Tom Kasper

Tom Kasper/Open Hands Food Project

Not even a week of rain can dampen Tom Kasper's enthusiasm for the Open Hands Food Project.

Last year, he donated over 2500 pounds of food to the Damiano Center over about three months.  This year he's thinking even bigger: weekly donations for 18 or 18 weeks.  More fruits and vegetables. Partnerships this year not just with the Damiano Center, but with local food initiatives like Second Harvest Food Bank, and the YMCA's meal program.

UMN Extension

Here's a disturbing thought: raking up your soggy leaf litter and whatnot from the lawn too early could deprive a mourning cloak butterfly of the shelter that's kept it alive through a long, tough hibernation.

And here's another one: some of your plants may be telling you when - and where - they want to be pruned. 

André Benedix/Flickr

Especially on the warmish, sunny days, gardeners start anxiously pressing their noses against the windows and wondering when they can get outside.

Tom Kasper says there are a couple of things you can do:  prune your fruit trees, tidy up broken and fallen branches from your trees and shrubs, and while it's too early to rake, you can get out a broom and go after the snow mold:

Tortoiseshell Black/Dribble

Scientists at Pennsylvania State University have discovered that caterpillars can "silence a tomato's cries for help."

You can read the article here and the actual research findings here.

Tom Kasper/Open Hands Food Project

Normally, you don't think about training for gardening season.

But that was before the interest in gardening exploded on the scene, leaving shelves bereft of seed, garden soil, canning jars and more.

Luckily, Tom Kasper says seed suppliers figured this out right away last spring, and spent much of 2020 getting ready for this planting season.

Daniel Lincoln/Unsplash

The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon has us thinking more (if that's possible) about our dogs and how we peacefully coexist - or don't - with them.

Master gardener Tom Kasper says there are all kinds of ways to design your garden space with good things to eat for dogs and humans, and also to make sure "no one has to get yelled at and no one has to get angry."

Hosta (Pinterest), peppers and pumpkin (Park Seeds)

It's a little early in the season for the really serious cabin fever to set in, but Tom Kasper is making plans with the fevered enthusiasm of your average Minnesotan in late February.

How will his garden grow this summer? With Komodo Dragon Hostas, Atlantic Giant Pumpkins and Ghost Peppers, all in a row.

Tom Kasper. Used with permission.

The 2021 Vegetable of the Year is the pea ... but even though they go in early,  it's a little bit yet before you can start planting.

However ... you can get started on your own mini-African violet farm right away.

Pleuntje [via Flickr]

Tom Kasper suggests, in this pandemic era, that many lovely gifts for the garden would be very lovely for a friend, like new gardening tools, some soil, or a gift certificate.  But consider offering your time helping them in their garden as well - a great chance to visit and enjoy the fresh air while also staying physically distant.

Tom Kasper. Used with permission.

Tom Kasper went on the air this morning and offered 336 square inches of cropland to the first ten people to call him.

That's around 280 feet of arable soil, by the way.

He's providing the "field," the seeds (you get to choose), the light and even a cover to help with irrigation needs. (You have to provide your own tiny little tractor.)

Duluth's original Hardy Gardener says ever since the spring, fears about food shortages and food insecurity have been on people's minds, and interest in growing your own food has exploded.

Tom Kasper. Used with permission.

Tom Kasper's mid-life crisis involves vegetables.

After considering himself a flower gardener (since he was seven years old), he realized that he wanted to do something in the most straightforward way possible to let people in our community know they're cared about.

This year, that meant over a ton (2200 lbs) of fresh food donated to the Damiano Center ... and now he's scheming how to produce more and better for next year.

Lisa Johnson

Aut-win: it's not just for woods-wanderers anymore.

Eventually, the glow from last week's record-breaking 70s will fade (perhaps in the wake of this evening's Winter Storm Warning with 5-7" inches of snow predicted?), and when it does, the pre-winter blues can set in.

But Tom Kasper says the same leafless landscape that gives us such a unique view of the woods can do the same for our backyards and gardens - and help jump-start the planning process for next year.

Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar/Flickr

Eat a banana.

Chop up the peel into smallish pieces.

Put the pieces in some warm water and let them sit for a couple of hours.

Congratulations!  You've just made an organic fertilizer for your house plants that Tom Kasper says they'll almost immediately find ... a-peel-ing.

Arne Vainio. Used with permission.

Clean up/clean out your garden at the end of the season or leave it?

Michel Bish/Flickr

Planning ahead for next year's fresh produce from your garden, and surveying the tidy rows of canned fruits, vegetables, salsas, pestos, jams and jellies can be one of the most satisfying ends to the summer.

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