There is much hunger in the world, and a thought began to grow that we at RCS could make a difference at our corporate office here in Lake Elmo, MN. This passionate gardener knew our employees would be willing to help the community's neediest residents if only they had the means. In this case, that meant a garden. CLICK HERE FOR FULL STORY.


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New 2014 Daily Harvest Record Set by Woodbury Peaceful Grove Summer Stretch!

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104 Pounds of produce was harvested and brought to Valley Outreach by the Woodbury Peaceful Grove Summer Stretch program students.
The cucumbers and zucchini were definitely ready to be harvested.
  The students and their advisor also spent time weeding the lettuce section of the garden and weighed the produce. 
They were able to bring it to Valley Outreach where it will feed many through their local food shelf.

The weather was great – as was the pleasant volunteers that made it possible. 

 - Joy Grognet, Retail Construction Services, Inc.


What happens to weeds when they meet an energetic group from Christ Episcopal Church?

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What happens to weeds when they meet an energetic group from Christ Episcopal Church? They get pulled!  Now our rows of peppers, eggplant and broccoli don’t have to compete with those weeds, and they have room to grow. 
The raspberries are ripe!  We got to pick them (and maybe taste a few), as well as lots of cucumbers, zucchini, beans (both green and purple), turnips and cabbage.  All together, we picked 40 pounds of produce! 
We learned what happens to green broccoli if isn’t picked on time – it turns into yellow flowers and is no longer good to eat.
So, we cut off the flowers and could see some new green broccoli shoots coming on the plants.  We’ll be sure to pick that broccoli before it blooms.
While we were picking the green beans, we found a small green frog on the leaves, and he didn't hop away when we got close to him. We also found some very twisted green beans!

Thank you to our volunteers!

- Liz Nordling, Washington County Master Gardener Intern


Polar Vortex in July?

Junior Master Gardener Ryan and I bundled up on this 57 degree windy July (yes, July!) morning and tackled some serious harvesting!  We determined that some of the turnips were large enough to pick.  

We chose to pull those that were crowding others to give them some space to grow. We both decided that the turnips were our favorite veggie to harvest!  Nothing like tugging free a beautiful globe-shaped purple and white edible root!

Cabbage, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce and purple beans were ripe for harvesting, too!  We only picked one veggie that had been dinner for a critter (see photo)!  Check out the curly-cue purple beans Ryan found as well! 
We did some observation of the plants that produced the odd-shaped beans and found them to be a bit smaller with mottled leaves.  I suspect a bean leaf virus possibly spread by aphids but I need to do some further investigating. 

Hmmm…when I’m not sure what’s wrong with my plants, I often consult the
U of MN Extension Garden diagnostic site.

Contributed by Master Gardener Kathy Luoma


"Time For Me ELC" Kids, Armed with Umbrella's, Tackle Bees and Butterflies!!

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There was a parade of umbrellas on Laverne Street as the kids from Time For Me ELC braved the wet morning to learn about Honey Bees and Butterflies from Bee Keeper and Master Gardener Kathi McMahon!

With the help of her honey bee and butterfly puppets, Kathi introduced the kids to two pollinators.  She then read a wonderful book called “The Beeman” by Laurie Krebs and Valeria Cis.  Told from the viewpoint of a child whose Grandpa is a beekeeper, this rhyming text offers an accessible and engaging introduction to the behavior of bees. You will learn where they live, how honey is made, what a beekeeper does, and more!
Miss Kathi, WC Master Gardener and Bee Keeper! 
We were all treated to a surprise!  Kathi brought in a clear plastic container with fresh honey combs from her hives along with LIVE bees!   Everyone got to pass around  the container and watch the bees very close up and still be very safe. 

Kathi taught them something to say over and over again if they are by bee:  “If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother  you”!

We also learned that if you are stung by a honey bee, the honey bee will die after stinging you.  So they really DON’T want to sting you!

Kathi brought an amazing assortment of tools that bee keepers use to allow the kids to touch, feel and pass around.  First we got to see a bee keepers suit.  The friendly beekeeper might have the best interest of his or her bees in mind, but the bees don’t seem to always see it that way. Protective clothing makes beekeeping a lot more enjoyable when the bees take exception to having the roof popped off and their home rummaged through by a human.  Also the brush she uses to gently wipe the bees off of the the hive.

Next was the smoker!  The fact that smoke calms bees has been known since ancient times; however, the scientific explanation was unknown until the 20th century and is still not fully understood. Smoke masks alarm pheromones which include various chemicals, that are released by guard bees or bees that are injured during a beekeeper's inspection. The smoke creates an opportunity for the beekeeper to open the beehive and work while the colony's defensive response is interrupted.

We then got to look at and try on the bee keepers gloves!

Gloves keep the bee keepers safe from being stung.  Kathi told us that when bee keepers get very good at what they do, many of them no longer were the gloves.

Then we got to feel and touch a frame that the bees had deposited some honey on.  We got to see how bees are very, very good at making shapes.  Each honey comb is a "perfect" hexagon, meaning all six sides are of equal length.  Click on the following link to read more!

Another interesting fact that we learned:  Did you know that Honey Bees dance?  They do!  It is called the Waggle dance, and it is a way for bees to give direction to flower fields and as well as a new home!  It’s a natural GPS system.  See this link for more information:
Kathi brought all kind of honey for the kids to look at.  They were all different colors because they came from different flower!

Next everyone got to see the bee hive that Kathi brought with her and how it is set up.  Here is a link to more information.

Did you know that in the winter time, a bee hive stays about 92 Degrees?!   Also, bee’s like a very clean hive, so in the winter, they don’t go potty in the hive.  They hold it until a nice day.  Then the whole swarm goes out, goes potty, and comes back in.  Amazing!

We also got to see the screened box that honey bees are transferred in if hey com from California.
After the lesson, the skies were clear!  Kathi had brought some Monarch Butterflies that had just hatched and were ready to be set free.  We took them outside, and the kids got the chance to let the butterflies fly away and enjoy their new lives.

Thanks again Kathi for giving everyone the most wonderful lessons on honey bees and butterflies!
 - Joni Fletty, Retail Construction Services, Inc.


Tomatoes Meet Their Match!!

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What happens when 32 tomato plants, 3 hammers, a ball of twine, 128 wooden stakes, a pair of scissors and 8 Summer Stretch youth volunteers from Woodbury Peaceful Grove United Methodist Church come together in the Giving Garden?  

Those tomatoes get CAGED!

On this beautiful July morning our volunteers pounded stakes, wound twine and propped up
the wonderful sun loving tomato plants.  Many of the youth noticed the tomato fragrance coming from the vines as they lifted up the plants and carefully draped them over the twine supports.  It will still be several weeks before we start harvesting but it will be worth the wait!

Why cage tomatoes?  Are they trying to run away?  No, not run away but as the plant produces more and longer branches and as the fruit grows and gets heavier– the plants need some help supporting all that weight, get sunshine throughout the plant and help keep the fruit off the ground.

Our garden talk today was about determinate and indeterminate varieties of tomatoes.  Determinate varieties grow to a certain size and then stop growing branches and just put their energy into making fruit.  The indeterminate types keep growing foliage and fruit all summer – those are the types that need help with caging.  

Thanks for the great team work today, Summer Stretch volunteers!
- Contributed by Deb Lynch, Washington County Master Gardener


Rutherford Junior Master Gardeners Pick 50+ Pounds of Cucumbers, Lettuce and Zucchini!

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“Look how fat this cucumber is!”  “This zucchini is huge!”  “The cucumbers have pokey things but the zucchini are smooth.”  

“I like the way the lettuce edges and colors are all so different.”  

Let’s taste test a cucumber to see how good it is right off the vine!”

These are just some of the discoveries a fun group of Junior Master Gardeners and their family members made on Monday in the garden.  We picked lots of cucumbers, zucchini and lettuce and had fun visiting the shipping area in the RCS building to weigh and record our harvest.  We also found a great way to re-use shredded paper by placing it around our tomato plants to hold moisture and choke out weeds.  One of the girls thought it was a fun way to “litter!”

Finally, we spent time finding the male and female flowers of the squash plants.  The male flowers have a long stem and the female have a short stem with the bulging fruit at the base.  Then we practiced what the bees and other pollinators do for our gardens and helped spread pollen from male to female flowers with q-tips!  

We liked the bright yellow color of the pollen.  Just like the sunshine in the sky!

Adding up the pounds of veggies picked!
- Contributed by Washington County Master Gardener Kathy Luoma