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Q&A: Spring training for gardeners

Planning is already under way at the Dakota County Master Gardeners' plot, where white plastic tags on stakes mark what will grow where.

Spring is an exciting time for baseball fans, with favorite players rounding into shape in sunnier climates. But this is also a big time of year for gardeners. With the weather warming and growing season fast approaching we took a minute to talk with Dakota County master gardener coordinator Barb Stendahl about the approaching season.

Where should people be in their preparation for gardening this spring?

Right now is probably a good time to be starting seeds indoors. You can start seeds for some of the annual flowers, for tomatoes, for peppers. A lot of those types of vegetables. It's just to give them a head start. Most of them need probably eight weeks head start. Our last frost free day here is usually May 15, but that's plus or minus two weeks, so we never know how the season is going to go. To be on the safe side most of those are not planted out until June 1. If we have a really warm spell this spring, maybe May 15 is going to be fine for planting. You just have to kind of play it by ear. I know the forecast is saying there's still a chance of snow....

We're at a point where people should probably be thinking about what they're going to do, have some idea and be getting it all ready. Right now they should be making a plan for their garden.

Are there things in this area that work particularly well, or does that vary a lot on what kind of yard they have, and what kind of shade?

Is it vegetables or is it some of the ornamental plants? The perennials? I think most yards try to have some of each and especially right now with the economy being the way it is many people are getting into vegetable gardening. It supplements the family income, but it also gives you immediate access to healthy fresh foods. And plus, you get that fresh air and exercise in growing them. You're teaching your children and your family about how vegetables grow. It's really a great program.

Is that something just about anyone can jump into and do?

Yes. We even offer free classes in vegetable gardening. Those are Saturday morning out at the Master Gardener Education and Research Display Garden at UMore Park on 160th Street.

Do people need to register for those?

They can just show up. They're starting in mid May and we'll have information out about those. They're every other Saturday morning from 9 to 10 a.m.

What should people know about getting started in vegetable gardening?

You need to know what varieties to grow here and do you need to buy seeds or is it a plant that you put directly into the ground.

What should people be looking for?

I always encourage people to grow what they want to eat. There's no sense in growing beets if you and your family don't like them. I think a lot of people kind of look at the prices in the supermarket and they decide, Yukon gold potatoes are really expensive, so maybe I'll try growing those. It's much cheaper to grow them than to purchase them in the stores.

Is gardening kind of like decorating? Do you see trends that come and go?


What's the trend for this spring?

Herbs. Growing culinary herbs. They are very, very popular. We've been doing a number of classes on those and I think everybody wants to -- they're easy to grow and they're something that adds flavor to your food without adding calories. They're just a nice addition. A lot of people tend to plant them in a container so you can move that container around. Keep it by your back door and you can kind of brush up against some of those herbs and you can smell the basil or the rosemary or the oregano. It's a sensory garden.

Is this an exciting time of year to be a gardener?

Oh, yes. Hope springs eternal in the heart of a gardener.

It all looks good in your head, right?

You're hoping for the perfect summer with the perfect growing conditions. Just the right amount of sunlight and the right amount of rain and no diseases and no pests. That's what we all hope for.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

(651) 460-6606