Oregano, Sweet leaf, French Tarragon, Chives, Garlic Chives, Orris Root, Koran Mint, Southernwood

Garden for small spaces – An ideal garden for someone with a small amount of space who wants to grow vegetables, set up in 4x4 plots, full sun

Lettuce, green cabbage, parsley, Chinese cabbage, cilantro, purslane, celery, red onion, tomato, carrots, orache (saltbush), snap peas, broccoli, endive, cucumbers, red cabbage, radish, romaine lettuce

Main Vegetable Garden – A large demonstration garden with space for many plants, set up in 4x4 plots, full sun

Rosemary, Cilantro, Basil, Parsley, Correnta Spinach, Cucumber, Red and Yellow Onion, Broccoli, Bell peppers, Golden Beets, Rhubarb, Sweet corn, Honey & Pearl Corn, Zucchini Squash, Watermelon “sunshine”, Green Onion, Zucchini, Asparagus, Kohlrabi, “All blue” potatoes, “Red Cloud” potatoes, Spinach, Brussels Sprouts, Straight Yellow Swisschard.

Here's some additional gardening tips from Ted:

  • Watch out for Powdery Mildew: this is a fungi which create powdery white spots. Host plants are often vegetables, landscape plants, fruit trees, and grapes. To prevent, plant these in full sun with good air flow. There are some chemical control options including: chlorophaniln il, potassium bicarbonate, and sulfur. 
  • Watering: do not use a fixed watering schedule. Use a rain gauge to see how much rain the plants get. Leave time in between watering to allow for draining. Water early in the morning to avoid evaporation. 

 Take a larger look at Ted's garden plot designs.

Peruse these yummy recipes perfect for vegetables from your home garden from Flavors of the Arboretum Cookbook.

Nature Notes Blog 

See Ted's garden plans for the home demonstration vegetable garden above.


For information on where to find plants, gardens, collections and memorials on the Arboretum grounds, plus floor plans of the main Arboretum buildings, click here.