Getting in the Garden Groove with John Schroeder: Sage Gardening Advice from an Area Expert

 

I had enough confidence (or was it arrogance?) in my gardening experience and abilities to make the decision earlier this year to write this weekly garden blog for a full season. But no matter how much you think you might know about a hobby like gardening there is always someone who is wiser and more experienced than you are. And one of those people for me is Dave Morreim.

Dave is a former St. Cloud city gardener who helped redevelop Munsinger and Clemens Gardens into the regional gems we all now appreciate and take pride in. I see him multiple times each growing season as I visit Pattison Farm, the greenhouse and nursery business he maintains in northwest St. Cloud.

Dave’s great grandparents came to America from Scotland in the last 1850s, and he still owns and actively works 50 of the original 320 acres that they homesteaded. You’ve probably heard of the “Century Farm” program that recognizes farms that have been continuously owned by a single family for at least 100 years. Well, Pattison Farm is part of the Sesquicentennial Farm program now that his family’s land has been in the same hands for 150 years-plus.

The other day I stopped by his land to ask Dave for some wisdom that I could share with readers of this column. This has been a year when A LOT OF NEW PEOPLE have gotten into gardening. Dave shared three bits of advice for new gardeners…

Don’t start too big. Dave talked about how so often (including a bunch of times this year) he has seen customers come to his business who are trying gardening for the first time. His advice to those people has always been to start small. Try two of three different things your first year (maybe some tomatoes, peppers and onions) and see how it goes. If you enjoy yourself and decide to dig dirt for a second year maybe increase your garden by one or two additional crops. And then just continue to grow from there as much as you desire.

Plant your garden in stages. Mr. Morreim also talked about many of his “rookie” customers come to the greenhouse and buy massive amounts of plants in one visit. Then he’ll often see them later in the spring and learn that they had gotten some of those plants put in their gardens but left others in the garage only to see them dry out and die. Dave’s advice to young and seasoned gardeners alike is to make multiple visits to your favorite nursery each season. Buy a few plants each time you stop there and get them in before buying additional bedding stock. There’s no huge hurry to plant everything all at once. It’s a long growing season.

Give plants enough (but not too much) room to grow. Due to space issues many people decide to grow their vegetable and flower plants in pots or container gardens. When you do this you want to have enough space for your plants to properly establish themselves and grow…but you don’t want too much space for your transplants. A small plant in a huge pot often leads to excessive growth of the root system and nominal development of the upper plant structure and the fruit/flowers. You want your roots to spread out to a certain point but then to eventually be constricted by the edges of your pots/planters so that the energy of the plant can be directed toward more flower or crop production.

Some good advice from a good guy and one of the “sages” of our area gardening community. Oh, and a footnote: Each year, Dave and an assistant or two takes many of his remaining and unsold vegetable bedding plants and transplants them on parts of his land adjacent to his greenhouses. Take a look:

Sweet potatoes, okra and Japanese eggplant from Dave Morreim's garden. (PHOTO: John Schroeder)

A vast majority of what he harvests gets donated to the area food shelves. The Catholic Diocese of St. Cloud recognized Morreim with a “Good Samaritan Award” in 2015 for his generous and extraordinary public service. Good on you, Dave!


 

Next week: The "Rush" of the Harvest

 


John Schroeder is a sales guy at Townsquare Media St. Cloud, but in his past life, he was an on-air personality specializing in sports. But what really turns his crank is getting out in his 28 x 15 foot vegetable garden several times a week nurturing, eventually harvesting (and sometimes sharing) homegrown food.


 

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