Co-op Gardens

You may have noticed it during a lovely spring day on our patio. You might have glimpsed it after getting a hot cup of coffee from our drive-thru window. And though it may simply look like nothing more than a serene green space, our Teaching Garden offers much more than just a calm place to enjoy your lunch. Garden Coordinator Erika Richards envisions the garden on the south side of our building as a way for our customers and our community to learn about various plants that can provide more benefits than just aesthetic beauty. “There are several varieties of plants that are either edible or have leaves that can be used as tea or are sold inside as an oil or supplement,” Erika says. “I want more people to learn how plants can heal you or just make you happier in

I’m not much of a gardener, but I think this year is my year to become one! To be honest, as a self-described non-gardener, I find the whole process of buying packs of seeds intimidating. I mean I almost feel obligated to use them all because I don’t want to waste them. I know I can save them, but my luck, I would accidently leave them in the garage over the winter and they would freeze! In addition, most times I just want to try a few seeds, just to see if I can get them to grow, without being committed to using the whole pack. I mean what if I realize the seeds I have just do not grow well in my garden and then I’m stuck with a whole pack of them? I guess this is the inexperienced, gardener-wannabe dilemma

Greetings! Many of you are asking about the metallic brown/black beetles that are all over your bean plants, roses and grapevines. These are the much despised Japanese Beetles, and they are everywhere. [caption id="attachment_23585" align="aligncenter" width="347"] Japanese Beetle. Too bad they can’t just be earrings.[/caption] Earlier in the spring, I was really hopeful we wouldn’t see too many of them because I didn’t find too many JB grubs in the ground. (Their grubs are the white ones with the orange faces.) They over-winter underground and start to emerge late June-mid July where they start a gluttonous party that would put the revelers of Dionysus to shame. [caption id="attachment_23586" align="alignnone" width="230"] Dionysus. Like the Japanese Beetles, he’s got your garden by the grapes.[/caption] JB’s will notoriously go after just about anything edible, and even some things that aren’t. Gardener chat sites are filled with discussions about them, any

Well it’s officially summer! It’s the season most Minnesotans wait for all year long. We keep the memories of it tucked in our parka pockets as we make it through those twenty-below days the other half of the year. It’s our reward for, well, surviving what could be the reality show called “Cabin Fever: Extreme Edition.” (You heard it here first.) Summer is here, and the earth is green, and flowers are blooming and the first harvest of lettuce, spinach, scapes, strawberries and even currents are gracing our tables and tummies. Here at Valley Natural Foods, our gardens are bursting forth with life. We have an assortment of gorgeous flowers blooming in our central perennial garden. (On display now are Peonies, Yarrow, Daisies, Columbine, and Baptisia.) In our leased out co-op gardens we can see the beginnings of what looks to be a

  [caption id="attachment_21233" align="alignright" width="369"] Photo by Susie Hessburg[/caption] Why are these guys having so much fun with some vintage bottles and heirloom tomatoes? Because they excavated the bottles and the tomato seeds from an 1890s homestead privy in Faribault, MN.  Imagine how thrilled they were to discover that the seeds were viable and produced prolific plants with tasty tomatoes, in spite of "crappy" beginnings. Before you pooh-pooh this unlikely discovery, click here to read this fascinating, Growing "Crappy" Tomatoes story, authored by Tracy Donovan from our produce department. This past Spring the Valley Natural Foods Garden Center was able to distribute a few young descendants of these Faribault Privy Tomatoes to customers who were interested in growing an ‘unknown’ heirloom tomato variety. The customers agreed that they would check back in with us at the end of the season to give us their reports. Here, finally, is our forum for reporting in!  Please feel welcome to

Snow may still be on the ground outside but the excitement happening on our window sill is a true reminder that Spring is close! In mid-February, we used a Jiffy Professional Greenhouse kit (see last week's post) and planted seeds from a Bhut Jolokia pepper, otherwise known as the Ghost pepper. The first seedlings started emerging just last week on our upstairs south-facing window sill, right here in the marketing department!So what's the big deal about Ghost Peppers? According to The Chile Pepper Institute, "The Bhut Jolokia pepper remains the hottest commercially available pepper." The big deal here at Valley Natural Foods is taking on the challenge  to successfully grow Ghost peppers right here in Minnesota—not the ideal place to grow them, we've been told, because of our short growing season and climate. However, there's strong staff interest in this very fragrant, very tasty pepper. According to our