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Northern Gardening

  • 2nd Thursday 7-8pm
  • and following Saturday at 6am
News & Information

Recipes | Local Food on the North Shore

Northern Gardening covers a variety of gardening topics relevant to our northern climate. The program airs on the second Thursday of each month from 7-8 p.m. and is rebroadcast the following Saturday at 6 a.m. The program is a partnership between the Northwoods Food Project, the Cook County U of MN Extension Office, and WTIP.

The Northwood's Food Project is a non-profit organization who's purpose is to increase Cook County's long term food sustainability and self-reliance by eating and growing locally produced food.

Learn more about the partnership between WTIP, the Northwoods Food Project, and the Cook County U of MN Extension Office that makes Northern Gardening possible.

Jeanne Wright and daughter Olya, Diane Booth, and Melinda Spinler in the WTIP studio for Northern Gardening.

What's On:

Pesticides, Perennials and Pollinators

Hosts Diane Booth and Joan Farnam are joined by U of M Master Gardeners Max Linehan and Janet Ditmanson to discuss the use of pesticides by home gardeners; some great native plants you can use to help out our local pollinators, and information on perennials for Zones 3 and 4.



Drip Irrigation and Gardening in China

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Hosts Diane Booth (CC Extension), and Joan Farnam (Northwoods Food Project), welcome Dave Steckelberg to talk about installing drip irrigation systems and the Wright family (Jeanne, Greg and Olya) to share about agriculture practices in China.  Information about the Perennial Plant workshop hosted by the U of M CC Master Gardeners on June 6th will also be discussed.



Favorite Vegetable Varieties and Starting Seeds

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On the February edition of Northern Gardening, your hosts Diane Booth and Nick Wharton discuss several favorite vegetable varieties along with care of seeds and seedlings - with either natural or artificial light.



Getting the most out of seed catalogs

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In the January 2015 edition of Northern Gardening, hosts Joan Farnam and Melinda Spinler spoke with Heron Breen, Fedco Seed employee of 16 years.  Heron is in charge of vegetable trials, daily operations, seed grower outreach, and vegetable disease research.

In this program they discuss seed cooperatives and how they can save you money, as well as some of the vegetable varieties that can be relied upon every year to form the backbone of your garden, and exciting new varieties to try.



Bees, Bugs, and Pesticides

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On the June edition of Northern Gardening, your hosts Joan Farnam and Diane Booth will be talking about bees, bugs and pesticides! They talked with local beekeeper Louise Reavis, and Jeff Hahn, an entomologist at the University of Minnesota.



Northern Gardening: Gardening with a short growing season

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For the May edition of Northern Gardening, your hosts Joan Farnam, Melinda Spinler, and Mark Spinler discuss gardening in a short growing season. They also talk with Graham Saunders, the author of the new book, "Gardening with Short Growing Seasons".

Learn more about Graham's book online

Copies are also available to borrow at the Cook County Extension Office at the Cook County Community Center in Grand Marais.



All About Tomatoes

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On the April 10, 2014 edition of Northern Gardening, it's all about tomatoes! Listen in to hear tips on how to grow tomatoes in the north shore climate, plus several informative interviews.

Guests to the program were Samantha Johnson, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, and Changbin Chen, an associate professor from the University of Minnesota, Horticulture Department.  Samantha lives in northern Wisconsin and loves to grow heirloom tomatoes.  She shared some of her favorite open-pollinated tomatoes.  Changbin and his students have been playing with chromosomes in tomatoes and has developed 7 dwarf tomato varieties that are short-day and very productive. 




Straw Bale Gardening and More

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Northern Gardening hosts Diane Booth and Joan Farnam interview guests about straw bale gardening and other techniques and how effective they could be for growing vegetables on the North Shore.



All About Growing Beautiful Roses in Zone 3

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Northern Gardening interviews rose breeder, Dr. David Zlesak, about growing roses in Zone 3. Is it possible? He also talks about some of the roses he has bred which are hardy, disease resistant and require less maintenance than others.



Great Christmas Gifts for the Gardener

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Great Gifts for Gardeners from the December Northern Gardening Radio Show


Here are some of the ideas ---



• Yard Butler’s GKS-2 Garden Kneeler and Seat

“I bought one of these about 2 years ago at Buck’s Hardware because I am getting older and it’s harder for me to get up and down in the garden. Wow! What a difference this kneeler/seat has made! I bet it has given me at least another 10 or more years of gardening life! I love it! I bet Buck’s would order it for those who want to shop local. Otherwise you can order one on I have seen them for sale in seed catalogs as well. Deep Seat Kneeler (Gardeners Supply Company carries them.) The cost will range from $29 - $39.95. You can also add a tool pouch kit to put your pruners, knife, markers, twine, etc.”

Hori-Hori Japanese Weeding Knife

This is probably one of the most useful tools for gardening we’ve found There are two different kinds. You can get it in stainless steel or carbon steel. The handle is wood and very sturdy.

The Hori-Hori (which means diggy-diggy in Japanese!) blade stays sharp, smooth, and rust-free, and it has a sharp side and a serrated side for cutting through landscape fabric or tough roots. The tip has a sharp point, so it goes into the soil smoothly and can get weeds with long taproots out. 

It’s great for planting annuals or six- packs, too, and just running underneath the soil to destroy tiny weed seedlings. 

Stainless steel blades work better in  clay soils, since the clay sometimes sticks to the carbon steel. And the stainless steel blades are sharper. On the other hand, the carbon steel is a heftier tool, and can be used for bigger jobs.

Either are highly recommended. A great gift.

$28 -$32 Duluth Trading Company or 

Soil Scoop puts the digging ability of trowels to shame. It’s got a great scooping portion, with serrated edges and a sharp tip so you can break up harder soil, enlarge planting holes, or get out weeds. If I did a lot of veggie gardening in raised beds or annual flower bed planting, this is the tool I’d pick up. (And HURRAH! It comes in purple! You can also have a nice birch wood handle.) $19.95  at Lehman’s but lots of other places like Burpees, etc.

Tub Trugs. When I first started gardening I didn’t think about good containers to put produce in or carry fertilizer or mulch or anything. I would use what I had – a bucket or a basket. They really didn’t work very well. I really like those Tub Trugs. They come from Spain. They are like a flexible bucket with strong handles. The original ones are made from 100 percent Food Grade plastic. They are frost and UV resistant. They come in sizes ranging from 1.3 gallons to 11 gallons. Some are taller and deeper and others are wider and squatter. Some places that sell them offer plastic covers as well for an additional $8. They come in fabulous bright colors, blue, red, green, yellow purple, and can range in price form $10 - $22. Gardener’s Supply Catalog has them, but so do lots of other places.

Agribon or Floating Row Covers: 83” x 50’ Insect control $19.99 – Frost protection $29.99.

(Peaceful Valley Farm) 118” x 50’ $23.95 (Johnny’s Selected Seeds)

•  Excalibur Dehydrator Deluxe 3000 Series (BPA free plastic) Easier to clean, 10 year warranty, even dehydration, heavy duty motor, adjustable thermostat, etc. $250. Harvest Essentials, Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply, on-line…

•  Felco By-Pass Pruners #6 Fits better for smaller hands, weight 7.5 oz. Best for flower growers because you can get closer to the stem of the plant. .8 inch diameter for cutting. $45

Felco 2 Pruner Works well with larger hands. Can cut up to 1” diameter with weight at 8.5 oz. $49.00 Both can be purchased at the Felco Store as well as other places. They have a limited lifetime.

Other tools and things for the garden:
• Promise to build a small greenhouse or a raised bed or two.

Electric roto-tiller

• OXO Good Grips Green Salad Spinner: Push the top down and spin the lettuce dry.$30. There are available at Target, etc.

Garden/English/Potato Fork: Garden forks are designed for either digging or scooping. The number and shape of the prongs (known as tines) depends on the intended use of the fork. I like the broader tines with a sharp end on them for digging potatoes or breaking up clay. Forged from a single piece of steel will make them last a very long time. $99.00 Johnny’s

  Soil Thermometer: $11.95

Compost Thermometer: $31.50

Bug nets /head nets: $8.95 ;

Walls-O –Water: perfect to keep tomato & pepper plants warm and toasty in June and July.  18” tall x 17” diameter $13.95, many seed catalogs carry them now.

Gift Certificates to favorite seed companies like Seed Savers, Seed of Change, Johnny’s or Fed Co.

Colored Twine Gift Pack, Gardeners Supply, 8 different colors of twine, 50’ of each color, great for both fun and practicality in the garden. $9.95.

• Garden Markers. I like the small plastic 6” markers. If you write on them with pencil, you can erase

and keep reusing. Wooden ones don’t seem to not hold up. If you use them outside, use a UV garden marker $4.25 Templars, Permanent Copper Plant Tags ‘Engrave with ball point pen. 20 for $6.95. Gardener’s Supply. 

Nitrile Gloves: You want the thin, flexible ones and you want to by them in a 4 – 6 pack because everyone loses them. They come in different sizes and sell for $16 -25. Single pairs for $4 – 7. They can be found many different places both locally and on-line.

•  Deep Rim Boot Trays: If you have mud, kids, grand kids. 21 2/3” wide x 2” deep by 43 ?” long. Two rubber grids go inside. $35.00 Gardener’s Supply Company This also works for snow.

Local Gardening Gifts:
Gift certificates to Buck’s, Hilja’s or the Blue Moose for plants/ seeds, garden art.

• Gift Certificate for bags of Black Gold, Western Lake Superior Sanitary District’s incredible compost. Buck’s carries it. ($5 for a 40 lb) etc.

• A personal gift certificate for an hour of weeding and/or watching children so a gardener can enjoy planting the garden by themselves;

Soil testing to the U of M is $15. Pick up a form at Extension, Buck’s, on-line by googling ‘U of M Extension soil testing’. They have forms you can print directly. Put the form and the $15 together in an envelope and you have a great gift!

• Support local producers. Buy local jams, jellies, maple syrups, wild rice. Great stocking stuffers. 


Tools to process all those veggies:
• Cabbage cutter for making kraut, 

• Vegetable Brush: $2.95
• A set of good cutting and paring knives.

• Canning jars, water bath for processing jams/ jellies, pressure canner for beans and corn.


Unusual, fun gifts in the West End: 

1. Water’s Edge: Plates of fused glass with flowers gorgeously arranged in the glass made out of glass. Very unique and different for that gardener who loves the one-of-a-kind gift. $21+

They also had candles with scents from honeysuckle, tuberose, peony, sweet pea, etc. $13, Butterfly wing earrings from Butterfly Artworks.

2. Caribou Highlands: Maple leaf sticky notes in bright red $8.95; delicate soap leaves in the shape, thinness, size of leaves $9.85.

3. Mountain Shop: Morning flower earrings $14.95 - $24.95 Fresh Jewelry made from actual flowers $26.95. Healing touch pottery with a worry stone on the top of the handle $24.95.

Birdhouse ornaments $11.50; Klutz makes a wristlet purse in the shape of a chicken complete with feet for that unusual child who loves having chickens in the garden. $15

There are lots of other great gift ideas, but these were suggested by local gardeners for local gardeners.

Happy Holidays from Joan and Diane!



Organic Gardening, one of the best magazines about organic gardening with lots of how-to articles, discussion of issues, etc.

“The Weeders Digest”  was suggested by one of our listeners as a great magazine that shares the best of personal garden writing. So if you have a writing / gardening friend this is a perfect gift for them.  1 year subscription $19.97  It has 4 issues per year.

Northern Gardener is put out by the Minnesota Horticultural Society.  What is nice about it is it focuses on issues for Minnesota gardeners.   $62 for one year.

 • Fine Gardening is a great gift for the gardener who loves to get ideas about garden design. Published by Taunton press, you receive s six issues a year for $29.95 or 3 years for $69.95.


Book Ideas: (Check local book stores to see what they have, too.)

 Beginning Gardeners:

 • Joy of Gardening by Dick Raymond. $13.97 - $16.47  This is probably one of the best beginning vegetable books ever written. 1982 by Garden Way, Charlotte Vermont.  Talks about each vegetable, cultivation, pests, very, very good.

The Vegetable Growers Handbook by Frank Tozer.  2008  $3.69 - $17.21  Everything you need to know about common vegetable crops.  Frank has gardened for 30+ years is a warmer climate but has great information about each vegetable, very short, concise and clear.  Includes some seed saving tips and even some recipes.

Homescaping by Anne Halpin 2005.  If you have a gardener who likes garden design or someone who is thinking about landscaping or re-landscaping their home, this is a great book to help a homeowner really think about what they need to do or would like to do to reflect their style in the landscape.  $8.42 - $26.72.  Great photos!

Step by Step Landscaping by Better Homes & Gardens.  1991.  (2007) This is a great book for the person who needs step by step instructions on how to do a patio, how to build walkways or paths, installation and construction ideas for the not so handy person who wants to learn how to do this.  Great photos!            


More Experienced Gardeners: 

The New Seed Starters by Nancy Bubel. 1988.  $5.73 - $12.70.  A great handbook for starting seeds indoors.  If you are looking for a gift for a  gardener who wants to start all their own plants, en this is a great book to give as a gift.

American Horticultural Society Plant Propagation:  The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques by Alan Toogood.  1999. $18.66 - $23.10.  Discussion of plant propagation techniques followed by sections for 1,500 plants.  Which method to use, how long does it take, special treatment for seeds, etc.  A good overview for many gardeners and a  reference book to come back to for more information.

Growing Perennials in Cold Climates:  Revised and Updated Edition by Mike Heger, Debbie Lonnee and John Whitman.  2011  If you have a gardener who has started to grow perennials and wants to do more with them, this is the best book out there by far for perennial growers.  $24.50 - $26.37.

Greenhouse Gardener’s Companion Revised:  Growing Food & Flowers in Your  Greenhouse or Sunspace by Shane Smith.  2000  This is probably one of the very best books you can purchase for anyone who has a greenhouse or is thinking about getting a greenhouse.

This talks about the greenhouse environment, setting up your greenhouse interior, selecting plants, plant propagation, pollination, scheduling your plant growing, and pests & diseases.

 $10.99 - $15.61.

 • Northlands Winter Greenhouse Manual by Carol Ford & Chuck Waibel 2009  $14.40.

The Flower Farmer by Lynn Byczynski  2008.  This is an organic grower’s guide to raising and selling cut flowers. If you know a gardener who grows flowers and would like to do this as a small business venture, this is the perfect gift.

• The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest & Disease Control by Rodale Press and edited by Fern Bradley, Barbara Ellis and Deborah Martin.  2009  This is pretty good reliable guide to have on your garden shelf for battling garden problems.$11.88 - $17.13


Newer/ Other Books:

The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips.  2011.  Explores the connection between home orchard and permaculture.  Native pollinators and their importance, field tested organic solutions

for some pest controls.  $26.37.

Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard by Jessi Bloom. 2012  $10.85 -$13.57  With chickens becoming a larger part of the landscape in both urban and more rural settings, this book would be a great gift for someone interested in doing both. 

The World According to Monsanto by Marie-Monique Robin.  2008  This is a very good book and a DVD is also available that discusses the whole story of Monsanto from the release of PCBs, Agent Orange, and why some people are concerned about ownership of seeds for the world food supply.  $12.39 - $13.57

Growing Vegetables with a Smile by Nikolay Kurdyumov.  2011 translated from Russian. This is for the gardener who grows not just for the food but because they enjoy the process of  growing food.  It goes beyond the technical aspects of gardening and is just a fun book to read.                           $19.49 - $20.58.  Sold a million copies in other languages.

The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Heirloom Vegetables:  The 100 Easiest-to-Grow,  tastiest-to-eat Vegetables for Your Garden by Marie Iannotti. 2011  If you enjoy learning more about heirlooms and some that have been tested, this is a fun book.  My German butter ball potatoes that I grow every year is included so that definitely lends credibility to this book.  $3.98 - $13.57.

How to Grow Food in Your Polytunnel by Mark Gatter.  2010  For gardeners more food in poly tunnels, this book is nice to have to read through all the season where discussions about holding food over during the winter is discussed.  $12.55 - $15.62.

And finally, here's Kent's sugggestion for great gifts to the gardener-- good soil, plenty of sun and water, a cold beer and Ibuprofen.

Merry Christmas, everyone!
Brought to you by your hosts, Diane Booth and Joan Farnam