Tuesday, August 9, 2011

a new project

Tiny cherry tomatoes peeking out
from behind cheery Rudbeckia.
Hello readers. A little note to let you know what the U of M edible landscape is up to this year, and where I've been lately. The edible landscape garden at the University of Minnesota is back in it's original spot, just in front of the plant growth facilities on the St. Paul campus. Quite a few edibles have been planted in other parts of the demo gardens, so if you visit, be sure to take a walk through all the gardens.

I've been a bit quiet on the blog because another project has been taking up much of my writing time. I'm in the midst of writing a book about landscaping with edibles, which is due to hit the shelves by early 2013. It has been a very fun, challenging and enlightening endeavor. Last week, a crew of us (photographers, editor, art director and me) descended upon a few homes and gardens in the Twin Cities area to capture the work of some creative and dedicated gardeners. The shots are beautiful, and I'm excited to start putting the whole thing together. 2013 seems like a long way off, but there's a lot of work to be done on the book before then, so it'll likely go very quickly.

I'll do my best to keep you updated on the project and keep up a little better with my writing here. If there are any topics you'd like to discuss, or anything that's been going on in your edible landscape this year that you'd like to discuss, leave a comment below. It would be great to hear from you and find out what you've been doing in your gardens this season.

Happy landscaping!

an interesting season

Bolting Swiss chard.
Photo borrowed from
As many of you know, it's been a funny year for gardeners in Minnesota. Our long, cool spring really slowed things down, and the recent burst of rain and heat has caused things to flourish in an almost uncontrollable manner. It's been wild to watch how quickly plants have grown over the last several weeks. Some elements designed into the edible landscape have gone a little overboard, and not quite how I expected. We've had quite a few of the glorious chard plants bolt, which I have never seen before. A flower stalk on a chard plant is a rather impressive sight. Generally chard won't bolt in our northern region because of it's biennial nature. But with fluctuating temperatures and some dry spells, this robust plant can surprise us and send up that giant, fleshy flower stalk. The leaves are still edible after bolting, but may take on a different flavor. To keep them looking better, I plan to cut those stalks out, clean up any old, cracked or overgrown leaves, and see if I can keep them going. I'll keep harvesting from my un-bolted plants, which seems to help prevent bolting in the first place. (Just cut a few of the outer leaves without damaging the crown, and the plant will keep pushing out new leaves from the center). And maybe I'll even scatter a few seeds to get some lovely, tender new leaves before the end of the season.

If you're into seed saving and your chard has bolted you can give that a try too! This little factsheet from the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service has a list of seed-saving resources that might be helpful.