BB Barns Garden Center, Garden Tour, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Edible Gardening from BB Barns Garden Center

“Who doesn’t love homegrown tomatoes?” asks Letha Hinman, BB Barns Garden Center’s annual, veggie and herb buyer. One could also ask, after a visit to Letha’s garden, who doesn’t like rhubarb, shiitake mushrooms, hops, squash, fruits, raspberries, and more?

This blog kicks off BB Barns Garden Center’s Garden Tours for the month of August. Four brave employees volunteered to give you a peek into their gardens, so look for a new blog each week (A Native’s Garden, What Can You Plant on a Bank, Edibles and Ornamentals: From Barney Bryant) . Letha’s garden is first because, as she said, “Who doesn’t love homegrown anything?” And veggies are always a good place to start, especially if you are a beginner, because what’s more rewarding than eating what you grow?

A little background on Letha (for those who always wondered about our engaging annual buyer). Letha grew up in Minnesota on a rural dairy and poultry farm. When she wasn’t helping with farm chores, she was baking. Not much has changed. She’s still gardening and cooking. But, after marrying Naval officer, Mike Hinman, her food palette expanded to include foods from around the world as she and Mike lived the military life. Now, fish and lamb (discovered in Iceland) are a family favorite, and papaya and mango (from their time in Hawaii) are added to her table’s fare. BB Barns’ customers benefit from her vast gardening knowledge, but we co-workers have the privilege of benefiting from her culinary skills. Now, you can too. Read on for a great recipe provided by Letha. This one originates from her roots, Rhubarb Meringue Pie.  If you’re game, when you see Letha, ask her about her shiitake mushroom recipe. She might share that too.

Every good garden starts with a place to store tools and some bees. Welcome to Letha and Mike’s garden. Click on the pictures for additional information.

Letha’s garden contains the standard fare, spicy jalapeños, squash, and tomatoes of several varieties. (Click on each picture to find out what’s growing.) Her good fortune is a large space to spread out and grow everything from corn to onions, but Letha assures us small spaces produce large amounts too, even container gardens can feed a small family.

And while every garden has it’s standard fare (What’s a summer without cucs and squash?), Letha’s garden goes a step further. Husband Mike didn’t agree to share his brewing recipe with us, but his hops make for a very pretty picture. Climbing up a cage where the family tosses the rocks from the garden, the hops shine in the sunshine, hiding the rocks and showing that food can sometimes be functional and tasty.

BB Barns Garden Center, Garden Tours,  Hops, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Hops for Mike’s brewing hobby.

Letha’s love of new ideas keeps the annual department hopping (no pun intended), and last year she tried something very new. shiitake mushrooms inoculated on old logs. Normally, she gets a spring and fall crop, but this year, bonus, when we were taking pictures we discovered a summer crop!

Letha has traveled to places many of us only dream of, but her roots are Minnesota. The perennial rhubarb has a spot in her garden, and below the picture is a recipe shared from her years of baking. Give it a try, and, make a note now, so you won’t forget: It’s time to plant fall crops. Brussel sprouts, spinach, kale, lettuces, brocoli, all go in the ground now. Check out the new plants Letha just brought in, and yes, even beginners can start now.

Letha's rhubarb. Many assume because we're zone 7a, we can't grow it here, but we can. Rhubarb is definitely a cold weather lover, and so Letha's home place of MN even has rhubarb festivals, but we're right on the border of growing it. One hour down the road in Greenville and this perennial vegetable with its beautiful red stalks wouldn't make it.

Letha’s rhubarb. Many assume because we’re zone 7a, we can’t grow it here, but we can. Rhubarb is definitely a cold weather lover, and so Letha’s home place of MN even has rhubarb festivals, but we’re right on the border of growing it. One hour down the road in Greenville and this perennial vegetable with its beautiful red stalks wouldn’t make it.

From Garden to Table, Letha’s Rhubarb Meringue Pie:

Prepare one pie crust

  • Mix together 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar (some brown sugar can be used)
  • 1/4 cup minute tapioca
  • 6 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Dash of ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup of milk or cream
  • Let mixture set for 10 minutes. Then fill crust with mixture. Bake for 45 minutes at 400° degrees until set.

For meringue beat 4 to 6 eggs whites with 3/4 tsp cream of tarter on high until foamy. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla. Spread atop baked pie while still hot, starting with edges of crust making sure no gaps appear between crust and meringue. Then fill in center. Return to 350° for 15 minutes or until peaks of meringue are golden brown.

Thanks Letha and Mike for sharing your garden!

tomato cinthia milner transplanted and still blooming tomato

No You Cannot Plant Tomatoes Now. Here’s What You Can Plant.

Everyone is dying, and I do mean dying, to dig in the dirt. My sister texts me almost daily with a “Can I start….?” And, every body really wants to get their tomatoes in the ground. So, here’s a little jingle for you:

Tomatoes won’t grow if it’s 50 or below.

But, to make you happy while you wait to plant your tomatoes, here’s a quick YES YOU CAN ON WHAT YOU CAN go ahead and plant. Let’s get in the dirt.

For you veggie gardeners.

When the soil is warm enough for you to dig, there are some veggies you can plant. A lot of vegetables like the cooler temperatures and can even take some frost. Rule of thumb: nurseries follow the gardening schedule, i.e. if it’s in the garden center, you can likely go ahead and plant it. So, here’s a few things to get you started, and have you harvesting long before your tomatoes get in the ground.

  • Lettuces, spinach, argulua, raddicho–all those good salad ymmies can go in the ground now
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Brussel sprouts (I have a great recipe for those included at the bottom.)
  • Cauliflower
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Cilantro (This one is iffy, but I plant now because once the weather gets warm, it bolts.)

For those interested in landscaping.

The question is: May I plant trees and shrubs now? 

The answer: Yes.

So long as those plants are watered. It is not the cold that will kill them, but the lack of water. I water new plantings (even in winter/early spring) with a drip line hose, twice a week for about 5-10 minutes depending on the plant’s size (the bigger trees/shrubs, obviously the longer). The goal is to get the roots established, and you want those roots to go deep. So drip lines are good for soaking deeply. But again, please remember that the nurseries will bring in certain plants at certain times. So, while you can find lots of conifers, fruit trees, berry bushes, and spring blooming camellias now, those billions of hydrangeas you see in garden centers come May and June aren’t quite here yet.

For you perennial lovers.

Go back indoors.

Kidding, but you will need to wait just a few more weeks. There are some great Lenten Roses (Hellebores) you can plant now, a few groundcovers would be okay. But most perennials are still just roots. So hold off on those lovely blooming things for a few more weeks. Don’t worry, you’ll soon have more pots of things than you can plant.

For everyone.

Use your Preen now. Weeds seem immune to weather. Get a head start.


Warm Brussel Sprout Slaw with Bacon

  • 3/4 thick sliced bacon cut into 1/2″ pieces (Olive oil can be substituted.)
  • 4 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 2 lbs of brussel sprouts thinly sliced in food processor
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, cored, coarsely shredded and pat dry (FYI: I cut mine into thin slices and use that way, it works too)
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves

Cook bacon, drain, reserve 1/4 grease. Melt butter in pan, and add brussel sprouts in batches, cooking over high heat until soft (5-8 minutes). Add thyme, apples, and cook until apples are warmed through. Add bacon back to mixture and serve. 

This recipe is from a friend who would likely die if I mentioned her on a blog, so I won’t. But, I do work for her brother. See if you can guess who.