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


No Record Breaking Crop, but Record Breaking Workers!

Back Row L to R:  Eric Situmbeko, David Sparks and Dave Krueger
Front Row L to R:   Annie Lanzen,  Katie Tjader and Kayla Krueger
(Click on any photo to enlarge)
This is the third summer that a crew from Andersen Corporation has come to the Giving Garden to volunteer. 

Last year, on August 22nd, they broke a four year record by harvesting 363 lbs of produce on one afternoon!  (Click here to read the story from 2012).  While this was not a record breaking day in pounds of produce harvested, this group is always record breaking with their work ethic and wonderful spirit.

What besides dinosaurs is Extinct?

Before digging into the day’s project list, we took time to talk a little about what, other than dinosaurs, is extinct?  Dave was on target with his guess of ‘plants’.

Did you know that Andean farmers once grew some 4,000 potato varieties, each with its own name, flavor, and use, ranging in size from tiny to gigantic and covering the color spectrum from indigo-purple to red, orange, yellow and white. It use to be that people ate what they grew locally and what was in season. With the increased appetite for produce that was out of season (eating strawberries in October as an example), and the increased demand to ship produce all over the world, farmers had to start breeding varieties that held up in boxcars, trucks, or ship’s cargo. Now, even in the regions of Peru least affected by the modern market, only a few dozen potato varieties are widely grown.

We also talked about the fact that the RCS Giving Garden is a supporter of Seed Savers Exchange.  All of our seed crops were planted from heirloom seeds from this organization.


Seed Savers Exchange, is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds. Since 1975, their members have been passing on garden heritage by collecting and distributing thousands of samples of rare garden seeds to other gardeners.   Their mission is to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.  A few examples of the type of seeds we planted from Seed Savers are; purple beans, dragon carrots, and rainbow swiss chard!


We also provided a handout for “Something to try at Home”.  Did you know you can save money on your grocery bill by reorganizing your fridge?
Most fruits and vegetables generate ethylene gas while they ripen. Why should you care? This gas is a very active plant hormone, and if you don't get organized, it can get busy with your vegetables and jack up your monthly grocery bill. Leafy vegetables are very sensitive to ethylene, even in very low quantities. Lettuce, for example, begins to decay when exposed to ethylene gas at low temperatures, i.e. even in your refrigerator! Products sensitive to ethylene gas, such as broccoli and bananas, will spoil quickly if stored in the same areas as avocados, melons, and apples, which are ethylene producers. So if you want to be smart; get segregating! Keep your veggies apart and make your food last longer.


The last handout was relative to the first project of the day, tomato suckers.  Tomato suckers, or side shoots, are the growth that appears in the “V” between the stem and a branch. (See photo at right.) If left to grow, they will become another main stem with branches, flowers, fruit and more suckers of their own.

Why is Pruning Recommended?

Pruning tomato suckers is sometimes recommended because the resulting new stem is competing for nutrients with the original plant. You may be getting more fruits if you leave the suckers to grow, but the fruits will be smaller and the plant will be more cumbersome. Pruning tomato suckers is really just thinning the plants.


We had several projects for the Andersen crew today, and they finished all of them and were still looking for more!

What did they accomplish?
-         Pinching off all of the tomato suckers
-         Cutting the diseased leaves off of the plants that have Powderly Mildew
-         Used soap and water to take care of our nuisance visitors, the Japanese Beetles and squash bugs
-         Finished setting up the squash structures for the plants to climb
-         Harvested; Purple Beans, Cabbage, Cucumber, Kale, Raspberries, Rainbow Swiss Chard, Tomatoes and Zucchini!


 Year after year, this group never ceases to amaze us with not only their hard work, but their approach to volunteering.  Always smiling, full of great questions, and bringing with them a sense of community that any corporation would be proud to have representing them.

 “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy.  You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.”  ~Author Unknown
 Thank you Eric, David, Dave, Annie, Katie and Kayala!

- Contributing writer, Joni Fletty, RCS


Jr. Master Gardener Group
Back Row L to R:  Charlie, Jasmine, Amanda
Front Row L to R:  Avery and Evan
Today a small but dedicated "Monday Team" gathered at the RCS Giving Garden.  The cool air and bright sunshine made for perfect gardening conditions.
Charlie, Evan and Amanda searched diligently for rich red raspberries fighting off the sharp thorns of the raspberry bush to produce 1.25 pounds of raspberries! Jasmine and Avery teamed up and picked the beautiful purple green beans.
The other "crop" we picked was today was weeds!  Maintenance, such an important part of any healthy garden was tackled with by this group with gusto!
Everything we picked was donated to Valley Outreach (not the weeds of course).
Michelle who gladly accepted the berries and beans stated "Someone is really going to enjoy these!"  We hope so!
Contributing writer- Master Gardener, Tricia Jorgensen


Donation and Propagation at the RCS Giving Garden

Some of the SPIN kids with bags of produce ready
for Valley Outreach Food Shelf!!!
What a difference two weeks makes!

We got together this week after a week off and noticed changes in the Giving Garden. As always, we started our visit by scouting:

1. Raspberries were ready for harvest and had Japanese beetles to be knocked off.
2. Pak choi and kale were ready for harvest as well. We observed that it took two weeks for a new crop of leaves to grow large enough to be cut. The leaves had been nibbled on by little black flea beetles but would still be tasty when cooked. The leaves, not the beetles!
3. Japanese beetles were also heavy on the bush beans.

Cabbageworm larva camouflaged along midvein
of Brussels sprout leaf

4. Cabbageworm larvae were on the undersides of the Brussels sprouts leaves. We learned to spot where the camouflaged larvae were by identifying their frass (caterpillar poo).

Squash vine borer adult and squash
bug eggs on summer squash leaf

5. Squash bugs, their eggs and nymphs were heavy on the summer and winter squash plants.
6. A squash vine borer adult was on a summer squash plant.
Zucchini ready for harvest!
7. A few zucchini, cucumbers, rutabagas, beets and beans were ready for harvest.

We split up into teams, put on gloves and got to work knocking, squishing, cutting and bagging!

After the harvest was weighed and recorded we got together at the herb pots for a lesson in propagation.

Basil and Rosemary
propagated cuttings
Samples of basil that were cut two weeks ago and put into water had long roots growing all along the stems. We cut any basil stems that were long, trimmed the extra leaves and put the stem cuttings into glasses of water. The trimmed leaves were donated.

Rosemary stems were also cut and the lower leaves were stripped to reveal stiff, woody stems. These cuttings were stuck into moist potting soil.

As a group we decided that in two weeks, when roots have formed on the cuttings, we will pot them up and donate the new plants to our neighbors at Valley Outreach. We know the plants will be appreciated.

During our lesson one of our new SPIN friends said: “I’ve wondered why people like to go to the Giving Garden and now I know why!” We know that once you catch the Giving Garden “bug” you can’t stay away.

University of Minnesota Extension – Master Gardener reference link: What Insect is This?

- Contributing writer, Master Gardener Phyllis


Summer Stretch in the Garden from Christ Episcopal Church in Woodbury!

Back Row L to R: MG Liz, Blake, Dixie (adult in blue t-shirt), Amara, Hattie, Erika,
Charlene, Jacob (red hat), MG Mary.  Front row L to R: Cata, Katie and Leah.
(Click any photo to enlarge)
Garden Volunteers getting their silly on!
Today at the Giving Garden, we had a great group make their first trip this summer to RCS. We learned about using our powers of observation in the Garden as well as how to use Permaculture, (the practice of producing food, energy, etc., using ways that do not deplete the earth’s natural resources) to manage our garden.
Looking at the onions, we learned about plant structure and headed in to weed and snip the developing flowers off so the developing onion bulb would keep all the energy to fatten up. The raspberries were just starting to turn garnet red so we took a look ‘under their skirts’ to find the reddest berries for picking. We even had a taste! We learned that the ripe berries ‘fall off’ easily when they are ready if you hold your hand under them and give a gentle tug or flick with your finger. We were careful to avoid a sneaky invader in the berry patch – Woody Night shade/Bittersweet. It’s a pretty vine that is poisonous and can’t be eaten.
For more information about the NightShade plant in MN, click on this link:  NIGHTSHADE
Purple Beans and Raspberries
Gray Squash Bugs
Next we headed over to the cool purple beans ready for their first harvest. Joni told us they turn green when you cook them! We noticed a few enemies chomping away so we got the buckets with soapy water.

Pest Removal Duo!
Our dynamic duo on bug duty collected over 50 Japanese Beetles from bean rows to kale to raspberries. We found two other enemies trying to take over the summer squash and cucumbers (a.k.a. curcurbits): powdery mildew and a weird silver bug that moved fast when we tried to squish them.
Powdery Mildew is a disease that is spread by splashing raindrops hitting the mildew’s powder. The mildew can grow on a leaf until it covers the leaf, stopping it from getting the sunlight it needs-killing the leaf, spreading to other leaves and eventually killing the plant.

Removing Powdery Mildew Leaves

We started removing the diseased leaves and when we were done the cucumbers looked much better (well done Ladies!). We couldn’t catch those silver bugs so we reported them to the ‘Keeper of the Garden’ Joni to find out more about them.

And another cabbage worm

Cabbage Worm blends in!

Our hard-working group finished putting up the netting for the summer squash to climb and we put up the last supports for the cucumbers. We noticed camouflaged green worms eating away on the nearly ready cabbage. Chalk up another 25 pests removed by a couple of eagle-eyed girls!
Today was not too hot and not too cool. It was JUST RIGHT for getting lots done! We thank the Summer Stretch Group for accomplishing so much AND for delivering our 2.5 lbs of raspberries and 2.5 lbs of purple beans to Valley outreach.

- Contributing writer, Master Gardener Liz Smith


Monday in The Giving Garden

Maddie, Elise, Jasmine, Charlie and Misty
(Click any photo to enlarge)

Our hard-working group of teens, moms, Maddie, Elise, Jasmine, Charlie and Misty along with Master Gardeners, Kathy and Tricia, spent time "oohing and ahhing" over the fast growth of the plants since the last time we were out to work!  
In addition to continuing to win the war on weeds, we harvested a variety of fruits and veggies for the shelves at Valley Outreach.  Raspberries, kale, bok choi, cucumbers, purple beans and a lone purple pepper were harvested and donated.  
Please note the single red tomato we found shining like a beacon in the sea of green leaves!  Too bad a non-human critter beat us to it and left us with a SURPRISE face on our fruit!  

- Contributing writer, Master Gardener Kathy Luoma


A Very Warm Day with Woodbury Peaceful Grove UMC Youth!

Wednesday, July 17th was a hot sunny day in the RCS garden.  A group from Woodbury Peaceful Grove UMC was visiting to learn some things and lend some assistance.  Liz and Paul, Master Gardeners, were there to teach about pollination and the importance of pollinators to our vegetable garden.  We learned about the monarch's migration to Mexico, the honey bees hives, and bumble bees hibernation through winter.

The rows of carrots were thinned out and they are now getting more sun light and water and thus growing bigger.  We also were able to get the carrots, beets, boc choy, turnips, and soy beans weeded.  The girls even found the sprinkler shocking but a welcome relief from the heat.  Nothing was quite ready for harvesting today.  The girls were shown the scale and how produce is weighed and readied for the food shelf.

- Contributing writer - Master Gardener Paul Richtman


No Kids, Many Flowers, and One Master Gardener!

Cucumber Flower
All of Jr. Master Gardening kids had other commitments today - Summer is so busy!  So, their leader, Master Gardener Kathy Luoma came out a bit early to work in the garden for awhile.  These photos are some of what she found today!
We will watch to see if we had enough pollinators in the garden to turn all of these flowers to fruit / veggies!

Where flowers bloom, so does hope.
                                                                - Lady Bird Johnson

Thank you Kathy for your help in the garden today!
L to R:  Moth?, Potato Flowers, Sweet Potato Flowers and a Cucumer Flower
(Click to enlarge)
- Joni Fletty


Front:  Lauren
Back L to R:  Elsa, Bree
(Click any photo to enlarge)
Click on this link for this week's lesson!

After taking a week off for the holiday, we were ready to get to the garden! New friends joined us today.

Gardeners begin visits to the Giving Garden by scouting. We look for pests, diseases, crops ready for harvest and overall appearance. Our eagle eyes spotted:
1. Japanese beetles, green lacewings and ladybugs on the raspberries.
2. Cabbage butterfly larvae on the underside of leaves of Brussels sprouts.
3. Aphids on the underside of some kale leaves.
4. Crops ready for harvest: Pak Choi, Kale, Basil, Parsley, Rosemary and 5 Strawberries.

Harvesting the Pak Choi was tricky. We cut off the outside leaves of the plants while leaving the inner crown so that it can grow more leaves for another time. We did the same with the kale. Our new friends learned how to harvest the herbs, and cut off branches above where we cut last time. We all saw that the herb plants made two branches at the old cuts. Our harvest yielded 8 pounds of produce delivered to our neighbors at Valley Outreach.

At our last visit, The SPIN kids asked to learn about weeds. As we thinned carrot seedlings, we talked about weeds and the saying “A weed is a plant in the wrong place.” We imagined the lawn at the White House. If a dandelion grows there it is a weed.
We then imagined the beehive at the White House vegetable garden. A patch of dandelions there would be good because the flowers provide pollen in the spring.

We also compared milkweed growing in the farm field across the street where it would be a weed and milkweed growing in patches alongside the field. We took a short walk to a wild area on the RCS property to identify milkweed. Milkweed plants are the only larval host plant for monarch butterflies – the state butterfly of Minnesota.

We talked about wild areas of flowering plants called “Pollinator Recovery Zones” which are like vacation spas for insects.

The discussion lead to pesticides, particularly insecticides. Insecticides kill insects. Examples we used were our potatoes or raspberries. If we use an insecticide it will kill the good and the pest insects and it’s important to keep the insecticide away from blossoms.

A warning on insecticide labels says KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN. Children don’t use insecticides. That is the law.

We made our first “Japanese Beetle Bucket” which is a bucket with water and a bit of soap. The soap is used to break the surface tension of the water, which is something we remembered learning in school! The beetle bucket is held underneath a Japanese beetle chewing on a plant. The beetle is knocked into the bucket where it drowns. Japanese beetles eat plants and don’t have natural enemies here.The cabbage butterfly larvae and aphids were squished with our fingers.

As the Giving Garden gets growing we have so many opportunities for learning! We can take what we learn and help our families and neighbors with their gardens, too.
Family Means building in Stillwater.
It is a beautiful example of a Pollinator Recovery Zone that we talked about on Friday.
- Contributing Writer - Master Gardener Phyllis


"Good Guys" in the Garden!

Back Row L to R:  Noelle, Master Gardener Mary
Middle Row L to R:  Master Gardener Liz, Connor, Jackson, Matthew, John, Sam, Dana, and Quinn
Front Row L to R:  Luke, Quinn, Jacques and Ben
(Click any photo to enlarge)

The potatoes are in bloom!

Today at the Giving Garden (Wednesday, July 10, 2013) Liz and I met a great group of young men, along with their terrific chaperones, from the Summer Stretch program at Christ Episcopal Church in Woodbury. Last year this group helped with harvest and loved it. This time, we didn't have anything ready to harvest...except weeds!

Hands showing the lesson on
plant root structure
After getting a tour of the garden and getting a good close look at our planting rows and tags we learned about plant structure to make the most of our weeding efforts.

Before we got started weeding in the rows we noticed a few 'little helpers' fluttering around the area. A perfect introduction for our "Pollinators" lesson!

One of our pollinators, a busy bee

We learned how pollination works and that more than bees are busy in our garden! Bats, birds, butterflies, bees, wasps and flies work hard to make our food and plants produce good things for us.

After watching a small pollinator in action with a magnifying glass, we got busy. We picked 26.5 lbs of weeds today! Thanks gentlemen!!!

- Contributing writer - Master Gardner Mary Green
Weeding, and weeding and more weeding!
Click to enlarge
Adjusting the squash structures