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


Catch the Zucchini!

A group of spunky SPIN kids and their leaders, Tammy and Lexi, joined Master Gardener Kathy in the garden on Friday.  Many of the kids returned from the week before, so it was fun to hear their observations on the clearly visible growth of the garden in only seven days!  We weeded and harvested
more tender lettuce.  It was particularly fun to check on the zucchini plants.  Last week we found many zucchini babies about 1-2 inches long, but on this day those babies had grown into 10-12 inch fruit ready to pick!  We like to catch the zucchini before they grow into monsters with tougher skin, large seeds and more water
content, though that never stopped me from eating them!  My mother grated those big zucchini into delicious treats like zucchini brownies!  Once she even made zucchini apple crisp with NO APPLES!  I can’t say she tried that again as that one wasn’t so delicious!  J

Here’s a little tidbit of information from the University of MN Extension regarding zucchini squash and how to tell the difference between a male and female flowers.  We love seeing the honeybees doing their work! 

Squash plants bear separate male and female flowers (monoecious flowering habit), and pollen must be transferred from the male flowers to the female flowers by insects. Male flowers are attached to the plant by a slender stem. Female flowers are attached close to the main vine, and between the flower and the vine is a small round ovary, the unfertilized fruit. Squash flowers are typically pollinated by bees.

- Contributed by Washington County Master Gardener Kathy Luoma


Pole Beans and Carrots

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Woodbury Peaceful Grove United Methodist Church Summer Stretch students
helped  in the garden again this Wednesday.   Today’s objective:  install the lattice of stakes and twine that provide support for the clinging vines of the pole beans.  Pole beans are a great addition to the Giving Garden because they provide beans all season.  That task was quickly accomplished and we moved on to the carrot patch where we finished the weeding and thinning that others had started last week. The purple beans and bush beans grow alongside the carrots so weeded out the grass in those plants, too.

As we worked side by side in the garden we talked about the types of
soil: clay, loam and sand.  When we squeezed a handful of the Giving Garden soil it formed a soft ball which easily crumbled.  We decided the garden has a lot of loam which is why the plants grow so well there.

We also talked about what plants need to grow and thrive and used the
pneumonic PLANTS to remember PLACE TO LIVE, LIGHT, AIR, NUTRIENTS, THIRST (WATER) and SUNSHINE.  Then we took turns quizzing each other on other plant biology trivia.  We had a smart group of young biologists who did their best to stump the master gardener – and sometimes they did!

The summer squash, tomatoes, beans and cucumbers are blossoming.   The corn is about knee high in time for the 4th of July! 

- Contributing writer - Deb Lynch, Master Gardener


Carrots Before, Carrots After AND…the first harvest from the 2014 garden!

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On a sunny Monday, Junior Master Gardeners Sydney
and Annabelle joined Master Gardener Kathy in the garden.   We worked together to construct a few more cucumber trellises and then tackled the carrots before the weeds tackled them!  Since we eat the root part of a carrot, we want to be sure to give them lots of room to grow downward and expand outward!  See our section of carrot photos before and after! 

If you are interested in learning more about carrots and other root vegetable growth, check out the link from the University of MN Extension.

The girls also did a fantastic job of carefully
harvesting enough lettuce to share with Valley Outreach!  We can officially say we picked the first crop of the 2014 season…a whooping .45lbs!  It will be fun to watch that small number grow over these next few months.

We encountered a nice surprise as we were ready to leave!  Milkweed!  We have learned about its importance to monarch butterflies as it is the only
plant on which this black, orange and
white winged pollinator will lay its eggs and will eat in its caterpillar stage.  Using our detective skills, we found a tiny egg and a newly hatched caterpillar.  Great news for the garden!

- Contributed by Washington County Master Gardener Kathy Luoma


Welcome back SPIN kids! Thanks for bringing along your helping hands, strong muscles and sunny personalities!

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On Friday, a cheerful group of SPIN kids and their
helpful leaders joined Master Gardener Kathy in the garden.  We spent time reacquainting ourselves with the young plants, looking for cabbage worms on the cole crops (cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and those plants from the Brassica
family), catching teensy frogs, observing honeybees and butterflies and tasting a few stray strawberries.

Then we got to work!  We weeded the beet and carrot seedlings, as well as other areas of interest to the kids, so the plants will continue to grow without competition for water and nutrients.  Don’t choke me, weeds!  

Next, we constructed cucumber teepees using

three stakes, natural twine and rubber mallets!  The teepees will allow the cucumber vines to grow vertically to keep the fruit off the ground and hopefully out of critters mouths.  Chomp!  Way to use your muscles, kids!

Finally, big drinks of water and a bowl full of watermelon wedges cooled us off as we finished our tasks for the day! 

- Contributed by Washington County Master Gardener Kathy Luoma


Wednesday in the Giving Garden

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Another team from Woodbury Peaceful Grove United Methodist’s summer stretch program helped today in the giving garden. 

With the summer sunshine and plentiful rain, the plants are growing fast and so are the weeds.  It was a good day to get down on hands and knees to go after the weeds in the tomatoes, pinch back the sucker shoots and mulch with shredded office paper. 

What is a tomato sucker?  (click to open lesson)

A tomato sucker is a smallish shoot that grows
out of the joint where a branch on the tomato plant meets a stem.  These small shoots will grow into a full sized branch if left alone, which results in a bushier, more sprawling tomato plant. Because of this, many people
like to remove tomato suckers from the tomato plant. Removing the shoots also helps divert the plants energy into producing tomatoes instead of more vegetation.
Quick work in the tomato garden by our volunteers, Dave, Catie and Leta let us move on to the root vegetable crops.   Thanks for your willing hands!

Thinning rutabagas and turnips

The rutabagas, turnips and kohlrabies are about 4 inches high – the perfect size for thinning.  A spacing of 2 to 4 inches allows for the roots to fully develop without crowding.  We transplanted some of the small seedlings to fill in areas of the row that had not germinated as well.  A garden taste test of the thinned vegetables proved they were tender and flavorful even though they were tiny.   We thought later that we should have saved the turnip greens for salads and will remember that for next year.

Can you name this vegetable?

It’s broccoli!  Whether you love broccoli or hate it, it is one of the healthiest vegetables, easy to cook and high in vitamin C and A.  Broccoli is a member of the cabbage family and has large flower heads, usually green in color, arranged on branches sprouting from a thick, edible stalk.   We didn't see any insects in the broccoli this time but will keep our eyes out for cabbage caterpillars that might try to eat up the broccoli before we get to harvest time.
-  Contributing writer, Deb Lynch, Master Gardener


"Time For Me" Learning Center Visits the Garden for the First Time!

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 The preschoolers from “Time For Me” Early Learning Center, just down the road from our garden, came to visit and have a lesson in the garden .

We talked about what things are extinct and what that word “Extinct” means.  Everyone was excited to raise their hand and share that they knew that dinosaurs were extinct and all that was left behind were bones! 

However, we then talked about how some fruits and veggies are going extinct, and they were very surprised! 

It is estimated that the average 
American meal travels about 1,500 miles to get from farm to plate. Because more and more people wanted to eat foods that were out of season, like strawberries in October, foods needed to be shipped from all around the world.   Farmers had to start breeding varieties that held up in boxcars, trucks, or ship’s cargo.  SUPER SEEDS!

Vegetables from hybrid (super) seed have some benefits like;  disease resistance, greater productivity, and a more uniform fruit (pretty), better pest resistance, disease resistance, cold tolerance, drought tolerance, and added nutrition!  They are genetically altered to create a “super seed”.  With these super seeds, some of our Heirloom plants started to disappear! 

Heirloom = seeds passed down from generation to generation!

They were no longer grown, and their seeds no longer saved!

They learned that Andean farmers in Peru 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.  Now, even in the regions of Peru least affected by the modern market, only a few dozen potato varieties 
are widely grown. 
The RCS Giving Garden introduces new heirloom vegetables to our garden every year.   Purple Beans, Dragon Carrots, Green Zebra, Black Sea and Red Zebra tomatoes, and Rainbow Swiss Chard to name a few
Did you know that when you cook purple beans, they turn green?!   And if you put them in a little olive oil and vinegar and put them in the fridge overnight, they turn a little light purple again!   At their next visit on July 11th, we should have some purple beans that they take home with them and experiment!

The RCS Giving Garden orders our heirloom seeds from Seed Savers at     Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds.   Since 1975, their members have been passing on our garden heritage by collecting and distributing thousands of samples of rare garden seeds to other gardeners in order to bring back those delicious and rare varieties.

After hearing about Seed Savers, the Time for Me group thought it would be fun to grow Dragon Carrots in their garden next year!

Finally, we took a tour of the garden plants and then visited the bee hives from a safe distance. 

Thank you Time for Me for coming to our garden!  We will see you next month when everything has grown much taller and you can see the vegetables that are growing in the garden!
Bee hives in the shadow by the building
Click to enlarge
- Contributing Writer, Joni Fletty