Arboretum Offers Resources for Vegetable Gardeners
Chanhassen, Minn. (March 31, 2009) - If you’re looking for ways to save money in this tough economy, search no farther than the backyard! From the White House to the corner bungalow, everyone these days is grabbing a hoe and planting a home vegetable garden to help stretch family food dollars.
If you lack a “green thumb,” the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen can be a great resource for gardening ideas and assistance. As part of the University of Minnesota, the Arboretum serves as a community and national resource for horticultural and environmental information, research and public education.
Not only does the Arboretum maintain Home-Demonstration Model Gardens teeming with ideas you can replicate on your own, but it also offers gardening and horticulture classes for all ages. Another valuable resource is the Arboretum’s Yard & Garden Help Desk, located in the Oswald Visitor Center and manned by Master Gardeners on Saturdays & Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There’s also a Yard & Garden information line (952-443-1426) gardeners can call with their questions.
The Arboretum also houses the Andersen Horticultural Library in the Snyder Building, a non-lending library with an extensive collection of horticultural books and periodicals. The library is open to the public every day of the week and its staff are eager to help.
According to the National Gardening Association, about 43 million U.S. households plan to grow vegetables or fruit this summer, a 19 percent increase over 2008. For a modest initial investment, a home vegetable garden can reap significant savings at the family dinner table.
March and April are great months for planning out your vegetable and flower gardens, according to Peter C. Moe, horticulturalist and operations director at the Arboretum. Seed catalogs, seed packets, gardening books and plant tags all provide information on planting dates, seed or plant spacing and special cultural information. Vegetables are divided into cool season crops and warm season crops. Cool season crops, including lettuce, radish, spinach and peas, may be grown from seed planted outdoors in well-prepared soil from mid-April to early May.
You can also start some vegetable seeds indoors. Seeds of warm-season plants, such as peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and tomatoes, usually require an eight- to 10-week indoor headstart – with plenty of bright light – before being transplanted outdoors, says Moe. Once the danger of frost is gone and the soil is warm, these plants can be transplanted in the ground – usually the last week in May or the first week in June.
Of course, a convenient but somewhat more costly alternative is to purchase these plants as seedlings and simply transplant them into your garden when the weather warms.
For optimum growth, it’s wise to prepare your garden soils well. Remove perennial weeds and incorporate 4 to 6 inches of compost, peat moss or well-rotted manure. Organic matter improves both clay and sandy soils and helps hold moisture, provide plant nutrients and makes the soil easier to dig and plant, advises Moe.
Mulch should be generously applied around your vegetable plants to reduce weeds and retain moisture. “Vegetables are mostly water and will improve in size, flavor and quantity with uniform, regular watering,” says Moe.
For more pointers, the Arboretum offers classes and events geared toward gardeners. To register, call 952-443-1422 or visit the website (www.arboretum.umn.edu).
Not to be left out, children can learn the joys of growing their own food and flowers through Arboretum summer camps and preschool programs. Call 952-443-1422 or check the website for details.
The expansive Arboretum Gift Store in the Oswald Visitor Center has an impressive inventory of gardening and horticulture books for gardeners of all skill levels. It is open 363 days a year.
Finally, an invaluable resource for gardeners is U of M Extension’s gardening information website: http://www.extension.umn.edu/gardeninfo/ which is loaded with the latest, useful horticultural information.
Home vegetable gardening is easy and economical – if you take advantage of community resources such as the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, local garden centers, Master Gardeners and more! Now, Ready! Set! Grow!
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, the largest public garden in the Upper Midwest and a premier northern arboretum, is part of the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. It is a community and national resource for horticultural and environmental information, research, and public education, located 9 miles west of I-494 on Highway 5 in Chanhassen. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Arboretum is disability accessible; the building s& terraces are smoke free.