Retail Construction Services, Inc. is dedicated to giving back.

We give back not only to those in need within our community, but also the future generations of this wonderful community. What started out as a great idea has grown exponentially and has become an amazing reality. Here at the RCS Giving Garden, school groups, master gardeners, corporate volunteers, and our own employees work together for the common good of teaching children the art of gardening and the importance of healthy eating. Click Here for Full Story.

Retail Construction Services, Inc.
11343 39th Street N.
Lake Elmo, MN 55042

From HWY 36 - go south on Lake Elmo Ave, turn left onto 39th Street, garden is at corner of 39th and Laverne.
From HWY 5- going west from Stillwater take right onto Laverne (near Fury dealership) garden is on the right at corner of Laverne and 39th street.

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The RCS Giving Garden

The RCS Giving Garden


The SPIN Kids Are Back!

SPIN Group, Sitting L to R:  Ben, Jacob, Bree, Emmy, Brianna and Faith
Standing L to R:  Brent, Lauren, Hannah and Emma

SPIN Group getting their silly on!

Our morning together was cancelled last week due to the terrible storms that blew through the area. When we got together this week the Giving Garden looked great and the RCS building finally had power again!

Our first order of business was to each choose a row in a section of the garden and call out the crop: Corn! Popcorn! Cucumbers! Potatoes! Carrots! Dragon Carrots!? Dragon carrots are purple outside and orange inside. Also, we learned the difference between sweet corn and popcorn. Sweet corn is picked when the kernels are juicy and popcorn is a variety of corn whose ears stay on the plant until the kernels are dry. The kernels are then pushed off of the cobs and popped up!

We started our work day by harvesting strawberries from the very prolific berry patch. We’re sure our neighbors at Valley Outreach will enjoy these sweet jewels. Very few berries were bad, but we picked them so that the plants continue to flower and make more berries. If we don’t harvest the berries and they go to seed the plants will stop making flowers. The bad berries went to the compost.

Along with vegetables and fruits, the Giving Garden grows herbs and
today we harvested a bounty of basil, parsley and rosemary. Oh, the fragrance! We didn’t cut the plants all the way to the soil so that they will branch out and make more herbs for another harvest. The herbs are planted in beautiful containers at the entry to RCS. Also in the containers are snapdragon flowers. Everybody took turns snapping the dragon’s mouth. Silly fun!

During our harvesting time we all talked about recipes using strawberries or herbs. We also remembered last year when some of us ate chocolate zucchini bread made with zucchini from the Giving Garden. Our stomachs were grumbling and we promised that we would eat a big breakfast before coming next time.

The herbs and berries are packed into plastic berry boxes donated by
friends of the Giving Garden. Everywhere we turn there are signs of how many people care about our communities.

The produce is weighed on a scale in the office so we all went in with our load. Everything was recorded on a log sheet. We all really like the photo collage on the office wall and the workers play good music. We will see you guys soon!

Our lesson was about soil and mulch so we headed back to the garden. Soil is minerals and organic matter on the surface of the earth where plants grow. It provides plants with nutrients, water and air. There have to be spaces between the matter for water and air. Our example was a kitchen sponge with a scrubby side. The sponge side has holes, like good soil and the scrubby side is compacted and crusty, like bad soil. We talked about compaction and that we only walk on garden paths to keep pore space open.

An “ah-ha moment” came during the lesson: When talking about soil erosion the term “deposition” came up: Deposition is what happens when water moves soil and rocks and deposits them somewhere. Quite a bit of erosion and deposition happened during the recent rain, we think. The kids remembered these terms from school!

Enough talking – it was time to get dirty! We put on garden gloves and untied bales of mulch that we carried to the paths in the garden. We spread it nice and thick to keep down weeds and stop erosion. We stomped on the mulch for good measure to keep in in place. We also took a moment to watch a doe and fawn run through the field across the street. Had they been watching us?

After cleaning up our supplies and talking about what we would like to learn next time, it was time for good-byes. These hard workers needed to deliver their produce to the folks at Valley Outreach. The kids noted that the strawberries and herbs are for families that don’t have money. With that being said, the Giving Garden accomplishes its goal!

- Contributing Writer - Master Gardener Phyllis


Helping our Nesting Feathered Friends

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Many of our projects have bits and pieces of twine and string left over from our projects.  Master Gardener Phyllis has the kids use longer left over pieces to tie up anything that needs it in the garden.  No waste in this garden!  The pieces that are too small to use, we have set out for our nesting feathered friends.  Master Gardener Mary had a marvelous idea.  Take a suet holder, and put all of our left overs in it, and hang it up for the birds to find!  Above you can see the finished product, a new place to put our scraps to share!  You might even say that part of the garden is -  "for the birds!"
- Joni Fletty

Twin Fawns at the RCS Garden

We have had the fortune of seeing a wide variety of wild life on our property. Turkeys, pheasants, owls, and raccoons, etc. However, this year, we are twice blessed with a pair of twin fawns that have been playing in our back yard! White tails flying as they chase each other back into the woods. Visitors to the garden have spotted them near the garden across the road. Who knows, maybe we have a pair of permanent residents!

Just so they don’t eat the squash this fall! 


Sky High Humidity and an Awesome Group of Gals!

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Whew! The clouds looked like they would keep us cool volunteering in the giving Garden today, but the humidity was sky high!

We had our awesome group of girls back from last week. They were only a crew of 5 but WOW did they get stuff done!   Thank you Woodbury Peaceful Grove UMC Summer Stretch!

This week our lesson was a quick 
                                                      review of plant structure
Weeding the onions
and how to use our skills of observation to know what our garden needs. Holding our arm straight to the earth and spreading our fingers out we compared plant structure to our arm = plant stalk, wrist = base of plant where the stalk meets the soil, fingers = roots. We used this knowledge to learn how to weed well.

Onions weeded and mulched
Then we honed our observation skills like good scientists and detectives to 'read' the garden. It was tough differentiating the onions from the slender look-alike weeds but practice with garden tools (hoe and tine hoe) made short work of them.

While we weeded and mulched the onions, picked strawberries, thinned turnips and put up zucchini and squash supports, we had many teachable moments today - how different amended and un-amended soils feel when weeding, how the process of composting makes heat
The beginning of Powdery Mildew

Wet weather dampening
our cover straw!

(when we separated cover straw from the bale), how cover straw is different from feed hay, why mulch works, 'emergenseeds' in the garden: aka the importance of removing weeds about to seed, and 'infectious invaders' - Powdery mildew creeping into the summer squash and zucchini - and how high humidity and splashing rain make it spread! Our efforts contributed 5lbs of strawberries to Valley Outreach, making our strawberry donation 11.5 to date.

- Contributing Writers, Master Gardeners - Mary Green and Liz Smith

Strawberries ready for the food shelf!


“Thar She Blows!”

Avery peeking through another fallen tree!
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Evan Peeking from one of our fallen trees!
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“Thar she blows!” is an old whalers term, but those are the words that came to mind when I arrived at The Giving Garden today! The Retail Construction Services property sustained great wind damage from the recent storms. Mature Linden and Pine trees were ripped from the ground, and the building was still without power after four days. Miraculously, though signs blew around and cucumber trellises fell over, the garden and all of the young plants were untouched!

Avery, Evan and Sydney putting
together the colorful row markers.
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This was great news for a small group of Rutherford Junior Master Gardener kids and adults who came out to help! We were able to fix the trellises and get to the business at hand...picking red, ripe STRAWBERRIES to bring to Valley Outreach! While picking the berries we learned that there are around 200 seeds on the outside of each berry, that berries won’t ripen after they are picked so
Picking Strawberries
(Click to enlarge)
reach for the red ones, and that strawberries are always picked by hand due to their delicate nature. We also used magnifiers to get a closer look at the berry seeds and flowers and the tiny strawberries emerging from them! The kids discovered that many strawberries look like hearts and that sometimes two berries will grow together. They loved learning of the Legend of Love! If one shares a double strawberry with someone special, they may fall in love! Finally, of course, we had to have a yummy little taste test with
Evan, Avery and Sydney with
Scarecrow Bob!
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Berry stained fingers!
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berries picked from the garden and California berries purchased from the grocery store. Though both were delicious, nothing beats a juicy berry warmed by the sun and freshly picked! Plus, the Giving Garden berries didn’t have to be flown cross-country by an airplane!

More berry stained fingers...
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Placing the row markers
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Thanks to Jessica, Sydney, Amanda, Evan and Avery! Thanks also to Stephanie from Lakeview Hospital for coming to the Giving Garden to take photos and learn about this wonderful place and how it can help people learn and grow! We can’t wait to read your story!

--contributed by Kathy Luoma, Washington County Master Gardener Volunteer
Cucumber t-pees put back after the storm!
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Oh, well...that's nature. She's been very crabby this year!

The surrender of Scarecrow Bob!  (Click to enlarge)
In the words of our Master Gardener Liz, "Oh, well...that's nature. She's been very crabby this year!"  I received that in an email from her and couldn't help but have a laugh-out-loud moment.

Another laugh-out-loud moment came the morning of Friday, June 21st.  We knew we had lost power to our building with the storms that rolled through in the wee hours, but as I rounded the corner into the parking lot, there was Scarecrow Bob, on his knees, arms still outstretched, head bowed in a sort of sign of surrender to the weather!  We lost many trees on our property, no power to the building... but the light spot of humor we were provided that day was Scarecrow Bob's surrender.

While this spring and early summer has been a challenge, these small moments of humor, or the smiles on the faces of the youth that come to learn, make the dark clouds disappear.

Mother Nature --- bring it on! 
The heart of this garden and the food it produces for those in need,
will persevere!
- Joni Fletty


Woodbury Peaceful Grove UMC Summer Stretch Visit the Garden!

A group from Woodbury Peaceful Grove UMC's Summer Stretch joined our Scarecrow Bob in the garden today!  The first lesson was given by Master Gardener Mary was about the root structure of plants and its importance in planting, etc.

From there, Master Gardener Liz worked with the group on several projects.  They did a fantastic job assembling the cucumber t-pee structures for the cucumber plants to climb!  They thinned the Kohlrabi seedlings AND this group picked our first donation harvest for the 2013 season!  .5 lbs of strawberries!

Thanks Woodbury Peaceful Grove UMC's Summer Stretch and to our Master Gardeners Mary and Liz.


"Helping Hands" Youth from Stillwater's Trinity Lutheran Church!

Names will be added soon!
(Click to enlarge photo)
Many youthful “Helping Hands” descended upon The Giving Garden on Thursday, June 13th! This fine group of 3-6th grade kids from Stillwater’s Trinity Lutheran Church and their Helping Hands summer program were busy constructing tomato cages, mulching tomato plants, thinning carrot seedlings, weeding, planting extra corn seeds and making vegetable identification cards. The extra special part of the day was the weather as we worked on a morning with clear blue skies and warm sunshine! Thanks Trinity kids for your service here at The Giving Garden! Come back and see the garden grow up!

- Guest Contributor:  Kathy Luoma, Washington County Master Gardener volunteer

Turn up your volume, and click to begin the slideshow below!


Rutherford's Jr. Master Gardeners First Garden Visit

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Front Row:  Kaylena, Ellie, Avery, and Annabelle
Middle Row:  Josh, Caden, Sarah, Anna, Ryan, Evan and Elliana
Back Row:  Kathy, Isabilla, Elle, Maya, Elizabeth, Anna, Rochel, Syndey Jo and Sydney
 The Rutherford Junior Master Gardeners arrived here for their first visit to the RCS Teaching & Giving Garden.  They took a tour of our office, learned where they will be weighing the produce before donation, and then headed out to the garden to get their hands dirty!
Their leader, Master Gardener Kathy Luoma stepped the group through planting the tomatoes that the group had grown from seed.  We had reserved one row for their tomato plants.

The group also made garden posters to put out in the garden.  We had these laminated and one of the upcoming projects is to get these distributed on stakes around the garden!
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More information about the lessons learned that day will be posted.

Thank you Rutherford JMG kids! 
We are so excited to have you in the garden this summer!
- JFletty