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


Sunset in the Garden!

A group of Junior Master Gardeners, their families and Master Gardeners Liz and Kathy gathered in the garden for one last harvest before the kids returned to school.  We picked 83 pounds of produce and then capped off the evening with Dilly Bars and Fruit Pops at sunset!  What a beautiful time of the day!  

We were excited to find sweet corn ready to pick!  We learned how to check for ripeness by carefully pulling back the corn silks to reveal nice-sized kernels and then checking their juiciness with a little poke.  Those that were ripe we picked using our strong muscles!  We remembered to pick only the sweet corn and not the popcorn.  Not yet!

The tomatoes are ripening like crazy now, and we enjoyed finding so many varieties of color, shape and size!  Those heirloom tomatoes the Junior Master Gardeners planted from seed back in April are now taller and wider than the kids!  We did observe and wonder about the funny lines and cracks on some of the tomatoes we picked.  
Growth cracks are often caused by fluctuations in water and fast-ripening in heat.  Blossom end rot is a condition caused by a calcium deficiency. Catface is a funny name for a disorder that may be caused by cold temperatures in the flowering stage.  The good news?  All of the tomatoes we picked despite the funny lines and cracks are still good to eat! 

 The University of Minnesota Extension website has good photos and information about tomato disorders.  Check it out!

- Contributed by Master Gardener Kathy Luoma


Colorful Carrots, Cabbage Crawlies, Chipper Children...and Sweat!

J. Master Gardening Group
(Click on any photo to enlarge)

An hour is all that was needed on this steamy August morning to harvest 74 pounds of produce!  These worker bee Junior Master Gardeners and friends didn't seem to mind the heat as they worked! We found some critters in the garden today...imported cabbage worms, aphids and flea beetles!  We hand-picked the worms and watched ladybugs feast on the aphids. 

Just my own observation, but I believe the favorite veggie of the day to pick had to be the carrots!  Harvesting a carrot is a bit like pulling a prize out of a grab bag!  We sure hope it's a good one because we
can't put it back!  It was fun to watch the kids dig in the soil around the top of the carrot to see if it might be of good size and then give it a tug!  Orange, purple, most perfectly shaped but a few with an extra "leg" or two just to make it interesting!  

Did you know?  
§  Carrots are a root veggie that grow more uniformly in loose soil free of stones and rocks to prevent splitting.
§  Carrot seeds are some of the tiniest you will ever plant!
 §  The garden volunteers did a great job of thinning the carrot seedlings earlier this summer in order to give this root veggie room to grow!  
 §  Beta-carotene is the reason carrots have their bright color.
 §  Our bodies convert the beta-carotene into vitamin A which is great for eye sight!
  §  Carrots are one of the few veggies whose nutritional value remains high when raw or cooked whole.
--contributed by Master Gardener Kathy Luoma


Johnson-McCann Joins us in the Garden!

L to R:  Kris Landis, Shanna Conard, Stephanie Claugherty, Britt Osterhues, Courtny McCann
Not Pictured:  Leah Terres, Taylor and Charlie
(Click any photo to enlarge)

A lesson on dragon carrots
A group from Johnson-McCann, our insurance agency, joined us in the garden today! 

Always a time for education.  The weather was perfect for working in the garden.  There were a lot of Edamame soy beans ready to be picked today as well as purple beans and purple carrots. 

Harvesting Edamame beans
Little helpers always add to the excitement of pulling veggies from the garden.  Our youngest visitor was surprised by the purple beans and purple carrots. Seeing a purple carrot can be confusing but always opens the door to education.  

We had a great day of picking produce and realizing the importance of supplying our local food shelf with fresh veggies.

- Contributing Writer, Joy Grognet, RCS
Weighing in the harvest!


Pok Choy or Bok Choy and Kids in the Garden!

Master Gardener Tricia was in the garden with 5 wonderful kids and one mom volunteer.  They harvested 23 pounds of veggies!  Grape tomatoes, summer squash, beans, eggplant, zucchini, beets, kale pok chio and maybe a couple other things. 

Pok Choy vs. Bok Choy
Pok Choy, or Bok Choy as it is commonly known to non Guyanese, has been cultivated in China for over 6,000 years. After Spain conquered the Phillipines in the 16th century, large numbers of Chinese immigrated to the islands and brought bok choy with them. Bok choy made its way to Europe in the 18th or 19th century.
Today more than 20 varieties of bok choy exist in Asia. Varieties are now grown in the United States and Canada. The most common varieties found in the United States are bok choy and baby bok choy, a smaller, more tender version. Bok choy is available year-round in supermarkets throughout North America 
Pok Choy is one of those vegetables that you don’t want to over cook, or over do (less is more with seasoning). It is best enjoyed in a simple flavorful dish, where you can truly taste the crunchiness of the leaves and deliciousness of the pok choy. The recipe below, is quick and simple and highlights the flavors of the pok choy.

Ingredients4 baby pok choy (about 1 pound), split horizontally
4 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
DirectionsPlace the pok choy in a steamer basket and place the basket over (not in) simmering water. Steam until the base of the pok choy is just tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 6 minutes.
Whisk together the soy sauce, lime juice, lime zest and sugar in a small bowl. Transfer the pok choy to a platter and drizzle with the soy mixture. Drizzle with the sesame oil and serve.
Thanks Jr. Master Gardening Group!
-          Contributing Writer – Joni Fletty


Andersen Windows - An AMAZING Crew!

Back row:  Kelly Heuer, Steve Kirby, Master Gardener Mary Green,
Charlie Garrett, David Jones, Casey Arends, Dane Durch, Kurt McMahon
Front row:  Aaron Johnson, Jon Ellefson

An AMAZING Crew from Andersen Windows came to the Giving Garden today and like super heroes, swept through the ENTIRE garden in their time here! -ok, the Garden was already in pretty good shape but these seasoned and experienced Gardeners jumped right in assessing jobs to do and checking produce to harvest.

I was glad to reconnect with an old friend and meet new ones. Many, many questions and horticultural conversations were discussed from tomatoes to planting trees to planning prairie restorations. Weeds were removed in quick order and 31.9 lbs of produce were donated to Valley Outreach food shelf.

The common thread to all we discussed and did wound around life long exploration and learning and the idea of Permaculture: "The conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Planning for future generations. 

(The word “Permaculture” was created (and copyrighted) by Bill Mollison, the founder of the Permaculture movement)."

-         Contributing writer – Master Gardener, Mary Green


47 lbs and Growing!

Jr. Master Gardening Group from Rutherford

Nate & Anna

Elizabeth & Anna
Today a helpful group of Junior Master Gardener kids, teens and adults picked 47 pounds of produce!  It's fun to see the many green tomatoes finally ripening, a steady crop of cucumbers, zucchini, cabbage, kale, pok choi, chard and purple beans, and beets and turnips so ready to harvest they seemed to almost lift themselves from the ground! 

Caden, Nate, Anna, Elizabeth, Anna

We were happy to see zero Japanese Beetles on the beans today!  One could certainly tell which crops belong to the Cole crop family (cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, turnips, kohlrabi, etc.) by observing the white butterflies!  They are the adults of the imported cabbageworm!  Good thing the groups working in the garden have been so diligent about hand-picking many of the worms from the leaves. Despite a few holes, the crops are doing just fine!

Thanks everyone for all of your work!

--contributed by Master Gardener Kathy Luoma


Pajamas, Produce and Potting in the Giving Garden!

Spin Kids in the garden on Pajama Day!
Today marked the last scheduled visit for this summer’s SPIN group. It was also Pajama Day for them so they gardened in their jammies! What a great morning we had.

Their scouting showed a slow down in the number of familiar pest insects: Insects have a life cycle and some are only around for a few weeks. The kids focused on harvesting carrots, zucchini, beans, basil, turnips, beets, Swiss chard, the last remaining raspberries and, of course, kale and pak choi – our signature crops.
Basil cuttings with
well-developed roots

After weighing and recording today’s harvest we checked on the progress of the herb cuttings that were propagated two weeks ago. Some of the basil cuttings in water had roots and three were developed enough to be potted. The rest will need to grow for a week or two. The rosemary cuttings had tiny roots and will all need a few more weeks before going into pots.

We potted up the three basil plants and added them to the produce going to our neighbors at Valley Outreach.

Ornamental Coleus
The kids all took home a cutting from an ornamental Coleus plant so they can try propagating at home. They will treat the cutting the way we propagated the basil and will have a colorful little plant of their own soon.

Our lesson was a discussion of the definition of a fruit versus a vegetable. According to Mayo Clinic: “A fruit is the part of the plant that develops from a flower. It’s also the section of the plant that contains the seeds. The other parts of plants are considered vegetables. These include the stems, leaves, roots and even the flower bud.”

We had fun quizzing ourselves using the familiar RCS Giving Garden Produce Record, which lists the crops grown in the Giving Garden. We talked about how we define these foods differently in the kitchen and the discussion led to recipes again! Here is what we found:

Inside of a Dragon carrot vs. a regular carrot!
Apples, Beans, Corn kernels, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Pears, Peapods, Peppers, Raspberries, Summer Squash, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Zucchini

Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Herbs, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Onions, Pak Choi, Potatoes, Soybean/Edamame seeds, Rutabagas, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Turnips

At the end of the visit the kids got into the van and headed to Valley Outreach to deliver their gifts – in their pajamas, naturally!

Here is the link to Mayo Clinic’s Nutrition-wise blog:

- Contributing Writer - Master Gardener Phyllis


My idea of Art!

Click any photo to enlarge
I spent an afternoon at the Uptown Art Fair in Minneapolis with my family this past weekend.  Creative souls selling their creative works of art dotted the busy streets. Though I sure do love an earthenware bowl or watercolor landscape painting, to me nothings feels more like "art" than an arrangement of fruit and vegetables!  These photos taken Monday morning in The Giving Garden show nature's hand in color, texture and shape!  Twenty pounds of tomatoes, purple beans, zucchini, cucumbers, swiss chard, pok choi, kale, cabbage and beets were picked and donated...but not until I arranged my idea of art on the ground for a photo opportunity!.

Speaking of beets!  Did you know that beets are a root veggie related to spinach and swiss chard?  They are best grown in loose. loamy soil and harvested when the beet greens are around six inches high and the root is 2-3 inches in size. Beets are a great source of vitamins A and C and are a natural sugar source, often being sweeter than sweet corn or carrots!  I love to roast beets in the oven or on the grill and toss them on a bed of mixed lettuce and beet greens!  The beets for this salad came from the Mill City Farmer's Market in Minneapolis.

            --Beet Salad--
*3 firm beets, scrubbed clean and roasted on the grill or in the oven on 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until easily pierced
*Salad bowl filled with mixed lettuce and beet greens
*Goat cheese, to taste
*1/4 red onion, sliced into thin rings
*Walnuts, a handful, toasted in the oven or in a pan on the stove
*Dressing:  juice of one lemon, splash of favorite vinegar, salt, pepper, fresh herbs, and olive oil whisked in to thicken

Allow roasted beets to cool, then scrape away the skin and cut into bit-sized chunks.  Toss with other ingredients.  Coat with dressing to your liking.  Enjoy!

- Contributed by Master Gardener Kathy Luoma