Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

Sneak Peak

Tomorrow the Better Homes and Garden Test Garden officially opens for the season (yay!) But if you live in the Des Moines area, you know a romp in the garden doesn’t really sound appealing.

We (grumpily) woke to snow on the ground, pelting our windows and piercing our faces. Mother Nature has a cruel way of welcoming spring this year, but frankly, she’s always kept Iowa’s gardeners anxious about planting anything until mid-May.

Today feels like a bad dream. The Test Garden was so beautiful just this Tuesday…..

Complementary spring-bloomers redbud and forsythia reached out from the garden fence, beckoning me to enter the Test Garden.

As did the relaxing ambiance projected from the raised deck surrounded by blooming grape hyacinths and tulips.

The water fountain took its first breath this week, overflowing with soothing sensations, perfect for a late lunch…..

…or a meeting of the minds. (Pictured: Andrea, Test Garden Assistant; Sandra, Test Garden Manager; Eric, Deputy Garden Editor)

An Autumn Brilliance serviceberry boasted its stunning white blooms….

…while the ferns uncoiled, reaching for the warm sun.


I miss that warm sun.

Late spring snowstorms sure have a way of making an Iowa gardener more humble.

How the weather in your garden today?


Come visit the Test Garden every Friday from 12-2pm!


My favorite thing about January is when I start to receive plant catalogs and get to learn all about all the wonderful new plant varieties for the year. Plant breeders are always working on upgrading our favorite plants — and creating whole new types never before seen by gardeners! Upgraded varieties may come in new colors, offer better disease resistance, offer a bigger or smaller habit, or any other number of features that make them perfect for your garden.

It’s probably no surprise then, that I love putting together the new plants stories you see here on BHG.com. This year I had the pleasure of working with my friends Doug Jimerson and Karen Weir-Jimerson on the lineup. (I had the easy job: picking the plants; they did the fantastic writing.) Are you interested in learning about the must-have plants for 2013? Check out the links below!

New Perennials for Sun

New Perennials for Shade

New Blue/Purple/White/Pink Annuals

New Orange/Yellow/Red Annuals

New Roses for 2013

New Fruits and Vegetables

New Trees, Shrubs, and Vines

Comment below and tell me which ones you’re most excited about!


Today my fellow BHG garden editors and I had a special guest: The folks from Sustane popped down (from my home state of Minnesota) to talk about their line of natural, organic fertilizers. Sustane has been around for a while, but mainly in the professional arena: Golf courses, commercial agriculture, etc.

For spring of 2013, the company is releasing a couple of mixes designed specifically for home gardeners like you and me. The product is made from turkey litter, the company representatives told us, and fully composted at about 150 degrees for about half a year. That makes the nutrients available almost right away when you go to use it.

They talked a lot about organic fertilizers, of course, and their benefits: They help build the soil profile, they’re much less likely to run off into our water supply, and it’s tough to burn your plants by using too much. Organic matter, especially compost like this, also encourages beneficial microorganisms in the soil — and they can help your plants resist disease better.

I like that the company is using a waste product — turkey litter and droppings — and turning it into something useful. And I like the idea of using a natural product that’s not overly produced.

Happily, they provided samples so this spring I’ll get to try it out!

What do you think? Do you fertilize your garden? If so, does organic or synthetic matter to you? Comment below !

I’m fresh back from a trip to Oregon where I had the pleasure of meeting the folks at Fall Creek Nursery. The nursery is a large wholesale nursery that provides a ton of blueberries to both garden centers and commercial blueberry fields and they’re located just outside Eugene, Oregon.

Fall Creek Nursery hit my radar earlier this year when they announced a new variety would be coming out for spring of 2013: ‘Raspberry Shortcake’ raspberry. It immediately captured my full attention: ‘Raspberry Shortcake’ is a dwarf thornless raspberry bred for growing in containers. You can have fresh raspberries right on your deck or balcony and not have to worry about scratchy thorns or a crazy raspberry patch.

Happily, this cool advance in plant breeding didn’t come with a sacrifice in flavor: The fruits are juicy and delicious! (Our hosts at Fall Creek Nursery served a big bowl of them at lunch. Yum!)

I took the photo here on the patio where we had lunch — though the fruits on this one weren’t ripe yet (the plant had been cut back in the spring to delay fruiting) others at the nursery were bursting with fruit.

( By the way: If you’d like to be one of the first gardeners to try ‘Raspberry Shortcake’, a limited number is being offered in the BHG Garden Store that will ship in the mail this autumn. If that’s of interest, you can order it here.)

The other day, the folks at Heartland Gardening asked me to do a guest post on the Better Homes and  Gardens Test Garden. I went out, grabbed a couple of shots, and typed up my post.

While I was out in the garden, which is right here at Better Homes and Gardens headquarters (downtown Des Moines, Iowa), I was amazed at how beautiful everything was looking considering how strange the weather’s been.

I was also surprised at some of the things blooming. The Russian sage looks glorious; the phlox are in their fragrant glory, the Shasta daisies are looking their cheery best and are perfect accents to the warm, rich colors of yarrow and gaillardia. Of course, the coneflowers are looking amazing, too! And this despite two weeks of hot, humid weather.

If you’ve never visited the Test Garden, now’s the perfect opportunity. It’s open to the public Fridays from 12-2 p.m. from May to October.

I love being a garden editor, but sometimes sitting at my desk day after day gets a little old. I am a gardener, after all, and my nature is to have my hands in the soil. Yesterday I had the fun opportunity to get out of the office—and do a little good at the same time.

Meredith Corporation (the company the Better Homes and Gardens brand is under) is a big supporter of a nonprofit organization called Rebuilding Together. Working with the New York  City Rebuilding Together office, about 70 Meredith volunteers teamed up to help renovate a nonprofit organization’s offices.

My part of the project was getting to help rework the deck. Starting with a blank slate (see the photo to the right), we transformed it into a comfy outdoor living space with new tables and chairs (plus umbrellas). My favorite part was the addition of two 20-foot-long, 2-foot wide raised garden beds we filled with potting soil and planted with herbs and vegetables (graciously donated by Bonnie Plants; thanks Bonnie Plants!! Thanks, too, to our friends at Loki’s Garden for their expert guidance in constructing the planters).

It took our team a full day about 7 hours to complete the transformation and it was fun the entire time. There was a lot of laughter and smiles as my colleagues spent the day outside in perfect weather constructing and planting.

I have to confess being a little tired and sore this morning, but that’s a small price for being able to get out  contribute to such a fantastic effort! 

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