Who is Joe?
Joe Baltrukonis has been a member of the University of Minnesota Extension Ramsey County Master Gardener Program since 2000. He frequently publishes articles on sustainable and eco-friendly horticultural topics for not only our members, but for other gardening organizations as well. His wife Jennifer, edits and proofs Joe's articles- her eye for detail keeps Joe's information accurate and timely. Jennifer also writes articles for us. We hope you enjoy perusing this website for gardening topics that interest you, the home gardener.

The gardening season is almost over. It is time for the final cleanup of our landscapes. In a week or two, billions of leaves will be available for adding to our gardens and compost piles. After that, we can still enjoy gardening by reading informative articles on the web.

It started in the small town of Cheshire, just north of New Haven, Connecticut. My Grandma, as a young child, came to this country from Lithuania. She was what some would call a peasant, a person with an inborn love of the soil, plants, dirty fingernails, and good food. She grew raspberries, peach varieties we cannot grow here in Minnesota, tons of turnips and other vegetables, and sweet corn. How excited she was to try some of the newest varieties of super- sweet corn! She loved to can produce. Her strawberry jam was more of a soup than a real jam or jelly, but it was delicious. The best wine that I ever tasted was when some old jar lids of jam loosened and the contents fermented. I know where my love of gardening comes from.

Or it should be! Soil is the basis for all life on earth. A healthy, living soil that produces beautiful flowers, vegetables, trees, and lawns is not really a sterile, inert pile of sand, silt, and clay. Soil is full of life.

Large-size life forms abound in our soils. Look at those larger animals that dig in your garden. Though often unwanted, critters like gophers, squirrels, mice, voles, other rodents, and insect adults and grubs help to loosen compacted soil. Earthworms help create pore spaces in our soil. A good soil is about half pore space – openings that let air and water flow to sustain root health.

The outdoor garden season is ending. NOW is a great time to clean and repair your hand tools, mowers, and power equipment before winter arrives.

Why should we do this?

-To save money because your tools will last longer.

-To insure safer and easier use of tools if they are well maintained. You will waste more time with dull or broken equipment than the time spent on routine maintenance. In the long run, more time for gardening.

Containers of colorful tomato fruit are an attractive addition to your landscape. With pots, you will have almost complete control over soil, sun, water, and fertilizer. Production can equal or even exceed garden-grown tomatoes. Expect yields of 10 to 15 pounds of delicious fruit per plant, depending on variety. However, you will have to give container plants a bit more effort, but you will succeed.