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 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.

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.

Your plants have been carefully pampered indoors now for some weeks. Yet, the plants are tender and need to be toughened up before they can be put out into the garden. If we plant the seedlings directly from our warm homes and out into the rough and tumble, spring-time environment of our gardens, they can become stunted and fail to thrive. The process of toughening up the plants is called hardening off. Harden off the plants that you have started, and as a precaution, the plants you purchased at a nursery too.

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.