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 create your own summer garden in small or large spaces. 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 your gardening skills and your garden will grow along with ours!

Blast-Off 2018!!!

After a harsh winter, planting and growing took an exceptionally long time this summer season. But at long last Gardener Ted Pew and his crew have got the Home Demonstration Gardens in tip-top shape! The collection features six unique and compact fruint-baring-plant gardens; five larger scale gardens designed to exemplify home-living gardening techniques; and a nearly limitless array of trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, edible plants and even succulents! Home-Demo has it all and this site is all about sharing the finer details of the collection so you can get planting, and blooming, and eating at your own home!

Gardnenin' and Grillin'

Late summer is the perfect season for grilling out, and this week's featured garden is a designed to get you growing and grilling at your own home! The Grilling Garden is a compact masterpiece filled with an abundance of garden edibles, all of which can be grillied, to supplement or create a scrumptious home-grown meal. Featuring plants like Squash and Eggplant at the ground level, and towering Tomatoe and Beans on trellises maximizes the gardens potential, even within the confines of a small space. Despite its efficient nature, Ted and his crew would never be caught throwing aesthetics to the wind either. The garden has modern yet creative look to it and even contains herbs growing out of a small standing grill to help exemplify the garden's purpose. Among the garden's other edible highlights are Black Bell Peppers, Sweet Corn and Onion varieties!

Greenhouse Growing

In the Home demonstration gardens there is a warm greenhouse that contains delicately grown Succulents! Succulents are plants that have some portion of their anatomy that is fleshy and thickened for storing water over long periods of time. This adaptation is usually the result of the arid, hot and dry climates in which succulents often thrive. Due to their extreme durability succulents can be the perfect house plant requiring little up-keep and fitting nicely in a window sill or sunny corner. Though they are used to sun, many succulents are just fine with partial sun and usually require watering less than once week. Arboretum Gardener Clarence White says, "If you can, put em' near a south-facing window; but if you have to a west-facing window is the next best". For succulent growing ideas and fun be sure to catch this corner of the Home Demonstration Garden!

Plants Pictured: Crassula ovata/Jade Plant, Agave americana/Aloe Plant, Kalanchoe daigremontiana/Mother of Thousands.

A Beautiful Center Piece


A more technical term for a kitchen garden the "Modern Potager" is this week's feature garden in the Home Demonstration collection. As the description suggest this garden is full of edible fruit-bearing plants and the harvest is always plentiful. The garden is the largest bed in the collection and is optimized to produce as much food per square foot as possible. Ted Pew and his crew loaded the beds with Peppers, Onions, Corn, Pumpkins, Squash, Herbs of all kinds, Tomatoes, Eggplants, and many more unique vegetables. Despite the goal of culinary output, the bed does not throw aesthetics and appearances to the wind. The garden features some beautiful flowering herbs, blossoming Betony, and towering Mexican Sunflowers at its center. Furthermore the bed is surrounded by complementary Daylilies, Hydrangea, Iris and annuals for season-round color coverage.

If you are looking for a great example of how to get started in your kitchen using home-made ingredients, then look no further than the "Modern Potager" bed for some great ideas on how to garden with an appetite. Check the bottom of the page for a link listing delicious recipes that can be made with select ingredients from the garden's offerings.

Plants Pictured: Allium/Standard Garden Onion, Capsicum/Garden Pepper

A Garden that Fights Back

Carnivorous plants are often thought of as an exotic and tropical branch of the plant kingdom, existing only in bizarre corners of the world and under the most unusual of circumstances. However, carnivorous plants are actually capable of living in your own garden; and the Arboretum has a demostration bed perfect for showing you how to get after it!

Nested under the upper Iris beds, and maintained by Gardener and expert in greenhouse plants Ricky Garza, the Mini-Bog Garden is a moist and warm patch of carnivorous plants. The garden hosts a range of plants including Sundews, Pitcher Plants, Venus Fly Traps and Orchids. In fact, many species of the insect eating monsters are suited to grow outside in Minnesota. They aren't cold-hardy but under the right conditions of a sunny window and proper treament they can even weather the winter in your own home! For more informormation on how to care for and grow your own carnivorous plants check out this link.

Typically insects eat plants, not the other way around, thus the life of a carnivorous plant is unique and comes with many challenges. Not only do they struggle with a radically different method of attracting a meal through scent, but their reproductive efforts are daunting as well. After all the plant must delineate between the bugs that come to pollinate its flowers and the bugs that make tasty snacks!

The Arboretum strives to display all manner of plant life down to the bizarre, obscure, and unique varieties. If you're fascinated by these interesting predators, be sure to check out the Mini-Bog Garden before the summer is over!

Pictured plants: Purple Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia purpurea


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 used to be planted in. This summer Ted Pew is looking towards more traditional gardening techqniues. Square foot gardening may still work for your home, particularly if you don't have a lot of space to garden! 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. 

Here's some additional gardening tips from Ted:

  • Watch out for Powdery Mildew: this is a fungi which creates 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.